Welcome back for the finish of the story.
If you missed the rest of the week just know that Layla was taken to see dragons by Micah. However, Micah was only using Layla to draw the dragon out and he captured one to sell it. Layla and her brother, Alan, are now attempting to free the captured dragon, Mallon.
Now for the finish. Hope you enjoy=)
When Sticks Move Part Three
Micah glared at her from where he leaned beside the door to the basement.
“I want in,” she repeated. “You want to continue selling dragons, I want to be part of it.”
“Why would I let you?” Micah asked. “You’re worse than your brother when it comes to having a conscience.”
“It’s not like we live in luxury. Plus, Mom can’t continue working. Not in her condition.”
The glare still graced his face but a line formed between his dark brows.
“We don’t need you for the sale,” he said. “You don’t need to be here right now.”
“Actually,” Layla stepped forward, forcing her self to be bolder than usual. “I can help with moving the dragon.”
“How so?” Micah eyed her as if to say she wasn’t strong enough to be much help.
“I can convince the dragon to move all on his own. No ropes, no men to carry him, just little old me. Less chance of damaging him and far more quiet so the neighbors don’t notice.”
“Prove it.” Micah opened the basement door and gestured for Layla to lead the way.
A single lantern lit the steps on the way down. Layla trailed her hand along the wall, half to feel the rough stone, the texture of something solid, and half to hide the shaking in her hands.
“How’d you get the dragon down here?” she asked. The stairs were too narrow for Mallon’s torso. Even trussed up, he was simply too big.
“Back door.” Micah didn’t elaborate.
The stairs continued downward longer than Layla expected. As she reached the bottom, the basement opened up and she understood why.
The single room doubled the size of the house above and, on the far side, a door like that of a barn took up most of the wall. It was perfect for the sale of a dragon.
“Still can’t get the tail hooked,” a man coming up to Micah’s shoulder informed him.
“He must be secure for the sale,” Micah raised his brow as he turned to Layla. “Prove you can control him. His tail needs to be tied to those rings.”
Three metal rings jutted from the ground along where Mallon’s tail lay. Other ropes held his legs and neck to similar rings.
“Fights more than most,” the short man cautioned.
Mallon’s tail lashed sideways, knocking two men over and slamming a third against the wall.
The emerald eyes rolled under the brow ridges Layla had once mistaken as part of a tree. She couldn’t see how she’d been so blind.
The eye facing her stopped, fixated on her.
Come to make it right or to worsen your crime?
Layla wasn’t touching him yet and so she didn’t respond. Micah’s short assistant sputtered more cautions as she approached the dragon. Even strapped to the floor, Mallon’s head reached her hip.
Laying her palm on the cool scales of Mallon’s forehead, Layla marveled. The texture was different from Haverim, almost smooth but with more ridges.
“You knew I was there,” she said, “when you stepped on me.” There was no way Mallon wouldn’t have killed her unless he’d dispersed his weight.
“Why’d you do it?”
Testing you. Most hunters, Mallon snorted, hitting a man’s face with hot breath, won’t sit still for such a thing. They call in their men long before I get the chance to walk over them.
Layla almost laughed. “You need to be still now.”
Looking over her shoulder would only alert Micah that she knew he was there, watching and listening. She lowered herself to look Mallon directly in the eye.
“You want to see Alan or anyone else again, you need to be still.” Layla hardened her voice like her Mom used to, before the accident. “You’ll walk out of here after the sale because I’ll make you.”
Defiance flared in Mallon’s eye, bright and angry. But then he closed the lid with a soft click of his scales. His body relaxed as though sleeping.
“Tie his tail,” Layla called over her shoulder.
“Impressive,” Micah said. “Stand over there for the sale.”
Layla retreated to the wall Micah pointed to. It was too far away to touch Mallon.
Alan and Haverim? Mallon’s voice was soft in her ears.
Settling her shoulder blades against the wall, Layla nodded. Mallon stayed relaxed, even snoring part way through the bidding. Most of the bidders Layla didn’t recognize but then, she wasn’t well acquainted with the city’s upper class. She kept her head down until Micah approached after the sale.
“Move him out the doors onto the wagon waiting outside. Then you’re done for the night.” Micah instructed.
“I’ll swing by tomorrow and we’ll talk.”
Should she push it? Would Micah expect her to? Micah strode away before Layla decided. She took that as a good sign and pushed off the wall.
“Time to move,” she instructed Mallon. “No funny stuff. I’d rather not see my payment go up in smoke.”
I can’t breath fire.
“Untie him.” Layla looked at the men gathered without responding to Mallon’s comment. They hesitated but when Mallon stayed relaxed and Micah nodded to them, they complied.
Mallon rose but kept his head low enough for Layla to maintain contact with his forehead.
“Let’s walk—for now,” she muttered the last part. The handlers were backed up to give them space but Micah stayed close as they approached the doors. Layla eyed the dragon’s sides as he walked. The scales shifted seamlessly over the creature’s muscles. She’d always imagined dragon’s with cape like wings but there was no hint of such appendages.
“Guess the tales of dragons with wings were just that, tales,” Layla commented to Micah.
“Never seen one fly,” Micah responded. He gestured for the men to bring the wagon closer.
You’re blind. But I can’t take off in an alley.
The wagon barely fit between the walls.
“Why’s the wagon full of boughs?” one of the men asked.
The driver glanced over at him. “Following orders.”
Layla knew that voice. She spotted the boughs in the light of the driver’s lantern as he un-shuttered one side. Layered within the branches was a nice film of witch’s hair.
“Run!” she shoved Mallon’s head toward the open end of the alley just as Alan pitched the lantern into the wagon. He jumped from the seat, knocking into Micah on his way past. The witch’s hair caught with a whoosh.
Mallon’s claws wrapped around Layla and then she hung bouncing as the dragon cradled her against his side, running on three legs.
A clicking rustled along his sides, above his legs. Layla blinked as Mallon’s scales rippled outward, parting from his body.
The alley ended. Layla caught a brief view of an open avenue and then nothing but green scales darkened by night and the buffet of wind. Her stomach sank like she’d missed a gigantic step.
Relax Seer. It’s my turn to help you.
Layla sat on her bed, unable to sleep. She couldn’t decide if flying was the most exciting experience she’d ever had or the most terrifying.
One thing she was sure of—Mallon saved her. She’d thought through his escape but not her own. She would have been caught in the alley had the dragon not taken her with him.
That left the question of Alan. She’d made it home an hour earlier and still there was no sign of her brother.
Something thudded against her door. Layla jumped. She thought about hiding but there was no place to go.
Had Micah come for her?
But it wasn’t Micah who stood in her door.
“Alan,” She rushed to him.
“Next time,” he said, hugging her back, “tell me your whole plan before setting it in motion.”
Blessings and have a wonderful weekend,