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One year after Darkstalker is defeated by the Jade Winglet:

It had started just like any other normal day. Peat had woken up, eaten a goat from the prey center, and gone to the History cave with his winglet. He had tried not to fall asleep when Webs went into unnecessary depth on some obscure historical event, succeeded, but didn't exactly process what happened in 143 A.S. Then he felt guilty about it and spent the time until his next class studying. Utterly and completely normal, without any death or sadness in sight. Which made it even more shocking when a grim-faced messenger from Queen Moorhen herself arrived, asking for the Mudwing named Peat. Now, as both dragons were flying east toward the palace, Peat was still trying to process what was happening right now. The message seemed to be stuck in his head like a catchy tune.

"Your sister is hurt. The healers have no idea what's wrong. The Queen sent for you as soon as we knew it was serious. Your sister-"

"We're here."
Peat started, staring at the dragon hovering next to him as though he was seeing him for the first time. He seemed oddly familiar. He was small in stature, and oddly thin for someone with so high a rank. He had several scars running down the top of his neck, and a (currently empty) bag slung over his grayish tan shoulders. The envoy stared back, then abruptly dove towards the sprawling palace below them. Peat followed, wondering what in Phyrria could be wrong. An injury? No, Terra was far too careful. Some illness? She never got sick. An assassination attempt? No! Peat was shocked at himself for even considering that option. The war was over, it had been for years, and besides, Terra didn't have any enemies that he knew of.

The two dragons landed in front of the gates, nodding at the guards as they let them through, into the Queen of the Mudwings' palace. It was a sprawling complex, with clay walls decorated with glazed blue, green, red, and yellow tiles arranged in geometric patterns standing out like jewels over the plain mud-colored walls. The roof was made of polished cerulean terra-cotta tiles, overlapping like dragon scales. As they stepped into the hallway that led to the queen's throne room, Peat couldn't help but notice how ornate the decoration was, even though he had been living here ever since Terra had become an advisor of the Queen. The floor was made of more clay and tile, but inland with pale pink granite, black-and-white flecked diorite, and occasionally dark green serpentine.

The messenger slipped quietly through the curtain of wooden beads into the throne room. There was a brief conversation, and the rattling wall of beads was brushed aside. Peat stepped inside, feeling the light brush of the curtain on his tail as it closed behind him. He took a few more steps forward, stopped, and bowed, spreading his wings out beside him, keeping his eyes closed like he was supposed to.

"At ease."

"Thank you, your majesty." Peat opened his eyes, looking up at the regal, towering dragon in front of him. The Queen smiled, but it looked hollow and sad. Worried. Had she already lost hope? Or was it another, more political matter, and Terra's case was less dire then Peat had originally thought? He really really hoped it was the latter.

"You're worried about your sister," observed one of the queen's sibs, the smallest of the four sitting around their bigwings. Princess Acacia. She had been especially kind to Peat and Terra after Earthquake had died in the Seawing's prison.

"And I don't blame him either," commented the Queen. "Adobe, why did you bring him here? You should've taken him straight to her."

The messenger (Adobe, thought Peat) jumped, then hung his head sheepishly. "Sorry. I- I didn't know. I can now, if you like."

"Yes, please do," Queen Moorhen answered, looking with a sort of fond amusement at the dragonet. "and Peat? See if you can try to figure out what's bothering your sister. Maybe you heard something at Jade Mountain?"

Peat nodded, said he would try, bowed again, and followed Adobe out of the room.

"So, um, Adobe, right?"

"Yeah."

"You're new to the palace?"

Adobe looked surprised. "How'd you guess?"

"Well, you weren't here when I left for Jade Mountain, for one."

"True."

They walked in silence for a bit.

"Um, you here with your sibs?"

"Don't have any."

Peat blinked, surprised. I should feel sorry for him, he thought, but I'm not. Finally, a dragon who's had it worse than me. Then he realized that he was being extremely rude. "Oh- um, I'm sorry. I had no idea." Moons, that sounded fake.

Adobe suddenly looked embarrassed. "That's not how I meant it," he said quietly. "I'm a loner. I was the only one in my clutch. I never had any siblings at all." He smiled weakly. "I guess I'm my own bigwings."

They lapsed into an awkward silence.

Soon, Peat realized that they weren't in a part of the palace that he knew very well. Right after that, he noticed that he had never been here at all.

"Ah, Adobe? Where are we going? I don't exactly recognize this part of the palace."

"It's the infirmary. They aren't sure what Terra has, so they put her here just in case. I personally don't think that she's contagious, but what do I know? I'm not a healer." Adobe shrugged in a falsely nonchalant way and picked up his pace.

Peat inwardly slumped with relief. For a moment, all the stories about "loners" had come back to him, all the rumors that they were bitter and manipulative, and would trick any "normal" Mudwing out of pure spite. How they were unable to understand the meaning of loyalty.

Adobe stopped short and spread out a wing to stop Peat from walking any further. Pointing at a door covered with a pale curtain, he said, "She's in there."

For a heartbeat, Peat forgot about all manners and shoved past Adobe towards the opening, remembering a hasty "thank you sorry" before literally falling through the sheet and into his sister's new room. The dragon inside's scales were a slightly lighter shade of brown than Peat's own, and she was writing furiously in a scroll.

"Terra!"

Terra's head snapped up, meeting Peat's orange eyes with her own green ones.

"Peat! You came all the way from-"

Peat ignored her and shoved his face into her shoulder. "I missed you so much." he whispered, his voice slightly muffled because of her shoulder.

"You shouldn't have come; think about your ed-, Ehh who am I kidding I missed you too."

"I'll give you a moment, then." Adobe said. "I'll be in the courtyard if you need me."

Peat nodded absentmindedly, focusing on Terra. "Are you okay? I heard you were sick and was so worried!" Please be okay please be okay.....

"Sick? Nonsense! It's just a little bite or something, nothing serious. I'll be better in no time at all!"

"Can I see?"

Terra rolled her eyes, but spread out her left wing, angling it so that Peat could see the long, thin, black splotch marring her otherwise normal wing. He reached out, thinking that maybe if he touched it, something would make sense, but Terra moved her wing out of his reach, shaking her head.

"Does it hurt?"

Terra looked torn for a moment, as though she was contemplating whether she should tell him the truth or not, but at last said, "Yes. It does." Upon noticing Peat's expression, however, she quickly added, "Three moons, I've forgotten how adorable you look when you're worried. I've learned to ignore it, honestly, it's fine."

Peat wasn't convinced. But nonetheless, he let Terra change the subject, thinking that he shouldn't talk to her about things that were obviously bothering her.

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Three days later:

When Terra tried to go and hunt with Peat, she couldn't get off the ground. The palace healers gave them both a stern "talk" and sent Terra to her room to rest. Peat spent the rest of the day with Adobe.

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A week later:

The blackness now covered Terra's entire wing, and had spread onto her shoulder. She couldn't walk without a limp, and mostly stayed in her room.

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Two days later:

The mystery infection was on her chest now as well, and was spreading faster than before. Terra couldn't hide how much it hurt anymore, and was having serious conversations with the Queen, in private. Peat hardly ever left her side, except for the said conversations. Adobe would bring them new scrolls to read. (Blank for Terra, and articles on healing techniques for Peat.)

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One day later:

Terra stopped breathing in the middle of a sentence, her claw leaving a long, dark blue streak of ink on the paper.

Peat just sat next to her in shock, then denial, and was still there when Adobe came in with fresh scrolls. The pale dragonet immediately dropped the scrolls and went to comfort Peat, then ran off to alert the Queen and the healers.

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Peat didn't return to Jade Mountain Academy that year. He stayed away from libraries, because they reminded him of Terra and her love of both reading and writing. He and Adobe were inseparable, and Peat cast every story about "loners" out of his head forever.

Adobe opened up to Peat, telling him that he was a grandson of Princess Acacia, that he was a messenger because he couldn't fight in the war, that he was thought to be an ideal dragon for the job because he couldn't read, so the possibility of him discovering state secrets was minimal.

Peat saved the scroll that Terra had been writing, but didn't look at it, for fear that it would be too much at a time.