Quinn's mother, Karen, worked on tunneling underneath London. In 2010, Karen's crew penetrates the wall of a cavern they didn't know existed. Quinn is with the construction crew, and one of Karen's people gives him a flashlight and asks him to take a look. He is small enough that he is able to crawl inside and look around. Whether it was his touching or the noise of the drill, the Male Dragon, which had been hibernating inside, woke up.
He spits the flammable liquids it uses to generate flame in Quinn's eyes, and Quinn quickly flees. His mother finds him and Quinn tells her rapidly and repeatedly, "there's something in there". Karen is too busy looking at the damage to his eyes to pay much attention. After washing out his eyes fails, she takes him over to the elevator to take him to the surface so he can get medical attention.
As they are getting into the elevator, the male dragon kills Karen's crew with a burst of flame and a roar. Karen and Quinn get into the elevator and start going up, but slowly. Karen is desperate to get to the surface as flame billows up from the base of the tunnel into the shaft.
Midway up the shaft, the male dragon climbs out from the flame underneath onto the shaft. Karen is crushed to death when he puts a claw on the shaft. Upon hearing Quinn's screams, he looks inside at him, but decides to leave him alive and flies outside to feed. A newspaper article later revealed that Quinn is the only survivor.
It is ten years after the male dragon awoke. Humanity is losing and the dragons, having burned much of the world to ash, are starving and more dangerous then ever. Quinn is now the leader of a colony of humans that live inside the ruins of a Northumberland castle. At this point, Quinn has adopted an orphan named Jared.
They are starving while waiting for crops to ripen. Most of the humans trust him, but some are restless and defiant about having to wait. Eddie and some friends steal a truck to pick tomatoes while Quinn sleeps, and they are attacked by a female dragon. Quinn and his friends rescue the survivors with old fire engines, and the dragon lets them leave so she can burn the field and eat the ashes.
The Kentucky Irregulars, a group of Americans led by Denton Van Zan, arrive at Quinn's castle with a Chieftain tank and an Agusta Westland AW109 utility helicopter, the latter of which is piloted by Alex Jensen. The female dragon that destroyed the crops attacks the castle, and Quinn watches as Van Zan's people spread out to hunt the dragon. When the mission goes awry, Quinn acts as bait to lure the dragon to Van Zan, and the dragon is subsequently killed.
Van Zan and Alex tell Quinn that all the dragons they have killed are female and that there is likely only one male. If they can kill it, they can end the species. Quinn remembers the male dragon as the one that killed his mother, and refuses to help or to commit men. He fears trying to kill him will be a suicide mission and that the dragon might find the castle.
Van Zan's attack force is wiped out by the male dragon 66 miles from London and the dragon tracks them back to the castle as Quinn feared. Most of the survivors are killed, and Quinn rushes to get his people to the underground bunker. Creedy, his second-in-command, is killed. Alex and Van Zan return to the castle and dig the survivors out from the bunker. After seeing his castle in burned-out ruins, Quinn decides to help them kill the male. Jared is left in charge of the survivors from the attack, mostly children.
The three of them fly to London in Alex's chopper. Once there, they see the male dragon cannibalizing female ones and then infiltrate the city using Quinn's knowledge of the tunnel system. Van Zan tells Quinn about a plan to shoot explosives down the dragon's throat with a crossbow, but is killed by the male. Quinn and Alex lure him to ground level and Quinn fires into his mouth, killing the male.
Later, Quinn and Alex erect a radio tower on a hill overlooking the North Sea. Jared arrives to say they have contacted a group of French survivors who want to speak to their leader. Quinn tells Jared he is now their leader and dedicates himself to rebuilding. There have been no dragon sighting for over three months, and Quinn views the idea of them returning remote.
He says that if they ever return, "They'll burn. We'll build. Maybe I'll just kill 'em".