Snippet 3 of Ascendant, The Kacy Chronicles, Book 2
By A.L. Knorr & Martha Cooper
Chapter 3 (unedited)
It didn’t take Sol long to spot Jordan from the sky over Maticaw. Her blonde hair and bright yellow feathers caught his eye like a beacon on a stormy night. She seemed to be in active conversation with a gypsy woman dressed almost entirely in purple. Sol’s Arpak vision sharpened on the pair. There was a basket on the woman’s hip, but whatever was in the basket was blocked by the golden arch of Jordan’s wing. He banked and drifted, finding an open space in the street to land in.
Dodging merchants and shoppers, Sol wound his way to Jordan. The gypsy had a cloud of curls puffing up from under a purple headscarf, and bangles twanged from her wrists. A single shock of gray hair at her temple stood out stark against the rich brown of the rest. A holey knitted shawl was tied around her waist and trailed in the dust of the street. Her face was lined with age but her brown eyes were keen with intelligence, the whites very white and brown very rich. Her expression was a blend of kindness and craftiness.
“Jordan, I’m finished. Ready to go?” Sol said at Jordan’s elbow. “I have a delivery for Upper Rodania.” His irritation that she’d not been on the terrace waiting for him was only mild as she’d been easy to find. “Wish you hadn’t left the- whoa“ his eyes dropped to the small blue dragon perched in Jordan’s palm. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed but there’s a dragon on you.”
The reptile was no larger than a rat and had diamond-shaped scales of bright blue. A yellow patch (nearly identical to the brightest yellow of Jordan’s own wings) ran from its throat to its chest and along the insides of each leg. Its dark blue wings were folded against its back and its long tail was wrapped around Jordan’s arm like a spiral bracelet. Small blunted nails the colour of midnight sprang from short little claws which were clutched around Jordan’s wrist and in between her fingers. The dragon had shiny black orbs for eyes, too big for its face, which gave it a mousy quality. Two little holes on either side of its head served as ears, and two slender blue horns curved gracefully back from its skull. The scales that ran over its brow and neck were brighter and smoother than the rest – almost pearly. Whatever this dragon was, he was well fed and well taken care of.
The reptile cocked his head at the sounds of the women’s voices, his tongue darting out now and then, smelling the air or maybe the situation. Sol had studied dragons during his training, but more about how to recognize and avoid the dangerous ones than anything else. This little reptile, covered in his jewel-like scales and observing the world with a bright intelligent gaze didn’t look like any of the ones Sol had studied. It also looked very young.
Jordan blinked up at Sol, bewildered. “I’m sorry you had to come find me. I meant to be back at the terrace before you were finished. Yes, I’m ready to go but we seem to have a problem.” To illustrate, she held the dragon out to the gypsy woman.
The gypsy reached for the dragon who responded by squawking and skittering up Jordan’s arm to perch on her shoulder. Jordan winced as the sharp claws ran the terrain of her body.
The gypsy dropped the basket at her feet and put her hands on her hips with a huff. “He has imprinted on you, girl. You have to buy him. There is nothing else to be done.” The gypsy looked up at Sol, as though hoping to find an ally in him. “Tell her.”
“That’s just a sales tactic,” said Sol, reaching for the dragon. “Nothing more.” Moving quickly, he scooped the reptile up and handed it back to the gypsy, who glowered at him.
“It’s not a trick,” she grumped. “Berla is many things, but she is no trickster.” She took the dragon back and picked up the basket, setting him inside it and perching it on her hip. She looked down expectantly. “You watch. It’s not a trick.”
“Let’s go.” Sol put a hand on Jordan’s shoulder and they headed back toward the stairs leading up to the apothecary’s terrace where they could catch an updraft.
There was a throaty despairing scream behind them. A flapping blue blur fell into the dust at Jordan’s feet. The little dragon turned his liquid black eyes up to Jordan and gave a plaintive cry.
“Oh, look at him.” Jordan’s expression melted and she squatted. She picked up the dusty creature and brushed him off. The dragon leaned into her touch and emitted a clicking rumble from deep in his chest, a reptilian purr. Jordan stood, cupping the creature next to her stomach. “He likes me.”
Sol rubbed a hand down his face and sighed.
“He more than likes you,” said the gypsy woman, approaching with the basket dangling from one hand. “Dragon imprinting is a bond for life. It’s not a joke. If you don’t take him with you, he’ll die of a broken heart.”
Jordan gasped and looked up at Sol, eyes beginning to take on a pleading glaze.
“Jordan, dragons aren’t allowed on Rodania,” he said, firmly but with compassion. “I’m sorry. They grow to be enormous, and not least of all dangerous. Let’s go, we’re wasting time-”
“This one won’t,” interjected the gypsy. “He’s a Predoian Miniature. He won’t get any bigger than what he is now.”
Sol looked down as the reptile shoved his snout between Jordan’s elbow and ribs. “Really? He looks like a baby to me. He can’t even fly yet.”
“He is young but he is full-grown” The woman lifted her chin. “I know dragons. Don’t insult me by saying it is some kind of ruse. I care for my dragons, they are not just my business. I do not send them to where they will be unhappy.”
Jordan stroked under the dragon’s chin. His mouth opened and his tongue snaked out as he dropped his jaw into her hand. “Who knew reptiles could be so affectionate. Are miniature ones allowed on Rodania?”
Jordan’s face brightened. “They are?”
“Yes, but he can’t fly, and neither of us is equipped to take on a pet right now.” Sol scooped the dragon up a second time and handed him to the woman in purple. “Hold him, please. Don’t let him follow her. We’re leaving now.”
The gypsy took the dragon reflexively but her eyes widened in fear. “I can’t do that! Do you want me to lose a finger or an eye?”
Sol snatched the rope laying in the bottom of the basket. “Then tie him up and wait until we’re out of sight.” His nimble fingers fashioned a noose and he slipped it over the dragon’s head, scooped him up and bent at the nearest tree. He tied the dragon to the tree trunk and stood up, satisfied. “There, now he can’t hurt you.”
The gypsy woman rolled her eyes. “You are not even an amateur.”
Sol steered Jordan toward the steps. “Lets. Go.” There was another screech as the two Arpaks stroke away. “Ignore him, Jordan.”
“But-“ Jordan looked back over her shoulder. “What if she’s right? What if he’ll die?”
They couldn’t ignore the second much louder screech, which was followed by a panicked flapping of wings and desperate snapping of jaws. The dragon strained at the cord. He turned his head almost completely backwards and sawed through the rope with his back teeth like it was nothing but floss. He came at Jordan in a flapping run and took a bounce at her feet. The reptile landed awkwardly on Jordan’s shoulder, his wings flexed for balance. He looped his head under her chin with a distressed whistle.
The gypsy followed, her hands on her hips. “Many would sell everything they own in order to have a dragon imprint with them. You are stupid if you do not see the benefit of this.”
Sol rolled his eyes. Jordan wrapped her fingers gently around the dragon and held him next to her heart, murmuring soft words.
“You do not need to take care of a dragon. They take care of you.” She jabbed a long-nailed finger into Sol’s face. “You do not need to feed them. They are our most deadly predator. You do not need to clean up after them. They do their business in the woods because its the only time they feel vulnerable,” she cocked her head with a faint smile, “and a little embarrassed.” She looked down at the dragon with affection. “And they will love you until one of you dies.” She looked back at Sol and Jordan and her face hardened. “You are a fool if you do not take him with you. And you would also be murderers.”
“Easy now,” muttered Sol, flushing faintly under Jordan’s gaze. He was rapidly losing this fight and soon, he would be the bad guy, if he wasn’t already. “We didn’t come here for a dragon. How much is he?”
The woman lost a little of her composure. “Sixty coin,” she said, shuffling from one foot to the other, purple skirt swaying.
Sol barked an outraged laugh. “We don’t even want him!”
“I do,” said Jordan shyly.
Sol stared at her.
Jordan’s bashfulness turned to certainty. “I want him. I’ll find a way to pay you back for him. Please.”
“How?” Sol put his hands on his hips. “With what gold?”
Jordan shrugged. “I’ll find a way. Money is easy to get, you just have to be creative.”
Sol groaned inwardly. “I’ll give you five coin for him.” He said to the gypsy woman. “If you care so much for him, you’ll agree to it. We did not come here for a dragon, he was thrust upon us. If you don’t accept my offer, the dragon stays, and you’ll be as much a party to murder as we would be, and your greed will be confirmed.” Sol shrugged and crossed his arms to show he was finished negotiating.
The gypsy woman’s mouth dropped open but quickly snapped shut, realizing how he’d trapped her. Her brown eyes flashed from one solemn face to the other, then to the little dragon now perched peacefully on Jordan’s shoulder. “Make it ten coin, and let us say no more about it.”
Mutely, Sol dug the coins from his satchel and dropped them into her upturned palm. “Good day.”
“Wait.” the gypsy woman opened the bag at her hip and rifled through it. She retrieved a small folded piece of paper. “Here is his registration.”
Sol took the paper and opened it, reading the hand-written certificate saying that the dragon was a Predoian Miniature born in Maticaw three months earlier. Sol glanced from the page to the gypsy and was about to ask if it was even legitimate, after all the dragon couldn’t even fly properly yet, but he thought better of it. They didn’t have time for this. He tucked the page into his satchel and nodded goodbye to the dragon peddler. The Arpaks left the gypsy woman standing in the street with a moue of unhappiness on her face.
“You’ll have to carry him,” Sol warned as they made their way up to Cles’s terrace. “Are you okay with that? I can do it if you like.” Even though she wouldn’t complain about it, Sol knew Jordan was still sore from the journey from Charra-Rae. It was a long way to go for an Arpak who’d just gotten her wings.
“I can do it,” said Jordan with a smile. She followed at his heels as they climbed the steps. “How was your delivery by the way?”
“Not good,” Sol grunted. “Cles didn’t have what he was asked for. I don’t think Juer will be happy.”
“Who is Juer?” Jordan had begun to pant and blew out a big exhale as they reached the terrace, flexing her wings in preparation. She and Sol crossed the landing to the balcony.
“The Royal Physician,” said Sol. He hopped up onto the platform built into the terrace railing and held a hand out to Jordan. “Are you ready?” His wings opened out halfway.
Jordan stepped up and looked down at the city below them, her tummy quivering. “This part still freaks me out a bit.” Her wings opened out, the feathers brushing the tops of the foliage reaching up from the garden patches.
“Want me to take him?” Sol nodded at the little blue reptile cupped now in Jordan’s hands.
“No, I’ve got him.” Her eyes were bright and her face pink. “How far to Rodania did you say?”
“Five to six hours depending on the wind. We have to bank north and follow the coast for a while. Storms tend to gather between Maticaw and Rodania, but they’re easily avoided by going north.”
Jordan faced the sea and stepped to the edge of the stone ledge built just so that Strix could drop off and catch an updraft. Maticaw stretched out before her, its rooftop terraces and towers cascading down the steep mountains sides to the sea. She looked down at the little dragon, contemplating that she now had a companion, if the gypsy was to be believed, for life. Jordan felt the ties between her and Oriceran tighten. Miserably, Jordan thought of her father and wished he could be with her to experience all of this. Had he received her message? Had it frightened him? Of course it had.
“Jordan? You okay?”
Jordan turned to Sol, eyes glistening. She brushed at her face. “What should we call him?” She looked down at the reptile, hiding the emotions rising up in her. She was still so relieved that Sol hadn’t left her to fend for herself in this strange land, the idea of burdening him with her problems further was abhorrent to her.
“Uh,” Sol gazed at the tiny creatures sapphire blue scales. He was actually a spectacular specimen, a real beauty, for a reptile. Not that Sol had seen many dragons in his lifetime, but the ones he had seen were dull gray in colour, and somewhat misshapen looking. “Blue?”
“Blue!” Jordan laughed. The dragon looked up at the sound of her laughter and rattled off a purr in his throat. “No points for creativity. Don’t worry,” she looked down into the dragon’s face, “we won’t call you Blue,” she crooned.
“Yes, I’m ready.” She clutched the dragon against her chest with both hands so he’d feel secure. “Don’t worry. I won’t drop you,” she murmured. With a squeal and a gasp she spread her wings and hopped from the platform. She dipped face-first toward Maticaw and banked upward at the last moment, just missing a weathervane spire which spun as she passed.
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