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Isirion

The Bloodline of Torch

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On the way back to the tavern Orion smiled at the thought of making a good amount of progress today. The feeling was contagious as Valerian and Emeraldan could feel a hint of pride from their headway. The party soon neared the area around the tavern and something felt distinctly wrong. It was as if the air itself were it mourning, even the usual birds and insects were silent, it felt like the world was holding its breath here. When they landed Orion quickly disembarked with Emeraldan on his shoulder and Valerian walking up behind him. Upon seeing all the sorrowful faces Orion rushed to what appeared to be the source, a frantic feeling clutching at his neck. His heart sank at what he found. The young woman, FlowerOwl, lay dead with a broken neck, her peaceful expression a stark contrast to whatever caused her demise. Emeraldan, not quite grasping the reality of the situation, walked to seek the company of the hatchlings that were his around his age

 

Valerian looked to Lunaspeeria, it was obvious she was taking this especially hard, so he walked closer and tried his best to comfort her. He stood by her side and did what he could to help her. Even standing next to her he could feel the heat radiating off of her, a significant amount even for a Hellfire but it would take a lot more to bother him.

 

Valerian's thoughts quickly shifted to his concern for Alsia and he shivered at the mere thought of something happening to her, as well as Orion and Emeraldan of course.

 

"How did this happen?" Were the only right words Orion could find, he asked to no one in particular.

Edited by Orion97

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While Emeraldan not quite understanding the situation walked into the stable from where he smelled at least one hatchie saving Alzira momentarily from answering Dreena's awkward question, Candy wobbled over to Orion to give him such details as she knew about FlowerOwl's demise. In the mean-time Lunaspeeria began to howl a sad farewell and Ale gently scooped earth on FlowerOwls body. By the time the body was fully covered the hunter knew about the dead herbalist's supposed jumping accident and the living herbalist's newest ruder-than-ever-behaviour. Now it was time for Orion to share his news and thanks to his energetic Grey Dragon hatchie who had driven Alzira, Sappo, Jaxon und Dreena from the stable, almost everybody was present to listen.

 

In the meantime at Isirions's hideout

 

After having checked every place the missing hatchies could have reached on foot and still not finding nose or tail of them Isirion reached the conclusion that at least one of the dragons from the higher-up caves who was allowed to fly around freely must have literally taking them under his or her wings. Isirion permitted himself a grin as he pictured that bunch of promising hatchies getting even stronger under the guidance of a winner of the Hellfire Games. They even managed to convince 'S' to flee with them leaving behind the two hatchies he had already killed for their weak-mindedness in the boneyard. Thinking about the boneyard reminded him that he better started cleaning up the dead bodies now that his corpse-disposal-dragon had decided to join the world of the living again. If the corpses started to decompose within the hideout it could lead to infection and sickness of his live stock. It was definitely better to throw them out like he had once thrown out a diseased Gray Dragon hatchie. After the disposal of the dead hatchies he would check the requests on the Egg Hunter pole because it was already the last day of the week and fulfilling them usually costed him at least half a day.

 

An hour later the ungendered-hatchie-pit was clean and ready again for the next bunch. All the dead hatchies including the two from the boneyard were thrown into the lake where the fish and the Water Dragons would soon gobble them up without leaving a trace. A minute later Isirion had collected the request papers and sighed because that obnoxious herbalist had really requested more leaves of the Leetle tree. The other requests didn't look too troublesome: fetching three Guardian eggs, fetching a bunch of other eggs, catching some Electric Dragon hatchlings because most likely those inept fishermen had accidently drowned a few of them again while using them for shock-fishing. Lastly the Egg Hunter had requested a meeting with him for tomorrow the reason given was the disappearance of the Gatherer. Isirion sighed again then he accepted all the requests and disappeared himself.

Edited by Isirion

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Orion took a deep breath as he prepared to speak. "I know we may not have known her very well. We only can only hope her end came painlessly and truly from an accident...but in light of recent events I cannot make certainty of it. A lot has happened right in the stables and around the tavern in general. One thing is for certain, we can't afford to be careless. No one goes anywhere alone, always travel in pairs or in a group, especially outside or at night. Now, just outside of town I spoke with an old soldier, Sodger. He served with Ale in the past in the Royal Blue Regiment." Orion gave a subtle, respectful nod to Ale. "He was hospitable and we discussed the disappearance of the Gatherer. I am meeting with the Egg Hunter apprentice tomorrow at dusk who we believe could be responsible for, or at least have information on the Gatherer's fate. Alzira, I wouldn't ask this if I didn't think you were up to it but I need you to help with that. When the meeting is done I will give you a signal, I'll scratch the back of my neck and rub my chin if something seems suspicious about this Egg Hunter of ours, whom I believe could be connected to the "ghost" that has plagued this tavern. You'll have to stay well away from him, I'll do my best to catch up with you without getting caught but if I give the signal I need to track him back to where he goes. If you feel you are in danger leave right away."

He gestured to Alzira as he spoke, then he whispered to Candy and Ale, only loud enough so that they heard, it's not that he didn't trust the others but he knew first hand that kids like Jaxon had a tendency to spill secrets whether they meant to or not.

"I would ask that you two get Henna out of her room for at least ten minutes. Tell her you found some ingredient by the lake she may find useful but you can't get it without destroying it. Whatever story works. I sincerely hope she has nothing to do with all of this and I don't want to cast undue suspicion but she's definitely hiding something. A couple minutes in her room, that's all I need." He told them in a hushed tone.

"Any questions or concerns?" Orion addressed the entire group with him.

Edited by Orion97

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Alzira, with Dreena and Sappo sitting on her shoulders, sighed deeply:"This sad incident is not connected with the thief." She looked meaningful at Dreena and continued, "Dreena told Jaxon and me just minutes ago, I'll tell you the details a little bit later" Then she turned to Orion:"I think I can watch and follow, but I've never done this before so I don't know if I will be any help. I'm not exactly nondescript." She pointed at her green hair. "But nevertheless I want to have another look at the poles at the market. Maybe I can start selling some of my paintings and sketches there. This would be an opportunity for earning a little money and watching your meeting with the Egg Hunter's apprentice. I think if I leave at the same time it wouldn't be suspicious... And I need to paint, or at least start some sketches to show at the pole, maybe some views of the Inn and the lake?" She grew pensive, there was a lot to prepare and the Inn could use some good news as well.

But how to solve the problem at hand, getting Henna out of her room? As far as she knew the herbalist was very secretive and hardly left her room, except for confirming FlowerOwls death and posting quests for Leetle Tree Leaves. "Any ideas on how to get Henna out of the room? I don't think a simple herb is getting her out and I don't feel comfortable with a lie for I'm a horrible liar..." Sappo nudged her and suddenly she thought of her White Dragon, maybe he could be of help, he was a healer and knew of the urge to heal..."Maybe I'll talk with Susurro about how to approach Henna, what do you think?"

 

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After Alzira had finished speaking Sappo nudged her again and this time he blew a little flame. The little pygmy really loved his keeper but sometimes she was really slow. If she wanted to get someone out of the room she could just set it on fire. He clearly remembered how frentically she and Jaxon had run around in the stables just because he blew a few sparks and so he couldn't imagine that Henna to sit around idly in her room if he would lit it. Sappo blew another even bigger flame in the hopes his keeper would finally get it, but all the effect it had was luring Susurro over to soothe him. The White Dragon had cleaned himself from all the dirt the grave-digging had left and now said with a deep resonating voice: "There is a time for cheerfulness and there is a time for sorrow. With FlowerOwl dead and Lunaspeeria in mouring it is clearly the later so please behave for a while." His words were cleary meant to soothe the pygmy but instead they agitated the Vampire hatchie on Alziras other shoulder. Dreena jumped at him and hissed: "You are lying. FlowerOwl is not dead. She is just playing. How mean of you! I hate you!" And with that she tried to ran off into the forest if Ale hadn't chosen exactly this moment to step on her cross-shaped tail-tip. The ex-soldier picked the hatchie up by the neck and told her with his alcohol-ridden breath: "I have seen many deaths in my time as a soldier of the Royal Blue. I lost comrades and I killed enemies but one thing I never did. I never lied to myself because starting to lie to yourself means starting to lie to others too. That is what my comrade the Guardian always said. He always guarded the truth as much as us and he wouldn't want you to lie to yourself telling yourself that FlowerOwl is still alive because you want that to be true. Living a lie is the same as being dead because with each lie you kill a part of yourself until nothing of your true self remains. Believe me I have been there and I certainly do not want to return there ever."

 

It would have been a lie to say that Dreena understood everything Ale told her, but at the very least she understood his good intentions. The Vampire hatchie showed her peculiar fangs and said: "I came to life by taking it from an innocent unborn hatchie so I understand almost too well what you are trying to say. Despite me being a Vampire FlowerOwl was always cheerful and really happy to see me hatch. She didn't care on how I came to be but who I would become. I don't want to become a liar because this is not what I learned from her. Like her other dragons I learned about herbs and healing and so I want to save many lives for the one life I took and I want to save even more lives in FlowerOwls stead. I am sorry for hissing at you White Dragon but I wont regret asking you even if you refuse - will you take me under your wing as your apprentice so I can continue to study the art of healing?" Susurro cleary at loss for words nodded solemnly and gently pressed his forehead against hers to emphasize his approval. His gesture reminded the watching Candy of something and she exclaimed: "Because of all this gloomy talk about deaths and ghosts I have totally forgotten about the exorcist I hired. Erastor could surely hallow this place and drive all the evil memories and spirits away. Don't you think?"

Edited by Isirion

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Alzira was a bit stunned about Dreena's outburst, but it was a completely understandable one. Glad that the hatchling and Susurro finally approved of each other she thought about Candy's words. "Yes, Erastor can be of help", Alzira said although she had a hard time in believing in ghosts, she thought he would ease at least the innkeeper's spirits. "One of our dragons shall fetch him...", her attention trailed off again for she had noticed that Sappo was breathing a steady flame right next to her ear. Sappo was looking kind of proud and annoyed at the same time. When would his human keeper recognise his power of fire and thusly organized chaos? His tail swished back and forth until Alzira finall seemed to notice. Alzira had been so fixated on putting out Sappo's fires that it had took her that long to realize their potential, nevertheless she carefully squeezed his snout shut. Then she patted Sappo's head and said at last:"How about we try to talk to Henna and Sappo gets in, by accident of course," she smiled," and then some easy flameable things catch fire, like the curtains and sheets. She would have to leave of course and Orion can get in and search her room." Alzira looked around, she hoped her plan was sound enough and that Candy and Ale would be okay with some more ruckus in their tavern.

Edited by Alzira

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Candy managed a small nod while Ale removed his foot from Dreena's tail. The Vampire hatchie used her new freedom to climb onto the back of her new mentor Susurro. The White Dragon's back thus occupied it had to be Lunaspeeria to fly to the island and pick up the exorcist. Everybody present agreed silently that the flight would be a welcome distraction from the death of her owner. The female Hellfire Wyvern shot a last glance at FlowerOwls grave then she took off in order to fetch Erastor. The tavern owners watched her for a while then they whispered to each other discussing Alzira's or rather Sappo's idea on how to get Henna out of her room. After a minute or so Candy uncharacteristically cussed: "To hell with it. With all the ghosts around our business was going down in flames anyway!" Ale nodded and spat bitterly: "That's how it is. What ever you do you can't make it worse as it already is. It does not matter if the fire you want to set spreads or the rumors. After a dragon was almost stabbed to death and a customer really died our business is finished. Neither Candy's delicious cooking nor selling a few paintings can change that."

 

Jaxon however didn't share his parent's pessimism. He pointed proudly in the direction of the forest and said: "Our trap will catch the ghost or thief or whatever. There is no way he can escape the sticky webs once Telia drops them right unto his head. Once he is caught the customers will start coming back because the haunted forest isn't haunted anymore. The mischievious ghost is on our side! Telia could even give pranking tours through the forest and when she is done the guests can rest at our tavern and get addicted to the awesome cooking. I can join the tour too and show them how to collect stuff for my almost-edible-dragon-food..." The boy would have said more but Candy suddenly hugged him so affectionately that he couldn't breathe. His father rubbed his hair till it looked like a hedgehog and smiled: "That's my boy. You would have made the Royal Blues proud. A shame there are so few of us left..." Hearing that Jaxon got another idea and gasped: "We could gather the old Royal Blues and let them tell tales of the Dragon War to entertain our guests while eating mom's delicious food and drinking your special wine!" Ale smiled even more as he pondered the outlook of gathering his old comrades at the tavern he once had been so proud of and cried: "YES! The Royal Blues would be united again and Alzira could bring our stories to life with her painting skills. Our guests would not only marvel at the food but the decoration too! We will be back in business!"

Edited by Isirion

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Alzira listened to the outbursts of the couple and she felt deep remorse about her idea. Nevertheless Jaxon's ideas were worth thinking about. Maybe there was another possibility, a less fiery one, maybe when Erastor was back ... That was it, he could be of help indeed! "Maybe there's another option," she hesitated, "one that doesn't involve burning stuff. See, Lunaspeeria will bring Erastor back and then he can solve our problem. I mean he can cleanse the tavern, especially Henna's room and due to that she would have to leave otherwise she would disturb Erastor's ritual. I think this is doable, what do you say?" She looked at them expectantly.

Edited by Alzira

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Ale and Candy looked a bit sheepishly at Alzira. How could they have ever even considered to set their tavern ablaze? Using the wondrous skills of the famous exorcist Erastor was so much safer and so Candy nodded vigorously. Ale glanced at Orion to determine if he approved of the new plan. The hunter definitely seemed to approve and was already one step ahead. His sharp eyes already scanned the sky for Lunaspeeria's return. Soon the female Hellfire Wyvern came into view bearing not only the awaited exorcist on her back but also the beggar. The later had obviously used the opportunity to escape the island and the questions of the Guardian.

 

Once they had landed and dismounted Alzira and the tavern owners explained the modified plan to them. Erastor seemed delighted at the chance to show off his skill in an presumably already ghost-free environment. The beggar on the other hand deemed the whole commotion a waste of time because it wouldn't bring him even one step closer to finding his missing mentor the Gatherer. However after Candy offered him another helping of her famous cooking the beggar even volunteered to play along as the exorcists apprentice. Being a former thief would help him identify possible secret hiding places while being a cripple would help him avoid Henna's suspicion in doing so. Having heard about her personality the beggar didn't have any illusions that the herbalist wouldn't insist on being present during the preparation of the ritual that was going to be held in her precious room. Erastor seemed to share his thoughts this time maybe because he had had to deal with suspicious clients before. The exorcist checked his various talismans carefully before he handed over a large one that looked like a mixture of an owl and a fox. Then he said: "This one will help you gather your wits before the task. Henna is bound to be suspicious if my 'apprentice' doesn't have even one talisman so I am lending that one to you." The beggar thanked him and added: "And if she asks about my injury I can tell her almost without lying that an evil spirit you failed to exorcise cut my hand off because I haven't been careful enough. After hearing that I bet she wouldn't want to stick around during the actual ritual." Erastor suddenly clapped his hands and exclaimed: "And with her gone Orion can sneak into her room and search it thoroughly with us. This will work magnificently I can feel it." Thus said the exorcist started humming incantations and made his way to Henna's room. In front of the Black Dragon room on the first floor of the tavern he waited for the rest of the group to gather as his audience then he proclaimed with a thundering voice: "This is the place. Behind this dark door I can feel the evil spirits stirring. Restless and relentless they strive to be a part of our world again. I can also feel a human being in danger of getting tangled up in the invisible net of their otherworldy desire. However I Erastor the exorcist will not stand idly I will cleanse this place cleanse it from evil and...OUCH!" Apparently Henna's patience had run out behind the dark door and she had slammed it open right into the exorcist's face. Now she ranted with no sign of remorse whatsoever: "Trampling elephants, whining girls, screaming idiots, jumping, giggling, humming and SCREAMING AGAIN. I've had it with this tavern. WHAT IS IT THIS TIME?!?!"

Edited by Isirion

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"No one else here is screaming. The exorcist needs to perform a ritual to cleanse a spirit from the place. Whether you believe in spirits or not he's already here. It shouldn't take long. Why don't you come out here? I can tell you of an area packed with rare herbs and plants tucked in the mountains. I'm sure one of the dragons here would be happy to take you. I'll have that chicken for you when you come back as well." Orion responded quietly despite Henna's loud demeanor. Emeraldan circled around him excitedly while the others responded to her only with glares for her rude behavior.

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Once again Orion's diligent approach seemed to please the herbalist. The first time they had spoken with each other she had been impressed by the hunter's politeness, handsomeness and his acknowledgement of her herbal studies - and now he had even remembered the chicken. Too bad he was ten years or maybe even fifteen years younger than herself. Sighing Henna put on her best smile and her best behaviour before replying: "So it is not only trampling elephants, whining girls and bed-jumping idiots there are spirits here as well. Hmm except for that bloody nose that exorcist looks competent enough. Too bad there isn't a ritual against the other plagues as well. Well I wouldn't mind if he would try anyway. Just give me five minutes to collect my stuff and I'll gladly take up that offer of yours." Apperently Henna's best behaviour had run out already because not waiting for an answer she slammed the door shut again behind her and started rummaging in her room. A bit later weird sounds emanated from there. It almost sounded like a bad tempered chicken bickering and quickly being muffled by something like a bed sheet. After that came more rummaging and finally the door opened again and the herbalist emerged with a big brown bulging bag. Now Henna smiled again and smiled even wider as Orion gave her the directions to the rare herb spot in the mountains. Managing a quite truthful 'Thank you' the herbalist went down the stairs in order to find a dragon to take her to the mountains. Outside she found Valerian, Lunaspeeria, Susurro and Dreena. Upon seeing the latter's snake-like fangs Henna suddenly remembered something. A while ago she had sent her pet snake Umi to keep an eye on the hunter in case he tried to investigate her leetle-leaf-source but even if the hunter had apparently returned the snake was still missing. Henna nonetheless shot a few glances around if she could spot the blue-banded snake anywhere and to her surprise she did. Umi slithered right next to the lakeside and was in the process of gulping down some kind of carcass that looked just like a ungendered throat-ripped belly-wounded version of the adult male Hellfire Wyvern present. Of course Henna knew how snakes unhinged their jaws to swallow their prey whole but watching it was disgusting nonetheless. However it was not the herbalist but her big brown bulging bag letting out a fitting shriek that alerted the three dragons to that scene.

Edited by Isirion

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"Wait, was that a smile?" Orion said to no one in particular after Henna was gone. "Come on, can't wait too long. I need someone to keep watch." He said as he looked to the dragon that was flying in a tight circle around his head. "Emeraldan, could you keep an eye out? Come warn us if you spot Henna coming back to the Inn, okay bud?" Emeraldan chirped happily and flew outside to keep watch, his flying wasn't perfect but it was improving fast. He only bumped into the wall twice on the way outside.

 

Outside the sound coming from Henna's bag got Valerian's attention but it was what he saw the snake eating that really had him focused. He remembered a thing about some snakes and that they regurgitated food when threatened so he breathed a small flame near the snake. It spat out its prey and retreated away from the dragon towering over it. It was as he feared. A dead, crumpled Hellfire hatchie. He looked at it sadly before he noticed a a pair of dead Hellfire hatchlings laying on the beach. His heart shattered as he saw them. They didn't die of natural causes. They were murdered. For the first time in a long time, the red wyvern started to shed tears. He covered the scene from sight with his wing so the others didn't have to see it. Susurro seemed to be interested in what Henna had in her back while he thought it looked like Dreena was divided. Whatever happened, these hatchlings deserved a proper burial...not this.

"Who would do this..." He whispered. It broke his heart enough and he was a tough dragon. He couldn't let Lunaspeeria see this, no matter what. FlowerOwl just died. She didn't need anymore grief and would probably take something like these even worse than him.

Edited by Orion97

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Susurro looked at Henna. That shriek coming from the bag had been most unsettling and seemed to be from a ... chicken? He stepped a little closer and tried to get a better look at her bumpy bag. He even sniffed at it, but the herbalist was emanating such a wide and intense range of scents he instantly regretted taking that breath. Furthermore he had to sneeze several times.

He turned his head towards Dreena to excuse for the shaky ride. While doing so he finally recognised the dead hatchlings Valerian was shielding. A short glimpse at the dragon revealed his struggle to regain his composure. Susurro was shocked as well, but staring at them won't accomplish anything. He took a deepp breath and then another then he said: "I don't know who or what has happened to them, but nevertheless they deserve a decent burial. We should take care of this right now and tell the others afterwards. This day is already sad enough." Also Susurro intended to check the dead bodies for further signs of violence while they were bedded to their rest. Maybe Dreena wanted a look at them as well, but he wouldn't force her to do so.

 

 

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Now that even the White Dragon tried not to stare at the place Valerian shielded from view with his body it became obvious for Lunaspeeria that the male Hellfire Wyvern was hiding something. Not wanting to be kept out of anything after she had just lost her owner Lunaspeeria moved closer in order to get a look. Of course Valerian quickly shifted his body to block her view from her new position too but unless a miracle happened it was only a matter of time till she would spot the three dead hatchies. A miracle didn't happen but Henna. The herbalist couldn't care less about one or two or even three dead hatchlings and so she commanded the only dragon currently not occupied with them to bring her to the spot in the mountains the hunter had told her. Under normal circumstances Lunaspeeria would have just ignored her but at that time at that day the herbal-smelling woman was too strong a reminder of her herbal-smelling and herbal-loving owner. Henna even seemed to carry around something living in her bag like FlowerOwl had carried around Dreena. In short Lunaspeeria couldn't refuse the request and flew Henna and her bag towards the mountains.

 

On the ground Valerian continued to shield the bodies from her sight even from above with his wings until the dragoness was gone. Now he and Susurro had the opportunity to closer inspect the bodies. The first hatchie that the snake had tried to eat was big and muscly and on the verge of gendering male. The wounds on his stomach and his torn throat looked like they had been caused by another dragon possibly in a fight. The other two hatchies washed up at the lake-side had only a few scratches clearly left behind by dragon-claws and teeth. However those scratches weren't fatal at all and also there were no signs that those two hatchies had drowned. Instead they died because they had their necks broken - broken by claw-less hands with opposable thumbs - human hands!

 

Dreena who was still sitting on Susurro's back recoiled at the sight of the broken necks then she curled up and shed tears for the two hatchies and her owner as well. The only one present that was not moved by the sight at all was Umi. The blue-banded snake that had previously been scared away by Valerian slithered back and forth hoping the fierce dragon would soon leave her going-to-be-meal in peace again.

Edited by Isirion

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Valerian stared daggers at the snake. He knew that it was how nature worked but regardless he would rather have his scales ripped off than to let the snake have them. His eyes almost seemed to glow red and it was easy to tell that he was was only barely holding back a torrent of fire on the snake.

 

What's happening to me? I've never felt like this... He thought as he glanced back down at the hatchlings. He regretted it. He shook ever so slightly but he shook nonetheless. Then the answer came to him. He was picturing the situation as if they were his own children. He closed his eyes and took a long, deep breath and exhaled before turning his head to Susurro. "Who could have done this!?" He asked, his voice cracked and he swallowed before trying to speak again. "W-we should give them a proper burial and we can set up for a proper funeral tonight. It's already getting late but the deceased hatchlings will be treated with dignity. Susurro, please keep that snake away from them, or I will roast it. I'm getting Orion. This will NEVER happen again. Tomorrow we are going to find the monster who did this and I will kill him." Valerian said, initially with sorrow but ending with a hint of rage in his tone. Mixed emotions of sorrow and rage flung wildly in his heart. He wanted to do things to their killer so terrible that he would feel ashamed if Alsia heard him say them. Valerian briefly departed Susurro's presence, blissfully relieved to be away from the sight of the dead hatchies but also feeling a strange pang of guilt for letting this happen at all, even if he had nothing to do with it. He shook these thoughts away as he craned his head inside the inn and called for Orion.

 

Upstairs Orion had quickly seized the opportunity to search Henna's room. The room was so messy that for a moment he didn't feel so bad about how his own room usually looked. The next things he noticed was how bare the bed was and the chicken feathers everywhere. He ignored the chicken feathers as another odd subject he'd rather not get involved in at the moment. Then he caught a glimpse of a peculiar leaf that instantly seemed familiar.

 

"A Leetle Tree leaf!?" His temper flared. He stomped over to it and snatched up the leaf. He connected the dots in his mind and his eyes widened in realization. It was all connected. "That bloody mad woman! I can't believe that-" Orion shouted angrily to himself when he heard Valerian interrupt by calling for him. Emeraldan held on tight to his shoulder as he raced downstairs and was even more shocked to see the proud Hellfire Wyvern just barely holding back a flood of tears. He swore he felt his heart stop. There was a very, very short list of things that could make Valerian cry. He burst outside like a dart, making it ahead of even Valerian. "Valerian! Is Alsia allright? What happened!?" Orion's questions stopped when he saw the dead hatchlings. He was instantly struck with grief for the young ones but he also felt a sick sense of relief that he didn't come out here and see Alsia fatally wounded or the like. Then he ran back inside for a moment to leave Emeraldan in there so the hatchling wouldn't see any more of it than he had too. Outside again he began working together with Susurro and Valerian to prepare a funeral for the hatchlings.

"Valerian...you don't need to be around this anymore..." Orion said after a while with some concern as he watched his friend try harder and harder at making the dead hatchies comfortable as if his life depended on it. "Take a breather, take some time to process this. I know it's hard but-"

 

"No, you don't know! Why should I take a break? Do you think I can't handle this!?" Valerian snapped, not bothering to try holding back the few heavy tears that made it to the ground. "The least they deserve is a decent grave and funeral!" A couple more tears dropped when he saw the shocked reaction his words had left with Orion. "I'm sorry, Orion. I don't know why it's affecting me this badly. I've never even seen them before but...all I can think about is the lives they never got to live..."

 

"It's allright, I understand you didn't mean to yell. It hurts me too but I can't even imagine how much more it hurts you." Orion said, trying to console the Hellfire. He put a reassuring hand on his neck.

 

"That's not all...I couldn't stop thinking about if they were my own. If Alsia and I had hatchlings and something like that happened...I don't think I could exist if that actually occurred."

 

"Don’t worry, if you two had children I know you would never let anything happen to them. You aren't responsible for what happened to these hatchlings. What you're doing already is noble but I think you should let us finish the preparations. Maybe rest a little, I'll wake you up when the others are back so we can all say a few words." Valerian nodded in agreement and forced himself into an uneasy slumber until Orion would awake him. As Orion helped Susurro finish last minute preparations he fiddled with the Leetle Tree leaf still in his pocket and made a note to bring it up when everyone was present after the funeral.

Edited by Orion97

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After Orion had left Henna's room shouting but not explaining Alzira was at loss at what to do. Sappo however hadn't been so timid. The little Misfit Pygmy had stormed inside between her legs . In his opinion a little fire would have been nice, but he remembered that his services had not been required. Alzira, afraid he might have forgotten the "no fire" option had hurried after him and caught him near the window, staring outside at a peculiar scene. Alzira had noticed Henna leaving the Tavern on Lunaspeeria's back while Valerian was keeping his opened wing between them. Even Susurro had seemed tense. At one time she had noticed something small next to the dragons, but she hadn't been able to identify it. As the dragons begun to move she had tried to capure a glimpse but she hadn't had any luck until she finally she recognised what the dragons and Orion who had joined them were doing. She recognised the hole the were digging for what it was. Another grave, but why? Who had died? Sappo noticed Alzira's change of mood and took his usual place on her shoulder. Together they watched them work in silence from the window until Valerian seemed to take a forced rest. Alzira still hadn't realized the exact source for their strained faces, but wanted to help, to show her concern so she finally went outside to pick some lilies and reeds so she could arrange them into a beautiful wreath. A proper burial needed flowers, wouldn't it?

 

Outside Susurro had been really eased when Orion had arrived. Although he completely understood that Valerian was more than agitated, he was glad that Orion had persuaded him to take a little break. The Hellfire's anger and frustration had been radiating and had already affected Susurro's composure. He knew he didn't look like it but he had a hard time keeping his temper as well. Thanks to Orion their sad task was soon finished. The White dragon could breathe more easily now even more so as he noticed his own owner Alzira approaching the group respectfully. He looked at her and she could see the tears glistening in his eyes. She placed her hand on his shoulder, showed him the wreath and said:"I came to pay my respects" Susurro bowed his head down to her and whispered what he knew about the dead hatchies. Now she understood the grave atmosphere. Hatchies! How could anyone do that to them? She didn't know what to do, tears started rolling down her face and at the same time rage against the murderer started to boil inside her. Susurro rubbed his head against her side, he knew exactly how she was feeling. After a while she felt content enough to go to Orion. She presented her wreath and said:"I'm so sorry. I don't know what to say... I hope this is a proper token of my condolences."

 

Edited by Alzira

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"It's the sentiment that truly matters." Orion said with a sad smile.

 

After most everyone had paid their respects and said their piece Orion knelt down beside the site and spoke just above a whisper, the others tried their best to hear him.

 

"I don't know who any of you were, I don't know where you are from, or why such a tragic fate could befall the innocent. On my life, I will help bring justice to whoever did this." He bowed his head respectfully before turning around and standing up, ready to address all those in attendance.

 

"We each ended up here tonight for our own reasons, but I can confidently say that after this we all have a shared goal. This." He said gesturing back to the grave. "Will not happen again. No longer will any of us live in fear of this monster. It will no longer control us. We are going to find it, and end the threat once and for all." He said with finality

 

As he stepped back into the crowd Valerian stepped forward hesitantly but continued until he was stopped in front of the burial site. "Rest in peace, little ones." He whispered with a bow before delivering a small speech of his own. There were tears visible in his eyes but he no longer cared if anyone saw. "These hatchlings were...murdered before they could have even a fighting chance at life. Not one will ever know the experience of growing up, going on their first true hunt, flying high in the air...or falling in love. There is nothing we can do to repair the horrific damage that has been dealt. But let us not allow the same fate to befall anyone else, and to honor them to the best of our ability." The sad Hellfire finished with a gentle nod before going back into the crowd. The last of the speakers emerged, the rest having gone even before Orion.

 

The crowd was about to head inside when Emeraldan flew off of Orion's shoulders and landed beside the burial site, much to everyone's surprise. They turned their heads in curiosity as to what the hatchling might do. The young gray dragon swallowed and looked nervously at the crowd that seemed to dwarf him.

 

"N-no...fight. No dath." He squeaked out as loud as he could. "Fwends nice...fwends...save wifes. Fwends no kill..." The little drakes words pierced Valerian's heart the most. The picture of innocence was asking for no more violence. He wanted justice without bloodshed. Orion was surprised but proud of the little dragon whom now nervously flew back to his shoulder, hiding himself behind his wings from being the target of everyone's attention.

 

Soon after Emeraldan's unexpected words the group began to find their beds and drift off into what was an uneasy sleep for most of them. Valerian did not dare sleep though. He silently watched over the others, especially the hatchlings Emeraldan and Sappo. He hugged the walls as he made a silent patrol around the inn, highly vigilant of every microscopic movement in the woods and the surrounding area. Nothing would get past him if he had anything to say about it. Nothing would make him give up his watch.

Edited by Orion97

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After a while at the tavern almost everyone except Valerian who kept a peerless watch was sound asleep. The uneasiness from the day carried over into their nightmares and the humans dreamed they were preyed upon by an unknown and unseen beast. The dragons Susurro, Sappo, Dreena and Emeraldan all dreamed that they were locked up together in some kind of fighting pit and forced to fight each other until only one remained. They all shared the unnerving feeling that their fights were watched by unknown and unseen eyes. Despite their bad dreams neither the humans nor the dragons woke up to the return of Lunaspeeria and so Valerian was the only one to see Henna dismount with an armfull of herbs. Her bag was still big brown and bulging but definitely not shrieking anymore. The herbalist whistled softly and then picked up the blue-banded snake that obediently had slithered towards her. After that without a word of thanks to the female Hellfire Wyvern who had carried her or a word of greeting for the male one Henna went back into her room and then to sleep right away.

 

In the meantime on the island in the middle of the lake

 

The moonlight and the faint starlight reflected from the eyes of the Guardian as he patrolled tirelessly around the Leetle tree. Careful not to give away Lazarus' and Alsia's presence and hiding place to an unkown watcher he walked in a rather big circle. If the Leetle-leaf-thief was already present he would be tempted to get closer to the tree from his blindspot. Once the thief was lured in Alsia would freeze him dropping her earth-mound-disguise and Lazarus would lash out from his hiding-hole and hopefully tear him appart without getting sliced up by his wicked blade first. However safe and sound that plan was there was always a risk left the Guardian thought with growing uneasiness. That thief supposedly could move in the blink of an eye and if he had a means to counter the Ice Dragon's chilling breath then Alsia would be in mortal danger. The Guardian scolded himself for thinking negatively like that and picked up his pace. Hours later it was the dead of the night already and still there had been no sign of the thief. Suddenly however the Guardian stopped dead in his tracks because he had seen something move in the direction of the entrance to the Leetle shrine. A hooded human figure clad in black had appeared in the shadows of the night and was approaching him openly. The figure carried three Guardian eggs in the crook of his left hand while his right hand was hidden in the folds of his cloak. Startled the Guardian bellowed a question towards the stranger: "Who the hell are you and what are you doing here at this time?"

 

The stranger didn't seem to be startled in return by the rude welcome. Ice-cold eyes glittered calmly beneath his hood as he took another step forward and stated with an ice-cold voice: "I am the Egg Hunter's apprentice and I am here to deliver the three Guardian Eggs that had been requested. The payment I demand are three leaves of the Leetle Tree. Will you give them to me or should I take them myself?"

 

Upon hearing that the Guardian snapped. His bear-like frame trembled as he shouted madly: "I WILL NOT GIVE YOU OR ANYBODY ELSE EVEN A SINGLE LEAVE FROM THAT TREE I VOWED TO PROTECT! I AM IT'S GUARDIAN AND I WILL GUARD IT UNTIL MY DEATH!" The stranger recoiled from the sheer volume of the Guardian's voice but remained otherwise unimpressed. Now he lowered his left arm in a gradual and casual way that endangered the eggs he was carrying of smashing on the ground and said with a calm but menacing tone: "The Egg Hunter business takes pride in fulfilling every reasonable request. However the price is not negotiable. Will you still not take the eggs you have requested?" He hadn't had to add what he would do otherwise the Guardian understood him without words. If he answered with 'Yes' he would have to break his guarding oath and give up three leaves of the Leetle Tree but if he answered with 'No' the stranger with the ice-cold eyes and voice before him would smash the three eggs killing the hatchlings forming inside." Forced into an unthinkable situation the Guardian was torn between his believes and his conscience. He had never in his life shrunk from his duty - but what was his duty now? Was it protecting the lives of the unborn hatchies or was it protecting the leaves of the Leetle tree?

Edited by Isirion

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Alsia watched with uncertainty as the guardian and thief began to exchange words. She knew what the thief was likely capable of and she considered taking him by surprise but the thought of leaving Valerian heartbroken if she failed came to the forefront of her mind. She made no sudden movement but steadily moved up from her hiding place and into open view.

 

"You. Put down the eggs...please. We will work something out and there will be no violence." She said in a diplomatic tone. The lives of three hatchlings weighed above all else, even if the Guardian ultimately decided the Leetle tree mattered more she would injure both of the men before the eggs were damaged. "Guardian...you may have sworn to guard the tree but are the lives of three innocents worth it? Leeves can grow, whomever those hatchies grow to become will only ever happen once..." Although she tried to hide it she could feel her heartbeat faster, she was never one to enjoy death and she couldn't bear to be the cause of it. She was already making emergency plans in her head for if the situation took a turn for the worse.

Edited by Orion97

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If the Egg hunter's apprentice was surprised by the sudden transformation of an earth-mound into a dirt-covered Ice Dragon he didn't show it. He also didn't put down the eggs or secured their position even in the slightest. His ice-cold eyes glittering beneath his hood he spoke instead to the Guardian: "As I have heard from my master Sodger you were an old comrade of his. A man true to his word he said. I also value honesty because I believe having to resort to lies is a sign of weakness as is resorting to violence if there is no reason." The unexpected mention of the former captain of the first Royal Blue regiment caught the Guardian off-guard again and added to his confusion. He had expected a blood-thirsty night-time thief hellbent on stealing leaves from the Leetle tree but instead he was having a conversation. The stranger before his eyes really seemed to be Sodger's apprentice as he had brought the requested eggs and above that even valued the same virtue as himself. As a soldier however he had been in unexpected situations before and so he managed to calm down quickly. To face the foe and stand proudly true - That is the honour of the Royal Blue. The foe in this case was his uncertainity and to face it he bellowed the question that tormented him with a volume that made the stranger recoil again: "ARE YOU NOT A THIEF?"

 

This outburst definitely surprised the stranger but he still answered with his ice-cold voice: "Of course I am a thief. A thief for hire as I steal eggs and deliver them to the people that requested them for a price. That is usually my business however I am here now for a trade not for a theft. Have you made up your mind if you are ready to make the trade?" Again he hadn't had to add that the trade was the unborn hatchies' lives against the leaves because the Guardian had already understood him the first time. Now all that was left was to calmly wait for the Guardian to make his choice. He hadn't had to wait long because after a mere minute the Guardian lowered his head in agreement and went away to fetch the leaves leaving the egg hunter's apprentice alone with the Ice Dragon...

Edited by Isirion

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Alsia looked at the stranger with a mixed expression. She had become very adept at reading people and figuring them out but she couldn't gleam anything from him. She remained in a neutral position, open enough that she would appear to be willing to be diplomatic but guarded enough that she wouldn't be caught off guard if something happened. She'd be more willing to listen to him if he were to at least secure the eggs or set them on the ground.

 

"So you're the egg-hunter's apprentice, that much is obvious but what is your name? As well why go to such lengths for leaves? Would it not be much more worth your while to find your own Leetle tree? Surely there are more out there." She asked, genuinely curious. Something about the man told her that he could not be trusted. The very air around him seemed wrong in a way she couldn't place. This was not the sort of man you would trust with your life. "As well...please set down the eggs. I do not wish to fight with you and the Guardian is getting the leaves." She said in a careful tone. Enough to show that she cared for them but not so much that she might appear weak or that he could use them as serious leverage.

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The way Alsia carried herself while scrutinizing and questioning him apparently caught the stranger's interest. Before answering he studied the Ice Dragon himself for a while forming a mental picture of her strengths and weaknesses. The conclusion he came to was that despite her words she cared more for the eggs as she had let out the reason for this was the fact that she had almost instantly left her superior hiding-place the moment the lives of the unborn hatchies were threatened. The fact that there had been a dragon in hiding at all didn't came as a surprise because after he had stolen a leaf the last time he visited the island there was bound to be an increase in security. The one thing that did surprise him was that the ever-watchful Guardian Dragon that even had spotted him stealing was nowhere around. To avoid being caught stealing again he had devised the trade that was taking place right now and as it really was a trade and not a theft there was no reason for him to not answer the Ice Dragon's questions or heed her plea. In one quick smooth motion he lowered the eggs on the ground and rose up again then he said: "My name is Isirion. The reason why I am going to such lengths for the leaves is that they like the three Guardian eggs had been requested on the Egg Hunter's pole otherwise both of them hold no value for me." Having answered Alsia's questions thus Isirion again shifted his attention to the Guardian who returned clasping three leaves of the Leetle tree. Reluctantly the Guardian handed them over and Isirion immediately hid them within his cloak. Afterwards he pointed to the eggs that where safe on the ground and said: "Our trade is herewith concluded. I have delivered the eggs you requested and you have paid the price I asked for them. " With this words he turned around and calmly walked towards the shadows he had first appeared from.

Edited by Isirion

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Alsia watched curiously as Isirion began to depart. She didn't want to trigger hostilities by following him directly, he appeared too perceptive by far. She eyed the path he took closely to have an idea where he might be returning to and fortunately it seemed like she'd at least have a general idea of where he'd return to. After a few moments, satisfied with examining the likely route, Alsia snapped her attention back to the eggs and the crestfallen Guardian. She wrapped her tail around the eggs almost without thinking and protected them like they were her own. She inspected each one and was immensely relieved they were all completely undamaged. She focused now on the Guardian and smiled warmly.

 

"Thank you." She would have tried to hug him if not for the fact that a large dragon getting in your personal space quickly tends to unnerve some people. "That certainly turned out different than I think either of us expected...so what are you going to do with all three of these eggs? If you have no plan I can take them with me when I return to the others, which I would like to do soon if you have no further need of me. I would like to see how Valerian is doing." She said, her ears and head in general moving around idly, a sign Valerian had long since interpreted as being very happy or joyful at how something had turned out.

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The Guardian still looked crestfallen and couldn't understand how Alsia could look so happy. Not only had he broken his guarding vow but had his own honesty used against him as if it were a weakness to be exploited but the thing that really got to him was that the stranger had done so without uttering even a single false word. Even his body language had spoken truth and there was no doubt he would have smashed the eggs if the trade had been canceled. Not out of spite but simply because in that case they would have had no use for him anymore. It was the exact opposite of the Ice Dragon who motherly cared for the eggs that not even were her own. Thinking of Alsia reminded him that the dragoness had asked him something and he stared at her for a while to remember what it was.

 

Half a minute later he still couldn't remember and didn't try anymore because of the scene that unfolded before his eyes. Little Galandir, orphaned son of the Guardian Dragon Galandor suddenly crawled out of his own hiding place where he had overslept the menacing part of the trade and over the tail of the Ice Dragon and hugged each of the eggs. To the first one he squeaked with an excited voice: "We will protect the tree together will we?" The second one he declared his playmate for the times he would be off-duty: "We will have so much fun playing with each other. We could play 'Hide and Tail' and 'Tail Ball' and 'Catch the Tail' together with the friends I made!" The third one he hugged especially tenderly and squeaked: "You are going to be my little sister and I will be a big brother you can be as proud of as I am of my father. I am going to protect you like I will protect the Leetle tree and my two new brothers will protect you too! There will be a Guardian family again!"

 

Watching and listening to Galandir reminded him of the reason he had requested the Guardian eggs. It had not been to lure out a thief that at that time he didn't even know about but to give the Little Guardian Dragon a family again. His father had died because he had punished him too hard for failing to thwart the theft of a Leetle leaf and the Guardian had felt it right to make amends. Seeing how happy Galandir now seems, he finally understood Alsia's feelings and smiling himself he said: "I am in your dept because you have prevented me from taking even more from little Galandir. If you haven't been here I may have refused the trade and not only the eggs would have gotten broken but Galandir's heart too. You have my thanks and I wish you well on whatever path you will take from now on."

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Alsia was practically beaming at this point and until now she had barely noticed it herself. The thought of her and Valerian perhaps having hatchlings together crept into her mind before she refocused and couldn't help but feel a little more joy from watching the little dragon beside her talk to the eggs.

 

"You are welcome, it was my pleasure. I wish you well in the same regards and it'll be nice for the little guy to have some friends. Maybe you could take them somewhere exciting one day. I remember travelling all the time with Orion to go off on little adventures and everyday was memorable." She said with a happy sigh. She glanced down to the little hatchling bouncing excitedly around the eggs.

 

"Now remember you must be a good big brother to your siblings. They'll look up to you. I hope you all have fun together." She cooed. She carefully stood up and moved so Galandir had more space with the eggs and she moved up to the Guardian more.

 

She bowed gently. "Farewell, I look forward to seeing you again in the near future. Based on what's going on we might be around a while. You might even want to visit the Sleeping Dragon Inn yourself, the people there are friendly. Anyhow I should go. Oh and please tell Lazarus I said goodbye too." Alsia stretched her magnificent blue wings and took off in a short run before leaping into the air and with a few more flaps lifted herself higher and took the short flight back to the Inn herself, unaware of the events that had taken place in her absence.

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