A/N: Such awesome Reviews! Here's the next chapter~!
The ping of rifle-balls off his scales was constant and rhythmic as he locked claws with a Fleur-de-Nuit, silver eyes glowing and pinning glowing moon-colored eyes. Temeraire had raked the dragons side with a pass before the Silverwing had slammed into the midnight-blue dragon with a protective snarl. All of his men were on his back and well away from the rifle shots, letting Daemon have his battle. The French dragon was nocturnal, Daemon new, and more heavily built than Daemon himself, but Daemon's powerful wings and metallic hide made them more even, as well as the fact he, too, could see in the dark.
"They're readying the flash-powder on Temeraire!" Josie shouted over the wind; Daemon snarled but nodded, waited until the last second, and released the other dragon, dropping like a stone to avoid the painfully bright flash as Temeraire got in close. Unfortunately, he didn't close his eyes in time, and yowled in pain as he regained altitude even as the Fleur-de-Nuit bellowed his own pain.
"That bloody fucking hurts!" He shouted, angrily spiraling up to retake his protective position so he could continue to protect the formation against the other, smaller attackers, tears streaming from his eyes as he blinked rapidly. Temeraire had carved some nasty wounds into the Fleur-de-Nuit's belly, sending him keening away, and returned to his position at Laurence's urging.
"Enemy above! Enemy above!" Jamie sudden shouted, his voice shrill and clearly heard even as someone on Maximus' crew shouted at the same time. A terrible, thick roaring, like thunder, sounded in their ears; a Grand Chevalier, largest of the French heavyweights, plummeted down towards them, its pale belly having let it blend with the heavy cloud cover undetected. Its great claws were open wide as it aimed directly at Lily, nearly twice her size and overweighing even Maximus.
Reactions were instinctive and immediate.
Messoria and Immortalis fell like stones from the sky, that automatic reaction Celeritas had warned Daemon about. Nitidus had given a startled jerk of his wings but recovered, and Dulcia had kept her position. Maximus had put on a burst of speed, overshooting the rest of the formation, and Temeraire had hovered in place for but a moment, startled. One of Daemon's wings had snapped back to shield his back as his left slammed him over Lily, who had wheeled around in alarm. Flipping, he sent five spikes shooting up towards the attacking dragon, who banked a hard right, but still took two in the shoulder and chest, bellowing in pain, and continued to plummet down. Daemon was forced to slam himself out of the way or be crushed, and the heavyweight hit Lily's back, digging his claws in deeply and making her scream. Letting loose a scream of his own, in rage, Daemon flew down so that he was face to face with the brute, opened his mouth, and shot a thick stream of boiling water into his snarling expression.
The howl of agony was immediate and gratifying, as was the fact that the larger dragon released Lily in order to claw at his face as the traces of acid left nasty burns. Daemon turned and flew protectively over Lily, eyes scanning all around him as her crew rushed to staunch the bleeding of the bone-deep wounds, and his men continued to shoot at the men on the Grand Chevalier, once in a while a few falling to the ground below as they were cut loose. Temeraire was clawing away at the wounded dragon ferociously, snarling angrily, and Maximus roared, blocked out by the other dragons sheer bulk. And I just attacked that, Daemon thought, giddy with fear and triumph. Temeraire cut loose and hovered protectively between Lily and the massive dragon, and so between Daemon and the large dragon as well. Daemon quickly turned his attention to Lily, flying down and crooning comfortingly into her ear as she continued to keen in pain, eyes glazed and glassy as blood slowly seeped through the thick white bandages. After a few moments, though, he turned his attentions to the remaining French dragons, snarling and spraying a Pêcheur-Rayé in the side when it flew too close for his liking. The dragon shouted in pain and flew away, and the rest of the French dragons kept their distance, trying to coax him away from Lily, but he stubbornly remained, murmuring softly, comfortingly to the Longwing even as his eyes warily tracked the other dragons and one of his wings curled up over his back to protect his crew.
"Praecursoris has sent up a signal," Daemon called to his Captain. "Form up around leader." Reluctantly, he uncurled his wing so that his crew could see, and took his place at point, where he could spray and protect as needed. Praecursoris swung in to take Maximus' place, and Temeraire backwinged back to his usual position. Nitidus pulled in more closely to tighten the gap where Messoria normally would have been, as she was fighting another Pêcheur-Rayé down farther below. Formation rise together was the next signal given, and they obeyed. They were going to get Lily above the wounded heavyweight that had attacked her, and let her spray him, Daemon realized, and felt a mixture of glee and pity, but he pushed both away to concentrate on keeping watch on the other dragons positions. The signal Maximus break away was given, and the Regal Copper gave a final slash of his claws to the Grand Chevalier before doing so, just a few moments too soon; the Chevalier's Captain saw the danger his already wounded beast was in, and quickly sent the dragon back aloft. Although bleeding from a great many wounds, they did not hamper the massive dragon much. No, it was the burns he'd gained on his face that was giving him the most trouble, especially those on his sensitive snout. Shame that I missed his eyes, Daemon though, mourning his still too-thin streams of acid-water. Oh well, at least it got him to release Lily.
The signal, Formation hold elevation, and they gave up pursuit. In the distance, the French dragons came together in a loose cluster, wheeling around as they considered their counter-attack. But then they all turned and, as one, fled rapidly north-east, the Pêcheur-Rayé disengaging from Messoria and fleeing after them. The look-outs were calling, and when Daemon turned his head, he saw ten dragons flying towards them at great speed, British signals flashing out from the Longwing in the lead.
"Oh good," Daemon remarked easily. "The cavalry has arrived." Joshua laughed and patted him on the head with a hand that trembled slightly from the remains of adrenalin and fear, and now relief.
The Longwing proved to be Excidium, and he and his formation accompanied them along the rest of the journey to the Dover covert, the two heavyweight Chequered Nettles among them taking it in turn to support Lily on the way, while Daemon flew backwards in front of her and continuously and comfortingly crooned and purred, nuzzling her face and murmuring gently to keep her awake and aware, but not frightened. She was making reasonable progress, but her head was drooping, and she made a very heavy landing, which worried Daemon as he landed lightly nearby. Her legs trembled horribly as she held herself up just long enough for the crew to scramble off before she collapsed. Daemon let his own crew off before moving forward to curl next to her, crooning and nuzzling and licking her, his parental instincts flaring high as he cuddled next to the other acid-spitter.
"I'm going to stay here with her," he told Joshua and his crew after he nuzzled and checked each one over, snarling darkly when he'd seen the rifle-ball wound in Lieutenant Smithe's left arm, which the surgeon had easily dealt with as it was only a flesh wound to the fatty part of the limb. Joshua nodded, and led his crew away, talking quietly with Rogers and Smithe, probably going over what the men had done and what they could do to improve their tactics. Daemon silently curled around Lily, and stayed awake while Captain Harcourt, unashamed of her tears, rushed to Lily's head, caressing her and murmuring words of love and encouragement. The surgeons began their work under his watchful, protective eyes. He remained awake the whole night, murmuring to Harcourt as she, too, stayed awake, and nodding to Praecursoris' Captain, Choiseul, the man who had come to keep the young Captain company. He stayed until Lily had begun to finally eat, and then left to talk with the other Captains, after having spent the whole night with them as well, to help keep watch over Lily to ease Harcourt's mind.
Joshua stopped by to stroke his face and scratch him under the chin, and ask him if he was alright, to which he replied he was quite fine, thank you, before the young man went and helped Harcourt's crew out with a few things, easing the Captain's distracted mind a bit by taking some of her responsibilities. Tired in the morning light, Daemon nuzzled Lily, who tiredly lay her head on the ground, and closed his eyes for a quick rest.
He woke sleepily to Laurence bringing Harcourt food, and murmured a greeting to the Captain, yawning hugely. He watched with interest as Choiseul returned, and Harcourt leaned against him and called him by his first name. A small flash of jealousy startled him, and he blinked, before shaking his head and rising carefully to his feet. Lily looked up at him, anxious.
"Where are you going?" she asked, a hint of plaintiveness in her voice; Daemon nuzzled her face gently.
"I am just going to stretch my wings for a moment, Lily," he soothed. "I will be back swiftly, no worries. You know how fast I can fly." She hesitated, but then nodded and went back to eating chunks of raw beef from one of her crews hands while Harcourt ate. Daemon rose into the air and, with three hard pumps of his wings, flung himself through the air at a tremendous pace, eyes squinting slightly against the wind. Abruptly, he flared his wings out to their widest, and grinned when his body shot forward as he came to an abrupt stop, twisting and flapping his wings again at a slower pace, so that he could return to the injured dragons side. The unsettling spurt of jealousy was gone, replaced with amusement at himself, and some bemusement as well. Why would he be jealous of someone for being happy with another person like that? He pushed the thoughts and questions aside, though, and landed once more in Lily's clearing to nuzzle and comfort the injured dragon. Joshua was waiting for him, and stroked his muzzle when he bumped the boy in the stomach curiously.
"We have today to relax and take care of one another," the sixteen-year-old told him calmly. "But tomorrow it's right back to patrols and training, understand?" Understanding indeed the importance of their duty, especially with Lily injured, Daemon nodded and lay his head down next to the sleepy Longwing's to rest.
The next day Lily was at ease enough that he could go find his own clearing to claim, taking Joshua with him so that his Captain would know which was his. He chose a smaller one fitting for his size, and walked around it for a few moments, removing large rocks and logs from certain areas, and just generally cleaning it up, while Joshua went to let his crew know where his clearing was. After that, they settled into a routine for the next few days, where they were reordered into patrols to keep them busy and in practice. Daemon most often found himself flying at late evening with Nitidus and one of the Chequered Nettles' from before, whose name was Ferreolus, and he was a quiet fellow who was just like his name, which meant steadfast.
They met a problem only once, at the farthest reach of their patrol, nearly a week after they'd started the steady pattern, in the form of a Fleur-de-Nuit who was flying by himself. It was a different one then the one Daemon had faced when fighting with Lily and the others. This one was slightly bigger, stronger-looking, and a little younger, with a scar leading down his face over his left eye and down to his neck. Daemon flew ahead and circled the dragon, who snarled at him, and narrowed his eyes as they came face-to-face, the darkness allowing only them to see, while Nitidus and Ferreolus flew nearby, confused and trying to find them.
"…Bonjour," Daemon said simply, watch the other night-flyer. "Vous êtes en infeériorité numérique, monsieur. Vous pouvez laisser, cependant." The Fleur-de-Nuit glared at him, then frowned, confused, and tilted his head.
"Daemon, what are you doing?" Joshua called; Daemon tilted his head.
"Giving him a chance to leave without having to fight," Daemon replied easily.
"Comment vous nommez?" Daemon blink.
"Daemon," he replied. "Et tu?" The black-and-blue dragon nodded slowly.
"Garnar," he replied. "Nous nous rencontrerons à nouveau, Daemon." With that, he turned around and flew off away from the direction Daemon and his patrol had come from, and Daemon watched him, wondering what he had meant by that. Shaking his head, he returned to his two comrades, and they finished the patrol. Joshua stroked his nose tenderly before leaving to report, and he curled in his clearing, lifting his head but, instead of watching the east as was his usual habit, he found himself staring in the direction Garnar had flown, and his thoughts wandering too often to his parting words.
What had the French dragon meant? He wondered. It had taken him a few minutes to understand what he had said for, though Praecursoris and Temeraire were helping him, his French was still a little difficult, but that didn't mean he hadn't understood the promise behind those words, and he was curious. His next few nights of patrol were filled with the curious hope that he would, indeed, see the Fleur-de-Nuit again, but ended in disappointment when all the met with was the distant form of a group of five Pêcheur-Rayé going in the same direction, and soon disappearing from sight.
Soon it was time for Excidium to leave, taking his Captain, one Jane Rolland, with him, as well as the rest of his formation, including Ferreolus. Daemon was a little sad to see his new friend go, but understood and simply waved goodbye with his wing until they were out of sight, sighing a little sadly as he returned to his clearing.
Life was going to get boring now. He just knew it.
Although they kept a wary eye on the Channel skies, the first weeks after Excidium's departure were quiet. No raids came, and Lenton was of the opinion that the French still thought Excidium was with them, which Daemon thought an understandable idea. After all, the French hadn't seen the Longwing leave, had they?
"He says the longer we keep them thinking that, the better," Joshua told Daemon after a Captain's meeting. "Not only does it benefit us, but it also means they don't realize another formation is approaching their fleet in Cadiz." Daemon agreed that this was a good idea as he curled around his Captain, mourning the lack of lake at the Dover Covert, though he liked the privacy of having his own clearing.
One night, as he was watching the east, a strange high keening sound rose through the air, and Daemon was on his feet without a thought, his instincts snarling about hatchlings being in danger. Wings mantling, teeth barred, he rose silently into the air and flew over the trees to land in Lily's clearing, and let loose a challenging scream, his voice loud and furious at the sight of Choiseul holding a blade to Harcourt's throat and using her as a hostage against both Lily and Laurence, who had apparently come to see what the noise was as well. Snarling, Daemon's head snapped up to see Praecursoris flying above, and Temeraire, and hesitated, eyes snapping back to see that Laurence had taken his presence as an opportunity to attack Choiseul, and the two were rolling on the ground now, Harcourt out from between them.
Daemon lunged forward when Choiseul managed to pin Laurence with an arm to his throat, choking him, and scooped the Frenchman off of him, tossing him a good twenty feet away to roll harshly. Snarling, he leapt at the downed man and pinned his now-unconscious form furiously, throwing back his head to let loose another shriek, this one of triumph, catching Praecursoris' and Temeraire's attention. The French dragon cried out, and reluctantly landed, Temeraire watching him warily as Lily's crew entered the clearing, which was just a little ways off from Lily's and too small for the larger dragon to land in. Daemon reluctantly gave up his victim to the crew when they approached him, after Joshua coaxed him with soft words and pats, and then grabbed his Captain and took to the air, flying back to his clearing and curling tightly around the little human.
He'd die before he let anyone threaten Joshua like that, he decided, nuzzling the sixteen-year-old possessively. If ever anyone got their blade or gun near his hatchling-Captain's body, he would do whatever it took to get the boy to safety, but he would forever remember the attacker's face, their name, their scent and he would rip them to shreds and leave them begging for death for daring to attack what was his to protect. He didn't realize he was growling until Joshua stroked him under the chin, and even then he couldn't quite stop, and instead only managed to quiet it a bit, settling down for a sleepless night of possessively brooding over his Captain and thinking of all the ways he would kill anyone who threatened him.
It was a very interesting night.
A/N: And there we go, the next chapter! BAD CHOISEUL! I felt horrible for Praecursoris in the book, but still, Choiseul was a prideful coward. R&R!
Daemon: Hello. You are outnumbered, sir. You may leave, though.
Garnar: What is your name?
Daemon: And you?
Garnar: We will meet again, Daemon.