The portal that separated Paladin from the human world opened and four dragons came through. In dragon from they couldn’t speak bit no words needed to be said at least not for Bior. He was so angry he could cut a swath through the earth beneath them with his fiery breath. Instead he found the best wind stream that would allow his leathery wings to soar faster towards their intended destination, Florida and Michelle’s houseboat. Instead of bringing Mike, one of her team back through the portal, Mursi carried him. He and Michelle would take care of him and find out what he knew at the warehouse they converted to a safe have.
It was the task of Bior and Erik to follow the scent of the Shen and find Kiara and the others before the worst could happen. If it hasn’t already, Bior thought and felt his anger burn hotter. If Kiara was hurt Mike would be a pile of charred bones and no one could stop him. Since finding out that she had been taken, Bior assessed in himself that he cared for the tiny woman with big brown eyes. They landed in the open concrete parking lot of the abandoned row of warehouses. Michelle owned the property. Mursi dropped Mike on the ground with out any pity and Bior forced his shit along fast even though it caused him a small amount of pain. He wanted to be in human form so he could strangle Mike just for a little bit. Bior stalked towards the man who scrambled back in fear, he was sure his intent was reflected on his face.
“Bior don’t hurt him!” Michelle ordered as he lifted the Mike up by the neck.
“Why? He cared so little to put your people in danger.” Bior shook Mike as he dangled above the ground. “
“Put him down, Bior,” Mursi ordered. “We actually need to hear what he knows, then maybe I’ll let you hurt him a bit.”
He dropped Mike who glared up at them. “You all are in your safe world and we’re here dying what was I supposed to do?”
“Wait for me!” Michelle yelled. “I’ve been with you and the others way longer than I’ve been on Paladin. Since when don’t I care? I’ve bled and fought beside you for years.”
“Yeah well now you’ve got a dragon man, we seem so inconsequential now,” Mike answered as he stood up.
Michelle punched him so hard he landed flat on his ass again.
“Hey how comes she gets to hit him and I don’t?” Bior asked angrily.
“Because he’s my jealous asshole not yours,” Michelle snarled and then turned to Mike. “If you fucking deluded yourself into to thinking we would be together. That’s your bag of crazy not mine. But don’t you dare say that my…. people, Kiara my best friend don’t mean the world to me or by god I will help Bior burn you alive.”
“Ok, I’m sorry, I’m sorry but we didn’t have any other choice,” Mike said.
“You did, the same way you found the fucking caretaker at the portal where I told you to go in case shit went down. You could’ve gotten there and told me,” Michelle pointed out angrily. ‘But you wanted to go rouge and play the hero. I told you before this won’t work unless we work together! You let some misguided sense of jealously put everyone in danger.”
“I’m sorry ok!”
Bior watched as Mike’s face twisted as he began to cry. Weakling, Bior thought unsympathetically. He’d met other humans with more bravery in one finger than this fool including Kiara. To lead you had the put the well being of the many above the one and his selfishness may have caused good people their lives.
“When we get our people back those who survived, we’re done. I can’t have you putting who’s left in danger,” Michelle said. ‘I need to know who’s been taken and who got killed.”
“Kiara, Sammie, Joan, Tara are taken,” Mike sniffed and wiped his face. “Conroy, Henry, Matt, Corbin, Joe are dead. I don’t know about the others, some stayed back who didn’t think I was doing the right thing. I’m just hoping the others did too.”
Michelle turned to Bior. “Can you and Erik go now and see if you can trace where they took the women. If I know Kiara she found a way to mark they way, or maybe just scent her? She wears this pheromone perfume to attract the perfect guy or so she thinks….”
“I know her scent,” Bior cut her off. “I’m coming back with her and any others who survived.”
“Its been hours,’ Erik pointed out. “If any of the others or Kiara have been used. We will have to end their suffering.”
Michelle nodded tersely. “I know but in a case like that please bring them here, among family so we can be there with them. I don’t want anyone to die in Shen filth.”
“Understood,” Erik said and began his shift.
“I’m bringing her back,” Bior said to Michelle firmly. ”Unsoiled.”
“I know you will, I’m moving anyone here to the secondary safe house I told you about. We’re leaving a message for anyone else who may show up.” Michelle said. ‘Take Kiara to the house in the Keys, I’m going to make sure everyone is ok then we’re heading that way. If you’re not there we’re coming to help with the search.”
Bior inclined his head towards Mike who still sat on his ass on the concrete. ‘What about this one?”
“He goes home, I have no use for anyone who will put our people in danger,” Michelle said. “All he had to do was wait and this would never be an issue.”
“I have no home anymore, Michelle, this is all I have,” Mike implored.
“if that was the case, Kiara would be here,” Michelle said in an emotionless voice. “Don’t worry I’ll give you enough to get on your feet. You’ll find another way to be an egotistical ass in no time.”
‘You’ll regret this,” Mike whined angrily. “All of you.”
Michelle shook her head. “I already do.”
“And there is the caring,” Mursi murmured. “Be thankful you aren’t handed over to that one so he can use you as a toothpick.”
Bior growled and closed his eyes, letting his shift to dragon form take over. He felt his body change and embraced it. He took to the skies with one swoop of his wings and followed Erik into the night sky. When they passed over Michelle’s houseboat he could see the decimation. It was half sunk into the murky swamp and what was left was shattered like a house made of toothpicks. Flying low he circled looking for any stray Shen that may be in the area and then landed. His massive legs sank into the soft swamp mud as he looked around. He took a deep breath and picked up the scent of moss and the earthy tones of the Everglades. He could also smell the filth of the Shen but there it was.
The subtle hint of Kiara’s perfume made he turned his head in another direction. Something glinted in the moonlight and he lowered his head to look. It was an earring sitting on top of the damp earth. Bior took to the skies again and followed the direction where he’d scented Kiara and seen the piece of jewelry. Erik followed close behind and in the darkness they scoured the lands below looking for any signs of the Shen. He didn’t want to think about what may be going on in Shen lair, he’d seen to many deaths of both men and women. Even canalized human bodies. When they got hungry enough they’d eat anything. They lived with few basic needs showing they were basically animals. Feed, defecate and procreate, but that was before they new Shen they’ve seen popping up. Using the bodies of Paladin women, lesser Shen were now drones to be sent out. But still Kiara could be used like cattle and he wasn’t having it.
Erik made a dragon call to draw Bior’s attention. He followed the movement in the bushes below and honed in on it. His eyesight tracking the almost slither like movement as Shen abominations morphed from human to their serpentine selves. He lifted himself higher and Erick followed, not wanting to be scene in the ink black sky if any of their quarries looked up. Using the she shadow of the clouds they flew deeper into the everglades. They flew above the marshlands into another area with boggy water covered the bases of trees instead of solid ground. There were no caves here so Bior wondered where the Shen were going. They moved sleekly through mud and marshland at home in the murk.
Bior knew that alligators wouldn’t dare attack. Predators knew who was on top of the food chain and with the Shen alligators weren’t it. But we are, Bior thought mercilessly. Finally he saw their destination, on the banks of the glades was an old flourmill, it was so old part of the smoke stack seemed to have crumbled into the water. Pieces of rusted fence dipped into the water showing that the everglades had and continued to claim the land back. It was probably the reason why the mill was abandoned. The structure of the glades changed the landscape over the years. There was no holding it back this kind of environment was not one man could reign in. They let the Shen get inside and landed further away. When they shifted Erik looked at his muddy feet in disgust.
“I have to put muddy feet in my new boots,” he murmured.
“Why did you bring the new boots to a fight?” Bior asked.
“To break them in,” Erik answered.
Bior took his clothes out of his pack and pulled on his jeans before shoving his muddy feet in his scarred boots. “Let me know how that works out for you.”
“How many do you suppose are in there?” Erik asked.
“Doesn’t matter we’ll kill them all and get Michelle’s people back,” Bior said.
He unsheathed and checked his sword before putting the belt of his scabbard of his shoulder so it crossed his chest. On the front was the hard leather breast place that was passed down through out his family through the ages. Old and worn it carried the scars of many battles with the Shen. Most of them were his since there had never been an uprising like this even in the old war.
“It seems Kiara is your main concern,” Erik said bluntly. Checking his own weapon. “Admit it, you have fallen prey to the tiny human woman.”
“I have not!” Bior snapped defensively. “She intrigues me intellectually, this is all.”
Erik snorted. “Yeah that’s intellect that scents the air anytime you are around her.”
“Shut up,” Bior growled. “Do we go in through the front door or the back?”
“I say we go knock and invite our selves to tea,” Erik grinned.
“Good choice,” Bior agreed. “Kill anything Shen and we save the humans we can.”
They moved stealthily through the night and into the old mill. Making no bones to hide their presence. He wanted them to hear them coming and deviate their attention from any prisoners they had. It had the desired affect, they cut down Shen easily, and they were none of the newer intelligent Shen. Bior had no doubt they were on their way or the women were going to be transported to them. The truck outside was probably to move them that same night, Bior wasn;t about to give them the chance to take not one.
“Kiara!” Bior roared as he grabbed a shen by the neck and pulled it forward. “Where are the prisoners?”
It gasped and managed to laugh and that infuriated him all the more. Bior snapped its neck and was moving forward before the Shen body hit the floor. They were getting braver, none giving answers until he was savagely killing them not giving them time to answer. He’d rip the rest of the ailing buildings apart to find them. Finally he came to a door and in the midst of the death and black blood he picked up a subtle sent to humans, of Kiara.
“You got this?” He yelled to Erik.
“I’m practically bored with the monotony of it,” Erik replied and then yelled. “Give me a reason to actually enjoy fighting you things!”
Bior shook his head and kicked in the door just as two Shen attacked him. One he decapitated with his sword and the other, he cracked its skull open with his fist. He was through the door and scanning the dark room looking for signs of life. There were only two bodies in there and one was Kiara. He checked the first girl and her pulse was strong, then he went to Kiara’s side. Her pulse was also strong but neither woman was conscious. He lifted her in his arms and smelled the sweet scent round her nose. They had to be drugged.
“Kiara,” he shook her and tapped her cheek gently intently until she roused and moaned. “Kiara.”
Her eyes lifted heavily. “Bout time, thought I had to save myself.
Bior chuckled as he wiped a smear of dirt from her face. “No I’m here to save you tiny one.”
Something inside him shifted and he pressed a kiss to her forehead and held her close. Bior rocked her gently, hoping that even as the drug still held her in its grip it made her feel safe. The air took on the smell of rich clover, spices and his musky scent. Bior didn’t care, he marked her as his and would figure the rest out later. Right now she was safe and he was mated, well at least he thought so.