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