Chapter Eighteen: Mal
"It's okay Nora, those mean Divers can't get you in here, you're safe, you're riders are safe." Mal continued to croon, he could see the tension slowly bleed out of the dragon.
Fury roiled inside him at the complete and utter incompetence of the staff here. Mal would be having some serious words with the Hangar’s management over this. Nothing like this would have happened back in Melbourne. The staff there knew what the fuck they were doing; that was for damn sure.
"Thank you for your help with her," Aegeus said, as he walked up beside Mal and placed his hand on Nora's side.
Mal thought he heard the man humming softly, he shrugged, whatever worked to soothe dragons was fine by him.
"You're welcome. Always happy to help out a fellow rider." The stiffening of Aegeus’s shoulders was only slight, and Mal wasn't sure he'd actually seen it. He glanced over at the pretty girl, Edwige, who was on the other side of Nora, talking softly to her. She was only a small thing.
"Let me help you get Nora here unbuckled. These things weigh a god damn tonne."
"Thank you, that would be much appreciated." Mal and Aegeus set to work unbuckling all the straps and holsters. Aegeus helped him lift the large saddle from Nora's back, and they placed it down on the shelves provided, along with all the tack.
Nora shuddered when she'd been lifted off her burden and settled down in her nest.
"So, where you guys from? The accent is American, am I right?" his smiled at the pair of them. They seemed to care a great deal about Nora, which Mal liked. He could always tell when there was no connection between a Dragon and their rider. Those partnerships rarely lasted long, and usually ended in injury.
Edwige glanced at him. "You're right, Chicago to be exact."
"Cool, I've always wanted to go to the States. This is my first time overseas."
"Ours too," Edwige agreed, making her way around Nora, her hand slipping into Aegeus's.
"You an Aussie?" Aegeus asked him.
Mal chuckled. "How'd you guess?" he waggled his brows at the pair.
Aegeus laughed like Mal had intended, and Edwige smiled at him.
"So, seeing as how this is both our first time's here, how about we grab our gear and search out our accommodations. They should be in the same block I'd assume as we're visitors to this Hangar, at least that's the way it works back home." Mal's stomach chose that moment to grumble loudly. "What do you say? You up for grabbing some lunch with my…" Mal paused not quite sure what to call Kaden before he finally settled on a word, "Partner and I. It'd be nice to get to you know you both a little better, at least then we'll know someone in this strange city."
Nora huffed behind them, letting out a small puff of smoke. Edwige turned and spoke softly to her again; Aegeus started humming; soon the dragon settled back down again. The pair glanced at one another, speaking quietly.
Aegeus turned back to Mal when they'd made a decision. "That sounds great."
"Wonderful. I'll just head next door and grab Kaden and our things, and we can head off."
Mal turned and left, making sure to close the door securely behind him. He made his way back to Nidhogg's nest and slipped inside. Kaden stood there, a worried expression on his face.
"You're okay?" he asked.
"I'm fine, not a scratch on me." Mal put his arms out and turned around so Kaden could see.
"What happened?" Kaden asked. "What took so long?"
Mal walked into the nest further and over to Nidhogg who was lying contentedly on his bed; his head tucked between his leg and his eyes closed. Mal scratched the top of Nidhogg's head, just where he liked it for a moment before standing and turning back to Kaden.
“A few of the house Divers took exception to a small Firedrake and her riders as they were coming in. The staff here seem to be bloody incompetent when it comes to handling the dragons. It's not leaving me with a lot of confidence in leaving Nidhogg here by himself."
"He'll be fine, Nidhogg's a big boy," Kaden reassured him.
"You're probably right."
"Plus, he looks tired, he'll probably just sleep the whole time we're gone; he's had a big journey."
"Yeah, okay." Mal grabbed one of their bags, and Kaden picked up the other. "Come on; there're a couple of people I'd like you to meet."
"Yeah, the riders of the Firedrake." We're going to find our rooms and dump our stuff then head out for lunch. I hope that's okay." Mal asked as he held the gate open for Kaden to walk out of the nest.
"Sounds great, I'm starving." Kaden's stomach let out a loud growl.
Mal Laughed. "Great minds."
Aegeus and Edwige were waiting for them in the wide passage outside the nests. Both of them with small bags in their hands.
Mal made the introductions and watched as Kaden shook their hands and smiled at them both.
"It's nice to meet you."
"It's nice to meet you too." Edwige smiled at Kaden, Aegeus at her side, their hands firmly clasped together.
"Now, anyone know where the hell we're going?" Mal asked as he looked around for a sign to point them in the right direction."
"I think I remember a sign pointing to the dormitories back that way," Aegeus said as he pointed back in the direction they had come from earlier.
"Wonderful. Let's go and see what we can find. We can always stop someone and ask if we get lost," Mal said.
"Or," Kaden spoke up as he pulled a piece of paper out. "We could use the map handed to us with the intake paperwork, which has the visitor accommodations clearly marked on it."
Mal laughed and shook his head. "Lead the way then Kaden."
They all followed Kaden as they made their way through the corridors of the massive hangar, Mal had to bite his tongue several times when he saw things he wasn't happy with. They weren't here for him to give the staff a lesson on proper care and treatment of dragons. He had people to track down and bring to justice.
They crossed several quads before they finally came to a massive building which Kaden announced was the visitor accommodations. They entered through the double glass doors and stood in line at the reception desk, waiting to be called.
"Meet back down here in ten minutes?" Mal asked after they'd all been assigned room and they were on their way to the lift.
"Sounds good," Aegeus agreed.
Aegeus and Edwige got off on the third floor, while Kaden and Mal's room was on the fourth.
The room was simple, a small bathroom located off the entrance, a queen-sized bed sat in the centre of the room, a small round table with two chairs in the corner. There was a floor to ceiling cupboard for their clothes and a television mounted on the wall opposite the bed.
Kaden dumped the bag he was carrying on the small table. "You don't mind if I use the bathroom first do you?" he asked.
"Nope, go right ahead. I can wait."
Kaden smiled and walked passed Mal at a fast clip.
Ten minutes later, feeling a little refreshed but no less hungry the four of them met up downstairs in the reception area.
"Where do you want to go?"
"We have some supplies to pick up after lunch, so into the city should be best," Aegeus said.
That worked really well as Mal and Kaden could follow up on a couple of the leads Hale had reluctantly given him.
They asked the receptionist, a lovely green-skinned dryad about the best way to make it into the city and she called them a taxi.
The drive took twenty minutes. They'd asked the taxi driver about a nice café for lunch, and he dropped them outside his favourite eating place. The little restaurant didn't look like much on the outside; the two-story building sat on the corner next to two very busy roads. Large windows covered the ground floor on the right. Three steps led up to the door.
Mal looked at his companions. "Shall we?"
"Might as well." Kaden placed his hand in Mal's and gave it a gentle squeeze. As they walked inside the aromas, hit Mal. God, it smelled amazing in here. People were crowded around tables covered in red and white checkered tablecloths; lines four deep were waiting to place their orders at the counter. Waiters moved around with massive trays piled with plates of food, some heading up the stairs, where Mal assumed was more seating. People ate, drank and chatted. The place had a really wonderful feel to it.
They all stood in line and glanced up at the wall above the counter, pictures depicting all the different foods on offer and their prices, the names of the meals were written in a language Mal couldn't understand. He did see one thing that he thought he knew what it was. Bratwurst he understood.
Mal's mind was made up when he saw a waiter with a tray come out of the kitchen, four plates of Bratwurst mit rosti sat on top. His mouth watered with how good it looked.
Kaden turned to him "I'll take one of those." He pointed to the waiter Mal had been staring at as well.
Mal laughed. "You and me both. Looks pretty amazing."
Once all four of them had placed their orders they glanced around for a table. There wasn't any free space down on this floor so they all headed upstairs. Mal did notice that Edwige stayed rather close to Aegeus the entire time. They found a small round table off to the side and quickly claimed it before someone else could.
They sat down and glanced at one another as they waited for their food and drinks to arrive.
"So," Mal said, to break the silence that had fallen over them. "What brings you two to Zurich?"