Tal'on paced impatiently in the courtyard. He had not been able to share the cell with Delevy in months. He had grown too much to make it through the door and down the stairs. The Valdare staked him in the courtyard when he was home and brought Delevy up to him in order to keep him pacified and quiet during the days he was free from fighting their war or recovering from injuries inflicted by the same.
The jailer, who had become a friend of sorts, was fetching Delevy. Tal'on and Graf’tal landed in the courtyard. The rest of the dragons took up residence on the spires and wall of the building built around the yard. They caught the jailer on his way to take Delevy and his other prisoners dinner. He still did not speak Tal’on’s language, but he understood the young dragon’s demand for his companion. He also noticed right away Tal’on no longer wore the collar which kept him in a submissive state. The jailer hustled down the stairs to release Delevy.
“Is you friend coming?” Graf’tal asked.
He did not like this confined space Tal’on led them into. It was not as easily defendable. The walls were high and he roared at Bel’lar and the others to keep a close watch. She nodded back agreement and set herself to looking outward from the courtyard rather than in.
Tal’on thrashed his tail in agitation over the ground of the courtyard sending dust and dirt into the air around the two dragons.
“He is getting her, but he is taking his time about it,” Tal’on hissed.
“Could he be warning someone that you have returned?” Graf’tal asked.
“Most likely.” Tal’on sat down on his haunches and wiped at his blooded nose. He couldn’t get it to stop. One of the Sandcor had stuck it again. It was the only part of him that was truly venerable and the enemy knew it. They got him there in almost every battle he fought. He had the scars to prove it. The Valdare doctors had taken to gluing his nose injuries shut. Often there was not enough soft tissue to sew together.
Graf’tal saw the youngling’s distress both physically and mentally. He advanced and draped a wing over his charge. He huffed over him and when Tal’on looked his direction he gave his nose a healing lick and then another. The blood ceased to trickle and the multiple cuts started to pull themselves together.
“Better?” Graf’tal asked.
Tal’on did not reply verbally. He was so overwhelmed at having his Great by his side once more that he knew if he spoke, he would cry like a hatchling. He didn’t want to embarrass himself - at least not until they got Delevy safely away. Instead, he leaned into the much larger dragon and rumbled a deep purr of thanks.
Delevy burst through the doors with the jailer close on her tail. She would have run into Tal’on’s paws, but when she saw the other massive dragon and then the additional four high on the wall, she pulled up short, unsure of herself.
“Tal’on?” she queried.
“It is all right,” he assured her, coming to his feet and moving forward.
She trusted him totally. With his assurance she ran to him, launching herself at his chest with open arms. He clasped her behind the back with a huge red paw and cradled her to him.
“I have been so worried about you. You have been gone so long.”
Her muffled speech came to Graf’tal’s ears, but he did not understand a word of it.
“What is she saying?” the Great asked his student.
“She’s happy to see me,” Tal’on answered over her head.
“I can see that much,” Graf’tal snorted. “Get her to mount. We must leave, quickly,” the old dragon urged.
“We can’t leave until I remove her collar,” Tal’on explained. “We were told they have an explosive device in them.”
“So that is how they tricked you into fighting.” The old dragon said under his breath. His experiences with humans had never gone well in the past. He was always thankful there were no humans to deal with on Drakis.
Tal’on pulled Delevy back away from him so he could look down on her to remove her collar. He carefully hooked a claw under it. Delevy reached up with both hands and grasped his paw.
“What are you doing?” She demanded in a frightened voice.
“I am going to remove it. Graf’tal removed mine and nothing happened,” Tal’on explained. “It’s all right. We will remove it and then I am going to get you out of here.”
Delevy still held onto his paw, doubt reflected in her eyes, yet, she could see that Tal’on no longer wore his restrictive collar. She slowly released her grip and closed her bright green eyes ready for whatever fate awaited her at the hands of her young dragon. For that was how she felt about him. He was hers and she was his. She had grown to understand him, respect him, and care for him. No, that was not right, she did more than care for him. She loved him.
She felt a slight tug, but at almost the same instance she heard the Prime’s voice over the loudspeaker in the courtyard.
“I would not do that if I were you. Not if you intend to keep her alive,” he warned in a commanding voice.
Delevy’s eyes snapped open to see all the dragon’s heads looking toward the control booth where the Prime often issued his orders to Tal’on before having the jailer drag her back down to her cell to await his return from battle.
The Prime held the control to their collars in his hand as he always did while giving orders. The jailer must have called him before he came to release Delevy. She shot the man a nasty look, but it was tempered with understanding. He would be the one left behind. It would be the jailer the Prime would take his anger out on when the weapon which was winning him his war escaped.
“I see you have removed your collar,” the Prime went on. “It makes no difference. You will do as I say or I will not hesitate to kill her.” He fingered the button, rolling his thumb around the edge of the detonation device.
“Tal’on?” Graf’tal hissed. The Great had a picture projected into his mind from Bel’lar on the wall of masses of troops headed their way. “We must leave.” The older dragon could not understand. However, he could see Tal’on and the man on the wall were in a standoff over the female, but they needed to move.
“It is over,” Tal’on hissed at the Prime. “My friends have come to get me and we have laid waste to your troops who accompanied me into battle. Not one remains alive.”
“I have other troops, other men loyal to our cause,” the Prime countered without a blink of his eye for the loss of his men. “You will continue to fight. We have almost won.” He was triumphant even in his defeat.
“I will Not!” Tal’on shouted at him. “And if you do not release Delevy my friends and I will lay waste to this city. We will burn it and your people to the ground.”
The Prime hesitated, but he was still fingering the detonation device. With a single push of the button Delevy’s life could come to an end. Tal’on reached into his armor and pulled out the Sollen. He held it up for the Prime to see.
“I made this to call my friends. Only five responded to my call because they did not know they would encounter resistance in bringing me back,” Tal’on explained. “I can call more!” He threatened. “I could bring all my kin here to destroy you. If only five can kill all your best trained soldiers imagine the havoc hundred’s of my kin could do to this planet. We could turn the tide of war. The Valdare could become a people only remembered in the history books of the Sandcor.”
Tal’on had no idea the thoughts which were spinning through the mind of the Prime. He did not envision dragon invaders killing his troops, but rather an army of dragons fighting his war, killing Sandcor, allowing his people, the Valdare, to be victorious. He need only obtain the ‘call’ Tal’on held in his paw, set the trap and activate the device. He could capture and recruit them all - perhaps not now, but in the future. It could happen. It would happen. The options available in order to make it all happen raced through the Prime’s mind as he came to his decision.
“Take her,” he relented. “Take her and go.”
Tal’on hooked his claw under Delevy’s collar and slit it in two. They were free for the first time in years.
“Order your troops to stand down,” Tal’on said in triumph. He had no idea what the future would bring down upon his kin. He thought he won.
The Prime gave the order.
Tal’on extended a wing and Delevy crawled on his back throwing her legs around his neck over his shoulder.
“Hold on,” Tal’on ordered his companion, as he slipped the Sollen back in his pouch.
He took two mighty leaps forward, his hind legs bent lower with each bound, than he launched himself up into the air. The other dragons followed. They winged their way over the city without any resistance to their escape.
Delevy lay stretched out on the arch of Tal’on’s neck, her arms wrapped tightly around him. She laughed into the wind at the exhilaration of flight and he laughed with her. It was just like his dreams. They were free at last!