Chapter Twenty-Six: Ashe
Some Talented Dragons There
Ashe was certain it was the first time since the little group of ragtag… what were they? Certainly not freedom fighters? Truth seekers. That was it. The first time since their ragged little band of truth seekers had come together that Tibo and Nootau had agreed on something.
He sighed and closed the door. He’d been too quick to judge some of the others before, and he was sure at least some of them thought he was an asshole. Better to stay out of this latest drama.
“Things going crazy out there?” Jaxx was shaving at their bathroom sink after his shower, wrapped in just a white towel.
Ashe thanked the stars for the satyr’s presence. Jaxx was the one good thing this whole mess had brought him.
“Yeah. I think the midnight committee called Akemi, and Tibo and Nootau aren’t happy about it.”
Jaxx finished his shave, washing his razor out in the sink, and checked himself in the mirror.
“You’re beautiful, meine liebste.” It came out “meanie lebstee”, but Ashe gave himself points for effort. He had been leafing through a German for Travelers book he’d found on the bookshelf of the safe house, trying to make sense of the dragonleather-bound journal he’d taken from the castle library, but the book was written in German gothic script, and he was having a hell of a time making any headway.
Ashe loved that his boyfriend was still embarrassed by compliments.
Jaxx dropped his towel and Ashe whistled at his beautiful physique. “If my wing wasn’t broken…”
“You’d fly me to the moon? Just a sec, and I’ll take a look at it for you.” Jaxx pulled on a pair of jeans, worn out in all the right places, and a white button-up shirt, a bit wrinkled from all the travel. He padded over to the bed where Ashe waited, and gently undid the bindings that held Ashe’s left wing to his body. “Let’s see. Can you extend it at all?”
Slowly, Ashe tried. It moved a little, but the farther he got, the more it hurt. “That’s about it, unless you want to make me cry.”
“Only for joy.” Jaxx gave him a quick kiss on the lips. “You’ve made a remarkable recovery in such a short time. I’d forgotten how fast phoenixes heal. But you’re going to need at least a couple more days before you try to take it back inside. Much less fly.”
“Yes, Dr. Kendrick,” Ashe said meekly.
Jaxx laughed. “Are you kidding? Dr. Kendrick is my father. I’m just Jaxx.”
Ashe grinned. He had known that.
“I’m going to check on our other patient. It sounds like the worst of the shouting has subsided.” He cupped Ashe’s crotch with his hand. “Once you’re better…”
“I’ll follow you out. I want to look over some of those books we brought back from the library.”
“Some librarian’s gonna be pissed we cleaned out the 'Rubrum Lux section'.” He winked.
“There will be heavy fines.” He grabbed the journal, Jaxx’s laptop and the flash drive, and followed his satyr out the door.
* * * * *
Jaxx surveyed the scene in the living room. Things had calmed down. Or at least settled into a champion level round of cold shoulder.
Tito and Nootau sat in the living room in separate chairs. Rolly knelt by Tibo’s chair. “Come on, boyo. We had to do it. We’re at a mite of a roadblock here.”
Tibo was having none of it. His arms were crossed, and he turned away from Rolly, nose in the air.
“You might have talked it over with us first,” Aegeus was saying to Edwige. “He doesn’t like to be left out of the loop.”
“It had to be done.”
“Hey, how’s the patient doing?” Jaxx broke into the conversation, hoping to ratchet down the angst a little. Mal and Kaden were nowhere to be seen, probably riding out the storm behind closed doors.
Jaxx knelt in front of him to take a look at his patient. Poor Nootau was covered in welts and bruises and lacerations, but most of them looked less painful than the day before. The skin walker was a tough bastard.
Edwige leaned over to touch his arm, but he pulled away from her. “Still mad at you,” he grumbled. “What’s the prognosis, Doc?”
“You’ll live.” He got up and gestured Edwige into the kitchen.
She followed him, casting a worried glance back at Nootau. “What’s up?”
“He should be in bed. For at least a week. His poor body has sustained a level of trauma that would have killed any normal Being.”
She sighed. “He’s not normal. And he’s stubborn as an ox.”
Jaxx laughed. “I believe you.” He glanced back out into the living room. Tibo and Rolly were gone. Aegeus and Nootau were talking.
At least, Aegeus was talking. Nootau appeared to be busy not listening.
“You have to talk with him. One more outing like the last one, and there might not be a Nootau to bring back.”
She nodded. “I know. I’ll try. When he’s speaking to me again.”
Jaxx squeezed her arm in sympathy. “It’s hard being the voice of reason sometimes.”
* * * * *
Ashe found Rolly and Mal in the little den at the front of the house, on either side of the small mahogany desk. They had several books open and were poring over them intently.
“Guess you guys had the same idea,” he said, holding up the journal. “Room for one more?”
Rolly nodded. “Grab a chair from the dining room.”
Ashe brought in one of the heavy chairs and found himself a space at the end of the desk.
“Any luck with the journal?” Rolly asked, passing him a bag of powdered sugar covered Drachen-Keks—dragon shaped cookies, apparently. Ashe took one and munched on it contentedly, licking his fingers clean.
“Not really. This Germanic script is hell to read. Just when you think you understand one of the words…”
Ashe thumbed through the journal. It made as little sense to him now as it had before.
“How’s the wing?” Rolly asked, glancing sideways at Ashe’s injured appendage.
Ashe saw Mal flinch a little at Rolly’s question. He flexed it a little. “Still hurts. My father broke his once—it took him a few days to heal—”
There was a loud crash down the hall.
Rolly rolled his eyes. “Better go see if it’s mine.”
Ashe laughed. He liked Rolly. “Things will settle down. We just have to all get used to each other.”
“I hope so.”
Nootau’s voice drifted down the hallway. “Leave me alone. I don’t need any more damned sleep!”
Ashe gave Rolly the thumbs up. “Not yours.”
“Better go check on it in any case.” Rolly winked and disappeared down the hall.
“I’m sorry for breaking your wing,” Mal said after the Banshee had left. The dragon rider wouldn’t meet his gaze.
Ashe grinned. “Hey, I was trying to burn you to a crisp at the time. All’s fair in love and pitched lab battles, right?”
Mal chuckled. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“What did you find?” He was eager to figure out what they were up against.
“I was going through this book on the history of Schloss Rotlich.” He flipped open the book to a corner-folded page. “Look at this.”
Ashe came to look over Mal’s shoulder. There was a list of dragon names and dates, with photos of some of the dragons. “What am I looking at?”
"These are dragons bred at that facility. It’s extraordinary!”
“Every one of these dragons was a legend in its own time.” He pointed at the list. “This one, Amhold—he was the first dragon on the intercontinental run between London and New York.”
“And this one. Madelhari. She fought at the front ranks of the German army during World War II. Her flame was said to be hot enough to melt diamonds.”
“Some talented dragons there.” He still didn’t see where Mal was going with this.
“And Garson… he protected the German enclave of Mora in Africa during World War I. You might not know them all, but I do. It’s like a who’s who list of dragons known for their exceptional abilities. Many of them shook things up in their industries.”
“You think there’s some kind of secret dragon breeding program going on at Schloss Rotlich?” It fit with what they had seen and learned so far.
Mal nodded. “Something they don’t want anyone to know about.”
“Just a sec.” Ashe pulled the flash drive out of his pocket and sat down at his own chair, plugging it into the usb port. “Dr. Zoss said the files my mother left for me had something to do with a dragon genetics program.” He typed in the username and password, and the drive opened up. “I can’t believe I didn’t think to check this before.” He searched the drive for “Schloss Rotlicht.”
This time Mal was looking over his shoulder.
Ashe flinched. “Watch the wing.”
Mal nodded. “Sorry. How about searching for Türlersee?”
Ashe tried that. “Bingo.” There was a file called “Türlersee Campus”. He opened it and scrolled through the details, stopping at one part that jumped out at him:
“…the latest trials are promising. Breeding for both speed and survivability in a vacuum has proven both difficult and counterproductive, as many of the traits that lend themselves to speed—larger heart, faster conversion of oxygen to energy, etc—reduce the dragon’s ability to survive in a low or no-oxygen atmosphere…”
Farther down, another section caught his eye.
“It is imperative that no one learn of these trials before we are ready to launch the new ‘product.’ D-v2 will have a destructive impact on current markets, and would likely, therefore, engender a significant backlash by the affected business—namely global transportation services and the aerospace industry. All care must be taken to keep this information out of the public sphere until the project comes to fruition.”
“Holy shit,” Mal said. “They mean the Guild. Do you think this is why they killed my sister?”
“And my parents? Maybe. My mother was on to them years ago.” Ashe whistled.
There was also a dossier in the file on a Dr. Dexter Cooper, an American genetics specialist on an extended fellowship to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Magic. His bio said he was currently working on a project to decode all the known dragon genomes, and was based at a facility in Türlersee.
This was big. Too big. “Maybe we need to cut and run while we still can.”
Mal shook his head. “It’s too late. Akemi already knows who we are, remember? Besides, I can’t go back. Not without finding the bastard who did this—Cooper, or whoever it might be.”
“How’s it going?” Rolly said, returning from the fray.
“Look at this.” Ashe walked him through what they’d found.
“Are you sure it means what you think?” Rolly asked, arching an eyebrow. “It’s a bit speculative.”
“I don’t know. It seems to fit. I wish I could read the damned journal. It might tell us more.”
“We’ll see what we can do about that,” Rolly said, glancing at the laptop. “Are you sure no one can track your web searches back to us?”
Ashe shook his head. “I don’t think so. We haven’t gone online for anything.”
“Good. We all need to be more careful. We’ve been poking the bear, and one of these days it’s gonna wake up and bite us in the arse.”
* * * * *
Things carried on in much the same fashion over the next two days—periodic fights, with the cast changing on a rotating basis. Ashe found more on the D-v2 project on the flash drive, but nothing that answered the essential question—who ordered his parents and Anya killed?
He also managed to avoid most of the pitched battles that took place within the group. Though he was involved in one spectacular flameout over what to order for dinner.
Then Akemi’s contact arrived.