The following is chapter nine of The Dragon Protector.  (Need to start at the beginning?  Click here to go to chapter one.)

The gentle breeze had upgraded itself to a moderate rustle, bringing with it the distinct smell of rain that was bound to pour from the darkening sky at any time.  The prospect of getting wet didn’t bother Javan.  What bothered him was the fact that one of his dragons had disappeared while the other snoozed alongside Taliya.

How could Varjiek and Taliya rest when there was so much to do and so much on the line?  He had spent the last half hour wearing a path in the grass while attempting to contrive a contingency plan for every aspect of his main plan that could go wrong.  What if they couldn’t find a Dusk egg?  What if they did find the egg but Taliya couldn’t open the portal?  What if the egg didn’t hatch once they got it to earth?

He didn’t yet have solutions to those potential problems, but he did think he could convince Kisa to give him some of her scales to set the action in motion…if she ever returned.

“I have a solution for that problem, too,” Javan mumbled as he marched over to Varjiek.  The dragon’s head rested peacefully on the ground, and Javan stood on his tip toes to yell up into the dragon’s ear.  “Wake up, Varjiek.  Time to fly.”

The startled dragon jerked his wings up and stood, sending Taliya rolling under his tail.  Fly?  Who said something about flying?  Doesn’t matter.  I’m ready.  Let’s go.  Where are we going?  It’s not the desert, is it?  I can’t fly over the desert.

Javan ignored Varjiek and rushed over to Taliya.  “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”  Taliya cocked her head from side to side as she took Javan’s hand to help her crawl out from under the dragon’s tail.  “That was a brutal way to wake up.”

“Sorry.  I guess I should have known better than to disturb a sleeping dragon when a person was sleeping right beside him.”

“I’m glad I could help you learn that lesson.”  Taliya flashed him a smile and looked around.  “Did Kisa come back?”

“No.  I decided we’re going to go find her.”

We won’t have to go far.   

 

◊          ◊          ◊

 

Taliya noticed Kisa before Javan did.  The dragon was standing just upriver from them on the other side of the berry bushes staring at herself in the water.  Sadness filled the dragon’s eyes, and Taliya knew it was because Kisa couldn’t stand the thought of losing any of her scales.  How could Taliya protect the dragon’s pride and get her to willingly surrender the scales they needed for the portal?

“I see her.”  Javan’s irritated tone cut through Taliya’s thoughts.  “She better stay put until we can get to her.”  He started to stomp his way through the bushes, but Taliya grabbed his wrist before he got more than two steps in.

“Javan, wait.”  If he approached Kisa with that attitude, he was sure to spook her into teleporting again.  “You’re the one who needs to stay put.  Just give me a minute.  Let me talk to her alone first.”

He sighed, nodded, and backtracked out of the bushes.  “If that’s what it will take to get her to give up her scales, go for it.”

“Thank you.”  Taliya gave his wrist a gentle squeeze and wove her way under and around the branches, leaves, and juicy violet berries of the bushes.  When she emerged from the patch of bushes five minutes and two spider kills later, she found herself freshly in awe of the white dragon in front of her.  Kisa wasn’t as massive as Varjiek, but she still made Taliya feel like she was an ant approaching an elephant.

Despite her insignificant size in relation to the dragon, Taliya knew she could convince Kisa to do whatever she wanted.  The trick was to stroke the dragon’s ego first.  “Hey, girl.  Looking good.”

Kisa swiveled her neck and focused her gaze on Taliya.

“You know, your scales do more than just look fantastic on you.  They’re also quite powerful.”  Kisa’s ears perked up, and she moved her head slightly closer to Taliya.  “They are the only things that can properly disable the portal and keep all of Keckrick safe from King Omri’s dragons.  That will make you a great heroine.”

The dragon stood a little taller, and the pride in her eyes began to overtake the sadness.  Confident that she had Kisa’s attention, Taliya kept schmoozing.

“Think about it.  A few days ago, no one knew you existed.  Now you can forevermore be known as The Dragon Who Saved Keckrick.  The best part is that no one will be able to see your missing scales.”

Kisa looked away at the mention of missing scales.  Taliya had to talk fast to keep the dragon interested.  “Giving up a few scales is a tiny price to pray for the glory you’ll receive.  Plus, we’ll make it as easy on you as possible by taking one scale from the underside of each of your legs.  You’ll still be a magnificent creature, and you may even gain the ability to run faster without the weight of those scales holding you back.  In return, Javan will let you return to your cave for a bit so you can hide from the storm that will soon be blowing through here.”

“I will?”

The sound of Javan’s voice above her startled Taliya.  She looked up to see him jump out of the sky and land beside her.  “Javan!” she said, punching his forearm.  “You can’t be hovering around on your invisible dragon and dropping in to private conversations like that.  It’s rude!”

Instead of apologizing, he rubbed his arm and smiled.  “I gave you the minute you requested.”

“Just for surprising me,” Taliya said, trying to think of some way to shock Javan the way he startled her, “you have to let me teleport back with Kisa.”

His smile vanished.  “What?  Why?”

That seemed to hit a nerve.  Good.  Maybe he wouldn’t pull anymore appearing acts on her after this.  “You’ve asked me to leave my home and everything I know to go with you.  And I’m in.  I’d be a lot happier about it if I had a little bit of time to gather a few things to take with me that weren’t destroyed when the white winds blew my house apart.”

“Guess that makes sense.”  Javan turned to Kisa.  “You promise you’ll come back?”  He must have gotten an acceptable answer because he then turned to her.  “You promise you’ll both come back?”

“My home no longer exists, and my dragon is with you.  I have no reason to stay in Keckrick anymore.”

“Then it’s settled.  Kisa lets us take her scales, and you both get to take a short trip back to Fralick.”

“Excellent.”  Having gotten what she wanted from both Javan and Kisa, she linked her arm with Javan’s.  Kisa may have agreed to give up her scales, but Taliya still wasn’t about to get too near the acid-breathing dragon without the Collector as close to her as possible.  “Let’s get those precious scales.”

 

The story continues with Home Again.