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Shur'tugalar - The Dragon Riders

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Please direct any and all messages to Epyon: https://forums.dragcave.net/index.php?showuser=216603

 

{ I n t r o }

 

Five millennia ago, when a naive elven youth hunted down a dragon and slaughtered it like an animal, the wrath of the dragons was something beyond what the elves could've expected even in their worst dreams.

Revenges followed revenges as the two races had no methods of communicating between each other and the cycle of blood started flowing faster, resulting into a full-scale war later called the 'Dovah Kein', or Dragon War. It lasted for five savage years. Great losses were sustained by both sides: the dragons losing many of their elders and eggs, the elves losing most of their brightest minds and most beautiful smiles.

 

However, from the dark storm of blood, a white dragon emerged with a young elf on his back.

 

The young elf was Eragon and the dragon was his companion, Bid'Daum, with whom he had formed an inseparable bond through friendship and love. Together they traveled between the elves and the dragons, working as negotiators between these two races. Their great efforts were not in vain, as soon treaties were signed to bring peace back to the war-torn Alagaësia.

 

Yet the two races could not forget the danger of another devastating war breaking out, should old wounds be re-opened. They had to find a way to work together else they would destroy each other. Working together by using the raw power of the dragons and the sharp minds of elves, the order of the Shur'tugalar was formed to work as ambassadors and peacemakers between each and every race. Eragon became the first Shur'tugal with his partner Bid'Daum. As time went on, the other races were added to this pact, too - humans, dwarves, and urgals - to ensure that there would be an equal representation for every race. The elves commemorate the alliance with the dragons during the centennial 'Sos Vahrot Visk', or the Blood-Oath Celebration.

 

 

The Shur'tugalar built their headquarters, Doru Araeba, on the inactive volcanic island of Vroengard from where they could keep peace in Alagaësia working together with the leaders of each race. So they have done for centuries and so they will continue.

 

Now there have been dark whispers about Ra'zac and Shades. Hushed mutters are uttered on the streets: darkness is creeping over Alagaësia and the light is fading.

 

{ L i n k s }

 

- - > Your friend in this RP, the Ancient Tongue Translator

- - > God of all name generators

- - > Inheritance Wikia

- - > The anatomy of a sword

- - > Dragon size chart

- - > Describe your dragon's gem-like scales with a gem!

- - > Anatomy of armor

- - > Link to our Discord Server. This is where the OOC discussion will happen.

 

 

{ P l o t }

 

 

Drem yol lok, Shur'tugal! Greetings, Dragon Rider!

 

You will have a few options for your character's story line. You may either be...

  • an Prustmun/Apprentice arriving to Doru Araeba to meet your dragon and be trained as a Dragon Rider.
  • a Shur'tugal/Dragon Rider who has already completed their training and does missions according to the Council's wishes.
  • an Zuwuth/Elder, a wise Shur'tugal who teaches the apprentice.
  • a Mahlaan/Fallen - a Shur'tugal who has abandoned the order and lives as an outlaw, shunned on by all races.
There have been dark tidings in Alagaësia, with hushed whispers about Shades and Ra'zac roaming the earth. Restlessness spreads across the land and nothing is considered safe anymore. People have been known to disappear at night and their mangled bodies are found by morning. The duty of the Shur'tugalar is to keep peace and order with a just hand - however, the Mahlaan, often aiding those with darker intentions, are determined to halt the Shur'tugalar from interfering with the amassing forces of shadows.

This RP is centered on Christopher Paolini's fictional world, Alagaësia. You are a Dragon Rider, living mostly in Doru Araeba, going out for missions set by the Elder Council and making sure peace and justice is alive and well. On your free time, you train with your sword and magic, spend time in Doru Araeba's massive library studying, or have fun with your fellow Shur'tugalar and your own dragon partner.

{This is a sandbox RP with a flexible plot on which I am more than willing to hear your suggestions and ideas }

 

Everyone will start their RP in Doru Araeba. From there, depending on your experience level, you will either train or go for missions. If you are a newcomer, you will be introduced to a dragon egg destined to be your partner. After it hatches, you will acquire the 'silon milah', or the silver palm when you touch your partner for the first time. The name silver palm comes from the fact that the mark glows when the Shur'tugal uses magic and often channels magic though the mark.

{Note! If there's a lot of apprentices, more than three or so, we will have a time skip after they have met their partners. This is simply to speed up the RP and not doom it to the same fate the previous one met.}

A more experienced Dragon Rider will be given a mission by the Council which they must fulfill in order to keep peace in Alagaësia - there have been dark tales of Shades and Ra'zac roaming Alagaësia's lands again...

 

Now, not all Shur'tugal are good. Some have found the strict rule of the Council suffocating and oppressive, and have left the order, living as an outlaw, shunned on by all races. These 'Mahlaan Shur'tugalar', or Fallen Dragon Riders, are sought out by the order to be brought forth to the judgement of the Council - a Mahlaan is considered to be a danger to all of Alagaësia as a Dragon Rider holds great power. The Mahlaan often side with the darker forces of the world. Is is possible that they have something to do with the sudden appearance of Shades and Ra'zac?

{If the choice of playing a 'good character' does not appeal you, note in the 'Other' section of the sign-up that your Rider is a Mahlaan. You will start your RP elsewhere than Doru Araeba. Being a Mahlaan/Shade/Ra'zac requires you to be a skilled RPer who can create their own plot that work well with the main one. You will be the antagonist of the RP.}

 

 

{ S e t t i n g }

 

 

The RP is mostly set on an inactive volcanic island called Vroengard. At the center of the island there resides the Shur'tugalar city Doru Araeba, built to a massive scale that allows even the largest of dragons to fly freely inside. However, the rooms which are given to the Shur'tugal cannot house a mature dragon, forcing them to sleep outside the room in the hallway or outside on the training yard. The city, although mostly dominated by Dragon Riders, also hosts many merchants, scholars, warriors, and farmers alike, making Doru Araeba a bustling city large enough to compete with the capitals of Alagaësia.

 

The island is covered with enormous trees, possibly affected by the strong exposure to magic on the island. Strange creatures also inhabit the island, including creatures such as the Snalglí, direwolves, tree serpents, and black squirrels with red eyes - to name a few. The crater in the middle of the island holds a small lake. West from Doru Araeba rises Mount Erolas, the inactive volcano. Close to it stands The Rock of Kuthian, which leads to the the Vault of Souls, a sacred place where the eggs and Eldunarí are held. There are also other caves near Mount Erolas, where the dragons prefer to go to tend themselves when wounded, the warmth of the caves speeding up their healing process.

 

The land of Alagaësia itself varies from mountains to plains, from desert to sea, depending on where on the map you are. West from the Spine, the land is evergreen thanks to the presence of the sea, and east from there stretches the plains. South from the capital, Urû'baen, the plains give away to gentle forest land, ending to the warmer climate of Surda. North of the plains there are evergreen forests. North-east, the forest of Du Weldenvarden is covered in tall, pillar-like trees, most of them older than all the cities of Alagaësia. The elven towns coexist peacefully with nature. The dwarf capital Tronjheim is beneath the Beor Mountains in the south-eastern corner of Alagaësia, within a hollow volcano the dwarves call Farthen Dûr, Our Father.

 

{ S h u r ' t u g a l a r }

 

 

The name Shur'tugal means Dragon Rider, and Shur'tugalar is the plural form of the word. They are often also called Silonhall/Silverhand, thanks to the viintaas milah/shining palm mark on their hand which glows every time the Rider uses magic. The viintaas milah appears when a Dragon Rider touches their dragon for the first time. At contact, the Rider will feel an icy blast shooting up from their arm which will knock them unconscious. Upon waking up, the Rider will have the viintaas milah on their palm and a mental connection to their dragon. A Rider and their dragon are immortals, but can die of a wound, disease, or poison like any other being.

 

The Riders not only were peacekeepers - they were also healers, scholars and the strongest magicians throughout the land besides Shades. They kept peace between and within all races, and worked as neutral diplomats and ambassadors. All Alagaësia's threats and problems were treated with equal attention, no matter the origin of the problem or the race. Dragon Riders also amassed a huge library over the centuries into Doru Araeba, one which outshines all those in Alagaësia.

 

Each year, a few destined dragon eggs are chosen. Words are uttered before these eggs, preventing them from hatching before they meet their Rider, the one with whom their dez, fate, is sealed. When the destined person will touch the egg or be in its presence for a long time, the egg will hatch. After a second touch, the minds of the Rider and the dragon are connected, until death do they apart. It is crucial for the Rider and their dragon to form a strong, healthy relationship. When it is certain that the Rider and the dragon have a good connection, their training may begin. Zuwuthar take one or two students at a time for training, where both the Rider and the dragon are trained vigorously. The dragons are taught aerial maneuvers, stamina building, increasing flight speed and the time of their fire breath, and Ancient Language. The Riders, too, are taught Ancient Language as it is crucial for spellcasting. They also practice swordsmanship, reading, debating, archery, magic, building flexibility and agility, and studying philosophy of many races to understand them better. The Rider and their dragon have to keep their minds open and share their knowledge at all times - the teachers quiz every now and then to see if they have done so. At the end of the training session, the dragon will receive an armor forged by the dwarves, and the Rider shall be given a Rider's blade, forged by the elven master smith Rhunön, who has forged all of the Riders' swords. The sword matches the color of the Rider's dragon, as it is the custom.

 

The Shur'tugalar have an order of five ranks as such:

Apprentices: These are new Riders in training.

Dragon Riders: Young Riders and dragons who have completed their training and carriy out missions for the Elders and the Council.

Elders: The oldest, wisest and most powerful members of the order.

The Council: Made up mostly of the Elders and some of the Dragon Riders - decide together on big issues concerning Alagaësia and the Shur'tugalar.

Head Dragon Rider: This is the title of the overall leader of the Riders. He/she is usually the oldest or wisest of the Dragon Riders. They also have a Right Hand and a Left Hand to aid them. The Right Hand helps the Head Dragon Rider with matters of war, and they are usually the strongest Rider. The Left Hand helps with political and study matters. {I will RP the Head Dragon Rider to avoid any confusion/problems.}

 

{ M a g i c}

 

{Take great care with this section - I know it is a little bit confusing if you haven't read the books, but I've tried my best to make it as clear as possible.}

 

Lu/Magic is the manipulation of energy needed to cast a spell which costs the same amount of energy needed to complete the task by mundane means. Like an arrow or spear, magic's power diminishes over distance and requires more energy. Should the spellcaster use all of their energy, they will die. Casting an extremely powerful spell which drains more energy than what the caster has also kills - you cannot cancel a spell once you start it. This danger can be avoided by formulating spells as processes which can be cancelled at will; no absolute spells. Spells are uttered in the Ancient Language.

{Note: Paolini's Ancient Language would be here. However, since I found formatting complete sentences using only this dictionary (not to even mention grammar fiddling), I decided it would be easier to use the Dragon Language of Skyrim - I found the translator extremely efficient, although you might have to change some words. Paolini's language is based off from Gaelic and Old Norse. Dovahzul not only takes inspiration from Old Norse, but also Old English, Icelandic, and German.}

 

--> A large force (like your dragon) is falling on you.

First spell that might come in mind is Vuth fus - Stop the force. This is an absolute spell, where there are only two options: the spell will succeed (by stopping the falling dragon entirely), or the spellcaster will die. Instead of the absolute spell, one could say Geson fus - Lessen the force. Note the difference - the other is an either/or spell, whilst the latter is one that the spellcaster can mold by their willpower by increasing or decreasing the amount by which they lessen the force.

 

--> You are dying of thirst, but there's no water in sight.

Wahl lom - Create water is possibly the first spell one might use. However, creating something out of nothing or changing the physical properties of something uses an insane amount of energy and could easily kill. An alternative would be Verilir lom nol gol - Draw water from earth. This time, you are absorbing the natural water from the ground instead of creating some out of thin air.

 

Magic is the art of thinking, where the caster must be focused at all times. A magic user's abilities are limited to the amount of Ancient Language they know - or so the common think. In truth, a spellcaster's abilities are limited only by their inventiveness: the smarter the spellcaster, the more they can accomplish with one word plus what they can do without the structure of the Ancient Language.

 

--> A spellcaster says Lom - Water, but creates a gemstone instead.

The correlation is clear in the spellcaster's mind. They also must have a large Ancient Language vocabulary, which allows them to understand the nature of their spell better and clear any confusion there might appear.

 

Sound itself has no control over magic. One can cast a spell without uttering a word, but it consumes more energy and is much, much more dangerous. To make sure that the spell caster's thoughts will not stray, spells are uttered out loud. A good example of a silent spell is lockpicking a door by fiddling with the mechanics with magic. No word is uttered, but magic is used.

 

--> A spellcaster needs to set the door on fire, but their friend suddenly starts talking, distracting the caster's thoughts from the door to the person, setting them on fire instead. If the caster simply says Yol - Fire, but they are distracted, the object which needs to be set on fire is unclear. More lengthy sentences make sure situations like these never happen; Hel miiraad nau yol - Set the door on fire. As a caster's experience and skills grow, they can more safely say one-word spells, but this still requires excellent focus and thinking.

 

TL;DR: By using the Ancient Language one can create spells they can alternate with willpower - using the language also eliminates the danger of distracted thoughts. Absolute spells are those considered having only two options: success or death.

 

Here are some magic varieties:

  • Energy sense is the general awareness of one's living surroundings. Dragon Riders and elves are naturally gifted with this. Energies appear like stars within one's mind - the greater and brighter the star, the greater the energy. Even if someone's mind is shielded, the energy they give away can betray who they are. Ra'zac give off no energy and thus cannot be sensed by magical means.
  • Scrying is the art of seeing far-away objects. This art requires focus of the mind. It is only possible to scry an object or person that one has already seen before.
  • Element transformation is the art of changing one element into another. Attempting too drastic an element change can result in the death of the person trying to transform the object.
  • Energy transfer is the art of transferring energy from one object to another. Only a few chosen ones outside of Dragon Riders know how to do this, and even the Dragon Riders have strict rules about the energy transfer. Energy can be stored easiest within a gem or a precious stone. This is why Riders' Swords have a stone as their pommel - it works as an emergency magic store from where the Rider can draw more energy for magic, should their own energy level be too low. Energy can be transferred from any living object to the stone, even from plants. However, the smaller the "star" is, the more it is affected if energy is drawn from it - and might end up killing it. The Riders prefer to fill their pommels with their own energy over a long period of time rather than absorbing energy from nature. The order prohibits the Riders from absorbing energy from nature for only the sake of having stored energy - it is to be done only at emergencies.
  • Physical transformation is the art of altering one's physical appearance. This art is only practiced by the elves mostly for their vanity.
  • Teleportation is the art of mentally transferring an object from one location to another instantaneously. The advantage of this is that it will take the same amount of energy, no matter the distance you transport the object.
  • Mental communication allows magic users and those that were trained in this to communicate using thoughts. There is a limit to distance, though with Riders the distance they can mentally communicate with their dragons and other people increases over time.
  • Mind reading allows a magic user to read the minds of most people who can not recognize when someone was in their mind and could not keep them out. The Dragon Riders use this as a last resort and have strict rules and severe punishments for those who violate those rules. The mind is a man's last sanctuary.
  • Mental shielding is the art of shielding one's mind from a mental attack by another magic user, this works by the defender concentrating on one thing in exclusion of all else - like singing a song over and over in your head. As time passes the shield will be easier to keep in place, even while sleeping.
{ R a c e s}

 

 

Dragons: The dragons of Alagaësia are reptilian creatures with leathery wings, scales, sharp teeth, spikes, claws, and a barbed tongue. They learn to breathe fire as they mature. A dragon's egg's color matches that of the dragon's scales - and its Rider's magic's color. The scales are usually of one color, but may vary with saturation. The scales of the dragon are strong enough to deflect arrows, making their wings the most fragile area of their body. Dragons express their feelings with moving their tails and uttering hums of different volumes. However, they mostly communicate through mental discussion and have no means of talking otherwise. A dragon never stops growing, although the speed decreases over time, and doesn't die of old age - although the older a dragon gets, the more they spend their time asleep, dreaming. At birth the dragon is the size of a kitten, but starts growing rapidly. Dragons eat meat and like to sleep in warm places, much alike to a cat. Dragons choose their own names when they are old enough to understand the concept of names, and it is considered oppressive for a Rider to give a name to their dragon.

Dragons also differ from other races in the sense that they possess an Eldunarí, or heart of hearts. This Eldunarí is a gem-like stone within the dragon. It can summon the Eldunarí once and can never return it back. Once an Eldunarí has been extracted, it assumes the color of the dragon. Not only that, but the Eldunarí is a storage for the dragon's consciousness and allowing it to live forever unless the gem was broken. Holding an Eldunarí is to hold the dragon - you can hear their thoughts, recall their memories, and draw upon their strength (if the Eldunarí doesn't shield its mind before that). The stone grants the dragon immensly buffed mental abilities, a chance to store energy, and act as a method of communication - say, the Rider and the dragon have to be far apart from each other, but if the Rider holds the Eldunarí, it's as if their minds were right next to each other. Some dragons who have disgorged their Eldunarí continue to serve the order even after their Rider and the dragon's own body have died. This, however, is extremely hard for the dragon, since they have to live without their other half. Often it takes many years for the Eldunarí to recover enough before they can communicate with others at all. In grave times, the Head Dragon Rider travels to the Vault of Souls where most of the Eldunarí are located and consults them.

 

Elves: Elves are humanoid in appearance, although they possess angular faces and almond-shaped eyes, with sharp cheekbones and long, pointed ears. They inhabit the large forests of Du Weldenvarden. Most elves have a natural connection to magic and are very smart. Elves can run faster than humans but can become exhausted quite quickly. Elves prefer to "bend like a grass in the wind" while fighting, relying more on their agility rather than on their physical power. Elves are superb with 'mirodah', or singing in the sense of weaving magic with it. Elves are mostly vegan, as their minds are more easily open to all the life around them, and killing something unnecessarily feels horrid to them. Elves are very vain, often shaping their appearance by singing, giving themselves, say, yellow eyes or longer hair - whatever their heart desires. This, however, requires many years and a lot of skill before an elf can start shaping themselves. The lifespan of an elf ranges from a few hundred years to a thousand thanks to being the first ones to make a bond with the dragons.

 

Humans: Humans are considered the most balanced and ideal Dragon Riders, as they have none of the flaws the other races possess. Strong in both mind and body, a human can master the use of magic almost as well as an elf and wield a sword almost as strongly as an urgal or a dwarf. Most of Alagaësia's population consists of humans. Their technology is quite primitive, with a monarch ruling over the land and most of the population working on farms. Humans can be, however, quite stubborn, and find both elves and urgals to be quite alien to them - causing some troubles as distrust might emerge.

 

Urgals: Although not inherently violent, the urgal society builds on one's strength and willpower, praising those with strong power and excellent weapon skills. Most urgals know how to wield some basic magic, but find it easier to demonstrate their power with their sword. Urgals have two curling horns sprouting from their head, and are tall and muscular on their build. They have a grayish skin, yellow eyes, claws on their hands instead of nails, and can be anywhere from six to nine feet tall, depending whether they have "the Old Blood" or not. Urgals can run faster and further than any dwarf or human and also exceed in physical strength.

 

Dwarves: Possessing a strong love for gems and rocks and a long lifespan, dwarves consider themselves to be the native species of Alagaësia alongside the dragons. They live beneath the large Beor Mountains. The society of dwarves is split into thirteen clans, who then elect a king to rule over the land - with the clans as part of the government. Dwarves share a ferocious family and clan pride, always siding with their own no matter even if they are wrong. Dwarves are headstrong and stubborn, but have a big heart and a warm smile. Dwarves have thick bones, making them very sturdy and strong, with great stamina but little agility. They are quite sharp on their mind and can learn magic more easily than an urgal, but prefer not to use it exceedingly. Dwarves also find it hard to trust an elf and often refuse to work with them.

 

Werecats: Werecats are sentient creatures with shapeshifting abilities, being able to take on the appearance of either a human or a large, shaggy cat. They are said to be incredibly smart and dangerous, possessing the powers to see to the future. Werecats are extremely rare and their words are heeded by kings and commons alike. Seeing one hints towards big events, as werecats seem to always be where something significant is happening. There is a huge cloud of mystery clouding werecats, and one doesn't deliberately fight with one. Werecats have no leader and cannot be Dragon Riders.

 

Shades: A shade is a magic user or a sorcerer possessed by spirits. No matter their origin race (dragons or werecats, however, cannot be shades), they acquire superb strength and magic proficiency. Usually, a Shade self-destructs themselves simply from the insane amount of magic within their body. However, if the Shade is strong enough and can host the spirits, they become stronger and can control the spirits within themselves. After their transformation, the Shade's skin pales and they acquire red eyes and maroon hair. Shades usually have a very lean body, yet ripped with strength that the appearance hides. Shades have no sense of remorse or sorrow, as the spirits that wish to possess a body are evil and bloodthirsty. The appearance of a Shade is extremely, extremely rare and considered as a major threat to all of Alagaësia. Shades have no need for rest and killing them is close to impossible - a blade has to be thrust through their heart.

 

Ra'zac: Ra'zac feed upon human flesh and can paralyze their opponent with their foul breath. They have beaks and black eyes the size of a fist and have lumps on their back from where their wings will spread as they mature. They are very strong but cannot wield magic and are afraid of sunlight and water. They prefer to use poisons and other assassination methods against their opponent, always stabbing from the back rather than crossing swords with their enemy. A Ra'zacs' mind cannot be touched by magical means and thus has an advantage against spell-casters. Ra'zacs' physical abilities match that of an elf, but their mental abilities are below that of any of the other races. They are very much alike to a predator than anything else, even communicating simply by clicking their beaks. When a Ra'zac matures, it becomes a 'Reldviing', or leatherwing, a gruesome, leathery version of a dragon with a long beak. The Ra'zac ride the Reldviing as a method of quick transportation. The Reldviing can utter a high-pitched screech that immobilizes all living creatures, no matter their race or strength of mind.

 

{ R U L E S}
  • All DC Forum rules apply.
  • No godmodding. I am very serious about this. Your character cannot defeat someone else with one spell or one swing of the sword, nor can your dragon be an almighty beast.
  • For this RP, I'd prefer at least a paragraph or even two for your replies. Decent grammar is always a big plus! This is a semi-lit/lit RP
  • Do not harass other players.
  • No character limit, but make it clear to show when another character is speaking. E.g. putting *** between different character's entries when RPing.
  • The dialogue between a Rider and their dragon 'Should be implied like this' whilst If a character is thinking, simply italicize. This is to make things clear when the character is doing which.
  • If there's any trouble, do not feel afraid to PM me.
  • Have fun! Really!
{ S i g n - u p }

PM this to me!

 

[B]Username:[/B]
[B]Character Name:[/B] (Have something very fantasy-y and try to match your race)
[B]Species:[/B] Elf/Dwarf/Human/Urgal
[B]Age:[/B] (Measured in regular years - have them be at least a teenager if they're a new Rider)
[B]Gender:[/B]
[B]Sexuality[/B]:
[B]Personality:[/B] (I'd really love to see some well-planned characters!)
[B]Appearance:[/B] (Go into detail; a paragraph or two, please - if you include a picture, you still need to describe your character. Clothing is around the middle ages; use wool, leather, cotton, and metal in your clothing.)
[B]Background:[/B] (Tell in detail about your character's life so far. How did they discover they were destined to be a Dragon Rider? {Hint: all those with magical skills have an eye for possible Shur'tugals.} What was their life before becoming a Shur'tugal? Family? Friends? Hobbies?)
[B]Rank[/B]: (Apprentice/Dragon Rider/Elder/Council)
[B]Weapon:[/B] (Newcomers can ignore this. Seasoned Shur'tugal, describe your sword. Give it a name (if it has a meaning, bonus points). Remember that the color matches your dragon)

[B]Dragon's Name[/B]:
[B]Age[/B]: (Less than their partner's by about fifteen to twenty years; mentally are very old, though)
[B]Gender[/B]: (Females are more aggressive and powerful, but males are bigger)
[B]Personality[/B]: (Usually complementary to their partner's)
[B]Appearance[/B]: (Colors, scales, wings, spikes, tail... Don't go /too/ fancy, tho. May use  picture but please describe the dragon with a few lines)
[B]Background[/B]: (How has being a partner to a Shur'tugal been? Training? Missions? Possible friends? Be creative on this one, I'm curious to see what kind of backgrounds you will come up here :D)

[B]Other[/B]: (Anything else? Note: if your Rider is a Mahlaan (Fallen), tell it here)

Edited by Gildraug

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{ C h a r a c t e r s }

 

The character sheets are put into Google Docs to make it easier for everyone to read them. It also prevents this page from crashing from the word amount.

 

Ratha and Aatris - Gildraug

Thati and Dänyr - Gildraug

Tanthanion and Zencoria - Epyon

Mia and Zeditha - Zeditha

Ariawynn and Rhaegos - Shiny Hazard Sign

Súndav- Coryn02

Edited by Gildraug

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{Let's get this party started!}

 

A small flower grew through the cracks of the stone, a miracle of life among the dead. It drank what little life it could that shone through the cave mouth briefly in the mornings and survived on the moisture that condensed inside the stone.

With an audible crunch, a heavy leather boot stomped on the flour, instantly snuffing out the spark of life.

The Ra'zac then moved deeper into the cave which was in the side of Helgrind, the sacred lair of the flesh-eaters that the maggots of Dras-Leona worshiped and sacrificed slaves to.

It moved without disturbing the near-silence of the tunnels and caves that had been excavated over time inside the mountain. Only the drip of water and the occasional scuttle of a bug could be heard. Suddenly, the Ra'zac noticed a faint glow and grew immediately alert - it nor any of its partners needed light to see in the dark. It drew out a dark, wicked blade and moved even more carefully, before jumping out of the shadows into the room.

There were a couple of multiple, misshapen figures whom the Ra'zac immediately knew to be its brethren, but there were also a couple of other robed figures; for them the single candle had been lit.

"Sssheathe your ssssword, brother," one of the Ra'zac told the late-comer who did so, although all the while glaring at the unknown figures.

 

"Their mistrust is understandable," one voice called. The Ra'zac had poor knowledge of other races' characteristics, but it was definitely young and female.

"Aye, but let us put our mistrusts and our past grudges aside," a low male voice interrupted, irritated. "The time is ripe - the Riders have grown fat and lazy in Doru Araeba. It's the perfect chance for us to strike."

"Yet their numbersss are not sssmall. How do you intend to bring them down?" one of the older Ra'zac growled. Another figure waved their hand, dismissing its concerns.

"From the inside, of course. It would be foolish to charge them head-on. But before we go more into detail, I'd say we should all swear by the Ancient Tongue to not betray each other in this matter," a silky smooth voice said, to which the Ra'zacs made a short, snapping sound. The voice chucked. "Ah, forgive me, the Ancient Tongue burns you."

"Vows still hold power, Ancient or not." Nods ensued.

"Very well," continued the silky voice. "May this joining of powers be fruitful and the downfall of the Riders!"

A dragon roared with triumph somewhere inside Helgrind, making the birds scatter into an ominous wind.

 

 

***

 

 

'Ratha, alok nu. Yun vu gruz mii!' a low and powerful grumble pierced Ratha's dreams. The elf woke up suddenly and sat up quickly, stars swimming before her eyes. Although elves never truly slept, this half-sleep had been so deep she hadn't noticed dawn arriving. Jorundr was still snoring contently, drooling on his pillow. Ratha shook her head and gave a quick ruffle at her husband's hair, before raising and changing into her daily clothes. While putting on her shirt, she recalled seeing a dream about a flower that grew from stone.

'Maybe it's a sign of a dwarf-elf-child?' Aatris suggested, amused. Ratha shared his amusement for a moment.

'Perhaps. It did not feel like a prophecy like the one we saw years ago, remember?' Aatris merely hummed in agreement somewhere outside of Doru Araeba, flying for fun and enjoying the morning sun on his scales. When the elf had finished giving her unruly silvery hair a quick brush, she stepped out from her bedroom into the two-story open space that contained her study and various rooms needed for daily living. One of the walls was partially open to the sky, only covered by curtains that had been enhanced by magic to be strong enough to withstand storms. Opening those, Ratha called out to Aatris and soon enough a huge golden dragon appeared before her, extending his tail to allow the elf to climb into his back. The two enjoyed some leisurely flying as the morning sun peeked from behind the mountains. Neither spoke words, but mentally simply shared the moment together, allowing thoughts exchange without boundaries; they were one mind sharing two bodies.

 

A bell chimed somewhere seven times. Within the hour it would be time for the meeting to start, Ratha reminded herself. Nothing out of the ordinary, just some reports and discussing matters with the Council. Even so, she couldn't shake off the feeling something was out of place, or even outright wrong.

'What makes you think so, little one?' Aatris asked gently as he landed on the extension from where he had picked Ratha. He was now far too big to fit inside except for his head. A dizzying dance of golden colors danced on the walls as the dragon did so, in order to watch Ratha as she put her already in order papers into more neat piles and then filed them precisely.

'I do not know, honestly,' she sighed after she picked up one of the piles she knew she would need that day. 'Intuition? Old woman's superstitions?' Aatris laughed at that, making the walls vibrate. Ratha allowed herself a small, wry smile.

'Nothing concrete, in other words. I was always a pessimistic person,' she shrugged.

'Maybe, but that's what has kept many of us alive during hard times - by being cautious,' Aatris countered and took off, his task today to counsel with some of the elder dragons as their counterparts did the same.

"Dragons," Ratha muttered under her breath and put Shulmah on her belt - more as a status symbol rather than a necessity to have a blade, but the weight put her mind at ease, nevertheless. She then started to make her way into the Chamber of Thoughts, the place where the Council was going to meet. After that, she had a few audiences to listen to in the Hall of Echoes.

 

The blue eyes that were slit like a cat's glimmered slightly. This was going to be a perfectly ordinary day - yet she couldn't shake off she had forgotten something important.

Edited by Gildraug

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Mia sighed in frustration. It was only a few days until new hopeful Riders would be introduced to their dragons, and she wasn't even on Doru Araeba. She had plenty of rations with her, an excuse for absence from her duties, and enough spare gold to arrange suitable luxuries for herself; the only thing she did not have was a ride.

 

"Would any of you good sirs be willing to travel to Doru Araeba?" She approached a small group of gaunt-looking fishermen at the far edge of Narda. She'd travelled there by horse, knowing from her advisor that the choosing would be soon, and had spent all day searching for a boat that would take her to the infamous Riders' island. It seemed, however, that luck was not on her side, as not one was leaving until next week. Mia had not a moment to lose.

 

Annoyed at her lack of response, she drew a few gold coins from her purse and raised her voice. "Excuse me, would any of you be willing to ferry me to the island of the Riders? I'd be willing to pay a significant fee..."

At the mention of the money, she finally got some attention. Suddenly, the men were all too eager to assist. It's always the same... Money changes everything.

 

 

A few days later, she was on the island. The city was amazing; buildings stretched high into the skyline, with an elven elegance that no other race could master. The market was full of interesting trinkets; they fetched a high price, so Mia decided to only look and save her coin for later use. A few casual enquiries led her towards the centre of the city; that was where the new Riders were gathering.

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Tanthanion was already up just before the sun began to brighten the night sky with its warming rays. He had gotten up a couple hours ago as he's trying to reacclimate himself to a normal sleeping schedule. Ever since the hushed whispers of Shades and Raz'ac started, he and his dragon, the venerable Zencoria, had conducted nighttime reconnaissance throughout Alagaësia contrary to the wishes of the council because of his rank. However, Tanthanion would not be denied and he would've been remiss if a less experienced Rider was killed because of a lack of situational awareness to make no mention of the bond not being as strong with a fledgling Shu'tugal as compared to his own with Zencoria. Besides, with the color of Zencoria's scales, she's almost invisible in the nighttime sky.

 

Zencoria was still somewhat asleep, though she had come to a semi-alert state of consciousness when Tanthanion woke up and was moving about. 'Have you any idea what time it is?' she asked with mock irritation through their mental connection.

 

'Apparently time for you to already start complaining, you overgrown lizard with wings,' Tanthanion shot back with a grin. 'I can't sleep anymore, plus I feel rested. It's nice to be back home after sleeping with heated rocks close by to keep warm.'

 

Zencoria hummed in agreement, it was nice to be back in familiar territory with allies on hand. 'What should we tell Ratha?'

 

'L'aster; Udos zhal'la tlu zha'rior ulu plynn phor da'rex qua'laen nindolen calussai d'nesst-siltrin lu'nindyn vel'dos kheln mir mzild taga nind quortek. Udossta 'liests inbal yutsu',' he replied in a secret language that Tanthanion and Ratha found when they were still apprentices.

 

'Yllui'th' she replied in the same language.

 

At the time they finished with their conversation, the sun had crested the horizon to the east and he moved to his knees in the small observatory within his room and said a prayer to the spirits of the Riders that have passed. Although it sounded more like a mournful song than an actual prayer. When he finishes, the sun has come free of its cradle and he stared as close to it as he could as he came back to his feet. "Amativ amiv vu, mahlaan zeymah. Mu fen brud nau un ahsod," he said softly before inhaling deeply. He nodded and stepped back inside his bedroom to change out of his nightclothes and into his dailies. He clipped his signature cloak onto his shoulders before belting on Hefvulon. There was a council meeting that was to start soon and he made his way to the Chamber of Thoughts.

 

He was one of the first ones in as the council members filed in. The elves and humans still mostly dominated the Council but there are two Dwarves and two Urgals. Thirteen members with him included sitting at the half moon table in front of a large map of Alagaësia. There was idle chatter until Ratha made her way inside.

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As Ratha entered the Chamber of Thoughts, all Councilmen stood up respectfully and the Head Dragon Rider bowed her head to them, in thanks.

"Aal grind gon," she declared and they all sat down. Ratha gave a look around the table and saw curious gazes - they seemed to sense that something was off with their leader. This was true, for Tathanion's news had disturbed her greatly.

 

"Council! I have received grave news of shadows that we know still stalk the land despite our efforts. Tanthanion?" Ratha nodded to him, giving him the floor. The raven-haired elf stood up and gave his report. People had gone missing and their chewed bones found later on. The worshipers of Helgrind have become more active, sacrificing slaves twice a month, their bodies never found. And there has been rumors of a red-haired, pale girl who reaped death everywhere she went.

 

A ripple of worried murmurs answered the report after Tanthanion sat down. Some began speaking with each other until one Urgal, Rutrok, stood up.

"How are we going to react to these news? These are grave things; signs of Ra'zac and Shade activity, if I am not entirely mistaken," he said and sat back down. Another Councilman stood up, a dwarf Hvunha.

"I say we find their lair and destroy them, once and for all! Root out the evil like a weed and make sure it will never grow back!" she declared loudly and some nodded in agreement. Ratha had crossed her fingers and leaned her chin against them, preferring to listen and think.

'If it would be so easy, we would have done so already,' she commented to Aatris.

'Perhaps, but there is truth in her words.'

'Of course there is - we should not allow these evils to flourish when we know they exist. But they are elusive; not a rogue Urgal band that terrorizes nearby human settlements or a mad dwarf causing problems. These are the very creatures of the night,' she thought sullenly and Aatris simply shared her discomfort.

 

"And how do you propose we do such a thing?" Jorundr asked as he took the floor, spreading his hands. "I agree with you, we should deal with this problem, but how can we defeat shadows? I myself was part of a raiding group of Riders who attacked Helgrind, only to find nothing and enough traps to kill my teacher and two other experienced Riders," he said sadly and Ratha inwardly winced at the pain in his voice.

The meeting continued on as the Councilmen gave ideas and thoughts back and forth, until it started to get heated up. Some were sure they had to take action at that very moment, some thought it better to spy and discover before going head-on, and others said nothing.

"Enough," Ratha said at some point, her iron voice cutting through the arguments. She stood slowly up and looked around the table and at the various marks they had on the map. The Head Dragon Rider looked around again, judging what they were thinking.

 

"I understand your concerns. I want to go out this very moment and rip Helgrind apart with my own hands and Aatris' claws and flames. I want to make them pay for the people they have killed and terrorized," she said and some nodded in agreement, passion in their own eyes. "But the fact remains that no matter how many times we have raided Helgrind, we never find anything and each party has faced disasters no matter how cautious they have been. Our opponents are terrifyingly smart and cunning. Going head-on will only lead into disasters," she declared and some were about to protest until she raised a hand.

"This does not mean that I think we should sit idle. We should, by all means, go forth into Alagaësia and ensure the safety of the people. While doing so, we can try to learn of the nature of our enemy," Ratha concluded and looked around. Some looked unsatisfied, but most were glad at her decision. Tanthanion was about to open his mouth and Ratha gave him a small, wry smile.

"Yes, I know you want to go and I know I can only stop you by denying your very nature. Go, and may the gods watch after you," she said. Tanthanion gave a sheepish smile, bowed to the Council, and was off.

'Tlu sreen'aur ussta abbil. Ragar doeb vel'bol nindolen nesst siltrin calussai lu'kheln xuil mzild taga uss quortek ph'xundus,' she added to him mentally.

 

After Tanthanion had left the Council discussed some practical matters on how to scout the vast lands of Alagaësia, and Ratha also contacted the rulers of each race through scrying, describing them the nature of the threat. Apparently humans had suffered the most.

 

It was well into the late morning and early afternoon before the Council was dismissed, each heading out to their own assignments. Ratha made her way to the Hall of Echoes, where Aatris was already waiting.

'This is going to be a long day,' Ratha thought, tired, as she sat down on the throne that represented a dragon.

'But there is something good today, too. I heard that a new apprentice is arriving!' Aatris said excitedly and Ratha inwardly smiled.

'It's been a while,' she thought and recalled the day she had come to Doru Araeba for the first time. Aatris also hummed happily.

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'Usstan orn, lu'Usstan orn yutsu 'zil ulnin 'zil Usstan shlu'ta. Usstan orn dryss'ho l'dortho d'l'slanos bauth Helgrind. Ol kluthak l'degahre ph'dryss'hoas gaer,' he replied after he left the chamber. Of the many things he is thankful for; he's particularly thankful that Ratha understands that he would prefer to take the dangerous assignments and does not attempt to bar him from doing so. Speaking to the Council was one thing he didn't enjoy doing, but he stomachs it just fine. After all, he's known all of them for a good while now that he considers them friends. He would make preparations immediately and leave when the night is on in full. Shades and Ra'zac may be at home in the night, but that's because they never had a dedicated predator. However, a thought occurs to him about an hour later. 'Orn'la dos hull'phir Usstan sila've reztorm biu abban?' he asked her through their connection.

 

'So, our dear friend has given you the task?' Zencoria asks with mirth in her voice.

 

'Indeed, she has. Does this upset you?' he asks in a similar tone.

 

'Of course not, but eventually I would like to sink my teeth into Ra'zac or into their mounts. Or maybe to burn them with my fire,' she replies wistfully.

 

'In time, my friend. We must first conduct a thorough reconnaissance of their hideout. Ratha is right, our foe is clever to have booby trapped Helgrind so. And former Riders met their end in that forsaken place,' he lamented, stepping into his room in the central spire.

 

'We will do better, Tanthanion. We have experience where our comrades had none. And when the time comes, we will go with greater numbers instead of just four. I firmly believe that was a mistake,' she stated.

 

Tanthanion nodded even though he was alone. He was against sending a small number towards Helgrind, now that he had greater influence, he will be sure to send more of their order. Jorundr would back him, he knew. The entire Council could well back his play when he gathers enough information to launch an assault. But first, they need to get passed the magical fortifications.

 

Tanthanion stepped out of his room after he was done with his preparations, setting out his fabulous suit of armor to wear at a later time and he made his way to the audience hall, the new apprentices were coming to Vroengard for the first time after all. He wanted to see them before he left for his mission.

 

 

 

 

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As Mia made her way closer to the center of the city, the streets became larger and larger, with enough room between buildings for several carriages to pass through side-by-side. At first, Mia was puzzled by this; surely this was just a waste of space? Maybe it was to allow good visibility, to prevent crime, but as the walkways widened even further, Mia decided that it must have a limit. She continued puzzling further, asking for directions whenever she was unsure of where to go, until she spotted something. Peeking out from the corner of a street was a scaled snout; a dragon! Of course; they grew so big, the streets had to let them pass. How could she have forgotten about the creature she had come here to bond with? She silently chastised herself for her stupidity, and continued making her way towards the audience hall.

 

As she neared what she presumed to be the right place, she looked around for a guide, unsure of what to do next. Dragons had become more numerous; not slowly, as the streets had widened, but quickly. As she had turned the last corner, she saw masses of dragons about, large and small, playing or talking with their riders or other dragons, or sleeping in the case of a few larger dragons in one corner. She looked lost for a small bit until she spotted one tall elf striding purposefully towards the building she was at. Straightening up, so as not to look like some lost girl, she went over to him. "Excuse me, but is this the right place to sign up to be a Rider?"

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Tanthanion looked to the right when he heard a voice before coming to a stop when he saw a young human woman ask him a question. "I don't think you sign up per se. But..." he trails off before his eyes and smile brighten. "Ah! You must be our new apprentice. Come with me, I'll take you to where you need to go," he says, resting a hand between her shoulder blades as he ushers her in his direction.

 

Just as they come upon the golden doors that lead to the audience hall, Zencoria makes her appearance, alighting beside them in her splendor. 'Greetings, little one. Welcome to Doru Araeba,' she speaks to her.

 

'Now, what did I say about showing off?' Tanthanion scolds.

 

'I have no idea what you're talking about, my dear Tanthanion,' Zencoria remarks teasingly.

 

"Yea, sure you don't," he mutters. He pushes the doors in and leads the girl inside to where Ratha sits upon her throne.

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'Nindel detholir Usstan sevir ulu dos. Maglust dos inbal natha jatha'ur mayar d'aluin velkyn, jhal abbanen sila sreen'aur,' Ratha replied to Tanthanion's question. 'Usstan zhal lac natha abbil ulu dortho dos. Belbau uns'aa biu klew'kin.'

 

Ratha also contacted another Rider who soon appeared before her throne. Thati's hair was like a ring of fire around her hair and Dänyr, beautiful and calm, stood beside her Rider like an emerald statue. Aatris hummed happily to the two of them, still recalling clearly how Dänyr hatched before Thati.

"I have called you two, because I have a quest for you," Ratha began and had to raise a hand to stop Thati from bursting into speech. She clearly managed to hold back her tongue just barely and seemed to shiver with anticipation to prove herself. "Let me first say this: this quest will not be your regular patrol or the like. This will be serious and you will be accompanied by an elder Rider and his dragon, whose orders you will listen to and obey, for your life may depend on them. This will be a chance for you to prove how you have improved and it is also an important chance to learn something new. Do not waste it."

'We thank you, Ratha-elda,' Dänyr said politely, her clear voice ringing in Ratha's and Aatris' minds.

"We will not disappoint you, Head Dragon Rider!" Thati also said and bowed, her red hair flowing beside her head. Aatris let out a friendly laugh.

'You are certainly excited, witch-fire-head. Put it to good use,' the huge dragon said and Thati nodded with a grin, although Dänyr seemed to sigh inwardly.

 

The large doors opened then, and they saw the incomers - Tanthanion alongside with Zencoria and a girl whom Ratha didn't recognize.

'The newest apprentice,' Aatris said with a happy tone to Ratha, who also felt a leap of joy - each apprentice was the future of the Riders. Ratha descended from her throne and greeted the apprentice.

"Welcome to Dorú Araeba. I am Ratha, the Head Dragon Rider, and this is my partner Aatris," she said and gave a quick smile as the dragon, whose single eye was almost half the height of the youngster, approached her and hummed softly.

'Welcome,' he also said with his low, mountain-like voice. Ratha then turned towards Tanthanion and Zencoria, motioning towards the other pair and introducing them to each other.

 

"Thati and Dänyr will be coming with you. This will also be a learning experience for them and I trust you will take good care of them. Likewise I am sure they will be useful for the quest," the Head Dragon Rider said in her curt way. "I wish the four of you the best of luck. Thati, Dänyr, prepare yourselves and meet Tanthanion and Zencoria outside of Dorú Araeba." She and Aatris then gave traditional farewells to the four and then they were off. The younger pair quickly flew to their quarters and were ready before a quarter of an hour had passed - Dänyr was wearing a saddle alongside all of the bags they would need and Thati was wearing her light armor and her sword on the belt, checking they were all in good condition. Then they flew to the gates outside of the great city of Riders.

 

In the Hall of Echoes, more apprentices were gathering alongside some elder Riders who would help Ratha and Aatris to take them into the Vault of Souls, where their dragons were waiting.

Edited by Gildraug

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Mia looked around in wonder as she was lead into the room. No more than a few steps in, two pairs of Rider and dragon stood, one on the floor, listening, and one on a throne, who seemed to be giving orders. She smiled - being a Rider must be fun. She couldn't wait to join them.

 

She tensed up as the elf descended from her throne towards her, but quickly loosened her guard as the dragon came closer as well. He was a beautiful orange, scales gleaming in the light. And he was so HUGE! Just his eye was half her size. Mia could definitely understand the size of the pathways here if dragons grew this large; it seemed that this dragon wouldn't even fit in some of them.

Her attention snapped back to the elf as she spoke. So this was Ratha, the Head Rider... and Aatris. Such a nice name.

Not letting herself get distracted by the awesome dragon, Mia wondered; should she address the elf as Ratha or Head Rider? Quickly making a decision, she bowed lightly.

 

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Head Rider. I hope we'll be seeing a lot more of each other in the near future."

 

Ratha then turned to the elf beside her, introducing them to the other pair. Judging by the size of their dragons, the red-haired girl seemed to be a much younger Rider than the elf, and she certainly seemed excited. Perhaps this was her first mission? Mia smiled - it wouldn't be too much longer before she was joining a mission herself.

 

 

As both senior Riders moved in different directions, Mia paused. Who was she meant to follow? After a few seconds of dithering, it seemed that Tanthanion was preparing for a mission. She went towards Ratha, waiting eagerly for where she would be taken next.

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"I still don't see why they chose you," a middle-aged woman sniffed as she placed pins into the flaxen hair of the elf knelt dutifully before her. The woman's eyes were dark and shrewd, and her hands were rough on the elf's hair and long, curved ears. She grabbed the elf's face by the jaw and twisted the girl around as she scrutinized her work. The elf looked young, far younger than the woman fussing over the silver-blonde bun, and she kept her gaze downcast while the woman clicked her tongue and rewound the bun again. With an impatient sigh, the woman added, "Must be that...magic you elves do. Rhoddan would have made a better fighter, that's for sure."

At the mention of magic, the elf's small hands curled together slightly. She kept her head bent.

"Yes, much better than I," came a soft, feminine agreement. There was a musical quality to the voice that made the older woman twitch, as it always had since she was a little girl-- most things about the elf made her twitch, and the past thirty five years living with the elf hadn't done much to alleviate it. She ignored it and twisted the long hair sharply into a neater bun and pinned it into place.

"There," the woman said simply, finally satisfied with her handiwork. Her own bun, a mousy brown color, was in disarray, but she paid it no mind as she grabbed the leather bracers from a nearby stool and tied them quickly onto the elf's pale, smooth forearms. "You'll have to look nice for once. Can't have the Riders thinking we don't treat you right." There was a curl to her lip that suggested the human woman didn't give three figs what the Riders thought, and the elf had the impression that her human family didn't hold the Riders in much higher regard than they did elves. Or perhaps it was just the elven riders they didn't like; the one waiting outside that very moment had been received with a mixture of respect and disdain by the family just that very morning.

"Get up, then," the woman commanded sharply, and the elf rose to her feet with the grace of a swan. She'd been dressed in the finest clothes ever to adorn her tall, willowy figure; the soft white tunic she wore had been Amira's, who wasn't entirely pleased to be giving up her clothing to the elf, and the riding britches she wore were crafted of a supple brown leather to match the braces Leona had just attached to her arms. Leona handed her a pair of well-worn, dark leather boots that the elf slipped into with ease, for they were a size or two too large, and then wrapped the matching leather vest around the elf's slender torso and scowled as she wove the laces into place. Once the elf was finished dressing, Leona studied her with pursed lips and gave a curt nod of her head. "Good enough. Get going, Ari."

The elf followed Leona through the cabin. It was the only home she could remember, besides a few rather fuzzy snippets of memory of a forest. She brushed her finger tips against a wooden chair as she passed it, and a sensation of remorse and dread suddenly bubbled up from the depths of her gut. Ari stalled a moment and inhaled; now was not the time to be having feelings, especially if she was to make a good impression on the man waiting outside for her that the humans were so flustered about. This entire morning they'd spent lamenting that of all eligible individuals from the village, the Rider had somehow singled out the awkward, unsociable elf before ever laying eyes on her. Nor did he seem interested in any other candidates, despite how persuasive the humans tried being about the strapping young men eager to take Ari's place. The villagers made bitter remarks about bias and favoritism for the elves, considering the Rider himself was one, and Ari overheard that some had even gone so far as to request a human Rider to come give their young folk a fair chance. She didn't blame the humans; out of all possible people, she was the least qualified to become a dragon rider. There must have been a mistake.

 

Ari stepped out into the sunlight and blinked against the harsh glare as her sight readjusted. The other elf was tall, even taller than her, with long, chestnut-brown hair knotted into a neat braid. His ears were pointed like hers, but angled up and outward, while Ari's were longer with tips that drooped slightly down. His eyes were a warm shade of honey that twinkled with his smile. The clothing he wore was far nicer than even what she wore, with vibrant splashes of red through his attire to accent the ruby blade strapped to his hip. Behind him, a massive scaled mountain lay folded over its front paws like a lazy cat napping in the sun. Each scale resembled polished cuts of red glass, and where the dragon lay in the sunlight, the earth and surrounding trees were bedazzled with thousands of sparkling shards of refracted ruby light. A group of human children had crowded around the tail-end of the dragon, playing in the glitter.

The elf spread his hands out in greeting and stepped forward. "Are you ready to go?" he asked gently, ignoring the expressions of incredulity on the humans around them.

Instead of answering, Ari turned to face Leona and Brunn, the latter of whom had one large hand gripping the much smaller hand of a little boy. Brunn glanced briefly at Ari, and then back at the Rider. He grunted. "How long's she 'spposed to stay wit you?" he asked, his deep voice rough and blatantly uncomfortable.

The male elf looked mildly surprised, and it was a moment before he responded, "Perhaps the rest of her life, if she wanted. That would be her decision."

Brunn's lip curled, very much like Leona's had when dressing Ari earlier. He didn't seem terribly pleased with her leaving, though Ari wondered if they'd be terribly pleased to have her return. She tried not to make sense of the humans, most times. "Fine then. Girl-- er, Ari-- be good now. Do as yer told. When yer all done with this dragon nonsense, you'd best be gettin' back here to where you belong," Brunn finished, though nothing in his face or posture suggested he'd be sorry seeing her leave.

Ari blinked at him, and then inclined her head in affirmation. Belong? That was the first she'd heard of such an idea come from any of the humans. Mostly they took to reminding her of just the opposite.

The elf looked between Ari and the humans for a long, drawn out moment until the dragon behind him lifted her head and puffed a ring of smoke from her nostrils. 'Let us be going. We have a long journey,' rang a strong, beautiful voice inside of Ari's head, though it was apparent the rest of the humans had also heard it, for many of them jumped backward or yelped. Ari simply stared. When the elf extended his hand to her again, it was several more moments before she hesitantly slipped her own into his glove and allowed him to lift her onto the dragon's saddle.

"Bye-bye Ari!" called a little voice. When she twisted around to look, Brunn was tugging the young boy back into the house. The others in her family had already turned away. She began to lift a hand to wave back, but Brunn shut the door before any of them could see, and her hand fell promptly back into her lap. Ari watched the house as the elf settled in the saddle in front of her and the dragon rose to her feet.

 

The journey was extremely uneventful. The elf explained that his name was Lianthorn and his dragon Sahqo, and while they flew he told her of many stories about the Shur'tugalar and the haven they resided at, called Doru Araeba. Ari listened attentively as she always did, but asked no questions nor offered explanations when Lianthorn gently attempted to probe her about her life. Anything elf related was met with similar results. He attempted to point out landmarks that they passed over or near, but Ari remained quiet and unmoved. Eventually, the Rider seemed to give up and the rest of their journey was spent in silence.

On the third day, after spending a majority of the morning gliding over cold wind currents and through dewy clouds, the smudged outline of Vroengard appeared on the horizon. Ari's dark eyes watched it loom steadily closer. The occasional beat of Sahqo's wings sent the air rushing around her face, stinging her fair skin pink from the cold wind and causing her eyes to water from the force. It wasn't long until the island was suddenly zipping beneath them; Ari watched the trees and the earth blend into a muddy green blur from the speed of Sahqo's flight, and ever so faintly she clutched tighter at Lianthorn's jacket when the dragon abruptly swooped upward and over the magnificent stone walls accented in gold. A sprawling city lay beyond the walls that, for some reason, made the hairs on the back of Ari's neck rise in unease.

"Here we are!" Lianthorn called back into the wind, though as Sahqo was slowing down to not collide with the hundreds of other scaled beasts taking to the air, Ari could hear him quite clearly. He gestured toward one of the taller buildings in the city where she could see a colorful array of dragons gathered and the much smaller figures of people bustling around them. "That is where you will meet the other Riders to be. Our Head Rider, Ratha, will be there to greet you."

Sahqo dipped low into the city. Ari wondered how the dragon managed not to clip any of the structures with the tips of her outstretched wings, considering how many times she'd gotten dangerously close to doing so. But, miraculously, the three of them landed square in the center of the city amongst the other riders and people unharmed. Lianthorn dismounted with an elegant slide, and then hefted Ari from her seat and delivered her onto the cobblestones of Doru Araeba.

"What do you think?" he asked brightly, turning to smile at some of the nearby folk who'd turned to greet them.

Ari folded her hands in front of herself and stood in quiet observation. After a long moment, she said in a faint voice, "It is very large and busy."

Lianthorn frowned slightly as he looked at her. "Certainly you have seen a city before?"

Sahqo snorted above them. 'I would be surprised if this child had ever seen another fahliil before you,' the dragon commented with scorn. She gave her head several shakes, as if trying to dislodge the memory of the strange human village and their elven servant from her mind. 'Let us go greet Ratha and Aatris. Enough dallying.' Her curved talons clicked against the pavement as she led them through the crowd and to the towering doors of the hall.

 

Lianthorn walked ahead of Sahqo and Ari as they approached the throne. It was a spacious room with several people already inside, including a few dragons. Sahqo greeted the other beasts with a soft hum, and Lianthorn bowed his head to the other riders murmuring, "Pruzah grind dii fahdon." Turning to the woman with the mound of silver hair and vivid blue eyes, Lianthorn added in a quieter voice, "Rek los gein tol kaaz qethserod do. Til los atruk folaas voth ek, Zu'u lorot. Zu'u lost neh nun fahliil dren daar ven." He glanced toward Ari, who had taken several steps back upon realizing the majority of the people within the room were also elves. Though she did not appear frightened, she regarded them with blank eyes, revealing nothing of what might have spurred her to distance herself from them. "Rek lost kosaan vel naal jul."

Sighing, Lianthorn resumed his smile and turned fully to Ari. "Child, this is Ratha, the one I spoke of. She will bring you to the place where you will meet your dragon."

This news did not seem to affect Ari's stoic demeanor. If anything, she almost appeared to not have heard or understood him. Dragons were for riders, and Ari was certainly no rider. Whatever these elves believed of her, they were wrong, and soon they would realize their mistake and send her back to her humans. She met Ratha's eyes evenly for a moment and then dropped her gaze to the floor, awaiting instruction. For the time being she would follow demands as she did for her humans, as such was commanded by her family before she left.

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Tanthanion watched as Ratha was speaking to one of the newish Riders to her side and presumably told them of the task they were to set out on. Had he not known Ratha for as long as he had, he would've been surprised. Thati was like them when they first earned their swords, eager to serve, eager to prove her mettle to the Head Rider and to the Council. An eager youngster who has yet to have a taste of actual combat. Much less the bitter taste of having a loved one turn against you. That wound was still fresh, though it was nearly half a century after the fact.

 

'Do not brood on the past, Tanthanion,' Zencoria says gently.

 

'I'm sorry, Zencoria. I just miss her,' he replies, to Zencoria's comforting hum. He tried to keep his face stoic though, although how well he did depended on how well you knew him. To any of the other Riders, he looked alright, but he was certain Ratha would notice, as would Aartis, who could see his demeanor change before Tanthanion himself realized it.

 

Ratha came over then and introduced him to Thati and her partner, the dragoness Dänyr. He gave a regal bow to them though he didn't need to given his rank. "Your first assignment of this nature, if I am not mistaken? Very well, Ratha, I will watch over them," he says with a nod of his head to both the Head Rider and the pair of Riders that would accompany him and Zencoria, who was already humming with tempered excitement to be off. But they were not to leave yet. He took Thati to the side while Ratha spoke to the new arrival. "Alright, gather items that you'll need for about a fortnight out in the field, I will explain more when we depart," he instructs before the two leave. He thanks Ratha mentally for giving him Thati, her magical prowess will be an asset to the quest.

 

He remains behind to look at the other new apprentices, they have a good number this year. He nods to the young woman he brought and smiled. "Best of luck to you, young one," he says before taking his leave from the Hall of Echoes. He nearly walks into another dragon, this one he believes is named Sahqo. "Ah, my apologies," he said. He turned his head to look at her rider, whom he recognized. "Ah! Lianthorn, you are well, I trust?" he asked with a warm smile. His smile widened slightly when he saw the young elven girl with him. "And what is your name?" he asks her. He took note of her demeanor, or lack thereof and turned a questioning gaze to Lianthorn and Sahqo. 'Why is she like this?' he asks them mentally. 'Where was she found?'

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As the Hall of Echoes began to fill with both Riders and soon-to-be apprentices, Ratha and Aatris began to have a hard time having time to greet everyone personally. However, when Lianthorn and Sahqo arrived and the former spoke to them directly, they excused themselves and walked up to them to greet them properly.

 

"Valokein hofkiin, Lianthorn ahrk Sahqo," Ratha said solemnly and Aatris nodded to them in greeting. Their attention soon was directed to the elven maid who had arrived with the Rider; moreover when Lianthorn began to explain the circumstances in where she was found.

'Zu'u koraav tol hin rot los vahzah - til los atruk folaas ko daar kiir,' Aatris hummed sadly as he slowly extended his neck to examine the elf, who in his and Ratha's eyes was still a child. She met their gazes evenly for a moment before dropping them, like a servant who was caught staring for too long.

"I welcome you to Doru Araeba. I am Ratha and this is my partner Aatris," she said and gave a quick smile that was most likely lost to the newcomer, having her head bent. "We shall be leaving soon to unite you to your fated partner." If the maiden didn't believe her, she didn't show it, merely nodded obediently. Something flashed in Ratha's memory, like the silvery scales of a quick fish that you weren't sure you saw at all. She tried to grasp this memory, but it was gone as fast as it had come. She wasn't even sure whether it was important or not, so she let the moment pass.

 

The early afternoon was passing steadily and soon the Hall of Echoes was filled with voices, ranging from the singing voices of the elves to the rough grunts of the urgals, not to even mention all the voices the dragons were making. When all of the Riders and the apprentices they had brought were in the Hall, Ratha ascended to her throne and raised a hand. The sea of voices slowly quieted down into an anticipating silence. Ratha looked around the Hall and nodded with satisfaction. Lately the number of apprentices had been in decline but it seemed to have stopped for now.

"Fahdon, mu lost lahvraan het wah vervisk un yun prustmun. Dahsul nust fent kos grin voth niist feliig ko ney hil ahrk hah, ahrk meyz gein do mii," Ratha began to speak ritualistically in the Ancient Tongue, and while the newcomers didn't understand each word, the message was understood through the power that the language of magic holds.

'Ahrk ful rod straag. Med vah bo mindin felniir, yun prustmun los aluntiid do faal Uth. Aal mu pah aak niin voth onikaan,' Aatris finished and a polite round of applause sprung after they had finished.

 

Ratha and Aatris walked to the soon-to-be apprentices that had been gathered into a single location by the other Riders. Some of them looked afraid, others eager, some hopeful, some worried. Only the elven maid seemed to be indifferent to the situation around her.

"We shall now travel to the Vault of Souls. Follow my lead, please!" she said loud and clear and began to walk briskly out from the Hall, her orange cape fluttering behind her like a pair of wings. Aatris remained in the hall, being too big to enter the Vault anymore, humming encouraging words to the ones who needed them. A couple of elder Riders walked behind, making sure nobody would get lost in the vastness of Doru Araeba.

 

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Mia had been admiring the golden gleam of Aatris' tail when Ratha, cloak fluttering, began to lead everyone else behind her. She looked back at Aatris, expecting him to follow, but he didn't seem to be moving - perhaps he was too big to fit where they were going? With a sigh, she tore herself from the beauty of dragon scales and followed the head rider. As she walked, she reminded herself that she was on her way to her very own dragon - one whose scales would be the most beautiful in all of Alagaësia! A spring went into her step, making the knives at her belt jingle, as she scurried to keep up with the brisk pace set by the elf.

 

((sorry for short post; just wanted Mia to acknowledge Ratha leaving xd.png))

Edited by Zeditha

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Saquo chittered when someone nearly walked into her, but he was nimble enough to avoid a collision and she hummed her amusement at the dark-haired elf. 'Keep your eyes about you, Tanthanion,' the dragon chided, though her tone was light. Her glimmering red tail slithered against the tile behind her as she moved to settle behind Lianthorn, who perked at the acknowledgment of the Elder rider.

 

"Tanthanion, well met, my friend," the younger elf said brightly. "I am just fine. Not sure if you'd heard, but I was out on my patrol and was hailed by a werecat, of all things. Told me a young rider was waiting back south in a human village. An elf child, nonetheless!" Lianthorn shook his head, almost sadly, as he glanced back at Ariawynn. Upon hearing the Elder's voice ring in his mind, Lianthorn answered in a more solemn tone, Living with humans, this one. She won't answer you. From what I gather she'd been raised by humans mostly, and I swear that she'd prefer it, too, and would have stayed had they not told her come with me. Lianthorn pursed his lips, and then dipped his head as Ratha and Aatris began their speech.

 

 

Ari stayed a few feet away from everyone else, toward the shadow and beside the wall where she would not be noticed. This didn't seem to bother anyone, for most of those surrounding Ari looked to be over eager children of many descents who paid barely a moment's glance at Ari for not standing bright-faced with joy as they did. She watched quietly, her dark eyes moving from face to face, until they finally settled back on Ratha and her golden-orange dragon. The words they spoke did not make much sense to her, but she was surprised to find that her ears whispered some meaning into her mind anyway at the sounds. Ari tried not to shiver at the sensation of it, for it reminded her too much of magic.

 

As the elf Ratha announced their departure, Ariawynn stood respectfully in place until the last of the chosen apprentices had filed away after her. She brought up the rear, hands clasped in front of her, speaking nothing to the other beings gathered in the great hall as she passed. Lianthorn offered her a great smile, but she did not meet his gaze. She did not even turn to look at him.

 

The elf stayed behind with Saquo, rubbing the back of his chestnut head with mild embarrassment. Surely none of the other apprentices that the riders had brought to Doru Araeba were so...bizarre. He turned to Tanthanion, frowning. "I'm not sure anyone would take her on as a pupil," he admitted. "She has the potential, as the werecat said, but the drive or the desire? I can't say she'll make it very far here if that doesn't change."

Saquo snorted. 'I'd like very much to see what kind of dragon hatches for her.'

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Ratha's brisk pace quickly led the apprentices through the inner circle of Doru Araeba, where the spires rose, to the outer ones, where it was more apparent that this was a city - one built to massive scale and full of dragons, but a city nonetheless. The paved roads were wide enough to allow a dragon to walk on and parks were present every now and then, full of people either debating or reading. There were merchants, too, selling their wares with loud voices and bartering with mages, Riders, and commoners alike. Some local farmers were leading horses with their over-winter goods to exchange for seeds. The air was heavy with the smell of food, herbs and spices and full of voices of varying races. Doru Araeba was like any great city, but it seemed to be somewhat more organized and less rowdy. People made way willingly to the passing group, most giving some polite bows of head to the passing Riders, and curious gazes to the apprentices. The lower ranked Riders whom they passed gave some cheerful words as they passed, remembering themselves as they walked that way not so long ago.

 

It took a while, but they finally made out of the huge city gates to the fields that surrounded Doru Araeba. Even though the Riders were powerful, they also needed food for themselves and for the people who lived in the city. Despite having these fields, the city had to import a lot of food and export exotic, magical goods to sustain that trade. The road they were on split to many directions and Ratha took the one that lead towards the nearest mountains, where the forest was creeping close to the fields. The road seemed to be old, older than the rest of the roads and less used, with visible marks of weathering and vegetation here and there.

 

At this point, Ratha turned around and faced the apprentices and nodded with satisfaction, for none of them had been complaining nor protesting about the walk.

"This road leads us to our destination. It is not much further," she confirmed to those who were eying the nearby mountains. Sure, the walk may take an hour or even two if Ratha didn't walk so briskly, but it was achievable. So they resumed walking, the air smelling of spring air, freshly turned soil and grass, alongside the chirps of birds that chased each other across the sky.

'Spring has always been your favorite,' Aatris hummed and Ratha saw him through their link laying down like a sphinx next to the throne.

'That is true. Our world never ceases to amaze me; and maybe I have my upbringing to blame, too,' she said and Aatris chuckled.

 

They soon entered the forest and all sounds seemed to fade. It was dark beneath the ancient trees that were larger than any regular tree in Alagaesia; excluding, of course, the trees of Du Weldenvarden. The road became even more cracked, with plants growing from these cracks. It wasn't due to neglect the road had ended so, but out of respect. The air seemed to be heavy, yet very light at the same time. As they walked, a tingle began to touch Ratha's mind - they were nearing the Rock of Kuthian, and the magic was growing stronger by the minute. What animals they had seen earlier, squirrels and a fox, had seemingly disappeared. Before them, a opening in the thick canopy allowed light to pour in and as they came to this opening it turned out to be a large field with one huge rock jutting towards the sky not so unlike the spirals in Doru Araeba. Runes etched into the stone crisscrossed around it, forming shapes and spirals and radiating great power. No-one is sure of the Rock's origins; it was there when the first Riders came there and it has been suggested that the dragon built it with their magic in the old days. Of this, there is no confirmation for those who would be old enough have long since passed or are so deep in dreams that nobody understands them when they speak.

 

Ratha halted before the stone and allowed the apprentices to gather around into a semi-circle, with the assisting Riders behind them. The magic of the stone seemed to be affecting everyone to a certain degree, drawing their gazes time and again.

"I am sure you all have guessed we are at our destination. This is the Rock of Kuthian, our greatest secret. I see some doubtful gazes and I understand, for did we not just simply walk here? How many felt some resistance while walking here? Good. That was a magical barrier meant to keep out everyone who is not a Rider or destined to be one. And should someone who does not fit that category get here, the Rock itself has incredible protective powers. Now, I ask of you all to give me a vow in Ancient Language to promise you will never talk about this to those outside of the Order," she said firmly. If someone refused to give this oath, they would not be allowed to go inside the Rock.

"The vow is as such: "I swear that I shall never reveal the location of the Rock of Kuthian to those outside of our order. And should i try to do so, my lips will seal themselves or my hand be unable to write or otherwise to reveal it. By this oath the Rock of Kuthian will allow me to walk inside." The vow alone allows you to go inside. Now, repeat after me," she continued, and spoke word to word, the apprentices repeating them. Some were more eager than the others and some were silent for a good while before repeating.

"Zu'u vaat tol Zu'u fent neh genun nizaag do vild do kuthian wah daar tir do un uth. Ahrk fend zu'u unt wah dreh ful, dii kroslen fen strin nistmaar uv dii haal kos nivos wah pel uv hahvothzos wah genun nii. Naal daar vahrot faal Vild do Kuthian fen vos zey wah paagol ko."

Edited by Gildraug

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Tanthanion grinned up at the young dragoness. "And to you, elegant daughter of the wind and sky," he replied with a hearty chuckle, patting her armored shoulder before she moved to settle behind Lianthorn. The younger elf beamed and explained the sequence of events leading up to this point, intriguing Tanthanion. "A werecat, you say? Most intriguing. You should be proud, young one. Werecats rarely speak of youths with such talent as to refer to them as Riders before they even set foot in Doru Araeba." As Lianthorn replies to his mental inquiry, he hums thoughtfully. 'Where is this village? I would pay them a visit in order to learn more of our new friend.'

 

Something nags in the back of his mind, but for the life of him, he cannot focus on it. Something feels familiar as if he should know who she is, but when he tries to examine these feelings they flit away.

 

At last, Ratha and Aartis led the gaggle of youngsters away to the Stone, again paying attention to how the young female acted. She moves as if she were a servant. What did these humans do to her? he wonders. He pursed his lips, Lianthorn offered her a warm smile that she did not reciprocate, much less acknowledge before following the others. He turned his head to Lianthorn as he spoke and he nodded. "Yes, it certainly seems so. But I would not worry about her. Very rarely do werecats make mistakes, wise beings as you have come to learn. I'm sure that once a dragon hatches for her, she will awaken as well," he replied. He chuckled faintly at Saquo's remark. "Well, hopefully one that can assist her in finding herself. It seems the humans that raised her did more harm than they realize." He brought a hand to his chin in thought before humming. Questions burning in his subconscious but he resolved to have them answered when the time comes. A few minutes pass by before he shakes himself from his reverie. "Well, I must be off. Until we meet again, Lianthorn, Saquo," he says, nodding before walking to his room so he and Zencoria can meet Thati and her dragon and begin their mission.

 

It took him just a few minutes before he and Zencoria met up with Thati and Dänyr. Tanthanion dismounted and walked to Thati. "Are you all set? We shall be away for quite some time, about a fortnight at least."

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Ariawynn trailed after the group of new apprentices with the lightness of step of a mouse. Each footfall was silent and fluid, though she seemed to be folded in on herself with her hands clasped in front of her and her head bent to keep her gaze to the ground. She spoke nothing to anyone around them, and moved swiftly around anyone who got too close to the group. Even the dragons went ignored as the beasts dipped their snouts closer to the crowd.

 

She did not seem to tire of the journey to the forest, but as soon as the trees began to thicken, Ariawynn's pace seemed to slow. Her spine was stiff, and soon she trailed several paces behind the last child in their group. Although her face remained impassive, her gaze had hardened and the muscles in her jaw had flexed tightly beneath her pale skin. The shadows rippling over her face hid the glimmer of panic beginning to well in the depths of her cobalt eyes as they were led between the massive tree trunks and into the belly of the forest. Each step felt like wading through molten lead; though it would not be audible to the human apprentices around her, she could hear her shallow breathing rasping in her ears like a roar of wind through the trees. Something was pressing in on her at all sides, squeezing her lungs like claws were slowly tightening their grip around her rib cage. She kept her gaze trained on the back of the head of a young human girl just a few yards ahead and struggled to resist the urge to jump out of her own skin, for it felt like an electric blaze was rocketing up her spine as Ratha halted them just before a large, engraved stone.

 

There was something about that rock that made icy flood her veins. Ariawynn stopped abruptly just in the tree line, staring at the rock. Goosebumps trailed all down her arms and the back of her neck at the sight of it. It reminded her of the forest outside of her home, and how she felt whispers of something-- so quiet and soft, it could have just been a breeze passing through-- calling her to venture farther, deeper, and lose herself to the wilds. Only here, it felt like the rock was screaming her name, demanding her to draw closer. But she couldn't do it. She stood rooted to the spot, unmoving.

 

Ratha's voice was distant to Ari. Though she listened, she barely absorbed what the Head Rider was saying until the words "Ancient Language" floated into her head and echoed there. She couldn't help the sharp intake of breath, like a low hiss, at the realization of what Ratha was requesting. Her, speak in that language? It was bad enough that she was even there, just feet within an object that radiated magic like heat from the sun. She couldn't even imagine what her family would think if they knew just how much magic was involved with the entire ordeal. Would they have let her go, if they knew? As soon as the words began to murmur off the lips of the surrounding apprentices, Ariawynn stepped back. She couldn't. She wouldn't say those words. There was power vibrating within each syllable, in the very cadence of their voices. The sound of it-- the spirit of it, too-- sank through her skin down into her bones, and stayed there, weighing her down. Her head swam.

 

And, before she could stop herself, the words seemed to tumble off her tongue with a grace that felt unnatural and otherworldly to her. The language whispered from her mouth, and she felt like a puppet, unable to comprehend just how she was able to form the words so perfectly and feel them as if they'd been the only words she'd known her entire life. Beyond that, even.

 

Her cheeks flushed with the shame of the knowledge of what she'd done, and the only thing she could comfort herself with was the memory of Brunn saying, 'Do as yer told.' If she was obedient, as she was raised to be, then she wouldn't be betraying everything she'd been taught, right? The humans must have known magic would be involved; it was a staple of being a rider. Of course, none of them truly believed she was of the proper material to be a rider, and Ari agreed. Maybe they hoped she'd fail, and then the weight of that failure would crush out any tendency toward magic in the future.

 

Ari lifted a slender hand to her face and closed her eyes to compose herself. It didn't take long; controlling emotion was one of the first skills she'd ever mastered among her family. Within moments she lowered her hand again, and the same blank, closed expression smoothed out over her face. The damage was done; she'd said the words of promise as the others did to the Rock, even though she wished to snatch them out of the air and stuff them back into her mouth. She would have to follow through with what she started, and hoped that when she ultimately failed this test, the humans would forgive her transgressions and move on.

 

 

 

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After the to-be apprentices has finished their vows, Ratha nodded approvingly. It was not easy to give such an oath in the beginning of their path but they could not risk this secret being given away. Some of the youths even looked angry or afraid; they had all spoken the Ancient Language and given the unbreakable vow. They hadn't been asked do they want to do this and had been assumed they would follow blindly. However, Ratha challenged with her icy-blue gaze some of the most angry-looking faces. She didn't intend to subdue them, but asked them to hold their anger until this event would be over.

'It is understandable why they feel angry. Barely has their journey began and already they are being restricted and ordered around and taken to weird places like ducklings following a mother duck,' Aatris mused.

'I agree. But you know as well as I do how much these vows matter to the safety of the Order. I'd prefer to be safe than sorry,' Ratha replied as she began to turn around and face the Rock.

'Dragons do not want to be safe. And all these children have some dragon blood, fiery and fierce.'

 

At her gentle touch and a swift golden light that seemed to bring the scent of oranges into the field, the Rock made a soft creaking sound as it slowly split into two and an ancient cave path appeared beneath the Rock. Stairs had been crafted at a later date by the Riders, while the cave itself had been carved by dragons - or some other force of equal power. A few audible gasps came from Ratha's crowd and she raised an eyebrow, humored, for this had been her exact reaction long time ago.

And so the wheel turns.

Without a word, she stepped into the cave and started the descent into the cave. As she walked, the walls lightened up at places, dwarf-crystals powered by magic reacting to the presence of a moving being, allowing the descending people to see in the dark in their steady light. The air soon began to grow warmer and the pungent smell of sulfur drafted upwards. Ratha's cape fluttered behind her like the wings of a dragon and her silver-white hair took a golden hue in the growing red light that grew stronger as they went deeper. Through their link, Aatris enjoyed the primal heat of the earth, reliving memories of sleeping in his egg in this very same cave for many decades.

 

At the end of the staircase, where the air was now equivalent of a hot summer day, a large archway appeared. It was covered in runes alike to the ones that covered the Rock of Kuthian above the ground, except these glowed blue with varying luminosity, the light seeming to swim beneath the rock like waves. Because of these runes, most didn't notice Cuaroc, who stood vigilant in front of this archway.

Even knowing that Cuaroc obeyed her, seeing the massive artificial body with the head of a dragon still put Ratha on her guard. The body was entirely made out of shining metal, alongside his shield and iridescent Rider's sword. Cuaroc was massive, both in height and muscles, and the gentle pulsing glow of his purple Eldunarí could be seen deep within his chest.

"Valokein wah faal Diirz do Sil," the metallic dragon head spoke, his voice rough and low like thunder as he bowed slightly to Ratha, still keeping his glowing eyes on the crowd.

"Aal hin yol neh dir, Cuaroc. Zu'u laan hin kogaan tol mu aal rahn naal hin skuld," Ratha replied with a strong voice, betraying nothing of the worry that one of the youngsters might lose their nerve and cause Cuaroc to activate his self-defense mechanics. Maybe the physically long-dead dragon saw this, for the metallic body made a sound that was alike to a chuckle.

"Zu'u ofan hi dii kogaan. skuld los bex. Aal hin paal faas hin faan," he replied and stepped aside.

 

Leading the to-be apprentices into the cave, Ratha presented to them rows and rows of eggs, each sitting on a pillow and glowing softly in the red light and heat that came from somewhere deeper within the caves. Ratha could also feel all the Eldunarí within the room, hidden from the immediate sight of the apprentices and even some Riders, too. A wave of inquiring minds came to probe her and she allowed her defenses drop slightly, greeting old friends and paying respects to the elder ones.

'New apprentices!-'

'I sensed something worrying in my dream-'

'That child reminds me of my own Rider-'

'Quiet! I am trying to sleep-'

'Ratha-'

She heard her name and asked for the others to be silent for a moment, for the voice belonged to one of the oldest Eldunarí, Ryn. She could feel his mind's slow swirling, like watching the night sky turn as time passed. Ratha felt a moment of utter weightlessness and quickly reached out to Aatris to ground herself.

'Easy, little one, take it easy,' Aatris said but he, too, had shared the moment of staring into infinity where time flows by like a river.

'The white claws saw a blue feather. There is infinity within everything! Ahhh, nothing is permanent, nothing is eternal. The only thing that is permanent and infinite is the word Temporary. Remember this well, child,' Ryn said softly and then sank back into his dreams among the stars.

 

The exchange left Ratha slightly rattled, but the assistant Riders were taking care of matters meanwhile, knowing that the Eldunarí always assaulted the Head Rider with information and inquiries.

"I would ask you to all walk around and touch the eggs," an Elder Rider spoke up, motioning towards the rows of multicolored eggs, like shards of a rainbow materialized. "You need not do anything else but touch them. If it moves, please notify us and do not leave the egg." With this, the most excited nearly ran to the eggs and started eagerly moving about. Some touched each egg slowly, thinking, others walked past many at a time, seemingly driven by instinct.

 

***

 

As Tanthanion and Zencoria approached them, Dänyr had to calm down her excited counterpart.

'You're like a dragonling who cannot reach their itching scales!' Dänyr sighed and Thati shrugged.

'Can you really blame me? This is a proper good mission, not some sloggy partol,' she said and her dragon gave a short laugh.

'Maybe they would have given one 'proper good' mission earlier if you would show more... Less of that,' she said and pointed at Thati. The girl was ready to give a snarky reply, but heard Tanthanion approaching and bowed to him as he came closer.

 

"We are all set and ready to go," she said excitedly and without prompt mounted Dänyr, barely containing her excitement.

'Fire within help me,' Dänyr sighed openly.

"I thought dragons didn't pray?"

'I have to make an exception with you,' the green dragon chuckled. 'Let us be off before this hatchling decides to grow wings of her own prematurely.'

Edited by Gildraug

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Ariawynn did not react when the rock split open at Ratha's touch. She watched it warily, stepping forward only once all of the other apprentices had shuffled forward through the opening at the Head Rider's beckon. She felt like she was being tugged in all directions; toward the rock, and the hidden bowels of the cave beyond, to the forest where sunlight and pine scent would soothe the static blistering in her soul, to the little remote, human village to the South that contained the only measurable memories of life that she could hold onto. A dull headache pulsed in pin pricks at her temples, and Ari wasn't sure if it was from the intensity of the magic weighing down on her, or from her own insecurities as they festered just below the stoic demeanor she regarded Ratha with.

 

The cave was quiet. Despite her reservations about the ordeal, Ariawynn could not help the glimmer of surprise (and perhaps of awe, though she would not admit that to herself) as soft glowing crystals blinked to life around the band of youngsters and Riders. Her pale skin flushed pink under the lights and as warmth began to crawl through her clothing and fill her lungs, a light sweat dampened her brow, neck, and chest. It was harder to breathe down below where the air was thick and hot. She was only able to catch her breath when the group came to a stop, but as the apprentices were tightly pressed together in the passageway, there was not much Ariawynn could make out from the very rear of the line. It wasn't until she heard a strange voice rumbling with the same sounds of that bizarre language that Ariawynn tensed and remained in place.

 

As the others began to file after Ratha into the open cavern, Ari remained where she stood, staring at the statue that was now revealed once the others had passed through the gate it stood before. Her dark eyes shifted momentarily to the rune-inscribed archway, reading nothing but yet seeming to know instinctively what they were for, before snapping back down to the massive, dragon-headed figure below it. It unnerved her. Something purple radiated gently from its chest cavity, and her stare fixated on it, unable to comprehend exactly what it was. But she could feel it. Something much bigger than just the statue resided within it, though Ariawynn could not understand how that could be.

 

After several long moments, Ari managed to move forward again. Her step was stiff and cautious. To her, it felt like trying to sneak by a resting cobra; as she slipped by, Ariawynn couldn't suppress a shiver as the sensation of its ancient magic slithered through her being.

 

Someone was speaking to the group when Ari rejoined them. Just as soon as the Rider gave the instructions, nearly all of the other apprentices dashed or lurched forward with unbridled, eager anticipation. Only a few had composed themselves calmly and walked down the rows .

Ari was part of neither group. She stayed where she was, close to the open hall, even though the presence of the dragon-head creature by the gate was nearly as suffocating to her as the thousands of sparkling eggs laid throughout the room. There was something else there. Ari could not grasp it-- nor did she want to-- but like the statue by the arch, it felt like an immeasurable force lingering somewhere just out of reach. She gazed at the others, watching as they brushed their hands against the egg shells or wrapped their arms around a particular egg. After several minutes, Ariawynn could hear a soft tapping, and a human girl exclaimed excitedly. Ari blinked. It was so simple, it seemed, yet some of the others continued to touch the eggs with no result. The eggs were beautiful, like gemstones or precious metals. They reminded her of the jeweled necklace Ophelia purchased last summer from the market.

 

 

An older Rider noticed Ariawynn standing alone by the exit. He frowned and stepped closer, rubbing at his dark goatee. "What's the matter then?" he asked, his voice rough with a deep timbre. "Frightened, are you?"

The silver-haired elf switched her gaze to him. She was silent for a moment, and then said, "No. I am realistic."

His thick brow furrowed. "What's that?" Looking to the others, he waved at another Rider close by. "Oi, Guin. What'ya make of this?"

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As she entered the cavern, ignoring the statue guarding it, Mia smiled. Her dragon was here somewhere, waiting for her touch. She wondered which one it would be. She let her eyes wander over the eggs, even while the Rider talked. Find your egg, touch it, don't leave it. She let her gaze continue for a moment while most others moved away, leaving only her and a rather pale elf in the middle of the hall. Mia considered saying something, but decided in favour of beginning her search in one corner of the room, where the eggs seemed bright.

 

Mia moved unhurriedly, brushing her fingertips over each egg while staring intently at the next. She skipped any that were plain-looking or dull-coloured; she knew her dragon would be bright and vibrant, and majestically beautiful. A few caught her eye, and she lingered on them, but nothing happened, so she continued moving on.

 

Eventually, Mia came upon one egg that stood out. Moving past several others, she reached over to touch it - and it felt warm. It was a dark, deep purple, with a crisscrossing of maroon and black. She carefully picked it up; it was heavier than it looked. Sitting down with the egg, she noticed that there were some blue patches among the purple. She hoped that the hatchling would be as pretty as its egg. The egg rocked a little as she thought this, and Mia smiled. Her dragon would be the most beautiful creature in all of Alagaësia.

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