Trails of White Scale. Chapter Three.

Three Suns Later

A well rested Konin runs ahead to meet his friends. His mother Marobi and father Kyro follow leisurely. The young dragon steps beyond the shadow of the rock. Warmth of the sun feels fresh against his scales, it’s been days now, since Konin has been outside of the cave walls. Ahead, he spot Yendri and Arathid wresting in the sand. Yendri’s father Yuritahnan cheers him on. Arathid’s father Stone King Arathad chuckles as they watch the young boys skirmish. Konin eagerly jumps into the action pinning himself between his friends.

The other members of the dennery make their way back to the warm sands of the hatching grounds. Steam rises from The dark sands in the cold morning air. A peaceful morning sun ignites the steam with a pleasant glow. A cool breeze blossomed sending shivers down Konin’s scales. He stands up straight just as Del-Rhys catches up to the group. Del charges Konin and pushes him over. Konin laughs then chases after Del-Rhys. Marobi and Kyro join the other parents, now formed in a semi-circle around the younglings. They see a scattering of white scales from every dennery playing in the hatching grounds’ sand. Some of the parents are already in place, postured like statues, waiting for the Elder to address them.

Del-Rhys and Konin bump into Yendri. Young Yendri is struggling to hold Arathid down. The two push Yendri off of Arathid. Arathid then jumps after Del-Rhys, gnawing on his wing. Del-Rhys flips backward trying to get Arathid off of him. Konin and Yendri, unaware of their surroundings, fling themselves into one of the standing stone pillars. The impact,like a bell, releases a loud ring. The other white scales in the sand all stop what they’re doing for a moment. They stare at the two ruffians. Yendri and Konin freeze. Herra,seemingly from nowhere,stands before them with her arms crossed. The four boys stay frozen and look back and forth at each other. Del-Rhys has his nose in the sand and Arathid’s tail in his mouth. Arathid is holding Del-Rhys up by his tail. Yendri rubs his head. Konin smiles at Herra, an innocent grin. Herra gestures to another white scale. A young dragon from another Dennery. Herra introduces her new friend as Brita. Brita is a slender and slightly taller youngling than Herra. She awkwardly stands over Herra and nods to the boys. Herra pulls on Brita’s arm and runs over to another white scale. Herra grabs the arm of the second white scale and announces to her friends. “…And this is Dyadri!”

Konin, Del-Rhys, and Yendri look at eachother. Arathid drops Del-Rhys in the sand and sits next to him “Those are girls!” Arathid stutters as he spits sand from his teeth. Herra rolls her eyes and pulls her new friends closer to Arathid.

Herra stiffens her posture and turns her head from Arathid. “I suppose you forgot you boys spend all of your time with me, a dragoness.” She backs away from him with a look of disgust and gestures to her nose with a quick tap. The girls watch as a large trail of goo crawls from Arathid’s nose. He sucks it back into his nostril with a snort. Arathid’s eyes meet with Dyadri’s and he blushes. She quickly looks away to avoid eye contact. Arathid, the largest of the white scales, gets up, the girl’s eyes follow as he now stands over them. Arathid, with his wings displayed, marches off towards Konin and Yendri. Del-Rhys and Herra look at each other and shrug at Arathid’s strange behavior.

Through the crowd of white scales, two adult Dragons make their way to the center platform. The first one, most of the white scales recognized, The Elder of the Ethyr Clan, Ronin. He seemed to float through the sand as he made his way through. A dripping melon gushed from his teeth as he chomped on it, ignoring the white scales around him. The second adult dragon, none of the white scales had met before. A Large strong looking red dragon with muscular forearms and stiff short wings. His belly was a sandy white and his chin was thick and rough. He stomped through the sand with his shoulders and neck up proper and proud. He followed Ronin closely and found his place at the platform. Ronin finishes his Melon and wipes his claws on his belly. He looks around for a moment, counting the white scales. He checks that all of the parents are there. He nods to Kyro, he nods to King Arathad, He nods to Daso-Rhys, He nods to all of the fathers that sit around the circle. He smiles at the children that surround him. “Well, this is exciting..” he says “… I’m sure you’re all very anxious to begin the trials… and well that is pretty much what we will be doing.” Ronin stares blankly for a moment. “Ah.. yes this, as I’m sure you’re all wondering.” He gestures to the red dragon to step forward. “… is Syzo-Fen..” He repeats slowly. “SIGH-ZO-FEN…” Syzo-Fen bows to the crowd. “Now, Syzo here is what we call a master dragon. Outside of these walls a master dragon could mean a number of things, but here at the hatching grounds it means something very specific. You the white scale..” He points to several young dragons around him “… will refer to a master as such. Syzo-Fen has spent his life mastering dragon combat. The council has deemed him a master of combat therefore he can and will guide you and teach you, if you will, as a master. Now, is that clear?” Arathid raises his hand. Ronin snaps his jaws at Arathid. Arathid drops his hand. Ronin Continues “Very good. Today is the day our trials begin. As I’m sure you are all aware, the purpose of the trials is to prepare white scales, such as yourselves, for the big and very dangerous realm out there. This is a safe environment for us to do so, but that does not mean that we do not take precautions.” Ronin takes a long drawn out breath. “We will be in a few hazardous conditions and some of you will get hurt, but it is also important to know that those white scales you have yet to shed will protect you from some of the most dangerous situations and elements that this realm has to offer. In order to remain our absolute safest, we will ask you to always follow the commands of a master.”

The large red dragon stretches his wings and smiles at the elder. “Thank you, Ronin.” Syzo-Fen holds his hand to his heart. “I’m humbled and honored to have a place here at the hatching grounds, and to be a master in this council.” Syzo steps off the platform and into the sand with the White Scales. “This is the place where all of you were born, as was I, your parents and our ancestors.” Syzo looks back up to Ronin. “When I was here as a young white scale, Ronin was my master. Now he is an Elder and I am a master. Any one of you could get here one day. I am a master because I know discipline, I know respect. There is an order that we follow. This is what has kept our species alive. You will learn about the Sargonian and the splinter cat, about our enemies from the North and our enemies from the sea. Whatever enemy we face, what is most important is that we remain in honor.” Syzo takes in a triumphant breath. A young female white scale stands up to Syzo and grabs his hand. Syzo smiles down at her. “What is it, little one?” He asks.

The little white scale has large amber eyes and four little stub horns that make it look like she is wearing a crown. She asks “Can I show them what we have been working on now?” The little one angles her wings and takes a fighting pose. Syzo’s face turns serious and he pushes the little white scale over with the tip of his finger.

“NO.” Syzo’s voice is now very stern. “This is the hatching grounds, a SACRED place. We do not do combat training here.” Syzo leaves the little white scale on the ground as he elegantly slugs through the sand. The white scales just stare at him as he seems to float away. He continues away from the sands and barks over his shoulder. “This way, White Scales!” The white scales scurry after him. Herra approaches the little white scale who lays in the warm sand. She crouches next to her and nuzzles her nose to her shoulder. The little white scale looks up to Herra, her eyes swelling with tears.

Herra offers her hand to the little one. “Are you okay?” she asks. Before the little one can respond Brita and Dyadri bud in. Brita asks the little one’s name. Dyadri offering her water pouch. The little one takes Herra’s hand, she pulls Herra into the sand then stands at her feet, her neck stretched. The little one now stands over Herra. Brita stares shocked, water pours from Dyadri’s pouch as she holds it out.

The little one scoffs at the three girls. “ I don’t need your help.” She turns her back to them and marches after Syzo-Fen and the other white scales. Herra jumps up from the sand, she locks eyes with Brita, then Dyadri with one brow raised. Herra hears laughter, she looks around. Konin, Yendri and Del-Rhys all point and laugh at what they just witnessed. Arathid wipes sand off of Herra’s shoulder. Herra pushes him away.

“Hey! Don’t push. I was helping…” Arathid catches his balance. Herra snaps her jaw at him and signals the two girls to follow her as she makes her way towards the other white scales. Arathid catches up to the girls. “You know, that is Syzo’s daughter?” Brita and Herra ignore Arathid and keep walking. Dyadri looks back at him.

“What’s that?” she asks. Herra and Brita look at Dyadri. Herra mouths something to Dyadri, but she doesn’t understand.

Arathid continues “That little white scale that put you on the ground, that’s Monoki-Fen! My family knows them.”

Dyadri smiles at Arathid “oh! That makes a lot of sense.. She is pretty small, but she brought Herra down really easily.” Herra’s face scrunches. She quickly turns to face him.

“Nobody asked, Arathid!” She pushes him again then turns back with the group. “Besides!” Herra continues “I was trying to help her, it’s not like it was a fair fight!”

Arathid jumps in again “Yeah, she’s obviously more skilled. I wouldn’t exactly call that fair.” He chuckles, Herra jumps at him and smacks his forehead several times. Konin runs past the girls.

“Last one there is a sargonian’s breakfast!” Konin and Del-Rhys fling mud at Arathid just as Herra jumps away from him. The group laughs and hurries away. Arathid picks himself up and wipes the mud and sand from his face. Yendri helps him for a moment. He smacks Arathid on the back and shouts. “With some fire, Arathid!” Yendri dashes away and Arathid follows.

Marobi, Kyro and the other parents watch as the white scales follow Master Syzo. Kyro places his arm around his mate. She smiles as she watches her little one chase after his friends. Skovus approaches the two parents. “Good morning.” She greets with a nod. “I’ve invited a few of the parents from the dennery to join me in the garden stones. I was hoping you might join us as well.” Her tail wiggles back and forth as she waits for Marobi and Kyro to respond. The couple look at each other for a moment, Marobi trying to telepathically get out of the situation. Kyro bares a massive grin and squeezes Marobi tight as he turns back toward Skovus.

“We would love to!” he says. “Will there be food?” Kyro asks.

Skovus answers while biting at her claw. “That can be arranged, but mainly there will be tea.”

Kyro pauses a moment and raises his brow. “Hmmm, well we will follow you..” He looks to Marobi with a gesture to follow Skovus.

Marobi pinches her claws underneath Kyro’s rib then follows Skovus with a smile. “I can’t wait.” She mumbles.

The white scales approach a sunken clearing where Syzo-Fen stands as still as a stone, as if he had always been there rooted in the dirt. Syzo watches with a plain face as the white scales, out of breath, file in. Konin coming over the hill into the clearing takes in his surroundings. Syzo sits at the opening of what looks like a natural stage, large rock formations and hills surround him like a bowl. Within the stage are various tall rocks with flat tops and crevices. Some loops and caves seem to be carved out of the stone around the outside of the stage area. Various rocks appear to be stacked like a crude wall. Barely any vegetation grows within the stage. As the white scales gather before Syzo-Fen, Konin begins to wander; he is drawn to a thick black scorch that runs along the western rock wall. Del-Rhys pulls at Konin’s arm. “What are you doing, Konin?” Konin turns to Del-Rhys and then catches Syzo looking right at him. Konin sees the other white scales patiently waiting. “Let’s go..” Del-Rhys grumbles at Konin under his breath. Konin looks back where the scorch marks stretched across the walls. There was nothing there. Konin realizes that he was in a bit of a daze as he and Del-Rhys walk back to the group and it seemed the distance away was much greater than he thought.

Syzo nods to Konin and Del-Rhys as they rejoin the group. His chin lifts before he speaks with his deep booming voice. “Welcome, my students, to the Combat Grounds. This is where we test young white scales and teach them their defensive skills. It is here where the great roakes of history first mastered the Ro-Fa. These stones have known many white scales and they are no stranger to a good beating. This is where you learn to face your enemies with respect and without fear..” Syzo snaps his jaws in anger. He points to Yendri and Arathid who are already wrestling in the dirt. Dust flying in the air. “You..” he growls. The two stop wrestling for a moment. Syzo turns to his daughter Monoki-Fen. “Now you can show them.”

The petite young Monoki stands with immediate purpose. Her wings raise and stretch then tuck in close to her body, her head points forward as she charges them. Arathid, holding Yendri down, is knocked out of balance by the force of Monoki’s charge. Yendri rolls out of the dirt and onto his feet. Monoki gets low to the ground and swipes Yendri’s ankles with her tail. Yendri nearly falls over, but catches himself. He looks back at her to laugh at her attempt, instead he sees her foot flying at his face. Yendri slides through the dirt. Monoki straightens out and wipes some dirt from her tail, then with grace she returns to the group. Arathid and Yendri follow, Arathid rubbing his head and Yendri holds his snout. “Very good, Monoki.” Syzo praises her while placing his hand on her head. “The rest of you…” He pulls his hand away from the little white scale. Monoki keeps her gaze forward, a few tears swell in her eyes. Syzo-Fen continues “… We will begin today’s lesson with a partner. Find one or I will give you one.” Konin and Del-Rhys immediately turn to each other. Other white scales choose their partners while Monoki glances around, she doesn’t really know who to choose. Herra and Brita seem to be partnered, but Dyadri looks like she could use a partner, Monoki goes to approach her. Another white scale that Monoki doesn’t recognize approaches Dyadri before Monoki can. She hears her introduce herself as Hadiira. Dyadri makes eye contact with Monoki, Monoki quickly turns away. She sees Arathid wandering by himself towards the other white scales, Monoki thinks maybe he could be a good partner. The little white scale almost caught up to him, but he was already talking to another white scale. Arathid picked a dragon named Judon-Slak. Monoki scoffs under her breath and storms away from Arathid. Her face nearly touches Yendri as she turns around. She jumps backward, but tries to maintain her composure. He smiles at her showing all of his teeth.

“Hello, partner” Yendri holds out his hand. He starts to say something else, but monoki hits away his hand and marches past him. She mutters under her breath. Yendri asks “does that mean yes?” She turns back to him and stomps her foot.

“It means ‘fine’” she says quietly. She continues back to the front of the group near her father. Yendri follows closely.

“This is the perfect match, right here.” Yendri says to Syzo.

“Is that right?” Syzo’s voice booms. He looks to Monoki who stares forward with her nose scrunched up and her brows furrowed.

“I guess so…” she says with her teeth clenched. Syzo waits as the white scales find their partners. The twenty something white scales begin to settle down as they notice Syzo watching over them.

Syzo-Fen walks in a circle around the group sizing up the various matches. Syzo hums to himself before making his way back to the front of the group. “ Today, my pupils…” He addresses the white scales and takes a combative stance. “… We will work on our grounding stances…” His front legs are square and his hind legs are slightly bent. Syzo’s wings spread and his tail stretched. “…Face your partner and ground yourself with front claws touching the ground. As you have witnessed, if you do not have strong roots then your feet cannot stay planted in the dirt. Keep your hind legs bent and you are always ready to generate power.” Konin and Del-Rhys stare at each other as they are both trying to impress the other with their stance. Konin looks at his hands trying to place them evenly with his shoulders. Del-Rhys keeps looking back at his back legs and adjusting them. Syzo adds. “While on the ground, our wings are a perfect instrument for balance. If you’re in combat, always take the time to find some inner peace. Use your wings to feel the wind. When you need more speed, tuck your wings in tight. If you need to slow things down then make your wings as big as possible. In battle and in flight your wings and your balance more times than not will be the deciding factor of who lives and who loses.” Konin and Del-Rhys lift their wings in the air. Del-Rhys notices the size and thickness of Konin’s wings and stretches his out just a little more. Konin does the same and his left wing feels a sharp pinch. The pinch turns into a horrible burning sensation and his whole wing cramps up. Konin clenches up with pain, Del-Rhys reaches out for Konin, but Konin acts as if nothing happened. The two resume their stances. Syzo continues. “Your tails, in a grounded stance, should be pointed up. The muscles in your tail can be, in most dragons, the most powerful. The Roake tail will help you when maneuvering in high speed flight or while engaging in dangerous combat. We will exercise our tails and our wings as much as possible in our training and throughout your life you will protect them at all cost…” Syzo drops his head and looks across the group. “Remember a downed dragon is a dead dragon. Master the art of keeping your head low, your chances of survival stay high. With your roots in the ground you can feel the power in the soil. This applies more so if you are a Dragon of the Earth. Forest and Stone like Arithad the stone king or Skovus the healer, but learning the strength of your stance and the power of your root is important for all dragon types. We all may fly, but we don’t all rule the sky.” Konin and Del-Rhys continue to square up. The other is trying to get into an even lower stance than the other. “Now, for the next hour I want you all to lay flat on your bellies and push yourself up into your grounding stance. Do not use your tail to push yourself up, instead move your tail from side to side without touching the ground and maintain your wings in an outstretched position the entire time.” Syzo demonstrates with ease as the white scales struggle to do this a few times.

Konin and Del-Rhys are pushing themselves. They fail to notice that the other white scales around them have already given up this exercise. Del-Rhys struggling to push himself up this last time says “That’s all you got?… I can do this all day.” Konin’s arms shake as he tries to get that last extra push up over Del-Rhys. Syzo laughs at their efforts.

“It is okay, boys. We can be done for the day. Excellent effort.” Syzo looks down at Monoki who wasn’t able to do as many as Yendri. Syzo-Fen then begins to walk up the cliff rocks that lead to the edge of the combat grounds. “This way, younglings.” Syzo seems to float up the rocky walls. Meanwhile the white scales struggle to climb their way to him. Konin approaches the rocks and attempts to jump up them. Del-Rhys sees a clear ledge and jumps up to grab it. Del-Rhys pulls himself up. Konin grabs a small rock and throws it at Del-Rhys as Del-Rhys continues up the wall. Del-Rhys looks back at Konin.

“We’re partners!” Konin yells. Del-Rhys sees Brita helping Herra up the first layer of rocks. He looks down at Konin and smiles then turns back up the wall. Konin spots the ledge where Del-Rhys had pulled himself up. He gets some room between him and the wall and tucks his wings in. Konin builds up some speed then leaps to the ledge kicking off of it with his hind feet and flies up to Del-Rhys. Konin pushes Del-Rhys down and climbs up the next rock wall. Yendri and Monoki are already there. Yendri grabs Monoki and throws her at Konin. Konin takes a grounding stance and bucks his head at Monoki. Monoki flies off of the cliff and lands on Del-Rhys who was just under the cliff face. She kicks off Del-Rhys’ snout and lands behind Konin. Konin looks back and forth between Monoki-Fen and Yendri. He tucks his wings and slithers his way up the next rock wall. Yendri picks up Monoki again and throws her up the wall. Yendri follows after them, Del-Rhys’ hand grips Yendri’s tail and pulls him back. Yendri kicks at Del-Rhys, but Del-Rhys is able to maneuver past him. Del-Rhys catches Monoki and throws her down at Yendri. He looks up at Konin.

“Okay, Konin, we’re partners!” Del-Rhys shouts. Konin waits for Del-Rhys at the next rock face. He holds out his hand to help Del-Rhys up.

“This next cliff is too tall to climb, jump on my back then you can pull me up.” Konin says as he pulls Del-Rhys up. Del-Rhys looks up the rock face then back at Yendri and Monoki who aren’t too far behind. Del-Rhys nods to Konin. Konin takes a grounding stance at the base of the rock wall. Del-Rhys climbs on Konin’s back then over the wall. Del-Rhys reaches his hand down for Konin then pulls him up. “One more left..” Konin grunts. The two climb the next cliff step together. As they climb over the top they see Syzo standing there waiting for them.

“Again.” Syzo says as his tail pushes the two off of the cliff. Konin and Del-Rhys tumble down the side of the cliff steps. Going past Yendri, Herra, and Arathid.

“Did that just happen?” Del-Rhys says, out of breath and bruised.

Back in the Garden Stones, Marobi keeps her eyes fixed on the distant cliffs of the combat grounds. A small bird flying overhead catches her eye. She imagines young Konin flying through the canyon. She can’t help, but smile.The coldness of the morning air tickles her scales. Marobi holds her stone cup of tea tighter in her hands and takes a sip. Konin’s face flashes through her mind, she can see her son laughing and playing. She feels as if she is right beside him climbing the cliff steps with his friends. A loud slurping interrupts her daydream. Kyro slurping his tea loudly bumps up next to her. “What are we looking at?” he says as he empties his cup. She rolls her eyes at him and continues to sip. The steam from her cup floats into the air. Kyro places his cup on the stone ledge beside them. He looks around the stone garden. “Hopefully the food will be here soon. Have you seen where Skovus went off to? Perhaps to get some food, my love?”

“For your sake, I hope so. You might starve.” She rubs her warm hand across Kyro’s belly. “Feels empty…” Kyro slaps her hand away with a light hearted scoff. The Garden Stones are made up of large carved rock mostly overgrown with lush green vines and ferns. Many flowers and exotic plants decorate the scenery and various stone platforms. Many Pillars of stone appear to have been placed with great care to hold one another up in place. Throughout the Garden a small water path acts as a miniature river guiding small fish and stone crabs under a series of stone arrangements. As the spring flourishes and the flowers bloom an aroma of roses fills the air.

Kyro stands up straight as he notices the young father Thodin approaching. Close behind him is the River Dragon Yuritahnan. Yuritahnan walks with a careful hop in his step. He stands upright with his arms crossed and without expression compared to Thodin who walks on all fours and with a polite smile it feels out of place. Marobi turns toward them as they address Kyro. “Grand Azure, Master Yuritahnan was telling me of these beasts. They are huge sea creatures swarming the waters of the South.” Thodin pats the proper Yuritahnan on the chest. “Tell him.” Thodin chuckles and gulps down some tea. Yuritahnan clears his throat.

“Well.. it’s not so much their size, what makes them formidable is their numbers.” Yuritahnan clarifies. “These are basically eels from the deep, but for the past decade, or so, they have been making their way up the Delta’s rivers.” He talks with his hands as he explains. “The problem is that they eat what we eat and they are extremely dangerous, especially around our young ones.”

“Surely you can eat these eels, right?” Says Kyro.

“I would love to.” Yuritahnan smiles “The problem is, when they are killed or destroyed they seem to just vanish or explode.” Kyro leans closer with intrigue.

“They cast lightning, Kyro” Thodin interrupts. “Just like the cats of the North!”

“You can imagine the disadvantage of a River Dragon against a swarm of lightning wielding beasts.” Yuritahnan shrugs.

Kyro nods as he rubs the scales on his chin. “Why haven’t we heard this before? The Ethyr clan would be happy to assist.”

“I’m afraid the Elders won’t allow it.” Yuritahnan says.

“This is outrageous, if the Kinship Delta needs our help, then we are to help. I would be willing to address the council. As Grand Azure of the Ethyr Clan I’m sure I win some favor.” Kyro assures.

Yuritahnan replies. “This would be wonderful, I have grown tired of the council’s bickering. To be honest, Kyro..” he pauses. ”.. The council has worn me down on this matter. If you could bring them to their senses. That would bring a new light to the Delta.”

Kyro pats Yuritahnan on the shoulder with a smile. Just as he is about to say something Skovus and a few servants appear with platters and dishes of food. The aroma pulls Kyro away from the group. Skovus approaches them and offers Cucumber Jiin and Non Jiin Cucumber Rolls. “For those who don’t eat Jiin.” She smiles. Yuritahnan grabs a Cucumber roll. Thodin and Marobi grab Cucumber Jiin. Skovus excuses herself to offer food to the other parent dragons. Yuritahnan watches as Marobi takes a soft bite. He raises his brow.

“You’re from the Delta aren’t you?” Yuritahnan inquires.

Marobi takes a moment to chew then replies. “My parents are, but I haven’t been in a long time.” She takes another bite. The bite sends shivers down Yuritahnans spine. He hands his roll Thodin.

“You know what, I’m not hungry.” He nods to the both of them. “It was absolutely wonderful speaking with you. Have a great morning. I will catch up with you later.” He smiles then storms away, almost bumping into Kyro.

“Where are you off to, Yuri?” Kyro says with a mouth full of food.

“I must check on Valentines, she wasn’t feeling so good this morning.”

Yuritahnan maneuvers past the massive Kyro. Kyro shrugs.

“I know how that goes.” Thodin says. The group of parents look at each other for a moment as if to say ‘oh well that was weird’. Kyro finishes his plate. “I’m still hungry.” He says with a belch under his breath.

Some time later.

The white scales all make it up the cliff face. They’re all exhausted. “Now, for the next exercise.” Syzo says with a grin on his face. Syzo takes the group to the other end of the cliffs where a valley of pillar stones stretch across the combat grounds. He points across the valley at its lowest point where Ronin stands waiting. “Your wings might not have the strength to take off and fly. But you can still glide from a high point.” Konin looks over the edge. The drop off sends shivers up his spine and his head turns cold. “We are going to glide from here to where Master Ronin stands.” Some of the white scales gasp. “You should all be able to glide the whole way there, but if you need a break or get scared you may land on one of these stone pillars along the way. If I catch any of you landing on three or more pillars there will be consequences. Let’s make a game of it.” Syzo smiles. “Now before we do this. Stretch out your wings.” They do as instructed. “Flap your wings repeatedly. This will help your wings adjust to flying. The power generated by your wings now is not enough for flight…” The white scales flap their wings. Konin is trying to keep up with Del-Rhys, but Del-Rhys seems to be able to flap his wings much more consistently than Konin. Konin’s wings aren’t flapping simultaneously; it feels like they’re almost too stiff. “Some of you may grow up and find that this flying business is just too much work, but as younglings you should be able to fly just fine once you build up the strength to do it. Now approach the cliff or I will push you.” Syzo stretches his wings out. “Ready your wings, white scales!” They all stretch their wings out. “Do not flap your wings when you are gliding. If you tuck in your wings at all you will begin to fall too fast to recover. If you need a break, land on a pillar. Otherwise, follow me!” Syzo falls backwards off of the cliff and soars into the open valley. Monoki follows. The other white scales share glances, some staring into the open valley imagining themselves soaring through the air. Yendri watches his partner falling with grace as she glides next to her father. Syzo flying like a gentle mountain next to the little white scale. Del-Rhys and Konin approach Yendri on the edge of the cliff. Konin kicks a stone over the edge, they watch as it bounces off the rocks below. The sound of the stone clacking echoes in the valley. Konin’s shoulders tense as Del-Rhys pushes him. Del-Rhys and Yendri laugh as Konin jumps away from the cliff‘s edge. Konin gives out an involuntary grunt as he lands in the dirt. Herra, Brita, and Dyadri approach.

“So who jumps first?” Herra asks. Konin gets up and dusts himself off. Dyadri approaches the ledge and looks over. She lunges away from the cliff just as Syzo-Fen appears from under it. His eyes glow a bright orange in the sunlight and his teeth a bright dangerous white as he smiles at the younglings.

“I told you I’d push you!” Syzo grabs Dyadri by the tail and flings her off of the cliff. “I should have said I would pull you!” Syzo crawls over the cliff and comes after the other white scales. Yendri jumps off of the cliff and soars into the field of pillars. The others scatter. Syzo catches Del-Rhys and Lifts him into the air. They disappear into the sky. Konin watches as Del-Rhys begins falling from the clouds. His wings aren’t out and he is diving into the pillars below. Syzo emerges from the clouds and is headed back towards the white scales. More white scales begin jumping from the cliff with their wings spread. Others cower as Syzo crashes back into the cliffside with nearly maniacal laughter. Konin runs to the cliff’s edge and jumps, his wings spread. He sees Del-Rhys still free falling. Del-Rhy’s wings still not fully open flutter as he spins out of control. Konin glides through the air as he tracks Del-Rhys, Konin’s left wing gives out and he spins to his left. He catches himself. Del-Rhys falls past him. Konin tucks his wings in to catch up with Del-Rhys. Del-Rhys’ hands reach out to Konin and he grabs him. Konin’s wings spread and he feels a sharp tear in his wings and he tumbles into a pillar, Del-Rhys slows down just enough to stabilize his wings and maneuver away from the pillar.

Konin hears the other white scales around him, some screaming from joy and fear. Some howling with excitement. Herra glides in loops and barrel rolls. Yendri diving to the landing. Konin feels sick, his wings ache, his heart pounding. Red oozing rock beneath his feet. The sunlight twinkles in it. Konin is bleeding. A swallow flies from a nest tucked into the pillar above. Konin watches as it glides and spins in a circle. The bird’s movement seems to put Konin in a daze. The swallow disappears behind the stone pillar. Konin’s head pulses, his hands pinched between stones as he holds onto the side of the pillar. He knows he has to get down, with his wings aching he closes his eyes, imagining the den quiet and cozy. His mother’s warmth and his father’s comforting snores. Konin peaks behind the pillar where the other white scales are soaring with, what seems, little effort. Konin’s eyes swell with tears. He shouts. Konin’s throat fills with a ferocious call, something Konin didn’t know was possible. His war cry scattered through the air as he leaped from the pillar. He fought through the agony as his wings held him in the air. He made his way through the valley of stone pillars weaving through the sprawling stone maze. Most of the other white scales already made it to Ronin at the landing, watching as Konin flew towards them. Konin’s wing began to shake, they couldn’t take the pressure anymore, Konin tried to fight it. His wings buckle and Konin faints. The Dragons below, in horror, witness as Konin crashes onto the top of a stone pillar. “Erraaah!” Konin shouts. He pulls himself up over the pillar and looks down at the other white scales. Syzo lands next to Ronin and looks up at the pillar where Konin crashed.

“What is this?” Syzo asks Ronin. Ronin looks grim, staring at his grandson Konin as he peers over the edge of the pillar. “He’s having trouble gliding?” Ronin ignores Syzo.

Konin huffs as he looks at all the other white scales staring at him. Del-Rhys, Yendri and Arathid look with serious faces. Herra holds back tears. Konin whispers “I can’t do it…”

“You can do it, Konin!” Arathid yells. Monoki rolls her eyes.

“Come on Konin you’re almost here!” Herra adds. Other White scales begin to cheer him on. Del-Rhys and Yendri join in. Tears fall down Konin’s face as he lifts himself up. The white scales watch as his silhouette stands tall on top of the pillar. His wings stretch out. His white scales shimmer in the sun.

Konin leaps from the pillar and glides to the landing. He rolls through the soft grass and picks himself up. The white scales all surround him and help him stay up. “Thank you..” Del-Rhys watches as Herra’s hand caresses Konin’s chin. Del-Rhys steps away from the crowd. He looks back behind him and sees Monoki, the only other white scale not cheering for Konin. Ronin picks up his grandson and laughs.

“I knew you could do it, my boy.” Ronin says with excitement. Konin mouths ‘ow’ as Ronin picks him up. “Oh, sorry.” Ronin set Konin down gently in the grass. He turns to Syzo. “We should probably call for Skovus. Konin needs rest and healing.”

Marobi watches a pigmy drake approaching from the clouds. He dashes toward the Garden Stones in a poof of smoke he appears on Skovus’ shoulder. “Word from the combat grounds.” He snorts.

Skovus places down a tray of treats and her face looks of concern. Marobi watches through the crowd of dragons; she can’t quite hear the conversation between Skovus and the Drake. Skovus looks across the crowd and makes eye contact with Marobi. She approaches her.

“Marobi, it’s..” she begins to say.

“It’s Konin..” Marobi interrupts. She looks back towards the combat grounds. “He hurt his wing.. but he will be okay.” Skovus looks confused then gives out a quiet sigh. “Make him feel safe and tell him we are with him.”

Skovus nods “I will.” She turns away and flies out toward the combat grounds.

Kyro holds Marobi. “How did you know?” He asks.

“A mother always knows.” She says with tears in her eyes. She squeezes her mate.

After some time…

The white scales rest in the grass. Konin sits in the sun surrounded by his friends. They eat melon, grapes, dried turkey and they drink water from a leather sack. Konin’s wings are wrapped in cold cloth. A type of wrap that has been soaked in cherry cactus juice which makes them ooze a cooling gel. This helps with long term healing. Skovus approaches Konin.

“How are you feeling, Konin?” Skovus asks. Konin smiles up at her.

“Much better now, thank you.” Konin replies.

“Good enough to continue with your grandfather’s lessons?” Konin nods his head. “Good, then I will leave you for now and let your parents know that you’re well.” Skovus looks at the white scales surrounding Konin. “Do not let him use his wings for anything and do not let him take those bandages off. You shouldn’t be using your wings for the next week.” Skovus pauses then turns to walk away, she looks back towards Konin ”… And that’s an order.” Skovus nods to the group and walks away. Konin watches as she meets with Ronin. They talk for a minute before Skovus flies off.

Ronin rallies the white scales around him. Something about Ronin invites warmth and the White Scale’s Attention. “Today, young ones, I would like to introduce some history into your minds. Although I am mighty old, I haven’t always been around. Stories of our people and the clans which make up our council have been passed down by each generation.” Ronin pulls a twig from the grass and starts to chew on it. He continues. “My father, Kyron, told me a tale of the lost Ancient Dragons before us. They were gigantic, powerful, yet gentle. They moved across the realm with an unstoppable purpose. They gave life to the forests and they rose the earth to form the mountains. They filled the realm with the waters and performed miracles. Over time, these miracles would begin to drain and overwhelm the Ancient Dragons…”

“What kind of miracles?” A young white scale interrupted.

“Well, Hadiira, you know… They created a fish or made a glowing stone from the energy of the sun. This part of miracles is not what’s important to the story.” Ronin continues. “While the Ancient Dragons began to grow weaker they decided to anoint one special dragon to hold the power of all ancient dragons. This special dragon was anointed the Aurora Dragon, he protects and guides the spirits of this realm. After some time, the Ancient Dragons became more like us and their descendants became the seed of the Roake. The Roake Tree of life began with a small clan in the forest of Hamets. In Hamets, our numbers quietly grew. This would be the precursor to the clan we now know as the Kinship Frith.” Ronin splits the twig between his teeth then chucks it over his shoulder. “The realm at this time was in great chaos. The Ancient Dragons, losing their power, became prey to the Sargonians. The ferocious serpents which burrowed the caves of our very denneries. The Hatching grounds were once the epicenter of the Sargonian Empire, it was here where the alliance to wipe out the Ancient Dragon began. The Sargonian tribes came together under the rule of the ancient Syl, a ruthless warrior serpent. The numbers of his armies were vast and overwhelming, the Ancient Dragons were done for.” Ronin pauses. “But, it was the Aurora Dragon who had planned vengeance on the Sargonian Serpents. He devised a way to share his powers of the elements with the Roake. In the forest of Hamets, the Aurora Dragon built the first pillar. The pillar of the Land. He taught the Dragons of Hamets to draw power from this pillar. Some had the ability to manipulate stone, while others could control the movements of the trees. Eventually, many Dragons of the forest would learn to heal their wounds. Those of the stone could forge weapons and armor. When the Sargonians expanded East into the forests they were surprised by these new abilities. The Sargonian ruler, Syl was no fool. He knew these powers would give too great of an advantage to the Roake. He devised a plan to ambush the dragons. First, he declared peace and a treaty with the Dragons of Hamets. Then he established a route of trade with them, but the Aurora Dragon was not fooled. He warned the chief of Hamets that the Sargonians would betray this treaty. So Another clan was formed beyond the continent in the coast of Ancient Arowsha. Here the beginnings of the Kinship Deep is where the second pillar was built. The pillar of the waters. These dragons were taught the ways of the ocean. Their abilities granted a new front from which the coming war could be fought. It wasn’t long until Syl made his move and the One Hundred Moon War began.”

The white scales were drawn in. Ronin gestured with his arms out as he continued. “Syl and his army of serpents began to attack the forest of Hamets on a weekly basis, but their efforts were thwarted with an ocean side flank. The Dragons of the sea assisted the Dragons of the forest in wiping out these Sargonian hordes. Meanwhile, the Aurora Dragon met with the Dragons of the Desert. They too had been fighting the Serpents, but they had managed to keep them out of their villages and the Aurora Dragon was impressed by their natural abilities in combat which they called Ro-Fa. Here, the Aurora dragon built the third pillar, a pillar of fire!” One of the white scales in the group let out a raspy ‘whoa’ under his breath. “When the abilities of fire entered the war, the Sargonian tribes began to splinter as the war chiefs began to lose hope in Syl’s leadership. In an attempt to boost morale, Syl stormed the front line against the Ember Clad, what we now know as the elite fighter of the Ember Clan. Syl fell in battle and his son became the new leader of the Sargonian empire. Syl’s son Sylok proved to be a more ferocious leader than even Syl was. He was a proven warrior and a thoughtful tactician. Sylok refused to make the same mistakes of his father and this made him one of our greatest enemies. The Sargonians under Sylok took time to recover and they stayed quiet; they rejoined lost tribes and built up their armies. They watched as the Roake Clans expanded. Our Ember Clan settled more villages in the desert, while others went north with the Aurora Dragon to form the Ethyr Clan. The Roake had believed that they had defeated the Sargonians and that the war was over, for a time, they refused to listen to the Aurora Dragon and his claims that the Sargonians would return a greater enemy than before. The Aurora then built the Ethyr Pillar, the Pillar of the Sky. He taught a select few in the Ethyr Clan how to draw power from this pillar.” Ronin spreads his wings and above him the clouds swirl and darken.

Ronin pulls lightning from the sky into his hand. An electric surge crawls through his fingers and blasts back into the sky. The white scales stare stunned and in awe, they almost can’t believe what they had witnessed. Ronin continues. “You see these abilities we have, it’s important to know why we have them and where they come from.” The white scales all turn around as they hear a loud chuckle coming from behind them. Elder Ignitus looms over the group. “Now for the rest of this history lesson, young white scales, I will leave to the great Ignitus, a master in his own right.” Ignitus greets the white scales with some Elder charm. Behind Ignitus the young Alder Titus follows.

“Hello, children..” Titus says with an awkward smile. The two adult dragons make their way to the front of the group. Ronin and Ignitus nod to each other, Ronin says farewell to the white scales and places his hand on Konin’s head. He nudges his grandson’s cheek with a smile then makes his way past the white scales. Ronin sits in the sun listening, at a distance,Ignitus addresses the younglings.

“The war with the Sargonians was won,White Scales, not just with magnificent abilities, but with the courage and intellect of masters.” Ignitus began. “Those Stone Masters of the Kinship Frith could throw mountains at the serpents and when they would hide, They had Masters of the Vine who could reach into the places where a dragon could not. The masters of the vine would strangle their grip on the Serpents. When The Serpents met us on the front lines, they met a storm of fire and lightning from the Masters of the sun and the sky!” Ignitus posed his hands as if he was about to shoot lightning from his fingertips. “…but let me ask you this, white scales… What masters were there when our leaders lost hope or when our heroes got distracted from their glorious purpose?” Ignitus looked around to see if any of the younglings had an answer. “The Aurora Dragon brought us the most important Pillar of all when he went into the mountain springs. Here he met with the Oracles. The Oracles are a mixed bunch of dragons some are of the ancient lineage while others are a new breed of Roake their souls were ready for a power the realm had not yet known. The Aurora Dragon built the Spirit Pillar, a Towering display for the Pillar of the Soul!” He points to the crowd. “Every dragon’s soul is unique and a potential for unlocked power. This is what led the Roake Dragon to victory against the Sargonian. We had spirit on our side.” He turns to Titus. “This here is, Titus the youngest Spirit Master in the Oracles today.” He pushes Titus forward. “Tell them, young master.” Ignitus chuckles. “What Spirit Master had influenced the War against the Sargonians?”

Titus’ long scrawny neck stretched out. The lump on his throat slithered all the way up to his chin then dropped right before he spoke. “If you were to stay a night in the hall of the Oracles, you would likely hear the tale of Grandahl. An ancient and wise nomad from the North. Grandahl in many ways was the first Spirit Master of the Oracles Clan. At this time The Sargonian had never launched a campaign against the Oracles. Oddly enough, Syl had often visited the Oracles and brought gifts in exchange for Grandahl’s Runes.” Titus holds up a shiny ash white stone with a faint black marking on it. His lumpy throat continued to bounce up and down as he talked. Konin was mesmerized by all of the movement in Titus’ neck. His veins crawled and pulled with tension. Titus continued. “Grandahl had no opinions on the war and refused to pick sides. The creation of these Runes, to this day, is a bit of a mystery. Although plenty of spirit Masters have attempted to duplicate the power of these runes, nothing else out there really has that same…” Titus smiles, looking into the rune. “..Ingenuity..The legend says that Syl had with him, on the day he fell in battle, what we Oracles call a ‘rotten rune’. These runes can act more like a curse, but they tend to leave the user feeling as though they are much stronger than they really ever could be. This rune was said to have a bit of separation anxiety. This rune became attached to Syl and granted him unnatural abilities on the battlefield. Spiritual abilities like hearing others thoughts and knowing their worst fears,Syl claimed he could hear the rune speak to him. This drove Syl’s Son, Sylok, mad. He claimed it was cursed and made Syl blind. When Syl fell in battle he came looking for Grandahl. Grandahl had seen this coming and decided to reach out to the Aurora Dragon and the Chiefs of the Roake Clans. When they met it was decided that the Oracles and the surrounding clans would finally unite against the threat of Sylok and the Sargonian Empire. When Sylok arrived, the Spirit Pillar was already being built. It’s source, at this point, already grants the enlightened Oracles the greatest advantage anyone could hope for. Foresight and Spirit. Sylok’s forces were obliterated and Sylok demoralized with madness. Sylok would eventually build up his armies again, but this was the moment that the clans of the Roake truly united. If this did not happen it is believed that the Sargonians, led by Sylok, would have eventually wiped out the Roake. The Aurora Dragon built these pillars and granted us many abilities. The Sargonian grow much faster and get much larger than the likes of us… and Sylok is still the greatest war chief that ever the Sargonian had.” Titus looks upon the white scales in front of him. “Many of you will go on to do great things, but only a few of you will become masters one day. This is the origin of the trials. Young totems would come back to the Masters and train with them. This is called the Totem commitment.” Titus looks through the crowd of younglings. Then Ignitus steps forward again.

“You will be meeting with the Totems soon. These young masters in training were White Scales of the last Mother Moon committed to helping you through the coming trials.”

Ignitus pauses for a moment he looks into the eyes of Konin something pulls at him. He observes the bandages on his wings. Then he remembers what he was saying. “After your trials are over.. you will have the option to join the Totems as well… Now back to our history..”

A few hours pass…

The white scales rejoin with their parents in the hatching ground.

Marobi and Kyro run up to Konin who is being escorted by his friends. They pick him up and squeeze and nuzzle him. Yendri is met by his father Yuritahnan. He stands with his arms crossed and a serious look on his face.

“Where is mother?” Yendri asks. Yuritahnahn grabs Yendri’s hand and pulls him away from Konin and his friends.

“She’s not feeling well. Let’s go check on her.” Yuritahnan demands.

“Can’t I say goodbye to my friends.” Yendri asks as he pulls away from his father’s hand.

“You will see them in the Dennery,Yendri.” Yuritahanan snaps.

Yendri looks back at Del-Rhys and Konin. “What’s wrong with you?” Yendri cries. Yuritahnan snatches up his son and is off toward the caves.

Konin, his parents and his friends look uncomfortable. Unsure what just happened. They can still hear Yendri upset as he is carried away.

“I hope we didn’t do something to offend Yuri.” Marobi says.

“Valendri, must be really sick.” Kyro adds, picking food from his teeth.