Previously: Nadec recovered from her concussion by being unconscious for a week, helped by the Dragon’s White Gas. They need answers from the zlurp, so they set to interrogating him.
Read all the previous chapters here.
Disclaimer: rough version! This is as raw as it gets, almost fresh from the brain. If you’d like to read a properly edited version, the podcast will be just that (and those episodes will be posted on this blog as well, of course)
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‘How do we get out of here?’
Nadec walked away from the room where Blackie burped the zlurp back to unconsciousness. She kept her stride firm, heart beating loud in her own ears, and looked over to Wyny, checking if he was keeping up.
‘You believe him? Do you not believe we should discuss what he said and think about it properly? You know he could have been lying.’
She shook her head, stopping briefly to allow Kitty to jump on her shoulders. What the zlurp had said… She wished she didn’t believe. It had shook her to the core. She was trying hard to hang on to calmness, but in reality she was on the brink off hysterics. She hadn’t felt like this in… in three years. No, don’t think about that as well.
‘We can’t assume he was lying, there’s too much at stake. I’ll have to let you find your own way back.’ Another thing to add to her upset state—her perfect record broken, at least from her point of view. They got to the main cave, and sadness grew on top of the other emotions. In that very short time, she’d quickly gotten attached to this place.
‘It’s too dangerous for you to come with me. My employers would kill me if I did. They probably already do. Oh.’ She stopped, stared out over the water.
‘Could they be the ones behind this? If what he said was true?’ Wyny’s face had an intensity to it—any other time it would’ve diverted her mind elsewhere.
‘No, no, that wouldn’t make sense.’ She sensed her brows drawing down. ‘Even if they aren’t happy with my uncompleted job—you, yes—they wouldn’t hurt me over it.’ She snorted at the ridiculousness, but it sounded fake to her own ears. Come on, pull it together, keep making jokes, don’t let this get to you.
‘You realise I will refuse to let you go on without me, are you not?’
‘Are you trying to be the valiant hero, the knight in the night, the man who rescues all, the prince on the white horse, rescuing the damsel in distress?’ She’d meant for it as a joke, but it came out sounding bitter and annoyed.
‘I’ll have you know, I am the one who saves people here, buddy. I am the one they’d named the red knight. I am the one whom they sen out to find missing people and do everything in my power to get them back.’ She was shouting now but didn’t even care. It felt good. Why were her lips wet and salty?
‘They gave the responsibility to me! So don’t you think you can just come marching in and take over. I’ve been doing fine these past years by myself and I will keep on doing fine. Even if there is someone out there who wants to capture me or kill me because they—wrongly!—believe I am some heir from a dead country. Bullshit! My parents were normal people. They were the best people. This is all horseshit!’
She inhaled, but couldn’t. Instead it became a broken sob. She turned away from him, keen to pick up Kitty. But Kitty was already on her shoulders.
‘It is alright, Nadec. It it alright. I will not leave you. We will figure this out together, and your employers can go eat goat dung.’
A sniffle-giggle escaped her—Wyny didn’t swear often. He enveloped her in his arms—nice strong arms—and she immediately returned the hug. It had been too long since she had any human contact like this. She allowed some tears to flow. Kitty jumped off her shoulders, but kept making an eight in between her ankles, headbutting and meowing.
‘We don’t have time for this.’
Forcing a stop to her pathetic behaviour, she pulled away from Wyny. He reluctantly let go and nodded.
‘I still am not completely convinced if we should really go, I do not trust that creature. But,’ he held his hand up to her as she was about to protest, ‘I trust your judgment. We should be going. What shall we do with the zlurp?’
‘Leave him. He won’t wake up unless Blackie wakes him, right? Right. So we leave him. Not our problem anymore. I’m not in the mood for killing.’
As Wyny opened his mouth, she glared at him.
‘We go, now.’
She had to keep busy, anything to keep the whirlwind inside her from getting out. Her little breakdown had been enough. No more of that now. Focus on the immediate threat, handle the larger issue later. Break it down in small steps, make the impossible, possible. She kept repeating those last words to herself until she believed it.
‘Clothes. I need spare ones, can’t keep walking around in these rags all the time, do you need clothes?’
Nadec didn’t wait for his reply, she walked off straight away towards the room with the abandoned clothes. Many of those were not better than rags, but she managed to select several decent looking shirts, a skirt and trousers she thought might fit her. She made a bundle out of them, and did the same for Wyny.
When she came back to the central room—after enjoying the luxury of the bathroom and its small waterfall one last time—Wyny looked ready to go. He had collected their blankets and put Kitty’s harness on te grey cat. Blackie wagged her tail, panting with split tongue out.
The sight of her companions—one human, two non-human-animals—stirred something. As a ray of sunlight banishing a dark cloud. How poet, thought of that yourself? She did not appreciate her own self-mocking… eh… self.
‘All good to go, I guess. Where’s the exit?’
‘Well, that is something I have not been able to tell you yet. There is no exit.’
‘Please, let me finish. There is no exit we can easily navigate through. Thus, we fly.’
‘We fly.’ Her voice was flat in every way. She looked from Wyny to Blackie. The dragon winked. Oh no.
‘Can she even carry us all? She’s not matured yet, she’s still little.’
At that, Blackie puffed up, standing tall with her chest out, front legs straight but ass down. Sitting like a proud cat. Nadec had to admit that the dragon was not small. Although not as large as Nadec had imagined dragons to be, she supposed they’d fit on the animal’s back. Flying on a dragon. That would take her mind of things for the present. She also realised it would make their journey easier.
Not wanting to speak for fear of a tremble in her voice, she glanced at Wyny. The man had a grin on his face! Of course, he’d flown before, when she was unconscious. He gestured in a polite way. She shoved his bundle of clothes in his outstretched hand. She hoped he knew how much of an art it was, making a perfect and solid package out of clothes.
Blackie ducked down, positioning one of her legs so it made for a step. When Nadec settled down onto the dragon’s back, Kitty jumped up and settled in front of her. Wyny climbed up and got very cosy behind her. She supposed with the wings and all, it made things a bit awkward. The dragon was pleasantly warm underneath her—Wyny pleasantly warm behind her—and almost felt like a massive, supersized horse. Except without the hair and the smell.
Before Nadec could properly prepare herself, a jump and flap of the wings took them off the ground. They soared over the water, into a tunnel at the end of the lake. They maneuvered around the cave’s obstacles, higher and lower, fast and slow. The bioluminescence a brilliant blue against the dark rock. She noticed green and yellow as well, those hadn’t been in the other areas.
The unfamiliar yet incredible sensation of flying on a mythical winged beast was enough to make Nadec forget about everything else for the moment. Then they exited into daylight.
Nadec’s breath stopped in amazement.