Chapter Twenty: Mal
What the Fuck is Going On?
What in the ever loving fuck was going on? Mal shook the man in front of him, fury like he'd never felt before rolled through him. He wanted answers, and he wanted them now.
"Well, did you steal it?" He asked shaking the man in his arms again. "Did you kill the poor Firedrake when you took what didn’t belong to you?" Mal's fingers bit into the skin beneath them, his hold tightening.
The man, Nootau, Mal thought they'd called him, cried out in pain, his body going rigid in Mal's grip. He had half a mind to pull one of his knives and slice the man's skin, to see how he liked it.
"Fuck you, Ranger!" Nootau spat at him.
Mal really wanted to sock the man right in the jaw.
"Nootau, please," Aegeus begged, as he slowly stepped up towards Mal. "Please Mal, let us explain."
Nidhogg continued to huff behind them, Kaden at his side, a shocked expression on his face.
Edwige rifled through her bag, pulling out all sorts of herbs and tinctures. Mal had no idea she'd had all that in there today.
"Please, Mal," Aegeus asked again. "He's hurt. Let us fix him up, and we'll explain everything I promise."
Mal didn't want to let go. Mal wanted to call for the guards and have them sort this out. He didn't usually have issues with walkers, not having met many in his life. But watching Nootau transform had been shocking and violent and all Mal could think about was the poor dragon Nootau had taken the hide from.
Mal glanced back at Kaden to find the man staring at Aegeus, his eyes narrowed. "You're a siren!"
It wasn't a question. Mal stilled. This just kept getting better and better.
Nootau, still held in Mal's firm grip stared at his friend? Lover? Mal wasn't sure, but Kaden's announcement was obviously a shock to him too.
"No, I'm…" Aegeus tried.
Kaden held up his hand. "Don't deny it. I'm not stupid."
"Please, don't be angry with Aegeus. Whatever he did, he only did it because he cares for me," Nootau defended him, his voice weak.
Aegeus glared at the man before turning back to Kaden and Mal. "I'm sorry, we just needed a chance to explain. He’s already so hurt and there’s so much at stake.”
Mal looked to Kaden to see what he thought. "They're our friends, the least we can do is listen to what they have to say," Kaden said softly like he was speaking to a spooked animal. "Please put him down. Mal, he looks like he could be dying."
Mal growled and tightened his grip momentarily before he cursed and released Nootau. Nootau cried out and crumpled to the ground.
Aegeus and Edwige both rushed to his side.
"Your explanation better be bloody good. Otherwise, I'm turning him over to the authorities, he's an unregistered walker for crying out loud. Don’t think I didn’t notice he’s not marked."
Mal turned and stalked back to Nidhogg, who guarded Kaden. He wrapped his arm around his dragon's neck and curled in close for a minute, taking a deep breath and trying to find calm inside him. How had everything gone to shit so fucking quickly? And why the hell were the dragons both in the outdoor enclosure together?
Mal patted along Nidhogg's neck, his poor boy had some injuries as well Mal would need to fix up.
"Why are you saddled and tacked boy?" he asked as he tugged on the leather strapped to his dragon. "No one had permission to ride you."
Something else for Mal to bring up with the management here. The list was growing longer and fucking longer, and they hadn't even been here six hours yet.
Happy that none of Nidhogg's injuries were severe enough to warrant medical attention he turned back to the party on the ground. He'd thought Aegeus and Edwige had been a little cagey, but he would never have guessed they were conspiring with an unregistered walker.
"Start talking," Mal said. Kaden reached out and placed his hand on Mal's shoulder, offering comfort, solidarity or trying to get him to calm down Mal didn't know. He didn't fight the touch, though.
Aegeus was on Nootau's right, Mal could hear the humming from where he stood. The sound calmed him a little. Edwige was on his left busy trying her best to patch up Nootau’s hip, along with the several other gouges he had littering his body, thanks to Nidhogg's teeth and claws.
"You have to tell him Nootau," Aegeus said quietly as he brushed back a dark lock from Nootau's forehead.
"Fucking asshole," Nootau mumbled.
Mal still heard the man. He had trouble trying to hide his smirk.
"Mal's a good guy. He may be able to help," Edwige murmured as she continued her ministrations.
Nootau scowled and stared at Mal.
Mal crossed his arms and raised a brow as he waited. Finally, the walker huffed and seemed resigned to his fate.
"Walkers are being sold off, either whole or in parts," Nootau said, then hissed as Edwige applied a poultice to his side.
"Stop being a baby," Edwige admonished as she went back to grinding thing up in a small mortar and pestle. Nootau narrowed his eyes at her but didn't complain. His gaze quickly softened, and Mal wondered if the pair was actually a triad. With the way Aegeus and Edwige were caring for the walker, it wouldn't surprise him.
"What do you mean walkers are being sold?" Mal asked
"I mean, my brethren are being slaughtered and sold as spare parts around the globe, or just sold as a whole if the price is right."
That stopped Mal in his tracks, Kaden's grip on his shoulder tightened momentarily at the news.
"We managed to trace the trail here, to Zurich."
Aegeus's humming got louder for a moment then Nootau continued.
"We needed a way to get here that wouldn't raise flags. I also didn’t want Aegeus and Edwige using all the coin they had to get us here." He took a deep breath then looked Mal in the eyes. "I didn't kill her, I promise. I wouldn't do that."
Mal stared at the sincerity in those eyes and nodded. He was thankful the Firedrake hadn't been killed as a means to an end, but it didn't mean he had to like what they had done. Mal could understand the drive that had been pushing Nootau, as the same thing was driving Mal in his mission to uncover what happened to his sister.
He wondered in the sale of walker parts had anything to do with the cross breeding eugenics and nanotech stuff he and Kaden had read about in Anya's notebooks. Mal was man enough to admit that he didn’t understand half the stuff she had written in there. He didn't want to share his theories with the other three just yet, hell he didn’t even know if these things were connected, it was just a feeling he had. He wasn't sure he could fully trust them or not.
Mal nodded to let Nootau know he believed him, at least for now. Mal's shoulders relaxed a little as he let the tension bleed from his body. Kaden stepped up beside him and wrapped an arm around Mal's waist, he leaned in and Kissed Mal on the cheek.
"You did the right thing," he said quietly.
Nidhogg was still grumbling behind them, but his dragon had curled up on the soft grass and had started to lick his wounds.
"Tell me," Mal asked. "Why were you and Nidhogg in here by yourselves anyway?"
Nootau looked to be thinking about his answer, whether that was because he couldn't remember or because he was trying to make something up, Mal wasn't sure. He liked to think the best of people but after the events of today he just didn't know any more.
"I don't quite remember why Nidhogg was out here. A couple of men flew up on him when I was trying to nest."
Mal growled at the thought of two strangers riding his dragon without his permission. Did these people know nothing about fucking dragon etiquette? Mal was lucky Nidhogg was so well trained, a lesser dragon could have taken a bite at a rider he didn’t recognise. You didn't just take another's dragon without permission, especially not a foreign dragon you know nothing about.
He clenched his fists at his side; Mal wanted to teach these people a lesson about messing with things that didn’t belong to them. He was itching to draw his knives.
Kaden patted his side in an attempt to calm him down. "It's okay."
Mal pulled the smaller wolf closer to him and breathed his scent deeply. The smell settled inside him and calmed him down.
"Sorry," Mal apologised.
"Nothing to be sorry for," Kaden said.
Nootau waggled his brows. “Oh, I remember! The intake guy and several others in white coats mentioned they wanted to breed me. They were supposed to be trying to get Nidhogg out of the enclosure so they could bring another Drake in.”
"They what?" Mal asked in outrage.
Everyone stopped and stared at Nootau, with wide eyes. His expression went from teasing and playful unsure in seconds. This wasn't good.