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Byline: Amber Fire By Hannah Bullimore

As part of this year's Juice Festival in Newcastle Gateshead, young people were invited, in partnership with New Writing North, to submit their short stories on the theme of Dragons, for a chance of having them published.

Hannah Bullimore took the dragon by the horns - so to speak - and here's the flame-breathing result AMBER ran across the edge of the building and suddenly leaped, landing with her feet and hands on the ground in a low crouch so that the muscles on her slim arms stood out, the line of her spine highlighted by the sun growing heavy in the blue arch of sky above. She glanced back at Rocker who was hesitating between wanting to help and not wanting to become impaled on the long metal spikes which had formed themselves on the dragons since their escape; the metal bindings which held their mechanical skeletons had split open and created deadly weapons.

"Get down!" she screamed as he bounded from one ledge to another and a dragon jumped up, taking the opportunity to attack him, only Rockers brown hair could be seen above the line of the building. In the distance a hundred mechanical dragons danced around the London skyline, making their approach to look after their King. The dragons were never very keen to leave their home, Continued the Dragon Circus, a huge red top which stood in tattered ruin in the distant space that had once been London Zoo, a symbol of the special team's three-year fight to get to the King Dragon. Created for entertainment, none of the dragons were ever supposed to grow a heart, not even a mechanical one. "Why don't we kill them?" hollered Rocker from behind. Amber stopped at another ledge and glanced back, "no, we get to the King Dragon and kill that. I don't want to kill the babies, they mean nothing. We kill him and it's over. I need to get to its heartwe need a run up to this." "I don't think we'll cross that, Amber," murmured Rocker, looking at the gap between the two buildings. His floppy hair was messy and he was chewing his pale lip nervously, if Amber paid any attention to anything other than work, she would have realised his concern wasn't for himself. But Amber hadn't noticed that over the last three years, so why would that change now? "What are you? A man or a mouse?" she laughed and took a few steps back. Then before Rocker could stop her, she raced forward, sprinting with all her might as fast as her pink Hi-Tops would carry her, before leaping and then rolling onto the hard roof, grazing her cheek with an uneven landing. She jumped up. "See, easy." Her blue eyes glinted mischievously, testing him. "Come on Rocker." Rocker hesitated and then followed. He landed even more roughly than she did, taking her down with him as he flailed around. Amber sighed heavily as her thoughts turned to the glinting beasts above. The last time the metal dragons had attacked the city had been three years ago. Dragons had been created as a charming new exhibit at the London Zoo, but when one, the largest dragon, had mutated and gained a heart, there had been a national emergency. The dragon response team had been created to kill the dragons by blowing up the babies - near impossible in an over populated city centre - or turning off the heart of the King Dragon, killing all of his pack. There was only one person agile and fearless enough to do that. Rocker pulled himself to his feet and shook his head disbelievingly, she was a real firecracker. No wonder the Prime Minister had made her head of the unit. He began to run again, he wore the black boots that were part of their uniform, everyone else was happy to follow orders on this, but Amber refused. She wouldn't train in it, she wouldn't 'run' in it, as she called heading up a mission. Instead she wore skinny jeans and pink trainers and always tied her hair in a messy bun on top of her head where it always teetered precariously, as though it would fall off her head with the slightest wind, but even when she was clinging onto the back of a dragon the bun somehow stayed in place. Amber had come to a ledge and he thought she was about to jump so reached out to pull her back, but then she yelled, "Gotcha!" excitedly, her blue eyes wide with adrenaline. "Right, there's the beast." she pointed toward a giant, silvery dragon, its back lined with broken pieces of metal, sitting in the centre of the park. It wore a gold crown that glinted in the sunlight, an ironic reminder of its humble beginnings as a form of entertainment. Every so often it shrieked at its swarming minions. "What's the plan?" asked Rocker. "We get down from here first." she said, Rocker didn't like the way she was looking over the side. From 38 Amber took the neat black backpack from off her shoulders and put it on the floor before taking out some ropes and a harness. "Really? Why can't we take the stairs?" moaned Rocker. "Too slow." shrugged Amber. "The things clearly not going anywhere." Rocker eyed Amber's slender frame, how could she appear so delicate yet be so formidable? Amber shushed him and fastened the harness around herself before slamming the metal spike into the floor and going to the edge. Once in position, she looked at Rocker with a raised eyebrow. "You coming?" Rocker rolled his eyes, of course he was. He'd follow her off a cliff without a harness if she asked him nicely enough. He did the same as her,replacing his backpack over the harness and then going to the edge. "On my count. One, two, three." They both raced down the side of the wall. They had found that these make-shift wires were better used with a bit of pace, almost as though if you went quickly, they didn't have time to unhook themselves. The wire on Amber's came free about two-thirds down. She saw the rope and the metal hook come falling towards her and so she jumped away from the wall. There was a slight crunch in her leg as she made contact with the ground, but she quickly pulled herself to her feet as Rocker made an usually graceful landing beside her. "Next time we take the stairs." "Why?" shrugged Amber, ignoring the horrible throbbing in her leg, "I'm fine, aren't you?" she winked at him and then took off the harness. "Come on." she murmured with a determined expression. Rocker threw his harness down too, he noticed there was a cut in Amber's jeans and a lot of blood was pouring out. "Amber" he groaned, looking her in those fierce blue eyes. "Rocker, I'm going in, you follow behind, kill anything that follows behind." Then, before he could pull her back, she had clambered over the fence and landed as gracefully as a cat. She nodded at Rocker who then made the climb as well, when he found himself standing in the park Amber had already disappeared. After a moment, he followed the noise of the dragon in the distance. Amber was running as fast as her body would allow her, her legs pounding the muddy ground so that her shoes were splattered with mud. She pulled her gun from her belt, preparing to shoot anything that got in her way. There was a break in the trees coming closer; she could see the light getting brighter. The loud, shrill, shriek of the King Dragon made her pause as she came to the edge. The noise was so loud it made her ears pound. There it was, sat in the centre of the grass, pawing the ground with ginormous metal feet with pointed claws. It was facing away from her, which was perfect. As a metal creature, the dragon didn't have much sensation, which helped it in combat as it didn't feel injury. But now, it would help Amber. She crept forwards, her stealth training making her silent; it didn't take her long to reach the swishing tail of the dragon. The funny thing about dragons, mechanical ones anyway, was that their whole bodies clicked constantly with their every movement. It made them easier to catch because they couldn't hear you coming. She held onto the tail and waited, no reaction. This was the difficult part, if she hindered the movement of the tail, the dragon would know she was there. She climbed upwards, waiting every few movements to make sure it hadn't noticed. Once on its back, Amber could climb more quickly, using the larger scales as a ladder she raced up to its neck trying to keep away from the sharp spikes peeling away from its body. At that moment, she heard a scream of terror in the distance. The dragon looked that way as well, still not noticing Amber. It sniffed the air and then, before Amber could do anything, had leaped into the air. It moved gracefully, sweeping forward almost like a whale swimming through the sea. Amber looked down at the city below, a wave of fear rushed over her. She needed to kill the monster before it got any higher. She climbed on and over the shoulder which was now moving quickly as the dragon propelled itself, its wings arching and falling so that the whole animal was clicking and humming with the effort. She climbed down its chest, trying not to look down. The dragon was going to attack the city, it needed to be killed. But what if it fell through the air and took Amber with it? No time for bad thoughts, she found the largest scale in the centre of its chest which covered the delicate heart. Holding on with just one hand, she found her dagger. After a moment to glance up at the beast and see the determination in the cold metal eyes, she took the dagger and placed it under the huge scale, popping it away from the dragon's body. What she saw was disgusting. A dark purple mound of flesh encased in wiry tendrils of overgrown metal. The flesh beat quickly with the effort of flying. She reached inside and pulled. The heart felt cold, it stopped beating instantly . The dragon stopped in mid-air and yelled with rage. That was new; it seemed it could feel pain now. It twisted around so that Amber was facing the blue arch of the sky, the sun was almost set now and red waves ran through the sky. She clung on for dear life, one hand still clutching the, the situation was getting desperate, she was going to fall to her death. Amber thought wildly, how was she going to survive? She realised her only chance was at the moment before it made impact, she would jump away and try to land on her own. It would give her the best chance. The ground grew close, she took a steadying breath then leapt, arms outstretched, and then she brought her legs around to try and land right. The crunch was deafening, the mechanical beast still, eyes empty, a shell of a formerly living thing. Rocker was standing over her. "Amber?" he asked. Amber was covered in blood. She was completely still and didn't seem to hear him. He bent down next to her, she was pale, her eyes shut. He brushed her hair away from her eyes, her bun had finally come loose and her hair fell around her like a golden halo. Slowly her eyes fluttered, Rocker gasped, not daring to believe it until he saw those vivid blue eyes staring back at him. "Is it dead?" she croaked and Rocker shook his head in disbelief. Rocker helped her sit up, "Never mind that I thought you were" Amber leaned in for a hug.

"As if," she whispered, holding him close. He drew away, trying to see if she really was ok, Amber saw the way he looked at her and her heart beat a little faster. She had learned more than one thing this mission. The Juice Festival for children and younger people in Newcastle Gateshead, culminates tomorrow with an all-singing, all-trouping finale in the form of the Dragons Parade setting off from from Baltic Square, Gateshead from 3.45pm. Dragon-themed fancy dress and associated accessories is wildly encouraged.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 3, 2012
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