Tal’on could hear Delevy’s voice. He felt a gentle touch stroking his ear and then a bit of a scratch that felt so good it made him drool in his sleep.
“Yuck, Tal’on,” Delevy wiped at her sleeve. “Have a heart,” she pleaded. “I have been sitting her for most of the night. You won’t let me go even to relieve myself. The least you could do is not make a further mess of me.”
“Hum?” Tal’on said, as he slowly began to come around.
It was as though someone or something had blown all the smoke and ash out of his way and he could see again. In his half-dream he was winging his way through the clouds. Yes, he was flying and there was a weight upon his back. Did he have his own charge? A companion to assist through the stasis as Graf’tal had assisted him? But no, Graf’tal wasn’t here. He couldn’t feel the elder dragon’s presence. Who was with him? He curled his neck up over his shoulder to see who was seated on his shoulders. He saw a booted foot and then a green leg. It was Delevy. His keeper was here in his dream and it seemed right, as though she belonged here with him.
“I said, you would be doing me a favor if you would close your mouth and not drool all over my lap.”
Tal’on felt a hand grasp his chin and gently close his mouth. His eyes rolled open at the touch, first his outer lid, to reveal a ghostly subject above him and then his inner lid, the ones that would now cut the wind when he flew through bad weather.
It was Delevy hovering over him. He was lying with his head in her lap. She looked startled upon seeing his eyes open, but she didn’t remove her hand from his ear. She scratched again.
“You’re not going to bite me are you?” She asked tentatively.
Tal’on lifted his head from her lap. He could understand her. Not just a few words, but everything she was saying. He licked his dry lips with a long pink tongue.
“Easy, big boy,” Delevy cautioned. “You let me up and I will get something much tastier than me for you to eat.”
Tal’on shook his head. It was all too overwhelming. He pulled back and wearily pushed himself up on all fours. He sat back on his haunches before her. The blankets covering him slid in a pile to the floor behind him.
“That’s better,” Delevy said. She straightened out her legs and massaged them a bit to get the blood flowing back into them. “How you feeling?” She asked, as she kept an eye on him. She needed to get up and put a safe distance between them. Tal’on had doubled in size and he was shaped different now. She had not been wrong in her observation that his hand looked more like a foot. He was on all fours now and sitting like one of the Knots in the Klay, back on his haunches.
Tal’on heard her question, but he still was marveling over the fact that he could understand her. That, and the fact that he was not bipedal any longer. He was a dragon. A fully fledged dragon! And if he was fully fledged, he would have wings like in his dream. He forced himself to his feet on unsteady legs and flexed the muscles in his back.
Delevy didn’t know if she or Tal’on were the most surprised by the appearance of the huge blood red wings with the black veins running through them. They popped up and out so huge they almost touched the opposite walls of the cell. They must be twenty feet across.
Tal’on pawed at the floor and gingerly flexed his new wings up and down in delight. Delevy got to her feet and instead of running for the cell door she moved toward Tal’on as though drawn to him by his impressive wing span.
“You have wings,” she said in awe.
“Obviously,” Tal’on replied, as he brought one forward and caught her in it to pull her toward him.
“Oh!” She squeaked, but she didn’t struggle or fight him. She looked up into his swirling red eyes. “I can understand you.”
“And I, you,” Tal’on confirmed.
“How can that be?” Delevy asked.
“I cannot hope to understand, much less explain, the wonders of stasis,” Tal’on said. “Can we speak silently?” he asked as he projected his mental images to Delevy.
She reeled and stuck her hand out to steady herself in the curve of Tal’on wing.
“Stop that!” she shouted as if he were not standing right beside her.
He pulled back the images and settled down on his belly, pulling her gently down with him to rest between his paws up against his chest on the floor.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I should have taken it slower.” He searched his memory for how Graf’tal introduced him to picture talking. It seemed so long ago now.
Delevy stroked the scaly leg Tal’on hand wrapped around her.
“What happened to you?” She asked. “It’s like you morphed into something totally different. How did the Sandcor create such a wonderful creature.”
“The Sandcor?” Tal’on asked in a puzzled tone.
His voice was lower and mellower since he awoke. Delevy found it soothing and reassuring.
“The Sandcor are the people who bred you,” She explained.
“No…” Tal’on shook his wedged head from side to side. “I don’t know who these Sandcor are, but I am Tal’on of the Graf’tal Clan of Drakis. I am not from this world.”
“Wait…” Delevy turned in his arms so she could face him. “Our Prime believes you to be a creature bred by the Sandcor to assassinate him.”
“The Blue?” Tal’on queried.
“The Blue?” Delevy asked.
“The Blue that the Red defended,” Tal’on explained.
It dawned on Delevy what Tal’on was trying to explain. He was identifying them by their uniform colors.
“Yes, the Blue is our leader, the Prime Astrolaris. The Red are his personal guards.” She studied Tal’on. “And I suppose I am a…”
“Green,” Tal’on confirmed, “until I learned your name and saw you shed your skin.”
“Shed my skin?” She croaked in surprise.
Tal’on pointed toward her jacket that still lay on the floor.
“Oh,” she sighed.
“What happened with the Prime?” If he was identifying them by their clothing then he must have picked out the Prime as the only one wearing blue. “Why did you try to attack him?”
“I wasn’t trying to attack him,” Tal’on started to explain. “I tried to talk with him and when he did not respond, I was going to try sign language like I did with you, but his guard fell upon me with their sticks.” Tal’on snorted and smoke rose from his nostrils. He smiled in surprise and snorted again, blowing smoke up into the air over their heads.
Delevy watched in wonder. What was this creature? Where did he come from if not from a genetic experiment by the Sandcor?
“Where is Drakis?” Delevy asked remembering the unusual name.
“Far from here I fear,” Tal’on answered. He quickly lost interest in the puffs of smoke he had been releasing.
“How did you get here? When they brought you in they said you just materialized in the town square during the Commission Day Celebration.”
“I was performing a ‘jump’ with Graf’tal when I was ripped away from him and landed here.” Tal’on’s claws extended and he scraped them in agitation against the stone floor.
“Graf’tal?” Delevy frowned at him.
Tal’on didn’t look down at her. He continued to rake the floor with his claws. “My Great,” he answered.
The statement made no since to Delevy. It was like they were speaking a different language even though she could hear him perfectly.
“I want you to start from the beginning,” Delevy asked. “Tell me about yourself, your people, your world and how you think you got here, but first I will go wash up and get us something to eat. I’m starving, how about you.”
Tal’on’s stomach rumbled in reply.