By this time, we were well away from the tracks, and it was extremely dark, without even a few safety lights. Owen created a small, glowing sphere that hung in the air above his hand. It worked to guide his way, but it left me almost blind. I was glad he’d recognized Ari because I now couldn’t see a thing.
I could hear something, though, and it didn’t sound like a disgruntled fairy giving the secret password to the hidden headquarters. It was more like a roar that echoed through the cavern. The roar was followed by a burst of sulfur-scented flame that shot straight toward us.
“Uh-oh,” Owen said just before he doused his light and pulled me out of the flame’s path.
The flame exposed far more detail than I really wanted to see: scaly skin, yellow eyes, and sharp, pointy teeth. I’ve never thought of myself as a shrinking violet or damsel in distress looking for a knight in shining armor to rescue me, but I couldn’t stop myself from screaming and clinging to Owen. I figured I got a free pass on any girly behavior when it came to real, live dragons. And that’s exactly what seemed to be facing us in this cavern. There were several of them, all looking like something out of a scary movie, complete with ugly horned heads, leathery wings, and spiked tails.
Owen angled himself to shield me while he raised his right hand, deflecting the next burst of flame and sending it to hover in a ball of fire just below the ceiling. Although Owen was reacting calmly and logically, especially considering the circumstances, when I looked at his face, I saw that he looked more unnerved than I’d ever seen him.
Dragons didn’t seem to be all that bright, which was lucky for us. They were sidetracked by the ball of flame and didn’t appear to understand what had happened. That bought us some time. One of the beasts was between us and the only way out we knew of, but there was a niche in a crumbling brick wall that offered a small degree of shelter. Owen shoved me into the back of the niche, then hid just inside it, shielding me.
I hoped he knew what he was doing, because those monsters were truly terrifying, and there were more of them than I’d initially realized. We must have stumbled into a nest—assuming dragons lived in nests—which wasn’t the sort of thing I expected to find under Grand Central. They kept roaring and breathing fire at us, and Owen kept deflecting the flames. I knew he was pretty powerful and he could probably keep doing that all day, but we needed to get out of there eventually if we were going to survive this. If nothing else, food and water might become an issue. For us, not the dragons. If they caught us, they’d have food taken care of, and I didn’t know if they needed water.
“I thought the dragons in the sewer system were an urban legend,” Owen remarked as he deflected yet another burst of flame. By this point, there were enough fireballs hanging in the air to make this underground cavern look like a July afternoon in Texas. The first ones were dissipating in a shower of sparks.
“I thought it was alligators in the sewer system,” I said, wincing and flinching at the next dragon attack. Eventually they were going to give up on the flames and go to Plan B, which would probably involve eating us without cooking us first.
“That’s the cover story,” Owen said.
“Oh. But this isn’t the sewer system, is it?”
“If you were that powerful, would you stay in the sewers for long, or would you find another place to stay? I’m sure there’s a hole in a sewer tunnel somewhere that leads into one of these forgotten railway tunnels.”
“Good point.” I tried to think of some way I could help. “Need me to throw a rock or two at them?” I felt I might as well fall back on my known strengths.
“No, thanks. Right now, I think they’re guessing where we are, based on smell. I haven’t dropped the invisibility spell. I’m varying the angles on my deflections, but a rock might help them pinpoint us.”
“Okay, then, no rocks. Us talking might not be such a great idea, then, huh?”
“I doubt they can hear us over their own roaring, and sound bounces around in here. But yeah, we might want to limit conversation.”
I supposed the situation could have been kind of romantic, in a bizarre way, what with my dashing hero rescuing me from the terrible dragons and all, but I doubted it would get too romantic until we were safely out of there. And then we’d both need a good shower before we’d want to go anywhere near each other for the dramatic “thank goodness you’re okay” scene. I could tell my hair already reeked of smoke.
Soon, the dragons got a clue, which wasn’t a good sign for us. The head dragon swiped the air with one giant clawed foot, like it was looking for the hidden intruders. “Not that I’m ungrateful for you deflecting the flames,” I said as that foot got closer and closer to us, “but we probably ought to come up with a plan to get out of here. Maybe you could create a diversion, or something.”