Right after the War of Sandwing succession ended:
Usually, when Dragonbite's mother told her to stay put, that things might get nasty, she would generally stay put. But, this time, it wasn't the usual "stay put, don't leave the tent, and if anyone comes in and it isn't me, hide". No, Diamondback had said "Bite, I have something to.... settle with Coyote. How about you go and play with some of your friends?"
Friends. Mother had never suggested that Dragonbite socialize with dragonets her age before, it was too dangerous. For both them and her. The fact that her mother's tongue had slipped and she had suggested this meant that she was worried or distracted by something.
And Diamondback was never distracted. Worried, though? That was a more common occurrence, but she had reasons to be worried. For example, living in a caravan full of criminals and fugitives from the law.
And then there was Coyote.
So, it was easy enough for anyone with half a brain to figure out that there was gonna be something exciting going on.
Dragonbite hated missing exciting things. Especially when they included Coyote.
"Then again," she muttered to herself as she crouched behind a (hopefully empty) tent, "whenever Coyote does anything, it's usually pretty cool."
Slipping out from behind the tent and burrowing into the ground, she sand-swam forward until she was within earshot of the center of camp. Popping first her nose, then the rest of her head out of the sand, she blinked a few times, made sure her tail wasn't sticking out where someone could step on it, and finally sneezed on purpose to get the sand out of her nose.
"Ey, good job, Bite. Soon, you might even get to be on my level." sneered someone from behind her. Probably Quicksand. "That was sarcasm. In case you didn't notice." Yep. Definitely Quicksand. Biting back a smart reply, Dragonbite stuck her snout out of the ground far enough to give him the best death glare she could muster, then turned back to the podium in the middle of camp. She spotted her mother for a brief moment before the rapidly growing crowd obscured her from view.
".......and THAT'S why no roadrunner in the entire Kingdom of Sand will DARE come near M- hey hey heyyy watch the tail-"
Ignoring the outraged shouting from the Mudwing-Sandwing hybrid as he struggled vainly to regain his lost dignity, Dragonbite got up out of the sand and, keeping low, ran towards a few scruffy, half-dead bushes close to the nearly dry, sorry excuse for an "oasis". Dodging an annoyed looking magenta Skywing, keeping her tail tucked in towards herself, she hopped over the bushes and hid herself, pleased that she had managed to both make it here without detection by her mother, and lose Quicksand in the crowd.
Dragonbite started, her tail barb shooting up out of the sand and almost pinning Quicksand's stingless tail to the ground, but luckily missing and stabbing a fallen palm leaf instead. "What do you want?" She hissed at him, wishing that she could claw the smug look right off of his dumb face. "All I'm trying to do is watch whatever's going on-"
"You don't know what's happening?" Gasped Quicksand, eyes widening. "But this is huge! Someone's finally going to challenge Coyote!"
"It's true, really!"
"NO THAT MAKES NO SENSE WHATSOEVER AT ALL" whisper-yelled Dragonbite. She was appalled. Who in their right mind would challenge Coyote? She thought. He's nice. Then another thought struck her. Why should she believe Quicksand? He had lied to her on multiple occasions, snuck up on her when she least expected it, teased her for her odd scale patterns (but acted extremely offended when she tried to fire back with her own insults), and had generally been awful to her.
"I don't believe you." She snapped, turning up her nose in what she hoped was an imperious way, and turned on her heel and stormed away, slashing her tail through the air in a hopefully dramatic manner, positive that he would jump back and the poisoned barb would cut nothing but air-
Dragonbite whirled, feeling her tail tear through the golden-brown dragonet's scales and fall to the ground.
"Wha-" spluttered Quicksand, staring down at the quickly blackening gash in his chest, then up at Dragonbite, the look on his face switching from surprise to pain to realization faster than a Rainwing changing colors. His choked scream was luckily (for Dragonbite anyway) cut short by a fit of coughing. Falling to the ground, Quicksand curled up on himself in obvious pain, his tail carving a half-moon shape through the pale golden sand, and sending quickly spreading reddish streaks of his own blood mimicking his every frantic move.
Quicksand forced himself upright faster then he should have been able to, and Dragonbite got a glimpse of twisting black fingers of venom branching away from the gash in his chest before he lurched forward at her, mouth open as if to say something, or to rip her throat out- Dragonbite wasn't sure-
But then all the light went out of his eyes and Quicksand landed on his side and didn't get up.
Dragonbite looked at the dead dragonet's body, once a warm brown-gold all over, but now marred with streaks of black venom. Her venom. Forcing down tears, she dove back into the sand, letting the gritty bits of shell and stone distract her from everything. Burrowing away from the general area of her first and completely accidental murder, Dragonbite didn't look back.
She woke up to seeing sand. Then she realized that the sand was not, in fact, covering her head. Furthermore, there was a tent wall right next to her face at her left. Also, she couldn't smell blood. Panicking, she almost got up before she heard a somehow even more panicked voice from behind.
"Um. P-Poppy- the dragonet you extremely foolishly decided to bring in here is awake and-" Dragonbite groggily lifted her head and blinked at the nervous-sounding dragon. Through sleep-smudged eyes, she spotted a blue-and-green blur jump back and scream "OH CLEARSIGHT SHE'S LOOKING AT ME she can hear me POPPY HELP-"
Wincing, Dragonbite covered her ears, buried her head under her wings, and tried not to cry. She did anyway.
"Oh, no, don't cry!" Exclaimed someone from behind the blue dragon, and Dragonbite felt light talons on her shoulders, tracing along the tan-and-black frill on her spine. "Now look what you've done!" The voice scolded sharply.
Dragonbite hid deeper under her wings, panic shooting through her. "I-I'm sorry I didn't mean it it was an accident-" she stuttered, her voice rising a few octaves.
"Shhh no, sweetie. I wasn't talking to you! It's okay, it's okay. Honestly, you're almost as bad as Skipper." Dragonbite looked up at the dragon
from behind her wings, startled by her sudden change in tone. A slightly worried looking magenta Skywing smiled back at her.
"Oh, you're the-"
"Yes, you ran into me earlier. My name's Poppy, and that enormous blue child back there is Skipper."
"I'M OLDER THAN YOU!" shouted the blue dragon -Skipper- who had woken Dragonbite up. Now that she could see them clearly, she could tell that they weren't a Seawing, as she had thought at first. Their snout was delicate, curving gracefully back into two long thin horns, and their entire body was mottled with pale blues and greens, with hints of pink here and there. Their wings were folded tightly to their sides, and occasionally, one would twitch, as though Skipper expected to be pounced on from any direction. In short, they were stunningly strange.
Dragonbite was also fairly certain that she could crush them into the sand right now.
"And I'm not a CHILD Poppy you are making VERY LITTLE SENSE-"
"You. Skipper. Shut up." snapped Poppy at the loud odd dragon. He did, looking annoyed and slightly confused, and left through the flap that divided the living area from the entrance. "As for you," Poppy said, turning to Dragonbite- she shrank back nervously- "you should eat. Lizard or roadrunner?"
The word "roadrunner" startled Dragonbite and forced her thoughts into a downward spiral. Quicksand was talking about roadrunners- he was telling a story before I- I- -he didn't expect anything- I'm a terrible dragon-
"Hello? Hey, earth to Dragonbite!"
"Um, I- I'll have a lizard." said Dragonbite nervously, "But honestly, I'm not-"
"One, slightly dry and salty lizard, coming right up!" Called Poppy, plunking a small, off-white specimen at Bite's front claws. "Are you sure that that's enough? It's really small." she asked, worry creasing her brow.
"Yeah, it's fine." It's the only thing that's fine right now. Thought Dragonbite, feeling her brain slip into a downhill spiral of chaos and despair.
But before she went too far, she was distracted by hearing Skipper muttering to themselves.
"Skipper don't be rude." Sighed Poppy. "We're not all vegetarian or vegan or whatever."
The shimmering dragon snorted, but nodded and mumbled "Sorry." There was no trace of sarcasm or reluctance, they sounded really truly sorry.
"Are they a Rainwing?" Dragonbite asked, swallowing the last of her lizard. "Cause, Mom told me once that Rainwings don't like eating animals." She leaned over to get another look Skipper. "But I've never seen a Rainwing before, so I don't know how they're supposed to look like, just that, that..."
"That they're colorful?"
"Well," explained Poppy, "Skipper's actually not from just one tribe. A hybrid, if you will. They're half Silkwing and half Seawing, but we think that they have Icewing ancestry too. The spikes, and-"
"No." Skipper had apparently been listening, and now they were staring back at the two dragons sitting in the main part of the tent, one pink and one tan. They stared at Poppy with their wide mismatched eyes, their expression a combination of nervousness and, frighteningly, anger. For some reason, they hadn't struck Bite as an angry sort of dragon.
"Oh, you don't want me to-" began Poppy.
"Yes." confirmed Skipper, nodding shortly then retreating back through the tent flaps. Bite blinked, baffled by the odd broken language of adults.
After about thirty heartbeats later, (Bite had been counting, but she got distracted a few times so she wasn't sure), Poppy broke the silence by offering to fill Bite in on what had happened while she had been asleep. She readily agreed, and listened in at first curious, then shocked, then nervous and confused, silence.
Turns out that Quicksand had been right when he told her that someone had challenged Coyote, the leader of the caravan of vagabonds. And that someone was none other than Dragonbite's own mother.
Shocking, I know.
Coyote wasn't dead, since the challenges for leader of the caravan were considered less serious than the ones for the position of the Queen. But still, this was huge. Coyote had been the leader for as long as Dragonbite could remember. Soon, continued Poppy, the caravan would be moving and they would get to see more of Phyrria. For some reason, the broad-shouldered, powerful-looking Skywing sounded almost nervous as she said this. For the first time, Bite noticed the discolored brownish section of wing that almost seemed to hang off of the rest of the wing differently, like it was only there to replace a lost section.
"On another note," continued Poppy, her voice losing some of the bouncy cheer that she usually had, "a dragonet has been reported missing or dead. I think his name was Quickand?" She mused, giving Bite a pointed, searching look on the name. "I don't suppose that you know anything about this?"
Dragonbite was spared from having to reply by a voice somehow echoing through the flappy tent walls.
"She doesn't, but I do."
Dragonbite whirled around, being extra careful to keep her tail tucked in, and almost fainted with relief when she saw her mother, Diamondback's, thin face poking through the tent door. She scrambled forward and smushed her face into her mom's shoulder, and decided that evening rain after a hotter than usual day was no longer the best feeling in the world. This was.
"Quicksand was found dead near the oasis." continued Diamondback matter-of-factly. "He seemed to have had a nasty run-in with a very big dragonbite viper. He probably tried to tear it out before the venom set in." She sighed, and wrapped her wing tighter around Dragonbite's back.
"Poor thing." Lamented Poppy, to the grunted agreement of everyone in the tent, including Skipper, who sounded a bit muffled. (They were currently pinned to the ground by Diamondback's hind leg.) They hadn't said anything so far, because of their crippling and irrational fear of their leader.
"Anyway," continued Diamondback, "I think that a few questions are in order, including, (here she leaned forward threateningly) what were you doing with my daughter." She hissed out the last bit through her bared teeth.
Suddenly nervous, Dragonbite twisted herself free from her mother's hug, and shouted "Wait, mom, Poppy didn't do anything wrong!" She half-spread her wings as much as she could in the cramped tent. "She and Skipper helped me. I fell asleep outside next to the oasis."
"Oh, really?" Asked Bite's mom. "I'm sorry, I didn't know." She sounded wary. But after Poppy and Skipper confirmed the story, and Bite insisting that it was true, she turned around and freed Skipper, then nodded at Poppy, saying "I'll speak to you later about both of your rewards. Maybe tomorrow?" then walked out of the tent without another word, with Bite under her wing.
"Alright, so let's get straight to the point. You killed Quicksand."
Dragonbite looked down at the threadbare rugs that made up the floor of her home. "Yes." She whispered, struggling to keep her voice steady. "It was an accident, honestly!" Her voice refused to stay steady. She repeated, her voice wobbling, that she was really, really sorry, that she hadn't meant to do it, that-
"I know it was an accident." Bite looked up, blinking. Her mother's expression was pitying, but her dark grey eyes with barely visible black pupils were hard. Bite swallowed, then asked,
"Yes, of course I think so." Answered Diamondback as she sighed and ran a claw under Bite's chin. "You don't have the stomach to end someone on purpose. Actually, I'd be worried if you weren't affected." She chuckled sadly, shaking her head. Seeing that Bite was still miserable, she stepped forward and wrapped her wings around her daughter.
"Listen." She said. "Yes, what you did was awful. BUT, what everyone who fought in the war did was much worse." Diamondback's voice got softer and she shivered, even though the evening chill hadn't set in yet. "I should know. I was one of Burn's most trusted soldiers. I even helped capture dragons for her and Scarlet's- ah, let's just say hobbies for now."
Bite sat up, suddenly interested. She had a hobby. She liked to draw in the sand sometimes. She wasn't very good, but she tried. "Hobbies?"
Her mother looked suddenly uncomfortable. "Yes, hobbies. Not nice ones, like shell collecting or drawing." Her tail twitched, and she traced the jagged scar along her neck. "I'll tell you when you're older." Bite tried to protest, but Diamondback put a talon over Bite's mouth and shushed her.
"Anyways, what I was saying is that to help myself whenever I had to do something for the insane royals, I would tell myself that it wasn't important. Those dragons were soldiers who had picked the wrong side! They had it coming from the moment they chose Blister or Blaze."
"But you don't think that." Dragonbite pointed out. "That's why you joined the caravan."
"And that's what makes it hard." agreed her mom. "I know that lots of dragons will tell you that avoiding the problem makes it worse, and maybe sometimes that's true, but also sometimes," here she paused and stepped away from her daughter and towards the new pile of rugs and animal hides in the corner of the tent that made up their bed, (one of the perks of being leader, apparently), and finished, saying
"Sometimes, it's easier to forget."