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TOPIC | [LORE] The Tower of Drabel
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254672shop_aff1b.png .. {Free} bio resourcesLF Affiliates
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254672shop_aff1b.png .. {Free} bio resourcesLF Affiliates
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Wishlists: outfits & genes | general | familiars
Please check the spelling of my name when pinging me: @Disillusionist. Thanks!
[center][color=#BBBABF][size=1][b]PREV.[/b][/size] [size=2][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/21#post_34811429]Dragon[/url] | [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_2323941]Contents[/url] • Dragons [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507351]A-M[/url] [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507353]N-Z[/url] • [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507362]Stories Pt. 3[/url] | [/size][size=1][b]NEXT[/b][/size] [size=2][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/22#post_34811441]Dragon[/url][/color][/size][/center] ----- [right][url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=32435509][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/coliseum/portraits/324356/32435509.png[/img][/url] [size=2][color=#9494A9][url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=32435509]profile[/url] • back to[/color] [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/22#post_34811431]main post[/url][/right] [columns][center][item=forgotten crown][/center][nextcol][color=transparent]..[/color][nextcol][color=#6394DD][font=garamond][size=7][size=4][b]once upon a time...[/b][/size][/size][/font][/color] [size=2]written by Disillusionist special thanks to Ximena [color=#9494A9]3,433 words[/color][/size][/columns] [center][font=gabriola][size=6][i][color=#9494A9]“[color=#1957BA]I[/color][color=#1E5BBB]t[/color][color=#235FBC]'[/color][color=#2862BE]s[/color][color=#2D66BF] [/color] [color=#326AC0]t[/color][color=#376EC1]h[/color][color=#3C72C3]e[/color][color=#4176C4] [/color] [color=#4679C5]m[/color][color=#4B7DC6]a[/color][color=#5081C8]g[/color][color=#5585C9]i[/color][color=#5A89CA]c[/color][color=#5F8DCB]a[/color][color=#6491CC]l[/color][color=#6994CE] [/color] [color=#6E98CF]k[/color][color=#739CD0]i[/color][color=#78A0D1]n[/color][color=#7DA4D3]g[/color][color=#82A8D4]d[/color][color=#87ABD5]o[/color][color=#8CAFD6]m[/color][color=#91B3D8] [/color] [color=#96B7D9].[/color][color=#9BBBDA] [/color] [color=#A0BFDB].[/color][color=#A5C2DD] [/color] [color=#AAC6DE].[/color] [color=#C6DEF0]b[/color][color=#BCD4EE]u[/color][color=#B2C9EB]t[/color][color=#A8BFE9] [/color] [color=#9EB4E7]i[/color][color=#94AAE4]t[/color][color=#8A9FE2]'[/color][color=#8499DC]s[/color][color=#7D92D6] [/color] [b][color=#778CD0]v[/color][color=#7186CB]e[/color][color=#6A7FC5]r[/color][color=#6479BF]y[/color][color=#5A6EB3] [/color] [color=#4F64A7]d[/color][color=#45599B]a[/color][color=#3B4E8E]r[/color][color=#304482]k[/color][color=#263976].[/color][/b]”[/color][/i][/size][/font][/center] [right][font=Garamond][size=4]~ Jen Percy[/size][/font][color=transparent]___________________[/color][/right] [color=#535195]“Nieve, let’s go.” The Squall Rasa padded forward, drawing a wheeled cot behind itself. Its master lay upon it—a dragon, almost grown, but whose soft voice and frail figure made him seem much younger. He leaned heavily on his familiar, for he was crippled, and had been since birth. The Squall Rasa carried him around the room as he touched various objects. He picked up one or two of them, only to set them down, grief chasing over his face. Many of them were toys that his mother had given him to cuddle with. His mother... He would never see his mother again. Nor his father, his siblings, the servants and the people. None of them, not ever. For he was going to another world... Nieve bore him noiselessly through the marble halls, past woven tapestries, glittering artifacts, and doorways that stared like massive eyes. As the prince looked back, he saw moonlight flooding the corridors and dust motes drifting in the beams. He held those pictures close to his fluttering heart....And away he went, out the splendid doors and down the marble steps. Nobody saw him as he left the palace grounds. Only the creatures of the forest did, and they did not approach him; they wouldn’t dare. He didn’t belong to this world anymore. His new master was waiting for him: a [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=32232475]Wildclaw[/url], draped in shimmering cloth, poised beneath an arbor at the edge of the forest. An arbor that definitely hadn’t been there before. It was adorned with roses, and though the Wildclaw, and the thorns of the roses, were as bright and clear-cut in the darkness as swords were, the roses themselves were black. Not dead, but unable—or unwilling—to reflect the light. “I’m here,” Minuit whispered, fear etched onto his face. He slid down from the Squall Rasa’s back and prostrated himself before the pale dragon. Minuit was a prince—the youngest of many siblings. He was much loved and respected—but what could compel a prince to grovel like this? Another creature more powerful than royalty or any amount of coin, a being not of this world. Not a god...perhaps closer to a demon. A [i]fairy[/i].[/color] [center][url=http://msb-lair.tumblr.com/post/138792766902/even-more-flight-dividers][img]https://78.media.tumblr.com/e2ef31cd285982310ff93e3d1f5c0ec9/tumblr_inline_o23j4ayWtt1r3lvtf_500.png[/img][/url][/center] [color=#535195]Once, when Minuit was still a hatchling, he had wept because he was broken, born with twisted and useless hind legs. Bolder children of the palace had taunted him, saying that he was just some foundling who’d been thrown away for the King and Queen to find. The taunting had stopped when his usually-gentle father had erupted, roaring in rage. But it had taken longer for Minuit’s sobbing to cease. His mother wrapped him in her bright blue wings. She rocked him back and forth, and that was when he heard the story of his birth: “Your egg was smaller than your siblings’. Your father and I were worried, so worried....Your brothers and sisters were, too. They stayed beside you every day. Even when your father and I could not be present, one of them was always there. They sang to you while you were still in the shell. They talked to you, played games of make-believe with you.” “They still do,” Minuit sniffled. “They say I’m going to walk someday.” His mother was silent then. “Is it true? It’s...not true, is it?” “Why does it matter, Minuit?” And now it was his turn to fall silent. He blinked up at his mother. He had [i]not[/i] been expecting that response. “Why does it matter?” his mother coaxed him. “Do you not have your brothers and sisters to play with you?” “Yes, I...I do. I—” “Don’t your father and I care for you?” “Yes, you do.” He pressed close to her, and she gently tousled his mane. “Do you not have all the food you need, all the clothing and toys you can ever want? You have your lessons; your teachers tell me you are a bright and considerate child. The servants, whatever their children have to say, are very fond of you. Minuit, everybody gets mocked.” She sighed and shook her head. “It’s an unfortunate fact that there will always be unkind dragons ready to tear you down. That does not automatically invalidate all that is good about you. It never does.” He was young and could barely make sense of those words—but his mother spoke with passion, and the sincerity of it touched his heart. He held himself a little straighter. “Those children...Is anything going to happen to them?” He was not angry, just worried. His mother laughed heartily. “Goodness, no! Your father’s roar was admonishment enough for them. Our dear, beautiful son...” She kissed his brow. “You really are too good for this world.”[/color] [center][url=http://msb-lair.tumblr.com/post/138792766902/even-more-flight-dividers][img]https://78.media.tumblr.com/e2ef31cd285982310ff93e3d1f5c0ec9/tumblr_inline_o23j4ayWtt1r3lvtf_500.png[/img][/url][/center] [color=#535195][i]Too good for this world.[/i] Perhaps that was why... One of his brothers built a lodge on the edge of the western woods, a place where he could relax with his mate and their children. Many dragons whispered that this was a foolish decision. The lodge belonged to the Prince, but the woods beyond were older and more powerful than any kingdom could ever be, and held mysteries best not pursued. But the elder prince scoffed at these whispers. He declared that the woods would be a good playground for his children while he hunted the game that flourished within. Never mind that the trees grew so closely that light rarely touched the ground. Never mind that beneath the canopy, one sometimes heard faint laughter or whispers. Brightly-clothed figures could be seen moving in the distance; travelers caught glimpses of glittering structures that vanished when they tried drawing closer.... Minuit heard of the illness from his parents. His brother had gone into the woods to hunt and had not returned for some days. His retainers had searched for him. It had been difficult—their scenting familiars had been skittish and disoriented, leading the handlers in circles. Their spells had not been much better. Previously-reliable formulae had gone haywire, sending the searchers back the way they’d come or failing to react at all. The prince had stumbled out of the trees. Hollow-eyed, shivering, his clothing and feathers bedraggled. “Water,” he’d begged the search party. The dragons had clustered around him, given him water to drink—and he’d spat it out. “Bitter, it’s so bitter....It’s not sweet at all. The one he gave me...I want more of it. Water from the garden stream...” “He’s delirious,” the guard captain gasped—the water tasted perfectly fine to her. She briefly felt the prince’s brow, noted how cold and unsteady his limbs were. “He’s been lost for days....He might’ve caught an illness or...” The prince made it back to the palace, but his ordeal continued. He could not drink water, complaining that it was too bitter, and the physicians had to force it down his throat. Neither could he eat. The food, as delicious and wholesome as the royal chefs could make it, tasted like offal and ash to him. The King’s eyes were dark with anxiety. “Who has done this to you?” By then, some of the prince’s senses had returned. He spoke through parched lips: “I found a...a house...in the woods.” “A house?” “It was...such a beautiful house. A bright fence. Roses growing up the walls. I asked for water...from him...” “From whom?” “The master...” His eyes glazed again. “[i]Master[/i]...!” That was when the King began summoning thaumaturges. Not just sorcerers, but also those who dabbled in the more esoteric arts. Diviners. Spirit healers. Witch doctors. They joined forces to heal their prince, and they concocted an enchanted meal for him. It was gruel, simple and pale and bland. It smelled perfectly ordinary and looked much the same. But when it was fed to the prince, his stomach convulsed visibly, and his eyes bulged. He retched, throwing something up—it hit the floor with a loud [i]clack[/i]. The servants and royals stared in horror while the thaumaturges murmured among themselves. About three inches long, clear and glittering...and sharp. It was a glass shard.[/color] [center][url=http://msb-lair.tumblr.com/post/138792766902/even-more-flight-dividers][img]https://78.media.tumblr.com/e2ef31cd285982310ff93e3d1f5c0ec9/tumblr_inline_o23j4ayWtt1r3lvtf_500.png[/img][/url][/center] [color=#535195]The roses began growing the next day. They glittered on the edges of the woods, thorny vines coiling around the tree trunks, choking the life out of them. Three days later, they had reached the prince’s lodge. The thorns were no longer like shards of glass. Now they were as long and vicious as swords. They expanded to the farmlands. They leeched the moisture from the soil so that all the crops withered. When they got into the wells, the dragons took one sip of water and threw it away, groaning in disgust. It tasted as bitter as poison. [i]As poison...[/i]The prince was dying, and the kingdom with him. By then, the thaumaturges had a likely cause: “Your son has offended a powerful being.” The royal parents immediately queried, “Can he be saved?” The answer, when it came, did not inspire confidence: “Perhaps.” Yet the royal family was determined to try—after all, how could they not? They were instructed to dress in plain, humble clothes, with not a thread of red to be seen. They left off their finery, making sure not to carry anything sharp, nor anything of iron. There were other things besides, things about smoke and herbs and milk and honey, but Minuit didn’t remember the specifics; most of his memories of that time had been peeled away.... He does remember the first time he saw the Fairy Prince. That moment had been irrevocably frozen within his mind. The family and a few trusted servants journeyed to the dark forest. They stopped just at the edge of the trees. Here, the rose canes had grown iron-hard and leaned towards them, as threatening as daggers against the pulse. Minuit shivered. He was lying on a simple wheeled cot drawn by his faithful Squall Rasa. When an uneasy ripple moved through the group, he raised himself up on his forelegs, the better to see what was happening. [i]And he was there.[/i] A Wildclaw—he stood within the shadows, a frigid white silhouette against the thorn-shrouded trees. Dark lights sparkled upon his claws, traced alien characters along his sides. It hurt to look at them; they were darker even than the spaces between stars. His face was beautiful, finely-molded—and colder than marble, than ice. Black roses rustled softly around him even though there was no wind. Falteringly, Minuit’s father spoke: “You are...he who rules these woods.” It took the fairy a long moment to answer. Within that time, he studied the assemblage before him, his gaze roving languidly over their bodies and clothes. His eyes paused briefly on Minuit, and the Skydancer shrank behind his familiar as a sudden chill enveloped him. “I have my little garden among these trees.” The fairy’s voice was almost a sigh. He spoke dismissively, and gave the impression that any moment he would grow bored of them and saunter off. And suddenly—“[i]You.[/i]” His voice crackled with hatred. He singled out a member of the group, and now he was no longer languid, but alert—and enraged. “I’ve seen you sometimes, with your husband and your children...such lovely, lovely children. As handsome as their father.” He was speaking to Minuit’s sister-in-law—the ailing prince’s wife. A dragoness from the Tangled Wood, normally playful and smiling—but her mate’s recent illness had diminished her spirit, and now, confronting the one responsible for it, she found it difficult to speak the words she’d so carefully prepared. She spoke from the heart instead: “Sir...Please, sir, my husband...He never meant—!” “I was gravely insulted.” The fairy spoke distantly, as if she wasn’t even there. “This stranger trampled at will through my garden. He defiled my work. He [i]dared.[/i]” His cold eyes flashed with rage. “It is an insult that cannot be borne. You and the rest of your kind, mortals all...Lessons must be taught to you. And they must leave a mighty impression if they are to be effective. “But I prefer to be merciful.” He briefly pressed his claws against his heart. “Your beautiful prince will fall gently into my grasp...He longs to leave already, I assure you.” He concluded, as the others listened in horror, “I shall be well satisfied once he is within my garden once more.” His voice faded as he turned to head back into the trees. The King sucked in a sharp breath. “Wait—” he began—but as he started forward, the rose thorns slashed towards him, suddenly as long as spears. He fell backwards with a cry. For all the might he wielded, he could only stare, impotent and afraid, as the fairy prince turned his back on them and returned to the dark forest.[/color] [center][url=http://msb-lair.tumblr.com/post/138792766902/even-more-flight-dividers][img]https://78.media.tumblr.com/e2ef31cd285982310ff93e3d1f5c0ec9/tumblr_inline_o23j4ayWtt1r3lvtf_500.png[/img][/url][/center] [color=#535195]The thaumaturges did their best to negotiate with the fairy prince. They divined his name and the nature of the curse he’d cast....The fairy’s name was [i]Nhainnse[/i], and he was the [i]Prince of the Roses[/i]. Like the flowers that surrounded him, it was all too easy to be distracted by his beauty—and not notice that his thorns had drawn blood. He had been enraged by the elder prince’s intrusion and had cast that insidious spell on him, intending to steal his life away. The prince had managed to escape from the garden. That had only weakened the spell: he would die in the space of weeks now, not mere minutes. Nhainnse, meanwhile, had been further incensed by the prince’s escape, and he had cast another curse over the land. The poison, the thorns that choked the kingdom...The elder prince would succumb first, or else the kingdom would. The fairy was out for blood and would not rest until the offense had been paid for with a life. The thaumaturges made the usual offerings of animals, plants, and riches. None of them appeased Nhainnse. Minuit saw them trudge back into the palace, defeated and dispirited. He heard his sister-in-law weeping at his brother’s bedside and saw how his nieces and nephews were downcast, despondent. His heart ached for his parents, who spent sleepless nights researching ways to thwart the fairy. Perhaps there was someone or something that could help...but would they arrive before the curse claimed the elder prince’s life? Something had to be done. Minuit returned to the dark forest. Only Nieve accompanied him, pulling the wheeled cot on which the young prince lay. They came to the place where the thaumaturges had conducted their ceremonies. He made no offerings, said no words. He merely waited. Minuit and Nieve became aware of the fairy’s presence at the same time. The Squall Rasa’s hackles rose, and Minuit suppressed a gasp when they both saw him. He glared coldly at them from within the embrace of the black rose thorns. “Prince,” spat the fairy, “have you come to bargain for your brother’s life?” “Yes, sir.” “Then I have nothing to say to you.” The fairy turned away. Minuit wet his lips. He sucked in a deep breath and called out, “Wait! In exchange for removing your curse from my brother and my kingdom, would you accept...another sacrifice? One of royal blood, as my brother is?” The fairy’s laugh floated out from among the trees. He reappeared on Minuit’s right this time, strolling unhurriedly past. “What an interesting offer. You have many kinsmen, crippled one. Will you throw another of your brothers to me?” “No.” Tears burned Minuit’s eyes as he leaned forward. He continued bravely, “I offer up myself.” The fairy prince paused. He looked at Minuit for a moment, his face inscrutable. And then he stalked forward slowly, silently. “You?” he repeated. His tone was mocking. “You, would offer yourself up in your brother’s place, [i]crippled[/i] one?” Minuit had always hated that term: [i]crippled[/i]. For this monster to use it as an insult...But no. He couldn’t think about that. Not while his brother’s life hung in the balance... He forced the unease back and put on his most winning smile. “I’m just as good as my brother—if not better! While he spent all his time gallivanting outside, I stayed in the palace, learning art and music from the finest tutors the kingdom had to offer. I can play the mandolin and flute, and I have an excellent singing voice. If it’s not music you need, then let me tell you a story! I know many stories, many poems—I daresay some of them might interest you. Yes, my brother is strong, but can he...entertain you?” He forced himself to speak that final question. It made his stomach heave, but then he remembered his brother’s mate and children weeping...and he got the words out, somehow. The main thing was, would they work? Nhainnse was standing before him now. Even the air around the fairy was cold; it seemed to distort the forest surrounding them. Minuit fought back the urge to shiver even as Nieve pressed back against him. “You have a way with words. Such boldness...,” Nhainnse purred. His eyes glittered as he looked down at Minuit. It took the Skydancer all his strength to meet the fairy prince’s gaze. “What an interesting offer. Very well, I accept.” [i]“This is it.”[/i] Minuit braced himself for...whatever would come next. But instead, Nhainnse stalked away from him. He coughed and managed to ask, “Wait. What...What happens now?” “I must prepare my garden to accept a new guest.” The rose-draped Wildclaw looked back at him. “All will be ready for you once you arrive in your new kingdom, prince.” “When will that be?” Minuit asked. His throat had suddenly gone dry. “At midnight, when the moon is full. Then the doors between our worlds will widen, and it will be easier for you to slip through.” Nhainnse smiled thinly. “Return here then, prince, to the place where my roses grow.” And with that, he was gone.[/color] [center][url=http://msb-lair.tumblr.com/post/138792766902/even-more-flight-dividers][img]https://78.media.tumblr.com/e2ef31cd285982310ff93e3d1f5c0ec9/tumblr_inline_o23j4ayWtt1r3lvtf_500.png[/img][/url][/center] [color=#535195]That was how Minuit came to the Rose Prince’s garden. He followed Nhainnse beneath the arbor of black roses, and the world behind him twisted and diminished as it receded into an impossible distance. Not the distance between spaces, but the one between [i]worlds[/i]. Nieve pulled him after Nhainnse. They walked until the trees began glittering with inner light and the moonbeams, filtered through many-colored leaves, cast dancing shapes upon the forest floor. Till the grass made music of its own, tinkling like distant windchimes, and Minuit began to see flashes of color keeping pace with them, hanging just beyond the edges of his vision. “The garden awaits,” Nhainnse whispered. And ahead, glowing like a huge, carved pearl: a house, sculpted into iridescent curlicues, and surrounded by equally radiant trees and flowers. All this brilliance was contained within a fence of shining metal. The gate swung open before Nhainnse, and he beckoned Minuit and Nieve inside. “Welcome,” he whispered, and now he smiled with sharp, shining teeth. Minuit’s heart dropped in his chest with a great thud. Far behind him, the thorns withered and the waters of the kingdom ran sweet and clear again. Minuit’s older brother awoke, his fever broken at last. His family’s joy was short-lived when they realized the youngest prince was gone. Soldiers and thaumaturges followed his trail to the woods were it ended, abruptly, at a pile of fast-crumbling, dessicated rose vines. The King and Queen screamed with grief when the news was broken to them. Minuit’s siblings tried unsuccessfully to calm them; the brother he’d freed sat nearby, his own face numb with anguish. They did everything they could to get him back, but their spells had no effect, and their pleas to the fairy prince went unanswered. Nhainnse had gone far away, to a place their magic couldn’t follow, and Minuit had gone with him. It broke the old King’s and Queen’s hearts. It was not long before they went to their graves, one after the other. One of Minuit’s older siblings ruled for a time, but even though the fairy prince had removed his blight, Minuit’s disappearance was in itself a curse, and his family never recovered from the heartbreak of losing him. The kingdom fractured from within as his siblings went their separate ways. Decades later, the palace had fallen, and the royal family had dispersed far and wide, their descendants having forgotten their noble roots. The forest continued to grow until it had overtaken the land once more, and then there was nothing to remember the kingdom by, not even a fairy tale.[/color] [right][font=Copperplate Gothic Light][color=#6394DD][size=5][b]continued[/b][/color][/size][/font][b][size=5][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/22#post_34811436]»[/url][/b][/size][/right] [size=2][color=#9494A9][b]Credits:[/b] The characters of Minuit, Nhainnse, and Nieve were originally created by Ximena. Lore written from headcanon notes provided by Ximena.[/color][/size] ----- [center][color=#BBBABF][size=1][b]PREV.[/b][/size] [size=2][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/21#post_34811429]Dragon[/url] | [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_2323941]Contents[/url] • Dragons [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507351]A-M[/url] [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507353]N-Z[/url] • [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507362]Stories Pt. 3[/url] | [/size][size=1][b]NEXT[/b][/size] [size=2][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/22#post_34811441]Dragon[/url][/color][/size][/center]
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profile • back to main post
.. once upon a time...
written by Disillusionist
special thanks to Ximena
3,433 words
It's the magical kingdom . . .
but it's very dark.
~ Jen Percy___________________
“Nieve, let’s go.”

The Squall Rasa padded forward, drawing a wheeled cot behind itself. Its master lay upon it—a dragon, almost grown, but whose soft voice and frail figure made him seem much younger. He leaned heavily on his familiar, for he was crippled, and had been since birth. The Squall Rasa carried him around the room as he touched various objects. He picked up one or two of them, only to set them down, grief chasing over his face. Many of them were toys that his mother had given him to cuddle with.

His mother...

He would never see his mother again. Nor his father, his siblings, the servants and the people. None of them, not ever. For he was going to another world...

Nieve bore him noiselessly through the marble halls, past woven tapestries, glittering artifacts, and doorways that stared like massive eyes. As the prince looked back, he saw moonlight flooding the corridors and dust motes drifting in the beams. He held those pictures close to his fluttering heart....And away he went, out the splendid doors and down the marble steps. Nobody saw him as he left the palace grounds. Only the creatures of the forest did, and they did not approach him; they wouldn’t dare. He didn’t belong to this world anymore.

His new master was waiting for him: a Wildclaw, draped in shimmering cloth, poised beneath an arbor at the edge of the forest. An arbor that definitely hadn’t been there before. It was adorned with roses, and though the Wildclaw, and the thorns of the roses, were as bright and clear-cut in the darkness as swords were, the roses themselves were black. Not dead, but unable—or unwilling—to reflect the light.

“I’m here,” Minuit whispered, fear etched onto his face. He slid down from the Squall Rasa’s back and prostrated himself before the pale dragon.

Minuit was a prince—the youngest of many siblings. He was much loved and respected—but what could compel a prince to grovel like this?

Another creature more powerful than royalty or any amount of coin, a being not of this world. Not a god...perhaps closer to a demon. A fairy.

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Once, when Minuit was still a hatchling, he had wept because he was broken, born with twisted and useless hind legs. Bolder children of the palace had taunted him, saying that he was just some foundling who’d been thrown away for the King and Queen to find. The taunting had stopped when his usually-gentle father had erupted, roaring in rage. But it had taken longer for Minuit’s sobbing to cease.

His mother wrapped him in her bright blue wings. She rocked him back and forth, and that was when he heard the story of his birth: “Your egg was smaller than your siblings’. Your father and I were worried, so worried....Your brothers and sisters were, too. They stayed beside you every day. Even when your father and I could not be present, one of them was always there. They sang to you while you were still in the shell. They talked to you, played games of make-believe with you.”

“They still do,” Minuit sniffled. “They say I’m going to walk someday.”

His mother was silent then.

“Is it true? It’s...not true, is it?”

“Why does it matter, Minuit?”

And now it was his turn to fall silent. He blinked up at his mother. He had not been expecting that response.

“Why does it matter?” his mother coaxed him. “Do you not have your brothers and sisters to play with you?”

“Yes, I...I do. I—”

“Don’t your father and I care for you?”

“Yes, you do.” He pressed close to her, and she gently tousled his mane.

“Do you not have all the food you need, all the clothing and toys you can ever want? You have your lessons; your teachers tell me you are a bright and considerate child. The servants, whatever their children have to say, are very fond of you. Minuit, everybody gets mocked.” She sighed and shook her head. “It’s an unfortunate fact that there will always be unkind dragons ready to tear you down. That does not automatically invalidate all that is good about you. It never does.”

He was young and could barely make sense of those words—but his mother spoke with passion, and the sincerity of it touched his heart. He held himself a little straighter. “Those children...Is anything going to happen to them?” He was not angry, just worried.

His mother laughed heartily. “Goodness, no! Your father’s roar was admonishment enough for them. Our dear, beautiful son...” She kissed his brow. “You really are too good for this world.”

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Too good for this world. Perhaps that was why...

One of his brothers built a lodge on the edge of the western woods, a place where he could relax with his mate and their children. Many dragons whispered that this was a foolish decision. The lodge belonged to the Prince, but the woods beyond were older and more powerful than any kingdom could ever be, and held mysteries best not pursued.

But the elder prince scoffed at these whispers. He declared that the woods would be a good playground for his children while he hunted the game that flourished within. Never mind that the trees grew so closely that light rarely touched the ground. Never mind that beneath the canopy, one sometimes heard faint laughter or whispers. Brightly-clothed figures could be seen moving in the distance; travelers caught glimpses of glittering structures that vanished when they tried drawing closer....

Minuit heard of the illness from his parents. His brother had gone into the woods to hunt and had not returned for some days. His retainers had searched for him. It had been difficult—their scenting familiars had been skittish and disoriented, leading the handlers in circles. Their spells had not been much better. Previously-reliable formulae had gone haywire, sending the searchers back the way they’d come or failing to react at all.

The prince had stumbled out of the trees. Hollow-eyed, shivering, his clothing and feathers bedraggled. “Water,” he’d begged the search party. The dragons had clustered around him, given him water to drink—and he’d spat it out.

“Bitter, it’s so bitter....It’s not sweet at all. The one he gave me...I want more of it. Water from the garden stream...”

“He’s delirious,” the guard captain gasped—the water tasted perfectly fine to her. She briefly felt the prince’s brow, noted how cold and unsteady his limbs were. “He’s been lost for days....He might’ve caught an illness or...”

The prince made it back to the palace, but his ordeal continued. He could not drink water, complaining that it was too bitter, and the physicians had to force it down his throat. Neither could he eat. The food, as delicious and wholesome as the royal chefs could make it, tasted like offal and ash to him.

The King’s eyes were dark with anxiety. “Who has done this to you?”

By then, some of the prince’s senses had returned. He spoke through parched lips: “I found a...a house...in the woods.”

“A house?”

“It was...such a beautiful house. A bright fence. Roses growing up the walls. I asked for water...from him...”

“From whom?”

“The master...” His eyes glazed again. “Master...!”

That was when the King began summoning thaumaturges. Not just sorcerers, but also those who dabbled in the more esoteric arts. Diviners. Spirit healers. Witch doctors.

They joined forces to heal their prince, and they concocted an enchanted meal for him. It was gruel, simple and pale and bland. It smelled perfectly ordinary and looked much the same. But when it was fed to the prince, his stomach convulsed visibly, and his eyes bulged. He retched, throwing something up—it hit the floor with a loud clack. The servants and royals stared in horror while the thaumaturges murmured among themselves.

About three inches long, clear and glittering...and sharp. It was a glass shard.

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The roses began growing the next day. They glittered on the edges of the woods, thorny vines coiling around the tree trunks, choking the life out of them. Three days later, they had reached the prince’s lodge. The thorns were no longer like shards of glass. Now they were as long and vicious as swords.

They expanded to the farmlands. They leeched the moisture from the soil so that all the crops withered. When they got into the wells, the dragons took one sip of water and threw it away, groaning in disgust. It tasted as bitter as poison.

As poison...The prince was dying, and the kingdom with him. By then, the thaumaturges had a likely cause: “Your son has offended a powerful being.”

The royal parents immediately queried, “Can he be saved?” The answer, when it came, did not inspire confidence: “Perhaps.”

Yet the royal family was determined to try—after all, how could they not? They were instructed to dress in plain, humble clothes, with not a thread of red to be seen. They left off their finery, making sure not to carry anything sharp, nor anything of iron. There were other things besides, things about smoke and herbs and milk and honey, but Minuit didn’t remember the specifics; most of his memories of that time had been peeled away....

He does remember the first time he saw the Fairy Prince. That moment had been irrevocably frozen within his mind.

The family and a few trusted servants journeyed to the dark forest. They stopped just at the edge of the trees. Here, the rose canes had grown iron-hard and leaned towards them, as threatening as daggers against the pulse.

Minuit shivered. He was lying on a simple wheeled cot drawn by his faithful Squall Rasa. When an uneasy ripple moved through the group, he raised himself up on his forelegs, the better to see what was happening.

And he was there. A Wildclaw—he stood within the shadows, a frigid white silhouette against the thorn-shrouded trees. Dark lights sparkled upon his claws, traced alien characters along his sides. It hurt to look at them; they were darker even than the spaces between stars.

His face was beautiful, finely-molded—and colder than marble, than ice. Black roses rustled softly around him even though there was no wind.

Falteringly, Minuit’s father spoke: “You are...he who rules these woods.”

It took the fairy a long moment to answer. Within that time, he studied the assemblage before him, his gaze roving languidly over their bodies and clothes. His eyes paused briefly on Minuit, and the Skydancer shrank behind his familiar as a sudden chill enveloped him.

“I have my little garden among these trees.” The fairy’s voice was almost a sigh. He spoke dismissively, and gave the impression that any moment he would grow bored of them and saunter off.

And suddenly—“You.” His voice crackled with hatred. He singled out a member of the group, and now he was no longer languid, but alert—and enraged.

“I’ve seen you sometimes, with your husband and your children...such lovely, lovely children. As handsome as their father.” He was speaking to Minuit’s sister-in-law—the ailing prince’s wife. A dragoness from the Tangled Wood, normally playful and smiling—but her mate’s recent illness had diminished her spirit, and now, confronting the one responsible for it, she found it difficult to speak the words she’d so carefully prepared.

She spoke from the heart instead: “Sir...Please, sir, my husband...He never meant—!”

“I was gravely insulted.” The fairy spoke distantly, as if she wasn’t even there. “This stranger trampled at will through my garden. He defiled my work. He dared.” His cold eyes flashed with rage. “It is an insult that cannot be borne. You and the rest of your kind, mortals all...Lessons must be taught to you. And they must leave a mighty impression if they are to be effective.

“But I prefer to be merciful.” He briefly pressed his claws against his heart. “Your beautiful prince will fall gently into my grasp...He longs to leave already, I assure you.” He concluded, as the others listened in horror, “I shall be well satisfied once he is within my garden once more.”

His voice faded as he turned to head back into the trees. The King sucked in a sharp breath. “Wait—” he began—but as he started forward, the rose thorns slashed towards him, suddenly as long as spears. He fell backwards with a cry. For all the might he wielded, he could only stare, impotent and afraid, as the fairy prince turned his back on them and returned to the dark forest.

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The thaumaturges did their best to negotiate with the fairy prince. They divined his name and the nature of the curse he’d cast....The fairy’s name was Nhainnse, and he was the Prince of the Roses. Like the flowers that surrounded him, it was all too easy to be distracted by his beauty—and not notice that his thorns had drawn blood.

He had been enraged by the elder prince’s intrusion and had cast that insidious spell on him, intending to steal his life away. The prince had managed to escape from the garden. That had only weakened the spell: he would die in the space of weeks now, not mere minutes. Nhainnse, meanwhile, had been further incensed by the prince’s escape, and he had cast another curse over the land. The poison, the thorns that choked the kingdom...The elder prince would succumb first, or else the kingdom would. The fairy was out for blood and would not rest until the offense had been paid for with a life.

The thaumaturges made the usual offerings of animals, plants, and riches. None of them appeased Nhainnse. Minuit saw them trudge back into the palace, defeated and dispirited. He heard his sister-in-law weeping at his brother’s bedside and saw how his nieces and nephews were downcast, despondent. His heart ached for his parents, who spent sleepless nights researching ways to thwart the fairy. Perhaps there was someone or something that could help...but would they arrive before the curse claimed the elder prince’s life?

Something had to be done.

Minuit returned to the dark forest. Only Nieve accompanied him, pulling the wheeled cot on which the young prince lay. They came to the place where the thaumaturges had conducted their ceremonies. He made no offerings, said no words. He merely waited.

Minuit and Nieve became aware of the fairy’s presence at the same time. The Squall Rasa’s hackles rose, and Minuit suppressed a gasp when they both saw him. He glared coldly at them from within the embrace of the black rose thorns.

“Prince,” spat the fairy, “have you come to bargain for your brother’s life?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then I have nothing to say to you.” The fairy turned away.

Minuit wet his lips. He sucked in a deep breath and called out, “Wait! In exchange for removing your curse from my brother and my kingdom, would you accept...another sacrifice? One of royal blood, as my brother is?”

The fairy’s laugh floated out from among the trees. He reappeared on Minuit’s right this time, strolling unhurriedly past. “What an interesting offer. You have many kinsmen, crippled one. Will you throw another of your brothers to me?”

“No.” Tears burned Minuit’s eyes as he leaned forward. He continued bravely, “I offer up myself.”

The fairy prince paused. He looked at Minuit for a moment, his face inscrutable.

And then he stalked forward slowly, silently. “You?” he repeated. His tone was mocking. “You, would offer yourself up in your brother’s place, crippled one?”

Minuit had always hated that term: crippled. For this monster to use it as an insult...But no. He couldn’t think about that. Not while his brother’s life hung in the balance...

He forced the unease back and put on his most winning smile. “I’m just as good as my brother—if not better! While he spent all his time gallivanting outside, I stayed in the palace, learning art and music from the finest tutors the kingdom had to offer. I can play the mandolin and flute, and I have an excellent singing voice. If it’s not music you need, then let me tell you a story! I know many stories, many poems—I daresay some of them might interest you. Yes, my brother is strong, but can he...entertain you?” He forced himself to speak that final question. It made his stomach heave, but then he remembered his brother’s mate and children weeping...and he got the words out, somehow.

The main thing was, would they work?

Nhainnse was standing before him now. Even the air around the fairy was cold; it seemed to distort the forest surrounding them. Minuit fought back the urge to shiver even as Nieve pressed back against him.

“You have a way with words. Such boldness...,” Nhainnse purred. His eyes glittered as he looked down at Minuit. It took the Skydancer all his strength to meet the fairy prince’s gaze.

“What an interesting offer. Very well, I accept.”

“This is it.” Minuit braced himself for...whatever would come next. But instead, Nhainnse stalked away from him. He coughed and managed to ask, “Wait. What...What happens now?”

“I must prepare my garden to accept a new guest.” The rose-draped Wildclaw looked back at him. “All will be ready for you once you arrive in your new kingdom, prince.”

“When will that be?” Minuit asked. His throat had suddenly gone dry.

“At midnight, when the moon is full. Then the doors between our worlds will widen, and it will be easier for you to slip through.” Nhainnse smiled thinly. “Return here then, prince, to the place where my roses grow.”

And with that, he was gone.

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That was how Minuit came to the Rose Prince’s garden. He followed Nhainnse beneath the arbor of black roses, and the world behind him twisted and diminished as it receded into an impossible distance. Not the distance between spaces, but the one between worlds.

Nieve pulled him after Nhainnse. They walked until the trees began glittering with inner light and the moonbeams, filtered through many-colored leaves, cast dancing shapes upon the forest floor. Till the grass made music of its own, tinkling like distant windchimes, and Minuit began to see flashes of color keeping pace with them, hanging just beyond the edges of his vision.

“The garden awaits,” Nhainnse whispered. And ahead, glowing like a huge, carved pearl: a house, sculpted into iridescent curlicues, and surrounded by equally radiant trees and flowers. All this brilliance was contained within a fence of shining metal. The gate swung open before Nhainnse, and he beckoned Minuit and Nieve inside.

“Welcome,” he whispered, and now he smiled with sharp, shining teeth. Minuit’s heart dropped in his chest with a great thud.

Far behind him, the thorns withered and the waters of the kingdom ran sweet and clear again. Minuit’s older brother awoke, his fever broken at last. His family’s joy was short-lived when they realized the youngest prince was gone. Soldiers and thaumaturges followed his trail to the woods were it ended, abruptly, at a pile of fast-crumbling, dessicated rose vines.

The King and Queen screamed with grief when the news was broken to them. Minuit’s siblings tried unsuccessfully to calm them; the brother he’d freed sat nearby, his own face numb with anguish.

They did everything they could to get him back, but their spells had no effect, and their pleas to the fairy prince went unanswered. Nhainnse had gone far away, to a place their magic couldn’t follow, and Minuit had gone with him.

It broke the old King’s and Queen’s hearts. It was not long before they went to their graves, one after the other. One of Minuit’s older siblings ruled for a time, but even though the fairy prince had removed his blight, Minuit’s disappearance was in itself a curse, and his family never recovered from the heartbreak of losing him. The kingdom fractured from within as his siblings went their separate ways. Decades later, the palace had fallen, and the royal family had dispersed far and wide, their descendants having forgotten their noble roots. The forest continued to grow until it had overtaken the land once more, and then there was nothing to remember the kingdom by, not even a fairy tale.

continued»

Credits: The characters of Minuit, Nhainnse, and Nieve were originally created by Ximena. Lore written from headcanon notes provided by Ximena.
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[center][color=#BBBABF][size=1][b]PREV.[/b][/size] [size=2][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/21#post_34811429]Dragon[/url] | [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_2323941]Contents[/url] • Dragons [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507351]A-M[/url] [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507353]N-Z[/url] • [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507362]Stories Pt. 3[/url] | [/size][size=1][b]NEXT[/b][/size] [size=2][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/22#post_34811441]Dragon[/url][/color][/size][/center] ----- [right][url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=32435509][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/coliseum/portraits/324356/32435509.png[/img][/url] [size=2][color=#9494A9][url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=32435509]profile[/url] • back to[/color] [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/22#post_34811431]main post[/url] [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/22#post_34811434][b]« Previously...[/b][/url][/right] [columns][center][item=nocturnal dust][/center][nextcol][color=transparent]..[/color][nextcol][color=#6394DD][font=garamond][size=7][size=4][b]and they all lived...?[/b][/size][/size][/font][/color] [size=2]written by Disillusionist / [color=#CC6F6F][b]TW: abuse, stalking[/b][/color] special thanks to Ximena and awaicu [color=#9494A9]6,602 words[/color][/size][/columns] [center][font=gabriola][size=6][i][color=#9494A9]“[color=#1957BA]H[/color][color=#225EBD]o[/color][color=#2B65C0]w[/color][color=#346CC3] [/color] [color=#3D73C5]d[/color][color=#477BC8]o[/color][color=#5082CB]e[/color][color=#5989CE]s[/color][color=#6290D1] [/color] [color=#6B97D4]i[/color][color=#749ED6]t[/color][color=#7DA5D9] [/color] [color=#86ACDC]e[/color][color=#8FB3DF]n[/color][color=#98BAE2]d[/color][color=#A2C2E5]:[/color] [color=#B4D0EA]'[/color][color=#BDD7ED]a[/color][color=#C6DEF0]n[/color][color=#C2DAEE]d[/color][color=#BED5ED] [/color] [color=#BAD1EB]t[/color][color=#B5CDE9]h[/color][color=#B1C8E8]e[/color][color=#ADC4E6]y[/color][color=#A9C0E4] [/color] [color=#A5BBE3]l[/color][color=#A1B7E1]i[/color][color=#9CB3DF]v[/color][color=#98AFDD]e[/color][color=#94AADC]d[/color][color=#90A6DA] [/color] [color=#8CA2D8]h[/color][color=#889DD7]a[/color][color=#8399D5]p[/color][color=#7F95D3]p[/color][color=#7B90D2]i[/color][color=#778CD0]l[/color][color=#7388CB]y[/color][color=#6E83C7] [/color] [color=#6A7FC2]e[/color][color=#667BBD]v[/color][color=#6276B8]e[/color][color=#5D72B4]r[/color][color=#596DAF] [/color] [color=#5569AA]a[/color][color=#5165A5]f[/color][color=#4C60A1]t[/color][color=#485C9C]e[/color][color=#445897]r[/color][color=#405392]'[/color] [color=#374A89]o[/color][color=#334684]r[/color][color=#2F427F] [/color] [color=#2A3D7B]'[/color][color=#263976]t[/color][color=#263874]h[/color][color=#263871]e[/color][color=#26376F] [/color] [color=#25366D]n[/color][color=#25366A]i[/color][color=#253568]g[/color][color=#253466]h[/color][color=#253463]t[/color][color=#253361] [/color] [color=#24325F]d[/color][color=#24315D]e[/color][color=#24315A]s[/color][color=#243058]c[/color][color=#242F56]e[/color][color=#242F53]n[/color][color=#232E51]d[/color][color=#232D4F]s[/color][color=#232D4C]'[/color][color=#232C4A]?[/color]”[/color][/i][/size][/font][/center] [right][font=Garamond][size=4]~ Bill Moyers[/size][/font][color=transparent]___________________[/color][/right] [color=#535195]The garden of [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=32232475]Nhainnse[/url] shone with a light of its own. But immediately beyond the gleaming fence, there was only darkness—and Minuit would have gladly lost himself in it if it meant escaping his new prison. For Nhainnse was a cruel master. The Wildclaw had been civil at first. He had placed a crown of indigo roses upon Minuit’s head and given him cushions to lounge on. “So you can sing and tell stories, can you?” the fairy purred. Minuit raised his head and started to speak.... Time passed in the worldlet of flowers and light. Minuit’s periods of rest were never enough, and eventually his fine voice grew hoarse; his fingers grew sore from plucking mandolin strings. He was exhausted...but still the fairy commanded, “More.” Each time Minuit felt like faltering, he remembered his brother, his family, and the kingdom he’d left behind. He remembered Nhainnse looking coldly at all of them, and the black roses overpowering the land. Like Scheherazade in her desert kingdom, he spun stories out of thin air. But Scheherazade had only had to distract a mortal king. Nhainnse was immortal, his senses keener than any dragon’s. One day, the Wildclaw leaned forward and hissed, “I’ve heard this story before.” Minuit faltered. “Y...You have?” “And the one before that, and the one before that...and doubtless the one [i]after[/i] this. Did you think you had me fooled, you [i]cripple[/i]?” “I assure you, I...” Minuit’s voice fell away. Nhainnse was already getting to his feet, claws reaching out for him....Nieve tried to bite him, but the fairy simply brushed her aside. Minuit stayed where he was, cowering in silent terror. Nhainnse imprisoned him and his familiar in a glass bottle. The glass was always icy-cold, and Minuit and Nieve huddled together, shivering ceaselessly. Colors swirled outside in sickening brightness; sounds were magnified so loudly they felt their hearts would burst. Imprisonment in the bottle was an unending onslaught on the senses. There was no rest, no relief. They didn’t know how much time passed there.... “Come out, Minuit.” Minuit tumbled out with a great gasp. He lay on the floor, still shivering. Nhainnse stepped over his familiar and picked him up. He did it almost tenderly—but Minuit wasn’t fooled. “Y-You said m-my name,” he whispered through chattering teeth. He was surprised; always before Nhainnse had called him “cripple” as an insult. The fairy shrugged. “What is a name?” He laid Minuit on the cushions as carefully as Minuit’s own mother might’ve done. “P-P-Power. There’s an o-old story that s-s-says—” Nhainnse looked sharply at him, and Minuit realized it wasn’t safe to talk about stories yet. “Power.” The fairy let out a low, ugly laugh. “Your thaumaturges discerned my name. Did it give them power over me? Names are fickle. They change so easily, and sometimes are forgotten...” Anger rose on his face. For a long moment, he silently struggled to get his rage under control. Minuit saw how his eyes lingered on the row of glass bottles. There was an empty space among them—where once another bottle had stood. [i]“He has...trapped others...?”[/i] “But I am fortunate you came willingly to me. I don’t need to expend much energy keeping you here.” The anger was gone now. Nhainnse crouched in front of him, smiling brightly. “You won’t run from me, will you, Minuit? Oh...” He chuckled. “What a silly question! It looks like you actually can’t....Why are you crying? Aren’t you happy to be here? Didn’t you tell me you [i]wanted[/i] to come with me? Tell me more of your [i]fascinating[/i] stories, Minuit. Surely even you can [i]entertain[/i] me....”[/color] [center][url=http://msb-lair.tumblr.com/post/138792766902/even-more-flight-dividers][img]https://78.media.tumblr.com/e2ef31cd285982310ff93e3d1f5c0ec9/tumblr_inline_o23j4ayWtt1r3lvtf_500.png[/img][/url][/center] [color=#535195]Minuit had two comforts left to him. Nieve remained with him, and Nhainnse never acknowledged her, always acting as if she wasn’t there. Minuit now understood that to the fairy, she was so insignificant as to be nonexistent—she was an accessory of Minuit’s, nothing more. Minuit’s other possessions, meanwhile, had rolled away beyond the garden. He envied them terribly. The darkness beyond the fence was his second great comfort. He had walked through it before, and knew that the rest of the world still existed beyond it. [i]“It’s waiting for me,”[/i] he thought. Sometimes Nhainnse left the garden, and Nieve would drag Minuit out, to the very edge of the lawn. They would lie on the grass, dreaming of the day they could leave the garden and be free of their tormentor. Nhainnse was never pleased to see them here. One day, Minuit was unable to return to the house in time, and the fairy found him lying in front of the fence. The bottle was not forthcoming—instead, Nhainnse beckoned to the rosebushes, and their vines grew, stretching ominously towards the Skydancer.... Minuit was a broken dragon when he managed to leave the house again, weeks—maybe months?—later. His strength was failing. His hind legs, which had simply been feeble, had become as emaciated as dead branches. They were bound now, draped in thorny vines that sapped what little energy he had left. He dragged them behind him as he struggled towards the fence. Nieve was trying to stop him, tugging on his feathers and mane—the Squall Rasa remembered all too well what had happened last time. Minuit finally collapsed; he could only lie still and wait until... [i]“The darkness helps me remember”[/i]—that another world lay beyond, a world where people were gentle and kind, where he had been valued and loved. [i]“I want to go,”[/i] he prayed. He was now too broken to think about what might happen to his kingdom if he left. [i]“I want to get away from here. Somewhere. Anywhere. Someone...please...”[/i][/color] [center][color=#6394DD]~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~[/color][/center] [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=34333591]Something[/url] [color=#2D237B]heard him. Out past the stars that shone upon Sornieth, something else heard his voice. Those words, rippling throughout all the planes, were the first it ever heard—after listening for so very, very long. [i]“I want to get away from here.”[/i] Those words filled it, gave it a name, a form...and something else besides. [i]Purpose.[/i][/color] [center][color=#6394DD]~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~[/color][/center] [color=#535195]Light filled the air between Minuit and the fence. He shrank back, and Nieve squealed, all her fur standing on end. Both of them squinted; they could see a shape within the brilliance.... [i]“How are you called?[/i] Dragon? [i]What is...?”[/i] The voice was high, strident, like sword blades clashing together. Next came a confused babel of indecipherable sounds. Minuit and Nieve cowered, and before they thought their ears would bleed, the shape resolved itself. Large and pallid with shining wings...an Imperial. [i]“Dragon. You asked me. You[/i] called.[i] You seek...an es...ex...an [/i]exodus[i]?”[/i] Minuit stared blearily at her. He could barely see....Was this another of Nhainnse’s cruel tricks? [i]“I am escape, exodus. I am the way.”[/i] And the wings spread wide. Now Minuit gaped in awe. Within the light, colors...[i]shapes[/i]...appeared. There were clouds in a dark sky, distant mountains...buildings! [i]Lairs[/i]! A city of dragons, a city with warm and earthly lights.... “Escape,” he gasped, trying to drag himself forward. “Nieve...help...” The fairy prince had cast many enchantments to keep Minuit here. He’d had prizes escape from him before; he wasn’t taking any chances with this one. But as powerful as he was, the force that had answered Minuit’s call was much stronger. It took Minuit’s desire to escape and turned it into energy. And Minuit’s desire to escape was very strong indeed. It was like gravity, pulling him through the door. Slowly, it peeled away the enchantments—the flower crown was the first to go, thudding heavily onto the grass. Next, the rose vines wound around his limbs—he screamed as they were stripped away. But Nieve helped him, pulling and tugging, and then they went through.... The portal collapsed behind them. It left nothing behind save for the crown and the vines. Still shining, but broken, like the spells that’d trapped Minuit for so long. [center][url=http://msb-lair.tumblr.com/post/138792766902/even-more-flight-dividers][img]https://78.media.tumblr.com/e2ef31cd285982310ff93e3d1f5c0ec9/tumblr_inline_o23j4ayWtt1r3lvtf_500.png[/img][/url][/center] [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=29453385]Amaryllis[/url][color=#535195] was on patrol. It was a cold, quiet night—so when he heard the air tear apart and saw a light shining from his beloved terrace garden, he went on high alert. He barged towards the terrace, roaring in alarm. Nieve screamed. Minuit also screamed, his eyes still glazed with fear. He looked around at the plants— “The garden...[i]The garden[/i]!” Then he saw the dark shape bearing down on him, and he fainted in terror. Amaryllis didn’t even see him at first. The guard’s full attention was on the pale Imperial that reared up, shining starkly silver against the sky. The rest of the lair-dwellers converged on the garden: “What is it? What’s going on?!” As Amaryllis and the others watched, the silver Imperial toppled backwards over the edge of the terrace, drifting almost languidly to the earth below. They heard her hit the ground—and finally they saw Minuit lying pale and motionless amidst the trampled flowers.[/color] [center][url=http://msb-lair.tumblr.com/post/138792766902/even-more-flight-dividers][img]https://78.media.tumblr.com/e2ef31cd285982310ff93e3d1f5c0ec9/tumblr_inline_o23j4ayWtt1r3lvtf_500.png[/img][/url][/center] [color=#535195]It took some days for Minuit to regain consciousness. When he did, he lay in bed, looking around for a long, quiet while. The infirmary walls were of warm brown sandstone, with soothing abstract murals painted upon them. There were no other patients, but Nieve was curled up on a thick rug. The only nurse on duty was a Serthis. There’d been no Serthis in Nhainnse’s garden. So that meant... “Beastclan?” Minuit whispered. The Serthis turned, pulled away his surgical mask. “Ah, you’re awake! You gave us quite a scare....No, don’t worry, I’m quite harmless. My name is Haroun. I’m with the Disillusionists.” “Dis...ill...?” Minuit’s voice remained raspy. Haroun shrugged. “That’s the name of the clan. It’s a mostly-dragon clan, by the way. Wait, don’t move, I’ll get my [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=28731783]supervisor[/url]...” He slithered out of the room. Minuit learned more about the lair he’d fallen into: as Haroun had said, nearly all the Disillusionists were dragons. The clan had been around for some time and had been in the Sunbeam Ruins since its inception. They were a long way away from Minuit’s kingdom, which had been on the Snowsquall Tundra. It was not the distance that puzzled him, though—it was the time. By asking some carefully-worded questions, Minuit soon determined that he had fallen far into the future as well. “We’ve never heard of your kingdom...but then, it’s a big world out there,” the Disillusionists said, trying to reassure him. Minuit was not reassured: The dragons’ advanced technology and magic, and their talk of events past, told him that centuries had passed since his kingdom had last been spoken of. Still, his worries about time paled next to his fear of Nhainnse. The Disillusionists hastily assembled a wheelchair for Minuit, and on a warm afternoon, he and Nieve went to the room where the silver Imperial, their savior, lay. Sunlight flashed against her wings as she slumbered, breathing deeply and evenly. Minuit struggled to remember their first encounter. She had said, “I am...” “Exodus?” he whispered. “Is that your name?” The dragon rumbled. One eye opened. “Thank you for saving me,” Minuit told her. Nieve mewed in agreement. “[i]Did[/i] I save you?” The Imperial’s reply was chilling. She seemed entirely unconcerned, but Minuit felt a cold wave break over him. He forced himself to ask her, “What do you mean? The fairy who imprisoned me...Can he find us?” “I don’t know.” “Why did you save me? Who...What...are you?” “Don’t know. Dragon...I hung in the stars, in cold vastness. Looking down, a long way down...That was all I knew. I listened. I heard. Your voice called out to me, and your longing...it filled me. The strength of your want—” “I wanted to escape—” “—I felt it, too, and I gained strength of my own. I opened the door.” She took an immense breath, inflating visibly. “That rush of freedom, it gave me more strength, and more. Your relief...It was intoxicating. But I am tired now. I’m tired. Perhaps someday, I will hear a new voice. I will open a new door....” She curled up tighter, hiding her head beneath one wing, and Minuit knew she would not speak further. Minuit remained close-mouthed with the Disillusionists as well. They didn’t pry—they were more worried about his physical condition. His wounds from the garden soon healed, but his hind legs had been defective since birth and couldn’t be fixed with healing spells. They had been further warped by Nhainnse’s magic, and they caused him a great deal of pain. Still, there were treatments that could mitigate the symptoms. “There is a place called [i]Blooming Grove[/i] where recently, hot springs have been discovered. They have been further developed to accommodate patients....I have been told that this can reduce muscle pain. With the addition of certain herbs and minerals, the therapeutic effects can be enhanced.” The speaker was [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=31031765]Tiferet[/url], the clan’s hydrotherapist. Another Imperial—but not alien, like Exodus, and Minuit preferred talking to her instead of the other infirmary dragons, who were rather grim. She had a soft voice and gentle claws, and Minuit readily agreed to go to the Blooming Grove to try the treatment she suggested. He was pleased to be accompanied by her—though he couldn’t help feeling nervous when he finally arrived at the Grove. [i]“It looks like the garden,”[/i] he thought uneasily. The place rang with birdsong and the rustle of creatures in the bushes, and it was filled with sunlight—but there were so many flowers, and the sculpted plants around the hot springs reminded him too much of Nhainnse’s domain. As the sun went down and the grove darkened, he started to get uneasy. He saw the creatures of the Blooming Grove creep out from their hiding places, their eyes shining like chips of glass. Tiferet noticed his nervousness. “You look uncomfortable. Do you need to rest? I can lift you out if you’d like; it will be night soon, anyway.” “Th...They’re watching...” Minuit could only croak. Tiferet turned, saw the curious wildlife, and she laughed. Despite his misgivings, Minuit felt himself relax almost immediately. “Oh, yes. Many patients feed them, so they’ve learned to expect handouts. They don’t realize it makes some dragons uncomfortable. Still, they won’t harm you. Shall I leave you—” The fear returned in full force. “Please help me,” Minuit gasped. He struggled to exit the pool on his own, scrabbling feebly against the rocks, until Tiferet lifted him out. She dried him off with a towel while Nieve snuggled up to him. “You’ve received grave injuries,” Tiferet commented. Her tone was quiet, matter-of-fact. She did not question or comment further. Nonetheless, Minuit badly wanted to talk to her. Would anybody understand...or even care? He thought the gentle Imperial might. And there was another reason besides: [i]“I need help...protection. If he snatches me away again, I’ll die...”[/i] “They were no accident,” he began slowly, softly. Tiferet fell silent, and Nieve leaned against him, lending him strength. He continued, “Once, I was a prince. But that ended when I was taken away and imprisoned in a garden...”[/color] [center][url=http://msb-lair.tumblr.com/post/138792766902/even-more-flight-dividers][img]https://78.media.tumblr.com/e2ef31cd285982310ff93e3d1f5c0ec9/tumblr_inline_o23j4ayWtt1r3lvtf_500.png[/img][/url][/center] [color=#535195]The Disillusionists took Minuit’s story seriously, and he wondered if perhaps they might have encountered the Fair Folk, as he had....Still, he didn’t ask. He was only grateful that his new clan—for indeed, it seemed they were his clan now—was lending him aid. Their artisans forged accessories of iron for him: a collar, a bracelet, and... “Why a crown?” he asked softly. It was actually a circlet, but it reminded him of... “To wear while you soak in the baths, as your collar and bracelet would rust otherwise,” Tiferet explained gently. Minuit allowed her to place it on his head. He often had nightmares of the garden. Still, it was a great relief to always reawaken safe and sound in the lair. The Disillusionists had promised to protect him; his iron charms would ward away hostile faerie magic. He was safe. He would never go back to—[/color] [color=#2D237B][b][i]—the garden.[/i][/b][/color] [color=#535195]Minuit woke from another nightmare, his heart hammering in his chest. He’d recently been given his own den, and the unfamiliar surroundings baffled him before he recalled where he was. He looked around, letting his eyes settle on the curtains, the paintings...his wheelchair by the bed...Nieve... His heart slowed slowly, terribly. The rug where the Squall Rasa usually lay was empty. “Nieve?” Minuit whispered, looking around the room. He called again, but she did not appear. [i]“She would never leave,”[/i] Minuit thought, cold fear creeping over his skin like ice. He struggled out of bed, managed to strap his hind legs into his wheelchair. Then he made for the door. Alone, he pulled himself down the hallway, softly calling Nieve’s name. [i]“Perhaps she got hungry and went looking for food. One of the guards might’ve seen her. I’ll ask the guards—”[/i] And then he heard a high, thin scream. Alarmed, he turned, looked out the nearest window. A dark forest lay beyond the clan grounds—and over it, the moon burned silver. Bright and full. [i]Then the doors between our worlds will widen, and it will be easier for you to slip through.[/i] “NIEVE!” Minuit screamed. He hauled himself at speed through the corridors, oblivious now to the shouts of his lairmates. He burst onto Amaryllis’ terrace garden. The wheelchair was thrown aside as he spread his wings—they were weak, since his stiff legs made flying impossible for him. But he had to try. He toppled from the terrace, wings spread to catch what wind there was. Too little, too weak...He could only glide. He fell down, down, and the forest was still too far away; he couldn’t save her.... “He has her!” he wailed when the guards caught up to him. “I couldn’t save her! [i]I couldn’t...![/i]” And he collapsed, weeping, against the Guardian’s paws.[/color] [center][url=http://msb-lair.tumblr.com/post/138792766902/even-more-flight-dividers][img]https://78.media.tumblr.com/e2ef31cd285982310ff93e3d1f5c0ec9/tumblr_inline_o23j4ayWtt1r3lvtf_500.png[/img][/url][/center] [color=#535195]Nieve was gone. The Disillusionists never saw her again, and Minuit was inconsolable. It was many days before he felt well enough to continue his treatment at Blooming Grove. Nieve’s loss was keenly felt. In addition to Tiferet, there were now a couple of other dragons as bodyguards, but Minuit missed Nieve’s closeness, her unstinting aid. Once, he struggled out of the pool on his own. Tiferet and the guards were nearby, chatting quietly, but they didn’t notice him, for he was biting back his groans of pain. [i]“I must do it alone now. I must...”[/i] The creatures of the Grove watched him. And then one of them slipped into the daylight. Minuit, still dragging himself along, was startled when a walking stick was thrust towards his paw. He looked up...and met the placid gaze of a Moonlight Fungi. It was offering its own walking stick to him. Minuit’s eyes burned with tears. He accepted the stick, stammering his thanks, and leaned heavily on it as he tried to get his hind legs under himself. Days later, Minuit sat before the clan leader. His new familiar was beside him—he had named her [i]Bluewit[/i] after a certain type of mushroom. Bluewit didn’t seem to mind the name; indeed, she didn’t seem to mind other things much. She trailed after Minuit with vegetative placidness, and he found her silent, steady presence very calming. [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=25521457]Veritas[/url] was discussing his health: “Tiferet tells me the treatment in Blooming Grove has been helping your legs. Now...how are you, Minuit?” There was an odd emphasis on the question. Minuit blinked at her. “Tiferet is right, ma’am. My legs are much better now.” “I’m glad to hear that,” and she sighed, “but you still have those nightmares, don’t you? The guards hear you sometimes...” Minuit could only hang his head in shame. He did his best, he really did, but the nightmares always seemed too real: thorny vines closing in, cutting off his breath, while Nhainnse’s face loomed beyond, frigid and unforgiving... He realized Veritas had continued speaking: “—in an allied clan is open to meeting with you. He wonders if you would like to come and talk with him about your...past experiences.” “They are not pleasant. I’d rather not speak of them,” Minuit said, shivering visibly. Still, he couldn’t help asking, “Why is he interested in my story?” Veritas leaned down. She told him, “Because he once ran afoul of the one you call the Prince of the Roses. Like you, he, too, was once imprisoned in the garden.”[/color] [center][url=http://msb-lair.tumblr.com/post/138792766902/even-more-flight-dividers][img]https://78.media.tumblr.com/e2ef31cd285982310ff93e3d1f5c0ec9/tumblr_inline_o23j4ayWtt1r3lvtf_500.png[/img][/url][/center] [color=#535195]And so Minuit came to the Cathedral of Eyes. He peered around Tiferet’s neck and watched as the great doors opened. A shadowy [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=13929292]Imperial[/url] stepped out, red eyes glittering above the rose clutched in his jaws. The doorkeeper briefly looked annoyed, but then he recognized Veritas, and his expression became smooth and civil. “Madam,” he greeted her, “you and your fellows are always welcome to the Cathedral of Eyes. We have been expecting you.” Veritas nodded, smiling faintly. “Then, Sebastian, you know why we’re here.” Sebastian ushered them inside. Minuit didn’t know whether to gape or cringe at the finery that shone within. It was glorious, sumptuous gold and artworks adorning the ceilings and walls. So much beauty in one place...almost [i]too[/i] beautiful... When Sebastian showed them to an inner garden, Minuit was almost relieved. It was such a plain, simple place, clearly a part of this world. The plants looked healthy, but didn’t seem otherwise unusual—at least, not right at first. “D’you need a hand?” The question came from a [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=13341453]Wildclaw[/url] who had been waiting for them. Minuit was about to answer, but instead stopped and stared—the Wildclaw himself was a simple-looking fellow, but growing directly out of his spine were flower buds. Pure, shining white, glowing with a light of their own... “Pretty, aren’t they? Here, lemme help ya.” The Wildclaw helped Tiferet buckle Minuit into his wheelchair. “I’m Ginko, a botanist. Are you comfortable? Now...I’ve been told that you were in the garden, too.” “Yes, sir, I was.” Minuit swallowed. He was dimly aware of Veritas and Tiferet talking quietly by the door. Bluewit remained, impassive and steadfast, at his side. Ginko quickly picked up on his unease. He looked kindly at Minuit and shifted his attention to the familiar. “That’s a very well-mannered friend you’ve got. Most of them are puckish—a lot like the Strangers I deal with.” “Strangers?” Minuit thought he meant fairies. Ginko shook his head. “Nothing like our Fair Folk...Minuit, is it? Why don’t we take a look around the garden first?” [i]“I’m quite safe here; they wouldn’t have brought me here if they weren’t sure,”[/i] Minuit told himself. [i]“I shouldn’t jump at shadows of trees and flowers forever. I shouldn’t be afraid...always....”[/i] He took a deep breath and nodded politely to the Wildclaw. That was the first of many meetings with Ginko. The botanist was a frank but tranquil dragon, never brash nor offensive. He told Minuit more about the mysterious entities he saw all around—“They’re more like animals than they are like us. Odd, but they’ve got their places and roles in this world, just as we do. I’ve heard some dragons call them [i]mushi[/i]. It’s an old word that means ‘bugs’, and a lot of them do look like insects. I find that the term ‘Strangers’ is easier for others to grasp, though.” “Are there any around me?” Minuit asked. He didn’t have second sight; he couldn’t see spirits that didn’t choose to show themselves to him. Ginko could, however, and he explained, “There are a bunch. They follow you whenever you’re here, actually. I’d say they like how you smell.” He had to chuckle at Minuit’s expression. “Hey, don’t look at me that way—[i]I’m[/i] not the one following you around.” Despite that, when Minuit left, he considered the observations he’d made, the notes he’d compiled on the frail Skydancer. He’d tried to broach the topic of Nhainnse’s garden a few times, but Minuit had always deflected him. He’d seemed more interested in the Strangers. Ginko could relate; when he’d arrived here, his memories of the garden had also been strong and had often repelled him from studying plants and mushi. But his passion for his work had eventually proven stronger. He still took some pride in that fact. He was sure Minuit had it in him to overcome his trauma and unearth the pride that was buried within himself, too. So, Minuit was more interested in Strangers....They [i]were[/i] a good distraction, a reminder that wonder without fear was still very much possible. Perhaps they would help distract him again, so that Ginko—and others—could help him live with less fear.[/color] [center][url=http://msb-lair.tumblr.com/post/138792766902/even-more-flight-dividers][img]https://78.media.tumblr.com/e2ef31cd285982310ff93e3d1f5c0ec9/tumblr_inline_o23j4ayWtt1r3lvtf_500.png[/img][/url][/center] [color=#535195]When Minuit received a message from Ginko that more or less boiled down to “Would you like to see some Strangers?” he had no reason to suspect it was nothing more than a usual visit. Ginko had explained that when the flowers upon his back bloomed, they released pollen that made the Strangers visible even to those without special sight. Minuit had grown fond of them through listening to Ginko’s stories, and he wanted to see them for himself. Once again, Tiferet, Veritas, and Bluewit accompanied him. Tiferet and Veritas lingered by the doors while Minuit and Bluewit approached Ginko. The Wildclaw was seated on a bench, head bowed as if in meditation. He looked up and smiled when his friends drew near, though. “How are you feeling, Ginko?” Minuit asked quietly. He recognized the tight look on Ginko’s face: the Wildclaw was holding back pain, much as Minuit himself often did. It seemed that Nhainnse’s garden had burdened its former prisoners with nothing but fear and pain. A wondrous place...but all the wonder had been for Nhainnse alone. “I’ve been better. These flowers, they grow directly into my spine, see. Sometimes they get...uncomfortable.” Ginko grinned faintly. “Maybe you should stop,” Minuit said, and realized that that was a stupid thing to say. Sure enough, Ginko chuckled and said, “No, Minuit, I can’t stop it. It is what it is. But it’s got a very useful side effect, and the pain doesn’t last long, honest. Now watch...and learn.” As dusk fell over the garden, the flowers began to bloom. Where they had merely been globs of light, now they shone like miniature suns, their centers sparkling with soft, golden dust. A chill breeze blew, and the pollen blew into the air, shrouding both dragons in a nimbus of light. Minuit gasped—he could see them now, outlined in the shimmering powder. Things...no, mushi. [i]Strangers.[/i] Things that turned like wheels, or that pulsed like upside-down jellyfish. Wriggling like tadpoles, darting hither and yon like lightning bolts. They were phantasmal green or yellow or blue, or shifted through every color on the spectrum. They clustered around Minuit as if fascinated by him.... Minuit blinked slowly. There were other, brighter shapes waiting at the end of the garden. They’d been standing in the shadows earlier, but now they stepped beneath the moon, and the Strangers flocked to them, illuminating their luminous scales, their wondrous clothes. Strong, graceful wings and faces that were beautiful...[i]too[/i] beautiful. Minuit’s blood ran cold. He stayed rooted to where he was, as if once again bound by black roses. The mushi seemed to vanish, eclipsed by the radiant, terrible beauty of these other beings, these [i]fairies[/i]. He became aware that Ginko was addressing him: “Minuit...Minuit?” “You tricked me.” Minuit’s voice broke. “You’ve led me back to them, and now I’ll...” He began to shake, tears pouring down his face. “I’ll die,” he whispered. “They’ll take me back to the garden, and [i]I’ll die[/i]...!” “We will do no such thing,” one of the fairies said. He was a [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=29554994]Wildclaw[/url]—[i]“Just like Nhainnse!”[/i] Minuit thought with cold fear—his blue scales glittering like ice. The Skydancer couldn’t bear to look at them, and as the blue Wildclaw approached, Minuit stammered, “Spare me, my lord, I beg you....I have nothing left to give. I have [i]nothing[/i]...!” “Prince Minuit...it’s all right. Please be at ease,” the Wildclaw said. There was that word: [i]please[/i]. Nhainnse had never spoken that respectfully to him—Minuit hadn’t thought any fairy would. Summoning shreds of courage, he met the Wildclaw’s gaze. Pale eyes, just like Nhainnse—but the expression they held was tranquil. There was no arrogance, no malice, anywhere in them, and as the Wildclaw studied him, his expression became almost sorrowful. “You have suffered terribly at the Rose Prince’s hands,” he said, and his voice held as much regret as Minuit felt. He gestured to himself and then the other fairy, saying, “I am Viktor, of the New Court of Faerie. This is [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=29570440]Yuuri[/url], my mate and co-ruler.” “Ginko asked us to help treat your wounds,” Yuuri said. He was a Coatl with a boldly-marked hide, and he wore an incongruous pair of oversized spectacles. Minuit was overtaken by fear again. “Treat my wounds?” “So to speak.” Viktor’s countenance became grave. “The Rose Prince’s magic continues to cling to you. The iron you wear resists some of it, but while he might not seek you out, the magical residue keeps your soul and heart from healing...and leaves you vulnerable to attacks from other sources. The mushi flock to you because they sense it—but not all creatures that are drawn to magic are harmless.” Minuit remained silent, uncertain—and scared. He briefly forgot about Ginko, and actually jumped when the botanist coughed softly and shut one shining eye. “You know,” he began in his wry, comfortable drawl, “I wouldn’t have referred you to them if they weren’t trustworthy.” “Will it hurt?” Minuit was almost pleading. Ginko shrugged. “A bit—but then, you and I have endured far worse.” His smile was humorless but warm, understanding. He knew what he was talking about. Minuit looked at the fairies again. They remained where they were, waiting patiently. Viktor’s expression remained grave, but Yuuri smiled shyly and then pushed his glasses up his snout. “Why does it need to be you?” Minuit asked. “There are others—magicians, sorcerers...Surely they can help...?” “Perhaps,” Viktor admitted, “but their methods often require much preparation and do not always result in success. Most of them will enact only counterspells to weaken Nhainnse’s magic. Yuuri and I, on the other hand, can [i]remove[/i] it.” “Why?” Minuit repeated. And beside him, Ginko answered, “Because Nhainnse was a prince, Minuit—the Prince of the Roses. But Viktor and Yuuri”—he inclined his head to them—”are both Fairy [i]Kings[/i].”[/color] [center][url=http://msb-lair.tumblr.com/post/138792766902/even-more-flight-dividers][img]https://78.media.tumblr.com/e2ef31cd285982310ff93e3d1f5c0ec9/tumblr_inline_o23j4ayWtt1r3lvtf_500.png[/img][/url][/center] [color=#535195]That night, Minuit was freed of the magic that remained shackled to him. That it was not a complicated process attested to the power of the fairies helping him. That understanding made him realize how very, very fortunate he was. It was a strange thing—he had not thought of himself as “fortunate” in a long time. “We shall have to separate that magic from you. It’s outside, draped over your skin. We can cut it loose.” Viktor held up claws that gleamed like sickles. “Once it’s away, Yuuri and I will dispose of it. Not here, for magic often draws those who cast it, like a lure is connected to a fishing rod, and thence a fisher.” The cloud of pollen remained around Minuit, fixed by the fairies’ magic. By its glow, he saw a membrane of light encasing his skin. Waves of color moved over it, and he noticed how the mushi drifted against it, questing with curious tendrils and feelers. “You’ll have to remove your iron accoutrements, though.” “Why?” Minuit’s mane bristled. Yuuri sighed, pushed his glasses up again. “We’re fairies. Iron disrupts our magic, and it would burn us if we touched it. You can give them to your friends. They’ll be quite safe.” It was Ginko who accepted Minuit’s iron charms. “All right there?” he queried. “Yes, I think so....You?” “Once dawn comes, the flowers will close, and I’ll be as good as new,” Ginko explained. Minuit looked beyond him at his lairmates. They had been watching the proceedings quietly. Veritas remained sage and placid, but Tiferet caught his gaze and gave him an encouraging smile. Still, he nearly bolted when Viktor and Yuuri stepped forward. They spread their wings, casting translucent blue shadows over him. Their feet left the ground. A flick of the wings, and Viktor darted away. Minuit turned to follow him, but then he heard Yuuri whisper, “Sleep.” The Coatl hummed, his front paws tracing curlicues in the air. Before the Skydancer’s startled eyes, shimmering crystals coalesced between his claws, appearing with a soft shimmering sound. “[i]Sleep, sleep[/i]...No, Minuit, not you. I mean, you can sleep if you want. It won’t have adverse effects.” His eyes narrowed. “It’s not you I’m talking to.” That was when Minuit realized he was speaking to the [i]magic[/i]. Yuuri beat his wings, and the crystals swirled through the air. They pressed against Minuit’s skin, but he didn’t feel them; they stuck to the magical membrane instead. It slowly grew more opaque, and as it did, it made a faint crinkling sound. His limbs began to stiffen. He felt his feathers curl. “No...No, please—” “It’s all right, Minuit.” Viktor’s voice came from somewhere above and behind him. And again, Yuuri ordered, “[i]Sleep...[/i]” With a sigh, the magic gave in. Minuit heard it an instant before the membrane collapsed—suddenly it was as if he was being smothered under a pile of blankets. He began to topple forward, unable to call for help— Viktor moved. Earlier while flitting around Minuit, he had opened slits in the membrane with his claws. His touch had been so delicate that Minuit had felt nothing, and now, as the membrane relaxed, the Fairy King grasped hold of it. Minuit fell, and at the same time, Viktor gave a great tug, shucking the skin off him. It came away in his grasp, translucent white like milk mixed with water. Ginko helped Minuit stand. He turned and gasped, “Is that...?” The pollen was dissipating. As it faded away, the membrane faded from visibility—but not before Minuit saw it writhe like a snake, stretching towards him. Ginko yanked his wheelchair backwards, and they stared as Viktor and Yuuri wrestled with the unseen thing. It was clearly putting up a fight. “Catch it!” Yuuri held up a hollow globe of thick blue glass. Viktor pulled his fists apart as far as he could—“He’s stretching it like a noodle!” Ginko reported—and then he brought them together, rolling the membrane into a ball, which he stuffed through an opening in the globe. Yuuri clapped a paw over the opening and hummed a strange little song. Light rolled over the surface of the globe and collected upon the opening, where it solidified into a gleaming crystal seal. “All done,” Yuuri said with a smile. Viktor let out a shout of triumph, and Ginko sighed in relief. Minuit, for his part, was feeling rather woozy. He turned away and tottered back to his clanmates, his wheelchair bouncing over the uneven ground. “All right there?” Veritas boomed. He felt gentle claws enclose him and looked up into Tiferet’s face. “You should give him back his jewelry. Probably better if he continues wearing it...just to be on the safe side.” Viktor’s voice seemed to come from far away. “He’ll sleep for a while—it’s been a long night, and losing a great deal of magic, even if it wasn’t his, can be very taxing.” “If there are any problems, let us know,” Yuuri chimed in. Minuit, now resting in Tiferet’s grasp, turned to look at them. The fairies still gleamed with their own light; Ginko was a darker shape now, his flowers beginning to close as the night wore on. Was dawn near? Perhaps it was still hours away, but the world seemed...brighter now. “Thank you,” Minuit said to them. The fairies inclined their heads, and Ginko lifted a paw in farewell. “Peaceful travels, Minuit.”[/color] [center][url=http://msb-lair.tumblr.com/post/138792766902/even-more-flight-dividers][img]https://78.media.tumblr.com/e2ef31cd285982310ff93e3d1f5c0ec9/tumblr_inline_o23j4ayWtt1r3lvtf_500.png[/img][/url][/center] [color=#535195]Minuit slept for a couple of days. When he finally arose, his body still ached, but then, it always had, and it probably always would. He put on his iron collar, circlet, and bracelet. They were heavy and cold, and he wondered if there would ever be a time when he would feel safe without them. Without protection. As he had long ago, in a castle on the Snowsquall Tundra... [i]“No more fear,”[/i] he told himself stoutly. It was easy to remember that when he was sitting next to Tiferet or doing exercises with Bluewit or safe and sound inside the lair.... But not in the darkness. Not with a strange fairy standing in front of him. It was midnight in the Blooming Grove. He was there for an extended course of treatment, and he’d been restless, unable to sleep. He’d decided to sit on the porch of the rented villa for a while, wait until he was sleepy before going back inside. Silence moved over the grove. The nocturnal noises didn’t stop; they died down noticeably, first falling silent here, then there, and then over there...moving around the clearing. Whatever it was, it made the creatures uncomfortable enough to fall silent, but not completely. A twig snapped. Pale green eyes, like a cat’s, shone out of the darkness. “W...Who’s there?” Minuit called hoarsely. Tiferet and the guards had their own rooms inside the villa, and one scream from him would bring them running. But would they be in time if...? She stepped into the clearing: a pale yellow [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=34540094]Tundra[/url] with powder-blue markings, but Minuit wasn’t fooled; his time in the garden had made him sensitive to the [i]Other[/i] Folk. He knew that this soft-looking dragon was a fairy. She frowned. Her ears drooped, and she began hesitantly, “You’re...Minuit, right?” “Who gave you that name?” She couldn’t help flicking her tail. “We live in the same clan. I don’t know if you’ve seen me. I’m Aurelie, a treasure hunter.” “And a fairy.” He said it with quiet resignation. She bared her teeth, and he expected her to attack, but instead, she only answered, “Not anymore,” and that gave him pause. She smoothed her fur down. With another flick of her tail, she muttered, “We’re not all the same, you know.” She looked at him with reproachful eyes. And, thinking about it, Minuit felt more of his fear fall away.... Elsewhere, on a different plane, Yuuri and Viktor eyed the blue glass globe. The magic still pulsed inside, pale and translucent like a jellyfish. Yuuri looked at his mate and said, “He will not find it, of course.” But behind his glasses, his rosy eyes looked worried. Viktor nodded back. “We have not seen or heard from him for some time now.” There were other dangers abroad, ones that even the wily Prince of the Roses would not be able to overcome, and the two kings had been entertaining the thought that he’d run afoul of them and been extinguished. They imagined, or they hoped.... They looked at the glass globe holding the Rose Prince’s magic, and they wondered.[/color] [right][font=Copperplate Gothic Light][color=#6394DD][size=5][b]~ The End[/b][/color][/size][/font][/right] [size=2][color=#9494A9][b]Credits:[/b] The characters of Minuit, Nhainnse, and Nieve were originally created by Ximena. Lore written from headcanon notes provided by Ximena. Ginko, Viktor, and Yuuri belong to awaicu and are used here with their permission. "Strangers" are created by Felix Kramer and J. "Mushi" are from the [i]Mushishi[/i] series.[/color][/size] ----- [center][color=#BBBABF][size=1][b]PREV.[/b][/size] [size=2][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/21#post_34811429]Dragon[/url] | [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_2323941]Contents[/url] • Dragons [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507351]A-M[/url] [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507353]N-Z[/url] • [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507362]Stories Pt. 3[/url] | [/size][size=1][b]NEXT[/b][/size] [size=2][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/22#post_34811441]Dragon[/url][/color][/size][/center]
PREV. Dragon | Contents • Dragons A-M N-ZStories Pt. 3 | NEXT Dragon

.. and they all lived...?
written by Disillusionist / TW: abuse, stalking
special thanks to Ximena and awaicu
6,602 words
How does it end:
'and they lived happily ever after'
or 'the night descends'?
~ Bill Moyers___________________

The garden of Nhainnse shone with a light of its own. But immediately beyond the gleaming fence, there was only darkness—and Minuit would have gladly lost himself in it if it meant escaping his new prison. For Nhainnse was a cruel master.

The Wildclaw had been civil at first. He had placed a crown of indigo roses upon Minuit’s head and given him cushions to lounge on. “So you can sing and tell stories, can you?” the fairy purred. Minuit raised his head and started to speak....

Time passed in the worldlet of flowers and light. Minuit’s periods of rest were never enough, and eventually his fine voice grew hoarse; his fingers grew sore from plucking mandolin strings. He was exhausted...but still the fairy commanded, “More.” Each time Minuit felt like faltering, he remembered his brother, his family, and the kingdom he’d left behind. He remembered Nhainnse looking coldly at all of them, and the black roses overpowering the land.

Like Scheherazade in her desert kingdom, he spun stories out of thin air. But Scheherazade had only had to distract a mortal king. Nhainnse was immortal, his senses keener than any dragon’s. One day, the Wildclaw leaned forward and hissed, “I’ve heard this story before.”

Minuit faltered. “Y...You have?”

“And the one before that, and the one before that...and doubtless the one after this. Did you think you had me fooled, you cripple?”

“I assure you, I...” Minuit’s voice fell away. Nhainnse was already getting to his feet, claws reaching out for him....Nieve tried to bite him, but the fairy simply brushed her aside. Minuit stayed where he was, cowering in silent terror.

Nhainnse imprisoned him and his familiar in a glass bottle. The glass was always icy-cold, and Minuit and Nieve huddled together, shivering ceaselessly. Colors swirled outside in sickening brightness; sounds were magnified so loudly they felt their hearts would burst. Imprisonment in the bottle was an unending onslaught on the senses. There was no rest, no relief. They didn’t know how much time passed there....

“Come out, Minuit.”

Minuit tumbled out with a great gasp. He lay on the floor, still shivering. Nhainnse stepped over his familiar and picked him up. He did it almost tenderly—but Minuit wasn’t fooled.

“Y-You said m-my name,” he whispered through chattering teeth. He was surprised; always before Nhainnse had called him “cripple” as an insult.

The fairy shrugged. “What is a name?” He laid Minuit on the cushions as carefully as Minuit’s own mother might’ve done.

“P-P-Power. There’s an o-old story that s-s-says—”

Nhainnse looked sharply at him, and Minuit realized it wasn’t safe to talk about stories yet. “Power.” The fairy let out a low, ugly laugh. “Your thaumaturges discerned my name. Did it give them power over me? Names are fickle. They change so easily, and sometimes are forgotten...” Anger rose on his face. For a long moment, he silently struggled to get his rage under control. Minuit saw how his eyes lingered on the row of glass bottles. There was an empty space among them—where once another bottle had stood. “He has...trapped others...?”

“But I am fortunate you came willingly to me. I don’t need to expend much energy keeping you here.” The anger was gone now. Nhainnse crouched in front of him, smiling brightly. “You won’t run from me, will you, Minuit? Oh...” He chuckled. “What a silly question! It looks like you actually can’t....Why are you crying? Aren’t you happy to be here? Didn’t you tell me you wanted to come with me? Tell me more of your fascinating stories, Minuit. Surely even you can entertain me....”

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Minuit had two comforts left to him. Nieve remained with him, and Nhainnse never acknowledged her, always acting as if she wasn’t there. Minuit now understood that to the fairy, she was so insignificant as to be nonexistent—she was an accessory of Minuit’s, nothing more. Minuit’s other possessions, meanwhile, had rolled away beyond the garden. He envied them terribly.

The darkness beyond the fence was his second great comfort. He had walked through it before, and knew that the rest of the world still existed beyond it. “It’s waiting for me,” he thought. Sometimes Nhainnse left the garden, and Nieve would drag Minuit out, to the very edge of the lawn. They would lie on the grass, dreaming of the day they could leave the garden and be free of their tormentor.

Nhainnse was never pleased to see them here. One day, Minuit was unable to return to the house in time, and the fairy found him lying in front of the fence. The bottle was not forthcoming—instead, Nhainnse beckoned to the rosebushes, and their vines grew, stretching ominously towards the Skydancer....

Minuit was a broken dragon when he managed to leave the house again, weeks—maybe months?—later. His strength was failing. His hind legs, which had simply been feeble, had become as emaciated as dead branches. They were bound now, draped in thorny vines that sapped what little energy he had left. He dragged them behind him as he struggled towards the fence.

Nieve was trying to stop him, tugging on his feathers and mane—the Squall Rasa remembered all too well what had happened last time. Minuit finally collapsed; he could only lie still and wait until...

“The darkness helps me remember”—that another world lay beyond, a world where people were gentle and kind, where he had been valued and loved. “I want to go,” he prayed. He was now too broken to think about what might happen to his kingdom if he left. “I want to get away from here. Somewhere. Anywhere. Someone...please...”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Something heard him.

Out past the stars that shone upon Sornieth, something else heard his voice. Those words, rippling throughout all the planes, were the first it ever heard—after listening for so very, very long.

“I want to get away from here.”

Those words filled it, gave it a name, a form...and something else besides.

Purpose.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Light filled the air between Minuit and the fence. He shrank back, and Nieve squealed, all her fur standing on end. Both of them squinted; they could see a shape within the brilliance....

“How are you called? Dragon? What is...?” The voice was high, strident, like sword blades clashing together. Next came a confused babel of indecipherable sounds. Minuit and Nieve cowered, and before they thought their ears would bleed, the shape resolved itself. Large and pallid with shining wings...an Imperial.

“Dragon. You asked me. You called. You seek...an es...ex...an exodus?”

Minuit stared blearily at her. He could barely see....Was this another of Nhainnse’s cruel tricks?

“I am escape, exodus. I am the way.” And the wings spread wide.

Now Minuit gaped in awe. Within the light, colors...shapes...appeared. There were clouds in a dark sky, distant mountains...buildings! Lairs! A city of dragons, a city with warm and earthly lights....

“Escape,” he gasped, trying to drag himself forward. “Nieve...help...”

The fairy prince had cast many enchantments to keep Minuit here. He’d had prizes escape from him before; he wasn’t taking any chances with this one. But as powerful as he was, the force that had answered Minuit’s call was much stronger.

It took Minuit’s desire to escape and turned it into energy. And Minuit’s desire to escape was very strong indeed. It was like gravity, pulling him through the door. Slowly, it peeled away the enchantments—the flower crown was the first to go, thudding heavily onto the grass. Next, the rose vines wound around his limbs—he screamed as they were stripped away. But Nieve helped him, pulling and tugging, and then they went through....

The portal collapsed behind them. It left nothing behind save for the crown and the vines. Still shining, but broken, like the spells that’d trapped Minuit for so long.

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Amaryllis was on patrol. It was a cold, quiet night—so when he heard the air tear apart and saw a light shining from his beloved terrace garden, he went on high alert. He barged towards the terrace, roaring in alarm.

Nieve screamed. Minuit also screamed, his eyes still glazed with fear. He looked around at the plants— “The garden...The garden!” Then he saw the dark shape bearing down on him, and he fainted in terror.

Amaryllis didn’t even see him at first. The guard’s full attention was on the pale Imperial that reared up, shining starkly silver against the sky.

The rest of the lair-dwellers converged on the garden: “What is it? What’s going on?!”

As Amaryllis and the others watched, the silver Imperial toppled backwards over the edge of the terrace, drifting almost languidly to the earth below. They heard her hit the ground—and finally they saw Minuit lying pale and motionless amidst the trampled flowers.

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It took some days for Minuit to regain consciousness. When he did, he lay in bed, looking around for a long, quiet while. The infirmary walls were of warm brown sandstone, with soothing abstract murals painted upon them. There were no other patients, but Nieve was curled up on a thick rug.

The only nurse on duty was a Serthis. There’d been no Serthis in Nhainnse’s garden. So that meant... “Beastclan?” Minuit whispered.

The Serthis turned, pulled away his surgical mask. “Ah, you’re awake! You gave us quite a scare....No, don’t worry, I’m quite harmless. My name is Haroun. I’m with the Disillusionists.”

“Dis...ill...?” Minuit’s voice remained raspy. Haroun shrugged. “That’s the name of the clan. It’s a mostly-dragon clan, by the way. Wait, don’t move, I’ll get my supervisor...” He slithered out of the room.

Minuit learned more about the lair he’d fallen into: as Haroun had said, nearly all the Disillusionists were dragons. The clan had been around for some time and had been in the Sunbeam Ruins since its inception. They were a long way away from Minuit’s kingdom, which had been on the Snowsquall Tundra.

It was not the distance that puzzled him, though—it was the time. By asking some carefully-worded questions, Minuit soon determined that he had fallen far into the future as well. “We’ve never heard of your kingdom...but then, it’s a big world out there,” the Disillusionists said, trying to reassure him. Minuit was not reassured: The dragons’ advanced technology and magic, and their talk of events past, told him that centuries had passed since his kingdom had last been spoken of.

Still, his worries about time paled next to his fear of Nhainnse. The Disillusionists hastily assembled a wheelchair for Minuit, and on a warm afternoon, he and Nieve went to the room where the silver Imperial, their savior, lay. Sunlight flashed against her wings as she slumbered, breathing deeply and evenly.

Minuit struggled to remember their first encounter. She had said, “I am...”

“Exodus?” he whispered. “Is that your name?”

The dragon rumbled. One eye opened.

“Thank you for saving me,” Minuit told her. Nieve mewed in agreement.

Did I save you?” The Imperial’s reply was chilling. She seemed entirely unconcerned, but Minuit felt a cold wave break over him. He forced himself to ask her, “What do you mean? The fairy who imprisoned me...Can he find us?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why did you save me? Who...What...are you?”

“Don’t know. Dragon...I hung in the stars, in cold vastness. Looking down, a long way down...That was all I knew. I listened. I heard. Your voice called out to me, and your longing...it filled me. The strength of your want—”

“I wanted to escape—”

“—I felt it, too, and I gained strength of my own. I opened the door.” She took an immense breath, inflating visibly. “That rush of freedom, it gave me more strength, and more. Your relief...It was intoxicating. But I am tired now. I’m tired. Perhaps someday, I will hear a new voice. I will open a new door....” She curled up tighter, hiding her head beneath one wing, and Minuit knew she would not speak further.

Minuit remained close-mouthed with the Disillusionists as well. They didn’t pry—they were more worried about his physical condition. His wounds from the garden soon healed, but his hind legs had been defective since birth and couldn’t be fixed with healing spells. They had been further warped by Nhainnse’s magic, and they caused him a great deal of pain. Still, there were treatments that could mitigate the symptoms.

“There is a place called Blooming Grove where recently, hot springs have been discovered. They have been further developed to accommodate patients....I have been told that this can reduce muscle pain. With the addition of certain herbs and minerals, the therapeutic effects can be enhanced.”

The speaker was Tiferet, the clan’s hydrotherapist. Another Imperial—but not alien, like Exodus, and Minuit preferred talking to her instead of the other infirmary dragons, who were rather grim. She had a soft voice and gentle claws, and Minuit readily agreed to go to the Blooming Grove to try the treatment she suggested. He was pleased to be accompanied by her—though he couldn’t help feeling nervous when he finally arrived at the Grove.

“It looks like the garden,” he thought uneasily. The place rang with birdsong and the rustle of creatures in the bushes, and it was filled with sunlight—but there were so many flowers, and the sculpted plants around the hot springs reminded him too much of Nhainnse’s domain. As the sun went down and the grove darkened, he started to get uneasy. He saw the creatures of the Blooming Grove creep out from their hiding places, their eyes shining like chips of glass.

Tiferet noticed his nervousness. “You look uncomfortable. Do you need to rest? I can lift you out if you’d like; it will be night soon, anyway.”

“Th...They’re watching...” Minuit could only croak. Tiferet turned, saw the curious wildlife, and she laughed. Despite his misgivings, Minuit felt himself relax almost immediately.

“Oh, yes. Many patients feed them, so they’ve learned to expect handouts. They don’t realize it makes some dragons uncomfortable. Still, they won’t harm you. Shall I leave you—”

The fear returned in full force. “Please help me,” Minuit gasped. He struggled to exit the pool on his own, scrabbling feebly against the rocks, until Tiferet lifted him out. She dried him off with a towel while Nieve snuggled up to him.

“You’ve received grave injuries,” Tiferet commented. Her tone was quiet, matter-of-fact. She did not question or comment further.

Nonetheless, Minuit badly wanted to talk to her. Would anybody understand...or even care? He thought the gentle Imperial might. And there was another reason besides: “I need help...protection. If he snatches me away again, I’ll die...”

“They were no accident,” he began slowly, softly. Tiferet fell silent, and Nieve leaned against him, lending him strength. He continued, “Once, I was a prince. But that ended when I was taken away and imprisoned in a garden...”

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The Disillusionists took Minuit’s story seriously, and he wondered if perhaps they might have encountered the Fair Folk, as he had....Still, he didn’t ask. He was only grateful that his new clan—for indeed, it seemed they were his clan now—was lending him aid. Their artisans forged accessories of iron for him: a collar, a bracelet, and... “Why a crown?” he asked softly. It was actually a circlet, but it reminded him of...

“To wear while you soak in the baths, as your collar and bracelet would rust otherwise,” Tiferet explained gently. Minuit allowed her to place it on his head.

He often had nightmares of the garden. Still, it was a great relief to always reawaken safe and sound in the lair. The Disillusionists had promised to protect him; his iron charms would ward away hostile faerie magic. He was safe. He would never go back to—


—the garden.

Minuit woke from another nightmare, his heart hammering in his chest. He’d recently been given his own den, and the unfamiliar surroundings baffled him before he recalled where he was. He looked around, letting his eyes settle on the curtains, the paintings...his wheelchair by the bed...Nieve...

His heart slowed slowly, terribly. The rug where the Squall Rasa usually lay was empty. “Nieve?” Minuit whispered, looking around the room. He called again, but she did not appear.

“She would never leave,” Minuit thought, cold fear creeping over his skin like ice. He struggled out of bed, managed to strap his hind legs into his wheelchair. Then he made for the door. Alone, he pulled himself down the hallway, softly calling Nieve’s name. “Perhaps she got hungry and went looking for food. One of the guards might’ve seen her. I’ll ask the guards—”

And then he heard a high, thin scream. Alarmed, he turned, looked out the nearest window. A dark forest lay beyond the clan grounds—and over it, the moon burned silver. Bright and full.

Then the doors between our worlds will widen, and it will be easier for you to slip through.

“NIEVE!” Minuit screamed. He hauled himself at speed through the corridors, oblivious now to the shouts of his lairmates. He burst onto Amaryllis’ terrace garden. The wheelchair was thrown aside as he spread his wings—they were weak, since his stiff legs made flying impossible for him. But he had to try.

He toppled from the terrace, wings spread to catch what wind there was. Too little, too weak...He could only glide. He fell down, down, and the forest was still too far away; he couldn’t save her....

“He has her!” he wailed when the guards caught up to him. “I couldn’t save her! I couldn’t...!” And he collapsed, weeping, against the Guardian’s paws.

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Nieve was gone. The Disillusionists never saw her again, and Minuit was inconsolable. It was many days before he felt well enough to continue his treatment at Blooming Grove. Nieve’s loss was keenly felt. In addition to Tiferet, there were now a couple of other dragons as bodyguards, but Minuit missed Nieve’s closeness, her unstinting aid.

Once, he struggled out of the pool on his own. Tiferet and the guards were nearby, chatting quietly, but they didn’t notice him, for he was biting back his groans of pain. “I must do it alone now. I must...”

The creatures of the Grove watched him. And then one of them slipped into the daylight. Minuit, still dragging himself along, was startled when a walking stick was thrust towards his paw. He looked up...and met the placid gaze of a Moonlight Fungi.

It was offering its own walking stick to him. Minuit’s eyes burned with tears. He accepted the stick, stammering his thanks, and leaned heavily on it as he tried to get his hind legs under himself.

Days later, Minuit sat before the clan leader. His new familiar was beside him—he had named her Bluewit after a certain type of mushroom. Bluewit didn’t seem to mind the name; indeed, she didn’t seem to mind other things much. She trailed after Minuit with vegetative placidness, and he found her silent, steady presence very calming.

Veritas was discussing his health: “Tiferet tells me the treatment in Blooming Grove has been helping your legs. Now...how are you, Minuit?”

There was an odd emphasis on the question. Minuit blinked at her. “Tiferet is right, ma’am. My legs are much better now.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” and she sighed, “but you still have those nightmares, don’t you? The guards hear you sometimes...”

Minuit could only hang his head in shame. He did his best, he really did, but the nightmares always seemed too real: thorny vines closing in, cutting off his breath, while Nhainnse’s face loomed beyond, frigid and unforgiving...

He realized Veritas had continued speaking: “—in an allied clan is open to meeting with you. He wonders if you would like to come and talk with him about your...past experiences.”

“They are not pleasant. I’d rather not speak of them,” Minuit said, shivering visibly. Still, he couldn’t help asking, “Why is he interested in my story?”

Veritas leaned down. She told him, “Because he once ran afoul of the one you call the Prince of the Roses. Like you, he, too, was once imprisoned in the garden.”

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And so Minuit came to the Cathedral of Eyes. He peered around Tiferet’s neck and watched as the great doors opened. A shadowy Imperial stepped out, red eyes glittering above the rose clutched in his jaws.

The doorkeeper briefly looked annoyed, but then he recognized Veritas, and his expression became smooth and civil. “Madam,” he greeted her, “you and your fellows are always welcome to the Cathedral of Eyes. We have been expecting you.”

Veritas nodded, smiling faintly. “Then, Sebastian, you know why we’re here.”

Sebastian ushered them inside. Minuit didn’t know whether to gape or cringe at the finery that shone within. It was glorious, sumptuous gold and artworks adorning the ceilings and walls. So much beauty in one place...almost too beautiful...

When Sebastian showed them to an inner garden, Minuit was almost relieved. It was such a plain, simple place, clearly a part of this world. The plants looked healthy, but didn’t seem otherwise unusual—at least, not right at first.

“D’you need a hand?” The question came from a Wildclaw who had been waiting for them. Minuit was about to answer, but instead stopped and stared—the Wildclaw himself was a simple-looking fellow, but growing directly out of his spine were flower buds. Pure, shining white, glowing with a light of their own...

“Pretty, aren’t they? Here, lemme help ya.” The Wildclaw helped Tiferet buckle Minuit into his wheelchair. “I’m Ginko, a botanist. Are you comfortable? Now...I’ve been told that you were in the garden, too.”

“Yes, sir, I was.” Minuit swallowed. He was dimly aware of Veritas and Tiferet talking quietly by the door. Bluewit remained, impassive and steadfast, at his side.

Ginko quickly picked up on his unease. He looked kindly at Minuit and shifted his attention to the familiar. “That’s a very well-mannered friend you’ve got. Most of them are puckish—a lot like the Strangers I deal with.”

“Strangers?” Minuit thought he meant fairies.

Ginko shook his head. “Nothing like our Fair Folk...Minuit, is it? Why don’t we take a look around the garden first?”

“I’m quite safe here; they wouldn’t have brought me here if they weren’t sure,” Minuit told himself. “I shouldn’t jump at shadows of trees and flowers forever. I shouldn’t be afraid...always....” He took a deep breath and nodded politely to the Wildclaw.

That was the first of many meetings with Ginko. The botanist was a frank but tranquil dragon, never brash nor offensive. He told Minuit more about the mysterious entities he saw all around—“They’re more like animals than they are like us. Odd, but they’ve got their places and roles in this world, just as we do. I’ve heard some dragons call them mushi. It’s an old word that means ‘bugs’, and a lot of them do look like insects. I find that the term ‘Strangers’ is easier for others to grasp, though.”

“Are there any around me?” Minuit asked. He didn’t have second sight; he couldn’t see spirits that didn’t choose to show themselves to him. Ginko could, however, and he explained, “There are a bunch. They follow you whenever you’re here, actually. I’d say they like how you smell.” He had to chuckle at Minuit’s expression. “Hey, don’t look at me that way—I’m not the one following you around.”

Despite that, when Minuit left, he considered the observations he’d made, the notes he’d compiled on the frail Skydancer. He’d tried to broach the topic of Nhainnse’s garden a few times, but Minuit had always deflected him. He’d seemed more interested in the Strangers. Ginko could relate; when he’d arrived here, his memories of the garden had also been strong and had often repelled him from studying plants and mushi. But his passion for his work had eventually proven stronger. He still took some pride in that fact. He was sure Minuit had it in him to overcome his trauma and unearth the pride that was buried within himself, too.

So, Minuit was more interested in Strangers....They were a good distraction, a reminder that wonder without fear was still very much possible. Perhaps they would help distract him again, so that Ginko—and others—could help him live with less fear.

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When Minuit received a message from Ginko that more or less boiled down to “Would you like to see some Strangers?” he had no reason to suspect it was nothing more than a usual visit. Ginko had explained that when the flowers upon his back bloomed, they released pollen that made the Strangers visible even to those without special sight. Minuit had grown fond of them through listening to Ginko’s stories, and he wanted to see them for himself. Once again, Tiferet, Veritas, and Bluewit accompanied him.

Tiferet and Veritas lingered by the doors while Minuit and Bluewit approached Ginko. The Wildclaw was seated on a bench, head bowed as if in meditation. He looked up and smiled when his friends drew near, though.

“How are you feeling, Ginko?” Minuit asked quietly. He recognized the tight look on Ginko’s face: the Wildclaw was holding back pain, much as Minuit himself often did. It seemed that Nhainnse’s garden had burdened its former prisoners with nothing but fear and pain. A wondrous place...but all the wonder had been for Nhainnse alone.

“I’ve been better. These flowers, they grow directly into my spine, see. Sometimes they get...uncomfortable.” Ginko grinned faintly.

“Maybe you should stop,” Minuit said, and realized that that was a stupid thing to say. Sure enough, Ginko chuckled and said, “No, Minuit, I can’t stop it. It is what it is. But it’s got a very useful side effect, and the pain doesn’t last long, honest. Now watch...and learn.”

As dusk fell over the garden, the flowers began to bloom. Where they had merely been globs of light, now they shone like miniature suns, their centers sparkling with soft, golden dust. A chill breeze blew, and the pollen blew into the air, shrouding both dragons in a nimbus of light.

Minuit gasped—he could see them now, outlined in the shimmering powder. Things...no, mushi. Strangers. Things that turned like wheels, or that pulsed like upside-down jellyfish. Wriggling like tadpoles, darting hither and yon like lightning bolts. They were phantasmal green or yellow or blue, or shifted through every color on the spectrum. They clustered around Minuit as if fascinated by him....

Minuit blinked slowly. There were other, brighter shapes waiting at the end of the garden. They’d been standing in the shadows earlier, but now they stepped beneath the moon, and the Strangers flocked to them, illuminating their luminous scales, their wondrous clothes. Strong, graceful wings and faces that were beautiful...too beautiful.

Minuit’s blood ran cold. He stayed rooted to where he was, as if once again bound by black roses. The mushi seemed to vanish, eclipsed by the radiant, terrible beauty of these other beings, these fairies.

He became aware that Ginko was addressing him: “Minuit...Minuit?”

“You tricked me.” Minuit’s voice broke. “You’ve led me back to them, and now I’ll...” He began to shake, tears pouring down his face. “I’ll die,” he whispered. “They’ll take me back to the garden, and I’ll die...!”

“We will do no such thing,” one of the fairies said. He was a Wildclaw“Just like Nhainnse!” Minuit thought with cold fear—his blue scales glittering like ice. The Skydancer couldn’t bear to look at them, and as the blue Wildclaw approached, Minuit stammered, “Spare me, my lord, I beg you....I have nothing left to give. I have nothing...!”

“Prince Minuit...it’s all right. Please be at ease,” the Wildclaw said.

There was that word: please. Nhainnse had never spoken that respectfully to him—Minuit hadn’t thought any fairy would. Summoning shreds of courage, he met the Wildclaw’s gaze. Pale eyes, just like Nhainnse—but the expression they held was tranquil. There was no arrogance, no malice, anywhere in them, and as the Wildclaw studied him, his expression became almost sorrowful.

“You have suffered terribly at the Rose Prince’s hands,” he said, and his voice held as much regret as Minuit felt. He gestured to himself and then the other fairy, saying, “I am Viktor, of the New Court of Faerie. This is Yuuri, my mate and co-ruler.”

“Ginko asked us to help treat your wounds,” Yuuri said. He was a Coatl with a boldly-marked hide, and he wore an incongruous pair of oversized spectacles. Minuit was overtaken by fear again. “Treat my wounds?”

“So to speak.” Viktor’s countenance became grave. “The Rose Prince’s magic continues to cling to you. The iron you wear resists some of it, but while he might not seek you out, the magical residue keeps your soul and heart from healing...and leaves you vulnerable to attacks from other sources. The mushi flock to you because they sense it—but not all creatures that are drawn to magic are harmless.”

Minuit remained silent, uncertain—and scared. He briefly forgot about Ginko, and actually jumped when the botanist coughed softly and shut one shining eye. “You know,” he began in his wry, comfortable drawl, “I wouldn’t have referred you to them if they weren’t trustworthy.”

“Will it hurt?” Minuit was almost pleading. Ginko shrugged. “A bit—but then, you and I have endured far worse.” His smile was humorless but warm, understanding. He knew what he was talking about.

Minuit looked at the fairies again. They remained where they were, waiting patiently. Viktor’s expression remained grave, but Yuuri smiled shyly and then pushed his glasses up his snout.

“Why does it need to be you?” Minuit asked. “There are others—magicians, sorcerers...Surely they can help...?”

“Perhaps,” Viktor admitted, “but their methods often require much preparation and do not always result in success. Most of them will enact only counterspells to weaken Nhainnse’s magic. Yuuri and I, on the other hand, can remove it.”

“Why?” Minuit repeated. And beside him, Ginko answered, “Because Nhainnse was a prince, Minuit—the Prince of the Roses. But Viktor and Yuuri”—he inclined his head to them—”are both Fairy Kings.”

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That night, Minuit was freed of the magic that remained shackled to him. That it was not a complicated process attested to the power of the fairies helping him. That understanding made him realize how very, very fortunate he was. It was a strange thing—he had not thought of himself as “fortunate” in a long time.

“We shall have to separate that magic from you. It’s outside, draped over your skin. We can cut it loose.” Viktor held up claws that gleamed like sickles. “Once it’s away, Yuuri and I will dispose of it. Not here, for magic often draws those who cast it, like a lure is connected to a fishing rod, and thence a fisher.”

The cloud of pollen remained around Minuit, fixed by the fairies’ magic. By its glow, he saw a membrane of light encasing his skin. Waves of color moved over it, and he noticed how the mushi drifted against it, questing with curious tendrils and feelers.

“You’ll have to remove your iron accoutrements, though.”

“Why?” Minuit’s mane bristled. Yuuri sighed, pushed his glasses up again. “We’re fairies. Iron disrupts our magic, and it would burn us if we touched it. You can give them to your friends. They’ll be quite safe.”

It was Ginko who accepted Minuit’s iron charms. “All right there?” he queried.

“Yes, I think so....You?”

“Once dawn comes, the flowers will close, and I’ll be as good as new,” Ginko explained. Minuit looked beyond him at his lairmates. They had been watching the proceedings quietly. Veritas remained sage and placid, but Tiferet caught his gaze and gave him an encouraging smile.

Still, he nearly bolted when Viktor and Yuuri stepped forward. They spread their wings, casting translucent blue shadows over him. Their feet left the ground. A flick of the wings, and Viktor darted away. Minuit turned to follow him, but then he heard Yuuri whisper, “Sleep.” The Coatl hummed, his front paws tracing curlicues in the air. Before the Skydancer’s startled eyes, shimmering crystals coalesced between his claws, appearing with a soft shimmering sound.

Sleep, sleep...No, Minuit, not you. I mean, you can sleep if you want. It won’t have adverse effects.” His eyes narrowed. “It’s not you I’m talking to.”

That was when Minuit realized he was speaking to the magic. Yuuri beat his wings, and the crystals swirled through the air. They pressed against Minuit’s skin, but he didn’t feel them; they stuck to the magical membrane instead. It slowly grew more opaque, and as it did, it made a faint crinkling sound.

His limbs began to stiffen. He felt his feathers curl. “No...No, please—”

“It’s all right, Minuit.” Viktor’s voice came from somewhere above and behind him. And again, Yuuri ordered, “Sleep...

With a sigh, the magic gave in. Minuit heard it an instant before the membrane collapsed—suddenly it was as if he was being smothered under a pile of blankets. He began to topple forward, unable to call for help—

Viktor moved. Earlier while flitting around Minuit, he had opened slits in the membrane with his claws. His touch had been so delicate that Minuit had felt nothing, and now, as the membrane relaxed, the Fairy King grasped hold of it. Minuit fell, and at the same time, Viktor gave a great tug, shucking the skin off him. It came away in his grasp, translucent white like milk mixed with water.

Ginko helped Minuit stand. He turned and gasped, “Is that...?”

The pollen was dissipating. As it faded away, the membrane faded from visibility—but not before Minuit saw it writhe like a snake, stretching towards him. Ginko yanked his wheelchair backwards, and they stared as Viktor and Yuuri wrestled with the unseen thing. It was clearly putting up a fight.

“Catch it!” Yuuri held up a hollow globe of thick blue glass. Viktor pulled his fists apart as far as he could—“He’s stretching it like a noodle!” Ginko reported—and then he brought them together, rolling the membrane into a ball, which he stuffed through an opening in the globe. Yuuri clapped a paw over the opening and hummed a strange little song. Light rolled over the surface of the globe and collected upon the opening, where it solidified into a gleaming crystal seal.

“All done,” Yuuri said with a smile. Viktor let out a shout of triumph, and Ginko sighed in relief. Minuit, for his part, was feeling rather woozy. He turned away and tottered back to his clanmates, his wheelchair bouncing over the uneven ground.

“All right there?” Veritas boomed. He felt gentle claws enclose him and looked up into Tiferet’s face.

“You should give him back his jewelry. Probably better if he continues wearing it...just to be on the safe side.” Viktor’s voice seemed to come from far away. “He’ll sleep for a while—it’s been a long night, and losing a great deal of magic, even if it wasn’t his, can be very taxing.”

“If there are any problems, let us know,” Yuuri chimed in. Minuit, now resting in Tiferet’s grasp, turned to look at them. The fairies still gleamed with their own light; Ginko was a darker shape now, his flowers beginning to close as the night wore on. Was dawn near? Perhaps it was still hours away, but the world seemed...brighter now.

“Thank you,” Minuit said to them. The fairies inclined their heads, and Ginko lifted a paw in farewell. “Peaceful travels, Minuit.”

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Minuit slept for a couple of days. When he finally arose, his body still ached, but then, it always had, and it probably always would. He put on his iron collar, circlet, and bracelet. They were heavy and cold, and he wondered if there would ever be a time when he would feel safe without them. Without protection. As he had long ago, in a castle on the Snowsquall Tundra...

“No more fear,” he told himself stoutly. It was easy to remember that when he was sitting next to Tiferet or doing exercises with Bluewit or safe and sound inside the lair....

But not in the darkness. Not with a strange fairy standing in front of him.

It was midnight in the Blooming Grove. He was there for an extended course of treatment, and he’d been restless, unable to sleep. He’d decided to sit on the porch of the rented villa for a while, wait until he was sleepy before going back inside.

Silence moved over the grove. The nocturnal noises didn’t stop; they died down noticeably, first falling silent here, then there, and then over there...moving around the clearing. Whatever it was, it made the creatures uncomfortable enough to fall silent, but not completely. A twig snapped. Pale green eyes, like a cat’s, shone out of the darkness.

“W...Who’s there?” Minuit called hoarsely. Tiferet and the guards had their own rooms inside the villa, and one scream from him would bring them running. But would they be in time if...?

She stepped into the clearing: a pale yellow Tundra with powder-blue markings, but Minuit wasn’t fooled; his time in the garden had made him sensitive to the Other Folk. He knew that this soft-looking dragon was a fairy.

She frowned. Her ears drooped, and she began hesitantly, “You’re...Minuit, right?”

“Who gave you that name?”

She couldn’t help flicking her tail. “We live in the same clan. I don’t know if you’ve seen me. I’m Aurelie, a treasure hunter.”

“And a fairy.” He said it with quiet resignation. She bared her teeth, and he expected her to attack, but instead, she only answered, “Not anymore,” and that gave him pause.

She smoothed her fur down. With another flick of her tail, she muttered, “We’re not all the same, you know.” She looked at him with reproachful eyes. And, thinking about it, Minuit felt more of his fear fall away....

Elsewhere, on a different plane, Yuuri and Viktor eyed the blue glass globe. The magic still pulsed inside, pale and translucent like a jellyfish. Yuuri looked at his mate and said, “He will not find it, of course.” But behind his glasses, his rosy eyes looked worried.

Viktor nodded back. “We have not seen or heard from him for some time now.” There were other dangers abroad, ones that even the wily Prince of the Roses would not be able to overcome, and the two kings had been entertaining the thought that he’d run afoul of them and been extinguished. They imagined, or they hoped....

They looked at the glass globe holding the Rose Prince’s magic, and they wondered.

~ The End

Credits: The characters of Minuit, Nhainnse, and Nieve were originally created by Ximena. Lore written from headcanon notes provided by Ximena. Ginko, Viktor, and Yuuri belong to awaicu and are used here with their permission.
"Strangers" are created by Felix Kramer and J. "Mushi" are from the Mushishi series.

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[center][color=#BBBABF][size=1][b]PREV.[/b][/size] [size=2][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/22#post_34811431]Dragon[/url] | [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_2323941]Contents[/url] • Dragons [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507351]A-M[/url] [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507353]N-Z[/url] • [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507362]Stories Pt. 3[/url] | [/size][size=1][b]NEXT[/b][/size] [size=2][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/22#post_34811451]Dragon[/url][/color][/size][/center] ----- [right][url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=34540094][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/coliseum/portraits/345401/34540094.png[/img][/url] [size=2][color=#9494A9][url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=27291021]profile[/url] • back to[/color] [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/22#post_34811441]main post[/url][/right] [columns][center][item=scroll of renaming][/center][nextcol][color=transparent]..[/color][nextcol][color=#D1B047][font=garamond][size=7][size=4]{ notes for aurelie }[/size][/size][/font][/color] [size=2]written by various authors [color=#9494A9]220 words[/color][/size][/columns] [center]"I used to hide because I'm very noticeable here but then I found some treasure hidden away, and I'm like, that's me."[center] [color=black]Orion, a rather light dragon born into a family of dark dragons, spends her time finding small and dark places to hide and keep herself unseen from her family. On one such exploration exposition, did she find herself finding a small hoard of treasure. This has sparked her dream to become a treasure hunter.[/color] [right]~ microlore by [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/clan-profile/311126]bogbees[/url][/right] [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2257922][img]https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/s/jixjr6aoblsclqn/Hor-divider-640.png[/img][/url] [color=black]To escape her parents, she found another lair in another land, where a pair of dragons had just had their first clutch. She insinuated herself among them and gave her name to one of their hatchlings. They were all Tundras, and [i]he[/i] was a Fae....It was perfect. A fairy Tundra became a Tundra hatchling, and a Fae child became a Faerie child.[/color] [center][item=fool's gold][item=wispy foxtail][item=unicorn dust] [font=garamond][size=5]When he was born, he had three siblings. [i]Suddenly, one day, he had four.[/i][/size][/font] [item=aged tome][/center] [columns][url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=34582997][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/avatars/345830/34582997.png[/img][/url][nextcol] This is him. The one who was sent away....She decided it wouldn't matter if he changed his name later on or not; perhaps it would be even better, as it might make it harder for [i]them[/i] to track her down. Yes...If he changed it, so much the better. She would change her own name, too, and then herself. That was what they did best. [i]Changelings.[/i] [right]~ written by Disillusionist[/right][/columns] ----- [center][color=#BBBABF][size=1][b]PREV.[/b][/size] [size=2][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/22#post_34811431]Dragon[/url] | [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_2323941]Contents[/url] • Dragons [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507351]A-M[/url] [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507353]N-Z[/url] • [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507362]Stories Pt. 3[/url] | [/size][size=1][b]NEXT[/b][/size] [size=2][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/22#post_34811451]Dragon[/url][/color][/size][/center]
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.. { notes for aurelie }
written by various authors
220 words
"I used to hide because I'm very noticeable here but then
I found some treasure hidden away, and I'm like, that's me."

Orion, a rather light dragon born into a family of dark dragons, spends her time finding small and dark places to hide and keep herself unseen from her family. On one such exploration exposition, did she find herself finding a small hoard of treasure. This has sparked her dream to become a treasure hunter.
~ microlore by bogbees

Hor-divider-640.png

To escape her parents, she found another lair in another land, where a pair of dragons had just had their first clutch. She insinuated herself among them and gave her name to one of their hatchlings. They were all Tundras, and he was a Fae....It was perfect. A fairy Tundra became a Tundra hatchling, and a Fae child became a Faerie child.


When he was born, he had three siblings.
Suddenly, one day, he had four.

34582997.png This is him. The one who was sent away....She decided it wouldn't matter if he changed his name later on or not; perhaps it would be even better, as it might make it harder for them to track her down.

Yes...If he changed it, so much the better. She would change her own name, too, and then herself. That was what they did best. Changelings.

~ written by Disillusionist

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[center][color=#BBBABF][size=1][b]PREV.[/b][/size] [size=2][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/22#post_34811431]Dragon[/url] | [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_2323941]Contents[/url] • Dragons [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507351]A-M[/url] [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507353]N-Z[/url] • [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507362]Stories Pt. 3[/url] | [/size][size=1][b]NEXT[/b][/size] [size=2][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/22#post_34811451]Dragon[/url][/color][/size][/center] ----- [right][url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=34540094][img]http://flightrising.com/rendern/coliseum/portraits/345401/34540094.png[/img][/url] [size=2][color=#9494A9][url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=27291021]profile[/url] • back to[/color] [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/22#post_34811441]main post[/url][/right] [columns][center][item=crowned roc][/center][nextcol][color=transparent]..[/color][nextcol][color=#D1B047][font=garamond][size=7][size=4]the great toenail challenge[/size][/size][/font][/color] [size=2]written by Disillusionist special thanks to Azurenight [color=#9494A9]2,247 words[/color][/size][/columns] [color=#324BA9]Orion was a worse fairy than most, which by normal dragons’ standards meant she was very well-behaved. Early on she had decided that she wanted to live in the mortal world. Her parents watched as, like all self-respecting fairies, she flitted away and found a warm and happy family. They had recently hatched their first clutch of eggs, and Orion insinuated herself among the squeaking hatchlings. She chose to take the place of the clutch’s only Fae, as any well-bred changeling would do. But to her parents’ horror, she had the audacity not to send him to the Unseelie Court, where he could be properly used, but to an Ice clan that would [i]care[/i] for him until he was grown! Orion’s parents, a King and Queen of the Unseelie Court, were utterly embarrassed that their daughter would do something so [i]ethical[/i], and they promptly disowned her. Orion had never been happier. She gave her name to the Fae child before sending him away. Then she conjured another name for herself: [i]Aurelie[/i], bright as gold. Her foster parents soon accepted her as their own flesh and blood, and she grew up with the rest of their brood, Tundra hatchlings much like herself. She did grow faster than they did and was soon a lot bigger than they were, which was weird....But whenever her parents tried to think about it, it slipped away from their minds like soap. So Aurelie became one of the mortal drakes, learning their customs and ways. She donned their clothes, ate their food, absorbed their lessons and played their games. She experienced these delights and more, though there was one in particular she was really looking forward to: She wanted to bond with a familiar.[/color] [center][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2257922][img]https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/s/jixjr6aoblsclqn/Hor-divider-640.png[/img][/url][/center] [color=#C67147][i]Hello, I am [url=http://flightrising.com/main.php?dragon=31015704]Indra[/url]![/i][/color][color=#324BA9] The Bogsneak held up a card. Aurelie blinked at it, and then he flipped it over, showing some slightly worn text: [color=#C67147][i]I am under a curse. I speak only the truth, but my curse will make it so that you will think everything I say is a lie. I have to write instead. I am sorry for any inconvenience this causes.[/i] [i]Pleased to meet you! What can I help you with today?[/i][/color] And Aurelie took a deep breath. “I want”, she began, “to start bonding with a familiar.” Her adoptive siblings, who’d tagged along with her, circled her furry feet, baying like injured hounds. As far as they knew, she was the same age as them; why did [i]she[/i] get to choose a familiar first? Indra clucked his tongue. He waved his index cards at the younger Tundras and shooed them away, leaving Aurelie waiting expectantly. Aurelie had [i]many[/i] expectations for how things would go. She even had a familiar she’d already set her sights on. Years before Aurelie had been born, another Tundra, Shantung, had lived in the lair. Raised to be an armorer, she had instead harbored a dream to become a dressmaker. She had come to the clan to study dressmaking under the Chief Clothier, and during her stay, she had tamed a Crowned Roc. Aurelie had sucked in an awed breath when she’d heard this. As a fairy ([i]“[/i]former[i] fairy!”[/i] she reminded herself) of the Windswept lands, she knew what terrors Rocs could be. Even the fairies gave them a wide berth, for their eyes could pierce most glamours — and their talons and beaks pierce more besides. Shantung had unfortunately been better with hammers and tongs than with needles and scissors, and she had gone on to another clan to hopefully fulfill her dream. But the Roc had stayed. Indra had taken charge of it, but it was largely a bird of its own mind and tended to perch atop the lair, far from the other familiars. It was civil towards Indra at best, coming in for meals and checkups but keeping to itself most of the time. Now Indra asked the young Tundra, [color=#C67147][i]Do you have a familiar you want to try bonding with first?[/i][/color] Aurelie nodded eagerly. She ignored the inquisitive beasts crowding gently around her and pointed up to the roof of the lair, where the Roc basked in emerald splendor. Indra’s jaw dropped, and the various familiars rolled around, keening like banshees. [color=#C67147][i]No.[/i][/color] It was Aurelie’s turn to look shocked. “Why not?” Indra shook his head sternly. He waved the card repeatedly in her face: [color=#C67147][i]No, no, no![/i][/color] A brief scribble on the slate he carried, and he held up another message: [color=#C67147][i]Too dangerous![/i][/color] “But I can try, can’t I?” Aurelie continued in a rush (really, it was lucky Indra couldn’t write as fast as she blabbed), “I’ve heard of Shantung; she was a Tundra like me, right? Maybe the Crowned Roc likes Tundras better than other dragons. Come on, Master Indra, gimme a chance!” Indra sighed. As the familiars could attest, he was a huge sucker for googly eyes and heartfelt pleading, and darned if Aurelie wasn’t doing her best to googlize her eyes and heartfeel her pleading. Not to mention throw leftover fairy magic at him. [i]“I will convince you, Master Indra. You[/i] will [i]be convinced! Convinced, convinced, convinced...”[/i] The Bogsneak swayed, shook his head groggily. He squinted at her. [color=#C67147][i]Practice with other familiars first. One step at a time.[/i][/color] Aurelie could get behind that. “One step at a time!”[/color] [center][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2257922][img]https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/s/jixjr6aoblsclqn/Hor-divider-640.png[/img][/url][/center] [color=#324BA9]Indra’s strategy soon became obvious: He was trying to get Aurelie to bond with some other safer familiar so that she’d forget about the Roc. Aurelie puffed up her chest as she realized this. [i]She[/i] did the persuading, not him! She wasn’t going to be distracted by this glamour of other familiars’ soft fur and doleful eyes and innocent affection. Oh, she very nearly caved a few times. There were the Hainus that bounced after her, the Sparrowmice grooming her fur with gentle claws, Millifaes (and, more worryingly, Corpse Cleaners) twining around her legs, and the Pansies that smelled good enough to eat...Each time she was about to say to Indra, “Yes, I like this one!” she saw the Roc’s shadow on the ground, and she steeled her fickle little heart. Indra was no fool, either. He knew the Tundra wasn’t going to give up. Indeed, there’d been dragons like her — they’d chosen a familiar at the very beginning and hadn’t given up until they’d bonded with it. [i]“But so many dragons forget that the familiar has to choose[/i] them[i], too.”[/i] Still, perhaps the Roc [i]did[/i] need a new dragon to bond with. No one else was willing to try it except Aurelie. And so, very, very carefully, Indra acquainted her and the Roc with each other. He recruited her to help prepare the animal’s food and clean its nest when it was away. Aurelie’s snout wrinkled so much during these chores, she looked like a particularly pruny Mamertee. Still, she had gumption, Indra had to give her that. Perhaps she [i]could[/i] handle the Roc after all. When checkup time rolled around, he sent for Aurelie. The message he handed her was long and typewritten in the formal manner: [color=#C67147][i]Basic checkups are regularly scheduled for all familiars, particularly ones that might have volatile magic. As the Familiar Caretaker, it is my job to examine them for any problems: parasites, diseases, magical imbalances, and the like. During this period, I also groom them. Many familiars can groom themselves, but we can still help them: We can reach their backs, between their toes, et cetera. It helps head off problems that might be difficult to treat later on.[/i][/color] Aurelie was nodding like a flower in the breeze all the while. It all sounded so cool! Checkup! Magic! Parasites! OK, maybe not that last one. But grooming? “I can do that! I’m very good at that!” Indra nodded solemnly. He turned, pointing with his snout, and Aurelie followed his gaze (and nose). She couldn’t be sure, but it looked like the Roc was squinting suspiciously down at them. “Does it know we’re coming?” Aurelie asked. Indra grinned at her, and he held up a pair of talon-clippers.[/color] [center][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2257922][img]https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/s/jixjr6aoblsclqn/Hor-divider-640.png[/img][/url][/center] [color=#324BA9]Aurelie had clipped other familiars’ toenails before: hounds, basilisks, aardvarks...She was quite competent at it now, though she felt a bit dubious as she slowly opened and shut the clippers. They were as long as her forearm and made ominous creaks like a steel trap. Indra stood up on his hind legs, wobbling sinuously. He steadied himself against a nearby tin saucepan and blew into a whistle. Aurelie felt it before she looked up: the rush of air as the Roc spread its wings. Her hackles stood up as it spilled gracefully off the roof, and suddenly the entire field was drowned in shadow. It was [i]huge[/i]! Bigger even than a full-grown Guardian...The Tundra nearly quailed. Indra whistled through his teeth. He motioned sharply to her: [i]Buck up![/i] The Roc was coming in to land. It touched down before Aurelie, flattening the grass. She tried to look into its eyes and had to wince; they were as bright and unforgiving as the sun. It looked down its beak at her, like a particularly exacting professor. Aurelie felt her own ears going flat. “What now?” she whispered to Indra. The Bogsneak made “go on” motions. He craned his neck, focusing intently on the scene. Aurelie tried to relax. [i]“Clearly he knows what he’s doing; he wouldn’t let me do this otherwise.”[/i] She approached the Roc, trying not to cringe as she passed beneath its axe-like beak. She could almost feel the heat of its suspicious glare. Indra had written on several placards. He held them up one at a time: [color=#C67147][i]Go slowly. Steady. It’s just like with the Hounds. Outer layers only. Don’t cut to the quick (dark part). You’re doing great! ^_^[/i][/color] Aurelie settled herself beside one of the Roc’s feet. It (the [i]foot[/i]) was nearly as big as she was. With the other familiars, she could lift their entire leg for easier cutting. Here, she was limited to just one toe. She clenched her teeth and cranked the clippers — not cutting so much as shaving away the hard layers of keratin. [i]Krch...krch...krcchhh...[/i]The Roc didn’t seem to mind. Aurelie sucked in a deep breath. She had a better grip on the clippers now; she could actually snap off larger pieces of talon. [i]Krch...Krck...Krikk...[/i] As her confidence returned, she began working faster and faster. She missed Indra’s fins quivering in alarm and didn’t see him stand up again, waving the placards like semaphores. [i]Krck...Krikk...KRACK.[/i] [i]“Uh-oh,”[/i] Aurelie thought, an instant before the Roc erupted. It tore its foot away, bowling her over, and then let out a pained “HREEEEEEEEEEEKKK!!!” loud enough to shatter glass. Aurelie stared as it reared above her, its feathers bristling. It spread its wings....No! It would step on her! And then with a terrific crash, Indra bounded in front of her. He was carrying the saucepan now, and as Aurelie watched, he beat it with a stick, whooping and roaring wordlessly all the while. [i]Clang, clang, CLANG![/i] The sound must’ve been unbearable to the Roc’s ears. It flapped backwards, flattening the two dragons with the gusts from its wings, and then it lifted off again. Aurelie managed to get to her feet...too late. “No! Wait, come back! It wasn’t [i]that[/i] painful, I’m [i]sure[/i]! [size=1]Chicken.[/size]”[/color] [center][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2257922][img]https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/s/jixjr6aoblsclqn/Hor-divider-640.png[/img][/url][/center] [color=#324BA9]Aurelie tried to coax the Roc back down, but it only looked warily at her and didn’t come near again. Perhaps it really [i]was[/i] just a huge chicken. Indra wasn’t about to try calling it over a second time, but he hated seeing Aurelie looking glum. So a few days later, he invited her, [color=#C67147][i]I have some new familiars from the marketplace. Can you help me? It’s not so difficult.[/i][/color] The familiars in question were Buttersnakes of various colors. They were seething in a nervous mess, like yarn balls come to life, and Indra wanted to put them in temporary holding tanks. Aurelie was rather morose at first, but as they continued working silently (because Indra sure as heck wasn’t going to talk), she mumbled, “These are nice.” The Bogsneak bobbed his head enthusiastically. “I mean, they’re just snakes...but the wings are pretty, y’know? And they’re not mean.” She giggled as a particularly buttery-looking Buttersnake wound around her paw. Indra scribbled a message: [color=#C67147][i]Buttersnakes are popular familiars for young dragons. They’re easy to care for, if you don’t mind feeding them the occasional mouse.[/i][/color] “Eww. I thought they ate, y’know...butter.” [color=#C67147][i]No, they’re called that because of the butterfly wings.[/i][/color] “Oh.” [color=#C67147][i]Still, another plus—[/i][/color] Indra erased the slate, wrote a new message. Aurelie exploded into laughter when she read it.[/color] [color=#C67147][i]No toenails to clip and clean![/i][/color] [right][font=Copperplate Gothic Light][color=#D1B047][size=5][b]~ The End[/b][/color][/size][/font][/right] [size=2][color=#9494A9][b]Credits:[/b] Special thanks to [i]Azurenight[/i] for the encouragement and the writing prompt! The challenge thread, where this story was originally posted, can be found [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2410473/3#post_32680941]here[/url].[/color][/size] ----- [center][color=#BBBABF][size=1][b]PREV.[/b][/size] [size=2][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/22#post_34811431]Dragon[/url] | [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_2323941]Contents[/url] • Dragons [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507351]A-M[/url] [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507353]N-Z[/url] • [url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/1#post_30507362]Stories Pt. 3[/url] | [/size][size=1][b]NEXT[/b][/size] [size=2][url=http://www1.flightrising.com/forums/cc/2323941/22#post_34811451]Dragon[/url][/color][/size][/center]
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34540094.png
profile • back to main post
.. the great toenail challenge
written by Disillusionist
special thanks to Azurenight
2,247 words
Orion was a worse fairy than most, which by normal dragons’ standards meant she was very well-behaved. Early on she had decided that she wanted to live in the mortal world. Her parents watched as, like all self-respecting fairies, she flitted away and found a warm and happy family. They had recently hatched their first clutch of eggs, and Orion insinuated herself among the squeaking hatchlings.

She chose to take the place of the clutch’s only Fae, as any well-bred changeling would do. But to her parents’ horror, she had the audacity not to send him to the Unseelie Court, where he could be properly used, but to an Ice clan that would care for him until he was grown! Orion’s parents, a King and Queen of the Unseelie Court, were utterly embarrassed that their daughter would do something so ethical, and they promptly disowned her. Orion had never been happier.

She gave her name to the Fae child before sending him away. Then she conjured another name for herself: Aurelie, bright as gold. Her foster parents soon accepted her as their own flesh and blood, and she grew up with the rest of their brood, Tundra hatchlings much like herself. She did grow faster than they did and was soon a lot bigger than they were, which was weird....But whenever her parents tried to think about it, it slipped away from their minds like soap.

So Aurelie became one of the mortal drakes, learning their customs and ways. She donned their clothes, ate their food, absorbed their lessons and played their games. She experienced these delights and more, though there was one in particular she was really looking forward to: She wanted to bond with a familiar.

Hor-divider-640.png

Hello, I am Indra! The Bogsneak held up a card. Aurelie blinked at it, and then he flipped it over, showing some slightly worn text: I am under a curse. I speak only the truth, but my curse will make it so that you will think everything I say is a lie. I have to write instead. I am sorry for any inconvenience this causes.

Pleased to meet you! What can I help you with today?


And Aurelie took a deep breath. “I want”, she began, “to start bonding with a familiar.” Her adoptive siblings, who’d tagged along with her, circled her furry feet, baying like injured hounds. As far as they knew, she was the same age as them; why did she get to choose a familiar first?

Indra clucked his tongue. He waved his index cards at the younger Tundras and shooed them away, leaving Aurelie waiting expectantly. Aurelie had many expectations for how things would go. She even had a familiar she’d already set her sights on.

Years before Aurelie had been born, another Tundra, Shantung, had lived in the lair. Raised to be an armorer, she had instead harbored a dream to become a dressmaker. She had come to the clan to study dressmaking under the Chief Clothier, and during her stay, she had tamed a Crowned Roc.

Aurelie had sucked in an awed breath when she’d heard this. As a fairy (former fairy!” she reminded herself) of the Windswept lands, she knew what terrors Rocs could be. Even the fairies gave them a wide berth, for their eyes could pierce most glamours — and their talons and beaks pierce more besides.

Shantung had unfortunately been better with hammers and tongs than with needles and scissors, and she had gone on to another clan to hopefully fulfill her dream. But the Roc had stayed. Indra had taken charge of it, but it was largely a bird of its own mind and tended to perch atop the lair, far from the other familiars. It was civil towards Indra at best, coming in for meals and checkups but keeping to itself most of the time.

Now Indra asked the young Tundra, Do you have a familiar you want to try bonding with first?

Aurelie nodded eagerly. She ignored the inquisitive beasts crowding gently around her and pointed up to the roof of the lair, where the Roc basked in emerald splendor. Indra’s jaw dropped, and the various familiars rolled around, keening like banshees.

No.

It was Aurelie’s turn to look shocked. “Why not?”

Indra shook his head sternly. He waved the card repeatedly in her face: No, no, no! A brief scribble on the slate he carried, and he held up another message: Too dangerous!

“But I can try, can’t I?” Aurelie continued in a rush (really, it was lucky Indra couldn’t write as fast as she blabbed), “I’ve heard of Shantung; she was a Tundra like me, right? Maybe the Crowned Roc likes Tundras better than other dragons. Come on, Master Indra, gimme a chance!”

Indra sighed. As the familiars could attest, he was a huge sucker for googly eyes and heartfelt pleading, and darned if Aurelie wasn’t doing her best to googlize her eyes and heartfeel her pleading. Not to mention throw leftover fairy magic at him. “I will convince you, Master Indra. You will be convinced! Convinced, convinced, convinced...”

The Bogsneak swayed, shook his head groggily. He squinted at her. Practice with other familiars first. One step at a time.

Aurelie could get behind that. “One step at a time!”

Hor-divider-640.png

Indra’s strategy soon became obvious: He was trying to get Aurelie to bond with some other safer familiar so that she’d forget about the Roc. Aurelie puffed up her chest as she realized this. She did the persuading, not him! She wasn’t going to be distracted by this glamour of other familiars’ soft fur and doleful eyes and innocent affection.

Oh, she very nearly caved a few times. There were the Hainus that bounced after her, the Sparrowmice grooming her fur with gentle claws, Millifaes (and, more worryingly, Corpse Cleaners) twining around her legs, and the Pansies that smelled good enough to eat...Each time she was about to say to Indra, “Yes, I like this one!” she saw the Roc’s shadow on the ground, and she steeled her fickle little heart.

Indra was no fool, either. He knew the Tundra wasn’t going to give up. Indeed, there’d been dragons like her — they’d chosen a familiar at the very beginning and hadn’t given up until they’d bonded with it. “But so many dragons forget that the familiar has to choose them, too.”

Still, perhaps the Roc did need a new dragon to bond with. No one else was willing to try it except Aurelie. And so, very, very carefully, Indra acquainted her and the Roc with each other. He recruited her to help prepare the animal’s food and clean its nest when it was away. Aurelie’s snout wrinkled so much during these chores, she looked like a particularly pruny Mamertee. Still, she had gumption, Indra had to give her that. Perhaps she could handle the Roc after all.

When checkup time rolled around, he sent for Aurelie. The message he handed her was long and typewritten in the formal manner: Basic checkups are regularly scheduled for all familiars, particularly ones that might have volatile magic. As the Familiar Caretaker, it is my job to examine them for any problems: parasites, diseases, magical imbalances, and the like.

During this period, I also groom them. Many familiars can groom themselves, but we can still help them: We can reach their backs, between their toes, et cetera. It helps head off problems that might be difficult to treat later on.


Aurelie was nodding like a flower in the breeze all the while. It all sounded so cool! Checkup! Magic! Parasites! OK, maybe not that last one. But grooming? “I can do that! I’m very good at that!”

Indra nodded solemnly. He turned, pointing with his snout, and Aurelie followed his gaze (and nose). She couldn’t be sure, but it looked like the Roc was squinting suspiciously down at them.

“Does it know we’re coming?” Aurelie asked. Indra grinned at her, and he held up a pair of talon-clippers.

Hor-divider-640.png

Aurelie had clipped other familiars’ toenails before: hounds, basilisks, aardvarks...She was quite competent at it now, though she felt a bit dubious as she slowly opened and shut the clippers. They were as long as her forearm and made ominous creaks like a steel trap.

Indra stood up on his hind legs, wobbling sinuously. He steadied himself against a nearby tin saucepan and blew into a whistle.

Aurelie felt it before she looked up: the rush of air as the Roc spread its wings. Her hackles stood up as it spilled gracefully off the roof, and suddenly the entire field was drowned in shadow. It was huge! Bigger even than a full-grown Guardian...The Tundra nearly quailed.

Indra whistled through his teeth. He motioned sharply to her: Buck up! The Roc was coming in to land.

It touched down before Aurelie, flattening the grass. She tried to look into its eyes and had to wince; they were as bright and unforgiving as the sun. It looked down its beak at her, like a particularly exacting professor.

Aurelie felt her own ears going flat. “What now?” she whispered to Indra.

The Bogsneak made “go on” motions. He craned his neck, focusing intently on the scene.

Aurelie tried to relax. “Clearly he knows what he’s doing; he wouldn’t let me do this otherwise.” She approached the Roc, trying not to cringe as she passed beneath its axe-like beak. She could almost feel the heat of its suspicious glare.

Indra had written on several placards. He held them up one at a time: Go slowly. Steady.

It’s just like with the Hounds. Outer layers only.

Don’t cut to the quick (dark part).

You’re doing great! ^_^


Aurelie settled herself beside one of the Roc’s feet. It (the foot) was nearly as big as she was. With the other familiars, she could lift their entire leg for easier cutting. Here, she was limited to just one toe.

She clenched her teeth and cranked the clippers — not cutting so much as shaving away the hard layers of keratin. Krch...krch...krcchhh...The Roc didn’t seem to mind.

Aurelie sucked in a deep breath. She had a better grip on the clippers now; she could actually snap off larger pieces of talon. Krch...Krck...Krikk... As her confidence returned, she began working faster and faster. She missed Indra’s fins quivering in alarm and didn’t see him stand up again, waving the placards like semaphores.

Krck...Krikk...KRACK.

“Uh-oh,” Aurelie thought, an instant before the Roc erupted. It tore its foot away, bowling her over, and then let out a pained “HREEEEEEEEEEEKKK!!!” loud enough to shatter glass.

Aurelie stared as it reared above her, its feathers bristling. It spread its wings....No! It would step on her!

And then with a terrific crash, Indra bounded in front of her. He was carrying the saucepan now, and as Aurelie watched, he beat it with a stick, whooping and roaring wordlessly all the while.

Clang, clang, CLANG! The sound must’ve been unbearable to the Roc’s ears. It flapped backwards, flattening the two dragons with the gusts from its wings, and then it lifted off again. Aurelie managed to get to her feet...too late. “No! Wait, come back! It wasn’t that painful, I’m sure! Chicken.

Hor-divider-640.png

Aurelie tried to coax the Roc back down, but it only looked warily at her and didn’t come near again. Perhaps it really was just a huge chicken. Indra wasn’t about to try calling it over a second time, but he hated seeing Aurelie looking glum. So a few days later, he invited her, I have some new familiars from the marketplace. Can you help me? It’s not so difficult.

The familiars in question were Buttersnakes of various colors. They were seething in a nervous mess, like yarn balls come to life, and Indra wanted to put them in temporary holding tanks.

Aurelie was rather morose at first, but as they continued working silently (because Indra sure as heck wasn’t going to talk), she mumbled, “These are nice.”

The Bogsneak bobbed his head enthusiastically.

“I mean, they’re just snakes...but the wings are pretty, y’know? And they’re not mean.” She giggled as a particularly buttery-looking Buttersnake wound around her paw.

Indra scribbled a message: Buttersnakes are popular familiars for young dragons. They’re easy to care for, if you don’t mind feeding them the occasional mouse.

“Eww. I thought they ate, y’know...butter.”

No, they’re called that because of the butterfly wings.

“Oh.”

Still, another plus— Indra erased the slate, wrote a new message. Aurelie exploded into laughter when she read it.


No toenails to clip and clean!
~ The End

Credits: Special thanks to Azurenight for the encouragement and the writing prompt! The challenge thread, where this story was originally posted, can be found here.
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