Suggested by: Kaytra Copper
Summer, early 1900s
Faith nearly fainted when she saw the wings spreading black against the brick walls of the alley—surely they weren't attached to the poor man!
Courtland doubled over in pain. The enormous wings flopped against the narrow sides, and Faith heard the sound of smashing glass as the tip of one wing collided with a window somewhere high up.
"Confound it!" Cried Darren, glaring at Faith as if the whole mess was her fault. "Can't you do anything about those things? We bloody well can't even leave the alley now!"
Faith trembled from head to toe; her mind was completely muddled. This was all a bad dream... It had to be a dream... She gulped for air, and managed a few shaky breaths—but the wings were still there. What had the man—now passed out underneath his wings–said when it all happened? Somehow he was convinced that Faith would be able to write something and affect reality? She shook her head; such things only happened in stories!
"I don't know," she whispered, "I don't know." She didn't know what to write, she didn't know how to fix whatever this was... She doubted that, if directly questioned at the moment, she would even manage her full name!
A person leaned out the broken window.
"Hello?" She called down, unperturbed, it seemed, by the unconscious man with the gigantic dragon wings on the pavement below. She waited till Faith looked up. The woman gasped. "Finally!"
Faith frowned as the woman made her way down to the second landing of the fire escape. She climbed down and seemed to inspect Faith very closely. Her piercing blue eyes were offset by the dinginess of her dirty-blonde up-do.
"Not quite what I imagined, but you'll do," she mused brusquely.
"Huh?" Faith scrubbed the tears from her face and squinted at the woman.
The newcomer smiled. "The name's Cordelia Quincy. Come inside, I'll explain everything."
Faith glanced back at the man wrapped in a leathery shroud of wings. "What about—"
Cordelia paused, puzzled. She glanced at Darren. "I thought she knew," she murmured at him.
The redhead shrugged. "I've been trying to tell her this whole time."
Cordelia clicked her tongue. "Here," she said to Faith, "He can stay there for now. I will show you what to do."
Faith entered a room positively stuffed with nothing but furniture and books. She skirted a stack of musty novels to reach a sagging brocade sofa. Darren shifted a pile of papers to collapse in an armchair next to the couch. Cordelia bustled about, then pointed to Faith's notebook.
"All right," she said, "Do you have a pen?"
Faith shook her head. She opened the pages. "There's stuff I've already written—"
Cordelia shook her head, "Oh no, it's got to be fresh. Here, use this." She dug around a small end table till she found a pen among the loose papers.
Faith hesitated. "So," she absently twirled the pen in her fingers, "now what?"
"Write," Cordelia said with a grin. "Describe your friend out there with as much detail as you can—then deal with the wings."
Faith thought of the strange man with the dragon wings laying unconscious in the alley. The memory flourished in her mind, with sharp textures and just the right words to describe the important things. "Deal?" She asked.
Cordelia waved a hand, "Don't get rid of them entirely, we might need them later; just reduce them to a more manageable size."
Faith looked from Cordelia to Darren. "You both are crazy; you know that, right? Acting like I can just write something and make it happen..." Her voice trailed off as she saw that her skepticism was not getting her anywhere.
Darren smirked. "Well, there is the Dragon," he said.
Faith's face burned; he was right. Maybe there was something more going on than she realized. She rubbed her locket between her fingers for good luck, and began to write.
"The shadowy man sprawled on the floor, his body weak from the transformation that had just occurred. The black leather wings wrapped around him like a blanket—"
"Incoming," Cordelia sang out, just before a tremendous thump sent Faith rocketing out of her chair with a "Gee-whiz!"
Courtland was there! Somehow, he has materialized in the house, everything exactly as Faith had described it.
Darren shoved away the pile of books that had collapsed on him. "You couldn't have bloody made the wings smaller first, like Miss Quincy asked, could you, Writer?"
Faith felt the sickening muddle overtaking her brain, but when she looked at the paper, the word "floor" caught her attention; now there was a man with a twenty-foot wingspan in a room with an eight-foot ceiling and only fifteen feet across—and that was without all the wardrobes and bookshelves.
"Sorry," Faith groaned. She kept going.
"The black, leathery wings began at once to soften. As the man regained consciousness, the wings retracted in the way they had unfurled, gradually sinking into the recesses of themselves against his back. Courtland opened his eyes."
The minute she finished the sentence, she heard a gasp. Courtland rolled over and blinked slowly.
"I..." He slurred weakly. "What—how did..."
Cordelia reached behind a stack of leather-bound classics and produced a small pot and a stack of porcelain cups.
"Tea?" She suggested.
Courtland revived fully within minutes, and everyone introduced themselves. He glanced uneasily at Faith, but she could tell he much preferred the size of his wings as they were now, judging by the way he shifted and flexed his shoulders as he perched on an ottoman in front of the sofa.
"So, now that we're all here," Cordelia stated, "I think it is high time we got everything out in the open," she stared directly at Faith, "particularly as it pertains to the Ecrivaine."
Faith sighed with relief. "Oh, yes please!"
"How much do you know?" Asked Cordelia, which made Darren groan and slump further in his chair.
Faith shrugged. "Practically nothing; I didn't even know what the dwarf was saying till he brought me to Darren."
Cordelia blinked, "The d—oh! You must mean Pierre! Yes, well, he is certainly very, ahem! Involved, when it comes to matters of the Ecrivaine and her les mots puissant, or Words of Power."
Faith remembered the funny little man saying the same words, and her eyes popped open. "Oh! That's what he meant?"
Cordelia nodded. "They say it was the Words of Power that brought the Dragon out of his world and into ours, sometime during the Thirty Years' War. My ancestors received custody of it when it showed up a few centuries earlier, badly wounded from some sort of battle, and the first of my line nursed it back to health and gained for our family the privilege of being Guardians of the Dragon." Cordelia paused and indicated a large portrait of a young woman hanging over the fireplace.
"My ancestor, Cailleach Thorne, was the last one to see the dragon before it disappeared for over a century. Since then, we have always been on the lookout for it, and anything associated with it—including the Ecrivaine."
"But if the Dragon favored the House of Thorne," Courtland objected, "What's so special about Brodgar and its Brides?"
Cordelia tilted her head. "Brodgar? Now where have I—oh yes!" She lunged for a stack of encyclopedias and heedlessly pulled one out of the middle, sending all those above it crashing to the floor. She opened to a page marked with the illustration of a ring just like the one Courtland wore.
"This ring originally belonged to the Thornes, and I think Brodgar must have gotten ahold of it, which is where the legend of the Brides came up." She noticed Courtland's hand for the first time. "Is that it?" She gasped. "No, it can't be; the Dragon-Mark's effects would not have been so severe if—"
"No it's not," Courtland confirmed. He glanced at Faith. "She has it."
"Do not!" Faith cried. "All I have is the locket and my—" she stopped as she distinctly felt something in her pocket where she was not in the habit of placing things. She shoved her hand inside as a memory leaped to her mind: crawling through the long dark tunnel with Pierre, jostling against him as he muttered a long French phrase, and just barely noticing his hand straying too near that pocket before they tumbled out of the archery target.
She pulled her hand out, grasping a thing she had never laid eyes on before. Courtland sat forward. "The Ring of Brodgar! So, the shrimpy little thief had it on him the whole time, and he was just waiting for the Ecrivaine to come along!"
"Not quite," Cordelia corrected. "Pierre didn't acquire the Ring till about one hundred years ago."
"Then where was it all that time? Lady Iona told me she had lost it on the moors."
The woman shrugged and sipped her tea. "By all accounts she did—but then, fifty years later, someone found the ring on the moors: my great-grandmother."
"Well then," Faith demanded, "how did it end up in France?"
"Near the start of the First World War, in the summer of 1914," explained Cordelia, "my grandmother made the first attempt to use the Ring to summon the Dragon and send it back."
"What happened, then?" Asked Darren, emerging from the depths of the armchair.
Cordelia set aside her teacup. "It came," she admitted slowly, "but the spell to cause him to return went very badly because she was trying to do it in a crater on Iceland." She bit her lip. "Grandmother lost the Ring, but more than that, she lost our family's privilege as well. The inheritance of the Ecrivaine transferred to Lady Iona's line because of her carelessness, and my family was charged with awaiting the arrival of the Ecrivaine," Cordelia nodded at Faith, "whom we would know because she would be there when the attic window smashed."
Faith blinked. "Seriously?"
Cordelia shrugged. "No one else had done it in one hundred years, till it happened in your presence by accident."
"So if the place is so important," put in Darren, "where is the right one supposed to be?"
"I can answer that," said Courtland. "There is a henge, a circle of stones on Orkney—where we should have met—called the Ring of Brodgar. This is where we must be to send the Dragon back, and I am afraid this deadline is tomorrow."
Darren tossed his hands in the air. "Bloody perfect," he growled. "We just missed the last ferry, and the longer we wait, the less chance we have of succeeding!"
Cordelia raised her hand. "I think I might have an answer for that."
"What?" asked Faith.
Cordelia pointed to Courtland. "His wings; Faith, he could carry you across to Orkney."
"Carry me?" She squeaked. "What if I'm too heavy? What if he drops me?"
"He's Dragon-Marked, I doubt that will happen. But I believe I have something..."
She vanished amid the maze of the house and returned with a mass of straps and buckles.
"Here we are," she said, "It's a dragon-harness my grandfather invented, but we never used. It's designed to fasten around a dragon's shoulders and allow movement of the wings, while giving the passenger something to hold onto; what do you think?"
Courtland eyed it dubiously. "I think it's our only option, so we've got to try."
"Just, please let's go somewhere quiet!" Faith begged.
Cordelia drove them all out to a deserted cliff and helped Courtland into the harness. He unfurled his wings and took an experimental jaunt off the cliffside and back.
Cordelia smiled when he landed. "You're getting the hang of it. I think you will be just fine." She turned to Faith, who gripped her notebook in one arm while the other hand fingered her locket.
Cordelia nodded to her, "Do you know what that locket is?"
Faith shook her head. "My uncle picked it up at an antique shop in the little town where he and my aunt live. It doesn't open—"
Cordelia picked it up and the two halves of the locket sprang apart. Inside was a lovely white marble cameo.
Faith gasped. "Who is it?" She asked.
"Her name is Magdalena Cristoforo—the first Ecrivaine. She found you."
"Found? I don't—"
"Are you ready, Faith?" Courtland called.
She joined him and Darren, who turned to her.
"Well, this is as far as I go," he said. "My work is done."
"Thank you," said Faith, "for everything."
Darren nodded and loped down the long road back into town.
Faith got into position standing in front of Courtland, and Cordelia fastened the straps around her and showed her how to hold on.
"Good luck," she said.
Courtland took a running leap off the side of the cliff and they were airborne.