So sorry that I haven't updated this... I've been busy. Go visit my Deviantart profile ( ) and you'll understand a little better. I am a person of many hobbies, and writing is just one of them.

Dun dun dunnnnnn and Barri has left to fly BC and Gar to the base! So now Milla can relax.

...

Right?

IN THIS CHAPTER:

Barricade

Dreadwing

Knockout

Soundwave

Blackout

Midst (OC)

Spite (OC)

Malinda (OC)

Minro (OC)

Gee, who knew that I had so many OC's? Minimal parts and dialogue though. Mostly Milla (obviously, this is 1st person), Barricade and Dreadwing.

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY more flight scenes~

Chapter 3: Clearing Fog

I somehow remembered the walk to the pass being shorter than it was walking back. Maybe that was just because I had been completely goal-oriented whenever I'd made the journey before. A shadow swept across the plains. I shivered and ducked down into the grass. 76670. He was flying lazily over the area. It unnerved me, how calmly he glided over the grass. I knew he'd kill in an instant. Unlike the Decepticons, not all dragons were here purely for war crimes. There were a select few, usually members of the smaller Higher Clans, that were convicted serial killers, rapists, or anything else about that awful. I had long suspected 76670 of being among those few. I decided to lie still until he left the area. I leaned my head forward into the grass and tucked my arms underneath the rest of me. This way, anything not camouflaged was hidden. I would occasionally glance back at the sky, and see nothing, but my peripheral vision was severely hampered by the grass, so I didn't dare move. I heard the sound of wing beats near me. A chill ran down my spine. I moved into a crouch and inched away from the sound. Footfalls moved toward me and I could hear the faint huffling of a creature following a scent trail. A red paw became visible and then 76670's head, glowing green eyes triumphant, slipped through the grass and found me. He hissed and then I realized why he had the gaps in his teeth. Flattened against the roof of his mouth were two unmistakable snake fangs. I froze. His lips curled back into a sinister smile.

"Fancy seeing you here all alone without your armor." I glared at him. "The dirty looks will get you nowhere, Private. Now what were you up to in the crags the other day?"

"Exploring," I said smoothly, "that is sort of my job isn't it?" His menacing eyes were riveted on me. I wished he'd look at something else.

"Have you found anything?" I remembered 46651 and wondered if there was some sort of connection.

"No. Why would you care?" His quills rose.

"Liar liar." His fangs slid out and he hissed at me again, only this time it was much more snakelike. "I know what you know. And you'll die right here before anyone else finds out." He pulled back his head and gaped, ready to strike. A furious scream shattered the sky and 76670 whipped around and howled back. Another dragon roared at him, though I couldn't see who it was from this angle. 76670 lunged and I heard the two scuffling, scattered shrieks of pain evident amidst the growls. Finally 76670 wailed and sprang into the air nursing a blood-spattered paw and disappeared from view. I continued to hold still, unsure of who had come to my rescue. I could hear the other dragon's head swishing through the grass for my scent, and then a familiar white eye became visible behind the vegetation.

"Barricade…" I mumbled, too frightened to raise my voice, and he froze, trying to locate the source of the sound. His head disappeared for a moment and then reappeared on my right, concern evident in his eyes.

"He didn't bite you, did he?" I shook my head. "Good. He's venomous—he'd have killed you." He sniffed me. "You're afraid." I said nothing. He nudged me with his nose. "Stand up. Come on, do you want to be here if he comes back?" That certainly got me to move. I brushed the dust off of myself and got a better look at Barricade. His snout had a scrape on it, presumably caused by 76670's tail or paw, and he was bleeding from a scratch at the base of his neck. The dragon followed my gaze and nudged me. "Nothing new. Now come on, you have some explaining to do." I climbed up his shoulder and onto his back. He shivered suddenly and I realized why. My left knee had brushed what appeared to be a dart in his lower shoulder. That was new; it hadn't been there when I'd spoken to him before. I tugged it out and it spattered clear liquid. It was some sort of poison or tranquilizer, I decided. I patted him and he seemed to relax. "That's going to be part of your explanation. But I don't like it here; too much potential for other… encounters... Hang on." He lunged into the air and suddenly we were moving like the wind again, yet not quite so fast as before. We glided out over the water and headed left. He flew low until we were obscured by the rocky cliffs of the nearest island. I assumed he was taking me to Vephora.

"Why do you do that?"

"Do what?" he grunted.

"Fly so low like that."

"So the Blackwings won't see me." I frowned.

"The other Clan?"

"Yeah, them." He seemed tired. His wings kept drifting low against his side rather than extended out away from him. He would occasionally lose altitude.

"Maybe you should land." He said nothing. I just hung on nervously. Finally I spotted a land mass on the horizon. Barricade rose higher and we flew over the island, but did not stop. "Isn't this Vephora?"

"No." I realized that he was panting.

"Barricade, stop." He ignored me and headed toward some particularly menacing rocks just offshore. The Thunder Barrier. It was the remains of another island that had eroded away and kept any ships that were crazy enough to come near here out of the view of the dragons. Barricade was sinking now, and his wing muscles shivered. "You need to land," I said worriedly, "or we'll fall!" He growled and threw himself at one of the crags. His claws caught on it and he hung there, panting. Spray from the waves breaking against the rock spattered us. Barricade growled again and started climbing. He was visibly shaking now, his paws slipping on the damp rock. I clung to him, terrified. Finally he found a ledge and hauled himself onto it. He moved away from the edge and lay down, eyes closed. I hopped off of his back. "Barricade?" He glanced at me through a half-open eye. "What's wrong…?" He let his head fall to the ground.

"P…poison…" he hissed. "Guards… afrai… hic!" his slitted pupils flattened to barely slivers and he went rigid for a moment, then twitched. A violent spasm gripped him, then he retracted back to his human form, shivering. I nervously went over to him.

"Barricade?" He opened his eyes and looked at me.

"It… it's not… enough… to kill me…" he said, teeth chattering. "D…dammit… Fuckin'… guards…" It was cold by the water. The sun hadn't come out yet, so the ocean still gave off cool updrafts, and the stone was freezing. I rummaged around in my pack and found my jacket.

"Sit up," I instructed. Barricade frowned at me.

"I'm fine… The… shaking… will stop… in a… few minutes…" His eyes were becoming glazed and he was having trouble keeping them open.

"I don't believe you." He groaned and pushed himself up with much difficulty. I pulled him over against the rock face and draped my jacket over his shoulders. He said nothing, only closed his eyes again. I curled up on top of my pack and tried to conserve heat. The wind was like a volley of arrows against my back. A shiver passed through me. After about ten minutes Barricade fell unconscious, his chin resting on his chest. I wished I could do the same. I spent about an hour surveying the other tall spires of the Thunder Barrier. I drew a few in my sketchpad, despite my numbing hands. After some time a white fog materialized beneath us and began to rise, swirling and threatening to engulf us and our perch. I nudged Barricade awake when it started to obscure my long distance vision. He growled and opened his eyes. I was relieved that they were no longer milky white.

"What…?" Realization dawned in his eyes. "Dammit, we have to get out of here… This is the morning fog; I don't think there's a dragon out there that can fly through this stuff once it gets thick, 'cept maybe Soundwave…" He stood up and brushed my jacket off his shoulders. I stuffed it in my pack along with my sketchpad and pencils. Barricade shook himself and his eyes glowed. He rapidly grew back to his dragon form and waited for me to climb onto his back. "See; told you the stuff wouldn't kill me." I frowned and he paused. He knew I'd been worried. "…whatever." He leapt into the air and flew for the island we'd passed earlier.

"Why didn't we just go there in the first place?" I asked. The dragon's quills pulsed slightly, similar to one clenching and unclenching their jaw.

"…I don't know…" That was when I first began to realize that the dragons, although immensely more powerful than humans, were still vulnerable to the same things we were. The poison had probably influenced Barricade's sense of direction.

We landed at the site of some old ruins. I slid off of Barricade's back and looked around in awe.

"Whoa…" He gestured at a stone.

"You can look around later. Right now you have some explaining to do." Wilting, I settled myself atop the rock. The dragon lied down on his elbows and feet like a dog would. "Start from the beginning; who is this "Gar"?" I sighed and explained about the stealing. Barricade was surprised. "Didn't take you for the thieving type. I have to thank you on Bonecrusher's behalf though; he probably would've died otherwise." Once I'd filled him in on my capture and what had happened before I'd gone and gotten him, he seemed to understand. "That would explain why your guards had such a problem with me. Your medic is a spineless ass; he asked me to mock attack the base while he slipped inside with Bonecrusher amongst the chaos. That nearly cost me. What's with your scientists that are making those things, eh? They keep increasing the potency." I shrugged. "Well you'd best find out before somebody turns up dead." That reminded me of 46651.

"Barricade… do your… fellow inmates… often kill people?" He grunted.

"Often? Hell, I don't know about successfully, but yeah, there's always somebody trying to kill somebody else. You just learn not to get in the middle of it." I fidgeted. He narrowed his eyes. "Why…?" I told him about what 76670 had said. He moaned. "Aww, kid…! How is it that of all the killers out there, you manage to piss off Minro?"

"I think maybe if I tell someone then he'll leave me alone because it's already out…"

"What?! Are you fucking insane?! He'll tear you limb from limb if you so much assqueak!Aww fuck…! We're gonna have to go to Dreadwing about this. This is bad news. Why do you insist on being such a damn trouble magnet?" I bowed my head in shame, trembling slightly at the thought of a monster out to kill me. For a moment Barricade continued to glower, but when he realized how afraid he'd made me his gaze softened. "Look… I didn't mean to scare you…" I said nothing. He paused for a moment, unsure of how to continue. "…come here." I trudged over to him. "As long as Dreadwing or I have anything to say about it, he won't touch you." I hugged him. He tensed momentarily, then awkwardly lifted his paw and placed it across my shoulders. He let me cling to him for a few moments, and then gently nudged me away. "Humans," he muttered, "never thought I'd willingly touch one." But he leaned over so that I could climb onto his back anyway. I examined the site of the dart wound. It was a tiny prick, but it had swollen ominously. I let my finger hover over it and the dragon shuddered and his quills stood on end. "…don't touch that…"

We were barely in the air for ten minutes before Barricade started shaking again. I could hear him swearing under his breath; we were crossing open sea. We started to drift back and forth until finally the dragon's pride succumbed to the toxin.

"Wh… which w…w…way?" he stammered, wings shuddering violently to keep us aloft.

"I don't know! What does it look like?"

"…does what look like…?" He didn't even remember where we were going.

"Vephora. Are there any landmarks?"

"Oh… Vephora… right…"

"Landmarks."

"Um… no… It's bigger…" His head swayed and we dropped fifteen feet.

"Anything different?" I asked, trying to keep the terror out of my voice.

"Oh… yeah… Uhhh…" his tongue caught on his teeth and blood dribbled down the side of his jaw. "L…lightning tree… somewhere… Which way…" I glanced around frantically for a dead tree. Finally I spotted it; not the closest island, but possibly reachable.

"Left and straight, let's go!"

"…which… left?" I leaned in the direction.

"Follow my weight." Barricade coughed; it was a harsh, dry sound that made my teeth grind. A spatter of red dotted his muzzle. I wasn't sure if it was from his bitten tongue or something more serious, and I didn't want to find out now. "Come on!" He grumbled to himself and flew, fighting the headwind toward the blob of greenish-gray. At the edge he dropped and barely caught himself in time. We still crashed, and I went flying into a bush. Barricade jerked back to his human form and retched. Frothy red-stained saliva was strung between his teeth like a sort of grotesque spiderweb. I looked around for any sort of help. No one. Barricade was so cold and drenched in sweat he may as well have fallen into the water. I grabbed him under his arms and started dragging him. He did not protest. When I reached to top of a hill he mumbled something. "What?"

"…scream for them… Like… like this…" He managed to produce a weak pattern of noises. It was short and easy to remember. I took a huge breath and repeated it at a much greater volume. The island seemed to eat the sound. I would not be discouraged, however, and tried again. My throat was getting scratchy. Once again the grass swallowed my attempted roar. Fury and helpless frustration bubbled up in my throat and I threw my head back and just screamed. No pattern, no particular pitch, not even the word "help". I just screamed and screamed. I mashed my every emotion into it. Anything so that a pair of ears somewhere would detect it. I was getting lightheaded and hoarse voiced, but I no longer cared. Through the spots in my eyes, a dark silver dragon appeared. Please let it be a friendly… I didn't recognize him. Little did I know that he knew me. He'd watched me just as I'd watched his clan, and he could appreciate my work. I would not personally meet him until a long time into the future, but his name was Soundwave.

The next thirty minutes were a blur. The blackish-silver dragon did not speak to me, just carefully grabbed my shirt in his jaws and dropped me onto his back. He'd done the same with Barricade and I figured I should keep my friend from falling. This dragon was considerably larger that Barricade, and flew the two of us with ease. We were at Knockout's within the minute. Then I was just somewhere for about twenty-five minutes, answering questions and worrying about a bully and a murderer. And then I was asleep.

I woke when something prodded me in the back. I just held still at first, trying to place myself. I was somewhere vaguely familiar… Vephora. Again with the prodding… I rolled over, irritated. Staring straight at me were two children, a boy and a girl, both around age seven. I blinked and wondered if I'd gone mad. They giggled at me. I said nothing, just watched them. A woman (or more accurately, a dragoness) came into the room and sighed deeply when she saw them.

"Spite and Malinda. Come here right now." I almost smiled. She sounded like my mother. The two trotted out of the room, chittering excitedly. The dragoness sighed and looked at me. "I'm sorry they insist on haunting you. Anything new is interesting for them, and they've never seen a human before." This time I did smile. But something more startling was clawing its way into my head. The only way for children—no, hatchlings—to be anywhere near the isle was for them to have been born here. Which meant the dragons were reproducing. But then, I thought to myself, whatever made us think that they wouldn't? Humans, if left to their own devices here, most certainly would. The boy's fuzzy brown hair appeared around the corner. The dragoness shooed him away. "Should've named him Nuisance instead of Spite. Boy's got a knack for trouble." I smiled again.

"Whose are they?" The dragoness rolled her eyes.

"Honestly, does it even matter at this point? Besides the hatchlings, you'd be hard pressed to find a virgin here. The boy's father is dead; a distant cousin of Dreadwing's. And his uncle, Maverick, isn't the most shining example for him, you know? His mother… she's here but she doesn't watch him. So I keep an eye on him. The girl is my niece; both of her parents are dead. I'm Midst by the way. And you are… Milla?" I nodded. Suddenly my name was being chanted over and over as the hatchlings paraded back into the room. Midst looked like her head was going to explode. I figured I'd give her a hand.

"Hi there," I said and sat on the edge of my cot. "What are you doing?" The boy puffed out his chest.

"I'm Captain Spite and this is Private Mal!" he said in a mock of a deep impressive voice. "We have to watch the human so that she doesn't do anything bad!" The girl, slightly younger than her playmate, looked hurt.

"Spite! You said I could be a Officer!"

"Well I changed my mind." I stepped in to avoid calamity.

"If you're in the military you can't just change your mind. You have to stick with it. I'm Private Kapalon, but go ahead and call me Milla. What do you have to stop the human from doing?" I silently laughed at the fact that they were speaking to me as if I was not the human that they were watching.

"We gotta keep the human outa the barracks!" barked 'Captain' Spite. I smirked.

"Okay. But I don't think you know a thing about humans."

"Yeah we do!" chirped Malinda, "they're slow an' little and they go like this," she staggered around with her head up and her legs forced straight.

"Okay, then let's play a little game. I'm the human and you gotta keep me out of the barracks. Okay?" Midst was looking at me as if I was suicidal. I grinned at her.

"Yeah!" Spite howled.

"Ready? Go!" I jogged across the room for the door, the hatchlings on my tail. Spite was snapping commands and grabbing at me. I pretended to trip. "Oh no," I gasped dramatically and fell. Surprisingly Malinda reacted the fastest and pounced.

"I got her! Do I getta pomoshun?" I tried my hardest not to laugh at her pronunciation error.

"Who says you've got me?" I growled playfully and wriggled out of her grasp.

"Stop her!" yowled Spite, and we were off.

I honestly have no idea what was going on in the barracks before we came in, but whatever it was it stopped when the ridiculously overdramatic teenager and her pursuers came barreling into the room. Spite really did trip me that time.

"Oh no!" I said again. I was beginning to enjoy this. "They've got me!" The three of us became a writhing mass on the floor, me 'attempting to break free' and them dragging me down. Eventually I realized we were making a scene and flopped over on my back and stuck out my tongue. Spite took a minute to figure out that I was 'dead'.

"Now we 'afta drag the person back to jail!" he announced proudly and took hold of my foot and tugged. "Mal, you gotta help me!" Malinda grabbed my other foot and the two of them managed, with a bit of surreptitious help from me, to drag me out of the barracks. When we got back into my room Midst told them that that was enough for today and that it was time to go to sleep. They both groaned and trudged out of the room. Midst raised an eyebrow at me.

"You didn't have to play with them."

"Why not? They wanted to." She laughed.

"Because they're a handful! Impossible to wear out." I grinned.

"Oh, you should've seen me when I was their age." She laughed and then followed the hatchlings into the barracks.

I decided I was bored and took my sketchbook out of my backpack. I decided to add pages for Spite and Malinda. Although I didn't know what their dragon forms were, I jotted down their human appearance.

"It's about time someone played with those two." I didn't jump, but I startled a little. The dragon standing in the doorway was tall and broad shouldered yet thin. His hair was black with lighter highlights and his eyes glittered blue and red. "I sometimes do, but not often enough. I've got other things to do you know. I'm a soldier."

"So how much of an idiot did that dramatic incident make me look like?" I asked, shaking my head and going back to my notes.

"A complete one. But honestly, most of us are idiots; and I don't mean the comic kind. I'm Blackout. The medic wants to talk to you."

I followed Blackout over to the medic's portion of the cave. A particularly dejected soul was sitting off to the side of the room; he looked like he'd eaten something that didn't agree with him. Knockout himself was on the other side of the room. Dreadwing was with him and with a shiver of cold I recognized Barricade prone on the floor behind them. I felt like someone had just used my spine as a xylophone. Apart from Barricade, I knew next to no-one here. And though I had talked to Dreadwing and Knockout before, I was still uneasy without a familiar face.

"Er, yes sirs?" I straightened and put on my best submissive attitude; the same one I used with my own superiors.

"Do you know what happened?" asked Knockout bluntly. I froze for a moment from being put on the spot, but then mentally gave myself a shake and nodded.

"I do sirs. Would you like me to explain?"

"If you would be so kind." Dreadwing gestured at a chair. Once the three of us had sat down, I proceeded to explain all the way from finding Bonecrusher to the crash landing. They both were caught completely off-guard by my stealing; perhaps I just gave off an innocent and naïve aura. Or perhaps they were simply confused by how easily I handled my conflicting loyalties. My second idea proved correct. Dreadwing eyed me closely. "You did not feel as if you had betrayed your own by taking their supplies for one of ours?" I shook my head.

"Not to be rude, but most people I talk to, yourself included, seem to oversimplify this situation. It suddenly becomes human versus dragon—or, more accurately, never shifted away from human versus dragon. The point of this isle is not for each side to resent each other and yet live with each other like bickering siblings; you're here for your war crimes and we're here to keep an eye on you. That includes making sure that you and your fellows are safe and can live peacefully until your punishment has ended. But unfortunately, as time has passed and relations have dwindled, I think both parties have lost sight of that… And it pains me to see the lengths that either of us will go to in order to ensure our 'safety' from the other. There aren't supposed to be 'sides' anymore; just us. Humans and dragons, stuck way the hell out here, away from what we know and trying to sort things out. That's how I see it. Helping Bonecrusher was my job. That's why I'm here; to make sure things don't fall apart more than they already have. But sometimes it's hard to do that…" Dreadwing was quiet for a moment. His eyebrows inched together ever so slightly and the corner of his lip twitched. My blood ran cold and a pang of anxiety pricked me. The deep panic of not being taken seriously resurfaced and crouched, fearful, in my head. This was the expression that I had so long known to be silent laughter; this was the look adults gave me when I had a somewhat outlandish idea that they thought would never work. I felt ridiculed. Had he not been in a position of power I would've called him on it, but he was, so I just fell silent and dropped my eyes to the ground, acknowledging my defeat. I was surprised when he leaned over so that he was eye level with me.

"You're not a soldier. That much is clear. Where were you born?" A stab of incredulity vibrated through me. No-one had ever really asked me where I came from.

"A small town in the middle of nowhere called Waterfort. We didn't get much traffic; we were right at the heart of a huge mountain range. My father and I sometimes worked with the local maker—that was what we called the guy that did virtually anything; butcher, carpenter, candle-maker, smith… if you could think of it, he probably knew how to do it. Nothing too special, though. I'm your average specimen of humankind." Dreadwing was giving me that cryptic half-smile again.

"You're how old? Forgive me for asking; our human forms grow at a different rate than a true human's…"

"I turned 18 six months ago sir."

"You've been here for four months, correct?"

"Just about." Dreadwing nodded.

"They ran out of options." It was a crude way of putting it, but I nodded. "Yet you alone have managed to make contact with us. Where all others have failed, you have succeeded." I was taken aback. I hadn't expected to be complimented by anyone once I realized what the Isle was like, least of all the prisoners themselves.

"Corporal Justin has…" Dreadwing cut me off.

"The Low Clan lives apart from the rest of us. They are the exception, and I believe your superiors know this. No, only you have been able to reach us… It is strange. I doubt it is your age or your gender; we've had other young humans, male and female, attempt to interact with us and none of them had any success. Perhaps it is your upbringing that gives you an edge; perhaps whether or not you are a soldier has little to do with this."

"Maybe… sir… maybe it's because I'm not a soldier. I've been around plenty of them, and, when I think about it, it makes a lot of sense actually. I mean, a soldier spends a lot of his time thinking about how to destroy the enemy, yes? He can't think about who the enemy is—what job they had before the war, if they have kids and a wife at home—because if he were to make that sort of connection it would hinder his ability to attack and kill them. And then, even once the war is over, I think… I think some of that barrier remains in place. He still can't think about anyone he considers the enemy on a personal level; it's a defense mechanism. But I… I don't have that. I've spent all my time trying to figure out what's going on inside someone's head, not worrying about whether they'll try to kill me. There's not that 'him or me' mentality. Maybe that's why I'm here right now… My job isn't a soldier's job. And really, nobody's job here is. This is a remote colony, not a battlefield." Dreadwing nodded slowly.

"I understand what you are saying. And I agree. I certainly do not consider why a person behaves in such the way that they do. But I also believe that it is a personal trait as well. I doubt that all civilians think like you do." I dipped my head.

"Um, no sir… I don't think they do either." Dreadwing was giving me that look again. I had now begun to equate it with prying curiosity. I disliked it. Meanwhile, Knockout was continuing to monitor Barricade.

"Well then," he growled, "if you want to do your job a little more, tell your boys to stop loading those damn darts with so much tranquilizer. I don't have an antidote and it's potent enough to kill at this amount. Do you have the dart?" I shook my head.

"I pulled it out sir."

"Did it seem empty?"

"No sir; some poured out when I removed it." Knockout shook his head.

"Be glad you did; any more of the stuff and he'd be comatose. Though I will concede Barricade is small for a male of our kind, he shouldn't be this out of it." I looked at my friend, worried.

"He won't… die… will he?" Knockout huffed.

"Grown rather attached to him, have you? Huh, I'd hardly think he'd be the one to befriend a human, but…"

"I don't really know anyone else," I said in my defense. I couldn't stand it whenever people made romantic jokes—particularly when it was clear that the subjects weren't interested in each other. But I forced myself to swallow my pride while Knockout chuckled. Dreadwing said nothing. He didn't seem to appreciate the joke either.

"No, he won't die. He'll be confined to the barracks with no exercise for a considerable amount of time, but he should recover with no lasting effects." Dreadwing nodded and turned to me.

"You and I have other matters to discuss. You mentioned a dragon you referred to as 76670; do you by chance know his name?" I hesitated, then remembered what Barricade had said about the matter. Dreadwing would probably know how to deal with the situation.

"Barricade said his name was Minro." Dreadwing's eyes widened and then he grimaced.

"This is a complex problem. Minro has no clan and bows to no pressure from other dragons. Had it been any other dragon I would threaten war between our clans if he were to harm you, but I cannot act against Minro in such a way. The most I can do for you is keep eyes on you." Hot fear mixed with embarrassment crawled up my neck.

"I'm sorry to be such a bother to you. You don't have to do anything…"

"I do if you'd like to live. And we owe the lives of two of our own to you; I cannot ignore that."

"It's my fault Barricade got into this mess anyway; I went and asked him for help."

"And he gave it to you. That was his choice. You are entitled to our protection."

"Thank you sir." He nodded. "If I may inquire, how long have I been here?"

"You've been AWOL for one night." I groaned quietly and Dreadwing's lip twitched in an amused expression. "We didn't think it a good idea to take you back to your base right away. You were tired and somewhat confused." I sighed. "These things happen," said Dreadwing knowingly, "and I believe if you strategically mention my support that it may not hinder your advance through the ranks." I smiled inwardly. He'd known I was uncomfortable. Perhaps he'd even been in my position, once, a long time ago. "Even so," he said and began to walk back toward the barracks, "I do not believe it is a good idea to stay out for a second time. Come." I trotted along behind him. He was tall—at least six foot six—and loomed above me by over a foot. I looked like a child next to him. "Blackout. You will shadow us." I caught the 'us' and glanced at Dreadwing, confused. He continued through the barracks. "The rest of you should all be aware that the girl is now formally our ally," he said loudly, making sure everyone could hear. "Should anything or anyone threaten her I expect you to act as if she were your clanmate." Midst caught Maverick making a face and socked him in the jaw.

I followed Dreadwing to the exit that Barricade and Wily had taken me to the first time I'd been here. Here he assumed his own dragon form. When I saw his coloration I realized why he must've rescued me from Bonecrusher that day; he was the dark blue alpha I'd spoken to weeks ago. It was easy enough to distinguish an alpha dragon; their posture and the way the others reacted to them were key indicators. I had also noticed, however, that the higher in the ranks a dragon was, the more decorative their quills and horns appeared. Dreadwing's quills were yellow-tipped and stood straight where his head met his neck. They were also longer than the others'. He also had small horns on the back of his jaw, something I hadn't noticed on any other dragon from his clan. I'd seen them on alphas from other clans, but his were smaller than theirs; as if he was reluctant to announce his dominance. I did not mention this. He was much larger than Barricade; his wingspan was probably one and one half times that of my friend. He had two frills on the sides of the tip of his tail that he kept stretching and folding; as if fidgeting. He leaned over so that I could climb onto his back. I settled myself at the base of his neck and hung on to his quills. They were also considerably stiffer than Barricade's; this was probably what made them stand on end. He didn't crouch like Barricade had; he simply stepped out into the air. He flew much more smoothly than the others; perhaps he simply soared more often than he utilized powered flight. When I turned to look behind me I realized Blackout, a dark gray dragon with lighter markings and similar wingspan, flew the same way. I figured it was simply a matter if physiology. I decided that I liked Barricade's erratic and almost joyful swooping better.

We coasted along the water, the gray clouds above us like the surface to an ocean of sky. I did not have the deep focus of flight like I'd had with Barricade, so I twisted and looked around at the land masses we were passing. When I turned to look at Blackout I noticed he'd remained above us. I put two and two together and realized that it was a tactic; a formation. Blackout was in a good position to attack should anyone rush us. Do they expect an attack? I spotted my island appearing on the horizon. There was no sunset tonight; the stormy skies simply stole the light from the sky. Blackout vanished in the fading light. Dreadwing angled upward and thrust his wings to the sea. We rose rapidly and he cleared the rock ledges. He glided over a few hills and then simply stepped out of the sky, his wings and tail stretched open like kites. He landed soundlessly. I slipped off his back before he leaned over. Blackout was simply gone; no wonder Dreadwing had chosen him. I thanked the great blue dragon and trotted back toward the base. He didn't leave; he watched me the whole time. His looming shadow was still there when I reached the entrance to the base and turned to look back.