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Lessons in Inertia

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He felt the hatchlings’ claws tighten and a sudden change in pressure.

“Bradàn!”

They dove. The dragon’s claws snapped shut mere meters above his hide. He pinned his wings to his back and they plummeted through the clouds. Thought left him and he gave in to instinct. He could hear the heavyweight pumping her wings to reach him. Tracking her descent, he’d extend the tip of wing and roll to the side as her talons closed again on empty air. He lengthened his spine, offering as little surface for drag as possible.

They broke cloud cover over the roiling winter waters of the strait 2000 meters below. And, she, just a moment later. He could hear her labored wing beats. Though he’d hoped to lose her in the mists above, perhaps another solution would work. If she played along. 1000 meters below and he could make out the distant coast, a lighthouse beaming through the heavy snow. 500 meters. Dully, he registered the dragonettes’ shouts of warning, pleading him to change direction. He could not speak. Not yet. Hundreds of feet from the surface and still she pursued him. 800 feet. 700. The dragonettes scrabbled at his back, trying to free themselves from under the press of his wings.

She swiped at him, first with her talons and then her jaws, having seemingly given up on capturing them alive. At well under a hundred feet, Bradàn twisted aside and snapped his wings out. The bitter wind yanked him upward, skimming the waves and shooting him back up into the sky. Behind him, Boudicca’s scream was cut short. She slammed into the water, with a sickening whump. Tunnel vision. Where before her lack of spatial awareness had been a frustration both in fights and formation, here it may be her undoing.

Bradàn spared a glance back and saw her treading water. Her left wing hung at an unsightly angle and she pawed, manic at the waves. He forced himself to look away. Swooping out towards the coast, he was unable to join in the hatchlings cheers of triumph. The pit in his stomach only grew. He doubted even Borealis would give him another chance after this.