Chapter 1 : Of Ridgebacks and Redheads
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Chapter image by VioletBlade @ TDA
“Okay, so we’re entering the wilderness pen. This is, in all essence, a very large, magically enforced pen. We do have actual cages for the dragons we are currently tagging, but we will only be bypassing them today. The dragons in there are a little too aggressive today. We will, however, have you all be a part of the tagging we are planning in two days.” The tour guide kept walking as I looked around. This place was amazing! “Now, we will be walking by these cages in a few moments, so please stay quiet and don’t frighten the dragons that we ha – CHARLIE WEASLEY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THAT CAGE?!”
My eyes bugged out of my head as I saw a redheaded, stocky boy in one of the iron cages. A dragon – a Norwegian Ridgeback to be precise – was in front of him, seemingly studying him. And he seemed to be doing the same thing.
“CHARLIE!” The tour guide shrieked again and ran over to the cage, quickly opening the cage with a swish of her wand.
I looked around at the rest of my tour group. Jensen was shocked at the sudden abandonment of the guide, Ally was furiously scribbling in her note pad but the others seemed unperturbed. What, is this the norm around here? When Alec told Jensen, Ally and I to go to Romania for a one month story, I had no idea we would be staying in a place where workers voluntarily walked into cages with dragons.
Grabbing the camera from around my neck, I snapped a few shots of the redhead and the dragon. But as the tour guide – what was her name again? – got into the shot, all hell broke loose. The dragon caught sight of her and roared, its tail whishing around. It had looked scary beforehand, with spikes all over it and teeth that could rip a man in half, but now it was terrifying. I kept looking through the lens of my camera at the sight before me, but as I caught the flicker of fire, I dropped it, letting it dangle from the strap around my neck.
The dragon was freaking out, shrieking and breathing fire like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I ripped the camera off my neck and threw it at Jensen, hoping to Merlin he’d catch it. Of course, Jensen would never let my baby fall. I’d kill him, even if I was the one to throw it. Running to the cage, I saw the tour guide and the redhead brandishing their wands and trying to overwhelm the dragon. While they were doing an exceptional job, this particular dragon was nuts.
As I ran towards the cage, I pulled out my wand and unlocked the door. Rushing inside, I stopped as I surveyed the situation. The tour guide and the redhead were trying to hit the dragon’s eyes to stop the beast from aiming at them, but the actual fire made it hard for they themselves to aim. I looked around quickly and grinned as I saw a coil of rope in a forgotten corner of the cage. Grabbing it, I ran over to the two dragon researchers. The redhead looked over at me as I crouched beside them behind a large rock.
“Distract it,” I said, running to the right.
I didn’t look back to see what they would do, but as the dragon turned away from me, I assumed they did what I told them to. As I crept up on the dragon, I saw the burly redhead trying to get its attention – and succeeding. Hurrying, I made my way to its tail and grabbed hold of some of the grooves. Thank Merlin I didn't wear my heels today. As the dragon swished the tail, I felt my grip loosen but I held tight.
Climbing as fast as I could, I made my way to its back and grabbed the spikes that were there. That was easier. Having put the rope over my shoulder, I now only had my wand to deal with, but I had put it in my mouth. Now, I climbed up to the dragon’s neck and wrapped my legs around some of the spikes there. I really didn’t want to fall off. I didn’t know how the Romanian Dragon Reserve went about the deaths of Canadian reporters, but I had a feeling it wouldn’t be very well received.
Grabbing my wand out of my mouth, I took the coil of rope off my shoulder. Waving my wand, I saw the rope spring up and gently slide itself around the Ridgeback’s neck. As it came back around, I made it slowly creep up its face until I flicked my wand and the rope tied itself around the dragon’s mouth twice. Tightening it, the dragon’s mouth snapped shut and the fiery ambush stopped. Using my wand to tie a knot in the rope, I slid down the dragon’s back until I got to a point where I could easily jump off.
Doing so, I landed hard and did a summersault. Standing up, I brushed some sand off of my blazer, noticing that the button had ripped off. Damn! I rolled my eyes and put my wand back in my pocket. Walking away from the dragon, I found my way to the cage door and opened it. Sauntering over to the wide-eyed group, I smirked and grabbed my camera from Jensen.
“What the bloody hell was that?” I turned around and saw the redhead storming towards me. “You didn’t have to do anything. We had it covered!”
I snorted. “Sure looked like it…”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” He asked, his nostrils flaring.
“It means that you needed help, and I just happened to help out a bit.”
“Just because you’re some dragon tamer from the United States doesn’t give you any right to–”
I cut him off, putting my hand near his mouth to shush him. “Let’s get some things straight. First, I’m from Canada. Second, I’m not a dragon tamer. I’m a journalist. Third, you needed any help you could get. Don’t make me regret saving your pansy ass.”
He glared at me and I glared back. We stood there for a few seconds before I saw the tour guide come back out of the corner of my eye, her hair dishevelled and her outfit a little scorched along the edges. Jensen shot me a look as the group continued on away from the cage. I gave the redhead one last look of contempt and then gave him an innocent smile.
“Smile for the camera,” I said in a falsetto, lifting the camera and snapping a picture of him.
The flash made him jump back and as I walked away, I felt his eyes on me. He wanted to stare? Fine. I’d give him something to stare at. Swinging my hips from side to side, I flicked my hair over my shoulder and gave a quick glance behind me. He was still staring so I waggled my fingers and winked. As I approached the group, Jensen raised an eyebrow at me, as did Ally.
“What?” I said, brushing a strand of blonde hair away from my face. “He’s kinda cute.”
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