Tin Man: Dragons and Ninjas

Chapter Twenty-One

DG stepped back from Zack's white glowing eyes. The dragon roared and Zack pulled her down into a crouch next to the tower wall. She cringed, hating herself for it, and Zack continued to stare at the dragon. "Two questions."

"Go."

"Why are your eyes glowing?"

"Lingering mutation effect that shows when I'm pissed. Second?"

She pointed at the dragon. "How is that Lyle? You said he's a little boy!"

"Yeah, but he also is magical. He must have shape shifted and got stuck." Zack's eyes stopped glowing as he looked up at the white dragon. "Stay back." He stood up and took a cautious step forward. The dragon stared at him. "Lyle? It's Zack, Zoe's friend. Your mother sent me to help you."

The dragon opened its mouth and DG tried not to focus on how the fangs were as long as she was tall. Its throat began to ungulate and purple flames shot out of his mouth. DG cast a shield in front of Zack as he dropped on top of her to shield her. The heat bore down on them, but her shield was holding back the worst of it. The flames finally stopped. "I don't think he remembers you."

"Or is in too much pain to think clearly." Zack let go of her to stare up the tower. "There's one of those bricked up windows right above us. Think you can make your shield into a funnel and channel the fire on it?"

"I think so but why?"

"You'll see. Blasting!"

DG morphed the shield as the fire rained down on them, slanting it up to meet the window, pushing the sides so all of the purple fire was going above their heads. By the time the flames stopped, she realized rocks were hitting the shield.

Zack lifted her up and she grabbed the bottom of the hole in the stone. It was just like climbing back onto the balcony, she told herself as she heaved. She scrambled into the empty room the former window had graced, then turned to see if Zack needed help. He leapt, and pulled himself in more easily than she had. "Our rooms are two floors up. Go!"

The dragon roared outside the hole and a silver orb peered into it trying to find them. DG balked at the door. "We ran already. We have to go rescue Wyatt and Glitch!"

Zack seized her arm and squeezed it hard enough to bruise. "I'm only saying this once, so listen. Ichiro went through your shield like it was only a light show. Hal, Chelsea, and Raw are in more danger than Cain and Glitch. And Cain can withstand interrogation better than you."

"But I don't want Wyatt interrogated!"

"Ichiro will kill him if he learns Cain is your husband. And you almost gave that away already!" DG felt her blood run cold as she thought about what she had said when she punched Ichiro. Damn the way her temper had to disconnect her mouth and brain. Zack loosened his hold, and he winced at her expression. "They'll be okay. In World War II, the Japanese took lots of POWs. He'll probably figure they're more valuable as hostages. Now come on!"

She didn't argue as he led the way down the hall and up the first stairwell they found. All she could hope was Ichiro had heard the same stories Chelsea had and would think it was just a crush. No one was in the stairwell with them.

They reached the third floor and Zack stopped her inside the doorway into the hall. He peered out and pulled back in. "Two Longcoats guarding the doors," he whispered. He knelt and pulled his tripod daggers out from under his pants.

"They have guns," DG whispered back.

"Used to that. Stay here." He crept into the hall. DG bit her bottom lip, and angled herself in the doorway so she could watch the hall but the Longcoats wouldn't see her.

Zack blurred as he leaped and pivoted. He kicked the first Longcoat in the head. The second one rushed forward and impaled himself on the daggers. Zack left them in his stomach as he reached up and wrenched his head with an impossible degree of twist. The Longcoat fell to the floor. He turned to the first one, slumped against the wall. She could hear marching feet echoing down the hall. Zack pulled his daggers free. "DG! More Longcoats!"

She ran to him, but the troop rounded the corner. Zack pulled out his gun and shot the leader. DG dropped the shield over the door and wrenched it open. "Chelsea! Longcoats!"

The girl slung herself out the door while yanking DG inside. Zack ducked as she blasted the hallway with the shotgun. He tossed her the Longcoat's pistol as he rolled into the rooms. Chelsea shot it until it was out of bullets and pulled back into the room. Zack slammed the doors shut. "DG, shield it!"

DG pulled the energy together, feeling dizzy and sick. "I don't know how much more I have left. I used a lot of magic with the dragon." She sat up on her knees. Raw held Hal in his arms when he ran out of the main bedroom with a pack, Cain's duster and hat. Something felt like it pierced her chest when she saw them.

"One more spell to get us out of here," Zack said as he sprinted to the window.

Chelsea went to the table and picked up the other handgun. It sounded like the Longcoats had started ramming the doors to knock them open. "What happened?"

"Lord Quelala showed his true colors." Zack rapped his knuckles against the glass. "Raw, you got all our stuff?" The Viewer nodded, cuddling Hal and tried to soothe his crying.

"He captured Wyatt and Glitch." DG closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around herself.

"No!" Someone grabbed her shoulders and shook her like a rag doll. She wrenched her eyes open and stared into Zack's face. "You can't rescue them if you fall apart now!" She shook her again. "We need you now." He forced her to stand up. "We have to get out of here."

"How?" Chelsea demanded. "We got Longcoats on the only exit!"

Zack was convinced she could stand up on her own, and let her go. He whirled, grabbed an armchair, and shoved it running to the window. The glass shattered and he let the chair drop into the river. "New door."

"Hal can't swim!" Chelsea yelled.

"Wasn't planning on swimming." Zack gripped DG's shoulders again, forcing her to focus on him. "We need you to make a motorboat outside the window and float it down gently to the water so we can get away."

DG shook her head. "I don't think I can. Used too much magic."

"DG Queen. DG can. DG must." Raw placed a warm hand against her upper back.

She couldn't disappoint Raw. She pictured the fishing boat one of the boys in her class had gotten for graduation. It was big enough for four people with a big outboard motor and blue fiberglass hull. She pictured it floating in the air outside the window. Her skin tingled and her knees sagged as the energy left her.

Zack propped her up. "You did good." The door shuddered harder. "Okay, time to split. Raw, get in first."

DG opened her eyes. Raw knocked away the last of the glass shards in the windowsill and climbed into the boat outside the window. Chelsea held Hal and he wrapped his arms around her neck. Raw sat down close to the window. "DG next, getting weak."

"Keep it up for just a little bit longer, DG." Zack said encouragingly. His arms eased her out of the window and Raw's arms caught her. He sat her down next to him on a built-in bench in the boat.

"Go to Mr. Raw, Hal. Go to Mr. Raw." Chelsea eased the boy into Raw's arms, and then hopped into the boat. She caught the packs that Zack tossed her and stowed them in the bottom of the boat. DG looked out at the walls. No Longcoats looked at them from the battlements, yet. A warm weight settled around her shoulders, smelling of Wyatt Cain. Chelsea tugged the duster closer around DG with a sad smile.

Raw's arm wrapped around her back. "Be strong. Be strong."

Zack jumped in and took the seat next to the outboard motor. "Okay, DG, let us down slowly."

DG closed her eyes and pictured the boat going down past the castle walls, settling in the water. The boat rocked and she opened her eyes. Zack started the motor and steered the boat to the center of the river. The Longcoats were on top the battlements now, but their bullets missed them.

She pulled the duster around tighter as the boat rounded the bend in the river and entered the forest. She could feel strength and warmth coming from Raw, but it wasn't what she wanted. It didn't ease the sharp pain in her chest. The smell in the duster made it worse, but she couldn't let go of it.

Raw passed Hal to Chelsea and pulled DG into a hug against his chest. "DG keeps Cain safe. Cain keeps Glitch safe. Don't hold in grief. Only temporary." Her breath hitched and the tears started flowing. The sob tore out of her throat, and she pressed her face against his furs.