A life that had always been prone to weird coincidences and bad luck, was on track to end with the weirdest, baddest luck of all. Nelda drifted every upwards, whipped along by intermittent bursts of wind. She felt the bridge of her nose. It did not seem broken, but she could feel a bulge over her eye and a cut from when she head-butted the cave wall.
The two satyrs had tied the ends of the ropes together to make a kind of makeshift swing that they sat on glumly.
It was getting colder and colder. There were wispy clouds around them, allowing only occasional glimpses at first of forest and then some kind of marshy moor.
"Have you tried thinking downly thoughts?" BugleHead offered.
HoneyBeard spoke up. "If she's not feeling down right now, she's even crazier than I thought."
"Well, she's not doing the flappy kind of flying. So maybe she is doing the thinky kind of flying?"
"We're all doing the dying kind of flying," HoneyBeard muttered.
A third, deep and sibilant kind of voice, broke the silence. "Thisss one greets yourself."
Out of the clouds, the enormous form of a dragon emerged with astounding silence. The breadth of its wings materialized from the mist above them, gliding in the wind. The dragon looked down at them with a head the size of a Mini Cooper balanced on a long sinuous neck. It blinked two large yellow cat-like eyes.
"Um, hello," Nelda shouted. "I, um, wonder if you could help us out here?"
She glanced down to the satyrs who clung to the ropes with their eyes wide in static terror.
"What isss it that yourself requires?"
"I have recently taken up flying," Nelda extemporized. "And I seem to be having some trouble with the landing part. I wonder if you could help, um, put me on the ground somewhere."
"Hmmm. It is an unusual accomplishment for a crawling being to become flighted," the dragon said with what seemed like sincere praise. "However, this one is already late and if this one lands here in this one's current position this one may not be able to take off again."
"Because you are, um, with egg?"
"Yesss, yesss, and a day delayed so this one can lose no time." The dragon drew ahead of them a little and made some tiny adjustment of her wings to drop back beside them. "This one could take you to the hatching grounds and land yourself there, if it would assist."
"Oh, I think so. Yes. Could you?"
"Does yourself wish to bring, what it this, your… lunch?" With one strangely delicate clawed finger on her forefeet the dragon indicated the satyrs.
"Oh yes. Please. They are not my lunch, but they have been—assisting me."
"Your servants." The dragon seemed satisfied with the answer. She yawed slightly to completely cover the sky overhead.
Up close, the dragon's fore-feet were similar to hands but with each finger having only one joint. Each palm was about the size of a king-sized bed but considerably harder. [But floaters can't be choosers.] The dragon gathered them up in a double-handed cupped grip that held them all like a large bowl that she gathered up against her smooth under-belly.
The dragons body bobbed, as it began to beat its enormous wings. The sound of the wings became a whining shriek around them. Nelda found herself in the middle of a smelly, furry satyr sandwich.
HoneyBeard, squished up behind her said grumpily, "I think the little priestess has a very strange god."
"It's all rather exciting," replied the every-optimistic BugleHead. "like a heroic story."
"Heroic stories are only exciting for heroes and people who are not involved. Anyone else has a good chance of ending up dead."
Nelda couldn't think of anything helpful or consoling to say. If you went with the Asimov theory that advanced technology is basically magic... [what kind of god was the big bad machine?]
The scientists and engineers never mixed with the mere technicians. And the only technician that Nelda thought might have a real idea about what the machine was for was Angry Brenda. But Nelda struggled to remember what Angry Brenda had even said about it, if not to her but to her friends in the building, Neurotic Susan and Backstabbing Marie.
All she could bring to mind was their endless dull conversations about books and movies. Neurotic Susan was the only one of them who liked Twilight, and they all criticized the CGI from the movie about that Jesus-Lion story with the kids. They were all fans of Harry Potter, the books and movies, which seemed oddly juvenile for a group of middle-aged women. [But who am I to judge.]
At least the dragon's body was warm. The chill leeched out of Nelda and swiftly swung towards being uncomfortably hot. From their position there was no way to talk to the dragon. Through a small chink she could see its neck was pushed forward in a lose S-shape putting its head, and so presumably ears, about the length of a basketball court away and into the squealing wind.
"So, guys," Nelda said. "How far away are these hatching grounds?" [I hope we aren't all broasted by the time we get there.]
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