Dragon
toward the trees below at a speed that’s much faster than a simple drop from the sky. Ion flung me with enough force I might worry about whiplash, if I wasn’t vastly more concerned about how fast I’m heading toward the hard ground.
    My body spins as it falls, and for an instant I look up. The blue dragon is trying to fly downward toward me, but Ion is fighting him, pulling him back, blowing fire in his face as he strains to fly downward, towing Ion through the sky.
    Then my body spins again, and I can see the woods, the trees, the path of the creek we were following. I wonder if it would do me any good to angle my body toward the creek, to try to land in the water. But it wasn’t that deep, and it had rocks in the bottom. Maybe I could fall in a pile of leaves, but I don’t know how to maneuver as I fall through the sky, and the treetops are zooming closer, a blink away.
    The air whooshes from my lungs as talons suddenly grip me, gliding with me, forward instead of down, and then swooping slightly upward before sinking again, depositing me gently among boulders so big I can hide between them, out of Ion’s reach.
    The blue dragon barely pauses before swooping off to the sky again, but he glances back, the briefest of glances, and yet his eyes lock on mine.
    Blue. Sapphire blue and glowing.
    And then he’s gone, shooting toward Ion, meeting him in the sky, continuing the fight.
    In that tiny glance, millisecond though it was, I recognized him.
    The blue dragon is Ram.
    Don’t ask me how I know this. It’s not like I could possibly recognize him. I’ve never even seen Ram’s eyes before, and obviously the rest of him is completely different. But he looked at me, and the same way I could read his expressions from the twitch of his nose or the angle of his head, I could read this look. He was saying, “Stay hidden. Stay safe.”
    So I shrink down between the boulders, tucking myself into a rocky nest of safety, leaning back so I can watch the battle in the sky.
    They’re breathing some serious fire now, Ram especially, and I feel proud of him, and worried for his safety, and guilty about running away, all at once. Not that he should really blame me for running away. Obviously he was keeping some right hefty secrets from me, like the fact that those slicing moves were more about killing yagi than cutting steaks.
    And, oh yeah, that he’s a dragon.
    Ram and Ion tumble through the sky, clawing at each other, pulling back and barreling into each other, breathing searing fire and snapping with sharp teeth. I’m so focused on watching them, rooting for Ram, that I don’t hear the approaching noise until it’s really close.
    Something is out there, in the woods just beyond my boulder. I sniff the air. Yagi? It’s hard to say. Their smell is still clinging to me from the battle, but I don’t hear the wailing sound from before. Then again, they didn’t make that sound until they were upon me, ready to pounce. I almost hope it is yagi, because I at least know how to fight them. Otherwise it could be a dragon, or some other fearsome creature I haven’t yet encountered.
    I grip my swords—yes, I still have them—I got that much right—and peer past the boulders, trying to catch a glimpse of whatever is headed my way. But it’s dark down here, particularly dark. There is only shadow and deeper shadow.
    The fighting dragons swoop low, breathing fire, and the glow of their flames illumine the woods for an instant.
    “Ozzie!” I reach for her, and guided by the flash of dragon fire, she bounds toward me, barreling her shoulders into my legs in a hug that protects her face.
    I crumple toward the ground, hugging her, holding her so tight, so grateful for the comfort of her warm furriness, so glad she’s okay, and that she found me.
    How long I hold her, burying my face in her fur and choking out post-traumatic sobs, I’m not sure, but when I look up again and blink skyward, I can no longer see the dragons.
    Where did

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