Ragta did not like the cave. Survival was easy. You did not talk, not aloud anyway. You did not move or disturb the spirits and they would leave you alone. Of course her other riders had been a lot more willing to exchange thoughts with her once the ritual had ended. But, Nikolai was stubborn and hadn’t heard her warnings. She watched horrified as he stepped from her.
The words were faint and filled with fear.
“No!” Ragta sprung to action. She would not lose a rider so quickly. “My RIDER!”
Her roar filled the cavern and its echoes intensified Ragata’s determination. Fire leapt from her mouth as she pounced to land behind Nikolai, sheltering his frigid body.
YOU DARE DISTURB ME, DRAGON?
My Rider! Ragta claimed again. Her flames spewed into the darkness as her head whipped about. Shadows fled. Being sure that she was no longer breathing fire Ragta set her head by her Rider. One red eye looked at him.
She did not notice the shadows creeping closer.
Cold, so cold.
Even the man’s mind sounded as though it was shivering. As she raised her head to breath warmth upon him something grab hold. Despite the roaring furnace in her belly Ragta felt cold for the first time in her life.
Ragta... warm me.
His sounded like a boy realizing he’s in water’s over his head when he doesn’t know how to swim. Ragta fought the cold that was seeping in through her tough hide. Her tail swished back and forth as the Spirits tried to keep hold. Flames once more billowed from her mouth as she swept her head back and forth. But, she could not sweep behind her, not with Nikolai protected beneath her.
She could feel their coldness crawling over her skin, up her tail and working its way towards her heart to stop it. Quivering in fear she did the only thing she could think of to warm Nikolai; cover him with her mouth. Her hot breath washed over him as her tail stopped moving.
Let me out! She felt pounding upon her jaw. I’m warm. You can let me out.
Ragta lifted her head but found she could no longer move her hind legs. Nikolai scrambled out but did not stray far.
DRAGON, DRAGON the spirits laughed. WE HAVE YOU DRAGON. YOU WILL FLY FOR US.
“NEVER!” Ragta roared her flames once more spewing forth her head snaking about. But she could not get them; could not shake them. It was her turn to panic, to feel lost. “Nikolai... help...”
She could feel his confusion. His thoughts rolling about like a turbulent sea. She ate me. She saved me. Her breath stinks. She helped me. There’s nothing I can do to help her. There has to be something.
“Fire” Ragta broke in as her breath cleared the swath around her, yet again. “You need to set me on fire.” The spirits laughed and Ragta knew they would soon find her furnace and put out the flames.
Suddenly, without the need to fully communicate their ideas, the two began to work as a team. Ragta dragged herself back to the fire they had made, Nickolai staying beneath her chin as her flames cleared the path before them. No sooner had Nikolai moved from beneath her than Ragta sank to the floor exhausted.
She tried to flame one last time but all that came out was smoke. “Hurry,” she pleaded.
Nikolai pulled something from under his jacket he took a swig from the flask before grabbing a burning branch. “Here goes nothing.” With a yell he leapt upon Ragta’s back brandishing the stick about him.
“My back, my tail, burn them!”
She could not see what he was doing, nor feel what was happening. The Spirits were laughing.
WE’LL TAKE THE DRAGON AND THEN WE GET YOU!
“Not if this works!”
Warmth coursed down Ragta’s back. She could feel the coldness fleeing. Her furnace rekindled and she swept flame where ever she could being careful not to hit Nikolai. Screaming, the Spirits fled. Nikolai hopped down.
“We did it!”
“If they don’t come back again before morning,” Ragta cautioned. She did not think they would give up so easily.