I was impressed.
The day started off badly.
My unit had been moved up to the frontlines, and there was rumor that we might be jumping off the next morning at dawn. I didn’t mind the occasional night raid or a quick attack at dusk when everyone was standing-to but charging across No-Man’s-Land behind an artillery barrage had never worked out particularly well for anyone involved.
I needn’t have worried.
The Germans attacked us in the morning, just as dawn was chasing back the darkness.
There was no preliminary barrage, no rallying cry. None of the signals we had come to expect, which gave them their first advantage.
Their second was the weapon they used.
It was a firedrake.
I’d forgotten the damned things even existed.
The flames sprayed across the first trench and sent fresh corpses falling backward, their clothes burning and their flesh melting. Ammunition exploded in, and mills bombs threw shrapnel across every inch of ground.
The foul, base stench of firedrake – a mixture of sulfur and burned flesh – sent strong men running. Dragon fear is a sickness, and there are few who can resist it.
I saw our Captain standing his ground, and his orderly too. I jumped up to an abandoned machine gun, and our chaplain, a Catholic priest, tore off his collar as he helped me to load the weapon.
The Captain raised his revolver, fired a single shot, and put out the firedrake’s right eye.
Its scream of outraged pain presented my only opportunity.
As the chaplain fed the gun, I squeezed the trigger and put a full belt into the damned drake’s mouth.
The heavy slugs tore its head apart, and for a moment, the neck wavered and then collapsed, shaking the earth with its weight.
Blood exploded in a crimson geyser and showered us all in its hot, fetid stink.
The priest picked up his collar and slipped it back into place before moving towards the dead. The Captain sent his orderly to bring back those who ran.
And I walked towards the firedrake’s smoldering corpse.
It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten dragon, and the meat is especially sweet.