Chapter Fifteen: Nootau
This is How Wings Work
Another scream had Nootau up and looking for trouble.
Confused, Nootau turned his head. All kinds of images swam in his head but they didn't make sense. What he did know was the female in front of him had prey in her claws. It squirmed and screamed, but the shrill noise didn't make him want to kill it more. It should. The noise hurt. But for some reason Nootau wanted to protect the shrieking prey.
No, not prey. It... It was his.
Had she stolen it from him?
Nootau roared, charged, and stumbled forward. His jaw hit the ground, he scrambled to get his claws underneath him and upright. He huffed, smoke escaping. The female lifted her head, another roar exploded from her when her gaze fell on him. Billowing smoke danced with the flames she spat outward. The shrieking prey got louder, as did the need to take it from the large female.
He charged, filling his lungs and expelling it hard. Nootau got a sputter of flame. More smoke came out, no good for anything but blinding them all. He put his head down, roaring when it met solid flesh. A twin roar, louder and angrier than his, shook the ground.
The shrieking went away, other garbled noises taking its place.
Nootau was too busy trying to keep the female's claws from tearing into him to look for the prey. She bit down on his shoulder, Nootau swiped at her in response. They tumbled together. Hard stone jabbed at his side. Teeth and claws tangled together as they fought. Spurts of fire fell from his mouth, but nothing like hers.
She bathed him in flames, heat surrounding him as fire danced along his scales. Claws dug into his sides, tears and cuts weeping with each new blow. He managed to bite down on her next, but it only made her angrier.
The female kicked with her back legs, her long claws digging into his belly.
Nootau shoved her away with all his might.
I'm going to die.
A tug on his wings pulled him back. New fire bathed him.
Everywhere he turned orange-white flames danced around them, leaping up the stone and wood. A hit to his back had Nootau bellowing—finally getting flames large enough to fight back with. He turned his head, spewing everything he had on the female. Right at her snout. With a roar she let go of him.
Nootau pulled away. I'm going to die. He rounded on her, not willing to give her another chance to swipe at his sore back.
Before he could claw her, though, the shrill noise from the prey came back. Loud enough Nootau stumbled to the ground, his head in pain. Luckily the female went down as well. Good. She shouldn't have taken his prey.
The prey! Nootau stood, searching the grey and black smoke. Off to the left the prey hugged a rock, still screaming. Nootau pushed past the hurt in his head and from his body to crawl before the noisy prey.
It reached for him. Stupid. You should run. Most prey did run.
This one, however, seemed to want Nootau to eat it.
Except that was not what he wanted to do. Nootau wanted to pull the prey up and fly away.
Something inside him told him, begged him, to take the prey away. A small weak part of him. A part he shouldn't listen to.
But he did.
Nootau picked up the shrieking prey then gave his wings a test flap. One minute fire surrounded him, the next hot undercurrents bathed his belly. Almost immediately Nootau fell toward the hard ground. The prey shrieked. Again and again he flapped, tipping, turning, falling, rising until he could mostly understand how to move. Each time he jerked one way or another the prey squealed.
A roar beneath him warned Nootau. It said danger. He looked down, finding the large female sitting on top rocks. Flames curled around her as she watched him.
Time to go.
Nootau flapped his wings, surging up again.
* * * * *
"Well, wasn't that an adventure?" The prey asked. They had settled away from the female, near the water. It felt like they needed to be there. Nootau didn't understand why, though. Not completely.
The prey's shrieking became happier the closer they got to the water, unhappy when they moved away from it. So Nootau chose to go to the water. They needed it.
"Got more than a few scrapes out of it, didn't we?"
Nootau huffed, smoke expelling from his snout. Why did it insist on talking?
"What's going on in there?"
Why did he know the prey was talking to him? Why did he understand it? He never understood before.
"Do I have Nootau or the dragon?"
Both! He growled.
The prey certainly liked the sound of its voice.
"Somehow we have to get back to Edwige."
Nootau tilted his head, watching the prey. Edwige felt nice. Whatever the Edwige was, he wanted it.
The prey held out a hand. It shook, betraying its nervousness. "You're beat up, Nootau. We need to rethink this. I don't think you can fly to Zurich. These wounds--gods. Nootau you're hurt even worse than when we found you. I'm... This is my fault, isn't it?"
Why did the prey's voice shake? Nootau pushed his snout into its hand. Images. Ones that were smaller, happier, of him tangled between the prey and another smaller figure.
Nootau picked up a fore-claw. It had something attached to it. This wasn't how he usually looked. He licked the prey's arm, and a low rumble escaped him when his tongue met with the salty flesh. Not the 'I want to eat you kind' either. He didn't want to eat it, not in the chomp, munch way.
A hum filled the air, one so loving, so kind... So familiar Nootau turned toward the prey, allowing the sound to wash over him.
Aegeus. Not prey. His Aegeus.
Because Nootau wasn't a dragon. Not normally. He was a walker. They had places to be. Zurich.
The humming got louder, relaxing Nootau. When had he tensed up?
His gaze locked with Aegeus's. Somehow he had known Nootau had gotten upset and responded.
Seemed Nootau wasn't the only one keeping secrets. His merman had some explaining to do.