Chapter 36: A Thought in Flight

When people think of gliding they think of weightlessness, they imagine the light tickle of feathers and the soft brush against the wind. But as Clide soared he felt the weight of his scaled body against the air, the slice of his leathery wings, and the drag of his claws against the clouds. And in the weightlifting solitude, he had much to think about. Such as…

How did he keep this hidden from Dia? Not every day was cloudy and not every cloud covered his shadow. He would just have to endure an early session of scolding, but he didn’t have to tell her yet. This day was only the first.

Clide broke his smooth momentum to beat his wings towards the next updraft. The organizers had sent word ahead that he was coming to clean up the field; test strike one of the areas where they were making the corpse soldiers. Apparently, there was a disgusting trick to preserving the bodies. He hoped that he need not fly close enough to smell it. He had already decided that he was going to dive and freeze them as they stood.

People didn’t understand that dragons didn’t just breathe ice. Well, maybe fire dragons just breathed fire, but ice dragons had options. The chemicals that he stored, much like snake venom, could be released in his breath to freeze water in the air. He could concentrate to produce frozen blocks of ice, icicles in the air above that would pierce like arrows, or fly near for a light mist that would dry freeze what it contacted–much like frost. 

Unlike myth, he didn’t suffer in warm weather. Dry warm days were disliked simply because less water in the air meant less ice. And the dragon’s rarity was because majority of his species lived by mountain caves in the north, away from the trouble of humankind. Even the lesser seen yet memorable fire drakes supposedly lived on secluded volcanic islands, keeping the company of pirates.

A loud bang could be heard below. One of those land cannons that Clide saw along walled cities. A swooping, screeching flock of sparrows burst up from the clouds and scattered around him in their instinct to flee. The musty smell of smoke rose to his flaring nostrils.

Clide dropped below cloud cover to get his first view of war. His lens-like eyes skimmed past a lower dark patch of forest to the erected wooden towers of his allies. There white flags with the insignia of a yellow sun snapped in the wind and a city of tents spread across the open ground. There too was the sparkle of thousands of metal-clad soldiers beneath the sun.

Interesting was the purplish glow of round magical sigils that erected a wall into the air over one-hundred feet along the inner valley. The commander had warned him of this one-sided barrier that only blocked from outside and prevented retreat for their own people who crossed. Lining the base of the wall was a burning line meant to deter the undead from pressuring the one-way barrier. Beyond was a mostly barren ground interspersed with shrubs, magic sigils now lost, and dug circular pits where the enemy sheltered from cannons and arrows while crafting their own devices. Even further out was a line of brown tents where the enemy reserves and more important humans sheltered.

Clide saw all this before his wings graced the air above his new comrades and he focused out to the enemy side to where a group of brown-clothed women wearing gloves and covering their faces with bandanas worked to preserve a corpse, one of the enemies own this time. 

Women seemed to have been assigned this work as the men vied for closer combat. As Clide chose his target there was a thought about his friend Dia being a human woman, but the enemy should be grateful that he was not of fire. As he descended like a god gracing his people, what he brought, mouth open like a song, was a soft and cold lullaby. He swerved out of firing range, leaving a garden of icy statues as he lifted over the magic fence to join the new resistance. Clide landed on the outcropping of a crumbled windmill and roared. 

Today he had killed people.

And he dared the others to fight back. He called for Dia to find them again, and for Keenin to heed no human-made boundaries as he would win them a better story.


Clide, remembered better than most. It was a gift that kept him company on long nights. And there in the dark of night, his claws clinging to the rocky side of the windmill like a cat on a tree limb, his slender tail curled round the base, and his head propped on the flat surface where a roof had been, Clide let the dream go. He opened his eyes to stare down the dizzying height to a soldier standing on the ground. It was impossible to say how long the fellow had been patiently waiting. 

“We were wondering,” the man addressed Clide calmly. “Can you try to hit the food stores again?”

Three days ago it had started; And the first day’s dream that he kept with him.

“I can, try,” Clide said simply.

His claws gripped tighter to the rock as he slowly lifted his weight from the cool surface, dislodging a few pebbles that bounced to the ground. He supposed that he could pull himself into the air and kick off the top pile of rubble, but being conscious that he might collapse it all onto the messenger, Clide stepped down onto flat land and stretched the sleep from his limbs.

“I’m sure this Judial will be glad I woke him,” Clide teased.

The army had long known of the enemy mages, Judial being one that controlled wind. Clide was starting to build a reputation with the wind user as the man attempted to deflect the trajectory of ice that Clide sent to cripple their movements. One of the other magic users was supposed to control ice, but was reported to have left the field. Still nobody seemed to know which one was Iscara. Clide had taken a secret look at the far-off enemy camp about a days ride out, half hoping to find Keenin. The group overall seemed like a bunch of well-organized nomads.

“I do apologize,” the messenger said.

Clide had rather forgotten the man.

“For what?” 

“Waking you,” the man said.

“Hmm. Don’t be. This is hardly a bother,” Clide said.

He had made a promise to play his part so that Dia would not be held as a science experiment. He just had to freeze a few things every few hours when his breath recovered. It wasn’t the human’s fault for wanting to win.

“Just tell the commander that when I win him a war with minimal casualties, I mean to take pity on the survivors. You aren’t slaughtering a portion of your species simply because they need something.”


Chapter 35: Hammer it Out

Chapter 37: The Pride of the Thief