We ran out of blankets first. Then firewood.
We were still two hours from dawn when the priestess finally showed up. The cars around the site where Ben was chained creaked and groaned from being near me. They finally moved them to the other side of the road, but I could still hear them.
“She’s strong.” The woman said.
“She’s pissed.” The Sheriff replied.
“I would be too. Can she move the chains?”
“Not without hurting herself.”
“Pity. She’d be a big help if she could.”
“I think whomever did this, knew about her and planned for it.”
“Might be. Can we move her away from him?”
“Never. They’re mated.”
“That complicates things.”
“You don’t know the half of it, Lady. Just fix it so I don’t have a heart-broken metalmancer on my hands if he dies.”
“Really? I smell the earth on her.”
“Earth?” I heard the Sheriff swear and smiled. “That’s all I fucking need. You’re sure?”
“I smell it wafting off of her like a stench. She’s the opposite of my air.”
“Could it be because she came here?”
“Yes. She probably wouldn’t have developed beyond metals if she had stayed away.”
“What about the dragon? Can you force him back?”
“No, but I can keep him alive, just as she’s doing.”
“Just help them. I need the both of them alive to keep this town sane.”
“Who’s the dragon to you?”
“The town Vet.”
I heard the woman swear.
“The only mechanic I’d trust my car with.”
“Well at least she was smart enough not to go against her nature.”
“Stupid is not a word I’d use to describe Marlowe. Stubborn, pig-headed and a little rash, but not stupid.”
“You like her.”
“She’s a good friend and I’d trust my kids with her.”
“You like her a lot, then. All right. Don’t worry. I’ll help her keep the dragon alive.”
I heard rustling and the smell of lilacs drifted under my nose. I smiled.
“You’re not my first Priestess, but you’re the strongest I’ve ever smelled.” I said over my shoulder as I rubbed Ben’s nose. He chuffed into my hand.
“What do I smell like to an Earth?”
“To me? Lilacs.”
“That’s a compliment, coming from my opposite.”
“I tend not to let a little thing like opposite signs get to me. Just because you’re an opposite, doesn’t mean you’re a jerk.”
“You’ve had good experiences, then.”
“College was good for me.”
“I think so.” I looked down at Ben then and smiled.
“You love your dragon.”
“Pity. You should if he survives the night.”
“Will. He will survive or I’m tearing this town apart until I find out who did this to him.”
“You’ll do that anyway.”
“I’ll be nicer about it when he lives.”
“Oh, I like you.” She said with a laugh.
I smiled. “I’m starting to like you too.”
“I take it you don’t trust very many people?”
“Not many. I try to follow my instincts and my instincts right now are undecided about you.”
“Well considering my nature, I’ll take what I can get. You’re very honest.”
“Cuts down on bullshit.”
A startled laugh broke out and I found myself laughing with her. It would have been absurd, but I could feel her magic helping Ben while we talked. She never touched him, for that I was grateful, because if she had I would have lost my control. Ben was mine. I wasn’t letting anyone else touch him until I knew he could take care of himself.
“Dawn comes soon. Will you help me remove his chain?”
“I can’t. It sends a spear through my mind like a hot poker.”
She swore. “The evil bitch who did this is clever.”
“You’re sure it’s a female?”
“Oh yes. Can’t you smell her? She smells of roses.”
“I only smell lilacs and day lilies.”
I nodded and hummed to Ben who chuffed and rumbled back at me. I smiled and rubbed his nose, scratching under his chin and then up to his eye ridges. The Priestess watched us.
“So that’s what it looks like.” She said.
I smiled. “Yes. Feels better, too.”
“I wouldn’t know.” She said as she looked up and at the horizon. The first colors of dawn were peeking over the trees. “Here it comes.”
“Good. He’ll start the change soon. He always does after sunrise.” I said as I watched Ben closely.
“I hope that’s what happens. I’d hate to see him stuck like this.”
“If he is, I’m going to be mightily pissed.” I replied.
Ben gave a groan then and his head disappeared under the blankets. I got up and stepped back. I didn’t know what would happen.
“Is he supposed to be shrinking like that?” She asked as the blankets got progressively smaller.
“Yes. It’s fits and spurts sometimes.” I said.
We watched the pile shrink until you could only see the outline of the chain and collar. I sighed. The chains didn’t shrink with him. That was good. I made my way over to the pile and started digging through it until I found him at the bottom. He was cold, but nothing looked like it was touched with frost.
“Cold.” Ben mumbled. “So cold.”
“I know. There’s an ambulance. They’re going to take you to the hospital.” I said.
“Kay. Go with?” Ben mumbled as he shivered.
“Yes.” I said.
“Kay.” Ben passed out cold then and I waved the paramedics to come get him.
“She probably didn’t expect him to last the night, that’s why the chains didn’t shrink with him. Dead dragons don’t change back.”
“She’s in for a world of hurt if I get my hands on her first.”
“I’m sure she would be, but you’re going to stay out of this.”
“This is the third attack on my family.” I said.
“Three? I thought there had been only two?”
“I consider Max family. He died in October.”
“Oh. That. Yes I can see why it would be three, then.”
“Find her. Kill her or bind her. I’m going to the hospital with Ben.” I stormed off and left her there with the Sheriff.
As I climbed in to the ambulance, I knew this wouldn’t be over. I just prayed it was over for now.
We all needed a breather.