Accosted: Book 8 of Thor's Dragon Rider
Coming 28th of May
- Chapter One -
Murky brown scales ripple under the lake’s surface, and black beady eyes rise, stopping just below the water. The Midgard serpent stays protected beneath the waters of Svartalfheim, surveying the dragons flying above. We’ve followed him through the Yggdrasil, sighting him as he slithered onto the realm. Jormungandr has either taken a wrong turn to Asgard or is up to mischief in the land of the dwarves.
Frosty air pushes against my face, which is speckled with snowdrops. A brilliant blue sky broken by fluffy white clouds reflects off the water. I’m glad it’s daytime. When the sun is shining, the dwarves stay secure in their caves. Today, this will protect them not only from the sun, but also from the trouble the serpent will cause. Rumors circulated in Midgard about how the serpent had devoured several villages lining the large lakes and ocean edges.
It takes me a moment to recognize the red darting reflection careening to the left across the water’s surface as Tanda. The red dragon’s sudden movement catches the attention of Jormungandr, causing him to swivel and follow her progress. The danger to the red dragon and Britta is short-lived when the serpent is distracted by Drogon’s brown form as he flies in the opposite direction. The lowness of their flight makes me worried for Britta’s and Hildr’s safety as they ride their dragon friends. The serpent could project out of the water toward the dragons at any time.
Cloaked in invisibility, Elan hovers not far above the water. Digging my knees into Elan’s saddle, I tug at the edges of my dragon-scale cloak. I pull my hood farther over my head to make sure I’m fully covered and also sheathed in invisibility while it protects my numb cheeks from the weather. Despite triple-checking, I still feel exposed, as though those eyes can see me. It makes me twitch on the saddle. Sweat, caused by the tension of the chase coupled with the warmth of the dragon-scale cloak, beads on the back of my neck and trickles down my back under my black leather uniform, stopping just below the coccyx.
Red-faced with anger, Thor stomps along the shoreline framed by tall, snow-capped rocky mountains. Earlier, he was having trouble staying on the saddle when Elan dodged the serpent’s attacks. Her sudden jerky movements flung him over her side, leaving him grasping onto her saddle and exposing our position as he fell out of her invisibility. It was already hard enough to keep his bulky form concealed underneath my cloak. Because of this, Elan placed him on the shoreline a little while ago. We didn’t want to leave Thor out of the confrontation, but the other dragons opted not to carry him. His heavier form added to the weight of a Valkyrie restricted their reaction time. Lacking the Viking ship, he fumes on the bank, unable to join in the attacks.
A gush of fresh breeze pushes down on me as Naga flits above us with Eir riding on his back. The serpent’s eyes follow the slightly smaller dragon’s progress. Zildryss peers over Eir’s shoulders, eyeing the enormous serpent and licking alternating eyes as he often does when he’s pondering something or using his third eye’s foresight. Protectively, Elan moves to block the serpent’s path to the blue dragon. I admire Elan’s heart even though there is no rationality behind her thoughts. Her invisibility isn’t going to drag Jormungandr’s attention away from Naga and to her. Although, somehow, these beady eyes focus on me again, making me feel as though I must be exposed.
A buildup of ice sticks to the reins, making my palms slip, and I rub it on my leather pants, careful not to let go of the lead in case Elan swerves suddenly. White knuckles poke out from under my sleeve, exposing them. Perhaps the Midgard serpent can see me. I yank the end of my sleeve over my fists, feeling the warmth of the cloak gradually trapping around my hands. During our past encounters, I have seen signs of intelligence in the serpent, and Jormungandr has probably recognized the telltale signs that Elan and I are here. My cloak does leave tiny parts of my flesh exposed. Maybe I should find a way to make gloves and a face mask out of dragon scales as well. I’m not sure how well it would work with the hard exterior of the large scales.
I speak to my dragon through our bond. Elan. Can we please move up higher? Something about the serpent’s gaze makes me suspect he can see us. It’s making me nervous.
Elan’s body drops and rises a few times in rhythm with her beating wings, and I feel her presence through our bond. He shouldn’t be able to see us. But if it’s making you uncomfortable, I’ll rise a bit. At least high enough so we can get away in a hurry if he does charge us.
The few extra feet higher lessens my anxiety and slows my heartbeat to a more manageable level.
Hearing a large thump on the shoreline, I gaze over to see Thor collecting his hammer from the bank. The redness of his face makes it hard to tell where his hair finishes and his face starts. He still hasn’t gotten over his anger from not being with us to fight off Jormungandr. Seeing him stuck on the shoreline makes me wish he had the nifty ship that could fold down into a suitcase. The last time I saw it, Thor had stored it in his carriage. We didn’t bring the carriage on this trip, though. We figured traveling without it would be quicker and easier.
When I return my gaze to the water, there is no sign of the serpent. He has descended within the water. More unease rises in my stomach. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jormungandr still sees us hovering above, even though we can’t see him.
Keeping an eye out for any movement and staying just out of reach, the four large dragons continue to hover higher over the lake’s surface where we last spotted the Midgard serpent. Remaining close is the quickest way to attack him. We hope to at least chase him back to Midgard and hinder him from reaching Asgard. Even though Asgard’s realm holds few rivers, that wouldn’t stop the serpent from traveling there. He can easily cross over land using the few lakes for security and cover, camouflaging him.
Several hundred yards away, a considerable surge of water explodes from the surface as Jormungandr flicks his tail and swims in the other direction. I’m amazed at the enormousness of the serpent as a few parts of his body become visible through the churned waters of the river on Svartalfheim. He’s bigger than many fully grown dragons combined, and doubt rises within me—how could Thor defeat something this big? It’s almost like we need help from all of the wasteland dragons to defend us against the serpent. I can’t fathom how one god with his hammer and a belt of strength stands a chance.
We follow Jormungandr’s progress, trying to determine where he wishes to go, hoping to protect anything the serpent attacks. He continues beneath the water’s surface, and my unease intensifies. I sense he’s trying to distract us from something important.
With another loud thump, Thor stomps to retrieve his hammer from the shoreline again, his body rigid with annoyance. Elan flies us over to him with a little prompt, turning us visible before landing on the bank.
I smirk, amused by my leader’s blotchy red face. “What do you expect this to achieve?”
Thor grumbles, halts his stomping, and thrusts his hands in the air with frustration. “I don’t know. I’m hoping the vibration will chase him back to Midgard. There’s no use throwing my hammer at him. It could miss and hit one of the dragons. If the vibration doesn’t chase him away, then I hope he’ll come to the bank and lift his head out of the water so I can attack.” He indicates roughly toward the serpent. “He’s obviously smart enough to realize this, and it’s driving me crazy.” Thor tosses his hammer and catches it a few times like a circus act. “I thought something that big was supposed to be stupid and have a brain the size of a pea. Instead, he seems as cunning as his disloyal father.”
Elan nudges him lightly with her wing. Jeez. You’re a bit grumpy, aren’t you? She studies him with her head tilted to one side. You poor thing. Is being stuck on the bank getting to you?
Thor rewards her cheekiness with a scowl, his eyebrows lowering over his eyes like a red thundercloud.
Oh. Getting a bit touchy there, she teases before looking at me over her shoulder. The small god must be feeling a bit inferior.
Thor’s broad chest rises and falls with several deep breaths before the red on his face diminishes. “I wouldn’t get too sassy, young dragon. Although I normally see the fun side, today is not one of those days. I should be the one attacking the serpent, and you guys are out there risking your lives while I’m stuck on the bank.”
Just then, Jormungandr flicks his tail and knocks Thor’s backside, sending him flying for a few feet before he lands on his side.
Thor groans while watching the serpent head in the opposite direction. “I just can’t get a lucky break with this serpent.”
Elan’s body shakes as she barely contains her chuckle. She moves next to Thor and lowers to her stomach. Here you go. Climb on. Let’s get this disruptive serpent that just swept you off your feet. She grins, exposing her threatening array of teeth. By the way, that was hilarious.
Thor releases a deep, guttural growl as he hauls himself onto the saddle behind me. “You shouldn’t be finding this funny, little girl. This serpent is very serious. He has been predicted to be my downfall, and I am the one who is supposed to tame him or fight him and stop him from causing Ragnarok. This is no laughing matter.” He sits rigidly behind me. “If it weren’t for the prophecies, we wouldn’t know Jormungandr is planning to attack Asgard. It’s not like he can talk to us.” He flicks his arm at the serpent in frustration.
All right. All right. I get it, Elan says. Don’t get your talons twisted. She flicks her tail, thumping the shoreline as we watch the Midgard serpent’s progress. Once Thor is secure in the saddle, Elan climbs to her feet and projects into the air. Despite the added weight, she still manages to keep up. Her efforts are slightly more labored, her maneuvers marginally slower. Thor’s stocky weight is much heavier than the lean forms of the Valkyries.
We spot the serpent, and Elan catches his attention by lowering then flying toward the Yggdrasil as though to lead him out of the realm. Rippling water catches my attention, and the serpent’s big, beady eyes rise to the surface like he’s stalking us. Thor catches sight of the black eyes and grabs his hammer, swinging behind us and aiming directly at the serpent’s head.
The Midgard serpent ducks lower under the water before the hammer can connect with any part of his flesh then rises moments after the attack as though taunting Thor. His tongue tickles the surface as he exposes his long fangs, his eyes fixed on the god of thunder.
“That’s not going to scare me,” Thor yells at the serpent. “I’ve seen worse things than that.”
As though encouraged, Jormungandr slowly weaves closer to us. Large murky scales along his upper body rise above the surface the faster he follows us.
The other dragons trail behind the serpent, swooping down and catching his scales between their talons, clawing the flesh and tearing wounds down his back. Jormungandr wails a high-pitched hiss and drops back. I squirm in my saddle, almost feeling the serpent’s pain through the cry. With Thor’s help, we manage to cloak ourselves in the dragon-scale cloak, and Elan turns invisible, lowering over the water.
Suddenly, Jormungandr arches up, rising tall over the water before flipping onto his back, soaking Thor and me with a large splash. The serpent thrashes and drops low into the water’s protection as the trailing dragons keep an eye on the ripples left on the water’s surface, swooping to attack every time his scales rise above the water. Without warning, Jormungandr flips and rises with his mouth wide, aiming straight for Naga.