"Are you sure this is the place?" asked Tristan. Midnight had struck an hour ago, and Tristan was more anxious than ever. Having to wait out the day had seriously slowed the two down, making a 24 hour journey into a three day excursion, and that set him on edge like never before.
"I'm positive, Boss. This is the exact spot on the map."
"Then why haven't we seen a single sign of Cynthia or her escorts?"
"If the naga have done something underhanded, they probably took her somewhere else, in case somebody decided to come look for her. That's what I would do. As for her escorts, they probably killed them."
"Well we need to find wherever they took her and fast. Who knows what they could have done to her by now."
"I can think of a few things." The remark earned Demetri a swift cuff to the head.
"I don't need any of your smart-aleck comments, Demetri. If it wasn't for you sleeping during the day, we could have already found her by now!"
"Hey, it's not my fault Regan went berserk and bit me! Besides, playing the blame game isn't going to help us find her any faster. Get it together, Tristan!"
"Rrrgh! I'm sorry, I'm just so worried. Where do we even begin to look?"
"Just wait here, I'll see if I can find a map." And with that, Demetri disappeared into the building Cynthia was once in . . . over two weeks ago.
Cynthia lay awake on the bed. It was nearly dawn, but she couldn't sleep. How could she when her massive stomach made every breath a challenge? The constant presence of her serpentine shackles didn't help matters either. She gazed forlornly at the window, staring at the freedom that lay only a few steps away, yet so far out of reach.
She closed her eyes and wished she could just die and be done with it all. If only she could see Tristan one last time, she could be content. Her only real regret was having not said goodbye to her friends, especially him.
It was there they found her, bound to the bed by a snake and tears in her eyes.
"Cynthia!" She opened her eyes is response to the calling of her name. "Cynthia, I'm here!"
Cynthia opened her eyes in time to see the snake lunge out at Tristan, only to be decapitated by his sword. The creature's body went entirely limp and Cynthia could finally push herself into a semi-seated position propped against her elbows. She almost couldn't believe her own eyes.
"Tristan! Oh, Tristan it's really you." Fresh tears began to spill down her reddened cheeks at the sight of him and she could no longer hold back the sobs she had been choking down for nearly three weeks.
Tristan ran up to Cynthia and embraced her tightly, before stepping back to take in her full form. "Oh, Cynthia! What happened to you?"
Cynthia wasn't sure if it was sadness or anger that lay in his eyes, or some volatile combination of both. Almost as if on queue, Demetri climbed through the window. Upon seeing Cynthia's swollen body, he immediately called back upon his training and felt around her stomach. After completing his brief inspection, he turned back to Tristan, lips drawn tight.
"Oh, no. I know that look." Tristan's stress levels went up a notch.
"It's not good," he started slowly. "She's carrying at least a dozen, possibly more. She won't be able to fly herself."
Cynthia's eyes grew wide as all colour drained from her face. Tristan, fearing she would pass out, was by her side in an instant. "We've got to get her out of here now," he said to Demetri while gently rubbing Cynthia's back.
"That could be a problem, Boss. It's nearly dawn and there's no shelter nearby."
"Use the sheet to cover yourself, Demetri. We'll get caught if we stay here." And with that, he scooped Cynthia into his arms and leapt out the window. Demetri had little choice but to follow and so grabbed the sheet off the bed, just as one of the naga servants came through the door.
"Intruders! Intruders! Guards!"
Swearing under his breath, Demetri jumped out the window and landed on the ground two stories below. He ran to catch up with Tristan, who already had a good 50 meter head-start. The sun was just beginning to peak over the horizon, and its light was beginning to spread. It would soon reveal their presence to the entire naga clan. "Boss, there's no place to hide. We're sitting ducks on the ground."
"Then we'll just have to take to the air," Tristan announced with a flap of his great wings. Demetri hesitated for only a moment before looking back to see at least ten naga chasing after them. After a brief moment of deliberation over which was the lesser of two evils, he chose the sun and took off into the air, leaving the furious snake people far behind as he picked up a favourable wind current.
His breath became ragged as the sun's light grew ever brighter, but he pressed on after Tristan. He could already feel the rays of light burning into the skin of his wings. "Tristan! We better find some place to land soon, the sun's getting too bright."
"Look, there's a forest just ahead. We can stop there for the day." The boys angled their wings to bring them into a slow descent, unfortunately this allowed the light of the sun to reach the underside of Demetri's wings now. He winced at the pain, and began to notice the faintest stench of burning flesh.
They landed amongst the trees not a moment too soon. Demetri nearly fell the last few feet, his wings badly scarred by the abuse he'd just received from the sun. He found a large shady tree and crawled beneath it as quickly as he could to escape the light.
Tristan gently set Cynthia on the ground, ready to catch her if she were to fall. "Demetri, are you alright? Your wings -"
"I'm fine," he cut her off. "I just need some rest." And with that, he fell asleep against the bark of the tree.
"Will he be okay there?" Cynthia asked, turning to Tristan. "He looks awful."
"Don't worry. He's gotten worse beatings in combat class. I don't think the naga will be able to catch up to us for a while anyway, you should rest too, Cynthia."
She couldn't argue with him, as her own eyes were beginning to sag, and she was beginning to feel the weight of the brood within her. The two of them walked to the opposite side of the tree and made themselves comfortable. Cynthia leaned against Tristan, one arm draped across her belly. Seeing the tattered state her clothes were in, Tristan removed his large coat and laid it across Cynthia's slumbering form, then wrapped his arms and wings around her.