Dragon Sword: Chapter 10

Kellepics @ pixabay.com

I don’t know how bungee jumpers do it. Hanging by your feet hurts. I have no idea how much I weigh, but I know it’s between 120 and 130. That’s a lot of weight hanging off your ankle bones. It felt like my feet were being slowly torn off my legs. I thrashed around shrieking and cursing trying to find a way to get hold of the rope. I just don’t have the stomach muscles for a gymnastic move like that.

And all that thrashing caused the sword to fall out of the scabbard. Until that moment, getting hold of the sword was going to be my next task. I was going to use the sword to cut the rope and hope I didn’t crush my skull in the fall. When I heard it clink on the stones of the platform I knew that plan was kaput.

I wriggled around so I could see the sword. It was visible. The scabbard didn’t fall with it, of course, it was strapped to me. It was the scabbard that made it invisible. Right there it lay, simple, beautiful in its blunt simplicity. Nothing had ever looked so sweet to me. And so far away.

The sky beyond my feet was unlimited. There was a breeze, warm and wet from the sea. It pushed me gently and started a little sway which made my ankles hurt even more and I didn’t think that was possible. The world became profoundly silent. Soft, palpable silence. The sun was setting in a thick bank of dark clouds. The rainy season wasn’t supposed to be for another two or three weeks. I hated the rainy season.

So a dragon was supposed to rush up and try to save me. And then the demon would jump out and eat said dragon. Or touch them and they’d die. And I’d have to dangle there and let it happen.

All this time the book of fairy tales was still crammed into the top of my jeans under my tee shirt. All my wiggling had shaken it loose, much like the sword. It landed against my boobs and leaned out against the tee shirt making my stomach look really odd.

The instant I thought of the book, I heard Poppy’s voice.

“Angie! Would you like something to eat?”

“Poppy?”

“Yes.”

“Do I look hungry to you?”

“Sure!” came her cheerful reply.

“Well, I’m not. Do you see the sword there under me?”

“Yes, it’s scary.”

“It won’t hurt you. I want you to take it and cut that rope that’s holding my feet.” I thought if I smashed my skull in the fall, then I wouldn’t feel my ankles hurting any more. It would be a net improvement.

She didn’t say anything. I wasn’t even sure she could interact with a solid object like the sword, but on the other hand she’d been scarfing down that food without a problem.

Then she floated up past me, red silk pajamas fluttering a little. She had the sword in her hand, though it looked a little bit transparent. It couldn’t be. I craned my neck. Sure enough the real sword was right where I’d dropped it.

I felt something pushing against the rope. The sword was very sharp. It should have parted that rope like it was thread. Apparently the ghost version of the sword lost something in the translation. I tried to see how she was coming but my head was beginning to throb.

“Poppy?”

“Yes?”

“Try chewing on it.”

“I’m hungry!” she said.

“I know,” I answered.

She made a little noise that was not something you usually hear from a child. It was like the roar of a badger or a lion cub, except it wasn’t at all cute. Then I felt another waft of sea breeze and I knew we weren’t alone. The cord around my feet vibrated and Poppy was making slavering sounds. It was really creepy.

Derkein caught me before I hit the pavement.

The pain in my ankles was not zero but so much better I shivered with relief as he set me on my feet. I would have fallen right back down again if he hadn’t had hold of my arm. He was strong, stronger than an ordinary man who does politics for a living. And warmth radiated from him. Body warmth, not personality warmth. His personal charm could turn on and shut off like a faucet. At the moment it was in the “off” position.

The book nearly dropped out of my tee shirt but I grabbed it and stuck it back in the waistband of my jeans. Grabbing that book was really not so much an exhibition of presence of mind as an illustration of how neurotic I am. Derkein watched me do it with a tiny scowl. He knew it was stolen goods and wasn’t on board. Cops. They’re all alike.

“Thank you,” I said to him. “Now get the hell out of here. This is a trap” I grabbed up the sword, the real one, and slipped it back into the scabbard. I looked around for Poppy but she was gone. The rope that I’d been dangling from definitely looked chewed through.

“Give me the paint brush,” he growled.

“The paint brush? I don’t have the damn thing on me.”

His mouth went into a thin line. I think he was tempted to bite me. “You useless little — ”

“You know it’s a trap and yet you come anyway,” said a booming voice behind me. “That is why there are only nine of you left.”

We turned. The ambassador stood by the steps big as life and twice as ugly.

Derkein looked thunderous, dangerous. Most of his dragon powers were missing at the moment but he still had a very dangerous feel to him. In spite of that, he still took a step back.

“You are foolish to protect these things.” The ambassador gestured negligently at me.

“I’m not just one of those things,” I said, annoyed. I should have kept my mouth shut.

The demon grinned like an even creepier Cheshire cat. He didn’t take his eyes off me while he stretched out his arm to Derkein. The red dragon gasped and went rigid, his handsome face mottled.

I pulled out my sword and prepared myself to rush at the demon. He wasn’t armed except for his, well, arm. Mr. Humvee and Hatchet face were nowhere in sight. It was my perfect chance to get rid of him before things got worse.

And then suddenly things got worse.

A red cloud poured out of the palm of the demon’s hand.

“Fly away!” I yelled at Derkein.

“I can’t,” he said through barely working lips. He took step back as if pushing against a high wind. The mottling of his face was taking on a yellowish tinge. He had to get away from that thing, but about three more steps and he’d be over the edge. If he couldn’t fly that wouldn’t be good.

I backed up a little, trying to keep Derkein and the demon where I could see them both. The demon formerly known as the ambassador was smoky and indistinct, but he wasn’t doing that thing dragons do. He wasn’t changing into something elegant and classic. He was just a red cloud.

And the red cloud was growing teeth.

It was time to slice his head off. My hands were shaking. Come on, Angie, I said to myself. Grandfather did this hundreds of times. I can do it once. Gripping the scabbard hard enough to leave dents in the hilt, I ran toward the ambassador. The red cloud was getting more solid and looking hungrily at Derkein. I swung the blade.

The demon dodged. He was there and one blink later he was a foot to the left. I pulled back and slashed again. Nothing but air. I swept the sword at his legs. Same result.

The red cloud was becoming a whirlpool and I could now see it was a hole in the world filled with long, long, long coiled shapes. Something with teeth was pushing through.

The menacing, sick red smoke streamed toward Derkein like a flowing disease. He turned and threw himself off the edge of the platform. My heart lurched and then I realized it probably wasn’t suicide. Dragons have tricks up their sleeves even when they don’t have sleeves. They have more tricks up their sleeves than most people have sleeves. I hoped really hard that was the case now.

But it didn’t work. The red smoke caught him and he curled up. His face went slack and his eyes glazed over. That was all I could see before he was engulfed in red. Then the demon dragged him back from thin air and he rolled limply over and over on the stones until he came to rest in a floppy heap only a few feet from where I stood.

I screamed and slashed at the red cloud as it solidified back down into the ambassador. He merely grinned evilly as he dodged my strikes as easily as if I were a child with a stick. Then his hand darted out toward my throat. I dodged and he missed me by millimeters. A wave of the red mist brushed my face and my stomach heaved. My knees buckled and I fell hard on my butt. I almost dropped the sword.

The ambassador, still with a fixed grin on his face, made another grab for me. Then a silver head emerged from the stones under us. And the rest of a long, long, long silver body emerged after it. Of course, I thought weakly, the pearl had preserved all of Long-ju’s dragony goodness. It’s a pity they can’t mass produce those things.

Long-ju gracefully avoided the red mist. Then his long silver coils turned and lighting flashed from his open mouth. It struck the stones at the ambassador’s fat feet, forcing the monster to step back and away from me. It was a physical relief. I scurried away on hands and knees.

The ambassador had completely lost interest in me. He was too busy fighting Long-ju. The lightning bolts kept coming one after the other, leaving little black divots in the stones. For a second or two I wondered why Long-ju didn’t just burn the creep to the ground, but then I realized the lightning was connected to Long-ju and if he touched the ambassador with it he would be in essence touching the demon.

Crap. The red mist was growing and getting bigger and bigger. It was also towering higher and higher and headed in Long-ju’s direction. The silver dragon had to pull further and further away.

I staggered to my feet. I had a sick, wretched feeling like I’d eaten poison. Derkein was still curled up on the stone platform but his eyelids were flickering a little. I think he was coming around now that the demon was distracted.

The ambassador had moved closer and closer to the edge of platform as the red mist billowed up into the sky after a retreating Long-ju. The silver dragon still shot lightning bolts but now they were just harmless flares in the sky.

I saw what I needed to do next. I shoved the sword back into its sheath of invisibility, got to my feet and ran toward the ambassador, smashing into him. He made a gurgling sound and fell off the edge. I had to do some fancy back peddling to not go over the edge after him.

When Long-ju saw me do that he darted in my direction. He was turning into silver mist the entire few seconds it took him to get to me. When he landed on the steps he looked like a man.

“We killed him!” I yelled as if the old man were deaf. “We killed him!”

The look on Long-ju’s face shouted “no we didn’t” louder than he could have said it. My heart instantly sank. This wasn’t the first time I’d killed something that didn’t stay dead.

“How much time have we got?” I asked.

“Not long.”

“Shit.”

I ran to Derkein, draped his arm over my shoulder and started dragging him to the steps. He gasped and coughed and pushed me away. Fine. “Come on!” I yelled. In spite of the fact that he pushed me away he still looked dazed.

Long-ju caught Derkein’s arm. “This way,” he said. We all stampeded — well, Derkein staggered — toward the steps.

I had no idea what we’d do when we ran into Humvee and Hatchet Face. Swords aren’t much good against guns. Maybe Long-ju could eat them. That would be nice.

Daiyu was sitting with her head on her knees. She did not look like a well woman but she also didn’t look knocked out.

“Time to get the hell out of here,” I said to her. I grabbed her arm and wrapped it around my neck. I don’t think I could have actually hauled her to her feet without her helping me — she is not a lightweight — but together we managed it. I staggered toward the door with her draped around me. Her knees were buckling before we took three steps. The dragon tattoo on her face was washed out and ashen. The rest of her face was flushed and her eyes rolled back into her head. Now I was kind of dragging her. I looked around wildly for help.

Derkein looked just as sick as Daiyu and he was almost crushing Long-ju.

Daiyu’s eyes fluttered open briefly and then rolled back again. I shook her. “Tell me how I can help you!” I said desperately to her inert form. I crouched and lifted her onto my shoulders. I have mentioned many times the wonderful thing that is adrenaline. It’s still a wonderful thing.

“Pearl,” she whispered.

“What?” But she was gone again.

I followed Long-ju toward the door and down the stairs. We got as far as the courtyard.

That’s where they were waiting for us.

Humvee and Hatchet Face had their cannons drawn and pointed at us as we emerged from the door. Hatchet Face was also talking into a walkie-talkie.

“Bastards!” I yelled helplessly and pointlessly.

The ambassador floated down in a red misty cloud like a Macy’s thanks giving day parade balloon. Just as big and about as graceful. The prime minister was there behind the torpedoes. He was sweating and shaking.

“Now you have completed your pointless exercise,” the demon said. His Cheshire cat had disappeared but he still looked like he was having a good time. He extended a pudgy palm. “You will come with me.”

“Like hell we will,” I said. I had to say something. Besides we were in an empty compound. I didn’t even see the limo we’d arrived in.

“Why aren’t we dead?” Long-ju asked softly. He had eased Derkein to the ground. I should have followed his lead and put down Daiyu but I didn’t feel like doing that just yet. I also didn’t give a shit about an answer to that question. At least, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to hear the answer. The answer to a question like that is nearly always bad news.

This was no different.

“You are not to be killed.” He darted a glance at me. “Well, not all of you anyway. You will come along and cooperate or one of you will die.”

Long-ju raised his eyebrows. “You are here to capture us? To what end?”

The ambassador shrugged. “I am a mere foot soldier.”

Then a throbbing on the edge of hearing made itself known. Helicopter. That’s what Humvee had been calling with the walkie-talkie. I looked around wildly. There had to be a weakness. There had to be some way out of this. I could run into the woods but seriously doubted I’d get more than a few feet. As the adrenaline rush was wearing off, Daiyu was getting heavier. She already felt like I had a car draped over my shoulders. A big sedan. With cinder blocks in the trunk. Derkein was beginning to move a little at Long-ju’s feet but he looked pretty screwed up. His face was brick red and he didn’t seem to be able to open his eyes. Long-ju was so pale he was almost transparent.

The ambassador’s fat face was creased in a smug smile. I didn’t like the way he was looking at Long-ju. “The pearl,” he said.

What? My heart raced. The beautiful, magical dragon pearl. I had stolen it once and I had given it back. Now it didn’t belong to me and never would. It was still beautiful and magical though, and it was no surprise that it would come into play.

After a brief, concentrated stare, Long-ju more or less just dismissed him. He bent to help Derkein to his feet. The ambassador turned to Mr. Humvee and jerked his head in their direction. Humvee shot Derkein in the shoulder. The red dragon grunted and staggered, but Mr. Long-ju caught him. A hole had appeared in his red jacket and blossomed into blood, darker than the jacket itself, almost black in contrast. It formed a little stream down his front.

“The pearl will bring you no luck,” Long-ju said softly. His voice seemed to emerge from a distant still point. He didn’t look angry. He almost didn’t look present.

“Nevertheless, we’ll have it,” said the Ambassador.

“But you said I could have it!” Chen-li squeaked. For a moment I’d forgotten that little turd existed.

The ambassador turned one of those ugly demon grins toward the PM. “Why, yes, I did. I was forgetting.”

My heart pounded. Derkein seemed to be fading fast. I know dragons can be injured when they are in human form, but those injuries tend to be extremely temporary. I expected Derkein’s wound to just get all misty and then heal up. That didn’t happen. The bloodstain on his coat broadened and dribbled.

“The pearl or the next bullet is in her head,” said the demon he said nodding in the direction of me and Daiyu. He looked more like a demon every moment.

I tightened my grip on Daiyu. Normally dragons can’t be killed with something piddly as a bullet. But none of the dragons were behaving normally. His threat might be empty but then again it might not. On the other hand, he might have been referring to me and that’s not good under any circumstances.

I didn’t even look up as the wind from the helicopter pushed against me. I was too busy not falling over or dropping Daiyu. I was also deeply focused on the gun pointed at us.

A glance at Long-ju showed him gazing at the demon blankly. Derkein was still bleeding. The demon jerked his head again and Mr. Humvee pressed the pistol to Daiyu’s temple.

“Give him the damn pearl!” I yelled. I startled everyone, including myself. Everyone seemed to suddenly notice me. Long-Ju looked at me with sadness as infinite as the cosmos and as cold and dark. “Please,” I said.

Long-ju opened his mouth. Then he kept opening it until it was huge. I’d seen him do this before. It was a little trick that did not become less scary the more you see it. Instead of growing dragon teeth, which I expected, he reached into his now-cavernous mouth and pulled out the pearl. So that’s where he’d been hiding it.

Long-ju tossed the pearl at the ambassador who dodged like it was a hand grenade. Now that’s interesting I thought. The shining thing fell on the ground and rolled a few feet to a stop. The prime minister raced over and scooped it up.

I figured one of the ambassador’s torpedoes would snatch it out of his hands, but they didn’t.

The moment Long-ju let it go he wasn’t translucent and white any more. He faded into gray like an inner light had been switched off.

The helicopter was fully on the ground and it seemed to take all of Long-ju’s strength to get Derkien into the open bay door but he managed it.

I remembered “pearl” was the last thing Daiyu said to me before she passed out. What did she mean by that?

The gun moved away from Daiyu’s head and gestured me in the direction of the copter. I staggered toward it. I am not Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’m not even Maria Shriver. Daiyu is not a small person, even in human form. At this point I felt like I was carrying the entire dragon, scales and all. When I got to the open side door of the helicopter I dumped her on the floor next to Derkein. Daiyu flopped over like a dead woman. I climbed in beside her. I don’t know why. Protecting her, I guess. She’d never needed my protection before. She lay with the black dragon tattoo on her face looking stark black against pale skin. The little dragon itself, though, looked alert and fierce. My imagination has a great relationship with that stretch of ink. I wanted her to wake up and take care of this disaster — she’s the superhero, not me — but she looked out cold and not likely to be with us for a while.

After the demon and the torpedoes climbed aboard, the PM scrambled into the copter with us.

“Gentlemen,” the ambassador said. “Please remove the excess baggage.”

I jumped to my feet. I knew what that meant. Hatchet face unceremoniously pushed me out the door and the prime minister landed almost on top of me. Then the copter lifted into the air.

I rolled over to watch it go. I didn’t cry. I wanted to, but I didn’t.

Jump to chapter 11

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