The Dragoness Backstory: Fanfiction

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Catching up :3

Aww I adore Spark. Perhaps he's the great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great gandson of Trooper (and that made me laugh out loud, I have ruined your brain with purple! x'D)  Also super happy he's gonna live to a ripe old age presumptuiously outside of his current setting. He deserves it^^

 

Good chapter! I like the way you portray them whomans as haveing no real idea what they're dealing with.

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Trooper and Spark would get along famously, methinks

Yeah, if they DID then I'd have to hate them, and they're not monsters, and I don't want to hate them, so...ignorance it is! Plus that leaves room for a hidden redepmtion arc later on, maybe even dragons of their own! (MAYBE. Prolly not, though).

 

Just a heads up to everyone I can't post this week, college work got in the way and I didn't have any writing time :(

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Never fear, for Blobby's here!

That's okay.  RL comes first.

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Mwahahahaaaaaaaa!!! *coughs*

My wings shivered and cramped when I moved them, and stayed horribly weak no matter how many exercises I did, but they were free. Spark lived with his fellow Terrors now, and though he stayed reasonably perky, it just wasn’t the same. He felt it. I felt it.
The scientists learned their lesson in allowing smaller dragons to mingle with bigger dragons. Whenever they studied the Terrible Terrors, it was only as a group, and never with another species, for fear the same possessive protectiveness would get in the way of their research. And research they did.
More behavioral experiments followed. Not just on the Terrors and on me, but with the other dragons. It was common for them to lead two, maybe three dragons through the cramped door and into the white room with the two-way glass. After they took Oak and a Mountainous Stormtail at the same time, I began to suspect they had multiple rooms with much larger dimensions.

They took me only occasionally. I scared them. I liked it that way.

I didn’t scare Mouse, though. She noticed how I withdrew more often, huddled in the shadows and barely responsive. She tried to talk to me, but the second she mentioned how it was ‘too bad’ about Spark, I closed off. She took the hint and didn’t mention it again. However, I knew she still worried by the length of time she spent talking to me each night.

The fifth time it was my turn for the ‘studies,’ they took me to a much larger room (see, I was right!) with blue paint on the walls instead of white, and left me there to wait. I leaned against the wall and examined my dusty fingernails. Yellow, bitten, far too dirty. Yup, same as the last fifty times I checked. A pity they wouldn’t let me near any nail clippers.

The door creaked. I didn’t bother to look up, instead choosing to try and figure out who it was by the smells and sounds. Musty aroma, slight shushing with every muffled plod, heavy, quiet breaths. Northern Shortsnout.

“Hello, Ness. It has been a while.”

I unfolded from my guarded stance in an instance and flung myself forward. “Oak!”

The three wary handlers behind Oak looked on in bemusement as I snuggled into Oak’s leg. I hadn’t been this excited to see a dragon since I’d first met Spark. If they’d bothered to think about it instead of making pointless conjectures, they’d have figured it out by now.

Spark became my friend and my light, but Oak had always been my protector.

“You’re here you’re here you’re here you’re here,” I murmured to his knee. “I am never letting go again.”
Oak laughed. The handlers jumped. A dragon’s laugh is an eerie thing. “I missed you too, dragonling.”

I buried my face deeper into his fur and blinked back tears.

Oak stepped fully into the room (carrying me with him, that was almost enough to make me giggle) and plopped down onto the floor. I refused to acknowledge the handlers, so they quietly shut the door and left us be. One of them mentioned something about how lucky it was that Oak was too big for me to ‘keep.’ I twitched and growled.

“Relax, Ness. They won’t hurt us.”

“Yes, they will.” I stayed put. Curled up in Oak’s warm fur, I felt like a child, small and protected, and I’d had precious little of the feeling in recent months. “And they’ll keep on hurting us until I can get us out of here.”

Oak shifted into a more comfortable position. “Can you?”

I didn’t answer. I couldn’t; and that scared me more than anything. “I’m sorry,” I whispered.

“What for?”

“For failing. I tried to protect them for you.”

“Ness.”

He waited until I poked my head out of my comfort zone to look him in the eye. “You are the alpha. You protected as you were supposed to, and you will continue to protect. You have not failed.”

“Tell that to Ammil.”

“It wasn’t your fault. You could do nothing.”

“But,” I said sadly, “That’s exactly why it’s my fault.”

Oak didn’t try to convince me again, for which I was grateful. Instead he sniffed at my back. And growled.
“What? What is it?”
For a heart-stopping second, I thought he’d found something dreadful. It’s a camera it’s a microphone it’s a tracker it’s a shock device it’s it’s it’s--
“What happened to your wings?”

Oh. That. “You saw them, remember? The humans tied them up, and now they’re weak from not being used.”

“Not that. They’re turning black.”

“They were already black.” Now I was concerned for Oak.

“Your wingbases weren’t.”

Wait, what? “But I’m a Green Draconian!” I protested. “The color doesn’t just change--how can they be turning black?”
Oak let me twist around as I tried to get a good look at my back. “It happens when Draconians lose their spark. The life leaves their wings and their color goes dark.
Oh. I slumped. “That makes sense, then.”
Before Oak had been imprisoned, he might have roared until I fought back (dragons have strange ideas of what constitutes a ‘pep talk.’ They do usually work though). Before I’d been kidnapped, I would never have even thought of it. But here? Here things turned gray and lifeless and dull. It only made sense that I would be one of them.

 
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AHHHH

:00

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HAHAHAHAAA

Yes, yes, Ness is going through great trauma that is at once sad and boring. I much prefer action scenes, tbh.

Ness: You're making me suffer and you're not even enjoying it???

Me: Nope.

Ness:...I'd be mad, but I'm too tired.

Me: *smile*

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Never fear, for Blobby's here!

Yay! Oak!  And No!  Ness!  Where is Conner!?

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Oak is the bestest mentor

And nothing happens to mentors, oh no.

Conner has an inkling that something might be wrong, but he doesn't know what. He knows that if she were dead Shadow would have found a way to tell him by now, but other than that he has no clue. Once Ness gets out, it shall be revealed exactly what he's been doing.

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When all is lost...

That night, when Mouse did her rounds, she knocked softly on the cage door. “Cryptie? Are you okay?”

I curled up tighter and buried my head in my knees. Not that she knew. All she could see were my wings--my dull, dark wings--cocooned around my body. Only my feet and useless tail peeked out.

I’m not Cryptie, I wanted to cry. I’m Ness. Or was I Ali? Already I couldn’t tell which name felt more like me. I was afraid that soon, Cryptie would feel like mine, too, and I never wanted the black stain of that name.

When she received no answer, Mouse quietly sighed and left.

The door to outside--sweet, beautiful outside with its sweet, beautiful air--squeaked open and fell shut with a clang. She was gone, then.

I lifted my head and shifted my wings so they draped like a scaly blanket over my shoulders. I shivered. The heating in the warehouse didn’t always work correctly. For the dragons? No problem. For me? I got cold.

Everything was silent and dull and gray. Gray moonlight, gray bars, gray floors, gray dragons, gray me. I missed the light and color.

 

Dancing bears, painted wings

Things I almost remember

 

Some of the dragons lifted their heads at the sound of the soft, ragged music, but I didn’t pay them any mind. Just sat there, slumped on the floor, staring at the bars that kept me from my freedom.

 

And a song someone sings

Once upon a December.

Someone holds me safe and warm,

Horses prance through a silver storm.

Figures dancing gracefully across my memory.

 

Tears welled in my eyes.

 

Far away, long ago,

Glowing dim as an ember

Things my heart used to know,

Things it yearns to remember

And a song

Someone sings

Once upon a December.

 

The last broken, ghostly note floated softly through the night, then stilled. In that suffocating darkness, a spark flickered and went out.

 

The days dulled and blurred. I had lost track of the time long ago, and now I was lost. Was it still winter? Had spring come yet? Or had it already passed into summer and I was too tired and dead to notice?

Whenever the handlers dragged me into another mirrored room for their social experiments, I didn’t even bother talking to the dragons, nor they to me. We just sat there, not moving, not speaking. The scientists were at a loss--why did their subjects wilt so suddenly? But the handlers, surprisingly, figured it out.

“It’s Cryptie,” they murmured to Avery while Maria ranted about it not making any sense outside my cage. “She’s what keeps the dragons perky. Except she’s given up now, so the rest have too. They’re depressed.”

I didn’t bother opening my wing cocoon. No need to see the idiots when I’d already memorized their faces.

“Poor thing,” Avery said sympathetically. “Some animals adapt better to captivity than others, I suppose. I never understood it. You get fed, watered, some toys for entertainment, and you don’t have to do anything but sit there and look pretty. It’s like a dream come true for me.”

“It’s like Wall-E is what it is,” the lead handler laughed.

Of course they would see a prison as paradise. Why would they want freedom when they could lounge in comfort and security while everyone made the choices for them? Utopia, indeed.

“Short of letting her go, I don’t think there’s anything you can do,” a handler told Avery and Maria.

“That might not even do her good,” Maria sighed. “She might have lost her survival instincts, forgotten how to survive on her own. If we let her out now, she might not live for long. She might even just come straight back.”

What was I, a horse? No creature with half a teaspoon of intelligence would come back here. Not even those chickens Anna Crown always went on about.

“Or she would become violent.”

That seemed much more likely.

“She’s already shown signs of instability.”

Gee, I wonder why?

“So, we just keep her? Make her comfortable?”

“That’s all we can do.” The words were said so kindly, so sadly, it was almost difficult to see past the cloak of sincerity to the sickening lie. Once I would have had the energy to summon anger, fear, disgust--anything. But all was heavy and slow and quiet and still, and I didn’t have the energy to feel anymore.

When I checked my scales again, there wasn’t a speck of green left.

 

 
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Never fear, for Blobby's here!

Oh... Sadness... D':

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:(

Nice to know the emotion is sadness and not drama...tbh sometimes I feel like I make her a bit melodramatic, but y'know she's not in a very good headspace right now :/

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*yeeks in*

no no NONO DON'T GIVE UP!! D:

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*starts singing*

I actually toyed with the idea of Ness singing Try Everything from Zootopia (I won't give up, no I won't give iiiiiinnn) but it didn't really fit the mood...

 

Ness: *depressed and huddled in cold metal cage*

Song: *pink sparkles and peppy rabbits*

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*crying*

Nooooo! Don't give up, Ness, please! Everyone needs you!

I hope Mouse notices what's wrong and is able to help her.

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Mouse holds no power here...

Do they really though? I mean, Conner's been managing the territories well enough on his own, and Joy has Gild.ie to play with...I guess the dragons currently captured do need a rescue, but can Ness really get them out?

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Anastasia? o.O

I'm not the only one O.O Love that song! Soooo eeerrriiieeee

Picked up a lot of movie references in this chapter, and as a movie buff I approve xD. sad but goo chapterd! Though I do have a question: why has Ness never once tried to show them that she, and the dragons are more than just animals? The scientists are showing that they're not inhuman, they just don't understand.

*crawls back under deisgnated rock*

 

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Movies!

Yes, I love references. They're like inside jokes except lots of people get them! Honestly, for me half the fun of a joke or reference is actually getting it. One of the reasons dad jokes don't bother me XD

Ah. Yes. It's explained later on a bit better, but essentially it's both stubborness and survival instinct. She's going mute to protect herself. If you remember Malcolm, the first thing that he did once he realized Ness might be intelligent was to grab Conner and use him as a hostage. She has more options open to her as long as they don't realize. Because what will happen if they realize she's intelligent and they don't let her go? More security, more caution, and the last chances of escape are gone. Rather like Bree trapped in Calormen in The Horse and His Boy. Also, while the people themselves are not inhuman, they work for the Boss, and ultimately he calls the shots. Smart Ness is a threat, and he'd want to get rid of her as quickly as possible. After all, a group studying creatures while camped out in an apparently abandoned warehouse might not be on the right side of the law.  

*picks up rock like Baloo and peers underneath*

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*Hello*

*Stares up from under designated rock, looks at my last post*

"Did you know that when I'm really tired I can't spell?"

*Quietly pulls rock back over*

 

Ahh ok! Indeed the circumstances are a bit suspicious and less than legal in apperances :I

 

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...then all is found

A/N: There's a link in here for one of the songs. Listen to it while reading that part, if you can. It will help with visualizing the scene. Hope you enjoy!

 

Mouse kept trying to talk, to pet scales and fur, to comfort. But none of the dragons would go to her anymore, and not even the Terrible Terrors so much as twitched at her voice.

“Please,” she begged. “I’m right here. Let me help you.”

But none of us acknowledged her, and her warm brown eyes grew darker and darker. Finally, she sighed and accepted that they wouldn’t respond, no matter what she did. She pulled out her phone and earbuds and, with one last sorrowful glance at the despairing dragons, popped them in her ears and turned the volume up. 

She didn’t try to talk to us after that. I couldn’t decide if it was a despicable triumph or a haughty defeat.

 

Maria and Avery didn’t bother asking the handlers to move us to and from the observation rooms anymore. What was the point? The subjects did nothing, and getting them to move was harder than peering through the bars.
A few of the handlers casually asked about dissections, but Avery shook his head. “The Boss doesn’t want to lose any more specimens,” he told them. “He’s pleased with the progress the scouts are making in the forest now that Cryptie here isn’t messing them up, but it would still be best to wait for more test subjects to be caught.”

“So he does know about Cryptie?”

“Course not, what do you take me for? If he realized those reports weren’t just stories, he’d probably kill her before she can do any more damage. There’s so much we could learn from her, and I’m not having that thrown away by a paranoid mobster.”

“I dunno, maybe he’s right.”

“Look. She’s clearly not in a state to do anything. Why get rid of her when there’s still so much data to be collected? No, we’ll tell him after we’ve learned everything we can. Don’t you want to know if there’s more of her?”

“Ooh, good point.”

I didn’t move--common reaction at this point--but my heart skipped and my breath stuttered. Don’t you want to know if there’s more of her? No. No. They wouldn’t touch Joy. Not her, not Gild.ie or Miss Ellen, not anyone. They wouldn’t know to hide, how to be safe. They would give it all away and then people would get scared. What people fear, they hate, and what they hate they refuse to understand.

I had to distract them. They couldn’t keep talking about this. It was too dangerous, too risky.

Think, think, think! What will get their attention?

I raised my head and unfurled my wings a bit, enough to uncover my face.

Singing. They’d never heard me sing. But what song?

“Hey, Cryptie’s awake!”

Maria and Avery whirled to face my cage, eager expressions on their faces.

Ah. I knew now.

“Hey!” I roared. Now I had everyone’s attention, including the dragons. After so long going silent and having attention slide off me like dew off grass, so many eyes at once disturbed me. I flattened my ears and forced myself to sing.

 

But I'm only human

And I bleed when I fall down

I'm only human

And I crash and I break down

Your words in my head, knives in my heart

You build me up and then I fall apart

'Cause I'm only human…

 

I choked and faltered. No. Not only did I not know the rest of the song, but I was going to start crying. Closed my eyes, took a gulp of air. Something else, then.

 

Do you long to be left all alone?

Set apart with a heart made of stone?

Let me help, let's begin, let me learn--

Won't you let me in?

All the light, let it show

 

Do you long to be left all alone?

Set apart with a heart made of stone?

There's a light that you shine, there's a love--

I see it in your eyes

All the dark, let it go…

 

You're not alone.

Along the way, I stopped singing for attention and focused on the music. This had been Conner’s last message to me--there was no way I would forget it. It reminded me of kinder days and brighter sun, and the cold, sharp breeze ruffling green leaves. Something flickered, deep inside, and I almost smiled.

I looked up.

Every single handler and scientist and one man I’d never seen before crowded around the front of my cage. Every single one stared at me with faces painted with fascination or awe.

The man...I glanced up, almost purely out of instinct, and there was a security camera, high up in the corner. The little red light stayed dark and unblinking.

The implications rocked me backward. A ferocious grin spread across my face, straining muscles not used to such activity. Finally.

That night, after Mouse finished her rounds and the camera lights flicked off (how had I never noticed before? Oh, right, no spark), I explained what had happened in shrill growls and gestures. And then I told them what we were going to do. 

“Are you sure, Ness?” Oak asked, eyes curiously bright.

“Very,” I said grimly. “This has gone on long enough. It’s time.”

The dragons lifted their heads, eyes alight with hope and a grim determination. Their spark was back. It doesn’t take much more than that to make a flame. I couldn’t suppress the strange thrill of fear and excitement that skittered over my scales.

I finally had a plan, and by all that was good and green, we were going to make them pay.

 

We had to wait, of course. A few more components were still missing, but I was confident we could get them soon. Wouldn’t do to have the idiots (the humans, not the dragons) cotton on that that was the case, however. Patience was key.

They noticed something had changed, of course. The dragons watched the humans as they went to and from the room, their tails twitched or they growled when someone approached their cage, and some even let Mouse stroke their noses.

Spark wriggled around in his cage, bouncing around his fellow Terrors and snapping playfully. “When, Ness, when? When do we get free? When do we sing?”

“Soon,” I promised truthfully. “Soon. We just need to find a song to teach you.” That was the crux of the matter. If the dragons were to sing, they needed something to draw these people’s attention completely. We needed to get the security camera man out of his office or whatever it was so we could have them all in one place.

The chance came five days later. Mouse still listened to music when she did her rounds, smiling at the dragons and singing softly to the lyrics. Mostly it was boring pop songs about so-and-so breaking up, or so-and-so being oh so pretty--you know, typical teenage stuff. Which made me a little sad that she was being used to hurt so much.

As she passed by my cage and gave me a friendly wave, my ears pricked up and swiveled to her. Something pulsed from her, minute but familiar and maddening…

I leaped to my feet and clutched at the bars. Mouse stopped, surprised.

“Cryptie? What is it?”

The vibrations fizzed at my head, and I shook it. Where on earth...my ears--human this time, not dragon--finally heard it.

Music. The phone!

Mouse took another step towards the cage. I shot out a hand, grabbed her earbuds, and yanked.

Mouse cried out in surprise and alarm as they were torn out of her ears and her phone hurtled out of her pocket. I gave her a wincing, apologetic glance, then focused my attention on the phone--and more importantly, the song.

I took the earbuds out of the socket and pushed them out of the bars. The music stopped. Gargh. Handy when anywhere else, but right now just annoying. I unlocked the phone (easy, really, she never bothered hiding her password) and opened her music app.

Recently played...here!

I dialled up the volume as loud as it would go and held the phone aloft. “Listen!” I called.

Silence.

The dragons fixed all their attention on me and the strange device in my hand. Mouse looked around in amazement and apprehension, but made no move to stop me. I pressed play.

Tinny music poured out of the speakers. No one moved, or even really breathed. Just listened to the song from start to finish. The dragons listened intently, focused on the music and all its separate parts.

Once the song ended, I simply played it again. And again. And again. Each time the dragons listened and memorized a bit more. After seven times, Oak sat back on his haunches and nodded.

I grinned and passed the phone back to Mouse. She took it, completely bemused.

“Sorry,” I offered.

Mouse startled, then laughed. “I forgive you. I take it you’re not going to tell me what that was about?”

I snickered--the first time in a long time--and shook my head. She would find out soon enough.

Mouse left, the camera switched off, and I looked up at my wylde.

“Tomorrow,” I promised. The dragons shifted, restless, eager to get out of the cage.

Soon.

 

The next day dawned. Surprisingly, instead of being fidgety and nervous like I thought they would be, the dragons were calm and collected. It was I who had to force myself not to pace like a restless wildcat.

The sun moved slower than molasses. Seriously, time decided to take twice as long. But finally, finally, finally, the afternoon sank into orange and twilight, and the scientists and handlers began packing up.

I kept shooting glances at the door, waiting for Mouse to show up. Once she was here, the fun could begin.

And then the door to outside--I’m coming, sky, I’m coming!--swung open with a creak, and Mouse crept in with the same shy smile she’d had since day one.

“Arda!” Maria greeted. “Just in time. I was beginning to get worried.”

“Traffic accident on Tramway,” Mouse explained, shouldering her backpack. “I had to take a detour.”

Maria smiled at the teenager fondly. “Well, you’re here now. Why don’t you start filling up the water bowls? We’re almost done here, and we’ll get out of your hair.”

Not yet. I got to my feet and rattled my bars.

The two scientists, three handlers, and teenager looked up at me in confusion. I couldn’t help but notice that Mouse subconsciously fingered the pocker her phone was in. I bit back a smile.

“What is it, Cryptie?” Avery asked in a soothing tone. I wanted to throttle him. “Are you happy to see Arda?”

...Well, yes. I was always happy to see Mouse. But this time was different.

I glanced up at the dragons. “Ready?”

Oak straightened from his lounge into a stoic silhouette. “We are ready, alpha.”

I lifted my chin in acknowledgement and pride. Then I turned bright, sparking eyes on the humans and began to sing.

 

Are you, are you

Coming to the tree

They strung up a man

They say who murdered three

Strange things did happen here

No stranger would it be

If we met at midnight

In the hanging tree

 

Avery and Maria gasped and grabbed their note-taking clipboards. “She’s doing it again!”

The handlers crept closer, and the camera moved to focus on me. Mouse gaped and looked from me to her phone and the dragons.

I bit back a savage smile. That’s it, that’s it…

 

Are you, are you

 

Coming to the tree

 

Where dead man called out

 

For his love to flee

 

Joy. Gild.ie. Conner. Shadow. Lisa. Their faces flashed through my mind.

A Bronze Firescale began to sing, shrill and soft, like a violin or a bagpipe. The sound had more bite and more depth than any instrument, though. It was not a voice of this world.

 

Strange things did happen here

 

No stranger would it be

 

If we met at midnight

 

In the hanging tree

 

 

Are you, are you

 

Coming to the tree

 

Where I told you to run

 

So we'd both be free

 

Two dragons, a Mountainous Stormtail and Spark, the Terrible Terror, joined in. The harmonies wove together in the cold, empty air.

 

Strange things did happen here

 

No stranger would it be

 

If we met at midnight

 

In the hanging tree

 

More dragons lifted their heads and joined. They knew their parts, their cry. Embers began to glow in my chest; the calm before the storm.

 

Are you, are you

 

Coming to the tree

 

Wear a necklace of hope

 

Side by side with me

 

Strange things did happen here

 

No stranger would it be

 

If we met at midnight

 

In the hanging tree

 

 

Are you, are you

 

Coming to the tree

 

Where I told you to run

 

So we'd both be free

 

Strange things did happen here

 

No stranger would it be

 

If we met at midnight

 

In the hanging tree

 

By now everyone, even the security camera man, had gathered in a loose huddle in the center of the warehouse, gazing around them with awe. The voice of a dragon is a wondrous thing. It is more sharp, more forceful, more commanding, and more lilting than any instrument man has created in the vain attempt to copy their song. Vain, because no instrument could hope to match it. Vain, because it is the music of mos.

And then the dragons’ voices changed, and suddenly the low, eerie chanting of a choir of ghosts filled the air, words half-spoken and given shape by the human voice--my voice--guiding them.

 

Are you, are you

 

Coming to the tree

 

Where they strung up a man

 

They say who murdered three

 

Strange things did happen here

 

No stranger would it be

 

If we met at midnight

 

In the hanging tree

 

The music rose like fire. Gold and orange and red flickered through the air like the music itself was burning.

 

Are you, are you

Coming to the tree

Where dead man called out

For his love to flee

Strange things did happen here

No stranger would it be

If we met at midnight

In the hanging tree

 

The chorus died away and the powerful, glowing sound of strings and brass took over. I stepped up to the bars and spread my wings, and as one the others spread their wings as well. The dragons sang with their heads thrown back and their necks arched with pride and power.

And then the chorus of ghostly, half-formed voices started again, this time high and piercing.

The spirits are singing.

The music grew and grew, and the colors of flame flickered brighter and brighter. The song shrilled its end. The dragons reared.

As one, the dragons screamed, and the world shook with fire.

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*Yeeks in*

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH WHAT JUST HAPPENED???????!!!!

 

I love that song! Though I played this version while reading because I find it spookier and prefer it XD it fitted so well.

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*fiery Elmo is pleased*

DESTRUCTION AND TERROR AND ALL THE EVILEST AAHHHAHAHAHAHA!!! Who's the Mistress of Evil now, Maleficent? Huh? Huh? HUH?

 

Oooooohhhh I love Peter Hollens! He's one of my favorite artists, though I wish he woulc use more instruments instead of always using vocals. Would make his music more powerful and add some depth of sound.

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Epic :D

Oh man! Wait...dragon songs.....Are y'all turning them into draconians, Ness? o_o

 

Or alerting the others to your position???

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Thanks :)

Nahhh...that's actually why she needed a human song to teach the dragons. There's a very big difference between dragons singing and dragonsong.

 

I...did not think of that. I suppose screaming dragons do attract attention. They'd best get out before the police get there, then 0_0

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Never fear, for Blobby's here!
Make red your claws with human blood... obliterate the human filth... torch the humans like a wood... the rebellion is coming...

Slake your thirst with human tears, do not spare the human child, incinerate the human pest, the Dragontime is coming.

While hopefully less violent,

THE DRAGONTIME IS COMING!

 

...Right?

AMAZING chapter, Ness.  Absolutely fantabulous.  I'm not sure I can wait a week for the next one XD

 

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AHAHAHAHAAAAAA

YUUUUUUUUUUSSSSS THE BOOOOOKKKSSS!!!!! I am an a particularly bookish mood (my brother and sister are both rereading the series and I'm reading the final book to my dad via Marco Polo) so this hits the spot!!

LESS violent? Did you just--*snickers turn into cackles* ohhh, you poor, innocent lil bean....and yes, the Dragontime IS coming, but it doesn't quite mean the same thing, and won't be happening for years. Hopefully.

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Never fear, for Blobby's here!

Yus, the books are great XD  0_o  Okaaaaay, now I'm worried...  *Runs off to tell the government to evacuate to space like in Wall-E*  Wait a minute...  Did you just call me a lil bean?  Am I at least a jelly bean?  XD

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YYYYEEEEEESSSSSS!!!

I wasn't able to listen to the song because I'm on mobile and YouTube won't play in the background, but I got goosebumps all the same!! That was amazing, and it's so good to see Ness and the dragons getting their spark back!!

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:DDD

Yay, goosebumps! I did my job! *goes to hi-five author brain*

Author brain: *puddle on the floor, babbling about deadlines*

Yeah...maybe not. But thanks!

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*Gasps*

Aaaaah the Hunger Games! Have you read the trilogy?! And, just as importantly, if you have read them have you read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes yet? :D

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The Ballad of Ravenclaws and Slytherins

I have read the trilogy, but not the prequel. To be honest the books kinda frightened me, and after the first movie I refused to watch any farther. I've never really liked dystopias; they kinda freak me out and make me a bit sad-mad. Like, come ON stupid people, this is NOT HOW YOU SHOULD TREAT PEOPLE and WHY ARE YOU KILLING EVERYBODY DO YOU HAVE NO HEART???  The only thing I really like about the Hunger Games is Hanging Tree and all the AUs people write (check out The Hunger Games: Fandom Style on Ao3.  It has Sherlock, Peter and the Starcatchers, Artemis Fowl, Pirates of the Caribbean, Avengers, Ranger's Apprentice, Merlin, Once Upon a Time, and more. Star Wars is District 13 and they keep Peacekeepers away with Jedi mind tricks and that was the literal best thing I had read in a long time)

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Free!

The cages the dragons were trapped in, as a whole, were rather strong. Strong enough to keep a powerful animal at bay. But if they were to be tested, shoved at, ravaged, all at once, by beasts the size of cars built to have the strength to hold themselves up on nothing but the wind, they’d be hard-pressed to do anything but crumble.

And that’s not even accounting for the flames.

Those walls didn’t stand a chance.

The air shimmered with heat and crimson sparks. The ground shook as the dragons tore through the bars and roared with malicious delight.

The tiny humans, collected in a neat little circle on the floor, screamed and fell to their knees, too terrified to remain standing.

The dragons blazed, torching anything they could reach. They stretched their great necks and breathed out gold and red at the concrete ceiling, the solid walls. Slowly but surely, the building would fall.

Oak broke down the door to my cage. I grinned up at him, bright and feral. “Thank you.

Oak dipped his head, eyes still wild.

I strode out the door and flapped my wings a bit. Weakened, but still there. They would do.

“Get the humans and get out of here!” I barked. “Then tear the building down.”

Five separate dragons snatched up the cowering humans in talons and teeth and headed for the garage-like door, the only one capable of fitting a grown dragon through it. A sixth dragon offered her back to Mouse, and she took it, no longer screaming but still heat-dazed and frightened.

The air was becoming choked with shimmer smoke. Still the dragons kept on burning.

“Smash the door open,” I ordered.

A sudden thump and crumpling of metal, then the ringing crash of the door being thrown off its hinges.

Roaring, flapping, squawking, and shrieking, my dragons flooded from the opening, ferocious teeth and talons and lashing tails signalling their triumph and rage. We barrelled out into the cold, clear night, with only a couple dilapidated buildings and street lights around. The few stars visible from the city twinkled as if to say, Welcome back.

Flames licked from the exit and the skylight. Smoke drifted up into the sky. But it wasn’t enough. The building needed to fall.

The dragons flew up to the roof, around the walls, breathing fire and raking with furious talons. These humans had taken away our freedom, had made us bleed and torn apart members of our wylde. It’s time to pay them back. The Law demands it.

And I wasn’t about to dispute with the Law.

The building that had been filled with so many horrors groaned in agony. Sickening, beautiful cracks echoed from its strong walls, and the now-flaming roof caved in.

The mighty prison fell, and great was the fall.

As the heat washed over my face and the dancing flames washed over the scene, I couldn’t help but laugh and bare my teeth in a savage grin. Power roiled under my skin, bright and fierce and triumphant, and I could see its beautiful light in the dragons’ arched necks and dancing tails and glinting eyes.

The six human-carriers dropped the previous handlers and scientists and that one security man at my feet and withdrew a respectful distance. The rest of the dragons inched closer into a sort-of blood circle. Lips peeled back from sharp teeth and hackles rose. No longer despondent prisoners; my dragons were angry.

And so was I. The power under my skin shifted, and I narrowed my eyes.

“Oh, how the tables have turned.”

The humans drew in sharp breaths. One of them even whimpered.

I suppose I did look rather frightening. My wings tend to fan out when I’m mad, and my tail is rather twitchy and sharp. The feral ferocity of my eyes and wild hair and clenched fists also probably contributed to that. The burning building was behind them, so everything they saw was washed in dancing orange and gold, with dark, flickering shadows ready and willing to reach out and swallow them whole.

I lifted my chin, proud once more, and sneered at them. “It’s not very nice, is it? To be at the mercy of a merciless creature. To wonder if you’re going to live to see the next hour, let alone the next day. To wonder where you went wrong and how you could have come to such a dark, terrible place.”

With every word, the scientists’ faces grew slacker and grayer, and one of the handlers very nearly passed out.

“You can talk,” one whispered, petrified.

Yes, I can talk,” I snapped. “And for the record, so can the dragons. Not English, but they talk all the same. We are intelligent, and right now? We are very, very angry.”

My eyes found Mouse’s. She looked up at the creatures she had smiled at, spoken to, petted and soothed. There was fear in her eyes, yes, but also hurt and betrayal. I softened.

“Arda,” I said.

She jerked to face me, eyes round. “Y-yes Cryp-Cry-Cryptie?”

Anger sliced through my chest, vicious and violent. “I am not Cryptie!” Mouse flinched back and I forced myself to relax.

“Don’t—don’t call me that,” I said stiffly. “Ever. I am the Dragoness, not some experiment.”

The scientists and handlers winced.

“You did nothing to hurt us,” I said, keeping my eyes trained on Arda. “You did nothing but help. You were kind and empathetic, and I honestly don’t know if I would be considering sparing these monsters if you hadn’t been there to remind me that humans aren’t always so cruel.”

Mouse blinked hard, but a few tears still leaked down her cheeks.

“I don’t think you chose this job because you wanted it. I think you needed it, needed the money, and needed to get it any way possible.”

She nodded, jaw clenched. “Been emancipated for the past year. I needed to get away. I...I don’t think anyone has missed me.”

Even though I had been expecting it, I sucked in a breath. She’s still only a child. I mean, I was only a few years older, but still.

“You don’t have to stay here. I know a place where you can be safe. You won’t need to worry about clothes or bills or food.”

“You want me to come with you?”

“You deserve better than this.”

Mouse took a couple deep, fortifying breaths and wrapped her thin arms around herself. Then she got shakily to her feet, walked out of the huddle of kneeling, shell-shocked adults, and stood in front of me, shivering lightly with cold.

I hesitated, then reached for her shoulder. “It’ll be alright now,” I murmured. “You’re free.”

“Like you.”

I gave her a half smile and pushed her gently toward a couple of the calmer dragons. Of course Oak was among them.

“Keep her warm,” I said, then added as an afterthought, “And make her feel safe.”

Oak rumbled his acknowledgement and tucked the shy girl gently into his furry flank.

“Now for you.”

The adults huddled closer at the venom in my voice.

“I’m not usually very aggressive, you know,” I said, tail twitching. “I prefer to play. If you stayed in your cities and on your roads, I wouldn’t even look twice. But when you come into my territory, hunting for my dragons...well. My court, my rules. This prison you made is a human city, true. Normally I would have nothing to do with it. But you brought me here, and so made it part of mine.”

“Have you heard the reports of what happens to the hunters I find?”

Silence.

I didn’t feel like smiling anymore. I just felt a sort of numb and weary anger. “I Mark them. So me and mine can recognize the threat, and deal with it as needed.” I raised my forearm, the scar from where they had stolen a strip of my flesh still pink and puffy. “You Marked me. Allow me to return the favor.”

They shuddered.

“First, Maria.”

I walked forward and they shuffled back, peering up with fear at me and the snarling, smug dragons. Maria’s breath came swift and short, but she lifted her chin bravely.

I regarded her coldly. “You probably hurt me the most, you know. At least Avery entertained the idea of me being intelligent, a person instead of a beast.”

Maria winced.

“But you didn’t know. You didn’t know what you were doing, you didn’t know you were cruel.” I snatched her left arm and slashed thrice. She cried out and staggered to her feet and away. “Three strikes. I would advise not coming back to my territories if you want to keep your blood where it belongs.”

I turned away from her and stalked towards Avery. “You at least thought about treating us better. But every time I see you I can hear knives cutting through flesh and bone, and smell…” my voice shuddered out and I swallowed hard. “You tore them to shreds and laughed over their bodies,” I whispered. “Did you even know their names?”

Avery’s face contorted. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, stricken. “I am so, so sorry…”

“I should let them rip you!” I cried angrily, clenching my fists. “I should let them rip all of you!” But then I forced myself to relax my shoulders and lower my wings. “But you didn’t know.” I pressed my hands into my eyes and released a breath. At this rate, I would start breathing fire myself, never mind the fact that it was biologically impossible. “Just get this over with,” I muttered.

Avery, three strikes.

Skeptic handler, three strikes.

Slightly more wary handler, three strikes. I looked him in the eye. “Be nice, be very, very nice, and a few years down the road I just might forgive you. At the very least, you were nice enough that I won’t set dragons on you at first sight.”

He gave a tight nod of acknowledgement, sent a quick glance at the burning building, and stepped away, cradling his dripping arm.

Why…? Oh. Right. Burning building. Fire department. Police. I had to wrap this up quickly.

Security guy, two strikes. I hesitated, then decided against the third. “You only watched,” I told him. “You didn’t hurt us directly. But I still don’t like you.”

Nice handler, two strikes. “You were kind. You didn’t fight for us as much as I might have liked, but you were kind to us. You felt for creatures you didn’t know, didn’t even think of as more than dumb beasts. Thank you for that.”

I couldn’t tell whether the tears in his eyes were from pain or something else. I nodded at him, and he nodded back. “I’m sorry for what was done to you.”

“And I’m sorry for what I will continue to do,” I returned. I meant it, too. “As long as there are people to hunt, I will defend my wylde. But I do not hold it against you.”

Several Terrors lifted their heads and squawked urgently.

Sirens. If I squinted, I could see the red and blue flashing lights approaching rapidly from the west. I was out of time.

“Come!” I roared, and the dragons snarled back. They crouched down and spread their wings, ready to take off into the sky for the first time in months. 

Oak let Mouse clamber quickly onto his back. She peered up through his thick winter coat, only her eyes and hair peeping out.

I bowed, curt and ironic. “Safe travels. Do tell your Boss hello from me. Or don’t, I don’t care.” That is very much a lie. The thought of the cruel, nameless Boss finding out about me filled me with the terror of the hunted. But after literally burning one of his bases of operation to the ground, there really wasn’t much I could do about it.

I turned away from my former captors—free! Free at last!—and raised my wings. Tensed, crouched, breathed. Smiled.

“Fly!”

The dragons took off after me with great, heavy wingbeats and powerful gusts of air. The cold air sang against my skin and scales and its roar fueled my heart. We flew, away, away, shadows of a ghostly night, following the stars into the black and back to the quiet slopes of our home.

 
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Freeeeee!!

At long, long last, they are free! No longer trapped by the bonds of their own depression and hopelessness; now they are once again the wild, vibrant creatures they are meant to be!

I sure hope the first thing Ness does is go find Connor.

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Never fear, for Blobby's here!

Whoo-hoo!  Freedom!

astral projection dreaming GIF by Trippyogifree calvin and hobbes GIFcarl reiner conan obrien GIF by Team Coco

Splendiferous chapter!

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*yeeks in*

FINALLY FREE!!!!!! I'm so happy for them! :D

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Coming home is not as easy as it looks...

Halfway through the flight—and wasn’t that a reason to roar? I could swoop and soar and feel again—my wings faltered, and I realized I wasn’t going to be able to make it all the way back.

“Crag!” Oak bugled. “Carry the alpha.”

An old Mountainous Stormtail swooped underneath me. I judged it as best I could, folded my wings, and dropped clumsily onto the proffered back. Crag grunted, but gathered himself well. His scales were freezing. I did the best I could to hold on with numb hands and hoped that if I fell, I would be strong enough to catch myself.

“Thank you,” I mumbled. “I know you’re tired too.”

Crag merely bunched his shoulder muscles in acknowledgement.

Our silent, somber procession drifted with the wind over the trees and folds of the mountains—home, home, home—and deeper into the dragon territories. Every so often, a few of the dragons would break off and take the route back to their dens and nests. The rest of the dragons lived farther to the north or south, along the other mountain ranges in the territories; they would make the rest of the journey tomorrow.

Crag and Oak swooped down, and I recognized the clearing as the entrance to the Frostfang dens, where Joy and Gild.ie used to live. The dragons thumped heavily to the ground and curled up where they landed, exhausted from the flight.

I peered over at Mouse. She curled into Oak’s side, half-buried in his fur. Her eyes were bright and alert, and a little bit wary, but not afraid. Good. I yawned. I would take her to her new home tomorrow.

Crag shifted and wrapped his long, scaly body into a thick knot. I snuggled sleepily into the crook between his wing and his leg.

The last thing I saw before I fell asleep was the dark silhouettes of the trees, stretching up towards the shining stars.

Home.

 

When I woke up the next morning, my first thought was, Why is it so bright? My next thought was, Lab!!!

I jerked upright and flared my wings before my brain fully caught up with my surroundings.

The sun was a few hours risen, and the air had already started to warm. Not quite comfortable, but enough to tell me that winter was fading. Tiny green buds dotted the sparse branches of the trees. Tiny shoots of green sprouted among the dead, brittle brown grass. Spring, then. We had been gone for months.

I shook off the uneasy terror. Not now. Business first.

I made my way over tangled tails and flopping wings—they’re all breathing they’re all alive—and crouched down next to Mouse.

“Arda,” I whispered softly. “Arda, wake up.”

Mouse yawned and scrunched up her face.

I chuckled a little. “Arda. Time to go home.”

Her eyes popped open and swiveled her head to stare at me. I waited until the sleepy glaze left her eyes and her posture relaxed.

“I thought it was a dream,” she said after a moment.

“I wish.” I pulled the girl—she really was young—to her feet and looked around. “Hmm. Best let them sleep. Come on.”

“Is it far?” Mouse hurried to catch up with my brisk pace. The dead twigs and grass crunched beneath my feet. At least I still had my boots.

“Kind of,” I admitted, ducking underneath a low-hanging branch. “But don’t worry, we’ll hitch a ride for most of it.” We had flown for less than half an hour last night and my muscles ached. Gosh, I was out of shape. I could probably call for a dragon now and save us both the time. But I enjoyed being able to stretch my legs. Just a little longer...a little longer...

We walked for about fifteen more minutes before I could go no further.

“Alright,” I panted. “We wait...here...for a minute…”

When I got my breath back I roared a summons. Mouse jumped and hunched down.

“You don’t have to be afraid,” I said. “From now on, dragon roars are a good thing.” I rubbed a wing against her shoulder. “You smell of dragon. They’ll protect you.”

“Really?” Mouse blinked, and a slow smile crept across her face.

“Yes,” I confirmed. “Especially where you’re going.”

A bush crackled, and then a Skrill poked his head out, searching for the source of the call. When his eyes landed on me, his crest spiked in surprise.

“Alpha? Where have you been?” he growled, emerging fully from the underbrush.

Mouse squeaked. He was a very handsome dragon, purple and black and grey scales blending into one another. Long snout with lots of teeth and long, curved talons. Predatory yellow eyes. Beautiful.

I bowed my head. “Hunters took me. I was able to find some of our missing. Most of us have been able to escape.”

The Skrill settled back on his legs and curled his tail and wings neatly around himself. “Is that why you call for help?”

“Kind of,” I admitted. “Dragons are not the only creatures the hunter held captive. Mouse here—” I gestured to her— “was one of them. I’m taking her to live with Miss Ellen and the girls. Will you take us?”

The Skrill cocked his head, then spread his wings and bent over. “Climb on.”

I swung myself up and held out a hand to Mouse. “Up you get,” I said cheerfully.

Mouse stared for a second. Then her face split into a wide, beautiful grin and she pulled herself up after me. “This is so cool! It’s like you’re a Disney princess!”

“A Disney...no. No. Just...no.”

Mouse laughed and gripped my shoulders tight.

“We’re ready,” I told the Skrill, and he started his awkward, two-footed lope up the mountain.

Familiar scenery flew by in a comforting blur, and my arms and legs grew stiff from strain and wind and cold. Still, nothing could burst the bubble of sheer relief that I had been riding on since we burned down the warehouse.

(Nothing could quite kill the vague unease that was also present, but I ignored it.)

We stopped about a hundred meters from the little cabin that Miss Ellen lived in. Mouse and I slid off in a much less graceful fashion than we had gotten on.

“Thank you,” I said gratefully. The Skrill bowed his head in acknowledgement and disappeared back into the trees.

“This is it,” I told Mouse as I led her towards the gravel path. I could hear the faint sounds of Joy’s giggles and Gild.ie’s laughs, and my heart beat faster. “It’s a good home. They’ll love you.”

“They?” Mouse’s eyes widened.

We emerged into the sunlight, and her breath caught.

The little cabin, warm and worn, stood off to one side. Miss Ellen sat on the porch steps, filling out some paperwork and glancing up every so often. Gild.ie had a cowboy hat and a makeshift lasso, and Joy was mooing and running around in circles in the grass, tiny orange-and-blue wings flapping fiercely.

The three suddenly noticed us and froze. Never had they looked more like family with their identical shocked expressions.

I cleared my throat. “Hey, Miss Ellen.”

The silence broke. Joy shrieked and hurled herself forward. “Nessie Nessie Nessie Nessie Nessie!!!” 

I yelped as her lunge took me out at the knees, and I toppled. Gild.ie joined the dogpile, shouting over and over, “Where have you been? Where have you been??

“Girls, girls!” Miss Ellen’s gentle fingers pried the girls off one by one. 

I sat up and offered her a sheepish, guilty smile. She glared at me. “Care to explain, Ness?”

I bit my lip and looked down. “I had to go away for a while. Don’t worry, I’m back now, and I’m not planning on leaving anytime soon.”

Miss Ellen shook a finger at my face. “You’d better give us a warning next time, young woman. We were worried sick!”

“Gild.ie thought you were dead!” Joy announced.

Gild.ie blushed and tried to cover Joy’s mouth, and Joy tried to bite her, while my wings and shoulders tensed and the smile slid off Arda’s face.

“Nope! Still alive!” I did a little wiggle-dance from my seat on the ground. “However, I did find someone I would like you to meet. Arda, this is Miss Ellen, Gild.ie, and Joy.” I pointed to each person in turn. “Miss Ellen, girls, this is Arda.”

“Hi,” waved Gild.ie. Arda managed a shy, terrified smile before quickly looking down at her feet.

Joy cocked her head, orange eyes focused completely on this new acquaintance. She crept forward, cat-footed, almost skittish, until she stood directly in front of Arda, wings tucked around her small body.

Arda blinked at the strange little Draconian and glanced at me. I could see her working out the possibilities in her mind, wondering just what this meant.

“Are you lost?” Joy asked at last.

Arda took a step back. “Umm…”

“Ness is good at finding lost things.”

Arda crouched down to study the little girl. “How do you know that?”

“She found me and Gild.ie, and then she found Mommy. She let us live with the dragons. Do you need somewhere to live too?”

“If you wouldn’t mind,” I said quietly, glancing up at Miss Ellen.

Miss Ellen examined the two of us, hands on her hips and feet planted wide. Her eyes narrowed as she looked Arda over. Then her gaze softened. “To raise another daughter? I would be honored.”

Arda hiccuped a wet laugh and stuffed a knuckle in her mouth. Her eyes grew curiously shiny and bright.

“New sister!!!” cheered Joy. She grabbed Arda by the hand and tugged her towards the house, chattering away. I checked to make sure Gild.ie was okay with the situation and found her staring at them with a fond, amused smile. Yeah. She’d be fine.

Miss Ellen reached out to touch my shoulder, but when I flinched she stopped. “We’ll look after her.”

“Thank you,” I said, relieved. “She really, really needs this, I think.”

Arda looked back. I tilted my head towards Miss Ellen and gestured vaguely. Will you explain?

Arda pursed her lips and gave a single nod.

I exhaled. Thank you. I turned to Miss Ellen. “Arda will tell you what happened.” Miss Ellen nodded and made to walk away.

I grabbed her arm and looked her in the eye. “Gild.ie can listen, but don’t let Joy hear.”

Miss Ellen’s mouth parted in a shocked oh. I grimaced and released her. “I’d better go. I have a lot of catching up to do.”

She bit her lip. “Be safe, Ness.”

“I’ll try.” I backed up a few paces, turned, ran a few steps, and jumped. My wings beat down once, twice, and then I was skimming the treetops and riding the familiar wind currents, back where I belonged.

 

I landed heavily in the usual meet-up clearing and winced. My ankles would not thank me later. Neither would my shoulders, for that matter. They were already screaming at the abuse I’d been subjecting them to. But I wanted to fly, dang it! I’d been grounded for long enough.

“Shadow!” I called. 

Nothing.

“Shaaaadooooow!”

The wind prickled over my scales. I frowned, mildly upset. Alright, fine, I was close to tears. It had been a long time and Shadow’s my dragon. Give me a break for wanting to be able to see her so soon.

“Where are you?” I murmured. Not here. Obvious. But then...where?

I blew out a breath, used the rock as a stepping stone, and launched back into the sky.

Where are you, where are you…

I angled higher and focused my eyes as tight as they would go.

Rustling leaves, squirrel, birds—nope, Terrible Terror—leaves, bird—there!

Two tiny figures sat side by side on a grassy cliff. Off to one side, a lithe black shape lounged in the grass with its round head hovering over one of the figure’s shoulders.

I squinted. Was that...it was.

It was the place where it all began, where Lisa and I had gone camping, where I had changed into what I am now. The Cliff.

I slipped into a more comfortable air current and spiraled downward. Thump! I landed in a crouch, just behind the treeline. Moving as quietly as a creeping dragon, I eased my way over crunchy leaves and twigs and the slowly-resurrecting spring grass and peeked out from behind a thick trunk.

Conner and Lisa sat next to each other, cross-legged, examining a bundle of papers. A red, spiral-bound notebook lay askew next to Lisa, with neat lists and scribbled paragraphs covering the lined pages. Shadow lay next to Conner. Her thick, scaly legs tucked into her sides and she peered over his shoulder with interest. She growled something too low to hear and Conner chuckled. Lisa looked up from her papers and Conner gestured to the page he was holding.

My thoughts whirled around and around. What was Lisa doing here? When had she come back to the states? Was it just a vacation or was she coming back permanently? And how did she and Conner even meet???

Then Shadow raised her head and sniffed. Her eyes grew round and slack, and she whipped her head around with a violence that clearly shocked Conner and Lisa. Her beautiful, grass-green eyes focused slit-sharp. The two humans followed her gaze into the tangled clump of shadows I was hiding in.

I stepped out into the sunlight. Conner and Lisa’s jaws dropped.

I bit my lip. “Hi guys.”

 

 

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Never fear, for Blobby's here!

YEEEEE!!!!!!!   It's been far too long, Ness!  And Lisa's back!  And Connor!  And Shadow and Gild.ie and Joy!  And Ms. Ellen too!  For a second I was worried there, when you kept saying that she had a bad feeling!  I think I'm using too many exclamation marks!  But I'm just too excited not to!  Yay!

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All the exclamations!

Very late reply, but I'm glad I'm back too :) Bad feeling, you say? Hmm...

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-insert subject here-

They're finally home and Arda/Mouse has a family now and Ness is finally home and Lisa's back and now Ness can explain everything and reunite with her friends and it'll all be okay!!!!

Sorry for that confusing mess of excitement; it's late and I love this chapter XD

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It'll allll be ok, huh?

Glad you like it! I'm super excited because we're drawing near to the climax, and I honestly never thought I would get this far.

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Flitt
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*Yeeks in*

Ahhh, Lisa's back :DDD

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The Dragoness
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*yeeks out*

I got confused for a second because I thought you were referring to Lissafish, but then I remembered Lisa my CHARACTER and you can tell that I am not running on all my braincells at the moment >.< Yes, she's back for a little bit. Her parents decided to come show support to Ness' parents while Ness was missing, and you better believe Lisa poked around to figure out what was going on!

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Huh, somebody has abandonment issues

Lisa shrieked. “ALI!” 

That was all it took to set everyone off.

A black wall of scales slammed into me, and suddenly I was on my back, staring up at a blue sky, with a slight throb in my head and far too much dragon slobber rasping over my shoulders and neck and face. I sputtered and choked.

Lisa and Conner tugged at Shadow’s wings. They alternated between asking me questions and ordering Shadow to get off. Shadow ignored them.

“Shadow!” I gasped when I got my breath back. “Off! Ribs! Can’t breathe!”

Shadow reluctantly heaved her bulk off my prone body, but watched my every movement with intense concentration, as if I would disappear the second she blinked.

I sat up and pressed a hand to my aching chest. Jeez. First the girls, then Shadow.

“If you both tackle me, I cannot guarantee I will survive,” I winced as I pushed myself to my feet.

Lisa and Conner stood next to each other, eyeing me with equal parts wariness and relief.

“Well?” Lisa demanded.

“Do I have questions? Glad you asked,” I nodded. “Just when did you get back and how—” I flailed a hand between them—”did you two meet???

“Oi! That is not how this works.” Oh, dear. Conner was not happy. “You don’t get to disappear for months and then just show up all mysterious and feral and stupid! Do you have any idea how worried everybody was?” 

I sucked in a sharp breath. “‘Everybody’?”

“You didn’t tell me you were amassing a small army,” Lisa interjected drily. I took a quick peek at her. She didn’t seem quite as mad as Conner. Thank goodness for small mercies.

“Or me that you have a best friend,” Conner glowered. “And a family. And a whole friggin' clan of kids riding dragons in the woods, complete with a baby Draconian!”

All the blood drained from my face and left it feeling numb. I took three quick steps forward and flared my wings threateningly. “How did you find Joy?”

“Ali!” Lisa grabbed my forearm and tugged me away from Conner. “Calm down!” Shadow echoed her with concerned purrs and “Safe, girls are safe. Peace.”

I clenched my fists so tightly my overgrown fingernails cut into my palms. “No! No, I’m done being calm. What do you know and what did you do?”

“We know you’ve been letting people come and play with their dragons for months. We know you’ve been keeping them as separate as you can for no discernable reason.”

I snarled, but he raised his voice and spoke over me.

“We know about Joy and Gild.ie and Miss Ellen, and we know about your completely human family. We know you up and left us.”

With each word, I found it harder and harder to breathe. “I didn’t—”

You promised you would come back!

IT WASN’T MY FAULT!”

We both glared at each other, flushed with blood and rage, so much rage. Mixed in with my anger, though, was terror. Pure, racing, ice-cold terror that numbed my chest and shook my hands and turned the muscles in my wings and legs to wobbling goo.

They knew. They knew so much. Everyone together, everyone knowing, everyone stupid and nosy and vulnerable—

“Just so you know, ‘we’ he just means me, Mrs. Sumner, and Miss Ellen,” Lisa broke in quietly.

Some of the tightness in my lungs eased. “So the riders don’t know about each other?”

“Oh, they know,” Conner snorted. “We get together every so often to train. Basic self-defense, tips for riding posture and flying maneuvers, stuff that we all would have loved to learn.”

Self-defense. Self-defense. Oh, thank all that’s good and green. At least they could put up a fight now. But still. Images of poachers with dart guns flooding a clearing full of my riders filled my mind. It was so easy to picture the terror on their faces.

“Where were you? And why do you smell like smoke?” Lisa decided to change the subject. Good thing, too. I wasn’t sure how much more I could take before I snapped.

The words came out before me really realizing it. “I found the dragons.”

Neither of them had expected that. Shadow perked up immediately. “You found the missing ones?”

I nodded. “Some of them.” I felt a small thrill of relief. “Most of them, I think. Oak is back.”

Shadow fidgeted excitedly. Conner glanced back and forth with something odd in his eyes. “Who’s...Bright Tree? Is that right? Did he disappear too?”

“Oak,” I corrected. Dang, he’d gotten much better at translating. I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. “Yes. I…” flashes of bars and rustling dragons and the sharp, ugly smell of chemicals flitted through my brain, and I swallowed. They didn’t have to know. “There was an emergency, and it led to finding some dragons that have gone missing over the past several months.” Year. “Took a while to get back.”

“Couldn’t you have sent a message, or a hummingbird-dragon, or something?” Lisa asked.

“No, I couldn’t,” I said tersely. Then my brain caught up to my ears. “Wait, hummingbird-dragon?”

Lisa pulled the hair away from her shoulder. Curled into her neck was a small Flickering, slumbering peacefully. “I think he likes me,” she said, stroking the tiny form fondly.

I rubbed my forehead. Honestly, at this point I was too exhausted to care. “Of course you have a Flickerwing,” I muttered. “Seems to be on par with just about everything at the moment.”

Conner pouted a little. He still looked angry, but it was more of a simmer than an erupting volcano. “When were you going to mention the nanodragons?”

“Never, if I could help it,” I lowered my wings and sighed. “They’re supposed to be a big secret. Not as big as the girls, but something I really really would have been fine with no one else knowing.”

Conner opened his mouth—presumably to ask why—but Lisa winced. “Sorry.” She really did sound sorry. She, at least, seemed to understand just how upset I was at the unearthed secrets. Secrets for a REASON, you d’arviting hooligans.

“What’s his name?”

Lisa ducked her head sheepishly. “Mr. Jiminy Cricket.”

I stared.

“He likes perching on my shoulder!” she defended. “It was too good to pass up!”

“She calls him Jim-Jim for short,” Conner interjected.

Right. I took a deep breath and forced all the tension in my already-aching shoulders to dissipate. Not gone, but suppressed. I could unpack all this later, when I had more energy.

Lisa pulled me in for a hug. I went rigid. Hugs were not something I really did anymore, unless it was the girls. My wings are made to cocoon and protect. They don’t much allow for others to cocoon and protect me. The shoulders are large and bony, and the wing-bases are often faintly sweaty and malodorous. Beautifully graceful in the air, but awkward and clumsy in contact.

“Glad you’re back,” she said, and let go. 

I backed up a step and did my best to smile. “Me too.”

Shadow, who had been patiently waiting her turn, finally leaped to her feet and pranced around me joyfully. “Home! Home! I’m so glad you’re home!” she bugled. Then her nostrils flared and she nudged my right arm sharply. “What is that? It smells sharp.”

I twisted my arm so that the pink, puckered scar pressed firmly into my side. “It’s nothing.” I stroked her head with my other hand and rested my forehead on her nose. “I’m glad I’m home too. I missed you.”

Shadow licked my face, calming a little more. “Missed you too. Stay?”

“Yes,” I promised. “I just have one more thing I need to do.” I looked up and fixed my sternest gaze on Conner. “You said you know about my family now.” My voice only shook a little.

“Well...yeah.” He shifted a little, finally looking guilty. “I pestered Lisa until she told me. Then Mom and I introduced ourselves to your parents.”

My chest tightened. “How much did you tell them?”

“Just that we’re friends, and to let us know if you contacted them,” he promised. “They were upset, but...not surprised.”

“I’ve gotten lost in the woods a couple times before,” I offered. Lisa scrunched up her face to avoid a smile. “Lisa could probably tell you about them. It’s kind of embarrassing.”

Finally, a real smile stretched across both of their faces. My tail stopped twitching.

“I should probably go tell them I’m back,” I said after a moment. “Do you know where they are?”

“I think they were going on a picnic today, somewhere near the Kiwanis Cabin. Mom and I were invited, but we said no.”

“So was I,” Lisa added. “But we didn’t go either. Dad had a dentist appointment and Mom had to drive him, and it would be weird going alone.”

I blinked. I had been expecting something along the lines of ‘no idea,’ not ‘here’s their itinerary that I just remember off the top of my head.’

“Thanks.” I tried not to be miffed. I glanced back towards the trees.

“Wait, don’t go like that,” Lisa said. “Your siblings still don’t know.”

The relief was much warmer and fiercer than I expected. At last, a secret that actually kept. “Really?”

“Yeah. Might want to clean up, your shoes are filthy. What did you do, roll in the mud?” Conner asked.

I very carefully did not look down. That was not mud. “Something like that.”

Shadow wriggled with sheer delight when I asked for her to come with me. Wings too tired to fly, I ran with her down the mountain’s eastern side until my legs were tired too, and then I held on to her back while she bounded lightly through the trees.

When I got to my little house, I jimmied the screen door open and stumbled to my room. Shadow followed and curled up in the living room, swiveling her ears and staring around suspiciously.

I took five steps and face-planted in my nest of mattress and pillows.

All I really wanted to do was shed the dirt and ash and blood that coated my body and sleep for the next week, but I had one last reunion to get through. If I didn’t go see my parents before the day was done, they would find out and they would get upset, and I did not want to see that.

Soft, heavy footsteps padded into the room and a rough tongue rasped over my hair.

“You don’t have to stay,” I mumbled. “I need to bathe, and then I’m going to see my family.”

“Stay,” she said stubbornly. “I’m not letting you go away again.”

I shuddered. “I’m not letting me go away again either.”

I went to my closet and pulled out a tunic, leggings, baggy jeans, and a sweatshirt. Hm. My old sneakers would do for now, but I would need to make new boots. As soon as I had had a decent meal and a solid sixteen hours of sleep, I was burning these clothes.

I yawned and shook my fuzzy head. One more reunion, one more check-up, and then I could rest.

 
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Slargvarg
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Never fear, for Blobby's here!

How dare they be mad at her!  She shoulda told them D8  Great chapter!

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The Dragoness
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Honestly, I didn't see this coming.

So when I first daydreamed this story and got the plotlines running in my head, Conner and Lisa weren't mad at her. They were super happy and  surprised and everything went back to normal almost immediately. However, in the original story, Ness also DIDN'T disappear of her own volition. I also figured that her two best friends would be (understandably) upset at being left out of the loop for so long, and about what they saw as yet ANOTHER abandonment. Conner in particular wasn't happy because she promised not to do it again, and so far she'd kept all her promises. As for Ness? She does NOT want to have to revisit her imprisonment. She just wants to forget all about it and go back to normal. Not to mention so many of her secrets have been dug up, and she's nervous about all the things coming to light. Since the easiest way to lie is to let others do all the work, she's just going to go along with their assumptions until pressed into telling.

Thank you!

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Safe...for now...

The wind nipped a bit at my fingers as I rode Shadow up towards the Crest. We weren’t running this time; too many people frequented the Crest to make it safe to move quickly. Besides, I didn’t want to have my first meeting with my family be bulldozing them on a dragon. (Though to be honest, they probably wouldn’t have been overly surprised if I did.)

I heard voices and slid stiffly off Shadow’s back. Oh, gosh, I was so tired.

“Stay back here,” I growled softly. “I’ll be back soon. This shouldn’t take too long.” Mom and Dad couldn’t ply me for answers while the other children were around.

Shadow grunted her reluctant acknowledgement and settled down to wait. I took a deep, fortifying breath—one more, c’mon, you can do one more—pasted a smile on my face, and strolled out into the early afternoon sunlight.

My family was sprawled all over a thick, black-and-green picnic blanket. Edward and Xander were debating the pros and cons of different Minecraft modpacks while Emily chimed in every so often. Sarah and Hailey had their mouths full of sandwiches, giggling at each other’s ballooned cheeks, while Gideon and Brandon used Mom and Dad as forts for some sort of keep-away / tag / peekaboo game with no apparent rules other than ‘shriek as loud as you can.’ Mom and Dad put up with it well, chatting with each other and only grimacing every so often when one of the two boys stepped on their shins or pulled their shirts against their necks.

“Nice setup,” I said. They all stopped what they were doing and stared at me in surprise. “Although since you didn’t invite me, I’m going to have to curse your firstborn.”

“Ali?” Mom and Dad sat up ramrod straight.

“You ARE the firstborn!” the girls shouted.

I pretended to be surprised. “Well, then, I guess I’ll just have to steal a sandwich!”

Mom handed me a wrapped ham-and-cheese wordlessly. Her eyes burned with anger and relief and questions, so many questions. But she would have to wait until later. I took the sandwich with a nod and bit into it with gusto. Ohhhhh. Food, real food! None of the colorless, flavorless glop they fed us in the warehouse, but cheese and bread and meat...even the mayonnaise tasted good.

“Where were you?” demanded Xander. “Did you get lost again?

“Something like that,” I said sheepishly. “Kinda got stuck for a while. Oh, mmph. Let me tell you, this is the best meal I’ve had in…” I tried to figure out how long I’d been gone. “Um, what day is it?”

“March 31st,” Dad supplied. His cheer was only a little forced. “We noticed you were gone a little before Christmas.”

I winced. I’d been kidnapped in November. I...may have messed up. Big time. “Guess that’s my fault.”

“Why are you so clean?” Edward asked, eyeing my still-damp hair. “If you were lost again, shouldn’t you be covered in dirt?” That’s right. He’d been a witness to the end of one of my grand misadventures in the great outdoors, and that one had been two weeks long and ended with dried mud caked up half my body. 

Brandon and Gideon hugged my legs and grinned up at me. I knelt to return the hugs—ouch, that was a wing—until they got bored and squirmed out of my arms to continue their screeching game. “I took a shower before I came to see you guys. I was pretty filthy.” Woodsmoke is a good smell. Burned concrete and singed hair is not. Also, Dad had worked in a trauma center once or twice. He knew what blood looked like.

“Good job not dying, anyway,” Xander shrugged. “It snowed, like, three feet while you were gone.”

Three feet? It snowed three feet and I missed it??? “Well, snow is a surprisingly good insulator.” Something I’d have loved to test if I’d been there!!!

“AND you didn’t get any Christmas presents,” Hailey added, as if this was the worst thing that could have happened. I guess in her mind, it wasn’t too far off. “Since you weren’t there to draw names.”

“I’m very sorry,” I told her. “I didn’t mean to get lost.” Or kidnapped.

“We will be discussing all this very soon,” Mom said warningly. “Including boundaries for wandering.” My siblings let out an ooooooh while Xander chanted quietly Ali’s in trouble, Ali’s in trouble.

I couldn’t quite keep my jaw from jutting out. She could try. Most likely it was a ruse, to let my siblings know that serious misdemeanors have serious consequences. I highly doubted I was about to get grounded. After all, I was almost a legal adult. But still, the idea of being restricted from my usual hunting grounds rankled deeply. I’m the alpha, for goodness’ sake!

“Right,” I mumbled. “Boundaries.”

“Did you know Lisa’s in town?” Dad asked, changing the subject.

I tried to look interested and excited. “Really?”

Edward raised his eyebrows and looked down his nose. With his glasses, it made the perfect picture of polite skepticism. “You already saw her, didn’t you?”

I dropped the innocent act with a sigh. “Yes. I ran into her and Conner. She told me about this.” I gestured vaguely at the picnic blanket and backpacks.

Then I saw the wicked smiles spreading across my siblings’ faces, and the amused twinkles in my parents’ eyes. “Ah, yes. Conner.”

“When were you going to tell us you have a boyfriend?” asked Sarah. Oh my gosh, she was being sincere.

My face burned. “I don’t.”

Dad smirked. “Bt—”

“Don’t start!” Oh, thank goodness no one else was around to hear this. I would most likely hideof embarrassment. “He is just a friend. That’s it.”

“Suuure,” Xander snickered.

“Wait, wait,” Edward waved a hand to dismiss the current conversation. Thank you, Edward! “So after finally getting yourself un-lost—”

“Not a word,” I muttered.

“—un-lost from the woods, the first thing you do is take a shower and go hiking right back in?”

Well, when Edward put it like that, it did sound a little stupid. “I was finding you guys,” I mumbled.

Emily squeezed me in a hug. I returned it and got out of the excruciating embrace as fast as possible. Still, the hug settled something inside me. I really had missed my family, for all that I hadn’t been around lately.

Mom broke the comfortable silence. “So, about your boyfriend—”

Mom!

 

I was in my room, at home, for the first time in four months. The pillows were in their familiar arrangement. The blankets smelled exactly as I remembered. The room was dark and silent, and only moonlight shone through a crack in the curtains. My pajamas were clean and soft. I had finally burned my ‘prison clothes.’ I was full of food, physically tired, and mentally drained. So why couldn’t I sleep?

Every creak of the pipes was the soft whine of a dragon. Every whisper of cloth against skin was the padding of feet pacing a cell. Every wall was part of a prison, coming in closer and closer and—

I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t breathe.

Up from the nest, out the bedroom, and very nearly through the glass of the sliding back door. Up above, the moon shone comfortingly, a beacon. The wind caressed my cheek. The soft buzzing of the night filled the trees.

I fell to my knees on the grass, gasping. Air. Yes. I could breathe again.

I looked back. The little house stared at me blankly. The windows betrayed nothing. It looked empty. Lifeless.

In the bright light of day, perhaps, it had seemed warm and familiar. But I couldn’t feel any of that familiarity now. Just a certainty that I could not sleep there. It was all wrong, all wrong.

I remembered a warm, small body snuggling into mine whenever I couldn’t sleep. A flickering, forked tongue rasping against my nose and bright yellow eyes peering into mine.

Shadow.

The thought formed in my head before I was even really aware of it.

I want my dragon.

As if in a dream—I really was tired—I got to my feet and ghosted through the woods. A hop-skip-jump and the refreshingly cold air swept me up, towards the crest of the mountains. I circled up until I could see the cluster of pine trees that marked the Night Fury nests, then dived.

When I landed, pine needles and prickly, sap-covered sticks poked at my bare feet. I didn’t care. Black shapes lounged in the gloom. Some watched with keen, yellow-green eyes, while others curled in peaceful slumber. The sound of deep, steady breathing echoed softly through the clearing. 

Something loosened in my chest. The whatever-it-was that had been wrong was gone now.

I spotted Shadow, curled in the shadow of a particularly large stone. I shuffled over and crawled under her wing. She woke a little, saw me, and relaxed. I snuggled into the crook of her wing and foreleg and she wrapped me close.

I closed my eyes. Warm. Safe. Now I was home.

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Flitt
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*yeeks in*

Awwwww, it's so nice that she's back! :3

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The Dragoness
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Yayyyy!

Now she can get down to the business of what did you do while I was gone???

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Slargvarg
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Never fear, for Blobby's here!

Her siblings are cute :3

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The Dragoness
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Really? I always think they’re a little annoying XD

Fun fact! Ali's family is actually loosely based on my own family's dynamics. Had to change the names, obviously, but the whole interaction is similar to stuff we've said to each other. Only difference is that Ali has had misadventures in the past, which is why her parents aren't freaking out. Too much.

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Slargvarg
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Never fear, for Blobby's here!

XDDD  That's cool!  Yeah, my siblings can get a little super annoying, too XD