Firstly, I must apologise for this episode going up a day late. Due to some logistical problems I wasn’t able to post yesterday. I hope you’ll forgive me 🙂
The story continues…
The Sea People are notoriously private and have attacked unexpected visitors before. The skyland in the distance may already know that Shirrin allowed her own skyland to fall out of the sky.
“The city,” she says and Karista banks left. “Don’t land too close.”
They spiral down through hot air and dust thrown up by the skyland’s impact. A dragon’s length above the ground Shirrin sees something below them.
“Careful!” They land some way from the city, right in front of a man dressed in clothes the colour of the sandy earth beneath their feet.
His face is hidden by a large hood and a light cloak flaps in the breeze. He is not tall, barely reaching Karista’s chin, but he doesn’t back away. Shirrin approves of him already. He holds the edge of his hood with a gloved hand while tilting his head back to see Karista properly.
“Are you headed for the city?” he asks. His voice is deep and rough, like small stones arguing.
“We are,” she says. What else can she add? She and Karista are probably no longer welcome on any skyland. The story will soon spread. They are outcast.
The breeze strengthens to a hard, biting wind. She wills herself to calm, her heart to slow. The air goes quiet and the man stares. She can see his eyes now, glowing silver.
“I am Defrin. I will go with you,” he says. “The city will be interested in both of us, I dare say.”
He turns and starts walking towards the city. Karista has only taken one step when they see the gates open and men pour out. They are close enough to see the masks on the city folk’s faces and the weapons in their hands.
“They definitely look interested,” Shirrin agrees with a sigh.
Sunlight gleams on the polished wooden masks and Shirrin smiles, wondering what kind of magic is possible with wood. As a dragonrider, she knows that air magic is the most powerful, but she is interested in the other forms. She has never seen any other kind of magic in action.
The city men surround them and Shirrin feels Karista tense up. He doesn’t like such close proximity with strangers. He is still young and renowned for his jealous protection of his space. She strokes his shoulder and hopes no one does anything stupid.
The man in front of them stands head and shoulders above the others and has a hard face and masses of thick black hair. He looks as if a wild animal were nesting above his eyes. Shirrin tries not to giggle.
“Who are you?” he asks. As he looks at her she realies she has no idea what these people think of dragonriders. The sky folk haven’t always been helpful to the earthbound races.
“We are Shirrin,” she says, without knowing why. She is not prepared for the stranger’s reaction. His eyes widen and his skin pales. He looks as though he wants to take a step back, but can’t in front of his men, some of whom gasp and look uncomfortable. He turns his attention to Defrin, looks him up and down.
“And you?” His tone implies he knows Defrin is inferior. Shirrin bristles and Karista growls. Defrin turns his head a little. Karista’s longest fang is only inches away. The growl is probably a lot louder down there.
“I am Defrin. I wish to barter.”
The tall man snorts.
“What do you have to barter?”
Defrin murmurs something and Shirrin feels the impression of his words through Karista’s ears. Do not be alarmed. She frowns in confusion, then shrieks as a wall of fire erupts between them and the city men, who leap backwards, shouting in fear and anger. Then, as quickly as it appeared the fire is gone, leaving only a scorched ring of earth to show it ever existed.
The men are pointing weapons now, lances, swords, bows and arrows. Nothing compared to a dragon’s fire but there are far more bows than dragons. There is a scream from behind her and Shirrin turns to see Karista’s tail lashing through the air and two men on the ground.
“Stop!” she cries. The tail stills. Bowstrings creak. Defrin speaks.
“I wish to barter my services for board and lodging. I am sure your city’s lord can think of some use for my skills.”
Fire magic. Which means Defrin is from underearth. It explains the hood. His skin has never been touched by sunlight.
“And you?” The tall man says to Shirrin.
“Our skyland fell,” she says and instantly regrets it. They will probably blame her for the damage to their city and rightly so. Still, it’s too late now. “We have air magic.”
The wind rises around them and the men cry out again. She allows herself a small smile. If they are this easy to scare then things may not be so bad.
“Enough!” The tall man’s voice cuts through the howl of the wind and she lets it drop. “Come down from there.”
Still smirking, Shirrin drops down from Karista’s back and walks forward. The tall man grabs her and Karista snarls, open mouthed.
“Call off your dragon,” says the soldier. “You and Defrin will come with us to the city lord. The dragon stays outside.”
Karista rears up and roars. It sounds like the skyland crashing down but with the screams of a thousand dying animals mixed in as well. His wings unfurl and the men drop their weapons and hunch on the ground, covering their heads as leather and scales whip through the air.
“That’s not a good idea,” Defrin mutters. Shirrin thinks desperately how to calm her dragon before he kills someone.
What am I going to do?
Excellent question! You decide!
1/ Karista attacks the city men
2/ Shirrin calms Karista down and gets him to stay outside
3/ Defrin convinces the tall man to allow Karista into the city
Voting ends on Sunday midnight (US Pacific Coast time)