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Isirion

The Bloodline of Torch

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Glimmer didn't like Treasure's explanation at all but what other possible explanation could there be? Being stuck in a pit with no food would make anyone try to escape but if the previous hatchlings had failed trying to climb the walls - where were they now? Unbidden the image of their mysterious keeper carrying away the dead hatchling rose from Glimmer's memory but she brushed it aside and said: "It must be possible to get out of here somehow because there were hatchlings in that feeding area we saw. Maybe if we shout loud enough they will hear us and help us or at least share their food with us. Let's shout for them together!" Having said this Glimmer strained her voice and made short, high-pitched screams to get the attention of the hatchlings in the near-by feeding area.

 

Bossy at the other side of the pit immediately understood what she was trying to do and commanded Head and Butt to shout too. After that she glanced over to the golden-eyed hatchling to see if they joined in or if they deemed it a fruitless effort because of the immense height of the pit...

Edited by Isirion

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To Treasure, this idea seemed like a last resort. No, climbing the wall was, but no doubt this was a close second, but it didn't seem like they had a lot of options to begin with anyway. Even Bossy got Head and Butt to start shouting. Doubts began to form in her mind. What if no one heard them and this was all pointless to begin with? Even if someone did would they even be willing to help? If they chose to help how would they reach them? Treasure shook her head as if trying to get rid of the questions in her mind. Wether she joined in or not they would probably keep screaming. If you can't beat them join them. Besides maybe if the hatchlings could shout loud enough then someone ought to hear them, right?

Edited by AK-Meow

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After Treasure had joined their voice with the other hatchlings they shouted together for a while with no effect except their throats getting sore. Just as Bossy was about to give up in frustration two hindlegs with thick claws gripped the edge of the pit and a very young male Hellfire Wyvern glanced down upon them. There was something cold and calculating in his stare but as he spoke his voice sounded quite friendly and sympathetic: "Shhh, don't you know anything? Screaming for help like weak little maggots will get you killed here in no time. If you want to get out of this pit you have to prove your strength or there won't be any food for you. Do you understand?"

 

Bossy looked like she understood only too well but didn't like it one bit. She was fairly confident she could overpower Head and Butt but the hatchling with the golden eyes was an entirely different matter. Glancing over to said hatchling she wondered how they would react to the news.

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Treasure's throat was stating to get sore and was ready to call it quits. As soon as she stopped something or rather someone appeared at the edge of the pit. Another hatchling peered down at them. Did he come from the feeding area or from somewhere else? Either way she didn't like the way how he coldly stared at them, but what he talked about interested her. The trio over there wouldn't be much of a problem just as long a Bossy didn't try anything and if the other two did try to do something then she could easily put them in their place. She doubted that Glimmer would try to break their alliance so quickly anyways. She turned to look at the three when she noticed Bossy looking at her and gave them a mischievous look with a slight smirk before turning back to the hatchling above them. She had a few questions in mind and spoke up. "Just who are you and where did you come from? What exactly do you mean by proving our strength? And do you have anything to eat by chance?" She felt like the last question had a rather obvious answer, but she thought it wouldn't hurt to ask.

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The thick-clawed hatchling moved a bit around at the edge of the pit so he could get a better look at the hatchling that just spoke. Noticing the golden eyes and more importantly the good muscle tone and pose Claw knew he had to be careful around that one. As he spoke next it was with carefully chosen words spoken in a non-offensive manner: "My name is Claw. My age-mates and I have been in that pit before you were thrown in. Half of us are dead by now...maybe even more. If you don't fight for the food that gets thrown in from time to time you will be to weak to gender and fly out. That is the proper way to leave the pit. My age-mates and I got out by building a...ladder but there are too few of you to try that. I can't give you food but I can give you an advice - don't ever show weakness in here or you will get killed. I am not trying to scare you it is what our keeper said. You will meet him soon enough I fear and if you do - remember my advice!" Flapping his wings as if he wanted to emphasize his point Claw retreated from the edge of the pit and left Treasure and the others to ponder on his advice...

 

Bossy pondered in silence but Glimmer relapsed into babbling whatever was on her mind right into Treasure's ears: "Did you hear that? Remember how that being killed the soft-in-the-head hatchling? I bet that was the reason. The rest of us survived because we weren't as weak. We can continue to survive if we just put up a good fight. It doesn't even has to be real - I bet if we fake it well enough we get food without the risk of getting injured or worse. What do you think?"

 

At the same time somewhere over the 'Endless Desert'

 

The endless flapping of his dragon's wings together with the never-changing view of sand, sand and more sand made Isirion almost beg for a distraction. But no matter how often he scouted ahead he never found anything to kill his boredom or just kill...Still he kept trying and this time he spotted something other than sand. What he spotted was moving sand and that told him unless the sand had developed a life of it's own there was somebody down there who didn't want to be seen from the air. That somebody had covered his dragon's back and wings with sand and wore sand-coloured clothing himself but moving against the flow of a dune had given them away. Isirion smirked and pretending he hadn't noticed anything he slightly changed his flight-path to check if the discovered patch of moving sand had company...

Edited by Isirion

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Treasure took in every word Claw said before he left, but before she could get a chance to sort them out Glimmer began speaking to Treasure and the golden eyed hatchling had no choice but to listen and when Glimmer finished she stared at her as if she had grown a third eye. "I'm sorry what?" Treasure hissed. She did not believe what she was hearing and this upset her greatly. How dare she not take things seriously? "Don't be ridiculous! There is no way I'm going to fake my way out of anything. Putting up a 'good fight' wont get you far and I will do whatever means possible to prove my strength and survive. Even if it means that I will have to rid of those three with my own claws. You won't live long if you keep thinking things will just suddenly turn out for the better if you don't put some real work into it." she says growling at her ally's ignorance. She was starting to have second thoughts about teaming up with them in the first place. This hatchling was going to get them killed sooner or later if she kept agreeing to their ideas. Why didn't she just join Bossy and her minions? Actually, that's not a bad idea. All she has to do is take Head and Butt out of the way. Then convince Bossy to team up with her and ditch Glimmer all together. The plan might be easier said than done, but it never hurt to try.

Treasure stole a quick glance at the trio before looking back at Glimmer and moving closer to them with a sly grin and spoke in a whisper. "In fact, why don't we just give our selves an advantage and take out Head and Butt? Then Bossy will be outnumbered and defenseless and we can have all the food to ourselves and eventually get out of this pit. What do you say to that?"

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Glimmer returned the grin after swallowing a snappy return. She didn't like being reprimanded like that but Treasure had a point. A fair point at that and the best course of action probably really was getting rid of Head and Butt. The hatchling shot a glance over to those two and found them charging right at Treasure. Bossy who gave the command sat there with a smirk. Two, even if it was two idiots, should be able to overpower the golden-eyed hatchling and all she had to do was to keep the other one from interfering. Smirking again she charged at Glimmer at the same moment Head and Butt reached Treasure.

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Treasure's eyes locked on both Head and Butt. She was able to take them both on once before, so this time shouldn't be any different. For a moment, Treasure waited until the last second to move out of the way. Not wanting to let them recover she tackles one of them with full on force knocking the wind out of them. The other landed on her back forcing her to the ground. "Why you little..." She growls. Better take care of this one first before the other one recovers. She allowed herself to relax as if to admit defeat. She could tell he was satisfied for such an easy victory for he too relaxed. Big mistake. Treasure took this opportunity to roll making him unbalanced and fall off of her back. She stands up only to see now the both of them charging at her from either side. They both lunge at her and she quickly ducks under them and they both end up knocking both of their heads together yet again. Wow, those names really did suit them. Though surprisingly they weren't knocked out they were in a daze. Treasure took the opportunity to tackle Head down onto his back. "This time I'll make sure you don't get back up." she growls before lunging for his throat and clamping down hard onto it. He struggled and let out a yelp of pain. The other could only stare in shock as he tried to recover. Head's struggles were becoming weak and Treasure could see the life slowly fade from his eyes and showed a small satisfied grin. Finally Head stopped his struggling and she let go looking at the other who was still staring out of horror and shock with menacing golden eyes as if to say "You're next."

Edited by AK-Meow

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Seeing Treasure's expression the hatchling turned tail and, showing his namesake, ran away as fast as he could. He intended to hide behind Bossy but the hatchling wrestled him to the ground and with only a little hesitation went for his throat. The hesitation did not come from an awakened conscience but from the uneasiness of being unable to protect herself from a surprise attack while finishing him off. Glimmer whom she had knocked out with her earlier attack was no threat but the golden eyed hatchling was always a danger. She had immediately understood the meaning of Claw's words and acted upon them. Of course Bossy had also understood them but initially she had failed to realise that the sooner she got rid of the competion the bigger her share of the food would be. The remaining question was what she should do with the companion of her rival. She didn't want to provoke a fight she couldn't win in her hungry state but she also didn't want to let them rejoin and gang up on her...

 

At the same time somewhere over the 'Endless Desert'

 

After discovering five more patches of suspicious sand Isirion decided it was time to report back. Still pretending to not having noticed anything he flew back to the others and made them fly closer so that they could all hear what he had discovered: "Listen, about five flight minutes from here half a dozen bandits have covered themselves with sand and are waiting to ambush us on their dragons. We need to decide quickly what we do about them." The Guardian immediately ordered the dragons to slow down to give them more time to think then he said: "They could be just ordinary bandits but they also might know something about Sodger's disappearance. We need to interrogate them. " Ale nodded and then shook his head saying: "Even if they know something they already outnumber us and we don't know how many more of them hide close by. If we throw our lives away in a pointless fight then we won't be of use to our captain. We don't even know what kind of dragon they are riding." The Guardian thought about this and said: "That's true but they are going to ambush us anyway. I don't see a way to get information from them without beating them into submission first. Just remember to leave at least one of them alive." The last sentence he said with a sideglance at Isirion who didn't seem to be offended. Instead he nodded and said with his usual ice-cold voice: "I agree that we have to leave one of the bandits alive but on the other hand we have to kill all their dragons so that they can't call for reinforcements." Ale looked shocked but the Guardian seemed to seriously consider this option. Finally he said: "We have to use the element of surprise and keep them on the ground. We use Barrel's steam-breath to hide our numbers and attack from four sides at once. Any objections?"

Edited by Isirion

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Alzira swallowed hard, she understood the reasons of her battlehardenend companions but at the same time she couldn't accept the killing of dragons. She knew her opinion would hardly be cherished but she had to speak up. "I'm sorry, I understand the cause but I won't support you in annihilating dragons just to keep them from getting reinforcements. I understand the need to keep them from doing so, but isn't there an other way of hindering them? Maybe we can delay, daze or or even stop them long enough until we are off again?' The green-haired lady looked expectantly at the guardian, maybe he had a trick up his sleeve? She scrutinized Isirion too but truth be told she didn't expect any reaction from him. Nevertheless she had to try...

 

Susurro was equally shocked when he heard the proposal of the others. Sure, he would fight for his life and his keeper's if necessary, but killing was never an option unless there was really no other choice left. He looked at the others and then back at Sappo and Alzira. The little one was sitting on her shoulder again, his eyes darting between them, and his flame was grewing hotter and brighter. He would definitely defend her, but defending wouldn't help much. There had to be a solution, if they only could find it in time!

Edited by Alzira

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The Guardian sighed, he should have predicted that the green-haired lady would react like that but time was running out. He cleared his throat in an effort to squeeze out just a little bit more thinking time then he said a bit angrily: "Alright, we will pass upon those bandits and fly as high above them as possible while Barrel uses his steam breath to cover us from sight. If they still try to attack us we will have the advantage from above. A Royal Blue never runs from a fight but occasionally there is wisdom in avoiding one. Do you all agree?" Ale looked relieved while he nodded, he really hadn't been looking forward to fight. Isirion nodded too, but, just as Alzira had predicted, his expression betrayed neither anger nor relieve.

Edited by Isirion

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Alzira sighed and nodded as well, quickly letting Susurro gain height to keep up with the other dragons so Barrel could use his steam. This fight, it seemed, had been avoided but how long until the next situation arose? Worried she touched the hidden knife under her clothes. She should get some practice with this tool soon she thought. Somehow it felt familiar, maybe it reminded her of her painter's spatula for they had a similar simple but well used grip. Susurro sensing her tension gave her a reassuring nod and even Sappo's flame diminished into a dark glow. Alzira and her dragons relaxed slowly. Nevertheless she told Susurro to keep his eyes peeled while she was watching Isirion. She felt uneasy, she just had proven that she could be a hindrance. Instead of a quick and dangerous attack possibly eliminating the threat they had decided to avoid it and the danger still remained. Alzira suspected that she was now considered more of a drawback than before.

 

Edited by Alzira

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Once every dragon was high in the sky and flying in a tight formation, Barrel used his breath to create a steam-cover around them. With a bit of luck they would look like a cloud from below even though clouds weren't that often an occurence over the desert. Below, one of the hidden sand bandits noticed the suspicious cloud that seemed to move with a purpose of it's own and decided to fly up and investigate. His mount, a female Sunstone stretched her wings and shook off the sand covering them. With a mighty leap she gained the necessary height to take-off and flew straight at the cloud. The cloud seemed to grow larger and engulf rider and dragon before it growled with a deep voice: "Surrender!" The bandit panicked and tried to flee but suddenly a Grey Dragon was below him and blocked his escape route. The bear-like figure riding it growled again: "Surrender!" Again the bandit tried to flee but the path he chose this time was blocked by a Grey Dragon too. It closed in on him and suddenly he felt a sharp pain in his shoulder. Blood gushed out and he heard an ice-cold voice say: "You can't escape." The bandit touched his wounded shoulder and then stared at the blood as if he had never seen blood before. For a bandit he looked quite young and frightened but the owner of the ice-cold voice certainly didn't care about that. He stabbed the bandit's other shoulder with a wicked looking blade and demanded: "Tell me about the raids your bandit group has done in the last twelve hours!" The bandit turned pale white and began to stutter incomprehensively while clutching his shoulders. The scent of the blood that seeped through his fingers made his Sunstone Dragon agitated and she lashed out aggressivly with the orb on her tail. Isirion dodged and after nudging his mount to fly even closer he plunged his bloodstained blade right into the dragon's heart. The Sunstone dropped like a stone and even the swift Grey Dragon had to strain himself to pluck the wounded bandit from the saddle before he fell out of reach. As the Sunstone hit the ground and one of the other hidden dragons, all hell broke loose below. Isirion smiled a cold, heartless smile and said: "This should delay them long enough until we are off again with our new information source, just like the green-haired lady had suggested..."

Edited by Isirion

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Alzira grimassed at Isirion and shuddered at his cold and calculating statement. He had managed to turn her plea against her intentions, nevertheless she had to admit that this outcome was preferable to the slaughter suggested before. She hoped that their mission would be over soon because she didn't know how long she could bear with that man and the constant danger he emitted.

 

Susurro flinched at the sight of the mortally injured dragon, smashing into the ground. He was used to blood and severe wounds but this 'spectacle' reminded him too much of the wounds he had seen in the stable of the Sleeping Dragon Tavern just a few days ago. As if this wasn't enough a feeling of familiarity crept up his mind, as if he had seen or experienced a similar scene before. Suddenly he shuddered, remembering this horrible dream he had a few nights ago, not just one the people in the tavern had retold, but one very similar to the horrors he just had seen. Before his mind's eye the bandit's Sunstone transformed into another female Sunstone that too had gotten stabbed right into the heart by a way too similar bloodstained blade. He had thought it had just been a bad dream but now it felt more like a vision. His keeper did notice that something was going on, but he hadn't even told her of his dreams yet. He had been too ocupied with healing the Hellfire Wyvern and all that happened afterwards. Alzira patted his neck and that reminded him that he wasn't alone. He turned his head towards her, blinked and said: "Sorry, the dead dragon got to me." Alzira understood the hint. Susurro would talk to her as soon as they had a moment alone.

Edited by Alzira

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The Guardian seemed as shocked as Susurro but as he was also absolutely unwilling to let the dragon's death go to waste he pushed everyone to fly faster than they had ever flown. Very soon the extra-weight from carrying the wounded bandit made Isirion's dragon fall behind but the Guardian still urged the others on. Shortly after Ale's over-weight dragon couldn't keep up anymore and he also fell behind. Finally the Guardian's own dragon ran out of stamina and so it was Alzira and her White Dragon who first spotted the outlines of the big city on the horizon. A quick glance behind told her that the others were still lagging far behind. If she still wished for a private conversation with her dragon - now was the best chance she would likely get for a while.

Edited by Isirion

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Alzira tapped her dragon on the shoulder. Susurro noticed it immediately because he had been waiting for it. "Listen! We don't have much time. Do you remember the nightmares your group shared at the tavern? I just recalled one of mine", and he told her and Sappo what he had seen. "I'm sure Isirion is connected to them. His blade can't be mistaken that easily." Sappo twitched when he heard the story, he too was reminded of bad dreams so he decided to keep a steady look-out in case they turned real too...

 

Alzira was speechless at the horrors told, the only thing she could do was patting the White Dragon's neck. This was bad news, but news nevertheless. It had been strange that they all had shared similar dreams, but now she could almost feel a connection. Maybe she should ask the Guardian what he made off these visions or if he had ever experienced something like them. Susurro agreed to her plan and so they slowed down, waiting for the Guardian who was already closest to them to catch up.

 

Edited by Alzira

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Although the Grey Dragon the Guardian was riding had made the journey to the big city many times it had never done so with someone as heavy as the bear-like man on it's back now. Like the city on the horizon the weight of his rider seemed to grow larger by the minute. The wheezing dragon was in dire need of water but there was none. Still it did not complain as it knew it was far better off than most of the other dragons back in the village. If it were an Electric Dragon it probably would have drowned by now from too many consecutive shock-fishing tours. And if it had been a Red Dragon it would have long lost it's flame from heating too many houses in winter. But the worst fate of all suffered the Paper Dragons that provided the paper for the request poles. The Grey dragon shuddered at the thought of having it's scales ripped off again and again - No, it was glad to be of a species that could occasionally fly free in the sky though it sometimes wondered how life would be if the Dragon War had ended differently...A few more minutes later it was too exhausted to think about anything and was only glad that it had finally caught up with the White Dragon in the lead.

Edited by Isirion

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Alzira looked nervously at the approaching Guardian. She wanted to tell him what she knew and what she suspected, but she didn't know how to start because she was afraid the Guardian wouldn't take them seriously or worse question their sanity. She took a few breaths and just when she was finally prepared to open her mouth, Susurro interrupted her: "Dear Guardian, we have to tell you something. Triggered by the violent death of that Sunstone Dragon I remembered a nightmare I had a few days ago. In it a hooded figure stabbed a Sunstone dragon in the heart with a bloodstained blade. The resemblance to what happened just now was uncanny. It felt almost like a vision but that is not the only strange thing. The night before the bandits attacked all the humans and dragons at the tavern had similar nightmares of having to fight for their lives or being constantly watched. Have you ever heard of or experienced something like this?"

 

Edited by Alzira

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The Guardian listened carefully to what Susurro had to say. The moment the White Dragon mentioned a bloodstained blade he almost turned around to stare at their bloodstained-blade-wielding travelling companion. Instead he forced himself to look straight ahead at the big city and listened to the rest of Susurro's story. Once the dragon had finished the Guardian's forehead was wrinkled and he said with a low voice: "It is not only the tavern - my Sunrise dragon that went missing also had her fair share of bad dreams and Galandir couldn't sleep in peace either. Naturally I thought that theirs, like my own nightmare, had been caused by the exhaustion and the stress from the past days. I won't go into the details but my dream clearly fits what you have told me although it wasn't a Sunstone but a Stone Dragon that met his end through that bloodstained blade." The Guardian suppressed another urge to turn around and continued: "A hooded death-bringer clad entirely in black - it sounds a bit too much like that awful ghost-story that was on everyone's lips a few years ago - and it sounds an awful lot like Sodger's apprentice. That is why you wanted to talk to me away from him isn't it? I am not sure what to make of this - it is not as we can blame anyone for what he does in our dreams, but there are a lot of people that believe that dreams are the way the spirits choose to communicate with us. At least that is what I heard from that cowardly exorcist that you brought along on one of your visits to my island. He even told me he had seen that particular evil spirit wielding a wicked blade on one of the balconies of that haunted Sleeping Dragon tavern at the night he arrived there to exorcise that very same ghost. He was too scared to investigate further but after meeting Isirion I bet my Leetle Shrine it was him he saw. I have already explained at the tavern that his disregard for life worries me and that hasn't changed at all. Of course I don't believe he is a ghost but there is definitely something menacing about him and that is why I have already decided to keep my eyes on him. Speaking of eyes - Yesterday, as the Pygmy's fireball hit him, I saw his eye-colour changed from blue to purple and even though the fireball hit him directly in the face there wasn't a single burn mark on it. It might have been a trick of the light but it was still strange..." At this point the Guardian's Grey Dragon interrupted and said: "I don't know about changing eye-colours but what is really strange is that there are no Nebs to check on us even though we are now only a few wingbeats away from their city!"

 

In the mean-time at the big city

 

Following Lady Hooktalon's incredible performance in Pride's arena the owner had outdone himself to celebrate her victory. The arena's Pygmys flew around with new banners showing something with more spikes than a hedgehog and a face that looked a little like Drake plunging her claws into a blood-red dragon. The street-sellers already sold one hundred percent authentic Hooktalon spikes and one hundred percent fake Hooktalon claws. The young men in the city's numerous pubs only talked about the fight. They imagined how they would have dealt with the dragon and even openly admitted that that Lady Hooktalon had fought exceptionally well - for a woman that was. The women had enjoyed the fight too but instead of mindlessly talking about it they prepared special snacks to sell: Hooktalon biscuits, Hooktalon cakes and Hooktalon candy. The children fought amongst them for the honour of playing Lady Hooktalon before they re-enacted the actual fight with stick-weapons and cloth-armour. None of them were aware that the real Lady Hooktalon wasn't keen on fighting dragons at all. And if someone had told them they would not have believed it - just like Lady Hooktalon's own dragon still couldn't believe it. He had cornered Drake in the preparation quarters of the arena and asked for the approximately hundreth time the approximately same question: "Where did you get the idea of becoming an arena fighter? Why did you have to fight that dragon? Why did you both pretend to fight? What would have happened if you or the dragon got hurt for real - and what are you going to do now?"

Edited by Isirion

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Drake gestured for Taellonn to calm down, barely putting her hands in front of her, fronts and palms exposed, and slowly moving them down. For extra measure, she even said, "Calm down," in the most comforting voice she could muster.

It didn't work in the slightest.

He was still fidgeting and afraid, so Drake thought that answers would be best. Taellonn listened intently as she explained, though ready to interject. "There was this little boy-" Taellonn didn't even let her finish the first sentence before he asked, "What does that have to do with anything?" Drake sighed and continued, "Let me finish. There was a boy, he tried to steal-" she saw Taellonn tense up and tried to speak quickly, "-some money to go to the arena, and I thought I could get some good information there. I gave him what he wanted, followed him to the arena, and got some useful information. But there was a Royal Blue there, trapped and being forced to fight. I decided to take his place so that he could escape. That's why I was fighting. It was barely even real, being how theatrical it was. So even if that wyvern got hurt, it wouldn't have been much. I wasn't trying to hurt him, not in the slightest. And I can't see how I possibly could have gotten hurt." Drake didn't feel the need to tell Taellonn about how she'd been whacked with Mythy's tail. It didn't hurt, so it probably wouldn't even show. Taellonn's snout wrinkled a bit, before releasing its tension and relaxing with the rest of him. He reminded Drake of his last question. "What happens now? I'm not going to let you leave me behind again, so I hope you account for a partner."

Drake couldn't leave Taellonn alone again. He'd escape from wherever he was again, or hurt himself trying. Not to mention, having a dragon nearby might help shift any attention there might be towards her. She was probably known now, in this place she would rather leave behind unnoticed after stopping the egg shatterer. But these people didn't even know Drake. They knew Lady Hooktalon, fearless challenger of Lord Death. It was almost frightening to her; two reputations, one as Drake and one as Lady Hooktalon, the latter probably absorbing the other when she didn't want it to. She reassured herself that it wouldn't matter in the end, and that these reputations would fade into nothingness. It was just one fight, wasn't it? Surely there couldn't be that much uproar, it was all an overreaction based on just a few glimpses of outside the arena. Drake was moving her claws down to her knuckles and back up again, slowly putting less effort each time. She recalled the dulled claws, now fit only for prop armor. Drake finally answered Taellonn's inquiry, saying, "I'm going to gather some pygmies to contact everyone. If we're lucky we'll get new volunteers from home too, maybe even someone who can fix these claws. Or maybe we'll run into a blacksmith while looking for willing pygmies. I'm sure the claws will be fine even if they're not fixed. We'll have enough support." Taellonn was concerned. "About how much support do we have? You never told me who joined." Drake looked to the side as she counted in her head. Taellonn wouldn't like the amount. She looked back to Taellonn. "This isn't the only thing going on right now, so the amount of people available wasn't really... Numerous? But I found a few outsiders interested in the cause, all well-trained and experienced in combat. Don't worry, it's not as bad as it sounds." Taellonn was going to protest, but Drake had already snuck past him to bribe pygmies. Taellonn scrambled after her, following her actions and seeing if he could get any pygmy's attention himself.

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Outside there was no shortage of willing Pygmies - or Pygeons as some people called them because they had pretty much taken the place of the city's pigeons in dropping unwanted droppings on people's heads and property. Their homing instinct was even better and they could understand humans very well if they wanted. Raising a hand with the index finger and thumb forming a circle told any Pygeon nearby there was a messenger mission waiting. As Drake gave the sign a flock of five little dragons came at once to be of service. Drake gave two of them real messages for her brethren and two of them fake ones to use as decoys. The remaining Pygeon she sent to find a good blacksmith in the city. Taellonn was a bit disappointed - back in the forest the Pygmies usually only reacted to a special alluring call he had perfected. Thinking of the forest filled his heart with a sad yearning. How much time had passed since Drake had been sent out on her mission to terminate the egg shatterer and his accomplices? How much more of her recklessness could he stand? First she had single-handedly infiltrated the shatterer's mansion and found out about his business relations to a certain fishermen's village. There she had somehow gotten entangled in that fight between two local businesses as a bodyguard. Taellonn strongly suspected that her employer's business wasn't entirely legal and the connection to the egg shatterer that Drake had discovered per chance confirmed it. The perfect time to complete their mission would be when all of those involved in the egg shatterer's abominable trade were together at his mansion. Together with her brethren she would probably storm the mansion and kill them but many of the Draikenflaemes would perish as well. Taellonn sighed deeply and wished he could call back the Pygeons Drake had sent out but that was the way it always was. The Draikenflaemes protected the dragons from the shadows and if one of their numbers was killed in the process another took their place. But what was the point if also for every egg shatterer they removed, another scale collector, skull gatherer or trophy hoarder appeared? So far Drake had gotten away with only a few scars and no life-threatening injuries but yesterday she had almost gotten herself killed. And today she had fought a dragon to protect another dragon. It hadn't been a real fight, he understood that now, but even though if the dragon had calculated one move wrong or failed to adjust his strength just once, Drake would have ended up dead despite her noble intentions. No! He couldn't let Drake put herself in danger like that anymore! There had to be another way! Taellonn rose to his full height to demonstrate he was not a clingy hatchling anymore and spoke: "Drake, I can't let you throw your life away. Look around in this city, remember the village - there is just no point in removing one egg shatterer if there are dozens like him around. We hide in the forest and strike from the shadows but they thrive in the light. They proudly show their face in the city while you would be thrown into prison if they knew who you really are. You have drawn far too much attention to yourself. Please sit at least this one out. You don't have to do anything alone anymore and you don't have to prove anything to anyone anymore. Please Drake, you know those guilty, unexpected travelling companions of ours are very likely going to die anyway!"

Edited by Isirion

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Drake stepped towards Taellonn. His stance became difficult to maintain, especially as Drake spoke. "I'm not trying to prove anything, I'm trying to do what's right! Draikenflaemes live and die for what's right, and the memories of us are celebrated in that fight for justice! I don't like the sacrifices! No one does! But sometimes that's what has to be done!" She repositioned her footing. "We're left with so few choices. We're outnumbered. We only have so many resources, and only so many people. But that's why we might need the attention. Because no one wants to help dragons more than dragons themselves." Taellonn growled discontently before his response. "You honestly think a simple raid or something could sway the thoughts of well paid, well fed, content dragons, even if they're doing inhumane things?" Drake shook her head. "Those aren't the ones. I mean the ones who want to escape. The ones who need to be free from whatever horrid conditions they're in. Imagine you're one of the abusers, hearing about a swift attack in a big city, with no targets surviving. You tell everyone you know, you talk about it. And those dragons you're forcing to work overhear. They don't hear that there was a sad incident- they hear that there's hope of an escape, and hope of someone who can help them if they help back. That helps us gain numbers in dragon-power, and we take down monsters in the process. You're acting like this is pointless, and it's not. It never is." Taellonn's toes clenched together as he sighed. "So there's no changing your mind, I suppose?"

Both were silent for a while, before Drake spoke up. "Look, you're right about them being targeted. But if we managed to kill them first, it'd help paint us as heroes, especially if someone who wants them dead gets notice. That's even more support for us!" Taellonn didn't respond, so Drake pushed on. "I'll make sure the claws get fixed, and sharpened more than ever before. We've got dragons and highly trained warriors, ones that have dealt with dragons their whole lives and are as specialized in their weapons as I am in mine. We'll be prepared and ready. And if we really can't win, we won't stay. We'll leave if it gets too bad for us." Taellonn cocked his head and said, "You aren't afraid of being labeled cowards?" Drake scowled, and Taellonn backed up slightly. She responded, "Self-preservation doesn't make someone a coward. It's just being smart. It's not running from the fight, just reevaluating your strategy." Her face relaxed, and she abruptly changed the subject. "Let's see if that pygmy we sent for a blacksmith is anywhere nearby. Look around, you can see higher than I can." Taellonn raised his head up higher and looked around for the pygmy. He still had every doubt from before about Drake's plans. But if he couldn't persuade her to reconsider, the least he could do was make sure she was safe along the way.

The pygmy did return, having found a trustworthy blacksmith; who apparently was known for their confidentiality. Drake started to go to follow the pygmy, but Taellonn walked ahead of her and bent down, signaling for her to get on his back. She obliged, and the path to the blacksmith became an aerial one. Drake thought that was Taellonn's plan, just to get to the blacksmith quicker. Though, in reality, Taellonn only wanted to make sure he couldn't lose track of Drake.

Edited by Drakessis

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Up in the air, Drake and Taellonn noticed for the first time that something else apart from Lady Hooktalon's incredible victory had caused an uproar in the city. The Nebs that were supposed to defend the city from air bandits and unwelcome visitors now flew in a tight formation and rounded up any Royal Blue Dragon they found. A fire had broken out somewhere in the direction of the underground arena but it was too far a way to distract the Nebs. Any second now they would spot Taellonn and try to apprehend him too...

 

In the mean-time at Lord Hassleborough's mansion

 

Walt and Steve had finally fulfilled their quota of ogling and fawning to get in Lord Hassleboroughs good books and more importantly his guest chambers. Having told him that their companions also had never seen anything even half as magnificent as the mosaic in the entry hall had earned them an invite and free lodging for those companions too. In short, it all happened like Jack had planned and as he finally arrived he was very pleased with his partners. He did his own share of ogling and fawning to the lord of the house to secure himself a three-course menu then he excused himself to speak with his companions in private: "Where the hell are Jill and Finn? How long can it possibly take to find a dragon stable in a city full of dragons and stables?" Steve remained as silent as every good servant recognizing a rhetorical question but Walt felt the need to state the obvious: "I don't know Jack. It is a big city..."

Edited by Isirion

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Drake didn't hesitate to tell Taellonn to abandon the pygmy and land, but Taellonn struggled to find somewhere safe in all of his confusion and fear. She quickly told Taellonn to go where they had left the arena. She slid off the moment he landed, gripping his wing to guide him inside. She was cursing under her breath, and Taellonn was actually grateful for the dulled claws on the hand tightening its grip on his wing. Drake doubted they hadn't been spotted, but hoped there was a closer dragon distracting the Nebs. No, that's horrible to hope for! They're probably just as scared! But what am I supposed to do about it? I can't handle that many dragons, it'd put Taellonn in too much danger, and he'd be too scared! But... Is this my fault? That trapped Royal Blue, that has to be who they're looking for! Do they have him? she thought, being broken out of it by a slight whimper from Taellonn as her grip tightened further. She let go, but the thoughts raced back. Taellonn's voice was weak and urgent as he spoke. "What are we going to do!?" Drake looked like she was about to lash out; and she did. "I have no idea! I don't know what they're doing with the Royal Blues they have! They could be doing anything from killing to questioning them, and odds are you're going to find out soon enough!" Taellonn nearly shook as he thought over options to suggest one. "We could go to the mansion and try to hide there..." Drake's fingers grasped at nothing in frustration as she tried to compose herself enough to respond. "Are you crazy!? There's no way in hell we could get there without being caught! Even if we did get there by some miraculous will of I-don't-know-what, you think it'd be a sudden win for us!? You think they wouldn't notice the focus on that 'Lady Hooktalon' who happens to look a hell of a lot like me? Or that you're not in a stable? Or that Finn isn't with us? Or that there's some sort of hunt for Royal Blues going on and you happen to fit the criteria for being caught pretty damn well!?" Taellonn recoiled and looked away in regret of his suggestion. Not only for not seeing Drake's points, but for getting her this upset. He couldn't even think to try to calm her down, not while he was this afraid of everything happening around him. Drake clearly wasn't acting to calm herself down either, and it was arguable whether she even knew how to at this point. Rage clouded anything her mind had raced with before. Her next words seemed muted compared to her outburst before, but they were delivered with a type of growl that didn't help Taellonn get over his fear at all. "I'm not letting them do anything to you. If I can't fight them or convince them not to take you, I'm going with you. And if they somehow miss us, we're fleeing this city until we can come back with everyone else." Taellonn shuddered at her ideas. "Do you think that will work? Any of it?" Drake didn't answer and stood her ground instead.

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Drake's and Taellonn's conversation had gotten quite heated and within the premises of the arena was bound to be overheard by someone. Luck had it that this someone turned out to be a very small, very smug looking boy with a grubby face and ash-blonde hair. Golden Myth's secret groom searched for the right pose before he announced in his Lord-Death-defying voice: "I will help you defy the whole big city if I must. Thanks to you I have free entry to every match, I can see Mythy every day and if needed I can help out with the pre-fight spectacles. Pride said I was perfect and he is letting me stay as long as I want. You made it possible that my dream came true - now you have to let me help you." Not waiting for an answer the boy whistled and the other grooms appeared with a lot of paint and props. The boy spoke again: "Those Neb-idiots are looking for a Royal Blue? Too bad they won't see one!"

Edited by Isirion

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