Celeste, daughter of the Dark Court; seconded to Tris’ Hath, eager to prove herself to her parents and the leadership of the Vella Crean. Celeste likes to play at being completely and harmlessly human, and so far she has succeeded. She believes her future is to rule the Dark Court, and to do so, she needs a dragon by her side.
Kas, the Light Court Dragonhealer; a good boi himbo, sent off to keep an eye on Shy’s crazies (and Celeste). Mild mannered and optimistic, he finds this scenario a little hilarious, because Kas does not believe becoming a dragonrider is the end all solution.
Kalkan, a fire elemental Project; an old soul who is burning through her bodies as she acclimatizes herself to current events. Likes to make things go ‘boom’. LOVES Ice cream. Fast friends with the two nagas who have made their home in the depths of Koshi Kodai, she is not the best influence on the others.
Nana, a monster; Not one of Shy’s, but collected for research purposes. A very strong emotional vampire who leaches away the good and the bad, and is very, very hungry.
Note: At time of writing Ravi had not bonded at Dawn Watch. Assumptions were made on his bond, and written into the story.
Celeste had not dreamt of her arrival to Tris’ Hath in over a decade.
Her mother hugging her, that sweet scent of blood and magic, her father’s tentative caress of her head. The promise that everything would be okay and that one day, as long as Celeste was a good girl, they would come back to bring her home.
Celeste remembered the tears. The Red Mage with magic that made her teeth hurt, the gruff woman with warm hands who would wipe at her cheeks and envelop her in a hug.
Celeste remembered the fear. Of wondering if one day the woman with the mad eyes would find her in the dark, and yank her from her bed. She had been careful, so careful to blend in. When her eyes had started to darken into crimson like her mother’s, she had scoured what books she could get her hands on, and had dulled the shade to a warm brown. When her back had started to itchy and wings had tried to push through, she had returned to the books, pulling in the appendages until her back was smooth and flat, like any other human girl’s.
It had taken time, but she had learnt carefully. The Vella Crean was not a place for a young girl, not when the Light Court was led by a woman mad with grief. But she could study, she could learn, and with time, she could hone herself into a weapon and be welcomed back not as a daughter, but as an heir.
Then the Vella Crean had vanished.
Tris’ Hat had also closed themselves off to the rest of the Nexus, and Celeste had thrown herself into her studies.
Celeste stormed through the corridors, and resident of the Warren made way, sticking to the walls and corners until the furious storm passed by.
“Thayer!” she bellowed, the name ringing through the corners of the keep.
[RP between Nae and Mystic]
A chill ran down Thayer’s spine. The man was no stranger to magic. Nor the workings of the gods. He knew the difference between the thrum of a leyline and the warmth of a divine eye peering down on their chosen. He knew that dreams could be just dreams, or they could be portents. He knew the shape, the feel, the taste, of different brands of magic from all across the Nexus.
What touched his mind in that moment was no force of magic. It was pure, raw instinct, and it was telling him to run.
“What,” came the flat but curious demand from the hulking figure in black armour across from him. Bane sat with his mug raised to his lips, but the liquid untouched. One brow arched high up his pale forehead.
“I need to hide,” Thayer said as the tickle of warning at the back of his mind grew to a klaxon blare. “Right now.”
He was here somewhere. Celeste knew it. She could feel that bright and unfettered oil slick charm of his. She had made it her business to be hyper vigilant and aware of his movements before, hadn’t she? Always so careful to ensure that their paths crossed “accidentally”, that he saw her.
“Thayer!” she was going to kill him. She was going to pluck every strand of fine gold hair off his body and turn him into a headless chicken. That buffoon. That ass. Knowing Shy, visiting the Labs without her, that hurt.
Knowing he had taken that brat, that arrogant little princess!
She was going to kill the Heir Apparent.
Thayer set down his mug and placed his hands flat on the table. Around him, patrons of the Warren laughed and talked and enjoyed their mid-day meals. The cafeteria was alive with the energy of so many happy, fulfilled lives. The warmth of it all could not penetrate through the growing chill forming around Thayer’s thoughts.
“What is it this time? Did mom figure out you snuck out again,” Bane asked, his tone bored and a tiny bit amused. Yet even as he picked fun at his brother’s sudden shift in demenour, his eyes were scanning the room.
“No…” Thayer murmured, his tone and thoughts distracted. “No, it’s worse than that.” He fell silent as he stretched out his telepathic senses, skimming across the knotted mass that made up the thought patterns of the Warren. So many humanoids and dragons and all things in between talking to each other, sensing each other, or simply existing in their own little isolated bubble. It made a telepath’s life quite difficult.
A blip pinged at the far edges of his senses. A small, bright dot that might have been imperceptible, save for the sheer force of rage that trembled along his connection after the barest of touches. His stomach plummeted and the colour drained from his face.
“Oh shit. It’s Celeste.”
Celeste’s eyes were bright, her teeth bared in a “smile”. She shimmied through the crowds, stopping every so often to exchange a polite word. But she was undeterred, her eyes fixated on her target.
Her focus refused to waver and her eyes glinted as she flounced over, flipping her hair and tousling her long tresses over one shoulder as she placed a hand on Thayer’s shoulder.
“My dear, dear Thayer” she purred. “You have been on quite the adventure”
He couldn’t be caught by Celeste. Quick! What was he to do? Teleport away? Turn into an animal? Become invisible? Invisible! Perfect!
The words sprang to his lips. The motions of his hands were quick and decisive. He closed his eyes, pressing his will into the spell.
A hand landed on his shoulder. The spell completed. Maybe… maybe she’d get confused and go away? Invisibility did not make him intangible. Dammit, he should’ve gone for the transformation.
“Hello, Celeste,” Bane greeted the young woman in his standard deadpan. He sipped from his mug, eyeing the spot where his brother remained, though now there appeared to be an empty seat instead.
Celeste’s eyes narrowed. Had he teleported away? Was this going to be the game then? Ah. Her hand tightened. No, there was something definitely here.
“Hello Bane” Celeste crooned. Her smile deepened as she shifted to take a seat on the empty “seat”. “I wonder where your brother has run off to?” She blinked quizzically as she did a little wriggle before taking a seat. She smiled a perfectly innocent and winsome smile.
Thayer grimaced but bit his tongue. He didn’t dare make a sound. She very clearly realized that someone was still there, but maybe… maybe if he just remained perfectly still.
Then she was in his lap. A pose she’d taken many times before when they were dating. It was a pity she turned out to be so crazy. She really did fit nicely against him.
The heir struggled to keep his breaths to a minimum as he waited, hoping beyond hope, that something would drive Celeste away. The grip she had on his shoulder was already starting to ache.
“How have you been,” Bane asked, the picture of decorum. He didn’t need to be telepathic to feel the uncomfortable energy coming off his brother.
Celeste tossed back her hair, adjusted her seat to get a little comfortable, and leaned back with one arm on an invisible brace, shimmy-ing her hair every so often (and rubbing her hair in Thayer’s face).
“I was doing quite well thank you for asking” Celeste answered politely. “Until I heard the most fascinating gossip. Did you know” she took a pause, widened her eyes “there was a very special clutch engineered by Shy of the Vella Crean? Open to the Nexus?” She scuffed her nails and peered at them. “Imagine that, an off world Vella Crean clutch and the Vella Crean on residence at the Warren had no. Idea.”
Thayer’s attempts at enacting stillness were nothing compared to the sudden paralyzing fear that swept through his body in a moment.
A clutch. For Vella Crean dragons.
And he hadn’t even thought of Celeste.
Bane slid a glance to where he expected Thayer’s face to be. It was a pitying look, but at the same time, wholly unimpressed with his brother’s lack of foresight. Again. Thayer put himself into these situations.
“Is that so? I imagine that would be very upsetting,” he said.
“Alright, alright,” Thayer exploded. With a quick gesture, he dropped the invisibility spell. Then his hands went to Celeste’s waist, gently but insistently dumping her off his lap to the bench beside him. “You can both stop now.”
Celeste smirked, but the microexpression was quickly swallowed up by rage. “Hello darling.” she greeted Thayer, turning and tossing her legs over his knees, deciding it would do her quite well to continue to invade his personal space. She leaned towards him, long fingers reaching out to gently rest on Thayer’s arm, appearing to be quite comfortable as she inched closer and curled around the heir apparent.
“You imagined correctly, Bane.” she answered syrupy sweet. “Image my-” shock disgust rage “surprise, to hear that little Sabrilla had been personally searched, and had bonded with a queen. A Queen Imperial.” this time the rage eeked through and her voice shook. “I was quite. Upset.”
Thayer’s concern regarding the situation grew with each word that dripped from Celeste’s lips. Oh yes, he had messed up. How he had messed up. He could count the ways. Or he would if he were not distracted by the way she kept clawing into his space like webbing, refusing to relinquish her hold.
“I- Yes, Okay. I should have told you. In my defense, there wasn’t a lot of time, we left immediately from Sudland, and I needed a Sudland representative. You don’t exactly fit the bill.”
Bane looked at his brother over his mug. His expression remained flat. His eyes said that Thayer had just messed up on a cataclysmic scale.
Celeste was perched on a tall stool in the corner of the kitchens, a mixing bowl of half eaten cookie dough liberally sprinkled with an extra serving of chocolate chip sitting on her lap. She held a spoon in her hand that she waved threateningly when any of the kitchen workers tried to approach her, snarling even as she continued to eat the uncooked dough.
“That will give you a stomach ache.” Helene remarked, her hands holding a tray of hot and toasty biscuits. “And then what will you do? Roll on the ground complaining about your belly unable to move.”
Celeste sulked, shoving a large helping of dough in response. She chomped away furiously.
Helena sighed. “What happened, Cel?” she placed the tray on the counter and moved closer. “You even took out the good chocolate.”
“We reconnected to the Nexus.” She stabbed the cookie dough. “The Vella Crean’s Scientist had a special court clutch open to the Nexus.” stab stab. “Thayer knew. Thayer went to visit.” stab stab stab. “Thayer took Sabrilla” oh, the amount of scorn and derision she packed into a name. “To stand at the Imperial Clutch, and Forgot. Me.” Celeste dropped the spoon in the bowl and Helene deftly took it away from her, placing it on the counter before wrapping the girl in a hug.
“You’re upset you didn’t get to visit?” she asked.
“It was an Imperial clutch. A special clutch of special dragons built from Court DNA. Sabrilla bonded with a queen. I’m from the Vella Crean. I was supposed to be there.” Celeste’s arms tightened around Helene. “It is my world, Helene. My world and he didn’t even think about me. It never occurred to him that I might want to meet my people again.” the last words were muffled as she buried her head against Helene.
Helene frowned. “The boy can be a bit forgetful and impulsive, but he is not cruel. I am sure it was not on purpose.” Celeste muttered something against Helene, something barely discernible that had the headchef arch a brow. “I’m sure I do not want to know what he is doing with his appendages.”
Celeste sighed. A big ‘harrumph’ of noise. “What am I supposed to do now?” she asked, leaning back just a little to peer up at the head chef.
Helen smiled, patted Celeste’s head. “Make nice, the way you know how to do. The Vella Crean is open, and you are allowed to visit now. Go visit. Reunite with your parent.”
Celeste wrinkled her nose. “I might have called him a few… words.” she admitted, her gaze sliding away. “In the heat of the moment.”
The headchef laughed. “I am not surprised that you did.” she responded, tweaking Celeste’s nose. “Now go. Let me scrounge something up so you can take it with you.”
Monique padded through the Labs, a pair of fluffy glittery slippers on her feet, a long feathered robe trailing behind her. She held a thermos of tea in one hand, a thick scarf in the other as she peeked into rooms, frowning and shaking her head before moving onwards.
“Kalkan?” she called out, stopping in front of a dark room.
A shape rustled and shifted in the corner of the darkness.
Curly hair peeked out from a mound of blankets and molten gold eyes flashed in the darkness as the face frowned, sleepy. “Monique?” she drawled, huddling back inside the blanket fortress. “Did you bring the tea?”
“Of course I did.” the Oracle answered pertly as she walked in the darkness, her eyes glinting as she made her way over furniture that had been overturned. “What are you doing in the dark?”
A huff of amusement from the small form as Monique pushed the thermos into the fortress. “I brought you a scarf, also.” she pushed through the fluffy and thickly knit scarf in cool tones of silver and blue. “Sabine said it will keep you warm.”
The scarf vanished in the same direction as the thermos, and was followed by a snort of laughter. “It’s so, wintery.” there was insult and amusement in Kalkan’s tones. “Does she knew who it was for?” she asked.
Monique laughed. A bright sound in the darkness. “She has a sense of humor.” The Oracle leaned heavily against fortress and sighed. “Are you okay?”
“I’ll survive.” grim amusement now in Kalkan’s tones. “He altered this form, to cool the gift. It’s survived the longest yet out of all the shells he’s made me.”
“Six months is not a long time.” came quiet words. “You can’t spend your life in here, trapped in blankets and surrounded by darkness.”
“I won’t. I just need to rest. Then I’ll join you all out there. It’s just.” a small shiver accompanied her words. “So cold.”
“I think it’s cruel.” Monique announced.
“That fire feels the chill?”
“That he’s making you feel it.”
“He has his reasons.” came quiet, somber words. “I’ll survive, and adapt. I want to see what’s out there too.”
“Oh!” perking up, Monique snuggled closer to the blankets. “I have gossip.”
“Mmhmmm. A princess is returning.”
Monique wrinkled her nose. “Are you broken?” she demanded. “That you can only parrot words back to me?” She shook her head. “The little baby from the Dark Court, the one who was sent away. She’s returning. Today. On dragons from the warren.”
“Is she coming also?”
Monique snorted. “No. I didn’t get my visions. The Red Mage is not coming today to cause havoc in the labs.”
“Although, I suspect that day is coming soon.”
“Kas my dear-”
“Kas, be a dear-”
The Dragon Healer carried on with good charm and gusto, making jokes about how he should just naturally expand his name to “Kas Dearest”. The term seemed to follow his name everywhere he went.
“My elided form could be Kas.” he would often remark with good humor, finding the entire situation quite endearing.
Today was a different day. Kas had never seen the Dark Court towers so heavily decorated with lights and banners; the court dragons also seemed to be at edge, practicing formations with such precise movements that it made him admire their form.
“Is something happening today?” he asked a rider in passing, to have a quick and distracted smile turned towards him.
“You haven’t heard, Kas my dear?” the words were absentminded. “Mwvayan’s daughter is coming back.”
The Dark Court.
Had a daughter?
The surprise must have shown, flashing across his features because the rider stopped and laughed. “I forget some of you young ones don’t remember what it was like.” she shook her head. “Mwvayan’s daughter was seconded not long after she was born because of…” the rider hesitated. “Because of… You know. Past events.”
No one spoke about it. In the past, they had, in hushed whispers or sly tones, of the mad woman who ruled the Light Court and sought vengeance and blood. But the Death Court wars had occured, and they had lost the Empress; somehow, this had allowed Maramia to wrench control from the madness, and she was almost (if not entirely), whole.
“Where was she the entire time?”
The rider shrugged. “Who knows? But we were sent word that she will be returning and” a breathless laugh. “She is the heir. We need to look our best.”
Kas nodded his head, watching with interested as dragons arrived, blipping into existence over the Vella Crean. A multiheaded purple hydra waited on the ground, her rider by her side, an albino man with large wings next to her.
It was not the first time Kas had seen the leader of the Dark Court and her consort. But that look of naked hope;
Kas had never seen such vulnerability on the demon’s face.
Stacurik flew high over the Vella Crean, and Celeste’s resolve wavered.
“Are you okay?” Thayer’s voice asked behind her, and the concern, the absurdity of it had her back straighten.
“Of course I am” was her acerbic reply as she looked down towards the ground.
She knew that hydra, the very vivid purple hues and the crown that rested on the central head. She knew the glint of red hair of the woman, the pale, pale skin on the man; because didn’t she have the same?
She did not recognize the red eyes, or that the man besides her had equally red eyes.
Celeste had grown used to seeing her more placid, normal brown ones. She had forgotten her true hue.
Dark Court dragons fanned around them, wings spread as they sailed in perfect formation. She heard the call of greeting start from the dragon closest to her, a call that was picked up by the rest, and felt her heart waver.
She was home.
The room was full of smoke, candles in the corners and something thicker, more opulent. Sidhu wrinkled her nose as she made her way carefully through the cushions and the bodies, men and women strewn with slightly vapid, lazy expressions.
They were not dead. She could see the flicker of movement as they shifted, caught an intricate dream that she could not see herself.
No, they were not dead, but something was… missing.
A tall, slender form in a shocking blue dress moved through the bodies in front of her, stopping every so often to kneel down and whisper something into an ear, to kiss forehead, or to stroke a cheek. Sidhu was too far to catch the words, but she could see the glint of copper hair, of tawny eyes that seemed to flicker an oddly blank, flat shade of gold.
Sidhu knew that shade. She had hunted a monster with the same eyes, and they had sent him off to Dawn Watch.
“Hello?” she called out, and watched as the figure stiffened, raising and turning her way.
In a breath, the figure stood in front of her. Tall, slender, with pale skin and a wane look of a dancer. She raised her hand and stroked her cheek, and Sidhu felt a flash of ice following the movement.
Ice, and something barren as the curiosity, the dread was leached out of her.
As emotion was leached out of her.
Sidhu woke with a scream caught in her throat to find a pair of strong arms wrapped around her, a hand stroking her hair and a gruff voice muttering idle words. She felt her heart kicking in her chest and gasped, pulling air into her lungs.
“Avocado. Banana. Nutmeg.” the voice droned on and on, and Sidhu finally listened to the words.
“Are you-” her voice croaked, her throat raspy. Sidhu swallowed and tried again. “Are you reciting a grocery list?”
The hands that stroked her paused, and the tension in the arms eased. “I couldn’t think up what to say.” a pause and a loud yawn. “You woke me” came a petulant complaint.
Sidhu smiled. “I’m okay, now.”
“Yes, sure you are.” the hands moved her until she was staring face to face, molten gold eyes refracted with concern. “Are you, Sidhu? Do we need to go see him?”
Sidhu shook her head, and hesitated. “Actually.” she answered. “We should talk to him.” Sh’an started to rise, and immediately Sidhu tugged him down. “Tomorrow. We’ll talk to him tomorrow. We’ll also need to talk to Ravi.”
Sh’an frowned, but settled, turning on his side and fluffing a pillow, tugging her closer to him. “Why do we need the monster?” he scowled. “Did he do something? Did he invade your dreams?”
Sidhu shook her head. “No, but I found another one.”
The monster that called Dawn Watch home looked at ease at the Labs. He sat, or rather sprawled in one of the chaise lounges, arm hanging over the back, legs stretched out in front of him.
Shy perched on a tall back chair, a small cup of tea cradled in his hands as he smiled serenely.
“You have settled in well, at Dawn Watch?”
Ravi nodded. “Sylden has been a gracious host.” his voice was rough and husky. “She has not yet figured out what may have woken me, but you have found another one of us?”
Shy nodded, his eyes crafty and sly. “I had assumed you would know, and you would communicate?”
Ravi shrugged. “Sometimes, we do. It is more a… ability that kicks in when we have met.” his eyes became a flat, brassy shade, an odd mockery of the molten gold hues of Shy’s projects. “There are more of us out there, I know this.”
Shy nodded. “And for some reason our Dreamcatcher is able to connect with them.” he smiled. “We would like to help you connect with your brethren, Ravi.”
A twin smile, faux polite curved Ravi’s lips. “You mean you would like my assistance.” he answered.
Shy’s lips pursued together. “Perhaps. I would say this was an agreement that could benefit the both of us.”
Shy leaned back. “Why?” he echoed.
“Why do you want to connect with us?”
The Scientist looked down into his cup, and then back up. He held the gaze of the monster, and a monster peered back from feline green eyes. “I am looking to protect my city.” he answered. “You, your abilities, or what I could make of your abilities, could go lengths in helping me.”
“Is that the truth?”
“At this moment?” Shy answered archly. “You are probably the only one who has heard the truth. But it is.” he confirmed. “Will you let me help you?”
The monster’s brassy eyes darkened into more human hazel ones, and Ravi nodded. “I will help you.” he answered.
“The Labs were refurbished, with new entrances located in the elevators of each tower, although I heard there are other entrances scattered through this planet.”
Celeste made polite noises in response as she walked behind Kas, her assigned tour guide for the day. She looked up at the skies where the court dragons continued their formations.
“Were they always so warlike?” she asked. She had seen the wars that had ravaged Tris’ Hath from the safety of the Warren. This… this was different. “I don’t remember this.” she mused. “Although I was a child.”
Kas looked up at the skies, and shrugged. “It has been going on so long, I can’t remember the time before.” the dragon healer admitted. “But it is better now, less… chaotic.” his lips twisted for a moment in a grimace. “The Death Court used to make regular surprise raids, but with the Projects fortifying the city, that has been less of an issue.”
Celeste nodded. She had seen the projects, tall, golden eyed creatures with claws and fangs, magic.
“Why haven’t we razed the Death Court?” she asked outloud.
Kas stopped, and turned towards her. “Raze them?” he asked, surprised. “They are living beings.”
“Who have harmed our city.” Celeste answered. “With the talents of the Scientist, could something not have been done? Magic, or a weapon that is released into the air to destroy the vermin.” she waved her hand. “Something that attacks just the Death Court.”
Kas watched her with bright eyes, and laughed.
Celeste wrinkled her nose. “I don’t think death is funny.”
He shook his head. “This argument is one that Shy has had repeatedly with the council.” he left out another laugh. “Not all the discussions held in the council quarters are made public, but this has been a very vocal argument that riders had picked up on, and has spread through the city.”
“What do the people say?”
Kas shrugged. “The Death Court caused devastation, but they are living dragons. The argument is equally split amongst the people.”
“How has it been settling into the Dark Court?” Kas asked suddenly, looking for a change in subject.
A very polite, very diplomatic smile crossed Celeste’s features. “I have been settling in quite nicely, thank you.” she demurred.
This caused Kas to laugh again, which had Celeste frown.
“I don’t think what I had to say was funny.”
“Diplomacy has always been the weapon of choice for the Dark Court, or so I have heard. I didn’t think I would see it in person.” Kas’ smile was easy going. “I am a dragon healer, but I started as a human healer; I have the right certifications, and nothing you say to me will go beyond the two of us.” he made an odd cross motion over his heard.
Celeste’s frowned, suspicious. But Kas was just as stubborn, his easygoing smile in place, his eyes friendly, but holding her face.
Celeste sighed, and it was her turn to shrug. “It is difficult.” she admitted. “Settling back in with a family that I don’t really know. We have… expectations. That I am sure we will be able to meet eventually, but…” she scowled. “It would have been different, if I was a dragonrider.” she muttered. “If I had bonded at the Imperial Clutch and had returned home.”
“Are dragons so important?”
Celeste looked up, surprised. “Aren’t they?”
Kas seemed to dwell on the question. “There are dragons who are unbonded, who live in the Vella Crean. Dragons, who started this whole decade of war. We do not need them to survive, but some Pernese dragons need riders in order to do so. It’s a… unusual dynamic, but I don’t think being a dragonrider should define you.”
“But to have someone who is half of your whole?” Celeste had seen the way Thayer leaned against his bond, Bane with his two Gepernas. She had even caught stories of the brat Sabrilla and her queen Imperial. “To have someone understand you entirely, on your side?”
“Isn’t that what love is?” Kas asked suddenly, eyes bright. “I would rather fall in love, than bond with a dragon.”
Celeste shook her head. This Light Court healer would never understand her.
“Do you think, a dragon will fix everything?”
“Not fix, everything.” she answered immediately. “But… help things. I am the next leader of the Dark Court. A leader without a dragon-”
“A leader without a dragon-” Celeste continued, her lip curling at the mention of the Blood Court leader “half of a complete whole. How can you lead dragon riders, without understanding what it is like to be a dragonrider?” she shook her head. “The clutch here have been temporarily suspended, and the Imperial Guards hatched before my arrival.”
“Why don’t you talk to the Scientist?”
Kas nodded. “He must have plans. He must know things. Maybe, maybe he would have ideas for you.”
Shy, Clan Vecira
The Pigeon that had popped in had delivered the most particular message, that Shy found himself on the sands of Clan Vecira. He stared at the eggs that were piled close together, at the unusual looking dragon who watched him with dark, suspicious eyes.
“What is that?” Shy demanded.
“Eggs, Shy dear.” Darasath’s tone full of amusement. “You have tinkered with them enough to know what they are?”
Shy pointed like a child towards Kathilith.
“That, is a dragon, thank you.” came an insulted response. “Don’t you have manners?”
Renoth snorted with laughter in the back, and Shy was very sure he held the delighted peels of fledgling laughter.
Shy scowled. “She’s not one of mine. What is she?”
“A Court dragon. Our, Court dragon.”
Shy scowled. There were no natural Court dragons. His Courts did not naturally evolve even in the face of…
… decades of war… against a predator…
The scowl smoothed away, and fascinated delight filled his face. “Oh my.” he breathed, taking a step towards the red dam.
Kathilith hissed, swatting at the Scientist. A bronze dragon with the same markings growled high from the ledge.
Shy stilled, irritation flashing across his features for a second before he managed to rein in his emotions. “Darasath my dear.” he purred instead, his gaze taking in the red dam who was not one of his. “Why did you not tell me of this unusual development?”
“Shy my dear.” she answered back, her tone perplexed. “You have been visiting us on a regular basis, and you never asked.”
Renoth snorted with laughter again, and this time, Shy was certain he heard fledgling peels of laughter. Small antlers peeked out from the edge of the hatching sands. “A natural Court.” he murmured to himself. “How fascinating.”
“He makes me feel dirty.” Kathilith complained loudly, her tail curling around the eggs.
Shy raised his hands up. “Don’t worry my dear, I will be off soon.” he looked up. “So you are looking for candidates for the eggs?”
Darasath nodded. “Candidates for all of our eggs, and sponsors. They are the first Court dragons to hatch outside of the Vella Crean, Shy. They are special.”
Shy stared at the red dam with her unusual markings, and his eyes glinted. “I completely agree.” he purred.
Sidhu, Ravi, Nana
Music pumped through the air, a beat that echoed like a second pulse under the skin. The club was dark, lights flashing, spiraling, but nothing else moved.
Bodies were strewn across the floor, chairs, slumped across bars. The barest rise and fall of chests to show that they were not dead, simply; empty.
A tall, pale form walked amongst the strewn bodies, stopping before the more active ones and stroking cheeks, petting hair.
A shadow followed close behind her, lengthening until long claws that snapped up, caging the form.
The figure seemed startled, but not anger. It simple paused, looking around them for a moment with eyes that flashed an odd one dimensional shade of brass.
“Tag, am I it?” she called out, her tone languid, amused.
Shadows coalesced into a tall form, a dark skinned man in crushed velvet green brocade.
“She woke me also.” he answered instead. He tugged at the sleeves of the white shirt that peeked out over the brocade jacket, more interested in his clothing than the woman in front of him. “But the ones who wronged her are gone now, and I am still here.”
The woman smiled. “I was not woken to deal with those who have wronged her.” she answered in a sing song tone. “But to help her.” she reached out, tilting her head as she touched the edge of the cage.
Ravi frowned. “It won’t work.”
The woman pouted, a playful, petulant expression. “When the grief hurts her heart, she calls me and I numb the pain.” she spoke, her words continuously singsong. “When the anger overwhelms her and she can’t think, can’t function, she calls me and I help sooth the anger so that she can survive another day.” her hands gripped the cage, and Ravi hissed. “You would not stop me for going to her when she calls?”
Ravi shook his head. “Of course not.” he answered.
“Because she woke us.”
“Because she woke us.” Ravi repeated. “But when she does not call you, what do you do?”
The woman gestured around her, at the people who lay supine. “I eat.” she answered. “I play. But it is boring now, and the emotions taste the same.” she turned towards not Ravi, but to a spot behind him. Her eyes brightened, and a playful smile danced across her lips. “Now that, that looks like it will taste differently. It looks. Delicious.”
Sidhu gasped, took a quick step back.
“I can take you somewhere fun.” Ravi answered, stepping to the side so that he blocked the monster’s view of the dream catcher. “Somewhere filled with the unusual, and…” he paused. “Dragons.”
“Dragons?” Confusion, perplexion filled the monster’s tone. “What are dragons?”
Celeste sat on the ledge overlooking the hatching sands. Shy lay at the edge of the sands, his long legs covered in sand that an albino fledgling and her pale purple companion patted down around him, helpfully turning him into a “mermaid”.
Celeste wondered if Liucheth and Amalith understood what a mermaid was, and that the Scientist probably already had a herd (a school? What were groups of mermaids called?) living somewhere in the Labs.
“Princess.” Renoth’s voice was careful, formal.
Celeste wrinkled her nose and looked up as the Dark Court queen landed beside her. “That sounds stupid, Renoth.”
The Dark Court queen laughed. “You have the Court a buzz, and I pick up things.” she answered. She peered down and frowned as Nashwath took a running leap to slam into Shy, putting the scientist on his back as the fledglings continued to bury him. “Someone should warn them of the danger.”
A fledgling blue imperial joined them, crowing with victory as they plopped two shells on Shy’s chest.
“He is not a danger to his children.”
“Not while they remain children.” came Renoth’s dark mutters.
Celeste smiled. “True words.” she agreed.
“You are here to stand for the clutch, then?”
Celeste nodded. She had taken the dragonhealer’s advice and had hunted the Scientist, to find him prepared for her. “The first Court Clutch outside of the Vella Crean.” she repeated the words, carefully avoiding the gaze of the odd looking red. “I was told that we need to keep her a secret.”
Renoth gazed at Kathilith, nodded. “You know how the Scientist likes his surprises.” she answered dryly. She continued to look off to the side.
Celeste turned her head, following the gaze, and realized Renoth was staring at her back. Her hands flew to her back, patting down the smooth skin, and she let out a sigh of relief.
“Your father has wings.” Renoth remarked.
Celeste hesitated, nodded.
“Your parents have red eyes.” Renoth remarked again.
Celeste did not hesitate this time, and just nodded.
“Why do you hide yourself?”
Celeste looked down at the sands, at the sand mermaid with bright blue shells and feline green eyes. “It was easier, to hide that I was different.”
“I do not think the Red Mage’s home is a stranger to magic.”
“It was easier for me.” Celeste amended. “To hide that I was different. That I was not-” she looked down at her hands, her pale skin still within human boundaries. “Different. That I was one of the many children who called the Warren home.” she shook her head. “If I had wings growing up, they would have me in classes with other winged beings. If my eyes were red, they would know I was not native. It was easier, to pretend.”
Darasath landed lightly next to the Dark Cour heir.
“Now, it is all I know.”
Her tone was vague, distant, and Celeste continued to stare out into nothing until a tall, rangy figure strode into the hatching sands. The man immediately brightened, waving a hand enthusiastically towards the ledge.
“What is he doing here?” she demanded.
Darasath huffed with laughter. “Seems the Light Court does not trust Shy, and wants to ensure there is equal representation at the clutch.”
She pointed at him. “But him?” she despaired.
Oblivious, Kas continued to wave. “Celeste! Come on! Let’s check out our quarters!”
Even with the scowl on her face, Celeste stood up, brushing at her trousers. She murmured polite goodbyes to the queens as she looked for a way down to meet the dragon healer.
“He is good for her.” Darasath commented.
Renoth snorted. “A dragonhealer?” scorn in her eyes. “Our princess only deserves the best.” But her eyes were amused as Celeste bounded down to join Kas, reaching out to smack him in the arm, muttering something about true love trumping dragons.
“Are we allowed down here?” Nana asked in a hushed voice as she creeped after Kalkan.
Kalkan turned slowly, grinning as she raised a finger to her lips. She raised the hood of her fleece lined hoodie to hide her hair, and crouched down low. “They said it was for our safety.” she whispered, snapping her fingers and a small ball of red flame burst in her palm. “So that we do not get hurt.”
Nana giggled. “Get hurt by dragons.” she giggled again, finding the thought hilarious.
Kalkan grinned, her eyes going molten gold as a fine arc of fire shivered through them, “Let’s go play with the baishu, Nana.”
“Are we allowed to hurt them?”
Kalkan laughed. “My sisters eat them. I don’t think they will mind one or two going missing.”
Shy, Clan Vecira
Shy’s hands were carefully crossed together as he looked down with a slight expression of dismay. “Now, Darasath.”
“Don’t now Darasath me.” the Light Court Queen snapped, gesturing with a paw towards the contrite looking Kalkan and Nana. “They went hunting. For Baishu. And brought back snacks.”
“The nagas said they were tasty.” Kalkan protested, soot smudged down her cheek. “I wanted to share.”
Nana giggled, raising her hand to cover her mouth. “They have such fear and anger.” she was drunk, her words slurred. “It was delicious.”
Shy hesitated. “Now, my dears. We talked about behaving when we are outside the labs.”
Kas walked in, wiping his hands on a green apron. “The fledglings are fine,” he announced. “I’ve given them something to calm their stomach, but there will be no long term effects.” he grinned. “Maybe they’ll know now not to take candy from strangers.”
“Am not a stranger.”
“Was not candy.”
Kalkan and Nana protested together.
“Shy. The war is over, but we will not have them retaliate, especially when we have eggs on the sands.”
Shy nodded, leveled a gaze at the Project who ducked her head and hid her eyes. Nana followed suit, covering her eyes and peeking through fingers. “Peekaboo” she whispered.
“Kalkan can control her flames.” Shy answered. “But Nana-”
“I was a little hungry.” the monster protested. “They taste different. Unique.” she slid a glance towards the Court dragons. “I haven’t been snacking on you.”
Kathilith bristled in response.
“Another Echo might help.” Kalkan offered.
“No, Nana’s gift is a constant thing. Echo might hurt her, snuffing out the root of her …” Shy waved his fingers. “Otherness.”
“Maybe she should go to Dawn Watch, and Ravi can keep an eye on her.”
Shy shook his head. “Sylden will be most unhappy with me, and I can’t have that yet.” Shy frowned. “Shan might know someone.” he answered slowly.
“Your boy?” Darasath’s eyes brightened, remembering the tall and gentle Director.
Shy nodded. “He has a companion in place for Kip. Maybe, Shan will be able to find someone else who is better able to help Nana.”
“I don’t need help.” Nana responded in a singsong voice.
Nana’s eyes glinted as she eyed the tall giant in front of her warily.
“What is your name?” she asked.
The tall giant eyed her just as warily. “Shadow Aurora.”
Nana sniffed. “I don’t need a babysitter.” she answered hautily.
Shadow Aurora smirked. “I don’t need a baby.” she answered back.
Nana stilled, frowned, and reach out with one hand. “That’s not nice.” her eyes narrowed.
Shadow Aurora deftly caught Nana’s hand by the wrist, and she reached out to ‘bop’ her on the forehead.
“That’s not polite.” she answered back. “I’m not here to be your baby sitter, nor your nanny. But I’m here to make sure you learn manners. We’ll be… partners.”
“Partners?” Nana echoed, wariness in her tone. She tilted her head, considering the word. “Partner is… okay.” she answered. “I will be your partner.”
Shy picked up the cup of tea and brought it to his lips, eyeing his Oracle. The diminutive woman sat with her hands curled around a large mug of hot chocolate liberally sprinkled with marshmallows and chocolate shavings.
“Four candidates, for four courts.” Shy said slowly. “Are they the right ones?”
Monique’s eyes brightened to molten gold. “They are right enough.” she answered back. The Heiress who wants to prove herself to the council, the dragon healer who listens to the people, and your weapons.” Monique took a slurpy sip of her hot chocolate. “This is will be the first of many new Courts, Shy.”
The Scientist nodded. “None to be of my design, then?”
The Oracle’s lips curved. “You need to cede control, give them freedom.”
His lips twisted into a grimace. “He’ll be there, won’t he?”
The smile deepened. “You will help new courts emerge, looking for an answer, and he seeks them out also, for a similar reason. The Pretentious one spurs your own development, Scientist. It is not such a bad thing.”
Shy leaned forward. “Tell me, Oracle.” he commanded. “Tell me what the future holds.”