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Part One: In which we meet the Seven

Chapter Text

Sometime during the reign of Queen Scarlet:

     Stormchaser was experiencing an emotional hurricane. That didn't mean, however, that the dragon beside her was showing any signs of having a soul and was not, in fact, some sort of Animus-made husk. So maybe typhoon was a better word.

Yeah, definitely typhoon.

She was experiencing an emotional typhoon that consisted of high speeds of fury, several claw-lengths of guilty rain, and the constant pounding of humiliation. There were more emotions in the fray, but she wasn't sure if they were all hers. She was pretty sure that urge to smash her tail into something was coming from her half-brother Hurricane, and the constant "I'm scared... want home.. the queen's awful....why's mommy with the scary metal dragon....help"
was coming from the shivering blue-green-red puddle of sadness at her feet.

Three MOONS, sometimes she hated reading minds.

"Loyal Skywings and visiting Mudwings and honored Sandwing guests!"

Oh. Vermillion. Idiot dragon. Thinks he's handsome. Very funny.

"Yesterday we had a thrilling trial for our prisoner down on the sands, and now it's time for an even more thrilling execution! Quartz here has committed a crime punishable by death, she has
betrayed her tribe and her Queen."

Vermillion was on a roll.

"She has spoken with, lived with, and worst of all, had dragonets with dragons outside her tribe. In addition, she resisted arrest, severely injuring two and killing one of her tribemates."

"SELF DEFENSE! I WAS DEFENDING MYSELF I WAS- mmtff OW GET OFF ME-"

"SILENCE!" Queen Scarlet roared, her voice rising over the boos and cheers of the crowd and silencing Stormchaser's mother's shouts. "Vermillion, carry on."

"Of course, your majesty. Ahem. Her sentence? Being executed like a common prisoner of war, in the arena. But even this seems too kind, considering what she has done."

"Funny" said Stormchaser to Hurricane, who was still staring off into space, apparently unruffled by the fact that his own mother was about to be burned to death. "How Vermillion doesn't say what exactly is so terrible about what mum did." Hurricane whirled on her, his whip-thin double tail snapping against the bars of their uncomfortably small golden cage, and almost smacking one of their guards in the face.

"Can't you just be quiet for once? You do know that it's your fault that we're in this mess!"

"My fault? How is this my fault?"

"Maybe because you won't just shu-"

"Quiet." hissed one of the Sandwing guards. "I can make your trip to Burn's stronghold absolutely miserable if I want to." Hurricane glared at her with his well-practiced "ice dagger glare" but kept silent.

Stormchaser ignored them both and returned he attention to Vermillion.
"...have chained her down, so that she can't maneuver as much, and keeping her confined to a specific part of the arena. Well then! Claws up! Fire ready! Fight!"

Quartz crouched as though she was about to pounce, hissing with barely contained fury as Peril circled her, easily within reach but impossible to touch. Then, all of a sudden, she leaped at Quartz, her weird metallic wings half-open smoke flying behind- Quartz feinted left- Peril was smarter then that and went right- Quartz went left- Peril stepped on Quartz's chain and melted right through it- Quartz gave a triumphant roar which turned into a scream of fear as Peril caught her by the horns and pushed down- the horns blackened and started to crack- Quartz brought up one arm, swinging the half-melted chain into Peril's shoulder and twisting free- Peril slashed at the prisoner's wing as she passed- Quartz screamed again and sprang backwards, her burned wing at an awkward angle, its transparent surface marked with smoking black scratches- Peril somehow managed to corner Quartz and knock her over, pinning the bright red Skywing to the ground- and over her mother's screams, the wild cheers of the crowd, and the tears of her younger red-green-blue half-sister, Stormchaser heard, loud and clear, her mother's mental voice calling her name.

"Stormchaser"

Mum?

"Yes, it's me. Storm, listen. I need to tell you something. This is very important, don't you dare forget what I'm going to tell you- ow ARRRGH that hurts you MONSTER stop it OW-"

MUM!

"I'm probably going to OW die soon, so I'll get this OW done quick. I'm going to tell you and your siblings father's names. Yours is OW a Nightwing named Starcather, Tern's is a Seawing named ARRGH Webs, and Hurricane's is a Icewing called Cirrus. Don't you dare for-"

The voice in Stormchaser's head cut off sharply, then twisted and morphed into a single screech that somehow managed to drown out everything, inside her head and out. Her younger half-sister Tern suddenly stopped being an sad, adorable puddle and threw herself at the golden bars, her mouth open with a scream Storm couldn't hear, the tiny dark teal dragonet's four red-brown eyes streaming with tears. All sound was gone except for the death cry of the dragon who had raised her. Then Quartz exhaled a last burst of fire, and collapsed foreword onto Peril. The Champion stepped back, letting the now unrecognizable prisoner fall onto the sand.

Chapter Text

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.

———————————————————
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.

———————————————————
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.

———————————————————
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.)

———————————————————
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.

———————————————————
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.

Chapter Text

Two years after Darkstalker is defeated by the Jade Winglet:

Peacemaker was on a mission. So were two of his best friends in Phyrria, but he suspected that he was most enthusiastic about it. They didn't like strawberries as much as he did, after all. But where strawberries are, so are dragonfruit and kiwis. So, one could say that all three dragonets had their own personal motivation. The dragonfruit for Kiwi, and the kiwi for Void. Ironically.

"Peacemaker, if you don't stop marching as though you're about to save the world or something, I will personally smash every mango next to me down your throat and force you to swallow." Void was obviously resenting the fact that they had permission to go fruit-hunting, and that there was a very low risk of injury in any way. But that was just Void. Rude, creative with her threats and insults, and possibly the most reckless dragonet Peacemaker knew. If life were a story, she would have been the brooding antihero.

"Well. Honestly Void, I thought you figured that out already!" Chided Kiwi. "We..." he announced dramatically, "are saving the world from a fruit shortage!"

Void stared at her two best friends with her weird green eyes, then snorted and flew off into a tree, the black-and-silver tiger-like stripes on her wings and back shining like the moon on a clear night. Looking down at the two younger dragonets in a superior way, she said, "Come on. Let's get this over with." and swooped off into the jungle.

Grinning at Kiwi, Peacemaker rolled his eyes and asked, "Shall we?"

In a mock pompous voice, the currently green-and-gold Rainwing turned up his nose and said, "Of course, my good dragon. The fruit awaits!" and both swept off together in perfect unison. It was an acquired skill, that came from having to fly in sync to carry Void whenever she got too hurt to fly, or ate too many smokeberries or did something else weird or stupid. Both Peacemaker and Kiwi tried to convince her not to do those weird and/or stupid things, that it only made the rest of the two tribes' opinions of her, the odd-looking dragonet that looked like a cross between a jungle cat and a Nightwing, worse.

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Three dragonets, two black and one green, flew into the area between the Rainwing treehouses and the Nightwing village, which was their usual rendezvous point, and were surprised to find what looked like almost all of the dragons from both tribes gathered there, talking excitedly among each other. Spotting his mother, Hope, standing next to Void's adoptive parents, Orchid and Mangrove, along with Moonwatcher and Secretkeeper near the front of the crowd, Peacemaker readjusted his leaf-bag of strawberries and called to the others to follow him. They did, with some grumbling on Void's part, and landed next to their parents.

"Where were you? You almost missed Queen Glory's announcement!" Hope cried, smoothing down her son's spikes and untying the bag of strawberries around his shoulders and putting it on the ground next to her. "Honestly, you wouldn't want to miss finding out who is going to Jade Mountain this year!"

Tuning in, Peacemaker turned and looked to the raised platform at the Queen and her bodyguard Deathbringer.

"There are two new winglets at Jade Mountain Academy this year. This means that four lucky dragonets from my kingdom will join, two Nightwings and two Rainwings." Queen Glory was saying. "In the Quartz Winglet, we have Bee and Earthshaker ." A red, orange, and yellow female Rainwing and a stocky male Nightwing with golden eyes and a single spot of iridescent golden scales on his chest across the clearing from Peacemaker both were bowled over by exited parents and friends of theirs, and Queen Glory paused for a moment to allow the excitement to die down.

When the noise lessened, she announced: "In the Obsidian Winglet, we will have..."

The entire situation suddenly put its whole weight onto Peacemaker. There were only two spots, and there were three of them. From the suddenly shocked expression on Kiwi's face, and the silently resigned look on Void's he could tell that the same realization had shown itself to them as well.

"Kiwi." Kiwi jumped slightly, then his face lit up in a smile. Peacemaker knew that he had always wanted to meet the rest of the tribes.

"And.." Void and Peacemaker's eyes met for a moment, and Peacemaker could see that she had given up hope. They were still looking at each other when Queen Glory finished her announcement with "Peacemaker." Void's eyes dimmed, the way they always did when she was disappointed. But she smiled, and nodded at Peacemaker in a way that implied that she was glad for him. Still, he felt that he had taken a chance away from his best friend. Clearing her throat to silence the chattering crowd, Queen Glory said, "Congratulations, all four of you. The year starts in three days, counting the exploring day for any first years." then turned away and flew off into the forest, Deathbringer taking off after her.

The jungle exploded with the voices of friends and relatives congratulating the new students and their parents, words of condolences to the former hopefuls who hadn't been chosen and would be going back to their normal schools. Peacemaker was searching the crowd for Moon to ask her what in Phyrria was an exploring day and did it, by any chance have anything to do with strawberries when he was knocked to the ground by a bright gold, yellow, and green Kiwi. Who promptly started bouncing up and down and changing colors like a firework display.

He was joined by Void, who, if she had been a Rainwing, would probably have been pale blue at the moment. "Ey, good job, both of you." She said good-naturedly. "I should thank you."

"Huh?" Asked Kiwi, pausing his bouncing. "Why?"

Swiping her wing at the two of them, she teased, "I won't have to put up with you two. Obviously." She sounded lighthearted enough, but the currently very faint glow of her eyes was a dead giveaway of her true mood. Whenever she was truly happy or mischievous, they were like green flames.

"Um, Void?" Asked Peacemaker. "Are you okay?"

Suddenly defensive, she glared at him. "Why would I not be?" she snapped. "Everything's great! You're going to Jade Mountain, we have lots of fruit, and you'll be out of my scales for once! So, everything's great." When Kiwi, who had been listening in, opened his mouth to protest, she said, quietly so that none of their parents could hear, "Don't tell Orchid and Mangrove, but I didn't actually send that letter to the Queen and JMA anyway."

"What?!" whisper-yelled Kiwi and Peacemaker in unison, identical looks of shock on their faces, and, in Kiwi's case, acid green stripes.

"Void-"

"You wanted to!"

"Sure I did, but it was impossible for me to get in anyway."

"That's not true!" Gasped Kiwi. "Hybrids are allowed! Princess Sunny herself is one. It wouldn't make sense for them not to be allowed in her own school!"

"That's the thing. I don't think I'm a hybrid at all." sighed Void. "I mean, what tribes can you think of that can breathe fire, can see in the dark, can hiss acidic smoke, and look like cats?"

"I can think of several for all of them except the cat bit." deadpanned Peacemaker.

"Yeah, but what combination of dragons can end up looking like this?"
said Void, pawing at one ear, which was large and triangular with pale silver tips, yet another part of her that was unusually catlike. "The answer is almost none."

"So, what else?" quizzed Kiwi. "Moon says that the Lost Continent's tribes all either have four wings or look like leaves." Squinting at Void, he smiled, and whispered "You don't look much like a leaf to me, to be completely honest."

"Ha! I'm glad to hear that." Laughed Void, smiling for real this time. "But what if there is a third continent? A continent with dragons like me? Or some islands? Or- or a secret tribe here on Phyrria! Or-"

"Void."  Sighed Peacemaker, for once being exasperated by her and not the other way around.

"Right, sorry, but-"

"Void! It's time for your class. Come on!" Shouted Orchid, beckoning with one of her shimmering wings. The class in question was an anger management course of sorts, that also dealt with recklessness and post-traumatic stress.

Void attended mostly because (a) of her recklessness and slight anger issues, and (b) because she had to. Sighing, she half flew, half stomped off, waving her tail as a goodbye at Peacemaker.

"Odd, isn't she?" Commented a voice that sounded suspiciously like Kiwi. "Nice, but still kinda weird." Yep, definitely Kiwi. "And also kinda cute."

Peacemaker stared at the suddenly appearing pale pink Rainwing, whose yellow-green eyes were wide. "Oh, moons, did I actually say that out loud."

"That you did!" Laughed Peacemaker.

"You won't, like, uh, tell her, right?"

"My snout is sealed."

"Oh, good." Said Kiwi, looking relieved.

Changing the subject, Peacemaker and Kiwi walked off to congratulate Bee and Earthshaker.

Chapter Text

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.

"Boo."

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!"

"WHAT"

"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-

Crack.

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.

Then-

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.

"Barbaric."

"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?"

"Yeah."

"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,

"You do?"

"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."

Chapter Text

When Darkstalker was trying wipe out the Icewings

It came when no one expected it to. Permafrost and Mount had been going through their mother's jewelry stash that she had kept from when she lwas a merchant to the Sandwings in Possibility before the war.

Mount had practically shrieked in excitement when they had found a carefully painted wooden necklace with a carved Rainwing, tail twisted in a sideways figure eight and wings spread wide.

Permafrost had gasped in amazement and delight when she had found a delicate golden chain with small round black stones scattered along it, which Mount wrapped around Permafrost's horns and announced that she looked amazing.

The two siblings had draped themselves with sparkling metal and stones from all over Phyrria and with carefully woven lacy collars of string threaded with tiny beads of all the colors they could think of, while their father Muskox watched from the kitchen, one eye on the family's dinner.

Mount had started to sing, their cheery voice leaping on the high notes and swinging low to the deep ones. Muskox had been whistling along, flicking his tail against the floor and making its spikes rattle softly in a hollow, woody way.

Permafrost added her contribution by making a stunning imitation of a beached whale.

All in all, it was the perfect day for the Icewing family outside the Circles. (Their mother, Kilimanjaro was in a slightly larger town a few miles away at work.)

But then, right in the middle of a crescendo, Mount cut off sharply to cough.

"Sorry." They rasped once they stopped. "That came right out of nowhere." They added with a smile and a shrug, rattling their silvery blue spikes that Permafrost was always jealous of. Her own dull white ones were splattered with ivory and had nothing shiny at all about them.

Mount brushed it off like a one-time thing, but Permafrost wasn't quite sure. Her sibling almost never got sick. Her suspicions of this being more then just an out-of-nowhere cough were confirmed when sounds of coughing, then a solid thump from the kitchen echoed into the living room.

Mount gave their sister a meaningful look and nodded their head towards the kitchen door. "Maybe you should check on dad, okay Frosty?"

Permafrost bristled at being called "Frosty", but the fact that her fiercely competitive sib wasn't racing to "check on dad" first showed that they really were feeling under the weather. And if Mount was feeling bad...

Permafrost almost tripped over her own claws in her panicked scramble over the stone floor of their house to the kitchen and her dad. Mom always said that he was a weak dragon, She thought as she skidded into the kitchen, her tail painfully smacking into the side of the door. Augh, that hurt. And he's also the only Icewing I know who ever caught a cold. How does that even work we're like- OH!

Permafrost said the last bit out loud, and pulled her tail in around her legs in horror.

"What?" Mount called from the other room, then fell into a fit of coughing. "What is it? Is dad okay?"

Her voice wobbling, Permafrost choked out a soft "no"

A pause, then the sound of footsteps and Mount calling "Hang on, I'm coming." They already sounded hoarse.

Permafrost took a few shaky steps towards her dad, who was currently on the kitchen floor and not moving. There was a small puddle of deep blue blood on the floor near his head, and he didn't move when she shook his shoulder. Panicking, she screeched for Mount, who ran into the kitchen just in time to keep Permafrost from having a nervous breakdown.

"Oh- oh wow okay."

Alright, so maybe they weren't so helpful at first. They quickly adjusted to the situation though, and calmed Permafrost down by saying "Look, sis, he's fine." Motioning to Muskox's arm, which was bent back over his head, they explained,

"Look, dad was holding a knife when he fell and it cut his arm." When Permafrost still looked worried, they added, "His head's fine."

"But he's still unconscious!" Permafrost moaned. "And you know how dad is! He could-" she choked her words- "he might die!"

Glaring down at their sister, Mount managed to growl "No one-" before turning away and doubling over with another coughing fit. This time, there was blood. They inhaled deeply, glanced at the bluish blood they had just coughed up for a moment, then finished slightly more calmly with their blue claws on their sister's shoulders.

"No one is going to die, Permafrost. We'll all be fine. Me, dad, you and mom if you two get sick too, everybody. Okay?"

Permafrost wouldn't meet their eyes.

"Okay?" Mount pressed, leaning closer and squeezing Permafrost's shoulders tighter.

"All right."

"Good." Mount nodded in approval. Then they glanced over their shoulder at Muskox.

"...maybe we should check on dad." Permafrost nodded, the panic starting to set in again. Noticing this, Mount sighed again, then shook their head in annoyance. But also pity. And there was definitely some worry in there. "I'll try to wake him up for now. You can, uh," they trailed off, obviously not knowing what to tell their little sister to do.

"Sit in the living room and do nothing?" Permafrost deadpanned.

"Exactly!"

Mount seemed to think that Permafrost would just sit back and hope that her family would get better. Well, she wasn't about to be useless again. It didn't matter that Mount was eight and Permafrost was only four. It didn't matter that only Mount had the required training to help their dad from their time in the army.

Okay, so maybe it mattered a little.

But not really. Thought Permafrost. I can help. Pacing over the carpet in the living room, she was trying to figure out exactly how to be of assistance, when the opportunity presented itself in the form of the heavy load of jewelry currently situated around Permafrost's neck.

Or more specifically, around her wrist. Quickly, Permafrost twisted the braided metal silver and blue band off of her wrist and spun it around one talon, thinking.

Our neighbor, Hypothermia, gave this one to mom for no particular reason other than that she didn't know what to do with it, AND, she used to be a nurse. Maybe she'll know what's going on. Quickly, Permafrost got up, slipped off the rest of the bracelets and necklaces as quietly as she could, and slipped out the door as quickly as possible.

It was clear, but windy, so the thin layer of snow rose above the ground in little flurries and spirals around her claws as she walked out towards the house a few buildings down the street. It was small, and quite pretty, with even a little garden of whatever could even grow in the icy outskirts of the Ice Kingdom.

And the dragon who lived there was the absolute worst. Permafrost couldn't really understand why she didn't like Hypothermia, (other than the really excessive amount of unnecessary and unwanted "gifts"), but the short middle-aged dragoness just- just didn't ring very well with Permafrost at all.

Steeling herself, she stepped up to the low stoop of Hypothermia's house and knocked. As she waited, a deep barking noise echoed from inside, and was quickly followed by the hushed scolding of a voice with the refined-sounding accent of an aristocrat.

(The barking was the elderly dragoness' pet harp seal. His name was Flake, and he was one of the few reasons that Permafrost ever came to the house with the garden willingly.)

Permafrost sat up straighter as the footsteps, which had been around near where she knew the seal enclosure was, neared the door. After a few seconds, Hypothermia, in all her "I-was-in-the- Second-Circle-once" glory herself, opened the door and smiled down at Permafrost.

She was taller than usual for an Icewing, but getting shorter from age, (not like Permafrost knew that, she was four years old and hadn't known or paid attention to her neighbor very well at all during her short life so far), and a sort of rosy tinted shiny white, with absolutely no scars whatsoever.

"Permafrost?" she asked in surprise. Actually, rasped would have been a better word because she was very obviously sick too. "It's great to see you, sweetie, but I don't think that you should stay."

"You're sick too?" she blurted out, then instantly regretted it. "I mean, I'm not sick, just my dad and sibling, and I don't know about mom, and-" She stopped, remembering that Mount had said that she rambled whenever she was nervous. "Anyway, I was going to ask you if you knew about the sickness or something?"

Hypothermia blinked, probably surprised that Permafrost had guessed that she was sick, then shook her head. "I'm sorry, Frost" -Permafrost tried not to hiss at the nickname- "but I have no clue what this is." she sighed, then turned away and coughed into her wing, and Flake barked in response. Her voice rougher now, she stepped back, and said "You should go, It's probably contagious."

Permafrost nodded, then turned and left as Hypothermia shut the door, both of them too rattled to even try to be polite. Her coughing sounded the same as Mount's. She thought. maybe-

But she never got to finish her thought, because just then a bright cobalt streak fell out of the sky and landed in the little square in the middle of town, right among the snow-dragons and snow-scavengers that Permafrost had helped build a few days ago when it had snowed.

Her feet seemed to freeze to the ground in front of Hypothermia's stoop, then suddenly her legs were carrying her over to a especially large pine that she would climb sometimes, then up into the tree, and soon she found herself spying on the newcomer.

He certainly looked like an Icewing, with all the white horns and spikes bristling along his neck and wings, but he was just too blue. Nearly all of his scales were a striking dark blue, except for his underbelly and wings, but even those had blue in some places, and up against all the snow, it was all just too much color all at once. Anyway, Permafrost was currently sitting in a tree and stalking the newcomer, who in turn was looking suspiciously into the tree.

"Hello?" he called, squinting at the branches while fiddling with a bag slung over his shoulder.

Permafrost stayed silent, refusing to blow her cover. However, the wind evidently decided to do it for her, in the form of blowing away the curtain of dangling pine needles. Needless to say, her white scales were very easy to spot against the dark green and brown tree.

The blue dragon sighed and looked up at Permafrost, who was sitting very still with her tail wrapped around the branch and claws digging into the branch.

"I can see you, you know." he said, his worried expression giving way to a small smile.

"No you can't." Permafrost argued. "I am a Rainwing. You can't see me. I am one with the tree."

"Well then, little Rainwing, may I enlist you for help?" he asked. "It's Very Important Help." he added.

"How important?" Permafrost asked, in her curiosity forgetting all about her Rainwing guise.

"Helping-save-one-of-your-tribes-important." said the blue dragon, putting a claw inside the bag hanging over his shoulder and grabbing something from inside. The bag rattled and jingled a little.

Now very interested, Permafrost swung down off of the branch, her claws ripping off bits of bark as she fell. Spreading her wings just a little too late to make a graceful landing, she flopped onto the snowy ground behind a crumbling snow sculpture and walked over to the stranger. (An idiotic thing to do under normal circumstances, but these weren't normal.)

It was then when she realized the thing that was extremely off about what the stranger had said. "Wait." she stopped walking and looked straight into his eyes. (Which weren't blue, thank goodness.) "You said one of my tribes."

"Yes."

"Like, as if I have more than one."

"Don't you?" asked the stranger. Then a look of understanding (and maybe even sympathy?) dawned on his face and he quickly said "Wait, never mind forget I said that."

"Why?" asked in turn Permafrost.

Nervously, the blue dragon's tail twitched and he said "It doesn't matter. I misspoke." Then, obviously changing the subject, he added "Look, let's just get to the solving of the plague problem already."

"Yeah sure-" agreed Permafrost then noticed that there was another thing off here. "How'd you know that my family is sick?"

The blue dragon's tail twitched again, this time in an annoyed way, then his expression shifted to a more understanding one, but his patience was obviously still running thin. "All Icewings are. Now can we please-"

Permafrost, finally taking a hint, nodded hard and, to try to defuse the situation, she decided to introduce herself. "I'm Permafrost." She smiled, then remembered a Very Important detail. "Not Perma. Not Frost or Frosty. Okay?"

The blue dragon looked amused, but nodded and answered "I'm Typhoon. Occasionally Ty, and definitely never Phoon. " Then, his slightly goofy expression disappeared suddenly, and he put a claw into the bag around his neck. "I'm going to need your help with handing these out." he said, and, completely seriously, handed her a handful of-

"Earrings?" Permafrost asked, looking confusedly at the small amber teardrops. "How are these supposed to help?" She picked one up and hooked it over a talon, dangling it in front of her face. "I mean, I heard that amber has healing properties somewhere, but not like that."

"They're animus-touched. To protect whoever wears them from any of Darkstalker's spells." flatly answered Typhoon, as he put his bag on the floor. Permafrost blinked, then nearly dropped the piece in shock.

"Animus-touched? DARKSTLAKER?" she gasped, all the stories about Darkstalker and Queen Diamond and Albatross and Darkstalker whirling through her head, too fast for her to latch onto one and think about what magic did to them all- "Why Darkstalker? And how? HE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD WHAT-" -the light of the sun in her eyes was suddenly too bright-

"Hey, Permafrost? You okay?" Typhoon was looking kinda worried, so Permafrost quickly shoved the frankly, terrifying thoughts out of her head and nodded, repeating more calmly

"What do you mean, Darkstalker?"

Sighing, Typhoon answered "Apparently, he's back. He crawled right out of a mountain next to the new school, and is rallying the Nightwings for something."

"So he cursed my entire tribe to get sick?" she was outraged. What kind of dragon could blame an entire tribe for something only a few dragons did AGES ago? That would be almost like hating all the Sandwings for starting the war. She thought. Then she asked "They just put it on and are cured?" This doesn't sound right.

"Crazy, I know. But I got these from a trusted friend of Queen Thorn's, and I, in turn, trust Queen Thorn."

"Alright, hang on. I'll give some to my family and get a bag." she turned to Typhoon to ask for another, which he gave her and then motioned for her to hurry. As she ran into the house, wondering, had she been gone too long, was she too late, was-

-but her worrying was quickly, though temporarily, cut short by a blue-and-silver blur whipping out of the kitchen and practically screeching "PERMAFROST WHAT WERE YOU DOING OUT-" before being cut off by a loud, rough, horrible fit of coughing. Skidding to a stop, she just barely escaped running headlong into her older sibling. Quickly, before Mount could start yelling again, or worse lose their entire voice to the plague, Permafrost scrambled onto their shoulders and started to pull out the silver bird-shaped stud already in her sibling's ear. This earned her some annoyed yelping from Mount, but when Permafrost yelled-

"Hold still, this is supposed to help!"

into their ear, they changed the subject of their yelling from

"Get off me"

to

"What do you mean it's going to help- ow hey careful don't lose the bird I like it- It's a freaking earring-"

to

"Oh wait I don't have a fever anymore." gasped Mount. Permafrost had finally managed to get the earring to stay put in her sibling's ear, and it had evidently done its job. Mount turned to their sister, and said quietly "We need to get this to dad." then swallowed, wincing. They were really hoarse.

Permafrost nodded, then hopped off of Mount's shoulders and scrambled into the kitchen. Her dad was still on the floor, in a slightly different position than before, and the blood was gone. He was still unconscious though, and as she watched, Permafrost's father twitched and slashed his tail over the floor. As Permafrost's claws brushed his forehead while she tried to slip the earring through his ear (it was harder since his ears weren't pierced), she found that he was warm, no, burning.

But as soon as the earring finally slipped through his ear, he stopped moving and the heat disappeared as quickly as it had come.

Nervously, Permafrost commented "He's not waking up" to Mount.

"Well, that should be expected." they answered matter-of-factly. "Where'd you get these?" they asked abruptly. "And how do they work?"

Yelping, Permafrost suddenly remembered the other reason why she had come back to her house. "I need to get a bag!" she cried out, then rushed into the room she and Mount shared, grabbed a smallish bag from the shelf and had almost made it out of the door when Mount grabbed her.

"Where do you think you're going?"

Quickly, she explained about Darkstalker's plague, about how Hypothermia was sick, and how according to Typhoon, almost all Icewings were.

"Well," said Mount, "I guess you can go, but only-"

"I never ASKED for your permission!" interrupted Permafrost.

"Oh shut up Frosty." snorted Mount. "As I was saying, you can only go if I go too."

"Oh, okay." agreed Permafrost, relived. She had been expecting something worse, more unusual, like most of Mount's punishments.

Permafrost didn't have too many clear memories of the rest of the day, other than when she introduced Mount to Typhoon. That would be hard for even an animus dragon to erase. When Mount had first seen Typhoon, they had glared at him and fluffed up their spikes while Permafrost struggled to convince Mount that no, he wasn't a Seawing spy enchanted by the princess to be able to get over the Great Ice Cliff and destroy the Icewing tribe. (Permafrost had conveniently forgotten to mention his odd coloring.)

The three of them together quickly made short work of distributing the earrings to the rest of the town, and soon the entire town was cured and almost all of the grateful Icewings were gathered in the middle, right near where Typhoon had first landed, this time to send him off. Permafrost watched him fade to a blue smudge in the sky, her tail wrapped around Mount's, and finally remembered what that specific nagging worry was that was (and had been) bothering her.

"Mount?"

"Hm?" grunted Mount. They were still a bit sore, both in the literal sickness(curse?)-related way, and the emotional way from when they had been proved wrong about Typhoon's alignment.

"Where do you think mom is?"

Tensing up at the question, Mount's bored expression hardened and pinched itself up with worry. Walking through the rapidly thinning crowd, and Permafrost following, they answered more quietly, (probably to save their still rough voice), "I'm sure she's fine. That Blue Dragon" (Mount refused to use Typhoon's name) "will probably get to Hita next. It's a big city, after all."

That didn't do much to still Permafrost's worries, though, and she kept on watching the sky in the direction her mom, and later, Typhoon, had flown off in, to the north. The now very faint blue smudge that was the latter suddenly swooped down to the ground for a moment that felt like an hour, then lifted off and disappeared over the horizon. But a few painfully long minutes later, another shape flapped into the air and swept towards the remote southern outpost called Rond.

That was another thing Permafrost remembered vividly from the rest of the day. When the sleek, shiny, almost golden dragon landed in the square, in the now quite well-packed patch of snow among the sculptures, amber earring swinging in her ear. Permafrost remembered sprinting to her and tripping over her own and Mount's feet in her rush. She remembered landing in the dragon's open wings moments before Mount, and feeling her older sibling smash into her back right after she collapsed into her mom at last.

Chapter Text

Two weeks before Jade Mountain Academy was scheduled to start its third year running:

From above, the small (but quickly growing) city of Possibility would look like a hive of moving bodies, mostly in shades of red, orange, gold, and  If tan, with an occasional flash of blue or brown, whirling approximately in sync to the music. If one looked more carefully at the roof of the grocer's building, however, they would spot a small Seawing crouching on the edge.

However, the little blue-green dragonet's view of the city was drastically different. Though she could hear the music and see flashes of colored scales from her hiding place, her focus was centered on the smell of the food cooking at the stall just below her. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted the green and gray shape of Parrot. Parrot was a Rainwing, one of the very few that lived in Possibility, and also the leader of the group of street dragonets that Tern had made a temporary alliance with.

Suddenly, Parrot's tail flashed orange, and she flicked it to one side, the signal to go. Steeling herself, Tern launched herself off the edge of the roof, and lit up all of her glow-in-the-dark scales at once, closing her eyes to block them from most of the blast. All according to plan so far.

The world around her exploded in red, and as she made a very undignified landing on the Mudwing food vendor's head, Tern felt the throbbing headache that always came whenever she lit up completely. The said headache, along with the sounds of shouting and the choking smoke from the vendor's grill made things like balancing on a frustrated brown dragon quite difficult, so in a panic, she tried to lift off and get away from the scene of her crime.

But Tern, said the voice that she liked to think was how her brother Hurricane would sound if he were here. You'll mess up the mission and Parrot might try to melt you again.

So? Shot back Stormchaser's voice. Parrot's a jerk anyway, and she has terrible aim. It's not like you're in danger if you just leave now.

Well ACTUALLY, imaginary-Hurricane started, but was cut off by-

Tern, who had decided to listen to her imaginary sister for a change and was trying to bail out of the mission. (Tern's conversation with her "siblings" had only lasted two heartbeats at most.)

She snapped her focus back to the real world and found that while she had been briefly zoned out, she had managed to lift into the air, and was flapping circles around Mr. Mudwing's face. He was starting to look annoyed, so Tern decided to take a hint and go. As she rose above the quickly gathering crowd, her flight patterns slightly jerky because of an injury in her wing, she hoped very hard that Parrot and her gang had managed to do what they needed before she left.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

They hadn't. That much was obvious from Tern's new vantage point behind a pile of melons. Parrot was a roiling, spiky smudge of red and black pacing back and forth around her meager pile of loot. Nothing but a tarnished bracelet Magpie, a little kleptomaniac Skywing had almost certainly grabbed, and a few slightly burned and scuffed up kebabs, probably the work of Parrot and Robin, a Mudwing. (Though anyone he met knew right away that he was also part Skywing, probably because of the bright orange scales on his belly and his slightly slanted red eyes. Robin denied all of it.)

"-can't believe that little Seawing bailed out like that!" snapped Parrot. "And we offered her part of our findings and everything."

"I knew she was trouble from the very beginning, when she punched Magpie in the face after she tried to save her. The nerve." agreed Robin.

That's not what happened! thought Tern, annoyed. She tried to steal my bracelet! I didn't punch her!

"She didn't punch me," said Magpie softly. "I told you already, she had a nice bracelet and I tried to steal it."

Yes, that's the right story. thought Tern bitterly. At least Magpie's honest. Idiotic Robin, always trying to make dragons he likes look better than they actually are. She spun the knotted band of string absentmindedly around her wrist with one talon, feeling the two beads click against her scales. One was painted white, the other black, and both were made of polished wood.

"Yes, well, anyway, I'm still mad at her." snapped Parrot, her snout and wings turning orange, the color of annoyance. "We're gonna have to do another raid across town and hope that they haven't heard about us yet."

Magpie started to pace too, following a few steps behind Parrot, but looking around the alleyway instead of at the meager pile of stolen things on a blanket on the ground. She was the youngest of the little bird-themed group, and as mentioned before, was very good at spotting and stealing nice things. She was less good at things involving self-control, but that was a minor detail. (In Robin's eyes, anyway.)

Suddenly, the little golden Skywing froze, her red eyes darting to the side and locking with Tern's warm brown ones. All four of them wide open. Magpie's expression changed from I'm-trying-to-be-serious-but-I'm-not-very-good-at-it to oh-moons-what-IS-that-help SO FAST that she almost forgot to cry out.

If she had actually forgotten to alert her friends, things would have probably turned out much better for Tern than they did.

But she didn't forget, and let out a screech more fitting to a bird of prey than a magpie or a dragonet with the same name. Magpie stumbled back in fear and fell back into Robin, who turned to catch her and saw Tern as well, making him jump but still catching Magpie because he was "chivalrous" like that, therefore alerting Parrot in the process because Brave Sir Robin very bravely joined in the screaming.

Parrot, thankfully, (or not) didn't chicken out and instead opted to actually catch Tern. As the Rainwing faded from view and shoved past Robin and Magpie, making a very amusing picture - scene of two dragonets being shoved away from each other by some invisible force, Tern struggled into the air. A few drops of shiny black venom flashed past her line of vision, sending both her brain and heart into overdrive. Just as Tern thought that she could make it, a pair of invisible jaws clamped around her tail and jerked her down.

Panic shot through her, feeling as if it started from the bite marks on her tail, and sizzled through her body like lightning. She had heard about how some rainwings could spray their venom while biting, effectively melting a dragon from the inside. The panic caused her to light up all of her scales at once, which brought back her old headache in full furious force.

But on the bright side, she temporarily blinded Parrot and forced her to let go.

All Tern could do then was fly, struggle, and hope that Parrot wasn't one of those dragons.

She struggled into the air, the weak spot on her tail aching, as was her head, and right wing.

Her wing had been hurting, on and off, ever since her escape. It should have been Storm's and Hurricane's escape as well. she thought sadly. I wish I hadn't run. Maybe I would have known what happened to them if I had stayed.

But if I had stayed, I could have died.

And even if I had stayed, would it really have been worth it to know what happened?

She shook her head, doing her best to clear it of the depressing thoughts. Whatever had happened out there, over the desert, was already done, and there was nothing she could do about it.

She flew a bit farther, taking a winding path through the alleyways to lose Parrot and the others, though frankly, Tern was mostly worried about Parrot, then landed near the easels where dragons, most of them slightly older than her, chatted and swayed in time to the music while painting pictures of birds, dragons, and a reoccurring theme was also of the recently split mountain that Darkstalker had crawled out of.

Recently, being nearly three years ago. The shock of those events had mostly passed, though many of the Icewings were still either suspicious or vengeful or both towards the Nightwing tribe. But, most of the other dragons of Phyrria were no longer shaken too drastically by the events of three years ago.

Tern also figured that painting Agate Mountain was seen as an edgy topic, and therefore "cooler" for some reason. She didn't care. It wasn't like she actually had a reputation anyway. To most dragons, she was just another face in the crowd.

Though this face had four eyes.

That would certainly make her much more than just a face in the crowds, certainly. She might end up being forced to be a circus performer or stuffed exhibit for some former Burn supporter.

A fate she had very narrowly escaped already, but with the real Burn, and had no intention to come near to experiencing again.

So, as a compromise, she would close the pair of eyes that was higher in her skull, keep her head down, and do something with her claws whenever she was talking to someone, to draw attention away from the two slightly lighter patches of scales above her eyes, that were actually her eyelids.

It gave her face a slightly more "innocent" look as well, since her visible eyes were lower in her face than they would be on a two-eyed dragon, which, according to the Skywing librarian that she had formed an uneasy truce with, made her look a bit more "cute" and "adorable" than the average Seawing-Skywing hybrid dragonet.

Tern may have been cutesy, adorable, and innocent in appearance, but she certainly wasn't like that in mentality. She had first grown up in hiding in the Sky Kingdom with two of her three siblings and her mother. After she, Hurricane, and Stormchaser had been forced to leave, and Tern was separated from the other two in the resulting chaos. She had been whisked away from the fray by a Sandwing who wouldn't tell Tern their name, then showed the dragonet the way to Possibility. She had spent the rest of her life in Possibility's streets, which, while not as bad as she had heard the Scorpion Den's were, still weren't an ideal place for a dragonet to grow up.

In short, Tern had seen a lot of bull.... droppings.

She was so caught up in her inner mini monologue of exposition, she tripped.

She never tripped.

Granted, the little dark red dragonet she had tripped over wasn't really looking where he was going either.

"Hello!" he chirped, seemingly unfazed by the fact that he had had his tail stepped on.

"...hi?" ventured Tern. Not many dragons were this friendly to other dragons who stepped on their tails.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

He must have taken my hesitation for pain. realized Tern.

"'Cause, I mean, I kinda ran into you and..." he trailed off, flicking his right claw through the air in front of him as if he was conducting an orchestra. Tern had never seen a real orchestra, but there had been a sizable musician's troupe that passed through Possibility about half a year ago that she had stolen a ticket to see.

"No, no, I'm fine." she finally managed to say, shaking off her surprise. "I should be asking you, actually." Now that I've been pulled into a conversation, I may as well be polite. Tern thought, one of her eyes following his bouncing claw, and the other fixed on his face.

"Oh, I'm okay." he said, dropping his claw to the ground and smiling.

Tern blinked once, to refocus her eyes, glad to get rid of the dizzying sensation of looking in two directions at once. Nevertheless, she was actually quite proud of the skill. It was the best power move she could pull on anybody ever, and she loved it.

And it worked. The red dragonet (probably a Skywing,) figured Tern, froze, with his mouth slightly open, then finally asked,

"How'd you do that?" in an awestruck voice. "Whenever I try to look in two directions at the same time, it gets super blurry and my head hurts."

"Uh.." Tern began. She had never really had to, or wanted to, explain herself to anyone before. "Practice?" Ugh. Even she thought that that sounded lame.

"Huh." Said the dragonet, tilting his head slightly and crossing his eyes experimentally. After a moment he shut them tightly and shook his head, as if to clear it. "Anyway, I'm Cliff." He said suddenly. "What's your name?"  

Tern was glad that he had changed the subject. Talk of eye-related skills generally led to talk of eyes, in her experience, (which, honestly, wasn't much), and then she might slip up, and her secret would be out.

The fewer dragons who knew about her, the better.

"It's Tern." She said finally, allowing a smile. Then, a sudden, outlandish
realization struck her.

The prince's name is Cliff. And he's supposed to look a lot like Queen Ruby. This dragonet looks like everyone says the Queen does. What is royalty doing in possibility?

And then: This is one of the absolute worst places for a prince to be.

"Cliff, as in, Prince Cliff?" she asked, quietly, as if not to attract attention.

"Oh, yeah." he said. "Right. That reminds me, I probably should be closer to mom or-"

"Cliff?" said a voice from behind the wall of dragons. A few of the painters stumbled back in shock, and the air around Tern seemed to get a few degrees hotter. "Cliff, you weren't supposed to run off like that, AAAAaaRGH." The growl sent shivers running down Tern's spine, and her ruff shot up, the slightly scuffed up dark red webbing being glaringly obvious. She was about to shout to Cliff to run, her mouth was open, the scream ready to fly, when she saw Cliff's face, which was...

...relived? Tern was about to sink into a spiral of confusion, but the arrival of the growling dragon interrupted her thoughts in a rather violent manner.

The temperature rose once again, and the nervous expressions on the bystanders' faces blossomed into outright panic as a faintly glowing bronze dragon stomped through the crowd and came to a stop right in front of the two dragonets standing with open mouths, one in joy and the other in the utmost terror.

"Peril!" cheered Cliff, stating everyone's thoughts, but at a starkly different tone of voice. If Tern had been shouting instead, there would have been slightly more panic echoing around.

Peril. Queen Scarlet's former dancing monkey of death. Champion of the arena. Hissed Hurricane's voice inside Tern's head.

And MURDeRer! snarled Stormchaser, Tern's mental image of her flapping its four wings and lashing its tail. You should get revenge!

How, exactly, is she supposed to get revenge on a living torch? Shot back Hurricane, rolling his eyes at "Stormchaser".

Well-

And off the two of them went again. Tern found it slightly amusing that even in her head, as figments of her imagination, Stormchaser and Hurricane still argued as much as they used to before...

Before Peril killed my mother. Tern thought, remembering her current situation. Uncharacteristic fury boiled up inside her. Maybe Storm is right. I should get revenge.

But then she saw that Cliff was talking excitedly to Peril, as if she was an older sister, and-

Wait. Was Cliff talking about her?

"...and this is my new Seawing friend, Tern!" he was saying, motioning at her with one wing, and glancing over his shoulder.

Oh, moons he thinks that I'm all Seawing. Tern thought, while managing to squeak out a terrified "hi", keeping her eyes on Peril.

What is she thinking right now? Tern asked herself. Does she even recognize me? Does she even remember all the dragons she's killed?

But what about the stories that say she's changed? asked the stupid sensible side of her brain. That she even helped overthrow Scarlet? What if they are true?

While she was in her own whirlwind of slightly panicked thought, another dragon joined Cliff and Peril and a sudden hush fell over everybody in the square. Even some of the dancers stopped their whirling movements and stopped to watch.

She stood tall, like all Skywings, but for some reason, she seemed taller. Maybe it was the majesticness that Queens seemed to radiate wherever they went.

Or maybe it was the fact that she had an unusually long neck. That was certainly a rather defining feature of Queen Ruby's.

Anyway, there were far too many royal/dangerous dragons gathered here now. Tern could handle one royal dragonet who didn't seem very royal at all, and Cliff certainly wasn't dangerous, but a royal, dangerous, and a royal and dangerous?

Nope.

But for now, Tern couldn't exactly run. So, she did the next best thing. She lowered her head, bent her front legs, half-opened her wings, and bowed. Several other dragons, mostly Skywings, got down as well.

"There's no need for that." said Queen Ruby, sounding slightly amused. "You aren't in my tribe, after all."

Yes I am! screamed Tern's thoughts. I have. Red. Wings! RED! I get that some Seawings are pink and sometimes even really yellowish-green, but isn't red a bit of a stretch?

Then: Well, if they all think that I'm pure Seawing, I guess it's not too bad.

And then: Oh no I have to say something. Quick, think of something, brain!

"You're the first queen I've met, your Majesty." she finally managed to say, standing back up and shaking out her wings, careful to keep her top pair of eyes shut. Another dragon finding out about them would make this day downright catastrophic.

"Well, I'm honored." said Queen Ruby with a half-smile. "Cliff says that you have some rather interesting skills?"

Tern felt her scales around her face heat up. Cliff also looked mortified, and mouthed "Sorry!" towards her. He probably hadn't expected his mother to mention what he had said out loud either.

All parents were the same that way, then.

Or not. Tern couldn't really know what other mothers were like, since she had very few memories of her own, before she had been killed in the arena. By Peril.

Who was currently standing right in front of her, scanning the area for someone. She finally seemed to find who or what she had been looking for, and leaned over dangerously close to Queen Ruby's ear and hissed something. The queen didn't flinch, unlike several other dragons around them, Tern included, then nodded slightly and said,

"Well, Tern, and everyone else," Said Queen Ruby, looking around to address the crowd, "it's been great, but we must go now." and started over to the left.

"It's been nice!" called Peril, speaking loudly for the first time in a few minutes. Tern was surprised that she sounded like a normal dragon.

Well, what did you expect? Her to speak only like some villain from a drama scroll? sniped Tern's sensible side.

Cliff, however, had a very different way of saying goodbye. Running one circle around Tern, he sang "Goooood byyyeeeee!", took one jump into the air, added "Let's meet agaaaaiiiin!" and hurried off after his mom and guard.

Tern blinked, then allowed a small laugh, shaking her head. Cliff was something.

"Ooohhh, our little frea-k is in loooove." whispered a voice in her ear, with the strange pop on the "k" sound that identified the speaker as a Rainwing. Specifically, the only one Tern had ever met, also known as "Parrot."

"Buzz off, Parrot." growled Tern. Being called a freak always struck a deep nerve with her.

Mother used to call us her wonderful little freak show. In a kind way. Somehow, whenever she said it, it sounded less like an insult and more like a complement.

When Parrot says it though, it makes me want to punch her.

"Hmm, no, I don't think I will." said Parrot, her voice sugary-sweet. Then, she looked up, flared her entire head neon yellow and white, making spots dance in front of Tern's open eyes, and called to someone in the crowd, "She's over here!"

Tern caught on to what had happened a few moments too late to make a clean getaway. But, even a messy getaway could work in a pinch, and she turned and bolted-

-right into the arms of a huge dark Sandwing. She only saw a few parts of him while struggling, filing off his most recognizable features to memory, (a patch over his left eye, dark tan scales, two bright white stripes along his spine, with four black ones bordering those), and then she was stuck facedown in a heavy bag that smelled sweet. The last thing she heard before she fell into a black sleep was Parrot saying something about a reward.

------------------------------------

Tern woke up underwater. At least, that was what the green light made it look like, but she soon realized that she wasn't very wet. She wasn't breathing through her gills either. Then why was the light so weird? Tern was going to find out, at any rate. Her night vision wasn't as good as a normal Seawing's, and far from what a Nightwing would have, but it was good enough to keep her from falling off of the library roof she usually slept on at night.

So, it was sufficient for her to see what few things there were to be seen.

The sack she was in was slightly open, which let in more greenish light, and to her amusement, the Sandwing goon had forgotten to tie her up! This was the (im)perfect crime. Except for once, she wasn't the criminal committing it.

It was strangely liberating, actually.

She slithered out of the sack, feeling like a very stealthy snake, and looked around. Tern kept all four of her eyes open, beyond caring who saw her or not. She would be out of here soon anyway. As she blinked the sleep from her eyes, she couldn't help letting out a soft gasp.

She had never seen this many trees in the same place in her entire life. The light was colored green from the leaves above, and as she watched, a shimmering blue butterfly flapped by. She was watching it, the turquoise color on its wings reminding her of her own scales, and what she imagined her father's would look like.

"Nice, isn't it?" asked a soft voice, making Tern jump all the way out of the bag. It was the Sandwing, the one with the eyepatch and the stripes. His voice was oddly quiet for a dragon his size. "Pity it'll end up being eaten by some bird in a few minutes."

Just as he said this, a brightly colored parrot swooped down and caught the blue butterfly out of the air, then disappeared into the trees. It looked extremely smug for a bird.

"Or a few seconds." amended the Sandwing, smiling slightly. "Anyway, I'm awfully sorry, but I'm going to have to sedate you."

Tern blinked, shaken by Eyepatch Sandwing's blunt way of talking.

He looked at her as if she were a newly hatched dragonet. "You know, sedate? Knock out? Neutralize?"

"I know what sedate means." snapped Tern, regaining her composure. "And why?" Panic rose in her voice as she remembered her situation. "What do you want with me?"

"It's not what I want, per se." said Eyepatch, shrugging. "It's more like what my boss wants, and she's pretty formidable so I wouldn't really want to cross her without proper depth perception." He pointed to his eyepatch. "So, how about you be a good dragonet and let me shoot you with this dart?"

Eyepatch held up a thin tube, with the sharp end of a dart sticking out. The sight sent Tern's mind into overdrive, and she scrambled for any plan, even a weak one.

She finally settled for the same one she had used earlier that day. Distraction.

"What's your name?" She finally blurted out, startling Eyepatch and making him lower his dart shooter.

"My name?" he repeated, taken aback. "It's.." he looked slightly embarrassed. "It's Chipmunk." He finally blurted out, then ducked his head slightly. "Not the best one, I know."

"It's alright." Said Tern, slowly backing away. "Mine's Tern. Don't know if you knew that already." She continued, trying to keep Chipmunk distracted, while scanning her surroundings for possible escape routes. "Did you know, that once I..."

She was surrounded by huge mossy trees that towered taller than any dragon she had ever seen, and she swore that she saw a snake slither into a hole in one. There was a beaten-down sort of trail to her right, that she assumed they had come through, and to her right...

...a flash of blue-green, sending sparkling white light into one of her eyes. It was either water, or a very shiny bird.

Hoping very much that it would be the latter, she wrapped up her story, which had been about the time she had caught someone trying to steal a librarian's book stamp, then added, to add insult to future injury-

"By the way, your name? It suits you."

-and sprinted off, smacking a fallen nut into Chipmunk's face with her tail, which was luckily the powerful Seawing variety, and hearing something crack.

She hurtled forward, towards the shimmer of blue, wings half extended for balance, and squinted her eyes against the snapping leaves and branches in her face. Suddenly, a huge rotting log loomed right in front of her, and she almost cracked her skull on the damp bark. Luckily, she managed to leap up and land about three-quarters up the trunk.

Digging her claws in, Tern struggled to get on top, and nearly fell off of the tree when a dart sank itself into the bark right next to her left two eyes. She managed to regain her grip on the tree just in time, and hoisted herself onto the top, then paused to check how far away was Chipmunk.

That was a very big mistake on her part, as she soon found when a dark whizzed into her right ear, sticking all the way through and sending sharp needles of pain radiating away from the spot where the dart had stuck.

Whoever told me that getting my ears pierced wouldn't hurt a bit was a big fat liar. She decided, then yanked out the dart, blinking away the tears that sprang from the corners of all four of her eyes, then threw the dart at the general direction it had come from, giving it a bit of a boost from her tail. There was a shout, then a furious roar that sounded nothing like Chipmunk.

"Who-" stomp.

"-decided-" crash.

"-it-" pow.

"-was-" snap.

"-a good idea-" kaploey.

"-to THROW a DART in my FOREHEAD-"

thump.

A bright white Sandwing that certainly wasn't Chipmunk suddenly stumbled through the foliage and fell on his face after glaring at Tern and spitting a bit of fire in her direction. She assumed that he had been the one doing the shouting. He looked like an inverted version of Chipmunk, and they also had the same snout.

There was also a dart sticking out of his forehead.

"Weasel!" shouted Chipmunk, sprinting out of the foliage as well and promptly tripping over his twin brother and landing on his face.

The resulting jolt shook Tern enough to make her run, and run she did, hoping that Weasel's situation would keep Chipmunk distracted for a bit.

Soon, she stumbled out of the trees and fell face-first into a sand dune. Standing up and shaking the sand out of her scales, she stumbled over the dune, into a patch of grass and bushes, and fell into a deep sleep.

—————————————————

"Hello?"

"Auklet, no one's hiding in the bushes."

"Yes there is! Look, she's asleep!"

Tern blinked awake, squinting against the sunlight. A smiling green face looked back down at her, wide eyes framed by pale teal scales that faintly glowed.

"Hello." Said the dragonet, scales flashing the question "who?", one of the few aquatic words that Tern knew. "I'm Auklet. Who are you?"

 

Chapter Text

The day before Jade Mountain Academy opens for its third year running:

Kiwi wasn't special. He wasn't normal either. He was just different.

This particular difference made it very hard for him to get other dragonets to take him seriously. And it wasn't even a very noticeable one, like Void's general awesomeness.

Kiwi's difference could only be seen if someone took a very good look at his teeth. And the only dragon willing to do that was the village healer.

Nonetheless, everybody knew anyway because the village healer was a huge gossip and couldn't keep his mouth shut, if one would pardon the expression.

And being the only Rainwing without fangs and venom in the entire kingdom didn't exactly do wonders for Kiwi's reputation.

On the bright side, for some reason, Kiwi's color-changing skills were much sharper and faster than most of the other dragons in the treehouses. He was able to shift his scales into clearly defined stripes, and even if he accidentally skipped suntime, his colors stayed the same brightness, though he still got extra tired, so he never really did that much.

But it still didn't really make up for the fact that he was truly without any natural weapons, just like what everyone used to think about Rainwings.

Kiwi sighed, and rolled over in his hammock, hearing the sounds of the rest of the village waking up and getting ready for-

"Jade Mountain!" Kiwi cried as quietly as he could, as to not wake the others in the room that he shared with two other Rainwings about his age, named Boa and Pineapple.

Kiwi didn't really know either of them very well, but he did know that Boa and Bee, the other Rainwing dragonet who was going to Jade Mountain Academy, were twins.

It made them different as well, but according to popular opinion, having a twin sibling was a "better" difference than Kiwi's, and was one to be praised rather than scorned.

Naturally, Kiwi wasn't exactly on golden terms with the twins.

I need to get ready to leave! He thought, frantically stumbling out of his hammock and looking around for his things. He found his bag in the rafters, (probably put there by Boa), and then stuffed his things into it, all as quietly as he could, so he wouldn't wake the others.

He didn't really have too many things. A piece of bright green dragon eggshell that had stuck to his head after he hatched was slipped into a special pocket in the bag, then a nice rock, a long shiny black feather, and a small scroll that he had traded an especially nice dragonfruit for went into the main part of the bag.

Once packed, Kiwi slung his satchel over his shoulder and tiptoed out of the room without looking back.

"I'm definitely not going to miss those two-" began Kiwi, then spotted the small round face of another dragon he didn't exactly want to see right after he woke up.

"oh hi Bee."  he finished, not even trying to hide his annoyance. "Listen, I just woke up and I'm not really in the mood, so-"

"Don't worry, this'll be quick." Bee said, smirking. She was acting as if she was completely calm, but Kiwi swore that he saw the tips of the frills behind her ears turn green for a moment, and a wash of indigo appear on her chest, then quickly flash back to their usual yellow and black, respectively, that Bee always worked so hard to maintain.

So, thought Kiwi smugly. She's guilty or ashamed, and... annoyed? Or maybe worried. That seems right. Kiwi saw a quick flicker of violet (for pride) jump over his own claws, and thought to himself, Bee thought that she could slip that past me, but I'm too fast.

"Are you even listening?" Bee snapped, probably guessing that Kiwi had seen right through her. "Stop admiring me and pay attention."

At this outrageous statement, Kiwi rolled his eyes, but let Bee continue. "I'm listening." He said, nodding and letting his scales melt complex into a pure, blank white. Usually, this would indicate that he was in immense pain, but here it was meant to be read as a statement of neutrality. Any emotion he would translate into color would be completely visible.

Bee grumbled, but grudgingly shed her dark, dramatic colors for a more neutral white. "I really don't see why we have to do this." She sighed, glowering at Kiwi. "It's not like this is some official meeting between queens or something."

"Are you going to say what you came here to say or not?" Said Kiwi, starting to worry. A touch of green started to appear on his claws, but he quickly smothered it with more white. Some of his "hurryhurryhurry" attitude had returned to him after the initial shock of Bee's appearance, and he started fidgeting with his bag.

"All right, okay, fine." sighed Bee, orange flashing along her wings. She made no effort to hide it. "Here's how it goes. I am a twin."

"As literally everyone knows. What's your point?" Kiwi said, snapping his newly orange tail into the walkway between treehouses.

"And according to Rainwings, and Nightwings too I guess, being a twin is cool." Bee continued, violet peppering her about but being quickly snuffed out by a very pale... rose?

Light rose means embarrassment. Thought Kiwi, an odd thought striking him. Is Bee embarrassed about her brother? They both always seemed unaffected.

"But in Jade Mountain Academy, there will be other tribes, and I bet that some of them don't think super highly of twins." She continued, more quietly.

Kiwi couldn't resist a verbal jab. "I did hear something about Skywings killing off twins." he quipped.

"Exactly!" Bee exclaimed, then lowered her voice, her scales rippling with an unsightly mix of dark purple and pale green. She had evidently taken Kiwi's snark as sincerity. "So, all I need you to do is, if anyone at JMA asks, say that I'm normal. If they ask about siblings or something, you can say that Boa's younger by a bit. I've already spoken with Earthshaker. I just need you to agree, and tell Peacemaker about the plan."

She was almost all guilt-colored now, but was also tinted with blue, which would usually have meant calm, but from Bee's expression, Kiwi decided to read it as satisfaction.

However, his mind wasn't really on all this, because he was mostly reeling from what Bee was saying. Bee doesn't want anybody to know she's a twin? Since WHEN? Acid green shot along his wings and face, and he didn't even try to hide it. But then he realized that she was asking him a huge favor.

And if Kiwi was anything, he was a shrewd business-dragon.

"What's in it for me?" He asked, beating down the shock with calm blue.

"What?" Said Bee, tilting her head and turning orangey-purple.

"Why should I do this for free?" Kiwi repeated.

"Well-"

"It's not as if you've been super nice to me or anything." He snapped, letting some black leak through the blue along his spine ridge, which rose slightly. "I'm going to tell absolutely everyone who asks, and also a bunch who won't at JMA, unless..." he paused for dramatic effect, and also to give himself time to beat down any purple guilt and gray uncertainty that dared try to bubble through,

"Unless I keep your secret too?" Bee asked, flicking her tail, which had reverted back to black and yellow along with the rest of her body.

Kiwi trailed to a stop. "Um, yes, actually. How'd you guess?"

"I was going to offer that, but then you started acting all dramatic." Said Bee, dusting off a claw. "And sure, I'll do it. I'll also let Earthshaker know that you agreed. He offered to convince you by force, you know, but I told him that the usual order was 'ask questions first, then punch someone if they don't cooperate.'"

"Gee, thanks." Kiwi said, sarcasm dripping from every syllable, and orange dripping along his horns. "I sure do appreciate not being punched."

"I thought you would." Bee answered tersely and spread her wings. "But keep in mind, if anyone at Jade Mountain finds out, you and Peacemaker will be the first dragons I blame. And then there will certainly be punching."

Kiwi watched Bee fly off, glad to see her go. "I'll try to keep this from ruining my morning." He mumbled to himself, and started to make his way down to the main courtyard.

Eventually, Kiwi managed to find Peacemaker and explain Bee's demands.

"So let me get this straight." The little Night-Rainwing was saying. "If you keep Bee's secret, she'll keep yours? And Boa doesn't know about all this?"

"Yes and yes." Confirmed Kiwi. "I don't like it either, but I didn't really have a choice."

Peacemaker sighed, but nodded. "I guess."

"How do you know that you can trust her?" Said a voice from above them. "I mean, she pretty much said that she'll get that Nightwing beat you up if you say anything."

Void flopped down, hanging from a branch like a large scaly sloth. "Do you want me to go shred them?"

"Hello Void." Sighed Kiwi. He had long since gotten used to Void appearing out of nowhere, and he had honestly been expecting her to show up earlier and claw the smug look off of Bee's face.

Not that he had wanted anybody to be permanently mauled. The very thought horrified him. And yet...

"Have you been following me?" He asked, genuinely curious and also to distract himself from the weird scary violent thoughts. He had gotten pretty good at spotting things that didn't want to be spotted, and he hadn't noticed anybody but him and Bee out on the walkway.

"Sort of." said Void, doing a weird sort of upside-down shrug. "Originally, I was following Bee, 'cause she was looking suspicious,"

"Isn't that her usual state?" Peacemaker snarked, the colored scales under his wings shifting to a pinkish purple, meaning amusement.

"Well, yes, but she was looking extra suspicious this time." Insisted Void, glowering in a hastily picked direction. "Anyway, I followed her for a bit, then she and Kiwi have this big fancy dramatic conversation, and here we are."

"It wasn't that dramatic." Kiwi protested,  playful annoyance painting his horns orange. "I just did the blank slate thing to annoy Bee. You know how she is about how she looks."

"True." shrugged Void, flapping her wings dismissively, her entire stance oozing nonchalance. Her dark mood from a few days ago, when she had admitted to not applying to JMA at all, seemed to have disappeared. Her eyes were bright as ever. "Anyway, let's not spend our precious last day together thinking about the Terror Twins! Let's go fight a tree instead."

And with that, she turned and disappeared into a bush.

"What the..." whispered Kiwi, the gave Peacemaker a confused look. Stunning as she was, Void sometimes confused even him.

"Are you really surprised?" asked Peacemaker, the rainbow scales on his wings returning to their usual disarray.

"Honestly, no." Answered Kiwi, then started after Void. "But fighting a tree sounds like a valid use of our time."

"Definitely." Agreed Peacemaker, then started forward. "Shall we?" He asked, extending a wing.

"Onward!" Cheered Kiwi, holding out his own, which had returned to its usual green-gold-brown pattern. As they touched, the colored scales on Peacemaker's wings flashed lavender and pink-rose for a moment, then faded slightly to a soft pinkish-white, then glittered into gold and too many other colors for Kiwi to count. He didn't have time to think these colors over, and honestly he didn't really care.

He was still just a little shaken by his conversation with Bee.

Okay, so maybe a lot shaken. But! Kiwi thought, jogging a bit to keep up with Peacemaker. As long as no one at JMA finds out, we're safe. I mean, who else knows?

What's the worst that could happen?