Read Dragon Fire Online

Authors: Dina von Lowenkraft

Dragon Fire (8 page)

BOOK: Dragon Fire
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She looked up and smiled nervously. “What?”

“Nothing.” He couldn’t take his eyes off her. She had on a black turtleneck and no makeup. Her eyes were pale – typical of all humans – but the color was pretty. Like a pale blue spring sky.

“What do you want to eat?” she asked, propping her menu up like a wall.

Rakan frowned and picked up his menu. “I don’t know.” He tried not to breathe in the spicy odor of her skin that reminded him of wild chrysanthemums and beckoned him in closer. Instead he focused on the source of the shield. It was connected to a pendant Anna was wearing under her turtleneck. But the shape seemed wrong. To his mind-touch it felt like a sinuous water dragon, but Paaliaq was a winged air dragon, just like he was.

The waitress came over a few times before they finally managed to decide, Anna for salmon linguini and Rakan for wild reindeer steak.

Rakan leaned forward. “Can I ask you something?”

Anna’s pale skin flushed. “What?”

Rakan sketched a water dragon. “Do you know what this is?”

Anna looked at it and her hand went up to her neck. “Oh. It’s a dragon. It’s beautiful.”

“But do you know what kind?”

“What kind?” Anna looked at him blankly. “No. Chinese?”

Rakan laughed so loudly the other tables looked over. “Why does it look Chinese?”

Anna removed her necklace and held it out to him. “Because it looks like this. And it’s Chinese.”

Rakan flew out of his seat. “What are you doing?” His touch would probably trigger an explosion.

“Showing you my good luck charm. It’s not going to bite you, you know.”

Rakan picked up his chair and sat down again, wondering if she really didn’t know what the necklace was. He let his mind reach out and touch it, checking to see if it was more than a normal shield. But there was nothing else. No triggers, no energy deviators, no spying mechanisms. It was only a shield. Rakan snorted. It wasn’t even a sophisticated shield.

“What’s wrong with it?” asked Anna.

A wash of emotions hit him and Rakan looked up at Anna, surprised. He hadn’t realized that the shield had been working both ways. “Nothing, I…”
What?
“It feels funny.”

“You haven’t even touched it.”

Rakan reached for the pendant, but paused when the jade water dragon twitched. He made a counter shield for his hands and picked it up. It was warm to the touch and the dragon itself was exquisitely detailed. But every fiber of his being wanted to destroy it. It was green. Bright green. The exact same shade that his father had shown him as being Paaliaq’s. But it was a very clearly a water dragon and not an air dragon. So the maker couldn’t be Paaliaq. It didn’t add up. A dragon couldn’t take more than one shape. It was impossible. But it was just as impossible to have two different dragons be the same color. Even if one was an air dragon and the other a water dragon.

Frustrated by the lack of answers, Rakan wondered if he could tweak the shield to allow him to touch Anna. Maybe she had seen something more, and she would project it so that he could see it. And even if she hadn’t, he wouldn’t mind getting closer to her. No. He was doing this for his Cairn, not for himself. She was human. He wrapped his mind around the shield and gently altered its structure. Why had Jing Mei made it so simple? Paaliaq had been a golden crested shielder. But this shield was so elementary that no shielder, even if they were still a puppy, would have made it that way. Every time one thing confirmed that Jing Mei was Paaliaq, another confirmed that she wasn’t.

The waitress brought them their food and Rakan handed the pendant back to Anna.

“You don’t like it?” Anna asked, taking it back gingerly.

Rakan looked sadly at the over-cooked reindeer steak. “No.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t like green. It’s the color of death and destruction.”

“Death? How can green be like death?”

Rakan shrugged. He wished he could have destroyed the pendant. Or at least taken the shield completely off, but he didn’t want Jing Mei to realize that he had access to Anna.

Anna looked at it again before putting it back on. “It’s beautiful, though. It looks so real I almost expect it to come alive. I wonder what it would do if it did?”

Rakan knew exactly what it should have done: the miniature dragon should have flown at him and exploded, stunning him long enough for Jing Mei to appear and finish him off. But it was as if Jing Mei had opted for a pure shield. Unless the triggers were so sophisticated that he hadn’t felt them. He was a trailer, not a triggerer. What little taste the reindeer had had, suddenly disappeared. He hadn’t felt anything, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t just set off a trigger and set some other trap in motion that he wasn’t aware of.

Anna pushed the linguini around on her plate. “Why don’t you like it?” she asked again. “Did you feel something on it?”

Rakan looked carefully at Anna. Somehow she knew it wasn’t the color that bothered him. “Often that kind of thing has… a spell on it.”

“Does it?” Anna put her fork and knife down and looked him square in the eyes with a look that said
tell me the truth.

“Yes.” Rakan looked away. He couldn’t lie.

“So why didn’t you tell me that instead of handing it back to me?”

“It can’t hurt you.” The anger in her voice surprised him. “It’s just a shield.”

“A shield?” Anna took it off and looked at it. “Against what?”

“Dragons.”

Anna stared at him, obviously confused. “Dragons? But dragons don’t exist. Why would anyone make a shield against something that doesn’t exist?”

“And what if they did?” Rakan leaned towards her. His desire to touch her now that the pendant was no longer blocking him was driving him crazy. His mind-touch slipped forward.

Anna tilted her cheek into his touch and smiled. “It was you the other day in the schoolyard.”

Rakan pulled his mind-touch back. He had just made an unpardonable mistake.

“Do it again,” she said, leaning across the table towards him.

Rakan’s rök whirled in excitement as he reached out with his mind and touched her cheek, cradling it as if he was touching her physically.

“How do you do that?” She touched her face where he had touched her.

“By allowing my mind to go beyond my body.” Rakan put his hand on hers. “It’s called a mind-touch. Try.” If he could prove that humans could develop certain skills, maybe he could convince the other dragons to stop playing with them. “Focus on where we’re touching, and then let your mind slip from your hand to mine.”

Anna closed her eyes and Rakan felt her focus on their hands. But she got stuck.

“Feel me with your mind the way your hand feels me physically.” He squeezed her hand gently, mentally creating a path that would pull her in.

“Don’t do that.” Her eyes flew open and she pulled her hand away. “I want to do it on my own.”

Rakan laughed.

“What?” she asked.

“You reacted just like a puppy,” Rakan said. He remembered how annoyed he’d get when the Old Dragons had tried to help him that way. But Anna stared at him, confused.

“Okay, okay,” he said, holding up a hand. “Next time I won’t help.”

“Better not,” she teased. “Or how can I learn?”

“By accepting my help,” Rakan said, smiling. “You’d make a good dragon.”

“So would you,” Anna said with a smile that caught him off guard.

Rakan’s smile faded.
Did she know?

The waitress cleared their plates and took their dessert orders.

“You have a thing for dragons, don’t you?” asked Anna, picking up the sketch he had done earlier of a water dragon.

Rakan took it back and crumpled it up.

“Why did you do that? It was beautiful,” Anna said. “I would’ve kept it.”

“I’ll draw you a better one,” he said. He sketched himself answering the Call to Rise. “Here,” he said, handing it to her.

* * *

The waitress came with their desserts while Anna was still staring at the drawing. It was of a dragon flying in the sky, wings outstretched and flames curling from its mouth as it faced the rising sun. It looked completely different from the dragon on her pendant. More like what she had always thought of a dragon looking like. “Can I keep this one?”

“If you want,” answered Pemba. “But it’d be better in color.”

“No. It’s perfect.” Anna looked at it more closely. “Where’d you learn to draw?”

“I’ve always drawn. But I prefer sculpting.”

“You should sign up at the Art Center – they have studios you can use.”

“I don’t think I could work with people around,” Pemba answered. “I’ll wait until I’m back home.”

“Oh,” Anna said, feeling hurt. “Is that what you miss the most?”

“No,” Pemba said without further explanation. He played with his glass, spinning it around as they both sat in an uncomfortable silence. “What do your parents do?” he asked out of the blue.

Anna looked away, surprised by the pain that the question brought up. “My mother is a nurse at the hospital. My father…” she shut her eyes. “My father died ten years ago when he was coming back from a solo expedition to the North Pole. He was with a dog team. Sledding. And he was only a few kilometers away from base camp when a freak storm came up. Nothing was ever found. No dogs. No sled. No radio. Nothing.”

Pemba was silent. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to cause you pain.”

Anna looked up into his eyes and saw a flash of orange, the same color as his Maii-a. “Your eyes…” she started to say.

Pemba looked away and Anna once again felt like she just couldn’t get it right.

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled into her lemon tart.

“No,” Pemba said. “It’s not you. I… I’m not used to this.”

Anna nodded but didn’t look up. “Me neither.”

“You know what I miss the most about home?”

Suddenly, Anna didn’t want to eat anymore.
His girlfriend. He misses his girlfriend.
She put her hands in her lap and shook her head.
I’m such a fool.

“I miss our yaks. I miss taking care of the herds.” Pemba’s voice dropped so low she had to strain to hear him. “I miss the high altitude where the air is thin and the only sound is the wind,” he said. “I miss being free.”

Anna looked at Pemba. She could feel his longing for the open space. Suddenly she felt like the restaurant was closing in on them and she panicked. And then it all disappeared. The restaurant felt normal again. But she couldn’t feel Pemba anymore. She looked at her hands, feeling abandoned. His mind-touch cradled her face. She looked up.

“I’ve never met anyone like you before,” he said.

Anna smiled, relieved to feel him again. “Neither have I.”

They lingered over their desserts until they were the last ones in the restaurant.

“It’s dark out,” Pemba said after they had paid their bill and stepped out into the cold. “I’ll walk you home.”

“It’s been dark for a couple of months,” Anna said, still feeling the rush of independence she had felt in the restaurant. “I’m used to it.”

“I know. But I want to walk you home.”

“Okay,” Anna said. She wanted to link her arm through his as they walked up the hill, but she didn’t dare. The snow crunched under their feet and echoed through the night. And for once, she wished the walk was longer.

“Oh, look,” she said, stopping Pemba on the edge of the wooded area near her home at the top of the hill. She felt him looking at her and smiled. “Not at me. Up there.” She pointed to the sky. “The Northern Lights. We don’t usually see them this late at night.”

* * *

Rakan looked up and saw clouds of bright green light undulating across the sky. His first reaction was to morph, ready to fight. But then he realized that whatever they were, they weren’t aware of him or anyone else. But the color, the color of Paaliaq, terrified him. “What are they?”

“I don’t really know,” Anna said, still looking up. “Something about solar storms and the earth’s magnetic field. I just like to watch them. They’re so peaceful. And this year they’ve been particularly active.”

Rakan wrapped his arms protectively around Anna, pulling her back against his chest. His initial reaction to morph and fight had been protective. She was so vulnerable. They stayed like that, watching the clouds of green light as they undulated across the sky. Anna’s head rested gently against his shoulder. Her wool hat against his cheek.

She turned around to face him when the lights had finally disappeared. “What do you think?”

“About the lights?” he asked, holding her against him. “Or this?” His voice sounded strange even to his own ears. He breathed in her enticing scent and held her close, knowing he shouldn’t. But he didn’t want to let her go.

She stiffened when a car drove up the street, and then relaxed when she saw it. “I should go in,” she said. “Before… it gets too late.”

Anna hesitated, and Rakan wondered what was wrong.

“Thank you for tonight.” She ran up the stairs and disappeared inside.

BOOK: Dragon Fire
6.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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