Isn’t Queen Coral the most beautiful queen in all of Pyrrhia? Isn’t she benevolent? Righteous? Perfect?
Wouldn’t you die for her?
Triton wasn’t sure he would. He respected his queen. He was a loyal Seawing, after all. But was Queen Coral the most perfect dragon in the entire world? He didn’t think so.
But Moray, his mother, believed it with her whole being. Triton’s first word was ‘Coral’ because of how often Moray talked about the queen. Every day his mother told him, “Today is another day for us to serve our queen. Be thankful that you are one of the lucky few who gets to see her every day .”
And he did. When he wasn’t training in the Deep Palace, Triton was with his mother. She followed the queen everywhere. He would wake up in his bed in the Deep Palace and by the end of the day would find himself swimming to a random outpost, or inspecting the ruins of the summer palace.
And it was all so boring .
Triton traveled more than any other dragonet he knew, but it was always to the same places, and never away from the Kingdom of the Sea. On the rare occasions Moray left for another kingdom, Triton had to stay home, all on his own. Which was SO unfair. He was six years old, only a year from fully grown. Why couldn’t he visit the Sand Kingdom and see the desert that stretched as far as the eye could see? Why was he stuck at home?
Of course, he never had the chance to say anything like that to his mother. Moray was too busy attending the queen, even when he was with her. He wasn’t even sure how she had time to hatch him if she had been this loyal six years ago.
One day, when Triton was eating dinner in the Deep Palace with his mother, the great queen herself stormed into the dining room, fuming. Bubbles from a silent roar obscured her face, but Triton knew that a murderous glint would be present in her eyes.
Your Majesty! Moray flashed anxiously, immediately getting to her feet and bowing. Whatever is the matter?
Queen Coral’s royal pattern of stripes lit up as she quickly flashed an answer. Lagras has been attacked.
A silent clamour of light flashed through the room as every Seawing expressed their shock.
How? And who? Asked Commander Shark.
We do not know for certain, Queen Coral flashed. But I suspect the Mudwings. They always wanted more of that village then they had a right to.
Moray growled and lashed her tail, almost hitting Triton in the face. Any casualties?
Yes. Three Seawings and two Mudwings. And one of them was a dragonet we planned to send to Jade Mountain Academy. My daughter will be FURIOUS, Queen Coral flashed, rolling her eyes.
Aw, that’s sad, Triton thought. Those poor dragons. At least we’re safe in the Deep Palace.
Queen Coral wasn’t done with her ranting. What are we supposed to do now? Our students are leaving in two days! There is no time to send out a request for more admissions.
At once, Moray jumped at the opportunity to help her beloved queen. Your Majesty, my son Triton could go. He’s the right age and is capable of representing our tribe with dignity.
Triton stared at his mother. Did- did she just volunteer him? To fly far away from home to a foreign school that was full of strange dragons? From other tribes ?
Well, Triton? Queen Coral asked, turning to face him. Will you go to Jade Mountain Academy?
Triton lit up the stripe on his snout that meant, Yes .
If Cypress could pick the moment when she realized Moss didn't trust her, she would have to remember the moment she poked her dark brown snout out of her egg. And even that would be wrong. She was positive that Moss hatched with an instinctive distrust for her, which was certainly not possible because Moss was over twenty years older than Cypress.
Cypress didn’t even know what she had done wrong. She always did what Moss said (well no, she didn’t, but that wasn’t enough to make her so paranoid). Every time Cypress stepped out of her sight, Moss would start screeching and running wildly until she found her again. Whenever she did that Cypress was glad that they lived so remotely that no one was around to witness these fits of hysteria.
The funny thing was, Moss wasn’t even related to her. Moss had told her that she found her egg abandoned in the swamp six years ago and decided to adopt the dragonet inside. Any Mudwing dragonet that hatches without it’s siblings usually perishes from the perils of the swamp. Cypress was grateful that Moss had saved her and all, but it would help if she didn’t bring it up every single day .
They were fighting in front of their hut when the letter came. Every day before breakfast, Moss and Cypress would spend at least two hours practicing fighting techniques. It was a constant that had started since she was old enough to fly.
Cypress darted to the left, dodging a bolt of flames from Moss. The fire hissed as it came into contact with the light drizzle of rain from above. She twisted, swinging her tail in an arc to hit Moss’s side. With a loud thump it hit its mark, and Moss was thrown off her feet. Cypress prepared to leap after her, but she heard a sound not often present by their secluded hut. Wingbeats.
Moss heard it too. Together the two Mudwings scanned the sky for the telltale sign of dragons. A few moments later they spotted one. A small, thin Mudwing with a pouch around his wings soared above them. The dragon twisted into a dive and landed in front of them, shaking water from his wings.
“Are you Moss?” He asked.
Moss nodded her head warily, as though prepared for a fight.
The Mudwing dug around in his pouch and then handed her a scroll. “I’ve been instructed to give this to you and then wait for your reply.”
“And who sent you with this message?” Moss growled.
“Queen Moorhen herself.”
A flicker of surprise crossed Moss’s face and she quickly unrolled the scroll. She stared at it for a long while, her snout wrinkled slightly. Then she looked back up at the messenger and said, “Please tell the queen that we will do as she says.”
The other dragon nodded then lifted off into the sky again, and a few moments later, he was gone.
Cypress tried to grab the letter. “What does the queen want? What does the letter say?”
Before she could say anything else Moss opened her mouth and breathed a bolt of flames into the scroll. A minute later it was nothing more than ash.
“Why did you do that?” Cypress yelped.
Moss turned to face her, her snout stern. “The Queen would like you to attend Jade Mountain Academy. You are to leave in three days.”
“What? How does she even know I exist ? Besides, you would never allow that, would you?”
It might have been Cypress’s imagination, but she thought Moss looked sad as she said, “I will do what my queen commands.”
And then she turned and walked back to their hut, leaving Cypress standing in the rain.
Crimson never thought anxiety would come in a scroll. Scrolls were his friends, after all. From history to crime to fantasy, Crimson never turned away a scroll. The Sky Palace library was full of them ever since Ruby became queen.
But this scroll was not like the ones he spent hours pouring over. This one was sent specifically to him.
He was wandering around the library, trying to find a new story to dig his claws into, when his sister Amber walked in.
“I knew I would find you here,” she teased. “You know, it might be more fun to hang out with other dragons once and awhile.”
“I have fun here. You might too if you ever bothered to read.”
Amber poked a scroll with one long claw. “I read, just not more than I have to. There’s so much more exciting things to do than sitting around mooning over some scribbled words.”
“What do you want, Amber? You didn’t come here just to make fun of me,” he sighed.
“There’s a letter for you.”
The twinkle in her eyes told Crimson everything he needed to know. “You mean- it’s here ?”
Amber smiled and waved a wing toward the door. “Come on and see for yourself.”
They ran out of the library and down the various halls of the Sky Palace. Dragons the color of ruby red to bright orange jumped out of their way. Some called out to them in greeting, or in some cases, scolding.
Since their parents were advisors to Queen Ruby, Crimson and Amber grew up in the Sky Palace, and haunted it’s many rooms and corridors. Amber was only a few months from her seventh hatching day, and would start training under their parents to become an advisor herself someday.
But today was Crimson’s day, not Amber’s. They hurtled into their home, and Crimson nearly ran into his sister.
Their mother smiled at him. “So she told you?”
“Where is it? Where is it?” He said, hopping from talon to talon.
She handed him a scroll. He unrolled it as fast as his shaking claws could and greedily read the contents.
Dear Crimson of the Skywings,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to Jade Mountain Academy, run by the Dragonets of Destiny. If you choose to accept, you will leave one week from now. You do not have to bring anything, but personal possessions and small pets are allowed. Please inform us of your decision as soon as possible. If we do not hear from you in one week your position will be forfeited.
Queen Ruby of the Skywings
Crimson roared with joy and jumped all around the room, happiness making his heart feel light as a feather.
“I take it you got accepted?” His mother deduced, smiling as she watched him celebrate.
“YESSSSSSS!” he crowed.
Amber grinned. “Well, you did beg the queen nonstop to let you go, so I suppose it’s not too much of a surprise. Congrats, little bro.”
He hugged her, then his mother, and shouted, “I'M GOING TO JADE MOUNTAIN ACADEMY!”
“Do you have to go?” Arroyo whined as he weaved a red and gold pattern into the tapestry he was working on.
It wasn’t a very complicated piece compared to the last one he had made. This tapestry depicted the setting sun on a Sandwing, with blue and black trimmings. He was almost done with the Sandwing’s head, which was hardest to weave because of the shape of the snout. But he thought it looked pretty good.
His brother, Sandstorm, was standing across the room from him, studying one of Arroyo’s completed tapestries, a pouch slung over his wings.
Sandstorm and Arroyo were twins, but that was obvious to anyone who saw them side by side. Both dragons were the color of pale sand, as though they had been bleached by the sun. Their amber eyes and spotted wings were almost identical.
“It’s too late for me to change my mind,” Sandstorm told him. “Besides, you know this has been coming for weeks now.”
Arroyo huffed. “That doesn’t mean I like it.”
“Six years together and you still don’t want to get away from me? Come on, Arroyo, we have to go our own ways at some point! Why not now?”
“That’s all fine and mighty coming from you, but I’m going to be stuck here while you train to be part of the queen’s guard someday! You’ll be at the Sand Palace and I’ll be….”
Sandstorm picked up a date from the table and threw it at him. Arroyo yelped and ducked to avoid the fruit.
“What was that for!?” He growled.
Sandstorm shook his head ruefully. “Stop complaining! If you want to leave so badly then DO IT. Father won’t stop you.”
“But what would I do? I’m too young to get a permanent job and I certainly won’t be apprenticed,” said Arroyo.
His brother hesitated, tapping one claw on the sandy floor of their house in thought. After a moment he said, “Wait here.”
Sandstorm slipped into his room and returned a minute later with a scroll in claw. Without a word, he handed it to his brother.
Arroyo took the scroll, unrolled it, and read:
Dear Arroyo of Palm Tree Town,
We would be delighted to have you attend Jade Mountain Academy, created and run by the Dragonets of Destiny. If you choose to go, you will leave in one week. All students are allowed to bring some personal items or a small pet, but no materials are required. Please send us your answer as soon as possible. If we do not hear from you in a week, your position will be forfeited.
Happy Full Moon,
Queen Thorn of the Sandwings
“This is a joke, right?” Arroyo spluttered. “She doesn’t want me ?”
Sandstorm shuffled his talons nervously. “I might have had something to do with it. When I was interviewed for my apprenticeship, Commander Six-Claws asked about my family. I told him about you and how I would be leaving you all alone. I suspect he talked to Queen Thorn, and she sent you this. I wanted to wait until I left to give it to you.”
Seeing the shocked look on his face, Sandstorm added, “You’re not angry, are you?”
“Angry?” Arroyo laughed. “How could I be angry ? Sandstorm, I get to meet the Dragonets of Destiny! Of course I’m not angry!”
“So you’ll go?”
“Three moons, yes!” roared Arroyo.
Laughing, the two brothers hugged. Then they walked out of the hut into the warm desert afternoon.
“I guess this is goodbye, then,” Arroyo said.
His brother snorted. “Not forever. We’ll see each other in a few months, I’m sure. But you now… goodbye, brother.”
Arroyo lifted his arm and touched the bracket on his wrist to Sandstorm’s bracelet. For as long as they could remember the brother’s had had matching bracelets, different only in color. Arroyo’s was bronze, while Sandstorm’s was turquoise.
“Goodbye, brother,” Arroyo said.
Then he watched as Sandstorm flew off into the pale blue sky, getting farther and farther away with each flap of his sandy wings.
“PRISM!” roared Hibiscus. “DON'T GIVE HIM THOSE !”
“But you said the purple berries would help with the sting,” Prism countered.
“Yes, but those are white berries, not purple.”
Prism stared down at the clump of pale purple berries in her talons. “They’re lilac.”
If Rainwings could breathe fire, Prism was certain that smoke would be coming out of Hibiscus’ nose. She was the only who could ever make the Rainwing healer mad. Well, apart from grumpy Nightwings that got stung or bitten by rainforest creatures that any one year old Rainwing knew to stay well away from.
Hibiscus stomped over and snatched the berries away from Prism. Muttering about dim witted dragonets, she replaced the lilac berries with dark purple ones, then started to mash them up in a bowl.
On the bed next to Prism was a small Nightwing who had been stung by one of the toxic wasps that lay their nests deep in the rainforest. He was breathing heavily, eyes half closed, a large red bump on his tail. The toxin wasn’t enough to kill him, but it was certainly still painful.
Hibiscus finished mashing up the berries and handed the bowl to Prism. “Feed him this.”
She did as she was told. When all of the berry mush was gone she wrapped a bandage around the Nightwing’s tail and left him to sleep.
“If you weren’t so careless you could be an excellent healer, you know,” Hibiscus told her as Prism joined her at the herb table.
Prism started to sort their various plants and poultices into neat and orderly piles. “I’m not careless. I’m just ignorant. That’s what Kinkajou told me.”
“Hmmmmm,” muttered Hibiscus as she used a talon to wipe excess petals off the table. “Well as long as you’re an apprentice here, you’ll listen to me and not Kinkajou.”
A loud thump sounded from the entrance to the healer’s platform as a dragon landed. Turning, Prism saw with some surprise that it was Deathbringer, Queen Glory’s bodyguard.
“Ah, Prism. I thought I’d find you here. Come with me, the queen requests your presence.”
Prism exchanged a look with Hibiscus then followed Deathbringer. They leapt off the platform and soared through the dense thicket of the rainforest. Dragons of every color in the world were tucked in hammocks, flying through the treetops, and chatting at various platforms. Every dragon they passed stared at Prism with curiosity, and in some cases, disgust.
She knew why, of course. It was because of her pure black scales and the faded stars on her wings. It was because of the pattern of color changing scales (a sky blue at the moment) that decorated her snout, down her neck, along her back and wings, and to the tip of her tail. It was because her father was a Nightwing, and her mother a Rainwing.
Prism was the first Nightwing/Rainwing hybrid the two tribes had ever witnessed. It wasn’t her fault that she wasn’t fully part of either tribe. She didn’t have any Nightwing powers, and she couldn’t fully camouflage herself like other Rainwings.
She was just Prism.
They arrived at Queen Glory’s pavilion, which was decorated with pale lilies and roses. The queen sat upon her raised platform, her sloth around her neck. Prism’s parents were there as well, chatting quietly with one another. As Prism and Deathbringer landed, the three other dragons all turned to face them.
What’s going on? Prism thought. What could the queen want with us?
“Prism. Skygazer. Rosebush. I have invited you here today to discuss an opportunity for Prism here,” the queen said. “As you are probably aware, the school run by the Dragonets of Destiny and I, Jade Mountain Academy, is currently in the process of recruiting new students. As queen of both the Rainwings and the Nightwings, I must choose five dragonets from each tribe to attend. I would like you, Prism, to go as one of the Nightwing students.”
Prism’s mouth dropped open as she stared at Queen Glory. “Wah- me!? Why would you want to send me? I’m not even a full Nightwing!”
Glory waved a talon dismissively. “You are as much a Nightwing as you are a Rainwing. In either case, you are my subject. And you, Prism, are a very bright dragonet. I have noticed your interest in healing. Jade Mountain has an excellent healers class. And you might benefit interacting with dragons from other tribes.”
Prism didn’t know what to say. Leave the rainforest? Without her parents? But what would other dragons say when they saw her? What if no one liked her?
But she would get to learn .
“Well? What is your answer, Prism?”
Prism stared up at the queen, a dragon who knew what it felt like to feel out of place. If she thought this would help, who was Prism to disagree?
“I’ll go,” she whispered.
Snowstorm never had a chance to prove herself to her tribe. From the moment she was born she was doomed to ridicule. It wasn’t her fault. How could it be, when she wasn’t even an hour hatched when it happened? Of course, she knew all about it now. All her parents said was “Do you want to do what your uncle did?” and “You know this is all your uncle’s fault” and the ever present “You have to do better Snowstorm”.
On the night she hatched, Snowstorm’s uncle, Polar, ran away from the Ice Kingdom to join the new Talons of Peace order. Her parents had been demoted to the fifth circle for his desertion, if only because of familial relations. So their hopes turned to their only dragonet to get them out of their bad luck. From the moment she entered the rankings, Snowstorm worked twice as hard as the other dragonets. She trained from dawn till dusk, studied as she ate, and used most of the night to memorize the current rankings so she made sure to never disrespect anyone.
Six years later, her parents had managed to claw their way back into the third circle, while Snowstorm was in the first.
And then it happened. One month ago, Queen Snowfall decided to send a messenger to the Talons of Peace to invite Polar back for an audience. Unlike her mother, Snowfall was interested as to why Polar abandoned his tribe. But when she received word that Polar had murdered her messenger, Snowfall casked away her sympathy and turned her rage on the only dragons she could punish without breaking the peace: Snowstorm and her parents. Now she was in the fourth circle, with her parents back in the fifth.
I wish I had been born into a different family, Snowstorm thought as she rubbed a wet stone along the edge of a spear. It was infuriating to know that she could be guarding the queen right now, not sharpening spears in the weaponry, if her uncle hadn’t betrayed them.
It just isn’t FAIR.
She reached for another spear, her talons soar from the repetition, when her supervisor poked her head in the room.
“You can go now, Snowstorm. Your shift ended ten minutes ago” she said briskly.
Snowstorm nodded and set the spear back down. She stretched her wings, wincing at how sore they were from staying in the same position for hours. She walked out of the building into the evening air. A chill breeze washed over Snowstorm as she started to walk out of the palace grounds. It was considered polite to walk in the central courtyard of the Ice Palace, and dragons who ignored decorum were usually dragged into lower circles.
She passed many dragons on their way to and from the palace, and bowed to most of them. It slowed her down, but because of her lower rank Snowstorm knew that respect was due to those above her.
As soon as she left the courtyard Snowstorm spread her snow white wings and leaped into the sky. Her family’s new home wasn’t too far from the palace because of Snowstorm’s rank, but it was a far throw from their old home in the palace walls. She flew over countless buildings lit with the warm glow of the light orbs they used instead of torches. Two of the three moons were rising in the sky as the bright sun grew dimmer and dimmer as it disappeared over the horizon.
She landed in front of their small house and opened the door. Her parents, Beluga and Seal, were huddled around the dining table, but they weren’t focusing on food. A scroll lay under their claws. Beluga turned and nodded at Snowstorm.
“Snowstorm, come and see what the queen has sent us,” her father said.
“The Queen?” Snowstorm asked, snout wrinkled in confusion. “What does she want?”
In answer, Beluga handed the scroll to her. It read:
Dear Snowstorm of the fourth circle,
You have been invited to attend Jade Mountain Academy, a school run by the Dragonets of Destiny. Should you choose to accept, you will leave two weeks from now. All needed supplies will be provided to you at Jade Mountain, but you may choose to bring a small collection of personal belongings if it so suits you. Pets that can be easily transported are also allowed, though any animals that could easily cause harm to small dragonets are banned. Term will last until next summer. Please write back your answer as soon as possible. If we do not hear from you then your position will be forfeited.
Queen Snowfall of the Icewings
Snowstorm stared at the letter for several seconds after she finished reading.
“But why does she want me ?” she blurted out.
Seal frowned. “We do not know. Perhaps she wants to give you another chance to prove your loyalty. Or maybe she just wants you out of her kingdom.”
Snowstorm twitched her tail, deep in thought. Did Snowfall really want to help her? She hadn’t been very close to the queen, and certainly didn’t interact with her now.
“Should I accept?”
“Snowstorm,” Beluga said slowly. “This could be our chance to finally wipe over your cursed uncle’s crimes. If you attend Jade Mountain and befit yourself as a true Icewing, top of your class, then we may enter the queen’s favor again. You must accept.”
Beside him, Seal nodded. Snowstorm looked down at the letter again. If she could do it, if she could help defend her family’s honor, she had to go. There was no question.
All she had to do was be perfect.
The peak of Jade Mountain rose high into the brilliant blue sky as Crimson soared toward it. His heart beat faster with every flap of his wings as he got closer and closer to the legendary academy. Dragons of every color in the world flew about the entrance to the school, filling the air with the thunderous sound of wings and voices. Dragons milled about on the large slab of stone that served as the entrance to Jade Mountain Academy. Sandwings chattered with Seawings as Skywings waved goodbye to Icewings. He had never seen anything like it before.
Even though the War of Sandwing Succession had ended over six years ago, the seven tribes of Pyrrhia were only just starting to enter a sort of agreed peace that went beyond the wishes of the queens. Some dragons still held grudges against other tribes, but as more and more dragons interacted outside of their kingdom, the more understanding was built between them. Even though Crimson had seen dragons from other tribes in the Sky Palace before, he had never seen anything like what Jade Mountain held.
Crimson landed on solid stone, lashing out his tail for balance. Amber landed next to him with a soft thump .
“So,” his sister said. “This is the famous Jade Mountain Academy.”
Since their parents were too busy to be away, Amber had accompanied him to Jade Mountain in their stead. She had taken great pleasure in teasing him all the way there about how excited he was. Too excited, she said.
“Do you want to come inside with me? Maybe you’ll get to meet one of the Dragonets of Destiny!” Crimson exclaimed.
Amber gave him a small smile. “And be crushed by a hoard of dragons? No, thank you. Besides, if I want to get back home before nightfall I need to leave soon.”
He sighed, sad that she was going, but too excited about his coming adventure to wallow in it.
“I’m going to miss you,” he said.
Amber put her wings around him and twined her tail around his. “I’ll miss you too, little bro.”
And with that, she took off into the sky again, waving at him as she left.
Crimson turned back to the dragons before him. He trotted toward the entrance cave to the mountain, dodging around wings and tails and talons alike. As he reached the entrance, two dragons emerged from inside. One was a rather plump Nightwing with a kind snout and color stained claws. The other was Clay, one of the Dragonets of Destiny.
Oh my goodness, oh my goodness! It's him, it's really him! Clay! Crimson’s mind reeled.
Clay stopped and smiled down at Crimson, his warm brown scales shining in the sunlight. “Ah, you must be one of our new students. What is your name?”
“Cri-Crimson,” Crimson managed to stutter out.
“Welcome to Jade Mountain Academy, Crimson. This is Mightyclaws, our art teacher,” Clay said, gesturing to the plump Nightwing with one large wing. “Please come to either of us if you have any questions. If you head on inside you should receive instructions from Fatespeaker. I’ll see you later at the welcoming feast.”
Clay and Mightyclaws walked past Crimson’s awed-stuck snout, heading toward the main crowd of dragons. As his eyes followed them, Crimson spotted a dragon the likes of which he had never seen before. Standing near the edge of the platform were three dragons. One was a Nightwing, the other a Rainwing, and the third an inky black dragonet. Except, she wasn’t just black, he realized. Yellow and pink scales colored parts of her body. As he watched, some of the scales turned to a pale green, then a dark purple. Just like a Rainwing !
Before his eyes could burst into flame with excitement, a wall of burly blue scales bumped into him.
“Oof, sorry about that,” said whoever had hit him. “I didn’t see you there.”
Crimson’s assailant was a Seawing a blue almost dark enough to be black. The sea dragon was much bigger than Crimson, but by his horns and teeth Crimson could tell that he wasn’t much older.
“That’s alright,” murmured Crimson, suddenly shy. He had never talked to a Seawing before.
The Seawing stared at him for a moment, then shrugged and walked into the mountain. Crimson scurried after him, wanting to see what the inside of the school looked like.
The inside of the mountain was brightly lit with different colored lamps that shone like fireflies. Giant, transparent leaves made up windows that let in the sun from all angles of the cave. The ceiling stretched far above them, but more light filtered down from the unseen heavens. A large banner was hung above the entrance that read: Welcome to Jade Mountain Academy!
Crimson followed the Seawing toward a polished wooden desk in the middle of the entrance cave, behind which a wiry Nightwing stood with a large stack of scrolls.
“HEL-LO!” the Nightwing beamed. “WELCOME to Jade Mountain Academy! I am SO excited that you are here! My name is Fatespeaker. I'm not technically a teacher, but I am here for ANYTHING you might need. What are your names?”
Bewildered by the wild energy rolling off the Nightwing, Crimson told her his name without any stuttering. Though he had only seen a few Nightwings before (and always from afar), he had never expected one like this.
“I’m Triton,” the burly Seawing said.
Fatespeaker’s smile widened so much that Crimson was worried it would fall off her snout. “Welcome, Crimson and Triton! It’s so funny that you arrived here together, since you two are… get ready for this… clawmates!”
Triton glanced at Crimson, then asked, “What's a clawmate?”
“Clawmates are the dragons you will be sharing a cave with. We’ve found that it helps for bonds to grow faster between dragons when they have to live together. Speaking of which, here are you welcoming scrolls and a map of the school. You’ll be able to find your sleeping cave on the third cave on the left down the corridor behind me. Today is a free day, so feel free to explore the entire school! The only thing you have to show up for is the welcoming feast tonight. It's in the dining cave. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask me or ANY of the teachers!”
Crimson took his scroll from her and tucked it into the small pouch he was carrying. Eager to escape what was becoming an almost creepy smile on Fatespeaker’s snout, he hurried after Triton’s massive pace. They walked down the equally lit corridor, passing various dragonets, until they reached their intended cave. Crimson expected it to be empty, but someone was already inside.
A Sandwing the color of beach sand was organizing a stack of scrolls near the entrance to their cave.
“Hello there,” the Sandwing said cautiously. “My name is Arroyo.”
Triton introduced himself and after a moment, so did Crimson.
“I guess the three of us will be sharing a cave,” observed Triton.
Arroyo nodded. “Guess so.”
Crimson just watched them talk, wanting to join them but also suddenly afraid to do so. He wasn't scared of his clawmates, but he wasn’t too sure what to do with them either.
He decided to put down his pouch. There were three beds in the cave; a pile of camel hides, a small pool of water, and a stone slab with neatly folded blankets next to it. Crimson placed his pouch on the stone slab and took out the welcome scroll. He examined it closely, trying to memorize the layout.
Suddenly aware of the silence of the cave, he turned around to see that Arroyo and Triton were doing the same thing as him, though glancing at the other every few seconds.
Taking a deep breath, Crimson said, “Do either of you want to come explore with me? We still have some time until the feast.”
“Sure, I’ll come,” Triton said, putting away his scroll.
Arroyo looked down at the ground and said, “I don’t know. Maybe next time.”
Crimson opened his mouth to ask why not, but Triton was already walking away. With a curious glance at Arroyo, he followed the Seawing out into the corridor.
“So, where do you want to go?” Triton asked.
“Hmmmmmm,” said Crimson, pulling out his map. “Lets see… I know! Let’s go to the LIBRARY!”
Triton gave a small laugh. “The library? Sure, why not? I hear that Jade Mountain has an impressive collection of scrolls.”
A wide grin split Crimson’s face at those words. “Really? That's amazing!”
As they walked toward the library Triton asked, “So, where are you from? Besides, you know, the Sky Kingdom.”
“I live at the Sky Palace,” Crimson told him. “My parents work there. What about you?”
“I mostly live in the Deep Palace because of my mother, but I’ve been all over the Kingdom of the Sea.”
Crimson gaped at him. “Wow! The Sea Kingdom is huge, that must have taken you awhile to accomplish! Is that why you’re here? Did you get bored of having nowhere to go?”
Triton laughed again. It was a pleasant laugh, deep and sonorous. “In a way, I suppose. I was bored of the Deep Palace, but I never intended to come here. It was kind of a coincidence.”
They walked on, chatting about this and that, and the more they talked the happier Triton seemed. Crimson was just excited that he was talking to a dragon from another tribe ! It was so cool.
As they reached the library, they heard a large clamor of noise. Someone was shouting, and the sound of large bodies banging into things filled the air. Before Triton and Crimson could investigate, a startling blue Seawing hurtled out of the library. It was Tsunami, another one of the Dragonets of Destiny.
Tsunami held up a talon to them as they approached her. “I'm sorry about this, but you shouldn’t come into the library right now. We’re having an… um… incident.”
From behind her someone shouted, “FOR MOONS’ SAKE, STARFLIGHT, DON'T LET IT GET AWAY!”
“Whats going on?” asked Crimson.
“There’s a bear loose in the library,” Tsunami sighed. “We don’t know how it got in but we don’t want anyone getting hurt. It's always making quite a mess of the place.”
A roar sounded from inside and a loud thud echoed after it.
Tsunami glanced at them and then ran back inside the library, tail lashing wildly behind her.
Triton looked at Crimson, and Crimson looked at him. After a small moment, they started to laugh.
Snowstorm knew the moment she saw her clawmate that she was going to fail.
It wasn’t the mix of dragons she walked among as she entered the school that deterred her. It didn’t bother her that it was a Nightwing who greeted her and gave her directions. She wasn’t even that bothered by how warm it was. No, it was only when she entered her sleeping cave that she knew she was doomed.
She stared at a dragon the color of the night sky when the three moons were slim and faded. The color of a penguin’s back when dipped in icy water. Except for the pattern of scales all along the dragon’s body that changed from blood red, to emerald green, to a pale pink.
A Nightwing. But worse than that, a hybrid .
The Nightwings and Icewings had always had a feud ever since the time of Prince Arctic. With the death of Darkstalker and the rule of both Queen Glory and Queen Snowfall, the feud had become less intense over the past few years. Still, Snowstorm knew that close association with a Nightwing would not curry favor with her tribe. Even worse was a Nightwing/Rainwing hybrid. It was fine for Snowstorm to be around Nightwing students, but to be sharing a cave with one? To be seen in their presence every single day? That would not do.
But here she was, standing in a cave with a dragon who’s scales glimmered like moonlight on ice.
“Hi,” said the dragon. “My name is Prism. Who are you?”
Snowstorm turned, and stomped out of the cave.
It wasn't fair. It just wasn't fair that she had the worst luck of any Icewing ever. How was she supposed to help her family if the world hated her?
She found herself in a cave with an open ceiling and jumped into the air, beating her wings to rise higher and higher. She soared above the mountain as her thoughts whirled rapidly.
She could ask for another cave. That would place her away from Prism. But what if they put her in a cave with another Nightwing? Or what if word got back to the queen that Snowstorm had started demanding things the moment she got to school? Besides, she had been told by other students of the academy that dragons couldn't change caves unless there was a conflict. And Prism had done nothing to Snowstorm besides introduce herself. No, switching caves wouldn’t help.
Was this somehow planned? Did Queen Snowfall even want to give Snowstorm another chance? Or was she sent to further bring shame on her family and give Snowfall the final reason to kick them out of the tribe?
Snowstorm settled on one of the peaks of Jade Mountain, grateful for the cool air that whistled among the peaks. The setting sun gave way to twinkling stars that peppered the dusky sky.
If she couldn’t change her situation, then she would just have to make the best of it. If she ignored Prism and still managed to be the top of her class, then Snowfall would have to acknowledge her. It was the only way.
A faint gong echoed around the cliffs. Two more followed it in short succession.
It was time for the welcome feast.
I hope you enjoyed!
The dining room of Jade Mountain Academy was by far the noisiest place Arroyo had ever been. He had lived in a relatively small village his whole life, and aside from Full Moon festivals or visits to the market the next town over, he had never been around a large number of dragons all making as much noise as they possibly could. Usually he would be fine with all of this if Sandstorm was with him. But his brother was far away at the Sand Palace, probably not missing Arroyo at all.
Well I’m not missing you either , so there , thought Arroyo fiercely.
He stared down at the stone table where he sat. There were two long tables in the dining hall, and another smaller table where the teachers ate at. The dining hall was only used for feasts and school assemblies, although they were allowed to go in there anytime they wanted.
So far Arroyo hadn’t done much eating. He had a bird and some dried dates in front of him, but his appetite had vanished once he entered the raging cave.
Most of his fellow students were still arriving, bringing their dinner in from the prey cave and sitting among the long stone tables. With each new dragon the noise got louder and louder. A headache started to pound its way along his skull, and Arroyo tried to pull his wings around his head.
“Hey, are you alright?” someone asked.
Arroyo looked up to see Triton and Crimson, each with some prey, standing on the other side of the table.
“I’m fine,” the Sandwing muttered. “It's just a bit noisy, that's all.”
Crimson stared at him in confusion, but Triton had a knowing glint in his eyes. Leaning forward, the giant Seawing spread his wings around Arroyo, not touching him, but shielding him from the rest of the hall.
“Close your eyes and take a deep breath,” Triton said quietly, his dark eyes soft and close. “Concentrate on the beat of your heart. Picture yourself sitting in the sand, the sun shining down on your scales. Let yourself calm down.”
Arroyo did as he was told and pictured one of his tapestries. He thought of the way the thread felt when he was spinning it through his talons, or the way fresh dye smelled. His heart beat slower and slower, and the headache faded. He opened his eyes and met Triton’s own dark ones.
“Thank you,” he said softly.
The Seawing nodded and drew back his wings, sitting down next to Crimson, who looked confused.
It was still loud in the cave, but this time Arroyo wasn’t overwhelmed by it. He also started to hear some of what the students were talking about.
Crimson must have also been listening because he said, “Have you two heard about what everyone’s been saying? About the attack on Lagras?”
Triton nodded. “Yeah, it’s horrible. We’ve had five years of peace and then something like this… who knows what to make of it.”
“Wait, what happened?” Arroyo asked. He hadn’t heard anything about an attack. Then again, he didn’t exactly pay attention to current affairs. He preferred his tapestries.
“There was an attack on a Seawing/Mudwing village, called Lagras, a few days ago,” Triton explained. “Dragons from each tribe were killed. No one knows who is responsible. Queen Coral suspects the Mudwings because part of the village was on fire, but the Mudwings think it was the Seawings because the village is closer to the sea.”
Arroyo cocked his head to the side. “That's odd. There's no reason for fighting anymore. Pyrrhia is supposed to be at peace.”
“ Supposed is the key word,” Crimson pointed out.
They were interrupted but a loud, “HEM HEM” from Tsunami. The noise gradually died down as every dragon turned their attention to the teacher’s table.
There were eight teachers at the table. Four, of course, were Clay, Tsunami, Starflight, and Sunny, the famous Dragonets of Destiny. Fatespeaker sat among them, as well as Webs, the history teacher. There were also three dragons Arroyo didn’t recognize: an Icewing, a Nightwing, and a Rainwing.
Sunny stood up and spread her golden wings as though about to envelope the whole cave in a hug.
“Welcome to Jade Mountain Academy,” she beamed. “We are so excited for another year of getting to know you, our new students.”
Her gaze swept over the cave, taking in the glistening Icewings, the rainbow of Rainwings, the flat Mudwings, the dark Nightwings, the flaming Skywings, the glowing Seawings, and the pale Sandwings.
Sunny closed her wings and continued with her speech. “Jade Mountain is here so that you can learn and become closer to dragons from other tribes. We believe that if dragons know more about each other, there would not be as much fighting. As long as you are here, we will not tolerate any violence. Please be respectful of your fellow dragon.
“There are five winglets at Jade Mountain: Jade, Gold, Silver, Copper, and Quartz. One dragon from each tribe is put into a winglet. That way you will be able to meet at least one dragon from every other tribe. Your assigned winglet is posted in your sleeping caves.”
“What winglet do you think we’ll be in?” Crimson whispered to Arroyo.
The Sandwing blinked at him, surprised at being asked a question. “I don’t know. Hopefully not gold. Gold clashes terribly with my scales.”
A deep chuckle rumbled through Arroyo’s ears. He realized it was coming from Triton, who smiled at him then turned his attention back to Sunny.
“Tomorrow you will be meeting with your winglet for a morning meeting. After that, schedules will be posted around the school so you know what classes you have. If you have any questions, please talk to any of us. We are here to make sure you are safe. But now, let's eat!”
Sunny sat back down and the roar of noise flooded back into the cave as every dragon turned to their prey. Feeling a bit better, Arroyo started to pick at his dates. Across from him Triton and Crimson chatted while eating. He wanted to just go back to his cave, and was thinking of doing so, when Triton said, “So, Arroyo, where are you from?”
Arroyo looked up at him then quickly away. “I-I’m from Palm Tree. It's a small town, you probably have never heard of it.”
“Do you have any family?” Crimson asked.
“I have a brother- Sandstorm. We’re twins.”
“That's so cool!” Crimson exclaimed, and the kind yet excited smile that split his snout made Arroyo grin. He just couldn’t help it. “I wish my sister was my age. She's only, like, two years older than me and she acts like the BIGGEST know it all.”
The Skywing continued to chatter on, and despite himself Arroyo found that he liked listening to Crimson. His life was so different from Arroyo’s, and he talked so passionately that soon the Sandwing found himself laughing along with Triton.
When the feast ended the three of them walked back to their cave, and this time, Arroyo felt a little less lonely.
Now, Prism was used to the looks other dragons shot at her when she walked by. Even in the Rainwing and Nightwing villages, where they had known her since the day she was hatched, dragons still stopped to stare at her when she passed. But here, at a school full of strangers, the stares seemed more… intense? Frightening? Made her feel like she was being put on display to poke and prod at? She didn’t know.
It hadn’t even surprised her that much when her clawmate, a slim Icewing with scales that glittered like the stars, immediately saw her and stormed away. She knew, of course, that most Icewings were not overly fond of Nightwings, but she didn’t think her response would be so immediate.
During the welcoming feast Prism had sat all alone. She didn't know anyone, besides the other Nightwings and Rainwings, but they stayed far away from her. The one time Prism felt present at the feast, when she felt seen, was when she looked up and saw the eyes of her Icewing clawmate on her. The Icewing looked away as soon as she met Prism’s gaze, but it happened .
When the feast ended, Prism hurried away. She wandered to the entrance cave and stared out at the night sky. The air here was colder than the rainforest, but not as humid. She longed for her hammock in her family’s hut, for the sloths and toucans that always chirped and warbled in the branches, for the delicious fruits one could find all over the forest.
She wanted to believe that being at Jade Mountain would help her. Wasn’t that what Queen Glory said? Shouldn't she trust in her queen, even if she didn’t trust herself?
Or was all this just a waste of time?
When two of the three moons had risen fully in the inky sky, Prism walked back to her cave. It was eerily quiet in the mountain. Only the gentle snores of dragons and the whistle of wind though the rock broke the sleepy silence.
Prism creeped into her cave, not wanting to wake her clawmate. The Icewing was curled up on a nest of walrus skins, her back to the door. Prism nestled herself in the hammock hanging on one of the walls. Closing her eyes, she resigned herself to sleep.
As she was just drifting off, a voice broke through the silence.
“My name is Snowstorm.”
Thank you for all of the support! I am glad people are enjoying this.
WARNING: there is a bit of violence in this chapter. nothing too graphic but a warning just the same
Cypress was late.
No, that was an understatement. Cypress had missed the first day of Jade Mountain Academy in its entirety. She was super extremely off the charts late.
But it wasn’t her fault. She had never left the Mud Kingdom before, so how was she supposed to know her way to Jade Mountain? By looking at a map for no more than ten seconds and then getting thrown out of the only home she had ever known and told “Good luck”?
So Cypress has spent three days fuming as she tried to find her way to school. It was a miracle, she thought to herself as the peak of Jade Mountain came into view, that she had even made it at all.
It was early morning when she landed at the entrance to the school. A warm breeze whistled through the trees and the peaks of the mountain. The air here was much thinner than in the marshes, and much more dry. It was a bit unsettling, but overall she didn’t mind too much.
Cypress walked into the entrance cave, extremely aware of how quiet it was. Shouldn’t a school filled with dragons be bursting with noise? All she could hear was the faint drip drip of water in the distance. Until a jet black dragon popped up behind a wooden desk.
“Oh hello!” said the Nightwing. “You must be Cypress, right? Thank goodness you’re here, we thought something horrible might have happened. You’re a day late!”
Cypress shuffled her wings and dug her claws into the ground. “I’m sorry, I’ve never traveled on my own before. I got a bit lost.”
“That’s alright! You’re here now which is the important thing. My name is Fatespeaker. I'm here to help you in any way I can.”
Fatespeaker leapt over the desk and stuffed two scrolls in Cypress’ claws. Then she hopped over to one of the tunnels leading further in the mountain. “Come on, I’ll take you to your winglet. Class just started.”
Bewildered, Cypress followed Fatespeaker up a wide tunnel. Streams of light filtered through holes in the ceiling and the leaf covered windows that made up most of the left wall. They soon arrived at an open cave filled with the morning sun. Grinning, Fatespeaker shoved Cypress into the room.
Seven heads, each a different color, immediately turned to stare at her. Seven pairs of wide eyes penetrated every inch of her body with their judgemental gaze. Seven dragons, all strangers, and all fixated on her.
Cypress lifted her head high and walked purposefully toward the center of the cave. All of the dragon’s bodies were turned toward a large brown Mudwing with kind eyes and a sweet snout.
“Hello. You must be Cypress, right?” the other Mudwing said. When Cypress nodded in assent he continued, “Thank goodness. I’m glad you arrived here safely. My name is Clay. I’m one of the teachers at this school.”
Cypress studied him closely. So this was Clay, the famous Mudwing of the dragonet prophecy. He was the first Mudwing she had ever met who had lived away from the Mud Kingdom. Actually, he was one of the few Mudwings she had ever met at all.
Clay gestured with one large wing at the other dragonets in the room. “This is your winglet: the Copper Winglet. Your fellow members are Snowstorm, Crimson, Triton, Arroyo, Prism, and Banana.”
Each dragonet gave a small nod to her as their name was mentioned, except for the small Skywing who shot her a warm smile. Cypress nodded back to them all then sat down next to Prism.
“As I was saying,” Clay continued. “Since today is your first day of class you get to choose the topic we’ll talk about. After that you’ll have the rest of the day to yourself. So, what should be discussed?”
The seven dragonets glanced at one another with wide eyes and shifting tails. What do YOU think we should choose? Do you have an idea? I don’t know what to do.
By the edge of the cave, with her tail hanging out in the open air, Snowstorm asked, “Sir, what is expected of us here?”
“At Jade Mountain? To learn, of course!” Clay beamed. “It might help you all if I go over the basic curriculum we use here. We have seven classes: history, music, art, defense, healing, geography, and a study of scavengers. Every winglet must take part in these classes, sometimes with another winglet, but students can also sign up for extra curricular activities like hunting or field trips. Also, students can form clubs later in the year.”
Arroyo flared his wings. “Sorry, did you just say music class? Does that mean we have to sing?”
Clay’s kind smile helped down the horrified look on the Sandwing’s snout. “No one if forced to do anything. Music class involves instruments as well as singing. Mostly you will be left to explore what you are interested in. The teacher is just there to assist you with anything you might need or want to learn.”
“Oh. Ok, that’s fine,” Arroyo sighed.
“What about defense classes? Asked Cypress. “Wouldn't that contradict with the school’s existence? Since Jade Mountain is supposed to, you know, keep dragons from fighting each other?”
Everyone turned to stare at her until Clay answered. “Well yes, but defense is more about physical exercise than actual fighting techniques. It helps improve flying and strength.”
Banana, an ironically yellow colored Rainwing, said, “So do we have to fight other students ?”
“No, no,” said Clay. “Not a full on fight, no one will get hurt. I promise you’ll love it. Tsunami is a great teacher.”
Cypress watched Crimson and Triton exchange a Really? glance before she looked away. It was odd, really. She knew about the Dragonets of Destiny, but all of it was from scrolls. She had rarely talked to anyone besides Moss, and even when she did the five dragonets were not the topic of conversation. So why were her fellow wingmates skeptical of Tsunami?
A gong rang through the school, bouncing around stone walls and ceilings. Crimson and Arroyo both jumped at the noise.
“Well, that’s it for today!” Clay beamed. “I’ll see you soon for class!”
With great rustling and stretching, the Copper Winglet started to leave the cave. Cypress stayed where she was as the male dragons all filed past her, batting at one another with their tails and wings. A sudden rush of longing hit her as she watched them go.
Why did I never get the chance to have friends?
“So you’re our Mudwing?” came from her left.
Cypress twisted around, spikes raised, only to find the strange black and gold dragon, Prism, standing next to her.
“I suppose so,” she answered. Prism had a kind face, but her eyes seemed to wander even when her gaze was upon Cypress. It was a little disturbing, like Prism was in her own little world. “And you’re…”
Prism’s golden scales shifted to indigo, then a sky blue. “I’m the Nightwing student, though I’m also part Rainwing. It’s nice to meet you.”
Cypress gave her a small smile. “It’s nice to meet you too. Have I missed anything important?”
“Not really,” Prism shrugged, the scales along her eyes swirling into a warm pink. “You’ve seen our winglet, and yesterday was a free day anyway. All we did this morning before you arrived was introduce ourselves.”
A glitter of scales caught Cypress’ eye, and she realized that the Icewing, Snowstorm, was still in the cave with them. When she saw Cypress looking at her, Snowstorm turned from the ledge she was on and jumped into the sky, shooting down before Cypress could say anything.
Prism turned to see Snowstorm’s tail disappear and sighed. “I don’t know why she’s like that. I tried to talk to her yesterday, but she just turned and ran. She’s- I don’t know what to make of her.”
“She seems… scared,” Cypress said. “There’s something about the way she looked at us, like we were going to attack her or something.”
Prism looked at her in alarm. “Me? Attack her ? Even if I could fight she could tear me to shreds!”
Cypress rolled her eyes and followed Prism out of the classroom. The dark dragon wasn’t tiny, but she was slim and definitely didn't look like she got into fights often.
“You must be my new clawmate,” Prism continued. “Since you’re in my winglet and all. You, me, and Snowstorm. We can stay up late talking about our feelings and gossiping.”
The Mudwing snorted at this. It was hard to imagine herself gossiping, much less Snowstorm.
“Come on, I’ll give you a tour since you didn’t get to explore the place yesterday.”
Jade Mountain was certainly the biggest place Cypress had ever been in. How was anyone supposed to keep track of all the winding hallways, vast caves, and huge caverns that loomed with stalagmites. In the hut where she had grown up, Cypress knew every inch of where she was allowed to go. She could sleepwalk her way back to her bed from miles away. But here, she had trouble remembering if she came from the right tunnel, or the left. Or was it the center?
Prism didn’t talk as much as Cypress expected her to. She explained where all the important caves are and even showed Cypress their sleeping cave. It was cozy, with buckets of scrolls, fireless lanterns, and a bed of moss that Cypress immediately knew was hers.
Apparently they had the rest of the day off. Tomorrow the real lessons would start. The purpose of this morning was for everyone to meet their winglet and get all cozy with one another, though Cypress inwardly knew that probably would never happen. It had been five years since the Nightwing and Icewing war had ended, and even longer since the Sandwing succession. But five years was not very long to a dragon, and even though she had never really been around other dragons before, Moss would tell her about the tensions that still ran through the seven tribes of Pyrrhia.
Just look at the way Snowstorm looks at Prism , she thought warely. Forgiveness is hard to get, but even harder to keep.
They returned to the entrance cave and Prism walked outside, stretching her wings. As the sun hit her scales they turned into a whirl of azure blue with silver speckles, perfectly matching the rest of her midnight black body. It was beautiful, Cypress had to admit, the way Rainwings could change their scales at will. This was the first time she had ever seen it happen, and it wasn’t even from a full Rainwing.
Prism shook her whole body as though dislodging the dankness of the caves they had visited, then turned to face Cypress. “Want to go get something to eat? You look like you could use some food after all that flying, no offense.”
“Sure. But couldn’t we just go to the prey cave?” Cypress asked. They had passed it on their tour, and it had been full of easily catchable animals.
“It's crowded in there,” Prism replied. “Anyways, it's a good day to fly.”
Cypress couldn’t argue with that. Her wings were still tired from her trip to the academy, but some light flying wouldn’t hurt. Besides, she had gone through worse with Moss.
The two dragons spread their wings and launched into the air, spiraling up until they could see miles in every direction.
“It’s so beautiful here,” Cypress said. “So much open space, and so many different colors. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
Prism gave her a curious glance as they lazily flapped along, keeping an eye out for any easy prey. “Haven’t you ever been outside of the Mud Kingdom before? It's not that far from the Rainforest, or the Kingdom of the Sea.”
“No. I’ve lived on the outskirts of the Mud Kingdom my whole life with just my sister, Moss. Well, she's not really my sister but she sure acts like one. Always paranoid and muttering about something I’ve done wrong.”
A bird fluttered past and Cypress considered trying to catch it, but it was too small to make a proper meal.
“That’s sad. I’ve been on vacation to the Sand Kingdom before with my parents. We saw one of their moon festivals. It was really cool.”
Prism started to describe her trip with enthusiasm as they circled above a small section of trees, waiting for the telltale sign of prey. Cypress tried to listen at first, but all she could think about was how beautiful the yew trees were with their slender white limbs and light green leaves.
A sudden movement in the groove caught her attention. Cypress moved into a dive, plummeting toward her prey, as Prism yelped with surprise at her sudden movement. She landed at the edge of the groove and drove her talons in, latching onto the strong body of a wolf. The wolf howled, thrashing as it tried to escape her clutches. But with careless ease Cypress sliced one talong across its throat, and after a few more seconds of struggling, the wolf lay still in her claws.
Another thump sounded behind her and Cypress turned to see Prism staring at her, scales a whirl of colors.
“Wow! That wolf is huge . How did you get it so quickly?”
Cypress shrugged. “It wasn’t expecting me. I saw it through a gap in the trees but it wasn’t paying attention to the sky.”
Prism poked the wolf with one claw, squinting at its slit throat. “Let’s take this back to Jade Mountain. We don’t want its pack to find us.”
Cypress nodded and leaped into the sky again, this time with the added weight of the wolf in her claws. She was surprised to see that Prism didn’t lead them into the mountain itself, but rather by a small pond where a few dragons were sitting, chatting with one another and feasting on their own lunch. As they got closer she realized that three of them were part of her winglet.
They landed near the other dragons and the small russet Skywing gave them a pleasant wave. Prism waved back and Cypress nodded. The two of them split the wolf in half and each started to eat. The meat tasted delicious after a few long days of flying.
The other group of dragons had been chattering quietly as they ate, but as they finished their voices seemed to be getting louder and louder. Cypress looked up to see a large Mudwing facing off against Triton. Before she could so much as open her mouth , the Mudwing growled and leapt for Triton’s throat.
Triton was just trying to enjoy a relaxing picnic with his friends when the Mudwings arrived. There were three of them, each smaller than Triton but much bigger than Crimson or Arroyo. At first he thought they were there to eat by the pond as well, since it was a nice day out. But one look at the lead Mudwing’s face told him differently.
Naturally, Crimson gave them a friendly hello. “Hi! I recognize you, you're the Mudwing from the Gold Winglet. Fen, right?”
The lead Mudwing, Fen, nodded his head. “Yes.”
There was an awkward pause. Triton was starting to get unnerved by the way Fen was looking at him. Like he had stolen his favorite scroll or dumped fire ants onto his bed. Which he hadn’t, of course.
“Do you, er- want something?” he asked. Behind him he could sense Arroyo tensing up, ready to flee at the nearest sign of conflict.
He heard another two thumps and looked around to see Prism and Cypress with a wolf. Crimson, of course, gave them a friendly wave but something in Fen’s eyes stopped Triton from going over to say hi.
“You’re the Seawing prince, right?” Fen said softly.
He could feel Crimson’s and Arroyo’s eyes on him as he answered, “No. I’m not a prince. I’m related to Queen Coral, yeah, but not super closely. She's the sister of my mother's father.”
“So you’re royalty?” one of the other Mudwings demanded.
“Not really? I mean, my mother is technically in line for the throne but it's not like she’ll ever be queen.”
Fen snarled and raised his wings slightly. “Then yes, I do want something from you. You Seawings attacked our village and killed countless innocent dragons. You should have to answer for those crimes.”
“We didn’t do anything!” Triton pleaded. “I don’t know what happened but it certainly wasn’t the Seawings. I heard so from the queen herself.”
Fen stared at him for a long, hard moment. “Liar,” he growed, then lunged toward Triton with his claws outstretched.
Crimson yelped and scurried backwards, falling over his tail and ending up in the pond. Triton dodged Fen’s attack but before he could say anything the other two Mudwings were on him. One of them sent out a bolt of flames, which Triton had to duck to avoid. It singed the top of his horns and the blistering heat warmed the air around him. The other one scrambled onto his back, trying to find a purchase between Triton’s deep blue scales. With one strong movement Triton jumped into the air, not quite extending his wings, then turned and shook his whole body. When he landed, the Mudwing had joined Crimson in the pond.
Triton scrambled back onto his feet. The only warning he had was a low growl as he whirled around to see Fen jump at him again.
“No!” shouted a familiar voice, and a moment later pale scales blew through Triton’s vision. Arroyo had slammed into Fen’s side, and they two of them landed in a heap. Fen was faster then Arroyo though, and managed to scramble on top of him, pinning him to the grass. With a hiss he raked his claws across Arroyo’s neck, not enough to do permanent damage, but enough to hurt.
The whimper of pain that Arroyo made filled Triton with an ocean of rage. He grabbed Fen and hurled him off the Sandwing, then wrapped his claws around the Mudwing’s throat.
“Go,” Triton growled. “End this fight here and now and you won’t get hurt.”
As Fen looked into the dark depths of Triton’s eyes, a flash of fear flew across his snout.
Triton released him and the three Mudwings hurried away, one still trying to shake the water from his scales.
He immediately ran over to where Arroyo sat, tentatively brushing his wings on his neck. He winced, and Triton felt another flash of anger.
“Are you alright?” he said quietly, peering at the wound. It looked superficial, and wasn’t even bleeding that much, but a dragon’s neck is a sensitive place.
“I’m fine,” Arroyo mumbled. “It's just a scratch, that's all.”
“We should still bring you to Clay, make sure it doesn’t get infected and all that.”
Triton turned to see Crimson climbing out of the pond, gasping for air. Apparently the little Skywing couldn’t swim very well. Behind him were Prism and Cypress, running toward them with anxious faces.
Triton turned back to face Arroyo and saw the panic on his face. He didn’t want to be around so many dragons at once. Not after he had just been in a fight.
Triton hurried toward the others and stopped them with a raised claw. “He’s alright, just got a little scratched up.”
“What were those Mudwings doing ?” demanded Prism. “Why would they attack you, you weren’t doing anything to them!”
Crimson shook himself, trying to get dry, and got water over everyone. “Oops, sorry about that. Fen blames the Seawings for what happened to that village that got attacked. You know, Lagras? I guess since Triton is related to the queen he figured it was a good way to get revenge.”
“ Distantly related,” Triton corrected him. “But you’re right.”
He glanced at Cypress who was tilting her head at him, as though trying to figure him out. Did she blame his tribe for the destruction of Lagras as well? Would she have joined Fen if she had gotten there sooner?”
Prism interrupted his thoughts. “This kind of fighting shouldn’t be allowed at Jade Mountain. We should tell someone.” The scales on her body that were not black were glowing a molten orange, and she looked like a smoldering campfire that sprinkled to ash at the latest hours of night.
“I’ll take care of that,” Triton said. He didn’t want the others crowding Arroyo anymore then he had to. “I’ll take Arroyo to Clay and explain the whole situation. We’ll meet you in the library after.”
The others nodded, though Crimson looked a bit reluctant to leave, and flew away toward the academy.
Triton returned to Arroyo and brushed a wing against his. Arroyo startled a little but didn’t pull away, his dark brown eyes staring at Triton with trust.
“Thank you for saving me,” the pale Sandwing whispered.
“It’s me who should be thanking you. That was an epic move you did back there. I didn’t take you for a fighter.”
Arroyo stared down at his talons and started drawing a line in the warm earth. “I’m not, really. My brother was always better at fighting then me. I don’t like to do it much.”
“Me neither. Anyways, let’s get you to Clay.”
The two of them flew back to Jade Mountain under a sun just starting its descent from the sky. A few more hours and it would be dusk.
Arroyo seemed to calm down as they flew, his talons unclenching and shoulders relaxing. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“Have you ever been in a fight before?” Triton asked suddenly.
Arroyo didn’t jump at his voice. Nor did he flinch away. “No. I’ve had some basic training but never actually had to defend myself before.”
“It’s ok to feel scared, you know.”
Arroyo turned to look at him, head cocked in confusion.
“A few years ago,” Triton said. “There was a shark attack at the Deep Palace. They happen about twice a month but this one was bad. Usually it's one or two sharks and we have an easy enough time getting rid of them. But this time there were six. Six huge, storm grey sharks with teeth as big as my head. I was outside the palace when they attacked, and one of them headed straight toward me. I was terrified. I’ve always been big, but this thing was three times my size. There was no time to run for help so I attacked it. I whacked it for my tail and it bit my leg. I still have the scar from it. I managed to hurt it enough that it decided I wasn’t worth the trouble and swam away. To this day I’m still scared of sharks, and I live in the ocean. I’ve never fought one since, and I don’t enjoy fighting other dragons either.”
Triton smiled at Arroyo, a small, weary smile, almost sad. “We should fear violence, Arroyo. We should be scared of what might happen if we fight each other, because if we don’t, wars like the Sandwing Succession happen.”
Arroyo stared at him for a long moment, then nodded.
They had entered Jade Mountain by then and walked into the healing cave, where Clay was busing sorting some jars on a shelf.
“Hello, what brings you two here?” the giant Mudwing smiled. It was the kind of smile that automatically put you at ease, pulling the tension and fear out of you in a moment.
Triton gestured to Arroyo’s neck. “Some Mudwing students attacked us and hurt Arroyo.”
Clay let out a startled yelp. “You are attacked? Are you sure it was by our students?”
“Yes sir. It was Fen and two other Mudwings whose names I don’t know. Fen’s the one who gave Arroyo that scratch.”
Clay studied Arroyo’s neck and carefully brushed a talon over the wound. It had stopped bleeding, and was somehow even paler than the Sandwing. Clay turned and rummaged for some supplies, then dabbed at the mark with some ointment that smelled like cinnamon and put a bandage over it.
“There, that should keep it from getting infected. Please come to me if it starts to hurt or gets worse.”
Arroyo nodded and said, “Thank you,” and turned to leave.
“Are you going to do something about those Mudwings?” Triton hurriedly asked.
Clay frowned and started to put the ointment away. “I’ll speak to Tsunami and Sunny about it. We’ll sort this all out, I promise. It won’t happen again.”
Triton nodded, then followed Arroyo out of the cave.
As they headed toward the library, Arroyo whispered for the second time, “Thank you.”
“Anytime,” Triton grinned.
Crimson would have been impatient if not for the shelves upon shelves of scrolls that surrounded him in the library. The Skywing palace library wasn’t that big, considering the old Queen Scarlet didn’t do such things like reading, but Jade Mountain must have had hundreds of scrolls that he couldn’t wait to get his claws on.
Even so, the Skywing restrained himself and sat by a window of leaves with Prism and Cypress, waiting for Arroyo and Triton to return. He had seen fights before, but never one like what he had just occurred. Triton had managed to take down three Mudwings at once without a scratch on him, with a little help from Arroyo. Crimson had missed most of it as he was trying his best not to drown in the pond, but Prism had filled him in on the detail while they waited. He wished he could fight as well as the burly Seawing, but alas he had never been good at that sort of thing. Reading though, that was another thing…
His eyes wandered toward the scrolls again just as Triton and Arroyo entered. Arroyo’s neck was bandaged but other than that he seemed fine. Starflight looked up from his desk as they entered and called out, “Who's there?”
“Triton and Arroyo, sir,” answered Triton. “We’re just here to see some friends.”
“Ah, alright. When you leave, come and get your library card.” His voice grew louder as he called over to Crimson’s group. “And that includes you three too!”
“Yes, sir!” Prism shouted back, and grinned at the sigh of exasperation Starflight responded with.
As soon as the Seawing and Sandwing joined them, Crimson asked, “So? What did Clay say?’
“He said he would talk to the others, but I don’t think Fen is going to stop with a slap on the wrist,” Triton sighed, flopping down next to Crimson. “And it’s not just him. When the other Seawings hear of this they are going to be mad. And once the Sandwings hear about Arroyo, they’ll want revenge as well.”
Arroyo snorted. “I doubt it. I don’t know any of the other Sandwings. Besides, who’s going to tell the other Seawings about the fight? I don’t think Fen wants to brag about losing.”
The light that filtered through the leaves brought out the deep purple of Prism’s scales as she said, “They’ll probably have an assembly to warn about no fighting. It won’t take one for the others to put two and two together.”
They all fought about that for a moment. The worst of the rage would come down on Triton and Cypress, since they were of Seawing and Mudwing origin. This couldn’t lead to anything good. If only they knew who had been responsible for the destruction of Lagras. Then none of this would have happened.
“So, what should we do?” Crimson asked.
They all turned to look at him, startled out of their own thoughts. They had known each other for less than a day and had already created a mess. None of them knew what to do. They were just dragonets, not even fully grown.
“I say we do nothing for now. If something like this happens again and the teachers won’t help, we’ll take matters into our own claws,” said Cypress.
After a moment, the other agreed. Crimson didn’t want to. He didn’t want to sit around and do nothing if it meant his new friends might get hurt. But what else was he supposed to do?
After another moment of silence they each got up and left, picking up their library cards from Starflight on the way out.
Hello again! This one is a bit short. Hope you enjoy <3
Also thank you all so much for all the support, it means a lot!!!
Music class was filled with loud noises, strange instruments, and a bright orange Rainwing who, for all the moons, would not shut up. In the Ice Kingdom, silence rained, unless there was a tribe meeting. Even then all aristocrats would behave themselves in a civilized manner. Even the dragonets would try their best to be polite. Not like these strange, colorful, and EXTREMELY LOUD dragons around her.
Snowstorm had sat herself in a corner the moment class began. This was undignified music, the kind of music that would get her thrown out of the tribe. How could anyone lower themselves to wack their tail on drums like Triton? Or dance in that silly way Crimson was doing? If she did that, Snowstorm knew her chances of returning to her home were slim to none.
Across the room the Mudwing, Cypress, was trying to play a harp. Prism was trying to help her learn, but Cypress kept getting her claws stuck in the strings. With a laugh, Prism tugged one of Cypress’ claws out of the instrument, then poked her in the chest. Cypress rolled her eyes and batted her away.
Snowstorm felt a strange ache in her chest, like someone was squeezing her heart. She didn’t know what it meant, and didn't really want to find out. Prism glanced around the room and caught the Icewing’s eye. Prism blinked at her, then gave a little wave with her wing. Snowstorm immediately looked away, focusing on her claws instead.
“AHEM,” their teacher, Shimmer, called. “Before class ends I want to teach you a song. We won’t do this super often, unless anyone has any requests, but this one is a favorite of mine. We’ll try to sing it together, alright?”
As soon as everyone nodded Shimmer gave them each a scroll with lyrics written on them. As Snowstorm glanced at the words, she got more and more confused. She had never seen a song like this before.
“I’ll sing it first so you know the rhythm,” Shimmer said. As the Rainwing started the song, Snowstorm couldn’t help but enjoy her voice. It was high and sweet, like the taste of summer sun after a long winter. She wondered if all Rainwings sounded like that when they sang.
When she finished Shimmer instructed, “Now it’s your turn. One, two, three…”
The seven dragonets all burst into song with varying talent. It sounded horrible to Snowstorm, who was barely whispering the worlds, but Shimmer seemed pleased enough. After the first verse ended Shimmer called for them to stop.
To Snowstorm’s horror, Shimmer said, “Snowstorm, to succeed in this class you have to participate. You don’t have to be good, but you do have to try. Sing the first verse for us, please.”
This was exactly what Snowstorm didn’t want. To be put on the spot, called out for not being good enough. And now she had to sing ? In front of her winglet? But if she didn’t, Shimmer would tell the Dragonets of Destiny, and word would get back to Queen Snowfall that she didn't represent the Icewings properly.
Snowstorm took a deep breath, stared at a spot on the wall, and started to sing.
When we were young and full of fun
Our wings would beat until the dawn
Oh the time we spent up in the sky
Until the rain came pouring down
Until the rain came pouring down
And the sun beat down on forest leaves
Silence filled the room as she finished the song. Snowstorm just stared at her spot on the wall, begging her teacher to leave her alone.
Shimmer cleared her throat. “That was lovely, Snowstorm. You are quite talented.”
Snowstorm nodded her head slightly, still staring at the wall. After a moment the teacher let them continue with whatever they were doing before, and Snowstorm started to relax.
The feeling of someone watching her seeped along Snowstorm’s scales. She already knew who it was. Looking down, she met the dark eyes of Prism, who was watching her with an expression Snowstorm couldn’t quite make out. They stared at each other for a long moment, neither blinking or moving a muscle. Then, seized with a sudden burst of boldness, Snowstorm lifted one wing, and gave Prism a little wave. Prism blinked, startled, then lifted her wing, and waved back.
A sudden surge of panic filled her and Snowstorm fled from the cave, ignoring Shimmer’s calling to come back. She ran down endless corridors, trying to escape what she had done, what she might do, or what she was doing. Waving to a Nightwing, like she was her friend? Running away from class like a coward? What would Queen Snowfall think of that when she heard about this? Had she already doomed her family’s honor in her first class?
She caught a glimpse of snowy white scales before she collided with a dragon much bigger than her. There was a loud “ Oof” as the other dragon stumbled back a few steps, shaking his wings to balance himself.
Snowstorm looked up and gasped. It was the scavenger teacher, the former Prince Winter of the Icewings.
“I-I'm so sorry,” Snowstorm blurted. “I didn’t see you coming and-”
Winter held up a talon and Snowstorm immediately shut her mouth. How had her situation gotten even worse ?
“It’s alright,” Winter said gently, seeing the panic in her eyes. “No harm done. Though I do have to ask, why are you out in the halls right now? Classes haven't been dismissed yet.”
Snowstorm looked down at her talons. “I left, sir. I-I um-”
Winter was looking at her strangely, as though he had just realized she was there. “Are you Snowstorm? Snowstorm, the daughter of Seal and Beluga?”
And the niece of the traitor Polar? Went unsaid, but she still heard it in his voice.
She nodded, head still bowed in shame. It was always hard to admit to another Icewing, especially one so revered as Winter, of her family shame. She knew how they looked at her, the disgust that twisted their snouts in horrible, familiar ways.
But when she looked up, she didn’t see disgust on Winter’s snout. Instead she saw… sympathy?
The sudden sound of the gong signaling the end of class started her. She could hear the growing noise of dragons behind them as they prepared to switch classes.
Before she could make her excuses, Winter turned and beckoned her with one wing. “Come with me, I want to show you something.”
Snowstorm knew she couldn’t disobey a teacher, and curiosity was starting to creep its way toward her anyways. So she followed Winter to the scavenger study room where he taught his class. It was filled with strange human objects, maps, and a few scavengers running around wide cages. There was one scavenger, however, who was sitting on top of Winter’s desk. When she saw him she barbled something then leapt onto his outstretched talon.
Winter nuzzled her softly with his snout then set her on his shoulder. The scavenger stared at Snowstorm with wide brown eyes, but with curiosity, not fear.
“This is Gecko. When I first met her I was leaving the Ice Kingdom for the last time. It was after the battle with Darkstalker, and when the spell was cast that sent all the Icewings home I too was moved. But my tribe considers me a traitor. I’m sure you know all about that, right?”
Here he glanced at her and Snowstorm nodded. Of course she had heard of the prince who threw away his honor in order to live with dragons from other tribes. At that time it was unheard of.
Winter looked back at Gecko and continued. “Queen Snowfall was my cousin. My family. Yet she still decided to banish me. I had brought shame on our family, she told me. So that very night I left and while I was flying over the icy peaks, I saw a patch of brown fur stark against the ice. It was Gecko. She was half frozen and close to death. I took her with me and raised her back to health, and created a sanctuary where she and other scavengers could be safe from dragons.”
“Now I live here, doing what I love. I never lost my honor, Snowstorm. I saved my brother, gave him the life I didn’t want. Now I do what I love, something I could never have achieved back home. Family is not just about honor. It is about love, community, and understanding. One day, Snowfall will understand that and she will be a better queen for it. And hopefully, you will too.”
Snowstorm didn’t know what to say. An Icewing, even an outcast, trying to convince her that she could be happy outside of her tribe. No, that was impossible. Every Icewing knew that. So was he trying to trick her? To make her into a traitor just like him?
She desperately wanted to believe him. To know that all was not lost. But she couldn’t
She stood up to her full height and looked him straight in the eye. “No, sir. You are wrong. It is an Icewing’s duty to serve their queen and their family. It is an honour . And one that I am not going to throw away.”
And with that she turned and fled from the cave. But not before she caught the sad look that fell upon Winter’s snout as he watched her go, far away from the exiled prince and his scavenger.
“You do know that was the most boring class in the world?” Arroyo yawned next to him, face buried in a wing.
“It was not !” Crimson explained. “History is fascinating , I’ll have you know! Just think, thousands and thousands of years ago, scavengers ruled the world. CAN YOU BELIEVE?”
“I can believe that you have more energy then every dragon in this school put together,” the Sandwing muttered.
Crimson batted at him with one wing and Arroyo threw a date at him. The two of them ended up giggling on the ground, covered with smushed fruit.
Getting up, Crimson brushed off any remaining date and rearranged the blankets on his bed. “I think I’ll head to the library since we’re done for today. Want to come?”
“You are in love with that place,” Arroyo sighed. “No, I think I’ll stay here and take a nap.”
“Boring!” Crimson called back as he left, and was rewarded with another thrown date, which he promptly dodged, laughing as he raced down the hall.
Most of the other dragons were either at lunch or wandering the academy. The pounding rain outside kept any outgoings from occurring. As Crimson wandered down the brightly lit halls, he found himself wondering about Amber. Did his sister miss him? How was she handling the conflict between the Seawings and Mudwings? As a future advisor to Queen Ruby, she would be involved with any major politics, and Crimson knew without a doubt that all the queens of Pyhrriha were discussing the destruction of Lagras. Would they try and bring him home if there was anymore fighting? He hoped not. He had friends here, he was learning more than ever! He didn’t want to go home.
As soon as he entered the library all thoughts ran from his brain as the smell of old scrolls filled his senses. Starflight’s desk was empty, but Crimson could hear someone shuffling behind one of the scroll racks. Following the sound, he soon found the librarian stacking scrolls into a newly built stand. His talons carefully traced the carved wood before he would place a scroll as delicately as a mother places down her new born dragonet.
Starflight dropped the scroll he was holding with a little yelp and Crimson scrambled to help him pick it up.
“I’m sorry, I should have announced myself sooner,” Crimson stammered, pressing the scroll into the Nightwing’s talons. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Starflight gave him a small smile. “I’m sure you didn’t, Crimson. It is Crimson, isn’t it?”
Crimson nodded before remembering that the Nightwing couldn’t see him and hastily added, “Yes, sir.”
“What can I help you with, Crimson?”
Crimson reached out and poked one fat scroll that dangerously looked as if it were going to fall. “I just came here to browse. This library is enormous. How did you manage to get all these scrolls?
Starflight smiled and touched the bandage that wrapped around his head. “We asked all the tribes to donate as many scrolls as possible. Webs was able to purchase even more once Queen Coral stopped trying to kill him. We get more and more scrolls every year, thanks to the generosity of other dragons. That's what this school is all about, you know: helping dragons from other tribes.”
Crimson plucked a scroll from the pile next to Starflight and placed it on a shelf. The librarian acknowledged this with a flick of one ear, then continued on with his work.
The two of them shelved the scrolls in silence for a few minutes before Crimson said, “Sir, do you think there will be another war?”
Starflight paused, one talon still perched on the shelf. “Crimson, I believe you were one of the dragons involved with the fight yesterday?”
“Ye-yes I guess so,” Crimson sputtered, surprised. “I mean I was there, but I didn’t do anything.”
“And you remember what we said at the assembly?”
Crimson frowned, thinking for a moment. “You told us that fighting isn’t the way to solve this. That blaming those who are not responsible is a bad way of dealing with our anger.”
“Yes. But that advice isn’t easy for dragons to follow. Queen Coral, I’m afraid, is too… well, narrow minded might not be the correct word, but let's just say that she is used to dealing with problems a certain way. Change does not come naturally to her. And Queen Moorhen is proud, much too proud to let her citizens get hurt without retaliating. It’s an easy mixture for conflict, I’m afraid.”
There was a pause as Starflight turned to face Crimson. The young Skywing couldn’t help but stare at the clean linen bandages that covered the Nightwing's face, where his eyes should be. A small part of him wanted to see those eyes.
“Do you know why I love scrolls so much?” Starflight asked, not even waiting for Crimson to answer before continuing. “I’m not a very good fighter. I’m not a leader, and I’ve never been particularly brave. But I am smart. I study scrolls because they give me more information than any advisors or teachers could. They don’t lie, don’t try and manipulate me. They tell a story, and from that story I can discover the truth depths of the author’s mind. I learn from their mistakes, take note of their accomplishments, and compare them to others.”
He leaned forward and poked Crimson lightly in the chest. “Never forget that what your eyes can be tricked. Lies can be whispered through your ears. But stories- stories never lie. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Crimson said slowly, staring at the stacks and stacks of scrolls that surrounded him on all sides. “I think I do.”
The faint melody caught Prism’s attention as she left the history cave, having just returned some borrowed scrolls. It was beautiful; soft and melancholy, filled with emotion. Prism followed the sound as though in a trance, forgetting everything but that beautiful siren call. She was almost to the underground lake when she could make out the words.
When we were young and full of fun
Our wings would beat until the dawn
Oh the time we spent up in the sky
Until the rain came pouring down
Until the rain came pouring down
And the sun beat down on forest leaves
Do you remember the roofs above
Of leaves of green and vines with fruit
From horns to tails to wings to claws
We covered ourselves in fields of flowers
We covered ourselves in fields of flowers
And the sun beat down on forest leaves
It wasn’t hard to spot you then
With your scales of gold and emerald green
But then they changed upon that day
When ivory became your final fit
When ivory became your final fit
And the sun beat down on forest leaves
And the sun beat down on forest leaves
The ice dragon was perched upon a ledge that opened to the inky night sky, two moons visible through the natural window. The ledge creeped out over one of the underground lakes, so the pale moonlight turned the usually dark water into a swirling pot of melting silver. Prism stopped at the entrance to the cave, wishing that Snowstorm would continue the beautiful melody. But Snowstorm was just staring up at the sky, wings tilted backwards as though wanting to lift off and fly far, far, away.
“Why are you here?” Snowstorm’s voice rang out. Startled, Prism took a step back, then decided it was too late to run.
“I-I heard someone singing and I wanted to know who it was…” she trailed off as Snowstorm hung her head and breathed out a trickle of frost breath through her nose.
After a moment of silence, Prism slowly approached her clawmate until she was right next to her. She sat down and stared up at the sky. The moons looked so pretty, so full of light and peace that for a moment Prism wanted nothing more than to fly up and join them. Almost unconsciously she changed her scales to match the silver white moons, as though doing so would bring her closer to them. She guessed it was some sort of Nightwing thing, to want to be closer to the source of their power.
“What's it like?” Snowstorm burst out. It almost seemed like she had been trying to keep the question inside but just couldn’t help herself. “Being a Rainwing and a Nightwing?”
Prism looked up at her in surprise. “Its- well it's- kind of isolating, in a way. The Nightwings and Rainwings are getting along better each day, but still… I’m the first hybrid those two tribes have ever had. I can’t read minds or tell the future, and I can’t fully camouflage myself like all the other Rainwings. I'm just different.”
Snowstorm didn’t respond. She just stared ahead like her mind was millions of miles away.
“What about you? What’s it like in the Ice Kingdom?”
Snowstorm blinked and seemed to return to herself. “I’m nobody. Less than a nobody, actually. I have failed my family time and time again. I guess I’m just… trying my best to be someone . Someone who isn’t me .”
“What do you mean? You seem fine to me.”
Maybe it was the shifting of the moonlight but Prism thought she saw a pale blush creep along the Icewing’s silver scales.
“Maybe to you, but you’re not an Icewing. It’s different at home. You have to be a certain way or else…”
Here she trailed off, dipping one claw into the water beneath them. It created a tiny ripple that grew wider and wider the farther it spread.
Prism looked at the silver dragon, all sharp edges and glittering ice. She looked so lost, so scared, in a way that Prism couldn’t help but understand. Wasn’t she an outsider? As much a nobody as she was special? A dragon so unique in heritage they couldn’t be accepted fully? After all, how can someone be special if they don’t know who they really are?
Prism stretched out a silver-black and nudged Snowstorm’s shoulder. “For what it’s worth, I think you’re the greatest singer in all of Pyrrhia.”
Snowstorm looked startled for a moment, but she didn’t pull away. Then smiled. It was the first true smile Prism had even seen on her, and she found herself wanting to see that smile much more often.
A blinding flash of lightning followed by a clap of thunder made them both jump in alarm. And just like that, the moment was over. Snowstorm stared at Prism as though just realizing she was there then started to back away.
“I’m- I’m sorry I shouldn’t- I have to go.”
The Icewing turned and fled as though her tail were on fire. Prism called out to her, but to no avail. She just sat on the ledge as the rain started to soak through her scales, all alone.
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
Hello everyone, long time no see. Sorry about this chapter it is not my best work, I just wanted to see if anyone was still interested in this. I know I haven't updated in awhile but hopefully I will be able to do more soon. Enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was quiet in the art cave. The sun had just started to rise when Arroyo crept into the empty room, filled to the brim with colorful paints and glittering statues. They had art class that day, but he was too excited to wait. He had to get his claws on the jewel of the room: the spinning wheel.
Arroyo quietly spun blue and green, pale yellow and burning red threads around the wheel, shaping them into the beginning of the most complex tapestry he had ever done. It would take days to finish it, even if he worked on it outside of class, but he knew it would be worth it.
He was so engrossed in his work that he didn’t even notice the giant shadow that fell over him. But when the shadow said, “What are you doing?” Arroyo looked up.
Triton was standing before him, his sizable bulk seemed even larger due to the crowded art supplies that stuffed the cave. The Seawing craned his neck to see the completed part of the tapestry, though there wasn’t much to look at. Just the vague outline of a snout against pale blue.
“I’m spinning a tapestry,” Arroyo explained, the familiar turning of thread in his claws removing the usual anxiety that had gripped him since he first entered Jade Mountain.
“Oh, cool. Have you done this before?”
A faint grin traced Arroyo’s snout as he thought of his room back in Palm Springs, covered head to toe with his work. “Yeah, many times. It’s the only thing I’m good at really. It’s… calming. You have to use all your focus because if you get one stitch wrong the whole thing will be ruined.”
Triton sat down and picked up the end of a dark blue thread. “What are you spinning then?”
“You’ll see when it’s finished,” Arroyo said mischievously. “Why are you here”
“I heard you leave. Wanted to make sure you were ok.”
“Oh,” Arroyo mumbled, suddenly unable to look at Triton. He stared at the tapestry, fumbling with the colorful yarn.
Silence filled the cave as the two dragons struggled for something to say. They wanted to talk, to be around the other, but they weren’t quite sure how. Neither had ever experienced this awkwardness before.
“I like your bracelet,” Triton finally said. Startled, Arroyo self-consciously tugged at his wrist.
“Thanks. I’ve had it since I could remember, really. My brother has one too, only his is turquoise.”
Triton blinked slowly, then reached out and pressed a talon against Arroyo’s. “Stop it.”
Arroyo blinked up at him, startled out of whatever thoughts were clouding his already sleepy brain. “Stop what?””
“Tugging on your wrist. You do it when you’re nervous,” Triton said softly. He stared down at their connected claws. “You could hurt your scales.”
Arroyo didn't know what to say to that. He hadn't even noticed her was doing it. A part of him wanted to continue doing it, but if he did he would disrupt Triton’s talons from his. And he found that he really didn't want to do that.
So instead he said, “Ok.”
And then he was staring into Triton’s deep green eyes. Eyes the color of the sea just as dawn breaks over it. Eyes that were filled with nothing but kindness. And Triton was staring back.
Triton took Arroyo’s talons in his and said, “Arroyo, I-”
“Gooooood MORNING students,” sang a bright yellow and blue tornado whirling through the entrance to the cave. Arroyo jumped back from Triton, startled out of his scales, before realizing that the intruder was not, in fact, a tornado. It was their art teacher, Banana.
“Ah, here bright and early, are you?” Banana beamed at them. “GREAT! That's the kind of enthusiasm I LOVE.”
Arroyo stared at Triton, and Triton stared at him. A small smile started to spread across the Seawing's face, and before he knew what was happening, Arroyo was giggling.
Banana watched the two dragonets burst into laughter on the floor of the art cave and said, “What? Was it something I said?”
“Are you serious? You’ve never eaten a banana before? Not once ?” spluttered Prism through her shock.
“Like I said, I grew up on the outskirts of the Mud Kingdom. I wasn’t near the rainforest. We mostly ate anything in the surrounding area,” Cypress explained. “Snakes, squirrels, crocodiles. You know, the usual.”
They were sitting in a wide clearing in sight of Jade Mountain, waiting for Tsunami to arrive. Why the Seawing was late to her own class, Cypress couldn’t guess, but it sure left them bored out of their minds. Besides, the clouds were dark and pregnant with disaster. Who knew when it would start to storm.
“That’s just sad,” Prism said.
Cypress yawned and stretched her wings. “So is this class. Seriously, how long do we have to wait?”
“I beg your pardon?” thundered from behind Cypress. She jumped and fell on top of Prism. They spent a good minute untangling themselves, with Cypress muttering fervent apologies, before the Mudwing was able to see who had shouted. She groaned. It was Tsunami, tall and imposing, glaring down at her as though she were a roach in need of squashing.
“What did you just say about my class?” Tsunami growled. Her deep blue snout was inches from Cypress’s, nostrils flared with indignation.
Cypress stood her ground. “Your class is boring. We haven’t done anything yet.”
Out of the corner of her eye Cypress could see Prism staring open mouthed at her. Behind her, Crimson was shaking his head slowly.
Tsunami stared at her for a long moment. Then she laughed, a deep, booming laugh that bent the grass around them.
“You’re right, kid,” she said. “That’s on me. I fell asleep and only just woke up, I shouldn’t have been late.”
Tsunami whisked past her and Cypress let out a tiny sigh of relief. It probably wasn’t wise to stand up to the fearsome Seawing princess of the Dragonets of Destiny, but Cypress didn’t want to look like a coward in front of the other dragons. Besides, Tsunami had kept them waiting.
The large Seawing waited for the two winglets, Copper and Jade, to gather around her before she spoke. “Ok kiddos, today we are going to be practicing basic defense. I want to see everyone’s basic fighting skills so I know where to begin. You and a partner will fight one another, but no injuries allowed! If I see any marks made I will personally make sure you are punished. Got it?”
When they had all nodded she barked, “Partner up!”
Cypress turned to Prism but found that she had already been engaged with Arroyo. Before she could try and seek out anyone else a claw tapped her shoulder.
She whirled around and found herself facing Snowstorm.
“Fight me?” the Icewing said quietly, as though asking to borrow a scroll. Cypress blinked and nodded, surprised at the offer, considering that Snowstorm had barely talked to her since she arrived.
They faced off in the clearing, claws spread and wings low. As soon as Tsunami shouted for them to begin Cypress was leaping toward Snowstorm, intent on pinning her down. Snowstorm threw herself into a ball and rolled away. Cypress pivoted and swept out her tail to knock her opponent down. It worked, but only for a moment, because as soon as she was on the ground Snowstorm grabbed Cypress’s leg and yanked her to the ground. They both broke free of the other and jumped to their feet with heaving sides and gleaming eyes.
And on they went. Cypress found that she liked fighting Snowstorm. Her attack style was so different from Moss, the only dragon Cypress had ever fought before. The Icewing was leaner than her mentor, which allowed her to dodge Cypress much more easily. In turn, Cypress’s long tail and flat head allowed her more advantages when attacking. It seemed as though no time had passed when Tsunami called for them to stop.
“You fight well,” Cypress said once she had caught her breath. “I think I would have trouble beating you in a real battle.”
Snowstorm blinked at her in surprise. “Oh. T-thank you. You’re really good at fighting, too. I’ve never fought a Mudwing before.”
“Well if you ever need to practice, I’d be up for it.”
Snowstorm studied her for a long moment then nodded gracefully. “Yeah. I think that would be nice.”
“OK,” Tsunami shouted with a clap of her talons. “That was good. Most of you look like you can hold your own in a quick tumble, but not much after that. The most important part of this class is how to defend yourself against an enemy, not how to hurt or kill. I don’t want you to go looking for fights, but to be able to survive one if necessary.”
The large Seawing jumped over their heads and landed in the middle of the clearing, her scales shimmering in what light they had. “I’ll show you some basic defense moves for now, and next class you’ll all be able to practice them.” Tsunami’s eyes landed on Cypress and she smiled wickedly. “And since Cypress here found class so boring earlier, so can be my assistant.”
Oh no, Cypress thought. Now I’ve done it. I
Prism gave her a little nudge and Cypress made her way to Tsunami’s side.
“You try to attack me,” Tsunami instructed her. “I’ll defend myself using some simple tactics, so make sure to pay attention everyone. You’ll each have to perform these moves for me later so NO NAPPING! ”
Cypress crouched down so low that her underbelly brushed the grass. It tickled slightly as she shifted her weight, but she tried not to let it show. The last thing she needed was Tsunami thinking she was laughing at her.
Tsunami flicked her tail for Cypress to begin and the Mudwing leaped at her, intending to put her in a headlock. Tsunami easily dodged and whacked Cypress with her giant tail, not enough to hurt, but enough to make her drop to the ground with an “ oof ”. Tsunami took that opportunity to sit on top of Cypress.
“Tail tripping is always the best way to quickly disarm an opponent,” Tsunami said from utop her struggling student. “It's mostly effective in-”
Her voice caught off suddenly and Cypress looked up to see what had grabbed their teacher’s attention. Up in the sky, flying straight toward them, was a stormy grey dragon with bright blue spots.
Tsunami got off of Cypress in time for the grey dragon to land, and as they did so Cyress realized that the dragon was a Rainwing. That stormy grey color couldn’t mean anything good.
“Kinkajou!” Tsunami yelled as the Rainwing landed in front of her. “What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be helping Glory in the Rainforest.”
Kinkajou’s wings were dropped with exhaustion and she seemed to struggle with breathing. “Tsu-Tsunami it’s… it’s the Mudwings. Glory s-she wanted me to t-tell you- Queen Morhen is dead.”
A gasp went up around the dragonets. Cypress saw her own shock on the faces of her fellow students, their eyes wide and mouths open. She spotted Bog, the Mudwing from the Jade Winglet, standing next to Snowstorm. He looked like someone had just set his home ablaze, with all his worldly possessions inside.
Tsunami grabbed Kinkajou’s wrist and leapt into the air. “Go to the school, all of you,” she yelled over her shoulder. “And stay. CALM!”
Cypress spread her wings and jumped into the air, flapping hard to catch up to the larger dragons. She wanted to know what was going on, and now. Behind her, she could hear Triton and Crimson shouting for her to come back, but she ignored them.
The sound of wingbeats made her look back. Prism was following her, determination written across her inky black snout.
“I’m not letting you do anything stupid!” Prism shouted.
Cypress frowned at her. “I'm not. I want to know what's going on, that's all.”
“Well I'm coming with you just to make sure.”
Cypress rolled her eyes but knew that if she tried to stop her, Tsunami and Kinkajou would notice and then she would never catch up to them.
Luckily Tsunami was too busy seething to notice that she had followers. She shot into the school so fast she was merely a bright blue blob whirling like a siren. Cypress and Prism followed her as quietly as possible until they reached the library. Cypress peered in through the keyhole and saw that it was empty except for the Dragonets of Destiny and Kinkajou. She waved Prism closer and they both stuck an ear against the door.
“That CAN’T be true,” Starflight yelped. “Queen Morhen? Murdered? How is that possible?”
“Tell us what happened. Now,” Sunny’s voice demanded, soft but firm.
There was the sound of talons shuffling then Kinkajou said, “Well, I was in a meeting with Glory and Deathbringer, discussing the plans for next week’s festival, when Reed arrived. And I was like WHOA what happened to YOU? Because he was covered in mud and it was GROSS but he obviously had something important to say. He said- he said that four dragons had snuck into the palace and killed every royal. No one knows how they got in or out but the worst part is… the killers were Seawings.”
Prism clamped a claw over her mouth to silence a gasp. Cypress flicked a tail at her to be quiet and concentrated harder on the conversation.
“No. No, mother would never allow that to happen,” Tsunami insisted.
“Yeah that's what I was thinking, but Glory said that because of the attack on Lagras, anything could be possible,” Kinkajou said. “Also, like, there were SO many eye witnesses. A whole platoon of Mudwing soldiers saw the Seawings escaping. The thing is, the Mudwings tried to chase after them, but the killers had completely disappeared . Reed was one of the soldiers who followed them, and he said that as soon as they entered the tree line the Seawings just. VANISHED. So weird!!”
Cypress frowned at Prism, whose tail was silently whipping through the air like a viper. She looked almost as agitated as Cypress felt. This couldn’t be happening. The Mudwing queen? Murdered? And by Seawings of all dragons? No, this just couldn't be.
“What should we do? None of the Mudwings will want to stay after this. We’ve already had trouble with some of the students, I don’t want anyone to get hurt,” Clay said anxiously.
Tsunami snorted so loudly Cypress almost fell over. She steadied herself in time to hear the Seawing say, “If we don’t want anyone else to get hurt we need to stop this . I’ll leave tonight and fly as fast as I can to the Deep Palace. I’ll find out exactly what is going on and come back as soon as I can. In the meantime-”
The clatter of spikes behind them made Cypress and Prism whirl around. Snowstorm was standing at the end of the hallway, wings spread slightly with surprise, her mouth half open with speech. Without hesitating, Cypress and Prism leapt at the Icewing, tackling her in a scramble of talons and wings. Cypress clapped one claw over Snowstorm’s mouth to keep her from making any noise. After a few moments of struggle Snowstorm grew still, glaring up at her clawmates.
Cypress turned her ears toward the library, but thankfully none of the dragons inside seemed to have noticed the outburst.
“If we let you go will you promise to be quiet?” whispered Cypress.
Snowstorm’s glare didn't lift for even one second, but she gave a small nod of her head in assent. They scrambled off of her and tiptoed down the corridor until they reached an empty classroom. As soon as all three dragons were inside, Snowstorm growled, “What in all the moons was that ?”
“It was exactly what it looked like,” Cypress said. She stood tall, staring down the Icewing in front of her. “We wanted to know what was happening. Didn’t you?”
Snowstorm’s eyes flickered to Prism then dropped to the floor. “I wanted to make sure you weren't getting into any trouble.
“Well we weren’t. So,” Cypress gestured toward the door.
“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what you heard,” growled Snowstorm. “I want to know what's happening too you know.”
Cypress glanced at Prism. She was staring at their clawmate with deep curiosity, as though trying to solve an impossible puzzle.
Cypress opened her mouth to say no when Prism yelped, “We promise to tell you, but later. Come by the library later today.”
Snowstorm stared from one dragon to the other, tail lashing thoughtfully. Finally she nodded, then strolled out of the room with one suspicious backward glance.
As soon as she was gone Cypress whirled to face Prism. “What did you do that for? We don’t know if we can trust her.”
Prism wasn’t fazed by her rage. In fact, she looked perfectly calm. Light blue colored what scales of hers were not inky black. “We can trust her, Cypress. I know it.”
“Why are you so sure?”
The look in Prism’s eyes as she met the Mudwing’s gaze was melancholy and full of memories. “Because I heard her sing.”
Cypress didn’t know what to say to that, so she stayed silent. All she could think about as the two of them returned to their class was the look on Tsunami’s face when she heard about the queen. It was the same look Moss had when Cypress’s letter had been sent.
What’s going to happen now? She thought.
Tsunami and I talk to kids the same way. I think its the bi instinct.