The Dragoness Backstory: Fanfiction

472 replies [Last post]
Solveig the Fair's picture
Solveig the Fair
Offline
Berk's Power Player
Joined: 03/25/2020
-insert subject here-

Phew! Now everyone knows Ness is okay, and she's safe at home. I hope they'll all find out what really happened soon, even if Ness isn't the one to tell them. I find it sad that she's more at home with the dragons than in her own house with her own family (which is a lot larger than I expected!). Understandable, but sad.

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
Hehe...I highly doubt they will ever know...

Yeah, big family! Does wonders for your patience and desire for privacy XD

It is a little sad if you don't take into account a few things: first, while she has been keeping semi-consistent contact, she just spends more time with the dragons. Her human disguise is really uncomfortable and she hates wearing it for any amount of time. Second, she's actually almost eighteen. It's been almost two years since she got turned into a Draconian, and she is more independent and quite soon legally won't need to stick around anymore. Her parents know this and are (reluctantly) expecting it. And third? It's not that she doesn't feel at home with her family. It's just a different *kind* of home. The actual reason she can't sleep is because she's claustrophobic now. Not toooooo terribly bad, but enough to not want to sleep in a building. She's also gotten used to sleeping in a room with a lot of other dragons, and so not being able to hear or smell them makes her feel alone and exposed. That's why she settled so quickly once she was with Shadow.

Elvi Wren's picture
Elvi Wren
Offline
Jarl
Joined: 05/28/2020
Glurk, 'tis I

Ahhhh, that makes sense. Also, I feel like I have not commented as much and makes you wonder if I even read.

 

But I do. And so does Mellorena. In case you were wondering.

 

I eagerly await the updates/future chapters SOOOO much. (ӦvӦ)

 

Sister and I have had yelling contests with the fangirling/stressing we've done. XD ヾ(。>﹏<。)ノ゙

 

Last note: I feels bad for Ness being teasened about Conner. For I has suffered the same..... 

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
I know you read ^^

Yay! I knew you read, but I didn't think Mellorena did. Until you mentioned it a couple days agoi

Yeah, Ness gets teased about Conner a lot. Figured it would be realistic, if not enjoyable XD

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
Hail is cool :)

I woke up nestled into smooth black scales and thought, I could get used to this. Even though I probably already was. The morning air was cold and danced with little beams of new sunlight. I wriggled a little bit closer to get every last bit of warmth and closed my eyes to doze happily.

About thirty minutes later, Shadow woke as well, and I reluctantly got up for the day.

“Time to see what Thing One and Thing Two have done to my swamp,” I told Shadow. The references went completely over her head. She just gave me a look of mild alarm.

Conner and Lisa had mentioned the riders. Did they know how many there were? I doubted that Shadow explicitly tried to tell Conner, because I had warned against it. But I was pretty sure he could have convinced her to show him where they were.

And the self-defense classes? Who was teaching them? Where did they meet? When did they meet? And how many got together at the same time?

The only way to get these answers was to get them from the masterminds themselves. Dragons are wonderful creatures and remarkably intelligent, but they don’t count so good.

I didn’t know where Lisa was staying, but I did know where Conner lived. Miss Amy had given me the address, in case I ever needed her nursing expertise. Which is all fine and dandy, but now I could use it to bug Conner.

“Do you think Conner will tell me everything if I woke him up now?” I said idly. Shadow rolled her eyes exaggeratedly and got up and padded away. “Yeah, you’re right, probably not.” Something told me that Conner was not a morning person. Unlike Lisa, who found it difficult to stay in bed past seven.

So waiting for mid-morning it was. Noon at the latest. My ears twitched back and forth and my tail just didn’t want to keep still. After so long with nothing to go on, no way to know if my wylde was safe, then coming back to this absolute disaster, I needed answers and I needed them now!

Then a thought occurred to me and I jumped a little with near-giddy relief. Hail! Jackson Hail was very much an early bird, and he came to play with Ethrae in the mornings as often as he could. He was also very observant, and while he didn’t interact with other people much, he preferred to know what was going on around him (a kindred spirit). If any rider knew even a fraction of the answers I wanted, it would be Hail. 

“Flicker!” I called. My throat scraped awkwardly over the Dragontongue and I cleared it. “Flicker!”

“You might need to be louder,” advised Shadow.

I shuddered before I could really think about it. To be loud was to draw attention to you, eyes that bored and voices that cut deep. “No thanks.”

Only a couple minutes later, a tiny, near-invisibly blur zipped past my vision, and a tiny weight with searing claws tore into the crook of my neck. “Ness! Ness! Ness! Ness!” 

Flicker!

I cuddled the nanodragon as best I could without crushing him. When was the last time I laughed this much? My cheeks were starting to hurt from all the smiling. “Flicker! Yes, I’m—ouch!—I’m here! I’m here. Are you okay?”

“Missed you,” Flicker buzzed. 

A lump made its home in my throat. “Missed you too. Are you okay? Status report?”

Flicker trilled proudly and flapped his wings twice. “Okay! More territory to the south, less in the north and the west. Conner and your friend and Miss Amy help the riders. They’re almost their own wylde now. Conner is a good alpha.”

That, at least, was a comfort. “Do you know which riders are here right now?”

Flicker tilted his head, considering. I couldn’t hear it, per se, but my ears buzzed with the sound of Flicker communicating with the rest of the Flickerwings in their high, shimmering voices. (Speaking the language of the dragons is one thing. Being able to match their ears and voices is another, and an endeavor that no human can ever undertake).

“Five,” Flicker announced. “Old One, Flame, Ash, Hail, and Nightshade.”

I blinked. Old One? Flame? Ash? What were these names, and who did they belong to? My curiosity ached. “Take me to Hail, please?”

“Of course!” Flicker squeaked, thrilled to be of help. He took to the air, darting with more enthusiastic energy than normal. “This way!”

“Shadow?” I asked.

Shadow rattled her head and butted against my side. “Food first. You smell hungry.”

Oh. Now that she mentioned it, my stomach did feel rather sick and hollow. “Berries?” I said hopefully.

“No berries.” Right, still spring. I wanted fruit. “Meat.”

On second thought, maybe I didn’t want the fruit that much. My wings flared eagerly.

 

A delicious hour later, after catching, skinning, roasting, and then eating a couple young rabbits—they tasted so, so good—we finally tracked down Hail. I rode on Shadow, not wanting to spoil my delicious meal by puking it up again.

Hail and Ethrae were a quiet pair, so it was no wonder we found them reclining blissfully in the warm sunlight, Hail with his sketchbook and Ethrae watching sleepily. Hail was wearing a simple gray hoo hideand some shabby jeans, ever-present aviator sunglasses shading his eyes. Ethrae’s tendriled mane tumbled around her head, and her shimmering scales gleamed reddish bronze and gold. Both tensed at our approach, but relaxed in surprise when they saw who it was.

“Hey,” I waved, sliding off Shadow’s back. She padded over to Ethrae and nudged at her nose. Flicker landed on the back of my neck and curled into my hair. I had a hard time keeping a straight face at the litany of soft soft mmm warm soft good nest yes very good nest soft.

“Hello,” greeted Hail warily. He made no other move to welcome or dismiss me.

I stood there awkwardly. “So...I’m still alive.”

“Yes.”

I shuffled a little, then sat down next to him. Now how to start…

“What do you want?” Hail asked. It wasn’t aggressive, but curious, if a little shy.

I hesitated. “Have you met…”

“Your friend Conner?” Hail finished. “Nice kid. Bit of a hothead, but smart enough. He was worried about you.”

“Sure didn’t sound like it,” I muttered. “He said something about self-defense classes? For the riders?”

Hail studied me from behind his sunglasses. His expression didn’t change, but his whole demeanor seemed to shift. “You want to know what’s changed since you left.”

My wings slumped. “Please. There’s apparently classes and more riders and new rules and I don’t know...” Know just what happened to my riders when I turned my back for a small moment. Know if any more hunters have been coming. Know where I fit into this new puzzle.

Hail nodded and leaned back. Ethrae shifted her wings to make room for him. “Alright.”

Hail proceeded to explain what he knew—which was a surprising amount. He and Bryn and Theo had been some of the first riders Conner found. Conner had told them about me being M.I.A. and about how there were other riders and also mentioned to watch out for people with guns. Hail glossed over this part, but he evidently got a bit papa bear-ish and demanded a way to teach the young ones what to do if confronted with such a weapon. 

I tried to stifle my smile. Hail noticed and shot me a look.

Conner had asked him to help him track down other riders, and Hail had agreed. Once they were reasonably certain they had contacted all of the others, Conner coordinated with them to come to the dragon territories at different times for the self-defense classes. He had learned some moves from his dad, Hail knew a little karate, Tolzar and Kalzar frequented ninja gyms and MMA classes (though Hail admitted they weren’t particularly good at it yet) and Mr. Sumner himself actually agreed to teach a few more advanced lessons. Together they cobbled together a sort of teaching schedule that focused heavily on facing an armed opponent. Just in case.

“Oh, thank all that’s good and green,” I breathed, ears dropping flat against my hair. “Thank you, thank you.

Hail shrugged. “Self-defense is important.” He seemed shyly proud.

Next came the new riders, four of them. Patrick O’ Carrick, an old veteran pilot from the Vietnam war. He didn’t have a code name, for he said he had no need of one. Nothing to hide, no one to protect; all his children and grandchildren lived far away. He was delighted to have new ‘grandchildren’ to dote on. He had bonded with _______, a gentle Northern Shortsnout even older than Oak.

Next was Ash. A pale, spritely youth that was cheerful but not talkative and seemed to favor bright shirts and jeans, even in the fighting classes when stretchier pants would be advisable. She had been positively thrilled to find dragons and eagerly bonded to a playful Northern Shortsnout named *Greenleaf*.

Ross Pinehill—I giggled at the name and Hail gave me another look—was a twenty year old with long, dark hair that he kept in a braid. He was a rather timid soul, but kind. He had attracted a Night Fury, which he christened ______.

The last sounded like a handful. I groaned and covered my face with my hands when Hail told me about how she hadn’t realized the dragonriders used code names, and instead used her real name until she was quickly told why that was a Bad Idea.

Please tell me she’s not a kid.”

“Eh, she’s my age. Evalyn has her moments, but most of the time she’s pretty competent. Engineering enthusiast. Kinda hyper, though.”

It made sense, then, that Evalyn, who quickly dubbed herself Flame, had struck up a friendship with a Deadly Nadder. And it also made sense that it was she, still looking to make up for her embarrassment, that came up with the idea to make masks to cover the upper part of the rider’s faces, decorated with dragon scales and stylized knots. Dawn even put glitter and feathers on hers.

I took a bit to digest this new information. “So...I have a highly exclusive secret society meeting in my territories, that focuses on learning how to fight, uses code names, and wears masks to protect identity.”

“Yes,” Hail confirmed.

“Did...did Conner make a cult? Did I start a cult?!”

I had never heard Hail laugh that loudly.

“That’s not a no...answer me, Hail! This is serious!” I was lowkey panicking.

He just shook his head and smiled. “You’re certainly something else, Ness.”

“So it’s not a cult.”

Hail just sighed. His amusement quickly faded away. “You know, everything would have been so much smoother if you’d been here. I don’t think any of us realized how much you did until we saw our first dragon fight.”

I winced. “The Deadly Nadders?”

“A few times, yes,” Hail agreed. “We needed you. Where did you go?”

I was trapped.

The words leapt to the tip of my tongue, begging to be released. Part of me felt bad that I was talking to Hail before Conner. A petty part of me saw it as payback for digging into all my secrets.

“I—”

Then the wave of dread reared its ugly head again, and the words stuttered and clogged in my throat. The idea of reliving every caged moment, each sickening smell, every death, the flames, the pain, the fear—no. I couldn’t do it.

I swallowed hard and drew my wings around my shoulders. “Nowhere, really. Just someplace I needed to be.”

Hail stared at me, his expression unreadable. I focused on keeping my pupils wide and my breathing even. The dread slowly receded, but it lurked on the corner of my consciousness, reminding me that no one was truly safe.

Something flickered across his face, and he nodded slowly. “Right.”

I didn’t ask him what he saw, and he didn’t tell me. We just sat there, quiet, until the shadows of the trees shrunk to noon and it was time for him to go.

I caught his arm before he stood. “Hail. Thanks.”

Hail flinched slightly, and I hurriedly let him go. He picked up his backpack and slung it on his shoulders. A brief, knowing smile flickered over his face before he dipped his head and left.

 
hookless's picture
hookless
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 08/30/2015
Why do I feel like you're gonna do something bad to him...

Haill!! MY BOOIII :D He knows...He knows the feeling of being trapped, eh? I feel like if he and Ness opened up, they'd bond pretty well :')

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
*looks over shoulder to see who you’re talking to*

Hail and Ness do have a fair amount in common. Hail may be a bit quiet, but they grow to be good friends :)

Actually, Hail and Nightshade are probably Ness' favorite dragon riders. They're certainly mine!!!

Ginger and Jaxomis's picture
Ginger and Jaxomis
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 01/07/2018
Reading silently from the shadows, don't mind me...

Oh yes, Conner and Ness definitely started a cult. One I would happily join... XD

hookless's picture
hookless
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 08/30/2015
8D

I second this *raises Squishy up*

Flitt's picture
Flitt
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 03/05/2019
*Yeeks in*

I third this :D

Slargvarg's picture
Slargvarg
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 07/18/2020
Never fear, for Blobby's here!

I call in 8D

That was a fun chapter to read.

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
Ness: *sobbing with frustration* NO CULT!!!

All the dragon enthusiasts want to join a dragon cult. What a surprise XD

Slargvarg's picture
Slargvarg
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 07/18/2020
Never fear, for Blobby's here to start a cult!

Mwahaha!

gingerforum's picture
gingerforum
Online
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 02/02/2016
Tracking!

Really great story! :D

__________________

"Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9

"Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." Psalm 23:1

 

Table of contents

About me in real life

On the Forums

Art

SoD info (Viking and Dragon list)

 

About me in real life

I'm a Christian and have been saved by Jesus Christ

I'm a girl

My brother, my cat and I all have red/ginger hair (or fur in my cat's case)

I like reading, watching movies, singing, music, daydreaming and roleplaying

I'm from the UK and live in Switzerland

My Hogwarts House is Hufflepuff

I'm an introvert and not always great at explaining myself or conversations in general, but I can ramble a bit if I get excited about something

 

On the Forums

I've made a thread about my own version of lycanwings: http://forum.schoolofdragons.com/content/lycanwings-fan-fictionfan-dragon-guidebook

 

Art

Shadow (top left), Hope (top right), Ice (bottom left) and Thunder (bottom right), Ikran-furies by toothless0603!

 

Lyra the Deathstinger by chameishida!

 

Luna as a Lycan-horse (left) and as a Lycan-bat-horse (right) by toothless0603!

 

Jupiter (left), Ravenflight (middle) and Willow (right) by toothless0603!

 

Zap (left) and Myst (right), Gleaming Terrors by toothless0603!

 

Trico the Brawler Stryke by ZestyDragonWing!

 

Eclipse the Skyfyre by blue and blacksand (species creator) & toothless0603 (artist)!

 

Snepo by ZestyDragonWing!

 

Ripple the Liquid Shocker by toothless0603!

 

Spooky the (failed) NEO-Chimeragon and his certificate, adopted from the Shady Shopkeeper (aka Blue Kitsune)!

 

SoD info:

Viking:

(Art by Sylvia!)

Dragons:

(Male, Female)

Blueberry - Titan Deadly Nadder

Shadow (Toothless) - Adult Night Fury

Silver - Titan Razorwhip

Chrystal - Adult Groncicle

Amber - Adult Deathsong

Foggy - Adult Smothering Smokebreath

Slither - Titan Whispering Death

Rocky - Titan Gronckle

Magnet - Adult Armorwing

Splash - Titan Scauldron

Strawberryfly - Adult Groncicle

Frozen - Adult Groncicle

Bolt - Titan Shockjaw

Scorchtip - Adult Singetail

Lava - Adult Eruptodon

Woolly - Adult Woolly Howl

Skeleton - Adult Boneknapper

Royalty - Adult Fireworm Queen

Ghostlight - Adult Flightmare

Lizzy - Adult Flame Whipper

Rainbow - Adult Changewing

Bramble - Adult Whispering Death

Trico - Adult Triple Stryke

Spike - Adult Deadly Nadder

Redsail - Adult Speed Stinger

Flower - Adult Prickleboggle

Mystery and Treasure - Adult Hideous Zippleback

Storm - Titan Skrill

Halvar - Adult Elder Sentinel

Thorn - Adult Monstrous Nightmare

Headbone - Adult Boneknapper

Firetail - Adult Moldruffle

Kettle - Adult Scauldron

Huntress - Adult Stormcutter

Wavetail - Adult Sliquifier

Spiral - Adult Windwalker

Roary - Adult Thunderdrum

Destiny (Light Fury) - Adult Light Fury

Wolf - Adult Deathgripper

Wasp - Adult Sweet Death

Scamp - Adult Scuttleclaw

Boulder - Adult Hotburple

Sandy - Adult Sand Wraith

Buzz and Scuzz - Adult Hideous Zippleback

Magpie - Adult Woolly Howl

Gravel - Adult Gronckle

Croaky - Adult Smitten Hobgobbler

Twilight (Dart) - Adult Nightlight

Gale - Adult Snow Wraith

Mistral - Adult Shivertooth

Comet (Pouncer) - Adult Nightlight

Eclipse (Ruffrunner) - Adult Nightlight

Pixie - Adult Chimeragon

Gruff - Adult Woolly Howl

Grimm - Adult Grim Gnasher

The Marauders - Adult Snaptrapper

MrWangFire - Adult Typhoomerang

Discord - Teen Devilish Dervish

Gem - Adult Snafflefang

Daydream (Pouncer) - Teen Nightlight

Lapis - Adult Deathgripper

Kiki - Teen Dramillion

Kitty (Ruffrunner) - Teen Nightlight

Mischief (Dart) - Teen Nightlight

Bumble - Teen Catastrophic Quaken

Pancake - Teen Thunderdrum

Spark - Teen Fire Terror

Goliath - Teen Terrible Terror

Trollhunter - Teen Rumblehorn

Wisp - Teen Screaming Death

Flare - Teen Whispering Death

Ripper - Baby Crimson Goregutter

Siren - Baby Slithersong

Crusher - Baby Whispering Death

Starlight - Baby Silver Phantom

Wartooth - Adult Gruesome Goregripper

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
I swear I meant to respond earlier than this

Thank you! Glad you're enjoying it!

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
Ground Rule No 1: JOY IS BABY

Conner and Lisa showed up in the early afternoon. It gave me time in between interrogations interviews to go back to my little cabin and change into something that wasn’t pajamas. That had been embarrassing. At least Hail hadn’t made fun of me.

I sat down on my nest of pillows and stared at the scar on my forearm. It was healed—mostly. The flesh still puckered pink and ugly in the bright, unsullied light. I hated it. A clear mark of what had happened, when I only wanted to forget. The dread prickled underneath my sternum.

I looked around. There had to be something I could use to cover it up.

There! Just poking out of the closet door. I slid myself over and tugged them out. Bracers, to keep warm during winter. I had never gotten to try them on.

I took the stiff, fur-lined bracers and strapped them around my forearms. It was a little tricky tying each one single-handedly, but I did it in a reasonable amount of time. They both fit snugly, and already I felt a bit bigger, a bit safer. It did feel like armor. Maybe I could make other bits of clothes that felt like armor. Or maybe make actual armor. Now there was an idea.

I dismissed the half-formed ideas and padded back out the door to where Shadow was waiting to take me to my humans. While she disliked being inside my little cabin, she also point-blank refused to wander too far from me, and had been keening softly outside my bedroom window.

“You sound like a cat,” I told her, amused.

Shadow snorted her disdain as she crouched down for me to mount. “Pointy little fur-snacks. I am not a cat.”

“No, you’re better,” I assured her. I glanced up. Some low-level clouds skirted the tips of the mountains about a mile out. “Do you think that’s enough cover to fly down?”

“No,” Shadow said glumly after a moment. “Too far away, and not enough cloud. We run.”

I rubbed her neck soothingly as she tossed her head and loped up the mountain. While Conner and Lisa no doubt knew where I lived by now, they also knew me, and that meant they would wait for me in my territories, instead of poking around my den.

Sure enough, after a little asking around, I found them clambering around some boulders near the Night Fury nests.

“Ali!” Lisa hopped down a precarious stack of boulders and gave me a hug. My wings snapped back to accommodate for her arms. Lisa pulled back and gave me a once-over. “Nice outfit.”

I blinked and looked down. But it was how I normally dressed…? Oh, right, she hadn’t really seen me in my actual clothes before, only in my human disguises. “Thanks. Made most of it myself.”

Lisa took my arm and examined the bracers with obvious interest. “Even this?”
I half shrugged, trying to ignore the half-awed, half-incredulous looks Conner kept giving her. “Rabbit fur, shoelaces and some leather. Not so bad.”

“Shoelaces?”

I held up a boot-clad foot to demonstrate. “I need a lot of shoelaces.”

Lisa snorted and let me go. 

Hesitantly, I turned to Conner. “I really didn’t mean to break my promise,” I said quietly. “It wasn’t my choice.”

Conner’s lips pressed together and his shoulder hunched briefly. But then he sighed and hung his head. “I still shouldn’t have blown up at you like that. When Mom heard how I acted, she gave me a forty-minute lecture.” He gave a sideways glance at Lisa, who assumed a smug-yet-innocent look.

My ears shot straight up, then flat against my skull. Oh no. Oh dear. “Crap. Miss Amy’s going to kill me.”

Conner actually snickered. “Nicely, but yes. Probably.”

“So...about those self-defense groups…” Lisa said. I tensed.

“There’s a group of them coming in this afternoon,” she continued hesitantly. “A couple of the newer riders, too. Would you like to meet them?”

I sucked in a quick breath. So soon? What would they think of the flighty creature they’d heard about? What about the older riders? Would they be mad? Would they not notice? What had Conner told them? What did they know?

I took a deep breath and settled my stance. “I can meet them. But since I’m back now, there are going to be some ground rules.” I stared them both down until they nodded. “I’ll explain the others later, but the most important of all—and I’m serious, if you break this one rule so help me—” I cut off with a growl. “Stay away from Joy. I can’t emphasize enough how serious this is.”

Conner frowned. “Why?”

“Nosy,” I grumbled. But after the stunt they thought I pulled, and what with the guilt from shutting them out for so long, it wasn’t like I could deny them answers. “I don’t want any unnecessary attention on her and her family. If you ask me beforehand, and if the girls actually want to be around you, I can maybe be persuaded to accompany you on short visits. But no going on your own. No stalking. No talking. No visiting. And definitely no telling other people about her.

“Of course not!” Lisa actually looked a little hurt. “We’re not stupid.”

“Definitely not stupid,” Conner nodded. “But that’s not what I meant. Why is it so serious we leave Joy alone and not the other riders?”

I glared. “Because she’s a defenseless child, and because she is a Draconian. I don’t think you realize just how dangerous it is to be around other humans, and how terrifying it is when someone finds you and you’re not supposed to be found. There are people who would willingly hunt us like animals because we’re interesting specimens. All it takes is one glimpse, one hunter, and it’s over. I can take care of myself, but don’t you dare endanger Joy.”

Lisa’s eyes had widened progressively through my rant, but it was Conner that looked the most worried. His skin had turned sickly gray, and his hands trembled slightly. “Just one hunter,” he whispered. “What about five?”

It took me a second to figure it out. Last summer. Malcolm. A gun pointed at Conner’s head. “I can take care of myself,” I repeated. “Joy can’t.”

“Are hunters the reason you took so long to come back home?” Lisa asked, eyes still a little large but hiding her shock well.

I hesitated. The dread shifted a little. “We...had a couple run-ins, yes,” I said carefully. “The dragons took care of them fairly quickly. We just had to be...cautious.”

Lisa bit her lip and hugged me again, as if to make sure I was alright. Conner just leaned against Shadow and stroked her scales aggressively. “Sorry,” he muttered.

I shrugged my way gently out of Lisa’s embrace and gave him a look that was hopefully understanding and not judgemental. “You didn’t know.”

“I should have asked.”

“You’re okay, though?” Lisa asked, peering into my face. “Nothing hurt, nothing broken?”

I wriggled my wings and made a show of holding out my hands for inspection. “Every limb and digit accounted for. No need to worry about me.”

Lisa eyed me carefully to make sure I wasn’t lying, then puffed out a relieved breath. “Good.”

“However, there is much need to worry about unsupervised dragon riders between the ages of teen and responsible adult, so spit-spot, let’s go.”

“Orion is in her thirties,” Conner argued.

“I said ‘responsible adult,’ not ‘legal adult.”

“Fair enough.” He mounted Shadow easily. “C’mon. It’s not far.”

“Ahem.” Lisa gestured first to herself, then to me, then at Shadow’s narrow back.

Conner had the grace to look sheepish. He promptly slid back down. “Or we can walk.”

I slipped next to Shadow and rested a soothing hand on her neck. She purred, and I felt the vibrations in my ears and fingertips. “Let’s see what our friends have been up to while I’ve been away, shall we?”

Slargvarg's picture
Slargvarg
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 07/18/2020
Never fear, for Blobby's here!

I like her new bracers.  I kinda wish Ness would just tell them about the hunters...  Great chapter!

Solveig the Fair's picture
Solveig the Fair
Offline
Berk's Power Player
Joined: 03/25/2020
Yay, new riders!!

Awesome chapters, Ness! Sorry I've been gone for so long.

Placeholder
Offline
Jarl
Joined: 02/05/2021
Done

>Chapter down below<

Solveig the Fair's picture
Solveig the Fair
Offline
Berk's Power Player
Joined: 03/25/2020
Martial arts! :D

Great chapter! Ness can be pretty good at avoiding questions. I love the little exchange at the end XD

 

I'm sorry to hear about your account; I hope you can get it fixed soon!

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
I friggen love action scenes, gotta make sure they're up to it!

Yes, Ness is a little too good at dodging well-meaning inquiries. And ty :) I'm really bad at writing humorous scenes, so I was actually very proud of that lil joke

DyliehIdol1214's picture
DyliehIdol1214
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 11/29/2017
Man...

I haven't been able to read this as much as before, will have to catch up again soon :P

 

Also, I'm able to see your Dragoness account again, maybe you can get back in now?

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
Yup!

Yes, I'm in now. Thanks for reading!

Slargvarg's picture
Slargvarg
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 07/18/2020
Never fear, for Blobby's here!

Sorry to hear about your account; I hope that gets fixed soon.

Very fun chapter!

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
Good news!

Thanks! I had fun writing about the hoomans for a change :)

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
I'M BACK!!!!

 Lisa and Conner wanted me to stand with them, at the front of the little ‘classroom’ they had made out of a reasonably level clearing, so that the students could see me as they trickled in. I refused and perched on a low-hanging tree branch instead. For some reason it made me feel safer. Shadow curled up underneath, occasionally glancing up at me and purring. I always flicked my ears to show that I heard.

In ones and twos, the self-defense class arrived on the backs of their dragons. There was Kolzar and Talzar, and Nightshade, and Orion, and an old, slightly-hunched man that could only be Patrick O’Carrick. None of the Nightmare Trio, thank goodness. Theo only understood the concept of ‘tactful questions’ in theory, and Bryn just didn’t care.

The few new people prickled my scales with apprehension. Pinehill (long dark braid, green eyes, Night Fury) approached like a skittish kitten, attention firmly fixed on me and my wings. Flame the rabble rouser (red hair, Deadly Nadder, almost painfully colorful T-shirt) made an attempt to stay calm and pretend nothing fazed her, but her body practically vibrated with curious glee.

Every single one of them wore half-masks. They were clearly cheap do-it-yourself crafts from Hobby Lobby or Joanns, with only holes for the eyes and a slight divet for the nose. Each mask was painted different colors with cheap acrylics, with various colored feathers or sequins or fake jewels glued on. In Flame’s case, all three.

And yet they didn’t look half-baked. Sure, the materials were cheap, but the time and care invested in them clearly wasn’t. No drips, no spatters (except for Tolzar’s mask, artfully spattered white and sky blue), and the feather and jewel patterns reminiscent of their dragons. Black with green jewels, orange with dark brown stripes, white and blue with purple glitter, each one unique and yet perfectly suited to each other.

I glanced over, and even Conner and Lisa had donned their own masks. Conner’s was black and grey with yellow jewels, and Lisa’s had intricate purple-black vines curling around the edges (she always was artsy). I was the only one to bare my face. Of course, it wasn’t like I needed it. I gave a sharp-toothed smile, and Flame flinched. Somehow, the eyes and ears did wonders to change my appearance.

The dragonriders gathered in a loosely square formation, while their dragons snapped playfully at each other in the background. I shot Tigress (Kalzar’s dragon) and Elouhan (Nightshade’s dragon) a look when they got a bit too violent, and they subsided grudgingly.

Conner stepped forward and raised a hand in welcome. “Hey everybody. In case you hadn’t noticed, our resident cryptid is back.”

I flinched and fluffed my wings to cover it. The newbies stared with avid interest—and perhaps a little apprehension.

“Ness was out on an emergency mission to recover some dragons that got lost, and she got a little held up. But now she’s back, and she can see just how well we’ve been doing. Say hi to the cameras, Ness!”

I glared at his impish grin. Really. That was my introduction. I would have been better off jumping out of the shadows and yelling boo! I’m a dragon!

At least Tolzar seemed happy to see me. She waved brightly. Kalzar just sighed and set her feet in a boxing stance, more than ready to start.

When I didn’t say anything, Conner rolled his eyes and turned back to his skittish class. “She’s usually like this. Just ignore her.” Lisa nodded and sent a little sideways smirk my way.

I stuck out my tongue, like the mature child I am. As if you could get rid of me that easily.

“Anyway, let’s get started. Tolzar, Kalzar, you’re up.” Conner and Lisa switched places with the twins. 

Tolzar smiled brightly, her bright blue eyes crinkled with excitement. Kalzar rolled her eyes and pulled her dark hair into a ponytail. “You know the drill! Boxing stances, start with ones and twos.”

Nightshade, Conner, Lisa, Pinehill, Flame, Tolzar, and Kalzar all set their feet and started punching. Even Mr. O’Carrick, albeit much shakier and slower than the young’uns. Jab-cross, jab-cross, jab-cross. 

I watched with interest. I had never actually taken more than the occasional self-defense lesson. Everything I did was improvised. The only reason it worked was because the sheer oddity of my wings and ears and tail threw my attackers off their rhythm.

After about a minute and a half, Tolzar straightened and said, “All right! Now that we’re warmed up, we’ll start with the basic combinations we learned the past three lessons to review, and then we’ll move on to some fun moves Kalzar and I learned in the ninja gym last week!”

The riders gave a muted cheer.

The combinations were actually pretty cool. There were ducks and rolls (I approved; knowing how to evade attacks is very helpful), knees, elbows, and hooks. They also reminded everyone (for the 50th time, from the quiet groans) that if they didn’t feel comfortable punching with a closed fist, the heel of the palm worked just as well. Tolzar and Kalzar also cheerfully forced everyone to practice sprawls. By the end everyone was cursing their names, and Conner leveled me with a sweaty glare as I cackled gleefully.

“Come join us, A—Ness!” Lisa called.

 My heart almost stopped at her slip-up, but she caught it just in time. Well, for that scare, she was on her own. “No, thank you!” I grinned unrepentantly at the kitty-cat eyes she was giving me. “I’m perfectly fine up here!”

There was another reason that, deep down, I didn’t want to admit to myself. I hadn’t quite gotten my strength back from being cooped up for months, and I didn’t want to show just how taxing a little class like this could be. Not yet. At least for now.

“Time!” Kalzar shouted.

All those on their feet dropped their arms and sat down heavily. All those still in their sprawl position simply face-planted and nuzzled into the grass.

I stared down at the exhausted dragonriders sympathetically from my perch. I feel you. There was a phantom burn in my shoulders, from a time when Mom used to make me exercise like this.

“Five minute break,” Tolzar promised. “Then we come back for the fun moves.”

The dragonriders simply lay on the ground, sweat dripping from their foreheads.

Tolzar winked up at me as she trooped over to her dragon, Glinter, to get her bottled water. “They’re usually like this.”

Five minutes went quickly, and then the dragonriders stood at the ready again, perked up like dying pansies that had just been given water.

First, Nightshade and Conner teamed up with Kalzar to demonstrate the way to get out of somebody’s hold. Nightshade wrapped her arms around Conner’s torso, effectively pinning his arms in place. Kalzar then walked him through breaking out, and they did the same with a few more positions; a chokehold, an armlock, and a knife to the neck.

“We haven’t learned how to get out of a gun yet,” Tollzar said apologetically. “Our instructor said it’s best to just give the gunman what he wants instead of fighting back and getting yourself killed. But don’t worry, we’ll figure it out!”

Conner still looked very pleased with himself as he broke out of Nightshade’s grip for the sixteenth time. A warm wave of relief washed away a little of the dread. He can defend himself now. They all could. They could keep each other safe.

“Thank you Nightshade, Storm.” Storm? Tolzar nodded to them as they took their places back in the ranks. “Team up everybody, and take turns with the holds and moves we showed you.”

Two by two, the riders paired up and took turns forcing their way free. By the end of ten minutes, they had devolved progressed into jumping each other from behind and breaking free just as quickly. It was so, so tempting to sneak up on Lisa or Conner and freak them out, but no! I had to be a responsible person in front of my dragon riders. I held my ground—er, tree branch.

“So, you know how in the movies, they’ll sometimes spin around on the ground and kick people’s feet?” Tolzar grinned. “Well, it’s a real move! And Kalzar and I got to learn it! So we figured you guys would like it, too.”

She grinned smugly at the excited dragonriders (Kalzar rolled her eyes with a sigh at the theatrics). Flame actually bounced.

Kalzar demonstrated while Tolzar talked them through the steps, and soon everyone else had cleared a wide circle around them as they crouched and spun, and kicked in a long sweeping motion.

The sweep-and-spin looked good. Neat, efficient. But it was still too slow, and not with nearly the amount of force needed to knock a grown man of his feet.

I dropped down from my perch and slipped over to where Nightshade was practicing in the corner. She greeted me with a short nod, but still kept crouching and sweeping her leg out.

“That’s actually really good,” I told her, and it was. “But there’s a better way to do it. If you lean back here,” I tugged her shoulders back a little while she was in her crouch, “And kick your leg from the back here,” I nudged the air with my foot and she moved her leg back, “and put your arm here—yeah, that’s it! You can do the sweep a lot quicker and with a lot more power. Try it.”

Nightshade tried out the kick, but halfway through wobbled back and fell. I blinked. That wasn’t supposed to happen. She tried again and again, but the same thing happened at the same point every time.

“What? But…” I did the sweep-and-spin, and came out the other end just fine. “I don’t understand.”

The other dragonriders had been watching, and now Flame jumped in.

“It’s not physically possible,” Flame said. “For us, I mean. Our center of gravity isn’t in the right place for that to work. If we try, we tip too far out of balance, and we’ll fall every time. It’s like expecting helium to not make a balloon float.” She demonstrated. Her form was a little off from what I’d shown Nightshade, but she still fell over. “Your wings and tail balance you out. Which makes sense. You’d use them for balance anyway, right?”

I thought about how long it had taken me to re-learn to walk with my new appendages, awkward and clumsy I now felt whenever I walked with my wings and tail trapped inside jeans and sweaters. “Um. I guess so.”

“Well, there you go. Different center of gravity and extra limbs for balance. Simple physics.”

“O-oh.” It was a disconcerting thought, how much I took for granted, and how much of it was so different from other people. Like the way I moved. Then I cocked my head. “That was smart. I forgot you’re an engineer. How’s the flight suit coming along?” The few dragonriders within earshot burst into excited whispers.

Flame’s eyes widened, and then she ducked her head. “Um, I’m on prototype 5.2”

I nodded, impressed. “Let me know when you decide to test it. That way I can have some more dragons on standby to catch you.”

Flame blushed hard enough to match her hair. “I don’t think I’ll need it.”

“You saw how long it took for Hiccup to get the right design, didn’t you?” I asked, amused. “Let me make sure you don’t almost hidewhen it’s easily preventable with a few safety measures.”

The eavesdropping dragonriders snickered. Flame blushed harder but gave me a rueful grin. “Fair enough.”

I backed up a couple steps, ready jump-flap-hop over to my perch and settle back down.

“Stop bugging our students, Dragoness.”

I whirled, wings half-raised in shock.

“Hi Ness!”

I relaxed and smiled. “Hey, Tolzar, Kalzar. Long time, no see.”

Tolzar beamed back. I turned to Kalzar, expecting a terse ‘hey’ or a snort or even a friendly eye roll, but what I got instead was an abrupt, “What happened to your wings?”
I froze. “Sorry?”

Kalzar reached out, tugged my wing wide, and pointed to my wingbases. “That. What happened?”

“Nothing.”

Kalzar glared and dropped her hand. “Those scales used to be acid green. I know, Tolzar made me draw them. Now they’re pine green. What. Happened.”

That dark? I twisted my head around to see and winced. She was right. It was like the moon had waned and dimmed, and now all the brightness in my scales was gone. I flicked my tail to where I could see it and, yes, it had dulled too.

Conner and Lisa had overheard a little of the conversation and now stared openly at my darkened wings.

“You’ve been hiding it,” Kalzar accused.

“What? No!” I defended. “I didn’t even realize!” Which was the truth. I dimly remembered Oak mentioning it once, some kind of shift in my coloring, but so much had happened since then it completely slipped my mind.

But now even Tolzar folded her arms and narrowed her eyes disapprovingly. “Yes, you have. You’ve kept your wings folded and your tail behind you the whole time, and you never turn your back to anyone.”

I frowned. Had I? I flexed my wings to where I thought they’d been, half-extended. Nope, nope, nope. Too vulnerable. Too wide. A target. I hastily drew them close again. “I hadn’t noticed.”

“But why?”

I shrugged. “Prey instinct, I guess.”

Kalzar’s brow furrowed. “But you’re a predator.”

“So are you,” I shrugged.

Tolzar pouted a little. “Not me,” she muttered. “I’m a vegetarian.”

Kalzar and I turned to stare at her.

“What?” she said defensively. “Meat is murder.”

“Meat is delicious,” I retorted. “Come find me when you find a cheap alternative with all the proteins and nutrients needed that doesn’t taste like grass and bell peppers.”

“Amen to that,” Kalzar said fervently.

Tolzar frowned disapprovingly at our cavalier attitudes, but didn’t argue back.

After the debacle with the sweep-and-spin, I settled on my perch and watched the riders practice the last two moves with a slight frown and clenched fingers. What other moves could I do that they couldn’t? What moves could they do that I couldn’t?

Hugging, my brain murmured. I told it to shut up.

And downward dog, it continued. And touching your toes. I snorted softly. That’s not because I’m a Draconian, that’s because I’m not flexible. That was a half-lie. Only the downward dog was only hampered by inflexibility. Bending over without falling is significantly harder when you have two extra limbs resting on your upper back.

The dragonriders entered the cooldown portion of their class. They sat in butterfly position, stretching their arms one at a time across their bodies to loosen up their shoulders. I watched enviously as a couple pressed their knees all the way to the ground with their feet drawn in tight.

“Alright, everyone, that’s a wrap! Practice on your own, stay safe, and if all goes well we’ll see you next week!”

The dragonriders cheered tiredly and got to their feet. Their dragons, ever-patient, padded forward from the edges of the clearing and licked the sweat from their faces, to their silly humans’ disgust and delight.

Conner stood next to me, watching everyone compliment each other and complain about how sore they were going to be tomorrow. “So is it normal that your scales are darker now? Is it just a thing that happens when you get older?”

I shrugged, then gave him some major side-eye. “Storm, huh?”

“Hey, you didn’t tell me about the code name thing,” he defended. “Hail told me after I introduced myself with my real name, and I had to come up with something quick.”

“But still. Storm?

“I was going to choose Lightning, but that was too flashy.”

“Ka-chow,” I deadpanned.

He sighed. “That too.”

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
Singing is good for you

It had been a few weeks since I got home, and I got a surprise.

A good surprise, thank goodness. Although I suppose with the panicking I did at the time, it could be classified as a bad one as well.

See, the hunters were still coming every so often, except instead of dart guns they had rifles. And they were much, much harder to sneak up on. It was a dangerous game, but I had to play it. Why? Because dragons still disappeared. Not as much as before, but one here and there, enough to tell me that it wasn’t over.

So between patrolling for hunters, and tracking down where the other bases might be, and training with the dragonriders, this surprise was an unpleasantly pleasant distraction.

It happened in the first week of April. The day started well enough; I took a very long, very hot shower and purged all the disgusting dead skin from between my scales. While raiding my mom’s bathroom cabinets for shampoo and those shower scruffies I found a pumice stone, and it was pretty much the best thing ever. Hard enough to scrape off dead skin and old scale, gravelly enough to scrape in the right places, and soft enough to scrape without hurting. Perfect. I’d never known how itchy my scales were until they were clean clean clean. It felt like coming home from a week-long camping trip and watching the dirt and grease peel off your skin and swirl down the drain.

Then, after burrowing comfortably into a mess of soft blankets, I’d started the basic plans for some bits of leather ‘armor.’ Admittedly, it was mostly for aesthetic—what’s leather going to do against bullets?—but it looked cool and the bracers—gauntlets?—I already had made me feel safe, and didn’t hamper my movement, so leather armor I would have. Maybe some cool-looking pauldrons—oooh, or leg-guards, or maybe a helmet…

Nah, no helmet. I liked having my hair and ears free. What about my wings…?

I wrapped said appendages around myself and burrowed deeper into my blankets. Mmm. Clean. Warm. It felt good, in a carefree way that only bubbled higher when I concentrated on it.

Everything considered, life was surprisingly good. Training with the riders every week was exhausting but fun, and unsettling the more timid ones always a treat. I would fly with Shadow at night, relearning all the wind currents I’d forgotten, and strengthening atrophied muscle and memory. Every now and then a current caught me off guard and sent me tumbling, and then I’d have to recover in a way that made my joints ache and cramp later, but it happened less and less. I could run without walking, and walk without falling. It was good to feel alive again, even with the lingering fear.

My wingbases had turned black during the time in the warehouse, but they were slowly recovering. First pine green, like when Tolzar had called me out, and then a deep forest, and now brightening back into a lighter emerald. If this kept up, it would be back to acid-green in just a few weeks. The thought was...incredibly comforting. The black scales felt a little too close to an irreparable scar.

Nope. Not now.

I put away the bits of leather—I should probably go hunting for more. Or just buy some faux leather from Joanns? Can’t keep slaughtering helpless bunnies, even if they taste so so so so SO good—and jumped out of my blanket nest. Outside. I needed some fun. I quickly strapped on my bracers and slipped out the back door. The air smelled fresh, like dirt and grass and rain, and the late-morning breeze beckoned invitingly. 

I relaxed and bounded happily into my domain. Home.

Some might find it a little boring to fool around on their own. Maybe I would have, before, or in the future, but then I was just happy to be free; jumping over logs, swinging around in the trees, squatting to look at a particularly calm butterfly. It was so nice to be able to flex my wings and feel wind and warm sun. Or look up, and instead of concrete and metal see blue sky and green leaves.

The only damper was that, after a while, I got bored eventually—bored and worried. In the many hours I had been quietly playing by myself, I hadn’t seen a single scale or wing. No dragons. Not even a Terrible Terror or a Flickerwing. And that was scary.

Dragons can hide so perfectly that most humans could spend their lives wandering the wilds and never see a single one. But if they know you’re safe, they don’t bother to hide nearly as well. It is very difficult to disappear on such a scale. So in my two years of being a Draconian, I had yet to go a full day without seeing some kind of dragon.

And now I’d gone almost a full day without so much as a glance.

The sleeping dread woke and coiled in my stomach. I shoved it down and breathed firmly. Nope. Perfectly normal explanation, I was sure, just needed a dragon to tell it to me.

I called out as loudly as I dared. When no one came, I called again. “Come!”

Nothing.

Suddenly it occurred to me that flaunting my position when no one was around to see or hear was very much a bad idea and I fell silent. I vaulted onto a high enough tree branch that I could be reasonably well-hidden and curled up, eyes peeled for anything suspicious.

Could they be with the riders? Rare was the day that a dragon took interest in spending time with a human that was not their own, but it could happen. Some species, like the Terrible Terrors, did seem fond of their strange, squishy playmates.

Or maybe they were hiding? Oak had said I was alpha now, but maybe it was a mistake, and Oak told everyone to hide. I could do that. I was very good at hiding.

But even if Oak had told everyone to hide, someone would have still answered. They always answered. Always.

They couldn’t be taken. Not so many, not all at once. The hunters didn’t have those kinds of resources—too little money, not enough space, not nearly enough manpower.

At least, I think they didn’t.

I closed my eyes and tried to listen, as quiet and as far as I could. Still the breath, still the heartbeat and rustle of clothes, until only the susurrus of the trees and light touch of the wind are distinct.

The breeze blew in from the south and east, and something blew in on it. I sucked in a sharp breath, swarmed up the tree until I was as high as I could, poked my head out of the new foliage, and listened.

Nothing.

Quiet.

Something!

Nothing much, just the barest whisper of sound, and not even registering in my dragon ears. No vibration, not even the tiniest flicker. For a moment I worried that I was just imagining it.

No—there it was again! Odd, out of place, real. I leaped off and followed it as low as I dared, stopping to listen every few trees before taking off again.

As I drew closer to the sound, it shifted into something more recognizable. Song. I’d never heard it before, but something deep inside stirred and moved my limbs faster and made my heart beat painfully. What is it what is it what is it?

The song grew until it seemed to echo around the mountain cliffs and folds, dazzling and maddening. I dropped down onto a bare boulder, panting heavily. Where is it coming from?

My ears twitched. I swiveled and dived.

Instead of obliterating the song, now the wind carried the voices clearly, pure and ethereal. I knew those voices better than I did my own. They called, rang, rode the wind like it was their second home. My heart rose into my throat.

Follow follow follow—THERE!

Looking down from above, hair whipping painfully in the roaring wind, I finally saw my dragons.

Nestled deep into a fold, high, high up in the mountains, lay a deep hollow in the rock, roughly circular and nearly the size of a football field. It looked almost like an amphitheater, or a below-ground Coliseum. Trees surrounded its sloped sides and hung from the edges. The inside was bare and dry, only rock and more rock that you couldn’t see for the dragons.

My dragons. Safe. Crammed side by side, tails and talons and wings. Singing.

Mid-spring is the one celebration dragons have. I don’t even know if it qualifies as a ‘celebration’—at least, not the way we think of it. One specific day of spring, each year, without fail, all the dragons somehow collectively ‘know’ it’s time. They gather in the safest places they can; high, echoey places like mountaintops and wide, sunlit clearings and valleys where the cliffs loom, tall and protecting.

This is the celebration that I had stumbled upon. Every single dragon in my wylde sat in a circle, so tightly packed that only a few feet separated each individual. They sat on their hind legs and stretched their necks to the sky. Eyes closed, jaws agape. Peaceful, yet strong and somehow sacred.

I spiraled down a bit quicker than is strictly good for me and—thump!—landed at the edge of the circle. The sudden influx of sound jarred and disoriented me for a moment, but I quickly shook my head and searched for the ones that I considered really mine.

On the low-hanging trees crouched the Terrible Terrors and the near-invisible Flickerwings, voices all humming light and piercing stars. Spark howled proudly, nestled in with his fellows. Flicker—I couldn’t see him, but somehow I knew he was there.

The thicker cram of large riding dragons was impossible to see through. I took a deep breath and marched into the thick of it.

Well, I say marched. Better to say I wiggled and squirmed and shimmied. Dragons get touchy if you bother them while singing, and with only foot-wide paths this posed a slight problem. 

Every so often, a dragon would break off from the pulsing, wordless song to roar at the heavens. “Ayuk-kijaiyah! Ayuk-kijaiyae! Ayuk-kijaiyah-kijaiyae-kijaiyah! Ayuk-kijaiyae!” A couple of the others would join in, and then they’d go back to singing again, effortlessly slipping back into the stream of sound. The song shook the ground and the air, and for all its beauty it made walking in a straight line very difficult.

At last I caught a glimpse of two familiar heads and gratefully made my way over to them. Shadow and Oak stood side by side. I slipped between them, relieved. Safe

Neither seemed to notice I was there.

“Why are you singing?” I asked. Dragons were still missing; hunters still stalked our woods. The last thing they should be doing is making noise or drawing attention to themselves. And yet, here they were, singing for what felt like quite literally the entire world to hear.

Why weren’t they hiding?

Shadow didn’t open her eyes or break her song, but Oak dropped back down to all fours and dipped his head level with mine. Something about the warm, wise glint in his eye made me feel small and very much a child.

“The reason all creatures sing,” he rumbled. “We sing for the gift of life and freedom, and for creation and our home. We sing for our King.”

The words shook the air and made my ears twitch. Something shifted inside, and I blinked. “Oh.”

“Join us.” Oak curled his lips in a dragon’s smile and rose to sing once more.

I looked up at the sky and listened. The leaves edged my vision and the clouds almost seemed to swirl. The usual vertigo of looking straight up while standing, but instead of disorienting, this time it felt somehow wondrous.

A fire swelled from below and rose and rose. I breathed deep and the fire glowed.

“Ayuk-kijaiyah!” I roared. “Ayuk-kijaiyae! Ayuk-kijaiyah-kijaiyae-kijaiyah! Ayuk-kijaiyae!”

The echoes rang through the air and through the trees until the air tasted of happiness and the earth thrummed with joy.

Ayuk-kijaiyah! Ayuk-kijaiyae! Ayuk-kijaiyah-kijaiyae-kijaiyah!

Ayuk-kijaiyae!

 
Flitt's picture
Flitt
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 03/05/2019
Welcome back!

Such a beautiful chapter! Such beautiful writing!

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
Ty!

Thanks! I enjoyed imagining it.

Solveig the Fair's picture
Solveig the Fair
Offline
Berk's Power Player
Joined: 03/25/2020
Singing is indeed good for you

I love the imagery and hope in this chapter!

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
I friggen love music

Thanks! This scene has been in my head since the beginning :) It's nice to hit a milestone!

Slargvarg's picture
Slargvarg
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 07/18/2020
Never fear, for Blobby's here!

Amazing chapter!  It seems like this is pretty much the first time Ness has been really happy since the warehouse 0.o

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
I just saw your signature! You too??? 8D

I hadn't thought of it like that, but you're right! Nothing to cheer you up like a flash mob of singing dragons XD thanks for reading!

FireninjaHUN's picture
FireninjaHUN
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 01/12/2021
Tracking!!!

Its a very good story!

__________________

 

Welcome to my Siggy!

 

 

 

 

I accept art requests! PM me if you want one!

 

About me(In game):

 

Name: szonjatheheroTheHelpful

Level: 50

Main dragons: Jay the titan Stormcutter, Harumi the titan Rumblehorn and Harumi the titan M. Nightmare

Clan: Isle of Gazoo

(Amazing banner by Emlaisse!)

UDT points: 170 000+

Friendcode: GNEMQQ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About meeeeee(Real life):

 

Name: Fire

Age: Between 10 and 20

Country: Hungary

Games i play whit: SoD, Dragons: Titan Uprising,  Wildcraft, Stardew valley

Fav colours: Red, blue and green

Fav films: Avatar, HTTYD trilogy

Fav series: Ninjago, Dragons: The Nine Realms, Game of Thrones

 

Szonja and Lloyd drawed by the amazing NewFlight! Thanks!

 

 

 

You can find me on DeviantArt, Tumblr and Instagram!

Discord: FireninjaHUN#0649

Profile pic by Toothy! Thanks!

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
Hello!

Thank you! And welcome :D

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
Hunt them dooowwwwn! >:D

After the ‘celebration’—they call it something similar to ‘the praise-song’, but it’s kinda hard to find a good way to translate it—the dread settled somewhat, but fear still stilled my breath on the few occasions a rider would accidentally approach me from behind. For some reason, I didn’t have that problem with the girls (Arda included). Didn’t know why, but I was glad. If I accidentally hurt one of them, I would never forgive myself.

The hunters had lay low for a while after the dragons burned down their base; only a hint of them once a week, and they held tightly to their guns.

They had learned to be afraid.

I couldn’t quite shake the feeling of always being watched, a ridiculous amount of relief flooded my chest every time the riders learned new moves, and the Flickerwings were never more than a quick shout away. But now the hunters had a taste of what that kind of paranoia was like.

Good.

That paranoia was...not unfounded.

(Silent breaths. Hidden wings. A cracking twig. Gun muzzle, blurred jump, scream, back into the shadows.)

Flame (oh, I knew that girl would be trouble) (can I call her a girl if she’s older than me?) romped around happily and very noisily through the newly green, still growing, not nearly thick enough undergrowth. Her dragon did nothing to curb her very, erm...enthusiastic singing. She wore a bright orange shirt that clashed with her hair.

...she was technically an adult, right?

My ears twitched as I watched her with no small amount of bemusement. The vibrations from her singing and her dragons’ stomping almost covered up the high-pitched buzzing of Flicker darting in to perch on my shoulder.

“Hello there,” I greeted absently, still half-focused on Flame’s one-woman rendition of The Greatest Show.

Flicker had no such distractions. “Hunters! Close, close!”

What. “Show me now.

He did, and I took care of it.

(Silent rustlings, flexing wings. Pounce, break, win.)

I returned to my post, hunters cowed, guns and maybe a couple bones broken, heart still beating abnormally fast, wings twitching with slowly settling nerves.

Flame was still singing.

“She has a very strong voice,” Flicker hummed appreciatively.

Yes, yes she did. And used for dragonish parodies of Reindeer Are Better Than People, apparently.

I waited for her to get to the last line—dooon’t let the frostbiiiite, biiiiiite—before flipping upside-down on my hidden perch and calling out, “Nice duet!”

She jumped and shrieked. Flicker and Springer (ninjadragon, this is a placeholder, whatever name you would like her Deadly Nadder to be can be edited in) laughed in their signature dragonish squeaks and squawks.

“Oh, it’s you,” she blinked. Her fists lowered from their defensive position near her chin.

“Nice stance,” I complimented, flipping down onto the grass. “Good to see those classes coming along.”

Flame shrugged. Then she took a good look at me and her eyes widened. An arm jerked forward in an aborted gesture. “Ness! You’re bleeding!”

“Am I?” I followed her gaze and wiped at my hairline. My hand came away with sticky red. “Oh. Thought that was sweat.”

“Are you okay? Did you hit your head?”

Jeez, Flame worried worse than Arda and Miss Ellen. And they knew about the warehouse. “I’m fine. Must’ve run into a tree branch or something.” I caught her expression and scowled fiercely. “I’m fine. Head wounds always bleed a lot. They are dramatic little frauds that way.” A few more swipes and most of the blood came off and got deposited negligently into the grass. “See? All good.” My heartbeat had returned to normal, and my wings, though tense, didn’t twitch.

Flame bit her lip and looked me all over, then sighed and leaned back against Springer. Springer, who knew full well what was going on, squawked gratefully. When your human is bouncing along belting Disney to the wider world, there’s not a lot you can do to sense danger.

“Well, I got a bloody nose from running face-first into a glass door, so I guess I can’t talk about being clumsy.”

I laughed and leaped back up onto my branch. Flicker buzzed urgently at my neck. “Good. Stay safe, be aware of your surroundings, and maybe try some Moana next!” I scrambled further into the tree and jumped to the next one, Flame’s playful shout echoing behind me.

“More hunters,” Flicker chirred softly.

I stiffened. That couldn’t be right. I already took care of them. One team, I should be done for the day. Maybe even the week. “What do you mean, more?

“More hunters,” Flicker repeated. “South and west then up-down-up.”

It took a second for me to register the dragonish directions (south-west, in one of the lower folds), and another to remember the intricate network of Flickerwings and even Terrible Terrors that linked all the dragon territories together. Convenient, but mildly spooky. If Flicker hadn’t assured me that they spoke, I would have assumed it all came from a hive mind.

“Guns?”

“Guns,” he confirmed.

I debated my options briefly, then decided against asking for a ride and shimmied up my current tree. Gathered myself, breathed, leaped off and pushed into the air. I was stronger now, almost back to the level I’d been before the warehouse. Still, flying in shallow air is always a struggle when you’re larger than the average sparrow.

Flicker didn’t direct me—the wind dampens a lot of the noises Flickerwings make to communicate—but clutched rather painfully to the nape of my neck.

“Flicker! I have hair back there, it hurts!”

“But it’s so soft!”

Dragons.

I got near enough to the location that it was no longer safe to fly and dropped onto grass. My heartbeat steadily rose into danger mode as I crept through the underbrush. Slow, steady. Too fast and my scales and quiet feet wouldn’t do anything to hide me.

 I tilted my ears towards Flicker and whispered, “Are we clo—”

A wailing cry, deep and desperate.

A dragon’s cry.

“No!” I lunged forward, stealth forgotten. Get to my dragon get to my dragon get them get them help them help them—

Protect!

More roars and anguished cries. Now I could hear the stamp of smaller feet, shouts and the quieter crack of a muffled gun.

NO!

Gradually, the noises died down. I forced myself to slow down and creep forward. No sense in giving away my position. I peered around a large tree trunk and froze.

A teenage Mountainous Stormtail and a smaller Deadly Nadder lay on their sides, eyes closed. For one heart-stopping moment, all I could see was Ammil and—

Their chests moved. Alive. Oh, thank everything.

“Alright! Get them loaded up!”

Hunters, with dart rifles and heavy backpacks and camo, swarmed over my dragons’ bodies. My lips peeled back in a snarl. That’s not for you.

“Hurry up! We don’t want to deal with Cryptie.”

“Eh, all we gotta do is shoot her. What’s the big deal?”

“What’s wrong with him?”

“It’s his first time.”

“Oh, that would do it.” 

“Listen, Steve, it’s hard to shoot something that steals your gun before you even know it’s there.”

“Not to mention the slicing.”

“Oh, yeah. Those sting like @*!&%$!”

I watched, near incandescent with rage, as they expertly tied up my dragons and worked them onto a sturdy-looking tarp.

“We gotta carry that all the way back? Why not just bring up the trucks?”

“Because, Steve, we don’t want Cryptie to blow us all up, and giving her the chance to take down a gasoline-fueled vehicle isn’t the way to go about it.”

“No way she could blow stuff up.”

“Are you kidding? Didn’t you hear about warehouse two? Everything there is gone.”

Warehouse two.

There’s...more than one?

“Freak fire.”

“Right, a freak fire where everyone miraculously survived with nothing but scratches, and no bones or organic remains found anywhere.”

“I’m telling you, there’s no way she’s real. A hallucination, or a hoax—”

“And I’m telling you, listen to the guys who’ve been here longer than a week, yeah? You’re hunting dragons. Weirder things have happened.”

The hunter called Steve pulled a face and hefted his rope.

They’re leaving!

Possibilities chased each other around and around. Leave follow stay burn—

Burn?

No, no one near. Leave follow stay stop fight follow—

Follow. Flicker!

“Flicker,” I murmured, so softly the Dragontongue purred in my throat. “Can you follow them? Follow the hunters, find the cages, and tell me where they are?” I hated to ask this. Hated what might be sacrificed.

But I hated caged dragons more.

Flicker crept onto my shoulder. His little breaths prickled skin.

“If you don’t want to, that’s fine. I can find another way.” Maybe go myself? Too big, too clumsy, too scared—

“No.” Flicker’s form trembled slightly, but his voice keened strong. “I can go. Find our kin. Find the cages, come home.”

“Thank you,” I breathed.

Flicker buzzed an affectionate goodbye and darted into the air, hummingbird wings squealing softly. His blurred body latched onto one of the ropes, and as quickly as he’d leaped he disappeared into the tarp.

The hunters heaved, the tarps and dragons rose, and the entourage was off. I watched them until the undergrowth clouded their figures and they were gone.

“Good luck,” I breathed. Please don’t die.

Flitt's picture
Flitt
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 03/05/2019
*yeeks in*

AaaaahhhHHHHHHHH, nooo! Don't you DARE, Hunters! >:0

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
Burn them out!

Flicker didn’t die. He did, however, take until the next morning to get back, and during that time I couldn’t settle. I paced and growled and fidgeted and avoided other humans like they were the bubonic plague. I didn’t even visit the girls. I didn’t want to take out my anxiety on them.

    Shadow tried to comfort me, until I explained to her what was happening. Then she paced along right with me, grumbling under her breath.

    Alerted by a worried Spark, Oak lumbered to where we both sat, weary and agitated. He sat back on his haunches and cocked his head at us, amused.

    I crossed my arms and huffed. Suddenly, I realized how very young Shadow and I must look to the old, grizzled dragon, and hastily uncrossed them again. “What? Flicker’s my dragon. I’m allowed to worry.”

    Spark squeaked his sympathy and scuttled into my arms, a sturdy, oversized heated stress ball. I squeezed appropriately.

    “How do you not worry?” I asked Oak. If anyone knew how, he did.

    “When you first came, I worried,” Oak said calmly. “When Miss Amy came, I worried. When the girls came, I worried. When the hunters came, I worried. When I sent you after the hunters, I worried.”

    I winced. It had been terrifying, but looking back…”I was fine. A little shaken up, but ready.”

    “And so is Flicker. He may be small, but he is competent. Trust him to do what Flickerwings do best.”

    Hide. Stalk. Listen. “But what if they catch him?”

    Either Oak ignored the shake in my voice, or it meant something different to dragons. “Then they catch him. Nothing you can do.”

    I gripped my head and squeezed my eyes shut. “That’s what I’m afraid of!”

    In the darkness behind my eyelids, I heard Oak and Shadow shift to crouch near me. Spark licked my cheek with a flickering tongue.

    “Listen to me, young one.”

    I didn’t open my eyes, but my ears pricked towards him.

    “Nothing will ever take away your worry. Parent, alpha, rider, dragon, anyone who performs the role of a guardian will worry. It shows you are willing to be what they need. It is as necessary as it is cruel. Trust that.”

    I breathed out a sigh. My wings came down from their comforting cocoon and slumped on the grass. Cruel and blunt as it was, Oak told the truth.

    And he was right. Flicker returned, alive and eager and buzzing with fierce pride. “I found them! I found their cave!”

    “Good job, Flicker!” I held out my cupped palms and Flicker nuzzled into them. “How many hunters? Any dragons?”

    “Many hunters, but not too many. Many dragons, all in cages.” Flicker’s tail loosened its coil and his wings shivered. “I spoke to them. There were more, before...before.”

    So I was already too late for some. “We’ll get them out,” I promised. Those that were left. “In the meantime, you rest. You’ve traveled far, tiny one.”

    Flicker chrrred sleepily and flitted to the nape of my neck, where he snuggled into my hair. Ouch. Those snarls would be murder to get out later, but the little nanodragon deserved it.

    First, I called some more Flickerwings. Poor Flicker really had traveled far, especially for his tiny hummingbird wings. I told them to gather the ‘prime’ dragons at sunset, on the orders of the alpha, and sent them off to spread the word through their extensive network.

    Next, I woke Shadow. She came to slowly, grumbling softly, but jolted wide-awake when she caught Flicker’s scent fresh on me.

    “Yes, karach? She padded closer and nuzzled my shoulder.

    I leaned into her and pressed my cheek against rough scales. “How would you like to go flying tonight?”

 

    At sunset, I flew down and landed in front of my dragons. Not all of them were there, of course. Some were too young or too old to fit the ‘prime’ criterion, and others had young drakelings to look after. But all together, about twenty answered the call.

    I surveyed them, heart pounding. There’s no real way to get used to how deadly and beautiful dragons are. A few I was comfortable with, but the snakelike stares of twenty full-grown dragons, all fixed on me, made my palms sweat and my breath catch. Skrill, Mountainous Stormtail, Night Fury, Deadly Nadder, Northern Shortsnout, Monstrous Nightmare, Bronze Firescale, even a single glinting Frostfang, all listening to me.

I knew, objectively, that they wouldn’t hurt me, but one yawned and the orange light glinted off saliva and fangs and— 

Suddenly I felt very, very small.

“Dragons,” I said as confidently as I could. The clearing had already been quiet, but now the dragons stilled into absolute silence. Not even an ear twitched.

“Hunters stalk our borders. They have stolen dragons and keep them in cages.” Cruel and blunt and true. The dragons growled and bared their teeth unhappily. Some, whom I recognized from our stint in captivity, hunkered down and flattened their ears.

Even Oak. I swallowed.

“I and others destroyed one of the cage-caves. My nanodragon, Flicker, has found another.” Flicker peeked out slightly and fluttered his wings in pride. I stroked his squirmy body. “Flicker will take us there, and we can burn the hunters out and free our wylde.”

Green and orange and yellow eyes swam with a feral hate. The growls grew eager, hungry. Now instead of stillness wings stretched, feet shuffled, and tails swished.

If it had been the riders (which would never happen), I would have finished along the lines of, “Who’s with me?!” But these were dragons, my dragons, and the alpha does not have to ask.

“Come!” I roared, and they came.

I took off into the night, and my dragons followed. Flicker trilled the directions in my ear as I led our procession. The stars shone coldly down on us, and the wind had blown the clouds far away. Only darkness and the soft sounds of wingbeats. We spiraled high, high into the sky, like a shoal of flying fish, until Flicker pinpointed the correct location.

“Dive!” he squeaked gleefully, and I dove.

One by one, the dragons dropped down around me. Avenging shadows, vindictive nightmares. 

The hunters would never see it coming.

Flicker directed us south, almost to the border of the military base. An abandoned building hunched in the desert shrubbery. Smaller than the first warehouse and clearly used for more administrative purposes than storage, but still large enough to house a few cages.

Particularly if they squished.

I growled out a few quick instructions. Half the dragons (mostly Monstrous Nightmares and Bronze Firescales) melted into the surrounding landscape. The other half crept forward with me.

A single light shone from a window on the second story. I cocked my ears towards it, then dismissed it. I already knew what to do. Practice makes perfect, after all. 

“Get in, break down the cages,” I hissed lowly. “Collect all the humans and get them out.”

“Permission to kill?” asked a Skrill.

My breath stuttered as I whipped around.

The Skrill—is that? It is, it’s Orion’s dragon—did not blink, just stared with crocodilian eyes, yellow and bleak.

“No! Do not kill. No killing.” I shuddered. “Not humans, not dragons. Get everyone out before you flame.”

A few dragons grumbled darkly, but no one disputed my orders.

I turned back to our target and tried not to give in to hysterical laughter. A tiny Draconian, weak and small, nothing to back up my authority, and yet none of them would disobey me. Not even to save their own lives.

I hated this. I hated myself more.

We reached the large garage door that would lead to the cages. I stood back to let the largest dragons slink forward, ready to bust it down.

“On my mark,” I hissed. “One. Two.”

The dragons rumbled, hissing and crackling like lightning about to strike.

I flared my wings. “Go!”

 A ringing, splintering crash of metal, the thunderous shaking of the ground and walls, and the dragons screamed and tore through the empty doorway. A blur of fur and scales and snarling teeth blew past me. Their eerie, furious cries echoed the very human screams as they found their first victims.

I darted in after the rush and took it in as quickly as possible. Same cages, but half the room. The depressed figures of my lost dragons slumped behind the bars. Instead of a blank wall with doors, a thick sheet of glass separated the cages from the rest of the building. For observation, most likely. Three humans, two with some kind of baton and one with a lab coat, screamed and cowered as two angry dragons loomed over them.

A few dragons took one look at the glass and lunged forward. The window shattered, and they stormed through and towards the rest of the humans. Tails flickered dangerously behind them, and then they were gone. The distant sound of thumps and terrified screams were the only proof of their continued rampage.

I jumped, using my wings and the cages to propel me, until I hung from a large rafter. “Caged ones! We are here for you. Fight! Remember your spark! You can break your cages, and we will take you home!”

The caged dragons, dull and drooped, raised their heads. Ears pricked up, wings rustled. A few took hesitant steps towards 

I watched with bated breath as the light flickered in their eyes. “Yes! That’s it! Fight!”

One by two by three by five, the caged dragons rammed against the bars until the concrete crumbled and broke. Weakened as they were, they probably wouldn’t have been able to break through without the fresh dragons’ help.

The building shuddered. Dust fell from the ceiling. I froze. “Uh-oh.”

One last cage crumbled, and the once-caged dragons were free and fleeing. The fresh dragons, still full of unused rage, disappeared into the rest of the building. Only a few stayed behind, out of nervousness, maybe, but also to guard the three humans we’d found.

I swooped down—gosh, it’s so tricky flying indoors—and landed in front of our captives. All male; two with dark hair, one with blond. All terrified. Good.

“How many of you are there?” I demanded.

They looked at the ground, bravely mute.

I bit back a snarl. “I’m trying to make sure there’s no death toll, but if you’re too stubborn to make sure your friends get out safely…”

Three pairs of eyes widened. “Seven! Seven here!”

I nodded. Four to go, then. Kindergarten really paid off; the level of math I had to use was astounding.

“Take them outside and wait for my signal,” I ordered. “Then we’ll burn this place to the ground.”

The five dragons still left bowed their heads. Two took the humans on their claws and mouths, and they all squeezed their way through the smashed door.

The building shook harder. There was an audible groan as concrete scraped against metal.

I glanced at the glass window. My dragons were still here. I had to make sure they got out.

Over the glass, through a gaping hole in the wall, and up some ravaged stairs is where I found them. The last four humans lay curled on the ground. One looked unconscious, and all had bleeding scrapes and wild eyes, but they were alive.

Some of the dragons still raged. They tore in and out of the room, tearing through walls and clawing the floor.

“Get them out of here!” I yelled. “Get everyone out! The building is going to collapse!”

The only dragon who seemed to hear me was Oak; his head snapped up and green eyes pierced mine. Then he rose from his crouch, shook out his wings, and bugled my instructions at a much louder volume.

I almost wilted with relief when they all stopped breaking the walls inside and instead smashed a way to the outside. We collected the humans (I glared so hard one of them started crying) and leaped out the window.

The second the last dragon (Kalzar’s Tigress) was clear, I wheeled in the air and swooped over the warehouse. “Burn!” I roared.

The remaining dragons, secluded in the surrounding landscape, burst out with sadistic glee. Maws gaped open, jaws unhinged, and the beautiful glow of fire lit the back of their mouths.

    I flew higher into the night sky until I was out of their way. I found a decent air current and circled tightly, and dove down to where the humans huddled together. I landed in a crouch, rose, and watched the destruction.

    The dragons, fire-lit and vengeful, descended on the shuddering building. Huge serpentine bodies clung tightly, ripping chunks out of the already damaged structure and flaming everything they could touch. Brilliant orange flames bathed the scene with scorching heat. The black figures of the dragons swarmed around, still screeching and clawing and breathing fire.

    I glanced sidelong at the humans. They sat where they had been dumped, frozen even without a guard. Only one seemed to be able to tear her eyes away from the sight, mouth falling open as she saw me standing nearby.

    I moved in front of them, where the harsh light would turn me into a shadow and conceal my face. “Beautiful night, isn’t it?” I said conversationally.

    They whimpered.

    “The stars are very bright,” I continued. “And it’s not even cold. Well, for the middle of spring, I guess.”

    As the words fell from my lips, the humans’ wild faces grew wilder, their glassy eyes grew wider, and they pressed together until they looked like a cloth blob with seven little heads peeking out.

    I tilted my head. “But then again I stay warm a lot better than I used to. Are you cold?”

    One of the humans stood on shaky legs. “Stop! Stop it, stop it! You—you monster!” 

    I frowned. “‘Monster’ is a bit harsh. I’m taking care of my wylde. You stole them; I just came to take them back home.”

    She jabbed a finger behind her. “Look at this!” her voice trembled. “Look at what you’ve done!”

Beautiful orange-red tongues leaped thirstily from the crumbled structure, gasping for oxygen and throwing sparks to the stars. The dark, fearful silhouettes of swooping dragons weaved in and out of the shadows. Maleficent, magnificent.

I smiled, and my blood thrummed with dark flames. “I know.”

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
I'm back!

So, so sorry for the long wait. Let's just say life has been *crazy* and I haven't been really managing it well. But I think if I shift around a few things, I can make this work better. Anyway, here's the next bit! Hope you like it :)

 

Two bases down. Two. Based on the information gleaned from nervous hunters, only one to go. I could practically taste the victory coming. Soon all the hunters would fall and I would smash the guns and burn the needles and send them all away and all the territory would be mine mine mine and—

“Why are you smiling like the cat that got the canary? You look like Jafar.”

I choked on my spit and started coughing on laughs. Jafar? “No—reason!”

Conner walked over to Shadow and rubbed her head fondly. She growled her pleasure and nosed his hand to a better position. “Yeah, I missed you too. Sorry I’m late.”

I shrugged and leaped off the rock. The grass muffled the landing; a nice change from crunchy leaves and twigs. Softer on the knees, too. “You’re fine...Storm.”

Conner groaned. “Look, I said I was under a lot of pressure! It’s too late now, anyway, Dragoness.

“Eh, I didn’t choose it, so whatever.”

“Huh?”

I cocked my head. “You know your mom gave me my name, right? I just went along with it.”

“Wait, Mom named you?”

I blinked. Did she not tell him? “Well, yeah. Helped her with a skydiving trip gone wrong. First human I meet like this—” other than Lisa, so really more like the first human stranger—“and she gives me a cool name.” And a heart attack, but that would only hurt my street cred.

Conner stopped petting Shadow to stare at me incredulously. The wind blew some of his hair into his eyes, and he brushed it away irritably. “Mom—she almost?—she never—ugh.” He was quiet for a moment, and then—

“But it’s not your real name.”

Oh. Right. He’d met my family. He’d met Lisa. He’d been there when Lisa hugged me and called me—

“Ali. Alison? Right?”

I went rigid. The leaves looked beautiful this time of year. Late in the spring, they unfurled almost to their full length, and their still-pale translucency painted the light green.

“Why didn’t you correct mom when she called you Dragoness? You didn’t have to let her call you that.”

Welp. So much for ignoring him. Not that I really expected it to work. I sighed and forced myself to meet his eyes. Conner rarely asked questions out of spite or to make a point. He was just...curious.

I huffed a smile. “Nosy.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Touchy.”

He was still waiting. How to answer this? How did I explain?

After a few moments of opening and closing my mouth, I finally found the words. “This...dragon...thing. There’s a Before and an After. Lisa knew me from Before, so she can call me by that name. Because it’s from Before. Ness is After. I don’t—I can’t—it doesn’t feel right when they get mixed up. It doesn’t feel right when you say Ali, or if my mom called me Ness. They’re...different. The same, I guess. I’m still me.” I think. “But different.”

I risked a peek up from my toes. “Does that make sense?”

“Not...really.” Conner grimaced. “Sorry. Might take me a while to figure out.”

“Yeah, no, that’s okay. I’m not really good at explaining things.” Somehow what I wanted to say got lost on the way from my brain to my mouth. By the time the words made it out, the message was gone.

“I still think it’s on the nose.”

What?

Conner saw my confusion and hastily elaborated. “‘Dragoness’ literally just means ‘female dragon.’ You’re not even a dragon.”

I flexed my wings pointedly. “Close enough. And it’s not like I go around saying, ‘oh, hey, I’m the Dragoness.’”

Shadow perked her ears. “Yes you do!”

Conner snickered.

I pointed at the traitor. “Oi. Not helping.”

Shadow ducked her head playfully and pushed Conner in front of her body; a literal human shield. “Save me!”

“Hey!” he protested. 

I just shook my head in amusement. “You can stay here and play keep-away if you want. Ooorrr you can come with me and use that cloud cover to go flying.” I pointed south, where a few heavy cumulus clouds drifted close to the peaks.

Blue and green eyes grew round. “For real?” Conner breathed. “Finally!”

Ever since I’d gotten back, I’d tightened up the rules as to when riders were allowed to fly. The dragons I trusted to be cautious; it was their lives on the line, after all. But the riders didn’t know, and even if they did they would make stupid decisions (I only trusted three of them to make the smart choice, and one was a literal twelve-year-old). So you can imagine how antsy some of the more adventurous ones had become.

It took only fifteen minutes of riding and running to reach the cover. The trees were thinner, this high up, and when I looked up instead of leaves I could actually see the sky, yawning with clouds and wind.

A sudden faint beating of wings came from a ways ahead, and an elegant Bronze Firescale leapt into the air and spiraled up into the sky.

“Hey, we’re not the only ones this time!” Conner called. It was my turn to run. Lucky Conner got to rest on Shadow’s back.

I snorted. “We’re never the only ones. You just never notice.”

“Not true!” he shouted back.

Whatever counterarguments I had fell to the wayside as we finally crested the final hill. With a gleeful shout, Conner gripped Shadow’s back with his forearms and thighs as she stretched, bunched, and jumped.

I waited for the downdraft to settle before launching myself after her, laughing. Yes, laughing isn’t exactly conducive to getting enough breath, which is an absolute must while flying, but it was near impossible not to. Flying is such a precious joy, you can’t not be giddy.

Shadow-and-Conner pulled an expert turn and rocketed past me. Oh, the chase was on.

The clouds towered higher and spread out farther than normal, and the twisting air currents created a cacophony of twisting mists and roaring tunnels. The perfect playground.

Shadow-and-Conner and I darted through the currents, letting the wind fill our wings until they were tight, swooping over and under the thicker mists, riding  an updraft until we stalled and fell back down with a whoop and a laugh.

Free.

I found a large, relatively slow current and rode it over a chunk of racing white while I caught my breath. Oh, how I’d missed this.

The sky was blue. Not your average blue, but an eye-aching shade that should not possibly exist. Twisting, feathery trails of cirrus arched overhead like the branches of a tree, and the clouds spread out to the left and right and down and up like mountains and valleys of mist. The sun lit everything with brilliant brightness.

Free.

The blurred, tumbled edges of the clouds raced below me. I looked up and squinted through the light and wind. Far away, dark jagged shapes trailed like a dragon’s spine, pointing down with the slope of the earth. More mountains, leading...somewhere.

Go.

My heart leaped with a sensation I had never really felt before. Speeding along on the cloud, wings full and tight, mountains stretching out to the horizon; it was all so familiar and perfect and right.

“Ness, we have to get back before the cloud cover gets too far away!”

“Dragoness!”

What did the other mountains look like? I had never been; my territory stretched to the north and the east, not the south.

Go.

Karach! We need to go home!”

What would happen if I decided to follow the curve of the horizon, and then just...didn’t stop?

Go!

“Ness!”

I let out one soft, longing cry before swinging around to fly back north. 

Stay.

 

“Ness! Ness, wake up!”

I blinked blearily as I tried to orient myself. Something warm and soft piled around me...blankets. Yes. I was in bed. It was nighttime, unless the sun suddenly decided to get duller and more silvery. Something was buzzing in my ear.

“Ness!”

“Flicker?” I squinted down at the tiny dragon. He was so tiny. So invisible. So cute.

“There are humans in the territories!”

I yawned and then stared at Flicker in confusion. “...and? Campers are welcome. They mean no harm.”

“No, these ones are awake! And they are coming in, coming to the nests!”

All the warm, sleepy fuzzies immediately cleared. My eyes snapped into focus. I carefully picked the nanodragon up and deposited him on my shoulder. “Show me.”

I didn’t even strap on my bracers. Flicker directed me down the mountain as quickly as I could follow, swooping down to just out of the dusty foothills, where the trees grew short and thin.

“Here.” Flicker darted from my shoulder and hovered over a branch. I landed next to him, much less graceful and much less quiet.

Sure enough, the tell-tale snap of twigs and heavy breaths twisted from the darkened undergrowth. One, two, three...nope, four. Four people, all hiking in the middle of the night on a straight course into my territory. Why?

“Go get help,” I whispered. “Oak or a Mountainous Stormtail or a Skrill. Just in case.”

“Be safe,” Flicker buzzed, and darted away.

Not even five seconds after Flicker left, the sources of the frankly embarrassing amount of noise puffed their way into view. Even with my dragonish eyesight and the moonlight streaming down, it was difficult to see more than figures in the darkened trees.

One man, three women, one of whom looked a little too small to be called a woman. Maybe one older woman and two young adults. The older woman, despite sounding very out-of-breath, let out a steady stream of comments that the younger two tried to quell.

“I can’t believe this. My own children joined a gang.”

“Mom, it’s not a gang, it’s—”

“What else would you call it? We’re hiking in the woods in the middle of the night!”

“Because you wouldn’t wait until morning.”

“You’re overreacting, Mom, seriously, it’s nothing like what you think.”

Okay, make that a mother and her two teenagers, who had clearly gotten into something they shouldn’t have. Poor young souls. Nothing could save them from that.

“Right. Sure. I’ll believe the ones who have been lying to my face for months.”

“Sweetheart, love of my life, maybe keep the volume level down? We’re in the middle of the woods at night.”

“We’ll be fine, Dad.”

“If you’re telling the truth, I don’t think we will.”

“No, really, they’re super nice! We’re not making any of this up!”

“Ha.”

Mom. We’re not lying. When we get there, you’ll see.”

But their voices sounded familiar. Had I heard them before? Maybe.

The family moved into a patch of moonlight. I could see their faces now! Except none of them looked familiar. Their movements were tired and jerky, and none of their silhouettes particularly stood out. The moonlight washed out most of the color on their drawn, frustrated faces, and the shapes of their cheekbones were thrown into stark contrast with the rest of their faces. Well, the younger one didn’t really have cheekbones, but the concept was the same. I could see them, but I couldn’t really see them.

They all wore jackets tied around their waists, except for the man, who hunched into his collar and kept his hands in his pockets. Maybe he was embarrassed by how hard he was breathing.

“Whoa, Dad, you look like a tomato.”

Indeed, the man was flushed with perspiration. But he just shrugged and made no move to take off his jacket, eyes flicking nervously around the trees.

The older woman—presumably his wife—glanced back and frowned. “Jerry! You’re sweating like a pig, just take it off!”

Jerry glanced around one last time. Then, woodenly, he took it off and tied it loosely around the waist. 

I didn’t pay attention to the familiar voices. I didn’t pay attention to the nervous expressions. All I could focus on were the two long, angry scars, side by side on his left forearm. I knew those marks.

One.

Two.

I saw red. Three strikes and you’re out.

My chest trembled with the effort of keeping my growls quiet. How dare he. How dare he? Did he think bringing innocents would save him? They would no more keep him safe than the guns he’d brought, when he tried to capture my dragons.

I stalked them with a quiet savagery. The two girls (they seemed so familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it, and anyway they weren’t important) seemed to lead the group, taking them deeper and deeper into my territory. Jerry twitched and glanced around every so often. He could sense, with the certain fear of the prey, that he was being hunted.

Good.

Jerry’s shoelaces tangled on a bush. He tore his foot hastily away, but twigs remained stuck on his shoe. Leaves threatened to invade his socks.

“You do know how to tie your shoes, right?” his wife asked dubiously.

Jerry wiped the nervous sweat off his forehead and glanced around at the surrounding trees. I stayed perfectly still.

“Just go on ahead,” he sighed. “I’ll catch up.”

The girls glanced around, less nervous than their father but no less thorough. “You sure, Dad?” the younger one asked. “It’s not really...safe here.”

That was an understatement.

Their mother looked irritated. Poor woman. “Then why do you—you know what? I’ll deal with this later.” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “You two take me to wherever it is that you meet up with your little friends, and you clean your shoes. And for goodness’ sake please tie your shoes this time?”

 Jerry sighed and nodded, waving the women on. They disappeared in a shower of leaves and crackling footsteps. Then even their heavy treads faded away until the night crept in with insidious silence. In the dark and quiet, Jerry’s face shone pale and his loud, heavy breathing echoed fearfully through the trees.

A slow, predatory smile stretched across my face.

He was alone.

Finally.

I leaped down from my perch, wings outstretched, like an owl on a mouse. Jerry mangled a strangled cry before my hands gripped his shoulders and I slammed him against the tree trunk. He scrabbled at the bark, eyes wide.

I snarled with rage. “You.

“P-please!” he begged, almost yelling. “Don’t kill me.”

I let my second eyelids blink slowly. “Oh, I think you’ll wish I did.”

I dimly heard the soft pounding of three pairs of feet, the frightened gasps. They didn’t cut through the haze of rage.

“Let him go!”

“What is that?!”

“Ness, STOP!”

That did it. My attention snapped over to the three. The older woman, presumably the mother, covered her mouth with horror. The other two looked no less horrified, but instead of the surprise and uncertainty I was expecting, there was a certain assuredness in their squared stances.

“Ness, let him go!” ordered the smallest one.

Her voice, her voice was so familiar, why was it so familiar? And how did she know my name?

“Listen to them,” Jerry stuttered. “Please, let me go—”

Wrong move. “You thought they’d protect you, didn’t you?” I hissed, attention firmly back on him. “Thought if you came with a shield, I wouldn’t find you.” My tail drifted up and traced his scars. “Strike one. Strike two.” I tilted my head slowly and reveled in his terrified pants. “Why on earth would you risk strike three?”

“Ness, it’s not his fault, we brought him here—”

“He’s our dad!”

I suddenly realized who the two girls were. The stances, the hair, the voices. I loosened my grip, lowered my wings, and glanced over. “Dawn? Dusk?”

They nodded. Dawn’s cheeks glinted with tears. Gosh, I hadn’t seen their faces in months. I could only recognize most of my riders because of their masks. 

“Your dad?” This was too much. “You’re telling me your dad is one of those-those monsters.”

He’s a monster?” their mother shrilled.

“Ness, what do you mean?” Dusk stepped forward cautiously, eyes flickering from me to her father.

He knows.” I stepped back, but kept my tail raised; a blatant threat. “Tell them.”

“W-what?”

“Tell them how you got those scars.”

Jerry glanced from me to his family. “Don’t hurt them.”

A fellow protector. On some level, I could respect that about him. I pulled in my wings. “I wouldn’t hurt them. Your wife is innocent, and Dawn and Dusk are friends.”

“Dawn and Dus—”

“Code names. To protect them. From people like you.”

“And you’re still trying to tell me this isn’t a gang?” their mother muttered. Okay, so she probably wouldn’t be contributing anything relevant to the conversation.

“Well?” I arched my brow and twitched my tail. “Why don’t you tell them how you took a certain job with a certain organization as a hunter? Why don’t you tell them how I caught you not once, but twice, sneaking around my territories and trying to take dragons? Why don’t you tell your daughters exactly what your little work buddies do to my dragons? Why don’t you tell them the punishment for strike number three?”

Absolute silence.

“I’m not one of them anymore,” Jerry whispered. “The Boss kicked me off once I hit strike two.”

“At least he learns,” I said sourly. “What with what happened to Malcolm.”

Jerry shuddered.

“Dad’s a dragon hunter?” Dawn whispered.

Dusk asked the more pertinent question. “There are dragon hunters?

I clenched my fists. “Now you know why I like those self-defense classes so much.”

“They talked about you,” Jerry whispered. “Half the researchers think you don’t exist.”

“Oh, they know now,” I said darkly. “You’re lucky you got out when you did.”

Four faces paled. 

“Oh, sweet glory,” their mother breathed. “My children joined up with terrorists.”

“You killed them?” Dusk’s breath hitched. Her hands were shaking.

I scoffed and began to pace. “Of course I didn’t!” I could feel the sisters’ eyes on me, eyes that prickled with fear and judgement, shocked by the darker side they’d never seen. “Unlike your people, I. Don’t. Kill. Don’t think I’ve forgotten the incident with Co-Storm. Your little friends held him at gunpoint. The dragons haven’t forgotten either, and they are quite fond of him. In fact, I can assure you that the only thing between your hunters and a quick and bloody death is me.” 

I finally stopped pacing and let my tail droop. “Dragons are animals. Intelligent animals, but animals. Any animal will kill if provoked, to defend itself and its pack. But I am the alpha; as long as I say no, they won’t kill.” And I haven’t said yes yet.

“Does this mean you would have killed my family?”

I whirled. The mother had her fingers curled into fists. I vividly remembered when Miss Ellen had socked me in the dark alleyway. Beware the wrath of a loving mother.

“I don’t think you understand,” I snapped. “Dragons are wild animals. They’re fast and strong and they hunt to survive. It’s not a question of murder to them, it’s a matter of survival and Law. They don’t attack unprovoked because it’s just plain stupid, and they don’t hurt children because it’s against the Law. They fight back when their lives and their territory is threatened.”

The mother inhaled and I cut her off with a slash of my hand. “No, you listen to me! When I ask my dragons to not kill the hunters, I am literally telling them to go against every survival instinct they have, and they do it. They will not kill, they will let themselves be killed because I said so!

I struggled to rein myself back in, calm my ragged, heavy breathing. “So, no, I would not have killed your family. My dragons would have ignored your daughters and slaughtered their aggressors. Since I would rather not have vengeful idiots coming again and again to poke the hornets’ nest and keep getting themselves killed, I help the dragons fight the hunters—nonlethally—and keep track of how many times they attack so we can discourage repeat offenders.”

“But who’s…” Dawn trailed off, still clutching her sister’s arm. The two looked faintly ill. An understandable reaction to having multiple assumptions of your worldview shattered.

Who to believe indeed. I bit my lip and took a step back.

Jerry curled on himself where he braced his weight against a tree. Dawn and Dusk stood apart from their parents, eyes flicking back from their mother to Jerry to me. Their mother stood away from her daughters and her husband, simmering anger in her eyes as she stared me down. A fractured family, with broken trust and broken faith.

A queasy feeling curled from my stomach and looped around my throat. I did this. Maybe not intentionally, but that didn’t change anything, did it?

I swallowed hard and glanced at the sisters. D’arvit, I wished they had their masks on. “Look, it seems like you’ve got some...issues, to work out right now. Stay, leave, take a break, whatever you decide I’ll understand, okay? Just—“ I rubbed my forehead and sighed. Gosh, my head hurt. “If you decide you don’t want to have anything to do with this anymore, at least say goodbye to Lila and Mae? Please? They deserve to—“ I cut myself off with a shake of my wings and turned to go. “Whatever you decide.” How am I going to explain this to the others?

I was only a few steps into the trees when Jerry’s hoarse voice spoke from behind me. “Thanks, Cryptie.”

I stopped short. Every muscle in my body went eerily still.

Slowly, I rotated, struggling to keep my face a neutral mask. The shadows around the family seemed darker, longer.

“I don’t ever,” I whispered, “want to hear you call me that again. I am not a Cryptie, or a thing, or an it. I am a person, and my name is Ness.”

Great, my tail was twitching again. I whirled and stalked off, not even caring about the bushes that tore at my skin.

 
Solveig the Fair's picture
Solveig the Fair
Offline
Berk's Power Player
Joined: 03/25/2020
:0

Wow. Just... wow. There's so much in that one chapter... I don't even have the words to describe it all

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
>:D

Yes, this is a busy chapter, isn't it? Poor Ness is going to have a rough time of it, and it's only going to get worse from here.

Flitt's picture
Flitt
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 03/05/2019
*Yeeks in*

Freedommmm!!! Ohhhh, I could feel this chapter The freedom, and the rage 0_0

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
*drags blue paint over face* FREEDOM!!!!

Yes yes yesssss

There's a line I'm going to be sticking in the fic somewhere because I was SO proud of myself when I came up with it: "There are some things that make you more of what you are. But then there are some things that carve you out and leave a cavern. Your joy grows wings, your rage grows claws." I get chills every time I imagine it. Ness is ANGRY >8)

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
Breaking News: Jackson Hail Is A Huge Troll

Three days later, I had finally cooled down from the encounter with stupid Jerry and his significantly superior offspring. Unfortunately, there weren’t many ways I could work off my aggression. The hunters had been even quieter since I destroyed their second base, and it wasn’t like I was about to pick a fight with innocent picnickers. I also didn’t want to step on any of the riders’ toes (anymore than I already did as the alpha to the dragons and their unofficial leader), so most of that time was spent angrily ranting to Shadow and Spark as I wore a furrow into the ground with my pacing.

And no, Spark, I was not sulking, absolutely not.

Conner could tell something was wrong. He was good at that, even if he never knew why. He was almost as perceptive as Hail, except I could trust Hail to never press.

Conner, on the other hand…

“You’ve been off,” Conner said bluntly. “Even more than usual. What’s going on?”

I flopped over from where I’d been sunning on a rock and gave him the evil eye. “And hello to you, too. Lovely weather we’re having.”

Conner looked up to the sky, and then back down at me. Shadow, the traitor, pranced over and nudged at him forcefully until he petted her nose.

I closed my eyes. I didn’t exactly want to get him caught up in the darker side...but he already kind of was. He knew there were hunters, he knew about Marking, he knew there were other riders, and he knew that I’d had some kind of run-in with the hunters during my time ‘away.’ If anyone had the context to understand, it would be him.

And keeping so many things pent up inside made me fidgety and anxious. It was so exhausting being on edge all the time.

I sighed and pulled myself into a crosslegged position. “I ran into Dawn and Dusk a few days ago.”

Conner blinked, surprised. He clearly didn’t expect me to answer. Well, today was his lucky day.

“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked tentatively.

“What do you think I’m doing, nosy?” I said sharply. Then I cringed. “No, wait, sorry, it’s not you. Sorry. Didn’t mean that.”

Conner tilted his head in an eerily familiar way before sitting down next to me. Shadow huffed, but she understood that it was time for serious talk, so she curled around us and rested her head on her forelegs, watchful eyes flicking back and forth.

“You ran into Dawn and Dusk?” he prompted.

“Um, yeah. Flicker woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me that a group of humans were marching directly into dragon territory. Normally I wouldn’t worry, but…”

“Better safe than sorry,” Conner nodded. “Go on.”

“Yeah. So I got up and went to check, and it was just these parents with their kids, and I thought it was a false alarm. But the dad, when he took off his sweater. He--he had one of my marks on his forearm.”

To his credit, Conner barely reacted. Just a slight flicker in his eyes and a subtle tension in his shoulders.

I dragged my wings around my shoulders and hugged my knees to my chest. “So when he fell behind, I confronted him. His family heard and came back, and lo and behold, the kids are Dawn and Dusk.”

“The Flickerwings didn’t recognize them?”

I shrugged. “They tend to look for the masks nowadays. Telling humans apart is as tricky for them as telling dragons apart is for us.”

“Oh.” He bit his lip. “So then what were they doing in the woods without their masks?”

Oh. “They didn’t know he was a hunter,” I assured him. “Their parents found out a little bit about the dragon riders and thought they’d joined some cult. Dawn and Dusk were coming to prove them wrong.”

“Well, I mean, if the boot fits…”

“No! Bad Conner!” I swatted his shoulder and he had the audacity to laugh. “Not a cult!”

“Of course not.” He was still laughing, the brat.

Anyway, yeah, didn’t work out so well. I ended up going off on a rant about hunters and dragons, and the creepy demon in the woods definitely didn’t help either of their cases. Long story short, they’re taking a break while they sort things out at home.”

Conner sobered. “What did you do to the hunter?”

“Scared him, mostly. Really thought he was going to soil his britches, if you know what I mean.” I tried for a smile, and was rewarded with a snicker.

“You can be very scary,” he agreed, “to those who don’t know how much of a softie you are.”

I gave him the stink eye. “You’re lucky I like you.”

Conner ducked his head quickly. “You, uh, didn’t Mark him?”

“No.” 

Shadow rattled her head, and we both jumped.

“Sorry!” Shadow cringed. “Keep going, please.”

I forced my muscles to relax again. “I didn’t Mark him. I forgot. Even if I didn’t, I don’t think I would have done it in front of his family. That would have been a little too much. He definitely won’t be a repeat offender, though, so no real need for it, anyway.”

Conner quietly absorbed this. Then—”Do you think they’ll be back?”

Part of me ached a little. “I don’t know.”

We sat in melancholy silence for a little while. I closed my eyes and opened my wings a little. The sunlight warmed the chill from my bones and settled the churning dread.

“How’re the girls?”

I blinked several times and turned to Conner. He stared off into the forest, slightly hunched over his crossed legs in a casual position. For a second, I wondered if I’d imagined it.

But then he spoke again. “You know. Gild.ie and Joy and Ellen. How are they?”

I didn’t know what to say. “Um, they’re good. Settling in. Miss Ellen got the day off a few days ago, and they had a water fight with the hose.” Why was he asking?

“Good, good.” He shifted uncomfortably. “Mom keeps in touch with Ellen, but we’ve been keeping our distance, I promise.”

I swallowed hard. “Oh.” Maybe dragons weren’t the only ones who listened when I asked. “Thank you.”

“You, um, you mentioned visits if you were there to supervise.”

See, this was why I didn’t like messing with humans. They made me feel things.

On one hand, I was flattered and relieved that he was respecting the rules and actually asked for my permission. On the other, much more swollen hand, was guilt and queasy realization. I hadn’t thought that Conner or Miss Amy had actually formed a bond with Miss Ellen’s family. When I told him and Lisa to stay away from Joy, while no hardship for Lisa, who didn’t live here, for the Sumners it meant staying away from one of the only other families that knew about this whole mess.

I suddenly wondered if the Sumners were still in contact with my family.

Nope, not going to ask.

“Sure. We can go now if you’d like.”

His eyes widened in surprise. “Really? Like, right-now right now?”

“They’re not doing anything today, and I was going to visit this afternoon anyway.” I got to my feet, anxious to get away for a little bit. “Is Miss Amy nearby?”

Conner scrambled to his feet, nodding frantically. “Yeah! Yeah, she’s keeping an eye on the Nightmare Trio.”

I paused and frowned. “But they don’t need watching if Hail’s there.”

Conner laughed, saw my bemused expression, and laughed again. “Man, has he got you fooled.”

Oh, no, he didn’t. I was the one who helped him fill those water balloons with paint. Hail understood the difference between harmless mischief and dangerous recklessness. (Also he was one of the best trolls I’d ever seen, for which he had my admiration and respect.)

“I’ll go get your mom.” I nodded towards Shadow, and she straightened proudly. “Ask Shadow where to go, she knows the way. We’ll meet you there.”

“I’ll text her to let her know!” he called after my rapidly retreating back.

I couldn’t help but snort. Good luck getting service in the literal middle of the woods.

 
Flitt's picture
Flitt
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 03/05/2019
.

Glad she's talking about it :D And uhhhhhh, Hail? What're you doing?

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
Hehe

Oh, she's referring to something that happened in the past. Hail filled some water balloons with a washable paint and rigged them in various places. Ness helped place them for maximum irritation.

Slargvarg's picture
Slargvarg
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 07/18/2020
Never fear, for Blobby's here!

I just got back on here to post after a while, and these latest chapters are so great!  I love the intensity :D

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
:)

Thank you! Next chapter is a bit of a break, and then we go right back into it >:3

The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 09/06/2017
Heyo back again

Since Miss Amy’s special dragon place was in the opposite direction from Miss Ellen’s cabin, I elected to fly instead of take the safer, slower route on foot. 

Miss Amy’s special place also had a nice opening in the trees for me to make a dramatic entrance. This fact had no influence on my choice whatsoever.

“Ness?” Miss Amy startled. The Terrible Terrors looked up curiously, but made no move to leave their sun-warmed rocks. “Do you need something?”

I stretched my wings, long and luxurious, before settling them against my back. Ah, that felt so good. “No, but I think you do. Do you want to go see Miss Ellen and the girls?”

Her eyes widened and she shot up to her feet. “Oh, sorry, sorry!” she said as a couple Terrors fell off their perches with indignant squawks. “Conner told me you didn’t want us going near them for now. He didn’t say why, but I figured you had a good reason. Whatever it was, I’m glad you figured it out.”

Wow. I hadn’t seen Miss Amy this animated in...a while. The guilt squirmed even more achingly in my gut. “I, uh, didn’t realize you were friends with them.”

Miss Amy’s face scrunched in confusion, and then it clicked. “Really? You knew we knew them but you didn’t think we were friends?”

Gah. I shuffled my feet. It had been a while since I’d felt scolded. “Conner mentioned Joy and I might have lost it a little.”

She snorted. “I love him dearly, but the child has no sense of tact.” She wagged a finger in my face. “Just don’t ask me to cut off contact with them again, okay? We’re on your side, Ness.”

“I know, I know.” I did know, and that was what scared me.

“Well? Are we going now? I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like walking uphill for ten miles.”

“Oh! No, we won’t be walking.” I pinned a very smug glare at the undergrowth. “You can come out now, Oak.”

There was a beat where nothing moved and Miss Amy waited patiently for whatever it was I’d said to happen. Then, a low grumble came from the thready green, and a very irate Shortsnout stepped regally out of the bushes.

“Has...has he been there the whole time?” Miss Amy blinked.

Oak huffed and I stared at her, a little incredulous. “Oak is basically guarding you every time you step foot in my territory. Have you really never noticed?”

“So...a random dragon has been stalking me. I don’t know how to feel about that.”

Random dragon. Heh, if only she knew. I did my best to hide my amusement. Insulting the former alpha by laughing at him wasn’t very sportsmanlike. “Eh, you’re his favorite. That’s what dragons do, they stalk you until you notice them, and then they get all skittish.” Oak grumbled under his breath, but he didn’t deny it. “I’m sure you heard all that. Will you take us to Miss Ellen’s, please? Conner and Shadow are meeting us there.”

He remained unmoved.

“Pretty please?”

Oak cocked his head, then ducked down and spread a wing.

I blinked. Would you look at that. Well, don’t look a gift dragon in the mouth.

“Oak’ll let us ride him there,” I explained as I clambered up. Miss Amy tried to climb on behind me, but one sharp look made her change my mind. No way was I letting anyone touch my wings.

Miss Amy took my hand and I heaved. Sweet sally mae, what do adults eat? They’re so heavy. Not that I’d ever say that to Miss Amy’s face. “Be grateful, he doesn’t do this much.” The last time he let someone ride him was a whole year ago, when we brought Miss Ellen back to the girls.

“I am not a beast of burden,” Oak grumbled.

“We know, and we’re thankful that you’re doing this,” I soothed. 

Oak rose from his crouch, shook his head, and took off, slightly faster than his usual lope.

Oh. He was showing off for Miss Amy.

Miss Amy twisted around. “Thank you,” she said, far too matter-of-fact. “Ellen told me she adopted another kid, and now I get to meet her.”

Yeah, I know. “Arda’s great. You’ll love her.”

Miss Amy smiled, as bright as when she’d first laid eyes on a Terrible Terror, and turned back to face the front.

 

Joy was flapping around, playing a strange game of keep-away with a Terrible Terror—Spark! So that’s where he went. Gild.ie and Arda sat nearby. Gild.ie was talking animatedly while Arda stroked Sunrise, Gild.ie’s favorite Bronze Firescale. Arda had a small smile on her face, and her shoulders held none of their old nervous tension.

    Miss Ellen was the first to notice us, and she wasn’t even outside. She must have seen us through the window, or heard us (or maybe it was just a mother’s sixth sense) because she threw open the door and yelled, “It’s about time!”

    The girls all looked up. Arda eyed Conner and Miss Amy nervously (that’s right, they’ve never met, have they?), but Joy shrieked.

    “Conner Conner Conner Conner!!!!”

    I watched in bemusement (and with no small amount of jealousy) as Joy dashed forward and performed a spectacular flying tackle that took Conner out at the knees. Gild.ie followed at a slightly more sedate pace, content to plop down on his stomach while Joy peppered him with questions.

    “Where were you? Why didn’t you come see us? Did you get lost like Nessie? Did you go on a super-secret mission? Did you bring chocolate? Why are your lips turning purple? Are you wearing lipstick?”

    “Okay! That’s enough!” I yelped, dragging the giggling children off the now-suffocating Conner. 

He rolled over and wheezed. “Good...to see...you...too…”

I looked up to see the adults watching with no small amount of amusement.

“Sorry about them,” Miss Ellen flapped her hands towards us. “Joy’s been going a little stir crazy, and Gild.ie wouldn’t stop talking about how Conner showed her how to do a snap kick.”

He did? “Nice work,” I told him. 

Conner gave me a tired thumbs-up.

Arda moved towards Miss Ellen shyly. It was clear she was still uncomfortable, but curious. 

Miss Amy brightened. “And you must be Arda! I’ve heard so much about you.”

I watched, eager to see this interaction, but apparently Gild.ie had more of a wild streak than I’d thought because she grabbed my arm and yanked me down to the grass.

“Ack! Gild.ie!” I spluttered. “You got dirt in my mouth.”

“You’ll live,” she said archly.

I squinted at her. “You’re mad at me.”

She shrugged. “A little.”

“Is it because I decided to give the Sumners a restraining order?” Because that was not one of my best decisions, and I was already feeling guilty enough, thank you very much.

“What’s a restraining order?”

Nope, not going there. “Never mind. Why are you mad?”

Gild.ie huffed. “Conner promised you would teach me how to whirl-kick but you didn’t.”

Whirl-kick? I blinked.

“She means the sweep-and-spin thing,” Conner explained. He sat up and plucked the grass from his hair. “Sorry, Gild.ie, I forgot to tell her.”

Joy tugged at Gild.ie’s arm and whispered in her ear. Gild.ie’s eyes went wide, and then she smirked.

Oh no. I didn’t like that face. I didn’t like it at all.

“We forgive you,” she announced gravely, Joy giggling at her side, “if you be the mice.”

Nooooooo,” Conner whined. It was so strange, seeing him ham it up for the younger ones, that it startled out a laugh from me. “Not hunting.

I...had no idea what they were talking about. “What do you mean, the mice?”

But the girls weren’t paying attention. “Arda!” Gild.ie yelled. “Arda, come here! We’re playing hunting!”

Conner leaned over and whispered, “It’s kind of like tag. Once the ‘dragons’ catch the ‘mice,’ they drag them over to their ‘den’ and ‘eat’ them. Just try not to freak out when they eat you, it tickles.” Catching my dubious expression, he shrugged and got to his feet. “We play it all the time. You’ll be fine.”

Conner had a game he played with the girls, a game I had never heard of. I wasn’t jealous, nope, not at all.

    Arda trudged over grudgingly. She still looked nervous, but the good kind. You know, when you’re somewhere new and you don’t know anybody yet. Not the heh-heh-I’m-in-danger kind of nervous, which is something else entirely.

    Conner raised a hand. “Hey.”

    “Hi.” Arda gave me a quick glance, then mustered up a smile. “Um. I’m Arda.”

    “Conner. Pleasure to meet you.”

    I watched them shake hands with a vague sense of dread. I loved both of them, I really did, but watching them meet felt a little like a violent collision of worlds. It was just as jarring as seeing Lisa and Conner standing side by side.

    Arda stepped back and twisted her hands, then jammed them in her jean pockets (where did she find jeans with pockets?!) “I don’t know if I’m as fast as you two, so I’m sorry if I mess it up.”

    “Well, I’ve never played before, so,” I offered, and she gave me a small smile.

    “Just think of it like a mix of tag and cops and robbers,” Conner told me. “Alright, Thing One and Thing Two, who’s gonna be the mice?”

    “You are!” The wicked little gremlins laughed gleefully, pointing at Conner and me.

    “That’s right, this is a revenge game,” he muttered. “Alright, give us ten seconds to run.” He rounded on me, grabbed my wrist, and took off so quickly that if it weren’t for my tail, I would have fallen over.

“Why are you running so fast!?”

“They cheat!”

“How do you cheat at tag?!”

Joy shouted from behind us. “We’re coming, mousies!”

“THAT WASN’T TEN SECONDS!” Conner yelled.

That didn’t matter to the girls—any of them. Joy and Arda just chased after us as fast as their legs could carry them, while Gild.ie swung around to try and intercept us from the side.

“Sorry, Ness, it’s every man for himself.” Conner peeled away and darted towards the house.

    “Hey!” Coward. 

    I heard a brief pounding of feet, and turned to see Arda pick Joy up and practically throw her at me. I gasped as an instinctive bolt of fear shot through my wings. Joy was still too young to fly!

    But Joy didn’t fall to the ground. Instead, she beat those little wings as hard as she could and shot forward.

    Now, I would like to see you react to a little orange blur with a far-too-large grin trying to grab at your face.

    I half-shrieked and twisted away at the last possible moment. Quick check to make sure she’s okay, yup, she landed on her feet and oh no oh crap how on earth is she moving so quickly?

    “WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?”

    “I TOLD YOU!” Conner shouted from where he was now being chased by Arda. “THEY CHEAT!”

Sure enough, there was Gild.ie closing in on my left, and then Joy’s little shriek and pounce.

I swerved too sharply and flapped my wings to stay upright. Oh, well. I was fast, I raced Shadow all the time. I could outrun a couple elementary school kids easy.

 

    Those elementary school children were bloody wolves.

    “Why...won’t...you...stop?” I panted, dodging Joy’s flying tackle for the seventeenth time.

    “NEVER!!!” She roared gleefully and pounced. Eighteen.

    I hated to admit it, but the girls were winning. They had already successfully dragged me to the den twice and Conner thrice. The first time it was all I could do not to beat them off with my wings (no one touches them not wires not trapped not again), and when they ‘ate’ me with tickles I had to grab my tail with both hands even as I gasped with desperate laughter (don’t hurt them not them not them). The second time was a bit easier, though, and the brilliant smiles on their faces made it worth it.

“Imma get you, Nessie!” Joy’s eyes narrowed and sharpened. “The dragons are huuungryyy…”

“Joy!” I scolded, more than a little creeped out.

My ears trembled. Footsteps. I rolled to the side, and Gild.ie swerved to a stop.

“Worth a shot,” she panted.

“Gild.ie! I wanna get Nessie!” Joy whined.

Yeah, no. Twice was enough. I bared my teeth. “Not if I get you first!”

Two pairs of eyes, one blue, one orange, went round. “That’s not how the game woorraaaAAAAHHHH!”

I lunged and chased after the wicked little gremlins. I liked this much better.

Conner saw what was happening, stopped, and turned bodily towards Arda. She, in turn, froze, glanced between where the little ones were running, shrieking, from the viciously gleeful Draconian, to where Conner was now beginning to grin with far too many teeth, and made the right decision.

“Ellen! Ellen, help!”

The adults (wait, when did Mr. Sumner get here?), sitting on the porch, paused their conversation to stare as Arda ran for safety, only for Conner to swerve and drive her back towards the den.

“Bringing her to you, Ness!”

“On it!”

Poor little Joy, with legs less than half the size of everyone else’s, made the mistake of looking over her shoulder.

I grinned and leaped. My wings could do much more than just propel me a few feet. Only a couple hard beats and— 

“Nessie, no!”

“That’s cheating!”

I landed right in front of her and Gild.ie and bared my teeth playfully. “Nessie, yes!”

The girls turned to run the other way and shrieked. Conner had chased Arda back around, and now she was sprinting full-tilt right towards us. Right into my waiting claws.

I jumped to my feet and spread my wings wide. Arda tried to slow and swerve.

Too late!

Arda ran into the girls and all three fell forwards (backwards for Gild.ie and Joy) into my waiting arms. Not a second later, Conner joined the sudden huddle.

We all looked at each other and burst out laughing.

“Mice win!” I cheered.

“That’s not how the game works!” Gild.ie huffed. “Let us out!”

I thought about it. “Mmm...no. I like your hugs.”

“But I’m squished!”

“Still no. Suffer.”

Joy wrapped her arms around Conner’s legs and stared up at him, pupils wide and adoring. “I love you.”

“Awwww…” Conner let go and knelt to return the hug. Joy promptly launched herself at his face and pinned him to the ground.

“That’s what you get for cheating!” She shouted.

“Freedom!” Gild.ie pushed past Arda and jumped on Conner’s stomach. He only got a little winded.

“That was totally cheating,” Arda said to me as Conner fought to shake the gremlins off. “But I approve.”

“Good to know.” I studied her. Her hair in a messy braid instead of loose in her face. She’d put on a bit of weight, and she smiled instead of frowning. She looked...content. Healthy.

“You’re doing better.” 

It wasn’t a question, but she nodded anyway.

“Yeah. It’s way better than my old apartment. I had to duct tape the windows, and for the life of me I couldn’t make anything more complicated than a sandwich. Ellen’s teaching me how to cook. It’s been...yeah. It’s just nice to not have to worry anymore, you know?”

I wished. “Good,” was all I said. 

She could tell that I meant it.

 

Solveig the Fair's picture
Solveig the Fair
Offline
Berk's Power Player
Joined: 03/25/2020
Welcome back!

Aww, I love this chapter! That game sounds like fun!