Chapter 2: Disappearances
Scott stared at Jamie’s silhouette in the window and wondered if he would be going to Spokane anytime soon. He knew Jamie resented how often Scott had been there since the campus was set up three months ago over winter break. It was set up quickly and only held experienced students right now, but next fall a batch of freshmen would be entering who knew nothing about Tarragon society and the academy had to have all the kinks worked out by then.
He knew that Jamie, though he hated Scott going to the campus, also recognized the necessity. Marisol had laid her second batch of eggs and was guarding them, and besides, Jamie was needed on the main campus to ensure that things went smoothly with the main council. Jamie had to continuously prevent them from slipping back into the old ways, which were so alluring for so many of them.
Margot was the most dangerous, he and Jamie had decided. She was supremely rational but somehow at the end of her explanations things stayed exactly how they were: benefitting the council and the girl’s academy in particular. Scott had learned to be especially on guard against her and knew that Jamie shared his sentiments. There were just too many unknowns about her. She had warned about Jamie’s kidnapping, after all, but in such a vague way and too late for Scott to prevent it. Had her warning been part of the plan or had it been a sincere effort on her part to stop the kidnapping? And why had she insisted that Jamie be the one to kill Ashton? Scott knew that Jamie was still haunted by nightmares of killing Ashton and his anger for Margot was partially fueled by that, but was his anger causing him to have a negative view of her when she had really just been trying to help? He didn’t know, but he was on guard at all times around her.
Jamie sighed and turned to face him. Scott knew he would be going to Spokane soon. It was written across Jamie’s face in the worried creases by his lips and the glint of anger and helplessness in his eyes. Jamie had been watching the situation there for weeks, ever since dragons had begun disappearing. Derek hadn’t officially informed him of the problem yet, but the dragons followed their own code and had informed Jamie immediately.
The dragons were usually young dragons, just learning to fly, always alone, and belonging to freshmen. Scott knew Jamie was determined to find the cause. But even with his gift of speaking to all of the dragons, Jamie had confessed to Scott that he had no clue what was happening. The dragons just went silent, and then their human partners started going insane and screaming that their dragons were dead. But no bodies were ever found; no trace of violence ever spotted.
It had to do with Ashton’s minions, Scott was sure. Nearly forty dragons had fled the campus after Ashton’s death and during Marisol’s mating flight when Narné couldn’t stop them. Rumor said they were hiding near Spokane and waiting for a chance to take over the fledgling academy. Scott didn’t doubt those rumors; it was a good plan but one he wouldn’t allow to happen. Not while he was the Queen’s mate.
He felt a usual flicker of fear at the thought of what would happen when Derek went through his mating flight and there was another Queen’s mate to deal with. The other man wouldn’t have as much authority as Scott, but he would still be a threat. And if one of Ashton’s hidden men won the flight, the Spokane academy could easily become home to a second Ashton. He was determined not to let that happen to Derek. He knew Jamie disapproved of his relationship with Derek but he would do everything in his power to prevent Derek from becoming like his father. Derek deserved a better life. He deserved his own fate, not to be bound into becoming a cruel, sadistic monster like his father. Derek was a good person.
Jamie shook his head and turned back to the window, obviously distressed. Scott approached from behind and wrapped his arms around his love. Jamie melted into him and sighed.
“What’s wrong, Jamie?”
“You may have to leave again,” Jamie said. “But I don’t want you to.”
Scott smiled and kissed his cheek. “You know I’ll always be back. Sometimes I think you worry I’ll stay away forever. But I’ll always be back in your arms. You need me to check in on Derek and the dragon situation?”
“I need to know what is happening to those dragons. But be careful. I couldn’t survive if anything happened to you or Narné.”
“I’ll stay with other dragons at all times,” Scott assured him. His own heart skipped a beat at the thought of anything happening to Narné. “But I will figure it out.”
Jamie turned into Scott’s arms and embraced him. Scott kissed him firmly on the lips, feeling Jamie withdraw slightly as he always did before these visits, as if he truly were afraid that Scott wouldn’t return. He wished there were something he could say or do to reassure Jamie, but he didn’t know what other than continue to tell Jamie he loved him and continue to return after every trip. He knew Jamie still bore serious emotional scars and knew that he was responsible for some of them, but he would do everything in his power to help Jamie heal.
In the back of his mind he knew that someday he might have to choose between helping Derek and helping Jamie, but he pushed the thought aside and deepened his kiss, trying to pull Jamie out of his depressing thoughts so that he could see Jamie’s bright smile before he left. Jamie must have known what he was doing because he did smile, but his eyes were still sad. Scott kissed him tenderly and stroked his hair.
“I’ll be back, my love, as soon as I figure out what’s happening to the dragons.”
He left quickly after that, not wanting to extend his goodbyes. He already had a bag packed in case of emergencies and he grabbed it, then went to the dragon chamber where Marisol and Narné were sharing their own goodbye. The two dragons split apart and Narné allowed Scott onto his back, then they emerged into the sunlight and Scott sneezed at the sudden brightness.
They flew for the better part of a day, stopping occasionally to stretch, always accompanied by a small tendril of fog that made them appear a tiny cloud in the sky. Finally, when darkness had fallen for several hours, the lights of Spokane loomed on the horizon. They flew over the city and outlying towns and reached the mountain where the campus was located. There were several ski slopes near the campus but the mist completely shrouded the campus and prevented errant skiers from wandering in. To everyone in the area, Mount Spokane looked exactly like it always had. But to anyone with a dragon, the campus was clearly visible.
He and Narné landed in the designated landing area beyond the football field where students wouldn’t be able to see them – a necessary precaution once they started having new freshmen on campus. Mike was waiting for him and as always a rush of conflicting emotions ran through Scott at the sight of his first lover. He had hated Mike for so long after Mike had raped him, but after everything Mike had been through and sacrificed in order to save Jamie and the campus, Scott’s petty concerns seemed to melt away and he found himself wanting to start over with the man. But Mike was still caught up in mourning and no one had been able to pull him out of his depression. Yet.
“We’ve been expecting you,” Mike said with a forced smile. “Derek and Jettie would like to speak with you immediately.”
“Of course,” Scott said, a little surprised.
They sent for help from Jamie this morning, Narné informed him.
Scott nodded and followed Mike as Narné hopped off to his usual quarters when he visited. Mike’s shoulders were hunched slightly and Scott longed to reach out and ease some of his tension, but he knew he couldn’t. Someone else would have to help Mike; Scott had his hands full with Jamie and Derek.
“Do you know anything about what’s going on?” Scott asked.
Mike was a keen observer and undoubtedly knew more than many of the people on campus. Any insight he had would be invaluable in figuring this out. Mike hesitated, then glanced at Scott.
“Ashton told me something, once,” he said in a rough voice. “I haven’t told anyone yet because it’s something that Ashton said.”
Scott stopped walking and devoted all of his attention to Mike. “What did he say?”
Mike lowered his eyes and faced Scott. “There was an ancient dragon that not even the Queens could reach. None of the dragons knew he even existed, but he did. And when he awakens again, the world will be awash with blood.”
Scott shivered. “What do you mean, the Queens couldn’t reach him? You mean they can’t communicate with him? And what is supposed to wake him up?”
“I don’t know,” Mike said wearily. “That’s all he ever said. But he sounded hopeful when he talked about it, as if speaking of an old friend.”
Scott placed a hand on his forehead. The dragons who vanished went silent. If there was a dragon that none of them could reach, not even the Queen, not even Jamie, then it would make sense. But it would also mean that an ancient being had been awakened and Ashton had predicted great violence with that awakening. Scott shook his head as if trying to deny Mike’s story. He didn’t want to accept it, but it seemed to fit. An ancient dragon luring in young dragons and killing them. But why kill them? What was the purpose? There were still so many unknowns, but at least now he had a place to start.
“Thank you, Mike,” Scott said, patting the man on his shoulder.
Mike looked surprised by the gesture and touched his shoulder where Scott’s hand had been. Had he fallen so deep into despair that he was unused to human contact? Scott hoped not. Mike used to be a vibrant, sexual man who enjoyed all of life’s pleasures and to see him like this was shocking. If Ashton weren’t dead, Scott would kill him on the spot for what he had done to Mike. But Mike would recover, slowly, and with help.
“Is that you, Scott?” a voice cried, and suddenly two arms wrapped themselves around his neck and thoughts of Mike were thrown aside as Derek threw himself into a hug.
Scott couldn’t help but grin at the enthusiastic hello and didn’t even mind when Derek kissed his cheek – especially since Derek didn’t try to kiss his lips as he sometimes did. No matter how many times he explained that they couldn’t be more than friends, Derek continued to chip away at the wall of friendship as if determined to find a lover underneath. He just didn’t understand how tightly bound Scott and Jamie were.
“At your service, queen,” Scott said, backing up to bow as was proper protocol.
Derek took his hand and, with barely a glance at Mike, started leading Scott towards his apartment. Scott would have to remind Derek how important and delicate Mike was right now. Scott, for his part, managed a warm goodbye to Mike before being dragged off. They passed a blonde man that Scott knew to be Chris, Derek’s boyfriend, and Scott couldn’t help but wonder how Chris put up with Derek flirting with Scott so much. But Chris didn’t seem to care, he even encouraged it at times. Very unusual.
Scott was determined to get to know Chris a little better on this trip, since it was becoming clear that Chris would mate with Derek in Derek’s first mating flight. Jamie said Chris still had loyalties to Ashton, though not enough to make him a threat, and Scott wanted to be sure that he was good enough for Derek before the mating flight happened. For right now, though, he was just glad to see Derek so happy and he allowed himself to be led past Chris into the apartment.
Once inside, Derek closed the door and the happy façade dropped.
“Scott, this situation is out of control. Another dragon disappeared. We have to do something, and now.”