FANJI VILLAGE, AERUTI
"Studying the tomes, you said?" Orimae let Quefi's rear hind foot fall gently to rest on his bent knee.
Ylhara nodded as she handed him another bandage. "Do you wish me to continue keeping an eye on your son?"
Wrapping the white material around Quefi's plasma-scored ankle, Orimae grunted in affirmation. His attention was directed towards the blue dragon. Ylhara turned to go. She had gone two paces before she reversed direction and came back.
"Kalbeendja," she said, addressing him by his title. "The sky is dark with cloud and flame over the cliffs where the young girl disappeared."
Tilting his head in that manner that told Ylhara he was irritated with her interruptions, Orimae shifted on his stool so that he was looking up at her. The wooden seat creaked in protest as he stood up abruptly. "And?"
Ylhara was not intimidated. "Do you care so little for the finaesgrano in your charge?" The slight black-haired woman turned on her heel and strode in the direction of the dragon plains.
Chardos' father slapped the roll of bandaging into the dust beside him. "I'll be right back," he muttered. Quefi bobbed his head genially, content to stand on three legs and doze. The stocky man went in pursuit of his second-in-command. As he went past Huari's house, he slowed. He cast a quick glance out to the storm, and then barged up to the door. Ylhara could handle herself. If she wanted to take to the skies and go in search of that girl, then she was welcome to. He had more important things to take care of. He lifted a fist and pounded at the door.
The records-keeper poked his head out the window. "Ah! Orimae!" The clan leader could hear the short little man bumbling about inside. Muffled exclamations floated through the shutters. "Oh, dear me, where have I put my boots? I'm sure they were here a minute ago. I'm not fit to be seen like this…"
Finally, the door opened, and Huari motioned for Orimae to come inside. He had a piece of bread-like criesma in one hand and a book in the other. "You've come to check on your son, I suppose?" Crumbs fell from his chin as he spoke. Orimae nodded curtly. Huari bobbed nervously. "He's just in the archives room down the hall. He has been all day, in fact. Quite curious for one his age to be so interested in those old texts. Why, he hasn't moved a bit since he came in here early this afternoon." Orimae brushed by Huari, who nodded his head: "Good day, kalbeendja," and scurried off the other way in search of his boots.
- - - - -
Chardos sat back in frustration. He'd been searching through all the tomes dealing with old legends and still hadn't found anything. Stretching cramped legs, he stood up and paced around the room. Heavy footsteps sounded from the hallway in time with his own. Hurriedly, Chardos grabbed a book from the shelf and sat back in the chair. A violent sneeze escaped him as he dropped the tome on the table and stirred up the dust.
Seconds later, Orimae entered. Chardos looked up and then back down at the book, feigning great interest in the worn pages. His father walked around the room twice and then looked at him.
"Finished with the dragon tack already?"
There was silence, broken only by the rustling of pages. Finally, Orimae cleared his throat. "What are you doing?"
Chardos gave him an innocent look, hoping that nothing of what he felt was showing on his face. "Studying." Recognizing the thunderous look on his father's face, he hastily amended his answer. "Studying the responsibilities of young finaesgrano, actually." Orimae, apparently mollified, gave a perfunctory nod and went out. Chardos heard the door slam behind him.
"Finally!" he hissed. Chardos looked down at the page open in front of him, actually seeing the contents for the first time. It was a journal, written in a thin, elegant hand. He was about to slap it closed when four words caught his eye: brought her out again. Anxiously, Chardos scanned up to the beginning of the paragraph and started reading."Winiir, in her frenzy, disappeared into the birth star. Felairan was riding with me in pursuit. We are still uncertain as to the causes of his dragon's sudden madness, why she broke atmosphere without him and why she felt an overwhelming urge to return to perun. When Felairan saw Winiir absorbed back into the birth star, he was distraught. He went limp behind me and I was sure he would fall off my dragon's back. And then he howled. I don't have words to describe the sound he made in that moment. Is that what hearts do when they break? All at once, the birth star began to shoot plasma flares in all directions, and glow brighter than I've ever seen it before. When I looked behind me again, Felairan was absolutely stiff, his fingers clawed and his arms outstretched towards the birth star. His eyes were clenched shut and tears were streaming from underneath them, and he was screaming Winiir's name over and over. And then the most extraordinary thing happened. The plasma flares from the birth star began to bunch together, forming the shape of a dragon. I think I blinked at that point. Because when I opened my eyes, Winiir was there like she'd never been gone. To this hour, I still have no idea how it happened, or if Felairan's grief had anything to do with it. I know I saw her dissolve in the birth star. It doesn't seem possible that she lives now." The entry ended there. Quickly, Chardos flipped through the rest of the pages, but most of the ones near the back were blank, and there was no further mention of Winiir or Felairan in any of the subsequent entries.
Muttering curses, he shoved the chair backwards and scuffed outside, not bothering to find Huari and thank him.
It seems that the only way to bring a dragon back is by sheer willpower on the part of its rider. Which means that I have to find Kaldee. And bring her to perun before it's too late. Chardos made his decision. He ran flat-out to the dust plain, grabbing a saddle on the way. Quickly, he cinched it onto Archtrumas' back and leaped up, not bothering with a bridle.
"We're going to find Kaldee." His black dragon spread her wings and launched herself into the air. "And that means we have to go straight into that storm. Think you can handle it?" Archtrumas whuffed and Chardos patted her neck.
I'm coming, Kaldee. I'm going to make up for everything that broke your heart that day. I swear it. He clenched his fists tightly around the leather straps on the cantle of his saddle.I'm going to help you resurrect Misola.
It was then that Chardos noticed he was not alone in the sky. A green dragon flew with sweeping wingbeats ahead of him, also aimed towards the storm. He squinted, picking out long black hair whipping wildly in the wind.
- - - - -
UNCHARTED DESERT PLAIN, AERUTI
Kaldee stumbled and fell to her knees as the gale-force winds sprayed sand and rocks at her. Maybe I should just lie here and wait it out. Thoughts of Chardos played in her head. No. I have to get back. If only to tell him that I wish he would die. She stopped walking, startled by the vehemence of her thoughts. He deserves it. He is solely responsible for the death of my dragon. He will pay for that.
And I'm pretty sure that, right now, that's the only thing keeping me alive.
- - - - -
Where was it going? That thing that looked like her. It was heading towards the storm.
The girl loped over the hot dusty ground. The thing was stumbling and might lay down at any time. She would not let that happen. Steadily, she gained on it until she was close enough to grab it.
- - - - -
Kaldee felt a tug on her tunic. With reflexes that did not fail her even in a half-delirium, she whipped around.
There was someone standing there. With grit and hair in her eyes, Kaldee couldn't see anything beyond the fact that it was human. The tugs on her tunic became more insistent. Blindly, she reached out into the blowing dust and felt a hand grasp hers, leading her along. Kaldee followed with stumbling steps, trusting the directional instincts of her strange guide.
The wind howled around them, changing pitches and tone constantly. Kaldee heard a dragon shriek. Whipping her head around, she searched vainly for the source of the sound. Her odd companion pulled at her hand, trying to get her to hurry. Somehow, Kaldee managed to convince herself that it was merely the wind she heard, and plunged on in the footprints of the person before her.
- - - - -
Gandruus shrieked again. "Surely she would have searched out the source of a dragon call," said Ylhara, seated astride his green neck. "Why does she not?" She looked over her shoulder. "And what in the name of perun does the kalbeendja's son think he can accomplish by flying rashly into another situation he cannot handle?"