The entire world seemed to disappear around Ambrose. A spotlight shined on Barbara, following her as she headed towards the dungeon door. Her footsteps seemed to echo in the floor and in the air. Preyuna touched Barbara’s arm and the spotlight narrowed.
Ambrose’s breath caught in his throat and he couldn’t breathe it out. It was trapped. His heart pounded in rhythm with Barbara’s footsteps — not nearly fast enough.
Barbara stepped into the darkness.
The spotlight went out.
Ambrose ran without hesitation into the dark.
“Ambrose?” Barbara’s voice brought light back into his world..
He trembled as his heart raced back to its normal rhythm. His breathing raced alongside it. “Barbara.” He went down on his knees.
She came down to his level and ran her fingers through his hair. “It’s okay, kitten. I’m here.”
He closed his eyes and relished the feeling of her touch. His breathing calmed. His heart rate normalized. “I’m here too.” He looked up at her. “I’m here with you.”
“This is all very sweet and touching,” Preyuna said. “but I’m sure neither of you wants to loiter around here unnecessarily.”
“True point.” Ambrose stood and helped Barbara up. “Lead on.”
Raven lost all sense of space and time. Maybe the mouth was smaller than expected. Maybe the back of Sammy’s throat was a trip and slip away. Or maybe it was much larger than that. Maybe the mouth was wide enough to fit 45 school buses, 84 giraffes, 145 cows, 2 lovesick hippos, and one fat mongoose.
He honestly had no idea.
Maybe they’d been flying for a few minutes. Maybe it had been a full hour. Maybe it had been a couple of days.
Or maybe the dragon wasn’t moving at all.
Raven leaned his head back against Sammy’s teeth.
He has not eaten me yet. So, that is a small mercy. Ohhhh, but I feel so unclean! There is not nearly enough laundry detergent nor spot cleaners in the world to make these clothes fresh and livable again. I suppose I will have to burn them. What a waste. However, I do believe I have a coupon for The Tuxedo Seams in my dresser. I will have to make use of—
His stomach lurched up to his throat and took up permanent residence as Sammy dropped into his descent. Raven flung out his arms, fumbling along Sammy’s perfectly interlocked teeth for something to grab onto. His saliva-sopped gloves slipped and slid all along the teeth’s surfaces, unable to latch onto anything.
Grabbing Sammy’s tongue was not an option.
He clenched his own teeth as the descent seemed to speed up.
Then. It stopped.
Raven panted, almost afraid to wonder what was going to happen next. Not that he had long to wonder.
The tongue wrapped around him and pulled him away from the teeth.
Raven flailed his arms out. “No! NO!”
The mouth opened wide and the tongue whooshed forward. It gently set him on the ground.
Raven’s legs wobbled and gave up on him. He landed on his hands and knees. The saliva trickled down his arms and pooled in the cuffs of his gloves. He let loose a hysterical cry and unbuttoned his gloves. The saliva dripped along his wrists.
Raven removed his gloves and slapped them down on the ground. “Ahh. Ahh.” He tried to sweep the moisture off his clothes, but his hands were just as wet. All he did was slick on another layer of saliva.
He took a breath and nearly released it in a scream.
Calm down. Calm down. Keep it together. Push it down.
Raven exhaled slowly and managed to not scream.
Don’t lose control.
Stay in control.
Deal with it later. I can deal with it later.
Robin. I am here for Robin. If Robin indeed is here.
Raven picked up his gloves, folded them neatly in half, and put them into his pockets. He looked up at Sammy, who was human once again.
Sammy smiled, a deliberately bland smile. “Are you ready to go inside?”
He nodded. “Indeed.”