Parrot had finally begun to get closer to the ground. We were still higher than I was comfortable with, but at least I knew that Uncle Harry was back in my thoughts. The cautionary memory of Lowell's death long ago due pretty much to my being so stupid about blindly trusting others still haunted my dark thoughts. After Riley had bailed me out, he had not spoken to me for months. He never told me why Lowell had been trying to either kill me or get me killed, but somehow he blamed me for being gullible. He didn't say it, but I knew.
Not wanting Parrot drilling back in my thoughts, I softly spoke aloud, "Where precisely are we heading?"
There were some rolling hills in the distance, giving way to larger mountains and some peaks that appeared to hit the top of the world. A few of the mountains were capped with white snow, and I knew it was just the beginning of winter in this corner of the globe. If I had been in a plane or driving in a car I would probably have enjoyed the view. As it was I was being somehow carried by Parrot, which was odd because the creature never seemed to actually have a physical body. I wasn't going to turn around to see how it was holding me because I feared falling from the sky at such heights. Silly me, huh?
But after all, I knew that Parrot had its own value system and wasn't fond of humans, other than shall we say as quick snacks. I also knew from the abyss of blackness and sorrow that I had glimpsed in its mind, that there was a joy it found when killing. Death was pretty much in everyone's future, that was a given, but what Parrot brought was something far darker and terrible from everything I'd seen inside its thoughts.
"To those mountains in the distance. You will be safe there."
I resisted asking from who or what and instead fed the creature's ego. "That is so thoughtful of you to care about me."
"Parrot doesn't forget those who save and serve so well."
Okay, the 'saving' part I got because I let the insane creature out of the prison run by a maniacal, soul-eater of a warden. But where the hell did it figure I had served it? Not a question I let linger long in my mind much less kept inside my thoughts. So just to be on the safe side, I quickly began doing the times tables in my thoughts. I'd found that using rote exercises, preferably mathematics, tended to distance others from picking up my thoughts. Having been surrounded for so long by a variety of supernatural creatures with so many different talents had taught me not to assume that I'd be able to keep my thoughts private. There were far more things in the world than humans that found the predator-prey game fun but liked to cheat. With that thought, I cranked it up a bit more by carefully putting the seven times seven table and all to the beat of a bad seventies television theme song.
That was a mistake, because Parrot began to concentrate on the math while being suddenly distracted by the bad music and I felt it ease off its grip -- I abruptly found myself falling. I didn't scream, but mentally was cursing rather colorfully. I was wondering how hard it would hurt to slam to death through trees onto rocks. I wasn't even thinking about popping to anywhere else, because there were weak spots in the area and I wasn't sure where I could travel and not be killed by something or someone from another world. My breath was gone and I felt at peace. There wasn't anything left but my death.
I closed my eyes and quickly sent a thank you to Uncle Harry for being so wonderful to me. Then I quickly shut him out of my mind so he wouldn't have to experience my death. A shiver ran over my body and I waited for the anticipated pain -- when suddenly I felt talons circle my waist and I was jerked up. My eyes flew open and I found myself looking upwards to the belly of a dragon. Not just any dragon, but Sapphire. I let out a squeak and saw that I'd been ripped away from nearly hitting a tree top not more than ten feet below us. I blinked uncomprehending for a minute. I was still alive.
"Why ever did you think falling to your death would be a good way to die?"
Sapphire's voice held a curl of amusement that seemed to float in the sky while she flung us upwards away from the ground. I wasn't afraid of Sapphire's grip, because I knew instinctively she really had rescued me. I wondered where the hell Parrot had disappeared to when I heard the smacking of bodies hitting each other. Looking to the right of where I would have slammed into the ground, I saw Marcus trying to rip the wisp-o-willow shape of Parrot. They were about two feet above the ground and fiercely fighting. Parrot wasn't completely invisible now, but shadowed and almost physically thickened enough to be seen ... no longer transparent, but more like half-finished. Marcus was taking advantage of that and trying to render Parrot into bits and pieces without much success. Every time a part fell off the creature, it reappeared seemingly effortlessly. From the screams coming from both of them it really wasn't without pain, and Parrot was somersaulting around the dragon and ripping at his reptilian flesh with a wicked-looking beak. They were working hard at killing each other while unsuccessfully trying to avoid the trees. They were clipping off branches and the debris was flying every which way. I could smell the pine tree oil and the fresh scent of blood.
"Oh, Sapphire! I am sorry to pull you into this." I didn't answer her comment about death because I didn't know what to say.
Laughing loudly, Sapphire said, "Oh, this is fun. Besides, you didn't pull me into anything."
Without a word I let Uncle Harry flood my thoughts. Child, what the hell were you doing, Emma? His relief rolled over me as well as his mental worries. He was a bit angry, but at finding my thoughts open he was trying to curb that and instead concentrate on me.
It was you that sent the Dragons. Not a question for him but a statement.
Naturally, once I figured out who'd come to your aid, I decided that a bit more help wouldn't be a bad thing. I could hear the droll tone of the vampire even in my thoughts. I found myself physically shaking and knew the flooding of adrenaline throughout my body had begun to fade, and I was aiming for a different sort of crash than the one I'd been resigned to mere moments ago.
Okay, but Parrot isn't a fan of the dragons, and Marcus is tussling with it right now. I quietly thought, not feeling the link between Parrot and I any more, but not willing to risk the creature overhearing me and Uncle Harry.
I see. Does Sapphire seem worried? He asked directly.
Actually no. If anything, Sapphire seemed more than a little amused by the fight, and not in the least concerned.
Just at that thought, I saw Marcus corkscrew away from Parrot, who changed: as semi-transparent as the creature had been less than a minute ago, Parrot turned to a crimson-laced prism of light and fear. There was a boom sound and Parrot was gone. There wasn't even a brief push from Parrot towards my mind. It was like Parrot had been inside my imagination and nothing more. If it weren't for the rips and tears along Marcus' frame, I would have figured I'd hallucinated the whole thing.
With me still within Sapphire's grip, we flew towards Marcus. Okay, Sapphire flew and I just went along for the ride. Marcus looked at us and flapped towards an open clearing below while shaking his huge head. I saw bits of skin and sinew flying from his jaw and disappearing before they could hit the ground. I guess that Parrot didn't like to leave its DNA anywhere. Of course, considering the creature's nature, I wasn't exactly surprised.
Gently Sapphire put me down and went to see to Marcus. Slightly turning away from the dragons, I gave them privacy while asking Uncle Harry, Why?
Why what, Emma? Uncle Harry was still leashing his anger at me and I knew once he saw me in person it could possibly be a bad thing. I had scared him, and Uncle Harry didn't like surprises much less feeling fear.
Why did Parrot come to my rescue? Why is Parrot on Earth? Frustration laced my thoughts while I waited for his answer.
Parrot is attracted to you in some way. That much I'd figured out a while ago. As for Parrot being on Earth -- I don't know. He was brooding on it as well. I could tell from the dark feelings rolling around both of our thoughts.
Emma, I have a meeting to go to. Can you promise me you'll get on a plane and come back right away? Concern rolled over me and I sucked in a deep breath.
Yes, Uncle Harry. Once I get to a major city. I didn't feel like risking popping into the wrong world at this point, and if I'd replied in any other way Uncle Harry would really be pissed off at me. Thankfully I'd packed my passport in my backpack. I would worry about the lack of entrance stamp when I got to the airport.
Uncle Harry seemed to have heard my thought and said, I think I'll make arrangements to have a jet pick you up. I relayed the name of the nearest airport and he told me to find a hotel and sleep for the next day or two. We picked a time for me to call him and I felt him ease out of my thoughts. I turned back to the two dragons and saw that they were closely talking.
"Thank you for coming for me." Talk about an understatement.
Sapphire chuckled and said, "Oh, it was fun. Marcus is fine."
Marcus sketched me a slight bow and said, "I was happy to come to your rescue. Sapphire and I were talking about the many times we have found ourselves fighting unknown creatures. This one was perplexing but formidable. A very impressive fighter. Thank you for the opportunity!"
It felt odd hearing that while still seeing the rips and tears in his hide. He, on the other hand, seemed happy and excited at the same time. Sapphire didn't appear to be upset in the least at his injuries. Dragons weren't like any other creatures I'd ever seen, I concluded, and then asked for a lift towards the city I'd mentioned to Uncle Harry.
Hushed with their heads together they discussed my request.
"I will take you, Emma. Marcus would attract too much attention." I felt my eyes snap wide at the idea that one dragon over the other would be less noticed. Sapphire snorted and said, "He is bleeding. Dragon's blood is used in many recipes and incantations. He needs to find a cavern and heal up before he is found."
That made sense to me. They said goodbye and mumbled together quietly; I figured they were agreeing where to meet once Sapphire got me close enough to the city to walk in without being noticed. I thanked Marcus again, and he flew off into the mountains that Parrot had been aiming to take me to before it had dropped me. I wondered what was up there, and why Marcus was heading to the same area. I didn't ask Sapphire, but pushed the location into my memory for further research. Exhaustion was causing my eyes to flutter. Sapphire took me in her talons and headed back to the sky. All too soon, I was back on the ground in the foothills near the city. After thanking Sapphire, I began trudging to the town.