Marcus nodded at my news. I'd just let him know that Sapphire had been here and he seemed excited by the news of another dragon around. I didn't know how close or far away she actually was, but just knowing she'd come to Earth seemed to lift his spirits.
"She was in the Michigan salt mines, imprisoned." For whatever reason I felt obliged to let the dragon know and admittedly the feeling of having to share left me confused, but I was confident I wasn't doing anything wrong. It wasn't a magical compulsion, but it just seemed like the right thing to do.
"That is where you saw her, Emma?" He leaned in closer to try to catch my gaze. I really wasn't big on sharing gazes with supernatural creatures so I dipped my head in a nod.
"She gave you Nico's blade?" He kept drilling down trying to get me to give him more news of the other dragon.
I shrugged neither confirming nor denying his query and instead I asked, "Why couldn't you tell she was on Earth?"
He puffed out a bit of flames reminding me that I was a cough away from becoming a barbequed visitor. He wasn't shy about torching things and heaven forbid he sneezed and I went up in flames before I could pop out of range. Dragons had their own sense of rules; I knew that from Sapphire, and I had watched her chomp down on another creature, so I knew that they were very fast.
"The damned prison is covered in enchantments, runes, silver and not to mention being built inside the layer of salt beneath the region. The Gatekeeper and his fellow guards made sure that magic wasn't welcome between the worlds or even the walls." He seemed incredibly certain of his words and I wasn't going to argue. I had seen a different set of tunnels and mines during my visit, because the warden had gone crazy from doing his task, and absorbing some of the worst attributes of his prisoners made for different rules than Marcus was talking about. Whenever Marcus had heard of the prison, or had been there, it had been ages ago and no longer followed the structure he was implying had existed.
Magic was definitely making its way out of the prison, and Sapphire's escape proved it wasn't 'if' but a matter of 'when' the news traveled to other worlds that there was a chance to escape into our world. The separation of the different worlds was tissue paper thin at best. I'd inadvertently stumbled into one of the otherly worlds and still was counting my fingers and toes. There was talk of closing the portals between the worlds from what my Uncle Harry had told me, but I wasn't very confident that it could be done. Once the bell was rung it wasn't easy to dispel the radiating sounds. The whole if a butterfly flutters its wings in South America the ripples would go out and could change the world sort of thing -- butterfly effect. Magical creatures going between the worlds were going to have a hell of a presence more than a velvety wing of a short-lived butterfly. I didn't need a crystal ball to see that.
I'd gone too quiet and Marcus leaned in even closer and this time he caught my eyes and said, "You are hiding something from me."
"Not on purpose," I said softly while really respecting the huge teeth mere inches from me. I wasn't going to become dragon food this late in the day, and besides, I was perfectly willing to leave if push came to shove. He wanted something from me more than I wanted or needed anything from him. I was counting on his missing Sapphire to keep me whole.
He reared up and inhaled deeply. I mentally braced myself ready to pop away if he exhaled flames. Instead he stared up and sighed, "You are protecting Sapphire. That is good but not necessary. She and I are from the same place. She isn't here, but now you have given me hope that she will soon come."
Marcus was still fishing for information that I wasn't willing to give him, so I waited for him to fill the silence.
He cocked his head at me and chuckled, "You are definitely not the normal human."
Again I gave him a slight shrug while making sure that I watched his nostrils for any sign he was ready to torch me. I hated fire. Well, most creatures did. The dragon before me seemed to finally conclude that baiting me wasn't working, because he dropped back down from his stretching to inhale the air. I didn't inhale deeply because the scents of death and dust already coated the cavern and I saw no reason to further torment my nose with the smells.
He began to pace around the various treasures, not caring when he knocked over a pile of gold pieces and goblets. His tail swung helping him keep balance while decimating the stacks of loot. He didn't seem to realize that he was doing that until he looped around enough to come to one of the demolished booty troves. His head snapped around to me quickly as if suspecting I had something to do with the disarray, and when his head swung about so did his tail so he swung his face back, ready to attack, when he saw it was his own damn tail doing the damage. I successfully kept from giggling because his skin flushed again and I didn't think he'd get my humor.
"You aren't afraid of me." It wasn't a question but a statement, so I saw no reason to reply to Marcus. The comment was pretty scary already and I didn't need to spike my adrenaline trying to figure the correct answer. Besides he was wrong; I was afraid of him, just not stupid enough to let the fear show. I'd been around far too many terrifying creatures to act like prey. I waited and then he stopped and said, "Why aren't you afraid of me?"
Damn, a direct question. I shrugged and said, "Because fear feeds supernatural creatures and I don't see the need to make you hungry and me here looking all like dinner."
It was honest and he chuckled gruffly.
"Smart Emma. I see again why you and Sapphire got along. She doesn't suffer stupidity." He was still fishing but I wasn't in the mood to bite.
I knew I could turn around and leave, out the way I'd come at any time, but Marcus seemed lonely and I wasn't quite sure why it made me sympathetic but it did. I wondered if he'd cast some sort of spell that I wasn't recognizing and it was compelling me to care. I sighed and said, "You say Sapphire and you are acquainted right?"
He nodded eagerly and his eyes grew brighter as he sensed I was going to help him in some way.
"Will she come to you if she knows you are here?" I asked pointedly.
His head was thrown back and he hissed out a thick blast of flames towards the ceiling before shaking his head and saying, "She will!"
I brushed off the flakes of cinders and bits of charred rocks that rained down on me from the flash of fire. I really didn't want to be charred. I mentally opened up my thoughts slightly and thought, 'Sapphire?'
Again there was that weird sense of otherness that had happened with connecting to any creature other than Uncle Harry. My thoughts with Uncle Harry felt natural and right, while touching the minds of Riley -- a werewolf -- and Sapphire -- a dragon -- hadn't been too bad, though the memory of haunted death from Parrot's thoughts had been way creepy.
Sapphire tapped back quickly, 'You are in trouble?'
'No, I found a dragon called Marcus. You want directions?'
I found out quickly that dragons could scream like thirteen-year-olds in their minds when excited. The squeal of sheer excitement nearly knocked me over. Once she calmed down she said, 'Yes, please.' I pushed through the jumble of thoughts and sent her mental directions. Her quick, 'I will be there soon' fled and her mind unlinked from mine.
I hadn't been 'out of it' long, but long enough for Marcus to ask, "Are you okay?"
"Sure. And Sapphire will be here soon." He twirled around and began shoving the piles of loot off to the side making a large hole in the middle of the treasures. I guess that was the male dragon equivalent of cleaning, but I decided to keep my mouth shut.
I never thought I'd see a dragon fuss but Marcus was giving a good impression of doing just that. I was quiet and exhausted by his energy. The dust he was stirring up made me sneeze hard. He jumped a foot and torched a nearby pile of gold to the melting point. I really had to keep track of what direction he was facing.
"Sorry," I said while swiping my nose with a tissue I had crammed into my jeans pocket. I didn't see a nearby trash can so I shoved the used tissue back into my pants.
"No, it's okay. Bless you," Marcus really was scattered by the news Sapphire was on her way.
"Thanks," I watched him begin to sort through a pile of gold and silver tossing various shields and helmets aside while obviously looking for something specific.
"Ah ha! Here it is," His mouth wrapped around something I couldn't see around his teeth. They were staring to look larger the longer I stayed.
He dropped the object at my feet. It was a large tiara that was ornately crafted and studded with huge cabochon gems -- curved and glittering. It spoke of a long ago age with royalty that demanded the best from everyone under their command. Stunning.
Looking up, I saw a very eager look on his face obviously waiting for my comment.
"Wow, that is an amazing tiara," I ventured carefully while watching his face drop slightly so I was compelled to add, "I think it will look gorgeous on Sapphire. What lady wouldn't love it?" I know, gushing, but his face lifted and he nodded up and down in agreement. He seemed unable to speak at the idea that Sapphire would soon be here.
Keeping my features calm, I choked back the bemused smile threatening to erupt all over my face. He was fragile when it came to Sapphire it seemed, and I didn't want to sneeze my way to my own cremation. I edged back a bit but kept in mind that Sapphire would be here soon from her thoughts, and I didn't think that Marcus would intentionally harm me. It's the unintended consequences I was more concerned with but I would keep still and wait for my dragon.
As Marcus paced back and forth, I opened up my thoughts and found Sapphire's mind. She was on the ground outside the cavern. Looking at the anxious dragon I said, "Why don't you go outside and bring her inside? She doesn't know where your escape hole is."
He looked startled and suddenly fled the cavern.
I stood there feeling more than slightly awkward. Should I bail? I mean, it seemed that Sapphire and Marcus had something to discuss at the very least. Deciding I didn't need to see her coronation, I fled for the door without waiting for the dragons to show up. I fleetingly gave Sapphire a 'bye' mental message and she laughed into my thoughts then blocked me out. I guess they really had missed each other.
I walked out the way I came in with my sword sheathed between my shoulder blades. I wasn't worried that Marcus would try to attack me, but more concerned that if I took too long to leave I'd end up seeing far more than I'd ever needed to see about dragon relationships. The lock was still inside the cave and I automatically snapped it shut once I cleared the gate and placed the key back on the top of the door frame where I'd found it. It wasn't like Marcus needed that exit. I continued down the tunnel when it suddenly looked different.
Just like that, I knew that a portal had opened between my world and another. I froze, not sure what to do. Then I heard a roar from the other end of the tunnel. It didn't sound like Sapphire or Marcus but something else. I sucked in a breath and tried to figure out my exit.