Iluchus watched the dragon tear out its rival’s heart. She yanked the reins and drove her chariot away from the rock furrow that the massive blue drake plowed up as it smashed into the soil. Its belly tore open, sloshing gore across the field while the black dragon, claws still slick with its enemy’s blood, circled a victory lap and looked for another target.

The queen’s eyes darted across the landscape as she searched for the largest cluster of morehl to charge her forces into. Perhaps a pitched battle will attract its attention—if I can get the dragon to attack a group of us, maybe the distraction will allow us to escape

Even though the dead, blue dragon finally stopped sliding and tearing a groove through the face of Esfah, the ground still shook. Iluchus turned and looked back. A column of flame shot into the air, reaching as high as a mountain. The quake turned violent and balls of fiery slag rained down upon the amazons.

The ground shifted and broke open. Fiery walls and rivers of lava burned impenetrable barriers through the ground, encircling them. At their rear, the lava elves’ cursed bullets ripped through the protection held by their shield-maidens.

Lava flows scorched the prairie grasses, and a wildfire whooshed to life, threatening to chase them down nearly as fast as morehl bullets.

Iluchus spotted a cluster of enemies gathering in the distance near the ridge where the Gwich’in died. “There! We’ve got to smash through that group and flee, as many as we can, back to Potshari!”

Behind her, Visech waved the flags and passed the order with a pained grunt.

She spared him a glance. A bullet had torn through his torso; she heard a pained rattle as he coughed—it looked bad. If he didn’t find a healer soon, he would not survive. Visech dutifully continued flapping the flags, relaying the order despite his immense pain.

“They are attempting to break through the line, there,” Sshkkryyahr said, keeping herself small so that they could all fit onto the carpet. “The lava flow is at its lightest just beyond. That is where we will break them.”

A shadow darkened the ground as the black dragon angled for an attack.

“Don’t needlessly throw away our army,” Shedakor cautioned. “We must defend what we have claimed from any outsiders seeking to capitalize on our casualties.”

Sshkkryyahr looked him in the face. “You can defeat them without a dragon?”

“We outnumber them two to one and your cursed bullets work now. Of course I can defeat them,” he clarified.

She bobbed her head. “Good. I have other intentions on the dragon, anyhow.”

Torl brought the carpet low and Shedakor leapt off. He hit the ground running and joined his troops as the spellcasters flew up to rejoin their ilk. The thunder of human calvary roared deafening at their approach and the swelling shade of a draconic shadow lifted. Their charmed dragon swooped back into the sky and sped towards the horizon.

“Here they come!” Shedakor howled, bracing for impact. “Fire!”

Deadly missiles flew from both sides. Horses cried in fear as they plunged through the smoke. The morehl formed a box, forcing the calvary through a gauntlet even before they reached the river of fire.

Wounded horses slowed to a crawl and their riders engaged in melee as the troops lost momentum. The amazons on foot did likewise, drawing blades and caught up in the burgeoning horde of red-skinned warriors.