Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language, violence, and mature content.
For Tenyo's LMS V. Word Count: 1,247, approx.
Ceri’s vision darkened and twisted as she watched the woman turn into a dragon in triplicate, purple swirls of power and magic spinning around her and clinging to the trees and grass, causing some of them to shrivel up and die. When one tree fell with a crash, Ceri flinched--and that was the moment the woman-turned-dragon lurched forwards. She snatched up one of the men, messily sinking her teeth into his stomach and spraying blood across the clearing. It splattered across Ceri’s face, but she found she couldn’t care; her vision was darkening dangerously now, and the world tilted on its axis. The man was screaming, but the woman-dragon didn't seem to notice.
She closed her eyes, just for a moment, and when she opened them, two of the men were dead and the dragon woman was back in human form, standing amidst the carnage of torn limbs, blood and broken, magic-eaten plant life. Ceri moaned and rolled onto her side, curling up as much as possible with her hands tied behind her back. The dragon woman's lavender gaze was on her immediately and Ceri froze, eyes wide.
"Easy, little one," the woman said, moving closer. Ceri squeezed her eyes shut as the world tilted dangerously in the other direction. "Oh, dear--"
"No," she gasped, pulling her knees up into her chest and hoping the dragon woman would leave her alone. "No, don't...don't touch me!"
The woman hesitated then crouched down beside Ceri, keeping both hands within sight "I'm not going to hurt you, darling."
Ceri squinted at her for a moment, even as the clearing continued to spin sickenly. The woman stared back with pretty violent eyes; they were darkened with what appeared to be anger, making them even prettier. Captivating, even, and Ceri found herself unable to look away. She was terrified, yes, and she was drugged--she knew how nasty Bittersweet could be--and it was probably a good thing she was still tied up or she'd be trying to run away. And probably hurting herself in the process. Ceri blinked and her attention drifted back to the other woman. There was concern in her eyes now.
"How much did they dose you with?" she asked, slowly bringing her hands up to touch Ceri's bruised cheek. "And please, don't evade the question; I can't help if I don't know what, exactly, they've done--"
"Two cups," Ceri rasped, going slack. She laid her cheek against the cool ground and peered up at the woman with narrowed eyes. "That was to be the third..."
The stranger growled, a strangely animal-like noise, and twisted to look at the cup laying on the ground a few feet away, spilling foul-smelling liquid into the grass by the still-burning fire. Her eyes lit up a deep purple and then she closed them, sucking in a deep breath. "I regret that I ended it so quickly now," she muttered and then turned back to Ceri. "Two? Are they insane? You are merely human and another cup would probably have killed you."
That made Ceri blink. Merely human? What did that mean? It took too long for Ceri to realise that the woman was staring at her and that she'd said her thoughts out loud. The Bittersweet was screwing with her perception of time and space. Ceri sighed and curled in on herself a little more with a whimper. She didn't like feeling so out of touch with her surroundings.
"It means you need my help, little one."
"Ceri...my name is Ceri."
The woman smiled down at her, fingertips lightly tracing bruises on her cheek. "Hello, Ceri," she said and leaned down to put her lips by Ceri's ear. She tensed at the closeness, but the woman did nothing more than stay there until she relaxed. "You may call me Nagendra, darling."
Ceri tested the shape of the name in her mouth and sighed. Her vision darkened abruptly, and she thought she heard someone--heard Nagendra--ask if it was alright if she could pick her up. Ceri vaguely remembered agreeing, and then all she felt was the sensation of being weightless and the slight sway that accompanied being carried before the darkness pulled her under.
She woke sometime later--it was impossible to tell--to a dim room light only by firelight. Beneath her was a surface so soft, she could've rolled right back over and gone back to sleep. But something wasn't right. There was a foul, ashy taste in her mouth and he head was pounding. Her mouth was dry and she felt completely worn out, drained in a way only her healing could accomplish--but she knew she hadn't healed anyone lately... A vague memory of a cloth over her mouth and a sharp pain across her forehead jolted her upright.
Ceri froze as she took in her surroundings. She wasn't in a room; she was in a cave. A very comfortable, very warm cave. She frowned, tugging the blankets up over her chest--and that's when she realised she no longer had her hands bound behind her back. Ceri rubbed at her face and shifted so that she was sitting cross-legged on the bed, the blanket still pulled up over her chest. She'd lost her veil--it was probably back in the wagon--and that left her feeling vulnerable and exposed.
A noise off to her right startled her and Ceri whirled around to face whatever was coming. Only to see Nagendra stepping into the cave from a curtained off area. She raised an eyebrow at Ceri and strolled past, headed for a low table by the fire. Ceri watched her warily and then slid towards the edge of the bed.
"Where is this?"
Nagendra glanced towards her. "My cave."
Ceri paused in the process of standing, frowning deeply at the woman who was now seated at the nearby table. "Your...cave?"
"Yes." Nagendra turned to place the bowl she'd been carrying down on the table, beside a large, steaming pot. Belatedly, Ceri realised it smelled like stew and that it smelled very good. "Now come and eat. You need it to get the last of the drug out of your system."
Slowly, she made her way over to the other woman, dragging the blankets with her. Nagendra watched her with a fond smile. "I know what's needed," Ceri muttered as she sat down opposite the woman. "I am a healer, you know."
"And that is exactly why you're here."
Ceri glanced up sharply. "What?"
Nagendra raised her eyebrows and stared right back at her, her expression and posture patient and waiting. "Surely you weren’t unaware enough to not notice what I am?" she asked and nudged the bowl towards Ceri after spooning some of the stew into it. "And that I am, unfortunately, not very well."
Memories flooded back to her, unsteady and vaguely--a dark shape against trees and firelight, purple magic eating at everything around them, and piercing deep purple eyes. Ceri stared at Nagendra. "You're a dragon," she said, her confused tone quickly seeping towards awe. And fear, but not for Nagendra. For what the dragon-woman was losing. She reached out with her healing magic and flinched back from the deep, dark pit inside Nagendra. Yes, it was as she'd thought. "You're dying.... Without access to magic, you're dying."
The other woman offered her a slow, toothy smile. "Yes, exactly. And you're the one who is to save me."