Sovereign of the Dragon (Part 6) by J.J. Massa
While Tikan could honestly admit that dragons were somewhat ponderous, and not nearly as fast and maneuverable as phoenix, he still preferred his dragon. In fact, if they were forced to make one more circling dive, he was pretty sure he'd be sick. At least if they were diving toward the ocean, his erstwhile dinner would be snatched away in the wind. He would just have to make sure he kept his head turned.
The question nagging at him now was: how did their attackers know where they were? There must be something special about Nadya…well, something specific. It would have to be something about her blood--nobody had had an opportunity to put any sort of tracking device on her.
He'd need to talk to Nadya's uncle about it. The problem with that was that they couldn't both talk to him at the same time. In spite of her assurance to the contrary, Tikan didn't think she'd forgiven him for the last time. Although, his doing so without her knowledge could be a very large factor.
"Grab the bird!" Luke bellowed. "His neck, nimrod," he growled when Tikan reached down for the bird's wings. "Not just feathers!"
Responding to the sound of Luke's voice as much as what he'd said, he reached around his friend and held on to the phoenix' neck. He couldn't have gotten any closer to Luke unless they both put on the same shirt.
Before he could process another thought, something dark and burning streaked by, leaving Tikan's left leg smoking. The bird somehow hopped in midair, barely dodging whatever it was. Several seconds passed before he realized he could sooth the burn with a cooling spell, which he quickly applied to himself and then to Luke.
A loud explosion rocked them in the place--a delayed reaction. Whatever was shooting at them had broken the sound barrier. The booming, cracking noise repeated itself, surprising Tikan. He hadn't seen another whatever-that-was, and the bird hadn't changed course.
Reilly's shrill, punctuated scream solved that mystery. Her bird was struggling, missing one foot while Reilly hung from the other. But where was Nadya?
Tikan looked frantically around, first looking down to the water, only to find Jason pointing wildly, his other arm flailing in an exaggerated arc as if to draw attention.
There, dropping in a steady free-fall, was Nadya. Her eyes were closed and he couldn't tell if they were closed in fear or if she was unconscious. All he knew was that the ocean seemed closer and closer, just as another explosion sounded.
She was falling faster and faster, the closer she got to the water
His heart pounded to the desperate, "No! No! No!" he heard from Luke, only belatedly realizing that he was chanting the same desperate cries.
Just as he was sure the latest volley of firepower would finish the girl he loved, a burst of fire surrounded the speeding mass, engulfing it in flames. As the missile burned away, a shimmering pink and purple resolved itself, intercepting Nadya before she could gain yet more speed.
Nearly weak with relief, Tikan would have slipped off the phoenix' back had it not been for Luke's quick thinking. He hugged his friend in thanks, pressing his face between Luke's shoulder blades. He needed a minute to collect himself.
"I'm calling my dragon," he shouted into Luke's ear, as he removed one hand to do just that. "If your bird can fight, do it." Luke nodded, turning the phoenix just as Tikan slipped off its back and onto the neck of his own familiar.
"We have to end this. Do you know how Nadya is?"
Your beloved will live. She is in a healing sleep as her own finds safety. We will fight and then join them.
As had become habit lately, Rupert found himself pacing his living room, wishing a letter would drop into the postbox currently stationed on the coffee table.
The difference this time was that, since he was currently the crown regent and directly related to the rightful sovereign, he could feel her stress and panic. Something was happening and it wasn't anything good.
If only he could go there, help her somehow. When those feelings stopped suddenly, panic seized him. Nadya was there, but just out of reach. She was unconscious, he knew it; he could feel it.
I have her, ruler. You must make a place for her. A safe place. The boy will need you as well. Soon.
Rupert stopped with a jerk, stunned. "What the bloody… Oh god," he moaned, clutching his head.
Nadya. He had actually watched her fall as it was happening. He'd read things, back in his distant past, about such things. How the dragons connected with each other--how the Sovereign of the Dragon would have many properties inherent in dragons, he had read those tales, never believing a word.
But now, now, that Nadya was known, and he'd reclaimed some sort of his own forfeited sovereignty, the sovereign of the dragon was active once again. If something happened to him, he had every faith that Nadya would know.
"You must make a place for her," the dragon had said.
Looking around as if coming out of a daze, Rupert realized what that meant. His current home was no big secret. How would he keep his niece and her friends safe here?
For one fleeting moment, he longed for the days when his own adviser had been close at hand to answer his queries and fix his problems. On the other hand, the advisor he'd depended on who'd helped him shift the crown to his sister was also the father of his problem now.
Imagine that, Vasily Rasputin, father of the Sovereign of the Dragon. Well, the dour Russian would be no help to him now, or would he? Spinning on his heel, Rupert raced to his bedroom, diving into the closet when he got there.
In the back, on the floor in the farthest corner, he had secreted his brother-in-law's private papers. They'd been hidden in the lining of his suitcase when he left England all those years ago. Nobody had been surprised when Vasily stayed on as Anna's advisor; he'd been trained and placed as advisor to the British crown, after all.
Of course, nobody had known that the country's ruler and her advisor were married, either. While it generally wasn't done, a monarch did have the power to perform wedding nuptials. As the marriage had taken place during Rupert's time in office, as it were, there was no legal reason why the two couldn't marry. Things might have been different if Anna had already been crowned, but that wasn't the case.
"Ah, here it is," Rupert sighed, pulling the thick envelope and tape from the wall. The thick parchment envelope was the same color as the paint used, so it would have been hard for anyone to spot. It had taken him several minutes, even though he'd stuck it in place himself.
"Here's what?" Antonio asked from behind him, startling Rupert in act of backing out of the closet on his hands and knees. "What in the Sam Hill are you doin' down there, prof?"
Fighting the urge to blush in embarrassment, Rupert grabbed at the doorframe and used it to lever himself up.
"I think I have the answer to our problem, my lad," he said in satisfaction, walking past Antonio.
"What problem? I didn't know we had a problem?"
"Our problem is that I'm well known in a world where many governments are already in place and have no desire for a return of an active monarchy that is all-powerful and supersedes them all. I expect they will already have made the connection, especially as my sister and her advisor have vanished."
He slapped a palm against his forehead with a groan. Why hadn't he already connected the dots? Nadya and her group had been under fire even before the boy had invoked the Right of Reign. Someone somewhere had known…suspected. How?
"What?" Antonio demanded. "Is it Nadya? What?"
"We've got to go. Soon."