Friday, March 14, 2014

Day Six-Fifty-Five: Flight

"Okay. There's one up there. You ready to go?"

"Fuck." Libby breathed deep. "Fuck fuck fuck fuck. Yes. Let's do it."

"Are you sure you don't want me to try and get down on my own? Because two of us on one of those things -"

"You're ridin' with me or we're not ridin' at all." Libby grabbed Logan's shoulder and offered him the sternest, most commanding glare she could muster. "It seems less suicidally stupid if two of us do it."

Logan blinked. "That's... that's not logical."

"Get moving, kid. Before I piss myself from fear. That's an order."

Logan and Libby gathered up what little gear they found valuable and left their quarters. Libby winced as she walked, the dozens of tiny cuts marring her skin poked and prodded by her clothes. She vowed to horribly murder the interrogators responsible for her pain should she ever meet them again.

The corridors were empty. The residents of the palace had long since abandoned its austere halls, or at least the upper halls, no doubt deeming life here too risky. To the east, Libby spied a glint of sunlight and a small heap of snow; she wondered if the wound in the structure was the fault of the sloth or the palace simply collapsing in on itself. Either way, they had to get out of here.

Logan led her to the stairs up to the Micro-Dragon roost. Libby took two steps and winced painfully. Logan offered her his shoulder, and helped her up the rest. She reflected that he'd turned into a pretty okay kid, a far cry from the troubled youngster she'd endured so often back home. A thief, yes, but an okay kid.

"How's your mom doing?"

Logan shrugged. "Not sure. She's back at the Dauphine. We... 'saved' her. Like they could've arrested mom without lugging the whole damned machine to Rodentia."

"Ah." Libby gripped the spiral railing, breathing hard. "She's... probably fine. Tough bitch, that one."

"Like yourself." Logan threw her a cocky grin. "I like a strong lady."

"Hey, hey, I'm a married woman." Libby knocked him on the back of the head. "I'm respectable. No cheatin'. Ain't no man for me but Dragomir."

"He's a lucky guy."

"You're damned right he's lucky."

After a great deal of painful hobbling, they emerged into a wide, smelly room. Partially open to the cold and the snow at the far end, the Micro-Dragon roost reminded Libby of the top of the king's tower: tight, restrictive, controlling, and occupied by a single dragon. Though this one was, as its name suggested, much smaller than Barrel.

Barrel. Libby allowed herself a single moment of reflection as she shivered, the chill wind whipping through the roost biting at her bones. Could use you right now, you little bastard. Wonder where you've gone.

Logan stepped away from Libby, passing by empty stall after empty stall. She could easily see his target: a thick, knobbly tail, thumping idly against the floor near the roost's open balcony. Loud snorting sounds hinted at a meal in progress, and a thick, grey pair of wings betrayed the culprit.

"Watch it, kid," Libby muttered under her breath. "Be careful. Don't ass it up like your dad."

Libby doubted Logan was an animal expert, but he seemed practiced enough. He called out to the Micro-Dragon in advance, allowing it a moment to raise its head and consider him. Tiny black eyes peered out of its thick skull, almost as large and as cumbersome as a rhino's, and a thin tongue slipped out of its mouth and scented the air.

Logan froze. The Micro-Dragon hissed, blinking stupidly. Then, apparently satisfied, it tucked back into its meal. Whatever it was, it smelled awful.

Breathing deep, Logan moved in close and touched the Micro-Dragon's tail. It remained apparently indifferent, engrossed in subsistence. Logan edged away from its pen to fetch a huge two-seater saddle from a nearby bin. Libby, content that the Micro-Dragon wouldn't pose a threat, moved in to assist.

"I thought dragons could form saddles outta their backs," she growled. "Why do we need this thing?"

"This is a Micro-Dragon. Very different." Logan grunted as he grasped one side of the saddle, lugging it carefully onto the Micro-Dragon's back. "Also stupid. You won't get a conversation outta this guy. He ain't Barrel."

"I was wondering if you knew about Barrel."

"Dragomir's told me some stories," Logan admitted. "Be handy right now to have a full-fledged, smart dragon. Gotta work with whatcha got, though. C'mon, hop on."

Libby looked at the saddle with no small amount of uncertainty. The last time she'd taken to the air, she'd just lost her husband. Everything had turned out mostly okay in the end, but her memories of the skies were not pleasant. Nevertheless, with some help from Logan, she painfully stretched herself up into the saddle and locked her feet into a pair of stirrups.

The Micro-Dragon peered back at her, cranning its long neck to get a good look at its passenger. Blink, blink, blink. Back to eating. If nothing else, she was satisfied by its apathy.

"How... how the hell're we supposed to fly this thing?" She looked around for reins, chains, a leash, a whip, anything that could alert the Micro-Dragon to her desired destination. "Help me out here, Logan."

"I think it has to do with shifting your weight," he replied, beginning to pull himself up into the passenger's seat. "I watched some scouts flying around last week, and -"

The rumble that seized the roost cut off the rest of Logan's explanation. The world turned abruptly, torturously vertical as the tower swayed, propelled by something far stronger than gusts of wind. Saddles burst out of their bin behind Libby, and as she turned to track them they flew across the Micro-Dragon launching pad and out into open air... down onto the city.

The city Libby could now see. Because the tower was leaning down towards it, falling onto Rodentia, falling apart.

Libby screamed. Logan screamed. The Micro-Dragon did not, though it was no less terrified. Immediately whipping around, its tail nearly launching Logan into an adjacent stall, it clambered towards the exit. Its great wings fanned open, and it flapped frantically. It pulled away from the tower as quickly as the tower pulled away from the Micro-Dragon, fleeing the thousands of tonnes of stone, wood, and thatch that rained down on Rodentia.

Libby's heart stopped. She thought she would die. She knew she was already dead, and that the vast expanse of clouds above her was, quite simply, heaven. She didn't know what heaven was, exactly - the Weekendists were vague on that point - but she was sure it had something to do with clouds. 

The dragon bucked. Libby's heart pumped again, squirting enough blood up to her brain to see that, no, she was not dead. She was, in fact, safe - or, at least, safer. 

Cruising downward, the Micro-Dragon screeched. As Libby watched the smoking city below her dip and bob, she dimly realized that the Micro-Dragon was too encumbered. Worse, it might be hurt. It flew unsteadily, unable to stay properly aloft, bucking so hard that Libby nearly fell out of the saddle. She clung to the saddlehorn, praying that whatever was bothering the Micro-Dragon would miraculously go away.

The Micro-Dragon flew in close to one of the remaining tall buildings of Rodentia. The lesser serpent tilted, flying almost vertically. Libby bit back a scream and clutched all the tighter to the saddle, squeezing so hard that her knuckles felt ready to burst. The Micro-Dragon's feet dragged against the building's stone facade -

- and, suddenly, it straightened. The weight lifted. The bobbing ceased. The Micro-Dragon cried happily, whirling around and soaring higher in the sky. Confused, Libby peered back towards the building, over her shoulder...

... and spotted Logan, clutching to the edge of a tower window. He was pulling himself inside, his face whiter than usual. Something green and familiar peeked out at Libby from the crook of his arm.

Sumbitch was holding on to the dragon. Despite her predicament, Libby smirked a little. Guess I forgot about him for a sec.

Safely inside his tower, Logan waved, getting smaller and smaller as the Micro-Dragon pulled up and away from Rodentia. 


The Micro-Dragon soared into the clouds. Libby briefly considered building a flying machine next, to emulate the experience. But, no, she reasoned - this was terrifying enough. No more flying.

The Micro-Dragon flew for a long time. Enduring every painful and frightful moment, Libby caught only snippets of the landscape below and beyond the dragon's back. She saw ruins -

- smoke - 

- a towering, green stalk -

- an excess of white -

- and, as the air got thin and her head got flighty, Libby saw darkness. That's when she passed out.

She dreamed of her boys. One was putting a dagger in her heart; the other was trying to patch the wound. They couldn't agree on anything. Eventually, to her despair, both of them disappeared. Her love went with them.

When she awoke, her head still spinning, she was laying on something soft. Almost plush. Above her was a man, though the sun eclipsed his features.

"Hi," he said, offering her a hand. Thick, shaggy brown hair brushed across her face. "Are you my girlfriend? You can be, if you wanna."

He was naked. Stark naked. And way, way too close.

Libby didn't know what else to do. Still dozy, she hobbled to her feet and punched the man in the face.

"Ow!" he cried. Reeling back, he brought his own fist to bear. "That hurt!"

The punch, pulled though it was, exploded against Libby's cheek. She collapsed, bouncing off ground no harder than marshmallows.