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Eldritch dragon eggs are not friends.

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Lorelei had been about to leave her room to set up a hilarious prank involving a goat, a dismot, and two professors, when a rather bedraggled-looking bird zipped straight at her. "Okay no not the face," Lorelei yelped, swatting in front of her.

The velox chirped indignantly, dodging her flailing arms, and landed on her shoulder. When Lorelei turned to glance at the bird, it waved the note bound to its leg in her face. Lorelei lifted an eyebrow and set her prank supplies down to take the note.

The note was very simple, clearly hastily scrawled, with only one word on it - "HELP". Lorelei looked over the paper for a long while, trying to figure out if this was some sort of elaborate prank or puzzle, and glanced back over at the velox. "Who is this from?"

The bird fluffed itself, sending a few tufts of brightly-colored down flying. Down that definitely wasn't velox-colored. Lorelei got the distinct impression that, were the bird capable, it would be rolling its eyes. "Lachesis finally found a way to have too many birds, at a time, I take it?"

The velox seemed to hesitate for a moment, then nodded. Lorelei sighed and shoved her materials aside. "Of course. Tell her I'll be there soon."

*

Lorelei stepped towards Lachesis's room, her tienko curled around her neck. His tail swished excitedly, probably at the thought of getting to chase birds around, occasionally lashing her in the face. Lorelei winced as he whipped her again and pulled him down from his perch.

"Remember," she said, placing him on the floor. "No actually hurting the birds, or there will probably be a very large number of angry phoenixes and dismots harassing you for a long time, and I won't help you with them. Got it?"

The tienko mewed and dashed into Lachesis's room, which Lorelei took to be an affirmation. She hoped it was, anyway. A second later, the tienko dashed out again, mewling indignantly as a surprising number of amagnae pecked, scratched, whipped, or otherwise harried him as they chased him back out into the corridor. He jumped into the the relative safety of Lorelei's arms, hissing at the birds as they retreated at the sight of another magi.

"What even--" Lorelei began, then trailed off as she couldn't figure out how to finish her sentence. She would expect such behavior from wild amagnae, but the majority of the birds harassing her tienko had been quail and wugu amagnae - close to the friendliest birds imaginable. Taking a deep breath, she stepped into her friend's doorway.

"Lorelei!" Lachesis called the instant Lorelei walked into her line of sight. "Thank goodness you're here!" She leapt towards the door, spilling various amagnae everywhere. They chirped in protest, fluttering and hissing in protest as they caught sight of the tienko and Lachesis didn't instantly eject it from her room. Lachesis herself looked almost as bedraggled as her birds did during molting season, her robes in disarray, stray feathers sticking out from everywhere. There were dark bags under her eyes - not an uncommon occurrence during exam season, but that didn't usually result in desperate appeals for help.

"So...what's the problem?" Lorelei asked. Usually a sea of birds visiting merely delighted her friend.

"Well..." Lachesis said. "You know how wugu amagnae like finding eggs and brooding them?"

Lorelei nodded. "Go on."

Lachesis gestured to a particularly bird-covered corner of her room. "This is not a type of egg I expected them to find. Go on, birds, show Lorelei - I promise she won't try to steal it."

Reluctantly, the wugu amagnae and the crowd of quails they'd recruited peeled away from whatever they'd been brooding. Lorelei gasped as she recognized the large gold and black-swirled egg. "That's...but..."

"Yeah, an eldritch dragon egg," Lachesis confirmed, as the birds began covering the egg again.

"So why am I not literally losing my mind with fear?" Lorelei demanded.

Lachesis sighed. "I put a fear shield around it so my birds and I didn't go crazy. My dismots found the egg - and I'm pretty sure I don't want to know how - and brought it in to show me. Now, dismots don't understand the meaning of fear, but I certainly do, and so do the amagnae who were with me at the time. I found out the hard way that they still know telekinesis like their wild cousins, they're just less good at it. Also, birds aren't great at controlling their bowels at the best of times, and this was definitely not the best of times." Lachesis shuddered at the memory. "Putting the fear shield on the egg seemed like the best idea at the time, especially because I probably wasn't thinking straight."

"And then your wugu amagnae, being no longer afraid of the egg, decided to adopt it," Lorelei finished. Lachesis nodded, and Lorelei sighed. "And why can't you just take the egg from them?"

"They're being extremely not cooperative about it," Lachesis explained. "I keep trying to tell them that they won't be able to handle the dragon hatchling, let alone a grown one. They keep telling me that it's their baby now, and to let the creatures who've raised broods before handle this one."

Lorelei cocked her head. "Have you considered casting a fear shield on yourself, and then lifting the one on your egg?"

"I have," Lachesis said. She shuddered again. "All that bird poop again...anyway, I just straight up don't have enough magic to maintain both shields at once. I can barely keep this one running sustainably as is, and only because Calida's letting me borrow her power at all times. It turns out eldritch dragon fear is very potent."

Lorelei groaned. "I could cast one on you, but then I'd be terrified once the shield on the egg gets removed, and if you can't maintain two shields at once, I probably can't either. And how do we even deal with the egg, assuming you do manage to pry it from your birds? It's not like how to deal with eldritch dragon eggs is common knowledge."

"It's not like how to deal with most dragon eggs is common knowledge," Lachesis amended, then paused. "Wait..."

The two magi looked at each other. "Karz," both of them chorused at the same time. That guy loved dragons and had an almost encyclopedic knowledge of how to deal with them.

"I'll go get him," Lorelei told her friend. "You sit tight."

*

Karzar'ill didn't need much convincing to go help Lachesis. Getting to see an eldritch dragon egg! That wasn't a thing he got to do every day! And also she was his friend, and friends helped each other when their creatures did bafflingly silly things.

After getting to her room and confirming that yes, that was indeed an eldritch dragon egg, Karz rubbed at his temples as he tried to formulate a helpful plan.

"So," he began. "Dragons are immune to dragonfear, right? I can probably convince one of my dragon friends to help, but getting the egg to a place where we can hand it off is going to be a problem."

Lachesis nodded. "We could all maintain one fear shield each, on ourselves or each other, but then there won't be one on the egg. Taking it through the Keep halls without a shield is probably a terrible idea."

Lorelei glanced between her friends. "Well, there's an obvious solution to that, isn't there?" Karz and Lachesis both stared at her blankly, and she sighed with exasperation. "We can only all shield each other in the first place if someone can maintain two shields for a short period. For example, I shove a shield on Lachesis, Karz shoves a shield on both me and himself, Lachesis dismisses the one around the egg and then immediately puts one on me or Karz so he can dismiss one and not kill himself trying to keep two up at the same time."

"So..." Lachesis seemed to be catching on. "Once the birds have run away from the egg, I should go grab it and, instead of putting a new shield around you or Karz, put it around the egg again. Then we can drop our personal shields and also transport the egg safely."

"Yup," Lorelei said, nodding. "How's that sound, Karz? I think you have to be the guy - most of my creatures are hanging out in Voltar, where it's nice and warm."

"And most of my birds are too far to be called without breaking my concentration on this shield," Lachesis added.

Karz sighed. "I think I should be able to manage it, if my wyverns are feeling cooperative." He closed his eyes, quietly sorting through the ever-present magical strands binding him and his companions. First he tugged on one thread, shining with brilliant black fire. Five hundred miles away, in the cold depths of Arkene, his black ice dragon Kepesk roared in response.

"I need your help, friend," Karz whispered, and showed Kepesk the eldritch dragon egg. The ice dragon snorted slightly in response, and Karz frowned. "Rhasadilara has other business to worry about right now," he replied. "Or would you rather I only ever called on the void dragons for help?"

Kepesk roared again and launched himself into the air. Karz grinned and turned to his next set of threads.

The next bond Karz reached for was a multicolored rope, woven from a myriad of jeweled threads. He could reach to each wyvern in his flock as an individual, but as a flock they functioned best, and their bond was strongest together. He called for them now and they answered, filling the air in a few short minutes with small, flapping lizards. Several dropped to perch on him, nuzzling his face, making little whistling chirps as he stroked them absently. Others found roosts on various nooks in the furniture, resulting in some small squabbles if they were already occupied by birds.

As the wyverns all settled, Karz felt a prickle along his spine as they turned their attention towards him, channeling their magic through their bond for him to borrow. The sudden influx of power at his fingertips made his hands tingle, itching to cast. "I'm ready," he told his friends.

"Just a second," Lorelei said from somewhere near the floor. He glanced down. In the time that he'd been communicating with his creatures, Lachesis and Lorelei had been busy as well. Lachesis stood as close to the nest as her birds would let her. They'd drawn a neat circle in chalk on the ground around Karz, and then one each for themselves. Karz recognized standard symbols for magic amplification drawn within each circle - Lorelei was finishing up the last one for her own. None of this was strictly necessary for the shields - spells mostly ran on intent, anyway - but this would help them conserve magic and keep the shields running for longer.

"Good?" Karz asked, as Lorelei straightened.

"Yeah," Lorelei replied, tossing her chalk onto Lachesis's desk and dusting her robes off. "Ready, Lach?" Lachesis nodded, fingers twisting in the folds of her robes. "All right, then," Lorelei said, and pointed at her friend. As she cast her spell, a transparent bubble, almost invisible except for its shining outline, materialized around Lachesis, absorbing the chalk circle and symbols. It contracted quickly until it closed around the magi and disappeared.

"Your turn," Lorelei called to Karz. Karz nodded and finally drew upon the power his wyverns offered him. It flowed through him in a rush, filling his entire body with an exhilarating tide of energy. He couldn't help grinning as he channeled the magic into bubbles around himself and Lorelei. They too contracted - Karz could feel the gentle warmth as the magic settled against his skin.

"Lachesis, go!" Lorelei prompted. Lachesis bit her lip, raising an arm, and made a shooing motion. Almost at once, birds scattered every which way, squawking in alarm, feathers flying every which way as they scattered in sudden, intense fear of the egg they'd been brooding. Lachesis dashed towards the egg, only to stumble to a stop as terrified birds launched themselves at her, seeking refuge.

"Augh, no, don't," Lachesis squeaked, as bird after bird crashed clumsily into her. She lifted an arm before her, clearly suppressing the urge to swat at them. More and more birds landed on her wherever they could find a purchase, seemingly doing their best to blend into her cloak, covering her in white splatters. "Stop!" Lachesis cried. "Go away, get away from me!"

"Lachesis," Karz gasped. As soon as the shield on the egg was gone, he could feel its effect pounding at the ones he'd put on himself and Lorelei. The strain on his power was enormous - even with his wyverns helping, he could feel both his reserves and theirs draining fast. The spell had long progressed past the point of easy sustainability into that state all but the most powerful magi knew and dreaded, where it felt like he had run several miles and was still going. "Hurry," he urged, as sweat dripped into his eyes. "I'm not going to last much longer."

Lachesis bit her lip and stumbled forward. For a moment she hesitated, glancing at the birds all around her, and then she reached out and grabbed the egg, cradling it to her chest. Lorelei gasped at the strain the sudden proximity put on the shield she was maintaining. Lachesis waved the egg about her, sending birds scattering every which way.

"Lachesis!" Karz croaked. Black spots were dancing at the edge of his vision now, his lungs burning as he struggled to draw in enough breath.

Then suddenly the pressure against his shield eased. Lachesis hugged the egg to herself once more, aggressively shooing away her birds. Sighing with relief, Karz dropped the shields. Now that he no longer had to focus on maintaining the spell, it seemed like a perfect time to collapse and sleep for a million years. He stumbled backwards, trying to find a place relatively free of bird poop before his knees buckled. A pair of arms reached out from behind to hold him steady.

"No collapsing yet," Lorelei said sternly. She grabbed his hand, closing her eyes. A small flood of warmth ran up his arm before she moved away again, panting slightly. Karz felt much less on the edge of collapse with that. He raised his eyebrow at her.

"Energy transfer," Lorelei said in response to his implied question. "The first thing you learn as a healer."

"Ah," Karz replied. He glanced over at Lachesis, whose robes were more streaked with white than not. He'd never been much good at reading birds, but her amagnae flock was looking decidedly contrite. A dusk cinersi - probably Calida - had flown in at some point and was perched on her shoulder now. It was definitely scolding the other birds. Most of his wyvern flock had flown off once they weren't needed anymore, presumably to gorge themselves. The rest seemed content to snooze where they were. Karz made a note to bring all of them a nice treat in the very near future.

"Come on," Lorelei called to Lachesis. "We've got an egg to get rid of."

Lachesis grimaced. "Can I at least change, first?" She glanced around, taking stock of her room. It was as covered in bird droppings as she was. "...on second thought, never mind."

Lachesis wrapped the egg with a bit of scrap cloth and they ventured out together to the Keep's dedicated dragon landing pad. Fortunately, handing off the egg to Kepesk passed without incident. Karz had expected to attract some stares on their way, but very few people gave them a second glance. He supposed that it was probably far more common than he thought for magi to walk around in messy robes after their companions had accidents. All the same, he was glad his dragon companions were generally dependable, sensible creatures. Kepesk took the egg and flew off, far enough that Lachesis could simply let the link to her spell on it drop, and that was that.

Later, as Lorelei helped Lachesis clean her room, with Karz resting on her newly magically scoured couch, Lorelei coughed. "I hate to say this," she said, in a tone that clearly showed she meant no such thing, "but I did say that you had a bird problem."

Lachesis chucked a brush at Lorelei. Lorelei shrugged, and dumped her bucket of water on Lachesis.

"Think I should intervene?" Karz asked Calida, who was perched beside him. He didn't much want to. It was awfully comfortable here, with the cinersi gently supplementing his magic in a steady, warm stream. A few of the quails had somehow contrived to bring him a small plateful of sandwiches, and chattered at him if he stopped nibbling at them.

Calida shook her head, chirping. Karz could swear she sounded resigned, as if this was a common occurrence. Well then. He shrugged and helped himself to another sandwich.