Dragons…damn the creatures. Black, White, Green, Brown…it doesn’t freaking matter. They’re manipulative creatures that like to meddle in humanoid politics, I think, for the hell of it all. We almost lost her. We bloody well almost lost her. Then where would we be?The journal of Rew
Place: Rivershallow, trading city
There was a solitary pyramid-like skyscraper. A brilliant lit sign read above the skyscraper Rivershallow Inn. Isis thought on that, wondering what the town would possibly provide them with. The roads to it and in the down town area were at least paved, which everyone was thankful for. It was nice to get off the ankle-twisting gravel road they had been on for the past few weeks.
Aliens and cyborgs abounded in the hundreds of thousands. There were established restraints and shopping districts for individual species. Unlike the segregation on earth, the species took it with a grain of salt. They were allowed everywhere, but certain necessities could not be provided in certain quarters. The human sector was where the group decided to set up for the night.
The group was in the sector by mid-afternoon that day. They walked into an inn and up to the clerk’s counter. “Beg pardon miss, could we get some rooms,” Patch asked the woman at the desk.
“Sure thing, mister. Just sign here and how many rooms will you be needin’?” she asked as she gave him a form and pencil.
“Six rooms should do it ma’am,” he told her as he handed back the form.
The group followed the bellboy up the stairs. Yute had the first room. Isis had the second room. Solomon and Patch slept right across from her. The Ipty brothers had a room to themselves. Then the fifth belonged to the twins. Fado and Otly had the last of the rooms.
The group exited from the inn and found the city to be quite large compared to the little town of Bashville. It was a lovely city on the river with the mountains to its back and the river and the forests to its front. A large bridge crossed over the clear river, leading to the pasture land on the other side where the farmers grazed their livestock.
The group went exploring into the different sectors. The Ipty had to secure a few bottles of feather oil – they had run out and realized that they needed to stock pile if they wanted to keep their feathers in proper flight condition. Otly wanted to get hold of some comfort food for his lunch – and being a planet away from Chima, he was missing, to the disgust of the rest of the group, his favorite fried makansa, a large worm like insect. Wain and Rew went with Fado into the Sho’ren sector to explore some of the fascinating weaponry the short humanoid was proficient at. Exhausted by their adventures they returned to their respective rooms to rest.
Solomon and Isis returned to the lobby of the inn shortly after a late lunch to go over the clue they had received with the first coin. They had settled themselves on cushions that rested on the matted floors. They had taken their shoes off at the step that led up to the raised platform their cushions were on. It was rather peaceful in the lobby. The walls were transparent windpaper, which allowed the suns’ rays to penetrate and light the lobby with a soft glow. Parchments of the local Ikugan dialect – an offshoot of Old Kavordian hung from red painted beams. A large brass gong rested in its cradle behind the receptionist. The sound of a waterfall that was running in the western corner of the room made the lobby feel serene and peaceful.
A crash on the roof of a nearby building startled the two. Is there construction going on or something? I didn’t see any signs saying that there was. Isis thought to herself. Solomon stuffed his notes into his pocket as the two raced outside to find out what happened.
Flames flashed passed the door as a serpentine head weaved its way past the doors of the inn. “Who didn’t tell me that this planet had dragons?” Isis screeched, trying to duck back into the inn. The rest of the team had come running from their rooms. They gathered at the doors to see what was going on, making it impossible for her to get back in.
Suddenly a tail came slashing through the roof and crashed down in the middle of lobby. The group swiftly rushed outside to escape the powerful tail. Suddenly, Isis was staring into a fiery red eye the size of a half a yarlin long. A voice rang in her head. You are the one. The future. Her head rang with an ear splitting scream. She could feel her head being crushed under the pressure of the mind invasion sent by the rogue dragon.
“Isis, watch out!” Otly screamed a few seconds too late. Something wrapped around her waist and lifted her up a few feet above the ground. The tail started to constrict like a giant boa. As much as Isis struggled, it had no effect on what she realized to be the tail of the dragon.
She heard a hissing sound and saw a flame of fire lick out of the dragon’s mouth. Screams and the smell of burning flesh wafted up Isis’s nose. Her stomach would have done a flip if it wasn’t being squeezed into her backbone for what she realized the smell to be from. She saw a large tongue and hundreds of large, sharp teeth like the serrated teeth of the shark on earth, coming into her view. This is not how I expected to die, especially so soon in this journey!
“Isis, catch!” yelled a male from behind her. The scales on the tail had begun to bite into her skin and her head had started to spin as blood flow began to slow. She looked up just in time to catch the stick that had been thrown to her. The dragon’s eye suddenly appeared out of nowhere. That’s when the idea hit her. She jabbed the stick into the huge eyeball, sticky red and black slime sputtered all over her face. She was engulfed in the foul stench. She felt air rush into her body and heard an ear shattering scream before she lost consciousness.
During her black-out, knights that guarded the city rushed into the street that the flopping beast was stuck in. The stick had pierced a small section of its brain, damaging it just enough for the knights to get rid of the dragon. These facts Isis learned later on the trip.
Solomon watched as Isis fell to the ground, only feet away from the flailing thousand ton beast that had tried to eat her. She lay limp for several seconds, close to the beast’s two feet long, razor sharp talons. What am I doing? He asked himself as he rushed to the unconscious girl’s side. She was barely breathing, her shirt ripped and bloody, scales embedded into her flesh just above her belly button. A cut on her head was bleeding horribly and she was very pale.
He reached under her head and knees and lifted her into his arms. She was amazingly light, almost like a feather, ether real in this writhing nightmare that he was watching. The dragon’s tail came swooping down, knocking away cobblestone and shingles in one thud. Dodging the writhing tail, Solomon made it back into the now destroyed inn lobby, and rushed the girl up the stairs, down the hall, past her room, and into his.
He gently laid her on his mat and moved a pillow beneath her head. He slipped his over shirt off, not knowing what to do now.
A light moan escaped the woman’s lips, her brow wrinkled in unconscious pain. He rushed to her side, kneeling down to her. He brushed back her hair. She quieted under his touch. He licked his lips, trying to think. He walked to the basin on the short desk and dipped a towel into the lukewarm water. Gently, he dabbed away the blood on her face and neck. The blood from around her waist continued to flow slowly. I should call a doctor. He could help her, I think. What if he can’t stop it? She can’t die. He picked up the phone to the lobby desk, hoping that someone was at in it by now.
“Hello, lobby desk, how may I help you?” a cheery female voice asked, a slight tremble permeating the feigned happiness. Grunts and yells could be heard over the phone from the knights who were heaving the rogue dragon’s body away. Moans and screams could be heard from burn victims that were being moved from the rubble in the streets.
“Yes, could you get me a doctor, please?” Solomon licked his lips once again, cringing as Isis groaned again. He had to wait a few minutes before the woman got back to him with news that no one could come because of all of the patients down in the town streets. He thanked the woman and hung up, paced for a few more minutes before he located a needle, a candle, and some string. He debated with himself for a few seconds. He rushed out of the room and down the stairs. The group had been in the ruined lobby when he left it in such a hurry. Now he couldn’t seem to locate them. He peered out the gaping hole in the front of the lobby where a section of windscreen had been torn down by the thrashing beast. It was utter chaos out there. He noted Honfu flitting about the building tops and Gotre pulling a wounded woman out of a damaged upper story apartment. It appeared that the group had either been requited r volunteered to help clean up and look for survivors. Determining that he was the only one available to provide Isis with first aid, he rushed back to his room.
“I hope that I can remember what Uncle Sam taught me about emergency surgery,” he mumbled to himself as he carefully washed his hands in the basin. He gazed at the woman, gathering his courage. He took his pocket knife out and began cutting her shirt away to see the scales and how badly they were embedded.
She didn’t appear to have any other wounds other than those, and the scales just required hot soapy water to sanitize them. He tried pulling out one of the scales, just to discover that they wouldn’t budge.
A moan escaped her lips once again. “Stay with me, angle, please,” Solomon begged.
Isis woke up very sore. A soft sheet covered her. She leaned up on one of her elbows and looked at the back of Solomon’s tan slavwool shirt. A migraine the size of the Red Sun had woke her up. “Ooh, ow,” she groaned, lifting a cloth bound hand to her forehead.
“Isis, you’re awake!” Solomon yelped in surprise, turning around in the chair that he was sitting in. “The doctor said that you were going to be just fine,” Solomon lied, trying to reassure her, seeing as no doctor had been able to find the time to see to her injuries. A shy smile spread across her face.
“You just had a small concussion when you fell. The dragon had squeezed the air out of you, which is the reason why you fainted. You might also have a little more protection around your stomach. The dragon scales embedded themselves into your skin so bad that we couldn’t even pull them out with pliers. Dragon scales are the hardest material ever but they fall out like sharks teeth when it comes to the dragons. On humans and other animals, it’s a lot harder to remove,” he told her. “It is also suggestible that you don’t stand for a few more hours,” he said, gently pushing her back onto the mat and returning to his paper work. She closed her eyes and relaxed to the sound of pen scratches for the next few hours.
The dinner bell rang. It was time for Isis to see if she could stand. The first main problem was getting fully dressed. Solomon had bound her waist with white linen cloth, stopping the bleeding early. He handed her a vest and turned around as she slipped it over her shoulders. Solomon, hearing her grunt with pain turned to her, asking her how she was holding up with the scales. She looked at him, wondering if he was being serious. He knelt down next to her. “I have scales? But, but, that can’t be, it can’t!” the blood left her face. Man, she must have been out of it, even when I talked with her earlier. Solomon hushed her. He reached over to her stomach and undid the knot and began to unwind the linen bandage. Isis received her first glance at a curse that haunted her family like a ghost would haunt a graveyard.
Solomon looked at her in amazement. The beauty that the pitch black scales were against her cream white skin was seductive. “By the Red Sun, you’re beautiful, woman,” he whispered.
“Do what, Solomon?” Isis asked. She hadn’t been paying attention to him when he said that.
“It’s nothing, Isis, don’t worry about it. Come on, we need to get down to dinner.” Solomon helped her to lean on his shoulder as she tried to stand. She was so light. There came a small clinking from the dragon scales. Isis still found it a little strange that the doc couldn’t pull the scales out. They actually didn’t hurt. It just felt strange having dragon scale armor.
It took some time for her to get down the stairs. She was winded by the bottom three steps, but she pressed through to the dining room. The team looked up in surprise to find their fallen comrade standing. Otly pulled out a seat for her and pushed her in.
The kitchen attendance served dinner and dessert then left. “So have you found out which mountain we should take, Isis?” Wain asked with a bit of comedic sarcasm in his voice. Isis knew he meant no offense.
“No, Solomon might know though,” she said looking in his direction, lowering her lashes before he could see her staring at him.
“I figured that we need to go to the Mountain of Sheep. It is a low mountain that has wonderful pasturing land. It is also referred to as White Dragon Roost,” Solomon told the group.
At the end of the dinner, Solomon helped Isis up. She held onto him as they slowly walked up the stairs. He led her into his bedroom and sat her down on the bed. She had reopened several wounds around the scales and blood had begun to stain the leather vest. “How are you, Isis?” He whispered, worry lathering his voice. He went to the washbasin and dipped a wash cloth in it.
“My head hurts,” she sucked in her breath as a splitting pain ran the length of her scales. “My stomach,” a moan escaped her clenched teeth. His hand reached out to her vest, gently touching her new scales beneath it. He rubbed over the scales with the damp cloth, removing the blood. Her eyes closed, her breathing becoming quick and shallow. Sweat glistened on her forehead as her face twisted in pain. “Solomon, help me, please,” Isis mewed as her hands went to her scales. Blood had started to run heavily, soaking the washcloth through. Solomon cursed beneath his breath as he rushed to the restroom and grabbed several towels. He returned and lifted her gently from the mat as he went to pull away her vest.
A subtle knock came at the door. Yute popped his head in. He saw Isis in Solomon’s arms, her upper body stripped of all clothing, leaving only flesh and scales. Solomon had a bloody vest and a towel in his hands. “I’m so sorry to interrupt you two,” he left quickly, a look of menacing envy across his face. Solomon glared at him, appalled at the man.
Solomon laid Isis back on the bed, the towel beneath her. He had gotten up to get more towels from the bathroom when Patch wandered into the room. He walked up to the table where papers were scattered about. He hunted around for a moment before Solomon asked him, “What ‘re ya looking for, Patch?” He glanced up to see the tall black haired man next to him. He gulped loudly in the silence. Solomon smiled a little to him, knowing that his height was rather imposing to pipsqueak wallflower.
“I was looking for the clue to the coin. Wain sent me up here to get it. Do you know where it is?” Patch asked.
“Yep, it’s over here,” Solomon answered as he went over to the low table that sat between the two mats. Patch watched him go over to it until he saw Isis. “By the Red Sun…” Patch whispered. Solomon looked up to see Patch staring at the small woman. He laid the towel over her as he returned with the clue.
“Shall I assume that you’ll be using this room again tonight?” Patch gulped as he inched out of the room. His eyes hadn’t left the woman.
“Take her room for the night Patch. Someone needs to watch her,” Solomon told him as he watched Isis breath slowly. The slash on his neck stung, reminding him of his duty and promise to her. Patch nodded as he exited the room. He came back in quickly to pick up his forgotten bags, a forgiving smile and a heavy blush swiped across his face before he left once more.
Solomon sat down next to Isis after he closed the door behind Gage. He picked the towel up off of her. Blood had already begun to soak into the towel. He slowly wiped down her stomach, mopping at the blood. A groan was emitted by Isis as he found a particularly tender spot. “Sorry,” Solomon whispered to her. He hummed gently, a tune that he thought he had forgotten. It was a lullaby his mother used to sing to him when he was in his cradle. His throat closed up in the memory.
He sat there for a long time, just going over and over her stomach until she had fallen asleep. He swore up and down that he would buy a roll of striplin when he got back out to a store. He slipped a towel over her. He got up and went to the bathroom down the hall, splashing cold water on his face. He returned to his room shortly after, kneeling back down next to Isis. A knock came at the door. He rose, his knees cracking in the silent room. He grunted, shaking his head, I’m not that old. Not yet! He went to the door and opened it a crack. Fado stood at the door looking in. Solomon let him in and motioned him to a seat. Otly and Fado, and probably the Ipty brothers were fine by Solomon in regards to Isis. It was the human males that he was not fond of having around.
Fado looked at the young woman lying on the mat. Blood was soaking into the creamy white co-cotton towel down around her stomach. Her hair was disarrayed and scattered about the pillow. Her breathing was deep and rhythmic. She had finally found a peaceful sleep.
Solomon came up behind the empty chair and watched Isis for a moment. He sat down with a grunt and put his head in his hands. “You’re tired, Solomon?” Fado asked the Canto respectfully. He knew a lot about Cantos, one of his best friends being one. He knew that Cantos could go on and on past the point of exhaustion. He knew that the only time that a Canto would push itself past that point was only when it found its mate or its offspring was in danger.
“No, not really. I just don’t know what’s to be done,” Solomon answered the Sho’ren. He looked up to see the kindly man staring at Isis. The Sho’ren let out an oath, “By the Red Sun, she… Well, I do understand why you’re confused.”
“No, I don’t know what is to be done. I think that she likes Yute, and I don’t want to come between them, but I can’t do it. My jealousy, it could destroy us all, Fado. I should just leave, but McAlister bought me, I’m forced to stay on this trip. Fado, what should I do?” Solomon asked. He looked to the Sho’ren, fear and sorrow swirling in his black eyes. He observed the Canto for a time, thinking about what could be done.
His hand went to his beard as he thought. A bead of sweat ran down the side of his weathered face. “Maybe things aren’t what they seem. Stay with her, man. She’s your only chance,” Fado told him finally. He got up and walked over to the sleeping woman. He moved the corner of the towel on her and looked at her scales. There were three rows of four inch scales that circled her waist right above her belly button. Solomon had come up behind him and was gazing down at Isis when Fado turned to him and said, “Don’t give up on her, Solomon. Over the weeks that our group spent training together, I learned a few things about her. It’s not that she was explicit about anything, but, if you take the time to watch her, you’ll realize that she isn’t a normal person – let alone the average mercenary. You may believe that your life should not be continued with a human, but she will be something that you have never imagined.” Fado walked to the door and let himself out.
Solomon mulled over what Fado had told him for a second and then sat down next to the sleeping woman and watched her for a time. The blood had finally begun to clot, but Solomon knew that once she stood up it would begin again. He stripped off his shirt and pants and crawled onto his mat, pulling the thin felt blanket over his shoulders, leaving Isis on Patch’s mat to sleep. He told himself that it was only because of the Corianada, nothing more. Deep down though, he knew it was becoming something more definitive.
Isis woke up the next morning to a man sleeping in the bed across from her. She could see his broad shoulders and a segment of his leg. She knew it was Solomon right off when she saw the stitches and pitch black hair. He was facing away from her, into the early morning sunlight from the white sun that was streaming in through the window.
She tried to move, but as she reached for her vest, the towel fell off of her and pain zinged up her stomach. “Accch,” she hissed when she finally was able to grab her vest.
“Are you all right, angel?” Solomon asked her. Startled, she looked up into pitch black eyes.
“I’m fine,” Isis lied peevishly as she tried to pull her vest on. She was never fond of letting on that she was in pain. It was a sign of weakness and liable to be exploited. She also wasn’t entirely certain how to feel with Solomon utilizing a term of endearment with her. Granted, she found him fascinating, but she had learned from years of work not to get close to any one individual.
“Here, let me help,” Solomon said as he eased the vest onto her shoulders and went to button the front closed.
“I’ve got it,” Isis said as she moved Solomon’s fingers out of the way and began buttoning the vest. She looked at Solomon for a minute. He was well built and very masculine. Her breathe hitched in her throat. “I should get those stitches out sometime,” she said finally. Solomon looked down at himself and realizing his nakedness, slipped on his pants and shirt hurriedly. He had to remember that sleeping in such a fashion was not necessarily traditional for the humans. Canto found it convenient to sleep in that manner in case they were startled in their sleep and had to shift quickly. It tended to save them from damaging their clothes that way.
“Come on, I’ll help you down to breakfast,” Solomon told her as he offered her his shoulder. That morning the group got the last of their things packed and started on their way to White Dragon Roost. They figured that it would take them a little bit longer than what they planned because of Isis’s new armor. She still wasn’t used to walking with a scale belt implanted into her flesh.
They took a path outside of the town that led to the mountains. People lined the street to see the group on our way. People waved and threw flowers at them. Other than Solomon and Isis, the group had provided vital assistance in finding survivors and clearing out the creature. They hurried through the streets and got out of town before they were entirely flooded in carnations and roses.
The path that they took was a crushed white rock path with boulders, rocks, and small shrubs bordering the sides. They had walked out of Rivershallow, and continued to wander down the path for the better part of four days. A person could see the grey barren landscape for miles if it hadn’t been for the mountains that rose up like steeples on all sides of the path. Some of the mountains were a little lower and flatter almost like enormous hills, but not many of them. It was easy to pick out Sheep Mountain. It was the lowest mountain that could be seen in this barren waste land.
“What the…what happened to all the trees and animals?” Isis asked in confusion at the desert landscape. What had happened to all of the beautiful pasture land that belonged to Rivershallow?
“The dragons live here. They are the guardians of the gates to the mountains. Seeing as the dragons are carnivores, well, that would explain what happened to the animals,” Fado explained to the woman. Isis looked around at the desert and nodded her head. Patch seemed to be the most put out about the change in landscape. He was relatively quiet, which was normal, but the whole group could just feel a broiling hatred oozing from the man. He was not taking well to the wasted landscape.
As the days drew on, it became exceedingly hot. The group found a massive pond in the midst of the dirt and cacti on a rather scorching afternoon. It was a relief to see the clear cool water after the sweaty walk. The men dropped their packs, tore off their shirts, and cannon-balled into the water with laughing howls. It brought a smile to Isis’s lips, watching the men have fun. After seeing their worried, heat haggard faces for the last four days, it was a nice reprieve.
Might as well join them. The water can’t be all bad. Isis shrugged off her pack and laid it with the rest of them. With a running leap Isis splashed into the middle of the pond with the rest of men. That was when it hit her. The dragon scales were extraordinarily heavy in the water and they sucked her down to the bottom within seconds. With years of intense swimming on her side she was able to gain several feet. She had the lung capacity to hold her breath longer than the other men, but this would become dangerous fast. Her shirt stuck to her along with her pants. That along with the scales added more weight than what she was used to. Her hands reached up to give herself more leverage when she felt a hand grip around her wrist and pull her up.
She spluttered water as she gained the surface. “Forgot the scales didn’t you?” Solomon asked with a smirk. The weight around her stomach started to lessen as her body became accustomed to it. Solomon put one of his arms around her waist and swam her to an edge of the pond. Her mind raced as she realized her vulnerability. Her strong suites were beginning to deteriorate quickly with the realization that the scales were going to impede many of her typical actions. Swimming was almost entirely out. She worried to herself as she allowed Solomon to take her to shore. She thanked him for the quick rescue. She pulled herself up over the ledge and dangled her feet in the water for a while, waiting for her shirt and pant to dry.
Isis got out and lay down on the bank, sunning herself. The guys had water wars for the rest of the afternoon. Isis’s imagination wandered to and fro as she thought about their upcoming meeting with Arly the albino dragon. Other than the black dragon that had so generously tried to suck the life out of her, she had never met a dragon before now. She thought back to the books that were in her library, the ones from old earth. Some had mentioned dragons, beasts that flew, or slithered, could breath fire, or touch the sky to call rain. Others had talked of dinosaurs, massive reptilian beasts that had lived long before the first humans. Some philosophers pointed to the skeletons of dinosaurs as where the ancients had gotten their ideas of these.These dragons that we have here aren’t really dragons though. They are a different creature and the humans just named them for the legendary beasts. These creatures have intelligence. Their actions seem to always be on a human level, if not higher. The creatures tended to treat the humanoids and humans as pawns between land grabs that the dragons were continuously fighting over. Isis sighed as she fell asleep in the sun.
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