Headsman (#25176822)
Level 1 Pearlcatcher
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Familiar

Charcoal Kitsune
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Energy: 47/50
This dragon’s natural inborn element is Wind.
Male Pearlcatcher
This dragon cannot breed until Dec 10, 2021 (7 days).
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Personal Style

Apparel

Skin

Scene

Measurements

Length
4.08 m
Wingspan
3.85 m
Weight
585.99 kg

Genetics

Primary Gene
Coal
Petals
Secondary Gene
Camo
Butterfly
Tertiary Gene
Charcoal
Spines

Hatchday

Hatchday
Jul 05, 2016
(5 years)

Breed

Breed
Adult
Pearlcatcher

Eye Type

Eye Type
Wind
Common
Level 1 Pearlcatcher
EXP: 0 / 245
STR
6
AGI
6
DEF
6
QCK
7
INT
7
VIT
6
MND
7

Biography

NOT FOR SALE, TRADE, OR LENDING
.....I. A Chief in Exile
the story of Headsman
~ ...II. Meet the Neighbors ...~
the story of Adrastos
III. Thief of Hearts
the story of Hemera
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Headsman
Nickname: Chief
♦ AH purchase




I. A Chief in Exile
(written by Disillusionist)

From birth, he was destined to be a chief; hence he was given the name "Headsman". He grew up, and along the way something went wrong. He was banished from his clan, and though they took everything away from him, they couldn't take away his name. It was bitter to both him and them, a hint, a taunt, of what could have been -- but for better or worse it was his now, to forsake or keep or change.

He left his clan and traveled across the Sunbeam Ruins. He did not get very far. There was something that compelled him to stay close to his old home, even though he knew he couldn't return there. He sought shelter with the next clan he came across, a small but thriving community headed by a pair of Guardians. There were only a little over a dozen dragons in the clan, and they welcomed him and offered him a place to stay. Headsman had been schooled in the diplomatic arts, as befitted a future chief, and he put on a brave face and a dashing smile. He flattered his hosts, and his gentle thanks concealed all the hurt he was carrying inside.

Whether or not they sensed it, the dragons continued to care for him and treat him well, and Headsman slowly warmed to them. He grew quite close to
Deune, the group's only Pearlcatcher. He'd originally planned to stay with the clan for a few days, but in the way of things, days turned into weeks, which threatened to extend into months. The clan members started to regard him as one of their own -- but the clan leader hadn't forgotten that his stay here was, to all intents and purposes, temporary.

She approached him one day, on a warm and golden afternoon. Headsman, as a guest, didn't help in the gathering, but he did make things easier by neatly sorting the gathered plants and putting them away. The clan leader approached and sat down next to him. She did it quite casually, but her size alone was always enough to make Headsman quake, and the fact that her claws were still a bit bloody -- she had probably been hunting or chasing off monsters again -- only made him uneasier. He hid it magnificently, though.

"You've been here for some time,"
Veritas began casually. "It's been a few weeks already, hasn't it? Have you given some thought to where you'll head next?"

Headsman was a bit surprised to realize that the question hurt him. After the hardships he'd endured in his clan, the warmth he'd experienced here had been very, very sweet to him. He answered, "I am considering it," and his voice sounded to him very distant and strange, as if he were hearing someone else speaking. The voice closer to him, deep in his heart, was protesting, "I don't want to leave."

Veritas nodded slowly. She had many faults, but at least she was not stupid. She said rather lazily, "We shall certainly miss you once you're gone. I know Deune will. She's a very shy girl, so I was glad to see you getting along with each other."

Veritas was not stupid, but she was not at all subtle, either....Nonetheless, Headsman appreciated the effort. And he considered things carefully, he really did....

Some days later, he announced to the clan that he would join them. And before them all, he asked Deune to be his mate. The other dragons cheered as she quietly accepted his offer, and though the clan leader smiled, it did not quite reach her eyes.

She later explained that she did not like how he'd done things. As the leader, it was her duty and privilege to introduce new members to the rest of the clan. He had robbed her of that task -- then, too, he had publicly asked Deune to be his mate instead of talking it over quietly with her first. They should have spoken together before informing the clan leader of their decision. Veritas now shook her head, saying, "I don't object, but you could have handled the matter with more tact. Does she agree to this?"

"She agreed," Headsman said -- but he remembered, too late, that he hadn't talked to Deune before asking her, either. Veritas let him stew about it for a few seconds, and then she bluntly asked him for his name. Headsman was confused; he'd been here for weeks now. Didn't she know his name already?

"I mean your real name," she corrected. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously.

It has then that he realized: to these dragons, Headsman was a title, not a name. Veritas didn't like how he'd openly asserted himself and how he always called himself "Headsman". Until then, she'd regarded it as his name, but his recent actions had made her wonder if he were nursing ambitions of taking over the clan.

He gravely explained to her, "'Headsman' is my true name. It was given to me at my birth and is the only name I have ever had."

The white dragon considered it. "Have you ever thought of changing it? It's a bit awkward," she noted, and her temper started to cool.

Headsman promised that he would. Deune raised no objections about their upcoming marriage (even when she was carefully asked), and soon she and Headsman were a mated pair. More days passed, and they turned into weeks...and something peculiar happened. Headsman started to wonder if he'd made a mistake.

The clan was small, and it had to work hard to survive. Headsman had had it relatively easy growing up; he had barely done any hard labor, and the most difficult tasks he'd received had been studying diplomacy and etiquette. The Disillusionists, however, were a rough and ready bunch; they split the earth and hunted wild beasts to sustain themselves, and Headsman was expected to do the same. He did his best and no one ever complained about how he did things, but it was difficult for him.

Worse still, he'd begun to consider the possibility that he'd made a mistake marrying Deune. After the initial excitement waned, he found that it was difficult for him to talk to her. Her shyness, which he'd hoped would fade over time, didn't seem like it would disappear any time soon. She was often furtive and didn't seem interested in reaching out to him. Headsman started to wonder if she'd ever been interested in him in the first place, if she'd only said yes because she'd been afraid of hurting his feelings. He sighed aloud when he thought of this. "We shall just have to make the best of it," he realized grimly.

He had stayed here because he'd been badly in need of a home -- and now, he finally forced himself to accept the fact that he'd bonded to Deune because he'd been desperate to forget the mate he'd left. She had been a priestess who communed with the dead....They had not been meant to be together. They had had two children, and Headsman had been forced to leave them behind. But he had a new mate now, and for better or worse, they were together, and he had chosen this new life for himself.

Dawn was breaking....Soon it'd be time to go gathering again. Headsman roused himself, though his limbs ached. He nuzzled Deune perfunctorily and walked out to face the next new day.

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Adrastos
Nickname: Dras
♦ AH purchase




II. Meet the Neighbors
(written by Disillusionist)

As a guest in the Disillusionists' Clan, Headsman had been given a small but comfortable berth in the center hall. He had slept well there. Upon his marriage to Deune, though, he'd moved in with her, and her choice of neighbor left a great deal to be desired: Deune's neighbor was a Ridgeback.

Her name was
Hemera, and she was a great deal like Veritas: absolutely enormous, with a sleek white body and wings of creamy maize. Whereas Veritas' hide was almost completely unmarked, though, Hemera's was striped and blotched in gray and deep purple. It suited her personality perfectly, for though she could be as loud as Veritas, her energy was a bit wilder -- but she was also sweeter. It was for this reason that the shy, secretive Deune had made a home next to her. Hemera seemed almost perpetually cheerful and energetic. She talked a lot in a loud, bright voice and always tried to engage Deune in conversation even when Headsman (to his great shame) had given up for the rest of the day.

Hemera liked to dig. She was a Ridgeback; it was a necessary evil, or at least that was how Headsman thought of it. In his old home, he'd been allowed to get up well past sunrise. Here, he got up at the crack of dawn to escape Hemera's incessant digging. It was a horrible sound. He didn't know how Deune could sleep through it. He spent the rest of the day gathering, keeping himself busy, but there were always times when he had nothing to do, and during these moments, he couldn't go back to the lair and face more digging. He didn't have anyone he could complain to: he was too afraid to talk to Veritas, and
Nachtstreiter had patiently (and uselessly) explained, "She's a Ridgeback, Headsman. Ridgebacks dig." As a result, he'd fallen into the habit of parking himself somewhere and complaining to himself. He was in the process of doing this when he heard a low, unwelcome growl: "And what have you got against us digging, hm?"

Headsman steeled himself before turning around. There was only one other Ridgeback in the lair, and sure enough, there he was:
Adrastos. He was a little smaller than Hemera but was a great deal more muscular. Like her, he shared a tremendous proclivity for digging. Headsman thought the world would have been fairer if he had shared Hemera's good humor instead; unfortunately, Adrastos didn't have much humor to begin with. Headsman grimly postulated that if he prodded Adrastos enough, the Ridgeback would simply stomp on him with one huge foot and that would be the end of it. Headsman was unhappy with life, but not that unhappy, and damned if he would leave it because he'd gotten himself stepped on by a Ridgeback.

He muttered something inoffensive and then skulked off. As he wandered away, he started thinking back to his studies in his previous clan. For some time he'd been suppressing them, because memories of his previous life were painful....But right here, right now, he needed to remember what he could about Ridgebacks.

They liked to dig. And they hated water....There was that underground pool inhabited by the reclusive artist,
Regius; Headsman briefly toyed with the idea of shoving Adrastos into the pool, but decided it would wake Regius up. He barely spoke with Regius but also didn't think Regius deserved something like that; also, he wasn't strong enough to push Adrastos anywhere in the first place. And there was something else about Ridgebacks. Something important...

Headsman arrived back at his den. Deune had woken up and gone out for the day, and the apartment was empty. Hemera had stopped digging for one reason or another, and Headsman stood near the entrance for a while, just drinking in the silence. He was covered in dirt and grime from foraging, and he now went to dig up the things he needed to wash himself with.

He couldn't find them. He bumbled around the apartment in an exhausted, sleep-deprived stupor before it hit his memory like a hammer. He sat down hard in the middle of the cave and let out a noise that was a collision between a roar and a groan.

The thought that had hit his mind was this: Ridgebacks liked to borrow things. To other breeds, including Pearlcatchers like Headsman, this was known as stealing.
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It had been close to two months since Headsman had joined the Disillusionists. Since that time, he had been working hard and carefully watching his disagreeable neighbors. All right, so maybe Hemera wasn't that bad, but he really couldn't stand Adrastos. The towering Ridgeback had his lair next to Hemera's, and though he dug less often, Headsman disliked him a whole lot more, because -- it was confirmed! -- Adrastos liked to steal things.

Headsman had learned not to be hasty. He had bided his time, watching carefully, subtly changing his gathering habits so that the thief would let their guard down and he could catch them unaware. And more than once he had caught that stuffy Ridgeback snaking his long neck around the side of the lair and using his nose-horn (Headsman wanted to use the word "snoot" but considered it too undignified) to carefully tip things onto the floor and then roll them back to where he waited, claws greedily outstretched. Just thinking about it made Headsman's ears heat up all over again.

He had thought about going straight to the clan leaders, but he had annoyed Veritas once and didn't think she now looked upon him kindly. And besides, he didn't have any physical evidence. He would have to seek out Adrastos' private hoard, discover its location, and then bring back another member of the clan to bear witness to his neighbor's thievery. Today was the day he'd accomplish that first step: seeking out the Ridgeback's hoard.

Adrastos always went out at dusk to go fishing. He took lanterns or torches with him and lit them as he bent over the stream, where he'd then tickle the fish out with his wicked claws. Headsman waited until the Ridgeback was a distant shadow, and then he slunk away. He had about a half-hour before the other gatherers returned; he hoped to have slipped back out of Adrastos' lair by then.

The entrance to Adrastos' lair was a little ways to the right of Hemera's. It was always covered by a thick woven mat of bark and plant fibers, and Headsman had never seen the inside. Still, Adrastos was a bit small, as Ridgebacks went. "His lair won't be big, so it shouldn't take me that long," Headsman thought as he wiggled inside. He paused and looked around.

The room was small, all right, but it was just the first part of the lair. At the back was a huge tunnel that looked as though it snaked down into the ground -- and quite a long way, too. No wonder Adrastos didn't dig as much as Hemera did -- he'd already finished! "Ridgebacks like to dig, Headsman," Nachtstreiter crooned again, in that annoyingly mellow way he had, in the vaults of Headsman's memory. The Pearlcatcher sat down and bit back a howl even as the Guardian said, over and over again, in his imagination: "That's what Ridgebacks do. They dig. They dig, Headsman. They dig lots and lots and lots."

Headsman quickly roused himself and shook his head. He didn't have time to feel sorry for himself, especially since his little mission would take a lot longer than he'd thought it would. He wrapped his tail around his pearl and carried it with him into the dimness.

The tunnel was dimly lit by pockets of glowing stones and fungi. By their light, he saw that the tunnel always sloped down, down...and down. It took a while, but soon Headsman's patience was rewarded. He started to see shelves, carved a bit lower into the walls, each of them festooned with various knickknacks. Bones from tiny animals...glittering rocks...even lumps of rare metal. The hoard grew bigger the farther down the tunnel Headsman went, and soon the random knickknacks were joined by less random things. Things he recognized. Headsman started to dawdle, matching stolen things to their owners. Some things were easily identifiable, others less so. He opened the lid of a wooden box and saw a delicate chain of flowers, a bit like the one Veritas wore. But the flowers here were wilting and had gathered dust, and a cloud of it wafted into Headsman's face.

He sneezed. His precious pearl popped out of his grasp, and it rolled away down the tunnel. Headsman yelled, a sound of pure panic -- he couldn't lose his pearl. He couldn't! He left the hoard behind him as he barreled on all fours down the passageway after the pearl. Headsman's eyes were so fixed on it that when the pearl finally dropped out of sight, it was too late for him to stop. He skidded off a ledge -- to Adrastos, it would have been a low step, but to the smaller Pearlcatcher, it was a great drop. He thudded, quite hard, onto the stone floor.

Headsman lay there for a few moments, dazed but otherwise unharmed. He dusted himself off and looked around. He was in Adrastos' actual lair, a huge subterranean cave, considerably less cluttered than the tunnel he'd gone through. Adrastos' personal belongings (he assumed they were only Adrastos' belongings) were neatly organized on shelves and in piles. The place smelled of fish, but otherwise didn't seem so bad. Nevertheless...

"I should go," he thought -- he had already located Adrastos' hoard and proof that he'd been nipping things from his clanmates; all Headsman had to do now was bring someone else down here. Heturned to look at the ledge and ground his teeth: the ledge was too high for him to jump onto, and its sides were too smooth for him to climb. He flapped his wings, but the air down here was dead and didn't provide any lift. He slumped back down, his pearl at his side.

He bustled around the room, picking up bits and pieces, pushing them together to form steps going up to the ledge. He worked quickly, but it was too late -- scarcely a few minutes had passed when he heard the slow tread of someone coming down the passageway. It was undoubtedly Adrastos, and sure enough, as Headsman backed away, the Ridgeback entered the room, his snout preceding him magnificently.

For a moment, none of them spoke. They just looked askance at each other. And then Adrastos grunted and strode the rest of the way into the room. "Small one," he boomed, "what are you doing here?"

"I got lost," Headsman answered lamely. He sat down on the floor, his tail curled protectively around his pearl. Adrastos wasn't buying the lie, either; he tilted his head, and then he pointed down the tunnel with his snout. "There's only one way in and out of this place. How did you manage to lose that?"

"The same way the others 'lost' their things," Headsman snapped. It just slipped out. He was tired and sore and it had been a long day and he had been working nonstop since coming here and he was wondering if he'd made some irreparable mistakes and a lot of other bad things had happened before that and he just wanted to forget about them and he didn't need this, he really didn't.

He bellowed up at the Ridgeback, "What have you been doing?! You've been stealing things! I've been hearing stories about how all sorts of things are disappearing, and it turns out it's you. It was you all along! I figured it was you because one day I needed some things, but they weren't there. So I hung around my place a few times, and I always caught you -- you, you sneaky, snoot-pointed scoundrel. You've been hiding all our possessions down here like an overgrown ferret with a hoarding problem, and I can't believe anyone would steal from his own clanmates! You ought to be ashamed of yourself!"

And he was -- well, that is to say, Headsman was. As soon as the last words left his jaws, he thought to himself, "I've made a terrible mistake."

Adrastos sat down. His tail twitched again, a bit more gently this time, as he mumbled, "I'm sorry."

"Oh gods, please don't step on...Wait, what? You're sorry?"

"Yes, I am." The Ridgeback's golden eyes narrowed. "And don't think I didn't hear you the first time, either. Why would I step on you? That's a disgusting thought." He looked down at a forepaw, and a shiver rippled through his hide as he scraped his paw against the ledge. Headsman pretend not to notice.

He continued carefully, "Why did you take our things? Do you need them?"

"I don't see why I should tell you. Why would I tell you, anyway?"

"Well, I would have to keep it a secret because otherwise you would step on me," Headsman said dryly. Adrastos growled in protest, but the Pearlcatcher rambled on, "You wouldn't even have to do it on purpose: just one small slip on a fish you didn't throw away properly, and splork."

"'Splork'?!" Adrastos let out a great bark of laughter. Headsman's own lips twitched until he found himself grinning back. "Or splortch," he added, "or maybe squarch or even kerblooey. Endless possibilities waiting to be discovered."

Adrastos was laughing now, rocking back and forth, his tail thudding on the floor. Headsman started to relax. And so when he heard a loud voice calling down from above, he nudged Adrastos to answer. The Ridgeback roused himself and bellowed back, "All is well. Headsman dropped by for a visit." He gave Headsman a meaningful glare.

"We're all right, Lord Nachtstreiter. We're just chatting, that's all."

"Ah. I was wondering where you'd gone. I'll go tell Deune you're down here, then." And with that, the great Guardian moved away. The two dragons listened as Nachtstreiter's footsteps receded, and then they looked at each other. Adrastos sighed and sprawled on the floor. And so, while Headsman waited patiently, his pearl between his paws, the Ridgeback explained why he had taken the other dragons' things. Headsman's regard of him changed from contempt, to irritation, to exasperation, and finally to sympathy.

At the end of it all, when Adrastos was silent and had nothing more to say, Headsman looked up at the ceiling of the cave. Searching, thinking deeply about an answer. He didn't like Adrastos much, but now... "Pick your snoot up off the ground," Headsman told him. Memories of his own life tumbled through his mind, one after the other, swirling into a plan. At the core of them all was that triumphant note..."Everyone deserves a second chance."

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Hemera
Nickname: Mera
♦ AH purchase




III. Thief of Hearts
(written by Disillusionist)

The Disillusionists' Clan had grown rapidly, and soon Veritas and Nachtstreiter had started recruiting specialists who could help keep the clan running. Two of the positions they advertised for were fisher and inventorist. Adrastos had filled one position, Hemera the other. They had arrived at roughly the same time, from different clans in Light. It must be said that Adrastos hadn't made a good impression on Hemera. When the two had been introduced to each other, he had muttered "Hi," and that had been all. Hemera had said, "Pleased to meet you," but he hadn't seemed at all pleased, and it'd sort of put a damper on things.

Still, Hemera had realized that they would be working together, and so she had always treated him well. Hemera was a cheerful dragon who liked trying to draw others into conversation, but Adrastos had struck her as the kind of dragon who didn't want to be talked to. So instead, she had tried getting to know her other neighbor, Deune, a small and graceful Pearlcatcher who looked like a patch of night. She was about the size of Hemera's foot and also as shy as a field mouse, and so Hemera often got down on all fours to talk to her. Her voice was normally as loud as a trumpet, but she always spoke softly to the Pearlcatcher. Shy, reclusive Deune slowly learned to trust her enormous new neighbor, and over time the monologues evolved into actual conversations.

"Yet she has secrets she won't share," Hemera commented to Adrastos one day. The other Ridgeback had returned from fishing, and he was cleaning his catch, his claws whisking away the scales as Hemera calculated the quantity of food. He paused, looked down his long nose at her, and answered that yes, everybody had their secrets, "And it really isn't any business of ours."

"I never said it was. It's just...she seems so troubled about something. She doesn't have to tell her secrets, but she should...let them go." Hemera shrugged her armored shoulders. "I think she would be happier then."

Adrastos asked, obviously confused, if it was important to Hemera. She answered him, genuinely surprised, "Of course it is! We are clanmates. Clanmates should strive to make each other happy."

It was something for Adrastos to think about carefully -- and he did, he really did. Over time, their relationship improved, and Hemera came to understand that he was naturally brusque and there was no changing that. She realized that he did not actively dislike her, and she continued her business of taking care of the clan's hoard.

Months passed. More dragons arrived, including a handsome Pearlcatcher named Headsman. Hemera watched him and Deune grow closer, and she felt a little burst of joy. If she were to be entirely honest with herself, her cheerful chatter had not done much to draw Deune out. Headsman was quiet and steady, and perhaps that was what Deune needed. Hemera nodded in satisfaction before forcing herself to think about something else, some other thing to worry about: lost things, disappearing things. Hemera was a Ridgeback, but she always borrowed after asking permission. In her previous clan, she had learned that other dragons did not take kindly to things being borrowed without permission. Hemera thought it was a bit sad. Borrowing was good. It showed that you trusted your clanmates. It meant that who owned what didn't matter, as long as it could be used to help other dragons. "But then, I guess it's different for everybody...."

She talked to Veritas about it, but the clan leader didn't seem particularly concerned. "None of the things that were stolen were very valuable," she explained to Hemera, "and there's no pressing need for them. You don't need to go and find them." And then she gave Hemera a look that surprised the Ridgeback somewhat: it was a warm and sympathetic look. She declared, "Nobody suspects you. Nachtstreiter and I recruited you ourselves. You have been here for some time and we believe you can be trusted. If the problem gets out of hand, we will do something about it, but for now, there's no need to go around inviting trouble."

Veritas had hit upon that troubling idea: that the other dragons would distrust Hemera because she was a Ridgeback. She needed to talk things over with someone else she could trust, and Adrastos, the only other Ridgeback, was probably the best one to commiserate with. Unfortunately, it seemed that he was also feeling as defensive as she was. "Most of what the others own are not things I would choose for myself," he declared, his neck bristling. "And furthermore, what would I do with such a hoard? What would you do? Would you like that sort of thing?"

Hemera shook her head: an emphatic no. "We Ridgebacks like to borrow, but the others don't like it. It makes them feel insecure. I wouldn't feel comfortable using or keeping anything I'd borrowed without permission." And then, because Adrastos seemed so belligerent, she excused herself and scooted away. She didn't see the relief -- and the "oh no" expression that flitted across his face.

Some days later, the clan had a surprise: Adrastos gave up the hoard he'd amassed. "I have taken from each and every one of you, and I am sorry," he announced, spreading his claws peaceably. "It is a problem I am working to control. Fortunately I have had help here" -- he indicated the Pearlcatcher standing next to his foot -- "from my most excellent friend, the Chief."

Headsman frowned. "That isn't my name."

"You aren't a Headsman of anything, either. Why not change your name?"

"Or what?"

"Or I'll step on you." Adrastos smirked. "Splork."

The other dragons drew nearer, looking through the hoard. They retrieved clothing, tools, and various other knickknacks. But the atmosphere was one of relief rather than anger, and soon a few laughs broke out as Headsman and Adrastos continued to argue. Near the back of the crowd, Hemera sat down in relief. There had been Ridgebacks who'd been driven from their clans because they'd been suspected of stealing things, and she had been very afraid that that would happen to her. It didn't seem like it would happen now. Adrastos might have caused the problem, but he had also saved them both from it. There was something to be said for that. Her relief masked her other emotions, and so she didn't realize: she was the only dragon Adrastos hadn't stolen anything from.

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Adrastos did have problems, the main one being: he was a terrible kleptomaniac. Once the problem had been identified, though, it was easy to mitigate. Clan members took note of items that were disappearing and filed formal complaints with Hemera. She made notes and tucked them away. At the end of the week -- or the end of the day, if the item in question was really important -- she would arm herself with those complaint slips and go to Adrastos. She would present them to him, and he'd surrender the items he'd carried off. He couldn't help taking them -- but he didn't need to keep them. He would load them onto his back and follow Hemera around the lair, returning each thing to its owner, and the process would start all over again.

In time, it became a game. "Adrastos, have you seen my books?" "Dras, where are my mushrooms?" "Hey, Dras, have you got an extra pair of gloves I can borrow?" Adrastos, who had previously been an annoyance, was now regarded as the manager of the clan's hoard. He worked closely with Hemera, who was, after all, in charge of keeping track of things that had vanished. It was on one of their walks that Hemera broached the idea of Adrastos keeping a list of things he wanted. Perhaps if he had a list of things he could concentrate on saving treasure for, he wouldn't feel the pressing need to rifle through his clanmates' lairs. "A
wishlist, you mean?" Adrastos inquired. He seemed interested. "I shall have to look into that. Perhaps you could help me."

Hemera agreed. She and Adrastos discussed the project further, but after a while he seemed to lose interest, clearly thinking about something else. Hemera, believing that perhaps the idea didn't appeal to him as much as she'd thought, carefully dropped the topic. She was a bit disappointed. She would have liked an opportunity to work more closely with Adrastos.

One day, Hemera realized that she hadn't received any complaint slips for some time. No one was looking for anything. No one had lost anything...had they? Perhaps everyone had grown tired of asking Adrastos for their things back and had simply decided to let him store them. She asked Deune about this, and the Pearlcatcher gave one of her rare and lovely smiles. "Nobody has lost anything, Mera. Dras is behaving very well."

Hemera laughed at this, but thought she would miss going around with Adrastos, shuttling things back and forth. It had been a very good opportunity to talk with the others, and even if they hadn't been in their dens at those times, Adrastos had always been willing to talk. He had come a long way since joining the clan -- well, they both had. Deune watched her walk away, and the secretive Pearlcatcher smiled softly and gently. Hemera had been right; she did have secrets she wouldn't share -- and with very, very good reason.

One sunny morning, another clan meeting was called. They gathered in front of the lair where, many months before, Adrastos had given up his hoard and told them he was sorry. It looked like there was another hoard here, too, a pile hidden under a canvas tarp. Hemera squinted at it; it looked bigger than last time. "What has Adrastos been up to?" she wondered.

Adrastos heard her, and now he strode to the front. He thanked the clan for once again being so kind and cooperative....At this last word, a few of the dragons chuckled. Adrastos politely waited for them to finish, and then he looked at Hemera.

"You wondered what I was up to," he said, and Hemera wondered how he'd known. "I have kept many secrets...and you've kept yours. I still don't know your mind. Yet we have worked well together and on many occasions, laughed together, and so now I would ask you to tell me one secret...."

He bent down, sticking his horn into the tarp. With a graceful twist, he yanked it up and away, and the dragons bellowed in delight.

And there they were! All manner of objects, taken -- no, borrowed for certain this time, with actual permission! -- arranged in a sparkling little bower. The more beautiful objects, the flowers and shining gems, had been arranged to spell a question:


Would you be my mate?


"Would", not "will". He was asking if she would be willing to talk about it first. And Hemera, indeed, was willing....More than willing. Headsman looked on with a satisfied smile; the brusque and practical Adrastos would never have come up with this idea. But he had deserved to have it; his intentions were pure. Perhaps he and Hemera hadn't gotten along well at first, but now...

"Everybody deserves a second chance," Headsman repeated to himself. One more time, one more chance...They could try again. If the two strange and difficult Ridgebacks could get along together, then there was hope for himself and Deune, enigmatic though she was. And impulsive though he was. He was no longer afraid of hard work, and he was willing to make this work, too. He stepped up beside Deune, noticing her soft, shy smile, and the two of them stepped forward to congratulate Hemera and Adrastos.

Credits & Notes:
♥ Headsman's accent was given by Chloecat194
* "Wind" sigil dividers were made by me
* the dividers without the Wind sigil are from MsBarrows' Tumblr

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