To say recent events were a tossup for Peril would be a massive understatement. She groaned as she tried to stretch out the sleep from her limbs. Well, more precisely, the pain from her body. One night's sleep wasn't nearly enough for the firescales Skywing to recover from her injuries.
First, there was the attempted assassination of Icicle by Sora, which, for an assassination, boasted impressive collateral damage, resulting in the deaths of two innocent bystanders, Carnelian and Bigtail. Peril tried saving them, but either the burns marring their scales were too severe, or her own attempts to save them from their doom only sealed it. Atop the soreness and bruising that marred her body, the weight of guilt sat heavily on her as if the soreness and bruising weren't enough to keep her on the ground. Peril questioned if her actions during that time, with perfect hindsight. Even if she did do the right thing, the students of the academy didn't see that, only shunning her. Turns out they weren't the only ones.
Queen Ruby arrived with a small entourage to oversee the final days of Carnelian's rest atop the sheer cliffs on the Eastern faces of Jade Mountain, then bring her home for a proper Skywing burial. Peril only found out about the tradition recently, her dragonethood under ex-Queen Scarlet strictly forbade her from reading scrolls, not that she could. But other dragons could read to her, and the only dragon that did so was murdered in public by Scarlet, and as a result, Peril only has a rudimentary knowledge of the structure of Skywing governance, nothing more. Turns out there were more to Skywings than just the Champion's Shield, which Peril used to defend her mother, who would only turn up dead on a rocky pillar in the Sea Kingdom. Ranging from animi and firescales dragonets being flung from sheer cliffs before they could fly out of fear to the process of burial for a Skywing; they'd be left on a mountaintop for a full week, with the hopes that their soul would reincarnate as a Skywing, seeing as their spirit would fly free. Peril felt like even dead dragons were better off than her. Though she was alive, her spirit wasn't free. Sure, she could do what she wants to do, and no one could do anything, but that's not the exact definition of freedom. She was still wrapped in the chains of preconception and fear. Clay helped her so much in that regard; Peril wasn't sure she could ever repay him. Clay was the only dragon to do interact with her in any meaningful way. He saw past her fiery exterior. He saw the broken dragon inside too. She was willing to do anything for him. Sometimes that meant attacking dragons, which turned out to be the wrong action. Clay even asked her not to, but she didn't listen.
Peril clenched her talons in frustration, her hindsight perfect.
Scarlet showed up at the academy, having heard about Ruby's arrival. She threw Glory's decapitated head at the crowd of dragons formed by the Jade Mountain staff who were trying to rectify the situation with the Skywings. Turns out the head was an animus enchantment, which was a relief to many, including Peril. Glory was a fun dragon to talk to, sharing the same dry sense of humor. For both dragons, it was a coping mechanism to endure dragonethood. Peril was afraid that the last time she saw Glory truly was the last time when she saw Glory's supposed head in Scarlet's talons. Thankfully, it wasn't, and the guards went off to kill Scarlet, lethal force having been authorized by the Skywing Queen. After that, the Skywing entourage would meet Queen Moorhen to identify the head. But, what the entourage did wasn't a concern to Peril. Peril stayed behind, with Clay and Sunny as they recovered from the shock of the animus enchantment. Her heart was pounding at the time, and she immediately became hostile with the secretive newcomers. Peril knew no dragon could harm her in any meaningful way, so in a moment of haziness and hostility, Peril challenged the Seawing to a fight, one which she was so confident she would win. To say she made a mistake challenging the Seawing was putting it lightly.
She was humiliated thoroughly in full view of dozens of dragons by the Seawing. Her ability robbed her of any need to learn how to fight beyond just grabbing your opponents and grilling them to a crisp, and when a dragon who could keep the fight at a distance appeared, she was out of her element. He taunted her, called her names, and when she thought she had him, she was punched by water.
If sheer fury could win fights, Peril would have won, but that's not how life works. In the end, she woke up in pain in the infirmary.
"Ugh, what happened?" she groaned in pain, holding her throbbing head.
"You fought a Seawing who wasn't even looking for a fight," Clay told her, looking her in the eyes. Peril could see the disappointment, so she averted her gaze.
"I'm sorry, Clay," Peril muttered, shame gnawing at her insides.
"Just don't do that again, Peril. You're lucky he beat you, otherwise you would have burned him to a crisp. Then I'd really be mad. You're above killing dragons now," Clay said. "I talked to the Seawing after. His name's Percy. It's weird, but he's nice, and so is his companion. They're just a bit lost, probably isolated during the war. If only you'd talked to them," Clay continued.
Peril grew defensive. "I, well, you and Sunny too. We were in shock and confused. Look, you've known Glory for longer, but I didn't want to find out that Scarlet killed a friend of mine. I wasn't thinking straight, but you probably know that. I was scared, believe or not," she muttered.
"I know. So was I. But we have to give every dragon a chance to prove themselves something different than what we thought they are. You came so far only because some dragon was willing to give you a chance. It's only fair others get the same chance," Clay said.
Peril only nodded. A calm silence befell them, content with just the presence of the other. After a while, Peril spoke.
"Did I break anything during the fight?" Peril asked.
"Well, besides a concussion and a lot of bruising, you're completely fine," Clay said.
Peril raised an eye ridge. "How would a doctor be able to figure out it's not anything more? No one can touch me without burning, and you're not a doctor," she asked.
"Oh. I did the examination, she just told me what to do, since I can't be burned by you. Nothing was broken, and the concussion is assumed since you got knocked out," Clay said. "I hope it's okay with you. I know you're not really a touchy-feely dragon."
Peril knew if it weren't for her bright burning copper scales, Clay would see her blushing furiously, but he didn't notice.
The rest of the conversation was a blur. That was the evening after her fight with Percy. She remembered the dopey Seawing she was talking to before she wound up fighting Percy not even an hour later.
'Turtle, I think.'
Talk about perfect timing, because the very same dragon walked into her sleeping cave. The sudden green and blue intrusion drew her attention much better than the dull gray cave walls.
"Turtle? What are you doing here?" Peril asked, hardly moving from her prone position.
"Ah, Peril. I've spent quite a while searching for you. I don't know why I'm telling you first, and not the teachers, but I'm going to leave school for a while and try to find the rest of my winglet. Figured you probably want to come too, since you'd probably want a little time away from all the recent events," Turtle replied.
Peril blinked. She then blinked again, processing his words.
She was wanting to blow off steam. She didn't get to stick it to Scarlet for ruining her dragonet hood. Some Skywing soldiers got that honor, and even Ruby had her qualms with him for some reason. Maybe she did need a little fresh air to clear her mind and physically distance herself from all the happenings.
"Perhaps the cave air is driving me crazy, but I'll take you up on the offer," Peril said. "We can go as soon as I don't feel like a pile of rocks."
Turtle responded by dropping a small rock in front of her. "Rub it on your scales. It'll make you feel better," he said.
"How does that work?" Peril asked.
"Seawing scholars have theorized about an effect known as the placebo. In essence, if one believes something is working, it will," Turtle said.
"Fascinating. So if I just rub it over my scales, I'll feel better if I just believe it?" she asked, observing the rock in her talons, turning it over as if she was looking for a spider.
"Yep. Give it a go, just believe it's going to work, and it'll work," Turtle said, a warm smile on his face.
Peril obliged, and ran the rock along her throbbing forehead, thinking as hard as she could that the rock will melt her pain away and mend her injuries. Surprisingly enough, her headache melted into a dull throbbing. Ecstatic, she quickly ran it along her shoulder and limbs, almost moaning in pleasure as the throbbing pain that tortured her so melted.
"Wow, this rock is magical. But even if I believe my injuries are gone, and my body responds as such, can we push our departure back to tomorrow, right? Just to make sure," Peril said.
"Does tomorrow morning sound good?" Turtle asked.
"Sure," Peril said, unable to hide her excitement at being pain-free and taking a little time off to explore and be away from her problems.
So, here she was, flying over the Claws of the Clouds Mountain range with a Seawing who had the same flight stamina as a 3-month-old Skywing.
"We're going to be going to Possibility, Turtle said before they lifted off. Peril wanted to ask why, but knowing Turtle, he had his reasons for everything, and she didn't need unnecessary information cluttering her brain. She informed Clay that she was going to go on a little trip to clear her head, and Clay wished her well, before turning back to the never-ending job of managing a school, especially with recent events.
Turtle asked her if she knew any stories from her tribe. She shook her head. So he started talking about one of the Skywing stories he read about, and Peril was certainly encapsulated by the history of her tribe according to the legend. Pretty soon, the conversation drifted to Seawing legends, and it was how Peril found out Turtle liked writing, following in the footsteps of his mother, who despite her queenly duties, spent most of her time crafting stories for the rest of her tribe to read.
They landed in the plains on the other side of the mountain range for Turtle's regularly scheduled rest break, much to Peril's frustration. This was his third rest break so far, and Peril could have flown to Possibility all by herself by now if she wanted to. It was kind of infuriating that she would betray herself by daring to enjoy Turtle's company. She grumbled and sat on a flat rock overlooking the river where Turtle was currently resting in. She saw him rolling the rock over his shoulders that he gave her yesterday.
'This placebo stuff is magic. It's a miracle what self-belief can do,' she remarked internally, watching Turtle lounge in the river as she basked in the sun, her body heat bending the air around her.
Turtle was vibing underwater when he saw a mysterious Seawing swim up to him. He backed up a bit, but the dragon waved and smiled, then flashed his scales in aquatic.
Don't warn your friend up there. I want to practice my sneak attacks, the Seawing said.
Turtle thought for a second, then figured it couldn't hurt. He could watch.
Go ahead, she's all yours, Turtle flashed back.
Peril's screech of fury when she found out Turtle was in on the plot was priceless. The new Seawing was Squid, and with him, came the rest of the Talons of Peace in the area.
"Squid!" a new voice called.
Squid rolled his eyes and gave a huge sigh.
"Yes, Riptide?" Squid grumbled.
"Stop bothering strangers, and let me talk to them first. How many times do I need to say that to get it through your thick skull? I haven't even punished you for jumping those dragonets from Jade Mountain," Riptide said. "Okay, with that aside, please excuse the uncouth behavior of this slimy little dragonet. Let's pretend that never happened. I'm Riptide, leader of the Talons of Peace."
"Riptide. What a pleasure," Turtle said, shaking his talons. "I'm Turtle, and also a student at Jade Mountain Academy."
Riptide raised an eye ridge.
"Well, I don't suppose you're on your way to Possibility with that firescales. You have a few dragons waiting for you, Turtle," Riptide remarked.
"I have a name, fish!" Peril said.
"That grumpy Skywing is Peril," Turtle said.
"Duly noted. Speaking of, I believe you have someone waiting for you in Possibility too," Riptide said, turning to Peril.
"Who?" Peril asked, narrowing her piercing blue eyes.
Riptide contemplated if he wanted to say anything. "Your father," he finally said.
Peril's eyes widened slightly but then narrowed in hostility.
"Yeah, right. If he was my father, he wouldn't have let my rot under Scarlet," Peril snarled.
"You'll have to talk to him yourself about that. I only know that he's your father and that he's in Possibility," Riptide said.
Peril huffed, then took off without another word, leaving Turtle scrambling to catch up.
"Bye Riptide, I'll be sure to say hi to my sister for you," Turtle called back, memorizing Riptide's reaction.
The good thing about being quiet is that you notice more things around you.
Peril really pushed Turtle's endurance on the last leg of the flight, her Skywing physiology giving her an edge.
The outskirts of Possibility soon came within reach.
"Peril! Peril! Slow down, I need to tell you something," Turtle huffed out, panting from exertion.
"The city is very crowded, so if you don't want to accidentally burn anything, I think it'd be smart for you to travel by swimming through the central river," Turtle continued.
Peril thought about it for a second but decided the gain of not burning dragons was worth the loss of having to endure swimming.
"Fine," she grumbled, before diving into the water. To her surprise, she actually found the cool water soothing, but she'd start to boil the water if she stayed there for too long, so she swam forward, head just above the water for air. None of the dragons along the bank seemed to notice her, just minding their own business. Peril observed the bustling of the city from the safety of the river as she swam forward.
Turtle returned from up ahead, having scouted out the area.
"There's a clearing up ahead, sandy beach, mostly empty. You can get out of the water there," he reported. Peril tried nodding affirmative, but just got water in her snout, and spent the rest of the swim trying to clear the water out.
Still coughing as she hauled herself ashore, a few dragons gave her wary looks, but they soon turned back to their activities. Breathing in the hot desert air, Peril spent a few moments looking at the sky as blue as her eyes as she walked forward. Turtle let out a cry of alarm, before diving for cover, seeing the plant that devastated the Summer Palace during the Great War. Peril swung her head looking for the threat, but by the time she realized what it was, it was too late to do anything. A crate of dragonflame cacti was knocked over by a robber trying to escape the shopkeeper, and they rolled to her talons.
Peril looked at the robber, eyes wide, mouthing the words 'oh no,' before the dragonflame cacti ignited, exploding with a thunderous boom, the shockwave knocking over several insecure shop stands and made several dragons lose their footing. The fireball reached high into the sky. When the smoke cleared, blown away by the wind, Turtle unfurled his wings, and immediately went to see if Peril was alright.
"Ngh," she groaned, rolling over. The sharp seed pods had embedded themselves in her scales, and were heat resistant, having adapted to flourish in the desert. Nonetheless, her scales were hot enough to turn them to ashes after a few moments, leaving a panting, disoriented Skywing behind.
"What was that?"
"Some dragonflame went off."
"Was it an attack?"
"The Skywing set them off."
"How did she survive so many to the face?"
The scorch marks of the dragonflame cacti on the ground formed a black ring on which Peril lay. After several moments of excruciating pain, the sharpness of the seed pods finally left, having been purged. She clambered to her feet, stance wide to stay balanced as she caught her breath and stabilized her nerves.
"Three Moons, Peril! Thank goodness you were a firescales, those seed pods could have killed you if you were any normal dragon!" Turtle remarked.
"That hurt really bad. I'm going to go burn the one responsible," Peril growled, teeth grit and tail lashing before marching over the robber that was still dazed, blue eyes radiating hatred.
"So, little thief. You better explain yourself, or suffer a painful death at the hands of the Skywing Arena Champion," Peril said, capitalizing on her history to get what she wanted, which was profuse apologies, groveling, and public humiliation of the robber, in that order.
The skinny Sandwing started to shake with fear, teeth clattering as she panicked, not sure what to do. Peril leaned in closer, and let her heat start to cook the wing closest to her. The Sandwing backed away but was soon against a corner. Peril flared her wings, leaving nowhere to go but up, and even then, Peril was close enough to just grab the dragon. Peril was about to step closer, edging her advantage when the rapid talonsteps of several dragons reached her ears.
"Turtle! You're here!? We heard explosions and came as fast as we could. Moon, looks like your prediction was right!" a male voice said.
"What happened?" a female voice asked frantically.
"Oooh, that sounded like thunder. We get that a lot in the rainforest, wouldn't you agree, Moon?" another female voice said.
"Apologize right now, thief," Peril snarled, opting to cut her vengeance short.
"Sorry, sorry!" the thief screeched, before leaping into the air and flapping away, eager to stay alive.
Peril sneered at the shrinking form of the thief before she turned around and saw a Nightwing and a Sandwing, along with a Rainwing.
"I take that you all know Turtle," Peril said.
"We're in the same winglet, so why wouldn't we?" the Sandwing asked.
"Fair point. But I don't know you three," Peril said.
"That's Moonwatcher, that's Kinkajou, and that's Qibli," Turtle replied, pointing at the respective dragons.
"Whatever. I'm here to meet my father," Peril said, fully accepting that her trip for breathers and to get away from her problems was now about meeting her father.
"Straight to the point. I like you," Qibli said.
"Go snort a rock," Peril replied.
"Sheesh. You're just like Winter," Qibli said. "Well, follow me. We're going to the clinic where your father is waiting."
The short trip to the clinic was longer than usual to account for Kinkajou's cast, but otherwise, it was quiet. Dragons seemed to make way for the odd group of dragons due to Peril's presence. Soon enough, the group was in front of a large whitewashed structure. Peril was instructed to sit on the road to avoid burning the doctor's waiting garden. She tucked her tail close and made herself as small as possible to avoid burning other dragons who couldn't keep their eyes on the road.
"Peril!" a voice called out to her frantically. She whirled to face the source of the sound. A large orange Skywing came to view.
"Stay back, unless you want to get burned," Peril warned.
"Do you take me for a moron? I know that. But I have something you might want," he replied, pulling a locket out of the pouch he was wearing.
"I know you're probably mad at me, but we can talk after you put this on," he continued. "A gift, from father to daughter."
Peril narrowed her eyes, before turning her attention to the dragons gathered at the doorway. Turtle and Kinkajou were nowhere to be found, but Moon and Qibli were present.
"Put the necklace on. We've checked the enchantment. It makes is so you can control whether or not you have firescales," Qibli assured her.
Peril swallowed, then glanced back at the Skywing, unsure. His face was apprehensive, but Peril could see the desperate hope and sorrow in his eyes. Peril closed her eyes for a moment.
'But we have to give every dragon a chance to prove themselves something different than what we thought they are. You came so far only because some dragon was willing to give you a chance. It's only fair others get the same chance.'
"Fine," Peril said. Her father dropped the locket into her talons. It didn't melt or deform in any way, which wasn't surprising, considering it was animus touched. She slipped the locket over her neck and felt the heat she'd been pouring out of her body all her life extinguished. She felt oddly cold. She looked down, to see her glowing copper scales had faded to the same color of her father's scales.
"To get your firescales back, just will it to happen," Soar said, an uneasy smile on his face.
Peril nodded, then closed her eyes to focus, visualizing the heat pouring back out.
I want my firescales.
She felt the heat pouring back out, and her coppery glow was back.
"You and I have much to discuss, Peril. You can come to the garden outback without firescales. But above all else, I just want to say sorry. For everything. For abandoning you. For letting you be at Scarlet's whims. For not being there when you needed me. You'll probably never forgive me, who am I kidding?" Soar muttered, tears dripping down his snout.
Peril willed her firescales away, then walked to the garden.
"Come. You said it yourself. We have much to discuss," she ordered.
That left Moon and Qibli standing out in the street.
"When do you think Winter is going to come back? It's almost been 5 days," Qibli asked. "With the sunset, it'd be the fifth day."
"I don't know Qibli. It's a long trip up north, and who knows how long business up north will take," Moon replied.
"Not too long, apparently," a new voice said.
Walking down the road was Winter and a new Nightwing who was roughly Soar's size.
Neither Moon nor Qibli could suppress a smile.
"Only royalty would indulge in such impeccable timing," Qibli said with a proud smile, before rushing over and hugging Winter. He felt Winter stiffen, but melt into Qibli. But even when Qibli wanted to pull out of the hug, Winter kept him trapped in an embrace.
"Winter? What's wrong?" Qibli asked. He got his answer when he felt something wet hit his shoulders.
"I'm not a prince anymore. But it's okay. It was a voluntary thing. But hey, let's look on the bright side. Hailstorm's life is back on track, and I found a dragon who knows how to get to the Lost City of Night," Winter shakily replied after a short silence.
"Lost, huh? Didn't think they'd abandon the Kingdom, but I guess it makes sense," the Nightwing says.
"Qibli, Moon. Meet Foeslayer," Winter said.
Foeslayer gave a kind smile, but Moon's jaw only dropped.
"The Foeslayer? As in Darkstalker's mother?" Moon asked, bewildered.
"The one and only, dragonet," Foeslayer said.
Everything clicked into place with Moon, her eyes growing wider than the moon.
"We must head for Jade Mountain at once. We need to give the scroll to the teachers, then let's get the prophecy dealt with!" Moon announced.
"Slow down, young one. Who mentioned a prophecy?" Foeslayer asked.