The Dragon King(4)By: Candace Blevins
I followed the coast to Savannah, Georgia, fighting the ocean breeze, and figuring out how this brain parceled the information I’d taken in with my other brain. I managed to access what I needed to make the journey, and I followed the coast as I learned to soar, turn, dive, and climb. The winds coming in off the ocean were brutal at times, fluffing my feathers the wrong way until I lost control and only regained it by luck. I soon discovered I needed to get higher to keep from being buffeted by the sea breeze, but going too high made it hard to see landforms well enough to navigate when there weren’t many lights.
I didn’t know how much of a head start I had, so I kept moving even as I experimented, terrified they’d find me and haul me back to my father’s house.
When I reached Savannah, I found what I was sure was the interstate and followed the line of lights north. I was exhausted when I reached what had to be Macon, and I continued north a little ways before making a right turn, hoping I could find the wildlife refuge and a relatively safe place to get some rest. I was so tired, and terribly uncomfortable in this body, but needed to stay a swan until I made it to Chattanooga. I wasn’t sure I could cut myself open again, and besides, I no longer had the knife.
I only rested a short time in a tree top before I flew north, once again following the interstate. I was sure this wasn’t how swans normally navigated but it was the best I could manage. I breathed a little easier as I went over Atlanta, knowing my journey was close to an end. I often swam miles a day in either the lap pool or the endless pool, but I’d never been so tired in my life.
When I made it to Chattanooga I headed towards the Tennessee River, followed it until I recognized their unique Aquarium building, and then followed the streets out of the downtown area to the old school building that housed the Drake Security offices. My landing was far from graceful, but I made it into the woods across the street, found a tree limb I hoped would be safe, and waited.
My early morning visit from the third in command of the Eagles, and then subsequent telephone conversations with Sophia’s father, had me somewhere between hopeful and worried, but mostly worried.
She’d never flown and never been off her father’s property, and now she was somewhere out there, likely alone and scared. The state of her human skin, left behind, had Raul convinced she’d cut it away herself, and I cringed at what had made Sophia take such drastic action.
As worried about her as I was, if things were so bad then I wasn’t certain Raul dragging her back home was the best course of action. If she’d planned well then it was possible she was better off on her own, but I wished she’d been able to get a message to me.
I hadn’t seen her since her father’s birthday party six months ago, and we’d barely had a chance to speak. I was no longer brought in for review sessions four times a year, those had stopped on her seventeenth birthday.
Cyrano and Raul had an army of trained men looking for her, as well as hundreds of Swans and Eagles canvassing the area around her father’s compound.
But I’d taught her, and had made sure she’d learned to play chess and a few other games of strategy. I hadn’t been able to teach her actual political and survival tactics, but she was smart and I knew she’d extrapolate as needed. If Sophia had escaped, she had a plan and was likely far from the South Carolina coastal region by now.
However, I was still shocked when I stepped outside my office building, smelled the air to be sure there were no threats, and picked up the ever-so-faint smell of Sophia.
It wasn’t likely the Wolves in my employ had noticed, and thank goodness Nathan, my second in command, was still inside. He’s a lion shapeshifter and happens to be the alpha lion of the entire planet. Yeah, that makes him the Lion King. He’s taken a lot of shit over the title in recent decades, thanks to the movie.
I zeroed in on the scent and found Sophia still in swan form, in the wooded area across the street, high in a tree and several layers back. Being white in the woods in Tennessee made camouflage a bitch.
I was at once relieved and terrified. She was safe for the moment, and she’d somehow made it to me, remembering our conversation so many years ago. She’d come to me, trusted me, but now it fell to me to help keep her safe.