“Ow, ow, ow!” Vashti complained and Drace realized he was squeezing her hand in a death grip. He let go and took a small step back.
The dragon landed in the open area in front of them, coming down lightly on its rear legs and then touching down on its front ones. It gracefully folded its wings. Drace guessed its body alone was about fifty feet long and its tail maybe another thirty with a wingspan and neck to match its body. Vashti went forward with Ki, and they knelt down on one knee and bowed their heads in front of the massive creature.
The dragon rocked back on its haunches and raised one front leg. It gave an almost human gesture with one clawed foot. “Please rise. It is wonderful to see you again, my Lady Ki. Vashti, I see you have done well.”
Ki rose and went to the dragon. She placed a hand on its massive jaw when it lowered its serpentine neck and presented her his head. It made a loud rumble, which Drace interpreted as a dragon purr. “How was your hunt yesterday?” she asked.
“Excellent!” the dragon replied, “Two elk and a bison beast.”
This clarified to Drace why there had been no wildlife to be seen on the trip to the stronghold. He imagined every animal went into hiding when this creature hunted in their territory.
“Wonderful. If you will pardon me, I have things I need to attend to, my Lord.” Ki excused herself and with a parting dip of her head, she left for
Vashti approached the huge beast next. “Master,” She motioned Drace forward and he went to her on wobbly legs, nerves strung taunt, “This is Drace MacKinnon.”
Its massive head turned to him and fixed one bright silver eye on him. “He is a little worse for wear, Vashti. You must be careful with humans. They are delicate creatures.”
“Now wait just a damn minute!” Drace stiffened and straightened to his full height. “I am not ‘delicate’. I just didn’t duck!” he exclaimed, defensively. Estelle’s potion had relieved most of the pain and swelling, but the bruises were still vivid.
The dragon sat back so fast that it unfurled its wings for balance. There was a deep rumbling chuckle. He glanced at Vashti. “He is feisty for a human. That is good.”
Drace realized then his fear had faded, replaced by a feeling of another presence in his mind beside his own consciousness. He felt his knees go weak and he was forced to kneel or fall over. He then realized by the intent look in the dragon’s great silver eye that Nimbus had somehow forced him to
“That is the show of respect that is always due me. Now, please rise, Knight. I am fascinated with your spirit. I believe I have chosen you well.” He came down onto his front legs and lowered his head again. “I am Nimbus, and I am an Ice dragon. I wish to speak with you privately. Will you come with me?”
Drace looked dubious for a second. “Not if it involves flying.”
Again the dragon laughed, “No, no. Meet me on the plains to the north in a short while. I will walk with you.”
Nimbus unfurled his wings again, stood on his hind legs and with a leap, went airborne. The flapping of his wings created a whirling dust storm, like the downdraft of a helicopter, and they all turned their heads.
After the dust cleared, Drace turned his attention back to the sky. The lazy movements of the dragons’ flight amazed him. “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.