Noah’s Boy – Snippet 10
Asphalt under paw pad changed to dirt. Houses on the road side turned to no road, just rock and scrub and dirt. The lion had no idea where he was running or frankly why. In his mind it was all dirt and stone, scrub oak and barren expanses, scent and hunt. Around him night fell.
The thing ahead of him looked like a dog but smelled feline. It also smelled skinny, undernourished and scared. The lion snarled softly, confident of his victory once he caught the creature. It wasn’t even good sport.
Rafiel, somewhere within the lion’s mind, was relieved when they left behind populated areas and left the road, and the possibility of a passing car seeing them and reporting them to the police or animal control or something. Instead, they ran into the edge of a national forest, and then out of the trees, into a slope that must have been torched in the last wildfire and which was now barren, save for a sparse growth of scrub oak. His paws hurt, as did his legs. He’d been running a long time.
He closed the distance with the young creature running ahead of him. The creature turned around and gave off a high whine, the complaint of a hopeless victim. The lion reared triumphant, as the … shifter? Animal? Cowered and skittered sideways and whined, a frightfully high, odd whine.
And then it happened. It was all too fast for the lion brain to follow, even as the lion’s eyes saw it. Out of the shadows, yellow-tawny, something came. It was huge, twice the size of the lion. Its paws hit the ground with so much force that clods of baked-dry earth flew in all direction. It snarled, its lips pulled back from long glimmering fangs.
Rafiel-the-lion turned away from the cub to face this new menace, and raised hackles and growled into the snarling face and the tawny yellow eyes.
Then Rafiel smelled it. The smell rolled over him, like a wave, submerging the lion’s brain and confusing Rafiel.
She stood growling in front of Rafiel.
She. No doubt about that. He could smell her, a sweet-spicy tang that indicated a female and in heat.
His brain stopped. Parts of the lion body long ignored came to life and urgency. Rafiel stood smelling her, while at the back of his mind a primeval jungle, a primeval need beckoned.
She snarled and leapt. Her paw caught him on the side of the face, putting out his eye, taking most of his cheek, sending him flying then sprawling in an unnatural position. He felt as though his spine had snapped and agony blanked his thoughts while the creature stood over him and growled.
One snap from those jaws and he’d be dead, his head separated from his body. A death there would be no coming back from.
Kyrie saw Tom edging around to the alley and knew what he was going to do. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath. It smelled of fries and gyros, which had come to mean “home” to her, since she and Tom had owned the diner. The smell calmed her a little. She said a general prayer that Tom wouldn’t get caught on camera or worse. You’d think he would know better than to shift where there were bound to be people with cameras. But you might as well keep Tom from rescuing people as keep him from breathing. And the two would be about as successful. She decided to — at least — minimize the damage to the diner.
She would make sure fewer people were watching who could talk about mysterious flying dragons. And she’d make sure that Anthony didn’t get so carried away he forgot the fryer.
* * *
Bea woke up in a smoke filled room. For a moment, blinking upward at the black-blue cloud between her and ceiling above she wondered if she were flying. Then she smelled burning. Not just burning wood, as in a fireplace, but the particularly unclean smell of a burning house, and then —
She ran to the window, which was closed, and looked below at firemen far, far below, holding up one of those jumping things. Jumping from here to there would be kind of like jumping from the top of a tower onto a washtub like all those cartoons she’d watched when she was a kid.
She opened the window, took a lungful of air and yelled down “No” then wondered if they’d have ladders that reached that high. Because she couldn’t jump. She just couldn’t. They yelled stuff back, but she couldn’t hear them.
The worst part of all this was that her mind felt foggy and slow and she couldn’t figure out why she was here, in what appeared to be the prototypical tower for a fairy princess, while the tower appeared to be on fire below her. No. Not the prototypical tower. A look around disclosed that she was a in hotel room, a well appointed one with a canopy bed, what looked like an antique desk, a nice armchair. There was a bathroom opening to her right. The usual little cards on how to call the concierge gave away this was not a room.
Instructions for what to do in a fire came back from her elementary school days. She ran to the door to the room, and felt it. Burning hot. Well, she wasn’t going to open that door. Instead, she went into the bathroom, soaked one of the towels, and stuffed it under the door.
It cut down the smoke, and her head cleared a little.
It still felt too painfully slow as though she had a cold or were recovering from illness.
As she pushed the towel under the door with the tip of her toe, she remembered what she’d seen out the back window, onto the parking lot. There was a diner there. There was something to do with a diner…
All of a sudden the voice of the Great Sky Dragon came back to her, telling her that she must meet and marry Tom Ormson, the co-owner of a diner.
She’d told him in no uncertain terms that she had no intention of marrying a total stranger and more, a stranger who was in love with someone else, just because some many-times ancestor of hers decreed it. And she’d withstood his barrage of protest, telling him she wanted nothing to do with this, and she couldn’t understand why it would be more likely that the dragon shifters would obey Tom because he was married to her since she was also not Chinese.
He’d yelled at her. He’d lapsed into Chinese, or perhaps some proto-Asian language. And then she’d turned to leave.
Her head felt sore, and fingers run gingerly across her scalp disclosed a bump over her left ear.
Oh, no, he didn’t she thought. But it was all clear that the Great Sky Dragon had in fact done something to her. Her head hurt. She was probably concussed. And the idiots had put her here and set the house on fire. Why? Was it dearest many times great grand’s attempt at punishing her for not obeying. How nice of him.
Though to do him justice, perhaps he hadn’t set the house on fire. She went to the window again and saw that few people were watching the window. So, she just needed to shift, and then she could fly away from this, and —
And absolutely nothing. She tried to induce the shifting. Normally the problem was trying not to shift when she was panicked. Now, nothing would happen. Could the Great Sky Dragon take her shifting away? Surely not. He wasn’t magical. She didn’t know what the shifting was, but it wasn’t magic. Not the wave a wand type of magic at least.
She squeezed her hands so tight that she thought she was going to put holes into her palms, but nothing happened.
Why wasn’t the shift working?
Had the Great Sky Dragon done something that meant she couldn’t shift? But why? And why put her in this room, behind the diner? What in heavens name could he mean by this? And by setting the building on fire. Bea realized she was absolutely sure that he’d done just that, though she couldn’t say why. If only her head didn’t hurt so badly.
Smoke was now coming in from outside too, a thick pillar of smoke obscuring the parking lot, and she coughed and for a moment thought she was going to shift, but the burn up her nose and at the back of her throat told her it was just the smoke.
The thud on the roof ledge outside her window made her run to it. Through the smoke, she had a brief glimpse of glistening green scales, a set of silver claws, and a rolling golden eye, and then —
There was a young man, there. He was dark haired, blue eyed, and completely naked. His black hair was curly and much too long, making him look like a wild man. But she remembered the scales, the claws, the eye. She thought he was a dragon shifter. She wondered if he were one of the Great Sky Dragon’s. She wondered what excuse he meant to use for being naked. But none of it mattered. He knocked at the window. She opened it. And then —