He'd lost her.
It should have been a simple mission. Find the griffin, take the skull it protected, and kill both it and the dragon. Not easy but simple. They even had the advantage of a steady rain to hinder the dragon's most deadly weapon. The explosion caught everyone off guard, including the dragon pest who'd let out a clear aw snap! In his defense though, the Huntsmaster hadn't thought griffin shit was that combustible either.
That lapse in knowledge had just cost him his favorite apprentice. Cost the clan their future leader. Maybe even cost the him his dream if that Aztec skull she'd been holding wasn't as indestructible as they claimed. He ran to the edge of the building reaching futilely for them. "Huntsgirl no!" he shouted for all the good it did. She had no way of saving herself even if she were still conscious and the clan had no way to reach her or the skull at that point. But the dragon still did. The Huntsmaster could only watch in helpless rage and horror as his most sworn enemy dove down to steal his rightful prize and leave his treasured heir to fall. What really happened was worse. The dragon flew away holding them both.
No huntsclan captured by the enemy had ever been seen again and for good reason. A quick unconscious death would have been more merciful. His protegee was a firm follower of protocol. She would do her duty without hesitation. Unless her captor searched her thoroughly enough and found her cyanide tablet before she could take it...
If that happened the American Dragon and his wretched magical allies would try to interrogate her. She would give up nothing, he was certain, but her eventual death would be made all the more painful for it. As if the worst wasn't already in store for her after all the attempted slayings. She could be awoken by fire and not allowed to close her eyes again until the end came, however many days that took. If the beasts could deprive themselves of a good meal they would starve her for the duration. Not that she should trust any food they might try to give her. She could be ripped apart piece by piece. She could be skinned alive. Flayed alive. Eaten alive. All the while trying not to give them the satisfaction of seeing her tears or hearing her screams.
She would die with honor if not glory. Too often that was all a warrior could ask for when the end came. That knowledge didn't make the sight of her being carried off any easier to bear.
"You'll pay for this dragon!" he bellowed with all his considerable might, though the creature was far out of hearing range by that point. "We will retrieve those skulls! And you and all your kind shall pay with your lives!" He turned to the others standing tall and firm as a leader must. "We will avenge our Huntsgirl! Let this loss only ignite the fires of our ambition and further inspire us to complete our mission to rid the world of the filth that is magic once and for all!"
The clan raised their weapons and bowed their heads silently in respect of their doomed member.
We will avenge you Rose.
When Rose woke up she was cool on one side and hot on the other. The coolness came from soaring through New York during a rain shower and the heat came from the dragon cuddling her close to his furnace of a body, his claws carefully not piercing her skin despite the tight grip. She was surprisingly comfortable up until she tried to move. Her head was groggy and she couldn't open her eyes much or for very long, but she at least saw that they were alone. "Mm- what happened?"
"Shockwave from that blast knocked ya out and off the roof. Seemed like a good chance for the big bad dragon to take the beautiful princess hostage."
"Oh you horrible fiend." she said, her voice exceptionally dry.
"You know it baby. I'm the worst of the worst."
"Uh-huh, totally the worst. I'm so scared." She yawned and relaxed her neck intending to go back to sleep before jolting in terror. "Oh my gosh Jake! I am so scared! The huntsclan must have seen you take me. I-I can't go back now! We're supposed to take ourselves out if we get captured. If they ever see me again they'll think I traded my life for information."
"You do give us information babe."
"Not the point!" She was starting to panic. She couldn't stay in the city without being spotted eventually and then there would be no escape for her. There would be no escape for Jake. "They'll find out who you are as a human a-and they'll go after your whole family! Even your friends could be in danger-" Caught up in her rambling she hardly noticed Jake had landed and was covering them from the rain with his wings. "I- I have to find somewhere to go. Leave the city. Start a new-"
Jake stopped her with the back of a claw pressed gently to her lips. "Honey boo stop worrying." He set her on her feet and moved his hands to her shoulders. "You're not goin' anywhere. They won't see you and they won't find me. Trust me on that."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, if there's one thing us magical creatures have down pat, it's the art of stayin' hidden in plain sight. We'll have you hooked up in no time. Nothing has to change." Rose didn't look entirely convinced. "Okay so maybe not nothing. But not too much. We'll get you a glamor charm. Set it up in a way no one'll ever notice. And wait awhile before enrolling you back in school with a new name... it'll be okay. I promise."
"Jake, that's sweet of you. But-"
"And," he continued, "I'm gonna help you find your parents."
"We know they're out there somewhere. Them and your twin. We will find them."
"Jake..." Rose took a step forward and pressed herself close to him as she felt him curl his tail around her for a deeper hug. Dragon hugs were so nice and warm. It hurt her to think she might not be there to enjoy them for much longer. "Jake thank you. But I still don't have a place to stay. It's not like the streets are lined with homes for wayward dragon slayers." She sighed.
"Not lined with them no, but that doesn't mean there ain't any."
She looked up at him in disbelief. "Get out."
"Me and Gramps had to pay the dragon council a visit the other day, so I took the time to ask a couple questions. Turns out they don't just have influence in the magical world. Also turns out you're not the only huntsclan to ever realize y'all are crazy with a capital C."
She had to take a moment to let that one sink in. "Huh. Magical witness protection."
"Way better than normal witness protection if ya ask me. You don't even have to go anywhere."
"I don't have to go anywhere..." Her head felt light- or maybe that was just her heart.
"That's right baby." Jake lifted her back up and prepared them for takeoff. The rain had lightened to a drizzle. "Feel free to go back to being Sleeping Beauty, I'll wake ya up with a kiss." He said with a wink.
Rose didn't go back to sleep. But she pretended to.