Authors: Morgan Blayde
Tags: #Dark Fantasy, #Horror, #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction
I held on. I rode the storm. My heart thundered in my ears. It felt like an actual dragon lived deep inside me, compressed to a really small size, but had finally awakened—bursting forth, growing … growing. The red mist cleared from my vision. The world was smaller. My head was high off the ground, at the end of an impossibly long neck.
My mind was muscled back as my inner dragon took over body-control. He screamed in battle fury. Lightning spilled from my mouth. I turned my great mass, looking for trouble.
And saw Christie climbing out of the van, holding another camera. I grinned, showing her my fangs.
Better get my good side.
“Things are never so horrific they can’t…
Oh, fuck, I’m sensing a theme.”
It didn’t seem like I was needed: the yantra’s legs were whacked off. The brass grill was grounded, Shiva and the Old Man had pulled the ball apart, making it flat again in a crumpled kinda way as Ryella continued to soften the metal with a spray of fire from a flashing citrine amulet. The many snakes were iced over. Surprise, surprise, Izumi was here in a clinging white body stocking, white leather boots, and a silver tiara on her head. The lion-woman part of the creature was iced-over as well.
I padded over to get a better look, adapting to being a four-footed beast myself. Being the size of a bus, I needed fewer steps than I had before.
Izumi saw me—how could she not?—and blew me a kiss. I guess she was over being mad at me. Osamu bowed respectfully. Dhal and Silf turned white as a Klan rally. Almost dropping their swords, they ran over to Ryella, hiding behind her. Her eyes narrowed in thought. I think she was wondering if she was still sworn to me while I was a dragon.
Shiva looked up at me, as did Holy. They were my people; like the Old Man, they knew what I was. The girls stared at my dragon form, but didn’t freak out.
Teresa freaked big time, falling on her butt, rolling, coming up without her high heels. She ran for her life. Holy eyed the abandoned pumps greedily. Ghosts hadn’t fazed her. The monster zombie hadn’t. The snake people hadn’t. Why a dragon. My sheer size?
All that remained was the ripping out of the central grillwork, cutting off what it represented from our reality. I figured my claws could that, then my lightning breath could finish slagging the metal gate.
Everyone cleared back from the yantra, giving me plenty of room. I stopped, crouched over the brass work and the frozen whatever-it-now-was. I lifted a gold scaled paw with black claws and brought it down—into nothing. I felt nothing. I felt the damp winds of an altered space. My paw went through the brass yantra, sinking up to the wrist. A yellow-green glow infused the brass with a spectral presence; the ghost-light now possessed the metal.
I tugged my paw but it wouldn’t budge. The badly rumpled yantra had fused to the pavement, becoming a true doorway. An open door inviting me in.
I roared lightning around my wrist, letting the electric force crackle and dance. I hoped deforming the metal might release me and close the doorway. The lightning warmed my scales but didn’t hurt me, it was my own lightning after all, the power of a royal dragon. The iced-over creature exploded into fragments. Chunks of woman, snake, and lion hailed in every direction, some of it bouncing off my chest. The rest of my people scattered, getting even further away from the destruction I handed out.
I kept the lightning breath going as long as I could spit it out. Then, as the discharge cleared, I examined my work. My paw was still in another world. The gate was still open. The brass yantra itself was slag that puddled in the countless craters. The yellow-green spectral energy was still there, etched into the damaged pavement, looking whole only when stared down upon as I was doing. The ghost-light had become a new yantra, replacing the old.
Same old problem, brand new source.
The dragon currently operating our body seethed with white-hot rage. I felt his stress in the tension of our muscles. His tail thudded the pavement, cracking the drive. His head turned to the old school as if it were to blame. I knew what he was about to do and said nothing.
My dragon lungs filled. My head turned. I spat lightning at the massive, rotting structure that should have been condemned years ago. A wave of concussive blasts trailed the lightning as I directed it across the building, then back again along the second and third floors. The parts not initially vaporized ignited, setting the rest on fire. Floor collapsed onto floor. Soon I had the world’s biggest pyre and no marshmallows to roast.
The dragon cut off the lightning steam and huffed with satisfaction at
He just huffed again, looking back at our trapped wrist.
You realize that if the gate gets closed, we might not get our hand back? Of course we could grow another one, but people will call us stubby for a while.
That seemed to make him mad all over again. And there was nothing left to burn except for people and the white van.
He eyed the van.
Rampaging wasn’t helping. I tried reason.
Look, be patient. The Old Man will figure something out. He’s … making a phone call?
I used dragon hearing to listen in. “That’s right, six pizza, two orders of honey bar-b-que wings, a chocolate chip dessert pizza, and four two-liters of soda. What kind? Oh, just give me an assortment, and have Thorn deliver it to the old school. No. Nobody else. Tell her I tip big. An hour?” The Old Man looked at me then went back to his call. “No rush. We’ll be here.” He hung up.
I glared at him with dragon eyes.
No rush? No rush!
He shrugged. “Look on the bright side. Your paw is plugging the dike. Nothing can come into our world until that changes.”
I hated him for being right.
And so we waited. And waited. And waited some more. This was the most fucked up battle I’d ever waged. Monsters, demons, gangster vampires, werewolves, tax collectors; no problem really. But get tangled up in anything with ghosts!
I’ve always been weak against them. And I bet I don’t even get any pizza.
Christie came over with her camera. She walked around me, shooting, then went to the ghost-yantra that had me trapped. She taped it a while then turned back to me. She held up a thumb, as if I’d done something particularly clever, then walked toward the burning school a little. She panned the camera, taking it all in, and lifted the lens to track the dark smoke and leaping flames into the sky.
Happy, smiling, she walked back to the van.
Holy came by, ignoring me mostly, and tried on the abandoned pumps. They seemed to fit because she kept them.
Ten minutes later Ryella came by. She stared up at me. “If you like, I can cut the paw off. For the right price. I can make you a silver hook to wear. You’d be one stylish dragon.
The dragon opened his mouth wide, revealing many sharp teeth. I felt his decision to take a chomp out of her.
I stopped him.
You can’t. She’s sworn to us, our property. And she’s useful, when she’s not being cruel as fuck.
Just one little nibble
Piss off the Old Man and he’ll leave us here for a week to teach us a lesson.
The dragon shut his mouth with a last huff. He lifted our free hand and curled in all the toes, leaving the middle one extended in a universal gesture that was wasted on the fey. Oblivious to the meaning, Ryella shrugged and strolled away, humming a jaunty tune.
It’s all right.
Once this is all over, we’ll put our minds to getting every one back. Really, you’d think there’d be more respect for a demon lord.
And a dragon
, he added.
Eventually, Teresa came back. She stayed far from me, and haunted the white van. She and Christie were apparently hard at work on the editing. I wondered how they’d spin all this for the show. I didn’t worry about suppressing anything anymore. The images they’d caught could never be believed. It would all be accepted as a CGI blue-screen effect. If Teresa were smart, she’d save the best stuff and come out with a fantasy movie:
Curse of the Hell-Spawn
, or something like that.
Reading my thoughts, the dragon paused.
Who would they get to play you?
Knowing Hollywood, Justin Bieber
. I shuddered at my own thought.
The dragon shuddered with me.
Thorn and Malevolence pulled up in my Mustang. That pissed me off, but at least the one who looked legal was driving. Thorn was probably a few decades old, but as a slow-growing fey, she looked ten. Her gold hair fell in spiraling blades. Her pale face added to a washed out look. But all that only contrasted the fierce blue of her eyes.
The girls unloaded the food and beverages, and my so-concerned-over-me troops fell on the food like starving hyena. And I was right; they didn’t offer me anything. The Old Man paid Thorn for the delivery, then walked her my way. Malevolence came along. At my feet, the girls stared like they’d never seen a giant, winged lizard that can breathe lightning.
Malevolence—in Goth black jeans and shirt, a ball cap on her head—looked particularly impressed. “Wow, a real dragon.” She walked around for a new angle. “Big.”
Glad we’ve got that settled.
At least I was distracting her from her grief over Rooster, her dead father. I wondered how that song she’d been writing had come out, and when I’d hear it on the radio.
The Old Man pointed out the ghost-yantra that had imprisoned my hand. Thorn nodded at the ghost-fire grid. She said, “Yeah, saw that coming.”
And you didn’t bother telling me?
I mentally added her name to the list of people who needed to get bent.
“I can resolve this situation,” Thorn said. “But not with the results you expect.”
The Old Man was so much taller, he dropped down to one knee to look her in the eyes. He smiled. “Will my plan get him killed or seriously maimed?”
“Nothing that can’t be fixed.”
My dragon touched thoughts with me. He said:
I’m not sure I like that answer.
The Old Man said, “Will it complete the mission and get us paid?”
Thorn paused, thinking over her answer. “He will suffer a bit more, I think, but he won’t lose his paw, and the gate will close. Eventually.”
The Old Man smiled. “Well, that’s all right then.”
Malevolence returned to Thorn, tugging on her shirt. “What does he want you to do with Godzilla, here?”
My dragon dropped his jaw. His eyes bugged out. A growl hung in his throat as his tail swished.
Oh, come on! I’m much better looking than him. And do I look Japanese to anyone?
Those talking at our feet ignored us. Thorn said, “I’m supposed to make a mystic barrier above the trapped paw, right on top of the dimensional flux. Then, I slide my barrier down into the earth.”
Malevolence’s face brightened. “Like having several bracelets on. You move a back one to slide off the front one without your fingers actually touching it.”
I stared, having followed a very clear explanation. From Malevolence of all people. I felt a burst of hope in my dragon heart.
That could actually work
Izumi drifted up behind them. Unknowingly she echoed me, “That could actually work.”
Thorn looked up at my reptilian face. “It won’t go that smoothly. Things will go badly, then worse, but you will ultimately triumph.”
The Old Man nodded, his face serene. “I say we try it.”
“I’m not so sure,” Izumi said. “Maybe there’s a way Ryella can leach away the ghost-energy. How strong is it anyway?”
The Old Man stood, and turned to Izumi. “The ghost-yantra is drawing power from its altered space. Waiting for it to fail won’t work.”
“You should let him do this before the poison reaches his testicles and they fall off,” Thorn said. “This is the only path I see to you two having a child.”
Izumi spun and stared up at my dragon form. She called out, “We’re doing this. Give it your all and remember I love you!”
And that’s how I got outvoted.
Thorn shooed everyone else away from me. Looking up she said, “I’m going to want another donation from you for my college fund.”
I had the dragon nod his head.
Her face went very sober. Her eyes darkened. It seemed for a moment she aged a few years. “It’s going to get very bad. Do you remember the knife I told you to keep hold of?”
“You lost it.”
No, it’s around here. Someplace. I think I dropped it by the fountain.
Thorn said, “It needs to stay where it is for now. I just want you to remember it. The knife is keyed to you by magic and blood. Don’t forget that. It’s important.”
I shrugged and nodded.
She smiled and became her younger self. She held out her palms and stood like a mannequin. Nothing seemed to be happening. Then a disk of Tiffany blue light appeared, the color of her eyes. The disk had a slightly darker pattern of runes that ran in a circle. The symbols really ran as the disk began to rotate. The spin started slow, but lurched ever faster until the runes blurred together.