The dragon lay perfectly still and the order to fight died on his lips. The crash had taken him out and Gale knew he’d landed on his head or shoulders, which meant nothing if he wasn’t built like a flyer to sustain low falls. Thank gods they were already landing!
There was clearly too much trouble with the dragon! He flapped his wings, trying to stay above them as much as he could. They could clearly see them arriving together, so there was no reason to hide. It wasn’t anything rare, but it still shocked how they did it in plain sight of everybody on the street! Or how normal it seemed that not a single person took a second look towards the side street they had pulled Accark’s unconscious body.
He felt the anger coil up inside. The dragon was pure menace! His peach color itself was a dead giveaway of his plain stupid thinking as the only place for him to camouflage would be tropical birds! Maybe it would be better if he just left? It wasn’t the first time for him to consider it. He could get away faster. Especially now that he had no need to worry over the obsessive dragon. It would be better for him.
With those thoughts his body began to climb higher, when he suddenly saw a greenish long feathers shine back in the darkness behind Accark’s sack. His eyes widened and he nearly crashed himself as his wings froze mid-move. He woke in freefall and managed to only half prepare himself as his legs buckled under him from the clash with the dirt road. Ignoring the pain, he started towards the alley they had disappeared to. His mind buzzed with the possibility that what he’d seen had been true – the one behind Accark’s kidnapping was a dragon! A dragon hunting his own kind!
“Private property!” He heard a low growl and a large werewolf rose up from the bag he’d been sitting on next to the entry and Gale stopped several feet away, pulling breaks and backing away. The man was gigantic! He guessed he could take him out in a fight, but then his companions would probably do him in. No, he couldn’t fight him alone.
“Private property! Are you with him? Then back off!” He repeated and Gale grimaced as he turned around and walked away. He glanced back in the alleyway where he saw they tossed him into a cage on a cart. They wanted him alive, he sucked in a breath. That was good.
Families would fight for each other. Accark wasn’t family, he was hardly a friend. Yet the thought of leaving him to their clutches sent shivers down his spine. He turned his attention at his feet as he guided himself away, towards the city center, remembering the rout back.
The kidnappings in broad daylight wasn’t unheard of, but the fact that they thought to kidnap somebody in the middle of a city said something about this community.
He changed his angle to look at the people passing him by as he went, forcing himself to move forward. Almost all the creatures he came across avoided looking up, or directly at him. They looked scared, probably intimidated by the bandits. His chest clenched with frustration and anger towards their cowardliness. They would put up with this? There were many of them, why wouldn’t they simply take the bastard down and be done with him? He saw a younger man ushering his kids out of his way, out of the stranger’s way, and he knew. He was from the same group of creatures that had taken Accark. The two children seemed intrigued by him rather than afraid, too young to fear yet. Divided by fear of your fellow man and conquered by the mongrel. If they were cowards, so be it.
“Hey!” He called out to the young man, trying to get his attention. “Do you know any good place here to spend the night?” He asked, not bothering making himself smaller or less intimidating.
The man stopped, wearily stepping closer, both kids pressed against his legs by their shoulders. He studied him for a long moment in silence and he did the same, taking in his poor modern clothes with sleeves cut open on the sides to give room to the small spikes running from his forearm all the way to the elbows. Despite the clothing, their species faces were all painted with large strokes of their own fingers.
He quickly glanced around them. “It was your friend they took?” He asked quietly.
Of course, they would be seen if the taking was so high above their shoulders. He braised himself not to hit the father in front of his children. He doubted he could hold back if what came out of his mouth next would be suggestion to skip and run and leave Accark. The sharp pain under his heart reminded him he’d thought of the same thing only moments ago. He’d almost done it.
The man eyed his bags. “For twenty, I’ll let you use my brother’s room. He’s away… for now.”
There was sadness in man’s brown eyes and Gale nodded without thinking. It wasn’t topic for children’s ears, although he guessed the kids already knew their uncle most likely wasn’t coming back.
“I only need it for the night.” He promised, following him with depredation. To trust someone only moments after he’d seen Accark being taken wasn’t beaming with smartness. Just in case, his hand moved quietly to his gun and stayed there for the small track through streets too small for two people and until he was lead into a small house between the houses.
“You needn’t fear us.” The man said, his eyes following the curve of his hand. “My brother fought against them, that’s why they took him and…” He gulped the last words down as the older from the two kids ran past them towards the kitchen area. There were at least three floors on the house what he could see from outside. The first floor consisted of nothing else aside kitchen and sitting area, a hole in the ground with its edges covered with colorful rugs and pillows. In the middle of it was a low table with some books. Ge gathered the bedrooms were upstairs.
“Would you like to eat something? I know, it sounds awful, but you need your strength if you want your companion back. Dragons are valuable, they won’t kill him unless he does something to anger their master.”
“Their master?” He let go of his gun.
“Valbis. Kids! Time to eat!” He shouted upstairs. “I saw him fall. He must have been knocked out. Dragons are never quiet when they are taken.”
He let out a snort before he could help it. That was true.
“Come on, I’ll take you to your bedroom.”
He was led upstairs to the second floor which was one big bedroom with two beds and two smaller ones in the corner. It looked as if it belonged to the master of the house, only…
“The children took sleeping with me after we lost my brother. His wife died two years back and… Well, we manage.”
Gale didn’t need to know more to understand. The children were orphans, and he was their uncle.
He let the bags fall on the floor, careful to hide the sack with the egg under the big bag. He’d move it elsewhere after he’d been left alone. He dug out his wallet and gave the asked sum to the owner of the room with a nod.
The man sighed and turned away, avoiding his eyes. He just hoped he wouldn’t get in more trouble from helping him.
He joined them for dinner few minutes later, after securing his backpack and the pouch so no one’s prying fingers could get them. He thanked the man, realizing he still didn’t know his name, and rose.
“Kids, bedtime.” The man called at their eager eyes darted back to the toys they’d left in the sitting area. They left without a complaint and Gale frowned, thinking how odd it was. When he was still at home, there was never silence and bedtimes were nasty business before exhaustion took them.
“Sit.” The man offered. “There are six of the small minds there, two werewolves and a dragon, Valbis. You can’t possibly think of taking them out on your own.”
He raised one of his eyebrows in protest. He had a choice?
“Give me an hour.” The man asked.
If the creature thought he’d go with his plan without asking question, he was sorely mistaken. Although, he was curious what they had cooked up.
“We’ve been trying to take him out for years, but we couldn’t on our own. There is another gargoyle here, but his group is small and as you – he can’t do it alone. But together, we could do it!”
“Your town is hardly small, you could have easily taken him out the moment he stepped on your territory if you stood up to him.” He said calmly, though he wasn’t calm inside at all. He was angry to be dragged into their problem.
“We didn’t -” He sighed. “We were stupid.”
Mildly put, but what was done was done and he had no intentions of listening the whole story if he could avoid it.
“Alright. Arrange your meeting.” He nodded, letting the man off the hook. Another gargoyle would be good, the odds would be in their favor.
“Aniue will be glad.” The man sounded relieved. “He’ll probably send Emgar instead, but still…”
“That’s already two…” He frowned, confused. He’d heard of Aniue, but he couldn’t remember exactly where. Maybe from history lessons? Why?
“As I said, their group is small – aside them there are only the nestbird too old to move and two children. They can’t afford losing a feeder.”
That he could understand, but it didn’t settle the sickening feeling in his stomach. His eyes kept darting at the door. He checked his watch.
The man excused himself and ran after his kids to check on them before he grabbed a scarf from one of the chairs around the kitchen table and pulled it around his shoulders. The lizards needed their warmth in the night. Before he went he assured he could leave the kids alone and didn’t need to worry about them.
He waited about ten minutes before his patience ran out and he went, closing the door behind him and checking the windows for lights. The upstairs was in shadows with no signs of them being up.
He made his way back to the alley he’d seen Accark being taken. It was empty now and he quietly sneaked closer. Hiding was not his forte, but still he somehow managed to stay away from the window and managed to get to the door. Which this time was completely unguarded. He reached out and sensed a forcefield. He saw a large shadow pass the window and knew the werewolf had gone nowhere. He pulled back, used his size in his advantage and hopped up, trying to be as gallant as he could while locking himself between the two houses, out of the view.
The door opened and the werewolf came out with large piece of bread and fuming piece of meat. Gale relaxed slightly, shuddering form relief when he realized the scent of the food would hide his. He sank back on the ground the moment the werewolf took his place on the sacks outside the alleyway. He crouched under the window until he was sure the movement in the house had calmed down and sneaked a peak inside.
Accark had woken up, cramped in the cell too small for his size, but somehow he managed to make himself even smaller as he tried to curl up into himself against the furthest corner away from the door.
Gale saw a shadow of something big move in the other side of the room. Accark immediately looked up and curled over, exposing his neck and his belly and pulled his long tail between his legs in complete submission. Something snake-like moved smoothly around, scuffed and then slowly disappeared without coming in view. Accark’s legs closed slowly, the tail still stuck between them. Now that the monster was gone, he pushed himself back to the corner and tried to assume the position he’d been in, but not before gingerly touching his left side of the head and winching from the pain.
Gale gritted his teeth, fighting with the urge to burst in there and breaking him out.He looked genuinely terrified. He had never seen him so out of himself and his heart sank as he realized he never wanted to see that impression on his face again.
A large shadow made him crouch and quickly check if the werewolf had moved. The shape of the shadow moved again and he darted his eyes up. There stood a huge black gargoyle, his silvery eyes glowing, moving his wings up and down and shaking his finger as if to warn him not to do anything stupid.
Gale crouched, pushed and with two smooth moves had enough wind under his wings to climb the few feet before the black hand reached for him and pulled him on the roof.