Previously: Blackie came back from waking the zlurp, landing on top of the ancient statue-piece. She ignored the humans and began eating the grass instead. This incited a deeper talk between Nadec and Wyny, in which Nadec talks about when she and Kitty found each other. Before Nadec can talk about being a red knight, Blackie flies her and Kitty away from Wyny and others who had been surrounding them. Read all the previous chapters here.
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‘You’re not going back to get Wyny, are you?’
Blackie’s reply was to shake her wings, rearranging them on her back, before flopping down on the ground. She’d been flying for a good twenty minutes, carrying Nadec away from from Wyny and the people surrounding him. Nadec let herself drop down as well, grass softened the fall. Standing up at this moment was like standing on land after being at sea for a while. The trees on the edge of the clearing seemed to dance. She blinked hard several times. They kept wobbling but the woozy feeling diminished.
It was obvious Blackie was unable to fly any more. Nadec frowned when she looked at her. The dragon’s colour was back to the all absorbent black. Did the scales only do that outside? No, Nadec was sure they’d still been iridescent those first days after coming out of the cave.
Kitty sat between them, completely unfazed about the long flight. He leaned back on his haunches, washing his tummy. Seeing that—the calmness the action radiated—relaxed Nadec somewhat.
‘What happened, Blackie?’ She kept most of her anger contained, but that made her voice sound tight. Surely Wyny can take care of himself. Those people wouldn’t hurt him, he was a king after all. ‘Why did we leave Wyny behind?’
Nadec knew that for the silly question it was. Blackie wouldn’t have been able to grab both her and Wyny.
She’d had to choose between getting either of the two humans out, or none at all.
‘Late too was I.’
The voice was startling inside her head. Blackie watched her, head resting on the ground. She winked at Nadec, but there was no levity in the gesture. Instead, it radiated helplessness and confusion.
‘Who else was late? Late for what?’ Nadec ignored the oddity of having a voice pop up in her head. A dragon’s voice, no less. The large horned head moved slightly.
‘Nay. Late I. Hungry. I need first food. Expect not they so fast.’ Blackie let out a soft, deep growl. Nadec’s eyebrows shot op. She hadn’t heard that from the beast before. The curiosity of communicating with Blackie lessened the anxiety and urgency about getting back to Wyny only a little bit. Somehow Blackie managed to sound disgruntled in her head. ‘Not easy words. Learn I. Better will get. Show you I heard. Quicker is.’
Nadec had a hard time deciphering Blackie’s words. While she was still working out what that last part meant, other voices sounded. She sat upright—would’ve jumped up if she didn’t still felt woozy from the flight. But no one would’ve been able to sneak up on them in the open expanse, surrounded by trees. If anyone was as close as the voices sounded, she should’ve been able to see them. There was nobody.
‘I told you splitting up was good,’ a female voice sounded, prim and with an unusual breath pattern in her speech, ‘She is not here, so must still be with him. He knows to keep her at his side. They’ll catch them. We can get clues here. Any luck with that zlurp?’ A murmured reply was obviously negative.
‘It must’ve been hiding a dragon, hah,’ a deeper, rumbling voice cut in, quiet and intent. ‘Where did it get the beast? Of course the dragon turned on it and used it’s Dragon’s White gas, hah. Do put that unbelieving face away, hah, of course it exists. The dragon would never have bonded with a zlurp. That purple abomination will never wake up unless the dragon makes it, hah. I cannot say that is a big loss. We’ll leave it here, there is no reason to go through the effort of transporting it with us. Better to preserve the power, hah.’
‘That purple abomination is why we almost have her, Klappah. Staying so long in one spot gave us the beacon to get Pagewyn’s signal back.’
Nadec closed her eyes, annoyed that her suspicion about who the ‘him’ of the woman’s first sentence proved to be right.
‘I know that, be at ease, no need for unnecessary repetitions, hah. I admit that setting them out on different locations was a proper idea. It seems that I underestimated her severely. You know I expected her to get eliminated by the xlurps. You were right to set extra measurements in motion. Using the idiot king as a tracker worked like a charm. Pun intended, hah. Then again when I was convinced that blowing up her home would get it done. The calculations of where she could possibly skip to without preparation appeared to be brilliant. Hah. You did well, and I apologise for dismissing your idea at first.’
There was a silence. Was that the end of the conversation?
‘You do love to go on a tangent. And you always underestimate people. Apologies accepted.’ It sounded like a common thing for them. Whomever they were.
‘Well,’ the female voice went on, ‘tomorrow early morning they’ll get caught. The catchers might surprise them before they wake. Perhaps more difficult if they still have the dragon. But they’re our best. They’ll catch her. If we’re lucky they’ll kill her immediately. Saves us from doing it. Either way, Pagewyn can then be released from his bonds. He needs to get back on his throne. The advisor is getting restless. People don’t want to listen to her. They only listen to the king. Even if he is only a puppet.’ She uttered a humourless laugh, bringing goosebumps to Nadec’s arms.
‘Hah. Let’s go. I’ve been trying to keep track of it but you know that’s not what I do best. How much longer is it? 12 days left?’
‘It happens in 13 days. She has to be gone by then.’
‘Hm, point proven, my data tracking is still bad. Hold on.’
‘In time them heard. Stop I in tunnel above water. Me almost seen.’
Nadec’s mind spun, and not only from Blackie’s new skill. So much information, yet so many gaps. A swell in her chest made the sadness she felt at Wyny’s betrayal, a physical pain. It appears he wasn’t to be trusted after all. More so, he’d been working for them the whole time. But, who were they? The zlurp hadn’t been able to tell her. All he’d known was that the same people who’d been responsible for her parents’ disappearance—death—were also the same who were hunting her now. Wait, what did Blackie say?
‘You stopped in the tunnel above the water?’ Blackie nodded. Nadec squashed the tiny prick of pride she felt at understanding the dragon’s last words. ‘How did they get there then, how did they leave? Is there another exit?
At least that sentence was clear. No other entrance into the cave. They must have skipped there. How? She could only skip from The Other Realm to Earth and vice versa.
What she didn’t understand was why they waited so long to come after her. If she was such a threat to them, why didn’t they kill her the same time as her parents? Why 13 days, what happens then? What was today’s date?
She gasped when she figured out what that Earth’s date would be. It startled Kitty who was sitting on top of Blackie now, balancing while the dragon curled up.
She knew. She didn’t know why it was significant, but she knew one thing about that date.
A little note about this chapter. I found it really hard to write! I didn’t expect those two antagonists to show up, and giving them their own separate voice was a challenge. Now, as I’ve said often before, this is basically the first draft, so I suppose it still kinda sucks, despite having worked on editing it already. When I edit it next (=when it’s up for narration for the podcast), I know I’ve got some work to do with this one!