Ryslen - Flight 48

Flight 48

Red Ruoal'Shon
(Written by Mystic)

He's here! Ruoal'shon exclaimed, her crimson neck craning to see beyond the borders of her temporary den.

Rugan glanced up from where she had been sharpening her twin blades, just inside the dragon entrance where the sunlight could slant in and illuminate her work. Ruoal'shon's tremendous bulk blocked out that necessary light, distracting the black smith from an otherwise obsessive pass time.

"What're you on about?" She grumbled, black eyes narrowing to lessen the glare of the sun that peeked into her eyes over Ruoal's head crest. The red dragoness stood poised on the rocky ground, half in and half out of the den. Her large, muscular body was slung low to the ground, like a cat on the prowl, as she eyed the field below her. Trembling nerves in her wings caused her sails to flutter like trapped insects, hovering inches away from her sides as if she were on the verge of taking off. The long, whip-like tail with its spiny ridges swished back and forth over the ground, it's membrane bladed tip disturbing dust swirls close to Rugan's resting place. The tiny particles glittered in slender rays of light that could bypass the dragoness' shadow, and fell lightly atop her rider's tireless work.

I said "he's here." Are you deaf? The flame red Geperna snapped impatiently, swivelling her head around to glare at her bonded with sunset eyes.

"No, but I don' know who 'he' is." Rugan returned acidly, matching stubborn gaze for stubborn gaze. Ruoal'shon gave in with a baleful blink of her eyes.

'He' is Star Shaker, a former packmate of mine.

"Ye mean there's a Wyld here?" This, at last, got the burly woman's attention. Setting her blade on the ground beside its mate, she slid to her feet and padded noiselessly over to Ruoal's elbow. A faint breeze blew across the Ryslen grounds that day, cooling her dark skin and lifting her long trail of hair like an oil-black flag. Onyx eyes shone beneath lowered brows, their penetrating stare lessened by the fall of long, black lashes. Rugan peered out in the direction indicated by her bond's helpful head shake and grunt.

It wasn't hard to pick out the target of the two females' interests, mingled among the other flight participants as if he belonged somehow. Night dark scales sucked in the light of day, heedless of the gleam they were supposed to release. He moved with the fluid grace of a serpent, sliding up to a field hand and coiling around to block his exit. The proud set of his jaw and wave-like crest rising from his head proclaimed him a true Geperna. The feral way in which he slunk across the grounds gave him the definite edge of a former Wyld; or a Wyld still from what Ruoal'shon said.

Go down and see if he signed up for my flight. The red female demanded, tilting her spear-shaped head in such a way that Rugan received the full benefit of her ember gaze.

"Yeah? And what're you gonna do?" Rugan shot back. She was barely the size of the dragoness' jaws, but was unintimidated nonetheless.

I am going to sun bathe. With a non-chalant air, the Geperna proclaimed her intents, then spread her wings and leapt from the ledge of her temporary den, or nidulus as it was.

Rugan was left to snort and grumble, calling up one of her other bonds to carry her down to the ground. All the while cursing the fickleness of proddy dragonesses.

* * *

Several days later, Ruoal'shon was basking in the mid-day warmth just as she had intended when first laying eyes on her unexpected chaser. It was confirmed now, Star Shaker was out to catch the glorious Fire in her Throat of his youth. Unfortunately for him, she was no longer Fire in her Throat, nor Alpha Firein, nor any other titles that she had earned in her long career of terrorizing Mythicalae. She was simply Ruoal'shon, bonded of Rugan, sister of Porth and Yarpath. Though there was a great deal of flirting done on Porth's part, and Ruoal' was not entirely against the invitations, she still considered them to be more like her clutch siblings than potential mates.

A semi-circle of males had formed around the lounging red, each of them preening for the female's benefit. Flame red wings spread over the warm grass and a crimson tail flicked among the tall stalks, the pointed spade curled near to her outermost tine on one side. Long, muscular legs stretched out behind the female's sixty foot bulk, their wickedly curved talons dug into the dark earth beneath her. She craned her neck around for the best vantage from which to watch the males without seeming interested, and lidded her eyes as if intending to sleep. The vibrant red Ruoal' was far from falling asleep, though. Narrow slits of red-orange embers roamed ceaselessly from one male to the next, sizing up their physical appearance while her mind received their boasts.

Four of the males were unfamiliar to her, their unique colourations and offworldly appearances attracting the attention of the rutting female. She was a fan of variety, and the six dragons who had shown up to chase her were certainly that. A fifth had flown her once before on Mythicalae, before she had found Rugan as her Chosen. The sixth was, of course, Star Shaker. Standing off to the side and behind the other males, the black Geperna watched Ruoal' out of the corner of his blazing blue eyes. An aura of calm seemed to surround the Wyld male, so unlike his competitors. While they bugled and strutted in a display that was meant to impress the red dragoness, he simply sat and waited. Not a breath of air disturbed his serenity, as if he existed in a place entirely separate from that of Ruoal' and her suitors.

Up in their temporary nidulus, Rugan found her small space made even smaller by the presence of two people. If that wasn't enough, her annoyance was growing to a point where emptying all of Ryslen wouldn't have satisfied her. She quickly grew irritated by the usual rabble that she was forced to hang around with for other flights, but this one topped them all, though she supposed she had brought it on herself. Somewhere in Ryslen there was some genius who believed that Rugan's masculinity must have been an indication of her sexuality. Though she had never paired with a man at any previous flights, it wasn't due to a lack of appeal, only their simpering weakness in her eyes. Yet now she paid for it, she thought with a bitter snarl. Now she had been paired with two women, and no men. Whoever that genius at the flight boards was, she was going to find him and cut off his balls. Maybe hang them up on his door or something equally painful. She hadn't decided yet, but her temper was giving her imaginative ideas.

One of the two women, Achthia, if Rugan recalled correctly, wandered out to where the black smith had secluded herself on the dragon ledge. She sat down beside the temperamental woman, swinging her legs over the ledge and folding her hands in her lap. From the occasional glances she sent Rugan's way, the burly Warrenite could guess her intention. Her irritation rose a notch as she stewed over why people felt the necessity to talk to her at a flight.

"So... um... what're you drinking?" Achthia asked, a wary look sliding out the corner of her eyes. She was a proud and often stubborn woman, but there was something about the muscular, six foot tall black smith that set her on edge. Maybe it was the bulge of her battle scarred arms, or the way she slung the unmarked flask up to her lips and gulped down what would've been a full glass to herself.

Rugan took the flask away from her mouth after she had drunk deeply, wiping the back of her hand across her lips. The dark crimson liquid still glistened on her skin, making her oak-coloured lips that much darker. Obsidian eyes fixed on Achthia from beneath half-lowered lids, and a sneer twisted the brooding woman's face.

"Boar's blood." She said thickly, and was pleased to see Achthia's reaction. The woman practically jumped out of her skin in her hurry to get away from Rugan. Scrambling off the dragon ledge, she ran into the nidulus and hid behind the other woman, Talyrise.

"That woman's barbaric!" She exclaimed in wide-eyed horror, staring out Rugan as if she expected the black smith to jump up and chase her down like a herd beast.

"I'm not so sure you can call her a woman. Beast is more like it." Talyrise muttered over her shoulder to the spooked Achthia.

Rugan smirked in quiet triumph as she capped the flask and set it down by her side. It was attached to her person by a shoulder strap that was never far from hand. Little did the two Moire women know that Rokh'tor was a common drink on Tris'Hath, and contained only one part boar's blood. The brunt of it was dwarven spirits; an alcohol so strong that it could topple orcs after a mug or two. She'd been drinking it for a while, so the fiery liquid could last her a while longer than other people. As Rugan lounged back on her hands to stare down at the flight field, she mused also that neither of the idiot women knew that she could hear them still, even when they whispered. The accents of her royal liron blood were bound up in invisible things like heightened senses, as well as some obvious physical characteristics.

But Rugan had had enough of sitting around, scaring little children. As much as she liked to see the two riders shy away from her, she thought it time to get ready for Ruoal's flight. Lucky that Mystic had sent her a new barrel of Rokh'tor earlier that day. With this being her first flight with the head-strong female and Porth and Yarpath watching on the sidelines, she'd likely get a headache capable of killing anyone else. Jumping to her feet with feline ease, Rugan strode back into the nidulus, straight past the two women, and headed for her room.

"Where're you going?" Talyrise ventured, though her eyes said she was thankful for Rugan's departure.

"To mah room. Either a' ya got a problem with that, ye can talk to me after th' flight." Rugan drawled, her accent slurring one word into the next. By the time the two Moire riders had sorted out what she had said, Rugan had entered her room and locked the door behind her.

Back down on the field, Ruoal'Shon was getting tired of waiting. The sun was uncomfortably warm on her back and her wings were itching for a good flight. There was a sharp pain in her stomach and saliva filled her mouth at the thought of food. Not just food; warm, fresh, living food that would struggle when she bit down. She needed something strong and energetic, a buck maybe. Licking her chops, the red dragoness turned a hungry eye on the herd beast pen not far away. There was a good sized male strutting around the outer edges of the flock that seemed to have her name written on his fat haunches.

Ruoal'Shon moved with a suddenness that was surprising considering her bulk. Long talons dug into the earth and muscles coiled beneath her burnt crimson scales. Sharp-tined wings flared open, nearly spearing the nearest male and pumped up and down to a vicious beat. She launched herself into the air and wrapped her long spine around the wind until she was arrowing for the pen of beasts. They started to panic, mewling and running hap-hazardly away from the descending dragon with gaping jaws. This only made her lust for their blood even more, and as she tore into the buck of her choice, she reveled in the taste of sticky-sweet blood filling her mouth.

The titanic female could feel a black fire in the back of her mind, ordering her to 'blood only'. The command infuriated her, made her shriek around a mouthful of meat, but her fury was matched and outweighed by the flickering black flames. She hissed angrily, draining the corpse of all its vital fluids before landing on a second. This one died just as quickly, and was thrown back to the ground without a drop of blood left in its body. Satiated by the warm, red liquid spilling down her throat, Ruoal'Shon lifted her head and grinned at her suitors. A forked tongue flickered over her blood stained teeth, followed by a contented gurgle. She could see them lining up eagerly, each one vying for an extra inch that would let them kill then chase all the quicker. Whipping her spiny tail over the heads of the panicked herd beasts, Ruoal'Shon surged up into the air and bellowed a challenge.

The red-black spirit dragon, Dainvoi, was the first to follow the ruby dragoness into the sky. He had jumped on the nearest herd beast as soon as she left the pen, not caring if it was large or small, old or young, so long as it gave him fuel to fly. And fly he did, straight up into the wake left by the gem of his lust. Though he had a mate in his bond partner, they had agreed that this flight would be allowed. Just this once. Dainvoi had decided that he'd make it count.

After him came the awing wild prism Haeriyaan. His kaleidoscope colours pulsed as he ascended, whirling from dark to light and every shade in between in a mesmerizing dance that dazzled even a passing glance. He had intrigued Ruoal'Shon most of all, his hide being shiniest of all those who courted her. If she birthed his children, they would be both powerful and beautiful, a dangerous combination. The thought of what they could do in the Nexus, with their mother's dominating personality and their father's opalescent colouration, amused Ruoal' for several hours at a time. Still, this was the time for him to prove himself. If he was as swift as he was georgous, the titanic red dragoness might just allow him to mate with her.

She certainly didn't consider Star Shaker as a descent challenge, though he was third into the air on Haeriyaan's tail tip. He had flown her once before and she had forced the memories of their doomed clutch from her mind. He would not have her again. If he did not tire quickly enough for her, she would take him out herself.

Behind the black Geperna came two more, wing tip to wing tip. Brown Cahnath and bronze Vriendinth, mutual bonds of Achthia squabbled amongst each other as they rose. The bond brothers seemed more interested in besting each other than chasing Ruoal', and this was duely noted by the rising dragoness. She snorted her distaste for both of them, reasoning that they'd much rather mate each other the way they acted. She'd not concern herself with avoiding them, for they'd likely take each other out.

Last into the azure sky was the beautiful, bondless, byzantium yellow-black Siroc. The way his hide was shot through with black streaks against the blinding yellow intrigued Ruoal'Shon. He was certainly large enough for her, matched only by Star Shaker for length and girth. Plus he was independent, a good sign in the former Wyld's eyes. The last thing she wanted was children that wept and pleaded for a human to take care of them. A mate like Siroc would please not only her, but her sense of pride when hatching time came.

The red female turned her eyes on the distant horizon, angling up and westward into a strong updraft that caught beneath her wide sails and billowed them out in full. Flapping once or twice, she circled closer to the clouds, intent on leaving her competition behind. She'd work them for the honour to mate with her, that much was certain. Serpentine frame bending into the bolstering winds, she looked back to judge the final layout of her chasers before putting them through their paces.

Much to the female's chargin, Star Shaker had cut a path through Haeriyaan's air and was making a bid to capture the prize early. The prismatic male bellowed angrily, pumping shoulder and wing muscles to keep himself aloft when he could no longer coast on the warm thermals. Ruoal' hissed, aggravated both for herself and for one of her choice followers.

You're just fooling yourself, Star Shaker. Get out of my sky. The titanic red snaked the taunt into her former mate's thoughts. Her slithering caress scorched him, leaving his mind blistered and raw. The fire was still there, but it had become molten, ruthless, filled with the false sweetness that humans had mastered.

And here I was under the impression that the sky belonged to no one. Least of all a tamed wyrm. Star shot back with equal ferocity. Though his black spear was a bare pin prick compared to the female's burn, it had clearly hit it's mark. Ruoal's mouth dropped open in a fearsome snarl, vapor trails blurring the back of her throat. Red-orange eyes blazed with hell's fury, and the blood-scaled dragoness half turned on her attacker.

Forget him. Haeriyaan soothed. He had regained his wind and was eating up the distance between himself and the lengthy tail end of red-black Dainvoi. He is not worthy of a jewel like yourself. Forget him and let us beg for your attention.

If ever there were silver-tongued dragons, this one was the bard among jesters. Ruoal's mouth closed, lines smoothing into a guarded smile. Though they were too far away to hear it, an approving purr had started deep in the red's throat. It's vibration reflected in the careless wash of her mind, passing from one to the other like a fickle tide's ebb and flow. She twisted her lean body around in an arc, seemingly ignorant of Star Shaker's existance as she dove low and beneath her chasers. One by one, they snapped their wings to their sides and doggedly followed. Star Shaker was left to fume silently, straining his muscles to regain the ground he'd lost.

The garnet-shaded Geperna lead her band of six in an intricate, arial waltz. She twisted and turned, swooped and dove, darting into thermals that were all but invisible to the others, leaving more than a few frothing in frustration. This feral dragoness knew how to evade them just enough, teasing them with the ghost of a chance, then leaving them to watch her tail tip disappear into the skyline. All the while, she reveled in the freedom of being fastest, most dexterous, and of a divine sort of cunning. None could predict where she would move next, because each move was a new trick that the experienced flyer had learned. Yet as the flight progressed, Star Shaker began to change his flight pattern. He'd flown her once before, and though his memories of that flight were dulled, he had taken them to the sharpening stone and forced long hidden secrets to resurface. With each sudden dive and unexpected turn, Star Shaker moved faster than the rest, closing the gap between himself and the object of his eternal desire.

Go away! Ruoal'Shon hissed as she dodged yet another of Star Shaker's grasps. The black had become increasingly confident as her flight wore on; half a candle mark already and no chasers out of the running. Gathering up a forceful wind beneath her wings, Ruoal' surged upwards and beat the swirling gusts into the faces of her pursuers. Five saw the danger of the disrupted currents and sailed through it on wide spread wings. Cahnath, last among the herd, did not.

A dispairing bellow left the brown's throat as the air was sucked out from beneath his wings, stalling him while the others raced on. He hovered in mid-air for a few moments, wuffling as he watched his bond brother fill up the space where he had been. As the red titan lead her males into the wispy layer of clouds streaking across the sun, Cahnath let his wings go slack and dipped into a dive. He had not won the glorious Ruoal'Shon, but at least he'd come out of it with his hide intact.

The same could not be said for Star Shaker. Ruoal' had hidden herself amongst the cloud covering when her chasers had leveled out overhead. A hazy red blot, like a garnet at the bottom of a milky lake, flew beneath them. Her even wingstrokes directed them on which way to turn, but they did not anticipate her sudden emergence into their midst. The red queen came hissing and spitting, arrowing straight through the cluster of males and striking out with claws and teeth at whatever was closest. Siroc received a well placed blow to his muzzle, while Star Shaker grunted under the impact of raking claws across his shoulder. Blood pooled on the slash marks seconds after they had formed and began dribbling down his arm, but the determined black paid it no mind. Twisting his body snake-like through the air, he headed the charge after Ruoal'Shon, leading them back down beneath the clouds, straight towards Ryslen.

You are mine, Firein, admit it. The tormented dragon hissed into her mind. He was heedless of those around him, even as they made bids for his position. Siroc caught his wingtip on the edge of Star Shaker's, intending to unsettle the large male enough to push him aside. Unfortunately, Star merely swept his wings down as if ridding himself of an annoying bug when he felt the brush at the edge of his senses. The result was that Siroc was at the mercy of his tatic. He bugled surprise and he pistoned his wings desperately, the mindless motions of flight lost to him momentarily. Vriendinth veered around him, and Haeriyaan overhead, but the byzantium yellow-black couldn't recover in time. Spitting a curse at Star Shaker, the bondless Moire dragon jack knifed his body toward the ground and started down with reckless speed, furious with the world.

I was never yours, and never will be. She replied with such calm that it shredded his soul. There was a flicker of amusement in her ember eyes as she looped around Ryslen's bowl, then started up in a sharp accent. She was evading them with such languid ease that a few had adopted Siroc's frustration. Vriendinth, for example, had taken to shoving Dainvoi from above then darting away before spirit dragon could retaliate. The fury winking in the black-red's eyes eased some of his vexation, making the whole ordeal seem like a game. The arrogant bronze was so preoccupied torturing Dainvoi that he was not ready for Ruoal'Shon's sudden lunge to the left. Nor did he see Star Shaker swing his body to one side while his head snapped around to follow the red.

Vriendinth screamed as claws dug into his side and shoved him away from the main body of the chasers. He wasn't so much interested in catching up as he was in dislodging Star Shaker from his flesh. But it seemed the feral onyx wanted him only as a spring pad. He was off in an instant, wedged between Dainvoi and Haeriyaan as Ruoal'Shon took them through a loop-de-loop. Though Vriendinth had a chance to reenter the flight when his wicked prize shot past once more, the lust had cleared from his mind. Whimpering and nursing icor drenched limbs, Vriendinth circled slowly down to join his brother by the white shores of the lake.

You were our leader, our mother. Star Shaker confessed as he avoided the vicious lashing of Ruoal's tail. You were my world. Too late he realized that he'd laid his heart to bear. Too late to take it back, before the dragoness' molten hatred consumed and destroyed it.

Ruoal'Shon looked back at her meager band of chasers, Star Shaker seeming the opposite of his name against the setting of rainbowic Haeriyaan. His hide sucked up the light of day and spat out only cold, hard power. She looked into his eyes and saw what he feared she would. Understanding reflected in her own opalescent orbs, then delight. Spinning into a tight barrel roll, she let out a long, malicious laugh that shriveled his skin. Blood red wings flared against the blue horizon, their sharp-ended tines seeming like death's fingers caught in a thick web. As the lethally beautiful dragoness soared upwards in a graceful arc, her searing voice resounded through all minds present. You fool! You love something that never existed!

You raised me! He shot back, swearing to himself that it was not pain that filled his voice.

I wanted to enlarge my pack. She replied non-chalantly, her body falling shortly to the left before she changed her mind and swung around right. There was a commotion behind her, started when Star Shaker and Dainvoi collided side to side.

Impatient, infuriated, the black Geperna turned on his fellow chaser and lashed out with a gout of chill, black ice. The burning cold bit into Dainvoi's neck, just beneath his thick mane. Its shocking hold ran up and down the dragon's nerves before he even knew he'd been hit, digging deep and frosting the tips of dark locks that swung too close. A startled squawk escaped the spirit's gaping maw as he frantically tried to beat the ice from his neck. Claws tearing sightlessly at the chunks of ice clinging to his scales, he had forgotten what had put him in the air to begin with. The chase soared on, only two left out of the six that had begun.

You mated with me! Star Shaker shrieked back. His muscular black wings pinwheeled madly, jerking his body back and forth with such force that the tip of his tail often lashed his own heaving sides. Froth flecked his neck and chest, whipping off in small, foaming droplets to be caught in the wind and dissipated.

You were the strongest. Ruoal' returned, sounding almost bored with his tantrum. She was wagging an alluring tail in Haeriyaan's face, daring the prismatic dragon to best her former champion. A greedy light in his eyes and the hint that she wanted him to win had him gobbling up the bait, hook and entire fishing rod.

Just admit it! You loved me! And then Haeriyaan was there, right on top of him. Star Shaker bellowed once, twice, then flipped onto his back and struck out at his daring nemesis. Blood seemed to spill from invisible wounds, so quick were the black's claws. Gleaming gray, they lashed into Haeriyaan's glittering hide with such vehemence it was a wonder Star Shaker did not strike a vital organ. Balanced upside down as he was, he could not keep himself aloft by the power of his wings. Hissing through gritted teeth, he latched into the wild prism dragon with hindlegs and held on.

Ruoal'Shon looked over her shoulder to see what had caused her chosen mate to cry out as if he were being flayed alive. Narrow, red-orange eyes flared double their natural size when she saw the two locked in combat. Haeriyaan was putting up a decent fight, fending off the black's claws with open-palmed slashes of his own. Yet, in the end, his soft, oiled hide was no match for the winter-hardened scales worn by Star. He, the captive-raised bard, bowed out of the fight he would have inevitably lost. Ruoal' watched for a moment uncomprehendingly as the prismatic male arced around to descend in the opposite direction. When sense returned, she turned a snarl on her sole remaining chaser. Never! I never loved you and never will. Had I known you were this weak, I would have left you to die in the snow!

Now it was Star Shaker's turn to calm. Haeriyaan had taken a good chunk out of his chest, and the loss of blood was beneficial to clearing his head. A smile split his draconic muzzle, lost in the dark contours of his face. No, you needed me, Firein. I see.... I see what's going on here. You're getting old and you know it. You feared that old age would weaken you and make you vulnerable in our eyes, so you fled. You Chose someone just as weak as you so that both of you could hide away forever.

SHE IS NOT WEAK! Ruoal' screamed with such volume that those dragons regaining their breath on the ground heard it and shot a curious gaze upwards. A spark of red lunged at a blot in the sky, twining with him as if in the throes of passion. Yet Ruoal' was far from loving in her embrace as she tried to sink her teeth into Star's exposed neck. All the while, her thoughts burned him. I am repulsed by weakness. I sought it in her at first, but found none. She is born of a strength you could never know. You are the weak one, Star Shaker. You have come so far, seeking something that never existed. Do you think I cared for any of you other than as extensions of my power? I used you, all of you, and you loved me for it!

Another excuse, Firein. Star murmured back, struggling to hold onto the composure he had shown seconds ago. It slipped through his fingers like grains of sand, taking with it what faith he had had that he could find the truth. This was not the Fire in her Throat that he had known, but it was the same one that had lead them for so many years. What a fool he had been to love this empty shell.

ENOUGH! Ruoal'Shon commanded as she disengaged from him. They hovered in one spot against the enchanting backdrop of Nidus Ryslen, facing each other like tired combatants. I came here to fly, not fight. And since it appears that you are the only one left, you should claim what you fought so hard for.

I will not beg for scraps. Star Shaker spat, suddenly disgusted with himself for wanting this. She was power, but hers was a corrupted kind.

Ruoal'Shon threw back her head and laughed. The cold, hurtful sound rang in his mind like the tolling of a brass bell. Its long melody called out his death, pitied his life. The laugh tapered off as Ruoal' tilted her head down to stare at him with a bemused smile. Her red lips were pulled back to reveal the knife-blade ends of her teeth, giving the smile a cadaverous likeness. Wide, red wings flapped a rhythm that mirrored his own, and her long tail swung like a pendulum beneath her legs. He could see the dark blood dripping down her chest and thighs from where his claws had bit deep. It was as if she was made of the fire that had been her name, for the thick liquid was the colour of molten steel. She opened her arms to him, welcoming him to something he had once longed for. No more. You can't refuse.

Those watching far below saw the two dragons collide again, black wrapping around red as if trying to smother her light. They tumbled together, entangled in an act that was ironically made for love. When they parted, the two Old Blood Geperna went their separate ways and did not look back. This was not the long lasting hold of a satisfied couple, for their mating had ended while they were still above the horizon. The black landed and disappeared into his nidulus, alone as he had begun. The red glided lazily towards hers, and no one thought any more of the ferocious way in which her flight had been won. They had their own wounds to tend to.

* * *

Hours later, the red dragoness lay sprawled out on her dragon bed with her head stretched towards the setting sun and her eyes closed. White bandages wrapped around her large bulk where her wounds had been too deep to clot over immediately. She had protested the ministrations of her rider, but the black-haired warrior had been just as adamant. Now they rested together, Rugan propped up against Ruoal's neck with her blades in hand. She used an old rag to polish up the heavy wood of their staffs, running it lovingly from tip to base. The lack of thought required at the time and the deep breathing of her two slumbering brothers had lulled the tired red into a sense of peace. Soon, she'd have to leave the solitude of this oversized apartment to share the sands with two, possibly three other proddy dragonesses. She did not relish the idea, so enjoying this silence was foremost on her things to do.

Would it've been different if I'd been there at your hatching? Rugan's thoughts slipped into her bond's mind so stealthily that it took the great dame a moment to realize the woman had spoken. She blinked lazily, rolling her eyes back so that she might peer at the brooding Warrenite while she spoke.

Maybe. She responded after a time. Rugan was very good at keeping her personal thoughts personal after living with two other dragons for so long, so Ruoal' couldn't have known how close she'd been to bonding upon hatching.

Then... I'm sorry. Rugan's normally fierce, controlling voice was softened, not because of the apology, but because of the unfamiliarity of it.

You've never apologized for anything in your life. She snorted, closing her eyes once more and shifting her hindend so that Porth's head didn't weigh so heavily on it. Don't start now. Apologies are for weaklings.

Silence followed once more, broken only by the gentle 'shushing' of the rag as Rugan worked it up and down her beloved weapons.

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