42. Seven Broke Royals

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So far, the flight to the Kingdom of Ugge was blessedly unexciting. The highlights included little more than a near-collision with a flock of angry seagulls, a quick battle challenge when flying over a rival dragon clan's territory, and more bathroom stops than you'd think was essential, mostly because of Derek. Almost as if he was deliberately slowing them down.

If you had asked Ashley a mere month ago whether she would be blasé about dragon flight, she would've told you that you were insane. But this is the truth of it. Once you've battled ice elves, witches, trolls, evil magicians, and cruel stepsisters, flying for hundreds of miles over rocky, snow-covered peaks, golden fields, an ocean or two, fire swamps, flaming lakes, and more forbidden forests than anyone knew existed, dragon flight is about as exciting as brushing your teeth.

There was, however, a slight sense of unease. A prickle at the back of Ashley's neck, as if she were being watched. But each time she glanced over her shoulder, she saw nothing out of the ordinary ... well ... other than Layyin throwing her hands in the air rather than holding on to Deathgiver's scales like a responsible person who didn't want to fall into a fire swamp or a flaming lake.

They flew east under a lavender sky, swaths of bruised-colored clouds streaking across the nascent sun. Though the orange glow was nothing more than a thumbnail, it shone through, because clouds are ephemeral and made of nothing more than mist, while the sun is everlasting and hotter than all the fires of hell.

"Are we there yet?" Tressa whined for the five-hundredth time. Ashley thought about turning around and wrapping Tressa's rapidly-growing hair around her mouth. But what good would it do? Plus, it would require that Ashley let go of Deathgiver's spiny scales, which would be unwise. "Seriously, how much longer? Ashley, can you ask Deathgiver?"

"I need to pee," Derek said.

"No," the princesses chorused.

"How much snow did you drink before we left?" Tressa chided.

Ashley shook her head and rolled her eyes; what kind of heroes took this many bathroom breaks? It's not done!* "Deathgiver, how much longer before we arrive in the Kingdom of Ugge? Asking for a friend," she said, pitching her voice to be heard over the whistling wind.

Deathgiver roared in palpable frustration, the sound reverberating beneath Ashley's backside. "Humans have the weirdest concept of time. We will get there when we get there."

"Makes sense, but Derek needs to pee, and Tressa is driving us all insane."

"That prince sure needs to empty his bladder a lot. It's unnatural. We will arrive when the mother of all dragons sinks into the west."

"Mother of all dragons?"

"The sun. You people have the most unpoetic language. Now leave me alone, or I'll collide with the next pack of sky wolves on purpose."

"Sky wolves?"

"'Dragon' for vultures."

"Makes sense. Okay." Ashley told the humans that it was going to be hours more. Much groaning ensued. And another bathroom stop.

"Perhaps we can use the time to plot?" Sadira said once they were airborne again. "A busy mind is a not-bored mind."

"That's profound. Not," Tressa snarked.

"But true," Kai said.

"Whatever. What's the plan?" Tressa said.

"As I see it, our ultimate goal is to prevent Charming from continuing his evil rule," Ashley said. "Stop him from stealing from his subjects, marrying to gain more assets, and put an end to the kidnapping of children and killing of dragons."

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