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TOPIC | [Lore] Circle of the Sun
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[center][img]http://imgur.com/8T4zkjd.png[/img][/center] [center][size=6][font=century gothic][b]Chapter One: The Climb[/b][/size][/center] On the banks of an oasis, a single egg rested, warmed by the sand and the rising sun. If the egg belonged to anyone, there was no sign of it. The sands surrounding the egg were empty of life; no parent dragons watched over it, and no siblings lay in the nest beside it. Perhaps it had been left there by some dragon who was now long gone, or perhaps it had been abandoned. It was possible that no one would ever know. The warmth of the sand and the sun had kept the hatchling inside it alive, but the confines of the shell were rapidly becoming too small to contain the life within. Eventually, the shell could take the strain no longer. It began to tremble and crack, until a tiny baby Guardian managed to claw her way free. When she blinked her eyes open, she was dazzled by the light of the sun. The desert sands reflected its rays, and while she took her first breaths the hatchling was forced to close her eyes against its light. But she couldn't keep them shut forever; there was a new world around her, and she had to begin exploring. As she nosed through the small weeds and grasses that grew on the banks of her hatching place, the hatchling mentally took note of her resources. There were beetles and other insects that would sustain her while she grew; in a pinch, the plants also had the potential to be appetizing. There was plenty of shade, to protect her from the sun during the hottest parts of the day. And there was water, plenty of it - the oasis was cold and crisp-tasting, and she sensed instinctively that it would prove to be the most critical resource of all. Once she had satisfied her curiosity about the world around her, the hatchling turned her attention to the world above her. The dunes of the desert were taller than she was, and the trees of the oasis were taller still, but neither of those things were enough. Eventually, the hatchling turned her gaze still higher, and she saw a wall - a wall of rock that stretched upwards forever, until it seemed to vanish into the sky. A thrill raced through the hatchling, and she instinctively spread her wings. Up there - that was where she needed to be. She didn't need the safety of the oasis - she needed the sky, the open space, and whatever was waiting for her on top of that wall. Launching herself from the earth, the hatchling dug her talons into the wall and began to climb. She clawed her way upward one foot at a time, her small wings beating a tattoo as they struggled to advance her weight. But the strain of the climb proved too much, and after half an hour's grueling effort the hatchling could no longer hold on. She let out a cry as her claws lost their grip on the rock face, and she fell back to the ground. The hatchling landed in the oasis with a splash, and yelped as the cold water closed over her head. She hauled herself to the bank and collapsed, exhausted, as she stared up at the rock face that, for now at least, had defeated her. She [i]would[/i] climb that wall. She would make her way to the top and conquer it. Every day, she vowed, she would practice her climbing and flying, exercising until she was strong enough. Then she would try again. [center][img]http://i.imgur.com/DcwRoIt.png[/img][/center] Once she had recovered from her climb, her training regimen began. She would leave the oasis when the sun rose, traveling into the desert so that she could avoid disturbing the oasis with her activities. Anything she could think of to strengthen her young muscles was considered; nothing was beneath her, not if it would help her achieve her goals. She dug holes in the sand, to strengthen her muscles. She practiced beating her wings more strongly, until gusts of sand billowed into the air with each flap. When the sun grew too hot and she became too exhausted, she would swim in the cool waters of the oasis, building her endurance and her breath even as she refreshed herself. And every day, she would practice climbing the wall. The hatchling learned how to minimize resistance by keeping her body flat, and how to find firm footholds in the rock's rough surface. She learned to kick away from the wall and hover in midair, giving her tired legs the chance to rest before she resumed her ascent. Once several weeks had passed, and the hatchling had grown in size and strength, she turned to face the wall again, her chest puffed out in determination. This was the day. She was ready. The hatchling launched herself at the cliff face and began to climb, pulling herself upward step by step. When her legs began trembling with fatigue, she launched herself off the cliff face and spread her wings, beating upwards with mighty strokes until the feeling returned to her tired claws. Again and again she repeated the process, until she was panting with exhaustion, but still she climbed. The hatchling hauled herself over the top of the cliff just as the sun was reaching its highest point in the sky, and her eyes widened at the sight that met her eyes. Spread out before her was a broad, flat plateau - a mesa, made of rough red stone. The hatchling looked back at the way she had come, peering down over the cliff face until she could see the tiny blue dot of the oasis below. How far she had come! She had overcome her first great obstacle - surely she could overcome anything. But as she walked into the center of the mesa, a feeling of calm and serenity stole over her. To her surprise, she realized that she didn't want to leave. She liked it here, surrounded by this view, underneath this sky, and she was going to stay. But she wasn't going to stay here alone. Now that she was a true Guardian, with a true Charge, she had to share what she had found. She would create a new clan here on the roof of the world, a clan where dragons could travel from miles around and sit together as friends under the same sky. And she would be the one to lead them - the dragon who went first, who struck out and blazed a trail for others to follow. Flushed with pride and the thrill of victory, the Guardian finally chose herself a name. [i]Excursio. [/i] [right][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2254667/2#post_29163199]Next Chapter[/url][/right]
8T4zkjd.png

Chapter One: The Climb


On the banks of an oasis, a single egg rested, warmed by the sand and the rising sun.

If the egg belonged to anyone, there was no sign of it. The sands surrounding the egg were empty of life; no parent dragons watched over it, and no siblings lay in the nest beside it. Perhaps it had been left there by some dragon who was now long gone, or perhaps it had been abandoned. It was possible that no one would ever know.

The warmth of the sand and the sun had kept the hatchling inside it alive, but the confines of the shell were rapidly becoming too small to contain the life within. Eventually, the shell could take the strain no longer. It began to tremble and crack, until a tiny baby Guardian managed to claw her way free.

When she blinked her eyes open, she was dazzled by the light of the sun. The desert sands reflected its rays, and while she took her first breaths the hatchling was forced to close her eyes against its light. But she couldn't keep them shut forever; there was a new world around her, and she had to begin exploring.

As she nosed through the small weeds and grasses that grew on the banks of her hatching place, the hatchling mentally took note of her resources. There were beetles and other insects that would sustain her while she grew; in a pinch, the plants also had the potential to be appetizing. There was plenty of shade, to protect her from the sun during the hottest parts of the day. And there was water, plenty of it - the oasis was cold and crisp-tasting, and she sensed instinctively that it would prove to be the most critical resource of all.

Once she had satisfied her curiosity about the world around her, the hatchling turned her attention to the world above her. The dunes of the desert were taller than she was, and the trees of the oasis were taller still, but neither of those things were enough. Eventually, the hatchling turned her gaze still higher, and she saw a wall - a wall of rock that stretched upwards forever, until it seemed to vanish into the sky.

A thrill raced through the hatchling, and she instinctively spread her wings. Up there - that was where she needed to be. She didn't need the safety of the oasis - she needed the sky, the open space, and whatever was waiting for her on top of that wall.

Launching herself from the earth, the hatchling dug her talons into the wall and began to climb. She clawed her way upward one foot at a time, her small wings beating a tattoo as they struggled to advance her weight.

But the strain of the climb proved too much, and after half an hour's grueling effort the hatchling could no longer hold on. She let out a cry as her claws lost their grip on the rock face, and she fell back to the ground.

The hatchling landed in the oasis with a splash, and yelped as the cold water closed over her head. She hauled herself to the bank and collapsed, exhausted, as she stared up at the rock face that, for now at least, had defeated her.

She would climb that wall. She would make her way to the top and conquer it. Every day, she vowed, she would practice her climbing and flying, exercising until she was strong enough.

Then she would try again.

DcwRoIt.png

Once she had recovered from her climb, her training regimen began.

She would leave the oasis when the sun rose, traveling into the desert so that she could avoid disturbing the oasis with her activities. Anything she could think of to strengthen her young muscles was considered; nothing was beneath her, not if it would help her achieve her goals. She dug holes in the sand, to strengthen her muscles. She practiced beating her wings more strongly, until gusts of sand billowed into the air with each flap. When the sun grew too hot and she became too exhausted, she would swim in the cool waters of the oasis, building her endurance and her breath even as she refreshed herself.

And every day, she would practice climbing the wall.

The hatchling learned how to minimize resistance by keeping her body flat, and how to find firm footholds in the rock's rough surface. She learned to kick away from the wall and hover in midair, giving her tired legs the chance to rest before she resumed her ascent.

Once several weeks had passed, and the hatchling had grown in size and strength, she turned to
face the wall again, her chest puffed out in determination.

This was the day. She was ready.

The hatchling launched herself at the cliff face and began to climb, pulling herself upward step by step. When her legs began trembling with fatigue, she launched herself off the cliff face and spread her wings, beating upwards with mighty strokes until the feeling returned to her tired claws. Again and again she repeated the process, until she was panting with exhaustion, but still she climbed.

The hatchling hauled herself over the top of the cliff just as the sun was reaching its highest point in the sky, and her eyes widened at the sight that met her eyes. Spread out before her was a broad, flat plateau - a mesa, made of rough red stone.

The hatchling looked back at the way she had come, peering down over the cliff face until she could see the tiny blue dot of the oasis below. How far she had come! She had overcome her first great obstacle - surely she could overcome anything.

But as she walked into the center of the mesa, a feeling of calm and serenity stole over her. To her surprise, she realized that she didn't want to leave. She liked it here, surrounded by this view, underneath this sky, and she was going to stay.

But she wasn't going to stay here alone. Now that she was a true Guardian, with a true Charge, she had to share what she had found. She would create a new clan here on the roof of the world, a clan where dragons could travel from miles around and sit together as friends under the same sky.

And she would be the one to lead them - the dragon who went first, who struck out and blazed a trail for others to follow.

Flushed with pride and the thrill of victory, the Guardian finally chose herself a name.

Excursio.


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[center][img]http://imgur.com/vZKj21F.png[/img][/center] [center][size=6][font=century gothic][b]Chapter Two: The Meeting[/b][/size][/center] Meanwhile, somewhere deep in the heart of the Lightning Farm, another young Guardian hatchling woke from an uneasy sleep. "Hello?" the hatchling called, leaping to his feet and whirling around, struggling to keep his voice from cracking with fear as he searched the dark for the source of the noise that had awakened him. "Who's there?" Nobody answered. Deep in the bowels of the Lightning Farm, machinery groaned and clanked, and the young dragon shivered. What had happened to him, and how had he gotten here? He racked his brains, struggling to remember. He knew that he was somewhere in the territory of the Lightning flight, the flight to which he'd been born. He knew that he'd been brought here for a noble purpose, although what that purpose was, he had no clue. He remembered his name - Incursio, the interloper, the one who follows, although he had no idea who or what he was supposed to be following. He also remembered that he'd been on his way to find something, something important, and that whatever it was, it wasn't here. The idea of a goal, one that lay somewhere else, was enough to help Incursio shake off the last of his remaining fear and lethargy. Perhaps on the journey out of this strange and scary place, he'd find some clues as to how he got here. But regardless, he'd be on the move again, which was the most important thing. The details of his future, he decided, were more important than the mysteries of his past. Incursio set off at a brisk pace, stepping over coils of wire and odd bits of machinery, careful not to make any sound. It was harder than he'd thought it would be. He'd recently gone through a growth spurt, and he hadn't yet gotten used to his longer tail and legs. He reached an odd little doorway and stepped inside, following the soft glow of moonlight on the floor. To his dismay, he saw that the light was shining not through a door, but through a strange window, half-moon shaped and covered in golden decorations that reflected the light. As he stepped closer to examine the window, Incursio's foot bumped into a metal gear with a clank. All at once, the darkness was alight with glowing eyes. Incursio's breath caught in horror as the creatures around the periphery of the room started to chitter loudly, their voices distorted and mechanical. [i]Monkeys, [/i]Incursio realized, not knowing how he knew it but knowing that the things were trouble. Wasting no time, Incursio ran for the window. He hurled himself against the glass, shattering it, and plummeted through the air, falling straight for a tangle of glowing blue wires below. "No!" he yelped, flaring his wings out to their maximum span. They caught the air and slowed his fall until he was able to regain control. Flapping furiously, he soared up until he was looking back at the window he'd come through. The [i]monkeys[/i] were still there; he could see their eye-lights shining in the darkness, and Incursio didn't dare take any chances with them, or with anything else in this place. He turned tail and fled to the open desert, as fast as his wings could carry him. [center][img]http://i.imgur.com/DcwRoIt.png[/img][/center] Incursio walked and flew through the night, using the stars above him as a guide to chart his progress. Without the memories of his past, he didn't know what destination he was looking for - but he was a Guardian, and being a Guardian meant that he had to have a Charge out there somewhere. Maybe his instincts were leading him toward it. He wished his instincts were leading him toward water instead. He hadn't had a drink in gods knew how long, and his mouth was growing dry and parched. For several days he traveled, stopping only to sleep and to eat the tough, tasteless desert grasses he found while traveling. Some patches of the desert were more habitable than others, and at times Incursio found larger game - rabbits, usually, or an antelope on very rare occasions - but he wasn't a skilled hunter, and even though he tried his best, the animals always managed to slip through his reaching claws. Eventually, hunger and thirst drove him to scavenge. When he found a cave full of unguarded resources, Incursio didn't question his luck; he just dug into the supplies, eating and drinking as much as his belly could hold. But he knew better than to sleep off his meal - the owners of the cave could come back, and now that his befuddled fog had lifted, Incursio could see talon marks on the floor of the cave. Grabbing several sackfuls of supplies, he bolted for the entrance and made it out just as the cave's resident harpies were returning. They mobbed him, shrieking in fury, and one of them managed to scratch him across the eye. With a yelp, Incursio dropped all but one of the bags he was carrying in order to shield his face. It was the best thing he could have done; the harpies dove after the falling supplies, giving Incursio the opportunity he needed to beat a hasty retreat. Bleeding and exhausted, Incursio was nearly at the end of his tether when he saw the enormous mesa towering in the distance. His good eye widened. If he was able to fly up to the summit, he'd be able to get a vantage point on the desert around him while he rested. His mind made up, Incursio touched down on the desert sand and curled up to sleep. He'd need to be well-rested if he wanted to tackle so much high-altitude flying. The next day, when he awoke, Incursio walked to the base of the mesa and ate the last of the supplies in his tiny travel bag. He'd been rationing them carefully since his skirmish with the harpies, but he'd need all his strength for this flight. There would be no turning back once he'd begun - he simply wouldn't have enough energy to make a second attempt if he didn't succeed the first time. Gritting his teeth in determination, the young dragon launched himself into the air and began to climb. The air was cool and refreshing, but this made Incursio's task all the harder - there were no warm thermals to help him gain altitude. But now that he'd begun, he wasn't going to stop. He circled higher and higher, until his wingbeats were strained and his breath was coming in gasps. He was going to have to stop and rest if he wanted to continue. Incursio dove toward the rock face and clutched onto the rough surface with all his strength. He hung there, panting, until he felt like his claws were going to fall off, but the rest had given him the strength he needed to continue. He pushed off and soared higher into the air. When he finally reached the summit of the mesa, his jaw dropped in astonishment when he saw that there was already someone there. Another Guardian, with scales that were colored somewhere between the green of grass and the blue of the sky, was shoving a large stone across the mesa, moving it toward a small, half-constructed dwelling. Incursio approached the dragon cautiously, suddenly unsure whether his wings were trembling from exhaustion or excitement. "Hello?" he called. The other Guardian paused and turned to face him. Incursio noted the lack of a beard, and the finer frills around the dragon's face, and realized that she was a female. "Oh, hello!" she said back to him, tilting her head curiously. "I didn't know there were any other dragons around here." "Neither did I," Incursio said. "I've been traveling a long way." "Well, you picked a good place to stop," the other dragon said. "There's not very much to eat up here, but my Charge is to share the view from this mesa with anyone who comes by, and you're the first dragon I've seen. Hopefully you're planning to stick around. I'll give you a hawk from my stores if you help me move some of these stones around." It was the best deal Incursio could remember hearing, so he nodded his acceptance and got to work. As the sun set, Incursio and the strange dragon built a small fire and set to work roasting the hawks, which Incursio's host had caught herself. Privately, Incursio marveled at the self-sufficiency and resourcefulness of the other Guardian, who had clearly been living on the mesa for some time in spite of how difficult it was for him to access. Eventually they began to talk about their lives in the desert. His host related the incredible tale of how she'd first scaled the mesa herself, a little more than a week ago, and how she was planning to build a clan here. In turn, Incursio related the tale of how he'd escaped from the mysterious Lightning workshop. "That's exciting," the other dragon said, her eyes widening when he'd finished his story. "I've never gotten a chance to battle anything, except for gravity. I think I'd like to give it a try. Maybe I'll end up with a dashing scar of my own," she said with a playful tilt of her head. Incursio blinked. He'd almost forgotten about his scar, and he certainly hadn't realized that other dragons would find it [i]dashing.[/i] "Um. I just realized - I'm eating your food, and I don't even know your name," he said, his mouth suddenly feeling dry. The blue-green dragon frowned thoughtfully. "That's a good point. I don't know your name either - I didn't realize that I never asked. I'm Excursio," she said, and Incursio's heart thudded to a stop. That name. The trailblazer. It meant something to him - he knew it. But what could it be? Incursio racked his brains, wishing he could remember something, but to his frustration he came up blank. "That's a neat name," he said. "My name's Incursio." Excursio's eyes narrowed, and Incursio felt his heart begin to beat faster. She recognized his name. That had to be it. Somehow, even though they didn't know each other, they knew each other's names. But Excursio knew her Charge already, and how could she be Incursio's Charge if he wasn't hers? For now, Incursio decided, it didn't matter. Maybe Excursio was his Charge, and maybe she wasn't. Regardless, she had told him that she wanted him to stay - maybe she hadn't meant forever, but for now he could see where this led. "I have an idea for how we can build your clan," he continued, instead of asking Excursio anything else about her name, or what she thought this meant. "Building on top of the mesa is well and good, but there's only so much space. If you want this clan to be big, we're gonna need to do some digging." "Underground," Excursio said, her eyes widening again. "That's perfect. But if we're digging into the mesa, we're gonna need more help." She accepted Incursio's presence without another word on the matter, and even though Incursio found himself wondering just how long his welcome would last, he couldn't bring himself to question it. [right][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2254667/2#post_29159699]Previous Chapter[/url] [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2254667/2#post_29211159]Next Chapter[/url][/right]
vZKj21F.png

Chapter Two: The Meeting

Meanwhile, somewhere deep in the heart of the Lightning Farm, another young Guardian hatchling woke from an uneasy sleep.

"Hello?" the hatchling called, leaping to his feet and whirling around, struggling to keep his voice from cracking with fear as he searched the dark for the source of the noise that had awakened him. "Who's there?"

Nobody answered. Deep in the bowels of the Lightning Farm, machinery groaned and clanked, and the young dragon shivered. What had happened to him, and how had he gotten here?

He racked his brains, struggling to remember. He knew that he was somewhere in the territory of the Lightning flight, the flight to which he'd been born. He knew that he'd been brought here for a noble purpose, although what that purpose was, he had no clue. He remembered his name - Incursio, the interloper, the one who follows, although he had no idea who or what he was supposed to be following.

He also remembered that he'd been on his way to find something, something important, and that whatever it was, it wasn't here.

The idea of a goal, one that lay somewhere else, was enough to help Incursio shake off the last of his remaining fear and lethargy. Perhaps on the journey out of this strange and scary place, he'd find some clues as to how he got here. But regardless, he'd be on the move again, which was the most important thing. The details of his future, he decided, were more important than the mysteries of his past.

Incursio set off at a brisk pace, stepping over coils of wire and odd bits of machinery, careful not to make any sound. It was harder than he'd thought it would be. He'd recently gone through a growth spurt, and he hadn't yet gotten used to his longer tail and legs.

He reached an odd little doorway and stepped inside, following the soft glow of moonlight on the floor. To his dismay, he saw that the light was shining not through a door, but through a strange window, half-moon shaped and covered in golden decorations that reflected the light.

As he stepped closer to examine the window, Incursio's foot bumped into a metal gear with a clank.

All at once, the darkness was alight with glowing eyes.

Incursio's breath caught in horror as the creatures around the periphery of the room started to chitter loudly, their voices distorted and mechanical. Monkeys, Incursio realized, not knowing how he knew it but knowing that the things were trouble.

Wasting no time, Incursio ran for the window. He hurled himself against the glass, shattering it, and plummeted through the air, falling straight for a tangle of glowing blue wires below.

"No!" he yelped, flaring his wings out to their maximum span. They caught the air and slowed his fall until he was able to regain control. Flapping furiously, he soared up until he was looking back at the window he'd come through. The monkeys were still there; he could see their eye-lights shining in the darkness, and Incursio didn't dare take any chances with them, or with anything else in this place.

He turned tail and fled to the open desert, as fast as his wings could carry him.

DcwRoIt.png

Incursio walked and flew through the night, using the stars above him as a guide to chart his progress. Without the memories of his past, he didn't know what destination he was looking for - but he was a Guardian, and being a Guardian meant that he had to have a Charge out there somewhere. Maybe his instincts were leading him toward it.

He wished his instincts were leading him toward water instead. He hadn't had a drink in gods knew how long, and his mouth was growing dry and parched.

For several days he traveled, stopping only to sleep and to eat the tough, tasteless desert grasses he found while traveling. Some patches of the desert were more habitable than others, and at times Incursio found larger game - rabbits, usually, or an antelope on very rare occasions - but he wasn't a skilled hunter, and even though he tried his best, the animals always managed to slip through his reaching claws.

Eventually, hunger and thirst drove him to scavenge. When he found a cave full of unguarded resources, Incursio didn't question his luck; he just dug into the supplies, eating and drinking as much as his belly could hold. But he knew better than to sleep off his meal - the owners of the cave could come back, and now that his befuddled fog had lifted, Incursio could see talon marks on the floor of the cave. Grabbing several sackfuls of supplies, he bolted for the entrance and made it out just as the cave's resident harpies were returning. They mobbed him, shrieking in fury, and one of them managed to scratch him across the eye.

With a yelp, Incursio dropped all but one of the bags he was carrying in order to shield his face. It was the best thing he could have done; the harpies dove after the falling supplies, giving Incursio the opportunity he needed to beat a hasty retreat.

Bleeding and exhausted, Incursio was nearly at the end of his tether when he saw the enormous mesa towering in the distance. His good eye widened. If he was able to fly up to the summit, he'd be able to get a vantage point on the desert around him while he rested.

His mind made up, Incursio touched down on the desert sand and curled up to sleep. He'd need to be well-rested if he wanted to tackle so much high-altitude flying.

The next day, when he awoke, Incursio walked to the base of the mesa and ate the last of the supplies in his tiny travel bag. He'd been rationing them carefully since his skirmish with the harpies, but he'd need all his strength for this flight. There would be no turning back once he'd begun - he simply wouldn't have enough energy to make a second attempt if he didn't succeed the first time.

Gritting his teeth in determination, the young dragon launched himself into the air and began to climb.

The air was cool and refreshing, but this made Incursio's task all the harder - there were no warm thermals to help him gain altitude. But now that he'd begun, he wasn't going to stop. He circled higher and higher, until his wingbeats were strained and his breath was coming in gasps. He was going to have to stop and rest if he wanted to continue.

Incursio dove toward the rock face and clutched onto the rough surface with all his strength. He hung there, panting, until he felt like his claws were going to fall off, but the rest had given him the strength he needed to continue. He pushed off and soared higher into the air.

When he finally reached the summit of the mesa, his jaw dropped in astonishment when he saw that there was already someone there.

Another Guardian, with scales that were colored somewhere between the green of grass and the blue of the sky, was shoving a large stone across the mesa, moving it toward a small, half-constructed dwelling. Incursio approached the dragon cautiously, suddenly unsure whether his wings were trembling from exhaustion or excitement. "Hello?" he called.

The other Guardian paused and turned to face him. Incursio noted the lack of a beard, and the finer frills around the dragon's face, and realized that she was a female. "Oh, hello!" she said back to him, tilting her head curiously. "I didn't know there were any other dragons around here."

"Neither did I," Incursio said. "I've been traveling a long way."

"Well, you picked a good place to stop," the other dragon said. "There's not very much to eat up here, but my Charge is to share the view from this mesa with anyone who comes by, and you're the first dragon I've seen. Hopefully you're planning to stick around. I'll give you a hawk from my stores if you help me move some of these stones around."

It was the best deal Incursio could remember hearing, so he nodded his acceptance and got to work.

As the sun set, Incursio and the strange dragon built a small fire and set to work roasting the hawks, which Incursio's host had caught herself. Privately, Incursio marveled at the self-sufficiency and resourcefulness of the other Guardian, who had clearly been living on the mesa for some time in spite of how difficult it was for him to access.

Eventually they began to talk about their lives in the desert. His host related the incredible tale of how she'd first scaled the mesa herself, a little more than a week ago, and how she was planning to build a clan here. In turn, Incursio related the tale of how he'd escaped from the mysterious Lightning workshop.

"That's exciting," the other dragon said, her eyes widening when he'd finished his story. "I've never gotten a chance to battle anything, except for gravity. I think I'd like to give it a try. Maybe I'll end up with a dashing scar of my own," she said with a playful tilt of her head.

Incursio blinked. He'd almost forgotten about his scar, and he certainly hadn't realized that other dragons would find it dashing. "Um. I just realized - I'm eating your food, and I don't even know your name," he said, his mouth suddenly feeling dry.

The blue-green dragon frowned thoughtfully. "That's a good point. I don't know your name either - I didn't realize that I never asked. I'm Excursio," she said, and Incursio's heart thudded to a stop.

That name. The trailblazer. It meant something to him - he knew it. But what could it be? Incursio racked his brains, wishing he could remember something, but to his frustration he came up blank. "That's a neat name," he said. "My name's Incursio."

Excursio's eyes narrowed, and Incursio felt his heart begin to beat faster. She recognized his name. That had to be it. Somehow, even though they didn't know each other, they knew each other's names.

But Excursio knew her Charge already, and how could she be Incursio's Charge if he wasn't hers?

For now, Incursio decided, it didn't matter. Maybe Excursio was his Charge, and maybe she wasn't. Regardless, she had told him that she wanted him to stay - maybe she hadn't meant forever, but for now he could see where this led.

"I have an idea for how we can build your clan," he continued, instead of asking Excursio anything else about her name, or what she thought this meant. "Building on top of the mesa is well and good, but there's only so much space. If you want this clan to be big, we're gonna need to do some digging."

"Underground," Excursio said, her eyes widening again. "That's perfect. But if we're digging into the mesa, we're gonna need more help."

She accepted Incursio's presence without another word on the matter, and even though Incursio found himself wondering just how long his welcome would last, he couldn't bring himself to question it.


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@ZenithNadir

I think Alata needs to be moved. He is now a permanent resident of the Windflight Clan.
@ZenithNadir

I think Alata needs to be moved. He is now a permanent resident of the Windflight Clan.
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@TheDeathseer I'll get around to it eventually. For now I've been busy actually writing things!
@TheDeathseer I'll get around to it eventually. For now I've been busy actually writing things!
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@ZenithNadir

Good luck!
@ZenithNadir

Good luck!
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Oh yay
Oh yay
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[center][img]http://imgur.com/8T4zkjd.png[/img][/center] [center][size=6][font=century gothic][b]Chapter Three: The Voice In The Night[/b][/size][/center] Excursio wasn't about to question the good fortune of a dragon arriving to help her found her clan, even if Incursio's mysterious past, and the similarities between their names, did make her curious. The two of them grew closer as they built the first few structures on the mesa's surface - a few small outbuildings for sleeping and storing supplies, a moisture trap to collect water from the air and lessen the need for visits to the oasis, and the beginnings of a small watchtower. But Excursio never forgot what Incursio had said about space on the surface being limited, and more and more frequently her thoughts began to turn to the mesa below her. What would they find, when they began burrowing? What hidden advantages would arise from the construction of a subterranean lair? But most importantly, how long would it take for them to construct a lair they could use? One day, Excursio's lingering impatience finally prompted her to speak. "We need more hands if we're going to turn this lair into anything sizeable enough to house a large clan." Incursio nodded. "If we don't want to recruit anyone from outside, we could have hatchlings of our own," he said, clearly trying to look nonchalant. Excursio's brows rose in surprise. She hadn't considered hatchlings of her own yet, but they were both old enough to have children, if they wanted to. And Incursio was a fine dragon - resourceful, determined, and loyal, even if he tried to hide it behind a layer of bravado much of the time. "That's not a bad idea," she said, chuckling inwardly when Incursio's wings half-opened in shock at her answer. "I'll consider it, but there's also the matter of heritage to consider. Any children we have will be Guardians - they'll want to leave home and search for their Charges, not stay here and work." Incursio nodded. "It also doesn't seem quite right to have hatchlings just because we're hoping for help with construction. And taking care of them while they're young would slow us down even more." "It's settled, then," Excursio said, pleased by Incursio's elegant reasoning. "Eventually, hatchlings are definitely on the table. But for now, we'll need to get our new clanmates from somewhere else. I hate to leave the lair unguarded, but we'll have to until we can find someone else who will join us." Incursio nodded. "We don't have a ton to offer dragons looking for a new home - at least not yet. But you've got your dream to sell them, and the beginnings of a strong clan in a good location. We should be able to find some dragons who are interested in following us." [center][img]http://i.imgur.com/DcwRoIt.png[/img][/center] But finding new faces proved harder than Excursio and Incursio had anticipated. For starters, there seemed to be few other dragons in the area. Some other travelers were spotted, but they were mostly nomads and weren't looking to settle down. Several others were interested in joining a clan, but politely declined when Excursio informed them that they were just starting out. The sun was setting by the time they finally gave up for the day. "That was disheartening," Incursio said, giving voice to Excursio's own feelings. "But we'll keep trying. The right dragons will come along - maybe we just have to look farther away, at one of the markets." But that would mean leaving the lair alone, something that didn't sit well with either of them. They stopped briefly to forage under the light of the full moon. A month previously, it had turned blood-red in the sky, prompting Excursio and Incursio to stare up at the celestial object in astonishment. They later realized it had been a lunar eclipse, but at the time they'd wondered if it was some sort of sign or portent. Incursio managed to bring down an antelope with a swift blow to the neck - his prowess as a hunter had improved greatly since he'd first arrived at Excursio's mesa. They were just settling in to eat when a voice from the shadows made them whirl around in surprise. "I don't suppose you would mind if I joined you? I have food of my own, but I've been traveling for a while and would appreciate the company." Excursio studied the newcomer appraisingly. It was another Guardian, larger than her and Incursio both and perhaps a little older. His scales were glossy black, and if not for his eyes he would have been utterly invisible in the gloom. "We don't mind," Excursio said, looking at Incursio out of the corner of her eye for confirmation. Her partner nodded minutely, and she returned her attention to the Guardian in front of them. "Join us, and eat. What's your name?" "I'm Pulchrior," the Guardian said. "Born on the night of the lunar eclipse, in case you hadn't already guessed," he said, shrugging modestly. "You certainly look the part," Excursio replied. She'd never met a black dragon before, and couldn't help but admire the efficiency of his camouflage. He looked like an eclipse come to life. "I'm Excursio, and Incursio is my partner. We've been looking for dragons to join our clan," she said, and Incursio perked up slightly at the speech. Excursio had made it so many times today that she'd committed it to memory, but she had a good feeling about this one. "We're just starting out, but in time we'll become quite large. The desert around us seems empty right now, but once our clan gains a foothold dragons will make their way to us from all over Sornieth." It was a risk, laying her ambition on the table so openly. Other dragons had looked skeptical; others had even scoffed. But Pulchrior swished his tail through the dust, his expression thoughtful. "If you build it, they will come," he said softly. "That's what they say. And I confess that I am tired of traveling. I'm looking for my Charge, but I've always had a feeling that whatever it was, it would find [i]me[/i], in due time. If your goal is to become a hub in this desert wheel, it seems that my goals would be best suited by helping you further yours." "So it's settled, then?" Excursio said, feeling her heartbeat begin to pick up with excitement. "You'll join us, and help us build our clan?" "I will," Pulchrior said, nodding. "I think this has the potential to be the beginning of something quite exciting." [right][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2254667/2#post_29163199]Previous Chapter[/url] [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2254667/2#post_29364985]Next Chapter[/url][/right]
8T4zkjd.png

Chapter Three: The Voice In The Night


Excursio wasn't about to question the good fortune of a dragon arriving to help her found her clan, even if Incursio's mysterious past, and the similarities between their names, did make her curious. The two of them grew closer as they built the first few structures on the mesa's surface - a few small outbuildings for sleeping and storing supplies, a moisture trap to collect water from the air and lessen the need for visits to the oasis, and the beginnings of a small watchtower.

But Excursio never forgot what Incursio had said about space on the surface being limited, and more and more frequently her thoughts began to turn to the mesa below her. What would they find, when they began burrowing? What hidden advantages would arise from the construction of a subterranean lair?

But most importantly, how long would it take for them to construct a lair they could use?

One day, Excursio's lingering impatience finally prompted her to speak. "We need more hands if we're going to turn this lair into anything sizeable enough to house a large clan."

Incursio nodded. "If we don't want to recruit anyone from outside, we could have hatchlings of our own," he said, clearly trying to look nonchalant.

Excursio's brows rose in surprise. She hadn't considered hatchlings of her own yet, but they were both old enough to have children, if they wanted to. And Incursio was a fine dragon - resourceful, determined, and loyal, even if he tried to hide it behind a layer of bravado much of the time. "That's not a bad idea," she said, chuckling inwardly when Incursio's wings half-opened in shock at her answer. "I'll consider it, but there's also the matter of heritage to consider. Any children we have will be Guardians - they'll want to leave home and search for their Charges, not stay here and work."

Incursio nodded. "It also doesn't seem quite right to have hatchlings just because we're hoping for help with construction. And taking care of them while they're young would slow us down even more."

"It's settled, then," Excursio said, pleased by Incursio's elegant reasoning. "Eventually, hatchlings are definitely on the table. But for now, we'll need to get our new clanmates from somewhere else. I hate to leave the lair unguarded, but we'll have to until we can find someone else who will join us."

Incursio nodded. "We don't have a ton to offer dragons looking for a new home - at least not yet. But you've got your dream to sell them, and the beginnings of a strong clan in a good location. We should be able to find some dragons who are interested in following us."

DcwRoIt.png

But finding new faces proved harder than Excursio and Incursio had anticipated. For starters, there seemed to be few other dragons in the area. Some other travelers were spotted, but they were mostly nomads and weren't looking to settle down. Several others were interested in joining a clan, but politely declined when Excursio informed them that they were just starting out.

The sun was setting by the time they finally gave up for the day. "That was disheartening," Incursio said, giving voice to Excursio's own feelings. "But we'll keep trying. The right dragons will come along - maybe we just have to look farther away, at one of the markets."

But that would mean leaving the lair alone, something that didn't sit well with either of them.

They stopped briefly to forage under the light of the full moon. A month previously, it had turned blood-red in the sky, prompting Excursio and Incursio to stare up at the celestial object in astonishment. They later realized it had been a lunar eclipse, but at the time they'd wondered if it was some sort of sign or portent.

Incursio managed to bring down an antelope with a swift blow to the neck - his prowess as a hunter had improved greatly since he'd first arrived at Excursio's mesa. They were just settling in to eat when a voice from the shadows made them whirl around in surprise.

"I don't suppose you would mind if I joined you? I have food of my own, but I've been traveling for a while and would appreciate the company."

Excursio studied the newcomer appraisingly. It was another Guardian, larger than her and Incursio both and perhaps a little older. His scales were glossy black, and if not for his eyes he would have been utterly invisible in the gloom. "We don't mind," Excursio said, looking at Incursio out of the corner of her eye for confirmation. Her partner nodded minutely, and she returned her attention to the Guardian in front of them. "Join us, and eat. What's your name?"

"I'm Pulchrior," the Guardian said. "Born on the night of the lunar eclipse, in case you hadn't already guessed," he said, shrugging modestly.

"You certainly look the part," Excursio replied. She'd never met a black dragon before, and couldn't help but admire the efficiency of his camouflage. He looked like an eclipse come to life. "I'm Excursio, and Incursio is my partner. We've been looking for dragons to join our clan," she said, and Incursio perked up slightly at the speech. Excursio had made it so many times today that she'd committed it to memory, but she had a good feeling about this one. "We're just starting out, but in time we'll become quite large. The desert around us seems empty right now, but once our clan gains a foothold dragons will make their way to us from all over Sornieth."

It was a risk, laying her ambition on the table so openly. Other dragons had looked skeptical; others had even scoffed. But Pulchrior swished his tail through the dust, his expression thoughtful. "If you build it, they will come," he said softly. "That's what they say. And I confess that I am tired of traveling. I'm looking for my Charge, but I've always had a feeling that whatever it was, it would find me, in due time. If your goal is to become a hub in this desert wheel, it seems that my goals would be best suited by helping you further yours."

"So it's settled, then?" Excursio said, feeling her heartbeat begin to pick up with excitement. "You'll join us, and help us build our clan?"

"I will," Pulchrior said, nodding. "I think this has the potential to be the beginning of something quite exciting."
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@ZenithNadir

I was randomly notified that you mentioned me on this post, but I see nothing from today. What happened?
@ZenithNadir

I was randomly notified that you mentioned me on this post, but I see nothing from today. What happened?
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@ZenithNadir

Oh, it was for the pinglist :D
@ZenithNadir

Oh, it was for the pinglist :D
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[center][img]http://imgur.com/8T4zkjd.png[/img][/center] [center][size=6][font=century gothic][b]Chapter Four: The Storm and The Market[/b][/size][/center] Having Pulchrior around the lair made work go much more quickly. The extra hands allowed Excursio to divide the labor more efficiently; while two dragons worked on carving new stones and constructing shelters, the third dragon could gather supplies and resources from the surrounding desert. Excursio had remembered her partner's words about digging an underground lair, and she made sure to pass along her wishes to Pulchrior. It was the black Guardian who had suggested that they carve their construction blocks and dig their access tunnel at the same time, and whenever a stone block was removed from the central pit and added to the walls of a building, the tunnel grew deeper at the same time. Construction on the outbuildings was nearly finished when the three dragons met with an unfortunate setback. Excursio hadn't paid much attention to the clouds that had been gathering in the south. Storms often formed over the sea at the edge of the continent, and they rarely made it far enough inland to produce more than a light drizzle, if that. So the Guardian dismissed the ominous clouds, even when she began to see glimmers of cyan lightning in their bellies as they approached. Ignoring the shift in the weather proved to be a mistake. Excursio learned this the hard way when the storm hit, battering her and her clanmates with such strong winds that they were forced to vacate the mesa and shelter at the base of the cliff. Lightning dragons they may have been, but that didn't mean they could withstand the full force of a bolt of lightning - and the fierce gusts of wind threatened to rip their wings from their sockets regardless. "What is this weather?" Excursio shouted to her companions over the roar of the storm. "I've never seen anything like it!" "My birth clan saw weather like this one," Pulchrior replied, moving closer so that he could be heard over the wind. "It came from the east when it struck, but I traveled far before finding you. Perhaps they have the same source." "The factory," shouted Incursio suddenly. Excursio and Pulchrior looked at him in surprise, and he scuffed his foot across the stone with a sheepish expression. "Before I came here, I escaped from a factory. I [i]think[/i] it might have been the source of these big storms." Excursio wanted to know more. What was the source of the storms, and what was the mysterious factory that lay in her partner's past? But she decided to let her questions rest for the time being - the rain was pelting down, and she could hardly hear herself think over the sound of the thunder. When the storm finally passed, the three dragons flew to the top of the mesa. As she surveyed the beginning of their new clan, Excursio's stomach sank. Their stone dwellings had held, and were undamaged by the fury of the storm - they, at least, had been a success. The source of Excursio's dismay was the beginning of the tunnel they had dug into the heart of the mesa. The rain had filled the hole nearly halfway. "We need to cover the tunnel," she said, staring at the pool of water that reflected the now-cloudless sky. "If we had burrows down in the mesa, they would be flooded every time it rained." Pulchrior nodded. "It seems sensible. An outer structure would also make the lair easier to defend, should we ever need to protect ourselves." The three decided that some sort of walled, roofed structure would be needed if they were going to build a proper lair around the tunnel into the mesa. But such a building would require more stone, and more labor, than the three Guardians were able to provide. "I suppose that settles it," Excursio said once they had finished their discussion. "We'll have to set out again and find new clan members - and this time we need more than one dragon. No offense, Pulchrior." The black Guardian's lips twitched in amusement. "None taken. If it's more dragons you seek, I heard from my parents that there's a small market near the border with the Light Flight. I was on my way there when I met you. I'll guard the lair while you're gone; the place is about a day's flight from here, but I bet you'll find the dragons you're looking for." [center][img]http://i.imgur.com/DcwRoIt.png[/img][/center] "So," Excursio said to Incursio during one of their travel breaks. "You came from a workshop? What was it like?" [i]And why hadn't he mentioned it? [/i] Incursio looked away, his expression embarrassed. "I'm not sure what to say," he sighed. "I wish I could tell you more about the workshop, or why I'm so sure that the storms were coming from there, but the truth is, I don't remember much about where I came from. I just knew that I couldn't stay there." Excursio nodded. She hadn't been expecting to hear that her partner didn't remember his own past, but it wasn't terribly surprising when she thought about it. Incursio never talked about his early life, or where he'd lived before he joined her on the mesa. Compared to Pulchrior, who frequently talked about his birth clan, it had seemed stranger than when it was just the two of them living alone. "Don't worry about it," she decided to say. "What matters now is that we're both here." Incursio said nothing in reply, but Excursio saw some of the nervous tension relax out of his wings. A few hours later, they came across the marketplace. The market wasn't large - it was really more of an outpost than anything substantial - but to Excursio it might as well have been a small city. She'd never seen so many dragons in one place before, and for a minute the noise and bustle of the market threatened to overwhelm her senses. Incursio's presence at her side was reassuring, though, and after only a brief pause the two of them moved into the marketplace and began to explore. Excursio had some ideas about what a market should be like, based on the things she'd heard from Pulchrior and the occasional passing travelers that stopped by the oasis, but she quickly realized that this market was different from what she'd been expecting. There were lots of dragons, but there weren't any goods for sale. Instead, the dragons seemed to be selling [i]themselves.[/i] Small lines of impressively-garbed dragons waited outside booths and stalls, listening to the individuals who detached themselves from the crowd and stood before them to describe their skills and life experiences. "Are we going to have to do that?" Incursio said, sounding as alarmed as Excursio felt. "I'm not really a fan of public speaking." "Don't worry," said a musical, sibilant voice behind them. Excursio whirled around and found herself facing a breed of dragon she'd never seen before, less than half her size and covered in feathers. "You don't have to go on the stage," the [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=2656572]strange dragon[/url] said, flicking his forked tongue and looking up at them with clear cyan eyes. "The stage is for dragons who are showcasing their employability, so that they can be hired by new clans. The talent scouts from each clan make bids on dragons whose qualifications they find desirable, and the dragon offering their skills will take the offer they like best. Things escalate into bidding wars for the best employees, so this place is sometimes called the Auction House. The clerks tell us not to, but nobody listens." Excursio nodded, trying desperately to look like she was following along with the other dragon's explanation. "So if we're looking for dragons who are good at construction, we just... go wait by the stage until the right dragon appears? We're new at this," she admitted, feeling sheepish at her own ignorance. But it seemed to be what the strange dragon had been hoping to hear. The feathers on his neck flared up in an obvious expression of interest. "In that case, I think I should like to go with you," the dragon said. "I've been at the auctions for some time, but I came here from my old clan so that I could eventually join a new one - and help a leader who seemed to have promise." "And you think I have promise?" Excursio said, taken aback. "You admitted that you have no idea what you're doing," the dragon said cheerfully, falling into step beside Excursio. "You'd be surprised how many young leaders aren't even willing to admit that much." The strange dragon, Excursio learned, was named Kyril, and he hailed from a Lightning clan that had been established for some time. His breed, the Coatl, was a rare one if the other dragons at the Auction House were anything to go by - there didn't seem to be any others around. To her surprise, Excursio also learned that Kyril was much older than he looked. At least it explained why the Coatl had so much advice to offer. "I'd avoid the main stages for now if I were you," Kyril said to the two Guardians. "If you're a new clan, you won't be able to out-compete more established holdings. You'd be better off starting with younger clanmates who still need experience." With that, the Coatl led Excursio and Incursio to a small tent, where a loud group of youngsters was bickering with a single, harassed-looking attendant. "Career services," Kyril said, humming quietly to himself with a pleased expression. "Some of these fellows are probably hoping for a spot in the Stormcatcher's workshop, but the Boss hasn't been hiring lately. Tempers are getting short. You might be able to find some good dragons here." But Excursio's head had whipped around at the name [i]Stormcatcher[/i], and Incursio was focused on the Coatl's casual mention of a workshop. "Who is the Stormcatcher?" Excursio demanded. "Why does he have a workshop? And why did you call him your boss?" Kyril's wings fluttered nervously. "You never got the informational pamphlet, did you." Excursio and Incursio looked at each other. "I don't think so?" Incursio ventured. Kyril let out a disgusted huff. "I told them!" he said, his accent becoming thicker as his temper mounted. "Have seminars for new employees! Do outreach! But did they listen? Of course not!" He shook himself and smoothed his ruffled feathers. "Sorry about that - it's just that I've been trying to tell the overseers that the new border clans aren't being incorporated into the workforce efficiently. Someone should have explained this to you, but since I'm here, I guess it's gonna fall to me to do their job for them." And with that, Kyril told the two increasingly-astonished Guardians about the Stormcatcher, the god of the Shifting Expanse and the Boss of all Lightning dragons. "We call him the Boss because we're all his employees, in a sense," the Coatl explained. "All clans in the Shifting Expanse are expected to advance the Stormcatcher's goals, whether it's through working in his factories, studying science and technology, or trading goods and services that will bolster the value of the work done on the Lightning Farm. My birth clan was in the heart of the farm, but lately more and more dragons are building lairs that are far away from the Boss' center of command." "I don't intend to move," Excursio said, feeling faintly indignant at the idea that anyone, even a god, would try to force her to. "My Charge is to share the view from my mesa, and I can't do that if I'm working in some lightning farm." Kyril nodded. "The Boss doesn't want every dragon to work for him directly," he explained. "It would get overcrowded. But you can contribute something of value from where you are, especially if you snap up a few researchers. They can help you build something lasting, and once your clan is constructed, you can start making discoveries of your own and sending them to the Boss." Excursio and Incursio looked at each other, and shrugged. Excursio still wasn't sure she liked the idea of some mantis-legged lightning god presiding over everything she and her clan did - she wanted her independence, after all. But she was a Lightning dragon in Lightning territory, and if appeasing the Stormcatcher was part of living here, she supposed she could find some small way to contribute. "So you said something about researchers," she said to Kyril. "Are there any of them here?" The Coatl nodded, looking relieved. "I know one good fellow who was looking for work a few days ago. It's a typical story - young dragon gets an education, but of course there are no jobs. He's a bit gruff, but I think he'll work hard for you. Hey Hanyi!" Kyril said, raising his voice to a shout that was surprisingly loud given his size. "You still here or did you decide to go to grad school after all?" "I don't want to go to grad school," said a morose voice from behind one of the tents. Excursio peered around the tent and saw [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=3007403]a pale dragon[/url] with long, branching horns - an Imperial - sitting beside a slightly larger [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=2996987]green-and-blue dragon[/url] of the same breed. "I wanted to work for a few years first, but everyone wants electricians on staff! Nobody wants a general scientist." "We don't have any scientists at all," Excursio said, causing both Imperials to eye her in interest. "So we'd be happy to have you." "The lair is still under construction," Incursio said, clearly unwilling to offer the young dragons anything less than the full truth. "And we'd want your help to build the place. But you'd be getting in at the start of everything - you could help make the clan what you wanted." "That's tempting," Hanyi said, tilting his head. "Could I have my own lab?" he said, his expression hopeful. "Absolutely," Excursio said. She had no interest in research, so as far as she was concerned, Hanyi could have the biggest lab he was able to build. And if his work helped keep the fabled Stormcatcher off their backs, all the better. "Sold," the Imperial said, rising to his feet. "When do we leave?" "I'm gonna go grab my stuff," said the other Imperial, uncurling and sending Excursio and Incursio a charming smile. "My name's Baikal, by the way. I'm really more of an amateur botanist than a scientist, but I don't mind helping dig a lair or two. Ice magic isn't the most useful around here, but I've got claws." Excursio took a closer look at the Imperial's eyes and saw that they were, in fact, the glittering white of the Ice Flight. "Isn't the desert a bit warm for you?" she asked, charmed by Baikal's easygoing manner in spite of herself. "Yeah, but the Southern Icefield is [i]way[/i] too cold," Baikal said with a shiver. "And there are hardly any flowers! Hanyi's been teaching me everything he knows about plants - I tend to kill them all," the Imperial said, drooping slightly. "Plants, Ice magic, not really the best combination." "I don't know anything about plants," Hanyi sighed, as if he and Baikal had already had the same discussion many times before. "I'm a Nature dragon by birth, but I've got a black thumb. I'm a researcher, not a botanist!" "And you do your best every day," Baikal said, seeming utterly unaffected by his companion's gruff demeanor. "Yeah, I'll come along - that is, if you're willing to have all three of us," he said, looking at Excursio anxiously. Excursio surveyed the Coatl and the two Imperials before turning to look at her partner. "I think we can make this work," she said. "What do you think, Incursio?" The red Guardian nodded. "Motion seconded," he said with one of his rare smiles. "Welcome to the clan." [right][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2254667/2#post_29211159]Previous Chapter[/url] [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2254667/3#post_29370708]Next Chapter[/url][/right]
8T4zkjd.png

Chapter Four: The Storm and The Market


Having Pulchrior around the lair made work go much more quickly. The extra hands allowed Excursio to divide the labor more efficiently; while two dragons worked on carving new stones and constructing shelters, the third dragon could gather supplies and resources from the surrounding desert.

Excursio had remembered her partner's words about digging an underground lair, and she made sure to pass along her wishes to Pulchrior. It was the black Guardian who had suggested that they carve their construction blocks and dig their access tunnel at the same time, and whenever a stone block was removed from the central pit and added to the walls of a building, the tunnel grew deeper at the same time.

Construction on the outbuildings was nearly finished when the three dragons met with an unfortunate setback.

Excursio hadn't paid much attention to the clouds that had been gathering in the south. Storms often formed over the sea at the edge of the continent, and they rarely made it far enough inland to produce more than a light drizzle, if that. So the Guardian dismissed the ominous clouds, even when she began to see glimmers of cyan lightning in their bellies as they approached.

Ignoring the shift in the weather proved to be a mistake. Excursio learned this the hard way when the storm hit, battering her and her clanmates with such strong winds that they were forced to vacate the mesa and shelter at the base of the cliff. Lightning dragons they may have been, but that didn't mean they could withstand the full force of a bolt of lightning - and the fierce gusts of wind threatened to rip their wings from their sockets regardless.

"What is this weather?" Excursio shouted to her companions over the roar of the storm. "I've never seen anything like it!"

"My birth clan saw weather like this one," Pulchrior replied, moving closer so that he could be heard over the wind. "It came from the east when it struck, but I traveled far before finding you. Perhaps they have the same source."

"The factory," shouted Incursio suddenly. Excursio and Pulchrior looked at him in surprise, and he scuffed his foot across the stone with a sheepish expression. "Before I came here, I escaped from a factory. I think it might have been the source of these big storms."

Excursio wanted to know more. What was the source of the storms, and what was the mysterious factory that lay in her partner's past? But she decided to let her questions rest for the time being - the rain was pelting down, and she could hardly hear herself think over the sound of the thunder.

When the storm finally passed, the three dragons flew to the top of the mesa. As she surveyed the beginning of their new clan, Excursio's stomach sank. Their stone dwellings had held, and were undamaged by the fury of the storm - they, at least, had been a success. The source of Excursio's dismay was the beginning of the tunnel they had dug into the heart of the mesa. The rain had filled the hole nearly halfway. "We need to cover the tunnel," she said, staring at the pool of water that reflected the now-cloudless sky. "If we had burrows down in the mesa, they would be flooded every time it rained."

Pulchrior nodded. "It seems sensible. An outer structure would also make the lair easier to defend, should we ever need to protect ourselves."

The three decided that some sort of walled, roofed structure would be needed if they were going to build a proper lair around the tunnel into the mesa. But such a building would require more stone, and more labor, than the three Guardians were able to provide. "I suppose that settles it," Excursio said once they had finished their discussion. "We'll have to set out again and find new clan members - and this time we need more than one dragon. No offense, Pulchrior."

The black Guardian's lips twitched in amusement. "None taken. If it's more dragons you seek, I heard from my parents that there's a small market near the border with the Light Flight. I was on my way there when I met you. I'll guard the lair while you're gone; the place is about a day's flight from here, but I bet you'll find the dragons you're looking for."

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"So," Excursio said to Incursio during one of their travel breaks. "You came from a workshop? What was it like?" And why hadn't he mentioned it?

Incursio looked away, his expression embarrassed. "I'm not sure what to say," he sighed. "I wish I could tell you more about the workshop, or why I'm so sure that the storms were coming from there, but the truth is, I don't remember much about where I came from. I just knew that I couldn't stay there."

Excursio nodded. She hadn't been expecting to hear that her partner didn't remember his own past, but it wasn't terribly surprising when she thought about it. Incursio never talked about his early life, or where he'd lived before he joined her on the mesa. Compared to Pulchrior, who frequently talked about his birth clan, it had seemed stranger than when it was just the two of them living alone. "Don't worry about it," she decided to say. "What matters now is that we're both here."

Incursio said nothing in reply, but Excursio saw some of the nervous tension relax out of his wings.

A few hours later, they came across the marketplace. The market wasn't large - it was really more of an outpost than anything substantial - but to Excursio it might as well have been a small city. She'd never seen so many dragons in one place before, and for a minute the noise and bustle of the market threatened to overwhelm her senses.

Incursio's presence at her side was reassuring, though, and after only a brief pause the two of them moved into the marketplace and began to explore.

Excursio had some ideas about what a market should be like, based on the things she'd heard from Pulchrior and the occasional passing travelers that stopped by the oasis, but she quickly realized that this market was different from what she'd been expecting. There were lots of dragons, but there weren't any goods for sale. Instead, the dragons seemed to be selling themselves. Small lines of impressively-garbed dragons waited outside booths and stalls, listening to the individuals who detached themselves from the crowd and stood before them to describe their skills and life experiences.

"Are we going to have to do that?" Incursio said, sounding as alarmed as Excursio felt. "I'm not really a fan of public speaking."

"Don't worry," said a musical, sibilant voice behind them. Excursio whirled around and found herself facing a breed of dragon she'd never seen before, less than half her size and covered in feathers. "You don't have to go on the stage," the strange dragon said, flicking his forked tongue and looking up at them with clear cyan eyes. "The stage is for dragons who are showcasing their employability, so that they can be hired by new clans. The talent scouts from each clan make bids on dragons whose qualifications they find desirable, and the dragon offering their skills will take the offer they like best. Things escalate into bidding wars for the best employees, so this place is sometimes called the Auction House. The clerks tell us not to, but nobody listens."

Excursio nodded, trying desperately to look like she was following along with the other dragon's explanation. "So if we're looking for dragons who are good at construction, we just... go wait by the stage until the right dragon appears? We're new at this," she admitted, feeling sheepish at her own ignorance.

But it seemed to be what the strange dragon had been hoping to hear. The feathers on his neck flared up in an obvious expression of interest. "In that case, I think I should like to go with you," the dragon said. "I've been at the auctions for some time, but I came here from my old clan so that I could eventually join a new one - and help a leader who seemed to have promise."

"And you think I have promise?" Excursio said, taken aback.

"You admitted that you have no idea what you're doing," the dragon said cheerfully, falling into step beside Excursio. "You'd be surprised how many young leaders aren't even willing to admit that much."

The strange dragon, Excursio learned, was named Kyril, and he hailed from a Lightning clan that had been established for some time. His breed, the Coatl, was a rare one if the other dragons at the Auction House were anything to go by - there didn't seem to be any others around. To her surprise, Excursio also learned that Kyril was much older than he looked. At least it explained why the Coatl had so much advice to offer.

"I'd avoid the main stages for now if I were you," Kyril said to the two Guardians. "If you're a new clan, you won't be able to out-compete more established holdings. You'd be better off starting with younger clanmates who still need experience."

With that, the Coatl led Excursio and Incursio to a small tent, where a loud group of youngsters was bickering with a single, harassed-looking attendant. "Career services," Kyril said, humming quietly to himself with a pleased expression. "Some of these fellows are probably hoping for a spot in the Stormcatcher's workshop, but the Boss hasn't been hiring lately. Tempers are getting short. You might be able to find some good dragons here."

But Excursio's head had whipped around at the name Stormcatcher, and Incursio was focused on the Coatl's casual mention of a workshop. "Who is the Stormcatcher?" Excursio demanded. "Why does he have a workshop? And why did you call him your boss?"

Kyril's wings fluttered nervously. "You never got the informational pamphlet, did you."

Excursio and Incursio looked at each other. "I don't think so?" Incursio ventured.

Kyril let out a disgusted huff. "I told them!" he said, his accent becoming thicker as his temper mounted. "Have seminars for new employees! Do outreach! But did they listen? Of course not!" He shook himself and smoothed his ruffled feathers. "Sorry about that - it's just that I've been trying to tell the overseers that the new border clans aren't being incorporated into the workforce efficiently. Someone should have explained this to you, but since I'm here, I guess it's gonna fall to me to do their job for them."

And with that, Kyril told the two increasingly-astonished Guardians about the Stormcatcher, the god of the Shifting Expanse and the Boss of all Lightning dragons. "We call him the Boss because we're all his employees, in a sense," the Coatl explained. "All clans in the Shifting Expanse are expected to advance the Stormcatcher's goals, whether it's through working in his factories, studying science and technology, or trading goods and services that will bolster the value of the work done on the Lightning Farm. My birth clan was in the heart of the farm, but lately more and more dragons are building lairs that are far away from the Boss' center of command."

"I don't intend to move," Excursio said, feeling faintly indignant at the idea that anyone, even a god, would try to force her to. "My Charge is to share the view from my mesa, and I can't do that if I'm working in some lightning farm."

Kyril nodded. "The Boss doesn't want every dragon to work for him directly," he explained. "It would get overcrowded. But you can contribute something of value from where you are, especially if you snap up a few researchers. They can help you build something lasting, and once your clan is constructed, you can start making discoveries of your own and sending them to the Boss."

Excursio and Incursio looked at each other, and shrugged. Excursio still wasn't sure she liked the idea of some mantis-legged lightning god presiding over everything she and her clan did - she wanted her independence, after all. But she was a Lightning dragon in Lightning territory, and if appeasing the Stormcatcher was part of living here, she supposed she could find some small way to contribute. "So you said something about researchers," she said to Kyril. "Are there any of them here?"

The Coatl nodded, looking relieved. "I know one good fellow who was looking for work a few days ago. It's a typical story - young dragon gets an education, but of course there are no jobs. He's a bit gruff, but I think he'll work hard for you. Hey Hanyi!" Kyril said, raising his voice to a shout that was surprisingly loud given his size. "You still here or did you decide to go to grad school after all?"

"I don't want to go to grad school," said a morose voice from behind one of the tents. Excursio peered around the tent and saw a pale dragon with long, branching horns - an Imperial - sitting beside a slightly larger green-and-blue dragon of the same breed. "I wanted to work for a few years first, but everyone wants electricians on staff! Nobody wants a general scientist."

"We don't have any scientists at all," Excursio said, causing both Imperials to eye her in interest. "So we'd be happy to have you."

"The lair is still under construction," Incursio said, clearly unwilling to offer the young dragons anything less than the full truth. "And we'd want your help to build the place. But you'd be getting in at the start of everything - you could help make the clan what you wanted."

"That's tempting," Hanyi said, tilting his head. "Could I have my own lab?" he said, his expression hopeful.

"Absolutely," Excursio said. She had no interest in research, so as far as she was concerned, Hanyi could have the biggest lab he was able to build. And if his work helped keep the fabled Stormcatcher off their backs, all the better.

"Sold," the Imperial said, rising to his feet. "When do we leave?"

"I'm gonna go grab my stuff," said the other Imperial, uncurling and sending Excursio and Incursio a charming smile. "My name's Baikal, by the way. I'm really more of an amateur botanist than a scientist, but I don't mind helping dig a lair or two. Ice magic isn't the most useful around here, but I've got claws."

Excursio took a closer look at the Imperial's eyes and saw that they were, in fact, the glittering white of the Ice Flight. "Isn't the desert a bit warm for you?" she asked, charmed by Baikal's easygoing manner in spite of herself.

"Yeah, but the Southern Icefield is way too cold," Baikal said with a shiver. "And there are hardly any flowers! Hanyi's been teaching me everything he knows about plants - I tend to kill them all," the Imperial said, drooping slightly. "Plants, Ice magic, not really the best combination."

"I don't know anything about plants," Hanyi sighed, as if he and Baikal had already had the same discussion many times before. "I'm a Nature dragon by birth, but I've got a black thumb. I'm a researcher, not a botanist!"

"And you do your best every day," Baikal said, seeming utterly unaffected by his companion's gruff demeanor. "Yeah, I'll come along - that is, if you're willing to have all three of us," he said, looking at Excursio anxiously.

Excursio surveyed the Coatl and the two Imperials before turning to look at her partner. "I think we can make this work," she said. "What do you think, Incursio?"

The red Guardian nodded. "Motion seconded," he said with one of his rare smiles. "Welcome to the clan."

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