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    Israfil
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The Transporters - 7. Chapter 7

Sorry it took forever - but guess who's back!

Evan weighed his options from his hiding spot behind the kitchen counter. Mithras would see him the instant he stood up and though the small dragon’s back was to him, Evan had no doubt it could be at his throat in an instant. However, he did have the element of surprise and the small distraction that he could create would be enough for Anshar to free himself. But would it also be enough to prevent Evan from being disemboweled?

He had recovered somewhat from his fight with the grey dragon, Marduk, but only through channeling energy directly from the land. It would give him a temporary second wind but only for as long as the link lasted. Once it broke he would be useless - casting the Blood Orchid curse to take out his enemy’s eye had drained him magically and physically. Maintaining a constant connection with the very earth was tricky and the spell’s duration was usually defined in terms of seconds before being released.

Evan had kept it going for ten minutes, and he could feel the spell weakening with every breath. He had climbed up the side of the house and squeezed through his bedroom window to reach his bow and quiver, almost breaking a leg stepping into a laundry hamper in the dark, and had just smacked his head on a cabinet shelf when he dove to hide from Mithras. Fighting something like the creature that pinned Anshar could only end badly. Evan would need every bit of magic he could get, to even draw the string now, let alone control the arrows –he probably wouldn’t get more than one shot before the dragon was on him.

Where Marduk, the grey dragon, had moved on four legs, this one, Ishtar, seemed to move on two, making it look like a bipedal carnivorous dinosaur – a raptor from Hell. Its long forearms ended in sharp, grasping talons that were tightly closed around Anshar’s shoulders, with an S-shaped neck keeping its narrow, tooth-filled snout within easy reach of its captive’s neck. Leathery wing membranes were mounted on its arms like a bat, yet a line of small feathers ran from either brow to meet at its forehead in a rough V-shape like a small crown. A long, stiff tail swayed from side to side, its feathered tip coming dangerously close to the new TV, Evan couldn’t help noticing. If they survived this, hopefully the apartment would come through relatively unscathed as well. Or at least without the TV getting scratched.

 

A rumble sounded outside the townhouse. Anshar could feel the vibrations through the floor. He saw Ishtar’s tail twitching in his periphery, her growing agitation almost palpable. Mithras paced up and down the small living room, his expression steadily darkening.

“What is TAKING him so long?” he erupted, kicking the coffee table into the air. It landed legs up on the couch, bills, magazines and paper plates scattering everywhere.

“My king, perhaps we – GET DOWN!” There was a sharp pain before the weight lifted from Anshar’s shoulders as Ishtar sprang off his back to her king’s side. An arrow grazed Mithras’ arm before his servant tackled him to the ground, shielding him with her wings before craning her neck to scan the room.

Anshar was already on his feet, the inferno churning in his belly, suffusing his body with white hot energy. Another arrow whizzed past his head towards Ishtar. She hissed in annoyance as she deflected it with her tail. Rather than fall to the ground, it turned mid-air and flew back the way it had come. Evan appeared at his side, a short bow at the ready, and the deflected arrow settled itself back into the quiver at his shoulder, the glow fading from the grass green fletching.

“No!” Mithras snarled. He rose to one knee, clutching his upper arm, and Anshar was relieved to see the glass that had held his blood shattered on the floor. It would be useless now and Mithras would have to take more – which Anshar had no intention of giving him. Mithras turned to glare at Evan, the white scales creeping out from the corner of his eyes. They narrowed as he took in the bow in Evan’s hands. “You three really are full of surprises, aren’t you? Did you make that yourself?”

Evan smirked. “Yup, an old project from woodshop class, my own design.”

Mithras looked down at his arm and frowned. His hand came away bloody as he removed it to inspect the wound. The torn cloth of his shirt revealed a thin cut just below his shoulder, a dark red stain already seeping down his sleeve. Ishtar snarled and whipped her head towards Evan, murder in her eyes, but her master shrugged dismissively before briefly grimacing in pain from the motion.

“It’s over, Mithras,” Anshar declared. He let his shadow assume its natural dragon shape to emphasize his point. Ishtar snarled and stepped in front of Mithras. It was an empty gesture - they both knew she could do little against an astral dragon on her own and Mithras was in no position to help her with the binding in effect.

The White King shrugged. “Inconvenient, yes, but over? That’s a matter of opinion.” Anshar felt his knees buckle and his chest constrict. Evan was pulled off his feet, hitting the floor with a pained grunt. Anshar repelled the magical assault with a minor effort of will but Mithras and Ishtar had already darted over the couch and crashed through the window.

Evan stood up panting and winced as Anshar peered out the window before whirling around and flinging the upturned coffee table across the room. It smashed into the TV, shattering the screen. The room was silent for a moment except for Evan’s breathing. The wind gave a steady whistle and the mist receded, swept away in the gust. After all, Anshar thought, it had served its purpose. He could no longer hear the sounds of battle outside either.

“That’s it then,” he said in response to Evan’s questioning expression. “They’re gone.”

 

The reanimated ice dragon’s claws raked Astaroth’s shoulders – ice crystals immediately forming in and around the wounds. Astaroth roared in pain before swiping his adversary across the face and slamming him into the retaining wall in front of the house. Keeping his foe pinned, he inhaled for what was surely a breath of searing flame. Jenson triggered what he realized was one of his last defensive traps, smacking a fire hydrant with the butt of his staff. The jet of water drenched the embattled dragons, extinguishing Astaroth’s flames and engulfing them both in scalding steam. The red dragon took to the air, narrowly avoiding a blast of ice from inside the steam cloud. “Talk about a flash freeze,” Jenson murmured to Parker, who gave a brief smirk.

“Help me control the steam, I have a plan,” he ordered. Jenson bit back a response and nodded before raising his staff. Parker grabbed it as well and raised his sword in the other hand. The runes along the staff began to glow one by one until they reached the owl at the top and then the same with the sword, starting from hilt to point. The steam cloud writhed and condensed again, shooting up after Astaroth, swirling around him. Even as he tried to dive to escape, it followed to keep him in a perpetual blinding cocoon. The ice dragon launched itself into the air with a hungry snarl.

Just as the blue dragon reached him, neck outstretched and jaws wide open, the steam cloud was dispersed in a single fiery nova. The dragon’s momentum carried it forward and the explosion took it full in the face. There was a scream from the rooftop and roots controlling the beast went slack, falling to the ground, followed by the ice dragon’s limp carcass with an earth shaking thud. The flesh was almost entirely burned away from its head and upper neck, revealing the blackened skull and charred sinew. Empty sockets stared skyward. Jenson looked up to see Tia clutching her eyes in pain. He remembered a point from class that working through a golem or any kind of construct left the caster at risk of feedback through their puppet. He imagined the same held through for re-animated corpses.

Astaroth landed by the carcass and flicked the skull contemptuously with his tail. Power radiated from him in waves of heat, small flames still flickered along his scales as he stalked forward. “You know, I think he fought better tonight than he ever did when he was alive.”

“Really?” Jenson couldn’t help responding. “That’s…kind of sad.”

“Isn’t it?” Astaroth looked up at the roof, “How are your eyes, Tiamat?” He gave a toothy grin. “I’m terribly sorry. I really should have given you a warning before, shouldn’t I?”

“Go to…” Tia began to respond before the red dragon was enveloped in a column of flame that leapt up to her side, materializing again as the auburn haired young man. He clamped his hand around her throat. To Jenson’s horror, he began to lift her off her feet.

“It was foolish to leave yourself open like that, Tiamat. You always did get caught up in the moment, didn’t you? You will be too weak to do much of anything for a little while now.” His drew back his free arm and his hand grew a set of wicked talons. “Now, I just need a few drops of blood. From your heart will do nicely,” he smiled. “Then your power will serve the crown once again, even if you will not.” He began to murmur something in another language, slow and repetitive.

Though he couldn’t make out the words, Jenson could sense the magic gathering. “He’s doing a spell of some kind,” he turned to Parker. “Can you hack it from here?”

“I don’t know. I can try but I’m not sure I’d have the energy even if I could,” his friend replied.

“I can help with that.” Jenson offered him the staff. As before, Parker grabbed it and pointed his sword at the two dragons on the roof. He closed his eyes. The sword flared blue.

He swung it.

The slash released a crescent arc of blue energy that rocketed skyward with what sounded like a thunderclap. The recoil knocked Parker off his feet, pulling Jenson with him.

Astaroth looked down at the noise too late to sidestep. Upon contact, the projectile exploded in a shower of electrical sparks that instantly constricted his chest like chords of lightning. He gave a scream as his spell was interrupted mid-cast and rebounded back on him. Tia took the opportunity to deliver a solid kick to his stomach and launch herself backwards into the air. Wings sprouted from her shoulders, black pinions outlined against the sky, as she turned to dive, landing in front of them with the heavy crack of asphalt on the already ruined street.

Public works is going to have a great day tomorrow, Jenson thought to himself.

“I think you just saved my life,” Tia said breathlessly, looking up with her hands on her knees, breathing heavily as if she had just run a marathon.

“Guess that makes us even then,” Jenson observed.

“Saved is kind of relative here,” Parker cut in before she could respond.

“That,” Astaroth snarled from above, “Is…it!” Wings erupted from his shoulders in a burst of flame.

“He was siphoning my energy,” Tia explained. “Whatever you guys did cut him off but I don’t have the power to take him in a straight fight anymore. If you guys have any other tricks now’s the time.”

Parker’s answer was to collapse of the front steps. “The good news is I don’t think he can use whatever he took from you. The hack should have made it blow up in his face. The bad news is I just burned my reserves with that and even then I needed to channel Jenson. I’m less than useless right now.”

“Hack?” Tia frowned but shook her head.

“It’s a warlock thing,” Jenson explained. “Also, I’m all out of traps so…”

“Wonderful,” Tia muttered. She looked up just in time to see the mist dispersing with an evening breeze. The moon was revealed, outlining Astaroth’s winged form in stark relief. He turned around and snarled. Turning back to the three of them, his eyes flared green.

"We’ll have to pick this up later then. Count yourselves fortunate,” he spat before leaping into the air and assuming his true shape. He flapped once, twice and was gone behind a passing cloud.

None of them said a word. The bare trees rustled briefly in the wind and fell silent. Then:

“Did…did we just catch a break?” Jenson asked, scarcely daring to believe it. A loud crunch made them all turn around with a start. As the last of the grey mist passed over the blue dragon, the body had begun to turn to ice and collapse under its own weight. Massive chunks of wings and spikes broke off and shattered followed by steadily smaller pieces as the remains of the beast crumbled beyond recognition. Within a minute or two, all that was left was the barest suggestion of a reptilian skull amidst a pile of broken ice.

“So the mist’s gone,” Parker observed. “Does that mean…”

“It’s over,” Tia responded. She glanced up at the house. “For better or worse.”

 

It was for the worse, Parker suspected after Anshar told them what happened, but he couldn’t help thinking it could have been even more so. He had been relieved to see Evan was alright – exhausted, battered and bruised but under the circumstances, being alive constituted “alright” in his book. His friend was lying on the couch beneath the broken window, oblivious to the autumn chill and barely conscious. Anshar was pacing up and down the length of the living room like a caged panther, his shadow in a constant state of flux – humanoid one moment and reaching up to the ceiling adorned with wings and horns the next.

"It was a trap,” he railed. “And we walked right into it – I told you we should have taken a train tonight.”

“And it would have turned out exactly the same except with more collateral,” Tia retorted from her seat at the dining table. Parker and Jenson turned to her. They had been glancing back and forth between the two of them the entire argument. Parker felt like he was watching a tennis match. “Anshar, that was the trap, to move on us before the train. If we had waited at the station we’d both be dead now.”

“What difference does it make? Mithras still escaped. We still failed,” he snapped, “and now the war is right back where it started.”

“Not exactly,” she replied. “He’s still under the binding. Until he gets our blood and makes the key most of his power is sealed.”

“If he channels enough magic he can break it on his own,” Anshar countered dismissively.

“From who?” Tia asked. “His most trusted lieutenants are either dead or licking their wounds. They won’t be able to help him break it until they’re recovered and I don’t think he’d risk anyone else in his inner circle knowing that he’s crippled.”

“They would turn on him in an instant,” Anshar agreed. He had stopped pacing for the moment, biting his upper lip in thought, brow furrowed. Despite the gravity of the situation, Parker found the expression strangely endearing. Cute, even.

“How are you so sure?” Jenson asked. It was a fair point, how could they be so certain that the White King wasn’t regaining his powers as they spoke?

“If there were any more who he trusted at his weakest, they likely would have been here tonight,” Anshar explained, clearly thinking it through as he spoke. “He always tries to keep the odds as favorable as possible.”

Parker followed the train of thought to its logical conclusion. “If he wanted to keep it quiet he’d have to get his magic somewhere else. It doesn’t just have to be dragons, does it?”

“No, but it would have to be a massive source,” Anshar mused. “Or very many smaller ones,” he added.

“The second one might be easier,” Tia commented. She grinned. “If we can find a potential source-“

“We can get there first and cut him off!” Parker finished, feeling the same disproportionate excitement that comes with realizing that there still might be a chance, however small.

The instant, which feels like you have won simply with the knowledge that you haven’t yet lost.

He could see it was affecting Anshar too. The dragon’s demeanor had grown markedly more determined, which definitely suited him better than the previous defeated one. Hope is a force of nature, Parker remembered his mother telling him once, never underestimate it. He could see that clearly now.

“In any case, I doubt there are any suitable fonts of magical power nearby,” Anshar began, “If he can’t return to his sanctum then we have a window of-“

“No,” Jenson interrupted. All eyes turned to him to see that his own were wide with a sudden realization. “The guilds.”

Parker froze, the excitement of a moment ago turning to a block of ice in his stomach.

After a moment, Anshar shook his head. “I don’t think it would be enough. Even a single guild of skilled practitioners would-“

This time Parker interrupted him. “Not one. Seven. There’s a conference of chapter leaders next week in Boston. They’re coming from all over the state.” Tia and Anshar exchanged worried glances.

“Which means,” Jenson picked up, “that there’s a major source of magic gathered a few towns over.”

“If they don’t know what’s coming…” Anshar whispered.

“They won’t stand a chance,” Tia declared.

Israfil
If you enjoyed what you have read, please leave a reaction and/or comment for the author!

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Chapter Comments

LOVE the description of Ishtar! He's a scary guy lol and I like that Ashnar and Evan kinda team up :*)

 

The first part is complete! Yay! That was a wild night lol and I'm definitely sure Jenson had no idea what he was getting into when he invited the transporters home... You kept the action and the descriptions really tense and tight and it worked so perfectly with the rising action as the night goes on and the battle with the white king is brought to and end... For now! 

 

I can't wait to start on the next part! I sense some pairing coming to fruition and the something big happening for the dragons and the wizards... 

 

This was a fun, fast read and I'll be back for more! Thank you @Israfil

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Interesting story thus far.  Magic & Dragons make for an entertaining premise (for me at least).  Overall, the outcast mages at least held their own and survived against what easily could have been their end. Curious to see how the next step plays out.  

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