After Danny landed, it was many long moments before she lifted her head to survey the damage. The tall silhouettes of trees still loomed in the fading smoke. Ferns still curled near her on the ground. They were blackened with a film of soot, but green with life nevertheless. She stared around herself, but there were no signs of the dragon. No signs of movement at all.
At length, Danny’s attention was taken by globs of black that had hardened against the ground and the trees. Several were on Danny herself. She poked and scratched at one on her arm and found that it had the texture and consistency of charcoal. Flakes and chunks fell away under her fingers.
The dragon. She broke an entire glob off of her leg and examined it. This is where the dragon had gone: its flesh had exploded in flaming chunks, landed, and hardened into char.
As Danny pondered the dragon’s demise, the smoke that obscured the Heart from her view settled. She tossed the chunk of charcoal to the ground and strode toward it. The trees around Danny were whole and alive, and so was the Heart.
Not for long, thought Danny, grimly. With its guardians defeated, she only had to destroy it to slay the forest.
Danny stood among the swirling haze, staring at the immense tree that was the Heart and contemplating how to kill it. While she did so, a form appeared in the haze and began to approach her. It was tall and massive, with an incredibly long, sharp…lance!
For a moment, Danny was dumbfounded. Staring her down was the wooden knight that she thought had perished in the dragon’s flames. The yellow eyes of its mount smoldered at her.
Then, the knight kicked its horse against the flanks, the lance came down, and they began to charge toward Danny.
“Oh, shit,” she swore.