“Let’s take a break,” Rudd’ard said. “Mul’drak and I will go get us all something to eat.”
Rudd’ard rose and swiftly mounted Mul’drak. He reached down and affectionately patted the larger dragon on the neck.
“We’ll be right back,” he assured us, and then promptly disappeared.
“Whoa,” Jake said with an exhale of breath. He looked toward Arr. “What are you getting out of this?”
“The non-verbal exchanges between the two seem to confirm what they are telling us,” Arr told his partner. He smiled in a conspiring fashion. “It will be interesting to see what they return with. I caught a glimpse of where they were going as they locked minds. I do love the sunglobes from Muldavian.”
“They’re flying all the way to Muldavian?” I asked in disbelief. It would have taken us months to get there even with jumping through windows and hitching a dangerous ride on the Malestrom.
“Not flying,” Arr corrected, “Jumping.”
“I wonder what that is like?” I asked.
“Probably like jumping through a window,” Jake suggested. He was walking around the cavern, stretching his legs.
We had been setting for over an hour listening to Rudd’ard tell us the story of Tal’on. I was anxious to get to where this all tied into the Sollen, or dragoncall, and why the Valdare wanted it. Wanted it so much they killed my parents. That was, if I was reading all the clues correctly in this mystery my parents left me to unravel.
Rudd’ard and Mul’drak reappeared about thirty minutes later. Rudd’ard slid off of the older dragon’s back. He pulled a harness with a sack on either end from around Mul’drak’s neck and began to unpack items placing them on one of the larger flat boulders in the middle of the cavern. To Arr’s delight there were several sunglobes. One sack contained the sunglobes, some other delectable looking fruits, nuts, and a jug of something. The other sack was filled to the brim with roasted meat. You could smell it as soon as Rudd’ard pulled the rope tie open. He spread the food out on the sacks. There were no plates. This was going to be buffet style, finger food.
Mul’drak speared a sunglobe with a long, wickedly looking claw. He held it in that paw as he sliced it in half with the claw on his other paw. He handed the half to Arr.
“I believe you were hoping for this,” he said in his deep baritone.
Arr accepted gracefully and with a knowing grin. At least the old dragon was in on the fact that Arr could read his pictures, because Arr hadn’t said a word.
Jake drew his knife from his belt and leaned over what appeared to be the hindquarter of some beast.
“May I slice anyone some,” he offered.
I raised my hand. I hadn’t had anything since breakfast and realized with the tantalizing smell that I was starved.
Rudd’ard took the other half of the sunglobe and cored out the meat of the melon with his claw. He then popped the cork on the jug he unpacked and poured some golden liquid in the melon’s shell. He handed it back to Mul’drak. Once the old dragon had emptied the improvised bowl, he poured it full again and had his own long slow draft.
Jake finished cutting meat. He speared some on the point of his knife and handed it over to me. I took it with pleasure as Arr cored out a slice of the sunglobe for me with his knife and hand it over as well. Roasted meat in one hand and a juicy slice of melon in the other and I was as happy as a Dar-dolf puppy on a tit.
Rudd’ard offered to fill Arr’s melon rind bowl with liquid when he was finished coring it out of the edible meat. Jake seeing the advantage of that, cut another melon in half and cored it out for me and him a bowl.
The golden liquid was delicious with a sweet, and what I can only describe as, the wettest taste I have ever had in my mouth. It was extremely refreshing.
“Mallie nectar,” Jake said licking his lips. “I’ve only had this once before. A mercenary friend of mine asked to be paid in it when he did a job for a Muldavian ambassador on Titan IV.”
“It is a favorite of our clan,” Rudd’ard explained. “We trade Selist Root for it.”
Being a trader, I knew Selist Root came from the swamps of Polor and Mallie nector, even though I had never had any before, I knew came from Crainsil on the opposite side of the verse. These dragons were ‘Jumping’ all over the place. They must not have any limit to their range.
“Where do you call home now,” I asked. “I mean, this is Drakis, right?”
“It is unfortunately,” Mul’drak confirmed, “destroyed by the Valdare millennia ago.”
So Tal’on’s story was not a recent one. I waited for the answer to my question, but it was not forthcoming.
“I am afraid we do not know you well enough to divulge the location of our home world. The last time someone found it, this was what happened,” Rudd’ard indicated with a wave of his paw toward the outside world beyond the cavern. “Tal’on told Delevy everything that night as they sat and ate. And Delevy told Tal’on of her world.”
“The Valdare had been at war with the Sandcor for centuries. So long they could not really remember what started it,” Mul’drak said over the rim of his bowl of nectar. He folded his wings up close to his body as though the thought of it chilled him. “We had never experienced war. We lived in peaceful clans here on this planet, which at that time, was a lush garden of flora and fauna.”
“The Valdare and the Sandcor were fast approaching the age of star travel. They were both tinkering with genetic enhancements to build a bigger, better soldier. That is the reason they assumed Tal’on was bred by the Sandcor,” Rudd’ard explained. “When Delevy reported back to the Prime about Tal’on’s transformation and where he came from, the Prime was anxious to try another meeting with our brethren.
The Prime stood before Tal’on dressed in his official military garb. His chest was covered with metals. His three cornered hat sat jauntily on an angle. Though his guard protectively surrounded him, he wore his ornamental saber on one hip and his blaster on the other. He was further equipped with one of the pain sticks Tal’on had become so familiar with in the past when confronted with the Prime’s guard.
“Delevy tells me you can understand and speak our language now,” the Prime said as he tapped the end of the pain stick against his tall black boot tops in an intimidating way.
“I can,” Tal’on answered.
The Prime looked first at Delevy, and then at Tal’on, and back at Delevy.
“I thought you said the beast could communicate,” he said in an irritated tone.
“He can,” Delevy said. “He answered you.”
“I heard nothing, but a rumbling growl,” the Prime informed them.
How could this be? Thought Tal’on.
Tal’on and Delevy exchanged glances.
“Perhaps it is because you were with me during the change,” Tal’on said. “I know very little of what happens. The Greats do not tell us for fear of frightening us.”
“What is he saying?” the Prime demanded of Delevy.
Delevy bowed to the ruler. “He believes he can understand us because of something that happened during his change into this form.” She waved her hand to indicate his new larger frame and wings.
“Well, you certainly did not change,” the Prime said in frustration. He whacked the pain stick against his boot in growing irritation. “How is it you can understand him and I cannot.”
“Once again I think it is because you were with me during the stasis,” Tal’on said to Delevy.
“This is impossible!” The Prime shouted in growing anger. “I want to see you in my chamber, Keeper. Immediately!” He ordered.
He spun on his heel and retreated with his guard gathered about him like hatchlings about the head dragoness.
Delevy reached up and patted Tal’on on the shoulder. “I will be back as soon as I can.” She looked anxiously after the Prime.
“I tried to talk to him,” Tal’on apologized. “You heard me.”
“It will be all right,” Delevy counseled.
“Tell him I want to go home,” Tal’on said. “Tell him I need to go home.”
“I will,” Delevy promised. “I promise, I will.”
She gave Tal’on one last reassuring pat and ran after the Prime.
Tal’on watched her go, heard her close the door and lock it. He went to the wall and removed the piece of stone he had been working from its hiding place. The blue rock was almost the right shape. He tried to picture what Graf’tal showed him years ago when he first became his Great. The Sollen Graf’tal let him hold was this size and shape. He told him it would summons any dragon within hearing range. But, though this Sollen vibrated in Tal’on’s paw, it did not give off any sound. Something was wrong with it. Tal’on did not know what more to do to it to get it to work. What sort of magic was instilled in Graf’tal’s old Sollen that Tal’on did not possess or even know? Would he ever get home?