Here's my entry for the comic contest!
If Nobody Else Believes
[spoiler]“So you’re telling me you’re going to chicken out again, is that it, new blood?” She flashed her teeth in a familiar snarl, but they were blunt and useless. “If you’re not going to help, get out of my apartment.”
The dog was struck again by the fact that Hazel didn’t bother to hide her human form the way that some of the others did. She was all soft dark skin, artfully arranged curls and rich gold eyes, all packaged in a tailored business suit.
Painfully human and fragile in this form. None of them were magic, not the same way that Scorn was - he was on another level entirely.
“You do not believe in us, Natascha?” A soft, lilting voice came from floor above. A delicate, tapered head like a fine arabian horse peered from the loft. Eight pointed peeled-birchwood horns and silvery, clouded eyes gleamed in the moonlight streaming in from the wide picture windows.
The plant dragon leaped over the glass railing with a sinuous movement, landing on the ground too lightly for a creature of his girth. His long sweeping tail curled lazily behind him.
The Mandrake creeped her out to be honest. The pale green scales were stained with big black blotches, but even as she watched the color faded and surged, like oil-slicked waves or a bruise healing and then resurfacing again. Occasionally a red glow peeked between his scales, lava shining up from cracks in the earth.
She had no idea what his wings might look like, all that was left were mutilated stumps sprouting from each shoulder. They flexed under her gaze, and she jerked her eyes away. “We were just talkin’ about what we could do about this, Mandrake.”
There was no knowing what he was - at least the others were relatable. At least they seemed to be made of flesh and blood. Even Xar, who had been born in the distant stars, was less troubling.
He approached the window, luminous eyes reflecting in the glass. His ears swiveled this way and that, as if listening to the city and the small specks of headlights passing below. A tangle of concrete, glass and metal.
“We will protect my forest.” He said finally, before turning his head toward a vase of wilting flowers and exhaling slowly. The flowers crumbled away like dust under a breeze, but the water in the vase cleared and tiny buds appeared on the remaining twisting willow twigs. “It is as I have always done. Do we truly have time to debate this matter?”
Hazel snorted, tossing her dark hair. “Not all of us are as durable as you and Xar, we need a plan if we don’t want to be smudges on the pavement. Scorn knows us, knows our methods. He’s not going to be an easy opponent.”
A hatch on the roof creaked open and a large form dropped heavily to the floor, unrolling from a ball when he came to a stop. The others relaxed, realizing it was only a fourth member of their team.
‘Sorry,’ he signed clumsily with meaty fingers, his mandibles flexing with embarrassment, ‘Came quickly.’
Xar looked between them as he stood, armored plating moving flexible as skin. His mandibles parted, revealing a toothy open-mouthed grin. ‘We will fight?’
Natascha searched for some kind of uncertainty in them, but not one of them wavered. She realized, abruptly, that they would go with or without her help. They weren’t asking for her permission. As always, it was a matter of if she would wear the cape and boots. If she was willing to step into the line of fire for their city.
Bizarrely, her thoughts careened to the fort that stood at the heart of the city, that marked the place where it began. She went there for her senior trip, traced her fingers over the words engraved into the stone. ‘The worm and the serpent, be no longer trampled underfoot. Turn, and rise on dragon’s wings.’
It means that the weak become powerful here. Her professor had said, pushing her glasses up her muzzle with a finger. Natascha had laughed and said: Maybe there’s something in the water. She didn’t even know half of it, before fire bloomed in her bones.
A hand landed on her shoulder and she jumped with a yelp, ears falling back as she whirled. It was only Duke, his eyes warm with pride. “I knew you had it in you, kid.”
Natascha laughed nervously, tail slowly untucking from between her legs. “You really need to stop doing that.”
“Now where’s the fun in that?” The edges of his form blurred, melding with the shadows in which he stood. It was enough to make her eyes cross, it was so weird. Shadows were like doors and windows to him - or so the others claimed. “Waste of power, that’s what it is.”
His expression went more serious, wings flaring to draw attention to his words.
“I went to talk to the Weyr. They say they can’t help us.” There was a collective exhale, soundless but palpable. The sensation of their collective hopes being crushed. “They haven’t been the same since Janine went down and… you all remember what happened with Quake.”
Natascha only knew the story secondhand, and the most she got out of the others was that Clayton had disappeared into the mountains. Supposedly the Dragoness hadn’t returned his feelings, but her loss had been difficult for the whole team. No one had ever said so, but she suspected it was difficult for Duke as well - his ties with the Weyr ran deep from his early days as a super. If she thought hard she could remember him on the newscasts, that slim boy with the brightly colored suit and too-big wings, watching the other heroes with adoration in his eyes.
Apparently it was too much to hope that they would come to his aid now.
“So what’s the plan?” It wasn’t until the whole team turned to look at Natascha that she actually said the words.
Duke grinned, flashing needle-sharp teeth, and fluttered his wings purposely. “Guess we’re going to have to wing it.”
Hazel groaned, and the Mandrake’s ears flicked with amusement. The Mandrake was in the middle of rubbing his cheek against Xar, earning quiet trills and rapid-fire signs in response. Supremely unconcerned, just waiting for them to make up their minds. As always.
“Suit up team. I’ll go recon.”
“What if he catches you?” Natascha blurted out, recalling quite clearly the slimy feeling of Scorn burrowing into her skull. Despite what Hazel thought, she was afraid for good reason.
“Don’t you know, Natascha? I am the night.”Duke laughed, already fading into the shadows. His last words were like a scent on the wind, only half discernible, but she was sure she heard it right. ‘Scorn can’t command me.’
Hazel snorted again, lips pulling back to bare her teeth. “Drama king.”[/spoiler]
Last edited by Rumor
on Fri Jul 17, 2015 11:11 pm, edited 4 times in total.