Chapter Twelve

Zoey packed her book bag with clothes and the things she would need for the trip, and even though she had practiced a few times flying, she was less than excited. Most of the times she had to fly had been due to being saved, but this was promising to be a longer trip than any before. She headed over to Skyler’s with Doug, as they had all decided to leave from there. She was surprised to see everyone standing outside discussing the trip, but not everyone was there yet, so she didn’t worry that they were late. Before she could lose her nerve, and just in case she didn’t survive this flying experience, as Doug was parking his truck, she leaned over and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. Doug lit up bright pink, and Zoey pretended to be interested in something on her book bag to let him finish parking.

When they got out, Doug handed her his back pack and changed, as the others were starting to do. Almost not ready to take off so quickly, Zoey let out a squeak, but to her surprise Doug just sat beside her, listening to the others talk.

“Solidarity is key; we have to show that we support what the dragons are saying, but that we also support our group here,” Sullivan instructed, looking somehow overtired even in a more scaly form. Perhaps he wished he was still able to wear a cape.

Atlas and Blythe took off, leaving a small area of cinders on the ground, where a dragon-Skyler pointedly glared for a few moments before he and Misae took off after them. Ferris and Rebecca were waiting for her and Doug, Zoey guessed, and she realised they probably expected her to sit on his back and she blushed a little but again tried to steel herself. She wondered if she could get a collar or something to hold on to, but then thought better of actually saying that out loud. He did have horns, like all of them, although they varied in placement for each. Maybe he could make some sort of vine rope for her? She was perplexed. Doug seemed to sense her hesitation, but didn’t mention anything yet.

Melanie and Ben were the next to leave, followed by Sullivan and Tarian. Brinly and Calder were even following suit, although Zoey noticed he had his prosthetic legs attached to his book bag by straps instead of attached to his legs, which she could only guess was so he could actually feel where he was on Brinly and not fall off. With that less than comforting thought, she looked at Doug. Oscar and Lynda looked as if they were about to leave, but she was sending a final text.

“I promise you won’t fall, if that helps,” Doug offered, and she bit her tongue. Any response she had would be sarcastic and the last thing she needed would be for him to doubt his abilities while flying. She gave a quick nod, and jumped up, sticking as close to Doug as she could. Luckily she had learned that scales weren’t rough, so she could press her face as tightly into them as she needed, definitely not thinking about how she was about to be very high in the sky with nothing to hold her there and not in a plane at all. There was a hint of regret at having asked to come along. She thought she heard Ferris laugh, but then it was quieted down as she heard Rebecca stick up for her. Then, they were off.

It was just as windy and cold as expected, and she thought with a heavy heart how she should have packed a heavy duty detangling spray. She wondered wistfully if Rebecca or one of the other people going with them would have some, since obviously she was new to this whole thing and didn’t plan ahead. However, she also found that she wasn’t in real danger of falling off, as promised.

Doug seemed to be aware of where she was, and it wasn’t like he was doing barrel rolls or even turning sharply. They were quite high up in the air, in order to avoid detection from anyone below. She figured their scales were reflective enough to help with that too, but didn’t trouble herself with the specifics of it, seeing as how looking down made her want to throw up a little. She glanced over at Rebecca, with her hair streaming behind her and realised she was probably pale and sickly looking in comparison thanks to this whole height issue she never knew she had until now. Maybe it would go away, hopefully.

When they arrived, she was surprised to see how green and pretty everything was, as the area surrounding them was made up mostly of a large field. Off to one side of that was a carved stone coliseum-type place that would probably house the meeting. At this point, they had been flying for hours, and she was so glad to see land that she immediately laid down in the grass when they arrived. Doug changed back into a human and sat down next to her, looking a little perplexed.

“I told you we should have taken breaks along the way,” Ferris interjected to Doug’s silent worrying, which earned him a small glare.

Zoey sat up and a few people cheered but she wasn’t sure who at that point, nor did she care, “I was just… appreciating the ground,” she lied. She ran her hand along the grass and gave it a small pat to try and be more convincing.

Skyler was delegating tasks for the group clustering in order to set up their little camp where they would be staying. The weather was fairly nice and Zoey had no problem with camping, so she wandered after them to help, legs still a bit shaky under her.

Once their camp was set up, Zoey laid down for a little rest at the suggestion of multiple people. She felt much better afterwards when Doug came and checked on her, and steadier which was a feeling she hadn’t truly appreciated until now.

“The meeting is starting in a few hours, now that everyone seems to have arrived, I was wondering if you wanted to sleep more or if you wanted the time to wake up and get ready,” he asked, and she had to agree with the second option. She sent him on a search for detangling spray, and then she sat up in the tent and tried to work the knots out of her hair. Sleeping on windy hair had probably been the worst choice to make, but now she was convinced that Doug must not only like her for her hair. She was surprised when the tent zipped open with a flourish and Tarian popped her head inside. Mostly because Tarian was wearing a long dark purple dress and darker makeup, making her fit more closely with her boyfriend’s style.

“I heard you needed me,” Tarian told her, pulling out a tiny bag that contained a small version of a hair salon. Zoey could have cried from joy, and proceeded to allow Tarian to work out the mess in her hair without complaint or question to her unusual choice of attire.

Her questions were multiplied when they headed down to the stony area she saw when they had landed a few hours earlier. She sat near everyone else, but couldn’t help but notice the large dragons perched everywhere, even double or more the size of her friends when they were transformed. As she had yet to hear them speak, she guessed they were the actual dragons. She noted the exits, all at the top of the coliseum, in case she needed to know them. She watched as Sullivan entered, transforming himself and Tarian from mere shadows and they walked swiftly to where their group was, Sullivan’s cape flowing behind him. He gave a very polite nod to his brother, who returned it, and they sat. She suddenly had a guess for why Tarian was dressed like she was, but it was only confirmed when Doug leaned down and whispered,

“Dragons of darkness have a very rigid way of conducting themselves. There aren’t very many of them, and the few that are alive take a lot of pride in themselves. I believe there are only around three” he paused, choosing his words carefully, “Like us. Sullivan has to act a certain way because of that, and also because he’s second in command of our group,” he told her, and she nodded quietly.

She wondered if there was any way she was supposed to act, but then told herself she would just follow the actions of Doug if need be. She also noted other humans there, but also some dragons that were smaller who opted to stay in their dragon forms, and they remained close to the other dragons.

There were some serious politics happening here that she wasn’t sure she could follow because everyone was acknowledging it by not speaking about it. There were definitely conversations happening in the crowd, but they were muted. Nobody was acting as if they hadn’t seen each other since the last gathering, or that they were excited. Even the grumbles and roars she was hearing between the full dragons were quiet. This was more of a duty than something to look forward to. That was when she noticed Oscar, back stiff, with Lynda sitting on his lap. Even though they were dating, she found that a bit odd in this atmosphere. He had his arms crossed over her as if she was going to accidentally float away. Was he worried she was going to try and start giving the actual dragons bracelets? She didn’t want to bring it up to Doug with everyone here, so she just continued to take everything in. He was next to another human, tall and thin, dressed mostly in shades of grey and black, who she could only guess to be Sinley. Vikki introduced herself and Perrin, before they went to join Oscar and Sinley a few rocky rows ahead.

Zoey wondered why they were sitting a bit apart from the others while also still being part of the group. She sensed some of the dragons were glaring at her a bit, but she didn’t feel as if it was pointed, more like a general glare at all the humans or change dragons in her area; which were numerous. She definitely saw a few sharp and pointed glares from dragons, humans, and change dragons towards Oscar, Vikki, and Sinley, though, and whenever she saw them stiffen up more against the glares, she could almost feel her friends around her grow angry.

The meeting continued, but Zoey could only grasp whatever was being said by the people who weren’t speaking as dragons. There was some talk about border skirmishes, more so between the real dragons, and the change dragons. Each of the groups had to report on new things happening in their lives, so she did get to hear about places she had never been to. She had no idea JARGON was so widespread until now. She was surprised when her name was mentioned, but then she tried to give a warm smile, thinking that an addition to an already large group would be something noteworthy.

Skyler spoke to report all their news, but that was the only time he stood up to speak. This was probably due to the fact that he was the head of their group, and therefore the only one allowed to speak about their news. After he had finished speaking, she noticed Lynda slide to the seat beside Oscar, looking downwards at her feet. She looked tense as well, and was quieter than Zoey thought she could be. Sinley placed his hand on her shoulder and she smiled back up at him. This was when the human-appearing person making the announcements and calling on the groups of change dragons to report, turned to face the three synthetic dragons. The group around Zoey became even more agitated as the dragon sneered at them, and Lynda pretended to be counting the beads on her arm. Even though they were sitting near the top of the coliseum, others moved to the side so the Speaker had an open view of them. Oscar sat up straighter, but wasn’t smiling like he normally did. The others in the crowd seemed to be extra prickly towards the three as well, and they were quite quiet.

“Electricity dragon, stand up,” the Speaker told him, and Oscar stood to his full height. Lynda stopped pretending to count beads but was frozen looking, her head tipped slightly towards Sinley but her face turned to where Oscar stood, “I see you have not chosen to have any children yet, that is very much appreciated. We would encourage this behaviour in the future as well.” the Speaker told him in a warning tone.

Oscar bristled and Lynda turned red, slinking down further. He tilted his head to one side as if he was shocked by what the speaker had just said, and replied tersely, “As creepy as that was, I’ll kindly remind you that’s none of your business.” His hands were shaking at his sides. Sinley was as unmoving as a stone, one eye watching Oscar.

Zoey thought this was an accurate enough answer, even though she felt bad for Oscar being singled out. She mentioned this to Doug just as the Speaker began to climb up towards where Oscar still stood, looking furious.

“Well, Sinley is Asexual/Aromantic, and Vikki is safe because she only dates girls, Oscar is the only one they think they need to worry about normally. Since they all had their DNA extra altered… none of the other groups want them to exist right now, and we don’t know if his powers would be passed on,” Doug told her, but his eyes kept flicking back to Oscar as the Speaker got closer to him.

“I asked you to stand, not to speak,” the Speaker told him, and flicked his wrist. The wind flared up at this slight flick and cut through the still air, knocking Oscar back a few inches with the force of it and sliced open his cheek quite widely. Blood dripped down from his cheek but he returned to glaring at the Speaker in full force.

“I haven’t done anything wrong!” he exclaimed, wincing a bit as he spoke. Lynda looked as if she wanted to reach for his hand but knew it wasn’t the proper place so she continued to stare at it, or possibly at the smear of blood on his fingers from where he had touched his face.

The Speaker looked enraged by this and flicked his hand again, but this time Sinley popped up from where he was sitting and blocked part of the blow. It cut through the sleeve of Oscar’s shirt and his shoulder began to bleed as well, but it was his turn to look enraged as he realised most of the blow had been aimed at Lynda and blocked by Sinley jumping into place. Lynda looked up, wide eyed, and Sinley was watching Oscar warily, despite his own new gash across his clavicle and shoulder. Sinley hadn’t had the time to turn any part of his body metal, so he would be sporting that injury for awhile.

“You all need to hold your tongue. Don’t forget that we allow you to live the lives that you do, despite being such dangerous abominations. Metal dragon, do you have an issue with how we do things as well?” the Speaker asked, addressing Sinley. Vikki and Perrin were trying to subtly reach for Lynda in order to make sure she was alright, but pulled back after hearing how Sinley was now being rebuked. They didn’t want to make Lynda more of a target. Skyler was hovering where he sat, livid. Misae tugging on his shirt was the only thing that kept him from leaping out and tearing into this Speaker. Skyler was the representative for all of them, and if he acted, they would all face the consequences. The Speaker raised his hand once again, but before he could release another blast, Sullivan stood up, cape flaring out.

“That is quite enough from YOU. I will not stand to be insulted as you punish dragons that fall under MY jurisdiction. They are part of my clan, and as second in command it is my duty to punish them, not yours,” he warned the Speaker, eyes aflame with anger. As a dragon of darkness, he had a bit more leeway with what he could say, as he was expected to act in a way that aggressively protected his dignity.

This caught the attention of the Speaker, who turned to Sullivan angrily, “if they fall under your clan, you should be teaching them to better behave themselves,” he told Sullivan, not willing to back down. Oscar’s eyes flitted nervously, and his hands were shaking again, this time, more rapidly. Sinley had sat back down but was trying to whisper something to him. He tapped on the back of Oscars arm when he could, but didn’t receive a response.

“Are you questioning how we run things? I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware you had ever lived in our clan before, how much do you know about how we run things?” Sullivan sneered, crossing his arms. Dragons of darkness and light were known to have great power, and Sullivan let some twirling shadows slink along his crossed arms and between his fingers, threateningly.

“I-I haven’t, but everyone knows you’re too soft on your members,” the Speaker tried again, looking back at Oscar. “You saw today how insolent they were! And I know most of the unnatural ones have freedom to roam without your knowledge as to where they are.” He was obviously referring to Sinley and Vikki, who preferred living on their own, away from civilization. Understandably, they had trouble trusting people outside of their family, especially humans, due to JARGON.

“And so you decided to insult us by questioning how we run things and by stepping in as to rebuke our members. Skyler decides how things are run here, and I follow through with those orders. Before stepping out of line and involving yourself in our politics you might want to speak with us first next time,” Sullivan told him sharply, walking up to the Speaker and staring him directly in the eyes.

The Speaker held his gaze for a moment and then broke it, stomping back down to the middle of the arena. Oscar had begun to work his jaw in an even more nervous way, grinding his teeth, and still remained standing. Sullivan was biting his lip in an attempt to not look over at him in a worried way, but Oscar grabbed Lynda’s hand and they both pushed out of the arena quickly. Sullivan returned to his seat as the proceedings continued, but Doug was anything but relaxed beside Zoey, especially when a couple of dragons not so subtly slipped out after Oscar and Lynda.

“Alright, when this meeting is over we are going to have to run for an exit but stay with everyone okay?” Doug whispered to her, putting his hand on hers.

“Is Oscar okay? Were those other dragon’s going to hurt him or something?” Zoey asked, a little nervous herself after all of that.

Doug shook his head, “Oscar’s having a panic attack right now, this happens when he loses control of a situation or feels like Lynda’s in danger. It’s because of the electricity powers, the extra fiddling around with the DNA in his case made them really hard to control, and although he’s much better with it now… well his anxiety makes it a lot worse. When he feels threatened, he panics,” he told her quietly, but urgently. “I really hope those dragons aren’t going to hurt him,” he added.

With those less than comforting words, Zoey barely heard the rest of the ceremony, but was up in an instant when it ended. Sinley, Vikki, and Perrin joined up with them just as quickly and they made their way outside of the arena, as if everyone else already knew they wanted to follow Oscar. They didn’t have to run very far before they saw bolts of electricity sparking in the clear blue sky hap hazardously. Sullivan untied his cape while running faster now and passed it to Tarian, unable to mask the worry on his face now. They reached the area at the base of a large hill, where three dragons seemed bent on tormenting Oscar, covered in jumping sparks and changed fully into a dragon.

There was such an uproar that Zoey knew Lynda couldn’t be heard over the noise, calling out to try and comfort Oscar. Skyler jumped in, roaring something furiously at the other dragons until they backed off, trying to save their pride, despite the fact that they had visible electricity burns on their bodies. Still, Oscar didn’t seem to register the threat was gone, and he looked around, wide eyed and roared in frustration. He was hyperventilating, his head moving jerkily around as if he wanted to run somewhere but didn’t know where. Zoey was startled by the sheer amount of electricity he was throwing around, and wondered how they were going to get anywhere close to him or Lynda, who was sitting, unharmed on the ground near him.

It seemed miraculous that she wasn’t being hit by any stray bolts, but Zoey guessed that he was somehow aware of her presence at least. She was trying to talk to him it seemed like, but he looked so unfocused.

Melanie gave the group a somewhat awkward look and said, “Sorry, but I should stay back here, water just conducts electricity.” She paused.“Calder, what are your prosthetics made out of again?” she added.

“Titanium, they don’t have a high level of conductivity, but I doubt I could do much to calm him down right now anyway,” Calder told her, looking at his legs for a moment and then back to Oscar warily. “Also, they might not have a high level of conductivity, but I’d still die if I was hit by electricity.” He gave her a confused look.

“Right, forgot how fragile full on humans are.” She admitted, nodding her head.

“Were you about to send me in there next?” Ben asked her, voice wavering a bit. “It was hard enough to convince my parents to let me go away for the weekend. If I died they’d kill me. Again.” He looked off into the sky, as if imagining it. Zoey had to admit, his parents were very strict. He probably had to make a permission form for this trip.

Sullivan signaled for them to wait there, and he turned into shadows, moving swiftly across the grass. Tarian still held his cape tightly in her hands, and he popped up out of the shadows as swiftly as he could, yelling to Oscar that he was here, and that it was alright now. Oscar didn’t seem to register him as a non-threat, and the electricity bounded at Sullivan as he did his best to dodge it. Skyler raced in, seeing his brother in danger but he was not quick enough and Sullivan was struck and flung back a few feet by the shock. He barely moved and Tarian screamed, Skyler lunging on top of his brother and turning them both into light just as the electric bolt stuck again.

They appeared back at the major group, Tarian pulling Sullivan close to her and bursting into tears, stroking his hair. Meanwhile, Doug and Ferris took off, despite everyone’s protests, staying farther away but trying to distract or capture Oscar with boulders and vines placed around him. He seemed to crush or snap whatever came near him, but they didn’t want him looking at the group and seeing them all as a threat either. The two of them always worked well together anyway, and they used their powers to keep bolts from striking each other as they ran. At least, that’s what Zoey was telling herself as she watched them, feeling her heart in her throat. Lynda had become more frantic at trying to catch Oscar’s attention, but whenever she tried to get up or step in front of him, he gently used a wing to scoop her up and place her back on the ground, however each time appeared to distract him for a bit longer as he tried desperately to figure out what she was trying to say with his panicked mind. Atlas charged into the fray and managed to make it much closer than Ferris and Doug, despite their worried screams at him to not go so close.

“It’s just us, Oscar! Please try to focus on what’s happening right now! You aren’t in any danger!” he called, before retreating. He didn’t even use his powers, but Zoey had to debate whether or not flames would just aggravate Oscar more. Brinly looked as if she wanted to step in as well, but decided against it, saying, “If I hold him down in ice, he might panic more thinking he can’t get out.”

Vikki flattened out her braided hair and started playing with one of them nervously, clearly frustrated, “I don’t want to poison anyone. I don’t like using my powers because of that.” she grumbled to Perrin, but was obviously just as perplexed.

That was when Lynda jumped up and raced towards him, managing to dodge his wing and grabbed onto one of his horns, hauling herself up to his face. He wasn’t about to shake her off or pull her off with much force, so she was able to keep a good grip, and she pulled herself up to meet his eyes. The electricity continued to spin around them, but he was distracted from sending any bolts towards Ferris and Doug, who flopped down on the ground, out of breath.

Zoey felt Atlas grab her around the waist as she went to run towards them, without thinking that they could still be in trouble if Lynda lost her grip. Skyler looked as if he wanted to go pull them out too. Lynda was yelling to Oscar that he was safe and that it was okay, over and over again. Slowly, the electricity subsided and he changed back into a human, but Lynda grabbed the sides of his face and pressed her forehead against his, continuing to repeat her chant for him. The sparks died from his eyes and he slumped down to the ground, and Lynda tried to lower him down softly despite their tremendous height differences. Oscar appeared to be out cold and Atlas released Zoey, who grabbed Rebecca’s wrist and they raced forward towards the field.

Zoey was worried about everyone, but she had been watching Doug from far enough away for the most part that she couldn’t be absolutely sure that he hadn’t been hit by a stray bolt. She released Rebecca only as they drew close to Ferris and Doug. Zoey dropped down to the ground, cupping his face out of nervousness and then pulling her hand back out of equal nervousness, but he caught it in his hand.

“A-Are you okay?” she stammered, not breaking eye contact with him. She was glancing all around, trying to look for any injuries.

“Yeah,” he told her hoarsely; panting from all of his running around, giving her a warm smile.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw Ferris roll over and try and stand up, swearing a little. “Well that was an eventful afternoon,” he grumbled, coughing and sliding back down towards Rebecca, who caught his upper half.

Zoey lowered her head down to touch her forehead to Doug’s, feeling dizzy now that the whole event was over. He was breathing much more softly now, and when she opened her eyes his eyes were closed calmly. She lifted her head, feeling her cheeks flush a bit before saying, “we should go see how Sullivan and Oscar are doing, but only if you think you can stand up.”

He nodded, and shakily stood, still holding her hand for a moment. He only released it to help Ferris to his feet too, and they all slowly made their way back to the group. Atlas had moved Oscar closer while they were out in the field, and Sullivan was still sitting up only due to Tarian propping him up. Everyone seemed just as concerned about Oscar as they did Sullivan, and Zoey couldn’t find it in her heart to blame him either, he was still one of their friends. It was a few more moments before Oscar stirred though, and looked around confusedly. They had taken the time to patch up the side of his face and his shoulder while he was unconscious, but he seemed to clue into what had happened as soon as he saw Sullivan.

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