34. Multiple Person Disorder

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Female dragons are enormous, truly the blue whales of the sky. (That is if blue whales had scales, wings, and breathed fire, which they certainly do not.) This massiveness meant the ascent into the heavens aboard Ruth Airways was significantly smoother than traveling via Deathgiver Scarelines. Ruth's powerful muscles contracted and relaxed as her leathery bat-like wings displaced the air with a steady beat that thrummed through Ashley's body.

Like her male counterpart, Ruth had an opalescent blue belly, which must exist to provide camouflage, so prey didn't notice the dragon swooping down from the sky until it was too late. But on her back, instead of Deathgiver's flat ebony scales that seemed to absorb light, Ruth's glowed iridescent, like black pearls with a center of liquid flame. Atop her massive head, Ruth's horn glimmered, a ruby crown more beautiful than any forged by man.

Despite the biting air, the thrill of dragon-riding at a non-frenetic pace kept Ashley's mind from processing an overload of complaints wending their way through her neural pathways. However, urgent messages from her frozen fingers, ears, and toes made it through occasionally.

But why suffer? Yeah, their reptilian transport had cold-blood, but she also had a veritable furnace in her gullet. Maybe it could be used to thaw the humans. "Hey, Ruth?"

"What's up?"

"Do you think you could blow a little flame back here? Not enough to turn us to ash, but a light warm-up would be lovely."

"Did you pay for first-class?"

"We didn't pay at all."

"Then I'm afraid you'll have to make do. Drinks, meals, and temperature control are for first-class passengers only. But seriously, flaming takes energy. And with so many of you on my back, I can't afford to use up an ounce of strength."

"That's okay, I understand," Ashley said. Since a quick warm-up wasn't an option, she decided the best use of her time would be to figure out a plan for defeating the evil magician once the dragon-riding portion of the day's events concluded. Added bonus  - whenever Marveloni entered her thoughts, her temperature soared with anger.  

She scanned her memories for information on "Magicians and their Hidden Weaknesses," or "How to Defeat an All-powerful Magician in Five Easy Steps," or "What Magician's Want; What Magicians Need," or any possible helpful tidbits but came up empty. She knew very little about magicians other than they were scary, magical, and tended to over-accessorize.

But as they climbed and the clouds thickened and the air thinned, Ashley's head throbbed, making it harder to concentrate/plan. Her goosebumps developed goosebumps. Her tongue swelled. The barrage of icy wind burning her cheeks seemed to push its way past her clothing, through her skin, and soak into her very bones.

Ashley imagined this was the exact sensation one might have submerged in a bathtub filled with peaks of ice-cold whipped cream. She made a mental note never to try it. That is if they made it through the next part of their quest alive. Her teeth clacked together so hard, she could no longer hear the wind, let alone her unproductive magician-eradication ideas.

Maybe if there was a handy ice-cold whipped cream bath up there, she could use it on Marveloni. Could that possibly be a strategy? It did include strategic elements—like pain and suffering. But it lacked that practical aspect (i.e., the zero chance that there was a convenient whipped cream bath located nearby) that all good plans possessed. Not to mention that if something as banal as whipped cream could defeat a magician, everyone would be doing it.

Gerald pulled her close, wrapping his arms around her waist, his hot breath on her neck. She sighed and snuggled into him, accepting his warmth as a gift. All thoughts of whipped cream and magicians drifted away.

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