Lissa's Fan Fictions

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LissaFish
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Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 02/12/2017

 

 

 

 

Lissa's Fan Fictions

 

 

 

__________________

 

 

Lissa ~ Christian ~ Artist ~ Writer

SoD member since 2016.

 

I make the arts! Insta

I write! HERE for forum master thread. HERE for Wattpad

I love dragons, birbs, using emoticons, and animales

Monster Kitty Ebony

By Ecliptic Eight Thx she is so cute!

LissaFish's picture
LissaFish
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Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 02/12/2017
Welcome!

 

 

Hi there! Welcome to my fan fiction thread!

 

 

I've got a few fan fics collecting dust on my laptop and thought I'd bring them out for reading material. Most of them are stories written for amazing fan dragons I adopted in the past, I hope you enjoy!

 

 

~Lissa

 

 

 

 

Fan Fictions:

 

Loudlungs and Autumn

Candy Cane

Pen and Ink

An Easter Egg!

"Kenosi" *Warning listed*

Party Crashers

Sleepy Hollow *Warning Listed*

The Barbaric Archipelago

Victoria!

The One that Got Away

Operation: Rainmaker *Chapter story*

Selene *Chapter Book*

 

*Please note: some stories are intense/have violence*

LissaFish's picture
LissaFish
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Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 02/12/2017
Loudlungs and Autumn *DNR dirctly*

*Please do not reply directly, I may add the artwork that inspired the story at a later time*

 

 

 

Loudlungs and Autumn

 

 

*Inspired by Chameishidas' fan dragon species, the Nightsealer. Artwork by Chameishida*

 

“Loudlungs fetch the water to the stables. Loudlungs clean up that pile of droppings the chief just stepped in. Loundlungs get your behind moving. LOUDLUNGS!”

A sour faced, irritable boy growled between wheezings as he tried to summit Gothi’s hut.

“Why can’t you keep up with everyone else Loudlungs? That Hiccup. Who does he think he is anyways?” Loudlungs held the bucket of minnows carefully, trying to be sure neither they or the water splashed up on any part of him. Golden leaves whipped around as the wind increased. “Not chief, not yet anyway.”

He wished Hiccup would never become chief. Hiccup liked dragons. And dragons sucked.

Loudlungs hated the piles of dung everywhere, the scales scraped along every post and hut when they molted, the squawking and roaring, the fires, the lava, and that smell.

Just the thought of it made him gag. Rotten fish mixed with sweat, wet dirty beards, seaweed and reptile? A whiff of that could knock a stranger out cold. It had actually, on more than one occasion.

What was wrong with people? Why did they open their arms and hearts wide to slithering, stinky, scaly slimy winged lizards and act like all the world was right?

Poor Loudlungs was not a fan of flight or reptiles or animals in general. He wasn’t a bad sort, the kind that’s always looking for trouble and of course always finding it… just completely uninterested and a little afraid. And when you are uninterested and a little afraid the fact that everyone else is obsessing over the same thing gets really old really fast.

 

Tap tap tap,

“Gothi, it’s Loudlungs. I have your minnows.”

The door creaked open. Gothi stood there, staff so thoroughly covered in terrible terrors it couldn’t be seen. At the scent of minnow they ravenously lunged at Loudlungs who had not thought to put the bucket down before knocking.

As Gothi looked lovingly upon the sight Loudlungs belted out his signature shriek, wildly backing away from the hungry little dragons until all at once he found there was nothing beneath his feet.

Down, down, down he careened towards the jagged cliffs below, and just as he thought “this time. This time it really is the end of me!” two teal blue talons plucked him neatly from the sky.

“That’s the second time this week,” Astrid snapped, her rescuee lying boneless and gasping for breath in the dirt. “Come on, Loudlungs. I have better things to do. YOU have better things to do.”

“I HATE terrible terrors!” Loudlungs clenched the grass between his fingers like somehow it would keep him from ever leaving ground again. Stormfly thought this an interesting activity so she too, clawed at the ground. “I HATE climbing up to Gothi’s hut, I HATE heights,” He looked fiercely into Astrid’s face “I HATE stinky smelly fish and I HATE dragons!”

“A DRAGON just saved your miserable life you ingrate. MY dragon.” The hot-headed blonde returned. Her nadder looked up. “And if you weren’t such a stubborn neat freak you might learn to enjoy them!”

As the girl stormed away Loudlungs sat up.

All around him Vikings and dragons hustled through the streets. Zipplebacks, nadders, terrible terrors, gronckles and a monstrous nightmare or two. Everyone was so busy testing out new saddles, building feeding troughs, racing. The world kept spinning like he wasn’t even in it. People he would have considered his friends at one time didn’t give him a second glance.

She’s right, He thought forlornly. I just don’t belong here anymore.

Commotion arose from the southernmost part of the market. Dragons hissed and gave brief chase after a shaggy mutt hurrying five scruffy pups through the square. It barked as one Nightmare took interest in one of the living furballs. The nightmare was a mother herself, and looking for good ways to teach her hatchlings hunting skills. She snatched the pups up in her mouth. As things escalated, the young boy shuffled, unnoticed, quietly to his hut.

Usually when he opened that door the meticulously clean floor, polished and organized dishes, perfectly made bed with freshly cleaned furs had him sighing in relief. Today it seemed barren. No parents. No siblings. No friends. No life at all in his corner of the world.

He passed his model boats, stroking the hulls and adjusting the sails. Some were models and some were prototypes. He picked up one he and his father had designed together. Sweet memories danced in his head of cold winter nights spent by the great hearth, of each of them quietly chipping away at wood as mother cooked a fine meal. They were both so brave. He wished he had been as brave as they had.

Feelings buried deep within him stirred. Loss… fear… bitterness…

A gronckle hummed by the window.

…and also betrayal. Quickly he put the boat down. Berk was no longer the place for him.

 

Gathering ten soap bars and all the food that he had, he wrapped it all up in a travel sack that could double as a warm blanket and went down to the docks. There he put it in a tiny tackle box on a tiny but well-made boat. He turned for the great hall.

 

“Leaving? But why, lad?” Stoick the vast looked genuinely saddened at the news. “Please tell me it wasn’t something Astrid said. Her heart’s in the right place but the words don’t always follow.”

“No Chief. It’s just- time I move on.”

Stoick studied the boy for a long while. He looked over Loudlungs shoulder to a small memorial lit with candles.

“If we didn’t have dragons, would you stay?”

Loudlungs shifted his weight. “I don’t know.”

Stoick nodded, sympathy in his eyes.

“It’s not easy getting used to them. I had a way of doing things, of protecting the people, challenging us to grow stronger. A plan for my village, my fleet, my son- good plans in fact even great plans. But then things changed. And even though it’s been for the better it’s not been easy. But that’s life; somethings can’t be helped and somethings shouldn’t be.”

Loudlungs nodded slowly, not sure what to say to the nostalgic chief.

“All I’m sayin, lad, is it isn’t what life throws at you that makes you who you are… it’s what you do with it.”

“Yes… sir.”

Stoick sighed, quite certain not a word of his heartfelt message had entered the boys’ head.

“So, young adventurer, where will you go?”

“I um, I hear the Bashem Oiks are looking for boat builders.”

“I see. Well Loudlungs, best of luck to you then. If things get too boring over at the neighbors give us a holler and someone will pick you up,” He laughed, wondering if they could actually hear Loudlung’s shriek from across the sea. “Berk will welcome you back with open arms.”

 

“Loud!”

The boy cringed at the sound of the girl’s commanding voice. Stormfly close at her heels, Astrid ran up the dock to where he was untethering his tiny boat

“Yes?” He asked a bit curtly.

“You’re leaving,” She said between breaths.

Loudlungs straightened. “I am.”

“Why didn’t you tell anyone?”

“I did. I told Stoick. And I didn’t tell anyone else because I didn’t want to make a fuss.”

“This isn’t about this morning, is it Loud? Because I didn’t mean it that way.”

“I can come to my own decisions by myself.” The boy found himself putting his hands on his hips.

“Right. Sure. Just as long as they aren’t stupid ones.”

“They’re not,“ He retorted. “And don’t bother trying to change my mind. The sea beckons and it’s time I find a place of my own.”

He thought that last part sounded very grown up.

Astrid looked a bit surprised. “Ok then. If that’s really what you want I won’t stop you- but I will miss you, Loudlungs. Be safe out there, the sea is a dangerous place without a dragon.”

As he sailed away in his tiny boat, the girl and her nadder standing on the dock watching, Loudlungs muttered under his breath.

“I’ll take my chances.”

 

 

On the back of a dragon the trip to the Isle of Basham Oiks took little over three hours. In a boat it was closer to twenty, and much more in a rowboat. Loudlungs rowed until his shadow was as long as a timberjack is tall. Then he moored his vessel on an island somewhere between the two villages.

It was quiet here. No mess. No hissing and snarling. No stinky old fish. No dragons.

No dragons at all, he thought in some surprise. Not even a terrible terror!

In fact there wasn’t a flying creature to be seen, not even a seagull. You might think a warning bell would sound in Loud’s head but all he could think about was how perfect it was. No dragons or flying creatures of any sort! Maybe… maybe he should just stay here, and avoid people along with dragons.

The boy built a fire and lay down as it grew. He looked up at the southern sky, the lonely autumn star twinkling on the horizon. It was his favorite.

BURP! Loudlungs heard, just as he was thinking to himself what to eat for supper. A yawn and licking noise followed.

He bolted upright. That sound had come from his boat!

“No,” He rushed over to check on his supplies. The hinge on the hatch was broken. “No no no no NO!”

He threw back the door. The blanket that had wrapped all the food was torn to shreds, and laying on top of it, with a very self-satisfied look on it’s face sat the stray mutt. She burped again, a big, soapy bubble floating out of her mouth.

“Oh you stupid dog!” Loud yelled. It grunted and leapt out of the boat. “It’s bad enough you ate the food and destroyed the blanket, but the SOAP?!? It’ll take me forever just to earn enough to buy the supplies to make it!”

He kicked sand her way.

The dog shied far enough to avoid it, but didn’t leave. At a safe distance she sat and panted contentedly, bubbles foaming out her mouth. It was a little disturbing.

Loudlungs returned to the fire and hopelessly plopped down. “And you got your grimy little paws all in my boat, too. I swear the archipelago has a vendetta against hygiene.”

He stared at the dog and it stared back at him. He nudged closer to the fire. The dog, now bored, explored her new surroundings.

She strode across the beach and chased the waves, sprinting and dodging in the ebb and flow. She ran up to Loudlungs periodically, barking in excitement, hoping he would join her.

When he made it clear he would not play her game she turned her attention to the cliffs and caves where every manner of smell could be found.

“Glad you like it,” Loud grumbled as she made her way from the cliff’s base towards the trees, “’Cause you’re never gonna leave.”

It was just about pitch black now. Loudlungs could only hear the rustle of the undergrowth as his stowaway played in the wood.

How did she even get into the boat? He wondered. And where are her puppies?

He remembered the scuffle he left behind that morning. She must not have won.

The thought of the dog loosing so much to the dragons created a strange feeling inside of Loudlungs. A feeling of… compassion… for a stinky, dirty, soap-stealing animal.

“Bet if you were twice as big you’d have shown her,” He said... more to himself than the dog because there was no way she could hear him from this distance, “Bet you would march right back there and beat them all up. Show em who’s boss. Make things right again.”

Hungry, tired and irritable, he fell into a restless sleep.

 

It was deep into the night when he awoke to something stepping on him.

“Mmph!” He cried out as he was smothered. “Get off!”

The dog wasn’t listening- to him anyway. Sniffing the air and jerking her head one way then another she searched the inky night, eyes hard and body stiff.

Loudlungs wriggled out from under and backed away. He looked up at the sky. He didn’t see anything… once in a while the stars would blink like something might have flown in front of them but he didn’t hear any noise. Even as he had made up his mind that nothing was there, the mutt stood growling and whining, snapping at the sky with bubbles still floating out her mouth.

Maybe she didn’t eat my soap, he thought worriedly. Maybe she’s just rabid.

It seemed like a good possibility. And the more he thought about the less he wanted to be here, next to the delusional creature.

Very, very quietly, he took a step back. Then another, and another.

But no sooner had he turned to slip away than the dog barked. He looked over his shoulder to see it racing towards him at full speed.

“No, stay, AAAAAGGGGHHHHH!!!”

Loudlungs belted his signature shriek as it closed in.

Something above his head flapped away, but it didn’t stop the dog. She grabbed him by the cuff of his sleeve and dragged him kicking and screaming into the trees.

This time. This time for sure! He bemoaned himself. What a weird way to go. Eaten by a bubble breathing mutt in a world filled with savages and dragons.

Not being the best navigator the dog accidently ran poor Loudlung’s head into a root. He stopped, but she kept running until she realized she was only holding the torn sleeve of his coat.

 

Loudlungs made a beeline for the shore. If he could just get back to the fire he could pull one of the burning branches out and ward-off the crazed animal long enough to escape to his boat.

The undergrowth beside him shivered. Loud yelped as the mutt bounded out in front, cutting his escape route off. Her head was low, her ears were back and legs braced. She snorted. Loudlungs put his arms up around his neck, afraid she was going to attack.

She whined and put out a paw. He backed into a tree and closed his eyes.

The next thing he felt was licking. Licking on his hand and his arm and then paws on his chest and licking on his face.

“Eww ew!” Loudlungs shrank down, wiping sudsy slime with a faint hint of lavender away. She just put more on, stubby tail wagging wildly behind her. “Gross. Weren’t you ever taught not to play with your food? If you had eaten me it would’ve been better.”

In truth, he was terribly relieved.

The leaves above the two whipped backward like an invisible sickle had swooped down. Loud ducked instinctively.

The dog whimpered again and took him by the cuff of his other sleeve.

“Maybe your right,” he thought, getting up. The stars blinked above them. Over and over, in different places at the same time. The hair on the back of his neck rose.

“No… you’re definitely right.”

She lead him deeper into the forest, under the limbs of some giant trees and over impressive roots.

Loudlungs yelped. A force knocked him to the ground with sharp, eagle like talons. The dog turned to snap at the boy’s assailant but it had already passed.

They came across a thicket so well shrouded in branches and leaves that Loudlungs couldn’t see the sky. The dog squeezed through an opening and Loudlungs followed. On the inside there stood the trunk of a great cedar and around it just enough space for the two of them.

Back and forth the tops of the trees whipped. The dog growled softly, ears back. Loud found himself hugging her tightly. She turned to him and licked his shoulder in worry.

What are these things? The young boy shivered. They were bigger than night terrors but not by much. Could they be smokebreaths? Loud listened. No, smokebreaths make noise. Beside they’re daytime hunters.

One of the creatures flew by, ripping a chunk of branches away from their hiding place. A streak of white flashed by.

“Ow!” Loud couldn’t help but cringe. The dogs’ soapy tongue was really stinging as it licked. He put his hand over his shoulder to feel three gashes in his skin. Oh great. Now how were they going to escape? Everyone knows the easiest scent follow is one marked with blood.

With new energy the creature outside violently tore at the thicket. First one side would rip off then another, barely even seconds between blows.

The mutt barked relentlessly with every attack, trying to stay between the creature and Loud.

A powerful, pulsing wind sent leaves and twigs flying.

Loud and the dog stood at attention as a small, black and white dragon alighted the forest floor. It had talons like a raptor and beak-like snout, long, sharp pointed things that protruded out of it’s head like ears, a long thin tail that twisted irritably, and green eyes. The white part of the dragon was mostly the body while the wings, tailfan and legs were black. A black streak also threaded its’ way up to the creature’s eyes.

The eyes  Thought Loudlungs. They reminded him of Toothless

In fact as he looked at the dragon it’s build was quite similar to the Hiccup’s dragon, just smaller. Could it be that he’d stumbled upon a subspecies of the nightfury?? The most feared dragon of the archipelago?

Unlike Toothless, these green eyes were cold. They studied the trembling boy and barking dog like a butcher studying two sheep.

Another flapping sound arose, promptly followed by a thunk, a rustling of leaves and a thud.  Loud glanced away from the black and white dragon to see a much smaller, darker blob fall to the ground after running into a tree.

It emerged from the shrubbery and hurried to the side of the bigger dragon.

Black and white, or Bn’W, looked down at the smaller dragon at her side, and back to the dog and boy. Snaking her tail along she slapped the little one on the rump and sent it yelping towards their cornered quarry. It looked back hesitantly. She bobbed her head and moved her mouth but no sound came out that Loud could hear. The dog growled; withdrawing a few steps back.

The little dark colored dragon stalked forward, focused, bright green eyes almost glowing as they caught the moonlight.

At another soundless que from Bn’W, it opened its’ mouth wide-

And it sneezed.

What looked like a green glowing ball of snot shot from its’ mouth and right over Loudlung’s head, singing his hairs.

A splintering noise caused Loud to turn and look behind him. The great cedar’s trunk, still glowing green where it had been sliced in half, was falling toward them!

Bn’W leapt forward, giving the little one a dirty look as she took him in her maw. They dove one direction and the mutt and Loud went the other. They ran as fast as they could, ducking and covering their heads in what they hoped was a safe enough distance.

CCRRRRAAAASSSSHHH!

The tree fell with tremendous force, knocking five or six others down as it went. Twigs, dust and debris floated through the air.

“Let’s go!” Loud whispered to the dog, who was shaking uncontrollably. “Get to the boat while we still have a chance!”

Even as the dust settled he could just make out the silhouette of the black and white dragon, standing on the trunk of the tree, watching them run.

“She’s coming,” He gasped, legs giving way to terror. “She’s coming she’s coming!”

A blast of green cut through the undergrowth and their path, forcing the two to change course. They saw and aimed for a small cave but another blast split the rocks above it in half, which fell and blocked the way.

They only hesitated a second. But that was all she needed.

“Ahhh!” The boy yelled in pain.

Once more talons thrust Loudlungs to the ground. This time, though, all four were cutting in and they had a better grip.

The wings beat with determination and force. He felt himself lifting and franticly grasped at the earth and grass around him.

“Help!” He cried out to the dog. She ran up and caught him by his only sleeve as he was being carried away. It tore off.

 

 

 

 

“Ptew! Peteh!”

Loud regained consciousness to find he had a mouthful of sand. His legs were in searing pain, as were his arms- and something was sitting on top of him.

Despite the pain he jumped to his feet.

The little dark dragon toppled off his back and into the sand headfirst, the black and white one watching from atop a dune.

She had taken him back to the beach… but why?

The little one, flustered, puffed out its wings and hissed, sidling towards Loudlungs with talons extended and ready to scratch. It opened it’s mouth wide and sneezed.

A pile of green glowing goo flew up into the air and came straight down with a splat.

Bn’W just kept watching with those cold green eyes.

At last it finally dawned on poor Loud. He’d seen this behavior before- in Berk. The mother was teaching her offspring how to hunt. She had found a safe place for him to practice where she could watch everything that happened, and had brought a small, defenseless creature for him to kill- Loud.

 

Acchooo!

 

Another stream of green plasma cut through Loud’s thoughts and he ducked. It dug into the dune behind him and like the other misfire, turned the sand into a lump of glass.

Back and forth they ran and flew, Loud and the Dark Dragon, almost appearing to be in some terrible dance with the sand writing down their every move.

As the grey light of dawn stretched over the sea, Bn’W observed her hatchling’s progress with growing pride. He was doing a fine job intimidating, corralling and toying with his prey. Best of all his plasma shots were getting closer and closer to the mark. A well-aimed one of those and he would have served his own dinner for the first time.

But it was getting light.

Loud was running out of time, energy and ideas. The fire had died out long ago, so he couldn’t use anything from that to ward the dragon off. And every time he’d try to make a break for his boat the little dragon beat him to it. Not that it would have made a difference. He had no weapons there, no safe hiding place. If anything it prevented him from running which was the only thing keeping Loud alive.

Slipping and sliding through the sand Loud was once more met with the no-longer dark dragon. It stood in front of him, crimson red, vibrant oranges and yellows mixed in. Under other circumstances Loud might have thought it beautiful.

Swoosh!

With a whip of his tail, the autumn-colored dragon threw Loudlungs off his feet and onto his back. He leapt atop the boy’s chest, pinning him down.

Oh. This really is the end, Loud thought, heart pounding.

The little dragon threw his head back in a silent howl and looked expectantly towards its mother.

She wasn’t watching. Her eyes, squinting in the purple blue before the first rays of sun, were focused on the trees.

The hatchling was wounded at her lack of interest in the biggest catch of his little life. He howled again.

Bn’W sprang from her position and flew towards the wood, leaving both Loud and the hatchling in her dust. The boy turned to see what she was after.

There, kicking up clouds of early morning sand, was a scruffy looking dot which he knew was the mutt. She was putting every ounce of her strength into her stride and had eyes for one thing; Loudlungs. She slowed for nothing, not even the black and white dragon as it flew between them.

What? No! Loud thought. Why would you sacrifice yourself for me? Stupid dog, go back!

“Go back,” He croaked, throat dry from all his running, “Go back!”

Autumn looked at him curiously.

The dog continued in a head on collision course with Bn’W, teeth bared and ready for battle.

Loud watched as the Black and White dragon, much too high for the dog to ever hope to jump up and fight with, opened it’s mouth wide to end the battle before it even started.

“No. No NO NO NO NNNNNNOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!”

 

Loudlungs screeched louder than he had ever screeched before.

 

Both mother and offspring staggered. They closed their eyes tightly and opened their mouths in some silent sort of cry, putting their wings over their ears in agony.

“YOU STAY AWAY FROM THAT DOG!” He yelled again, flinging the smaller dragon off his chest. Loud ran at the bigger dragon and grabbed a large piece of driftwood on his way.

His shouts disoriented the mother so badly that she not only missed the dog, but overcorrected and flip-flopped down to the ground. The dog had enough wit not to get too close but she barked her head off and bluffed a few rushes.

“RAAAAHHHHHHH!” Loud screamed at the dragon, coming alongside the dog and waving the stick around threateningly. “WE ARE NOT YOUR DINNER! GET OUT OF HERE!”

She shrank back with a hideous snarl, swatting at the piece of wood.

At the same time, the sun finally crested over the sea. Rays danced and shimmered on the water, bouncing off Loud and the dog’s backs but hitting the night dragon directly in the eyes. Blinded by light and deafened by Loud’s shouts, she spread her black and white wings and rose above them.

The dragon turned her gaze towards her hatchling, a good hundred yards away. He was rubbing his ears in the sand.

She called out on their silent frequency.

He kept rubbing his ears, so she called once more.

When he didn’t respond the second time she turned to the barking dog and the boy with the superweapon voice. Could she hit both the dog and the boy with the sun glaring in hear eyes? With her delicate ears ringing with that awful voice? If she engaged in battle now it would be to the death… and this battlefield… it belonged to the boy and the dog. Light and sound had become their allies.

Loud kept the mutt close to his side, preparing to shout out a few more notes if the dragon got too close to them.

One last time the mother cried out to her young, but he just kept rubbing those ears.

Clearly something was wrong with the hatchling. He didn’t hear her call at all. She had been a hundred yards away when Loud belted that first yell and had been left temporarily deaf. What would that have done to the little one, who was sitting right on top of him at the time?

There’s not much point to rearing an injured hatchling. The Archipelago was cold and harsh, often cruel. Something bigger and hungrier than you was always around the corner. What place was there in such a world for the crippled? Why should she risk her life for something doomed to be another’s prey?

It wasn’t worth it.

Loud and the mutt roared in triumph as the black and white dragon disappeared over the hills of the island.

“We’re alive!” Loud cried in relief and disbelief. “There’s no way we should be. I don’t even know what happened! First the little one was going to eat me with the mom watching and then, you, crazy mutt, you ran head first at her and then I shouted and now she’s gone!! Stupid, wonderful dog! We made it!”

For the first time in a very long time, Loud forgot about the past. He forgot about being hurt, and alone. He forgot about being bitter and disappointed. All the sudden he could see the gorgeous colors of sunrise, hear the laughter in the waves, and feel the sand tickling his toes.

The two danced a very silly dance under the warm sun. “Look at us! We’re dirty and smelly and sleep deprived and we’re dancing with joy!”

Loud raised his hands over his head. “I just- wow. It’s never felt so good to breath before. It’s never felt so good to be alive!” He sighed deeply.

The dog jerked her attention away. She grunted and ran past Loudlungs.

“Now what?”

There was the little dragon, clawing desperately up a sand dune, wings flapping but getting nowhere.

What? Why did the mom leave him behind?? Loud thought, surprised. He quickly checked the sky to see if she was doubling back.

The hatchling’s mouth opened over and over in a silent cry, eyes fixed on the hill his mother had disappeared behind.

The mutt rushed at the him with head low and ears back. She growled menacingly.

Loud hurried after.

The little Autumn dragon fanned his wings and clicked his beak, whipping his tail above him like a lasso. He spat one plasmid ball and then another. The dog leapt and dodged every one hurled her way until the dragon ran dry.

When he did she came at him in earnest, slinking this way and that just waiting for him to slip up.

“No, dog, stop. Here,” Loud patted his leg and spoke with authority, hoping somewhere in her past there had been some basic training.

It took a few more scoldings from the boy to get the mutt to listen but she did respond- reluctantly.

“Leave him alone. He can’t hurt us anymore.”

The dog snorted. She was not convinced.

Autumn dragon glared hatefully up at Loud. He looked like he wanted nothing more than to tear the boy apart, but knew better than to pick a fight now. Loud found himself feeling sorry for the little creature, wondering if there was anything they could do to reunite him with his mother… without getting eaten, of course.

A shadow rushed by the three and for a fleeting moment Loudlungs thought the black and white dragon had returned.

He was pleasantly surprised to spot a gold and sky blue nadder circling overhead.

“I’ve found him!” The rider shouted before cueing her dragon to land.

Loudlung’s dog growled softly at the newcomers.

“It’s okay, girl. They’re here to help us.”

 

The boy rand towards the blonde. “Astrid!”

“Loudlungs! Loudlungs are you alright?” She hurried to meet him, axe in hand in case there was danger somewhere.

Loud didn’t hear her questions. He was too busy trying to get words out of his own mouth. “You’re here! But, why are you here?”

“We heard you shout early this morning, before dawn. Stormfly tracked you down and just a little while ago we hear you scream again.”

Toothless and his boy landed next to Stormfly.

“…you’re sleeves are missing. And your covered in dirt.” She set aside the weapon and looked him over in concern, “Are you alright?!? Did you get hit in the head or something? Let me see your eyes are they dilated?”

“I was attacked,” He said shakily. “There was this dragon it was black and white and it didn’t make any sound but it shot green fire that can cut through rocks and trees and it chased us all over the forest until it cornered us and picked me up and took me here to train it’s baby to hunt and I had to run everywhere to escape but the dog came and I screamed and-”

“Hey, hey, slow down,” Hiccup joined the conversation. “Just take a few deep breaths there, Loud, and when you’re ready, tell us your story.”

He took Hiccup’s advice and explained to them everything that had happened since he departed Berk. From the dog eating all his food to it dragging him through the forest to the black and white dragon teaching the hatchling to hunt, and the mutt coming in for the rescue.

“You were lucky,” Astrid said when had finished. “I never should have let you leave without a dragon!”

“Stoick let me leave without a dragon.”

“Yeah but he’s- Stoick. Most things are afraid of him.”  Her expression danced between fear, guilt and responsibility. “If anything had happened…”

“But it didn’t,” Loud beamed. “Thanks to my stowaway.”

Up to this point the dog had kept her distance from the newcomers and their dragons. Now Loud beckoned her to come.

Gingerly, with head down in submission and ears back in uncertainty she came forward.

Stormfly cocked her head sideways and stepped closer, licked her lips.

“Eh eh eh! No, Stormfly.”

The nadder’s nostrils flared and her quills raised excitedly but she listened to her girl. If she said it was not for eating, it was not for eating.

Toothless was curious. He’d seen these sheepish looking creatures before but none of them ever let him get close. He walked right up and sniffed noses with her.

When he was satisfied he spun around and chased Stormfly playfully.

Loud bent down and scratched around her neck. Her whole body wiggled, her stubby tail wagged wildly and her paws pranced in position.

“I might not be a dragon person, but this mutt has changed my opinion on dogs! She saved me, we barely knew each other and she risked her life for mine.”

Hiccup kneeled down and put a hand out to the dog to sniff. When her tongue rolled out he reached back and scratched one of her ears.

“So what happened to the hatchling?” Hiccup returned to the story.

“She left him behind. I don’t know why.”

“Where is he now?”

“Right over-“

Loud turned towards the sand dune where the autumn colored dragon had stood. He was gone.

“…there,”

The three Vikings searched the entire shore but the little dragon was nowhere to be found.

“I guess he flew off to join his mother,” Loud shrugged.

Deep inside however, something told him this was not the case. And whatever that was the dog seemed to agree with it.

Hiccup was visually disappointed.

“I would have loved to have gotten a look at him. And make sure he made it safely home,” He said longingly.

“I say it’s all the better for us. We have no idea what Loud’s dragon is capable of or if there’s more.”

Loud thought about last night, remembering how the stars kept blinking. He became aware that even though it was now daylight, not a seagull could be seen in the sky.

In fact, nothing that flew.

“Or maybe it’s just the mother and the hatchling. What if we made cover and waited until night-”

“Let’s not,” Loud interrupted Hiccup. “I think that there are more. Lots more. And any sort of cover we could build overnight they can easily destroy.” He thought about the giant cedar. “Last night they didn’t know anything about us. Tonight might not end as well now that they know we are here.”

“Loud’s right,” Astrid sided, picking up on the eerily empty skies. “There’s nothing we can do for the little dragon if we can’t find him or his mother. Let’s go.”

The chief’s son looked to the two Vikings, two dragons, and dog. Their safety was priority, even over discovering a new species.

“Alright. Maybe another time.” Hiccup turned to Loudlungs. “We’re happy to escort you the rest of the way to the Bashem Oiks Loud, if that’s what you want.”

He didn’t answer right away. The dragons had found Loud’s driftwood stick. Stormfly, getting over her first impression of the mutt had decided it was a great playmate. They were locked in a battle of tug of war which the nadder (no surprise) was winning. Toothless watched on the sidelines, waiting to challenge the winner.

Loud marveled. Yesterday the dog had lost everything to a dragon. Today she was playing with two of them on the beach. He reflected on himself.

He wanted that. He was tired of thinking about how things should have been, what he should have been. He wanted to step out of the past and into today- a beautiful day. A day he had been lucky enough to see for himself.

It isn’t what life throws at us that makes us who we are… it’s what we do with it.

“No thanks.”

“No thanks?” Astrid repeated. “You nearly got eaten alive last night. I’m not letting you go alone.”

“No I mean I don’t want to go the Bashem Oiks. I have a home, and it’s on Berk.”

“Well, if that’s what you want,” Hiccup said hesitantly, knowing how hard it was for Loud to live among the dragons.

“It is. There’s no use in trying run from my own problems. Maybe I should look at fixing some of them instead.”

Hiccup thought about Louds words. They reminded him of a carefully thought out plan of escape, all neatly folded under his pillow for the day his father decided to make him chief. “I guess so...”

“So what are you going to name your dog?” Astrid asked as she mounted Stormfly.

“I’m gonna name her…” He thought a moment, getting up on Toothless behind Hiccup. A smile spread across his face. “Bubbles.”

“Bubbles?”

“Yeah, ‘cause she ate all my soap.”

They laughed as they took to the sky, Stormfly picked up Loud’s tiny boat in her talons. Bubbles sat inside of it, panting; enjoying the bird’s eye view of the island.

Loud had his eyes closed for most of the trip, in an attempt to avoid a panic attack. But in a moment of courage he’d open them and marvel at what perspective can do to change your view of the world.

One such time he saw Bubbles looking behind them. He stared into the blue sky, squinting. What was that? A little dark dot? A bird? … Or could it be???”

There was no telling. It was just to far away. He turned and looked forward. Berk towered out of the ocean, a tiny village nestled in between the rocks. Smoke still funneled from the chimneys on the crisp autumn morning.

For the first time in a very long time, he looked down on that village and thought to himself. “It’s a good home after all.”

 

 

 

 

Epilog

Autumn, as the little dragon was later named, had completely lost his hearing in that first battle with Loud. He tried to return to his mother but she rejected him and moved on to her next clutch. He followed Loud to Berk, making his home on an outcropping of the island. Although the people of Berk, and Loud himself, continued to show kindness to the Night Sealer he was determined to take Loud’s life. When he was big enough to challenge other dragons he grew so aggressive that the Berkians finally had to drive him away.

 Loudlungs the Valiant and Autumn the Night Sealer battled for decades, but through it all Loud never let go of the hope that one day the magnificent dragon would make peace.

Extra

 

“You know, Loud,” Hiccup said as they came to a landing. “I bet you would do really well selling soap bars.”We could do with a few."

“I know we could, but will anyone even use them? Let alone buy one?”

“I’d buy them.”

“You would??” Loud said in surprise.

“Absolutely. I love toothless but I don’t want to smell like him.”

“Goes for me too,” Astrid hopped down from Stormfly. Bubbles jumped out of the boat and rand towards a Monstrous Nightmare.

“Did someone say something about soap?” A mother with five children piped up. “I’ll take as many bars as you can sell!”

Shouts throughout the crowd rose up. Some Vikings even began to outbid each other.

Loud was floored. “Well, okay then! I guess I have a new trade!”

Hiccup smiled. “I guess you do!” Then he added in a lower voice with an ornery spark in his eye “Give my dad some too. I’ll pay you for it, but make sure you don’t tell him it’s from me. Call it a free sample.”

Bubbles barked excitedly.

Five Monstrous Nightmare Hatchlings slithered their way to the foreground. They were accompanied by five rolly polly balls of fluff.

“You’re puppies!” Loud said with joy. They surrounded the dog and she licked each one fervently as they began to nurse.

“I’m sorry about my dragon,” the owner of the mother nightmare came up. “She stole the babies and I couldn’t get her to give them back. When I finally did pry them away I couldn’t find their mother, so I went ahead and let her adopt them.”

Hehcup!

Hehcup! Hehcup!

Hehcup!

Simultaneously all five puppies began to hiccup. Little bubbles floated out of their mouths.

Loud Laughed.

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Candy Cane

*Story of a Tree Stealer, fan species of Nightmousie*

 

 

 

Name: Candy Cane

 

 

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a- oh, wait a minute... maybe that is a mouse?

I sprung from my bed to see what was that patter and out on my tree sat a candy-cane snacker! She'd taken the ornaments and all the pop corn; the presents lay scattered, chewed up and torn.

"What have you done?!?" I said to no use, for out went the tongue of that ornery goose.

I reached out to catch her,

cupped my hands fast,

but she slipped away just as quick as a flash

She flew round the room moving faster and faster

Till my head started spinning which brought her some laughter

Then out through the flume the small dragon shot, 

Snickering, "Merry Christmas to all, or, perhaps,

maybe not!"

 

 

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Pen and Ink

 

*Mirage Fury species created and designed by I'mDerpyShela. Art by I'mderpyShela*

 

 

 

 

Pen and Ink

 

 

Pen grew up with stories about dragons. Fierce, wild beasts that once ruled the skies- or so the elders said. She could listen to them talk for hours; long after all the other children ran off to play. Still she sat, a pen in her hand and parchment on her lap.

“So they had four legs as well as wings?”

“Not all of them. The monstrous nightmare for one, he didn’t.”

“And long tails?”

“Not all of them. The Gronckle’s was short- but he could pack a punch with it!”

She drew and she drew, and once she was satisfied with a sketch that an elder approved, she would move on to another to see what they had to say. It was funny how few times they all agreed; but then, they were themselves just small children at the time of dragons.

The Chief’s grandfather was the one she delighted in talking to the most. A twinkle would come to those dull eyes and he would chuckle.

“I forget many things wee lass, but not the day I met a dragon. Black, sleek, terrifying but beautiful. I covered my face as my father took my hand, and placed it on the creature’s head. So scaly and warm. So gentle. And oh! Those hazel green eyes. I will never forget them.”

At night she would hold her candle up to the wall, admiring not her handiwork but the creatures themselves. How she longed to meet one. On inky black nights without a moon, she would take the drawings, form them into pointy arrow-shaped birds, and toss them out her second story window. Pen would watch as they lazily flew through the air, sometimes catching on the wind and disappearing up in the night sky. If they did that, she would wish on the north star that they hadn’t really disappeared but come to life and flown away.

 

 

 

Ink’s wings ached. He had seen through the great waterfall, up to the heavens above and they made his world feel very small. The clouds, the moon, the sun. But it was the stars that left him in awe. They matched the patterns on his wings… if that wasn’t a sign those wings were meant to be among them what was?

Day and night the dragon found less interest in the cold, bio-luminescent world he was born to and more in the sky. But an ancient code; the Alpha’s ruling, kept everyone below. Most dragons didn’t dare come near the edge of the haven for that vague and distant memory. To abandon the Alpha’s rule is to become an outcast.

Time went on. His longing grew stronger than his fear. On a moonless night Ink crawled through one of the few remaining crevasses (for the dragons of old had built up a wall to keep their kind in, and the others out) into the watery cavern. He looked up and opened his wings.

 

 

 

Pen stared down in sour disappointment at her pictures. So lifeless. Meaningless… just as others said.

Get your head out of the clouds!

Put that talent to real use, lass!

Yes. Build statues. Of people. That already exist. That everybody knows about. What fun. She longed for the things that were just outside of everyone else’s imagination, the things that make you feel young and full of life.

But their words were not untrue. There’s no place in the real world, the one she was fast growing up and into, for dreaming.

In a rash moment of hurt and anger she scooped all her work up and tossed it in her satchel, sneaking out the window.

 

 

Wind! What an amazing sensation! It nearly knocked him into the sea but a memory built into his dna taught him how to govern it. The world above was so much bigger than it looked from down below! It was fantastic! Although, he had hoped merely to venture out, take one of those shining things from the sky and sneak back in before any other dragons had time to suspect. But no matter how hard he flew he couldn’t quite reach them.

Tiring after a third attempt, he rested his wings a moment.

What was this?

Up flew a funny whitish thing. He chased it.

 

 

After a hundred years of absence Stoick the Vast would have been proud to see Berkians return to their ancestral home. Time had mended what no hand could; the island teamed with wildlife of every sort, trees of every leaf and fish of every kind. Stealing through the dark streets of town Pen made for her favorite spot to be alone. A secluded cliff, with an ancient peg buried deep in the grass. She had often wondered what that peg was used for.

Each paper she folded carefully (for she’d gotten quite good at what we call making paper airplanes). Each crease purposeful and specific for the picture it held. The Groncle a disc, so wide and round it could almost hover in one place. The Nightmare with long, slender wings.

She looked down into the inky black where waves crashed against the cliff, and up at the North Star.

She tossed the Gronkle

I wish you were real

She threw the Nightmare

I wish you were real

She threw the Nadder

I wish you were real

She threw the Terrible Terror

I wish you were real…

On through them all. The skrill, the whispering death, the rumblehorn, hot burple, scuttle claw. Her eyes streamed with tears as her life’s work blew away in the wind, not one of them coming to life. Pen sank down on her knees.

They’re not coming back. She wiped her cheeks. They may never have existed in the first place.

She thought of the elders. They said there were dragons… but they also said there were pixies in the bread and had nice long conversations with the trolls under the bed. The little girl’s heart ached as she looked up at that star.

It shimmered. And… was moving.

She rubbed her eyes and looked again.

No, it was moving. In fact there were two north stars now, the one where it ought to be and the other, well, getting much bigger.

Pen stood and backed away as something big and very dark landed next to her. It was so very dark that only the light from the underside of the creature’s wings revealed the four short legs, and long, finned tail. Her jaw dropped.

Two beautiful ice blue eyes looked into hers.

They’re real. They’re real! They’re still alive, and they’re real!

She couldn’t utter a sound.

The dragon approached, carefully. He held his head low, had his back arched and moved sideways with the wing facing the little girl over his body in protection. There was something in his mouth.

Pen didn’t know what to do. After her initial shock and delight she realized this could be the end of her. With a cliff to her back the dragon to her front, there was nowhere to run or to hide, and no one to hear if she screamed. So she chose to stand where she was and see what the creature wanted.

And it wasn’t that hard. She was enamored by the sleek black scales. The pale blue strips and the long, elegant antennas, and those eyes. They held the canopy of the sky within them. If she lived through this she knew, she could never forget them.

The dragon laid something down in front of her and took a few steps back.

“Thank you…” She whispered.

It cocked it’s head to the side. This little thing was indeed curious. Could it? No, it wasn’t one of The Others. Those were big and scary… weren’t they?

Her hand reached ever so gently out to touch the nose only a few feet away. The ice blue eyes grew hard. With a suspicious snarl it beat its wings. The blast of wind threw Pen to the ground where she watched it disappear into the inky sky.

The thing it brought her fluttered around and she caught it just as it was about to fly over the cliff. Pen looked it over, wiping slime off. Black, smooth scales, beautiful green eyes, short, four legged. She hugged it tight.

“…for being real.”

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An Easter Egg!

*Artwork by Speedyleaf*

 

The Easter Egg

 

 

Having an overly absurd amount of dragons, the Headmaster saw me approaching the trading post yet again and intervened.

"This is not healthy," He said, as I tried to explain I was hoping to have four friends of every species of dragon known to to exist so I could name my stables after each species. "That's dragon hoarding."

"But dragons do hoard things... gold, silver precious gems, vanquished enemies, caves... so... justified?"

Needless to say he banned me from entering the trading post ever again. 

As Sea Cuccumber and I pustied around the wilderness, lamenting the idea we'd never get to add to our charming clutch of twenty hatchlings currently terrorizing everyone elses much better trained dragons, a certain friendly viking came up.

"Here," She said, placing a dragon egg in my hands. "I saw the notice at the trading post that all services regarding dragons eggs and you be withheld or reported immediately, but this little guy needs a home."

I teared up. "You're... you're giving me a dragon egg?? For no reason?"

"Well there is a reason, his parents aren't here to take care of him, but I figured the way you train... or don't really, your other dragons it'll be like he's growing up in the wild- with protection.

"N-no one's given me a dragon egg before. Thank you, I will strive my best to raise him as a wild dragon!"

 

And not to toot my own horn, but Bushy did end up a wild one. Fiesty and fearless with Sea Cuccumber and I ever nearbye to keep him out of too much trouble. But since that day I've never felt the need to go to the trading post for more dragons... I've dedicated myself to finding and rescueing orphans in the wild instead. Sooo... dragons. Everywhere  xD

 

The End!

 

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Cassian chased away my subject again...

 C-can these be made into movies? Or books? PLEASE? I could literally HEAR Stoick's voice and the other characters you incorporated into these fanfics. This honestly deserves so much praise; incredible job Lissa!

Also, the Easter Egg story is so relatable. I feel like the Headmaster and Johan are judging me every time I pass by on a different dragon or purchase eggs x'D

 

                                       

__________________

 

━━━━━━━━━━━━

Hello! I'm Carolinalina, but you can call me Car. 

 

I started playing SOD back in August of 2014 and have since been on and off the game.

  I'm definitely not obsessed with Stormcutters...

━━━━━━━━━━━━                                                                                 

Main Character/ Dragon:
(Click here to read our story)

                  

━━━━━━━━━━━━      

Art Appreciation: 

Credits are at the end of my siggy!~ 

 Car:                    Cassian:              Other:                 Screenies:                

━━━━━━━━━━━━

Other Banner(s): 

 

━━━━━━━━━━━━

Credits: 

My Character:  @Ashf.art, Angel Nerd, Frugal, StarZipSky, ANIC101, and Andrea Easton!

 

Cassian: Scalecakes, me(3), IceeGlacier, XxSilver.NightxX, dragon34611, @sukiart._(2), ZestyDragonWing, Izzydrawsdragons, Frugal, Tigerli1y, Iamthesenate, AMAZIEing, Kasanelover, SilverNight, and VicZarSky!

 

Other: Tigerli1y, Blue Kitsune, VicZarSky, ImDerpySheylaYT(2), ZestyDragonWing, DyliehIdol1214(2), Speedyleaf, chameishida, Lainah, Frugal, InkyDigiWing, belubel2014(2), Andrea Easton, Flitt(3), Iamthesenate, Akilaya, AMAZIEing, and IIdramillionII!​

 

Gif(s): DrakeTheDragon5567 and Sohki!

 

Pixel Art: Aetherna and chameishida(17)!

 

Banner(s): VicZarSky, Dragonriders Fury, and Andrea Easton!  

 

Chibi(s): Blue Kitsune! 

━━━━━━━━━━━━

Instagram: @ver.sso   SOD: Carolinalina (A3J673) 

 

Drawing Stormcutters!  Dragon Headshots!  Stormcutter Bases!     

     

                                         

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Thanks!

Aww thank you I'm so glad you enjoyed these stories! 

 

Haha yeah, we're dragon lovers, and the more dragons the merrier! I just wish we could have multiple dragons out at a time... that would be so fun xD

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Carolinalina
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Cassian chased away my subject again...

Omg imagine the controlled chaos: an army of dragons following each person; a swarm of dragons flying in the sky per person; a major mass of lag every 2 seconds.

 

I'D LOVE IT!! There would be like no room on campus for more than 10 players but I feel like when they stop making updates for the game they should just let this chaos ensue x'D. I wish the map was bigger, and that certain areas were too. After flying around the same small areas for so long and discovering so many hidden areas it ruins the immersion for me sometimes.

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Ikr??

It would be disaster in the best way if we could have more than one dragon out at a time haha ^^

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belubel2014
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<3

Tracking!!

Nice idea. I hope see the story that the two dragons that you adopted of me!

__________________
Signature in process....
 
You find yourself in a mysterious and magical world, surrounded by amazing creatures capable of roasting your enemies. A creatures that take you high in the clouds and feel the warmth of the sun closer or creatures that protect you in storms. These creatures, I love to call them DRAGONS.
I love my dragons and respect them.
My mission?
Save them and make them feel safe.
Hunters beware... because I have dragons and I won't feel fear to use them!
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v
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Hi there!

Well hey there, my fan dragon pal! Thanks for stopping in!

 

At this point I'm only posting stories I've already written, but I might do a short little skit about Aspen and Cozmo, they are such lovely dragons they deserve it ^^

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belubel2014
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Don't worry and ok I liked
Don't worry and ok
I liked the first, the fourth and these last two.
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:3

Thanks for understanding, and I'm glad you liked those!

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:3
Very good the lasts stories.
And if you need more information about the dragons you adopted from me as the size or where they live, let me know.
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:D

I'll keep that in mind, thank you Belubel!

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Flitt
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Tracking!

O.O

__________________

This incredible gif is made by Emerald Huntress! Thank you so much!

 

Dragonblood ~ Whovian ~ HTTYD Fan ~ Writer ~ 17 ~ Artist ~ Whittler ~ Procrastinator ~ Chicken keeper ~ Imaginator

 

FYI, I haven't been able to get in game recently. It just... Will not load.

 

Barerly active here. If you want to contact me then you find me on insta or flight rising.

 

This signature is guarded by the ghost werewolf, Rye. Enter at your own fatality.

  

She and my pfp, Şikastan, are created by the incredibly talented toothless0603! Tysm!

 

I'm leader of

.

Thank you for this brilliant clan banner, Emerald!

 

The Grimogrunt, Grapplemora, Grimogrounder, Slicerwing and Changewing by Chame! TY!

 

Quispe! By Andy!

 

Discover the Dragonbloods in the links below...

I Am Dragonblood: Fury's Friend {Book One}

I Am Dragonblood: Alpha and Chief {Book Two}

I Am Dragonblood: Secret Uncovered {Book Three}

I Am Dragonblood: The Grim Beast {Book Four}

A Dragonblood's Gift

Young Dragonblood

Dragonblood Info Thread

 

 

   

Thank you, everyone, who has made art for me!  I have it saved and it is BRILLIANT.

 

Windfall, by Chame! Ty!

 

"Don't be ashamed of your story. It will inspire others" -Unknown

 

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Hola!

Hi Flitt thanks for stopping in! BTW, love your siggy pic/quote, it's so true hahahahaha xD

 

...or should I say, muahahahahahhahahahaha x'DDD

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Aloha!

*Snickers like Tuffnut with an evil plan* XDDD

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Tracking!

Tracking! I love reading these, they're so entertaining and well-written! :D

__________________

Welcome!

(Siggy Under Construction)

 

I know my name is a bit confusing, so let me explain. I am Ginger. I have a sister whose main Viking is named Jaxomis. Originally we shared this forum account, but my sister recently made her own account as Fuzzy Kitten, so this is now only mine. So please, just call me Ginger! ^-^

 

 

In Order:

​Ginger's Viking Section

​Blackout The Night Fury's Section

Some Random Stuff!

​~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ginger's Viking Section!

​First off... My Vikings!

My main Viking is

Ginger Selson:

​ 

Extras about appearance: Ginger has a small, faint scar on the far left side of her jaw. She also wears a short necklace with a Peridot in the shape of an Eruptodon.

Personality: Ginger Selson is very shy around humans. She absolutely loves dragons, and has learned Dragonese. She has two sides to her personality. The side most people see is quiet, gentle, and would never start a fight. Her other side, the one only her dragons and her best (human) friend, Jaxomis, see, is strong-willed, brave, and will face danger to protect her friends.

History: Ginger Selson is the daughter of two Defenders of the Wing. However, at one point, her parents were going to get some supplies for the Defenders and they took her with them. Unfortunately, their ship was attacked by pirates, and the only survivor was Ginger. Ginger's mother, upon seeing that the ship was going to be taken by the pirates, placed Ginger in a water-tight basket and set her afloat. Ginger drifted to Berk, where she was found by Mulch and Bucket during one of their fishing trips. She acquired her scar while in the basket. A sharp strand of the weave scratched her jaw while she was being buffeted by the waves. She was only 13 months old at the time, so she was taken in by a Berkian woman who had just had Jaxomis 5 months before. Ginger grew up as Jax's sibling, and they have grown to be very close friends. When she was 10 years old, she began attending the School of Dragons. In the 6 years since then, she has become a talented Dragon Trainer. She is currently 16 years old.

​Game Information: ​UDT Star!(big platinum star), 1850+ Trophies, 64 Dragons.

Clan: ​The Messengers

(Now Leader)

           ​            

Main Dragon: Skyfrost

​-Breed: Woolly Howl

-Gender: Male

​-Level: 37

​-Personality: Protective, loyal, brave, and makes a good companion. Sky likes being with Ginger, and flying with her is his favorite thing. He can be a bit bossy and stuck-up, but he has a good heart and intentions.

Other Dragons:

Silverlight- Adult male Monsterous Nightmare, Ginger's first dragon~~~Tsunami- Adult female Thunderdrum~~~Galaxy- Adult female Typhoomerang~~~Jungle- Adult male Sweet Death~~~Firewing- Adult female Moldruffle~~~Illusion- Adult female Changewing~~~Flare- Adult male Moldruffle~~~Firestorm- Adult male Typhoomerang~~~Scythetail- Adult female Devilish Dervish~~~Vortex- Adult female Devilish Dervish, not tame~~~Spinstrike- Adult male Whispering Death~~~Iceheart- Adult male Groncicle~~~Seafoam- Adult male Thunderdrum~~~Bramblethorn- Titan female Deadly Nadder~~~Wavecrash- Adult female Sand Wraith, Ginger's second favorite dragon~~~Twist & Turn- Adult female Hideous Zippleback~~~Copper- Adult male Razorwhip~~~Sunset- Adult female Death Song, not tame~~~Obsidian- Titan female Razorwhip, not ​tame!~~~Snowflurry- Titan female Woolly Howl, not tame~~~Magnet- Adult male Armorwing~~~Chaos- Adult male Screaming Death~~~Spottedleaf- Adult female Hobblegrunt/Threadtail~~~Cindertail- Adult male Singetail~~~Goldriver- Adult female Eruptodon~~~Emberspark- Adult female Flame Whipper~~~Echo- Adult male Mudraker~~~Nettle- Adult male Triple Stryke~~~Springcoil- Adult male Grapple Grounder~~~Cloudcutter- Adult male Timberjack~~~Mischief- Titan female Terrible Terror~~~Lava- Adult female Gronkle~~~Starspirit- Adult male Silver Phantom~~~Flash- Adult male Speed Stinger, not tame~~~Fire, Water, Earth, and Air (The Gang)- Adult male Snaptrapper~~~Anemone- Adult female Shockjaw~~~Whiteout- Adult female Snow Wraith, not tame~~~​Tumbleweed- Adult female Buffalord~~~Dawnblaze- Adult female Fireworm Queen~~~Blizzardchaser- Titan male Woolly Howl, not tame~~~Vigilant- Adult male Elder Sentinel~~~Thunderclap- Adult male Skrill~~~Puddlesplash​- Adult female Windwalker~~~Waterwake- Adult male Scauldron~~~​Thistlebush- Adult female Prickleboggle~~~Dartfang- Adult male Grim Gnasher~~~Ravenwing- Adult female Night Terror~~~Bullcharge- Adult male Rumblehorn~~~Tigerstrike- Adult male Deathgripper~~~Winddancer- Adult female Stormcutter~~~Vex- Adult male Smitten Hobgobbler~~~Jet (Ruffrunner)- Adult male Night Light~~~Volcano- Adult male Fire Terror~~~Earthquake- Adult male Crimson Goregutter~~~Frostbite- Adult male Shivertooth~~~Pebblescale- Adult female Raincutter~~~Jadeshimmer- Adult female Scuttleclaw~~~Glade & Grove- Adult male Ghastly Zapplejack~~~Crestrider- Adult male Tide Glider~~~Steadfast- Adult female Sentinal~~~Clashcrown- Adult male Chimeragon~~~Pouncer- Adult male Night Light~~~Ashcloud- Adult female Smokebreath~~~Cometstorm- Teen male Flightmare~~~Shiverbolt- Baby female Skrillknapper

Other Vikings: 

*Quicksilver Catspaw​- Goldleaf's brother. He has the ability to change from a human(Quicksilver/Silver) to a cat(Quicksilver/Quick). He also has an amulet that allows him to morph into a Razorwhip(Mercury).

​-Dragons: Oceanmotion: Adult male Shockjaw~~~Chaos and Confusion: Adult male Hideous Zippleback~~~Mossfire: Adult female Eruptodon~~~White Bitetight: Adult male Smitten Hobgobbler~~~Mercury: Adult male Razorwhip (Stand-in for Quick's morph)~~~Deadly Medley: Baby female Death Song

*Caracal Pounce- Cara, for short, is a undeveloped female character.

​-Dragons: Mistlight: Adult female Flightmare~~~Flashfire: Adult female Deadly Nadder~~~Quickstrike: Adult female Deathgripper (Main dragon)

*Finn Howler​- A underdeveloped male Berserker.

-Dragons: Ghostlight​: Adult male Flightmare~~~Screech and Howl​: Teen male Hideous Zippleback

*Jayla the Ranger​- Jay is my Ranger's Apprentice inspired character. She is a new character.

-Dragons: Oakleaf: Adult female Sand Wraith~~~Bullseye​: Teen male Deadly Nadder

​~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blackout the Night Fury

​Blackout is Ginger's Night Fury OC. Blackout is a wild Night Fury who lives where Night Furies are more common. He is fierce, proud, and never backs down from a fight. He looks more or less like Toothless, but he has blue eyes and a lighter birthmark on the left side of his forehead. He's really just for RPs and art.

          

*Edit by me*

*Base by MagaboltPhoenix, filled by me*

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Random Stuff!

Things I like: Dragons, cats, dogs, equines (I'm a proud longear owner/fan!), HTTYD 1, 2, and The Hidden World, RttE, Riders/Defenders of Berk, Tuffnut, Hiccup, Toothless, Trollhunters, 3 Below, most animals, hanging out with my sister, watching movies and shows with my sister, Warriors, The Ranger's Apprentice, Wings of Fire, The Dragon Prince, reading, drawing, playing SoD, browsing through things online, being with animals, DRAGONS, Survivors, The Inheritance books, Rick Riordan's books, Keeper of the Lost Cities, and did I mention reading?

Also, in case you were wondering, my Hogwarts house is Ravenclaw, with a strong Hufflepuff leaning!

   Image result for Ranger's apprentice          Image result for warrior cats

 

Bye!

 

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LissaFish
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Joined: 02/12/2017
:3

Thank you Ginger! I'm glad you're enjoying them ^^

LissaFish's picture
LissaFish
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 02/12/2017
Kenosi

 

*Howlian Species created by Chameishida. Artwork by Chameishida*

 

*Warning: This story depicts slavery, is intense and has violence somthing akin to a nature documentary. A dragon is killed.*

 

"Kenosi"

 

 

“Kenosi,”

She thought,

“Kenosi.”

 

She had never liked it. After all, it was a boys name. Her father thought it would make his only child strong, and it some ways it did. But why Kenosi? Couldn’t her name have been Kgalefa? Or Kefenste? Those were strong names. Good names that she could have felt proud of.

Now she could think of nothing more fitting. Maybe her father had some premonition of her future, maybe the name was cursed. No matter the case she really and truly was Kenosi.

 

 

The wind bit as savagely into her beautiful dark skin as the Tau into the Phala. There was no feeling left in her feet or hands. Sweu. It was everywhere. Above, below, as far as the eye could see it was sweu. How she wished to see a mokolana tree, or watch the pitse ya naga fight over their mares. Even to see the sky, the earth, or sea again!

At least the cold had helped numb the pain. If she could somehow keep the ugly gash in her arm dry, she just might have a chance.

An eerie wail echoed through the storm. Kenosi ducked as a pair of scaly talons bluffed a strike. Not these monsters!

Her heart skipped a beat. They were back.

Through the white shown one of the fiery winged serpents. It was terrifying. Never before had she come in contact with dragons, she didn’t even know that they existed until seeing one with her own eyes. Giant, scaly, cold blooded, fire breathing kwena. Why oh why were such things created?

The creature roared in her direction.

Kenosi had no doubt that it knew she was there, but why ignite? Why roar? Was it taunting her? Or distracting her so that it’s mate could sneak up from behind?

she spun in a circle, the corners of her frozen blanket cracking on the ice. The other one was out there. Somewhere.

She had to keep moving.

Two days had passed since her escape. She had traded hands many times. First it was those pasty white people with the ridiculous red bird plumes. As laughable in appearance as Phiri, and just as thirsty for blood. They burnt her village with all whom she held dear to the ground. The remnant of the people where led, in chains, to strange northern lands far, far from home. Each place they stopped was a little further, each place they stopped a few more of that remnant were taken away. At last the ship docked at an island where the rain was not a blessing but a curse that never ended.

Sold to the people of the land, Kenosi soon learned that the Anglos could be as cruel as the red plummed Phiri. They fought savagely amongst each other, amongst a people they called the Celts, and amongst whom they referred to as the savage Norse.

They spoke with hatred of the Celts but of the Norse they spoke with fear- and for good reason. It seemed the Norse did to them what the red plummed Phiri had done to her people.

 

Kenosi did her best to keep quiet. Climbing up a mountain in an exhausted state, wounded, and without feeling in your feet doesn’t lend itself well to the practice though. Perhaps, with the wind, they wouldn’t hear her?

High above on the mountain top came a hiss. Not the hiss of a dragon, the hiss of steam or vapors escaping their prison of magma. Kenosi looked up at the red glow.

A mighty thud in the snow sent flurries into the air. She could barely make out the form of the landed reptile, but it was there.

She stopped in her tracks.

The snake like neck, as long as three of her standing on top of each other stretched out. The nostrils took in a deep breath and two glowing eyes scoured the white country.

 

 

She had not been in the Anglos land two weeks before the raid. After a great amount of bloodshed the Norse people, big and ugly and wild haired, stood triumphant over the village. Once more, poor Kenosi found herself corralled into a ship among the other survivors.

Every day she was brought up to the captain to do a show. The Vikings were fascinated with Kenosi’s world, so vastly different from their own. Tlou? Tau? What magnificent sounding beasts! How does one hunt a Tlou? What was its weakness? And though she could not understand their tongue or them hers, she would tell them her stories through pictures and dance. Stories her father told her in the days he would hunt the Tlou. Her tales delighted the captain so much that in return he gave her the freedom to walk about the ship. She behaved well. She worked hard and found there was a great deal of thought and strategy put into these floating bowls of wood. She learned the tongue of the Norse and showed no sign of unrest… but in her heart she knew one day the stories would get old. One day, they would say, ‘enough!’. Then what would happen? She wasn’t going to stick around to find out.

 

 

Keep moving keep moving! Kenosi gasped for breath. A snickering, slithering dragon right on top of her. She slipped and slid as the sweu turned from powder into slush. Thankfully the lizard wasn’t any more graceful.

The red glow was now accompanied by a constant rumbling heard above even the wind. She was so close!

 

Great blocks of frozen water were beginning to form on the ocean. They stuck to the sides of the ship and the crew had to pry them off. Winter was sapping away the life of fall.

On a dark evening while the crew focused on the east wind, Kenosi stole away to a rowboat. She climbed in among the rations and blankets. The splash of the dinghy as it landed in the water escaped no one’s ears that night, for the sea was as flat as glass. They shouted, hurling arrows overboard into the murky night. They sung all around the fleeing prisoner- above, to her right and left, below.

One arrow, loosed by the strongest man aboard, missed the little boat by a foot and continued with great force through the water.

A deep, furious rumble bubbled to the surface. The Vikings ceased fire, staring with rigid anticipation into the abyss.

Out of the depths burst a mighty green head. It stared at the shrieking girl in her arrow covered boat and turned to the ship.

There were shrieks. Cries. Screams as burning water spewed from the great monsters mouth onto the deck.

Kenosi took the oars and paddled frantically away. She rowed like the devil was after her- and really couldn’t decide if he actually was. The wails on the ship were silenced but she didn’t dare turn back to see what happened.

On she went over the quiet sea, a chilling wind sneaking in from the east. On, towards the red glow in the sky.

Earlier as the sun had set sailors pointed out the volcanic mountain on their course. They had teased her then, saying no one dare set foot on those shores for the creature that guarded them. At the time it seemed anything would be better than the creatures aboard that ship.

 

 

The great serpent snapped its jaws only to catch the air. He was sliding backwards in the slush and no amount of clawing with his wings was changing that. Seeing the small girl climb towards safety made the beast angry, but the harder it tried to climb up the faster it slid down.

Kenosi scrambled up into the rocks. Ground at last! Up here, the heat of the volcano was so strong it vaporized the white stuff before it could alight.

 

 

There was no time to celebrate when Kenosi shored the tiny boat. Dawn was breaking, but that east wind had steadily grown stronger, and with it came tiny white flakes that stuck to her face and her cloths and covered the ground. Scouring the beach for shelter, she spotted a cave.

It took some time to drag the boat over to the rocks. To her dismay she discovered a deep gash in her arm… most likely from an arrow but she didn’t rightly know.

After a year of captivity, she was free. Free to make her own choices, to go where she wanted to go, to do what she wanted to do.

The cave was much bigger than it looked from the outside. Stalactites loomed hundreds of feet above her head. If they’re anywhere near the size of the stalagmites rising out of the floor it could disrupt the volcano if one fell, she thought.

Cradling her wounded arm, she set out a blanket and rested. The winds howled outside, every once in a while pouring in and tossing the sweu all over. An old branch of some tree lay beside her. She took it and broke off a stick. Moving three round rocks out of the way she started doodling in the ground.

She couldn’t write so she drew. First a tlou, then her village. She tried to draw her family- her mother, her father, and her… but every time the wind blew in and ruined the picture. She looked up and outside of the cave at the storm. This time, she drew three swirls instead. Three people in her family. Three peoples took her prisoner. Three times she had survived destruction. Her life had been one storm after another, it only seemed fitting.

Exhausted, she lay down and went to sleep.

Heat.

The northern world was cold and heartless- so where was the heat coming from?

Kenosi opened her eyes to look around. It felt like it was blowing on her back.

She turned to a heart stopping sight. Only two feet from her face were eyes. Enormous eyes, the size of playing balls, two pair. They glowed in the dark of the cavern, yellow around the outsides and red along the black, cat like pupils. Each dragon’s head was as big as she was; and crowned with horns like the phala. She could see in the dim light rows of glistening teeth.

If the scalding sea monster was terrifying, this was a new level. One of the dragons lit itself on fire and snapped. Kenosi stepped back and tripped on one of the three rocks she had pushed aside and fell. That’s the only reason this story doesn’t end here. The rocks started rolling all over the cavern floor and the giant lizards chased after them.

Kenosi bolted through the mouth of the cave, leaving behind all but the blanket over her back.

 

 

Feeling was returning to Kenosi’s arms and legs again. This is what she needed. Warmth. It was like having life returned to her body.

Streams of magma ran steadily from a pool that bubbled and hissed. There were no signs of intense activity.

Now to find a place to hide… across the way looked like a good bet. A small crevasse she could wriggle into that the dragons couldn’t-

Two great talons thrust her to the ground. Like cats with mice the dragons had been toying with her this whole time. And now that safety was within reach, now that she could see it with her own eyes, they were coming in for the final blow.

Kenosi screamed. The female reptile allowed her to wriggle out from under its feet, only to pin her down again with a wingclaw. This left the dragon with her back towards the lava pool, tail swishing wildly in anticipation. The male, still making nothing but backwards progress on the hill gave up and took to the sky to join his partner for their meal.

No one could hear her cries, no one was coming to save her. And even if by some miracle they did hear her and drive the monsters away, it would not be to rescue but to claim.

She was truly alone.

The dragon leaned in and opened its mouth. Kenosi yelled, terrified.

 

SNAP!

 

The dragon’s eyes popped open. It let out a roar.

This beast, this monstrous, gigantic beast, was yanked off its feet and pulled towards the lava. Kenosi scrambled to hers and backed away.

In fury and terror the female dragon ignited and snaked it’s head backwards to snap at what had its tail.

A giant, golden, round head, with two prong like horns protruding from the forehead, and two or three sets of brown frills along the neck, rose above the lava. In its mouth was the burned tail of the female dragon.

She whipped around and snapped and bit at this new predator while desperately trying to keep her ground. In the sky the roar of the male dragon resounded.

He swooped down and clawed the great head with his talons, hoping to anger the lava beast enough that it would let go of the female and chase after him.

The first dive did nothing, and the female was losing strength. The second dive he got a little bolder and took a chunk out of the frill, but still the stubborn creature refused to let go of his prize.

With a graceful spin the male dragon came in for the third and most powerful blow. Talons extended to their fullest, jaws open wide, he was going to land on this thing and tear it piece by piece if he had to.

Just as he reached down for contact the lava beast lifted its head. The two prong-like horns made contact with the dragon and somehow created a bright and powerful explosion. It left Kenosi blinded for a few seconds.

The blast was so strong it threw the stunned male dragon back and over the edge of the hill.

Lava beast now turned to it’s prey, the female dragon, whose gnarled tail was still in his mouth. She had been struggling this whole time and had worn herself out. Now he waited for her to pick up one of her wing claws to take another step. As soon as she lifted he gave a mighty yank, and into the lava she went. Kenosi watched in horror as the dragon screamed. Her agony was for a few brief seconds, then the lava beast clamped down on her neck… and it was over.

Kenosi was not unfamiliar with such sights, many times she had seen the phala or the pitse ya naga fall prey in very much the same way, but kwana and phiri, the common culprits, were not so big. And THEY didn’t live in lava.

From below came a roar of recovery. The male dragon returned to the sky, hissing and shrieking, unable to do a thing as his mate was devoured.

Kenosi backed away slowly as the creature worked at the carcass.

But then it looked her way.

The eyes were so unfeeling as they stared, unblinking, into hers. Bits of burning flesh dangled from the creatures’ mouth. It snorted.

Kenosi bolted. Warm or not she was out of here. Lava beast grunted in disapproval. Launching out of the lava he followed.

She could make it to the edge. Then she could slip and slide her way down the hill. She could make it.

Great golden legs, still dripping with magma cut her short. The sheer size of the thing took her breath away.

Those heartless eyes stared down into hers. It grunted.

Kenosi fell to her knees. She really was cursed.

“Don’t just stand there,” She said, “You win. Now get it over with!”

It grunted again and looked down the hill.

Not knowing what else to do, she stood to see what was down there.

When the male dragon saw her run, he had flown down and hid among the trees. Now he waited in ambush for the little girl. The lava beast growled to let him know he’d been spotted, and stomped his foot. Behind them a geyser of magma shot into the sky.

Outraged, the broken-hearted dragon burst into flames and struck out at anything he saw. Rocks, trees, the white stuff itself.

Those cold eyes watched. Kenosi couldn’t tell if it felt sorry for the other dragon or was grinning smugly to itself. Snorting, it turned back to her, gently prodding her away from the edge…

Away from… danger?

Kenosi decided to let it lead her wherever it wished. It wasn’t like she had much choice, but it had not eaten her, and it had saved her from a gnarly fate twice now.

Like and overgrown tau, who was full and content just to be curious, it rolled on its side and sniffed her all over, sitting up and giving special attention to the gash in her arm. It nudged her closer and closer to the lava pool. She cringed as the heat got intense and finally let out a yelp when a tiny drop touched her leg.

Immediately the creature stopped and sniffed her again. This time he ushered her away from the lava and to the crevasse she had wanted to hide in all along. She tried to sneak in, but he took her in one golden paw and gave her one final sniff. He grunted at the gash in her arm, and then…

LICK.

Lick!

Lick!

Lick!

It did the only thing it knew to do to make a wound better. The rough tongue was hot and it burned to the touch, but you can’t expect less from something that just walked out of a lava pit.

After all she had been through. The horror she’d seen, the cruelty she had endured, to be shown kindness again…

Kenosi broke down. Tears that had been dammed up for a year broke forth. Tears for her parents, tears for her friends, tears for her home, her homeland, and herself. There beside a volcano, in the paws of an apex predator she only just discovered existed that had just brutally killed a dragon a hundred times her size, she wept. Because she finally had someone that cared about those tears. That cared about her.

“Kenosi no more,” she said as she hugged the lava beast.

“Kenosi no more.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trivia!

Howlian Island is Auction Island

The Howlian's name is Tau, which means lion in Swahili

Kenosi is sort of a fan origin story for a character in the HTTYD franchise. After this story she changes her name, so can anyone guess what Kenosi's new name is? :D

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LissaFish
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Joined: 02/12/2017
Smores!

Hello!

 

This post has been removed until further notice. The fan dragon species it was inspired by is undergoing a revamp/name change.

LissaFish's picture
LissaFish
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 02/12/2017
Sleepy Hollow

*Woodreaper a fan species by Chameishida. Art by Chameishida*

*warning: intense, spooky story*

 

 

Sleepy Hollow

 

 

 

These lands were strange to him. He knew not the weather or the waters, by night or by day. He knew not the things that dwelled on and in the islands, or the creatures in the depths below. He knew not the cold and hardened people, of which to call friend and which to call foe.

Last and most frightening of all, he knew not the dragons.

 

Ghillie Dhu was very familiar with the great reptiles of his own turf. The Mimikoo and its uncanny call. the clever Kyte, ever besting the Mimikoo. And the dreaded Piranharrow.

Here in the Barbaric Archipelago things were different. Already he’d come across a monster whose body was the twice the size of his fishing boat with a neck that was even longer. If it had not already been feasting on a misfortunate whale who’s to say what would have happened.

Ghillie turned at the sound of a mighty roar. A wyvern with four horns, a long skinny neck and tail was silhouetted against the setting sun.

He blinked. Was it his imagination or was the dragon on fire? Ghill shook his head. If he was seeing dragons now then what would it be like once the sun was down? It was time to find a harbor.

Earlier in the day he’d spotted land due north. Now as he drew near signs of human activity showed. There were boats, a dock, and even a small village. Torches were being lit as shadows of dusk fell.

To find this shelter from the open sea was a blessing, but civilization didn’t come to Ghillie as a relief. If he’d learned anything on his voyage it was that people are just as dangerous as dragons.

Beaching his little boat to avoid confrontation with the natives, Ghillie tethered it down and stowed away his valuables in the hatch, all the while studying the men loafing on the dock nearby. They were a surly lot, long thick beards covered most of their faces as they spoke to each other in hushed tones.

He strapped a sword to his side, and counting eight arrows slung his bow and quiver over his shoulders.

 

Every man in the village was surly. There were no women or children. Ghill got to feeling very small milling about in this savage north world, like the dwarves in the folklore of his own land. It would have been okay except that every person he passed seemed to be sizing him and his weapons up, debating whether or not to jump him and take whatever he had.

Four or five men in armor watched him closely. I should just go back, he thought. I should just go back to the boat and fend off anyone who comes my way.

Nothing gets between a man and reason like a growling stomach. A barrelhouse brightly lit for the evening customers smelled richly of venison. For someone living off a strict diet of salted fish, red meat was irresistible.

 

“What’ll it be, stranger?” The tavern keeper asked. Or at least Ghill thought he was asking it was hard to tell between the man’s missing teeth and throaty growl.

“Whatever’s cooking.”

 He threw his head back and laughed. “You’ve got some guts for a lout. Why don’t you stick to what your purse can afford?”

Vikings sitting around jeered.

“I have money,” Ghill pulled out a small, carefully guarded sack. “Good coin. From Alba.”

“Scoti, eh? No matter. What you’re smellin’s not fer sellin’. Not for the likes of you.”

“Why not?” Ghillie returned, a little heated.

The tavern keeper cracked his shoulders. “There’s a peckin’ order here, and so far my dog has a higher place’n you do.”

“Shall I wrestle your dog, then?” Ghill shot back.

“Nah,” the cruel man sneered. “Nah I’ve a better idea. Sverre, want to put our guest in his place?”

The biggest, baldest, ugliest, smelliest man rose from his seat like a bear disturbed at his k.ill. He dabbed the meat off his beard with a rag.

“Bear,” The tavern keeper elbowed Ghillie, “We call him Bear around here- Bear you haven’t cleaned up from your last fight. Where did you dump those two lowlifes, anyway?”

“Same place I’m gonna leave this guy,” Sverre threw the rag aside and came at Ghill, arms outstretched to take him by the throat.

Ghill stood and braced, ready to pull out his sword.

“Let him be, Magnus. Are we all children here? I don’t mind sharing my stag.”

The sea of angry men parted. Sverre, or Bear as he was called turned red in the face and backed off.

In the doorway on the other side of the tavern stood a man. Small. Wiry. He could not have been any taller than Ghillie.

 

The crowd hovering over Ghillie melted away.

“Thank you, sir,” he said as his new friend sat down at his table. “I do think I owe you my life,”

“Not at all,” The small man held out a hand and a napkin was placed in it. He tied it around his neck. “You could’ve taken him. I know it. Alba, you said? Scoti?”

Ghill nodded. “You?”

“From these parts. Originally. But I’ve spent a lot of time abroad. Rome, the Germanic territories, Svalbard. Alba is a lush and beautiful place in the summer.”

“Winters are bitter.”

“Aye. That’s a rain to catch your death in. It’s almost better to have snow.”

The tavern keeper set the venison at the table.

“Excellent work, Magnus. I can always count on you to for the right do on my game.”

“Yes sir. Thank you sir.” Magnus bowed and was off in a hurry.

The meat melted in Ghill’s mouth. It seemed better than a highland steak... maybe a little too good. In all his experience Ghillie new one thing for sure. Just as it was for the fish he caught, there was no such thing as a free lunch. Glancing around the barrelhouse he became aware that everyone else kept their distance from his new ‘friend’.

“So,” said the small man between bites. “What brings you to these Barbaric waters, Mr…?”

“Ghillie,” He extended a hand, absent-mindedly. “Ghillie Dhu.”

“…Mr. Ghillie Dhu? Trade? Fishing? The urge to see the world?”

“I uh… I am a fisher, by trade. But the Piranharrow came through and wiped out everything in our bay, what few fish remain will have to be left for years to repopulate. I was forced to try new seas.”

“Did you leave a family behind?”

“A wife and two daughters. She’s… she’s about due for another one. Any day now.”

“A boy no doubt. What joy shall await your return.”

“I can only hope. My wife she is strong but I worry for her.”

“She will be fine I’m sure. And the little one, too.” The small man thought for a moment and leaned forward. “Tell me Ghillie, how do you feel about dragons?”

He shrugged, a little surprised at the change of subject. “If they leave me alone I leave them alone. I have to fend the young ones off a catch, but they learn quickly. Only one ever refused to back down.”

“You k.illed it?”

“It was after me, not the fish. I did what I had to do.”

“See you’re just the sort of person I’ve been looking for,” The small man leaned closer and spoke in a hushed voice. “These big buffoons are cowards. The whole lot of them. Not too helpful when brawn is their only strong suite. You and I on the other hand have had to stand up against unbeatable odds our whole lives. You and I, have had to use the muscle in our heads instead of the ones in our arms. How would you feel about a trip into the woods tonight?”

“…what?” Ghillie leaned back a little, every red flag in his brain waving wildly.

The small man rolled his eyes. “Look, Ghillie. I happen to know, that a very, very special breed of dragon is in that wood right now, along with her hatchling. Now in a few moments here it will be dark enough for her to start hunting. She will leave that little hatchling alone for hours. That’s our chance. If we find that little dragon, it will change both of our lives forever.”

“How? Rare or not a dragon is still a dragon. What would you do with it?”

“I know someone who will pay good money for this particular kind of dragon. Very good money. A treasure trove of it, and more. Money that could support you and your growing family until the fish return to your bays.”

“Who?”

Small man leaned back. “That’s for me to know. It’s not wise to be handing out names to possible competitors, you know.”

“This all sounds very far-fetched. Do you have any idea what monsters will be out there tonight?”

The small man grinned. “Most certainly. And I know how to avoid them and best them. Do you? It could get very unpleasant out where you grounded your vessel tonight. Sandwraiths, Sandbusters, Scauldrons, and Gronckles to name just a few visitors... to say nothing of the townsmen. Oh and a Tideglider is in the bay right now. Are you prepared for that?”

“I’ll have to be.”

“Or… you could just come with me. Dragons don’t hunt in the woods, they fish in the sea. How are they supposed to spot and attack prey through the trees? Honestly, it’s the safest place to be. Aside from the village. Come now, think about the money. In one night you will have everything you need and in the morning you can set sail for home, shaking the dust of this miserable place off your feet.”

Once more Ghillie looked around the room.

“… why won’t any of these go with you for such a prize?”

Small man shrugged. “I didn’t offer the job to them. None of them have brains and even fewer listen. This job doesn’t need brawn anyway. This job, is all about what’s up here.” He pointed to his head.

“You help me catch this tiny little dragon and I’ll split the profit evenly with you, that’s my deal. Take it or leave it, Ghillie Dhu.”

The offer was tempting. Too tempting to a sojourner who wanted nothing more than to return to home. One night in a strange wilderness seemed better than a month of them.

Ghillie extended his hand once more. “You have a deal, Mr…?”

The small man shook hands with him, grinning ear to ear. “Alvin. Just Alvin.”

 

It was a sizable island born of an ancient and now dormant volcano, covered in lush forest. As soon as they reached the edge of the village they were faced with thick undergrowth and vines. Alvin stopped at his place to pick up some nets and spears… and a friend. Ichabod, he called him. A silent man, only speaking when spoken to. He was also old. Alvin claimed that no one knew these woods like he did.

The cold dark nights Ghillie had spent in his boat didn’t come close to the eerie black of the forest. Alvin refused to light a torch, fearing that it would be a warning beacon to the mother dragon.

“Watch yourself,” Alvin warned as they cut through the undergrowth. “Dragon Vine is no trifling weed.”

Ghillie stepped over what vines he could see. “So what is so special about this dragon, anyway?”

“It’s rare. Smart. Powerful. This fellow I know has it in his head if he can get his hands on a hatchling he can train it to do his bidding.”

“So?”

“With a dragon like that a slave to his command, he would become the most powerful man in the archipelago. Just think of having the keenest, most vicious twenty-six-foot tall dog in Alba obeying your every command and then give it wings.”

“I’d be worried about him getting a mind of his own.”

Alvin snickered. “That’s why I don’t want it for myself.”

“What about the mother? If we do find this thing, and they are so very clever how are we going to escape from her?”

“We’ll do what we have to do.”

There was a glint in Alvin’s eye that Ghillie didn’t like, but it was too late to turn back now.

 

Things rustled in the understory, first from one direction then another. Alvin checked traps that he had placed previously and made more.

As they neared a bog the Celt caught his breath.

“Did you see that?”

“What?”

“There, right there a light.”

Alvin studied the spot. He laughed. “It’s a wisp it is!”

The ghostly green light faded away.

“It’s no laughing matter,” Ghillie scowled. “A wisp is an omen, of sometimes good but often evil.”

“Sounds like life in general. You Gaels and your superstitions. This bog lights up day and night like that because of the gases inside of it. No magic involved. But you don’t want to stick around, it’s toxens will make you drowsy and put you to sleep forever. Ah see? There it goes again.”

Another green glow could be seen across the scum.

Giving the toxic bog a wide berth the three men continued their search.

“If I recall you Scoti’s have some pretty wild tales of strange and bizarre creatures. The Wulver, the Bauchan, Glaistig and Kelpie to name a few. I have to wonder who came up with all those?”

“Some things are not thought up,” Ghillie returned. “They may be exaggerated, but there’s some truth in every-“

Alvin put a hand up and stood dead still, listening. Ghill followed his lead.

Wings. They beat with powerful and purposeful strokes above them. The Celt looked up through the branches of the trees. The stars disappeared as a shadow passed between them.

“That was her!” Alvin hissed delightedly. He looked around for a place to set his gear down so he could open his satchel.

“That was too close!”

“We are getting close. The hatchling is north, within a quarter mile. She’s gone out to fish again so we have about an hour. Let’s split up. Ichabod, you circle right, Ghillie you circle around left and I’ll trek right through the middle. If no one finds anything we’ll meet back here, I’ll leave one net on this old stump here so we know where to go. Now take these.”

Alvin pulled two horns out of his satchel and handed one each to Ghillie and Ichabod. “It’s a stag-whistle. If you see the mother returning blow on this and we’ll know to hide.”

Out of the corner of his eye Ghillie saw Alvin wink and Ichabod grin wickedly. He looked at Alvin suspiciously. “And if I find the hatchling?”

“Do not blow on it. Really. This dragon has excellent hearing and she’ll return if she thinks anything is getting to close to her baby, even something as harmless as a stag. Just stand by and we’ll find you.”

 

The three men went their separate ways.

 

Alone in the eerie wood Ghill had some time to think things over. Stand by. Yeah wally. Stand by for what? The mother to return and tear me to pieces? So my dying cries will point you to the hatchling, and you won’t have to split the rewards threeways? Is that the plan, Mr. Alvin?

He looked at the horn given to him, wondering what would happen if he blew on it.  

This had been a mistake. Why oh why did he let greed get the better of good judgement? If he knew the way through this creepy jungle he would march right out of it. There were only two things he knew for certain, he wished he had taken his chances on his own little boat and he didn’t trust Alvin as far as he could throw.

Stop being so synical, he tried to convince himself otherwise, like it or not this is the mess you got yourself into, Ghillie. Who am I to judge a man so harshly? At least give him the benefit of the doubt.

Something slithered across the forest floor ahead. Ghill pulled out his bow and reached back to his quiver, feeling for each arrow.

It seemed like forever and yet only seconds before he reached the smelly bog again. Heaving a sigh of relief, he returned the bow to its place, sat down next to the log with the net over it and waited.

The stars crept along in the navy night sky but still no sign of Alvin or Ichabod. Were they still searching? In trouble? Or had they found what they were looking for and left him to fend for himself?

The stars.

Why hadn’t he thought of that sooner? He knew that he ran his boat ashore the southern beach of the isle, so why not follow the stars south?

Feeling like a fool Ghillie stood abruptly. He’d had enough. It was time to head back.

Something inches away from the back of his neck snarled and retreated into the undergrowth.

Ghillie jumped. The creature didn’t go far. It slinked through the grasses and behind rocks, settling under the branches of some bush further into the swamp

It was small. Dark in color with no obvious markings. Long tail and wings. Little spikes for horns protruded from the top of its head; the muzzle was fine and elongated. He could see little else more, except the hollow, glowing eyes that had no pupils.

Was this the hatchling Alvin searched for?

Swallowing his superstitions and pushing away all the terrible stories bouncing around in his head, Ghill took the net on the stump and followed it.

The little creature arched it’s back and took him deeper and deeper into the marsh. So intent was Ghillie on following he didn’t even notice the swamp lights anymore, or the weight of his eyelids.

Finally the little dragon came to the hollow of an ancient cedar and made no further attempt to retreat.

“That’s it then,” Ghillie cooed, edging closer with the net. “Easy now.”

The creature stared with those glowing empty eyes. “Easy, now.”

Ghillie stopped. “Did- did you just talk?”

“Easy now. Easy now.” The little animal repeated. “That’s it then did you just talk? Easy now.”

“Hugh,” The Gael put his hands on his knees. “You sound like a mimikoo.”

You sound like a Mimikoo,” The dragon repeated once more. This time it sounded exactly like Ghillie, but in a more accusatory tone.

“I wonder…”

“I wonder?” It echoed.

“Are you smart?” He tapped his head.

“Are you smart.” The dragon tapped its head. “Are you smart smart.”

“Yes,” Ghillie nodded, then wagged his head. “Or no.”

“Yes. Are you smart smart yes.” It snorted, head held high.

Ghillie’s jaw dropped. Either his imagination was going wild, or the dragon was communicating.

“Are you smart smart?” the dragon crawled out of the hollow and up a branch to be at eye level.

“Ugh, yes,”

“Smart smart no,” It hissed and pointed its’ nose to the net. “No smart.”

Ghillie looked down at the net he still held in his hands. He dropped it.

The dragon trilled, a smile curling up its lips. “Smart.”

“Ugh, do you… want to come with me?” He put an arm out and patted.

“Come with me?”

“Yes, come. And go. Go with me, away?”

“Away are?”

“To see my friends.”

The dragon cocked its head. “Away. Me?”

“You,” he pointed to the dragon, “Come with me,” he pointed to himself. “Away.” He pointed towards the place Alvin said to meet up. “To see other me’s.” He pointed to himself again.

“You come with me away go see other me’s yes.” The dragon flew to his outstretched arm, cackling. It dug talons deep into his skin but he refrained from voicing his pain. “Yes, me. Yes yes.”

 

Ghill thought between yawns as he traipsed through the mire. Highly intelligent, nocturnal, and certainly rare to him, Ghillie could see the little dragon perched on his arm growing up to be a powerful beast someday. Nothing could come closer to the description Alvin had given him.

A shadowy figure waited at the appointed spot. “Alvin,” he whispered, “Alvin I’ve found it,”

Alvin didn’t hear him, he seemed to be listening for something else. Ghillie was about to call out when a sudden pang of guilt gripped him. He looked down at the funny creature.

All the storms he had faced on the open seas, the people he had warded off, the beasts that he had narrowly escaped, did he not do it all, just to come home to his family?

Yet here he stood, ready to offer this little dragon up to a man he wouldn’t trust his own life to, ripping a clearly intelligent creature away from his family so he could return sooner to his. It just didn’t seem right.

The good Celt shook his head and turned away.

Glowing eyes judged his change of heart.

“ALVIN,” The dragon on his arm yelled. “Alvin I’ve found it!”

The small man jumped two feet in the air “You found it??” he landed and turned in surprise. “Where?”

Really?” Ghill growled under his breath at the dragon that he was trying to set free. “Oh, eh… in the bog. Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s not the right one, I’ll just let it go...” He whispered.

“Bring him over. Let me see.”

The tone in Alvin’s voice made Ghillie think if he turned the creature loose now he’d get a spear in the back.

He walked toward Alvin.

“…What are those glowing things?” The small man hissed as he neared.

“His eyes.”

Through the dark Ghil knew that the color had drained from Alvin’s face by the tremble in his voice.

“That’s no dragon. That’s a devil! What have you done?!? You’ll be the death of us all!” The man choked out a terrified whisper.

“What do you mean?”

“Of all the terrible beasts you Scotis believe in are you to tell me you don’t know a Woodreaper when you see it? We’ve got to get out of this forest.”

“What about Ichabod? We should warn him,”

Without a second thought, Ghillie pulled out the horn Alvin had given him and blew it.

The sound that came out was nothing like a stag’s whistle. It was long, reverberating, and melodious. Alvin ripped the horn out of his mouth and listened.

Far off in the distance something roared.

“You really are trying to kill me, aren’t you?” He hissed between grit teeth. The glint in his eye was murderous. “Take the dragon back to the swamp. Get rid of it now!”

Quietly as he could Ghillie ran through the marsh, a thick layer of fog swirling around his legs. He set the dragon down as close as he dared to its den.

“Other me’s,” The dragon looked up at him inquisitively.

“Other me’s don’t like you. We’re better off going our separate ways.”

He turned to leave, but the sight that met his eyes rooted his feet to the ground.

Moonlight streamed through the moss on snags, shedding light upon a stag standing near a dead tree. His rack was enormous, snout long and pointed. he swung to and fro, dragging his hind legs on the ground. There was a ring of thick, black liquid around its neck and its eyes glowed.

They glowed, hollow and empty, without pupils. Exactly like…

Ghillie’s heart stopped. He looked at the little dragon and back to the horrific deer.

The beast snapped its jaw. A sickening crunch of breaking bones resulted, and the carcass of the headless doe fell beneath the fog.

The head, not belonging to the deer but rather the hideous dragon that had been her demise snaked forward, bringing into the light wings filled with holes and tears.

Ghillie bolted. He ran into Alvin, still not joined by Ichabod. “Run!” He gasped, not bothering to stop. “RUN!!”

The two took off in different directions.

 

Someone let out a blood curling scream.

 

Through brush and briar, stumbling over every root and rock Ghillie charged through the wood. He broke every twig in his path and rustled every leaf. The dragon vine cut deeply into his calves and stung, making every step searing pain.

He paused to catch his breath and listen.

“Ghillie?”

Ghillie peered into the forest that surrounded him

“Ghillie is that you?” Ichabod’s voice whispered somewhere between the trees.

“Yes it’s me, Ichabod. Where are you?”

“Oh thank Thor what’s going on out there?”

“I made a mistake,” The celt wiped the sweat off his forehead. “I roused a devil of a dragon.”

“What?”

“That monster,” He gasped for air again, walking towards the voice. “That monster you call the Woodreaper, I took a hatchling from it.”

“You’re not making sense… Ghillie, what’s you’re full name?”

Ghillie stopped just shy of an old cedar. “What? Why are you asking me that? Where are you?”

Ichabod began to weep, but Ghillie still couldn’t figure out where he was.

“You’re not Ghillie.” He sniffled.

“What are you talking about?” The man from Alba was totally confused. “Ichabod are you hurt?”

“If anyone ever hears this, and lives, tell Gothi of Berk that I have always loved her.”

Ghillie took a step back as the cedar opened one glowing eye and then another. The bark spread to reveal the mother Woodreaper’s wings. She stalked towards him, opening her mouth. It glowed even brighter than her eyes and silhouetted her six-inch teeth. Snorting, she sent a foul stench wafting Ghillie’s way.

He cried out in horror, stumbling on his own feet as he fled the gruesome thing. It didn’t lash out. It didn’t even run after him it just watched and followed as he tripped and stumbled through the forest like it knew something that he didn’t.

His heart pounded in his chest. His neck was covered in cold sweat, but somehow in the height of terror Ghill found himself growing drowsy. The bog! I must be near the bog and the toxins are getting to me! Oh I’ve got to stay awake!

The Woodreaper followed, enjoying every weary fall poor Ghillie made.

 

Alas in a tiny clearing he fell again, this time prey to a torn tendon in his ankle.

He shook his head hoping to shake some of the grogginess off. It was to no avail. The toxin had saturated his lungs and it was only a matter of time before he succumbed.

Ghillie was a Scoti though, and a Scoti fights to the end. Reaching for the rock he fell next to, he was startled by what he saw when he looked up.

Two beautiful wide green eyes stared at him, only inches from his face. The thing was small, maybe two or three feet long. It was hard to tell because the rest of the creature was hidden from view beneath the dug-out stone, but the eyes shown bright and reflected the stars above.

It cooed gently and put out a scaly little black paw.

A shadow crossed above them in the sky.

Trees and undergrowth parted as the mother Woodreaper entered the clearing.

The little thing turned its kind gaze from Ghillie to the monster that had emerged from the wood. It trilled.

If he was to die, perhaps he would not have to hidein vain.

“Hide!” he urged Green Eyes. “And perhaps she won’t see you!”

Ghillie turned onto his back and pulled an arrow from his quiver, placing himself between the beast and the little creature under the rock.

“Stay back,” He shook his head and steadied his bow.

The Woodreaper stopped; eyeing him suspiciously.

Unconcious of the fact he was loosing his grip, Ghillie sent an arrow sailing- about a dozen yards off target.

The sinistrous beast chortled and continued her forward march.

Ghillie shot another, and another and another. His weakening showed in the shortened distance of each arrow.

He pulled the last one out and strung it, barely able to keep his eyes open.

A large talon came down on it, bending the wood of the bow until it snapped in half. Another fell upon him, one of the claws slowly putting pressure on and puncturing his neck. He put his hands out to stop it.

It was a good struggle Ghillie put up. His mind was almost gone from the toxin, his body exhausted from running. Near the end, tears welled in his eyes as he thought of his family. Of his wife waiting for him. Of what they would have to do without his providing.

Consciousness slipping away, at last he lay still.

As his arms gave the Woodreaper threw back her head and howled victory, intending it to be the last sound to reach Ghillie’s ears before making the final blow.

But it wasn’t.

No the last sound to reach Ghillie’s ears was the high-pitched roar of a broken sound barrier, followed by a blue blast of light, powerful as lightning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birds sang. Silky clouds streamed the sky, moving on a soft breeze.

 

Ghillie Dhu sat up to find himself in the middle of a lovely woodland clearing with a splitting headache.

He ran his fingers through his hair and down his neck. Dried blood covered a wound only millimeters from being fatal. He looked down at his legs. Battered and bruised, full of gaping cuts. His ankle was swollen, too.

 

His bow lay splintered in half at his side. His sword was gone. He didn’t even know what happened to that.

Signs of a fantastic struggle marked the edges of the clearing. Giant burn marks, felled trees. Ghillie rubbed his cheek. A nasty, sticky, smelly film stuck to his arm and he looked over his shirt. He was covered in paw prints.

Ghillie turned and looked behind him at the rock were the small thing had been hiding. Little pawprints were everywhere, and they were joined by big pawprints. The tracks hopped all around the clearing and then disappeared into thin air.

The Celt sighed a heave of relief. Green eyes got away. And thanks to Green eyes mom, so did he.

 

 

 

“Would you look what come crawlin’ out o’ the woods,” Magnus stood in front of his tavern, gaping.

Ghillie hobbled along through the villiage, a large branch under his arm like a crutch for support.

Men swarmed him, asking dozens of questions. Ghillie answered to none of them.

“Did Alvin come back?” He demanded.

“Of course. You might have guts but Alvin knows his way around.”

“Get him.” Ghillie growled.

The order was unnecessary. Alvin had heard the commotion and come to see for himself.

“Out of the way, you scurvy lot!” The small man snarled. “Ichabod! Ichabod is that you?”

He came to the foreground and was visually disappointed. “Ghillie. Ghillie did you see Ichabod?”

“No.” Ghillie snapped. “But I heard from a very reliable source that he wished for someone to tell Gothi of Berk that he loved her and he always did.”

“No,” Alvin said to himself. “No. It can’t be.”

“Don’t believe me? Ask that devil of a dragon yourself. Good day to you, Mr. Alvin.”

“Wait,” He stopped Ghillie, eyeing him suspiciously. “No one gets away from that beast. How did you do it?”

“I guess my guardian angel didn’t think the time was right.” He retorted.

“…what do you mean by ‘angel’?” The shrewd fellow pried.

“Just as I thought. You’re more concerned about your hunt for fortune than you are that a man died last night trying to help you get it!”

That devilish look came back to Alvin’s eye. He wasn’t fond of being called out. “Answer the question, Ghillie Dhu.”

“I don’t know. I fell in a clearing and the beast got the best of me. Next thing I knew it was morning.”

Alvin pondered his story. “You’re sure you didn’t meet any other dragons?”

Ghillie looked him in the eye. “If I did, I owe them my life.”

“As you do me.”

“You can consider my debt to you closed. I believe I’ve more than paid that in one night.”

Ghillie walked away.

“I’m still going after that wretched hatchling. Again, tonight. So help me I’ll get it if I have to go head to head with it’s mother!”

“Then I’m not concerned.” Ghillie shrugged. He’d kept walking all this time and was nearing the end of the village. The little fishing boat stood where he had moored it the night before. What sight for sore eyes.

“How’s that?” Alvin tried him.

“You’re a coward. You’ll never meet your opponent face to face because like a small dog you go around and bit their heels.” Ghillie sneered. “So no, I don’t worry for her in a fair fight. Good day to you, Mr. Alvin. Thank you for your hospitality.”

 

 

Untethering the ropes and pulling out the stake, Ghillie shoved his Dinghy out to sea. He set the sails and checked his compass. The winds were favorable as he headed due south.

An explorer’s life was not for him. It was time to return home, swallow his pride and learn a new trade until the fish returned.

Wind across the water brushed his face and red hair with salt, the boat bobbed up and down between waves. He tried not to think of how he was weaponless. He tried not to think of the sea dragon he had run into on the way up to this island. He looked down at the only thing that did survive the Woodreapers’ attack; the horn that Alvin gave him. Maybe no deer whistle but some kind of dragon bugle that lured dragons to you. He would keep the horn to remind himself of what had happened that dreadfall night, but the island couldn’t disappear behind him fast enough.

 

A monster lurked on that island. A ruthless, cruel, savage monster.

 

And it answered to the name Alvin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes:

The Sinistrous Woodreaper is a dragon creation of the talented artist, Chameishida!

 

This story takes place roughly fifteen years before the first movie. I incorporated my own twist to an original character from the books. The dragons that Ghillie mentions from his homeland are my own oc dragons. The story is very loosely based on the legend of Legend of Sleepy Hollow and its roots in Irish Folklore… although its even less recognizable there. The idea is more like a ‘perhaps this is how the story began’ sort of thing than anything.

The island is Dragon Vine island, Ghillie is from Scotland and his name, Ghillie Dhu, is actually the name of a mythical creature in Scottish folklore

The bugle Alvin gave to Ghillie is the same bugle Hiccup buys from Eret in the beginning of Selene. It makes the same sounds as a Deathsong. 

 

Post-Story:

Ghillie returns home to his wife and two daughters, and a happy healthy little baby boy he names Epp. Without the fish he and his family move to Ireland and become farmers. Here his family grows up and he grows old, telling and retelling his account of Dragon Vine Island, or as he named it, Sleepy Hollow. As the years went by the tale grew wilder and less recognizable, especially as it spread across Ireland via word of mouth.

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LissaFish
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The Barbaric Archipelago

 

Title:

The Barbaric Archipelago

 

 

I’m Epp. It’s a short name, easy to remember. Years upon years ago my dad traveled across the sea in search of new fish. You see, before I was born a terrible plague struck our cove, the dreaded Piranharrow.

Now I’m an explorer. The stories my dad told me about the people he met, and the creatures he saw have kindled in me an insatiable curiosity for the world beyond Alba. What is it like out there? Have the rumors about the Norse people been true? Have they really learned how to train, dragons?

There’s no point to training a Kelpie. Even if you could tame a sea spirit, how would you even touch the thing? Let alone ride it. I guess the Mimikoo could be tamed. But they’re… well… so stupid. And what a miserable ride that would be on the ground.

Then there’s the Kyte. Now that’s a dragon to consider. Small, only the lightest in build could ride one, but they were created for speed. Just imagine being on the back of an animal like that as he sales so high above and then dives for his quarry. It takes my breath away.

I’m small. Well, small-ish. Definitely smaller than the average Norseman. I could ride one, I could train it.

…but how?

That’s why I was here, sailing alone on the savage north seas. I hadn’t yet run into pirates, but I knew they were out here just as well as I knew the dragons were. And I was pretty sure I had a tail lurking somewhere in the abyss, because every now and again a giant bubble steamed up from the depths and never too far from the back of my father’s old dinghy. Ah well, I thought, I’ll take him when he comes at me. No use fretting over something I can’t change.

Seagulls harassed my tiny boat and dolphins played at the bow, chasing the flying fish. Some of them ended up on board, and I’m not one to miss an opportunity. Into the fish barrel they went.

“Not here, not here, not here,” I said, scratching off uninhabited islands on my map. “Where is this place called Berk? Will I ever meet up with someone who knows of it? Will I ever meet up with anyone at all?” I asked the wind.

It refused answer. Wind is rude that way.

I snorted. “With my luck, it’ll be the northernmost isle in all the archipelago.”

The clouds dotting the sky seemed to congregate together and hurry along.

Blooop

There it went again, my secret admirer.

I leaned over the side, only to be met by the reflection of my ruggedly handsome face. It was too deep to see anything else. I smiled and shook my head. Shy one.

“Shrrrreeek!”

There was a disturbance among the gulls. Through them flew an antagonized animal right into my mast.

It bounced off the wooden beam and fell on deck.

The seagulls were quick to snap him up but I was quicker. I caught the one with the prize in his beak by a yellow webbed foot.

“Not so fast!” I said as he squawked, dropping the little creature. “What lands on my boat belongs to me. Shoo!”

A pattering of feet and the tiny thing scurried under the oar bench. I got down on all fours for a better look. He was angry, hissing with his back arched and waving a long stringy tail.

“A thank you would be nice,” I put out my hand to pick him up. So little, only the size of a mouse.

“Ouch!”

Maybe a mouse in size but certainly not in temperament! When I wrapped my hand around him he struck it with the shard on the end of his tail, and then his nose got hot.

Really hot! Even though I dropped him as soon as I felt it, to this day I have a white burn mark on my palm. Rushing to the fish barrel I stuck my hand in the cold water.

“You’re not too friendly.” I scowled.

The little thing growled from his corner.

He looked dragon like but the smallest one I’d ever seen. Four short little feet, a big head and nose, and huge eyes. Also a long tail. It had to be twice his own length.

Grey in color, almost gleaming. Armor, not scales. His wings were tiny even for him, and there was a ridged sail along his back.

“There they were. A cloud so thick it blocked out the light of day. I hurried your mum and two elder sisters into the cellar and bolted it shut. It was awful to hear our poor cow cry out amongst the buzzing, but at least her plight was short. The sea churned as the terrible beasts dove in after the fish, and they did it in such masses that as they flew out and up they made it rain with the water that clung to their wings.”

“Did they et our cow, papa?”

“Yes, Epp. When it was safe to come out, all that was left of Belle was her bones. She’d been picked clean.”

“I’ll stop ‘em. Next time, we’ll have another cow and they won’t et her because I’ll fight those big mean bullies and save her.”

Papa smiled down so very kindly. “You will, aye?”

I swooshed an invisible sword around.

“Bullies are not always big, son. Do you want to guess how big a Piranharrow is?”

I put out my hands as wide as I could.

“Smaller than that,”

I put them out as wide as our cat.

“Try smaller yet.”

Finally I put them out only inches apart.

“That’s it lad. A piranharrow is small, as small as a mouse. He could fit in your hand. You see, it’s not always about how big you are. It’s about what you can do. And…” he tapped his head, “How smart you are. If I was smarter, I would have listened to the birds and come home sooner, then we could have saved Belle, too.”

I returned to the present, and studied my new passenger. “You are a Piranharrow, aren’t you?”

He barred his buck teeth.

“Yep.” I squinted. “Who else could have such a jolly disposition and size? …Where’s your hive?” I stood and searched the sky, suddenly feeling out in the open. Not a swarming cloud of death to be seen.

He slowly crept out of his cubbyhole.

“…did you get left behind?”

The dragon stared with unfeeling eyes.

“That’s it, isn’t it. You were left behind. We’ll don’t dally on my account hurry back to them before they miss you.”

He climbed up onto the side and looked down, shifting his weight from one tiny foot to another, wings fluttering, tail spinning, but never making the jump.

“Well, get on with it,” I had to tease.

He looked back with angry yellow eyes and squeaked, then turned and leapt over and onto the mast. Sharp claws made light work of climbing up the canvas and he soon found himself on the crossbeam. Again he fluttered and spun and shifted his feet but didn’t actually fly.

The seagulls were waiting, and the dolphins took interested too. By and by I came to realize what his real dilemma was.

I look at his wings and spinning tail. Sure, they were perfect when airborn, but not so great for getting in the air. If he tried to fly now, he’d just flop into the water and get eaten.

The gulls swooped by, trying to scare him into falling. A hiss so small I couldn’t hear it escaped him. The ridged sail on his back sent a quiver all the way down his tail.

“I’ve got an idea,” I said, and pulled open the hatch.

Rummaging through the random stuff I found what I was looking for. My dad’s quiver and arrows. The birds eyed me warily and fell away from the boat. Smart birds.

My uninvited guest however only cocked his head.

“Not sure what you’ll think of this,” I pulled the thread tight. “but here’s the plan. You climb onto the arrow, and I shoot it up into the sky. A jumpstart. What do you say?”

I brought it up to him. Surprisingly he clambered on.

“Happy sailing!”

It was strangely satisfying to launch a dragon into the air. Just the boost he needed to get up and going, I watched him fly loops and circles up and down and all around, leaving the seagulls in his dust.

Then he did something I would have done.

Thunk! Went the mast.

“What?” I said, staring at the dragon now at my feet. “I just got you up and running!”

He ran up my leg in a flash, crawled onto my arm and waiting expectantly.

I grinned.

One more arrow disappeared from the quiver.

Out he sailed again, flying up and down and all around.

Thunk!

Another arrow disappeared.

And another.

My dad would have killed me if he knew I used his expertly crafted arrows to fling a tiny dragon repeatedly through the sky.

But I was having fun, so… justified. Or at least it was until I reached over and realized I had used them all. Then I felt stupid, I was down weapons and up a passenger.

The dragon looked at me angrily when I came up empty handed, and nipped my finger. Before I could retaliate he scurried off and into a corner, growling.

“Fine. That was my bad, so you can stay until I find land. Then you’re out.”

 

 

 

Night fell.

Under the veil of darkness I heard many things. Strange things, beautiful things, creapy things, and things I could not understand.

Hotshot, as I had decided to call him eventually accepted the fact we shared this boat. He even took a piece of fish that I offered him… sort of like I owed it to him, but hey it was a start.

Bloop

“What is that thing?” I leaned over the side once more. Hotshot joined me out of curiosity. I turned to him. “Any ideas?”

He shrugged.

When I looked up my eyes caught sight of a mass of black protruding out of the water.

Land-censored!

 

Within three hours we ran ashore a rocky beach. Not the best mooring spot but it would have to do because I didn’t feel like looking for a better one. I turned and faced the jagged cliff.

As I slipped and stumbled up the cliffside with my sea legs, Hotshot zipped past. He ran to the top and jumped off.

The wind caught in those tiny wings, the tail spun. He was flying.

He twisted and turned and flew straight up and straight down at incredible speeds, buzzing around me like an enormous fly.

“That’s great,” I snorted, almost losing my foothold. “You’re amazing. Now fly back to wherever the rest of your buddies are.”

Hotshot wasn’t one to take orders. He bugged me all the way up the cliff.

What I get for being nice, I grumbled, brushing mud and rock off my clothes.

There, nestled amongst the hardy oaks stood a stone house.

It had all but been completely taken over by vine and trees. The door was leaning and the windows were barred shut with wood. Some of the stones had fallen out of place and lay around it looking forlorn and purposeless. A well stood in front of it.

Fresh water. What luck!

Hurrying over, I tossed the bucket in and brought it up over flowing, drinking from one side as Hot Shot helped himself to the other. He drank more than I did. It was amazing to watch as this tiny thing kept gulping and gulping until the bucket ran dry.

“Somebody was thirsty.”

The wind blew and the door and windows of the old house creaked.

“Hey Hotshot,” I said, fiery spark in my hazel eyes, “This place gives me the creeps. Let’s check it out.”

He growled.

“Suit yourself.”

 

I tried the door but it was bolted shut. Probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway, it was leaning too far off the hinges. The windows were obviously a no go… but maybe the chimney….

Hotshot followed me up the biggest oak, chattering his teeth as I got out on a limb.

“Come on,” I turned to the scolding creature. “Where’s your sense of fun?”

That’s when the branch broke.

And then the roof broke.

And the second floor.

And the table full of papers, ink and dishes

And then me.

 

I hit the dirt floor and just lay there, trying to remember how to breath.

The branch had demolished the fireplace. Boy was I glad I didn’t end up there.

Sitting upright I looking around. There were cobwebs everywhere, dust in the air and papers were still fluttering down after I destroyed their resting place.

“What have you done?” A fierce voice boomed in the silence. I just about jumped out of my skin.

A very tall man stood in the shadows. He ran his fingers through brown hair.

…Someone lives in this miserable place?

“What have you done??”

Leaping forward he grasped at the fluttering papers.

“You scared me,” I gasped. Someone lives in this miserable place!

“I scared you?” He said in a thick, Gaelic growl. “You just blew out my roof, second floor and table in the middle of the night and I scared you?”

“I’m sorry. I was looking for a place to stay and I thought-”

“Sorry? SORRY? This is thousands of runes of damage. Do you have any idea how much it would cost me to replace this table? The second floor? The ROOF? If I sent a tmail right now, it would be months before anyone could get down here to even look at this.”

I reviewed my handiwork. It was impressive. One would have thought a boulder went through this drafty old house, not a shrimp of a Scoti. It made me grin… a short people thing to feel pleased to be capable of causing mass destruction.

He looked to me with angry blue eyes. “You think this is funny?”

“No sir.” I bit my tongue.

“You shouldn’t. All said things can be replaced, but this is years of my life’s work here.” He continued to collect the papers, sighing at the sight of one saturated in ink. “Years. AND YOU JUST BLEW IT TO SMITHEREENS!”

“Look I feel terrible,” I backed away from the irate six-and-a-half-foot giant. “I had no idea someone actually lived in this dump-HOME, home- and I’m more than happy to help you fix it up.”

“Bah. You’re kind don’t stay put long enough to get things done. GOOD things, anyway.”

I glanced over at the door. Just as I had thought, it was bolted shut. It was also nailed shut, and boarded up, and chained… and so were the windows.

“So…?”

“Liam.”

“Hmm. Liam… why is your door nailed closed?”

“I don’t like visitors. But SOME people can’t take a hint.”

“Right… how do I leave?”

“Through the back,” He grumbled. “you won’t find it on your own.”

He continued collecting, so to speed things up I helped him at it.

“Wait a second,” I said, studying one papers. “That’s a Mimikoo.”

He snatched it from my hands. “You don’t say.”

I pointed to another. “And that’s a Hobble grunt… and a Hodgepodge.” Looking up in awe I asked the question on my mind. “Are you a dragon trainer?”

“What? No! I’m a herpetologist.”

“But you study dragons, right?”

He rolled his eyes. “Yes.”

“-So you can learn how to train them?”

“I’m not interested in training them. I leave that to the Berkians who pay handsomely for my work- or what’s left of it.”

“Berkians? Berk Berkians? The fabled dragon trainers?”

He stormed across the room to a wooden chair.

“Where are they? Where is their island? When do they come here? Are they coming soon?”

“You ask too many questions and I don’t like talking to people. That’s why I’m here, on my island, all by myself.”

Pulling the chair back, he revealed a trap door beneath and a tunnel shrouded in darkness.

“There’s the door.”

“To… the basement?”

He scowled. “OUT. Just keep going and you’ll be fine.”

As much as I loved the idea of jumping into a dark tunnel that I had no idea where and if it ended, I was too close to getting some answers to walk away. And if there’s one thing a Scoti doesn’t do it’s give up.

“Do you know about the Kelpie?”

“Out.”

“Maybe the Kyte?”

“Out.”

“Okay how about the Gyphon?

He glanced to me skeptically. “Do you know anything about the Gryphon?”

“….No but my friend-”

“Out!”

He looked about ready to push me down the tunnel.

“Wait! I want to grab my Piranharrow.”

“Piranharrow?” His face turned ashen.

“Yeah,” I taunted. “My Piranharrow. Hotshot, come here,”

To my utter shock and delight the little dragon came. He growled at Liam.

“We go back a long time, Hotshot and I, I know so much about them now…”

The tall man ignored my every word. He ran to his desk and rummaged through it.

“They shouldn’t be here. They shouldn’t….”

“Hey, it’s just one. No big deal.”

“That,” He pointed to Hotshot. “Is a scout. He’s the first sign of a full-on deluge. “Look. See?”

Liam got out his study on Piranharrow. “Scouts are light grey in color, they blend better in their surroundings than the common piranharrow. Common Piranharrow are black and they live in constantly migrating swarms that have numbers in the trillions. A scout will usually travel two days in advance of the swarm, if for some reason he falls back to them he is just as likely to be eaten as anything else. They migrate across the world, consuming all that is in their path, leaving only stubble and bones in their wake.” He brushed the paper with his hand. “I have yet to send this to the Berkians. They don’t realize this dragon exists.”

“How do the most famous dragon people in the world not know that the Piranharrow exists?”

“The last time they came through there was no one left to tell the tale.”

I shrugged. “Fair enough. But it’s really not such a big deal. My family survived a deluge, so long as everyone gets the animals and themselves inside and they’ll be fine… might take years for everything else to grow back…

“You don’t understand Berkians… they fight, everything. All the Vikings do. So when the Piranharrow came through they tried to fight them. It was a massacre.”

I shrugged again. “This time don’t fight them. Problem solved.” I squinted. “If everyone died how would you know about it? And how would there still be a village?”

“That’s beside the point. The vikings will fight. They will fight for their fish, and the wild dragons, and they will fail and be destroyed.”

Liams eyes grew wide. “And thanks to you so will I. This place is no longer fit to protect me! We’re doomed.”

“We can take these guys!” I tried to calm him down. “As long as we find a good place to hide. Papa said it only lasts a few hours.”

“It can,” Liam corrected, “It can also last for days. The swarm that travels this course is one of the largest. It’ll take at least twenty four hours for them to come through. Do you have a safehouse that would suffice for twenty four hours?” I DID.”

Again back to this. I was getting annoyed. “What about this tunnel? Won’t that work?”

Hotshot saw something interesting on Liam’s shirt. He buzzed over and landed on the man.

Liam cupped him in his hands

“No don’t! His-“

“Agh!” He was quick to let go.

Hotshot dropped on the dirt floor, nose aglow.

“-his nose burns.”

“I can see that,” Liam soaked his hand in a pale of water. Under it was a gaping, endless-looking hole. And above it was a strange metal pipe. He grabbed a piece of the pipe, lifted it up and pressed down. Water came out and drained into the hole.

“Whoa…” I said. “What is that?”

“A faucet.”

“Where is the water coming from?”

“My well. It’s hard to explain so don’t ask.”

I walked over and picked my little dragon up. “A scout, huh? What does he scout for? They eat everything so why do they need somebody to go ahead and tell them where stuff is?”

“They don’t scout food. They scout obstacles and possible nesting areas. So mostly islands, mountains, air streams and weather.”

“How do they tell the others what they find?”

“I’m not sure exactly how it works but…” Liam said, “I do have a theory. I call it the hive-mind.”

I gave him a dubious look.

“Yes. It’s crazy but my research strongly suggests these dragons never return to the swarm. They live their lives ahead of it, but somehow, always in communication. How they do it I don’t know, but they do.”

I looked down at Hotshot. He was sitting on my shoulder now, grooming himself.

“The others can see what he sees?”

“I don’t know I’ve never been this close to a live one.” Liam snorted. “It could be like sending terror mail. Just information. Or they can see what he sees. It could be voluntary or involuntary my research is not complete. Obviously,”

Liam glanced over his notes angrily. “I knew their migration through the Archipelago was pending, but I thought it wouldn’t be for another six to twelve months.” He crumpled the paper up and threw it on the floor. “I held this back from Berk until I had solid proof, so they would know that my word and my work are valid. But now it’s too late; I’ve gambled with the lives of an entire village and I’ve lost the bet. At least I too, shall hidein my error and I won’t have to live with the guilt. Plus you’re coming with us. So that’s a bonus.”

“You are a mean old fellow.” I said, picking up his paper. “And a dooms-dayer. We can kick this. We just need to figure out how. If Hotshot is a scout as you say, maybe we can convince him to convince the others not to travel through the archipelago.”

“That’s the most stupid thing-“

His voice trailed off.

“That’s it! If we figure out how he communicates, maybe we can send a message to the others warding them away! I’m a genious! Crash course! Time to learn about the Piranharrow.”

 

 

It may have been the middle of the night but that didn’t seem to bother Liam a bit. And I was a little wound up myself, so sleep wasn’t going to happen.

He dragged another table into the room and we set Hotshot on it. He seemed pleased to be the center of attention.

“Now what?” I asked.

“We need something that would be an issue to the Piranharrow. Something that would need attention. Something…”

“Yeah?”

“We need a Nightfurry.”

“A Nightfury?” My eyes grew wide. My heart started racing. Was I going to have the privilege of seeing a real live Nightfury? The ancient king of the midnight sky? Terror of all?

Liam scowled. “Now where in the world would we get a Nightfury? They’re extinct- save the Chiefs’.”

“But you just said-”

Nightfurry. I said Nightfurry.”

“…”

“It’s not a dragon. Come on I’ll show you.”

We left Hotshot on the table with a salmon thirty times his size. Liam lead me back to the tunnel. He grabbed a saucepan, a bottle of yak milk, and a net that he handed to me. Then hopped down.

I glared. “These things live in your basement?”

“My entry, but yes.”

He set the saucepan down and poured.

I jumped down to join him. “What’s with the milk?”

“Bait. So here’s the plan, I’ll draw them in and you catch one. Ready?”

I gripped the pole of the net tightly. “I’m ready.”

He patted me on the shoulder and scrambled back into the house. “Good.”

“Hey-hey where you going?”

“To get a pot and spoon, muttonhead. You know, to draw them in?”

“Oh,” I replied, less than easy. “Alright.”

“Do be careful of the claws and teeth, lad. If they smell blood they’ll eat you alive. Best of luck.”

“Wha-?”

With a loud creek the trap door slammed shut above my head. It was followed by the sound of a sliding latch.

“Liam,” I banged on the door in the pitch dark. “This isn’t funny… let me out!”

Clang clang! Clang clang clang!

The pot and spoon resounded throughout the house.

Clang clang! Clang clang!

My heart skipped a beat. The shuffling of dozens of feet echoed from the back of the tunnel.

“I’m serious! Let me out!”

I was beating that door now.

He laughed.

I was trapped. A maniac above me and an army of terrifying, unknown beasts were closing in. At that moment I reconsidered all that I knew. Why had I chosen to be an explorer? Why hadn’t I become a fisherman or a baker? Why couldn’t I have settled? Sure, it would have been a boring life but I bet I would have gotten to live past my twenty first birthday.

Backed against the dirt wall, life flashing before my eyes, I waved that net frantically and braced for the brutal attack.

Mew.

Mew mew Meow! Mew!

Mew.

… I looked up to find myself surrounded by…

winged cats.

Liam was still laughing. “You should have heard yourself! Solid soprano! Encor! Encor!”

“Ha ha. You got me hilarious.”

They pushed and shoved each other out of the way with their bat-like wings, lapping up the milk. The saucepan ran dry in a matter of seconds.

I threw down the net and it fell atop a small black tabby. It hissed and twisted and turned as the others took off down the tunnel the way they came.

“Got one!”

The trap door opened.

 

 

We pulled the Nightfurry up in the net. Kind person that Liam was, he made me wear the falconing gloves to nab the angry felinish thing.

Hotshot lay on his back. Beside him was the salmon’s skeleton, bones sparkling white. The little guy knew how to lick a plate clean.

“The Nightfurry is a natural enemy of the Piranharrow,” Liam explained. “Their wings are created for sharp turns and aerial acrobatics, much like the Nightfury. They easily outmaneuver the Piranharrow whose attack speed prohibits fast turns and can consume as many as fifty of them in a day.”

I raised the growling cat up so Hotshot could see it.

He was on his feet immediately. Raising his tiny wings and chattering his teeth, he wagged his tail back and forth. The sail on his back quivered all the way down his tail.

“Look,”

Liam pointed to the shard at the end. It was vibrating. Wagging one way and then the other as he growled, it eventually stopped and pointed due west.

“I think we just figured out where the Piranharrow are,” I grinned, dropping the Nightfurry. It unfurled it’s wings and flew out the gaping hole in the roof.

“And how they communicate!” Liam rushed to his desk, jotting down some notes. “The shard- it’s like a transmitter of some sort. The tail acts as an antenna to direct the signal. I’ll wager he can only find the others once they send a signal back.”

“Great! How is this helpful?”

“…you’re right it’s pointless. At best we only have a day and it would take me a lifetime to unravel the secrets to wireless transmitting. Several.”

“No no no you were on a role there! Keep theorizing. Don’t worry about all the little details right now. They’re coming from the southwest, right?”

“Should be.”

“Ok, and Berk is where, north of here?”

“North East.”

“So they have to come through us first. Maybe Hotshot’s message about the nightfurry will deter them,” I tried to be positive.

“One Nightfurry means nothing to the swarm.”

“How about hundreds?”

He chuckled. “There’s only fifty or so down there.”

“We could make more!”

I hurried around the drafty house. “Some paper, a little wood, glue, string, and a steady wind. That’s all we need!” I held up my quick creation. A kite in the shape of a winged cat. “If we made as many of these as possible it would pose a real threat to the Piranharrow.”

Liam gestured the little dragon-totally ignoring my invention. “He can tell the difference. But… if we get out all the real ones… he’ll assume they’re all real.”

The doom and gloom lifted from my eccentric new friends’ eyes. “This could work.”

I nodded.

“…and Berk could be saved!”

He launched himself at his desk, grabbing every scrap of paper within reach. “We don’t have a moment to lose!”

 

Never have two full grown men worked so vigorously on paper crafting. Hotshot watched, lazily curled up in a chair.

Liam made the skeletons out of wood and I glued the papers on. I tried to set aside the ones with notes.

“Don’t bother,” He urged, “We don’t have time.”

“But you’re work-”

“Will be meaningless if the Piranharrow aren’t stopped. I can write them again. Just keep at it.”

All throughout the night we worked. Kite after kite. Liam used every bit of string, every blob of glue, every scrap of paper. He even took the sheets from his bed and tore those up to use. He also went at his tables with an axe-both the one I destroyed and the one Hotshot had planned to make his royal pedestal. Nothing was spared if it could help the cause.

He took an axe to the bolted door so we could run every finished kite out and stake it down.

As dawn broke we both became aware of a strange noise. It sounded like thunder, rumbling unceasingly in the distance. The western distance.

Neither of us spoke of it. Neither of us looked out to see what it was. We just kept on with the kites in silence.

At last we ran out of supplies. I set out the final one, looking up. Give or take, two hundred misshapen Nightfurries dotted the sky. And the lazy Piranharrow in the house didn’t have a clue.

I looked past them to a bone-chilling sight. A wall of thick cloud billowed on the western horizon, black as pitch. It rolled against the wind with a life of its own, tossing and turning like the sea itself and constantly changing shape.

Victory or bust, I thought to myself. We’re out of time.

“The Nightfurries!” I gasped, running back into the house. “How are we going to get the Nightfurries- the real ones, out?”

“Leave that to me,” Liam was dragging a long, hollowed-out leather rope in one hand and a lit torch in the other. He opened the trap door.

“What are you going to do?”

“Something that Nightfurries hate,” He grinned. “The tunnel down here goes past the cistern to the well. It’s stopped up but I’m going to tap into it. Go get that dragon.”

I scooped up Hotshot in my hands. He was surprised, but he didn’t burn me this time. That was nice.

“Now get up to the roof,” Liam ordered, traveling down the tunnel. “And this time don’t fall through!”

“Alright alright.”

 

Hotshot enjoyed the free ride up the house.

Standing, I found myself surveying the entire island.

I caught my breath. The ominous mass of ever hungry dragons had quadrupled in size. I watched as they began to swallow up the sky above. The sea below them was in turbulence.

Hotshot crawled onto my shoulder and eyed the kites surrounding the house. He looked to the massive swarm beyond them. His wings opened up, stretching as far as they could, and closed again. It happened at least five times. He started spinning his tail and shifting his feet.

vvvvvvVVVVVEeeewwww!

Traveling faster than a crossbow arrow, a black piranharrow zipped past and blew a hole through the nearest oak tree.

vvvvVVVMMMMmmm!

ffffFFFFFEEwwww

zzzzZZZZZZZmmm!

Three more zipped by. I couldn’t track them but I heard leaves ripping as they went.

The sunlight was being blotted out.

“Yikes!” I yelped as one flew inches in front of my face.

Hurry, Liam…

I felt like a sitting duck up there on the roof.

From below came yowls and cries of indignation. I braced myself.

Nightfurries burst out of Liam’s tunnel, shaking water off their fur as they flew. Hotshot squeaked a cry of dismay, abandoning thoughts of flight and cringing under my neck.

The ridged sail on his back sent dozens of quivers down his tail, and the shard vibrated wildly.

“What are you doing up there?!?” Liam yelled up to me. “Get down you’ll be run though!”

“I don’t know if they’ve got the message!” I hollered back. Through the beating wings I tried to see what the swarm overhead was doing. The nightfurries soared up into the sky, delighted to discover the feast above.

sssssSSSSSwwww-eeak!

One unfortunate Piranharrow squeaked his last in the paws of a Nightfurry.

Hotshot vibrated the little shard on his tail uncontrollably. He shivered in fear. Taking pity, I cupped my hand over him. If the message hadn’t gotten through yet, it never would.

Liam grabbed me by the foot and dragged me back into the house. He was not a moment too soon. Three or four of the nasty little things flew right where I had been standing. I shuddered. If I had still been there, they would have hit me in the chest and head and I was pretty sure that wasn’t an accident.

We ran back down to the tunnel, black, arrowlike dragons blasting through the wooden parts of the house. Some hit the stones and ricocheted off.

“Were we too late?” I asked anxiously as he shut the trap door. “Were we too late to save Berk?”

“I don’t know. Only time will tell now.”

 

For hours we waited in the dark, damp tunnel. We waited until the sound of splintering wood ceased. When dusk fell, the Nightfurries returned to the cave, looking exceedingly pleased with themselves and very full.

 

“That’s our cue.” Liam said.

He made me stay back as he opened the hatch.

“All’s clear.”

We snuck outside.

Due south stretched the mighty black swarm of Piranharrow. To the north- nothing but clear skies.

“We did it,” Liam said in disbelief. “Lad, we did it. We re-directed the Piranharrow! Berk is spared!”

He danced for joy. I hollered a battle cry, fondly remembering what I had told my father so many years ago. Not a cow did I help save, but an entire village!

“Wait,” I stopped in my rejoicing. “…We didn’t just send them towards someone else, did we?”

“Naw,” Liam waved it off. “Nothing but ocean and barren islands for hundreds of miles. Well. Maybe outcast Island has a few people… they’ll be fine.”

 

 

Ahh, what a story to tell when I returned home. If I returned home. Already I had met with such danger, such adventure and it was only the beginning! The Barbaric Archipelago clearly had many secrets to share, and I planned to learn them all.

 

Strange as he was, Liam turned out to be a fine sort of fellow. After the Piranharrow left we went down to discover that they had eaten my dad’s old dinghy, so he used the wood from the fallen oaks and what was left of his own house to help me build another. I wanted to pay him back.

“Don’t fret about it. I’m very good at making do with what I’ve got,” He said, “Don’t worry about it.”

Liam and I said our goodbyes. It was at this point that he realized he didn’t even know my name. I had to laugh. I didn’t mind. Being called lad reminded me of being home. It reminded me of my dad.

Hotshot abandoned his position as a scout, much preferring the comfort of my shoulder. I dubbed him my first mate.

Bloop

A familiar bubble surfaced beside the boat. I smiled. It was like hearing from an old friend.

I set the sails… a bunch of stitched together cat-shaped kites. Onward! Onward to Berk, to meet her people and her dragons. To learn her ways and to pay tribute to her powerful chief, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third.

I could just see him; a mighty man of war, big as an ox, his massive dragon at his side…

 

 

 

 

 

….Boy was I in for a surprise.

 

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LissaFish
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Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 02/12/2017
Victoria!

 

Victoria!

 

 

Tale of a Lightsprinter, fan dragon species by Chameishida

 

“It’s Eban and Vega everyone! They’re coming around the bend neck and neck, Alida right on their heels! If either one- censored! Eban just took a snap at Vega! It looks like he missed but Vega’s losing his footing- it’s a stumble- and Vega is down! Vega is down! Alida’s just jumped over Vega towards opportunity on the backstretch! The small Falcon’s proven her tenacity and agility, but can she hold against the seasoned champion? Here they come around the last bend, Eban in the lead, Alida at his side… what’s this? Victoria’s bursting out of the pack! she’s closing the gap between first and third! Closing fast! Eban’s too busy with Alida! He doesn’t see her! Ladies and Gentlemen this is going to be a close one! She’s coming up on Alida’s blind side! Alida see’s her! Victoria takes a snap but she sidesteps into Eban! Eban strikes Alida and loses the lead to Victoria! Alida is falling back! Can Eban regain the gold in the final stretch?!? Victoria wants it!”

The ground trembled beneath the feet of a hundred onlookers. Animals approached, battling viciously for the prize as it tripped and stumbled just out of their grasp, and high above in a tower the announcer belted out the events of the race as they unfolded.

“Eban and Victoria are now neck and neck and at each other’s throats!”

All eyes were on the zapping, billowing cloud of dust, straining to see who was in the lead.

That is, all but eight.

Philip hurried to finish cleaning the speed stinger’s stall. The crowds were screaming at the top of their lungs a chaotic blur of names. It didn’t matter though, because it was Wednesday.

“Oh ladies and gentleman he’s done it again! Eban has done it again at the last second sprinting ahead of Victoria across the finish line! Give it up for the local favorite!” Philip mouthed, waving his arms with a shovel in one hand and a pitchfork in the other. “And the crowd goes wild!”

Two seconds later the announcer shouted Eban’s victory, almost word for word.

“Haha, you should bet, Philip, you could make a lot of money with your predictions.” Albin snickered.

“If only. We’d be living like kings.” They could hear Tacitus sigh behind the stall wall.

“Instead of picking up reptile droppings.” Porter growled from his corner. “Springers are the worst.”

“I’d rather pick up after one than be one.” Philip shrugged, glancing at an empty stall.

“True.” Albin nodded.

“They don’t care, they’re just dumb reptiles. A mouth full of teeth and a thick hide. All there is to it.”

“If they don’t care why do they run?” Albin quipped.

He yelped as a pile of dung flew towards him.

“They sure don’t care about each other.” Porter returned.

Albin couldn’t argue with that.

“Look alive, lads,” Philip shimmied up to the rafters, pitchfork still in hand. “They’re coming.”

The three other ragamuffins either shoveled what was left into buckets or shoved it into an inconspicuous corner.

Snorts and stomping preluded the passing Lightsprinters as they were marched off the track in single file. Even with the muzzles on their faces each dragon proudly held its head high, eyes still ablaze with competitive spirit.

Their leads wore special boots and gloves. Spokes on either side kept the dragons in a trench filled with water that ended at the Lightsprinter’s barn.

The boys watched in silence. Eban glanced sideways at them, spotting Philip in the rafters. The brightness in his eye and curl of his lips was all so frightfully familiar. Philip made himself busy tossing down fresh straw.

Not long after the last Lightsprinter had walked past came the hissing and snarling of speed stingers.

“Here comes Mr. Sunshine,” the three on the ground hurried to spread the fresh bedding as Philip slid down the ladder.

A gaunt silhouette stretched across the barn floor. If you were to meet its owner you likely would have judged him mad. Hair a bird’s nest mix of grey and brown, patches of beard and mustache wildly longer than others, skin bronzed and fiercely weathered. Philip was quite certain the man had never set foot inside a house.

He was old. How old well that was hard to determine. And soo thin the boys could count the bones of his body. And though the laughingstock of the racing stables, no one could deny his title as the best speed stinger handler in all of Alba.

“Barn master,”

The barn master stood in the doorway, the leads of seven springers in hand. Seven springers that were clawing and biting at each other- but without restraint not so much as felling a scratch on the old man.

“Aye me lads,” a gravelly voice rang above the growls of the fighting dragons. “Finished with the barn already, are we?”

“Yes sir.” The four boys answered. The springers turned their attention to the ragamuffins, raising their tails.

“Wonderful.” The barn master hissed. He turned each dragon in to its stall.

“Shall we get the feed?” Philip asked.

“See to it.”

“How did they do today?” Albin tried to strike up conversation, scooping a bucket of fish out of a barrel.

Thunk!

Thunk! Thunk! Thunk!

Thunk!

Hallow thuds resounded on hallow stable walls. The Speed Stingers, impatient for dinner, were banging their tails into the wood. Why weren’t their tails getting stuck in the wood? Simple: the stingers had been removed.

“Not so good.” The old man shrugged. “Seven’s off the track.”

It was never a good thing for a springer to be ‘off the track’.

“How long does she have?” Philip dumped the bucket of fish into the funnel behind the stable wall. The funnel fed into a trough on the other side where “Seven” chowed down ravenously.

“Until they pick her up with the rest of the rejects tomorrow.”

“Barn master we’ve finished with the chores.” Porter announced. “Can we be dismissed?”

“Do as you will.” He waved them away. “They’ve canceled the night races so there’s no need to hurry back.”

“Yes!”

Porter, Albin and Tacitus made a beeline for the door pushing and shoving in good humor. “Last one out’s a potato bug! Whatever that is.”

Philip dallied only a little, seeing behind the cold and weathered face of the barn master sadness as he watched Seven. He turned to the boy and grew stern.

“Well, get on with you.” He barked.

“Yes sir.” Philip looked him in the eye. “I am sorry, sir.”

The message wasn’t missed.

The old man shrugged, but the sadness returned to his eyes. “It’s just the way things are.”

 

Shadows stretched long and wide on the clear summer’s evening. Philip caught up to his friends.

As spectators made their way towards gates the boys tussled and romped their way towards the track… which was a sight to behold.

Nowhere in Alba was there such a track. Nowhere, in fact, in all the known empire. The long, snake-like path spanned miles. It was incased in an endless series of metal bars, not unlike the path to the lightsprinter barn… except these were charred and burnt.

At every other furlong was a small entrance gate with a waiting box; that was where the speed stingers came in. As the sprinters approached, a speed stinger would be released from the waiting box onto the track, running for its life. If it managed to keep ahead of the sprinters it would run towards the next gate where another springer would be waiting. The gate would open and the speed stinger would run in as the next one ran out. This method of rally-racing speed stingers proved most effective on both ends. Rarely was a springer lost, and the sprinters never seemed to lose interest in the chase.

People came from every corner of the earth to get a glimpse of this masterful feat of sport, to see the magnificent Lightsprinters, and to gamble for fame and fortune.

The boys walked along the outside edges of the track, kicking and throwing rocks. When they were out far enough no one could see them, they climbed up the metal poles like it was monkey gym.

“Too bad for Seven. Guess you could say she turned out to be unlucky.” Albin said nonchalantly, resting on the top of the great cage, swinging his legs idly.

“Nuh-uh, Eighteen was unlucky. He didn’t even get off the track.” Porter pointed out.

“Eighteen was stupid.” Tacitus snorted, arms crossed. He was hanging upside down. “The Lightsprinters did him a favor.”

“Sooner or later they’re all gonna be Lightsprinter chow, aren’t they,” Albin looked a little sad at the thought.

“Sorry Albin, but that’s the way the track goes. Even Lightsprinters become lightsprinter chow.”

“Good riddance, I say.” Porter slowly stood up, balancing his feet on two wobbling rods. “Those reptiles stink, have bad attitudes and no feelings. I don’t know why anybody would pay to come see them.”

“I don’t know,” Philip spoke up. He was admiring the burn patterns in the soft dirt below them.  “I think they have feelings.”

All three of the other boys stared at him.

“…What?”

“That’s ridiculous,” Porter said. “Where are you living, Philip? Have you seen what happens on this track? In the barn? If they have feelings then we live on the moon!”

The three ragamuffins roared with laughter.

“Hey! I just had an idea!” Albin’s eyes grew wide as he changed the subject. “Barn master said they were gonna do away with Seven tomorrow, right? What if we took her?”

“What for?”

“We could sell her! For a lot of money! I bet there are other courses out there that do springer races, and even if she’s slow for a lightsprinter she’s still fast for a speed stinger- and she can run longer than most.”

“They’ll never let us take her.” Porter quipped.

“We’ll just say we’re taking her to the chop house. And barn master will cover for us because he doesn’t want her to go there. We’ll hide her until dark and when everyone’s watching the race tomorrow night sneak her out.”

“And go where? She’ll be really hyper because it’s nighttime and the four of us can barely manage her even with a muzzle.” Tacitus who was still upside-down cut in. “Plus if she pops up somewhere they’ll know who took her. I for one don’t want to be on Marcus’ bad side.”

The others shuddered.

“Fine. Forget that I even thought of it.” The youngest boy griped, crossing his arms. “I was just trying to figure out a way to get out of this place. And maybe make the barn master happy too.”

“Nothing can make that old man happy.”

“Us getting out of here would.”

At this Porter felt a tinge of guilt. “…Well, it’s just not possible.” He defended himself. “We’re stuck here for good. Might as well get used to it.”

Philip sighed, straying from the conversation.

He looked up at the crescent moon, a star or two beginning to twinkle in the twilight.

“Philip!”

“What?” He returned, startled.

“How did you know?”

“Know what?”

“You really do live on another planet,” Porter snickered. “We’ve asked you three times already. How did you know Eban was going to win?”

“Uhh, ‘cuz it’s Wednesay?” He answered dubiously.

“We KNOW it’s Wednesday,” Porter snapped. “Eban always wins every third Wednesday but how did they make that happen?”

“Oh. Yesterday they ran Victoria through the southern pool with all the rocks so her feet would be sore. No one else has the wits or stamina to stand up to him.”

“you watched them exercise?” Albin’s eyes grew wide once more. “We’re not allowed to do that!”

“Baby. We’re not allowed to do anything. Heck, we’re not allowed to be out here on the track, but here we are,” Tacitus sneered.

“Have you ever gotten in the Lightsprinter barn?”

“’Course,” Philip said with a little too much confidence.

“That’s right,” Porter mocked. “All the time. Anytime. In fact he’s there right now.”

“I can get into the sprinter’s barn,” Philip retorted. “I found a secret passageway.”

“…and you didn’t tell us?” It was Tacitus’ turn to look dubious.

“Prove it,” Porter challenged.

Philip sat up straight. “Alright, I will.”

Balancing perfectly, he slid down two of the bars.

Taking a shortcut Philip led them through a field of Russian Dandelions. No one would bat an eye at their trampling since the weeds grew everywhere, but at the sprinter track they had an invaluable purpose and were actually cultivated.

They came across the training pools- paddocks filled with water and covered by a strong metal dome. Philip pointed the southern one out as they passed.

“See?” He said, nose in the air.

The three other boys leaned in to look. Rocks and pebbles covered the bottom of the pool, in contrast to the sand that was in all the others.

“You really did watch them train!” Albin said in awe.

“So there’s rocks in the water. So what?” Porter snorted. “Still doesn’t prove you were in the stable.”

Philip marched on.

An ominous basalt statue loomed over the entrance of the sprinter stables. The eyes of the statue were hallow and lined with silver, allowing the last rays of sun to shine through them to create an earie, fiery glow. But perhaps more intimidating was its size. Most statues are larger than life, to emphasize the importance of the one they’re dedicated to yet as daunting as this statue was it only matched the creature of its dedication… Eban’s great grandfather.

The four ragamuffins casually walked past as handlers filed out the great door.

“Over here,” Philip murmured, passing the front of the barn and heading to the side, where stood a mountain of a manure pile.

The other boys glared, but lined up against the side of the barn all the same.

“This had better be worth it for YOUR sake.” Porter growled.

They slinked halfway down the side of the barn between the manure and the wood-planked wall, each boy holding his nose in the hope of squelching the insulting smell.

Trainers meandered out from the stables, arguing over which tavern to meet up at until the door creaked on its hinges, slammed shut and the bar fell across.

“Now what, genius?” Tacitus said. “They’ve locked it.”

 “Gentlemen,” Philip bowed; pointing to the wooden planks. “I present, The way of Philip.”

He reached down and pulled one of the planks away.

 

One by one the boys squeezed through the secret passageway into the dark, Philip going last and putting the plank back in place.

“Cool!” Albin peered blindly into the dark.

“It’s so dark. Where are we?”

“Eww! I bumped into something hairy!!”

“Eww me two! Philip what is that?? Where are we?”

“We’re in the chophouse. That’s probably a side of beef, Porter.”

Philip lit a candle he had stored earlier. The three other boys shuddered as they looked up at hanging slabs of meat.

“Could have warned us,” said Tacitus.

“Where’s the fun in that?” Philip smirked. “Come on. Let’s go the see the sprinters.”

He opened the door into the rest of the barn.

A long dark row of stables met them.

“Whoa,” the boys said in unison.

Unlike the springers, these stables were huge. Even Porter could barely reach up to the latch, let alone see the dragons on the other side.

“What is the floor made of?” Albin jumped up and down on the strange ground texture.

“Dandelion juice. Just like the boots and the lead ropes over there,” Philip pointed to the tac room. “They mash up the dandelions and use that white stuff that comes out of them to make everything sprinter-fire safe. There’s whole big sheets of it in the tac room, just waiting to be molded into boots or anything they like.”

It wasn’t just the floor. Every stable door and wall was covered in the milky white stuff.

“Bouncy!” Albin laughed.

BANG!

At the sound of his voice one of the stall doors shuddered. Someone growled.

“Best to keep your voice down,” Philip cringed, “The stuff is fire-safe, not sound proof!”

“I want to see the sprinters,” Tacitus whispered, an ornery glint in his eye.

“Me too!” Porter seconded.

Philip put the candle in a holder next to the ladder, and gestured the others to follow him into the rafters. They came out above the stables on both sides of the barn, supported by beams going down and across. One large beam, the main beam, lay dead center and stretched the whole length of the barn. All the rest of the support for the rafters connected to it.

“Out here,” Philip beckoned, walking out to the main beam. “This is the best view.”

The others were leery.

“Is it safe? For all of us?”

“Course. As long as you don’t fall off.”

Summoning their courage (or stupidity however you would like to look at it) each of the boys carefully made their way to Philip.

He had been right. From here they could see each sprinter in its stall.

“Let me introduce you,” Philip bowed. “Here we have the small but daring Alida. Ladies and gentlemen don’t touch, she might not look like much but we’ve lost three handlers to her.”

Albin had reached his hand down towards her, not to pet, of course because she was so far down but just to be so close.

The small sprinter leapt up at him, narrowly missing his fingers. He yelped and staggered away.

“No kidding! She’s a man-eater.”

“Who you calling ladies?” Porter growled.

“You of course. Now on to Vega.” Philip gracefully hopped a support beam. “Vega’s A powerful sort. Every muscle in him was built for speed… except one. His brain. Just about anyone can outwit him and as we all know; the race isn’t just strength and stamina.”

He moved to the next. “Constantine. Slow but steady, usually in the back. But as his name suggests no matter the circumstance he remains the same and this has earned him many trophies.”

“Lost ya plenty, too pal!” Tacitus said, spitting.

Constantine ignored him.

“Constantine is the only sprinter that has survived being neighbors with our next dragon. Look alive, gentlemen, for the crème dela crème, or suffer his wrath” Philip mocked.

A great, hulking shape of black stood beneath them. Dorso and belly stripes shined white against it, piercing yellow-red eyes stared up at them.

It was his stable that the bang had come from earlier, and being at the end of the barn his only neighbor was Constantine.

“Eban, in the flesh. His great grandfather, Blaze, was the first dragon to accomplish this course and has blazed the way for generations. No sprinter has ever broken that dragon’s track record. Eban is following in his great grandfathers’ hoofprints though, and it won’t be long. Especially with the way this course is run. I’m just waiting for them to fake a record break for him.”

“Boo!” the boys hissed.

“Cheater!”

“Bully!”

“Yellow-belly!”

“Yes most those things are true. A mean natured, nasty, dirty racer he is but I’ve never seen Eban cower.”

“He’s never met anything bigger than himself,” Albin retorted.

The black dragon leapt up at the boys. They jumped out of the way as he clamped down on the main beam and wouldn’t let go, making a terrible splintering noise as he sank back down.

“He almost had you Philip!” Albin choked, face ashen. “If it weren’t for the chain, you’d be sprinter meat!”

Philip gulped as the dragon stared him in the eye, tail swishing as a growl reverberated deep within his throat. He stomped his hind leg irritably, shaking the chain.

“Eh heh shall we move on?”

CLANK!

There was a jangling of keys.

CRRREEEEEAAAKKKK…

All four boys froze as the barn door opened.

 

“…when are you going to learn? I don’t care what your censored handlers say, you are to check each and every dragon PERSONALLY before a race.”

“It’s Marcus!” Tacitus mouthed, terror on his face.

“Get down on your hands and knees!” Philip mouthed back. The boys did as he said.

“But sir I tell you I did!” The head of the sprinter barn pleaded. “She was run in the south pool, I saw to it myself.”

“Lies. That reptile never set foot in that field. If she had then we never would have had such a close race, now, would we?”

The sprinter trainer rambled on with some excuse but the boys’ attention had been diverted. Eban launched up at them again.

“Bring Victoria out.”

The sprinter master unlatched the stall door.

BAM!

With an impressive head-butt the chocolate-brown dragon threw the door open. She hissed and snapped at the two men.

Marcus didn’t even flinch, his hands behind his back. A metal bar across the front of the stall kept him just out of her reach.

Cursing as he went the sprinter master tightened the chain on her fetlock so she was completely immobile, then just to be sure he put a muzzle over her face.

“See?” He said, raising one of her hooves. “Red and hot. There’s still a few rocks in there. And look at how sensitive she is.”

The dragon growled, slamming her head to the side.

At the same time Eban lunged at the boys again. Instinctively Philip jumped back, losing his balance and slipping off the beam. He managed to grab hold of the crossbeam directly behind him before falling to the ground.

“He’s a little off tonight,” The sprinter master glanced with surprise towards Eban’s stall.

“Stand aside.”

Philip swung his legs up onto the beam while Marcus pushed the man away and picked the foot up himself. He took his metal cane and tapped it.

The dragon jumped and banged her head around, gnawing on her muzzle.

“It’s just as I said. We did everything we could to slow her down sir. She just won’t throw a race.”

Marcus stepped back and studied the dragon. Their eyes met with cold hatred.

“I see.”

“Should we change the schedule? We can’t keep doing this to her or people will notice.”

Marcus said nothing.

“Eban’s not as young as he used to be. Perhaps it’s time we… well… refocused our interests?”

Marcus grinned. Without a word he turned and walked towards Eban. The sprinter master hurried to shut the falcon back in before joining him.

The boys all looked to each other in horror. Quietly Albin, Porter and Tacitus lay down on the beam, pulling their legs up and stretching their arms across it so no part of them could be seen from below.

Philip was not so fortunate. If either man looked up there was no way they could miss him.

He closed his eyes in anticipation… but when no rebuke came opened them again.

Marcus and the sprinter trainer stood directly beneath him.

“I have a better idea. An accident.”

“Accident?!?” The sprinter master looked genuinely dismayed. “She’s our best racer!”

“Wrong!” Marcus turned on his heels. “She’s only second best- and too competitive for her own good. Eban’s name sells tickets. Eban’s name sells bets. Eban is champion.”

The brightness in Marcus’ eye and curl of his lips was all so frightfully familiar.

Eban turned his attention from the boys to the two men. Like Victoria he lunged at Marcus, snapping his jaws shut less than an inch from the man’s face. He grinned.

“Besides, I like his spirit.”

“…Very well sir,” The head trainer said in a slightly higher note than usual. “What did you have in mind?”

“Get the springer trainer to put a young springer on the track- one who’s tail hasn’t been docked yet. We’ll poison her and pin it on the speed stinger. That should squelch some sympathy for the springers as well as do away with a nuisance.”

“But… that’s not how speed stinger venom works,”

Marcus turned slowly, fist clenched over his metal cane. “I know that. And you know that, and the stupid springer trainer knows it. But our beloved public hasn’t a clue, have they?”

“Yes sir, whatever you say sir,” The trainer melted under his glare.

“So keep his mouth shut or I’ll shut it for him. And yours while I’m at it.”

“That won’t be necessary, sir, I’ll take care of him!”

Marcus rolled his eyes. “Back to the dragon. It must be something that works slowly. It has to be dramatic and…” He glanced down the row of stalls to the brown falcon. She met his gaze with a snarl. “… and I want her to feel it. When’s her next race?”

“Tomorrow, on the night course.”

“See that it’s her last.”

“Yes sir.”

The two men retraced their steps to the barn door. Stopping, Marcus stared at the candle next to the ladder.

“Why is that there?”

“The trainers probably just forgot to put it out.”

Marcus did not seem convinced. He studied the barn carefully, listening.

“I swear you and your trainers are trying to put me out of business.” He said at last, snuffing the tiny wick. “What if that had fallen on the straw?”

They walked out the door, sprinter master babbling on about discipline with Marcus swinging that cane more and more aggressively. The instant it was bolted shut the boys rushed to Philips aid.

“Don’t!” He gasped, the beam groaning under the weight of all four of them. “I’ll just crawl back to the rafter side.”

Retreating, the others made their own way to the rafters and waited for Philip.

“Just a little further!” Albin reached his hand out to Philip.

His fingers burned with splinters and carrying his weight. His arms and legs shook in exhaustion, and after being in this position for the past ten minutes, threatened to give way.

The boy tried to move forward, but only lost his handing.

“I can’t do it,” He gasped, trying not to let his fear show but it burst through his voice.

“You can’t stop now,” Porter urged, glancing down at Victoria’s stall. “Only two more crawls and we’ll be able to help you up.”

“That’s right Phil,” Tacitus backed him up. “We’ll help you out, just a little further.”

With all three boys reaching as far as they could to help their friend, Philip put in a new effort. He let go of the beam to move forward.

Three shrieks resounded as he slipped and fell into Victoria’s stall.

 

GET UP! Philip get out of there!

Philip can’t you hear us? Get out!

She’ll squash you Philip! Move your behind!

Things were pretty wacky on the stable floor. Blades of straw seemed to grow and shrink, the dragon appeared to be making crazy faces while playing smash the stable boy… maybe it had something to do with landing on his head? Philip really wasn’t sure what had happened. All he knew was he was trapped in a stable with a lightsprinter.

And she was looking most delighted with the company, too.

“Eheheheh, nice sprinter,” He gulped, slowly coming to his senses.

“GET OUT OF THERE!” Porter roared.

The dragon turned her haunches to him and kicked a cream colored leg. Philip tuck and rolled out of the way.

“Easy there, easy,” He cooed best he could, searching desperately for a way out. There are no latches on the inside of a stable.

This time she came at him with her jaws… but the sprinter trainer hadn’t taken her muzzle off. So instead of getting a chunk of flesh taken, Philip felt like he’d been socked in the stomach.

“Ohhhhh,” He groaned, “What did I ever do to you?”

He dodged, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Victoria kicked her free leg, butted her head, attempted to gore with her horns, beat with her wings, slapped with her tail, and body slammed him all over that stall.

For a restrained animal your pretty spry, the boy growled, closer to those blue and cream stripes than he had ever wanted to be.

In an effort to avoid a body slam, Philip crawled up in front of her. She glared with those yellow eyes and struck out with a foreleg. The boy dodged and the hoof met with the wall. She grimaced.

“Philip, get out!” Albin yelled.

“I’m trying!” He yelled back. “What does it look like I’m doing?”

“Nothing!”

They had a point. Philip looked around the stall. Food trough, water bucket, straw. None of it tall enough for him to breach the wall.

He looked at the falcon.

…that was tall enough.

“Maybe… when she tosses her head…” He said aloud, eyeing those horns.

“That’s it. He’s lost his mind,” Tacitus waved his hands in the air.

“Bad idea! Bad-”

Philip jumped, falling across the dragon’s muzzled face and holding her horns. Startled, she threw her head up and shook it.

“Let go let go let go!” The others shouted.

Philip waited until he was sure the momentum from her head tossing would land him outside of the stable.

“AHHHH!”

He shouted, flying through the air.

THUNK!

Philip hit the outside of Eban’s stall before flopping to the ground.

“Oo!” The three in the rafters cringed. They rushed down the ladder.

“Did I make it?” Philip asked as they helped him up. His head was spinning.

BANG!

Eban snarled behind the stall door.

“You’re still alive,” Albin said, “So… yeah!”

“Let’s get out of here!” Porter hissed.

“Wait, I have to do something,” Philip slurred. He stumbled over to Victoria’s stable.

The humiliated dragon scowled as he approached. She stretched her neck as far as she could in an attempt to look threatening with muzzled jaws.

“Thanks for the help,” Philip said, reaching up behind her horns. “You were great!”

“What are you doing?!?!” Tacitus gasped as Philip pulled the muzzle off.

“There you are. Now you can finish dinner and get some water.” He grinned in a ridiculous sort of way.

Porter pulled him back just in time.

“She’s jarred his brains loose. Let’s go guys!”

“Wait I want to give her a kiss on the nose,”

Porter dragged Philip along, and they all made a beeline for the chophouse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Aye, and what were my junior wranglers up to so late last night that they can’t do morning chores?” The barnmaster crowed.

“Nothing,” The boys groaned begrudgingly, turning in their blankets.

“That’s what I thought. Get up and take care of those springers, ye lazy ragamuffins! If they aint’ ready for the first Derby I’ll put you on the course!”

Bad as they felt the four forced themselves out of their warm straw-beds.

 

Porter cranked the bucket of water out of the well as the others took turns hauling them off to the springers.

“Should we tell him?” Albin wondered, looking over his shoulder at their barn master.

“By now he probably knows,” Philip answered sullenly. Every muscle in his body throbbed but that wasn’t the cause for his downcast face.

“I know what you’re thinking. You wish we could bet,” Tacitus pointed a finger. “All our problems would be solved.”

“No.”

“You’re thinking about how evil Eban is.” Albin pointed.

“No.”

“You’re thinking about how we missed breakfast.” Porter pointed.

“NO!” Philip snapped. “Don’t any of you guys feel guilty about what’s going on?”

“Well, yeah. But what can we do about it? Marcus would have us drawn and quartered if we said anything.”

“It’s not right. None of it is.” Philip continued. “It’s not right for the barn master who takes such good care of the springers, it’s not right for the springers, it’s not even right for the lightsprinters! They don’t deserve this, just as much as we don’t.”

“Uh, hello? Real world here. Life’s not fair. Come back from the moon Philip, we need you on earth.” Porter thrust a bucket of water into his hands. “All we can do is survive. Best keep your head out of the clouds before its knocked off your shoulders.”

There was no reasoning with Philip all the rest of that day. He refused to partake in the banter, in the arguing and even in the meals. The day went by as if nothing had changed… and really nothing had. The only difference was the boys knew what was going to happen and how.

Before the everyone knew it the sun had set.

Jangling of keys signaled the arrival of Mr. Bad News.

“Springer handler!”

The head of sprinter training marched into the barn with a haughty air.

“What do you want?” The old man growled.

“Boss says he want’s some fresh blood for the next course. Get one of the young springers, one that still has a stinger, and put it in the last gate on the homestretch where everyone can see.”

“Too young,” the barn master argued. “Tell him it can’t be done.”

The sprinter trainer glanced at the onlooking boys. “Let’s talk outside,” He told the barn master.

 

“…He knows about us,” Albin said fearfully.

“We’d know if he knew,” Tacitus countered, putting down his broom.

“Unless they didn’t want us to know that they know that we know.”

Philip sighed. He sat on an overturned bucket and gazed across to Seven in her stall. She scratched the floor, gnawed on the empty trough, and banged her dull tail against the wall demandingly, without a care or clue for her impending demise. He almost felt jealous.

He turned from her to the open barn door. Storm clouds engulfed the moon.

The barn master reappeared in the doorway. He looked older, and more tired than when he had left only moments ago.

“Change in plans, boys.” He said with a snarl. “They want fresh meat, and we’re obliged to give it to them.”

A thought sparked in Philips mind as the old man reached for Seven’s rope.

“You,” He pointed to Porter, “Go wrangle one of the teens out of the field. Take this one,” He grabbed Tacitus by the shirt as he slinked by, “Take this one with you. He’ll make a good decoy so you won’t get stung.”

Tacitus gulped.

“Yes master,” Porter answered with head low.

“I’d go with you myself, but you lads need to figure things out on your own. Besides, I’m needed elsewhere.”

The barn master watched them leave the stable, shaking his head. “This is going to be a disaster.”

Turning to Seven he squared his shoulders. “Well lass, your time is up.”

Philip jumped in front of him.

“Sir, I can take her over,” He said in the most humble of voices.

From behind the old man Albin stared with wide eyes.

“Nay lad, she’s too much for you.”

“I can manage,” Philip insisted. “I’ve watched you handle her and the others, and Albin can help.”

The wrangler hesitated.

“We’ve got to learn sometime, haven’t we?”

That last push was a little too enthusiastic. The barn master leaned down and studied Philip with narrowed eyes, pungent breath attacking the boy’s sense of smell.

“You’ve got to learn, is it? Hmmmm….”

Philip had to turn his eyes away.

“What exactly are you wanting to learn?”

“How- how-“ He groped for an answer.

Just tell him the truth, his conscience suggested.

“How… to… to do things right. As- as they should be,” He stammered.

The expression on the old man’s face didn’t change. Neither did his posture.

“Do things right. Well, that’s sure a novel idea coming from one of you lads,” He thought, chewing.

Philip stared at the floor.

“Look me in the eye.”

The boy leveled his gaze and the old man met it. His eyes darted to and fro between Philip’s, searching the lad’s soul.

“Do things right,” the barn master repeated once more. He straightened.

“Well. Who can argue with that? All any of us can do is try.” He handed Philip the lead.

“Yes sir,” the boy nodded, taking it warily.

The old man tied the other end of the rope around Seven’s neck before opening the stall door.

Albin snuck in next to Philip and tried whisper in his ear.

“Are you doing what I think you’re-”

“Not now,” He hissed, elbowing him.

“Be good to her and see to it they make it quick.” The barn master said, “She’s led the pack faithfully for five years.”

When the springer saw who held the rope, she barred her teeth and raised her tail.

“Heh,” Albin swallowed. “As long as she’s good to us.”

 

Philips heart beat faster with every step to the lightsprinter barn. It didn’t help that Seven kept hitting him in the back with her dull stinger, and lunging randomly, dragging the boys this way and that.

“We’re stealing her, right?” Albin whispered over gusts of wind as they held taught the rope. “We’re stealing her and selling her to some track and making a boatload of money with which we can buy a boat and sail away on!”

“No!” Philip hissed. “If anything we’re setting her free. She might not have a stinger but I think it’s better than anything a track could offer.”

“But-“ Albin stuttered. “But- the money- we could be free!”

“With money made from a stolen dragon? We’d just be exchanging bonds for different kinds of bonds! No buts! This is my plan. It’s dangerous and crazy, we won’t get anything out of it and Marcus will be out for blood. But you don’t have to take a part in it. Just let the others know there’s going to be trouble.”

Albin hesitated, loosing his grip on the rope.

“Well, go on!” Philip urged, straining against the stubborn dragon. A rumble of thunder peeled in the distance.

The younger boy let go and ran toward the springer paddocks.

“Just… you… and me, Seven! Let’s do this!” Philip said. What exactly they were doing? He didn’t have a clue.

 

 

 

The sprinter stable was abuzz with action. Yearlings, just cooled down from a race were blown in while the big stars were winding up. Shrieks and squeals, hisses and grunts, and all kinds of impatient banging on the walls made the building feel alive. The dragons were ready.

Seven shrank back at the sight of all those hungry dragons under the same roof as her. She tried to turn tail but Philip kept a tight rein.

He passed the processing room and edged closer to the stables.

“Oi! What are you doin in here, lad?” The sprinter master snapped, stuffing something into his pocket. Philip didn’t get a good look, but he thought it was a vial.

“Nothing! Just dropping off this here springer to the chop house,” He answered in a very small voice.

“What’s wrong with you?” The man slapped his ear. “Get yourself and that lizard out from underfoot! We’re busy right now!”

“Yes sir,” He turned back the way he came. Looking over his shoulder Philip watched the man approach Victoria’s stall, looking at the equivalent of a clipboard.

“She’s ready sir,” One of the handlers said.

“Sure, sure. But the boss wants me to check each dragon individually,”

He reached into his pocket.

A shriek sounded across the stable. One of the yearlings had walked too closely to Eban’s stall and he had caught it by the neck.

The sprinter master dropped the clipboard. “Get the prybar!” he yelled, running.

 

“Don’t worry,” Philip mumbled, tethering Seven to the meat post. “If you just pull, this knot will come loose and you’ll be free. I’ll be back for you- right now someone else needs my help.”

The boy looked wildly around the barn. His eyes rested on the tac room. He shook his head.

“I’m out of my mind.”

Perplexed, Seven watched Philip dart into the room and emerge with gloves on his hands, boots over his scandals, and a rubbery white sheet with two fresh and ugly gouges on the long sides. He clambered up the ladder.

 

“..that’s it! Almost-!”

Six men worked together to get the hulking dragon away from his victim. They tapped the prybar against Eban’s mouth.

 

Philip shimmied from the rafters out onto a support beam.

PLOP!

He dropped the sheet of latex into Victoria’s stall. She jumped and sniffed it, but in all the racket no one else even heard it.

 

The trainers prodded until Eban took the bar, unwittingly, in place of the yearling’s neck.

“There! Just keep feeding it to him.. that’s it boys,”

 

THUMP!

 

Victoria jumped again- this time surprised with the same urchin that had dropped in on her yesterday. She growled.

Philip got up in her face. “Don’t make me regret this!”  he hissed right back.

Taking his coat off he pulled out a pin and picked the chain on her fetlock.

 

Victory shouts echoed through the stables.

With a final squeal and a leap, the young dragon was freed.

Dispersing, three rescuers tended to the terrified yearling and the rest went back to the dragons they were working with-

including the head trainer.

 

Jangling keys edged closer.

He’s coming…

The thought trumped all others. Philip shook it to focus on getting Victoria to pick up her feet but she was more interested in trying to take a chunk out of him. She had fought him with the chain, she had fought him with the coat, she had fought him with the sheet, and now she refused to let him touch her sore hooves. He was beginning to wonder why he was even there.

The door moved as a key was shoved into the lock. It clicked.

Out of time.

Philip turned to the dragon. The sheet was in position with his old tattered coat, looped through the holes he’d gouged, holding it in place.

This is insane. The voices of fear and reason battled for his mind. I’m going to kill myself.

He hesitated.

The door clanked and creaked and finally swung open.

Philip stared up, frozen.

“What the???” The head trainer stammered, vial of wicked green stuff in hand. Shock quickly turned to anger on his face. He reached out to grab the boy.

Philip dodged. He slinked under Victoria’s belly and onto the trough. Then, taking hold of the dragon’s horns, he swung onto the rubber sheet on her back.

 The dragon’s eyes grew wide and she reared, snaking her head back this way and that, trying to reach the unruly urchin. Her two wings unfurled and beat about him. It was hard to hold on and avoid getting hit at the same time.

“Stupid boy!” The trainer roared from the ground, having been pushed back by the animal. “That creature will tear you apart. Where did you think you were going to go, anyways? The bar’s still in place!”

 Almost before the words were out of his mouth Victoria lowered her head and rammed the bar. She hit it so hard it flew over the trainer’s head and into Alida’s stall opposite.

 

All eyes turned as Victoria leapt over the trainer. Every muscle in her body trembled, making those blue dorso stripes shimmer against her chocolate brown coat. From atop her back Philip felt smaller than he had ever felt before. Even Seven stopped chewing at her rope to stare.

“This way,” He pulled her horns with all his might, trying to steer her towards the entrance door and a very concerned looking speed stinger.

With one shake of her powerful neck they were turned the exact opposite way- the back door that led to the track.

The falcon squealed and bolted.

She zipped past the stables full of lightsprinters. She zipped past the trainers. She zipped past Alida, Vega, Constantine, the yearling and Eban.

The black dragon roared. He launched himself at the stable door with new and savage vigor. He was the only one still chained before the races (for obvious reasons) and even that didn’t stop him. The door cracked, and in leaps and bounds it caved until the horrid splintering crash announced Eban’s freedom. He tore after the falcon wasting not a second. 

In the wake of his destruction Constantine found he no longer had a wall on one side, so he too, took the opportunity for a jaunt.

As he passed the yearling reared on his handlers, breaking away. He turned and followed the rogue lightsprinters and Alida wasn’t far behind. The damage done to her stall was impressive. She had only to nudge the gate and it would have fallen, but the tiny falcon was never one to miss putting on a big show and bucked it straight across into Victoria’s stall.

Not wanting to be last Vega practically flapped and crawled out of his stable, snapping at Alida as she ran by.       

 “No!” The head trainer gasped, looking from one dragon to the next as they ripped the stable apart and thundered after the others. Not one remained.

“What do we do!?” The trainers encompassed their boss. “If this weather turns and they get out into the crowd…”

“They won’t!” The head trainer spat, getting up. “They’re running for the track.” He pulled the vial of green slime out of his pocket. “Hopefully the gate to the course holds them at bay, but if worse comes to worse the race is going to be early.”

“…is that skyworm gel?”

With a nervous gargle, Seven sped by the trainers and out the barn, rope trailing behind her.

He clenched the vial in his fist. “Someone get me a crossbow.”

 

 

 

The falcon dashed through the maze of water-ways, each turn deliberate and decided. Her hooves sent spay up that soaked Philip to the bone.

He didn’t notice. The sheer power beneath him was out of his control and terrifying. And to make matters worse, instead of the entrance gates they were headed straight into the belly of the beast. They were headed to the track.

He pulled her horns back in hopes that she would slow down. “Whoa!”

The dragon turned one angry eye to him, pupil slit. She bucked, smashing him like a rag doll against the bars of the path, dangerously close to the deadly pointed top ends.

“Stop it!” He yelled, stubbornly holding on.

What was that snorting sound? And… were Victoria’s splashes echoing? Philip turned and looked behind them.

A flash of cloud lightning illuminated the grounds. An enormous black dragon was charging at them with open jaws.

“We got company!” Philip edged up in the make-shift saddle.

They approached the track gate, barred shut.

Victoria quit fighting the boy and focused on the gate, bowing her head and gathering speed. Despite the trench of water a spark of static electricity arched between her legs. Philip sunk lower and lower onto the dragon’s back. He wasn’t expecting this to end well.

 

BAM!!!!

 

All across the racing ground the sound echoed. It was heard in the stands, the springer stable, paddocks, the sprinter stable, and even across the dandelion field.

 

Victoria stumbled and stop. Her legs trembled and her breath came quick while pieces of the massacred gate lay all around. Cold sweat formed on Philip’s forehead. He looked up at the dome of webbed iron as a rumble sounded in the sky, then down at the dirt, where a white line of chalk marked the start. The post had not yet been rolled into place and stood to the side where it became part of the wall.

Onlookers gawked at the site of the boy and lone sprinter.

“What’s going on?”

“Is this an accident?”

“What’s that urchin doing on a sprinters’ back??”

“It’s Victoria! The sprinter is Victoria!”

“Get off the dragon! It’ll eat you alive!”

Tension built. Victoria trotted in stressed circles. This wasn’t right. There was no post, there was no horn, no springer, no lightsprinters. And to make matters even weirder, a human was sitting on her back! Why was everything so different?

People began to shout. They got up either to leave or come closer and inspect.

No way out, Philip turned this way and that, searching. No way out!

 

“Ladies and Gentlemen, If you will all just remain in your seats we’re having some technical difficulties…” An announcer shouted over all the insults. “Just a small situation here…”

 

Eban launched through the broken gate and onto the track. He reared up and shrieked so loudly it made Philips ear’s ring.  The black dragon struck out at Victoria, snorting and shaking his neck.

Victoria lowered her head and braced, wagging her tail.

“Nope.” Philip said “I’m done!”

He turned to slide off.

Squealing, Alida bounded into the scene. Somehow she had squeezed past Constantine and the yearling, placing herself in the lead. With a defiant swing of her long tail, directed towards Victoria and Eban, she bolted down the homestretch.

Behind her the entire lightsprinter stable thundered onto the course.

The black dragon snarled and stomped. A spark of electricity zapped around his hoof. He chased after the running dragons.

The pathway is clear! Philip thought in delight, turning Victoria’s head towards the broken gate. “Now let’s get out of here. Whoa! Hey!”

She turned back to the pack of lightsprinters just turning the clubhouse corner.

“No,” the blood drained from the boy’s face. With a leap that put Philip’s stomach in his throat Victoria lunged after the disappearing dragons.

 

 

“Ahh… well ladies and gentlemen it looks like tonight’s race is early! Hope you’ve got your bets in, because we’re off! Our star racers Vega, Alida, Constantine, Victoria and the one and only Eban …along with a few, other… unlisted entries… are rounding the clubhouse corner, Alida in the lead. Eban’s a little off the pace tonight, he’s got a lot of work to do if he’s going to catch up, but the course is good and so are his chances. Let’s hope the storm holds off and it stays that way.”

 

Someone tapped the old springer handler on the shoulder.

“What?” The crochety old man crowed, not looking. He had only just managed to get the young, unruly speed stinger into the gate. It chewed the bars and threw its black tail around wildly. “You better not tell me that noise was something you ragamuffins got up to.”

His answer was a nervous gargle.

“Seven?!” He turned on a dime. “What?? How did you get here?”

Before the words were even out his mouth the inner gate triggered and opened for the young speed stinger. He ran out onto the dark track and stopped, perplexed.

Night racing has always been a favorite for sprinters. The glowing, zapping dragons are quite the spectacle when all the world is dark.

Recognizing this signature light-display, Seven cried out to the young springer and it ran.

Earth shook as the brilliantly-coated pack sped by, throwing the old man to the ground. He sat up just in time to watch Victoria run past.

“Philip??”

 

Philip thought that the wind was going to rip his face off. It was so strong he couldn’t breath- not that he would have been able to otherwise.

Holding the dragon’s horns on the backtrack, when it was collecting and extending to its fullest length proved to be impossible for the boy. He was forced to hug her neck, squeeze with his legs, and hope the latex sheet and gloves were enough to protect him from the lightsprinters’ electricity.

Never run a sprinter in a thunderstorm, never run a sprinter in a thunderstorm, the words of an experienced wrangler rolled around in his head over and over as the electric coat grew ever brighter. Never run a sprinter in a thunderstorm!

A little late for that. On the upside, Victoria was too busy catching up to worry about the urchin on her back. In spite of the extra weight and her sore hooves, she passed the inexperienced yearlings and three-year-olds in a breeze. One tried to fight for his position but a chomp in the rear changed his mind.

Eban was climbing the ranks just as quickly and maintaining the ground he had gained on Victoria; racing at his top speed. They had stumbled and jumped over several of his victims and now Constantine was his in his sights.

Rounding the last turn Eban did what Eban did best. He took a chunk out of Constantine’s hide and the easy-going dragon jumped in surprise, losing his footing. He snorted bitterly as Eban pushed past, but regained his pace nonetheless.

Down the homestretch Victoria sidled up on Constantine’s flank. He eyed her warily for any sign of aggression.

She showed none. In fact she ran side by side with him for a good length of time.

We’re really in the thick of it now, Phillip thought between gasps for breath. A couple dozen dragons ran behind them and just as many were in front. He prayed he that he wouldn’t fall off now. The sound of their hoofbeats was deafening and the dirt that flew up blinding, but nothing was quite as terrifying as their lightning jackets. They were so strong now that the electricity arched between dragons.

 

The cheers of the crowd were rising as the sprinters came through on their first lap. Some dragons ahead spread their wings and jumped.

Something in the track, Philip tensed. Victoria drew her head up at attention.

“Springer!” Philip yelled as a black speed stinger tumbled out right in front of them!  Instinctively he kicked the falcon with his heals.

This startled Victoria, who spread her wings and jumped over the little dragon. Where her belly would have been if she had not leapt, the speed stinger’s sharp tail met only with impenetrable hoof.

That was close!

They zipped past stands of screaming and cheering people, jumping wildly up and down…

All save one, dead in the center of the commotion.

Time seemed to stop as Philip spotted the odd man out. A dagger of ice couldn’t have felt worse than when his and Marcus’ eyes met. The Grounds Owner held the metal cane in his hands, knuckles white.

 “We’re so dead.”

 

As the dust settled behind the last of the sprinters, the young springer jumped to his feet and looked himself over. No hoofprints?? It was a miracle! He rawked in delighted confusion.

 

“Folks this will be a night to remember! Alida’s still holding fast to first place but the little falcon is tiring, and Vega’s coming up on her heels! The yearlings are falling further and further behind but what a surprise some of the three-year-olds have been! One’s climbed all the way up to third, ahead of Constantine, Eban, and Victoria! That’s not to say our stars haven’t put up a fight; Eban has gone from 47th place to 17th in one lap! Victoria’s steadily climbing, even with her little passanger who’s somehow managed to stay atop the big falcon! She and Constantine are currently neck and neck for 18th. It’s a battle against the young and the experienced! Will the three-year-olds be able to hold their ground? Or are the champs going to put them in their place? One things for sure; everyone’s putting on a spectacular light show, aren’t they?”

The crowd roared in delight, and for the first time in a decade the announcer actually felt excited about the race. It was as if instead of a script he was handed a blank sheet of paper, ready for any story.

Alas, his jubilance was short-lived. From his perch he spotted the Head of the Sprinter Barn running towards the track with a crossbow in hand. Poor boy. Poor dragon. Nothing was going to change, after all.

 

True to his name Constantine continued through the second lap at the exact same pace as the first. The three-year-olds were getting winded and he passed them right and left.

Philip found that the dragons’ repetitive gates allowed him to anticipate the rocking movement of collection and extension.

He should have been working out a plan to get off the track. He should have been thinking of a strategy to avoid the Barn master, Sprinter Trainer, and Marcus. But something in the boy had been stirred. Something he thought died the day he stepped into this ugly world of racing, something he never imagined he would feel again and something that wouldn’t let him think of anything else.

They run without the springers! He thought back in amazement of the speed stinger left in the dust. I knew it! They run without the springers! Lightsprinters don’t race for the prize, they race for glory! For the love of racing! The love of running! For freedom!

For freedom, or at least a tiny taste of it on this carefully controlled track. The boy who had spent eight of his eleven years in bondage could understand that concept.

With new eyes Philip marveled at Victoria, matching steady Constantine beat for beat around the clubhouse turn. And some are ingenious about it; she’s got so much more in her than this but she’s pacing herself for the long haul.

By the time they came to the end of the backstretch only Alida, Vega, and Eban remained ahead of Victoria and Constantine and as they neared the last turn Victoria pulled ahead and took the in-rail.

 

 

“censored! Alida’s lost the lead, folks! The plucky falcon’s got spirit but just not enough stamina! Vega passes her to claim first, but trouble’s not far behind. Eban has pushed and shoved his way up in third! The champs got power, no one can deny it, but can he depend on that alone? And let’s not forget Victoria and her little assistant! After matching Constantine for almost a full lap she’s taken fourth behind Eban.”

 

 

The small speed stinger chewed at iron walls. There had to be a way out of this deathtrap!

With a bolt of lightning in the distance the clouds broke; drenching the racing grounds in rain while a determined head trainer hid behind a watch post. He had missed the second lap, so he sat and waited for the lightsprinters to make the third round.

 

Mud and rain flew everywhere, caking Philip but covering Victoria, and making it hard to see. He leaned down and wiped it it off his face.

To his surprise the electric jacket- which he knew for a fact would strike a man dead on the ground- didn’t have the same effect on someone who was sitting on the back of the lightsprinter. He chose to believe it was the makeshift rubber saddle and gloves.

Now they were in the big leagues. Alida, fallen to third, snarled viciously when she saw Victoria. The chocolate falcon returned the gesture and shook her head. Out of wind but not fight, the smaller sprinter extended a wing in front of the bigger. She was startled only a moment but that’s all Alida wanted.

“Hey!” Philip snapped, kicking Victoria’s sides. She extended her wings and jumped just as the little dragon swung her tail around to trip the bigger.

Not expecting to catch air, Alida’s tail wrapped around her own legs and down she went. Victoria squealed and Philip laughed over his shoulder as the blue-white dragon got to her feet, sporting a new and confused coat of electrical, bubbling, popping mud.

“We make a good team!” He patted Victoria on the neck. She glanced back at him with something akin to pleasant surprise.

Raaayaaayaayaawk!

Phillip watched the speed stinger zig-zag irradically up ahead and got an idea. He pressed Victoria with his left leg. Not being able to see well due to all the mud in her face, she took the hint, and to his utter joy she swerved gently to the right.

With a few stronger taps he directed her across the width of the course.

The speed stinger managed to avoid Vega and Eban.  Now it was Victoria’s turn.

With two tiny legs the dragon ran from the lightsprinter. They came up on his right flank, and under Philips guidance urged him across the track towards the post. Each gate in the post had a small opening above and below. No lightsprinter could get through it, but many a springer had discovered this secret passageway off the course.

Victoria stomped her forehooves in frustration as the little dragon slithered under a gate. Cheater. Way to quite while you’re ahead, yellow belly!

The electric pulse that surged out from under her reached and fried a small section of the wooden post.

 

“…and the battle has begun! Eban and Vega are at it. This could get ugly, ladies and gentlemen. Eban’s been running at 100% these past two laps and it’s taken his jolly good disposition out of the game. He’s looking for blood now. On the other hand Vega’s still got some kick left, if he’s willing to fight for first he just might pull it off!”

Passing the stands again Philip searched the crowd for Marcus. The Grounds Owner was nowhere to be seen.

“Get off the track, kid!” the announcer broke through his own program to shout a warning, pointing at something. “They’re going to ki.ll you!”

The crowd looked around in confusion.

Icy fingers gripped at Philip’s soul. He would if thought he could. But the sprinter trainers had already boarded up the entrance gate and Victoria had only one goal; victory.

The dragon and rider made the clubhouse turn for the last time.

Sensing urgency in the boy Victoria took it this was the final lap.

She launched forward with a spring so powerful Philip nearly slipped off her back! In leaps and bounds she ripped after the dragons battling for first, every muscle straining.

Philip’s heart skipped a few beats. In all his life he had never felt such power, such will, such purpose, and such courage. It made him feel that up to this moment he had been in a dream, or fog, groping around in the dark and that for the first time his eyes were opened to look upon life itself, and it was beautiful.

How he wished that moment could live on for all eternity.

Halfway down the backstretch the falcon caught up to the battling bucks. Eban; spent from forcing his way to the front, and Vega; battle worn from the black dragon’s savage attacks. He fought valiantly but Eban was a dirty coward, biting at hamstrings and tails and rumps. With one last and vicious chomp to the tail he tripped the golden dragon and brought him down. Vega tumbled up the track, rolling three or four summersaults before coming to a stop.

The falcon spread her wings and leapt over the hapless lightsprinter as he coughed and slowly pulled his legs back under him.

Fury boiled through Philip’s veins, and a growl resonated from the depths of Victoria’s throat. They were in agreement; no one could do anything about Marcus’ reign, but Eban’s days of tyranny were over.

 

Thinking he’d already won; the champion raised his head and flagged his tail…

Until he heard the hoofbeats.

He glanced over his shoulder, expecting Vega but surprised by Victoria instead. With a roar he dropped that pompous tail and dug into the dirt with everything he had left.

Which was nothing to Victoria. She was at her peak and he was gasping for breath. She could have easily passed him.

And she would have, if he hadn’t lit into her.

Relying as always on his brute strength and mean spirit Eban took hold of one of Victoria’s wings. She roared and kicked him, but he refused to let go, tearing the webbing and growling.

That was the last straw.

Victoria launched herself at the bigger dragon. They tore at each other’s hides, clashed horns, struck at each other’s legs and bellies, kicked, and whipped with their tails. Eban put a wing out to shield and nearly knocked Philip off into some iron rods, and by the expression on the black dragon’s face, it was no accident.

The falcon got hold of that wing and clamped down with all the strength in her jaws. Philip heard the terrible sound of bones cracking. Eban shrieked not only in rage but pain. He backed off of her, wing dragging on the ground.

The victorious falcon surged forward.

“Take that, tyrant!” Philip whooped as they turned the last corner, a whole horde of lightsprinters closing in on the champion. His celebration was a bit premature. Eban still had one more trick up his hoof.

Zap!

Zap zap zap zap zap! Zap Zap!

The champion pelted Victoria with rapid fire blasts of electricity. Lightsprinters never use their fire on the course because it has little to no effect on other lightsprinter, whose jacket would just absorb the charge and add it to their arsenal.

It proved to be quite detrimental to a rider, however.

Philip gasped, a shot hitting him squarely in the shoulder. In pain, he lost his seat and slipped all over the dragon’s back.

Victoria glanced at him, then looked ahead to a course that belonged to her by every dragon right, indecision on her face. Seconds later her eyes softened. She slowed and opened her wings to cover Philip from Eban’s rain of fire.

The black dragon saw his chance and, dangling wing and all, ran at them.

When the boy realized what she was doing he urged her on. “Not tonight, Victoria. You’ve earned this. You earned the first day you set hoof on this track.” He turned to watch the approaching dragons. Eban was collecting for a jump and he was looking directly at Philip.

“Okay, I have a plan.”

Pressing with his left leg he urged the dragon toward the outside wall of the turn. She did as he asked and ran straight for it, trusting he knew what he was doing.

Eban leapt into the air.

“Now!” Philip shouted, kicking Victoria and urging a sharp left. She spread her wings and jumped sideways.

Eban watched as falcon and rider side-stepped his attack. He came crashing down, straight into the iron walls.

Bwwooong!!

The bars echoed. Eban stumbled back, staggered a few steps, and then dropped to the ground. He tried to get up but was so dizzy he couldn’t get one leg in front of the other!

A jubilant shake of her proud head and Victoria left the black dragon in the mud. Thirty seconds later Constantine, Alida, Vega and the others turned the corner. They bounded over the downed champion in pure delight, Constantine even broke his pace just to reach out and nip him.

Down the homestretch they came, Victoria, sore-footed and carrying extra weight, leading half a lap! The stand was in an uproar.

PONG!

A strange noise turned Philips’ eye to one watch-post, as a figure holding a crossbow slumped to the ground. Three ragamuffin silhouettes surrounded him… the biggest of which appeared to be holding an iron skillet in hand.

They shouted at the top of their lungs as the dragon zipped past.

“They’re waiting for you, Philip!” Albin, Tacitus and Porter yelled. “Keep going! And don’t ever look back!”

Keep going?? Going where?

With each lunge Philip returned to reality.  The race was coming to its end, and if he knew Marcus at all, the moment they stepped off the track so would their lives.

Victoria gained speed with every stride. Her breath came in blasts, her eyes fixed, and her jacket arched and bowed; reaching out to the track walls. From the heavens came a deep and disapproving rumble.

There was no missing Marcus this time. He waited in the wings with a band of men at his side. All were armed and staring at the boy with eyes like hungry wolves. It had been a while since anyone dared to defy the grounds owner.

Marcus raised his cane. The men raised their crossbows.

We only lived a moment, Philip put a hand on Victoria’s hot neck. But it was better than never at all.

One last time the falcon spread her beautiful wings over the ominous course. She sprang so high over the finish line that if Philip had wished, he could reach out and touch the top of the dome.

The trumpet blasted. The crowd went wild. The cloud gargled furiously, and every hair on Philip’s mud-covered body stood straight up.

As the dragon came down, a massive ball of energy developing between her forelegs; the boy noticed the wooden starting post that made up part of the track wall.

With a blood curling shriek of triumph Victoria struck ground.

Philip shielded his eyes from the blast and not a moment too soon. Lightning surged from the heavens downward to where the Lightsprinter’s hooves met earth, pulsing out in all directions.

Dirt and smoke furled into the air, the stands shook and people screamed in terror. Some jumped from their seats and made a run for it, others stood where they were, dumbfounded. But when the dust settled silence fell, and all eyes looked in wonder, and fear, upon boy and dragon.

Victorial, dignified head held high, pranced and pawed over the finish line, tail waving defiantly.

At very long last, SHE was the undisputed victor.

The falcon stared out over the crowd but Philip was looking towards the wings with just as much pride. He knew what was coming, but he chose to meet it with courage.

Silhouettes became human beings as the smoke curled away, Marcus with his cane, ready to tap it on the ground, archers aimed and awaiting the signal.

Swipe!

tap.

 

 

 

 

 

The signal to fire was given.

And yet each man stood poised. They weren’t even tracking with Victoria, just standing there like statues. Philip looked closer.

Tap tap tap!

Marcus clicked the cane angrily.

Tap tap tap… tap tap…

His impatient tapping was joined by a vary similar sound. The sound, it turned out, of a young springer, clacking its’ red stinger against the bars of the track.

The outside of the track.

It hissed, ignoring the frozen archers and raising it’s tail at the track owner.

Marcus jumped back. Using the cane he clambered up the wall of the stand.

“How the devil...?” He growled staring down from the safely in the stand.

Safe from that springer, anyway.

People in the crowd screamed as little dragons with paralyzing tails dashed freely around their legs, while bigger ones with dull tails snapped at their snacks. They were everywhere! The young and seasoned alike; by the looks of it every paddock and stable had been cleared.

Chaos ensued! The springers thought it great fun, jumping up and hissing, then watching the crowd melt away at the sight of them. All around people were locked in obsurd positions, running, jumping, screaming. Had they known the paralysis was not the terrible, deadly poison certain track owners led them to believe some might have found the hectic scene comical.

Philip certainly did. What he could see of it that is. He was sort of surrounded by confused, curious, irritable, tired and zapping lightsprinters. The race over, they just didn’t know what to do with themselves or each other. Usually the gate would open and they’d be led back to the paddocks single file… but there was no gate anymore, just iron rods.

Alida slinked between the other dragons and made her way to Victoria. She looked up with angry eyes and nipped the bigger lightsprinter. Victoria returned the favor, and the blue-white dragon dashed off. Victoria licked her lips contentedly, and Philip felt that Alida had given some gesture of respect.

Getting antsy and agitated the younger sprinters began to prance back and forth down the track.

“What are ye waiting for, kid?? Get out!” The announcer shouted in his post.

Struck with the reality of a second chance, the boy looked around. Dome of metal bars on both sides… boarded up entrance…

They could probably get through those rods that barred the entrance, but it was risky and there would be no way out if they were caught on the path. Besides, it led straight to the sprinter stable where he was certain a very angry trainer, with a very large bump on his head would be waiting.

Victoria snorted. She didn’t like this mindless ambling.

“Somebody sh.oot them!” Marcus roared, holding springers at bay. “Anyone!” A wicked look flashed across his face. “Anyone who takes down Victoria and that boy will be rewarded with all of tonight’s winnings!”

This got the attention of a few unsavory characters in the crowd. At the same time one of the archers moved slightly.

Philip turned away and that’s when he saw it.

The starting post. It was smoking, charcoal black and crumbling at the sides.

“Can it be?” He dared to hope.

Pressing with a leg and then squeezing he directed the falcon to the roasted post. She sniffed it and sneezed when ash flew up her nose. The whole structure shuddered.

Behind them some ruffians jumped down from the stands, spears, swords and bows in hand.

“Come on girl!" Philip urged her forward.

The dragon’s eyes grew wide. She couldn’t understand what was left of the starting post was a mere frame; covered in the ash of electrified wood and brittle to the touch. What she saw was the same big structure she had never before been able to escape from… but to top it off it was all black and sinister now.

She shied and whipped her tail nervously.

The boy looked back. One of the ruffians pulled back on his bow.

“Trust me,” Philip whispered in the dragon’s ear.

He kicked her hard.

Victoria closed her eyes and jumped blindly into the post. It disintegrated on impact, and the two landed in the inner circle.

Rrrrarararraaaraawk!

The black speed stinger ran in terrified and confused circles at the sight of the Lightsprinter.

“We’re off,” Philip gasped in disbelief as they ran around the inner field. “We’re… off the track. Victoria, we’re free!”

Furious, Marcus dealt the speed stingers a swift and terrible blow. He made for the archers.

No longer in immediate danger the falcon slowed to marvel at the world she had only seen behind bars. What strange green blades beneath her feet, so soft to step on. How big was the very same sky, when unobstructed by tresses and domes! It was soo big, bigger than it had ever looked before.

Out jumped Alida, bold as a lion. She growled this new territory down, striking at turf and slapping her tail around. Her eye turned to the ruffians on the other side of the track. Unfurling her wings she bounded over the course and landed in front of them, a hunger for trouble in her eyes. Regulars in the stand they had booed the small sprinter from start to finish. But up close and personal with the fearless electric dragon they weren’t so keen on throwing insults and more interested in running. She gave mad chase.

 Naïve yearlings and three-year-olds waltzed right through like nothing out of the ordinary. Some chewed a few blades of grass but quickly decided it was not their cup of tea. Like Alida they too were curious about the people in the stands, but unlike her just curious.

As it is with the slow and steady Constantine was not excited about gaping hole in the wall. He sniffed with great uncertainty until Vega, next in line, lost his temper and pushed him out of the way. Constantine snorted an insult, but in all honesty had it not been for the Vega’s impatient nature he never would have set foot outside.

 

Philip beheld the havoc of his actions in a mixture of horror and delight. Sprinters and Springers roamed abandoned racing stands eating food left in great haste. Bettors and race-goers cowered in corners or ran like their lives depended on it… and if Alida was chasing, it did.

He spotted Albin atop Seven; the latter hitting trainers in the back with her dull tail, the first reciting his own version of a barritus and pointing at which ones to hit.

The archers in the wing began moving… very slowly.

“We’ve got to get him out of there,”

One was missing his bow. Philip pieced two and two togeth-

“I have to do everything myself, these days.”

Marcus stood mere meters away, bolt aimed not at Victoria, but Philips’ head.

He pulled the trigger.

There was a sickening thunk as it struck flesh…

 

 

 

but not Philip’s.

 

 

A roar that would rival that of a thunderdrum escaped the enormous black dragon as he landed, quite by accident, in the middle of the scene. He stared down at the bolt stuck in his rump, every hateful thought towards Victoria and Philip put on hold.

He looked up in disbelief as Marcus quietly set the weapon down, useless without an arrow.

The buck turned away from falcon and rider, walking slowly towards Marcus. His eyes shined almost as brightly as the statue in front of the lightsprinter barn.

To his credit Marcus stood his ground. It might have helped that he knew Eban well enough that it wouldn’t matter at this point if he ran, anyway.

Very slowly, as the dragon approached Marcus clasped the body of his metal cane and pulled the handle. The pieces separated revealing a thin, gleaming sword that he held out in a ready stance.

Eban stopped only when he felt the tip of the sword censored his powerful chest. Their eyes, so similar in so many ways, met in a battle of the wills to the death. Both remained perfectly still for a full five minutes…

…time which Victoria and Philip used wisely to edge towards the track dome.

Curiosity getting the better of the black speed stinger, he couldn’t help but get a closer look at the two living statues- especially the chewy one with the stick.  He walked over, tail high in the air as he sniffed Marcus and Eban. That’s when Philip was struck with a brilliant idea.

“HEY!” He shouted at the top of his lungs.

The sudden noise set all of them off. Eban went for Marcus’ throat, Marcus thrust the sword towards Eban chest, and the black springer ran in-between, freezing both of them in mid-attack

Philip walked Victoria over to the motionless tyrants. He snorted. There they stood in all their glory, caught doing what they were truly best at.

He urged the falcon to hurdle the dome and she was happy to oblige.

“Albin!” Philip shouted over the uproar. “Albin!”

Lightning arching out, fire in her eyes and fight in her step the sea of dragons and people parted before Victoria like schools of fish before a shark.

Keeping track of one speed stinger is hard enough. It’s next to impossible in a crowd with about thirty of them underfoot.

“Albin! Where are you?”

“Philip!”

One lone figure held his ground.

“Master,” Philip gulped. He’d hoped to get away without crossing paths with the old man.

The falcon looked him down her nose with scorn. She stomped, sending a pulse through the ground but the crafty wrangler was wearing a pair of sprinter trainer boots. He ignored her.

“Don’t- don’t come any closer,” Philip started strong, “I- I- I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You won’t hurt me. You can’t.”

Philip urged Victoria to back up. She refused to step down for a wrinkly toothpick, but something about his calm and fearless manner kept her from challenging him, too.

“So this is what you call doing things right?” He growled, yellow eyes flashing as he stepped closer, something behind his back.

“Yes, sir.” Philip answered bravely.

“What was yer goal here, lad? Chaos? Ruin? Death? Ye’ve done a fine job at it.”

“Freedom,” He snapped. “And life. For Victoria and Seven. All I wanted was to set them loose and I was willing to pay for it, but Victoria wouldn’t listen and one thing led to another… all the sprinters getting lose, the race, destroying stuff, and I don’t even know what happened with the springers.”

“Set them free? Let them live? You disappoint me. If that’s the plan than why aren’t you doing it?!?” He hissed. “So far I’ve done more free-setting than you! Are ye daft? Waiting here for someone to shoot ye??”

“Uh-um- but- the others-“

“Are making their own way out. Now git, and finish what you started.”

The old man handed him a sack of food. Philip could only take it and look down at him with more respect than ever.

He snapped out of it.

“But- but you,” He stuttered as the barn master picked up two broken stair rails. “They’ll- they’ll.. you have to come with us,” The boy held out his hand.

“Lad I don’t know anything but this life I’ll be no good to you boys out there. But I can serve these crippled springers with what’s left of my days…”

With one rail he struck Victoria’s rump. The other he held out as she lunged forward, clamping down on it instead of the wily old wrangler.

He watched the dragon pickup speed. She became a blur of light that bounded over the grounds wall and disappeared on the other side. Cruel as life had been the old heart was still soft and it showed in his glassy eyes.

“…and when the wolves come looking for blood they’ll find it. But you, brave lad, run. Run to the farthest corners of the earth if you wish, and beyond your own imagination. Just don’t ever stop.”

 

 

 

On the other side of the wall, Victoria hesitated. For the first time in all her life she looked back. At the track, the trainers, her stable. At the only world she ever knew.

Philip wiped tears from his eyes. He didn’t hear those last words but he knew them in his heart. There is a reckoning for all things done on earth. Freedom must be bought and there’s only one price for it.

He stared at the wall and wondered when he would see the other boys again. If he would see them. He could care less how the stare down between Eban and Marcus went. As far as he was concerned the world would be grieved with one less tyrant.

“Let’s go.”

The falcon turned. Her eyes widened. No road. No path. No walls. If she had any doubts they were gone now. She lunged forward.

Sprinting across the field they came to a grove of trees that she weaved in and out of, gathering speed.

Victoria flew over streams and lakes, zagged through forests and charged through wastelands. Terrain changed as the falcon ran, and ran, and ran; beyond anything familiar. To the north they ran, from green knolls to dark woods and fierce mountains. And as light glimmered in the East they came across a great plain, so vast there was no end to it on all horizons. Bucking, leaping and gliding they danced across boundless slopes of wild grass and endless sky that beckoned to them.

And they ran. with no fence to hold them in or cage to go back to they ran. And as far as anyone knows they’re still running.

 

 

 

 

 

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LissaFish
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Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 02/12/2017
The One that Got Away

Coalskin Dragon is a fan species of Chameishidas. Art by Chameishida.

 

 

The one that got away

 

 

 

“Deer getting into the crops? Foxes in the henhouse? Wolves in the sheepfold? Dragons after cattle? You’ve got problems and we’ve got answers!”

Two men rode into Pforzheim atop a couple of disheveled mules. One, the younger of the two, was wiry and thin as a rail. He shouted their business cry with half his heart and dull eyes. The other was a surly sort. He was about the same height as the first but broad shouldered and big boned-  the kind of person you wouldn’t want to find yourself in a brawl with.

And now he belted out their sales-pitch as boldly as the lion roars.

“We’ve cleared the Eavesdroppers out of Keltern! We’ve packed the deer of Opfingen neatly in the farmer’s cabinets! The lions of Birkenfeld have fled the flocks! Pforzheim, trade your Pests for Pelts. Bjorn and Koen, at your service!”

They yelled as they traveled the width and breadth of main street, hoping someone somewhere would show interest.

 “It’s no use, Bjorn,” The less-enthusiastic Koen grumbled as surly recited the pitch for the twentieth time. “They’re not going to listen.”

“Hey. It’s worth a shot, you never know.” Bjorn retorted. “Ah, farmer Adalberht! How goes the Dairy?”

“Bjorn,” Adalberht returned, a smug grin playing at the edges of his mouth. “Well, very well. How about you? Have you tired of your wild adventures yet? Come home to settle down?”

“Nope, just passing through. Trapper’s life, can’t stay too long in one place it’s bad for business.”

“And the game,” His business partner added.

“You know if anyone’s having any pest trouble?”

“I might; but I think we both know that they wouldn’t be asking you for help.”

With that the farmer snickered and walked away, leaving a stewing Bjorn in his wake.

“Told you,” Koen stifled his own grin. “No one will ever take us seriously here.”

“Oh they will, once I show them,” Bjorn growled. “I have got to get this mark off my record. Word will spread to other towns and then no one will take us seriously. It’s bad for business”

“No one else cares.”

Bjorn set his jaw and squinted after the farmer, disappearing around a corner. “I think Adalberht knows something. Let’s stay in town tonight; maybe we can pick up some word at the tavern.”

“You’re buying this time.”

 

The tavern was lively that night. It was late in the fall, the nights were long, the days were short and work was scarce. Farmers, millers, butchers and bakers were all filing in for spirits and gossip, and as small towns go, the travelling trappers became the main topic.

“Koen! You’re still working with your brother? How’s that going for you?”

“I got a free drink, so good at the moment.”

“Pity. Always thought you would make something of yourself.”

The miller joined in jeering. “I can still remember you boys when you were out catching rabbits together. Still at it, all these years later!”

Koen laughed sarcastically and took a swig.

“Rabbits? What do you mean? Are you two trappers?” A young farmer, just recently moved from Opfingen to Pforzheim, inquired of Bjorn.

“That we are. We can trap anything from rabbits to dragons, deer to griffins,” Bjorn toted their services, sensing an interest in the inexperienced farmer. “You name it we can catch it.”

“What do you know about dragons?” he took a swig.

“Plenty.” Bjorn put on his most confident pose, leaning up against the counter. “What kind are you thinking of? Terrible Terror? Changewing? Cavekeepers?”

“Lokizi.”

“Ahhh,” Bjorn nodded. “Yep they’re quite the nuisance, those buggers. How many do you think you have?”

“No idea,” the farmer admitted. “But I’ve seen at least eight. Maybe nine.”

“Egh,” The trapper cringed. “And for every one you see you can bet there’s three more you can’t. That’s almost forty- the makings of a clan. You got chickens?”

“I did. They killed them all.”

“Pigs?”

“Same thing.”

“How about sheep?”

“A herd of five. I had two dogs keeping them, but last night the wretched creatures got the better of the two.”

“Dang. Wish I had come sooner. Could have saved you a lot of grief.”

“I want them gone. What are your rates?”

“For Lokizi? They’re small, but nasty, and once you pick a fight with them they won’t back down. Ten marks a head.”

“Ten?! I might as well pack up and leave. Five.”

“Nine!”

“Six!”

“Alright, I’ll be generous with you because I hate to see someone lose a dog to dragons. Seven, unless you want these things to eat you out of house and home,” Bjorn squared his shoulders and extended a hand. “Shake or break, I’m not going any lower.”

The farmer studied Bjorn’s face carefully, rubbing his chin. At last he too, extended a hand.

“You have yourself a deal.”

Bjorn shook. “When do we start?”

“Dawn tomorrow.”

“Oh, Ewald, what have you done?” Another farmer stumbled into the agreement. “These two are going after your Lokizi? ‘fraid you’ll never be rid of them now.”

“Of who? These two or the Lokizi?”

“Both!” He laughed boisterously.

Bjorn clenched his fists. Koen pushed his drink away with an almost apologetic glance to the tavernkeeper. He rolled up his sleeves.

“Here we go again.”

 

Dawn might be late on a cold winter day, but it’s no easier to get up to.

“That turned into a nice shiner,” Koen chuckled as they packed the mules.

Bjorn touched the dark circle around his left eye. “Heheh good fight. Hey appreciate you jumping in when the miller joined.”

“Couldn’t hear over Aleberht’s breath last night. What are we getting for this job?”

“Seven a head.”

Koen turned. “Seven?!” He repeated, then in a hushed tone asked. “How did you manage that?”

“He’s from Opfinegen.”

A grin spread across Koen’s face. “That almost makes the Lokizi worth it.”

“Ha! Almost.”

 When the two arrived at Ewald’s they found the farmer filling a hole next to the house. He looked tired.

“More trouble last night?” Bjorn asked.

“They dug into the root cellar,” He said wearily. “Half of our provisions gone, and the other half in shambles.”

“They really have it out for you,” Bjorn hopped down from his mule. “Word must have spread you mean business.”

“I don’t know, fellas, I’m beginning to wonder if I really should just pack up the family and go. This whole move seems to have gone sideways.”

Both brothers averted their gaze, feeling a tinge of guilt for taking advantage of the struggling farmer.

“Where do you think they live?”

Ewald gestured them to follow.

The three traipsed through lifeless wild grass towards a wood of birch and maple. Dark brown leaves spun around their feet and the chilling wind moaned as it weaved through trunks and branches.  

“This is where I’ve seen them before. Now that the trees are bare, though, they may have retreated further into the blackwood.”

Koen and Bjorn looked beyond the quiet but friendly grove to one much more ominous. Therein stood the evergreen and yellow larch, appearing at a distance like peas and corn.

“Sounds about right. Lokizi don’t like to be out in the open. Have you found any remains recently?”

“Deer bone and chicken,” Ewald nodded. “Not far from edge of the darkwood.”

“That’s where they feel comfortable enough to eat. Good.”

Koen had been studying the ground. He kneeled. “I’ve got tracks,” he said, “Lokizi.”

“Where’s the nearest water source?” Bjorn asked the farmer.

“My water trough for the horses. That way,” He pointed towards the paddocks. “There’s a marsh somewhere in the forest though I’m not sure where. Once in a while my dogs would run in and come back a muddy mess.”

“Also good to know.” Bjorn rubbed his hands. “That about does it. We can get to work now.”

Ewald looked a bit surprised. “Do you need anything else? Like a map, or something, so you know where you set the traps?”

“Nope.” Bjorn glanced up at the patched blue sky. “But keep the kids and animals away from this stretch- here clear to the horse paddock.”

 

All through the morning the brothers worked, carefully laying nets and other devices. Most of the time they’d ride their mules so not to leave a human scent or track that would alert the troublesome dragons.

 

“Won’t you just finish with that?” Koen groaned, pulling his fur cap over his ears. “It’s fine.”

“It’s not fine,” Bjorn growled. His big, rough hands were gently placing dead leaves over an ugly iron jaw. “If a fox can pick it out you bet a Lokizi will. And you know what they’ll do. Ewald or one of his kids will walk out the door tomorrow morning and discover these all over the farm and we’ll be out of the job.”

The mules snorted irritably. They were getting hungry. Koen stroked their ears and patted their necks. “It’s past mid-day. If we don’t stop soon our scent will still be here when the dragons come out at dusk.”

“Just one more minute.”

“And I still think these jaw traps were stupid. They’re so destructive and anything can step into them by accident. Remember the Wardenrain?” A look of true regret flashed across his face.

“I felt bad about that too, but it was too late. Besides we can’t afford to get nets for everything. Let’s just hope that nothing else steps into them.”

Bjorn looked around.

“Gimme a torch,”

Koen pulled one from a saddle bag, lit it and handed it over. Bjorn shown the light over the ground but no glint of metal reflected it.

“We good?”

“Yeah we’re-“

The fire in the torch flickered and cold, like fog, seeped up from the ground.

All the birds had migrated south for the coming winter, so no song was heard. Only the wind spoke, yet through it Bjorn could have sworn he heard something moving. Something further on, deeper into the wood.

“-Good.”

Even atop the horse Koen felt the chill and saw the look in Bjorn’s eyes. He followed his gaze towards Blackwood Forest.

“You hear that?” Bjorn asked.

“No.”

“Liar you did too.”

“I didn’t hear anything.”

“But you felt it,” He pointed accusingly.

“Come on Bjorn it was just a cold pocket.”

Bjorn stormed up to his mule, pulling a crossbow off the saddle.

“Could be. Or it could have been him.

“No one has seen him or any others for almost ten years.”

“Let’s go make sure, anyway,” He said smugly, loading the weapon.

“I have a better idea how about we don’t,” Koen argued in his most encouraging voice. “And we catch the Lokizi, get paid, and live instead.”

“Are you still afraid of the darkwood?” Bjorn challenged.

“Uh, yes,” He admitted readily, “And for good reason. No one who journeys deep into that ever comes out again. As the old saying goes: if the woodreapers don’t take you the forest itself will.”

“We won’t go far, just far enough to see if there’s anything worth tracking down.”

“That is too far,” Koen muttered.

“Well you can sit on your mule or even head back to town for all I care. I for one am not afraid of ghosts and goblins, and I’m going in. Give me Verdiløs.”

“I’m not afraid for myself, Bjorn.” Koen growled. “I’m worried for you. For how far you’ll go to… well, to catch this thing… which I don’t think is actually there.”

“My mule, Koen.”

Koen sighed and traded the reins for the torch.

Bjorn mounted his mule without a word and spurred it on. On, towards the dark wood.

They approached the edge, Verdiløs looking hesitantly up at the daunting trees, his eyes widening.

Bjorn gave him a kick, and in they went.

Giant branches arched across the canopy of the great forest. Firs and cedars, pine and larch grew so closely together that in some places they made solid walls, and in less crowded areas the branches were so thick the forest floor never saw the light of day.

This vast and ancient place once covered hundreds upon hundreds of square miles. It protected all manner creatures that were considered myth or extinct. Beautiful things, bizarre things and terrible things hid under those wise trees. The Woodreaper, for one. The wisent, forest lion, hornstick, and nightcrawler for a few others. Strange lights that will lead you to your fate… or death… mushrooms and insects that glow. Some say that deep in its heart is the griffin’s last refuge, the elven steed, and the fair people themselves.

It commanded a dread that even the stout of heart could not ignore.

Bjorn was no exception. He pulled his cap down and peered into the inky dark. It was colder in here. Much colder. And the dark was so thick he felt he could reach out and touch it. Verdiløs shivered.

“Hmm-Hmm!”

Despite Bjorn’s best efforts he jumped at the sound of his brother’s voice.

Koen rode up, a spool of string in his hand. One end of it was tied to a tree on the outskirts of the wood.

“Good thinking,” Bjorn muttered sheepishly.

“And here’s the torch, dunkoff.”

“That would be helpful too.”

“You should have died years ago. And for the record I am here only to keep you from killing yourself.”

 

The siblings traveled in silence. Every now and again Bjorn would bring them to a halt and listen. Somewhere, echoing through the trees a twig would snap or there would be a thud. He would mutter and point, and they would head in that direction.

Koen burned through the spool of string in ten minutes. Fortunately, they had five others and he continued to keep track by tying them end to end.

An hour later they had exhausted the supply.

Bjorn hopped down from his mule and walked a few paces, straining to listen. Koen joined him.

“Anything?” The latter finally asked.

Their ears rang with the silence of the wood. Bjorn searched the trees for some clue, some hint that something had been there.

“No.” he admitted at length.

“It’ll be dark another three hours… well, darker I guess and I have it on good authority there’s a territorial male woodreaper in these parts.”

With no lead, no string and a promise of a very unpleasant visitor in a couple of hours Bjorn and Koen turned back.

 

“There are better ways for us to regain the towns respect,” Koen said quietly as they followed the string.

Bjorn chortled sarcastically. “Really? Like what?”

“Like doing this job well. If Ewald is happy with our work he’ll spread the word- especially if we give him a discount.”
“No way. I just finagled my way into a sweet deal I’m not about to sucker out of it.”

“Consequences, brother. We cheat Ewald, Adelberht hears about it tells the whole town Ewald never hires us again because we ripped him off and everyone’s in an uproar all over.”

“We didn’t rip them off last time.”

“No, just bit off more than we could chew.”

“With one dragon? Come on. We’ve handled Singetails.”

“Now we have. Back then we were young and foolish. Do you really think, all history aside, you’d accept such a challenge today?”

“I had him Koen, I had him.” Bjorn clenched the reins. “Wings pinned legs tied down. Only seconds more and the job would have been done. The chains wouldn’t have melted, he wouldn’t have stumbled into town, we wouldn’t have had to start again from ashes. I’m a laughingstock for being seconds late.”

“Well we are a very punctual people.”

The older brother shot daggers at the younger who grinned mischievously.

“I just whish I could make it right, you know?”

“I know.”

The string pulled tight in Koen’s hand- and loosened.

“Uh oh.”

They hurried along, Koen rapidly winding the string until-

“Great! Something’s gone and broken it,” Bjorn growled.

“Strange.” Koen noted the singed end. He shrugged it off.  “Search in this general direction; it shouldn’t be too hard to pick up again so long as we don’t wander far.”

He was right. With the light of the torch they groped around in the dark until they found the other half of the string, caught on a branch.

And just as they took it up again the torch flickered.

The brothers froze.

It grew colder. Much colder. Cold like when the sun has set and there’s nothing that’s able to keep it’s heat.

“It’s not dusk.” Koen spoke in a low tone, reaching for his own crossbow. “It can’t be.”

The mules pricked their ears up and sniffed the air.

Jumping down from Verdiløs Bjorn ripped the torch out of Koen’s hands. He flung it one direction and then another but to no avail. Then he noticed that the flame was not spiraling upward.

Without so much as a breeze the flame was pulling south- back into the black wood.

“Bjorn, no. We have no string,”

Practically dragging his mule behind him Bjorn charged through the trees without a second thought. His brother followed atop his mount, muttering curses under his breath.

“Bjorn!”

Koen caught up as Bjorn stopped to hold up the torch again.

“We’re heading back,” The younger brother hissed. He tore Versilo’s reins from Bjorn’s hand, juggling them with his crossbow and his own mule’s reins. “And we’re doing it right now if it means I have to drag you!”

Bjorn just watched the fire. At first it pulled more south-east, but it was changing, ever so slowly, to becoming due east.

“I can still get us back on the marked trail but if you take one more step-“

A thump echoed across the hollow wood floor. The mules raised their heads at attention.

For the first time Koen became aware of a strange sound. Something like… perhaps… like a flume. And along with it heat.

“He’s close,” Bjorn said, barely over a whisper.

Eyes.

A pair of them glinted from between the trees. They were small and round, and the shadow they were attached to distorted and difficult to make out. But it was there.

On the edge of a small forest slope, four legs, a long, lizard-like tail, and jagged wings crouched. The silhouette could have been of any dragon, except for the distinct tendrils dangling from the creatures’ neck.

“There you are,” Bjorn croaked, slowly raising his bow. “You black beast. You walking furnace. Ten years. It could have been ten hundred and I still wouldn’t have forgotten those eyes.”

He leveled the weapon, right between the glowing eyes.

Verdiløs snorted.

Bjorn jumped. He loosed the arrow and it blew splinters out of the tree just right of the beast.

Koen’s mule bolted but Verdiløs rooted himself to his spot. The creature spun on its’ tail and crested the slope.

Bjorn sprung into action, dropping the torch. “You’re not getting away this time!”

The crazed trapper tore blindly after the black beast. It twisted through and around and even under the ancient trees. Bjorn followed with just as much stamina and more determination. His lungs burned with every sharp breath. His heart pounded as fast as his feet; and he tossed away his warm scarf, coat, and hat the instant they got caught on some tree or shrub. Even when he stumbled or scratched or bruised himself Bjorn would bounce back up, crossbow in one hand and an arrow in the other. He was relentless.

They spent all of a half an hour like this, the hunter and the hunted; running circles through the blackwood until at last the creature decided on a different tactic. Coming to a tiny speck of streaming light, it climbed up a branch and unfurled those jagged wings.

“No!” Bjorn gasped, setting arrows and shooting madly. He was too far away and running too fast to get a clean shot.

With powerful wingbeats the animal sent out ripples of heated wind. The trees tremored and branches and leaves smoked as it brushed against them, lifting into the air. Closing the gap between sky and tree, it blotted out the shimmering light.

The trapper rushed to the spot. The earth was still smoldering where the animal had stood only seconds ago. Shakily placing another arrow, he aimed up at the shadow above, only to watch as the black beast breached the trees and flew out of sight.

Daylight streamed down once more, blinding Bjorn.

“Aaaaaagggghhhh!” He roared in fury. “RRRAAAAARRRRRRRHHHHHHHH!”

If he had a hat to throw down he would. But he’d left it behind…

Bjorn sat down on a rock and rested his head in his hands, breathing heavily. He clawed through his hair.

So close. So close! Another sighting after ten years, and once more the dragon had been within his grasp and once more he let it slip away. All those years of resentment from his own town, all the humiliation and regret. It could have been lifted from his shoulders in one fell blow to that beast. Heralded as a hero instead of hissed at as a fool. Stupid Verdiløs!

It was a good thing for the mule that he wasn’t at Bjorn’s side that moment.

The trapper stood and kicked the dirt and beat the trunk of the nearest tree with his fists. Picking up rocks he threw them up towards the speck of sky.

When he had released his frustration he sighed and looked into the trees. His eyes had adjusted to daylight and it was even harder to see the rest of the wood.

Bjorn began to walk in what he thought was the way back, but after a good ten minutes of groping in the dark it dawned on him that he didn’t have a clue where he was.

Everything seemed vaguely familiar and nothing did at the same time. A chill snaked along his spine but he attributed it to losing his coat scarf and hat instead of a sneaking suspicion he might be very lost.

“I’ll just call out to Koen,” he said to himself with a pretensive shrug. “Hmph. Probably stayed behind with the mules ‘cause he was too scared. Typical little brother move. KOOOOEEEENNN!”

Bjorn called and called, but the only answer he got in return was his own eerie echo.

Although he couldn’t see it, he knew daylight was waning.

Where was that brother of his? He knew he’d run a ways but he didn’t think so far that they couldn’t hear each other. An ugly thought began to play at his mind. Koen finally snapped; he’s left without you, Bjorn

Time passed slowly and with every call Bjorn became more worried that he had been left alone.

“KKKOOOOOOOEEEEEEENNNN!” He yelled again, a sense of urgency in his voice.

“What!”

Bjorn jumped out of his skin as the shadow of his brother appeared among the trees.

“I was… calling… you,” He said between breaths. He scowled. “For hours! Why didn’t you answer?”

“I only heard you ten minutes ago,” Koen growled.

“Hey where are the mules?”

“Gallivanting across the wood by now, genius. Adda threw me when you took off for that lizard.”

“Oh great. So they’re gonners then.”

“We’re gonners! While you were playing hide and seek with your arch nemesis I was trying to find the way back out. But without the torch which you threw on the ground how are we supposed to find the rope?!”

“You’re such a pessimist,” Bjorn waved a hand. “We found each other, didn’t we?”

“You’re slightly bigger than a piece of twine, Bjorn.” Koen shot back. “And much louder.”

“The point is it’s not impossible. But even if we can’t get out tonight we both have our crossbows-“

“I lost mine.” Koen cut in. There was something in the way that he said it that made Bjorn think.

“How?”

“It broke when I fell.”

“Okay… well we have one crossbow and plenty of arrows- provided you didn’t break those too.”

Silence.

“Did you?”

A quiver of arrows was shoved into Bjorn’s hands.

“Good. All we do now is walk around until we find something that points us in the right direction… like the torch. Or better yet batten down and wait until morning. There’s a clearing not too far from here where we can look and see what way the light is shining, get our bearings and then travel west.”

“No. We must leave before nightfall.” Koen wrapped his arms around his sides. “Where’s your coat?”

“I lost it.” Bjorn said evasively. “But back to important things, I doubt we’ll have any luck tonight…”

“We have to try!” he said through clenched teeth. “It’s already freezing and you’ll be a lot of help when you’re hypothermic. We have to try.”

Koen seemed quite resolved on this and since he was not in the best of spirits, Bjorn gave in.

Night was indeed creeping up on them. Creatures were returning from the day’s hunt for food or waking for the next shift. In the distance something that sounded like a tree being snapped in half swept through the forest. There was only one creature in this place capable of such a feat; both brothers thought it but couldn’t bring themselves to say. Woodreaper.

Most of the time the silence in the forest was overpowering. Koen seemed really stressed, so Bjorn struck up some conversation.

“I almost had him, Koen.”

“Yeah?” He nodded with a mixture of resentment and curiosity. “What happened this time?”

“He found that clearing I told you about and flew off.”

“Sucks.”

“Tell me about it. Ten years of no one even seeing it and the same thing all over again.”

“Well, we don’t have to tell anyone this time.”

“Yeah, at least there’s that. Nothing’s been destroyed either.” Bjorn shivered, very much regretting losing his coat.

Koen bobbed his head as they walked and held his sides tightly.

“Hey, you alright?” Bjorn asked.

“Fine just cold.”

“Same. Can I have your hat?”

Koen bowed and Bjorn took it off his head.

“Thanks. I’m… I’m sorry I got us into this mess.”

“Get us out and I’ll forgive you.” The younger brother half-teased.

“I really thought I was going to get him this time.” He clenched his fists. “Prove that I’m not a loser. That I can do great things. Things that no one else has ever done.”

He looked into the canopy above, wishing to see an evening star or day moon, but was greeted only with pine needles.

“Do you ever feel like you were meant for better things, Koen? Bigger things?”

“Not really.” He returned quite dully.

Bjorn rolled his eyes. “I guess it’s nonsense, isn’t it? I mean we’re nobodies. We’ll never be knights, have castles, rule peoples. But so often I feel that I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m… cleaning up other peoples problems. Not that it’s a bad thing, but I always thought I would be or at least do something great.” He sighed.

They wandered for a time, neither speaking.

“I think you will.” Koen said quietly. “Probably not the kinds of things we expect, but they will be great.”

“Not the kinds of things I expect? What other kinds of things are there?”

“I don’t know they haven’t been done yet.”

“Well I do. I have a checklist. First, I’m gonna catch that black beast. That’s the beginning of it, people will finally see that we’re good at what we do and business will boom. When we’ve made enough money I’ll leave you the business and take my share and head out to the sea. I’ll find and learn about the peoples out there. And the creatures out there, maybe bring back a kelpie or two. Lastly, I’m gonna track down and catch the King of Night.”

To this Koen said nothing.

“Hopefully I’ll catch one alive. Then I can study it, and show it off. Maybe I can train it. I’d never sell it to anyone though. A dragon’s a dragon but I don’t know. There’s something about that one that’s differe-”

He stopped mid-sentence. “I smell smoke.”

They stopped as Bjorn sniffed the air. “It’s coming from… from… this way!”

The eldest ran ahead, following his nose. Soon he came across a smoldering patch of ground and the remains of a club-like stick.

“The torch!” He cried in delight, picking it up. “Koen I found the torch!”

Something in the darkness nickered.

“And… Verdiløs,” He said in surprise, making out the silhouette of his mule. “Can you believe it? This stupid donkey’s been standing here the whole time.”

As Verdiløs searched him for carrots Bjorn couldn’t help but scratch those fuzzy warm ears.

“Guess you were right to decide to look tonight instead of in the morning. Now you can just lead the way back and well find the string and be out in no time!”

“Koen?”

There was no answer.

The older brother searched the dark for a silhouette.

“I really hope you’re not trying to be funny,” He growled.

In truth he did. Especially when Koen didn’t come.

Bjorn grew worried. He tied Verdiløs to a tree (as if he was going to go anywhere now) and backtracked, once more calling for his little brother.

He came to the point where they had smelled the smoke from the torch but saw nothing. As he was turning though, he stumbled into a soft patch of dirt. It let out a groan.

“Koen!” Bjorn knelt down and shook him.

“Hm. What?” He asked groggily.

“What’s wrong with you? What are you doing on the ground?”

“Oh. I lied.” He said simply.

“About what?”

“I’m… I’m not so fine.”

Bjorn put a hand over Koen’s head. He was burning up. He checked Koen all over, came across a sticky substance on his left hand. It was still holding his right side. He pulled away his brother’s hand and found…

The end of a broken arrow.

The mule throwing him. The broken crossbow. The weird way he was talking and so stressed about escaping that night, when there was better chance in the morning. It was all making sense now.

“Oh, Koen,” He could barely get out. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

“It’s… didn’t mattered. We got out, we got out. But we’d didn’t. That’s ok though.”

“No! It’s not! There’s still time I found the torch and Verdiløs. We can still get out of this place and get you help!”

“I’m tired.”

“I’ll carry you. Verdiløs will carry you.”

“The woodreaper will smell blood….” He faded out and came back in to consciousness. “I’m lightheaded.”

“Yeah, you are. Let’s get you outta here.”

Bjorn got Koen to his feet. They traveled a short ways with Koen leaning against Bjorn for support, but it wasn’t long until he crumpled to the ground again.

“Koen it’s only a little ways, then you can ride Verdiløs. Just hold on for a few more minutes.”

“Sure, sure. Just give me five….”

“No!” Bjorn snapped. “You don’t have five!”

And… he was gone again.

He hoisted Koen’s limp body up and onto his shoulders, carrying him the rest of the way to the burnt-out torch.

Verdiløs looked amused at the sight of his master doing the heavy lifting for once.

Gently setting his brother down on a carpet of moss, Bjorn turned his attention to the arrow. He wanted to get it out but was afraid that would make things worse; Koen had already lost a lot of blood.

He took a gamble and decided it had to go.

“Ok. Sorry Koen, this is gonna hurt.”

 

Koen still had his scarf, so when the deed was done Bjorn wrapped that and a piece of his own shirt over the wound.

“We need to get out of here, Verdiløs,” He said, pacing. “And get Koen help as soon as possible. He wasn’t wrong, the woodreaper will smell his blood; so we’ll have to keep a look out for him, too. And anything else that might come our way.”

Despite being a step closer to escape they were at a dead end. He couldn’t remember where the string was, only Koen knew that. He couldn’t go look for it without knowing the very real possibility something would come after his injured brother, and he couldn’t take his brother with him. Even on the back of the mule if he toppled over and reopened the wound…

Bjorn cursed. “Why Koen? You should have told me!”

He paced and he paced but it got him nowhere. Three times he resolved to go it alone and find the string. He’d march off in some direction, search for a few minutes just barely finding his way back to Verdiløs. The third time he did get lost, and only by sheer luck stumbled once more upon their makeshift campsite. After this he gave up the search and returned to pacing.

Dusk had given way to night. Owls hooted in the tree tops above. Wolves howled, red deer bugled. Lokizi bickered in the tree tops, and wisent stomped through the wood. The forest was more alive now than it had been all day.

Verdiløs was feeling irritable that he hadn’t been feed, but bedded down without a fuss anyways.

Bjorn’s teeth rattled. He rubbed his hands over his goose-bumpy arms hoping to warm them up.

“Go.” Koen jerked suddenly. “Go!”

Bjorn hurried over.

“Koen?”

His ailing brother twisted and turned, grimacing in pain.

Even though he was running a high temperature he was also shivering. The cold air was making his struggling body heat up more and more. If it continued it would come to a point where it would just shut down.

Bjorn quickly took the hat off his head and put it on Koen’s. Then he dragged him over to Verdiløs, who thought he was nice and cozy, and rested him against the warm mule. Although he tried to start a fire it was to no avail; the forest floor was damp and it was Koen’s mule who had the kindling.

“If only I hadn’t dumped my coat and scarf,” He kicked himself, wishing he could put something over his little brother. He settled down next to him.

Bjorn never knew how much he loved the sky until that night, when every time he looked up all he could see were the shadows of the branches. It’s funny, or not, how we only find out what something means to us when we don’t have it anymore.

An hour passed.

He sat, watching Koen slowly go from a block of rigid pain to a slumping sack of oblivion. From burning up to icy cold. No matter how hard he tried Bjorn couldn’t keep his little brothers’ temperature up.

At last the truth of the matter hit him; Koen was dying right next to him and he couldn’t do a thing about it.

He thought through the years. The thick and the thin. The trouble Koen got them into that he bailed them out of, and vice versa.

So many days playing and hunting in the woods. Working together. Providing for their parents as they grew old. Burying them. Good conversations. Hard ones. Girls that they fought over, girls they thought would have been good for one or the other. All the arguments that nearly tore them apart. Those seemed so ridiculous now.

“Why did I get you into all this?” He stared into the darkness, wiping his eyes as Koen sunk deeper into sleep. “You never liked trapping. Why couldn’t I just listen to you, just once? It’s not right. It shouldn’t be you, it should be me. It’s not right. It’s just not right.”

From deep within his childhood memory stirred a thought, the teachings of their parents about a just and kind God, one that would sacrifice himself for his children, mankind.

“Did I cross the line somehow?” He looked back up at the miserable trees, out of ideas and losing hope. “If mom and dad were right and You really are out there, please, help Koen. He doesn’t deserve this. And… if it means I have to give my life instead, so be it.”

 

What little warmth that remained in the air was suddenly drained. Bjorn looked over Versillo’s back. He could just make out a shadow moving between the trees.

Great.

Under any other circumstance the trapper would been thrilled at what seemed a second-second chance at his old nemesis, but hunting dangerous prey when you can’t move is more a death wish than a dream come true.

Shrinking behind the blissfully ignorant, soundly sleeping mule, Bjorn reached for his crossbow.

The creature moved.

Slowly…

Carefully…

Sometimes stopping for five minutes at a time, just sniffing.

And Bjorn waited.

Clearly the Black Beast was interested in the mule and two creatures next to it, but it was hard to tell if it knew one of them was watching. Every time it turned another circle around them or doubled back it moved a little closer and the air grew a little warmer.

He hadn’t been this close all day, and still he waited. The figure of the creature was solidifying. Great, jagged wings filled with battle tears, long, slender legs and tail, majestic head. The tendrils that looked so creepy lay gently along the back of the neck, not unlike a horse’s main. The ground hissed with every ginger step the blazing hot dragon took. It held it’s smoking tail, glowing like the charred end of a wooden stoke, up, and never so much as brushed against a tree with its furnace-like body.

The temperature had risen to fifty degrees.

Bjorn’s heart skipped as the dragon’s snout sniffed its’ way into the open, followed by a single burning, coal like foot. In minutes it stood in full glory; forelegs straight, head raised high as it looked down on them, nostrils flared, tail above the ground, waves of heat distorting the air, and not a tree to hinder the sight.

Verdiløs’ ears flicked and his nose twitched. One sleepy eye opened.

With a blood curling shriek the mule leapt to his feet and attempted to climb the tree he was tied to.

Bjorn had been leaning against Verdiløs for balance, so naturally when he found the mule missing from under him he fell on his face.

The black beast charged forward. Bjorn scrambled back out of instinct, got to his feet and leveled his bow...

Only to find the arrow had fallen out.

If we live I’m gonna kill. you, Verdiløs.

The creature stopped short. Verdiløs quit fighting the rope he was tied with and stared, ears up and legs shaking, licking his lips.

Sniffing once more, the black beast turned its’ eyes to Koen. He hadn’t stirred in the commotion and lay directly between Bjorn and the beast.

“Don’t you dare,” Bjorn hissed.

In one swift move it bounded between the brothers. Bjorn was forced to a stop; there was no way to get past the blazing heat of this dragon, he couldn’t even hit it without burning and destroying his own hands.

It stared at him, head high and back arched.

“Yeah that’s right!” He taunted. Dropping the crossbow he resorted to rocks, trying to keep the creatures’ attention off Koen. “Come at me! I’m right here! You remember that day, too, don’t you? Let’s have it out, just you and me. Come on!”

Verdiløs looked at his master like he had lost his mind and quietly began to chew through his rope.

A deep and terrifying growl resonated in the dragon’s throat. It stomped a foot and snorted.

“That’s right,” Bjorn bounced away. “Come on. We’ll give it a great go. Have an old-fashioned hand-to-claw, won’t that be fun?” He cringed at the thought.

The great head turned away.

Bjorn ran a circle around to the other side of the dragon, flinging dirt when he couldn’t find rock.

“Let him be,” He growled. “It’s our battle, let him be.”

It carefully inspected the unconscious trapper, not once touching him with its nose… until it found the wound.

Bjorn sank to his knees, watching from the sidelines. “Don’t do it.”

The black beast lifted the scarf, snorting as it turned to ash in its’ mouth and stepping a few paces back. It looked at the mule and licked its’ lips, then turned back to Bjorn. They studied each other for a period.

It turned and tapped its’ muzzle on the wound.

“You horrid beast!” He roared as his brother gasped in pain.

The motion was quick, purposeful. And when it was done it skittered away from Koen and back into the trees.

The trapper rushed over to his brother, creature eyeing him warily as he did.

He really did expect to find his little brother dead. But to his shock Koen was no worse for the wear from the encounter. In fact, the burn had not only cleansed but also sealed the wound, and the heat coming from the dragon, which was still emanating at a pleasant eighty degrees from this distance, was doing him well.

It was doing Bjorn good too. Feeling was returning to his numb hands and face. Never the less he retrieved the fallen arrow and his crossbow.

The black beast sent him a sideways glance, pretending not to notice. Brushing away twigs and leaves it let out a sigh and lay down.

 

Thunk

Verdiløs finished off his rope and it thudded against the trunk of the tree.

Ears back and head low the mule high-stepped his way over to the resting dragon. It watched him approach. It didn’t flinch. Didn’t try to take a snap at the stupid mule, it just sat there. Getting as close as he dared without burning his fur, Verdiløs and the dragon sniffed noses.

Never in all his dealings with animals had Bjorn witnessed a thing like this.

Satisfied, Verdiløs heaved a sigh and moved back towards the brothers. Fear forgotten he remembered his hunger and searched the two, hoping a lost carrot would turn up.

In the hallow it had bedded down in the dirt had turned to coal, and Bjorn could feel the heat of its’ body spreading even through the earth.

Does… does it know it’s helping us?? Bjorn couldn’t help but wonder. Is it actually trying to keep us warm?

The creature yawned and put its’ head between its’ paws, glancing over at Bjorn once more.

 

Night crept along. The hunter and hunted rested together in strange serenity. Every passing minute Bjorn was more convinced of the creature’s genuine benevolence.

Sometime in the wee hours of the morning he was startled awake; half because he didn’t realize he’d fallen asleep, and half from hearing something enormous breaking branches as it snaked its way towards them through the trees.

Verdiløs and the black beast both jerked their heads up; the mule pinned its’ ears and the dragon glared menacingly.

Whatever was hiding in the shadows moved from the dragon and mule and edged closer to Bjorn and Koen.

The living furnace didn’t move, but it did send out a warning hiss.

Silence.

Black beast snapped it’s jaws together, twice, and simple as that the unknown creature turned away.

Mule and dragon both settled back down, but Bjorn could only marvel. He was confused; this dragon, this black beast, was a mystery. It burned like a furnace but lived in the woods. It frightened creatures, monsters even, much bigger than itself but sniffed noses with mules. It fled the hunter but in his hour of need protected him. The more he learned the less he understood.

 

 

 

A deep, blue-grey settled on the forest. It was the closest thing it ever experienced to daybreak. Thick, blinding fog rolled up from the ground but where Bjorn and Koen were it was more like steam.

Even this dim light was an improvement though. At least he could see some of the roots and rocks he’d stumbled over during the night… and the perfect ring of missing moss where Verdiløs had been tethered.

The self-liberated mule was shamelessly ripping branches off the trees over the black beast, making so much noise it could no longer sleep.

The dragon stretched, shook its mane and moved away from the mule. Bjorn noted with surprise how it panted.

It looked at him inquisitively.

“Koen,” He attempted to rouse his brother.

Much to his relief Koen groaned.

“Mmm.”

“Do you think you can ride Verdiløs as I look for the way out?”

“I’ll try.”

As Bjorn chased the stubborn pack animal down the black beast slipped back into the forest.

 

“Whish I could have thanked him,” He muttered absent mindedly leading the mule back.

“Who?” Koen tried feebly to get to his feet.

Bjorn helped him up and onto the beast of burden. “A guardian angel.” He answered as he remembered his prayer.

The older brother looked around. It might have been a smidgen lighter but now the forest was covered in thick fog. He had no idea which way to start. He looked up at his younger brother, hoping to ask him if he remembered the way but could tell by his expression and posture it was all he could do to sit upright.

Verdiløs ears went up. Not in concern but recognition. Bjorn followed their listening direction with his eyes and the mists burned away against the silhouette of their friend, the black beast. It stared at them briefly, panting. Then it snorted, bobbed its’ head and turned away, dragging its’ tail on the ground.

“Look, Koen!” he said, “He’s leaving us a trail!”

Wherever the tail dragged it caught the ground, no matter how cold and wet, on fire.

Bjorn followed, leading Verdiløs’ behind him, trusting a dragon he would have shot without hesitation only twenty four hours before.

“How you hanging in there, buddy?”

Koen gave a strained smile. “I’m hanging.”

The fire in the trial went cold as they fell further behind the black dragon. But the burn marks were still there, so Bjorn followed that.

 

Oh, the joy when he realized the forest was growing lighter. The joy of hearing wind again, of light, streaming down like heaven.

The fog burned off.

The burn trail ended where the light began, with no other sign of the black beast. It appeared to have retreated back into the cold, dark wood it knew as home.

Light might have been foreign the dragon but it felt like life itself to Bjorn. And at long last, through the trees he saw a truly beautiful sight- a farmer’s field, all tilled down for the winter.

“We did it, Koen!” He said. “We’ve made it!”

“Grand,” he murmured, “grand. How’s a quick rest sounds? Justs a little shut eyes…”

“Soon. Try and stick it out for a few more minutes.”

Bjorn put two fingers in his mouth and whistled.

“Oi!” Ewald shouted and waved from the other side of the field, behind his team of horses. He set the break and hurried out to meet them.

“What happened to you two? I found your mule running all over my winter crop last night and when I couldn’t find you I thought the lokizi...”

He looked the sorry lot up and down, focusing on Koen.

Bjorn spoke urgently. “My brother’s badly hurt, Ewald. Do you have a place where he could rest?”

 

When the farmer discovered their plight, he not only gave up his own room to the wounded trapper but rode into town and returned with the doctor.

Bjorn feed Verdiløs and apologetically returned the money to Ewald’s wife. As the doctor worked on Koen Bjorn returned to the field and packed up all the jaw traps they had set the day before. Later he gave those over to the blacksmith to melt down for whatever he wished.

The doctor was hopeful for Koen’s case. Thanks to that cleansing burn there was no infection in the wound, so as long as it was kept clean it could heal.

 

Word soon spread across town about the brother’s mishap and everyone wanted to know why they were even in the forest in the first place.

Bjorn simply told them the truth.

“I went after the Black Beast.”

“Well? Did you get it?”

“Nope,” He would say, “He slipped out of my hands.”

“Ohhh, yes right. Of course,” unbelieving jeers met him. “That old ‘The one that got away story.”

“That’s right,” he said. “The one that got away.”

 

Within three weeks Koen was back to his old self. Ignoring what the doctor said about staying in bed, teasing his brother, eating heartily but somehow staying skinny as a pole bean. He never fully recovered, but the years he had were good.

When they had a chance to talk alone Bjorn told him what had really happened. How they had been hopelessly lost, how he prayed, and how the dragon had saved them right after. Koen was amazed. He wanted to meet the dragon in person… well, in conscious person.

Ewald’s children loved to hear the story of their great adventure. Almost every night that the brothers were there they asked for it.

Every time Bjorn would say ‘he’ about the dragon, however, the littlest girl would giggle.

“Silly,” She would say. “The dragon is a she.”

“Oh, really?” Bjorn would put on a grumpy face that made all the children laugh. “How would you know?”

“It’s too nice to be a boy!”

“Oh you’re so rude!”

The brothers eventually settled down in Pforzheim, they both married and slowly changed from being trappers to builders, restoring both the town and, consequently, their own reputations.

But once a year, Bjorn and Koen would go out to hunt and they would casually find themselves at the edge of the dark wood, hoping to see the dragon once more.

They never did, much to Koen’s disappointment. But to Bjorn it didn’t matter. He spent those days just enjoying the fact he still had a brother, and would look to the sky and thank the Lord above for that.

Sometimes though, after a long day of work he would sit outside and smoke his pipe, admiring the evening light. And every now and again if he stayed until dark he would hear a howl, not unlike a wolf but not like one either, coming from the black wood. The song would make him smile. Many entered the forest to claim the black beast, and they returned with all manner of bizarre creatures, but not that one. She always got away.

 

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Solveig the Fair
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See? Not all scary dragons are bad

All of these are great, and "The One That Got Away" is my favorite so far! This thread is a great idea; keep up the good writing!

__________________

Hello!

Welcome to my signature, guarded by CocoaFrost the Magic Floof! He smells like hot chocolate and loves to cuddle, but intruders should beware his icy paws!

Beautifully done by AndreaEaston!

 

I am Solveig the Fair! You can also call me by the names of my Vikings, if you prefer.

I’m new to the forums, so please give me some grace :)

Here’s some info about me!

In-game

Joined SoD: about a year ago

Main Viking: Veiyra (formerly SolveigDaughterOfTheSun and SolveighTheFair)

    Main dragons: Thunderstrike (male Shockjaw; starter dragon), Zephyr (female Windwalker), Moonstrike (female Sand Wraith)

    Clan: Harbingerz

Second Viking: Kyersti

    Main dragons: Gemstone (female Rumblehorn; starter dragon), Marsh Tiger (male Monstrous Nightmare), Nightsong (male Deathsong)

    Clan: Ultimate Night Riders

Third Viking: XElementalMasterX

    Main dragons: Lloyd Garmadon (male Sand Wraith [NF substitute]; starter dragon), Kai Smith (male Monstrous Nightmare)

Out-of-game

I am a Christian. I spend most of my time writing stories, drawing, listening to music, and singing. Some of my favorite artists/bands are Skillet, TobyMac, LEDGER, Hollyn, For KING & COUNTRY, and Carman, and I also listen to movie soundtracks. The franchises I am most familiar with (and write the most fanfictions for XD) are the Avengers, Ninjago (both the movie and the TV series), and HTTYD (both movies and books). I love to read, and I also watch a lot of Disney movies.

Art!

My sweet Windwalker, Zephyr, brought to life by Sohki!

Quicksilver, drawn wonderfully by Flitt!

Former arena fighter, Sweet Dreams, and playful, innocent Stargaze, my Night Lights by AndreaEaston!

Phoenyx the Immortal, drawn amazingly by TosiLohi!


Dreamsicle and Lillith, my beautiful Nightfurries, by LissaFish!

A lovely Secret Santa: Spring Edition gift from SilverAceWing!

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LissaFish
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Exactly! ^^

Thank you so much Solveig! Your words are encouraging! ^^

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Solveig the Fair
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Joined: 03/25/2020
^^

You're welcome, Lissa! ^^

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Solveig the Fair
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Joined: 03/25/2020
Oof

How about that, my first double post :/ It was my fault, though.

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The Dragoness
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Joined: 09/06/2017
GASP! A place for Lissa's writings???

YUS! "The One That Got Away" is probably my favorite--that or Pen and Ink.

Also tracking :)

__________________

*this user is no longer accepting PMs*

*disclaimer*

Author is prone to excessive fangirling and fits of giddiness. You have been warned.

Hello, everybody! I'm the Dragoness (but you can call me Ness). First and foremost, I am forever and always a

 

PROUD MEMBER OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS

(also known as Mormons, but we prefer the title above. Long, isn't it? ;)

 

I take commissions! 

You can email me directly or via Instagram (just click on the logo)

 

 

Another thing you should know about me:

I AM AN AVID NIGHT FURY LOVER. ANY FALSE OR PRETENDED SUBSITUTES FOR MY PRECIOUS DRAGON WILL BE DESTROYED ON SIGHT. #sorrynotsorry

Also, thanks to Dragonriders Fury for indulging my Night Fury obsession with an incredible banner! It's awesome!

 

Proud member of the Midnight Inklings

 

                          

 

I love to write! While I am also trying to complete a novel, I love to write fanfictions and other random ideas that pop into my head.

 

 

___Fanfictions by Yours Truly___

 

(Sporadically) Still Updating:

The Dragoness Backstory: Fanfiction

Distortion

 

Finished:

Second Chance

Ahtohallan's Daughter

 

 

 

 

My vikings belong to the clan The Wildborn. However, since I'm not planning on being particularly active in-game anymore, if anyone would like to assume command of my little clan, just contact me on any of the threads I comment on (NO pms, sorry) and I'll get you set up! :D

(I LOVE this banner. Thanks, EmeraldHuntress!)

(This one was made by The Bohemian Critic--thank you, it's so beautiful!)

(Again by EmeraldHuntress. What, I loved them both!)

 

 

 

 

FANDOMS

Ordered by preference, of course

(used to be top ten, but I have too many things that I love!)

 

HTTYD books/movies

(obviously, but I HAD to put that in there, it really is my favorite)

            

 

         The books were SO GOOD. No swearing, no (extreme) violence (does getting eaten by a lava dragon that dives into a volcano count? Or Grimbeard the Ghastly killing his own son?) Okay, scratch the violence, but it really is pretty awesome. The characters are SO well put together, each with his or her own little quirks that make them unique, and they’re all (mostly) lovable in their own way (Alvin and Exellinor are irredeemable). The little lessons Cressida Cowell teach by inserting them into the plot are truly inspired. Can’t wait for her to write more!!! (Also, I love the quirky way she capitalizes random words to make them a little bit more important. It’s just funny to me.)

I'll leave off mentioning all the characters of the movies, because you guys know them all aready! But you may not know the Heroes who came first...

First (of course), Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III.

Rather a longish name for a smallish Viking. Hiccup is a member of the Hairy Hooligan tribe. He has bright red hair and about a million freckles. the series starts when he's ten-and-a-half, and progresses until he is fifteen and King of the Wilderwest. His best (and, for a few books, ONLY friend) is Fishlegs.

Fishlegs is scrawny, allergic to reptiles, pretty much scared of everything, and the only sane one of the group (well, the only sane one when Hiccup is making a Plan). But he's fiercely loyal to Hiccup, and a good deal stronger and braver than he thinks. 

Next is Camicazi, who's a little too brave and fierce.

She's a Bog-Burglar, a member of an all-girls tribe of people who, well, burgle things. She is a very accomplished thief and a master escape artist.

 

Narnia

 

Second in the fandom world is--you guessed it--Narnia. I have loved this world since before even HTTYD, I think. Though I'm not quite ready to meet Alsan, I would love to slip through the wardrobe for a few days--or years.

 

 

The False Prince

OH MY GOSH THIS IS AMAZING!!!

Okay. 

So the story is set in a medieval world in the land of Carthya. It's about an orphan named Sage. The storyline is great, the main character (Sage) is very well-rounded, believeable, and goes through some great character growth (not to mention he's snarky and smart and super funny). I LOVED it, and it's seriously amazing. If you read it, you will NOT be disappointed! (P.S. If you're one of those people who likes to read the end first, don't. Trust me, it's worth it to wait)

 

Artemis Fowl

OH MAI GAWSH I LOVE THIS SERIES. Artemis' gradual arc and his heists and jokes (on the rare occasion he demonstrates a sense of humor) are just the best thing EBER. ALSO! Holly Shory is the best LEPrecon to ever wear a set of wings. (Also if you wanna see an incredibly imaginative and accurate crossover fanfic about the Avengers meeting Artemis Fowl, this is where it's AT!) But don't watch the movie, ooohhh no. Disney still needs to apologize for giving a perfectly written anti-hero morals. The audacity!

 

 

 

The Magic Thief/The Lost Books/Sarah Prineas in general

 

The Magic Thief: MY PRECIOUS LITTLE CHARACTERS I WILL PROTECT YOOOOUUUUU!!!

I LOVE this series, it ended far too quickly for me (maybe cause I read it all in one day, hmmmmm). Connwaer and the magic and all of it are just so HILARIOUS and EXHILIRATING and FRUSTRATING to read about and STOP BLOWING THINGS UP, CONNWAER!!! 

 

The Lost Books: MORE! MORE! I NEED MORE! (Seriously, when does the next book come out?)

Anyway, it’s about Alex, a librarian, and Kenneret, a queen, and her brother Charlie. Oh, and the books are alive (that’s enough to make any bookworm hyperventilate with happiness, isn’t it? ;D )

 

Dragonfell: YESYESYES THIS IS WHAT IT IS TO BE A DRAGON!!....ahem. 

Attention to all the dragon-touched: This is a must-read. Go. Read it.

 

 

 

The Silver Eye

This is an INCREDIBLE webcomic by one Laura Hollingsworth (also the only webcomic/comic I have ever read, BUT STILL). The world is beautiful, the characters are funny and awesome (Apen and Joe are my favorites), and the art is incredible! It uploads a page EVERY FRIDAY and the story is so good!

 

 

Keeper of the Lost Cities

"Team Foster-Keefe will always be cooler."--Keefe

....

Yup, couldn’t have said it better myself. Team Foster-Keefe all the way! I have read Legacy and it was...what I expected (-_-) BUT UNLOCKED (Keeper book #8.5) looks so exciting! Can't wait!! 8D

 

 

 

Maleficent

ALL HAIL THE MISTRESS OF ALL EVIL, MASTER OF MAGIC AND ALL FAERIES UNDER HER REALM!!

...and birds. And wicked-looking staffs. And cute little blondies called Beastie.

Wasn't a fan of her outfit for like 90% of Maleficent 2 but the rest of it was great! Better than a certain movie I could mention *cough*TheHiddenWorld*cough*.

 

 

Wizards of Once

*anxiously jittering about the Unknown Narrator*
*casually stressing about Xar's Witchblood stain*
*hopelessly shipping Xar and Wish when Bodkin is probably going to get the girl*

 

 

Dwight in Shining Armor

I get a kick out of this every time I hear Dwight's shriek in the intro. BYUTv is the best!...at making things funny, clean, and SUPER awkward. But it's still great.

 

Story Thieves

My favorites are actually Kiel and Owen. No girls this time around, which is really unusual for me. But these two are special. Hope they have all the adventures they can imagine...and maybe a few safer ones.

 

The Ever Afters (EAS)

This series is pretty good. Aurora--excuse me, RORY Landon is so gutsy and flawed and lovable and I love her.

 

 

Brave (Merida)

Just gotta say, I LOVE this girl. Best Disney princess ever. Also--this isn't really related to the movie but it IS technically part of the franchise so imma say it anyway--her accent is gold. I friggin LOVE Scotland and the accent and the culture and lore and landscape and language and--okay, gushing aside, the point of this mini-rant is that I loved Merida in Wreck-it-Ralph 2. It was also the only thing I loved in Wreck-it-Ralph 2.

 

 

Pete's Dragon

Best song ever

 

 

The Map to Everywhere

One word: Unrealities.

Three more words: Future Dragoness fanfiction.

 

 

If you reached the end of this fandom section, and you haven't read some of the books, you might have noticed some spoilers. I am an avid lover of spoilers and all insider knowledge, so....sorry for ruining it, I guess? But at the same time....NOT! XD please don't hurt me...

 

 

 

 

 

 

ART DONE FOR ME

Look! See how pretty!

Okay, just a heads up, I am still collecting art from previous requests, so if you did something for me and it isn't up yet, I promise I haven't forgotten; I love all the art that is done for me!

 

This was done by the incredibly talented Katarile!

 

 

 

This adorable picture was made for me by Hestia82

 

THIS is my perfect Night Fury, Shadow, drawn by LissaFish.

 

Shadow (again) by MajaPercuilum.

 

Shadow and The Dragoness together (by The Blobfish Queen).

The ever-mischievous Shadow (again, jeez XD) by AndreaEaston!

 

Shadow (last time I promise! *crossing fingers behind back) by DyliehIdol1214. 

 

 

 

(Adoptables)

 

This is my beautiful Bookwyrm, Aldwyn (drawn by Flitt-thank you!)

And THIS is ocean-happy Ashera, also drawn by Flitt.

 

Russet, my mischievous Kyte. Thanks, LissaFish!

 

 

 

Luster, my proud secrai, drawn by LissaFish!

 

 

Okeydokey, I'm 

 

 

 

ALLLLLLL DONE!

 

 

Byee....

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LissaFish
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Joined: 02/12/2017
Aww!

Thank you! That kind of surprises me a few people have said "The one that got away" is their favorite of the stories and for some reason I just didn't expect that. I'm happy about it though! ^^

 

Welcome and hope you enjoy! Gonna get my pengui- I mean, Chipperguin and Wardenrain story up here sometime xD

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LissaFish
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Joined: 02/12/2017
Operation: Rainmaker

*Rainwalker species created by Chameishida*

*Art by Chameishida*

 

 

Operation: Rainmaker

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

Run.

 

She ran faster than ever before in her life.

 

Thunder crackled in the sky, perhaps if it wasn’t day there might have been a flash to accompany it, but that’s not what frightened her now.

“Oooof!”

The creature tumbled down a ravine ledge through mud and sand. She slipped and clawed to get back to her feet.

Barely up, the ground trembled as two powerful, scaly legs landed in the creek bed, splattering mud over the her back. With a cry of terror the hunted thing took off down the ravine.

 

It turned and twisted; boulders became more common creating roadblocks in the path to survival.

“What a dull chase.” A smooth but menacing voice yawned all too close behind. “Almost humiliating actually.”

“Leave me alone!” She squealed, miserably out of breath.

Waves of salty air attacked her nose, and coming around the next bend her heart skipped a beat. The sandstone shore! It was full of strange rock formations; arcs and pillars, smooth, hollowed boulders of indescribable shapes. If she could make it there, she might escape. Hope filled her tired legs with new energy and she bounded towards the haven.

A sickening laugh rose up, followed by a snarl and a powerful beat of wings to the air.

Her heart pounded so hard her head felt light. Scanning the rocks, she aimed for a big one with a low, cave-like arch.

Whoosh! Whoosh! The wings overhead said as hot breath sent a chill down her spine. She could almost feel the ready talons.

Diving on her belly the creature slid beneath the sandstones!

That smooth voice grunted as talons sparked against rock.

Eyes wide and adjusting to the dark the little thing lay gasping for breath. She listened to what was happening above.

Wind moved dry storm clouds out of the sun’s path. A shadow swung circles overhead before beating to a stop. Loose pebbles cascaded down the rock.

It would have been better if she stayed under that arch but fear drove out all reason. She crawled from rock to rock, keeping to the shadows.

“Wee lamb,” the voice cooed again, sand grating under talons as he tracked her movements. “You cannot hide from me.”

“Go away,” She cried again.

“Well, if you insist. Oh wait, prey tell why should I?”

He chortled at his own pun.

“My father will find you and- and- and destroy you!”

“Mmm no I don’t think so. Your father is dead.” After a pause the voice feigned a gasp. “Dear me that was insensitive. I am sorry.  You know if it makes you feel any better, you’ll be joining him soon.”

Tears welled up in her icy blue eyes. “Go away, go away,” she whispered more as a wish than hope.

A scaly grey snout appeared over the ledge of her current rock. She couldn’t see the dragon’s eye’s but wide nostrils where soaking up her scent and four-inch fangs dripped with saliva.

“Ahaha, there you are.”

She crammed herself into the deepest corner.

First two wings, then two legs, and lastly a long finless tail dropped down.

“This little game of cat and mouse has been good fun.” cold eyes on a snake-like head looked in at her. “But all fun and games must come to an end. And NOW…”

The dragon took a swipe with one wing claw. Then another, but his quarry kept just out of reach.

“Grrrrrr,” He rolled his eyes and began digging.

“Just… gimme a second. My last taunt will bring the house down but I’ve got to have you in my clutches first.”

Soft sand fell away from that very small, very hopeless thing. She planned only to close her eyes when the gap became wide enough for the dragon to reach in.

But just as that time came, a pair of black and white feet waddled up to the digging dragon.

“Hello up there!”

Digging dragon nearly leapt out of his skin. “What? Who said that?”

He scanned the horizon.

“Hmm-Hmmm,”

Something at his feet waved.

It was stout, black and white, had four paws, a stubby tail, and flippers for wings. There was a frill on the back of its head and its snout was very beak-like with a red tip.

Smooth voice took a step back. “...What are you?”

“What am I? I think you mean who. Coast guard, Captain of the reserves. And this ain’t a public beach, sonny. Do you have a permit to be disturbing the sand of this hallowed ground?”

“Hallowed??”

“Yes. As of yesterday, for the sake of an extremely rare breed of… baby clams. Can you show me a permit?”

“Uh.. well…”

“Do you have one or don’t you man? It’s a simple question.”

“I’m not entirely sure,” The bigger dragon admitted sheepishly. “What is a permit?”

Black and white slapped his face with a paw. “Ok. Clearly I’m dealing with a civilian.” He pulled out a stick and piece of birch-bark. “Name, please.”

“Perun?”

“Perun… with question mark. Species of lizard?”

“Skrill.” He said a little more coldly. “And it’s dragon, not lizard.”

“Uh, huh sure... So Perun can you tell me what you’re doing out here on Chame’s Island, restricted beachfront property?”

“Oh you know, vanquishing the skies by eliminating the competition.”

“Good, very good. I enjoy a bit of vanquishing myself, from time to time.” The little dragon ripped a piece of the bark off and stuck it to the skrill’s wing-claw. “Listen, what you’ve done today gives me the right to take you into custody but I’m gonna let you off the hook with a warning. Stay clear of this coast, or the consequences of trespassing will be severe.”

“How severe?”

“The very baddest sort of severe. If you’ll just be on your way we can forget this whole thing ever happened, I have no paperwork, and you have no felonies.”

“Certainly Captain, I’ll just get this thing that I dropped down here and be off…” He groped about under the rock.

“Dit dit dit!” The captain stomped a tiny foot. “NO, you cannot be tampering with the sand! Remember? Rare, baby clams. You’ve done enough damage already.”

“But it’s a matter of territorial rivalry.”

“Sorry civilian, not my problem.”

Perun eyed the black and white dragon suspiciously. “You never showed me a badge.”

“What you can’t tell by the uniform?” He huffed. “On your way before I change my mind.”

Two wing claws came down on either side of the black and white dragon who grit his beak.

“I’m not so sure you are coastguard. In fact, I’m not so sure there is a coastguard. Never heard of such a ridiculous thing in my life. What I am certain of is you picked the wrong dragon to prank, little guy.”

Without so much as a glance Perun sent a strand of electricity pulsing from his body to his wing, disintegrating the piece of bark instantly.

“You want to dance with me?” The little dragon took a battle stance, one foot forward one back, paws and wings up.

Perun snorted. “You’re dead meat, Captain.”

A grin spread across the “coastguard’s” face. “No, I’m the diversion. Now boys!”

He whistled and two other black and white dragons somersaulted into action, both carrying a bucket of water, while a third skid a trench through the sand, running into Perun’s leg.

The skrill turned from them back to the ‘officer’, fury in his eyes and lightning seeping through his scales. He spread his wings and opened his jaws.

“Go go go!”

One leapt into the other’s paws and catapulted off, dumping the bucket over the skrill. The second was quick to follow while the clumsy one retreated to a safer distance.

“Fools,” Perun hissed, electricity at full strength. The four took five steps back. “You think a little water can stop me? Nothing will save you from my wrath now!”

“But you haven’t met our fifth member,” the first little dragon returned smugly. “He’s a sleeper agent. Roll out!”

The dragons harmonized backflips into the air. At that very instant a sleeper wave snaked through the clumsy one’s sand canal to the unsuspecting, electric skrill.

“AAGHGHGH!” He hollered as he shocked himself senseless!

For a moment after Perun just stood there in the same stiff position… then fell flat on his face.

The first dragon waddled right up to the unconscious Skrill.

“Rest easy, big fella,” He patted him on the snout. “You’ll be up terrorizing innocent creatures in no time…” A wild look came to his eyes as he smacked a label on Perun’s forehead. “Far away from here! Haha! Up high men! I pronounce Operation: Shockwave  a success.”

The four dragons clapped wings with each other.

“Huzzah!”

“Yayayayaya!”

“We did it! We saved the little otter… but where did it go Captain?”

“Well Ensign she’s right…”

The Captain looked back at the boulder.

Nothing.

“Hugh.”

They split up among sandstone formations.

“Little otter? Where are you? You can come out now.” Each one called.

“That mean old skrill’s not going to hurt you, you’re safe!” Ensign was saying as a movement under one of the rocks caught his attention. It was accompanied by frightened breathing.

“Hey,” He bent down on all fours.

He was even shorter than the captain, and more pudgy too. A few grey scales still clung to a sleek black hide. “It’s alright, I’m not going to hurt you,”

Two beautiful ice blue eyes stared up at him through the dark.

“None of us will. We’re here to help, and we’re really nice!”

Slap!

“Ow!”

“Ensign! You know how I feel about my men crawling around on all fours.”

Ensign rubbed the back of his head and looked to the fearful eyes. “Most of us anyway,” He whispered.

“What was that soldier?”

“Aye aye, Captain.” He balanced on two hind legs. “The otter seams a bit frightened, sir.”

“Really? Can’t imagine why.” He baffled.

“I don’t think that’s an otter Ensign.” The tallest dragon leaned down.

“But Quinnley, it’s grey and sweet and has big beautiful eyes.”

“True. Then again since when did otters grow wings?”

“Oh. I guess never.” Ensign got on all fours again to look.

Slap!

“Ow!”

“Hmm-hmm! Hello down there,” the tall one (who was careful to keep his forepaws off the ground) cleared his throat. “If you don’t mind my asking, what are you?”

“Stayawayfromme,” She squeaked.

“Good golly! A Steyawehferroamis. The S is Silent, of course.” He whipped out a stick and began scribbling in the sand. “Pronunciation, Stee-yaaa-way-fare-roam-ee.”

“No that’s not-” She started to say.

“You needn’t be afraid little steyawehferroamis, our skill sets are used exclusively for the protection and defense of small creatures. Like you!” Ensign smiled. “I hope you’ll come out and meet us properly.”

“YEHYEHYEHYEH! C’mon! Out out out …”

The one who had dug the trench dropped to his belly and reached for the little grey dragon. His eyes were wild.

“Get back GET BACK!” She hissed and swatted at grabby paws.

“Usto knock it off!” Quinnley snapped.

“You’re scaring her!” Ensign stepped in between.

“Way to bring the welcome wagon soldier,” The captain leaned back with a scowl and paws crossed. “Insanity. What an ice-breaker.”

Usto, clearly not all there in the head, muttered an apology.

Between crashing waves they heard a groan. It came from the unconscious skrill’s direction.

“Time to break up the party boys that big lug won’t tie himself to a drifting raft all on his own. Let’s move.” The captain ordered. He glanced under the rock at the big eyes.

“Well nice meeting you sad-eyes. Have a great life.”

He waddled away and the other three dragons followed suit.

“Captain I don’t think we should leave that little creature all alone. Perhaps Styawehferroami are fragile.” The tallest dragon said.

“She’ll be fine…” The captian waved the question off.

There was another, grumblier growl in the skrill’s direction.

“Well,” He said a bit more hesitantly. “…As long as we get Mr. tall dark and stormy out of the picture.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

Reign

 

 

Bit by bit Golden waves fell further from the shore. They left mussels, clams and even a few rare and delectable abalone in their wake.

After sending Perun away on the maiden voyage of a questionably sea-worthy raft, four greedy little black and white dragons not only ate but collected as many shellfish as they could; throwing what they couldn’t fit in their stomachs into a big pile.

Unbeknownst to them a timid grey creature watched from the safety of the sandstone.

They don’t seem so bad, She thought as they rushed back and forth between waves, sometimes tripping on their own feet and face-planting in the sand, or missing a sleeper and getting flipped head over tail in the surge.

A whiff of shellfish caught in her nose and it made her stomach growl ferociously. She eyed the growing pile.

Maybe I should just ask them. They have more than they can eat anyway. They might not mind sharing…

She looked beyond the food to the setting sun.

Another long night was on the approach, and that was something to tremble over.

It wasn’t the cold but the sounds that got to her. Creepy sounds like hoots and howls, wails and snarls. The worst ones were none-descript; strange loud thuds, pounding feet, scraping that sounded like claws on rock. Sometimes they seemed very near. Once she was startled awake by wingbeats that whipped sand around her, but when she looked up there was nothing in the sky. And there was no one to turn to and ask what it was, no one to tell her it was all right, no one to hug, to keep her safe and warm.

The black and white dragons were throwing shells at each other now, not a care in the world. They’re not afraid, She thought jealously. I bet they have some nice safe place to live that’s warm and full of food… with other…whatever, they-are. I wish I… had… a place like...

The young dragon shook herself back to reality. What am I thinking?!? They knocked out and tied up a full grown skrill! Who knows what they might do to me, especially if there are more.

Her stomach gargled again and little by little she edged out of the rocks. It’s only for the food, she told herself over and again, just the food.

 

 

“It’s getting late, Captain,” Quinnley noted a half-sunken sun. “Should we cut our loses and collect the spoils?”

“Shoo! Shoo!” Ensign was bouncing around their pile of shellfish chasing gulls away.

Rrrrrrr…! JustA few… more… minutes…” He gasped. “GRRRRRRR! I-almost-have him!”

The captain had been working at an abalone shell the past half hour. He’d gotten his claws under the sides and was pulling with all his might, only to lose grip and careen backwards into the ocean.

“HUUUGHH. You win today Barney, but I will be back!” The dragon sat waist-deep in the swell, pointing an accusatory claw at the abalone. He pounded his fist. “Next time. Alright let’s go. Come on Usto.”

“A-right,” Usto put the last finishing touches on an enormous sand castle. He slapped his paws together, looking it over in satisfaction… before smashing it flat with a piece of driftwood.

“Now Usto!”

“I’m comin!”

 

“Boys you’ve done some fine work today.” The captain encouraged as they filled their paws. “An enemy vanquished, a critter safe, and ‘rare clams’ as spoils of war.”

“It was an exceptionally successful enterprise, wasn’t it?”

“Mmm-hmm!” Usto filled his stomach as well as his paws.

Holding all they could carry the four turned away from the pile and headed for the ocean. Ensign glanced back.

“Wait Captain,” He stopped. “Look,”

At the edge of the sandstone rocks the small creature crept cautiously forward. The wind carried a sad squeak to their ears.

They held their positions, waves waning behind them as the she approached.

About thrice the size of Ensign, her grey scales gleamed like silver in the evening light. From her long neck to her long tail a stripe of black snaked across both sides of her body. Those big, ice blue eyes looked up from a lowered head, black puppy dog ears flapping in the wind.

“Please,” She muttered, close enough now that they could hear her. “Please don’t go.”

“The Styawehferroamis,” Quinnley said in awe. “She’s come around.”

“I’m not a styerwerfermus,” She sputtered.

“That’s what you said earlier,” Ensign was confused.

“No I said stay away from me,” She admitted. “But, but I don’t want you to anymore. Please, won’t you stay just until the morning?”

“Can’t,” The captain said curtly. “We have a home and a curfew.”

“Then would you take me with you?”

“No. Go back to your parents where you belong.”

She unconsciously pulled her tail in with her forepaws, eyes darting nervously to and fro. “I haven’t got any.”

“Listen sister, everyone has parents.”

“Mine died.”

The captain’s eyes grew wide. “Oh.”

“I’m so sorry,” Ensign said with compassion.

Quinnley’s mind was elsewhere. “So wait. If you’re not a Styawehferroamis then what are you?”

For the first time she straightened. “I hail from a proud race of Wardenrains known as The Keepers of the Storm.”

Quinnley put his paws on his hips. “How do you keep a storm?”

“We can make it rain or not rain.”

“Manipulation of the natural meteorological patterns?” The tall dragon’s eyes grew wide and he clapped his paws. “That’s practically elemental. We’re talking relative theory here!”

“A rainmaker, eh?” The captain mused. “Interesting.”

“Ooo! And I bet you can fly with those wings too!” Ensign pipped up.

Quinnley facepalmed in frustration.

“Pppft!” The commanding officer waddled over to the dragon in question. She shrank back. “Of course she can! Look at this wingspan.”

“I can’t fly.”

“What??” He jumped back.

“My parents never had a chance to teach me.” She looked at each of them. “You dragons can though, right?”

“Actually we’re-“

The captain slapped a wing over Quinnley’s beak. “Totally capable of flying. Yep, that’s us. Chipperguins of the skies.”

He laughed sheepishly until a suspicious look streaked across his face. “What’s it to you?”

“It’s nothing,” She answered quietly, unable to speak her mind.

Her stomach growled.

Ensign walked over and offered her a clam. She stared at it blankly.

“How does it open?”

“Oh it’s easy,” Ensign smiled. “Here I’ll show you.”

The captain looked over the sea as the world turned the dull grey of dusk.

“Captain, a word if you will.” Quinnley took him aside. They moved a short distance away.

“Sir I am concerned about leaving the Wardenrain behind. She’s malnourished and completely unprotected.”

“Well what other options are there?”

“Oh… I don’t know… we could… take her with us?”

“Take her with us?!?” He dropped the clams he held, “That’s a negatory, soldier. No unauthorized dragons are to enter the trap, standard procedure and you know it.”

“Then what was the point of her rescue today?” The taller dragon retorted. “If she’s only going to end up as someone else’s meal why did we even bother?”

“But we can’t,” The captain looked genuinely torn. “We have orders… a colony to protect… and feed… besides the fact we know nothing about this dragon.” His eyes narrowed. “For all we know this could be an elaborate ruse to infiltrate the trap.”

His intelligence officer glared. “Really?”

“It’s going to be hard enough just getting these shellfish back.”

“I can take some,” the Wardenrain spoke up.

The short distance was a little too short.

“I might even be able to get all the rest of them,” She eagerly scooped up as many as she could. “And I promise I’ll not eat a single one. And I’ll be good, and- and- helpful- and- and so quiet you won’t even know I’m there,”

Those big puppy dog eyes became glassy. “Just please don’t leave me alone.”

“Oh Captain,” Ensign pleaded. “It’s only neighborly.”

“Grrrrr fine,” the captain scowled at his men. “You’ve twisted my wing.”

He turned back to the Wardenrain. “One night. In the morning we’ll sort out a proper place for you to live.”

“Thank you,” She said. The tears came. She turned and covered her face with a wing, embarrassed.

The captain’s expression changed. “This sand, am I right? Always gets me in the eyes.”

She nodded.

“You got a name Wardenrain?”

She sniffled. “Reign.”

“Rain?”

“Reign.”

“Rain.”

She looked confused. “Yes, Reign.”

“Are you sure?”

“Very.”

“As in little drops of water that fall from the sky.” He made paw gestures.

“Ye- no, no as in ruler of my people.” She returned a little offended. “That’s what my parents said.”

The captains said nothing.

Reign sniffled once more.

“Ok sure, let’s go with that. The real question is can you swim?”

“Swim?” She swallowed, glancing over his shoulder at the sea. “Yes.”

“Good. Hold on to those mollusks and take a deep breath, we’ve got a long way to go.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

Into the Chipper-web

 

It was a long way to go. To long for a little Wardenrain who was tired and afraid and hadn’t eaten in days. By the time they reached the trap, Usto and Quinnley were under her wings pushing while the captain kept her head up. Ensign swam back and forth, taking shellfish one way and returning with buckets of air to put over her snout.

They were all gasping for breath when they reached the entrance.

“Good work men!” The captain squeaked, slapping wings with Usto weakly. “We made it.”

“Cutting it a bit close, weren’t you Velklædd?” An old Chipperguin said.

“Oh you know me Ahab” The captain hopped to his feet. “Living dangerously.”

Ahab looked suspiciously at Reign.

“What’s that?”

“A friend.”

“You brought a friend for supper??”

“No, she’s alive! Sheesh.” He checked to be sure the silver dragon was breathing. “Yes. Alive. And you needn’t worry about letting her in I take full responsibility.”

The Wardenrain’s eyes fluttered open. “Where… where am I?”

“Twenty-Seven Leagues under the Sea.” Quinnley chortled.

“Our home,” Ensign beamed. The black part of his coat was glowing mostly white with just a tint of blue.

Quinnley shook the water off his back and glowed gold, Usto when he shook was bluer than Ensign and so was the captain.

“Are you going to turn your coat on?” Ensign asked.

“I don’t think mine does that.”

“Sure it does. All dragons glow under the right conditions,” Quinnley reassured.

She tried shaking but nothing happened.

“Mmm. Perhaps your species only glows in the old country.”

The fivesome walked through a dark and spacious, dome-like chamber.

“Against my better judgement we welcome you to our inner sanctum, young Rain.” Said the captain. “This is Chipperguin Central; thoroughfare of a vast array of underwater tunnels and chambers designed to protect us from the fiercest of predators and the most patient of enemies. If we’re safe here, you’re safe here.”

The walls were lined with dozens of tunnel entrances. Glowing Chipperguins, who were the only source of light in the dark, filed in and out of them constantly. Most were on all fours or sliding on their bellies, the only ones that stood on two legs were the ones carrying dirt and rock. It was a very busy place and Reign crammed in close, resting her chin on Ensign’s head as her eyes took in the sight.

“What’s that sound?” She asked nervously, looking down a tunnel where a red light flared up and died repeatedly.

“We’re building a new nursery.” Quinnley explained.

“No not that, the other sound. It’s musicalish.”

Multiple notes bounced off the walls resulting in a constant hum. It was quite beautiful actually, but with a touch of eeriness.

“Oh that’s just Chipperguins singing,” Ensing explained. “For the most part we talk by putting our beaks together and blowing.” He put his paws on his cheeks and crossed his eyes. With great effort, he blew/spat until one sad little note escaped his beak. “Like that!”

The others glared, making Ensign blush.

“Ok maybe not like that but you get the picture.”

“Usto take the spoils up to reserves. Quinnley report todays’ events to the General, and our ground surveillance recon for the sector 8 air shaft to Himmellys, Engineering. Ensign stay with Rain. You can show her around the civilian departments, nothing more. Understood?”

“Aye aye Captain.”

“I’m going to see the ‘Queen’” -he made quotations in the air- “About a dragon consultation tomorrow, topside. And to get Rain a visitor’s badge.”

“Won’t we need the badge now?”

“Not if you stay on the outside of secured facilities, Ensign,” He said both sarcastically and suspiciously. “I’m keeping my eye on you, soldier.”

The Captain slid away on his belly and Reign heaved a sigh of relief.

Ensign turned to her in his friendly, albeit naïve sort of way. “Everything all right?”

“The Captain. He’s very loud and stern.” Reign watched as he disappeared down a tunnel. “I’m glad he’s gone.”

“He’s really not all bad,” the little Chipperguin chirruped. “Just has a bit of a paranoid tic.”

“Ouch. You know Monstrous Nightmare gel does wonders to get rid of them,” She tried to be helpful.

“That’s not- nevermind.” He got down on all fours, ran around and then stretched. “That does feel good,” he sighed.

A very loud, shrill whistle echoed through the caverns and made Reign jump.

“Ooo, swing shift. That means the mess hall is open, let’s go.”

 

The mess hall was aptly named. A lively place full of flying food, water and Chipperguins of every shape and size.

Babies scurried underfoot with nannies glowing the same pale blue as Ensign trying to herd them. Big ones glowing plain white had jagged beaks and sat together, very somber looks on their faces while others, with a gold hue, slightly smaller and about the size of Quinnley, told tall fishing tales to lots of loud and cheerful ones yet smaller and covered in dirt. They also had a gold glow but it was much lighter.

Last of all were the smallest, blue glowing dragons very much like Usto and the Captain. They mixed with the boisterous workers, some just as dusty as them.

Reign was all but standing on Ensign as they weaved through the living sea.

“Hi Bob!”

“Hi Ensign!”

“Hi Tina!”

“Howdy Ensign!”

“Hey Phil!”

“Whatup?” Phil dabbed.

“Mrs Merryweather you look lovely today,”

“Oh, you sweet young fellow,” Wrinkly Mrs. Merryweather patted his cheek. “And who’s your friend?”

“This is Reign. We rescued her from a skrill today and now she’s our guest.”

“What a fine young dragon you look to be, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“The pleasure’s all mine,” Reign curtsied.

“And such good manners too!”

A ruckus rose above the din. Mrs. Merryweather sighed. “I’d love to stay and chat dear but duty calls. Enjoy your visit.”

“That Mrs. Merryweather,” Ensign sighed happily, “She’s like a grandmother to me; and she makes the best fish pie this side of the archipelago.”

The old Chipperguin slipped between brawlers and began slapping one with her paws and the other with her wings.

“Scurvy lot!” She barked among other words. “Break it up or I’ll break you. I won’t stand for such a motley crew!”

“Also she’s the head of engineering.”

Reign had never seen so many creatures in one place and she wasn’t sure she liked it.

A very chubby Chipperguin waddled into the hoard carrying all manner of seafood. Another dragon followed him, taking fish off the platter and throwing them to open paws.

Reigns’ new acquaintance jumped up on the table. “One cod please!” He shouted.

A great big Atlantic Cod hit him square in the face. It took both of them to pull it off his beak.

“There you go,” He smiled up at her.

“But aren’t you having any?” She asked, mouth watering.

He looked down at his round belly. “There’s no room left after all those shellfish.”

She didn’t have to be told twice. Though her parents had taught her good manners this place didn’t seem to care much about such things, and after three days without food etiquette was the last thing on her mind.

“Hello, Quinnley!” Ensign waved his friend down as Reign tore into that fish.

“Ensign.” The other returned unamused. “Reign.”

“Hello,” Reign said between mouthfuls.

“Did the filing go well?”

“It would have if the chain of command actually believed anything I said.”

“Oh dear. I hope Usto had a better time of it then. He should be done by now… wonder where he is?”

“Ah-ha.” Usto hopped up at the stone table they were all sitting around. “They like me.” He grinned smugly. Quinnley glared.

“Well if it isn’t our personal circus,” Four of the stern, white glowing dragons sauntered up.

“Fighters,” Ensign and Quinnley cringed. Usto growled, raising his crest.

“Stand down, Usto.” One ordered. He obeyed but with a snarl on his face.

“Ha, soldiers. It works every time on them.”

They eyed Reign suspiciously.

She shrank down so far only her head was visible over the rock she was using as a table.

“What on earth did you bring in here?”

“This is Reign,” Ensign said in a small voice. “She’s visiting for the night.”

One came up close and sniffed her. He snorted. “Well, the night can’t be helped since curfew’s in place. But we’re not keen on none-Chipperguin visitors.”

Quinnley stood on the rock at his fullest height, looking down his nose. “Really? Are you afraid of a little baby dragon?”

The big Chipperguin’s crest rose aggressively. “You should talk. You afraid to even k.ill a fish.”

“I’m not afraid, I’m a pacifist. Most of the time. In addition I personally feel it’s stinking, messy business and believe my sub-cranium could serve a better purpose in one or more other enterprises our extensive community provides for career.”

They stared at him blankly.

“Where’s Velklædd?”

“Meeting with the Queen about meeting with other dragons tomorrow.” The smallest of the three answered.

“Ensign,” Quinnley hissed. “Opstay Alkingtay.”

“Calling a meeting? Why?” the ringleader of the bunch chortled. “Is he demanding that all dragons stand on two paws?”

“No,” Ensign growled- ever so softly.

“Are you sure?”

He faltered. “No.”

All four laughed.

“Oh maybe he wants to ban all Kytes from flying,” another hooted.

“Turn the colony into a ‘democracy’!”

“Or put the trap into lockdown until he finds the individuals responsible for plotting an elaborate coup.”

They laughed harder.

 “Spies! Everywhere!”

“THEY are watching us. ALWAYS WATCHING…”

“The truth is out there!”

“Alright we’ve heard enough.” Quinnley snapped, paws on his hips. Ensign was at his side and Usto too. “You can’t go on like that about our commanding officer. It’s uncouth.”

“…Untooth?” They looked at each other, confused.

“Quinnley you of all chipperguins should know he’s gone a bit soft in the head.” The ringleader tapped Quinnley’s noggin.

“What I think is irrelevant.” He batted away at the bigger dragon’s paw. “Captain Velklædd is our leader and we will follow him off the ends of the earth.”

“Then… all I can say is I’m sorry for you loss.”

With this they turned, snickers on their lips- right into the captain himself.

“Velklædd,” that biggest one said, eyes darting this way and that. “…how much of that did you hear.”

“Oh plenty,” the little Chipperguin had a mischievous gleam in his eye. He backflipped into the air, over the embarrassed dragons and onto the rock with his men. The fighters cringed.

“Usto! Big stick!”

Usto pulled a bludgeon out from behind the rock.

“Stand down,” One of them orderedthe Captain nervously.

He laughed. “You know that little trick doesn’t work on me.”

“Take it easy Velklædd,” they backed away.

“Boys I can forgive ugly words- true, or untrue. But I can’t ignore you harassing my men like this. It’s undisciplined, slanderous, and dare I add spineless.” He swung the bludgeon over his shoulder and paced the length of the table. “What should be done about it? Quinnley, options?”

“You could pound them until they resemble yen-yang pancakes, sir.” The intelligence officer grinned from ear to ear.

Usto bounced up and down in agreement.

“You said you were a pacifist!” The ringleader Chipperguin spat.

“I also said most of the time.” Quinnley corrected.

“Now men, violence only begets violence. Never forget that,” Captain Velklædd observed. “I believe the best course of action is- a warning.”

He pointed at the four white-glowing dragons. “Consider this your lucky day, boys, because if I ever catch you messing with my men again the coroner’s going to hear about it. Ca-peesh?”

The captain waved his bludgeon around.

“Alright, alright ca-peesh.”

 

As soon as the four big Chipperguins were out of hearing each soldier got a wing slap.

“You namby pambies I was only gone for fifteen minutes. When are you going to stand up for yourselves?”

“We were trying to, Captain,” Quinnley growled, rubbing the back of his head. “And in fact, standing up for you.”

“Of course you were. If I’m insulted we’re all insulted. That’s how it works.”

He watched the four bigger dragons leave the mess hall and turn left.

“Up next for patrol, eh?” the Captain rubbed his little paws together. “Good to know.”

“That warning to the fighters was uncharacteristically kind of you sir.”

“Not really Quinnley. Revenge is a dish best served cold and unexpected. Now where’s Rain?”

“Down here,” Ensign pointed under the stone table.

“Oh. Look sister,” he said in a half teasing half gentle sort of way. “You’re shaking like a leaf. The affairs of Chipperguins shouldn’t trouble a brave dragon like yourself.” He puffed his chest out, raised his crest and wings proudly and put his paws behind his back. “Show me a brave face.”

“I don’t have one.”

“Well, get one. In the mean time here’s your badge.” He slapped a live starfish in her shoulder. “You can now go anywhere in the trap except maximum security… including our own HQ. Wanna see it?”

“No.”

“Too bad that’s where your sleeping tonight. Move out.”

 

“Where you successful in getting the Queen to call a summons?” Ensign asked Captain Velklædd as they all waddled back to HQ.

“What? Oh yeah, totally. We’re meeting tomorrow nine hundred sharp.” He spoke in a bit of a sing song voice.

“Ohhhhhohohoh,” Quinnley grinned. “It must have been difficult, getting her Majesty to make room in her busy schedule on such short notice.”

“Not that hard.” The captain retorted. “I have my ways.”

“That’s right, he’s a real charmer.” Ensign giggled.

“Did you bat your eyes?”

“Say pretty please?”

“Zip it. Both of you and that’s an order.”

Usto ran ahead and smashed down a door made from half of an unsuccessful liferaft.

“Tada!”

“Welcome to our HQ. Consider yourself privileged among Chipperguins and sky dragons alike; for few have ever entered this highly secured facility and lived to tell the tale.”

His three soldiers looked sadly to the ground. “Poor Hans.”

The captain took a rectangularish rock from inside, whipped out a starfish of his own and waved the rock over it.

“Beep!” He squeaked. He gestured the others.

Ensign, Usto, Quinnley and Reign gave him their starfish to scan before entering. Once everyone was in they picked up the door and put it back in its place.

Reign stared.

So many strange things. Some gleamed, some looked pointy, others boxy. There were shiny clear things that had water in them, and long wooden things that had hard, sharp metal ends.

“This is Quinnley’s corner. Most these things he swiped from passing ships.”

Three of the four Chipperguins wandered around the small room until they found a comfortable place to sleep. Once settled, they stretched like cats and stopped glowing. Only Ensign was left standing.

“Here,” he said, handing their guest a furry blanket. “I took this off a traders’ boat. It’s very warm and nice to sleep on.”

“Thank you Ensign,” Reign said. “You’re very kind.”

“You’re welcome. Sleep well, I’ll see you on the ‘morrow.”

He stretched and curled up a short distance away.

The room filled with Chipperguin snores. Reign made three circles on the furry blanket and rolled up in a tight ball. She sighed. Trapped in an underwater cave with a colony of crazy Chipperguins, of which the craziest were the four sleeping in this same room. Was it really better than being alone up top?

A shudder ran down her spine. Crazy or not they at least they weren’t ghosts in the night. Eventually she fell asleep.

 

 

 

 

Water lapped gently at the sleeping skrill. It splashed up on his nose and made him sneeze.

“Ohhh my head.”

Perun rubbed his eyes and blinked. He woke to a splendid dawn, tied to a drifting raft in a still sea. On one side he had two pales of fresh water, on the other a pile of shellfish.

“What? Where…???”

Using his teeth, he cut himself loose and turned in every direction. Not a speck of land to be seen.

A piece of birch bark, stuck to his forehead fluttered in the breeze and he pulled it off with a wing-claw.

“To Russia with love,” The skrill read aloud. It all came back to him, the cocky little black and white lizard and his little friends, who dared to defy the great Perun.

As he stared out across that empty, glassy ocean, one thought burned in his mind.

 

 

“…Who is Russia?”

 

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to tell what time it is when you’re underground, but Chipperguins are nothing if not punctual. A shrill whistle announced the morning shift.

All four well dressed dragons hopped to their feet.

“Boys you got half an hour to fill your stomachs. Then it’s off to the counsel and then our beat.”

“Aye-aye captain!”

The three saluted and bolted for the door.

“Hey! What I say about all fours?” Velklædd barked.

“Sorry Captain!” A distant, not so sorry chorus rang out.

He shrugged to Reign. “Eh, soldiers. What are ya gonna do?”

Sucking his pudge in he looked very stern. “As for you prim and pretty’s the word, asap. Got to put your best paw forward today, and that’s none of them right now. Look at you- dusty, dirty, you still have a piece of kelp stuck to your tailfin. And you kinda smell fishy. It’s no good.”

Reign was embarrassed. “I do my best to keep clean.”

“Well it’s not enough. Soldier I order you to go get a bath.”

“In water?!? No way! There’s no telling what lurks below the surface.” For the first time she gave him a defiant look. “Besides I’m not a soldier.”

“Oh I noticed,” Velklædd gave it right back. “But you’re under my protection down here and therefore my authority. Go wash, I won’t say it again.”

It was a comical sight but in the end the Captain was able to drag reluctant Reign to some water. Both came out cleaner than when they had gone in. Shortly after they were joined by Quinnley, Ensign and Usto.

“So how are we going to get her back out of the Trap?” Ensign wondered, remembering how hard it was to get in it.

“Himmellys may have the steam elevator running again. If it isn’t we’ll just have to take the stairs.”

The men slouched at the thought. “Could maybe… some of us take the main entrance?” Ensign asked hopefully.

“Where’s your sense of moral support? If one goes we all go. Especially if that one is me.”

 

They didn’t have to make such a fuss. Himmellys had the elevator, consisting of one carefully carved rock sitting on top of an old and faithful geyser up and running as usual. High above sunlight streamed down the perfectly smooth, tube-like air-shaft.

“It’s state of the art, Captain,” Himmellys was saying irritably. “I know you like to push the limits but please, leave the elevator alone for her maiden voyage.”

“Alright alright! Bossy beak,” He hopped on. “I won’t break your precious rock.”

Reign didn’t like how the ground hissed beneath her feet as they got on.

“Is this safe?”

“No.” All four dragons said.

“Launch!” A Chipperguin running the elevator shouted.

On the dot the geyser spouted. Out went Reign’s claws. She wanted to roar but couldn’t catch her breath.

 

Flying out of the trap all five were temporarily blinded by the glaring sun. The Chipperguins knew the turf well, backflipping off of the stone and landing on their feet. Reign held on.

Splat!!!

She smashed into the sand.

“Oh dear,” Ensign hurried to her side. “Are you alright?”

She spat sand out of her mouth. “Peachy.”

“Oh and you smashed the rock with your face,” Velklædd griped but thought better of it when the little Wardenrain sent him a dire look. “Oh I guess it’s not really your fault anyways. They just don’t make rocks like they used to.” He waddled back to the geyser hole.

“State of the art my tale, Himmellys! It broke!”

A bunch of angry squeaking rang up from below.

 

They arrived at the summit as it began in Ishida Bay.

Dozens of colorful dragons dotted the beach. Terrible terrors glided lazily on the ocean’s breeze. Grey stubby nosed dragons played in the sand while a family of small, red-backed flat-tailed onlookers wined at them. A Monstrous Nightmare sunned on a very shiny golden rock and in the shallows a couple of lime green dragons with little red dots tussled over a halibut. Deeper in a pod of migrating doublefins decided to stop by, and beyond that, unbeknownst to them an old Scauldron lurked, not as much interested in the meeting as he was the dragons that came to it.

In the sawgrass young nadders and gronckles played tag.

“Ensign, Scauldron two O’clock. Warn the double-fins and keep an eye on him.”

“Aye-aye sir.” The littlest Chipperguin slid away on his belly.

A flock of tiny wedge-shaped dragons buzzed circles around the remaining four. Usto pounced and caught one in his paws.

“Peace summit, Usto,” Quinnley said in a hushed tone. “No one is allowed to eat anyone at the counsel.”

“Oo’ says?” Usto challenged.

“I do.” The Captain backed his intelligence officer. Usto grumbled, releasing it.

“Well if it ain’t my favorite Republicans.”

A Chipperguin scurried up the dune to join them. She was neither old nor young, and very short. Shorter even than Ensign, and adorably plump. What Reign would remember most about her was her smile. So full of joy- but it was not like a child’s that has never seen hardship. More like an old soul who’s learned how to overcome it.

“You’ll see, one of these days your Majesty.” The captain smiled in his overly confident way. “Democracy is the future. Madam President has a nice ring to it, Don’t you think?”

“Sure thing, sugar.” She laughed. “If I ever sort out what a republican democracy is in the first place.”

Velklædd shook his head, but his eyes glassed over dreamily.

Quinnley elbowed Reign, grinning and raising his eyebrows. Reign smiled a little.

“Is this the little dragon you were talking about?” The newcomer focused on Reign, paws on her hips. “The Wardenrain?”

“One and only,” Quinnley answered for the captain who was still in a dreamy fog.

“Girl what’s your name?”

“Reign,” She said with a curtsy. “Pleased to meet you, your majesty.”

The Queen Chipperguin about melted.

“Velklædd you scallywag y’all didn’t tell me she was such an angel! Look at those floppy ears and that shy smile. Baby girl you could get anything your little heart desired with that smile. Oh I could just eat you up.”

Two more Chipperguins ran to the Queen’s side. “Your Majesty, the General is about to announce you.”

“Fine. Reign honey I’ll see you in a few.” She hustled back into the center of all the commotion.

Now, it’s not in a Wardenrain’s nature to warm up to a stranger on first meeting, but those few seconds left Reign feeling like she’d known the Chipperguin Queen her whole life.

The captain waved his nose in the air. “Quinnley, Usto! Did you smell that?”

They followed his lead. “I smell a good many things, most odious. But to which do you refer?”

“The one that smells like cold hard danger,” He said with narrow eyes, scanning the crowd below.

“Nope.” Usto shrugged. “Nada.”

“Same Captain.”

“Hmm. You could be right, it was there and gone in a second. But keep an eye out, all the same.”

One long low whistle, flowing into a shorter higher note and then back to low and long, turned a few eyes.

Atop an old stump stood a very serious looking Chipperguin. He had the same jagged beak and height of the fighters from the night before, but he was much older and covered with scars.

“Attention! Her majesty the Queen will speak.”

Reign watched with rising curiosity.

She hopped up on the stump, a stark contrasted to her announcer in every way except color scheme.

“Thanks General,” She said. “Now if I could get your attention, y’all…”

The Queen stared out at dragons playing, arguing, sleeping, doing just about everything but listening.

“Your attention please,”

The Monstrous Nightmare yawned and rolled over.

A firm look streaked across her face.

“HHHEEEELLLLLOOO!!!”

She screeched at the top of her lungs.

“What? What is it? Who?” The Monstrous Nightmare jumped to sleepy feet. Everyone else fell into dead silence.

“Sky farers, land dwellers, and our kin of the sea, we set aside our differences (and appetites) to unite today as a common kind. Dragon kind. I’m not one for fancy words so I’ll just get to the point. Y’all here to give counsel, on behalf of an orphaned sky dragon left to fend for herself in this harsh world. Come on up here, honey,”

Her majesty gestured Reign with a paw.

The silver dragon hesitated, glancing to Quinnley, Usto and the Captain before joining the queen on the tree stump.

“This is Reign. And through an interesting turn of events she has sought refuge with us in the trap. Now I given it some serious thought and though I would love to extend permanent invitation to this little angel the underground ain’t no place for her. She ought to be among the skyfolk, or at least surface dwellers. If anyone has any insight as to who or what would best suit her needs-”

“So this is an adoption?” One of the Wedgewings looked around, confused.

“Adoption or auction. That’s a little weird for dragons to be selling dragons, though,” Flare pondered.

“Especially when we don’t got no money to buy other dragons with,” An ice-crusher chewing on halibut bones pointed out. “…What would we even buy another dragon for?”

The Queen scowled. “Ok y’all don’t listen. I said counsel. I called y’all here for counsel as to who, or what, would make the best home for our good friend Reign. We ain’t selling nobody.”

“Oh ok! That makes more sense.”

“Happy to clear it up. Now start councelin’.”

“She could live among the Eavesdroppers, of SaLis Isle.” A terror said, licking her eye with her tongue. “They’re nice enough. Maybe not the brightest, but nice.”

“Have you seen this girl?” The Queen waved. “She already twice the size of an Eavesdropper and she’s still growin. Swingin from trees is not gonna be her thing.”

“Oh wait! Maybe she’s a digger. Do you like digging?” One of the stubby nosed grey dragons ran in excited circles. “Like really really like digging? Diggin and swimming? And playing? So much that you felt you would hideif you couldn’t do all those things at once?”

“No, I can’t say I’ve felt the urge to play that much.” Reign admitted. “And certainly not to dig.”

“Oh.” He stopped running. “Well you probably wouldn’t like to live with us then.”

“That counts us out too,” said the flat-tailed, red-backed dragons she had seen earlier. “You can’t be a muddycry without getting your paws dirty. What about you Flare? You’re a sky dragon. Why don’t you take her in?”

“Because I’m irresponsible.” He said without a hint of guilt or knowledge as to what that meant. “Ask Azule.”

“Don’t you think I have enough on my plate?” Azule the black and blue nadder grimaced as her children chewed on her wings, feet and tail.

“We could take her,” A double-fin spoke. “There’s always room in the pod for another.”

Her majesty nodded. “That’s a thought. How do you feel about the ocean, Reign?”

She looked at the Queen with those big ice blue eyes. “It’s terrifying.”

“Ok. Hey thanks but sounds like Wardenrains aren’t keen on the ocean.”

Wardenrain??” A chorus of voices shouted- including the old Scauldron’s.

“Scauldron!” The doublefins cried out, swimming away. “The Chipperguin was right!”

The two Ice Crushers ran up the beach away from the water. Once in the sawgrass they stood like prairie dogs on their hind legs, scanning the sea.

“I tried to warn you!” Ensign yelled atop a rock. The long neck of the tidal dragon rose high out of the water but his head stayed level with the Chipperguin.

“Heheh,” Ensign gulped. “Peace summit.”

He rolled his eyes and returned his attention to the meeting. “That’s quite the young dragon you have there, your Majesty,” it spoke in a mocking tone. “And quite the problem.”

“Indeed.”

Flare jumped in surprise as the shiny golden rock he was sitting on moved.

“Smaug and Viserion it’s alive!” He gasped before igniting with a snarl.

“Calm yourself, Flare.” Two friendly eyes not unlike a buffalord’s smiled out at him. “Don’t you think if I had intended to hurt you, I would have already?”

“Midas!” Velklædd set his beak and jumped between the enormous gold-clad creature and the Queen, paws and wings ready for combat, crest standing on end.

Usto and Quinnley were at his side in an instant.

“I thought I smelled your cold hard hide you sick, greedy monster! What are you doing here?”

“It’s a summons. There’s no law against coming to a summons,” He said in surprise. “Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?”

“Stand down Captain,” the Queen ordered. “He won’t try anything with this many witnesses.”

The witnesses looked on with rather baffled expressions.

“Words can hurt, you know. After all I was just going to warn you of the danger you’re in.”

“The only danger I see is the one in front of my face,” Velklædd snapped. “…Oh. And- and to be fair the Scauldron about to eat Ensign. That’s dangerous too.”

“Oh there’s a much greater danger than lazy old me,” Midas nodded earnestly, Ensign yelling in the background. “You’re in danger because of her.”

He pointed with one giant claw to the tree stump.

“The Queen? Pfft. I can handle her.”

“Excuse me?” Her majesty head bobbed.

“Not the Queen. The Wardenrain.”

“Why would she be any trouble?” Quinnley asked, genuinely confused. “She’s posed no threat whatsoever to any of us. I’d go as far as to say there’s not an aggressive bone in her body.”

“She’s not aggressive, but her powers will have the attention of every storm dragon in a hundred mile’s radius. You see, once little Reign is grown she will be the strongest of them all.”

The captain glanced dubiously back at the frightened silver dragon. “That Rain? Are you sure we’re talking about the same dragon?”

“Absolutely. The Wardenrain is a rare and exceptional species. In my many years I’ve been privileged to know only a few of their proud race.”

“You’ve met other Wardenrains?” Reign stepped forward with awe. Midas looked to her with gentle eyes. “Did you know my parents?”

“I did indeed, little one.”

“Honey don’t listen to him,” The Queen put a wing in front of her. “You don’t want no part of this dragon’s schemes.”

“But you don’t understand, Chipperguins. Reign’s life and the lives of any creatures she lives with will be in constant, mortal peril. Skrills, skywyrms, and nightfuries all alike will come at her from every angle in this weak and vulnerable time. She needs someone big, and strong, that is at least intimidating to behold, but if push came to shove could keep such terrors at bay.”

“Oh like you for instance?” Velklædd smiled.

“Well… now that you mention-”

The captain threw a rock at Midas. He blinked as it clanked off the hide between his eyes like a pebble, and between that blink the tenacious Chipperguin jumped onto his face.

“Wrong! We wouldn’t let you have her if you were the only dragon left on earth.” The captain spat, then in a lower tone, one that Reign could not hear, he continued. “What do you want with her anyways? Use her to lure the humans away from that gold vein they’ve been keeping you off?”

Those friendly eyes turned icy cold. One giant forepaw plucked the Chipperguin off his face and dropped him in the sand. It could just as easily have crushed him like a grape.

“Does the captain speak for you, your Majesty?” He gave his attention to the Queen.

She put a paw to her chin and tilted her head. “Mmmmm….. yeah. Yeah he does. I thought for a moment ehh, maybe not so intense but he’s right you’re an eel in dragon’s clothing.”

He turned to Reign. “And how about you? After all, in the end the decision is yours to make.”

“I…” she looked around nervously. “I’m not… not sure…”

Every Chipperguin shook their head, even Ensign as he performed a serpentine to escape the Scauldron.

“I would take good care of you, keep you safe, tell you all about the amazing things your proud species is capable of, and of course, everything I know about your parents.”

A little warning bell rang inside her head, saying it was too good to be true.

“Thank you, Mr. Midas for your kind offer but I must decline.”

He was both surprised and a little irritated. “I’m sorry you feel that way. Really I am, but I see my wisdom and kindness have fallen on deaf ears. When you can hear reason, you’ll know where to find me, your Majesty.” Midas nodded to the Queen.

The great beast rose from his resting place, sand and rock tumbling off him to the ground, and with a mighty blast of wind took to the sky.

He left in his wake many bewildered faces and a dead silence.

“What will we do now?” One of the Roverlots finally spoke, worry in his tone.

“You,” Velklædd pointed a claw at the Scauldron who was almost on the beach. He stared down with wide eyes.

“Mmmm?”

“You seem to know a thing or two about Rain’s race. What can you tell us?”

The tidal dragon studied the sky in deep thought. He sloshed something around in the pouch of his mouth.

“Spit that out,” The captain groaned. “Playing with your food like what are you, five?”

The Scauldron spewed and out flew a slimey, shivering Ensign. “He didn’t taste very good anyways.” The old dragon grumbled.

 “The things I’ve seen!” Ensing gasped, twitching in the sand. “I think Mandfredi and Johnson are down there.”

Usto and Quinnley cringed. “Eww.”

Poseidon, for that was the Scauldron’s name, snickered. “See there’s a couple of good, tasty Chipperguins for you. But that’s neither here or there. What I find interesting in all of this is the failure to mention how you came across your young friend. Tell them Captain, how did you meet charming little Reign?”

“Simple. Perun was trying to eat her and we intervened- with a chop, kick and a heee-yah!”

As he enacted the scene the crowd gasped in horror.

“Then Midas was right about everything; skrills really do go after her kind. We can only assume the rest do too!” Azule rawked, gathering her little ones under her wings.

“Midas is a conniving manipulator. At best some of the stuff he says is true but most of it isn’t.”

“You Chipperguins are the only ones that think that,” A gronckle grunted. “No one’s ever seen that gentle soul harm a fly.”

“He can and he will if you stand between him and his gold.” The Queen said gravely. “Now can we get back on topic? Nothing that’s been said changes the fact that Reign needs a home above the ground. Is there anyone out there that might take her in? Anyone at all?”

“I’m sorry but this is just too dangerous,” Azule eyed the sky nervously as she herded her children away. “I must keep my own children safe. Skrills hold grudges, you know. Best of luck to you all.”

One by one each dragon gave an excuse.

“So. Not one of you can find it in your heart to take this little angel under your wing?” Her Majesty was angry now.

“Who are you kidding, Chipperguin? None of us can stand up to a skrill, much less a skrill like Perun.”

“Uh hello? We conquered Perun. He’s currently on a raft drifting towards Russia.”

No one believed that.

“Seriously. He is.” Velklædd looked around.

“You know, there’s one option not explored.” Poseidon said casually. “Humans.”

Another gasp resonated from the throng.

“Bold,” Quinnley mulled it over. “Not quite insane, but mad enough to be genius. Storm dragons are terrified of humans- even Perun was known to give a wide berth to their type.”

“But they are monsters! My mother, a big jaw trap… she stepped in it…”

The Queen looked down at Reign gently. “Now baby girl. We all lost kin to that kind, but just as we ain’t all good or evil, neither are they. There’s a downright jolly pack of them living three islands south that many good dragons have willingly joined. It might be just the place for you, if you’d only give it a chance.”

“But she can’t go to the human tribe,” One of the Ice Crushers pointed out. “You said yourself she’s no swimmer, and look at those wings. She’s never used them in her life.”

“Well, she’ll need lessons then.”

The Ice Crusher bit her lip and stepped back.

There was a good deal of averted gazing and shuffling feet. Perun had instilled in them too much fear.

“Oh come on. Y’all got wings, don’t you? Somebody gotta teach this girl how to fly. ”

“Oh let’s think; what was the criteria? Teach how to fly… live above ground… knows something about Wardenrains… and can fend off an angry skrill.” A salty terror said. “None of us can do that. But you know who can?”

“I know! I know!” Another of the stubby nosed diggers ran in circles.

“Yes Rover? Who do you think?” A Wedgewing (sitting next to the terror) bounced up and down, exciting the little tidal dragon all the more. “Who do you think? Come on I know you got it in you!”

“Midas! Midas can fly and he is big and strong and nice and does all those things!” Rover wagged his tail.

“Bingo.” The terror and the Wedgewing knuckled.

“No can do. That psycho would have to walk over my cold dead body to get his giant mitts on Rain.” Velklædd crossed his paws. “And those of my men of course. That’s implied.”

“…Wut?” Usto said.

“Earth to dodo,” A muddycry called out. “Midas is your only option.”

The captain stared out at many fearful, confused or defiant faces, a snarl on his beak.

“Fine. If it means keeping her out of Midas’ clutches I’ll do it.”

“Say what now?” The Queen raised an eyebrow.

The Captain squared his shoulders and stood tall as he could.

“Your majesty, with your permission I will remain topside and protect Rain from any potential threats until she either learns to fly and moves in with the humans or grows big enough to defend herself.”

His men stared wide-eyed, and a hushed murmur rose from the crowd.

YOU are going to teach her how to fly.”

“Sure. Everyone seems to think the hard part of this gig is fighting off a skrill. Well I have that checked off my list, how bad could a few flight lessons be?” He returned smugly.

“But you-”

“-are a capable and imposing teacher? Yes I know.”

“No, you can’t-“

“Say no to an orphaned dragon who has no place left to turn? You got that right.”

“That’s not-“

“-What any of YOU were willing to do? True.”

There was a bit of growling and snarling at this comment. Flare wagged his tail and lowered his head aggressively.

“Calm down. No need to get your scales all out of place over words. Captain Velklædd,”

Her Majesty studied him a moment, shaking her head. She straightened and addressed the crowd. “Captain Velklædd’s made his offer. Are there any others besides Midas’?”

Silence.

She turned to Reign. “It’s your decision girl.”

Reign took a deep breath. “I choose the Captain.” She said, loud and clear.

 

With that the meeting adjourned. The Ice Crushers wished Reign the best of luck and the Roverlots all gave her a big group hug, saying they wished they didn’t live in the ocean, or they would have taken her. They also shook paws with the Captain and saluted him.

“Fortune be with you Reign,” Poseidon snaked his head towards the Wardenrain. He grinned an ugly grin from ear to ear. “And Captain, you slippery eel, I look forward to meeting with you topside.”

“Haha, so do I Scauldron,” The captain bounced around in the sand, boxing the air. “So do I.”

“Safe fishing!” He laughed before splashing back into the sea.

Her Majesty came up.

“Velklædd you bull-headed wily old seadog.”

That dreamy look returned to his face. “All the kinds of words I like to hear. Keep talking.”

“A lone Chipperguin staying topside. Unheard of. I sure hope you know what you’re doing.” She put her paws on her hips.

“Don’t I always?”

“I’m not going to answer that. Look it’s not just your life at risk here today, but Reign’s too. So. What’s your plan of action?”

The dreamy look disappeared. “Plan. Right. It mostly involves… action. Lots of it.”

“Like what?”

“Covert operations, espionage, and flight simulators. I’m sure Quinnley could whip one up in a jiff.”

“She she needs flying. REAL flying.”

“That is a challenge. But one I can and will easily overcome. With a very well thought out plan.”

She face palmed. “I can’t believe the choices came down to you and Midas. This is insane.”

“Why?” Reign said in her small way. Nothing was giving her an overly-confident feeling about her choice.

“Because we Chipperguins are great at building impenetrable fortresses, but not so good at being alone and out in the open, angel.” Her voice softened.

“So you can’t protect me?” She said in alarm.

“Of course I can. I’ll pledge my life to it, right now.”

“Yes protecting is Velklædd’s thing, he’s very good and passionate about it but we’re not talking about terrors or nadders,” The Queen looked at him fiercely. “Reign’s enemies are skrill and skyworm! And what are yours again? Scauldrons, Kytes, gluespits, black sands, deathsongs, scuttle claws, gronckles, nadders...”

“Tut tut tut you flatter me, Matriarch. …But why doesn’t anyone believe that we took down Perun?” The Captain was getting a little annoyed.

“Well… we have had some fanciful conquests in the past sir. Such as the nightfury that turned out to be a Black Sand.” Quinnley pointed out.

“We did wrestle down a Night Fury. He had green eyes and smooth scales not sharp and pointy. He just gave us the slip by swapping out with the Black Sand in the night. Who had YELLOW eyes I might add.” Memories flooded back and the captain set his beak and hit his palm with his fist. “The one that got away.”

“Rrrriiiiggghhht,” The intelligence officer rolled his eyes.

“Can’t we just go back to the trap then?” Reign brought the conversation back around. “If we’re not safe out here I’d just as soon go back. The Captain could teach me how to fly from down there.”

“You can’t Reign,” Her majesty said sadly. “You were lucky to survive your first trip down.”

Reign had no idea how close a brush with death that really was.

“Besides there’s no room for your aerial exercises down there, even in Chipperguin central.” Said the captain his paws behind his back and his chest out again. He began to strut and the three soldiers instinctively came at attention.

“No underground namby pamby, overrated safe house will ever do for a fierce sky dragon like yourself. You sister, are going to need that,” Velklædd swept his paws towards the cloudy sky. His little wings stretched out as far as they could. “Look at it. A canvas of blue and white, wind for the sails, and all of it ripe for the taking. Stretch ‘em!”

Quick as a flash he slipped under her left wing and pulled. She raised it and her other cooperatively.

“Close your eyes.” He stepped back. “Do you feel that under your wings? Up-drafts scattered by sea and rock and cliff, downs swirling senselessly and filled with sand. But up there the shear wind is your bread and butter. When I’m through training you you’ll be the knife to that butter, it’s master and commander, a lean, mean flying machine!”

She did feel something. Sand. Pelting her hide.

The Queen looked to him suspiciously. “Sounds like the beginnings of a half-baked plan.”

“Not half-baked, all baked. Burning, in the oven. I pronounce Operation: Jomfru Tur a go.”

Quinnley and Usto nodded. “Captain,” Ensign cleared his throat. “With Her Majesty’s permission, we offer our services to you and Reign.”

“Are you sure?” He looked the young soldier up and down. “Staying topside will be dangerous. You boys probably won’t make it out with your lives, and there are plenty of other good captains that could use such fine soldiers.”

“All due respect sir, we have no wish to serve under another captain.” Quinnley said proudly.

“Ditto.” Usto added. They saluted.

The captain wiped his eyes.

“Sir… are you… are crying?”

“NO!” Velklædd turned away, sniffling. “Captains don’t cry. I’m just, perspiring through my eyes.” He turned and saluted them back. “I’m so proud of you muttonheads.”

“Captain, a word if you will.” The Queen moved away.

“Oh sure thing.”

 

As they talked, very loudly a fair distance away, Reign looked down at the three soldiers.

“Well it’s just you and us again, Reign! Are you exited to learn how to fly?”

“If I learn how to fly,” She gulped. “Everyone seems to think I won’t make it.”

“Of course you’ll make it. You can’t go into a great adventure with that attitude. Don’t think of the scary things that could happen, think about the good things.”

“Statistically the scary things outweigh the good by 87 percent Ensign.” Quinnley said in his helpful way.

Ensign glared.

“But- but that still leaves a whole, whopping 13 percent chance of success!”

Reign groaned and plopped down in the dirt.

The captain slid back, that dreamy look on his face once more.

“What did she say?” Ensign asked.

“Oh. That she would k ill me if I or any of you died on this mission.” He waved the threat off. “Atten-tion!”

All three jumped into line.

“You too, Rain. In the past I have treated you as a civilian, but no more. I now pronounce you an honorary chipperguin soldier, so start acting like one!” He barked.

Begrudgingly she joined the soldiers.

“Men- and Wardenrain- operation Jomfru tur is about conquering the sky, the elements and our own neighbors when the need arises. We must be cold as ice, sharp as flint, strong as rumblehorns, and fierce as the storm. And how do we do that?” He said with a smirk.

“Discipline!” Ensign, Usto and Quinnley replied.

“That’s right! I would like to introduce you to phase one; a hard-core full-body workout. Spread those wings!”

They spread their wings. Reign accidentally knocked Ensign over as she did. The captain went through, inspecting and adjusting where he felt adjustments were needed.

“Now keep em spread, and give me twenty laps around the island. Let’s go!”

They started to jog.

“Keep em up boys, no slouching. Do I see some flapping action there, Usto? Way to up the ante soldier.”

Reign’s wings caught in an updraft and she rose off the ground a few feet. She flapped frantically. “Help! I can’t control it!”

“Feel it Rain! Where is it going? Where do you want to go?” Velklædd turned.

Changing direction, the wind shifted and poor Reign plummeted into the sand.

The rest of the day was spent running around the island. They never did make it to twenty laps but that was impossible and Velklædd’s fault, as he was the first to get winded. Low tide came and they scoured the beach for shellfish until dusk. The Captain looked for his abalone but it had wisely moved on.

Afterwards the fivesome found a secluded cave, settled in for the night and fell into a dead to sleep.

 

The next two weeks were the most physically exhausting Reign had ever experienced. Who knew the little black and white dragons, which she was fast outgrowing, had so much stamina? Every morning they rose at the crack of dawn, the captain and one of the soldiers would make a parameter check signaling if the coast was clear. Then everyone ran three laps around the island with wings either up or flapping. Next the Chipperguins would fish- and since the little Wardenrain couldn’t swim she was always the lookout. Then, after breakfast they were back to training until the tide went out just before dusk.

Poseidon was always somewhere nearby. Once he kept them at bay all day and they were forced to hunt in the shallows. What they brought back made Reign gag; a still wriggling, writhing octopus. But she was too hungry to stick her nose in the air.

Captain Velklædd was nothing if not creative. Each day he came up with something new for the little silver dragon to do. Day two it was weightlifting with her wings, one Chipperguin on each wing, and swimming in the shallows, doggy-paddle style. The next he had her spin her tail like a top for a full hour and made her swim again but only with her wings. On day four, she had to weightlift with two Chipperguins on each wing while raising her tail up and down with each beat. Day five he took her to the tallest outcropping, and had her hold onto the rock with her claws while the wind whipped her open wings every which-way.

On day six, a particularly wild and gusty day, Reign was making a lap around the island with the others when she got caught in a gust, rising twenty feet off the ground and gliding back twice that far. The captain stopped and watched as she kept her head and tilted her wings. It was rocky at best but she managed to regain the ground lost by the time she touched down.

She hurried up to him, beaming.

“Not bad, soldier.” He said, looking pleased. “Not bad at all. In fact I think we can take the rest of the day off.”

“Really?” She said excitedly.

He grinned. “Boys what do you think?”

There was no answer.

“Boys?”

They were halfway down the beach.

 

Encouraged by her success Reign rose bright and early the next day.

“Captain,” she whispered, nudging the sleeping dragon.

“Captain…”

“Hmmm.”

“Shouldn’t we get back to training?”

“Nope. It’s Saturday.”

“What’s Saturday?”

Quinnley, on the other side of the cave, opened one lazy eye. “The day we Chipperguins do absolutely nothing at all. We don’t even fish.”

“Nothing?” She looked shocked. “But that’s so boring.”

“Whippersnapper.” Usto snored. He was still asleep.

“You can play if you want, but no work.” Ensign yawned. “I might join you later.”

The little Wardenrain had to make up her own schedule that day, as the Chipperguins never even left the cave.

 

 

“Gentlemen… and Wardenrain, we have graduated to Phase two: climb that hill.”

He pointed to the gentle incline into the center of the island.

“Seems easy enough,” Quinnley said, paws crossed. “What’s the catch?”

“You’ll see.”

After all that running in the sand the walk up the hill was a breeze. They came to the other side of the island where the hill came to an abrupt end; a sheer cliff looming over the sandy beach. The wind was tame on this side, blowing at a steady ten miles an hour.

“What next captain?” Asked Ensign.

“Next we find a tree. With low branches and really close to the cliff.”

They found just the tree. A gnarly old thing that stood perhaps ten yards from the ledge with an enormous trunk. Strong branches hung low enough for Reign to reach them, if she stood on her hind legs.

They gathered beneath it.

“Everybody pile up on Rain’s back. It’s time to fly.”

“Fly??” She repeated in alarm. “Off the cliff?? But it’s so high. And there’s not enough wind. I haven’t trained enough. I- I don’t think I’m ready.”

She started to back away.

“The wind is a tool for flying, sister, but you’re the one that has to get up in the air. Personally I’m more the jump off the cliff and figure it out on the way down kinda dragon, but I think we’d better try a different tactic with you.”

They all clambered up onto her back.

“Why- why do we have to be under a tree?”

“Because. All the best fliers started under a tree. Sir Isaac and his apple tree, Amer Ican and his Liberty Tree, Wadsworth and his Charter Oak, Robin and his Major Oak, General Sherman’s Sequoia, and Bodi’s Fig. All great fliers, all great trees.”

“Couldn’t we do laps instead? Or maybe I should practice swimming more.” She stared down at the water. “I think we should do this tomorrow.”

“Rain, look me in the eye.”

She turned and met his gaze. He put his paws on the sides of her head and his face against hers.

“Do you trust me?” He said, eyes wide.

“Y-yes,” She glanced to the left.

“No-no-no, eyes on me. Do you trust me?”

“Yes.”

“Enough to wear this?”

He whipped a long piece of burlap out of nowhere.

Those ice blue eyes bulged. “Over my eyes? I won’t be able to see anything!”

“That’s the point of being blindfolded.”

She fell silent.

“Look. We have to teach you how to fly, and this is the only way I know how. So are you with me or aren’t you?”

Reign looked out over the cliff. The height made her feel dizzy.

“I’ll be with you the whole way. I won’t let you go and I won’t let anything bad happen to you.”

The little Wardenrain studied Velklædd’s face. He meant every word.

She snorted not at all unlike a horse that decides to trust its master over instinct.

“Ok.”

He nodded. “Good.”

On went the blindfold. It felt itchy and rubbed her floppy ears the wrong way.

The captain turned to his men. “All right boys, no more holding back. Rain’s ready but she just needs that extra push. We’re going to get her off the ground.”

“Ummm, how, Captain?” Quinnley sounded very confused.

“By flying, of course.” The captain retorted with a clenched beak. “Get with the program, Quinnley. Wings out!”

Reign felt the four dragons on her back shift their weight.

“You too Reign.”

She unfurled her wings, trembling.

“Chipperguins only, lock into your position.”

The little Wardenrain cringed as eight tiny claws dug into her scales. They weren’t sharp but it still hurt.

“Chipperguins only, commence flapping!”

The air above her spun as eight little wings beat. At first their weight seemed to bounce up and down. It gradually became lighter… and eventually the little feet were not resting on her but pulling.

“Rain! Coordinate downstroke, on my signal. Three… two… one… go!”

She beat her wings.

“And up! And down! And one! And two!”

The leaves in the tree rustled.

“Keep it up! Reach higher! Don’t be afraid brush the ground! A bit more speed! A-One! A-Two! A-One! A-Two!”

She beat with more strength.

“Come one men!” Captain Velklædd shouted. “Put your backs into it! Pull! Rain, faster now! Faster! One, two! One, two!”

The Chipperguins were really pulling on her back now. Her legs stretched to stay on the ground

“I can’t hold on much longer!” Ensign gasped, wind from Reign’s wings throwing his little body around.

“Don’t quit on me now soldier! Faster Reign! One two one two one two!”

Her legs began to feel weightless.

“FASTER!” The captain roared. “One-two-one-two-one-two-one-two!”

With a shout one set of paws let go and tumbled down her back.

Keep going!” Ensigns said as he rolled down the gentle slope.

Quinnley lost balance and struggled to regain his footing.

“Now Rain! Harder and faster than you have ever flapped before! Put your heart and soul into it! Onetwoonetwoonetwoonetwo!!!”

“Oooohhhh man overboard!” Quinnley hollered. “Look out Usto!”

“Uh-oh.”

The intelligence officer rammed into Usto and both went careening off her back.

“Maybe we should stop,” Reign said fearfully. “They could be hurt!”

“They’re- fine!” The captain gasped, pulling with all his might. “Keep… flapping!”

Her paws were off the ground now, and her tail kept flicking up to maintain balance.

Now- start- tilting- front part- of wings- like- swimming- br east stroke!”

She did as he said.

A few seconds later the steady wind gave her a little kick. With the blindfold it made her nervous.

“Are we close to the edge now?” She asked. “I feel like we’re listing.”

“We’re listing a little,” He said between breaths, still flapping just as hard, even faster than she was. “But it’s fine. No we’re not on the edge of the cliff but we’re close. Which way does it feel like we’re listing?”

“To the right. We’re listing to the right.”

The wind got a little stronger.

“Then angle your tailfin and drop your left wing, just a tiny bit.”

She did so and had to catch her breath.

“It’s alright. You cut a little too sharp on the end of but we only lost a few feet. The wind is stronger now. That’s good. You don’t have to fight it you can use it. Remember on the beach? Spread your wings out full and let it carry you.”

“But what if I fall?”

“Pfft, the ground is only a little ways down. Heheh, Ensign is trying to keep up with us. Grrr on all fours.”

Cautiously Reign slowed her strokes and stretched her wings. The captain was right, it felt the same as it did on the beach.

“Good, good!”

“Are we on the edge now?”

“Nope not even close.” He stopped flapping as well. “How about a shallow dive? I’ll tell you when to pull up.”

“Ok.”

The Wardenrain folded her wings half-way and turned her nose downwards. The rush was exhilarating.

“Steady, steady…” The captain busied himself with their descent. “Alright pull up. Perfect!”

He crawled up her neck and pulled the blindfold off. She gasped. The cliff was nearly a half-mile away.

“Take a look at that! First flight and you’ve clean cleared the island!”

She looked down to see nothing but ocean.

“I can’t do this. I’m not ready. I-I can’t!” She lost control. “Oh please, take us back. I think I might fall!”

“Hey! Hey!” He flapped. “Get ahold of yourself! We’re in this together. I can get us back if I have to, but not with you going out of your mind.”

“Ok,” Reign said between gasps of breath. “Ok. We’re ok, I’m ok.”

“That’s right. No need to panic. Deep breaths.”

She calmed down.

“Now. Stop stroking so fast and work yourself into some easy gliding. I hear it’s soothing to the soul.”

Assured by his words Reign spread her wings to their fullest.

On updrafts and downdrafts she glided, guided by the feel in her wingtips, and the Chipperguin on her back. The fin on her tail, which in the past she felt served no purpose, became a key in her balance and turn rate. Once in a while she would catch a vertical wind shear that would throw her off but every time it surprised her less.

The air smelled different up there. It was less salty and more sweet; and the only hint of fish or low tide came from the Chipperguin on her back.

Reign loved it. And over the course of the next few days she learned to love that wind. Velklædd was right; on the surface it was crazy and sporadic but that was due to all the obstacles in its path. Up in the sky it was like an invisible sea, with a constant ebb and flow. You could ride it if you only knew how to listen with your wings. And Reign listened. She listened very well.

 

In a moment an hour passed and Captain Velklædd said to turn back in.

“Can’t we stay just a bit longer? I almost have this wind shear down.” Reign concentrated on navigating.

“I like the attitude soldier but you’re gonna run out of energy. Better to do that on the ground than in the air.”

So they turned back, and it was a good thing they did. Appearances can be deceiving and the distance between them and the island was no exception. Reign was pretty tired by the time they came in for a landing.

 

On a freshy made, sandy runway Ensign, Quinnley and Usto watched.

“Do you think they’re coming too fast Quinnley?” Ensign asked, shading his eyes with his paws.

“I’m sure they’ll ease off.”

They continued to watch.

“Mmmm… they don’t look like they’re slowing down.”

“The Captain’s no fool, Ensign. He’ll pull her back up if he has to.”

“I dunno,” Usto said uneasily.

The Chipperguin and Wardenrain were only fifty yards away now, coming in hot. Velklædd was waving his paws wildly.

“Oh crab they aren’t. Hit the deck! Evasive! Evasive!”

The three split, clearing the way for Reign. She didn’t so much touchdown and smash down, tumbling head over tail a good distance before coming to a stop.

She popped out of the sand, sputtering. “That one hurt. Maybe you should take over landings until I have a better grip on the gust factor.”

No answer. She looked around. “… Captain?”

Deep in one of her imprints was a squished black and white blob, face down and wings out. One paw rose out of the sand, giving her a thumbs up.

“Captain!” She hurried over and pulled him out as the other Chipperguins caught up.

His face was pale as he gasped and coughed for air.

“Captain are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” He croaked, teetering. “Any landing- you can walk away from- is- a good landing,”

Captain Velklædd tried to high-five one of his men. He swung and missed; spinning a full circle before falling back on his face.

 

Every day Reign’s wings grew stronger and she grew more confident. She and the captain went from free-flying to more technical work, navigating the sea stacks, spinning a few cautious circles around a certain crochety old Scauldron (while the captain made faces and threw insults of course) and finally some serpentine between the trees on the island. She learned to catch things in air; starting with rocks that the other Chipperguins threw then on to seagulls. Her big, ice blue eyes turned out to be excellent for spotting fish near the surface. Once she figured out how to strike them so that they died on impact, and lock her talons so that they didn’t fall back into the ocean on the way home, the team never had to eat another octopus again.

A few times she asked the other Chipperguins to join her in the sky. But they would always give a sideways glance to the captain, and tell her she wasn’t ready for air-traffic yet.

On all these trips Captain Velklædd was her anchor… or well, the equivalent of that for flying. He always helped her with take-off and whenever she felt nervous he would take command until her confidence returned. The only thing he refused to do was help her land.

“I will not let you slack on the most important part of flying!” He’d bark when she was particularly demanding about it. So there were a lot of crashes.

Several times he ordered her to fly a circle around the island solo, but each time, no matter how hard she tried she could never make the simple trip.

A fortnight passed since the day they had gone topside.

They were visited periodically by fellow chipperguins checking in to make sure all was well. The Queen even came once. Sometimes the Ice Crushers would play in the wind as the team made their daily run, and on more than one occasion the Roverlots joined them.

Some minor confrontations rose up. Once around noon a Kyte was spotted in the air and they stayed hidden in the cave for the remainder of that day. Kytes are notorious dive-bombers and a natural enemy of the Chipperguin. No one knew how they felt about Wardenrains but they weren’t really interested in finding out. Another day a Black Sand ambushed them from below but between the four Chipperguins and Reign they had him tied up and re-located on a tiny island next door. He never came back. And yet another day… the day after Reign had flown circles around him, Poseidon swam into the shallows and waited for the team to make their lap around the island. If it hadn’t been for Usto’s vigilance the Captain would have been boiled alive that day. Once the Scauldron’s shot limit ran dry, angry little black and white dragons retaliated by pelting him with clams as he crawled back into the deep.

And though they never actually saw him there were several times both day and night there a sickening sweet smell of gold rose up. Midas was on the prowl, searching for them. Thanks to the chipperguins prudence in covering their tracks he never found them.

All-in-all threats were addressed and everyone was still alive. A win-win, as the captain would say.

 

“Gentlemen- and Wardenrain-“ Velklædd strutted across sand, a small straight stick in his paw and blood red sun rising behind him in the east. “Over the last two weeks you have all performed above and beyond the call of duty! As of yet, this mission has been nothing but one success after another. You should pat yourselves on the back.”

They glanced at each other, beaming with pride.

“Now, tomorrow is the follow-up meeting to see how Rain’s training has gone and to determine if she wishes to live with the humans. For us, that means entering the third and last stage of Operation: Jomfru Tur, and I want everyone to show me the same courage and stamina that you’ve all displayed throughout the rest of our training.”

“You can count on us, Captain!” Ensign said with his ever-positive attitude.

“I know I can. And I am, Rain.”

He turned his attention to the silver dragon, now four times his own size.

“Do you think you have what it takes for this next stage of your training?”

“Yes, sir.” She said bravely.

“Good. I do too. Begin Phase Three: the Jomfru Tur Solo!”

All three soldiers shouted joyously.

“Focus men! I’m laying out the flight plan.” He took the stick and a couple of rocks lying around, and began scribbling in the sand. They all gathered.

“This rock is Chame Island, and here’s Ishida Bay. These lines are the straight of Fandargon, and this other rock, SaLis Isle. Rain will take off from Ishida beach flying due north and maneuver through the sea stacks. Once she’s through she’ll make a sharp turn, double back over the sea stacks and Chame Island, and cross the Fandargon straight; heading southward to SaLis at a steady fifty feet above sea level. On arrival she is to come full circle, counter-clockwise around the volcano. Then she’ll fly due West over Eavesdropper Wood; weaving through the trees until she reaches the Hodgepodge dam where she’ll catch a fish of any size (extra points for a big one) before making contact on Aurora Bay.”

He threw the stick away.

“That’s three locations and we’ll need men on the ground and fish in the sea at each point. Ensign, I’m assigning you the sea stacks. The first ourcropping will give you the best view. Usto you’re our fish in the water. Track with her as she crosses the straight. Quinnley, you’re on SaLis Isle, Aurora Bay. I want and expect a flawless landing. Did you get all that?”

“Aye-aye, Captain!”

“Alright. Ensign prepare the runway, then head to your post. Quinnley and Usto, head out.”

They saluted and scampered off.

Reign and the captain stood facing each other, all confidence draining from the former. She kept trying to say something, but the words wouldn’t come.

“If you have a problem with Jomfru Tur Solo, you better say so now.” He said sternly.

“No sir. Not if you come with me for my jomfru tur solo, sir.”

“No can do. It wouldn’t be solo!”

“Yes I know sir- but- but… well, would you come as my spotter?”

He looked her up and down with paws crossed and a firmly set beak.

“I’ll do everything myself. The takeoff and all the flying and catching and the landing. Besides, you don’t have a role in this mission.”

The little chipperguins’ face softened. “Well, I guess that is still solo flying… ooo, with extra weight, too. Alright. I’ll come with you but don’t expect me to do anything.”

“Aye-aye captain!”

Reign breathed a sigh of relief. She’d never flown across the straight before, so knowing someone had her back really boosted her confidence.

 

It took him over an hour but with a rake made of branches and rocks for cones Ensign groomed Reign a perfect runway. As he finished a shadow, driven on a strong gust of wind rolled over the beach.

“Hmm. Might get some rain today.” Ensign said to the silver dragon, noting a billowing flock of dark grey clouds. “I hope anyway. We haven’t had it in months.” He took her paw and shook vigorously. “Well I’m off to my post. Best of luck out there today Reign! I know you’ll be wonderful!”

 

 

The captain stared up at a grey sky. He stretched out a wing and looked carefully where its dull shadow fell.

“O’ nine hundred. It’s time.”

 

He clambered up the Wardenrain.

She spread her wings, tilting them forward and back before folding them in again. She flared her tailfin, raising it and lowering like a butterfly, then repeated the process with the fan. With her nose she sniffed the wind. A faint scent of apple. Apples were growing on east Island. The wind was coming from the east.

Reign looked straight ahead at the runway shifting her weight from one foot to another. She took a deep breath, and let out.

Let’s do this.

“Whoa!” Velklædd gasped as she launched forward.

She ran full speed across the beach.

At the end of Ensigns’ runway the wardenrain leapt into the air, unfurling her wings. That east wind blew her inland but only for a second. With a swish of her tail and the lilt of a wing she corrected.

They made for the sea stacks dead ahead.

“Ok. The outcroppings from south to north average about thrity-forty deep, seastacks at twenty. Spaces between spires measure as little as three feet in some areas. You have to weave between fifteen stacks minimum; without touching them or any other outcroppings even with your wingtips.”

Reign set her jaw and brought her wings in tight. “You might want to hold on.” She said.

Over and under, in and out, loop-de-loop, she never once touched a single stone no matter how tight the spaces got. Boldy passing through openings only four feet wide, her maneuverings proved graceful and purposed; every part of her agile body under careful control from the tips of her wings to her breathing pattern. The captain really had to hunker down a few times just to keep from getting smooshed.

Coming out on the north side, she turned a sharp 180 around Ensign as he bounced up and down, waving, before climbing fifty feet.

They were just below the cloud line.

“Those were some fine serpentine skills back there, Rain,” The captain complimented, plopping down on her back leisurely. A peel of thunder crumbled in the distance.

“Thank you sir.” She murmured, distracted with the tingly feel of electricity in the air. It put her on edge.

There was a whistle and a splash below.

“Ah, there’s Usto. We’re past Chame’s Island.”

There was another splash, and another as Usto dove under the surface of the water and shot back out again, following in Reign’s wake.

“Now for the long haul.” The captain stretched his little legs and folded his paws behind his neck. “It’s a one hour trip from here to Salis Isle, but not as bad as it sounds. Let the wind do the heavy lifting, you just worry yourself about keeping those fifty yards.”

He rested his eyes.

 

A half hour later He was bounced awake by turbulence.

“Whoa now. What are you doing,”

“Nothing. I just missed that updraft by accident sir. I’ll regain altitude.”

“Better soldier.” He blinked a few times, trying to figure how far down the water was through the fog. “I’d hate to fail you on a technicality.”

Reign shook her head, trying to put that electric feeling out of her mind. I’m only imagining it. I’m only imagining.

“Hey. What happened to Usto?”

She looked down. “I don’t know. He was there the last time I checked.”

Velklædd slapped his face. “How long have we been in this fog?”

“About ten minutes?”

“When did you last see Usto?”

She blushed, putting two and two together. “Ten minutes ago. Sorry, Captain.”

“Fine. It’s fine.” He said in a less than jolly way, pacing. “Salis Island is still visible and in this weather what more could we ask for? Keep to the course.”

She nodded.

“This… is weird.” The captain turned his paws up and down.

“What is?”

“My scales are standing on end.” He tried to brush them back into order but they just stood back up again. Something made him look up and Reign felt him tense.

“What? What is it?” She said nervously.

He shushed her, not answering for a full minute.

“We’re not alone.”

Her eyes bulged and she stared into the grey.

Cloud…

cloud…

cloud…

cloud…

wings…

Wings?

A smooth but cruel laugh echoed through the fog.

Reign seized up in mid stroke. They spiraled downwards.

“Rain!” The captain flapped his wings frantically. With his fore-paws he slapped some sense back into her. “Pull up!”

She beat her wings clumsily, halting their descent.

“It’s Perun,” She squeaked, petrified with fear. “What are we going to do? Oh Captain I’m scared, there’s nowhere to run or hide.”

“We’ll think of something. Just don’t go AWOL on me now,” Velklædd panted, climbing up onto her head. “Keep your wits about you.”

The fog swirled around them.

“Hahaha oh this is rich, isn’t it? A sad excuse of a wardenrain, and a chipperguin, all alone in the big empty sky. What could go wrong with that? Say, not a bad start for a joke.”

“Perun,” The captain raised his crest and hissed. “What are you doing back here? We fixed you up for good.”

“Well that’s true.” The great skrill emerged from the mists. By comparison just one of his wings covered Reigns full wingspan. She shrank back at the sight of him.

“Let me tell you the tale. When I woke and found your note, I thought to myself ‘oh that old island’s getting dull anyways. Why not see how this plays out?’ So, of my own choice, of course, I did go to Russia. I’ll hand it to you captain she is the loveliest skrill I ever did meet. Flashy, wild, ferocious, a voracious carnivitarian, and such a delightful accent. We danced, we flew; we ate a fine Siberian Ibex under the auroras. I looked into her eyes and she into mine… But alas, things just didn’t work out between us. So here I am! Fresh from a good night’s sleep on East Island and plotting my revenge as we stumble across each other’s paths. The world is so very small, isn’t it?” He laughed wickedly, and as he did sparks flared from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail.

“Then what happened?”

“What?” He stopped laughing.

“Then what happened?” The captain repeated.

“I-just- …told you the whole story.”

“No you told me the first part of the story and then cut it short just when it was getting interesting. You, Russia, a meal of Siberian Ibex...”

His eyes grew wide. “There’s nothing to tell. We just weren’t each other’s type.”

“Could you elaborate a little? I mean, so much detail and then all the sudden zippo. Did she fall ill? Have an irritating habit you couldn’t stand? Become allergic to you?”

“Allergic? No! Nothing like that.”

“Or perhaps,” that cocky smirk crept up Velklædd’s face, “She saw your true, arrogant nature. Or the sick pleasure you take in being cruel to the weak. Perhaps she couldn’t bare to be a partied to your tyrannical, iron-clawed rule and sent you away with a dagger in your heart!”

“Ok. Wow.” The skrill looked like he was about to burst into tears.

“Climb,” The captain muttered under his breath. He tapped Reign with his tail. They had lost a great deal of altitude just by hovering. The little wardenrain caught an updraft and road it back another ten yards. “And be prepared to dive when I say so.”

“I… may have said things I regret. Made some choices I wish I hadn’t…” He started, following them on the same rise. “And if I ever had the chance to right them I would. Truly I would but she’ll never take me back. Never.”

“Oh buck up, lizard. All you have to do is say you’re sorry and you’re back on track. Trust me.”

An ice cold glint flashed in his eye. He regained his composure. “But enough about me, what about you? What should be done to my prey, and the little dragon who fancies himself a comedian and dares to think he can take what is mine from my jaws?”

He circled as he said this.

“Well… a massage would be nice. With a box of eels. Oh. And maybe some tickets to that mud spa everyone’s been raving about.”

“Mud spa? Ooo, that would be nice. Maybe I’ll stop by once I’ve ripped you limb for limb!”

Perun launched at Velklædd, snapping his jaws. Reign ducked and the chipperguin flipped from her head to her back.

“Dive! Dive!” He shouted; then whistled very loudly three short whistles, three long, and three short.

Reign did as she was told but it was sloppy at best. She just couldn’t take full control of herself as she started panicking.

“Easy Rain! I have a plan,” The captain tried to consul her. “See the island? Stay to the right. I’ve heard the volcano creates a strange air pocket in it’s shadow; the outside part is a constant updraft while the inside is a down. If we can trick Perun into falling into the downdraft we’ll have the upper wing and a chance to hide. But you have to give it everything you’ve got!”

“Ok,” She panted. “Ok!”

Dry storm gusts whipped the sea into a froth and Reign had a terrible time navigating over the angry waves.

Perun glided leisurely down out of the clouds. Reign turned her head.

“Focus! Keep your eyes on the prize.” Velklædd used her ears as blinders so she wouldn’t see the quickly gaining dragon. “Don’t look back.”

“It’s so far,” she whimpered. No matter how hard she flew the island never got any closer.

“Fighting the headwind, are we?” Perun put in effortlessly beside them. Reign faltered and he grinned.

The taunt backfired, however. Because just as the little Wardenrain lost her balance a monster of a gust hit her dead on.

The captain held on for his life as they somersaulted through the air. Higher and higher it whipped them, first one way and then the other until they didn’t know up from down. And just as they felt it might tear them apart they spiraled into a calm…

…Some hundred and fifty feet above the sea.

Far down below the skrill stared up; a most irritable expression on his face.

Reign could barely breath. Her wings and body shook uncontrollably. The captain gazed towards Salis Isle.

“Don’t panic. I have- a new, plan. It involves a diversion.”

“We’re so high up.” Reign said in little more than a whisper, so stressed she was doggy-paddling through air.

“I said don’t panic.”

“I’ve never been this high.” She looked dizzy.

“It’s no different than fifty feet get over it.”

“You better do the flying now.”

“No.” He said sternly. “You can do this.”

A little gust hit them. Reigns wings caved to it.

The tears came. “I can’t do it Captain. I’m sorry I just can’t.”

He turned his attention to the skrill on the rise.

“You can and you already have.” The Captain climbed up on her face. “Listen sister I’m a chipperguin. We are mean, lean swimming machines but the ugly truth is we can’t fly. Look at these things!” He raised his flippers. “I can’t fly, and I never have.”

She stared at him in horror. “But that means-”

“We could have died any one of those trips? Yes! But did we? No! And I knew we wouldn’t because buried deep inside of you is a sky dragon, a fierce, proud beast gnawing at a prison of fear. All I had to do was pretend to be the safe net, and look what you accomplished! Are you really going to tell me the same dragon that flawlessly spun through a three-foot gap between solid rock at forty miles an hour can’t handle a little headwind? I have faith in you Rain, it’s about time you had some in yourself.”

Perun had cut the distance between them in half.

Velklædd pointed. “He doesn’t know how strong you really are, so on my cue I want you to fly towards that island, into that tumult of wind and cloud like you own this storm… because you do. Say it! You are a keeper of the storm! SAY IT!”

“I am a keeper of the storm,” She repeated, unconvincingly.

“I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”

“I am a keeper of the storm!”

He smiled and gave her a lick on the forehead. “Now show me your brave face, cuz that’s in there, too.”

Reigns’ eyes widened. She reached with her paws a second too late as the Captain let go.

 

The Wardenrain’s cry echoed in his ears as he righted. Angling his flippers he corrected course, aiming the skrill.

Target aquired.

For a flightless dragon Velklædd was quite the aerobatic, landing squarely on Perun’s head.

“What the blazes!” He roared, blinded and flapping wildly. “Get off!”

Though he shook his head vigorously the captain only laughed, stretching his little body across Perun’s face. With his forepaws he grasped between the dragon’s teeth, and with his hindlegs he latched onto the nostrils with his claws.

“Miserable little leech! When I get my claws in you…”

Perun bowed his head and tried to hook the chipperguin. The captain threw his weight around, ducking and dodging those six-inch wing-claws.

It was a short-lived attempt on the skrills’ part. He had no idea how high up he was anymore and didn’t feel he had the luxury to keep tossing his wings about so carelessly. A cunning thought came to mind.

“Fine. I hate using my lightning on menial, worthless lumps of clay such as you but I simply must find and end that Wardenrain.”

A surge of electricity escaped skrills’ core. Fingers of lightning spread over him and pulsed through Velklædd.

Chipperguins don’t know that if you’re not grounded you can’t be electrocuted, and the Captain was no exception. The horrid feeling of all that energy flowing through his body took his mind away from the battle, just as Perun had hoped. He tossed his head and the black and white dragon went soaring through the air, flapping those little flippers.

Perun chuckled at the sight. He bounced him off his snout.

Squueaaak!

The Chipperguin sounded like a beachball when he made contact, and could not help flapping his wings every time he was thrown back into the air.

“Oh -OW!- come on! -OW!- Not cool.” Velklædd hissed. “Fight fair-Ow!- for Pete’s sake!”

“Who the dickens is Pete?”

“Who the dickens is dickens?” The black and white dragon retorted, paws crossed. “Ow!”

The mean-natured skrill laughed all the more. He spiked with his nose. He whipped with his tail. He flipped upside down and kicked with his feet. Each knocked a little more sense out of the Captains’ head.

“You really are hilarious,” he taunted. “which reminds me, I met up with a friend of yours on East Island. Midas I believe? Anyway, he told me your life’s story. And now that I think of it, captain, there could be no better end for you! Dying the way you lived. A joke!”

He caught the dragon in his teeth and it squeaked.

A peel of thunder ripped through the atmosphere.

Wait. This isn’t a thunderstorm… Perun looked around. A silver flash caught his eye. There to his right, coming straight for him was the little wardenrain.

Confused he just watched her approach. Did she just not see him? Or was the fearful little creature showing a different side?

One thing was certain those clumsy wings were far more capable than he had first assumed. The wardenrain came upon him so much stronger and faster than he thought possible, ramming into his side and knocking his breath away. He barreled out of control and dropped the chipperguin.

Reign snatched the limp little body out of the air.

“Say something,” she muttered, holding him up to her face. Until that moment she never realized just how small Velklædd really was. “Please be alive.”

“Oh Rain,” The captain groaned, head still reeling from all that bouncing. “You were supposed to fly away.” He couldn’t help a smile, patting her on the nose. “Some guts coming back though.”

She sighed in relief. “Can you sit on my back?”

“Affirmative.”

He was right. He could sit on her back but she should have asked if he could stay on her back. The answer to that was no.

Two seconds later saw her diving for him again. This time she wasn’t quick enough to the draw.

“NO!” Reign shouted as Perun caught the black and white dragon. Another rumble echoed through the sky.

Ice blue eyes and fiery yellow met; one in fury and the other in surprise.

“Let him go.” She said, clouds curdling behind her.

Perun watched those clouds and growled. “Oh you’re just like you’re father, aren’t you. All courage when you have power. How shallow.”

“You should talk,” the dragon in his mouth said.

Glancing down Perun spotted a shoal of jagged rocks below. “Let him go you say? As you wish!”

The skrill flung Velklædd towards the rocks. Reign folded her wings in pursuit; the crafty skrill hot on her tail.

“EeeeeeiKK!” The captain squeaked. “Sharp and pointy!” He flapped, though it made no difference in his plunge. “Curse you, tiny flippers!”

Twenty yards…

Ten…

Five… three, two one!

“Gotcha!” Reign said.

It was too late to pull up. She glanced at Velklædd and he at her, they grinned that same reckless grin.

He pointed with a paw. “Evasive maneuvers! Serpentine!”

“Aye-aye Captain!”

Perun put on the brakes and watched in shock. He planned to force the young wardenrain into the rocks where she would either crash or get stuck, allowing him to pick her off. What he saw was an aerial artist in her element. Strength and control, coupled with grace, it was beautiful to see her fly, not a wingtip touching a single stone. By the time he shook himself back to his senses she was nearly out.

 

“Okay, that psycho won’t be far off our tail once we’re clear of these rocks. But did you hear him? He said you have power.” The captain stood on her back. “Rain, I think he’s afraid of you.”

“Could have fooled me.” She glanced up nervously.

“We can’t beat him to the island without the element of surprise, and if he hasn’t noticed your crazy awesome flying skills by now then he’s blind. So I suggest a new tactic. Fight. Let’s find out what kind of power you have.”

“But I don’t know what he was talking about.” She said. “Honestly I don’t. Nothing happened.”

“Hmmm you’re right.” He rubbed his chin. “The stakes weren’t high enough.”

As they sped towards the last sea stack his little mind did the math at a mile a minute.

Rain + skrill + land = dead wardenrain.

Rain + Chipperguin + Skrill + Sky = still dead wardenrain… and chipperguin.

Rain + Skrill + Chipperguin in skrills’ mouth = fearful Skrill, brave wardenrain.

“Bingo!” The captain snapped his claws.

“Bingo what?” Reign asked, glancing back when he didn’t answer. He was waving at her from atop that last sea stack!

“Captain!” She yelled almost like a frustrated mother. “What are you doing?!?”

“Giving you incentive.” He yelled back as the form of the angry skrill rose behind him.

Reign growled and turned on a dime.

The captain blew an ear-piercing whistle. “Hey you yellow bellied yak-snacker! I’d dare you to take me on the ground but you aint got the guts. Calling that little dragon a coward. That’s what you are, Perun! If you take her now I’m going to swim away and tell everyone what happened. “Great and Terrible” my tale. You’re nothing but a big, fat, lazy coward- and I’m gonna tell it to the world!” He belted at the top of his lungs. “PERUN IS A COWARD!”

It’s amazing how small a package the biggest voices can come in.

“D ie already, you insignificant little ant!”

Outraged by the tiny dragon’s moxie, every amp of electricity in his body flowed towards his mouth. He aimed the chipperguin and let loose.

The bolt ripped through the sky toward Velklædd.

Time came almost to a stop. The world fell silent.

As the Captain slowly raised his paws Reign rose up behind him. And as she did, the lightning changed its course.

In slow motion the threads curved away and over their intended victim to follow the sky dragon. Fingers of light reflected in Perun’s eyes as they danced delicate circles around Reign; it was as if they had a life of their own.

The lightning shot beyond the little wardenrain high into the clouds, branching out for miles like one giant, terrible, glowing tree.

 

Roverlots on the beach stared up in awe.

The Muddycries saw and quietly crawled back into their dens.

Wedgewings trembled and hid under their rocks.

The Ice Crushers, ever alert, listened, and waited; while Poseidon simply marveled at the spectacle both beautiful and deadly.

Even Midas from his point on East Island looked up and knew.

 

As thunder boomed more deafening than any either Velklædd or Perun had heard before, Reign roared; fierce, ice blue eyes aflame, teeth gleaming, and nostrils flared.

“Now THAT is a brave face!” Velklædd shouted, jumping like a jellybean full of pride.

She fanned those silver wings towards the skrill and clapped.

Beads of light rained down and The Great and Powerful Perun instinctively shielded himself with a wing. The captain decided it was a good time to duck and cover and dove into the sea.

The Bullet-like drops ceased and the skrill looked up. He hissed.

She clapped her wings again.

This time he thwacked the little charges away. They bounced and sparked everywhere.

“It’s going to take more than a party trick to bring me down!” He snarled, starting for her.

Reign bowed and closed her eyes in concentration. When she opened them, she threw back her head and fired an oxyhydrogen charge into the cloud then clapped with a strength that would have rivaled her father’s.

Bullets of light shot not only from the Wardenrain but throughout the entire storm. The horrified skrill had no hope of escape, and roared as he was sent careening backwards into the ocean.

 

With a groan the cloud burst. On Chame, Salis, and East island, life-giving rain poured from the heavens for the first time in months.

 

“Haha!” A splash rang in the little storm dragon’s ears.

“You made rain!” It splashed again. “You really are a Rainmaker!”

She glided towards the water.

The skrill surfaced, thrashing wildly and coughing. Reign hovered over, a cold look on her usually gentle face.

“Have mercy,” He choked, eyes wide with fear. “I can’t swim!”

A black and white head broke the surface. Reign glanced at it.

“Is that true Captain?” She asked suspiciously. “Or is it some sort of trick?”

“Oh no he’s serious. No one can fake failing that well.”

“Alright. We’ll help you back to shore, but under two conditions.”

“Anything!” He splashed.

“You are never, ever to hurt a chipperguin again- especially Captain Velklædd and his soldiers. And you will never return to Chame’s Island.”

The skrill agreed to Reigns terms. She took one of his wing claws while the captain took the other, and together, half in and half out of the water they dragged Perun to Salis Isle.

Upon arrival three little dragons rushed out to meet them, taking up battle stances at the sight of the skrill.

“He comes in peace… for now.” Reign told them.

Peace… and utter humility. Velklædd teased him mercilessly the whole trip, and he emerged from the sea a much quieter, broodier sort of dragon.

“I- tried- to warn,” Ensign gasped. He was winded and still wet from the long swim. “Waving at you- Perun- back.” He collapsed in the sand.

“So we noticed, young Ensign.” The captain rolled his eyes. “Dit dit dit! What do you think your doing?” He zipped out in front.

“What does it look like? Leaving the water to dry off.” Perun growled.

“Not another step. You stay here where you can’t use your electricity on us.”

The skrill gestured his wings. “You know I could just fly, don’t you?”

“Yes. Now that I think of it.” He grinned from ear to ear. “But I also know that Rain will kick your tail if you do.”

“Reign??” Quinnley repeated in surprise.

The captain recounted the whole adventure to them. Somethings were true, others exaggerated, and a few missing all together like the part where Perun kicked him around like a beach ball. They all envied his new ‘tatoo’ marks made by the skrill’s teeth, and mouths were left gaping when he said Reign was the one who made the lightning tree, and caused it to rain.

“You really are a keeper of the storm!” Ensign stared at her in awe.

Throughout the story the young wardenrain raised her head higher and higher. Her posture had changed too. She didn’t cringe or crouch but stood tall.

“Thank you Ensign,” She nodded graciously. “I still have lots to learn, but I’ll do my best.”

Perun could take it no more.

“I’m going back to Russia,” He grumbled. “And whatever it takes I’m going to win back her heart.”

“S-O-R-R-Y.” The captain spelled it out. “Works like a charm… along with flowers and a box of eel sushi.”

The skrill spread his wings and flew. “Fare well, you flightless clowns. If I’m lucky, I’ll never see the likes of any of you again.”

The captain saluted. “Back at you, lizard.”

 

Everyone watched him go… just to be sure he didn’t double back.

“Well Wardenrain, how about a mission-accomplished hi-five?”

“Oh. But I didn’t finish the course.”

“Pfft it was a Solo Jomfru Tur. That, Rain, you passed with flying colors.”

Everybody clapped wings.

“Great! Now lets head back.” Captain Velklædd put his paws on his hips, not missing a beat. “Have to be at the summit first thing in the morning.”

Everyone groaned.

 

At counsel the next day the whole community was abuzz with rumors. Many of the dragons had seen Perun but didn’t know who or what the storm battle had been over. Several suspected it involved the little Wardenrain but only the Roverlots were brave enough to say it.

“Everyone is staring at me,” Reign said as they passed different dragons.

“They all suspect you had something to do with yesterday.” Quinnley answered.

“Then why don’t they ask instead of stare?”

“I don’t know.”

A long neck rose out of the water.

“Poseidon,” The captain eyed him warily.

“Captain.” He returned, then looked to Reign. “I know the handiwork of a Wardenrain when I see it. Well done, little one.”

“Announcing her Majesty, Queen of the Chipperguins.” The stern looking General said.

The Queen waddled onto the stump… and waited.

“General, you gonna announce the special guests or what?”

He cleared his throat awkwardly. “And honorary guests, Captain Velklædd, Soldiers Quinnley, Ensign, and Usto, and Reign Wardenrain.”

Four chipperguins and a new dragon took the center stage.

“You’re Majesty,” Reign bowed respectfully.

The Queen looked her up and down. “Do I know you? Girl you’re like a whole new dragon. Where’s that nervous, shy thing I met two weeks ago?”

She looked a little confused but the Queen smiled, assuring her all was well.

“I think most of you know that something big went down yesterday in the skies over Salis Isle. Well I’m here to tell you it was Perun, the Great and Terrible. And his vanquisher was none other than the dragon amongst us who we thought needed protecting from him. Reign, our very own Keeper of the Storm!”

A gasp resonated through the crowd.

The Roverlots stood up and clapped, becoming the first in a long wave of dragons clapping with their paws or wings.

“Hurrah! Hurrah for Reign! Keeper of the Storm!” They shouted. Even Poseidon joined in.

“Alright settle down.” The Queen barked after a few minutes. “This meeting was called to decide if Reign should go and live with the humans, for her own safety.” She shrugged. “Two weeks ago I thought that would be her only hope of survival. But under Captain Velklædd’s guidance it’s been made clear she is her own force to be reckoned with. I no longer believe that living with the humans is necessary for her safety, it’s just a matter of preference.”

She turned to the young Wardenrain.

“Reign, would you like to go and see the human pack? Or is there another place you’d rather be?”

The not-so-little dragon was quick to answer.

“With your permission, I would like to stay here your Majesty; to be Keeper not only of the storm but of Chame island and Ishida Bay itself. This is my home, And I will protect it and everyone in it with my life.”

She beamed down at the Captain, whose crest was high and chest puffed up, paws behind his back.

“That’s my girl.”

 

 

THE END

 

Solveig the Fair's picture
Solveig the Fair
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Joined: 03/25/2020
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Wow, what a great story! The character development was great, and I love how you showcased the power of the mind!

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LissaFish
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Thankies :3

You got through it? I'm impressed! >cough< sorry I know I was a bit long winded on that one >cough<

Thank you! I really loved Chameishida's Rainwalker fan-species and tried to do it justice. And it's amazing to me what the mind is capable of, thought that would make an interesting story point. ^^

Thank you again, so much for taking the time to read all of these and for your observant comments Solveig! They mean a lot!

 

~Lissa

 

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Solveig the Fair
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Joined: 03/25/2020
You’re welcome :)

I didn’t think it was long-winded; I found it all very interesting! The mind truly is incredible ^^ Again, you’re welcome!