Chapter Two: Mal
On the Way to Oblivion
Night had fallen not too long ago, and the shadows had Mal on alert like never before. He shook off the feeling, putting it down to the emotional roller coaster he’d been on the last week and a half. Mal didn’t want to be alone right now but he didn’t want to bother his fellow rangers. He knew they probably wouldn’t see it that way, but Mal didn’t think he was up for company of the Being kind, human or otherwise. What he needed was Nidhogg. Mal made his way to his apartment. He ignored everyone he passed. They tried to ask him if he was okay, he probably looked a fright, but Mal didn’t care enough to reassure them.
He closed the apartment door behind him, shrugged out of his jacket, now wet through on both sides, and dumped his helmet on the small table just inside the door. Mal went straight for the fridge and the six-pack of beer inside. He grabbed the neck of one of the bottles and lifted them up, before turning and walking right back out of his home.
The heavy thud of his boots on the concrete sounded loud in Mal’s ears. People stopped and stared at him, their mouths open, and eyes wide. No doubt word would spread quickly and get back to his fellow rangers. Hopefully by then he would be at least halfway through his six-pack and the pain wouldn’t be quite so sharp.
Mal crossed the quad, not caring about the rain still coming down in buckets and made his way toward the hangars. He scanned his card through the reader, the little light turning from red to green.
During the day, when apprentices, workers, vets and riders were all coming and going constantly, the hangars were open. Now though, Mal was there after hours which required him to scan to gain entrance. Thankfully the lights wouldn’t be shut off for several more hours yet. There was no way Mal wanted to be feeling his way around in the dark. Not that he didn’t know this place like the back of his hand, but with the way he was feeling right now, it wouldn’t be a good thing.
Mal made his way through rows and rows of nests, all housing magnificent dragons of various shapes and sizes. He didn’t bother to stop and chat with the few apprentices or riders who were also in here after hours like he normally would. He was on a mission and nothing was going to deter him from his course. The dragon he was looking for was located towards the back, the Ranger dragons, Himalayan Divers, were housed together in one large nest, near the back takeoff pad for the occasions when they were called out in an emergency.
His dragon lifted his head when Mal slid the large door open. As did the other five dragons in the nest.
“Hey boy,” he cooed softly as he slowly walked inside. No one made a move toward him, they’d known each other for years. Nidhogg’s elephant-sized body lay curled up on his bed of fire-resistant foam, his wings tucked tightly at his sides. Small chunks of the foam had already succumbed to Nidhogg’s massive claws, as happened daily. The apprentices would be back in the morning to sweep out the debris and fill in the gaps with the foam spray. That stuff really was one of the best inventions of the twentieth century. A dragon’s previous bedding, sawdust, was the cause for more than one building going up in flames.
His boots made a dull tap on the sealed concrete floor as he made his way toward his friend. At the back of the nest sat another door, which led to the massive outdoor enclosure the six Himalayan Divers also shared.
Nidhogg’s stunning blue scales gleamed in the low light from above. His forked tongue flicked out, tasting the air. When Mal got close enough, Nidhogg’s long neck extended and Mal reached out and rubbed his hand over the dragon’s head, right between the eyes, where his guy liked it the most.
“You don’t mind me disturbing your peace do you?” Mal asked as he continued to run his hand over the warm scales. Mal shivered, forgetting just how wet and cold he was until he felt the warmth of the dragon. Nidhogg closed his eyes.
Mal chuckled. “Yeah, I didn’t think so, thanks, guys.” Mal ran his hand all the way down Nidhogg’s neck and across his flank. The dragon settled, laying his head on the ground, facing Mal. Mal leaned against Nidhogg’s side, and then slid down, until he was sitting on the foam, warmth radiating through his back at the connection he currently had with his dragon. “You don’t mind if I drink do you?” Tharos and Franae continued to watch him from where they lay on their own foam beds, they others all had their heads down and their eyes closed, they obviously weren’t worried about Mal being in there with them.
Nidhogg let up a puff of hot air, and Mal chuckled. “Hey, no need to be like that. Beer is meant to be drunk cold. You keep that up and it’s going to taste like shit.” Nidhogg’s wings twitched, causing the entire side of the animal to move.
Mal placed his six-pack on the foam between his legs, then pulled one out of the cardboard casing and twisted the top off.
“To Anya,” he said, then settled in to drink.