I know. I’ve been slacking on this a bit. I’ve got a whole string of excuses lined up, if you want to hear them. But, bottom line, I’ve been neglecting my dragon and his friends. So to make up for it, I hereby declare this to be “Double-Dragon Friday.”
That’s right. This week only, a special, double-length edition of Dragon Friday! *
The Dragon, The Wench, and Her Wardrobe
© 2012 Sheila McClune
I hadn’t quite finished shaking when the dragon returned, luggage dangling from his claws. I snagged our coats from him and spread them out over Max, tucking his gently around his broken arm.
“Thanks, Maddie.” He gave me a crooked smile.
“You’re welcome.” I perched on a nearby rock and pulled my suitcase over to me. “Now, what have we got that we could use for splints?”
Not much, it turned out, thanks to the TSA. I finally decided that my best bet would be to see if I could somehow pull the extendable handle off of my suitcase. That would get me two metal bars. With those, and a couple of scarves I had tucked in my bag, and the belt from my bathrobe, I might be able to put something together that would at least keep Max’s arm from being jostled around too much.
It took me the better part of an hour to figure out how to detach the handle from the case, though. Having the dragon literally breathing over my shoulder the whole time didn’t help, but it did keep me a little warmer.
“Really, Maddie,” said Max, “you don’t need to go to all that trouble. Portal between worlds or not, I’m sure someone will be along to rescue us soon.”
“Look, if I’m going to all this work to ruin my suitcase for you, the least you can do is to shut up and let me.” I looked up from the tweezers I was trying to use as a Phillips screwdriver. “What, don’t you trust me?”
“How can I trust you? I hardly even know you.” He tried to shrug, then winced as the movement jostled his arm.
“It’s not like I’m going to try to set the bone. I just want to immobilize your arm.” I nearly toppled off of my rock as the suitcase handle suddenly came free. I held it up triumphantly. “There!”
Max lifted an eyebrow. “I might have more faith if you hadn’t cut yourself three times just getting that thing loose.”
“Only twice. The other one was from before, when I cut my hand on the dragon’s claw.” The bulky lump of torn t-shirt I’d wound around it as a bandage hadn’t helped my efforts with the suitcase handle. I picked up the scarves and belt I planned to use as ties. “All right. Might as well get this over with.”
I wasn’t prepared for Max to go into an all-out panic attack. “No, Maddie, please! I’m begging you. Just give the rescue crews a little more time. A couple more hours. That’s all I ask. Please?”
I looked down at him in the dim light, biting my lip. Between his deathly pallor and the sheen of sweat on his upper lip, I could see that he was terrified. But why?
“I’ll make you a deal,” he said, clutching at me with his good hand. “If they haven’t come in two hours, I–I’ll let you do it then. Okay?”
I set down the handle and the scarves and knelt beside him. “Why? What is it? Is it the pain? I’ll be as gentle as I can, I promise. And it’ll feel better afterwards. You won’t keep bumping it and jostling it.”
“No, that’s not it.” His eyes slid away from my face to stare over my shoulder, and I knew the dragon was still watching us. “It’s just…look, I’m fine for now, really I am. Can’t I just lie here for a little while and rest?” He looked back at me, and then at the dragon, and then at me again, furrowing his brows pointedly.
I’ve always sucked at charades, unfortunately. What was he trying to tell me? That he wanted to talk to me without the dragon around? But how was I going to manage that? I glanced around and had an inspiration. “I suppose giving you a little time to rest couldn’t hurt. Your heart rate is a bit better.” I touched his forehead. “But you still feel clammy to me.” I reached my hand toward the boulders the dragon had heated for us. “I think the rocks are cooling off. Dragon, could you warm them up for us?”
“Of course.” Claws reached in and delicately plucked the boulder near Max’s head from the cave floor. The others soon followed. “I will be back in a moment.”
As soon as he was gone, Max tugged urgently at my sleeve. “Please don’t splint my arm,” he said, softly. “If you do, the dragon will think it’s okay to move me….”
Suddenly, it all made sense. “And there’d be nothing to keep him from scooping us up and flying away to who-knows-where with us.” I sat back on my heels. “Oh, God. I didn’t think of that.”
I ignored his sarcasm in his voice, trying to think what to do. The dragon’s blasts of fire lit up the cave once again, and I took advantage of the extra illumination to study Max. The dark pools of his eyes made his face look even paler in the harsh light. His sweat-soaked hair clung limply to his forehead. And I wasn’t sure, but the fingertips of his left hand, poking out from under his jacket, seemed a little blue. That definitely wasn’t a good sign. Then the light vanished, and I blinked into the darkness.
“Please, Maddie?” he whispered.
Sighing, I ran a hand through my hair. “All right. I’ll do my best to stall. But we really should splint that arm before too long. And…and if it looks like we’re going to be here for any length of time, I’m afraid I’m going to have to try to set it.”
He winced. “Yeah, I know. I’ve been trying not to think about that.” His gaze shifted over my shoulder again. “Look out. Incoming.”
I twisted around just in time to see the dragon’s claws lowering a rock out of the darkness. The other three followed, and I stretched my icy fingers out to the nearest one to warm them up a bit. “Thanks, Dragon.”
“You’re welcome, little hoo-mun. So are you going to splint the male hoo-mun’s arm now?”
I shook my head. “Not just yet. We’re going to wait a little longer and see if they send a rescue party for us.”
“But why wait? The male hoo-mun is in pain, is he not?”
“Yes, he is, but….” I moved back to my rock, putting my elbows on my knees and dropping my head into my hands for a moment. “It’s just…I’ve never splinted a broken bone before, and I’m afraid I’ll do it wrong and hurt him worse.”
The dragon sniffed. “If you hoo-muns are such fragile creatures, why aren’t you better at fixing each other when you get broken?”
“Because we have people called doctors who are specially trained to do that for us. They’re very good at it. But I’m not one of them.” I realized that one of the reasons I felt so miserable was because I was cold. I pulled out a bulky sweater out of my suitcase and put it on. It helped, some.
“Ah, I see. So you’re hoping that one of these doctors is brave enough to come through the Fae Gate and fix the other hoo-mun, then. Is that it?”
“Yes.” I was really expecting an EMT, but close enough. I sneaked a peek at Max’s cell phone. 11:57. I tried to console myself with the fact that the train accident had probably shut down the entire airport, and that even if I wasn’t stuck in a cave talking to a dragon, I still wouldn’t be in my first-class seat on my way to Boston and Paul.
“Then we shall wait.” The dragon settled himself down between piles of rocks with a happy hum. “More hoo-muns. I can’t wait to smell them.”
“Well, you’re certainly going to be a surprise to them,” I told him.
“So you were going to tell me about your communication device, and why it won’t work with our dwarven towers….”
I settled in to tell the dragon everything I knew about cellular communications. It was going to be a long couple of hours.
* * *
* I usually aim for 700-800 words for these postings.