A towering gate of navy blue and burnished bronze stood in a dark chamber at the heart of the Pergamon museum, Berlin. Creatures lined its walls, frozen in a hallmark of power and force. The chamber itself dripped heavy with silence, artifacts and stories meant to brim with life locked inside, forever stagnant.
The center of this gate, the core of the museum and the jewel of Berlin, flashed with a spark of glorious light. In an instant everything changed.
A swirl of crimson and gold extended from the gate and reached its blinding tendrils to the edges of the darkness. The light fractured and knit between the swirls like a massive spider web, capturing all of time in a single net. In the midst of the beautiful chaos, a paw jerked out of the web, tangled in cotton light until it shook free, followed by the lean legs of a lion, connected to the glittering scales of a reptilian body. The head, scaled and beady-eyed, scanned the museum as it leapt out of the net to land unevenly, brushing off the remains of the portal’s knot.
As it stood, unfolding dark, velvet wings and glimmering teeth, something akin to pleasure lit its gaze. The bright web behind him, now with a gaping tear in the center, slowly retracted until the last glimmer of light disappeared.
An alarm shattered the quiet, blaring through elegant marble halls. Red lights flashed, pathetic when compared with the previous display of light.
The dragon spun in a circle, haunches raised and lips pulled to a snarl. Out of fear, he spread his jagged wings and pushed into the air, beating rapidly until he gained enough momentum to burst through the roof.
Dawn littered the sky above the sprawling city, awaiting his presence.
Berlin, the bustling capital and home to many families and businesses, was unfortunately unaccustomed to dragons wreaking havoc in its shopping district.
The dragon, nearly twenty feet tall with a wingspan of forty, was equally unaccustomed to the two-legged people and found himself confused by their screeching. He only wanted to play a game of catch, it’s just none of the people he was throwing were getting caught. In reality, it was their fault for not knowing how the game worked. He humphed and curled around a spire in a pool of water, watching the terrified citizens stampede away from him.
As the massive creature lay there, he felt a pang of loneliness, vastly different from his previous excitement at a new ordeal. And annoyance at the metallic birds hovering about him like rambunctious flying harpies. He opened his mouth and prepared to let loose a blast of sulphuric flames in order to scatter them.
What a day.
“Why, that’s quite a bit of damage,” Jade remarked, holding himself tall in front of the ripped portal web. It was already retracting, once again. They had just emerged through the sticky light substance, and Jade’s eyes still hurt from the blindingness of it all.
“And only gargantuan claws could have torn it up like that,” Nila sighed from beside him. The pair looked at each other and spoke at the same time.
The gate room was empty, despite the grey daylight. Perhaps it had to do with the gaping hole in the ceiling, letting a stream of rain drizzle onto the carnage of twisted vents and crumbled cement. The museum’s tranquility tarnished.
“This,” Jade said, with a sweeping gesture of his arms, “is a problem.”
“Wonderful observation,” Nila muttered, her hooves echoing on the marble as she escaped the rain. “But now we must find what to do.”
Jade began to pace, arms folded and staring at the powdered ceiling beneath his hooves. “Well, centaurs aren’t exactly common in this world. At all.”
“Neither are dragons,” Nila added.
“So that leaves us with… not being able to make things much worse! Huzzah for freedom to do anything! Let us go out and flaunt our horsey tails to the publ-”
“No. We have to stay focused, Phil could be killing people. The humans, bless their puny legs, are probably terrified.”
Jade nodded. He didn’t seem to like the idea of Phil killing someone. “Then let’s look for an exit and hunt down the monstrosity that is cuddly Phil.”
After a brief hunt they found their way out of the museum, bursting through an emergency exit. Turns out, dragons weren’t that hard to find when locked in a fierce battle with helicopters above civilization.
“To Phil and beyond!” Jade shouted and took off at full speed, clopping on the wet cobblestone.
“What does that mean?” Nila yelled after him, dark hair streaming behind her and haunches glistening in the rain.
“That’s a good question! No clue.”
They raced through the city, drawing attention from every possible source: passersby stared at them in shock, cars slammed their brakes, bikers swerved off course, and people zooming by in public transport lifted phones to video the impossible.
Jade and Nila only stopped once they reached the square under which the great battle of Phil was taking place.
“As I predicted,” Jade dryly exclaimed, “this is a problem.”
Nila didn’t have any words.
Three helicopters swerved, panicked and erratic, in circles around the majestic Phil, whose tongue lolled out of his mouth beneath gleaming eyes. He soared between the vehicles, claws extended, having the time of his life.
“PHIL!” Jade screeched, cupping trembling hands to his mouth. The dragon did not appear to hear him.
The otherwise vacant square was littered with blocks of overturned cobblestone and shrapnel from surrounding buildings, damaged from Phil’s immense talons. Water spurted from the neck of a broken statue, standing in a picturesque fashion atop a fountain’s core. A steady wave of shouting and murmuring came from the edges of the stretch of stone: people cowering in side alleyways, so astonished by the sight of a real dragon and now two centaurs that they couldn’t leave, even if Phil might want to play catch with them again. After all, curiosity killed the catch.
Phil dove and caught a helicopter. The screaming of the people inside echoed through the city like martyrs of a genocide, causing Phil pause. He hovered mid-air and stuck his nose in through a window, snorting and blasting hot air across the passengers.
“PUT. THEM. DOWN!” Nila and Jade screamed simultaneously. Phil yanked his head out of the vehicle and looked around, tongue dangling and something along the lines of a smile revealing his gleaming fangs.
The centaurs, on their part, galloped across the wreckage with arms flailing to reach the ground beneath Phil. He pinpointed the two and dropped the helicopter from excitement.
The helicopters’ blades whirred to life and caught in the wind, putting the helicopter in a downward spiral. It landed, not in an explosion, but in a skidding, grinding slide until it eventually tipped over, blades sparking against the rough ground.
Nila dashed to the machine as humans dragged themselves out. One screamed and promptly fainted, her weak human legs giving out at the sight of Nila’s body. Nila practically rolled her eyes... and they thought centaurs impractical!
While she was attempting to help the frazzled people, Jade held out his hands and demanded Phil land “this instant!”
That’s when the police showed up.
Their flashing lights and loaded guns did nothing to soothe Phil, which would do nothing to convince them to let him go freely. Police cars screeched to a stop around the fountain, aiming their weapons and shouting in their megaphones.
So it came that the centaurs, Jade and Nila, stood between their hovering dragon named Phil and the entire police force of Berlin city.
Jade leaned over to Nila and whispered, with all the police’s eyes trained on them, “What do we do now?”
Phil landed with a plume of wet air behind them, and leaned his snakelike head between his centaur friends. He licked both their heads in one go and growled at the intruders surrounding them. Rain sizzled on his hot scales.
Police officers shifted uneasily, tense and fearful of the mythical beasts.
“Our objective,” Nila breathed calmly. “is escape. Go!”
Phil’s wings covered his friends protectively in a flash, a second before police opened fire. His lion paws pulled them to his beastly chest while his spiked tail whipped back the front row of police. Before they knew it, the three were airborne.
The fierce beating of Phil’s wings provided a jerky and windy flight, every flap spraying Nila and Jade with frigid water .
“Phil, you have to take us back to the portal, remember?” Nila shouted from the crook of Phil’s arm, blocking the spray of water from her face with her hands. The city looked incredibly small from up high in the sky, a swirling pool of murky lights. Far below, gunshots still rang through misty air.
“Don’t you go ignore us,” Jade chastised from the other side of Phil, where Nila could not see. “Bad boy!”
In the distance, Nila could make out the gaping hole in the roof of the museum. They were close to going home and Phil was flying in the right direction.
But something was terribly wrong.
A BOOM sliced through the air as a small, dark object came hurtling through the sky. Phil dipped down, dodging the threat. His throat glowed with the power of a blast of sulphuric fire, a sign he was frightened.
After a moment, the three saw it. The field in front of the museum they had escaped from was bustling with activity. Men in green carried huge indistinguishable metal weapons on their shoulders, and in the center of it all, a camouflaged tank stood, aimed directly at the drifting intruder above.
The tank shot again, thunderous cannon fire ripping by.
“We can’t make it to the portal!” Jade cried, voice caught in the wind.
“We have to. Phil! Land right now, this is our only chance!”
“We’ll come back later!”
Nila paused. That made sense.
But Phil was landing.
He glided down, swooping twice to avoid cannons as the soldiers began to aim their own weapons, and landed on the museum’s roof, peeking inside.
“What in harpies are you doing here?” a voice snapped from the clearing of carnage below.
“Uhh…” Jade said unintelligently. “Taking a stroll?”
Ms. Sheep, the principal of their school (Centaur Interdimensional), stood in all her glory glaring up at them. She brushed aside her braided grey hair and stomped a hoof. “You may think you have escaped detention, you mules, but you leave a trail a mile wide.”
Phil hopped down to join Ms. Sheep, escaping a new round of cannon fire. Jade and Nila squirmed from inside his clutch, wishing to be anywhere but under the scrutinizing eyes of their principal. To their dismay, Phil set them both down directly in front of her.
“What do you have to say for yourselves?” she demanded, leaning forward to loom over them. Ms. Sheep was a towering nine feet tall.
“Phil escaped!” Nila explained, helplessly gesturing at the beast.
Ms. Sheep stared daggers at the sheepish Phil. “Did you start this?”
He shook his reptilian head hurriedly.
Soldiers rushed into the hall, guns raised.
Ms. Sheep waved them off as if dismissing class. “These kids have detention to attend, soldiers. I’ll take it from here.”
With that she grabbed the pair by the ears and dragged them into the web of light expanding before her, the dragon following with its head bowed.
The soldiers were left flabbergasted.