A/N: This will be a short one-shot in a three part series. I am not posting this with my other short stories because of its length.
Clothes were beginning to rustle with confusion. The Draco-Sapiens were a prompt folk, and a delay in a ceremony like this was unheard of. The students feared it was a test; the last test of their wills. They stood stark still, looking straight forward. None of the senior officers had ever mentioned a test like this. Nalia, by chance, was facing the Pack Leader Joni. He had begun to frown after a few minutes. By now he was frowning fully, and his hands were twitching. The lower councilmen and guests, all those who had gathered to bear witness to this ceremony, were beginning to whisper. Their whispers carried in the big hall. Nalia ignored the trace of sweat under her uniform. This should have been a joyous event – nerves of course, you do not graduate as an officer under the Draco Elite Guard without nerves – but joy as well.
That joy was slowly dissipating.
The eggs twitched and all the whispers and subtle movements stopped. Where were the Alpha and Betas? They did not give their speech; they did not swear in the officers! This was highly unusual! Concern vibrated with each individual even while the eggs begin to twitch with the hatch. The eggs did not care for times of ceremonies and whether or not the Alpha and Betas had shown up. Alas mother nature being what it is – it would not stop. Suddenly the Betas came through, they saw the eggs and instead of smiles they seemed panicked. The Betas began picking up the gold and green pillows the eggs were sitting on and taking them away.
Gasps echoed in the hall. Nalia gritted her teeth to keep from gasping with them. She screamed in her head not to move. Despite all the training she could see some of her fellow officers break face and twitch their hands towards the eggs. They had trained long and hard for this. They were not just officers from the Draco Army, not just officers from the Draco Guard – No, they were going to be true Draco guardians, part of the Elite Guard and Chosen by a dragon pup. It was the greatest honor, one that only a handful could succeed in every six years.
The first egg cracked open and it all stilled again.
The dragon would have to choose someone upon sight. It is why they stood so stark still against the dragon eggs. The egg shell began burning into a crisp and a small black dragon stretched. Small wings, lizard like pebbled skin and nails sharper than any land being. Teeth that were still used in craftsman tools today as the sharpest available. Its eyes stared at the Betas. They frantically turned to themselves. The baby dragon growled and the Betas winced. Even baby dragons are not to be slighted. A quick succession of whispers and the rest of the eggs were carefully replaced in front of the officers. The black firstborn watched the Betas until it was done then stared at the officers. He knew that one of them would be its Chosen. Nalia's and her fellow officers would have tattooed themselves – defining who they were for all, but especially for the dragons. The ink was laced with temporary aroma to mark them apart during the Choosing. Nalia's top of the shoulders up the side of her neck in a simple bold line and her wrists with the seal of her kingdom were done. It was good luck to be Chosen by the first born.
The joy that had dissipated came roaring back so quickly that Nalia almost swayed with relief with the eggs opening. The black dragon looked down each of the officers and then did it once again. Nalia's stomach almost cramped with anticipation. The rest of the eggs were beginning to crisp and burn. The rest of the dragon pups were born. A ruby one at the end, three more black, and a rare green one. The first born looked at the rest of the pups. The green one looked at Nalia and stepped towards her and she didn't care – she didn't care that she wasn't first born, she wanted it. She wanted it so badly she knew she trembled despite all the training.
No one could stop their shoulders from wincing when the black first born attacked the green one for stepping forward to Nalia. His black newborn wings unfurled and he flew himself to Nalia and settled himself around her shoulders. Nalia's eyes closed in relief. She fell to her knees. The black dragon licked her neck where the aroma was pasted. Nalia lifted her wrists and the dragon licked those. She knew that her fellow officers were being chosen. She could hear their own dragons trying new wings and flying to them, and beginning to lick them with small forked tongues. She heard others sob in relief, and a few fell to their knees like Nalia. Already some cooing and speaking with them. She opened her eyes to see the lengthy dragon had wound itself to look at her. She braced herself.
The dragon bit her gently, right on the upper cheek and held on. She could feel the venom making her cheek numb but it was all forgotten as the dragon's voice spoke into her head.
Chosen, my name is Zato. What name do you bear?
"Nalia," she whispered aloud. She could have said it in her head. She could mindspeak with her Chosen and only these two would share that gift. They would be partners to protect the kingdom. Finally everything Nalia had worked for felt right.
She looked past Zato to her Pack Leader Joni's eyes. He smiled at her, in genuine pride. But then he frowned and gestured to her left side where the Betas had been left standing. The Betas stared at her in open astonishment.
Fear not, they cannot take you now that you are Chosen. You are mine and they cannot take that.
Nalia had not even realized she feared until Zato put it into words for her. He must have picked up on it before she even realized. She scratched his chin and stood. She stared at the Betas, wondering why they seem so astonished.
The Alpha came through the gold plated throne door in the back. All turned to him, unsure how to proceed. This was not a usual ceremony. Betas and the Alpha should have sworn the officers in, and the eggs would have hatched, the officers would turn as one to the Alpha and kneel sealing their oath. But the swearing had not occurred first.
Still, the officers turned to the Alpha and kneeled; only a little hesitant.
The Alpha stared at each officer, smiling as if nothing unusual occurred. Only a slight crease in his brow betrayed him. His black hair was greying, his tan skin waning, but his tall warrior frame still could intimidate atop that dais. "Officers, please forgive our delay. Nature has of course, started without us. Stand, so I may swear you in and then we can celebrate our new members."
Nalia stood with the rest, prideful and fear forgotten. The officers waited. The Alpha stared down at the Betas. Nalia tried to ignore how they stared at her in awe. They turned to whisper to him, and his smile disappeared. He angrily slashed with his hand and that fear was coming back. Nalia almost felt ill with this roller coaster of emotions.
They cannot take you. Zato whispered.
Why would they take me? Do you know what is going on? Nalia was a little unsure of using the mindspeak still but it seemed her thought got across to Zato.
Wait, you will see. Just remember what I have said. You were Chosen, you are Mine, and that cannot be taken.
Dragons were ethereal plane beings and had powers that land beings did not. Nalia did not doubt that despite being newborn that Zato knew what she did not. She breathed deeply, finding the calm backbone her training had created and rested against it. She returned the gaze of the Betas appearing indifferent against the steady increase of her beating heart. The Betas finally came to her. She risked a glance at the Alpha, he had opened his arms and smiled again – ready to begin the swearing. The Betas blocked her view.
Beta Anwei attempted to put her hand on Nalia's shoulder but Zato hissed at her. She removed it and kept her hands by her side and averted her eyes. Although officially Betas were above Nalia's rank, if it came down to it she could challenge them and win. Elite Guard generally were more renowned and respected than even the Betas. "Nalia," Anwei began, "you must come with us. There is a problem."
Nalia stilled. "I must be sworn in."
Anwei's mate shook his head. "You will not be sworn in today, Nalia."
Nalia's heart dropped. Zato hissed. Listen Chosen, this is a ceremony. I am Yours and You are Mine. People's ceremonies do not change that. If they do not swear you – who cares? You are still mine.
Sometimes creatures were not well versed in the importance of human intricacies. "I do not understand." Nalia said.
"Come with us," Anwei urged. "We need to speak. I promise something will be sorted. You can be sworn later in a separate ceremony."
Nalia allowed herself to be led by the four Betas into a separate chamber. Despite the fact she could hear the boom of the Alpha beginning to swear in the officers she knew everyone watched her. She could feel the heat of Joni's stare especially.
Inside the room Zato's claws dug into her shoulders, not unpainfully but not enough to break skin. He chomped his jaws almost in a casual fashion. Nalia was surprised to feel his amusement at the Beta's reactions as they watched him fearfully. On her own Nalia is a fighter with few equals – with a dragon chosen she could take all four of them out and it seemed they feared her. Or perhaps it was her rambunctious dragon pup. Nalia attempted to send an emotional message to berate him. He did stop chomping his jaws but he still exhumed humor.
"Nalia, there is a problem with your lineage that has come up."
Nalia lifted a brow. That's impossible. The door opened again and she turned to the newcomer. It was her mother. Nalia frowned in seeing her mother, Mya, in tears. Her mother was a diplomat and was not always as well contained as normal Draco-Sapiens, having spent too much time with other people.
"Mother," Nalia began carefully. She did not know what to ask.
"I am so sorry Nalie baby, so sorry." She almost couldn't get the words out through thick choked tears. "I had to tell though. What if the Gods got angry that you succeeded? Only our lineage may be Elite Guards."
Only pure blood Draco-Sapiens can hold Beta, Alpha, or Elite guard positions. To be chosen by a dragon is too high of an honor. But both of Nalia's parents were Draco-Sapien. Her father was a lower councilmen and her mother a dignitary. Nalia's life has always been involved with court and court life and she began a career in the forces like many other fifteen-year-old girls ten years ago. "I do not understand." Nalia stated, but she began to feel a little trickle of cold fear in her limbs. It's not something she's too well accustomed to these days.
"I had an affair Nalie baby, Nalia, and you –" Nalia's mother looked at Nalia, not able to finish.
It did not take much to put it all together. Why now? Why now did Mya have to ruin everything now? Nalia sat heavily on the chair provided that she had initially ignored. "I am not pure blood."
It matters not. Said the voice inside her head. You are mere mortals, stuck in the land plain. I am here to tell you that you are my Chosen. Blood matters not.
"Zato says it does not matter." Nalia scratched his chin, looking towards the Betas. She knew they would not believe me. He cannot, after all, communicate with them. Just Nalia, his chosen. Their eyes betrayed they did not. "I was chosen! It's clear the Gods accept me. I am Chosen and you cannot take that away," Nalia continued, frustrated.
Anwei lifted her hands in a placating manner. "You have to understand Nalia, this is an unprecedented experience. We have never had a lineage cover up before." Mates do not have affairs. Nalia had a stab of sympathy for her father now, to be so betrayed was unheard of in Draco life. "We were trying to debate what to do. We didn't think you would be Chosen. Now that you are though…" The Betas looked at each other. It is clear they assumed the Gods would not have allowed a mixed breed to bond with a dragon. "The Alpha says you must renounce your bad blood."
Nalia felt a surge of relief. "That's it?"
Her mother wailed but Nalia ignored her. If she had not had the affair it would not have come down to this. Nalia was a little surprised to realize her mother apparently still had feelings for him.
"You can do that?" Anwei asked, a little surprised. Nalia had no idea why she was.
"I am a guard member," Nalia answered calmly. "Killing is part of my job." She turned to Mya, she was not her mother anymore. "Who is he?"
Mya breathed. "I cannot say, I cannot let you kill him."
Nalia drew her sword and held it at her mother's throat. The Betas instinctually swayed towards her but did not interfere. "You have to die too; you know what denying blood line means. I can make it fast or I can get his name from you slowly."
Nalia strained against the tears. Zato dug his claws into her shoulders again to help distract her. He stayed silent. Nalia repeated over and over in her mind, a mantra. Mya is not your mother anymore. You are reborn clean from parentage – a Draco by blood – You will be a guard – You will not allow her to take that away – She cheated on your father – Mya is not your mother anymore. You are reborn clean from parentage – A Draco by blood – You will be a guard…
Nalia's face must have betrayed her determination. Mya's face fell. She held the sword in her hand. "He is from the Wood Elves. They sent a diplomat here twenty-six years ago. I will tell you nothing more."
Nalia knew she could find the records easy enough. She jerked her arm quickly before she could think about it. She pressed deeply and the blood was immediate. The smell never changed, the warmth always too bizarre and sticky.
Nalia never spoke after a death. Her few experiences in squabbles in the Northern lands and Eastern had always left her mute for a few days. She just wanted the time to deal with it alone. She felt like she should say she's sorry, and she was. Mostly she was hurt. She knew the grief would hit her soon – she had to move quickly. She turned to the Betas who stared at her aghast. They did not expect her to do it there she imagined. They were soft, just elite councilmen. They did not know war, fighting, and death. Their stares were broken by the door being opened again. The Alpha and Joni were behind it. The celebration must be underway.
"Dear Mother of Gods." Joni breathed seeing Mya on the floor. He looked towards Nalia. "What in the depths of hell has happened?"
The Alpha did not seem surprised at all, he looked down despondently. "I am proud of you Nalia, she broke a very serious oath of fidelity to your father."
Joni was intelligent and put it together much faster than Nalia originally had. "She had an affair? Impossible. No Draco would ever have an affair. Look at Nalia, she looks like a Draco!"
Nalia was of average height, black hair and tan skin. She did have green eyes instead of a usual brown but it was not unheard of. She really did look like the picturesque Draconian.
The Alpha peered at Nalia. "She does have green eyes, perhaps sharper cheek bones. Mya swore under oath that Nalia was the product of her and her partner. Did she give you his name so you can finish the renouncement?"
Joni stared down at Mya. "We need to move her, this is undignified," he muttered.
The Alpha looked down at Mya like she was a piece of trash. Nalia could not bring herself to look at her mother – not her mother anymore – but she did not answer Joni. Mya had betrayed Draco society rules. Betrayed her father. She was no longer Draconian and did not deserve their burial rites.
"She said he was a diplomat from twenty-six years ago, who came here. From the woodland elves. We still keep records of them I am certain."
"Woodland elf?" The Alpha smiled. "That's a strange choice. Well, they look enough like us."
It was true that the elves and Draconians were more similar than some other peoples. Humans did not share the pointed ears or physical abilities. Dwarves did not share the height. Fey couldn't seem to be normal in any fashion so it would have been likely that Nalia was born with anything from a tail, colored hair, eyes, or anything else foolish. Fey also did not let their children be raised outside, even halflings were taken back to the fey lands. The Alpha gestured to Nalia. "I have faith in you Nalia, you were First Chosen." He smiled at the dragon on her shoulder. "You will complete this and come home and we will welcome you. What is your dragon's name? I will bring you to the records room."
Nalia nodded, averting her eyes from Mya. She carefully stepped over her. Joni brushed her arm but said nothing more. The Betas bowed their heads to her exit. She did not even acknowledge them. "His name is Zato, and I could not be happier to be Chosen by him."
Of course, I am perfect for you after all.