Shadowed Threads(Rylee Adamson #4)(14) by Shannon Mayer
Blood ran from a gash over my eye, partially blinding me, but I barely noticed it. Tomorrow I’d be sore, bruised and battered. I just had to get to tomorrow. No problem, right?
Lightning cracked over our heads once more, darted between us, and struck the ground at my feet. I threw my arms up and stumbled backward, blinded by the flash of light.
“If he gets to use magic, so do I!”
Let it be done, the rules of the blood battle are all in fairness given.
Perfect. “Pamela, keep him off me till I give you the okay.”
I kept moving away from the sound of the dragon getting pummeled by boulders. A thud of flesh meeting stone, a grunt, and then a yelp from him. I blinked furiously, tried to clear my vision. A peal of thunder rippled through the mock canyon, my teeth rattling with the vibration of it. Far too slowly for my liking (though it was less than thirty seconds) my vision came back to me.
The dragon had his back to me and again, I ran for him, jumping over his lashing tail and scrambling up onto his back. Uncoiling my whip, I snapped it loose. “Hold off, Pam!”
The shower of boulders on his head eased as I fought my way up to the juncture of his shoulders and wings. He turned his head, a shocked look rippling over his face, and then his eyes narrowed. I cracked the whip forward, the length of it wrapping around his neck, the handle giving me something to hang onto.
I smiled at him. “Come on now, let’s see what you’ve got, you big mother f**ker.”
He snarled, a hiss of blood and spit splattering me. I didn’t even wipe it off, not caring anymore what happened as long as the others were safe. His blood was hot and stung the cuts in my face, making me grit my teeth against the sharp pain.
With a powerful launch he shot himself into the air. I gripped the handle of my whip as the dragon rolled in the air and found myself hanging from his back, the ground hundreds of feet below us already. Eve was fast, agile and talented in the air, could have tossed me a hundred times with ease.
She had nothing on this big boy.
He flipped back around, slamming my body into his back. As much as I wanted to ram my sword through his spine and end this, part of me held back. One, we were so far up, the fall would kill me. Two, I just couldn’t explain it, maybe it was some ridiculous Tracker trait or maybe it was just me, but I just couldn’t do it. Not yet.
FIGHTING THE DRAGON really wasn’t as scary as my brain was telling me it should be. And believe me, my brain was screaming at me that this thing below me was a big f**king monster and I should end it as fast as possible.
But, if I was being honest with myself, as he spun and bucked in the air, scales sparkling when random beams of sunlight hit him, I was kinda having fun.
Fun. Fighting with a dragon shouldn’t be fun. What the f**k was wrong with me?
On a brief respite between rolls, I slid my sword back into my sheath. “This isn’t going to end well for either of us. I don’t suppose you want to call a truce?”
Fuck off, Tracker.
I leaned my head back and laughed into the wind. While the other dragon had been polite, reserved and exactly as I would have thought a dragon would sound and feel inside my head, this one sounded a bit more—gods help us—like me.
He rolled again and I did everything I could to hang on, keeping my legs tucked in between his shoulder blades and wings. Power, there was so much power in him, and I could do nothing but hang on for the ride … .
Hours, maybe minutes, passed—I don’t know. We flew through winds and lightning and thunder, clouds, and even hail. He took me so high black dots danced in my vision and my breath came in gasps, then he dropped to the earth skimming the edges of a lake at the last instant, rolling so that I was plunged into the water. But I hung on, my fingers wrapped around the handle of my whip. I refused to let him win this. But how the f**k I managed to stay on, I couldn’t tell you.
Finally, after what felt like days, he flew back to the mock canyon, landing in a stumbling heap. I was still on his back and I wasn’t sure I wanted to get off. At least from my perch I was relatively safe.
“You ready to call a truce?” I fought to keep my voice steady, to keep my body from shaking with exhaustion. Every muscle I had was starting to cramp from clinging to him.
Get off my back.
“Do you mean that literally or more in a figurative way?”
His head spun around so he could stare at me, mouth dropping open, and I thought this was it, he was going to roast me.
Instead he laughed, a deep boom of a laugh that rolled out of him in a wave of sound.
Get off my back, you crazy ass Tracker. Now.
“You don’t seem to get it, I’m pretty comfy up here. I kinda like it.” I smiled at him, gave him a wink. Shouldn’t I be stabbing his eyes out with my sword? Hell, he was close enough that I could do it.
With a groan, he sunk to the ground.
The other dragon, the one with the commanding, grown up voice, spoke to us.
I believe you two are well matched. Otherwise, one of you would have made the killing blow.
I blinked and tightened my grip on the handle of the whip. “If I could have killed him, I would have.”
The dragon gave his head a sharp jerk up and down, agreeing with me, apparently. Same here. I’m hungry and the Tracker would make a great appetizer. If I could have killed her, I would have.
The dragons sitting around us chuckled, laughing and exchanging looks I didn’t like. The kind of condescending looks of a parent seeing something the children couldn’t. Suddenly I wanted to be off his back. I untangled the whip from around his neck and slid off, stumbling on my numbed and cramping legs.
His tail whipped around, propping me up on one side, helping me gain my balance. What the hell?
I shook my head and looked up at him. His eyes widened and he snatched his tail away from me as if it burned him. Maybe it did. All I could see was that if I wasn’t careful, I was going to add to my circus act.
“Oh, shit. I can’t take on any more juveniles!” Jack was going to kill me.
I am NOT a juvenile. His lips curled back over his teeth.
Blaz! You will not disgrace us.
The dragon, Blaz, hunched his shoulders and let out a suspicious hissing sound, not unlike a kid muttering under his breath.
Blaz turned his eyes at me and glared. I’m not going to protect you.
“Who the hell asked you too?” I snapped, limping toward the last place I’d seen Pamela. Somewhere in the fight, I’d gotten my right leg thumped hard and already the muscles of that thigh were tightening up, banding into a Charlie horse that was going to a bitch to deal with.
The word was followed by a roar that made Blaz’s bellows earlier seem small in comparison. I fell to my knees, clapped my hands over my ears, and then something hard and warm wrapped around me, sheltering me from the wrath of the older dragon.
I glanced up to see Blaz over top of me, facing the other dragons, his teeth bared and his tail curled around me.
Piss off, old man, I will deal with this. Blaz’s voice was distinct, deeper and more gravelly than the other dragon’s.
She carries the blood of the lost, she spilled your blood and you spilled hers, both mingled. The binding is complete. You are hers until the final storm comes. Do not forget this, Blaz. Do not disgrace our kind with your reluctance to be what you are. With those words, the other dragons lifted off their perches in unison, into the sky, with a swirl of sparkling colors and wings, disappearing within seconds as if they had never been there.
I put a hand on Blaz’s tail, feeling something shift between us, and he let out a long sigh, rolling onto his back away from me.
Go to your friends and do not come back here. Ever. Or I will eat you.
That was clear enough for me.
“Nice meeting you too, Blaz.” I gathered up my weapons and ran to the front entrance of the mock canyon. There, peeking through the other side was Alex, his golden eyes taking up his entire face.
“No, I’m okay. Where are Eve and Pamela?” Alex led me through the strewn boulders to see that the two girls were crouched in the ‘v’ of a boulder and the side of the mountain. Eve’s eyes were pain filled, but cognizant.
“How bad is it?” I knelt down beside her and moved her feathers so I could see the puncture wounds in her sides.
“I’ll live, the wounds will heal quickly, but I don’t know about my wings. I’ve never had broken wings before so I don’t know for sure.”
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. “The Beast can’t be that far behind with this delay; we have to find you a place to stay and either Alex or Pamela is going to have to stay with you.”
Pamela swallowed hard, her blue eyes as serious as I’d ever seen them. “Alex isn’t going to be able to help her much. And I think my arm is broken. I can stay with her.”
Already she was more grown up than Milly, a better person than Milly. I put a hand on her shoulder and gave her a smile, then eyed up her left arm. Broken for sure. Shit, this was bad. “Let’s go. Can you lift her again?”
With Pamela holding Eve up in a spell, we moved her down the edge of the mountain. We walked for close to an hour, moving slow both so Pamela could maneuver Eve, and so I could help Pamela manage the downed logs and other obstacles. This far south, it was a lot warmer than where we’d come from, and it didn’t take long to work up a sweat in my lined leather pants. Suddenly they weren’t feeling like such a good idea as I slowly broiled in my own sweat.
We found a small grove of trees where, thank the gods, there was a run-down shack that would provide some cover for Eve and Pamela.
I slipped out of the trench coat and laid it over a low hanging tree branch, then turned to Pamela. “Let’s get you out of that coat and take a look at your arm.”
I helped her out of the short leather coat, working it carefully down over her arm. Pamela’s face paled even more, and she swayed on her feet. I helped her sit down and then ran my fingers lightly over her arm. Broken, but clean. She sucked in a sharp breath as I prodded it.