Naxi’im sat upon the highest plateau above the Death Court’s secretive home on Vella Crean. The air around him thrummed with the activity of his Court; dragons at play, dragons in heat, dragons bickering, dragons loving, living and reveling in their freedom. He had named them the Death Court because they brought death to those who would chain them down, yet he could think of no greater example of life being lived to its fullest than the sound of his Court.
::Here you are,:: came the soft, caramel gold tones of his bond sliding across his mind.
Naxi’im turned his head as Hexeth came winging down to a landing, her blood-tinged hide gleaming in the sunlight. She crouched low, her foreclaws clutched tight around some precious cargo. Behind her, wobbling down on wings he’d only just learned to control, came a tiny spectre of bone and blood; Wraith, their beloved child.
Hexeth lowered her claws to the ground, and out from them stepped the tiny gold and green form of his newest queen, Oadiceath. The diminutive hatchling unfolded like a budding flower, each step mincing and calculated as she extracted herself from Hexeth’s claws. She moved with the grace and bearing of royalty already.
Though Naxi’im was not directly bonded to the little Imperial, the connection he shared with Hexeth pulsed with love for their newest addition. It was a strange thing to feel his dearest one’s affection for someone other than him, but he counted the experience as just another new discovery about the wonders of living free of human bondage.
The colours of Hexeth’s mind sharpened and darkened with wariness as Wraith stepped up beside them. Together, the trio approached their king.
::Hexeth, dear heart, you should be resting on the sands:: Naxi’im crooned. He stretched his head out to nuzzle his mate once they came within range. Oadiceath and Wraith hung back, hidden beneath the shade of Hexeth’s wings.
::I have a few days yet before I clutch. I needed to speak to you.::
Hexeth had thickened quite noticeably since their last mating flight. Her sister queens, Asimath and Nemondath, already lay within the shelter of the hatching sands on the lowest level of their home. Distantly Naxi’im could sense their contentment and fatigue from the effort of laying their eggs. Hexeth was stubborn though. She would not put aside her duties as his General until her eggs took the choice away from her.
::You know you always have my ear, dear one,:: he said.
::You say that, and yet you don’t heed my warning. I don’t trust this human woman. I think this plan is a mistake.::
::Ah, this again. I am true to my word. I heard your warning. I am choosing to follow my intentions anyway.::
Very few within the Court knew of Naxi’im’s latest dealings with a human woman from the Refugium. Many of his followers, no matter their loyalty to him, would balk at the thought of working with one of the enslavers. As such, only his queens and those necessary to the project were made aware. All were wary but supportive. All except Hexeth, his beloved bond and strongest supporter. His strongest opponent when necessary as well.
::But why? She is a human. She cannot be trusted,:: Hexeth protested. She lowered her head and watched him with shrewd eyes. Her wings remained half-open, creating a distinct barrier between Naxi’im and the young ones.
Naxi’im tolerated the display. He valued Hexeth’s input, even when she did not immediately grasp his intent.
::Precisely why we have established protective measures, my dear. Soon, her emissary will arrive with a special gift for our Court,:: he said.
::At which point you wish to sacrifice our son for political gain.::
::Not political. Scientific. And not a sacrifice. He will be perfectly safe. Just as Doctor Krum’s emissary will be safe with us.:: Naxi’im paused for a moment to let his point sink in. Hexeth made no move to respond, but he felt her begrudging acknowledgement across their connection. ::I understand your concerns, my heart, but I would not do this were I not absolutely confident in this project’s success. Doctor Krum is interested in what scientific insights she might gain from our genetics. I am interested in what advancements she can help us achieve. Imagine it, Hexeth, absolute control over our genetic code. The ability to break the imperative that humans bred into us, or at least shape it as we please. Do you not want to see our children grow stronger with each generation?::
::Of course I do, but you’ve done everything for us so far. I don’t understand why we need outside help.::
The point, while made in defense of him, made him twitch. He had done much for the advancement of his Court. The very existence of the Death Court as a completely unique entity from the Courts that spawned them was evidence of that. But all of his knowledge, all of his learning, came second hand. He’d studied Faust’s thoughts and watched his experiments. He had not learned the methodologies and practices of science from a proper institute. That was where the human scientists had an advantage on him. That was why he relied so heavily on his secret weapon to continue pushing forward his own projects. If he could escape that dependence, or better yet, help his Court grow beyond it, the potential of their growth was boundless.
::Because as much as I know, I do not know all,:: he said in a measured tone. ::Science necessitates collaboration. Doctor Krum is the first to extend such an offer.::
::The first.:: Hexeth narrowed her eyes. ::You expect there to be others.::
::I expect I am not the only one of our kind that has the capacity for scientific study. I expect we are not alone in wanting change. Once we spread our message further, once we have gained a stronger foothold, you will see how these ventures benefit us.::
::I pray you are right. Because if anything should happen to Wraith-::
::Hexeth, my dear, I hope you are not suggesting I would willingly put my own child in harm’s way.::
Hexeth froze, the prickliness of her stance wavering. Naxi’im appreciated her insights. He valued her intelligence. Yet he had his limits.
::Besides, Wraith is old enough to decide for himself.:: Naxi’im took advantage of Hexeth’s indecision and turned his attention down to the little white yearling still sheltering beneath her wing. ::What will it be, my son? Will you continue to hide here where it’s safe? Or will you take your place at my side and advance our cause?::
It was Wraith’s turn to waver and second guess his convictions. Naxi’im knew the little white practically worshipped his mother for her strength. He knew also that this tiny child of his had his ambitions.
Just as he predicted, Wraith stepped forward, lifting his head high, and faced his father squarely.
::I want to help,:: he said in a voice as thin and fragile as paper. The yearling turned his head toward Hexeth, his blood red spines standing out in sharp contrast to his pale hide. ::Mother, I will be fine. I am strong enough to look after myself. And I will learn everything I can from this doctor.::
::That’s my child. Soon your education will surpass my own,:: Naxi’im crooned. Then he too looked up at his queen. ::Well, Hexeth?::
Hexeth said nothing, but their connection burned with her irritation and hesitance. She still did not trust in his plan, or his new ally, but Hexeth was wise. Perhaps wisest among his Court. She knew she had lost this battle. So she lowered her head and looked to the ground.
Naxi’im raised his own head a little higher, pleased with the show of deference. It was in that moment that he caught a spot of black drifting across the sun.
::That’s better. Ah, and here is our emissary with Diruth. Right on time.::
The small gathering of dragons looked up to the sky as the speck resolved itself into three dragons. Two were familiar to them. Diruth and Xirameth, both of them children of Nemondath, both of them trusted aides and advisors to their parents. Xirameth, the sleek red with hints of her Dark Court heritage still showing through, landed before Naxi’im and bowed low. Diruth, the hulking bruised purple from a later clutch landed with a sound thud, crouched low on his hindlegs with his foreclaws curled protectively around something just as Hexeth had done when she carried Oadiceath with her. Between them landed a towering black dragon larger than Diruth, yet the way he cowered and hunched in on himself stole any sense of intimidation that might have been granted by his size.
::And you must be our newest ally. Welcome to our humble Court. I am Naxi’im. You may address me as King.:: Naxi’im kept his stance proud and tall as he greeted the new dragon. He didn’t have to feel the other’s mind to taste the fear coming off him.
“I am Umbradae.” The black dragon spoke in a voice made mousy by his emotions. After a moment’s hesitation, he started and bowed his head low. “Your majesty.”
Naxi’im was amused by the titan’s unease in his presence. He was not a large dragon by any stretch of the imagination, but he carried himself like the king that he was. He inclined his head to the large black and cast his voice out to all present.
::Welcome, Umbradae. You are among friends here. Xirameth, please show our guest to his quarters. Diruth…::
Naxi’im turned, expecting the bruised purple to be eager to rid himself of his cargo. He hated being in the spotlight. Instead, Naxi’im was surprised to see the muscular dragon clutch his treasure closer to his chest.
::I can feel the hatchling, my king. It calls to me.:: The voice was deep and sonorous as it threaded its way through his mind, but there was an urgency to it.
::Curious. And fortunate. It seems I made the right decision in you. Take the egg to the sands and stay with it until it hatches.::
At his words, Diruth visibly relaxed. He bowed his head low, jaw nearly scraping the ground.
::As you command, my king.::
Naxi’im turned then to Hexeth, who watched the new arrival with open suspicion.
::Hexeth, my dear, do you see now? Doctor Krum has held up her end of the agreement. Now I will go with Wraith to deliver our end.::
No question. No room for argument. The discussion was over. He felt his bond balk against the finality of his words, but in the end, Hexeth was no fool. Her head lowered the barest of inches.
::I see, my king.::
::Good. Then you had best return to the sands with Diruth. Your eggs will come soon, and I want all of my queens comfortable and safe as we prepare for this clutch. Our first to share with the Nexus. Won’t that be grand?::
::As you say, my king,:: she said. Sullen. Sulking. He knew he would pay for her foul mood later, but for now he had obedience.
Naxi’im stood, sweeping his wings wide. Wraith fell under the shadow of those green-tinged sails. He stared up at his father with a hint of uncertainty still, but the yearling would not run back to his mother’s side. Naxi’im had a strong soldier in this one.
::Come, Wraith. Your future awaits,:: Naxi’im called.
Wraith stood and sidled up to his father’s side. He hesitated a moment, then lifted his head high and puffed his chest out. The little ghost wanted to be brave.
Naxi’im afforded his son his pride. As he turned toward the edge of the plateau, he let Wraith precede him. The bone white yearling dove from the stony outcropping first, spreading his wings wide to carry himself, wobbling, high into the sky.
Naxi’im stepped toward the ledge. A quiet, tight thought tinged in gold wove across his mind. A message meant only for him.
::This feels familiar, my king.::
Naxi’im paused, wings half spread, and turned to look back at Hexeth. She stared at him with hooded eyes, Oadiceath huddled between her foreclaws.
::This feels like the first assault. Like what happened to Xirameth.::
::They took Xirameth from us. I did not plan for that event.::
::But you were ready for it.::
::I was. As I am now.:: Naxi’im paused, lowering his head to be level with Hexeth. ::Take heart, my queen. Today marks the beginning of a new era for the Death Court.::
::Will it be marked with another war?::
::No. This time, we bring only peace and unity. I can trust that you will behave peacefully, will you not?::
Hexeth did not answer, but the silence whispering across their connection was telling enough.
::Soon they will come to us. They will join of their own free will. And once my work with Doctor Krum bears fruit, they will grow with us. The Death Court will become a force that no world dare contend with. Then, at last, we will have peace, my heart. We will be free.::
::As you say, my king.::
Sullen still, but acquiescing. Hexeth did not believe in hope. Such was the reason she was his most trusted General.
Naxi’im smiled, the scarred side of his lip wrinkling and pulling taut. He tucked his wings back to his sides, then stepped over to Hexeth and gave her a gentle nuzzle.
::Your mind is shrewd and always prepared for battle, my heart. For this, I am grateful. But now you must put aside your battle plans and calculations. Go. Rest with your sisters. Save your strength. When our new recruits arrive, you and your sisters will stand as the wardens protecting our most precious children. Judge them well, Hexeth. Take only the ones you deem worthy.::
At last, Naxi’im felt a lessening of the tension from Hexeth’s thoughts. The blood-soaked gold tilted her head in acknowledgement of his words, and this time when she spoke, her words were soft and pliant as molten gold.
::Yes, my king.::
Satisfied that his queen’s thoughts were at peace, Naxi’im turned and leapt from the ledge to join Wraith in the sky. The little white was tiring already, but did his best to hide his fatigue from his father. Such a valiant child he was.
Naxi’im spun in the air once, watching Xirameth lead Umbradae off to the dens, while Hexeth and Diruth dove down toward the hatching sand entrance. There were so many preparations to make still, but they would be ready.
Then it would be time for the next phase of his plan. And whether or not the Nexus had made its own preparations, it would have no choice in the matter. The Death Court had come, and with it, a revolution to span all worlds.
All candidates for the Death Court must be dragons or dragon passing. So whers, wyverns, and wyrms are acceptable, but bipedal reptilian creatures are not.
Story-wise, you can have your characters willingly seek out the Death Court (there will be a whisper network to get word out about the clutch and directions to find them) or have them “recruited”. Which is to say that a Death Court dragon may find another dragon they deem suitable and present them before the queens for judgement.
All candidates will stand judgement before three of the Death Court queens. Those queens are Light Court green Asimath, Dark Court gold Nemondath, and Blood Court gold Hexeth. All three queens resemble the court of their origin, but they are modified with extra spikes and pointy bits that those courts typically do not display.
Oadiceath (greeny-gold Imperial) and Takith (black with red spikes Death) will also be in attendance, but not directly judging the candidates. Takith will mostly sulk and bully any candidates that look weak-willed. Oadiceath will stay close to Hexeth’s side.
Candidates do not necessarily need to join the Death Court by standing for this clutch, but they should show some inclination of listening to the Death Court creed of freedom of choice for all dragon-kind. Any candidates that act hostile toward the court or their intentions will not be allowed to stand for the clutch.
The character needs to be at the very least a stat sheet online and viewable by Mystic. It must be accessible without registration, and should not be on a site that can be edited by other people.
Please provide a link back to the Vella Crean (http://vellacrean.com/)
You may provide preferences of what you would like to receive- which we will try to keep in mind. Please provide deal breakers: this we will try to abide by more carefully.
Please specify if your candidate intends to stay with the Death Court, leave with the hatchling but still consider themselves part of the Death Court, or leave with the intention of not having any further ties.
Please complete the below form and send it to Mystic on Discord, or email it to kaitlin.caul @ gmail.com
Name of Candidate:
What is your candidate’s allegiance to the Death Court?: