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    Israfil
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The Transporters - 4. Chapter 4

Sorry it took a month but here it is. Things have been a little crazy around here but I think my update cadence should be better from here on out.

Thanks to Brian M for editing!

“Regretting inviting us back yet?” Tia asked with a grin as they descended the stairs from the apartment.

“Been kicking myself since the dog opened his mouth,” Jenson replied truthfully.

“Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons…” Evan began.

“For you are crunchy and good with ketchup,” Jenson completed, smiling despite himself. The two of them fist bumped.

“I should try that sometime,” Tia’s expression was thoughtful and an awkward silence fell over the group as they reached the door. “Those traps of yours were a smart idea,” she said, “They should give us an edge.”

“They’re not mine,” Evan nodded at Jenson, “that’s all him. He just tied them into my wards to sustain them better. I had nothing to do with it.”

Tia frowned. “That’s pretty intricate spellwork then.” Jenson shrugged in what he hoped was a modest gesture but he was pleased to see the new respect on Tia’s face, especially considering her earlier “third-rate wizard” comment.

“So if she juiced Evan’s wards, think it’ll transfer to the traps?” Parker asked.

“It should,” Jenson glanced out the window but the street outside was empty. Somehow, it didn’t make him feel any better. “They can buy us a little time - enough for you to call for back-up or something.” He looked at Tia, “There are people you can call, right?”

“Yeah, plenty,” she responded, “Doesn’t mean any of them will show up though.” Jenson’s heart sank.

The entranceway went completely dark for a moment as a shadow passed in front of the streetlight outside.

“Why not?” Parker frowned when the light returned. “This whole thing sounds like kind of a big deal.”

Tia grimaced. “It is - but so's a fight in the middle of town. The council won't want to make a scene so they'll just order me and Anshar to back off.” The logic was sound, Jenson hated to admit. Several dragons throwing down on Main Street would attract all the sort of attention most supernatural creatures did their very best to avoid and didn't lend itself to a cover-up. In the information age, the world had no patience for mysteries. There would always be someone who would not let it go and potentially stumble upon a grain of truth.

As far as they were concerned, however, this meant they were alone. The streetlight was eclipsed again.

"But you're still here," Evan observed.

She turned to face the three of them. "They haven't ordered me to do anything yet."

In the half-light of the stairwell, Jenson could still see the feral grin spreading across Parker's face. "Well, my mom always said not to ask questions I know the answer to," said the young warlock. Even Evan's lips seemed to twitch, but he may have imagined that part.

"Capturing Mithras is our best chance at ending the war now and saving lives on both sides," Tia explained. "If he gets away now we might not get another shot and the war will go on till who knows when. Thousands will die." Her eyes narrowed, “I won’t let that happen.”

They were silent for a moment. "And I guess after turning him down, Mithras is going to want to roast us just for kicks, right?" Jenson ventured.

"Yup."

"Cool, just checking."

“The better question is,” Evan interrupted, “why haven’t they attacked yet. They’re clearly circling.”

“Probably waiting to see if one of them can undo the wards - making the first move before that happens might be a good idea,” Tia suggested. “Does this place have a back door?”

Parker nodded with a grin.

 

This, Evan thought to himself bitterly as he crept out the building’s rear door, this is why I thought moving out here would be a good idea. Places like Deadwood weren’t what sprang to mind when imagining a setting for a civil war, or anything remotely interesting for that matter. He crouched behind a hedge and peeked over it. Seeing nothing, he placed his palm flat on the grass, then closing his eyes, he mentally reached out to his wards and scanned the surrounding area. The wards were relatively simple spells he had placed throughout the neighbourhood in the form of small talismans. Hidden on the branch of a tree, in a bush or behind a rock, they would relay information to his mind’s eye.

That this surveillance set-up worked as smoothly as it did was in large part thanks to Jenson’s help. Though Evan’s nature magic powered the wards and he had crafted the talismans, his friend had further refined the spells to work in tandem, requiring far less energy to maintain and providing a clearer mental image. While Jenson’s raw power was unreliable in the heat of combat, his skill with more complex, subtle magics more than made up for it. Images flashed behind Evan’s eyes like a film reel. A squirrel grabbed a nut about ten feet away to his left before scurrying towards a tree. A bird pecked at an ant across the street. A spider steadily and carefully constructed a web in a nearby bush. The leaves on a neighbour’s plants rustled in the wind.

But there was no wind tonight.

Ah. He focused his will on that point. Nothing at first, then a slight ripple in the air and the gravel of a neighboring driveway scattered with a dull thump, as if something heavy had suddenly landed. A small patch of fog materialized on the spot and a human form stepped out. Dismissing the fog with a gesture, it began strolling down the sidewalk towards the house. With the intruder’s back to the nearest ward, its face was hidden but the gait and posture suggested a young man. The appearance of their human shape would probably mean little to a dragon, Evan suspected. Passing under a streetlight revealed the new arrival was clad almost entirely in slate grey, from his thin jacket to his ragged converses. Even his hair was grey, despite his youthful step that carried him towards the backyard.

The human brain was not made for processing vision from anything other than a single pair of eyes which in turn could be expected to remain within one head. Therefore an out-of-body perspective could quickly make a wizard forget that their viewpoint did not necessarily reflect the location of their physical form.

This could be a problem when hiding, as it took Evan a moment before he realized the intruder was coming directly towards the bush behind which he crouched. He released the warding spell and cursed under his breath as his eyes flew open. The approaching footsteps stopped abruptly. Well, there goes the element of surprise, he thought ruefully, before speaking three sharp syllables. There was a snarl from the figure and the thrashing of vegetation. Evan peered over the hedge.

Two vine creepers had lashed out from the bushes to ensnare the intruder, one twined around his leg while the other tugged on his arm from behind. His eyes flashed when he caught sight of Evan, the grey scales blossoming from their corners seeming to turn the youthful face to stone.

"Really?" The dragon sneered, “You think you’re going to stop me with plants?” A deep growl bubbled up from his chest as he tried to lunge but the vines held fast. He could only take a menacing step forward before his right side was jerked back by the arm and leg.

Evan stood up, surprised that his legs supported him since he was fairly sure they had turned to jelly. “They’re called leech creepers. The more you struggle the more energy they'll drain.”

The grey dragon gave the vine holding its arm an experimental tug. His face broke into a grin. "This is an elegant little number, especially for an outcast wizard. Color me impressed."

“How about blue?” Evan replied, coming around the bush to stand at the edge of the yard. He raised a hand and made a fist. The dragon’s leg was swept out from under him, forcing him to one knee. The vine holding his arm began to constrict and a third shot out to wrap around his throat. “Strangulation isn’t exactly the flashiest way to slay a dragon,” Evan reflected as his victim gasped, “but I’ve always gone with what works.” To his surprise, the grey dragon met his gaze and smiled.

“You know, I’ve always felt the same way.” Evan barely had time to register that the voice didn’t sound like someone choking to death in the least before something smashed into him from the right, causing him to land painfully on the stone path leading to their back door. A hand closed around his windpipe. “People always expect dragons to kill with fire, teeth or claws,” his opponent continued conversationally, now leaning over him. Out of the corner of his eye, Evan could see a vaguely humanoid mass of grey mist dissipating as the vines retracted with the lack of a solid target. “They never consider a simple illusion spell, or choking, for that matter,” the fingers around his throat tightened, “But as you so nicely put it, one goes with what works.” The fingernails began to bite into his flesh as they grew into claws. Evan placed his palm on the grass of the yard, fingers digging through the soil. In response it rose up around his hand, rapidly drying and hardening into a gauntlet of solidly packed earth. On the verge of blacking out, he swung his armoured fist at the grinning face that filled his vision.

The blow took the dragon squarely in the temple, delivering a wet thump. The grip on Evan’s neck was relinquished, he heaved his opponent off him and rolled away. Scrambling to his feet, he noted with satisfaction that the grey skin on the dragon’s cheek was darkening as blood ran down the side of his face. The stones embedded on the knuckles had definitely been a good idea.

The grey dragon snarled and rose to a crouch. Evan could see his shoulders and spine rippling beneath his jacket. “How...dare you,” came the guttural snarl. The dragon’s body was lengthening and muscles were shifting in unnatural ways. The familiar grey mist formed around his shoulders, this time taking the shape of a pair of wings before solidifying.

It wasn’t anything remotely out of a fairy tale, more akin to a prehistoric crocodile or monitor lizard than a dragon, with its large bony plated head and short neck mounted on a long body supported by four stout legs. Its sickle claws left gouges in the pavement as it pawed the ground like a bull. A whip-like tail lashed to and fro while its wings extended to block Evan’s way out of the yard to the street. Seeing the creature’s haunches tense, he barely had time to dive out of the way before it pounced. A loud snap signaled the heavy jaws closing where his head had been an instant before. Rebounding off the ground, he launched himself directly at the side of the dragon’s face, delivering a straight punch with his gauntlet. His armored fist connected with the area just behind its eye, still bleeding from his initial attack. He was rewarded with a roar of pain. The dragon reared to clutch its wound, wings folding about its head - seemingly to shield it, before suddenly spreading again.

Evan was swept aside by what amounted to a massive backhand blow from the wing, sending him flying to slam into the fence. Through the brief curtain of stars, he saw the dragon shake its head in a strangely dog-like gesture before seeing the droplets of blood stain the stone path. Evan smiled and raised the gauntlet. The same blood glistened on the stones studded along the knuckles. The grey dragon’s eyes widened and it roared again, this time issuing a lance of flame. Evan smacked his bare hand to the ground and an earthen barrier sprang up against the fire. Though at least three feet thick, his hasty bulwark would not last long against a sustained blast, he had to work quickly.

He had some of his enemy’s blood - a valuable tool whenever targeting someone with magic, but all the spells he knew couldn’t be completed before he was reduced to ash.

Which meant he had to improvise.

Making up the words as he went and trying to ignore the heat from the other side of the dirt wall, he murmured a brief spell while driving the bloodied stones into the soil. The theory was sound, assuming he hadn’t made a mistake but at least he wouldn’t have to wait long to find out.

The flames abruptly stopped. “Wizard! What have you done to me?” Evan began to smile. He might survive this after all. Peering cautiously around his wall he saw the grey dragon clawing at his eye. When he removed his claws to glare at Evan, small pieces of greenery could be seen growing above and behind his brow.

As he watched, the plant extended further from the cut on the dragon’s temple, the leaves grew in size, the stems lengthened, and even small buds began to form, threatening to completely blind the eye. Evan winced to see roots even creeping under the eyelid. “Made you a host,” he replied to the enraged beast. “You should get that checked out—it’s only going to germinate faster. Blood orchids feed on blood—obviously—but they get stimulated by endorphins as well. Unless you calm down, you’re going to have a nice little bouquet where your left eye used to be.” This was the uncertain part - Evan was counting on the grey dragon choosing to retreat rather than risk the plant being fueled by the adrenaline that further battle would release. He sincerely hoped his enemy was shrewd enough to back off. He wasn’t sure if he would survive another confrontation and he knew that the fact his opponent lost an eye would be of little comfort.

After a tense stand-off, the dragon shook itself. “This isn’t over,” it snarled and launched itself into the air, leaving the grey mist in its wake. Once it had disappeared into the night sky, the gauntlet disintegrated to a pile of dirt on his hand and Evan leaned against his bulwark with a deep sigh. Then he noticed the mist had not yet faded. In fact, it had spread to surround the entire building. Nothing could be seen outside the perimeter, and he suspected no one could see anything inside as well.

It seemed the grey dragon had left a parting gift - allowing his comrades to act without fear of being seen.

“Shit,” Evan muttered to himself.

Israfil
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So Jenson is explosively strong and he's also good at intricate and complex magic? Lol he's definitely the hero of this story. But then again, the ensuing battle between Evan and the intruder dragon lurking around outside the building is simply awesome! Very well done, the action was fast-paced and full of adrenaline. This was a quick read and a fun one too. We also finally got to see what the dragons look like! The description of the big lizard-like creature was truly a joy ^_^ I mean, I love the how vibe the characters give off, like all this crazy stuff is completely normal! And it is, to them. The comic relief in the beginning was cute. Don't mess with dragons, for you taste crunchy and good with ketchup! Another great chapter, but you missed a little bit of formatting as you uploaded this one... No biggie, just a single line of Evan's thoughts aren't italicized and i think you had them marked correctly, it was just the uploading programy thing that screwed up. OK! I'll read the next chapter really quick.

 

 

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So Evan was able to draw first blood; against a foe that was obviously stronger than he is, quite a feat.  So Jensen is better with intricate spells; might mean they are better in the long run, maybe stronger over time than just a big blast to start with...

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