A Dragon's WorldStarted by Rhagarth of Siege Perilous at 05 Feb, 2020 12:42 PM
3rd Moon 22, 2020
A mighty dragon circled in the sky above Bassilith's Burning Sea. The creature lazily rode the high thermals, gliding effortlessly despite her massive size. Eyes, far sharper than an eagle's, watched the shadows move beneath the water's surface. Juvenile kraken and other sea creatures were active in the early morning. Some could even sense the changes in light that indicated an airborne predator. However, Rhagarth was not a threat at the moment. She had fed earlier.
Her flight path took her higher and over the volcano at the center of the Burning Sea. Rhagarth's shadow prompted some of the nesting dragons in the rookery to fan out their wings and display the enormous eyespots. No doubt, they feared a late-comer to the rookery that might try to take their nesting spot. However, Rhagarth had not risen in many seasons. She had not felt the desire to join in a mating flight with another since the Loss of her lifemate, Kavoss. She was only patrolling the skies, seeing to the safety of her domain while her wingbonded Morrighan did his duty at the academy.
Leaving the excited nesting dragons behind, Rhagarth circled higher and higher and then dove toward one of the larger karst formations that encircled the volcanic island. At the last minute, she fanned out her wings and landed on the flat stone surface. Leaving her wings fanned out, she settled in to enjoy the sun's rays.
From this perch, Rhagarth had a good view of the coastline and could even see some of the taller buildings of Port Duskhallow. Even some of the taller masts of ships in the bay and port were visible from this vantage point. For now, there were no boats on the water of the Burning Sea itself. Bassilith's fishermen knew that it was the season of the kraken. Although the juveniles were not the monster ship-killers of legend, not yet anyway, some got big enough to pose a threat to the smaller fishing boats. There were a few bipeds - people, Rhagarth corrected herself - on the beach and prowling the tidal pools for shellfish, mollusks, and small octopus for their tables. A few dragons rolled in the black volcanic sand before finding one of the many waterfalls that fell from the cliffs to the sea so they could rinse the sand off.
And always there was the Songs. From various vantage points around Bassilith, just like at other sieges, the sages of the dragon community sent out the dragonsongs. The songs were broadcast verbally and in dragonspeech in hopes of attracting bipeds that could hear and understand them. The verbal song had been likened to the songs of the great whales, although they were far more melodious. The songs varied from dragon to dragon and from season to season. Basically, though, they told tales of the collective history, legends, and myths of dragon-kind.
Come not between the dragon and his wrath.
The midday meal was over, and the Cadets exited from the Academy Perilous' large dining hall. The next hour was their own. They could go to their barracks to rest for an hour or find a quiet place to study. Some would use the hour to socialize with one another, beginning to build the important bonds that would forge them into a strong fighting unit later. A tall paladin held back as the trainees streamed past him and out of the hall. He had spent the morning demonstrating mounting and dismounting techniques to the older cadets. Fortunately for all concerned, the dragons that offered their services for training were amazingly patient.
Once the cadets had disappeared in pursuit of their own interests, Breccan stepped out of the dining hall and made his way along a long corridor. Outside the citadel's academy wing, he turned and headed toward a massive pair of gates, pausing only long enough for the gate-keepers to recognize him and allow him to enter through smaller inset door. Cadets were not allowed inside the main citadel complex. In fact, few areas allowed outsiders access to the sprawling city-fortress.
Instead of entering the main building in front of him, Breccan crossed the courtyard and ascended a broad staircase. Eventually, it opened onto a large flat dais, open to the mountains and sky. The view was breathtaking, and if one lacked a head for heights, dizzying. Once there, Breccan began sending out the signal that would alert his wingbonded dragon that he was ready for a flight. The call was done via dragonspeech and was unique to each wingbonded pair. Rhagarth alone would hear his call and respond to it. He knew that she had spent her morning on patrol, so he hoped that she was ready for playtime.
Within moments, a sound that could only be likened to a clap of thunder followed by a rush of wind alerted Breccan to Rhagarth's arrival. It took some talent to land her thirty-seven-foot length on the dais as it was one of the smaller ones in the citadel. Sunlight sparked flashes of gold and copper off her scales and wings, making Breccan smile at the sight of her. He knew that he was biased, but could not help feeling that Rhagarth was the most magnificent dragon on Aereth.
Rhagarth lowered her head so that Breccan could lay his palm on her muzzle. As usual, he reached up to also rub one of the onyx-colored spikes of her head frill. Disdaining the fancier mounting techniques that Breccan had demonstrated to the cadets that morning, he stepped around to Rhagarth's left side and, in a graceful move, set his foot on her leg as she raised it sharply. At the same time, he grabbed the hand strap of the riding harness and vaulted up into the soft saddle. Breccan was barely seated when Rhagarth reared back on her haunches and launched herself into the air.
The next hour was spent in a combination of play and practice. The dragon swooped and soared through the air while her 'rider rode each move, often with a shout of pure joy. Breccan was at home in the sky and lived for the hours spent simply enjoying the power of dragon flight. He had been wingbonded to Rhagarth for nearly thirteen hundred years. They knew one another's abilities and limits. Except for the days when one or the other was recovering from injuries, Breccan and Rhagarth never missed an opportunity for flying together.
At long last, Rhagarth settled again on the karst formation where she had perched earlier in the day. She raised her foreleg, allowing Breccan to slide onto it and be safely conveyed to the ground. Rhagarth's shoulders and back were a good fifteen feet off the ground. A fall would not kill the Morrighan, but it could result in broken bones, which would put them both out of active service until he mended.
Breccan looked out at their surroundings. Most people would have become dizzy at the height. He was exhilarated. His love of heights had often caused others to suggest that Breccan was half eagle. He settled himself on an outcropping of rock. "Good hunting today, Rhagarth?" He asked verbally. It was considered good manners to inquire about a day's hunting when addressing a dragon.
"Hunting was good," Rhagarth responded, also verbally. Unlike most dragons, she was comfortable forming human-speech. Her voice was throaty and feminine, the same as when she chose to shapeshift to human-form. It was odd seeing a dragon use human-speech. They dropped their mouths open slightly, but the sound was generated entirely in their voice box. "Your time has been well-spent as well?"
"Most assuredly," Breccan answered, a spark of humor showing in his blue-green eyes. "All of the cadets in my training unit can now mount and dismount their dragons with ease and grace."
Rhagarth gave a soft snort of derision, "As you say."
The conversation was interrupted as a large pied raven landed on the boulder near Breccan. It tilted its head and said in a remarkably human-sounding voice, "Breccan Windmaster, you are summoned to share the evening meal with the Danu."
Rhagarth lowered her head and fixed Breccan with one emerald eye, "What have you done now?"
Breccan sighed, "I have no idea." He gave his acknowledgment to the bird and watched as it took off, heading like an arrow straight back to Annwyn Court.
Rhagarth returned to her aerie much later in the day. Her home was located high in the siege and was somewhat secluded. Like most sieges, Perilous was situated in and around a mostly volcanic mountain chain. In the distant past, dragons had also incubated their clutches of eggs within their aeries. Later, they had found that forming rookeries made more sense. It meant that there were many more dragons to watch and guard against danger instead of just the two parents.
Rhagarth's aerie had been retained it after the loss of her lifemate, Kavoss. Her size and age meant that very few dragons would consider challenging her for her right to it. The aerie consisted of three rooms. The large cave entrance opened into a high-ceilinged and airy main cavern. The wide ledge in front of it was ideal for laying in the sun or for use as a flight dais. The second room was the bower or sleep chamber. It was also where Rhagarth kept her treasure horde, items brought to her over the years to cement her lifemate bond with Kavoss. The third chamber opened into a larger cavern that had a large hot spring at its center. Another one of a dragon's guilty pleasures, they loved soaking in the hot mineral water when molting old scales. Just outside the aerie, a small stream trickled and bounded over mossy rocks, providing fresh drinking water. Dragons rarely brought their meals back to their aerie, so the entire living area was clean, dry, and pleasant.
Moments after Rhagarth's arrival, a rather small pale blue female dragon landed on the ledge. The newcomer called out a soft whistling greeting and waited for Rhagarth to partially emerge. The large dragon recognized the blue as one of the messengers that served Menrath, the Jade Empress. Unconsciously, Rhagarth imitated a biped response. She sighed in annoyance as she responded to the greeting.
"You are summoned to the aerie of the Jade Empress," the pale blue dragon piped in a series of trills. Immediately upon delivering the summons, the blue turned and launched herself from the ledge in graceful flight. She was very agile and very fast, which was why the Empress used smaller dragons as messengers and couriers.
There was a drawback to being one of the Empress's only remaining First Daughters. It conveyed no special status on her. Should Menrath ever sense that Rhagarth was a threat to her reign, she would challenge her and, if possible, kill her.
Rhagarth landed on the ledge outside the Empress's aerie and waited to be summoned inside. Finally, the same pale blue messenger came out and informed Rhagarth that the Jade Empress would now see her. As always, the implication was that an audience was being sought and granted. Rhagarth tamped down any irritation that these games engendered. The Jade Empress was ancient and took offense easily. Not only would a battle between them be a huge risk, but Rhagarth also did not want to rule the siege. She would wait and vent her annoyance on her evening meal.
All aeries were large and roomy by biped standards and had just the right amount of required space by dragon standards. Compared to most aeries, Menrath's was vast. The main chamber was a cavern of enormous proportions with designated areas for the Empress's court. Even with hundreds of moonglobes lighting the area, the cavern's ceiling was lost in darkness. Rhagarth had never been invited into the Empress's inner-sanctum, but she had heard there were several chambers, many of them as vast as the audience chamber.
On the left side of the chamber was a raised stone dais. The plinth was smooth and glossy, indicating it had been created using dragon fire to melt the rocks and meld them into one massive raised dais. Bathed in the light of several large moonglobes, it was a focal point in the chamber. One's eyes were automatically drawn to it. No doubt, that was the plan of the first empress to occupy this aerie. On this day, it was Menrath who occupied the dais, her deep jade-green scales glowing and flashing in the light as she moved, raising herself to regard Rhagarth. The scales of her tail made a soft, dry rustling sound on the stone as she moved, drawing attention to her forty-foot length.
"I expect those that I summon to arrive promptly," Menrath's mental voice stated. She used traditional dragonspeech, not the language of the bipeds. Images, emotions, and the peculiar litany of trills filled Rhagarth's mind.
Rhagarth responded to Menrath's subtle challenge, acknowledging that she had been slow to arrive. It was the usual opening gambit. The golden dragon was patient. She needed to judge the Jade Empress's mood. After apologizing for taking too long to arrive, Rhagarth added, "I am grateful that you requested my presence, Empress." Her response was also in the ancient pure language of the dragons.
Menrath's only response was to rapidly enlarge and contract the pupils of her emerald-colored eyes. This method of expressing emotion was called pinning. At the same time, the Empress's scales rippled through several shades of pale green, indicating that she was more amused than annoyed.
"First-Daughter, if you were to address the Empress of another siege in such a manner, you would find your throat ripped out," Menrath pronounced.
"It is only that I know you to be kind and merciful," Rhagarth replied.
Menrath's snort of laughter, which sounded like a combination of a growl and purr, echoed through the chamber. A few heads turned in their direction but soon went back to their tasks.
"There is a new queen, not even your measure, that is gathering a following. She looks to challenge me."
"Lokyth," Rhagarth transmitted the images and emotions associated with the large brown queen, "does have a following of fledglings." She managed to indicate a certain degree of dismissiveness by using the term fledgling. "I do not think she would dare challenge you."
"And you, Rhagarth? When will you challenge me?" Menrath's scales flashed several shades of darker green.
"When you can no longer lead and protect Siege Perilous," Rhagarth responded, meeting Menrath's eyes without backing down.
The Jade Empress rose to her feet, her talons clicking loudly on the stone dais as she moved. Her horns and neck crest rose threateningly. Her very presence was intimidating, "Take care," Menrath warned, a loud growl accompanying the words.
Dragons and Gwerin both possessed an ability called bloodsense. It allowed them to recognize their blood kin on an instinctual level. Bloodsense even allowed them to recognize how close the kinship was. The ability had evolved as a way to avoid inbreeding. That was as close to a familial attachment as any dragon possessed. Rhagarth knew that her status as the first female from Menrath's first clutch would not protect her should the old Empress see her as a threat.
"Your pardon, Empress. I did not mean to be insolent."
Fortunately, Menrath was feeling affable. Instead of roaring a challenge at the younger golden dragon, she inquired about the status of the Morrighan and of any gossip that Rhagarth had heard from Annwyn Court. The two dragons walked out to the ledge, conversing amicably.