The Dragoness Backstory: Fanfiction

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The Dragoness's picture
The Dragoness
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I took way too long to respond to this

Thanks!

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Slargvarg
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Never fear, for Blobby's here!

This was so cute ^-^  

The 'Hunting' game made me laugh XD

I've got a question;  are you an outline writer or a discovery writer?  Like, how much of your story do you plan out?

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Interesting question

So I'm a weird mix of both. I figure out the main plot points ahead of time and plan out roughly when they're going to happen. Those don't change. However, the way I get there kinda evolves over time. Mainly because the characters will take on personalities that completely blindside me (Ness' flightiness, Connor's temper, Hail's...Hail) and decide to do things their way. A little frustrating but better for the story than if it went the way I originally planned.

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*banging pots and pans* DOOMSDAY'S COMING EVERYONE

My favorite time of year is when summer turns to fall. The hint of cold in the air, the lowering clouds, the colors...orange and red and tumbled flames. Perfection.

Unfortunately, it was not fall, but mid-spring. Oh well. Spring is pretty too. The grass is softer, for one. And since the leaves are growing in instead of falling off it means better hiding places. You know, for if you need to sneak up on someone and scare the living daylights out of them. Or something. Hypothetically.

The dragon riders were all together, I had freed two warehouses full of dragons, Miss Ellen was friends with the Sumners (and quite possibly my family, but every time I thought about asking my scales got twitchy and I lost my nerve), and the hunters were becoming sneakier and more active. Oh, yeah, and they definitely knew I existed.

I should have been absolutely terrified. Everything I had been hoping would never happen did, and in a remarkably short time frame. But...I wasn’t.

Okay, yes, I tensed at every shadow that flitted in the corners of my vision. And yeah, there was this uncomfortable knot of dread in my lungs and stomach that refused to relax. A house of cards could only stay standing for so long, and the wind was coming to blow them all away, I could feel it.

But the riders were happy. They learned and grew. They were strong. And it was actually kind of adorable to watch Hail fend off any attempts to parent Bryn and Theo from the other adults. During one particularly passive-aggressive glare from Hail to Patrick O’Carrick, I suddenly saw slit-sharp pupils instead of sunglasses—and wondered.

Hm. Something to think about.

Of course, the eye of a storm can only stay for so long. I just wished it would have lasted longer.

The storm started again on the third of April. I would love to blame it all on Bryn, but he’s actually the one who probably single-handedly saved the entire wylde.

It was a slow day. Flame taking diligent notes from Patrick in the territory to the north, and Miss Amy and Conner were doing their best to warm Mr. Sumner up to the dragons near the Night Fury nests. I watched from my tree-perch with increasing amusement as Mr. Sumner tried not to flinch every time a dragon made a sharper-than-usual movement.

“They’re really sweet, actually, see?” Conner stuck his head right next to Shadow’s mouth (and her very large, very sharp, very visible teeth) as he scratched her ears. Miss Amy looked on fondly while Mr. Sumner quietly panicked.

“They are very intelligent,” I agreed.

Conner and Miss Amy, used to my stalkerish tendencies of appearing out of the blue, just waved, while Mr. Sumner jumped and then pretended he wasn’t surprised. Heh. I remembered when Conner was the same way. Now he just gave me a look that said you’re not fooling anyone. The audacity.

I wiggled my fingers back and made sure to focus my eyes very tightly. “You just have to make sure not to show any fear. They’re predators; they’ll pounce on any show of weakness.”

Mr. Sumner gave me a nervous look that clearly said, So what does that make you?

I bared my teeth in a smile.

He gulped, ever-so-slightly.

Ness.” Oh dear. That was Conner’s ‘play nice’ voice. “Don’t be mean to my dad.”

“Whatever are you talking about? I’m very sweet, actually.” 

A voice squawked directly into my ear, “Ness!”

I yelped and tried to flip away, cool and catlike, but then my tail got caught on the bark and my legs locked up and then everything looked upside-down. A green ceiling and a sky-ground, with the Sumners standing on the grass like bats. Ow. My head.

Spark perched on my knees and crowed gleefully. Shadow and Conner laughed. At me.

“Rude,” I grumped, twisting myself off the branch and landing with a thump. It wasn’t the first time I’d accidentally flipped upside-down in front of a rider, but at least Nightshade hadn’t realized it was an accident.

...it also didn’t help that Spark was still laughing.

“It wasn’t that funny!” I protested. 

Spark preened. “Yes yes yes it was! I hunted you jumped I win!”

I narrowed my eyes.

He froze and tilted his head.

“My turn!” I lunged. Spark squeaked and scrambled away. “Get back here, you little gremlin!”

As I chased the naughty little dragon away, I faintly heard a deep voice ask, “Is she always like this?”

“Not really.”

“Yeah, pretty much.”

“What?”

“Mom, you only talk to her when she’s being serious. Have you ever seen her try to…”

Then the voices were gone and all that mattered was catching the dragon that dared embarrass me in front of the Sumners and laugh.

Spark led me on quite a chase before we (I) got tired and had to take a break. Flicker gave me a quick update (Patrick and Flame had left, the Nightmare Trio were to the south-east, and the Sumners were going to go find the Terrible Terrors and visit Miss Ellen). Spark got super excited when Flicker mentioned where the Sumners were going, so he took off in a way that showed off far too much energy than he should have after such a long chasing game. I decided I still had time before the Sumners would make it up to the girls (I refused to let Conner become the favorite), so I decided to check up the Nightmare Trio, just to make sure that they weren’t getting up to any mischief without me.

 

No mischief, just the humans sitting in a loose formation. Hail leaning against a rock, Theo flitting around, and Bryn alternating between leaning next to Hail and elbowing Theo when he passed by. Echo, Ethrae, and Typhoon looked up from where they were snapping playfully. A quick flick of my ears and they went back to their games.

Hm. Typhoon looked a little too eager. Eh. If I wasn’t around, Hail could handle it.

The Nightmare Trio noticed the lull in their dragons’ familiar noises. They looked up.

I shrugged, dropped from my tree perch, and landed on a nice warm rock. “Hi,” I waved.

Hail, Bryn, and Theo glanced at each other, glanced at me, shrugged, and continued what they were doing. They caught on much more quickly than Mr. Sumner. I came, I watched, and when I determined they were safe got bored I left. Pretty simple system.

I watched the trio play a hand game. One of them held out their hands, palm up, and the other rested their fingertips on top. The first person had to flip over their hands and slap the second person’s before they pulled away. It was a two person game, but it was also quick, so they switched out often, each time playing the winner.

It looked like fun. I kind of wanted to join in, but Bryn still got skittish whenever I got excited and I didn’t know if I could bring myself to slap Hail without feeling like a monster (Theo was an adorable, wide-eyed little twelve-year-old brat and I had no compunctions about him). Maybe I could teach the girls.

The next time it was Bryn and Theo’s turn, Hail slipped over. “Bryn needs to talk to you.”

Well, that set alarms ringing. I gave him a side-eyed look. “What did he do?”

He raised his hands. “I don’t know why, I just know that he does. He looks nervous, so go easy on him.”

I suddenly realized my wings were slowly inching up over my head and forced them to relax. “I’ll try. No promises.”

“Wouldn’t expect any.” Hail ghosted back to his rock perch, Theo and Typhoon none the wiser.

Sure enough, after five minutes, Bryn started to glance over, like he wanted to come over but didn’t want to make a big deal by interrupting the game. Hail tactfully declared his hands properly slapped and started to teach Theo a different complex hand game.

See, that was why I liked Hail. He got people.

Bryn, free now that Hail and Theo were occupied, edged towards me until he stood

“Ness. Can I, uh, talk to you?”

“Sure.” I stood and padded a little ways away. Bryn kept glancing over his shoulder, to make sure Hail and Theo weren’t listening in.

“My dad knows about the dragons.”

I blinked, forcing back the urge to shake him by the shoulders and demand an explanation. Maybe it was like Dawn and Dusk? Parents were supposed to take care of their kids, after all. (I tried not to think about how many of the riders were still living with their parents, and how exactly they might be getting to the dragon territories.) “Okay? So does he want to take a look around, or—”

Bryn shook his head. He didn’t seem to know what to do with his hands; in his pockets, folded, clenched at his sides. “No, he knows about the dragons, but he doesn’t know that I know. He’s...he’s doing something.”

A creeping cold sluiced down my back like ice-water. “Explain.”

He took a deep breath. “Okay. So I was up late on my phone, texting and stuff, and I heard some people come through the front door. Dad has people over all the time, so I didn’t really think about it, but then they started talking and the walls are kind of thin, and—”

“Breathe,” I interjected.

“—and I heard them start talking about dragons. So I snuck out and listened on the stairs and...and…” He wouldn’t look me in the eyes. “Don’t be mad. I swear I didn’t know.”

No. Please no. “Your dad is a dragon hunter, too,” I said neutrally.

Worse.” Bryn blinked. “Wait, too?”

“Dawn and Dusk. You can ask them if their mom ever lets them come back. Continue, please.”

“What? They—oh. Okay. Okay. So my dad isn’t exactly a dragon hunter. He’s not one of the scouts or anything. The other people, they, um, they called him ‘Boss.’ And he was the one giving everybody orders.”

My blood iced and my ears rang. “You’re telling me your dad. Your dad. He’s the Boss? He’s the one in charge of the hunters?”

Bryn nodded.

The Boss. The stupid, thieving, sneaking, terrifying Boss was the father of one my riders. How how how how how?

“He doesn’t know about you and Echo, right?” It felt like I’d stuck my head out the car window and the wind stole the air away before I had a chance to suck it in. “Please tell me he doesn’t know.” Because he was the Boss and who knew what he’d do to me to Shadow to Connor to Joy to his son

“No. I don’t think so.”

Right, of course, that checked out. If he knew he would have already used Bryn to hunt us flush us out trap us cage us kill us

“That’s not what I wanted to tell you, though. Well, it is, but only a part, I heard a bit more...Ness?” Are you angry? wasn’t said, but I could see it in shifting eyes and nervous flinches.

Breathe now. Panic later. I dug my fingers into my arms and forced my wings down. “Go ahead.”

“Dad sounded upset, and he was talking about ‘poor results’ and ‘lost specimens.’ He’s going to take all the scouts and lead a...well, he called it a ‘covert expedition’ but I’m pretty sure that’s just code for a hunt, to catch as many dragons as possible.”

The world fell eerily silent. Nothing existed but a pale, earnest face and the blood rushing in my ears. Dragon hunters were going to invade my territory. To kill my dragons. “When?”

“The second Saturday of May.”

Today was the third of April. I had thirty-five days left before…

Before.

“Thank you for telling me,” I croaked at last. “I’ll make sure everyone is clear before then.”

The pure relief on the boy’s face contrasted painfully with the twisted, choked feeling in my gut. He didn’t understand.

Bryn ran back to Hail and Theo with a noticeably lighter step. Echo sniffed him and snorted in approval. I turned and slipped away.

When I said I would make sure everyone was clear, I was referring to the riders. They weren’t tundra and forest creatures, stuck in mountains surrounded by miles of desert. There were only so many square miles in the territories, and the hunters had mapped almost all of them; there was nowhere for the dragons to go. But the riders, they had somewhere to go, families that would miss them if they were gone. I refused to get them involved when they had homes where they could be safe.

The dragons...the dragons had no such place. We would fight, or die.

 

 

 

(Hello everyone! Am I ever going to really be active on the forums again?...no. Probably not. However, am I going to finish posting the story anyway? Yes I am. I know how annoying it is to come across something only half-finished :)

 
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Never fear, for Blobby's here!

Ness!  You're back!

This was an amazing chapter, and don't think I didn't catch the part about Hail and his eyes 0.o

I'm relieved to hear that you'll be finishing the story; your writing is simply fantabulous.

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Aw, thank you! And I don't know what you're talking about >.>

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*insert subject here*

Ness!! Welcome back, even if it's only for a bit!!
I always get so excited about new chapters! Man, that was a huge plot twist! I caught the part about Hail too... *excitement intensifies* I'm extremely happy and grateful that you'll be finishing the story, even though I'm disappointed you won't be as active. Thank you for thinking of us : )

I can't help wondering if we'll ever see more of the lesser-known riders...

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*eats subject*

I'm glad you didn't see that coming! I've been planning this for so long it feels obvious to me. And yeah, right now I've got a part-time job and like 13 credit hours of schooling going on. I HAVE LIKE NO FREE TIME, EVER.

Ah! So since Ness is trying to keep her distance right now, we only see glimpses of the riders. However, I try to build up what they're like in my mind and keep interactions true to character. Some I just happened to take a shine to because they're easier for me to remember. Nightshade was always going to be special because she was the first, Bryn was always going to be the son of the Boss, Dawn and Dusk and Tolzar and Kalzar are the dynamic sibling duos. But then Hail suddenly became Hail and I was like, oh I like him, and then the Nightmare Trio happened and I was like what but also that makes sense and that's funny, and then Flame crashed in with all her chaotic engineering glory (also I got her age wrong I'm sorryyyyy but she makes a good addition to Team Adults) and then I was like wait, what happened to everyone else?

But they are there, I promise, and once I finish this and go on my mission and come back I'm planning on writing this from Conner's perspective, and he gets to know the riders better than Ness. Or, at least, they're more important to his story. Not that they aren't important, but to Ness they are only a piece to the larger picture, one that they are just now starting to see. But yeah, all the riders have named dragons and little profiles that I reference.

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*checks calendar* WELL THEN

what the heck it's been over a month I am so so so sorry

 

 

There was so much to do. There wasn’t enough to do. Time passed at the speed of a meandering cricket. I blinked and five days were gone.

I’ve always hated waiting.

But what could I do? I mean, yeah, there was moving the nests and young hatchlings to better hiding places, and working out possible locations for ambushes, and pairing dragons who worked well together so nobody could be taken alone, but really, what could I possibly do? For every hunter I stopped, at least two more took their place. For every dart gun and rifle I broke, they brought three more. For every warning the Flickerwings gave, another patrol slipped away unnoticed. They would find us. The dragons would be seen. They would fight, and people would die. I couldn’t protect them for much longer.

And I had yet to find that third warehouse. There were worse fates for a dragon than dying.

At least I could protect my riders. They wouldn’t have to see the ugliness hiding underneath their idyllic adventures. And the girls would be okay as long as the Sumners were still around. They’d be fine. I would make them be fine.

And hey, at least some of the riders are already gone! I thought. Dawn and Dusk are practically banished. Not really because of me, but who’s to say I can’t ground a few more?

Of course I jinxed it. Twenty-three days before Doomsday, Dawn and Dusk came back.

Someone, maybe Conner, must have told them when the next self-defense class was to be held. There were about three to five happening every week though, at varying days and times, so maybe they happened to show up at the right time. 

I kind of wished that they would have a more peaceful lesson every once in a while, actually. But what kind of dragon companions would they be if they didn’t crave a little violence? And it wasn’t like there was anything else they could learn/teach. The riders mostly stopped teaching actual dragon riding in ‘formal’ lessons. Each dragon-rider pair was so different in weight, speed, height, wing width, tail length, and balance that the best they could do was trade small tips for figuring it out. No real way to come up with general rules other than hold on tight, dress warm, and don’t pass out.

Also I refused to let Flame try to make everyone flight suits, no matter how many times she begged. But I digress.

What I meant to say was that it was a bit of a shock when I almost literally ran into them on the way to the class. One moment I was running at a pretty decent clip, feet and ankles flexing over logs and rough ground. The next moment, there are three distinct yelps and startled flailing as two brightly colored figures come out of nowhere (they just walked out from behind a couple trees).

“Dawn? Dusk?” I blinked.

Yup, that was them. Colorful masks and all. Which...good. Otherwise I might not have recognized them. Again.

But what are they doing here?

“Lovely to see you again. Quick question, aren’t you grounded?”

Dusk smirked the smirk of a teenager who had been punished by an adult and had learned absolutely nothing. “Not anymore.”

“We finally convinced our parents that you don’t mean any harm and that the dragons are safe!” Dawn beamed.

I stared, a sick feeling twisting in my stomach. “I have no idea how you did that, because both of those statements are absolutely not true.” I very much did mean harm, and the dragons were not safe, dang it!

“What she means to say is that our parents now know that you don’t mean to hurt us, and that our dragons aren’t about to eat or maul us,” Dusk amended. “I think we played up their adorable antics enough that they forgot the whole apex predator thing.”

I made a choked noise between a cough and a groan and buried my face in my hands. “Great.” They chose pretty much the worst time to come back.

No, actually the worst time would have been the day of—don’t go there.

“Fighting classes are being suspended for a month starting a week from tomorrow,” I mumbled through my fingers. “Please don’t get stabbed and stay where your dragons can see you.”

“We won’t! I mean, we will?”

“Stabbed? Why would we be stabbed?” Dusk gasped. “Are we working with knives now?!”

I snorted. “Sure. Why not. Let the children attack each other with pointy metal sticks. Of course not!”

Dawn put her hands on her hips. “I’m not a child!”

Dusk patted her head sympathetically (Dawn swatted her away). “You kind of are. But I’m the same age as you!”

I blinked. “No, you’re not.”

She lifted her chin. “I turned eighteen in January.”

“...still not the same age.”

“Dang it.”

No way was I telling her that she was actually six months older than me.

That was when Lila and Mae finally arrived. All the warning we got was a high-pitched keening, and suddenly two fully-grown dragons bowled their humans over. They practically smothered the girls with frantic licking and purring.

“Hey, hey, stop!”

“Easy girl, calm down—yes, yes, I’m here, I missed you too, I missed you so much—”

I stood over them, feeling a little out of place, but also a bit wistful. This was what being a Dragonrider was supposed to be. Something beautiful and rare. Not an anxiety-inducing liability. Not a death sentence.

Finally, the dragons slowed their frantic greeting enough for the girls to catch their breath.

“Where’s everyone else?”

“Nowhere in particular.”

Nee-eeess.”

“...Hail and Patrick are teaching the basics of handling pocketknives in an hour. No actual fighting or anything, so don’t get too exci—”

We’re working with knives now!

“Do not get stabbed!”

 
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I cannot see this lesson going well XD

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What do you have? "A knife!" NO--

You are absolutely right, but not for the reasons you would expect >;)

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*screams in and slams into the wall* I'M NOT LATE

Okay. So Dawn and Dusk were back (apparently), and thankfully nobody asked too many questions. Whenever another rider would greet them with a, “Long time no see!” they would simply grimace and respond, “Parents.” Which explained it all, really.

Still. I could do this. Look at me, not freaking out, no sirree. Just sitting on my designated branch, watching my little group of humans calmly. Only seventeen days until Doomsday, and almost all the dragons were successfully evacuated. I had a small contingent strategically placed around Miss Ellen and the girls, the riders were aware that no classes would be held after this next Saturday, and that the territories would be locked down a week later (no one but me noticed Bryn turn a pasty white when I gave them the news). I had a nasty feeling I was forgetting something, but it wasn’t like I could ask anyone what it was.

I tried to focus. Hail was talking and holding his pocketknife. Some of it actually sounded useful. Maybe I could start carrying around knives? It wasn’t like I was unfamiliar with blood, and I could only rely so much on my tail and nails.

Then I noticed a new face. Emphasis on face. Long, black hair with dyed blue tips; green eyes; tanned, peeling skin with freckles. Who was this person, why did they not have a mask, and why didn’t I know them?

The girl glanced around and saw me. She blanched.

I growled a little and dropped down from the tree. Who are you, intruder?

“Ness! Hey, hey, Ness!”

I stepped back quickly to avoid the sudden blur of white-blonde hair. Tolzar beamed up at me with the kind of nervous smile I only ever saw from Bryn when he got in trouble with Hail. Tolzar appeared at the new girl’s side and muttered something in her ear. The two approached, one grumpy and one fearful.

Definitely new. She’d clearly never seen the resident half-dragon before.

“Let me guess.” I folded my arms, and the sheepish smile widened. “You can explain.”

Tolzar skipped backwards and linked elbows with the fresh meat. To provide support or to claim as protected? Hard to tell with Tolzar. “This is our friend, Arya! We go to the same dojo.”

Kalzar glared a little. “She’s my friend, Tolzar.”

Tolzar’s smile didn’t even falter. “Our friend. Arya, meet Ness; Ness, Arya.”

Arya took a deep breath and gave a tiny nod.

I almost had a nervous breakdown right then and there. Newbie. Here. Now. Only seventeen days until Doomsday. 

Not an intruder, then? Fine. I could be friendly. I smiled as best I could at the girl (just a girl so young too young), but I think it was a little too wide because she looked more wary than reassured.

“Welcome to the Dragonriders,” I said anyway.

“Nice to be here.” She almost sounded like she meant it. I think she did mean it; I caught a glimpse of her expression when she glanced over at the lounging dragons. You couldn’t fake that kind of awe.

“So…” I narrowed my eyes a little. “When did you meet your dragon?” If she overheard the twins gossiping and decided to follow them, there would be—

“Oh. I haven’t found mine yet. Tolzar and...Kalzar?—gosh, that sounds so weird—they told me about it.”

Bile rose in my throat and heat flushed my cheeks. My tail started to twitch. 

What. Were. They. Thinking???

Wait, she’s still talking.

“I thought they were playing some prank at first. I mean, really, they couldn’t come up with anything more believable? But then they brought me here, and...yeah, they weren’t lying.” Arya’s eyes lost focus. “It still doesn’t feel real.”

“Oh, it is.” I caught Nightshade’s eye and waved her over. Nightshade glanced at the unmasked Arya, the guilty and grumpy faces of the twins, and at my slit-sharp eyes. She raised her eyebrows.

“This is Nightshade. She’s one of the oldest riders, she’ll fill you in on how things work around here. I’m assuming you want to stick around.” And try as I might, I could not deny another rider. Maybe this one would be one of the ones who actually listened.

“DUH!” Arya cringed. “Sorry. Too loud.”

Maybe. Probably not.

I bared my teeth in a grin.

“Now if you’ll excuse us, the twins and I need to have a little talk.

Tolzar audibly gulped.

I grabbed both of them by the arm

“Do! Not! Ever! Do! That! Again!” I roared.

Tolzar meeped and Kalzar’s eyes widened.

“There are rules, in case you’ve forgotten.” I barely bit back another snarl. “One of the rules? You don’t tell other people. You don’t knowingly bring them into dragon territory. You know that. You knew that! I am trying to keep everyone safe, despite all their attempts to get themselves killed, and one of those ways is limiting the riders! If a dragon outs itself in front of someone, fine, whatever, but we do not go looking for people to recruit! Is. That. Clear.

“Why?” Kalzar tried to glare, but her breath was a little too fast for me to be fooled.

“Because I said so!” I flared my wings and bared my teeth, ears pressed flat and tail lashing. I had never been so angry. “I am the alpha. The dragons are mine, and if you want to play? You play by my rules. Or you don’t get to play, ever. Again. Capisce?”

Kalzar shook off Tolzar’s hand and folded her arms. “That’s not a real answer.”

I narrowed my eyes. “You’re right. It isn’t. Because you’ve just proved that I can’t trust you.”

She flinched. Good.

“Get back to Punching 101,” I growled. “Take care of Arya. And for heaven’s sake, don’t let her out of your sight.

 

“You’re twitchy,” Conner said.

I scuffed the ground with my foot and snuggled my knees more firmly under my chin. “Am not.”

“Are too.”

“Nosy.”

“Touchy.”

It was a warm day. Slight breeze, minimal cloud cover. No more blossoms, no more new buds. Most all of the leaves had grown in, thick and lush. Shadow was keeping an eye on the Nightmare Trio with Oak for me, so it was just Conner and me.

I liked moments like this. Where everything was quiet, and we could just sit there and be. They were precious. Fragile. I didn’t want to break it.

Fourteen days until Doomsday.

“Ness. I know something’s up.”

I groaned and rubbed at my face. “Cooon-eerrrr.

“Neeee-eeesss.”

Hmph. “It’s fine, I’m taking care of it.”

“Is it hunters? Is that why we have to leave for a little while?”

My ears twitched back without my permission. Conner sat back. “So it is. Why didn’t you say anything?”

The dread knotted tight in my chest, freezing my lungs. If Conner knew, he’d want to help, to fight, to—he’d Miss Amy, and then Miss Ellen, and maybe even my—no. Okay. Damage control.

“Like I said, I’m taking care of it,” I repeated. “I got wind of another small expedition, like the one that caught you. I don’t know exactly when they’ll be here, just the general time frame. I don’t want anyone caught in the crossfire, which is why I’m locking everything down. Just until I know they’re gone.” Lies, lies, lies.

He studied my face for a moment, expression unreadable. I gave one slow, reptilian blink.

Conner slumped back. “I guess I see your point. You’ll let Miss Ellen know when it’s safe? So she can tell my parents and we can spread the word.”

I narrowed my eyes.

He held up his hands. “What? Did you expect us to not have a text chain? It’s just for major updates, that’s it.”

“That is incredibly reckless.”

“Hail did stuff to our phones to make it okay! We’re fine.”

Well, I couldn’t exactly argue that. Even if my phone was just gathering dust on my desk, I did ask Hail for the same favor when I first met him.

“Fine. Just be careful.”

He sighed and tilted his head back. “We always are. You don’t need to worry so much.”

Yes, yes I do.

 
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oh

0________0

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oh

Yeah, Ness doesn't really know how to tell the truth. But Conner totally knows she's lying, he knows her tells by now. He's just biding his time (as you can see in the next lil bit!).

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Crumbling walls, broken lies

Turns out I didn’t worry nearly enough.

Two days later, I was patrolling around some of the cliff caves, minding my own business, when Flicker zipped into my neck.

“Conner wants to see you,” he trilled.

If I had been paying closer attention, I would have noticed how solemn his voice was. “I’ll be there in a bit,” I said dismissively. He knew travel took a while. A few more minutes to finish up here would be fine.

“Conner wants to see you,” Flicker repeated. This time I paused and looked down at him. The little see-through dragon perched on my shoulder and craned his neck to look me in the eye. “He wants to see you now.”

...okay, that was weird.

“Did Conner say why?” I asked slowly.

He fluted a no. 

If alarm bells hadn’t been ringing before, they certainly were now.

Technically, I didn’t have to answer. I was doing something important for the wylde. But Conner knew I was busy. He never asked for something without saying why. 

Something was wrong.

Besides, even if he was being weird, Conner did ask nicely.

“Show me.”

Conner led me away from the cliff caves to one of the usual meeting places for classes. It was a large, sloping ledge halfway up one of the peaks. The ground was flat enough even with a few boulders, and it had some trees for cover. 

I dropped through a clear spot a little ways away. Pushed through the foliage, glanced up, and almost blanched.

All the riders. Every single one of them was there. Conner, Nightshade, Hail, Bryn, Theo, Anna Crown, Tolzar and Kalzar, Dawn and Dusk, Patrick O’Carrick, Ash, Pinehill, Flame, Orion, Arya. Even—

I choked. “Arda?!

Arda nodded back, uncharacteristically somber. “Hi, Ness.”

But...but Arya didn’t have a dragon. As far as I knew, she didn’t even attend the self-defense classes. What was she doing here?

As if she read my mind, Arda said, “I’m here to represent the Calls.”

“The Calls? Who—oh.” The girls. Right. Sometimes I forgot Miss Ellen had a last name.

My brain suddenly caught up. “Wait, represent?”

Conner stepped forward, and suddenly the riders looked less like a rag-tag group and suddenly like they were forming ranks. “Yup. Ness, this is an intervention.”

I blinked.

Then I laughed.

Everyone except Conner, Nightshade, Patrick, Hail, and Arda looked unsure as I bent over with the force of my mirth. “Intervention—you—oh, that’s a good one!” I pulled myself up and blinked away the tears (half the riders blanched at the second eyelids). “Alright. Seriously, what’s going on?”

Conner’s expression didn’t change. My scales prickled. I went still.

“Ness, this is an intervention,” he repeated. “You’re kicking us out and we want to know why.”

I raised an eyebrow. “I already told you why.”

His fists clenched. “You were lying, I know you were lying. We want the truth.”

He knew I was lying. How long has he known? I bared my teeth and had to fight back an instinctive whimper. “No.”

Ness.

“No! I don’t have to tell you anything.” I was the alpha. This was my territory, they were part of my wylde!

“If we’re going to trust you, you need to trust us.” This isn’t about trust. “Why are you telling us to leave?”

“Oh, like you don’t know already?” I said waspishly. Nosy, sneaky muckraker.

Conner threw his hands up in whole-hearted exasperation. “No! We don’t! Which is why we are asking you!”

I blinked, then glanced at Bryn. He gave the tiniest shake of his head. Bryn...hadn’t told them. I tilted my head back. Thank you.

Okay, maybe it was just to protect himself. The riders might not react too well to him being the son of the literal Boss of the dragon hunters. But a secret kept was a secret kept, and I was grateful. Even if it looked like that secret would be gone, too.

Secrets, shields, crumbling into sand. How many more will they tear away?

“Why do you think I would lie?” I finally asked.

Conner shrugged, gaze steady. “I think you have a lot of reasons. But it doesn’t matter what I think, does it? It matters that you’re keeping something from us about the dragons. Something very, very important, and you know it’s important.”

Too close, too close, time to disengage. I folded my arms, blunt and aggressive. “It doesn’t involve you.”

Anna Crown snorted. “Excuse me? We chose to be here.”

Idiots. “You chose to bond with a dragon and learn how to fly in a specific set of circumstances. Now that those circumstances have changed, your answer might change too.” Wasn’t that how self-preservation worked?

Theo raised his hand. “Then why did you even let us come in the first place? You didn’t have to if it was so dangerous.”

Empty house, cramped sweaters, lonely woods. Wide eyes, snappish words, startled amusement. “Not answering that.”

“Why not?” Conner challenged.

My temper snapped. “Honestly? Right now I’m regretting ever making that deal. This place would be better off without riders. Just leave, we don’t need you.”

“Why?”

“Did you hear me?” Why wouldn’t he listen?? “We don’t need you! We don’t want you! We want you gone!

“Why?”

BECAUSE IF YOU STAY, YOU’RE GOING TO DIE!  

Conner reared back, but I wasn’t finished.

“Do you want that? Do you want to stare a gun down while it’s pressed to your forehead? Do you want to watch each other get torn open and bleed out and—and—do you want to watch each other die?

Anna Crown swallowed. “Please tell me you’re kidding.”

I am not,” I snarled. “Just because they’re dragon hunters doesn’t mean they won’t target you. They’ve held a gun to Conner—to Storm’s forehead, don’t think I’ve forgotten that.”

Conner’s breath hitched. “Yeah, well neither have I. Did you ever think of the fact that just maybe I want to fight back? That I want to take them out before they can hurt me again?”

That stopped me cold. No...no, I didn’t.

“Just maybe, we want to help? Because maybe we don’t want our dragons to be killed? Because maybe, maybe, this is our territory now too, and maybe we want to help!”

I stalked forward and jabbed a vicious finger. “You’re children. I am not using child soldiers, you ignorant jerk!”

“But we want to help!” Theo protested.

I whipped towards him and he shrunk back. “Oh, yeah? You want to help so bad? Tell your parents. If they agree to let you risk your life for an apex predator that can take care of itself, then by all means! You’re welcome to fight.”

Flame raised her hand. “I am not legally required to tell my parents anything.”

“Or me,” Orion chimed.

Hail waved. So did Nightshade, Anna Crown, Ross, Ash, Conner, and Dusk. The last two looked particularly smug.

“My parents have been dead for forty years,” Patrick said bluntly.

I gritted my teeth. “Fine, only legal adults can come and risk their lives without parental consent.”

Conner folded his arms, and I suddenly realized the flaw in that statement. “No, wait—” 

 “Alright then, have fun staying home, Ness.”

I glared at the smug blond. “That is not the same and you know it.”

“Wait, what?” Dawn’s mouth fell open. “You’re not an adult?”

“Well, I will be in a month, and it doesn’t count anyways. You—”

You’re only seventeen!?!”

I blinked and turned. Hail’s face was pasty, and his fists trembled. The other riders looked to be in various stages of shock.

“Yeah?” I asked, a little thrown. “So?” Did it matter?

“Oh crap, oh crap,” Anna Crown muttered, “&*@!&$, you’re just a kid!”

“Hey!” I protested. “You’re only a few years older than I am.”

“Yeah, but we’re still adults!” Oh boy. Hail looked mad in a way I had never seen him before. “What the censored, Ness? Do your parents even know what you’re doing?”

That...was not a question I knew the answer to. I sent a sideways glance towards Conner.

He nodded tightly at me. My stomach clenched. Oh.

“They know enough,” I said quietly. I raised my voice a little. “And like I said, it’s not the same for me. I’m part dragon. And the hunters’ll be expecting me anyways. They already know about the creepy little Cryptie that breaks their guns and Marks them. They don’t know about you. Just—just go home! Go back home and leave us alone!”

My wings vibrated. Oh. I was shaking.

Conner took a step forward, then another. He reached out slowly, and touched my shoulder. “No.”

Move don’t-move move don’t-move? “But why?” Why weren’t they leaving, didn’t they know what was going to happen—?

His fingers tightened. Worried, serious eyes peered down at me. “This is our home too, you know. We chose to be here. You shouldn’t have to deal with this alone.”

I huffed and pulled away. Chose under false pretenses, sure. “And you shouldn’t have to know what blood feels like.”

Many of the riders flinched.

“And how old were you?” Orion asked softly. “When you learned what blood felt like?”

I cradled my head in my hands for a long, long moment. They would fight me on this, I realized. They would fight and fight and even if I said no, they wouldn’t listen. Maybe I should have realized this sooner; dragons look for a bit of themselves when they choose their riders. Loyalty. Stubbornness. A certain amount of aggression.

But it was almost more dangerous for them to focus more on fighting me than fighting the hunters. If I wanted to have any chance of them listening at all, I had to compromise.

Oh, how I hated it.

“Anyone who’s sixteen or older, get parental consent and you can fight,” I said at last. “Everyone else has to stay behind.

All the under-16 riders groaned while the over-16 cheered. D’arviting idiots.

Hail, Orion, and Patrick tried to hide their sad, worried glances. I ignored them. I didn’t need their pity.

 

 

 

I hate finals. But hey, almost done with school! And then I will have SO much time that I will absolutely not waste and will spend writing the rest of this story. Seriously it's SO CLOSE to being done, I just need to actually write it.

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>insert subject here<

Ooh, I think things are about to get interesting..!

I forgot Ness was so young, lol. Great chapter!

 

Best of luck on your finals!

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Ness is a baby

Ness has a total double standard she works off of: Anyone under twenty is a child. Except for her, she's a certidied Adult. I mean, it's kinda justified? But still sad.

Thanks! I survived (got all As, very proud of myself) and took Christmas break off. This next semester won't be so overwhelming (because I'm taking a maneagable amount of credits instead of piling everything on this time). I am definitely finishing this story by summer. An achievable goal for the remaining five-ish chapters (plus a bonus week of constant short updates). 

I just want to say that you have been a very consistent commenter even when I go on ridiculously long breaks and it means so much to me. I get the goofiest smile on my face every time I remember that there are people that actually like the things I've written, and you're one of the top contributers to that smile! So thank you very much ^^

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Haha, yes

You should be proud of yourself! I'm glad you won't be overwhelmed this semester; too much school is never good. Man, only five-ish chapters left? I'll be sad when it's over... But I'm happy it's still going for now!

Aw, really? I'm so happy to hear that! I always love making other people smile! You're very welcome ^^ And yes, you really are a great author!

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Can things get any worse? Don't ask

I don’t really remember much after that. There was some meaningless mumbling about future rules and lectures that would be absolutely nonnegotiable, but between the trembling in my ears and the heavy roiling in my gut I couldn’t concentrate enough to say what I wanted effectively.

Once I was sure nobody (read: Conner) would chase after me with more questions, I fled as quickly and quietly as I could back into the relative safety of my forest. I managed to swallow down the panic rising up my throat and keep my breathing somewhat even until I stumbled into a black-and-gray wall of warm scales.

Two big, beautiful eyes blinked down at me in reptilian concern. “Karach?”

That did it. My heart jerked and any control I had snapped.

Shadow whined in surprise when I wrapped my arms around her neck as far as they would go and let my wings sag.

“Karach,” I sobbed. “Karach, karach, please—I can’t fix this, I can’t—they’re mine mine mine they don’t belong here they won’t leave please please please karach!

Shadow hurriedly pushed me down and wrapped me close. Wings pulled over my head in a comforting musk of dragon sweat.

“Ness, calm, calm,” she soothed. “Calm.”*

Breathe in, breathe out. In, out. In, out. I curled into Shadow as close as I could. “They keep coming, they keep coming back,” I whined. “I can’t let them get hurt, they don’t even belong here, they’re going to die!”

“They belong as much as you do.” 

Fair point, but also rude. I tried again. “They don’t know how to fight. They will be hurt.”

“Their dragons will protect them.” Shadow sounded a little offended.

I bit back a wet snarl. She doesn’t get it. “But then who will protect their dragons? I can only do so much.” I was the alpha. I protected my dragons, not the other way around!

Shadow licked my ears comfortingly. “You are stronger than you realize.”

Meaningless platitude. “Not the kind of strength that matters in a fight.” No claws, no teeth, no fire, just a tail and a few types of punches that would do absolutely nothing against the wrong end of a gun. The riders had even less than I did.

“You are stronger than you realize,” she repeated, and licked my head (cute, but ew my hair) one last time before settling down to sleep.

There was no point in arguing further. I just pulled my wings in closer and tried to pretend that the future would never come. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*I actually have some Dragontongue vocabulary that this translates into! I’ve been working on a dictionary in hopes of being able to translate entire conversations, but it’s really REALLY slow going.

Karach - (kah-RAHK) 1. n. Guardian, protector. 2. n. A rider-dragon bond (each call the other protector). (You might have noticed that I’ve sprinkled this term in here already)

Huur - (hooor, think owl sounds/purring) phras. Be silent, be still, be calm; ‘hush.’

Ala’cgha - (AH-luh-GHAH) adj. Mine; lit. ‘under my protection.’ Used for living things or places, things that cannot be physically owned.

Kree - (kree) pron. Them, they (plural). Used to refer to others.

 

I know my dragons’ behavior/speech patterns vary wildly, but after four years of writing I’ve finally settled on how they’re going to work, so. Hooray for that, at least!

 
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Aww...

Hiding in the arms—or wings—of a loved one and finally letting everything out is one of my favorite tropes of all time! It's so sweet to see Ness finally letting her guard down, finally letting herself not have to be strong, just for a moment. I do hope all her worries turn out to be for nothing, but knowing the way stories tend to go...

That's amazing that you're coming up with an entire language! I could never do that; I have a hard enough time just coming up with names XD

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I'm so tired

I hate school. I am almost done with school. This does not in any way curb my hatred.

On the plus side, only about 5 full-length chapters and then this is done! Crazy thoughts.

 

I woke up from my mental breakdown fifteen hours later, fresh with nervous energy. I had exactly thirteen days until Doomsday and fourteen—nope, fifteen, can’t forget Ardawait, sixteen, does Arya want in? Absolutely not she doesn’t even have a dragon—and fifteen dragon riders who wanted to commit suicide via poachers.

Plus maybe some adult supervision.

A few weeks of sporadic self-defense does not a warrior make. They only had, what, two months of semi-consistent training?

…No, they started while I was…away. So closer to five months, then. Which was still not enough! At least they had oversized fire-breathing lizards to guard them. That made me feel a lot better.

Wait, no. Guns. Darts and bullets. Scalpels. Nope. Still nauseous.

I needed a way to teach them all how to not die. In less than two weeks. And to figure out how to arm and armor them, and medical care, and food, and why the heck was I only thinking of this now?

…I could totally do this.

First things first: Establish a secure line of communication. I sent Conner a text asking him to pass a message down the line. Those who got parental permission, report to the Punching 101 clearing tomorrow at 4:00pm. We’ve got work to do.

Conner responded in less than twenty seconds. !!! That was fast.

I left him on read. I had work to do.

 

“Dragoness.”

I fumbled my pen and looked up.

Oak, Shadow, Mae, Orion’s dragon, Ethrae, and at least three others that I only sorta-recognized sat in a respectful circle, necks and snouts arched low. I sat up straighter tried not to think about how my head barely came up to the middle of their forelegs.

“At the raid, you said to let the humans live,” Oak rumbled. “What would you have us do now?”

I stilled. No. Don’t ask me this. Don’t make me choose. Please.

They had to come home. My dragons, my riders, mine. They had to.

But…

Dawn and Dusk. Bryn. What if there were more, and we only found out after? What about the people waiting for them to come home?

“Don’t aim to kill,” I said at last. “Humans are fragile, and they still have families.”

Oak bowed his head, accepting.

My stomach rebelled. I turned away.

Wrong.

 

By the time the dragonriders started trickling in the next afternoon, I had a nice little table and a couple folding chairs set up, which Dusk and Flame tried to claim. I promptly shooed them off. The chairs were for the actual adults like Mr. O’Carrick and Miss Amy, thank you very much. Also Miss Ellen. I had invited her with the suggestion to leave Arda at home with the younger girls. Petty? Absolutely, and I was completely unrepentant. That’d teach her to join ill-advised interventions.

“Ness?”

“Yes, Ross?”

“What are you wearing?”

Oh. I knew I was forgetting something. “That’s my backpack.” One of the only ones I could find with straps that had buckles instead of those slider things. It was black, but I’d added some green tape. You know, to stay on brand.

Also Flicker may or may not have chewed a couple holes in it.

It was almost four anyway. I unbuckled the straps, slipped the bag to the ground, and started rummaging through.

Familiar footsteps crunched up and nudged at the bag. “Whatcha got there?”

“A smoothie,” I deadpanned. “You nosy brat.”

Conner snorted. This time the feet nudged at my wings. “Hardy-har. Should I call everyone to order, then?”

“Yup. It’s time.”

“Cool. EVERYBODY LISTEN UP!”

Huh. So that’s what quiet sounded like.

“Thanks, Conner! You might be wondering why I called you all here this perfectly normal afternoon.” Ugh, why did paper have to be so slippery? “And I am happy to show you.”

In one fluid move, I heaved a stack of papers and posters onto the table with a loud, fluttery thwump. The table wobbled and creaked, but held. A few loose pages slipped to the ground. Ash graciously picked them back up.

The dozen or so riders (plus Miss Amy and Miss Ellen) that had actually paid attention to the text chain stood around the table in baffled formation. I don’t think they even realized what their faces were doing.

Flame raised her hand. “Ness?”

“Yeah?”

“What.” She gestured vaguely at the giant stack. It was a good foot-and-a-half tall.

I blinked slowly. Clear, tinted relief slid over my vision and back again. Wow, my eyes were really dry. “We have twelve days until Doomsday.”

“Eleven.”

“What?”

Hail pointed down at the calendar that had landed near him. “Eleven days.”

“Oh.” I checked the schedule again. Sure enough, an entire day had disappeared. Yesterday, to be specific. “Yeah. Okay. Okay.” That could work. I just had to cut a bit short there and maybe squeeze that over here

“Breathe, Ness.”

Bad hand! Shoo! I batted away Miss Amy’s fingers until she retracted them from my shoulder. “I am breathing! Anyways.” Deep breath because Mr. O’Carrick was still looking at me funny. “Eleven days until the hunters come. Which means all of you trigger-happy idiots that are over sixteen and have gotten parental permission will be doing exactly as I say to prepare or you’re out. Capisce?”

A mumbled assent.

Wait. There was no way Bryn had actually gotten permission for this. I stared at him until he glared.

I switched targets, narrowing my eyes at Tolzar and Kalzar. “You all did get parental permission, didn’t you?” It wasn’t actually directed at Bryn, but close enough. He got it.

“They said yes!” Tolzar beamed.

I squinted harder, suddenly suspicious. “Did the words ‘likely injury and possible death’ at any time make their way into the conversation or was it just a ‘can I go fight dragon hunters with my friends’ that would not be out of place in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign?”

They weren’t the only ones to shuffle guiltily.

I sniffed. “That’s what I thought. Go back and try again. Not now, obviously, but when you get home today I expect you to actually talk to them.”

This time the mumbles were much more rebellious. I glared until they all looked contrite.

“Back on topic. Like I said, since there is a significant risk of injury and death and you’re all idiots it’s no sense of self-preservation, we are all going to be taking the next couple weeks to prepare as best we can.” I pawed through the papers until I found the correct stack and began passing the stapled papers around.

Dawn stared down at her packet. “What even is this?”

“Mmm, this is the schedule for all the first aid, field commands, and combat training we’re going to be learning in the next two weeks. I hope you’ve cleared your afternoons because I expect you to be attending every single one.”

Flame blinked down at the thick sheaf in her hands. “This isn’t a schedule, it’s just a list.”

I peered over her shoulder. “Oh, never mind, that’s the required equipment. Haven’t figured out what to do for armor yet, but you need at least two knives and some kind of goggles so you don’t get sweat in your eyes. Take it from me, it stings and makes it really hard to concentrate. Sturdy shoes and clothes that are flexible, breathable, and don’t rip easy. Also you might want to figure out harnesses for the dragons? Yeah, I should probably do that. Oh, here’s a schedule.” I shoved the papers into her hands.

“Isn’t this a bit much…?”

I frowned. “You’re right, harnesses are unrealistic in the time frame. Just hold on really, really hard, and if you start getting tired get the heck out of dodge before you fall off.”

“Wow.” Conner cleared his throat. “You’re, uh, really prepared.”

I glared. “So sorry for trying to make sure you survive. Next time I’ll be sure to let you get your guts spilled.” Was I the only one taking this seriously? People could die. People probably were going to die. And none of them were listening.

Miss Ellen leaned over. “Breathe, Ness.”

I growled. “Stop telling me to breathe. I’m fine.

“We’re taking this seriously,” Hail said quietly, holding up his papers as proof. “We promise.”

They all nodded. Even Miss Amy and Miss Ellen, who had kids involved.

Oh. 

They were all involved. That’s why they wanted to help.

I couldn’t bring myself to smile, but my shoulders relaxed. “Alright, then. Let’s get started.”

As the riders laughed and jostled and moved off towards their dragons, I pulled Bryn off to the side. I made sure to keep my voice low. You never knew who was listening. “If you don’t want to fight, don’t.”

He blinked dazedly. “Why wouldn’t I—“ The haze cleared. “Oh.”

I squeezed his arm gently. “Use me as an excuse if you want; say you made me mad and I banned you or something.” Jeez, I felt like a mom.

Brynn looked down at his hands. “Thanks. I—I will.”

A bubble of relief popped and oozed warmth. Oh, thank goodness, that was one less person to worry about. “Good.”

He strained a smile and slipped away.

 

Miss Ellen and Miss Amy were in charge of the first-aid classes. Not the kind you take during summer camp, but actual emergency/triage care. Nothing too terribly intense. Just a refresher of what to do in case of cuts, bruising, broken bones, GSWs, and accidental intoxication. To be revisited daily. Just in case.

It was mandatory. Thankfully no one fought me on it. Some of them (Tolzar) even seemed weirdly excited.

Miss Amy smiled brightly. “Hello, and welcome to Don’t hide101.”

Muffled giggles. Ugh. Conner did have to get it from somewhere.

“I took these classes a few years ago, but I still have the notes.” She held up a thick sheaf of papers. That…was a lot of notes. Gosh, I was so glad I didn’t have to do school anymore.

Miss Ellen waved. “And my experience mostly applies to animals, but there’s still some things I can teach you.”

They walked us through a surprisingly comprehensive guide. We practiced tying knots, wrapping bandages, and identifying minor versus critical injuries.

“Hopefully you won’t have to use any of this,” Miss Amy warned. “But it’s better to be prepared. We’re almost done, Ellen just has a few more things she’d like to go over.”

“Thanks, Amy,” Miss Ellen smiled. “We’ve taught you what to do if you or another person is injured. Does anyone know what to do if your dragon is injured?”

There was some blinking and muttering. No one had a clue. 

I squirmed. I hadn’t thought of that. Some alpha.

“That’s okay, I didn’t expect you to,” Miss Ellen encouraged. “Most you can do is to trust them. They have more self-preservation instincts than you lot—“

“Debatable,” I muttered.

“—you can trust them to pull out when they’re too injured. Just try not to touch the dragon blood with your bare skin as much as you can. It might be toxic, and too much could definitely make you sick.”

“Why is it toxic?”

Miss Ellen held up a tiny glass vial. It winked like poison in the sunlight. Dragon blood. “It’s green. According to Google, only a few species of lizards have green blood, and it’s green because it’s got a lot of bile that’s similar to another chemical that causes jaundice in humans. I haven’t gotten much on my bare skin because I don’t want to know what might happen, so just be careful, alright?”

Huh. Good to know.

 

It was a shame we couldn’t get bulletproof vests for everyone; those were expensive and heavy, and anyways it wasn’t like you could mass order them online.

Conner gave me a strange look when I mentioned that. “Yeah, we can. They won’t be kevlar, which is what you’re thinking of, but we can get a bunch of protective vests for a decent price.”

I blinked. “Really?”

Conner held up his phone. “Mom already ordered them with express shipping. They’ll be here in a couple days.”

Oh. Maybe…maybe I really wasn’t the only one taking this seriously. Some of the dread loosened, just a little.

 

Three days before Doomsday, I had to give the Talk.

Everyone—that was going to be fighting on Doomsday, that is—gathered at the usual clearing with the big flat rock for me to play Simba on. Little heads with messy hair and big eyes behind painted masks stared up at me. Some carried on side conversations, but for the most part they were content to blink and watch.

…It was a little creepy, if I’m being honest.

Their dragons slunk in and out of the trees, snapping and purring. The sun was warm and the air smelled like warm grass.

My hands were cold.

I took a deep breath and clapped my hands. “So! Today we’re gonna talk about murder.”

All the little heads bobbed and blinked and squeaked in agitation.

“The schedule says Ethics Discussion!” Flame squawked.

“Exactly. Ethics of battle. Which this is, by the way. Not a game, not a contest. This is a war. If you make it out alive, you win. And I want you to win.

The dragons had settled down on the outskirts, ears flicking with interest. They might not have understood exactly what was being discussed, but they knew it was important.

I had practiced this speech in the mirror for the past week. I wasn’t sure what would happen if someone interrupted. Thankfully, they all stayed quiet.

“Look. I haven’t killed before either. I don’t want to, and I don’t plan to. But plans don’t always match up with reality. There is a very good chance that to keep your life, you’re going to have to end someone else’s. Permanently.”

A heavy weight thumped into my back. I staggered with a sharp cry. 

Sharp claws brushed my neck. “Calm,” chittered a familiar voice. I relaxed.

“Thanks, Spark,” I hummed.

The little Terror chirped and draped himself comfortable over my head and shoulders.

I took a deep breath and kept going. “I want to say do whatever it takes to come back. But it would be…hypocritical, to require you to kill. I can’t make that choice for you, just like I can’t force you to go home and stay. There.

Conner, Flame, Dusk, Tolzar, and Bryn winced. I glared harder. They’d better be guilty, what with how many years were being drained from my lifespan.

“Just…think of your families? Your parents, your siblings—heck, your kids, if you have any. It’s just…it’s not just about you.”

After all, death hurts those left behind more than the ones who are gone.

“You don’t have to decide anything just yet. I’m telling you now so you can think about it. Talk together, figure out how far you’re willing to go, so that when the time comes hesitation doesn’t get you killed.” 

The clearing sucked up all the sound in a tepid vacuum. Even the birds sounded far away. Bright eyes stared up at me. I stared back.

“Lesson over.”

No one moved. Really, I had to do everything around here. I hopped down from my perch and shook out my wings. Ow. I was going to feel that tomorrow. Clicked for Spark, got a chirp back. He swarmed down from my shoulders and curled up in my arms, purring. Ohhhh. That felt good.

And it seemed to do the trick. The riders broke from their trance and started muttering together. Not silent, but not very loud, either. I must have really spooked them.

I made eye contact with Conner and sidled over. “How’d I do?”

He chuckled mirthlessly. “Good, good, you did…good. This is…” Conner puffed out a breath and shoved his hair back. “This is a lot.”

I regarded him evenly. “And you wonder why I don’t want you here.”

He flinched, then glared.

I looked down at Spark. He licked my chin. “You know what I mean.”

A brief sensation of warmth as he barely brushed against my wings. A deep sigh. “Yeah. I do.”

 
 
 
This is the final 'staller' chapter. Next up: DOOMSDAY.
Solveig the Fair's picture
Solveig the Fair
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*GASP*

NEW CHAPTER!!!!!!!

I hate school too, and I'm not even the one in school; my best friend is the one suffering and I hate it because of that, lol

ASH APPEARED FOR A SENTENCE YAY

Wow, things are about to get really serious... I can't believe there's only a few chapters left...

 

Oh, I just saw the new drawing of Ness on the first post! It's super cute and I envy your ability to draw curly hair!

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Late reply, hi

Two more chapters. Two more chapters until the thing I've been planning for so long

Thank you! I actually have an easier time drawing curly hair than straight hair. The squiggles speak to me.

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Hi!

I know the feeling very well...

You're welcome! Out of curiosity, do you have curly hair?

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The Dragoness
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Is it that obvious?

Aha yes. Yes I do. At least on good hair days.

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Solveig the Fair
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Or maybe I’m just that observant? Idk

It just sounded like something someone with curly hair would say. And also, as far as I can tell, Ness is heavily based on you.

I wish I had curly hair, or at least nice waves. They're just so pretty...

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Today is Doomsday

Today is Doomsday.

That was the first thought in my head when I woke up that morning, and it echoed like a death knell even as I tried to choke down some eggs and toast. Today is Doomsday. Today is Doomsday.

I creeped over to the main house where the rest of my family lived and peeked through the door. The sun was barely stretching through the trees; this early, no one should be up.

And yet.

Mom and Dad were at the kitchen table, talking quietly. They looked up and fell silent.

I swallowed hard at the looks on their faces. Even if I never talked about exactly what I was up to with the dragons, they knew enough. They knew too much for me to pretend I wasn’t scared.

Mom stood up and wrapped her arms around me. I leaned in and buried my face in her neck. I was taller, so I had to kind of wriggle and hunch, and my ears fluttered so much they probably tickled. But she just held me tighter and Dad reached over and put his hand on my shoulder and it felt so warm.

But not safe. Nothing could quiet the dread.

Today is Doomsday.

Dang it, I was not going to cry.

“I have to go,” I whispered.

Mom squeezed me one last time, then let go. “Be safe.”

I stepped back and tried for a smile. “I’ll be back in time for dinner,” I promised.

“You’d better.”

One last glance, then out the door and away.

Today is Doomsday.

 

In an incredibly stupid yet potentially life-saving move, Bryn had planted a small recorder in his dad’s office. He reported that the hunters didn’t exactly have a set time, but they planned to start canvasing the woods by mid-morning at a pre-set rendezvous point. They would all go up together for a few miles, then split into three parties and start hunting. I thanked him profusely for the intel, after which I gave him a thorough dressing-down for reckless self-endangerment and told him to please never do it again.

On the hunters’ side: fifty-seven members. They had to drive themselves, but the large semi truck and three smaller U-Hauls they must have rented specifically to transport dragons (probably to the last warehouse that I had yet to find). One large rifle, one dart gun, two knives, and protective gear for each hunter. Small and weak for an army, but incredibly large for an Albuquerque gang that specialized in poaching.

On the dragons’ side: fourteen humans, one draconian, and twenty dragons. Well, twenty full-sized dragons (the Terrors were guarding my house, the Calls, and the nests. The Flickerwings—well. They had their own jobs to do). Two or three more humans were filling in as medics (Mr. Sumner, Miss Amy, and Miss Ellen). The humans were…admittedly going to be more hindrance than help, which was almost infuriating.

However.

I had seen the impressive synchrony of the dragon-rider pairs. The riders trusted the dragons not to drop them, and the dragons trusted the riders to tell them where to go. They could keep each other safe. And the addition of human features stopped hunters in their tracks more than once. They may be expecting me, but real humans? Riding dragons? It would give the edge of surprise we would need.

Because we wouldn’t be able to ambush them and pick them off one by one like I always did. The pre-set rendezvous point? A steep, open field with rough boulders at the top, not more than a mile from where I sent most of the nesting dragons. Eight eggs, eleven drakelings, and no time to move them. I could not afford to let the hunters go any further.

The plan? Send in the Flickerwings to toggle the safeties and hope the hunters didn’t notice immediately (and was that a fun conversation. So many secrets had stopped mattering recently). Approach from above in a pincer movement. Hit them hard, hit them fast, and hope that was enough to stop them. We couldn’t beat them by sniping, not with so little cover and with bullets far faster and deadlier than even the most well-aimed fireball.

And I had refused my dragons the right to kill.

I landed at the Dragonrider’s pre-set rendezvous. Hail was already there, trademark sunglasses traded for thick goggles and oversized jacket exchanged for a protective vest. He…huh. It looked like he’d cut holes in his mask big enough for the goggles and glued them together. Strange, but at least there was something familiar. 

Hail gave me a nod but didn’t say anything. I appreciated it.

Today is Doomsday.

By 8:45, most everyone was there. Hail, Patrick O’Carrick, the Sumners, Miss Ellen (Arda was watching the girls at home), Dusk, Flame, Nightshade, Anna Crown, and Orion. Only Ash and Ross were missing. Each one wore the same goggles-and-mask combo and grim expression.

They looked like soldiers. They looked wrong. This wasn’t what my riders were supposed to be. They were supposed to be colorful masks and laughing smiles and whoops echoing through the trees. Not…not preparing themselves to fight a battle that wasn’t their own. Not preparing themselves to die.

This was bordering on suicidal. Why were they still here???

Conner made his way over and sat down next to me. “We’re not leaving,” he said firmly. “Don’t ask us to.”

It took a couple tries to clear my throat. “You should.”

“No, we shouldn’t. This is something worth fighting for.” Conner briefly pressed his shoulder against mine. “Trust me. None of us would be here if we didn’t want to.”

Trust Conner. Okay.

Hail slipped over. “When do we move out?”

“The Flickerwings will tell us when the hunters are coming. We’ll leave as soon as they tell me.” What was it Mr. O’Carrick said? Hurry up and wait? Sounded about right.

Ten minutes.

Twenty.

Ash and Ross finally showed up. I kind of wished they had actually bailed.

Thirty.

At 9:28, an unfamiliar Flickerwing zipped up and cheeped in my ear. I knew it wasn’t Flicker because it didn’t automatically crawl into my hair. Instead, it perched respectfully on my shoulder.

“The hunters are coming up the black-path,” it hissed. “What will you have us do with the young ones?"

My blood froze.

“With the what.

The Flickerwing swung its head to the left. Something was shifting in the underbrush. I stumbled to my feet and raced over.

Tolzar, Kalzar, Dawn, Bryn, Theo, Arda, Gild.ie, and Joy blinked up from a concerningly well-constructed den of woven bushes.

No. No. No no no no no.

Today is Doomsday.

“How did you get here?” I snarled.

“Like we were going to stay behind!” Dawn said hotly. “We’re not babies, you know!”

I pointed at the very young, very vulnerable, very much not human Joy and tried not to scream. “Tell that to the five year old!!!!” Okay so maybe I failed. “You were supposed to stay away. You two—your parents said no, I know they said no. You three—you’re too young and I don’t even want to know how you got here—”

“Stole Dad’s car and they threatened to tell if I didn’t bring them,” Bryn muttered.

“—and you.” I glared at Arda and struggled not to feel like she had stabbed me in the back. “You. Of all people. You should know why they shouldn’t be here.”

Arda blinked back tears. But then Gild.ie piped up. “We wanted to see Mama, but she wouldn’t let us outside, so Joy poked her with her tail and we asked Sunrise to take us to Mama.”

I blinked. Oh. Okay. Okay. “Sorry, Arda.”

Pounding footsteps behind me, and—

“GIRLS!?”

“BOYS!”

“DAWN!”

Oh. Good. Reinforcements.

Reinforcements.

The hunters.

The hunters were here.

“Guys.” They were still talking. “Guys. We have to go.”

Dusk whirled, practically yanking Dawn by the arm. “But what about these idiots?”

I stared at them, sickening dread looping through my heart and throat and stomach.

This was exactly what I spent weeks trying to avoid, only for it to go and happen anyway. “They stay in the medical area. Their dragons will stab behind to make sure they don’t pull another disappearing act. Also if they need evac they’ll be able to move quick.” Five dragons. We were going to be down five dragons.

Hail growled from where he curled around a wide-eyed Theo, but it wasn’t like there was any better choice. We had to move now, and there was no way in h.ell those idiots could be trusted to hide by themselves after the stunt they just pulled.

The Flickerwing buzzed a warning on my shoulder.

Today is Doomsday.

We had to go now. There was no time left to worry.

I shoved down every last bit of terror and dread until it was numb. No more feeling. No more overthinking. Just move.

“Riders,” I called. The humans finally stopped talking and looked up. Their dragons, shifting and stressed, leaped eagerly to their feet. “Let’s go.”

 
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O_O

*internal screaming of anticipation*

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>8D

*cackles in author*

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Mercy can be cruel

Everyone quickly mounted their dragons. Oak took the Sumners, Sunrise took Joy and Gild.ie, and Snowflake the Frostfang took Miss Ellen and Arda. Conner offered to share Shadow (Shadow also gave me some very pointed chirps and growls), but I just shook my head and took off. It was all downhill anyways, and I was mostly at full strength.

We made our way into position as quickly and quietly as possible. Flicker had finally caught up and crawled into my hair, but a concerning amount of Flickerwings were gathering together on me and the other dragons. I mean, I knew there were a lot, but…wow. They practically covered the other dragons’ backs in a shifting mass of glass-on-white.

The medics (and the idiot children that I was going to strangle when this was all over) started setting up their little triage station in a nice, protected space behind some steep, rough rocks. Add the extra dragon guards, and it would be more than easily defensible.

Because my people were going to get hurt.

Everyone was in position. Muscles tense, breath a little too rapid and heavy.

Patrick O’Carrick chuckled softly. “Ah, this brings back memories. Easy, youngsters. There’ll be no need to fret for a while yet.”

I swallowed hard. Easier said than done.

I don’t know how long we sat there. Enough for the shadows to shift a little and for most of us to have sweat trickling uncomfortably down our foreheads and backs.

Flame was the first to notice the low rumbling. “Listen!” she hissed.

There it was. The dull drone of vehicles trundling down a rough road. The hunters were here. No more waiting, then. It was almost a relief.

My wings twitched upward as I shifted forward, but Mr. O’Carrick tapped my tail and shook his head.

“Let them get out of the cars first,” he said quietly. “Men are easier to crush than metal.”

Those within earshot winced. It was solid advice, but did he really have to put it like that?

We watched the hunters swarm out of their cars like so many ants, pulling out equipment and checking guns only a couple hundred yards away.

I looked to Mr. O’Carrick. “Shouldn’t we go before they get out all their stuff?”

He hesitated. “Tactically speaking, it’s easier to fight the enemy when they’re unarmed and unprotected. Some are still protected in the cars, but they’re mostly unarmed. It’s also easier when you know where they all are. Are we sure they’re all here?”

No. “So what’s the verdict?”

He pursed his lips. “I was more of a foot soldier than a tactician, I’m afraid. You’re the one with the most information, and you’re the one who gives the signal.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Dusk cut in roughly. “Just choose quickly.”

I stared at her, then back out at the people who were laughing and chatting. Their squeaky little voices carried surprisingly well. They were wearing short sleeves. It was impossible to see from this distance, but I knew most all of them had long, thin scars on their forearms.

Dusk’s dad had those scars, too.

I swallowed. “Flicker.”

Flicker prickled his way across my neck, down my arm, and onto the palms of my hands. “Yes?”

“Tell the other Flickerwings to start taking their positions. I need those guns…” I struggled for a second to find the right word. “Safe. Stay low and don’t let yourselves be seen.”
“Go make the guns safe and sneak,” he chirped back. “Yes, Ness.” He rubbed his head and wings affectionately against my fingers, then darted away with the usual hummingbird squeal.

“Give the Flickerwings ten minutes to get into position,” I said quietly to the others.

More waiting. Yay. I couldn’t decide if I hated or liked that I couldn’t see if my dragons were.

A hunter swatted at something too small to see.

Nope. Hated. Definitely hated.

“Has it been ten minutes yet?” Flame whispered.

My heart was doing funny things in my chest. “Yeah. Yeah, wait here.”

“What?”

I glared. “You don’t move until I give the signal, remember? Just wait for it.”

A chorus of furious whispers hissed after me as I squirmed out of the undergrowth and skirted the edge of the trees.

It’s not just about you.

Thirty, maybe forty yards away. About as close as I was willing to get. Still far too close to cold eyes and cold metal.

Flicker better be in position.

I took a deep breath, then another, then stepped out of the shade and into the sun.

It took them a little while to notice me. By the time most of them started shouting and elbowing each other towards the strange creature that had appeared out of nowhere, I was almost ten yards into the grass. It was tall grass, almost to my knees. It scratched through my boots and leggings.I came to a stop, right in the middle of the field, maybe twenty yards higher up. Too far to rush easily, but close enough to see their eyes.

A man, not particularly tall but a bit rotund around the middle, held up a hand and the hunters fell into reluctant semi-silence.

The Boss. So this was Bryn’s father. Couldn’t see the resemblance, really.

I cocked my head, fluffed my ears, and blinked slowly. “You shouldn’t be here, you know.”

It was obvious who already knew about Cryptie and who didn’t. About half and half, wow. The turnover rate for this gig must be extraordinarily high.

The Boss’ shoulders tensed. “What are you,” he growled.

I smiled a tad too wide. “Ask your minions. They’ve been trying to figure it out for a while.”

He glanced over his shoulder, then turned back with a dawning fury. “You’re the one who’s been spooking my men.”

And women,” I corrected. “Maria in particular was incredibly cruel. But I took care of it. Would you like to see what I mean?”

The Boss’ eyes narrowed. “Guns up, boys. It may be able to talk but it can’t dodge bullets.”

I swallowed. No. No, I couldn’t.

The cluster of people grabbed waiting dart guns and rifles and suddenly I was staring down a forest of barrels. Some wavered up and down. Some stayed steadier than stone.

Deep breaths. Ignore the buzzing skin and tight throat. “They won’t do anything.” If all went well. “You should go back to your families while you still have the chance. ” I made eye contact with one of the more terrified hunters. “I only make this offer once. Andreassen’s daughters are glad he did.” 

Last chance. Please take it. Please.

“Fire!”

Every single hunter pulled the trigger. And every single gun stayed quiet and still. My lungs froze and restarted with an agonized sputter. The Flickerwings made it in time.

I leaped up as high as I could, wings shoving down and barely clearing the ground. I sailed over their heads, swerved up to avoid trucks and cars, then spiraled back towards the trees, where my wylde was waiting.

“COME!” I roared as loud as I could.

Today is Doomsday. But Doomsday for who?

 

 

 

I lied. The next chapter is action, I PROMISE. I have half of it written!...not consecutively. Fighting sequences are hard, okay??? 

But you guys. It's so close.

 
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AHHHHHHHHH—

Fight scenes are hard. So hard. And I hardly write anything in consecutive order so I feel ya XD

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O.O

Tracking! I dont know what took me so long to find this!!! 

__________________

Hello! Welcome to my signiture! 

WHO AM I?

Name: JadeeBug13 (yes its the same on the game, deal with it), but i prefer to be called Jadee.

Rank: 2 Platnium stars (On my way to 2.5 stars!)

Clan: Elder of The Nightlight Racers. Placing: Temporarily unavaliable due to broken board

Closest Friend: Rosemeralda  Norbutt Norston and SageSalin

Friend Code: PM me and I'll think about it.

I've been in the forum for a year now, and about 2 years in SOD!

Favorite Dragon: Pouncer the Night Light and Ruffrunner the Night Light (currently have both in adult form)

Dragon Count: I've got 50 dragons currently.

Trophie Count: 4150 (and still going up thanks to racing)

Favorite Event: Snoggletog!!!!

 

All my Sod Dragons

 

My Top Dragons:

D.T.: Stormfly Jr. the Titan Deadly Nadder, Pouncer the Night Light and Kalahara the Hobblegrunt

Racing: Pouncer the Night Light

Fireball Frenzy: Strike the Titan Deathgripper and Poison the Dreadstrider

Battle Events: Pickle the Pricklebogger

 

Sprig moment from Amphibia:

Sprig: Well obviously I cant do it because i have the attention span of a...

{Butterfly appears}

Sprig {looking at it}: Oh look at that...

 

Fanfic: The Four Tribes of Magic.

Chapter 1: A Secret in a Book   Chapter 2: A Secret Rune  Chapter 3: A New World

Chapter 4: A Familiar Face

 

 

ATTENTION TO WINGS OF FIRE FANS: ALSO DOING A WINGS OF FIRE RP IF YOUR INTERESTED

View page here

 

Art Column

 

What I'm doing in the arts community:

 

 

♦Doing Edits on other things as well

♦View Page here

status: currently on hold 

Warrior Cat Character Creations

(Click on image to be sent to site)status: currently on hold 

 

My brand-new Signiture Protector, Salamandar the Slobber Smelter!  Art credit goes to chameishida

Salamandar may be small, but he is mighty, so dont get on his bad side!

Funny gif I made from a The Owl House scene

 

  

 

 

Amazing art of my Warrior Cat characters, Eclipse and Ash  Tigerlily  Fallenstar and Apollo and Artemis!! Credit goes to Tigerli1y!

Warrior Cat characters I've made, Gif by me!

Adopted Nightlight, SnowBlaze        Credit goes to DyliehIdol1214

 

My adopted SpaceWing, CometCredit goes to Eclipse Wraith

My adopted Light Fury, Moondrop  Credit goes to Kailuadragons

 

                                                                                  

                                                                                    Banner for my Racing buddy, Pouncer

                                                                                      Credit goes to Toraphire

 

           Banner by Shadowtigerkat                                                                    

Adopted Golden Night Fury Skin that i named GoldenEclipse    Credit goes to Chameishida

Night Fury Family pixels      Credit goes to Chameishida

A Fury Hybrid I took a liking to from Chameishida's Book of Fan Hybrids and Varients called the Whitesand

  

THIS IS THE END OF MY SIGNITURE, BUT I'M CONSTANTLY UPDATING, SO KEEP AN EYE OUT!