Theyâ€™d been flying for about a day when Rai sensed the first dragon. It was some way away and there was dragon territory nearby, so he didnâ€™t think much of it. But it was in their path, so he altered course slightly to avoid it and flew on.Â Moments later he sensed another one hovering in the new course heâ€™d chosen. Not good, but twice might be coincidence. He changed course again. The Light Warrior shifted on his back as she noticed the changes and her mind brushed his questioningly.
Is something wrong?
Iâ€™ve sensed two dragons in my flight path in the last five minutes, he replied. Iâ€™m trying to avoid- He broke off. Thereâ€™s another two one ahead of us andÂ one behind us.
Above him he heard her swearing furiously and then she went quiet and he knew she was reaching out to sense for the dragons.
Land! Now! she snapped. I count six out there and from their positions they mean to herd us somewhere. If I have to fight six dragons on my own, itâ€™s going to be on the ground of my choosing. Not theirs.
Valeria wouldnâ€™t like him taking orders from a human, but in the circumstances he couldnâ€™t see much choice. He scouted around until he spotted a steep and narrow wooded valley which would give them some shelter and landed in a clearing. The Light Warrior slid from his back and unhooked her axes from her belt.
â€œI think you should send an imp to Valeria,â€ she said. â€œThese dragons are awfully close to her border. I donâ€™t like it.â€
â€œI donâ€™t either,â€ he agreed. â€œYouâ€™re right.â€ He concentrated everything that had happened in the last day and sent an Imp flying off. â€œThere!â€ He cast around for the dragons but couldnâ€™t sense them right now. From the anxious look on the Light Warriorâ€™s face, she could.
â€œCould you go to resting form?â€ she asked.
â€œWhy?â€ He looked at her suspiciously.
â€œI donâ€™t feel safe staying still. I want to start hiking for the border, but you canâ€™t travel well on the ground. Iâ€™ll have to carry the three of you.â€ She tutted her tongue against her teeth and looked around. â€œBut I want to keep my axes to hand, so I need something to carry you in.â€
Rai looked at his backup and saw they were finally conscious. Both of them were trembling as they looked at Karen. He explained the situation to them tersely and then looked back at her. â€œKeeping moving is a good idea. Weâ€™ll ride on your shoulders.â€
â€œThatâ€™ll have to do, I guess.â€ She waited while Rai shrank down into his resting form and then let the three of them take up perches on her shoulders. Perun nearly slipped off and dug his claws in, making her yelp. â€œOw! Be careful withÂ your talons.â€
â€œSorry,â€ Perun apologised.
â€œThatâ€™s okay.â€ She stood there for a long moment, obviously orienting herself towards the direction she could sense Alban in. â€œGood, this valley goes in roughly the right direction.â€ She set off walking towards the border.
â€œWeâ€™d better avoid other speakers as well,â€ Rai suggested.
â€œHmm? Likely to attack us?â€ she asked as she started walking.
â€œYes,â€ Rai said softly. â€œThe only safe place around here would be the eyrie. Thereâ€™s trouble brewing and it seems to be coming from this region.â€
â€œNothing is ever simple is it?â€ She didnâ€™t sound surprised. â€œTell me, are there a lot of refugees from Elapyron City around here?â€
Rai fell off her shoulder with a startled caw. She stopped and waited for him pull himself together and fly back to her shoulder.
â€œHow did you know that?â€
â€œIt was an informed guess. Caerdu was having problems caused by refugees from Elapyron. We found out something very wrong was going on there before it fell.â€
â€œWhat sort of wrong?â€ Rai asked and then wished he hadnâ€™t when she told him.
â€œThatâ€™s horrible!â€ Perun interrupted.
â€œBut it does explain why they closed the borders,â€ Levina finally spoke up from where she was perched on the warriorâ€™s other shoulder. â€œThey would have needed to keep that hidden. Sometimes I think the world is going insane by inches.â€
â€œIt is.â€ The light warrior slowed and grabbed onto a sapling for balance as she slid down a small scree slope towards a small stream. â€œWarn me if you sense any Speakers. Though with dragons around theyâ€™ve probably all scarpered.â€
â€œI will.â€ Rai flinched back as he sensed one of the dragons swoop low over the trees. Through the canopy he caught a glimpse of dark red scales on a sinuous tail. â€œCan you conceal us?â€ he asked.
She shook her head. â€œLight reveals things rather than concealing them, and theyâ€™re hunting-â€ She gave a startled cry and leapt back as a giant clawed foot struck down through the trees and missed her by a hairâ€™s breadth. â€œShit! Theyâ€™ve found us!â€ She lashed out at the dragonâ€™s foot and gashed it open. The dragon screamed as thick red blood oozed out. She took advantage of its distraction and slashed it again before fleeing.