Caught by the dragon mai.., p.3
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       Caught By the Dragon, p.3

           Mac Flynn
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"Let me out! God damn fucks! Let me out!"

  My dark world was slowly receding, and that was my introduction back into the real one. I forced my eyes open and was presented with a barren sight.

  I was in the back of a metal truck. The floor and walls were plates of steel, but the ceiling was made of canvas. The rear of the truck was also canvas and tied so tightly not a single bit of light could be seen behind us. I heard the tires crunch on gravel and the up-and-down motion of the truck told me we were driving over short hills.

  On either side were long wooden benches, and it was on one of these that I sat, but I wasn't alone. Beside and opposite me were four other women, all roughly around my age. They all had their hands bound behind their back and their ankles were captured in chains. I shifted and chains rattled on my own feet.

  The one who pounded against the side of the truck was a woman with a scowling face. Tears had stained her makeup and given her an undead look. She slammed her shoulder into the wall and winced, but her furious expression didn't abate.

  "Let me out, you stupid fucks!" she screamed.

  "Will you stop that?" one of the women to my left snapped. "You've been trying that for fifteen minutes and whoever's driving the truck haven't even slowed down. They don't give a damn."

  Mascara-face sneered at her. "You idiots can just sit there, but I'm not going to give up. Maybe somebody else will hear me.' She took a deep breath and opened her big mouth wide. "Heellppppp!"

  The truck slowed down. Mascara-face sat up and grinned. "See? I get results."

  Everyone quieted as the truck stopped. A door opened and heavy boots hit the gravel. They walked along the side of the truck to the rear where the canvas was untied. The cloth was shoved aside and revealed Blake in all his piggy glory. Behind him stretched a vast forest of thick trees. The shroud of night hung over the forest. The gravel road wound through it, and up and over the short hills. Distant lights spoke of a small town, but nothing like the city I knew.

  He sneered at all of us. "What the hell's going on here?"

  Mascara-face gathered what few wits she had and glared at him. "I-I demand you release me."

  Blake snorted. The noise even sounded piggish. "Like hell we will. You just shut up, will you? We can't hear ourselves think up there."

  "What do you want with us?" the woman beside me questioned him.

  Blake chuckled. "You'll see. We should be there in a little bit, and then you'd better keep your mouths shut. The lords don't like loud women unless they're bedding them."

  He dropped the canvas and tied it back. A terrible hush fell over us as he marched back to the front. The truck started forward down the gravel road.

  A few sniffles broke the silence.

  "Will you guys shut up already?" the irate woman snapped. She glanced in my direction. "What are you looking at?"

  I frowned and looked to my right. A girl of maybe twenty sat beside me. Her shoulders shook and soft sobs escaped her lips.

  I leaned my shoulder against her. She looked up at me. "You okay?"

  The girl shook her head. She wiped her face and swallowed. "W-where are they taking us? Why did they take us?"

  I pursed my lips and shook my head. "I don't know. What do you last remember?"

  "We've all got the same story," the irate one spoke up. She swept her eyes over our little group and sneered at them. "Everybody was grabbed out of their homes or off the streets by those creeps and drugged. We all woke up in this truck, nobody knows what's going on, and that little brat's been crying since she woke up."

  I glared at her. "You don't have to be an asshole. We're all going through this together, so we should stick together."

  "You're dreaming," she snapped back as she nodded her head in the direction we'd traveled. "Did you see all those trees? I'm not going to be dragging a brat with me. She'll only slow me down."

  "It's the only way we're going to be able to get away from those pig boys," I shot back.

  She sneered at me. "It's everybody for themselves. Besides, I didn't see anybody helping me make noise."

  "That's enough, you two. We're not getting anywhere with this arguing," the fifth woman spoke up.

  "Yeah, I guess I am wasting my time here," the irate woman retorted.

  The second woman glared at her, but turned to me. "Some of us introduced ourselves before you two woke up. Mind telling us your names?"

  "Miriam," I told her.

  "My name's Alexandra, but you can call me Alex," she introduced herself. She nodded at my younger charge and the other quieter woman. "That's Stephanie and Cindy."

  "What's the point of telling each other about ourselves?" the other one spoke up.

  Alex rolled her eyes and jerked her head towards our less-amiable companion. "That's Olivia."

  "You're just wasting your time getting to know each other. For all we know they're going to sell us to sex slavers and we're never going to see anybody again," Olivia scolded her.

  "It'll help if some of us get out of here and tell police who we met," Alex argued.

  Someone pounded a fist against the back of the cab. "Shut up back there!" Blake called through the thin plate.

  I shifted in my chains. They wouldn't budge. There was a thin hole in one of my feet bracelets. "Anybody know how to pick a lock?"

  "If one of us did we'd be out of here," Olivia pointed out.

  We grew quiet again. There was only the sound of the wheels as they ground on the gravel. The truck swayed more heavily from side-to-side, and in a few minutes we slowed to a stop.

  The engine shut off, and two doors were opened and slammed shut. Three sets of feet walked along the sides of the truck, and the rear flap was thrown aside. Blake revealed himself and his two compatriots. Their human faces, too, were gone and their snout-nosed true identities were revealed.

  Blake stepped aside and jerked his head toward the road. "Climb out of there." We hesitated and glanced at each other. "Climb out, or we drag you out."

  Cindy stood, and we others followed. One-by-one we shuffled out in single file. Stephanie was ahead of me. She hesitated at the edge of the bed. It was two feet to the ground, and our shackles didn't help with climbing.

  One of the men grabbed her arm and yanked her down. "Come on! We don't have all day!"

  Stephanie cried out and fell onto her side onto the ground. A flash of red blinded my vision. I screamed and lunged at the closest asshole. My shoulder connected with his face and we both toppled to the gravel.

  Alex gave a war whoop and threw herself at the other henchman. Cindy charged Blake. He side-stepped her attack and smacked her on the back of her head. Cindy's eyes rolled back in her head and she crumpled to the ground.

  "Handle these wenches or you're fired!" he snapped at the other two pig-men.

  My victim wrapped me in a tight bear hug and stood. Alex, likewise, was subdued. Blake stalked over to us and glared first at Alex and then me.

  His eyes narrowed at me. "You two are almost more trouble than you're worth. One more stupid move like that and you'll be thrown out into this world that you wouldn't last five minutes in." He turned to his henchmen and the other cowering girls, and swept his arm toward to his right. "Get them inside before they're all sick and wasted."

  My eyes followed his arm. Before us not more than twenty feet stood a long, stone-built stable. The thatched gable roof and foggy, primitive windows bespoke a rustic lifestyle.

  Beyond the stable stretched a hundred acres of open ground surrounded by the forest. The ground was level except the extreme right side where it sloped off into the forest and a glen.

  A large castle occupied five front acres of the ground. Its tall battlements cast their long shadows over the smaller stable and our crowd. Five towers dotted the strange pentagram design of the stone structure. Soft lights lit up the tall, narrow windows that looked out on green fields and pastures. Cows and sheep grazed in their
own fences, and a large fenced area was connected to the wall of the stables opposite where we stood.

  The gravel road passed by the castle and dipped down a little on its journey back into the woods, but a part of it branched off to the front of the castle. The road traveled through an imposing stone arch with two massive doors. They were hewn from mighty trees, and on their surface were carved figures I couldn't quite make out.

  I glanced over my shoulder. Behind us was a small village of stone huts with thatched roofs. The homes were nestled on both sides of the road, and from their stone chimneys poured forth smoke. Flickering lights behind the foggy window glass reflected long shadows of the occupants. A few of them were those who traveled in and out of the high castle.

  "Get on with ya!" one of the henchman snapped.

  I was shoved forward and made to fall in line with the other girls. Each of the men snatched an oil lantern from the cab of the truck and lit our path. We were marched into the large door of the stables and to three empty stalls at the end closest to the gate. Alex, Stephanie, and I were shoved into one stall and the other three were tossed into the other.

  Blake stood between the stalls and sneered at us. "Take the manacles off all the girls except those two troublemakers, and then go check to see if they're ready up there."

  One of his companions frowned. "But that'll make 'em look lame for the presentation."

  Blake grinned. "Some of our buyers like them bound."

  The three of them laughed at the crude joke as they unlocked the manacles, but the hands remained tied behind their backs. Alex and I were passed over, but I was glad when Stephanie's ankles were freed. One of the pig-men disappeared through a door at the end of the stables.

  Blake glanced from one stall to the other. "Now listen up. I won't be repeating this. You lot are to be presented to some very influential-" he chuckled, "-we'll call them men. Some of them will want to purchase you. You'd better hope they do, otherwise you're discarded to the servant's quarters of this castle and left there to fend for yourself." He paced the floor between the straw of the stalls. "If you're good girls you'll be chosen and given a life of luxury in their homes."

  "But I want to go home!" Stephanie insisted.

  He stopped his pacing and sneered at her. "Nobody gets back through the Gate. Nobody." His sly grin slipped onto his lips. "At least not alive."

  "What the hell are you talking about? What gate?" Alex questioned him.

  "That's for you girls to find out, but after you're presented to the Lords of the Air," he replied.

  "But we just want to go home!" one of the women yelled.

  "Please take us home!" Stephanie pleaded.

  "Let us go!" Alex demanded.

  "Shut up!" Blake snapped. His pork snout flared in and out as he glared at each of us. "You're staying here, so stop you're whining and get used to it!"

  The door opened a sliver and the henchman slipped inside. He moved to stand beside Blake and glanced over his shoulder before he spoke in a whispered voice. "We've got a problem."

  Blake narrowed his eyes. "What kind of problem?"

  A soft female voice spoke up. "There is no problem."


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