Bracing himself against the all too familiar pain, Thoran stepped through the portal into the Ruby Sanctum. Although it had changed in the 10,000 years since she had been taken from him, the familiar sights and sounds of his ancestral home still brought back the pain, the loss, the utter devastation of losing his mate. It was for this reason he had taken his brother’s last words to heart.
“Should anything happen, promise me you will watch over my mate.”
“I will protect and watch over her as if she is my own brother. But you must come back because we both know Talanstrasza would never accept me having a second mate.”
The comment, said in jest to lighten the mood having worked that day long ago, two brothers preparing to enter battle, neither realizing it would be their last as they laughed together one last time. Or that he and the woman his brother had loved so dearly would be left to mourn the loss of the others. The promise had given him an escape to leave behind the memories his home brought forth on the rare times he came to visit, allowing him time to heal though the pain never truly left him. And each visit it seemed to hurt a little less, but never ceased. Yet at the same time there was a freedom in returning here, one which could never be found in the beauty of Quel’thalas. The freedom to be his true self, not Thoran Flamesong, companion of the Sunwalker family, but Thoranstrasz of the Red Flight, son of Alexstrasza and Tyranstrasz, a child of life and the skies.
Throwing his arms wide he allowed the transformation to unfold. His body bending, limbs becoming thicker with sharpened talons, crimson scales replacing skin, his face elongating into the face of a dragon, his neck elongating, and large crimson wings stretching from his back. In the blink of an eye the Quel’dorei man ceased to exist, and his place the gargantuan red dragon appeared. With a quick downflap of his wings he was launched into the air, the feel of the wind in his face, the freedom of the skies was his once again. The joy and freedom of the skies lifting his spirit, the worries over Noxarian and his whelp, his worries over Trisaland and her family all but disappearing for a time as he let himself enjoy simply being a dragon.
“Brother! You have returned to us!” Came a deep, growling voice that made him smile as he turned to see another red dragon flying his way. Though the same age, the other male was even larger than his own form, a result of his position within the flight.
“Korialstrasz! Have you finally given up living in Dalaran and playing at being a mage?” He teased as the other dragon laughed.
“Of course not, I have returned to do things with your mother you do not want to hear about.” He laughed as Thoran playfully snapped at his neck.
“How dare you! Do you not know our queen is sacred and should not be looked upon in such ways. Why she is the epitome of purity and chastity.” He laughed as they fell naturally into their habits of showing off their prowess in the sky by taking dangerous dives and other aerial feats around one another.
“So what brings you here? I was told you had asked for a formal audience with her and Tyran, but not what it concerns.” He said as Thoran sighed.
“Yes, I have a rather...delicate matter I need to discuss with them. I suppose I should go face it rather than making them wait since she was gracious enough to grant permission with no information beyond that.” He said frowning.
“I can see from the look on your face it is something that weighs heavily upon you. Come, let's go meet with them so you may unburden yourself. Besides, she is quite anxious to see you again. You haven’t come here since...well I can’t remember when.”
“Since I brought Trisaland and Lysandria when Kalypsa died.” He said feeling a pang of loss once more, another life gone too soon. Pushing the sadness aside he followed Korialstrasz as they made their way to a large cave set in a high cliff where Alexstrasza awaited them with a male nearly as large as herself. With a few wing beats he landed upon the stone floor, a smile breaking over his features as his mother came forth wrapping her neck about his.
“Thoranstrasz, oh how I’ve missed you my son.”
“I’m sorry it's been so long Mother,” He said, returning the gesture of affection. “You know it's still hard.”
“I know little one, I know.” She said softly pulling back allowing him to step over to the other male, lowering his head respectfully.
“Sire, it is good to see you again.” He said as the older male reached out to gently press his forehead to Thoran’s.
“And you my son.” He said softly then pulled back. “What has brought you to us with such a formal and urgent sounding plea for an audience?”
“Oh Tyran, let the boy have a moment to rest before we get into things.” Alexstrasza said gently as she pressed her side to his.
“No, mother it is all right, for I fear I do not know how long I have to resolve this before it's too late.” He said, shaking his head, thinking on his words carefully. “Only a few night’s past, an old acquaintance appeared in Quel’thalas searching for me. It was Noxarian.” He said hearing a gasp from Korialstrasz.
“Noxarian? In Quel’thalas? But why? He left there centuries ago after you said you stopped him from his plan to take Kalypsa away from her sire.” Korialstrasz said, remembering well the anger and hurt of his friend. “How dare he come back as if nothing happened, why would he? Are Trisaland and Lysandria safe?”
“They are fine, no harm has come to anyone, well...except for the whelp he brought with him. She is his daughter of his latest clutch with his mate.” He said looking up to Alexstrasza. “Mother, it was horrifying, her clutchmates had attacked her viciously. She had bite marks and gouges where they’d ripped at her with talons, one of her wings was broken and nearly torn free of her body.” He said as Alexstrasza gasped, her eyes filling with tears.
“How did this happen? Why did his mate not stop them?”
“I suppose I should start further back in the story for you to understand.” He said as he began to relate the tale told to him by Noxarian, of the truth of his leaving Quel’thalas, the lack of trust from his flight when he returned, losing himself to the dark curse and his life with a mate he felt nothing but disdain for and finally to the events leading to his escape with Talyn. By the time he had finished Alexstrasza sat with silent tears streaming down the scales of her cheeks and the other two males looked as if they’d been shell shocked by what they heard.
“That poor, poor child. To be so neglected by her mother...I could never do such a thing to my children. To refuse to even brood her egg or force her to fight so hard just to hatch. Many have been the time I’ve had one or two hatchlings that I was sure would not make it, yet I did everything to make them feel safe and loved even if only for a short time.” Alexstrasza said sadly.
“I knew that the flight of Neltharian had fallen into darkness.” Tyran said, shaking his head. “But to encourage such neglect or to allow the hatchlings to attack another so cruelly, it is beyond anything I had imagined.”
“Thoran, brother...I know how close you and Noxarian once were, and how it hurt you when he left. But I must ask, are you sure he is telling you the truth? He could be using the whelp to get closer to you or the family of Tandralis.”
“I have thought of that Korial, I was suspicious at first myself, in fact had it not been for Tris I would have likely slain him before he could tell me any of it. But of course dear sweet soft hearted Tris heard Talyn’s cry of pain and immediately took her under her own care. You can’t...you just can’t imagine the sight of her, bloodied and torn. And she’s so tiny Korial, so innocent.”
“And also a black whelp, which means she carries the corruption within her.” He said pointedly.
“But that’s just it, and it was hard for me to believe at first as well, but she shows none of the aggression or any hint of the curse. She has the sweetest disposition and is such a little joy. If you hear her laughter you would know, there is something different about her.”
“It is possible.” Tyran began thoughtfully. “Though there are few if any still survive, some did not fall to the curse as strongly as most. Not to say they have no trace of it, they have to actively keep their guard up against the whispers, but some who were not as enmeshed in the flight live in hiding throughout the world. Some integrated themselves amongst mortals, others live in the wilds far from others, but always with the fear of discovery. Look at how long Noxarian was able to go on without being affected by it. It is possible that with the right guidance the little one could live without falling to it as well.”
“So how could we help with this, my son?” Alexstrasza said gently as he took a deep breath and let it out before speaking once more.
“Noxarian fears that he cannot protect her from his flight. When they come for him, and we all know they will if only because of his actions against his mate, he fears he cannot protect her. If they do not kill her outright, they will take her back to the flight after killing him. Returning her to her flight would be a death sentence in itself. He came to me because he could not come to you directly. He is asking if you will consider taking Talyndria and caring for her or finding one of our females who would be willing to care for her.”
“You can’t be serious!” Korialstrasz said quickly. “Raise a black dragon whelp amongst our own?”
“That is enough Korialstrasz!” Alexstrasza said with a tone of authority as the young male lowered his head. “Thoran, this is a lot to ask. I am not sure about bringing her here…”
“My queen.” Tyran said softly. “Perhaps we should discuss this privately, look at all of the options before outright objecting. Although I agree, it may not be the best situation, perhaps there are ways we could help. This child is not to be blamed for the actions of her grandsire or even her parents. We should look to all the options, and then decide what is the best one.”
“As always, you speak with great wisdom my consort.” She said with a loving smile before looking to Thoran. “Allow us to speak privately on this matter for a time. Why don’t you and Korialstrasz take some time together. I will call upon you when we have made our decision.”
“Of course mother, as always I respect your wisdom and will accept what decision you come to.” He then looked to Korialstrasz. “Come brother, let's go sit by the lake as we did when we were young.”
“Yes, of course.” He said in a tone which made it clear he was feeling annoyed at being left out of such an important discussion. With a bow to his queen and the prime consort he rose and followed Thoran to the large lake, landing by the waterfalls then flopping down on the grass like a sullen child.
“Korial, come on. Don’t be so droll.”
“I am just as much her mate, I should be included in this.” He sulked.
“You are not the Prime Consort brother. You know that she respects your opinions and consults you on many things. But father is much older and dare I say has great wisdom in many things. Let him not feel like the old consort who has been usurped by the young one for a time.”
“I suppose you're right, I guess I’m feeling put out because this is our time right now. I returned for…”
“Yes...yes, I know what you returned for and as her son that is a bit nauseating to think about.” He laughed. “Kind of like how you felt when I would tell you about your sister and I.”
“Oh please, do not talk about how you and Talanstrasza were together. Damn near the whole sanctum knew so loud the two of you were.” He laughed. “Yes, change of subject needed. Tell me how does Trisaland feel about all of this?”
“Oh by the Five, I think Talyn has triggered her maternal instincts. I’ve never seen this side of her before, even when A’dora was born. She dotes on that whelp like a broodmother. The first night they were there, when Talyn was restless and still healing and scared she went to her room and dug out an old stuffed dragonhawk toy from her childhood and gave it to her. She rocks her and sings her to sleep at night. It's insane, she’s getting far too attached to her and it's killing me because I know when we bring Talyn here or send her elsewhere it's going to tear her apart.”
“Have you considered the idea of keeping her yourself? It seems Tris would be willing to help you care for her.”
“We cannot raise a dragon in Quel’thalas.” He laughed. “I mean sure at first it might work, but once she starts growing it will be kind of hard to keep people from noticing.”
“Why doesn’t Noxarian just take her to his private sanctum if he has one?”
“I thought of that as well, but they would be able to find him even there. You know that an aspect can find their flight members if they want to.”
“Do you really think Neltharion would care? I mean what is one small whelp amongst all of his flight.”
“It's not her they will want to track down Korial.”
“Hmm yes, your right.” He said thoughtfully. “But if you couldn’t care for her in Quel’thalas, why not take her to your sanctum?”
“Korial, I don’t want to raise a whelp. I’m perfectly fine being Uncle Thoran to Tandralis’ line, but raise one of my own? No, those days are over, they ended when I lost your sister.”
“I’m just trying to come up with solutions to help the little one. The way you spoke back there, it sounded like you cared a lot more than you're willing to admit. I know you care for Tris, and this could be something to bring you closer.”
“Tris doesn’t feel that way about me. I’m her friend and she’s mine and that’s all we are. Tris shows no interest in finding a mate, much less a dragon mate. In fact she’s shown more interest in Nox than she’s shown any male as far as I can remember.”
“Aha! So that’s what's eating at you, she’s eyeing up a black dragon and you are jealous!” He laughed.
“I am not jealous! She’s just fascinated because he’s all single dad, worried about his daughter. Women get all squishy about that you know, she doesn’t see that he is dangerous. Right now he’s fine, I think his fears for Talyn are helping him keep the curse at bay, but it will return and I won’t have her hurt when it does.”
“Who knows, maybe having a caring mate would help him fight it.” He shrugged. “I mean a lovely blonde elf woman, with a heart of gold who adores his child and wants to protect her. It might be just what he needs.”
“Absolutely not! Tris is not...he’s not a good potential mate for her. She deserves someone who will love her and all her odd little quirks. Who can understand that she likes to sit up at night working on her paperwork. The way she can get totally lost in her gardens as much as she can a good book. Or how she will train until she can barely lift her sword because she knows that she might be the only thing between her king and an assassin someday.”
“Right...you’re not taken with her at all.” He laughed as they saw the large form of Tyranstrasz flying towards them causing them to sit up as he landed beside them.
“The queen would like you both to return. We have made our decision.”