[So here we are. Between a rock and a dragon-nest.]
BugleHead held onto Nelda's sleeve, as if concerned she might still float away at any moment.
HoneyBeard looked down the near-cliff, and over at the dragon, and then at Nelda's feet. "What are you keeping under those foot-helmets? Something you can climb with?"
"Like I said. Not really."
HoneyBeard raised his eyebrows.
Having caused the satyr to be dragon-abducted a little foot-flashing didn't seem like to much of a request. Nelda put the stone-of-not-flying in her mouth, she had a feeling she definitely needed to be directly touching it for it to work. She took off her shoe.
"Wow," BugleHead said. "Look, she's got hoof-hands. Like really weird hoof hands. That's crazy."
HoneyBeard just wrinkled his nose in mild disgust. "Neldans look like the gods assembled them from left over parts." He shook his head.
Nelda didn't say anything, largely because she had a stone in her mouth.
A yellow light flickered over the boiling stormy sky.
With a sound like the pop of a champagne cork, Nelda found her self sitting on a floor of a room. A very… normal room.
Right ahead of her, between the legs of a table, she could see the prone form of the junior scientist, Beaker. Drool was oozing from his mouth onto the dusty linoleum. Even at this angle it was not apparent whether he was unconscious or dead.
Shooting to her feet she reflexively swallowed the not-flying stone. [Shit.]
Dandruff was standing very close to where she had last seen him. His eye brows still raised high to reveal his eyes, which for once displayed an emotion other than irritation – it was pure panic.
The world moved in slow motion.
Taking a step backwards she collided with a muscular chest, and a slightly more squishy one. She whirled and saw HoneyBeard and BugleHead were standing to either side just behind her.
[Wow. Worlds colliding.]
Both satyrs wore expressions of blank amazement even more extreme than when they had encountered the dragon. Behind them the front of the machine shimmered as if it was covered in a rippling layer of iridescent oily gold. And in the refractions she could see glints of the lilac-hued crystals of the dragon's cave.
Looking forward again, she saw Dandruff's fingers open and his "Best Dad" coffee cup began a slow descent towards the floor. [What's more amazing, that some one would let him procreate with them, or that he would be anything other than appalling as a father.]
The door into the hallway burst slowly open and the two armed guards waded in. One raised his rifle and pointed it directly in Nelda's direction. [That's not the kind of piercing I had in mind!]
Time was beginning to speed up towards normal. Dandruff shouted at the guards.
"Noooo, dooon't yoou dare damage my machine!"
There was a strange pause where nobody did anything. Then Nelda felt the hands of the two satyrs drop onto her shoulders and yank her away from the guards. As she fell backwards into the shimmering puddle, Dandruff turned back to her.
Dandruff shouted hoarsely, "Whatever you do don't—"
All three of them teetering on the edge of the dragon's cave. The dragon surged forward very rapidly, especially given her condition, and slapped them back into the safety of the cave.
The two satyrs began shouting in two-part dis-harmony and with different lyrics: "Why did—what was—was he—tried to—old wizard—kill us—crazy magic—batshit crazy—grateful to—god was—fucking dragon!?"
Nelda let them get it out of their system. When there was a pause she asked: "Are you two done now?"
"Will that—fall down—flying demon—happen again—leave us—eat us—might be—behind next—better than—this time?!"
These were probably all fair questions. But Nelda was also rather vexed that she had got back home and the hoofed wonder-boys had yanked her back to topsy-turvy land. So she decided to file their grievances, and contemplation of what she had just seen, in a big box labeled 'later'. After all, if you have ninety-nine problems and a dragon is one, the dragon probably comes first.
Nelda chose to address the dragon this time. Trying to match the creature's strange way of speaking. "This one is again grateful that yourself acted so graciously to assist this one and these…" A suitable descriptor escaped her so Nelda just sort of waved at the outraged satyrs. "Especially as… yourself obviously has much more pressing concerns."
The dragon settled herself carefully back down again and made no reply but to sniff.
Nelda pressed on. "I… This one wished to remove any further disturbance from your… self's abode. I wonder if yourself might provide some insight about where to go and the general, um, environs around here?" [Flying creature gotta know the lay of the land, right?]
Despite having a muzzle like a cross between an alligator and a mastiff, the dragon nevertheless managed to purse her lips like a disapproving matron.
"It's seemsss to this," the dragon said at last. "That it would be more advantageous for yourself to dissscover the people of this world on its own terms. And alssso the better for this world."
"Oh my god," Nelda muttered in annoyance.
HoneyBeard muttered in response, "Please don't involve your god. That's what started this whole mess in the first place."
"I hear you," Nelda said to the dragon, pleading. "But my first task is to return these, my—uh—servants, to their home village. So, given that I have already been there, perhaps you could point me in that direction."
The dragon… smiled. It was like being smiled at by a giant gargoyle with a mouth full of swords. "Oh, I don't think it is your fate to go back there."
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