The Trials of White Scale Chapter Two.

One Moon Later.

Marobi, lies in the warm wool lined den. The den, now a comfortable little place, reminding her of their home at Yetlam’s Rock. She scratches at the limestone wall and imagines the smell of the chimneys which always burnt at the tall cliff towers. Her eyes close and she can see the gentle sway of the field’s white flowers and the animals that grazed there. Marobi finds herself at peace in the caves with the sound of young white scales playing. A certain type of laughter echoes through the rock pillars and stalactites. She recognizes her son’s giggle and smiles everytime she hears it, imagining his grin and baring his pointy little baby teeth.

Konin, Marobi’s son, often plays with the other white scales from the dennery. Today, they challenge each other on the height of their jumps. They target the top of the cave walls where an assortment of pigmy drakes rest. The pigmy drakes look of yellow scales and small plump bodies. Their tails often three times the length of the rest of their body. They like to rest in the nooks and cracks where the white scales could never fit and never reach. Konin and the others are trying to jump high enough to catch them. So far, none of them have been successful. Although they have wings, the white scales aren’t yet strong enough to fly like their parents, so jumping serves as good practice. While falling they often flap their wings as if trying to soften the landing. Young Konin seems to be off to a good start, leveraging his momentum to generate some power with his longer back legs leaping past his friends towards the top of the rock wall. Herra, impressed by Konin’s technique, tries to replicate it, but she finds herself doing it more for fun. She often lands on her back or running into the wall. Arathid, the young stone prince, tried jumping for a little bit, but found that because of his size he would need much more power to jump as high as Konin. Yendri, on the other hand, seems to be able to keep up with Konin, his body is similar in sleekness and legs just as long. It didn’t take him long to catch on. The two of them bound back and forth from the rocky overhangs on the cave walls. The last white scale Del-Rhys has the shortest limbs of the group and finds himself coming short with his jumps. His effort, however, is the most persistent. Del-Rhys can’t help himself, he sees the other boys effortlessly flying back and forth and chasing each other. Every time he falls he jumps right back up. After some struggle Del-Rhys begins to find his stride. Now, he is a part of the competition. Konin, leading the pack, spots a pigmy drake close to a ledge. He points to it as he catches himself on a rock pillar. The two just behind him barely slow down as they run into him. He pushes Yendri off of him and Del-Rhys picks himself up. Konin signals to the two in the same way his mother has to him, with one finger to his lips and a soft ‘shhhh’. Del-Rhys and Yendri look up and see a long and skinny tail poking and flickering out from the cave wall. Konin, taking what space he can from the narrow rock, charges with as much strength as he can towards the sleeping drake. With his excitement he failed to notice that part of the wall was sticking towards him and his head crashed against it. He sores to the ground in a dreamy haze. He tries to rub his head in the sand to soothe the stinging. It pulsated hot with pain, he looked up to his friends as if to say “I’m alright.” Yendri threw down a couple of directed chuckles and then squared up for his own amazing leap. Knowing that a part of the wall stuck out helped. Yendri jumped just to the left of where Konin Jumped and his fingers nearly caught hold of the Drake’s tail, but on his way down his claws dug into the rock and produced a screeching sound. The drake shot up, looked around and saw Del-Rhys perched on the rock pillar beneath him. The drake scurried deeper into its hole, but his eyes could be seen reflecting from the dark. Del-Rhys did not want to give up, he followed the cracks in the wall until he found another resting pigmy drake. It’s tail did not sway, but its wings wrapped themselves around a heart’s vine stalk which reached out towards the center of the dennery. Del-Rhys saw his chance and jumped across to the place where Konin hit his head and used it as a steppingstone to reach the cracks in the wall. He gripped the openings with both hands then leaped towards the heart’s vine. His legs wrapped around the stalk and it began to snap. Del-Rhys started to slide down, and his hands reached for the rocky wall. The drake quickly sprung up while they both began to fall. Del-Rhys snagged his teeth onto the drake. Del-Rhys had caught the pigmy drake and it bit at him ferociously. The litttle drake gave out a high-pitched squeal until it began to glow a bright yellow. The light became too much to bare and Del-Rhys closed his eyes then the drake disappeared from his mouth. Trails of smoke puffed and scrambled from the little dragon’s mouth where the drake had been. Del-Rhys, coughing and blinded, then crashed to the ground as the green stalk ripped into a thousand pieces. Red orbs of fruit spewed from the stalk and spilled on the floor scattering all around. Konin and Yendri cheered and came to the aid of Del-Rhys. They helped him up and they all laughed. Arathid, watching nearby, came to pick up the heart’s vine fruit.

While The younglings were having fun, they failed to notice a stern Daso-Rhys watching them. The Ember Dragon approached them, his nostrils flared and his voice low. “What do you think you are doing?” He picks up his nephew from the floor. Del-Rhys fit into the palm of his hand. The yellow pigmy drake that had vanished reappeared on Daso-Rhys’ shoulder. It snapped at Del with a click in its teeth. Del-Rhys starts to apologize, his uncle Daso interrupts. “I don’t want to hear it.” Daso looks at the other white scales. The hot air in Daso’s breath scared the white scales and Del-Rhys began to explain himself, but Daso growls and his friends all scurried back to their dens. “There will be no more of this…” Daso gently pets the little drake and hands him a piece of fruit from the vines. The pigmy drake leaps up the cave wall and crawls back to its resting place. Daso-Rhys takes Del-Rhys back to their den. Konin watches from behind some rocks as his friend is taken away. He notices a fresh hog carcass slung over Daso’s back. Konin thinks of his father and where he might be.

Meanwhile. Upriver.

Kyro stacked logs into a fire pit, charcoal remained from the night before. He struck the dry wood with lightning, loud sparks ignited a flame. Nearby, Young Thodin hoisted a handful of river fish on a stack of cross hatched sticks. Elder Ronin sat by the fire next to his son Kyro. He was holding two large melons, overly ripe just as he likes them. His claws split one open with just a touch and he slurped the halves. Kyro watched as gorgon juice gushed from his fathers lips. He turned and called to Thodin asking about the fish. Thodin loaded the fresh fish in what looked like a basket onto a hook above the fire. Thodin settled in across the pit. The three Ethyr Dragons sat silently by the fire and stared into it as the fish roasted. The stirn looking dragons thinking to themselves as the early sun began to peak through the hills. Ronin thinks back when he had come here many years ago with his father. He grins to himself then looks to his son, he follows the scars that stretch across him and his grin fades. The Elder then turns toward Thodin and watches him as he pokes the fire with a stick. He wonders why Thodin’s father hadn’t come along. Ronin breaks the silence. “This river is surrounded in legend..” In the river stands a stone Node, A carved icon that resembles a young dragon. Thodin was staring into the Node which appeared as a crying White Scale. Like a fountain the Node absorbed the water in the river and poured boiling water from its eyes. Ronin noticed Thodin looking at the Node, but he couldn’t tell if he was curious about it or if he was scared of it. Looking into the node, you feel a strange vibration. “Thodin.” The Elder gets his attention “Do you know the tale of this Node?” Kyro looks up from the flames and over exaggerates rolling his eyes so that Thodin can see. Ronin nudges his son and says “Kyro, you remember this story.” Kyro shrugs.

“I know only the name of Syndro-Fen.” Kyro looks back to the Node, standing tall in the river. The sun is rising from behind the mountains. In the woods beyond they see other fires lit from the remaining fathers in the forest.

Ronin continues. “The Ember Clan in the early days of the Schism had no part in the conflict, it was, at that point a harmless skirmish between the Stone Clan and the Kinship Deep. They had fought for territory for a long time so this time it felt no different. The other clans did not want to get involved. A select few communities developed from within the Kinship Deep to create the Kinship Delta on Ember Clan land. The Elder of the Ember Clan at this time was Syndro-Fen, a powerful fire-breather who had a great love for his friends in the Kinship Delta.” Thodin pulled a fish from the fire. Kyro pushes coals around with a stick. Ronin continues over the sound of the river roaring behind them. “ The Dwellers from the Deep did not like this shifting of the Clans and sent more and more raiding parties to the North to ravage the Stone Clan. It didn’t take long for the Stone Clan’s neighbors, the Kinship Frith, to have their own casualties in the conflict. Now, the Stone Clan and the Kinship Frith joined together against the invaders from the Deep. They built an army quickly, but most of their soldiers were young and fresh from their white scales. This is why I teach this in the trials today. They did not notice a difference between the Kinship of Delta and of the Deep. AND what you two may not have known is at this time there was no hatching grounds most clans met with healers from the kinship frith, but since there was now a raging conflict in that area some clans agreed to meet with the new Kinship Delta which had its own healers. The Elder Syndro-Fen was one of these new parents-to-be-who had decided to bring his egg to the Kinship-Delta hatching ground. A young group of Stone Clan and Frith soldiers caught wind of this gathering, they stormed the hatching ground with large stones which rained from the sky under the mother moon. Freshly hatched white scales fell victim as well as some of their parents. This was a catalyst in the Great Schism. As you know Syndro-Fen brought the battle to those of the Kinship Deep as well as the Frith and Stone Clan. The destruction caused by the Ember Clan’s retaliation was a great disturbance to our natural balance in the Realm; the Aurora Dragon himself made an appearance. What makes that Node so special, One of the young soldiers who dropped those stones on those younglings saw first hand what he had caused. He felt the raging fires of Syndro-Fen, if it weren’t for that blind rage he may have noticed that the soldier he shot down was not dead. That soldier crawled his way back here where the Node stood in the river. His body burnt and shredded, yet the water, over time healed him. He felt he hadn’t deserved a second chance. He used his abilities to shape the stone and he carved the likeness of the crying white scale, the unnamed son of Syndro-Fen. The Node has been there for centuries, but the likeness remains a reminder of a cruel rivalry and the vengeance it brought.” Ronin’s stomach growls and he pulls two fish from the fire. Kyro and Thodin look to each other as if they were thinking the same thing.

Kyro asks “ What happened to that Stone Soldier?” Ronin took his time eating his fish. Before answering, he picks at his teeth.

“The Soldier returned to the Stone Clan and because he was not wounded they did not believe him. He was jailed for desertion. He tried to end the conflict, but sadly it was too late, Fire was released on the Realm. The Soldier, Kanis, was now just a sculptor. While imprisoned he mastered his art. When the Great Schism was finally over. He helped build the new hatching grounds. He rose the pillars in the warm sand. After this time not much was said about him. Now would you please put the rest of those fish on the fire. I’m starving.” Thodin chuckles as he puts the remaining fish in the basket to roast.

Back in the Dennery

Konin tries playing by himself in the caves. He finds a pebble to toss around for a bit, but he gets bored very quickly. He brings the pebble to his mother. She lay in their den peacefully and does not acknowledge him. The White Scale flings the pebble at her nose. She opens one eye at him, but the one eye is all that was needed to get her Mother-Glare to work. Konin takes the hint and wanders back to the stalagmites in the center of the cavern. Echoes of dripping water from the halls outside of the dennery attract Konin’s attention. He looks back to his den and his resting mother then back down the hall and thinks to himself “it’s just around the corner, I’ll be fine.” He decides to quickly and very sneakily dart down the corridors of the cave.

The young dragon takes his first step outside the dennery and for a moment he thinks “this is far enough”, but he pushes himself to explore and then he notices some new colors on the walls. He sees a deep yellow mineral crawling up the caves. His eyes follow the mineral shapes to a dark corner. In the shadow of the corner, he can see one small light. He approaches it cautiously. His curiosity pulls him closer. The light was actually a crack in the wall, the light a fire from the other side. He can see inside another dennery where a few other white scales are playing. He doesn’t know how to get over there so he goes back the way he came. This time he sees another hall to explore, as he makes his way, he spots something else that is new, a weird disgusting plant. It has big bulbous warts and long skinny stalks. It appears to be leaking some sort of mucus ooze. He smells it. It kind of smells good, so he tastes it. It tastes bad, but he’s hungry so he eats it. Konin laughs to himself, what a fun time he is having. He makes his way down another corridor where he spots a pigmy Drake resting just ahead at his level. Konin couldn’t believe “how easy is this?” The White Scale crawls on the floor silently towards the drake. As he gets closer, he realizes that the drake and himself are actually separated by a large trench beneath them, at the base there is bubbling water and what looks to be pond scum. Konin gets sick looking down the trench where there isn’t much light. He turns quickly to get away, but he slips on the ledge. The slick stone gives no grip to his smooth White Scale feet. The youngling scrambles to catch himself, but instead he falls. Ofcourse he only falls about a foot. He sighs with relief. Above him his mother stands over him. She scoops him up from the hole and brings him back towards the Dennery. “ I hope you had your fun, little one.” Konin was embarrassed. Marobi continues. “By the way, you shouldn’t be eating strange things in the dark. I can hardly believe you ate an entire Fire Lichen. It is great for you, I never liked it, but I’m glad you do.”

“It was wonderful, Mother!” Konin blurts out, rubbing his belly.

“I’m not forgetting what you did. Daso-Rhys was right, The drakes are not to be messed with. They live here all year round, we are just borrowing a home.” She sets her son in the den “…for now..” she adds as they cozy up next to each other.

Konin Whispers “I’m sorry” Marobi smiles at him. “ When will father be home?” he asks, still whispering.

“Tomorrow. For the Feast of Awakening.”

The Next Day.

Kyro and Ronin make their way down-wind of the river. Ronin carrying bushels of greenery, Kyro carrying more. They have been successful here before, but have yet to see their prey a second time. Kyro sets down the tree branches and cover. Their blind has a few too many openings, so they get to work early to try and have a better chance catching what will, in any father dragon’s opinion, be the most important dish at this year’s feast. The two massive dragons set branch after branch very carefully in attempts to disguise their presence near the river. The beast they seek is not impressive in size or flavor, but is said to have pure luck swimming in it’s blood. They drink from the river of the Node daily and absorb the healing properties of its water. It is said that the salt within them holds onto that great potential of healing and can be obtained in the base of its heart. The boar of Fenwood River are an impressive breed. They can outrun most dragons, but they can never out pace them when they’re in the air. However, this time of year when all of the fathers make camp along the river, it doesn’t take long for the boar to catch on as to what they are hunting for. So, on the third day it becomes very unlikely that you will spot one of these boars out and about. Kyro and Ronin have a handful of abilities unique to themself, but one ability that they share is to summon a deep fog. The trick is to do so at a gradual pace. The boars haven’t been spotted in over a day and they need to drink, but these boars are quite in tune with the Node in the river. They can feel when Dragons are pulling from it to use their abilities.

Kyro and Ronin set out early to take advantage of the misty air already present. From camp to their hunting ‘blind’(tree cover hiding spot) they dragged with them a few branches soaked in Fish Ethyr, an oil created by Dragons of the Ethyr Clan used to mask their scent. The father and son sat together mostly silent for a few hours. Ronin becoming quite uncomfortable started to adjust every ten minutes or so.

Ronin shuffles and accidentally rubs his foot against the brush. The leaves and branches shake with a sudden and loud scraping. Kyro slightly jumps forward as if to pounce before realizing it was only his elderly father making the noise next to him. The air is very thick now with fog and the two, with lesser vision, would not be able to see each other. Kyro tries to glare at his father through the fog thinking to himself, “if you were anyone else… I swear.” Ronin groans under his breath apologetically. The groan comes out a little louder than he intended and it echoes off of the cliff walls just on the other side of the hill. Kyro’s brow tightens and for a moment. Some birds flee a nearby bush in response. It grows quiet for a little bit. The sounds of the woods become more clear. Pinecones dropping, the river roaring, the wind picking up and birds singing. Kyro thinks of his son and Marobi. He can’t wait to get back and show them that he got two boars. The first one buried back at camp in a seal of salt.

A few more hours pass, The two begin to lose focus. The fog is starting to dissipate as the afternoon sun shines hot. Ronin is picking at his toes. Kyro has his forehead in his palm staring at the dirt where a line of ants make a path. A quiet snorting grabs the attention of the two dragons. Ronin props up and Kyro peers into the wood. A sniffing wrinkly nose is spotted in the distance. It’s a nice sized boar seeking out mushrooms on its way to the river. Kyro’s adapted eyes let him see the mushrooms before the pig smells them and he is able to spot the likely trail the boar will take. Ronin’s animal instincts begin to kick in and his pose goes from bored old dragon to spine-chilling predator. Both dragons stretch their wings behind them. They watch as the boar approaches the river, it’s back now facing them. Kyro slithers from the blind. Ronin disappears into the fog. Kyro approaches the unsuspecting boar with his wings extended so that if the boar turns around he will feel as though he has nowhere to go. Ronin’s eyes gleam through the fog from the other side of the river. The boar is surrounded, yet it drinks from the water. Kyro shifts his weight with each step, he can feel the boar’s heart beating in its chest. He can see his father across the river. Perhaps the fog is not thick enough. Kyro calls into the air silently to himself as if to pull at the power in the river. A heavy fog rises. The boar stops drinking and lifts its head. Just before Kyro goes to pounce, the Node of the crying White Scale glows white. The two dragons pounce at the river where the boar was standing. The boar was too fast. They splash, almost, into each other and Kyro pushes at his father and turns towards the boar. He spots it dashing towards their camp and Kyro soars from the river and shakes off the water. His wings lift him into the air and he unleashes a spirt of lightning as he dives after the boar. The boar flees under the cover of trees, but Kyro delimbs the trees with an aggressive landing. His claws with the aid of lightning tears trees from their roots in search of the boar. The boar squeals as it is thrown into the air. Kyro snaps his jaws at the boar, which is small enough to fit (mostly) in his mouth. The boar lands on its side and the wind knocked out of it. Kyro viciously slithers toward it, but it is able to get up and run deeper into the woods. Kyro chases the beast, but loses track as the trees become denser and the branches more twisted. Kyro waits a moment to listen, but he hears nothing. Then a snapping twig catches his attention, he turns and contorts through the trees to catch the fleeing boar. He hears the snapping sound again and turns and smashes his face against a large oak tree. The dragon snaps out of his raging predator mode and accepts the loss.

Kyro flies back towards his father surveying the area as he goes. On his way back he takes note of just how far he chased that boar and it was much further than it felt. He spots his father clearing the area of its fog and just down the river, young Thodin carrying some lumps of fur behind him. Kyro lands between the two. Thodin approaches and sets down two boars at the feet of Kyro. “it’s about time I repaid you, sir.” Kyro stiffens with pride.

“I cannot accept this. It is your catch not mine.” He pushes at the nearest boar then turns towards the river to wash himself. Tree limbs, leaves and mud stuck to him, but the river washed and renewed him. Thodin slung one boar over his shoulder.

“Perhaps, not both, but you can certainly take the one. I owe you this and more.” Thodin pauses “Your boy has been through enough, who knows what a good heart could do for him. I beg you, Kyro, take this boar. For Konin.” Thodin leaves the boar on the rocks of the river side. He makes his way toward camp. Kyro splashes water over his head and looks despondently at the boar. He knows he should take it. Instead, he wishes to lay in the river and never emerge. Ronin uncovers the boar they had been storing in the salt. He stores it with their other items in a large leather pack, which is rolled and then tied to the raft. The raft is pulled to the river where Ronin takes hold of it to keep it from floating away. Thodin adds his things, including his two boars, to the raft. Kyro, reluctantly, packs away the boar Thodin had gifted him and places it next to the one his father had packed away. The load on top of the raft is then covered by a thick hide and tied down, with help from all three dragons. As they begin to make their way down the river towards the hatching ground they collect round stones from the water. Each stone collected is about the size that would fit naturally in their hand.

Ronin collects his last stone and says “You know, Kyro, I only caught you the one boar.” Kyro looks back to his father.

“And look how I turned out, relying on scraps from my underling.” he continues down the river then pauses. He looks again to his father. “Wait, are you serious?”

Ronin chuckles. “Yes, your grandfather made the trip an unending nightmare and I didn’t really want to spend three days out here with him. I imagine in some ways you feel the same way. Your grandfather was very stern and serious around the council, but when it was just me and him… He was a real ear chomper. He was excited to get to know you, but I was unsure if he deserved to be around you. At that time I hadn’t seen him in years. This was a time when I almost wanted nothing to do with him.” Thodin and Kyro listen curiously. Thodin still pulls stones from the river and places them in a clay bowl which sits on the raft. Ronin continues “Your grandfather was a great warrior, but a reckless leader. He never was the Elder of our clan, but he made very well sure that we all knew he ‘should’ have been. By the time you were born, I was a bit old to have another child and I had already been through the trials twice before with your brother and sister. My father never got to participate in the previous hunts because he was off on the second sargonian campaign.” Kyro interrupted.

“I was always told he was a war hero. Did you hate him because he was always gone?”

Ronin got serious for a moment. “They called him Krytos the Kartarian. He wasn’t just a war hero he was a legend. His myth terrified the Sargonians. The splinter cats knew his scent and they fled before there could ever be a battle. I didn’t hate him, I was confused by him. He didn’t act like a father. He acted like a warrior, too hungry for glory. When he came with me here to catch you that boar. I could have left here with a thousand. As it is written, the tradition is that the father of the white scale leads the hunt with assistance from the grandfather. If he had caught a couple boar simply for the pride of tradition it would have been a great thing. This is not how your grandfather thought. To him, it was another mission. I caught one boar and he got countless. This was when I decided he was not my father anymore, he was only the Kartarian… my point, son is that you had one boar and you will be a much greater father than mine ever was. This is more important than the number of hearts given. You are a great dragon with quite the heart’s fire. This young Thodin of yours sees that in you and he went above what was asked because of it. He truly believes he owes you just for being in your presence. I can sense that in him.” Ronin looks to Thodin who is still piling stones from the river. “However..” Ronin adds “ This is way too many stones, Thodin.. If you would drop at least half of those, this raft might stay afloat.” Thodin quickly begins to scoop out the stones and place them back in the river.

Kyro asks Thodin “Haven’t you done this before?” Thodin shrugs, a bit embarrassed.

Meanwhile

Marobi escorts Konin through the darkened caves, they follow the light of the fire lichen which marks the path deep below the hatching grounds. Konin’s nose can’t help, but notice the sulfuric atmosphere getting richer and richer, the deeper they go. The air becomes thick, and although, to Konin, it smells good, it begins to feel like poison. Konin looks to his mother for guidance, but she seems to be unaffected by it. So he just follows quietly, but with a subtle hop of excitement. The two approach a large entrance in the caves. A haze blocks their view, but Marobi steps through it as if she has been here before. A yellow light of watery caustics bounce across the wall, guiding them to a pool in the ground. The pool is lined with pumice stone and a deep yellow glow surrounds it. A slow burping steam lifts continuously from the pool. Traces left behind from other white scales can be found scattered all around the room. Many different shades of white dragon scales can be spotted as well as claw marks on the walls, some obviously from the parents, and some smaller scales from various young dragons. Konin stared into the pool a moment. He felt as though his mother wasn’t there anymore. The scales started to look a lot like teeth and the toxic air began to feel stuck in his lungs. Konin wanted to cry, but he didn’t. He wanted to run and he was going to, but his mother picked him up and placed him in the pool. It was very warm. The air still felt sickening, but the water made him feel safe. Marobi stepped into the pool with him. She sunk into the water, now only exposing her head.

“Relax, my Konin. This is a cleansing pool.” She swirls the water around them with her tail. “Let it wash you and when you eat at the table this evening, that feast will nourish your soul and your body.” Konin splashes his arms around and flings some water with his tail. Marobi pulls his chin with one talon and looks him in the eye. “I love you, son.” she then dunks his head under the water and scrubs his white scales with her hands. He reemerges and tries to smack away her hands. Konin jumps from the pool and hisses.

“How dare you!” he cries. “I can hardly breathe down here as it is!” His mother laughs in response and signals him to return to the pool.

“Fear not, young one the air is harmless. This is only a defense from those who should not be here. You, my son, were destined to be here.” Konin begins to calm down and steps back into the pool, he tells himself it’s because he likes the pool not because his mother is telling him to.

Back in the Dennery.

Kyro, Thodin, and Ronin arrive in the cave dennery. Various other dragons are scattered in the great opening between the dens. Herra and Hothima hurry to meet their father Thodin. He drops heaps of wood as he is attacked by his younglings. Thodin shows them the prized boar that he had killed for the feast. The younglings parade their father around the dennery pulling him by his much larger hands. Kyro and Ronin look around. A little jealous that Konin wasn’t doing the same thing. The two of them make their way to Kyro and Marobi’s den. It’s empty. Ronin asks “So, where are they?” Kyro responds with a discouraged look. A familiar voice calls out from across the Dennery.

“Kyro!” The voice echoes. Kyro quickly looks, expecting his Marobi. Instead, his younger sister Anora marches through the dennery. She approaches her brother and her father. “I’m so excited to meet your boy!” she hugs her brother then asks him. “ Where is he?”

Kyro replies. “I was wondering the same thing.” Kyro looks to his father. Ronin looks to his daughter.

Ronin mumbles. “Where is my hug?” Anora quickly embraces her father with an exaggerated hug. “Very good to see you, Anora. How was your little adventure in the North?”

“It was interesting, father… And very cold. The Helios you gave me helped, but we were able to settle at Mithrock for a few months before we had to return.”

Kyro Inquired “You came all this way just for the feast?”

“I wish I could say that. We had been overreaching in North Beast territory. There was an attack on one of our scouts, the morning after the attack their pack was spotted closer to Mithrock than ever recorded.”

“And your scout?” Ronin asks.

“He is fine now, we weren’t sure if he would make the journey home, but we have our healers to thank for that.” An older female dragon makes her way towards Kyro, Ronin and Anora. She places her hand on Anora’s shoulder as she approaches. Kyro addresses her as ‘Mother’ before bowing his head to her.

“Two prize boars for the little one, Kyro? Why not four?” The old dragon chuckles.

“You should have seen the one that got away. Twice the size of either one.” Ronin adds.

“So, Where is this little one? I have yet to meet my grandson.” Myra asks.

Marobi and Konin make their way from the deep hot caves. They emerge in a large opening where sunlight beams through. The warm light fills the large rocky opening. Figures approach from the other nearby caves, other dragons making their way towards the fresh air. Green vines hang overhead, the pillars from the hatching grounds can be seen poking out from over the various trees. As the young white scale and his mother step outside the cave entrance, they are approached by Arathid and the white scales from the Dennery. Yendri and Del-Rhys jump at Konin, while Arathid sits plumply next to his father the Stone King Arathad. While the little ones play. Arathad speaks to Marobi. “We are headed to the market, the two of you are welcome to join us.” Marobi is surprised to see the Stone King leading a band of white scales.

Yendri and Konin roll into each other, causing Konin to get flung at Del-Rhys. Del-Rhys stumbles backwards then pushes Konin away from him. Konin kicks back at Del-Rhys and he falls into the large Arathad. The Stone King scoots the little one away with his palm, but this causes Del-Rhys to roll into the little Arathid. Marobi replies to Arathad, not minding what the children are doing. “ I need to head back to the den, actually, but if you see any risin berries we are in need of a few.” Konin jumps up on his Mother’s back.

“Mother, can I go with them? I want to see the market!” Konin jumps up and down on his mother’s tail and then slips off, hitting his head against Yendri’s. They both rub their skulls in pain. Marobi and Arathad laugh at the two white scales.

“Is that okay if Konin tags along with you?” Marobi asks the Stone King. The other white scales in unison answer for him. He looks to the group of younglings then shrugs to Marobi as if to say ‘I guess so’.

“Come on then.” Arathad assures Konin. Marobi kisses her son and tells him to be safe. She heads towards the Dennery caves and the white scales follow Arathad towards the hatching grounds.

As they approach the dark sands of the hatching grounds they now see many booths and tent poles have been arranged in a large circular path around the center stone. Konin and the other white scales are in awe of all the different colors and shapes in the market. As the group approaches the first booth. The Stone King is swarmed with a storm of traders and sellers trying to get a piece of that Stone Clan currency. They promise the best quality jewels, and the strongest metal ores. Some offer rare furs and instruments, More offer weapons and farming tools. One dragon dances in front of Arathad as he displays his decorative serving dishes made especially for the great feast. Another dragon claims to have the luckiest fork in all of the land. “This fork will change your life. have a white scale who needs that extra boost in the trials? This fork will allow them to get twice the vigor from a meal!” Arathad is tempted, but continues past the fork seller. He notices Arathid pulling on his hand. The White scales start to become overwhelmed with all of these adult dragons getting close to them. Arathad spreads his wings and stands up straight. With a large booming voice he demands. “ Enough!” The surrounding dragons go silent. The traders go back to their booths and stalls, they resume their displays for the other patrons.

Del-Rhys asks Arathad “ Does this happen to you at every market?” Arathad groans.

“If there is something to sell, only then do they recognize me as the Stone King.” Arathad makes his way towards the only stone hut in the market. Del-Rhys, Yendri, Arathid and Konin follow. The hut looks as if it was pulled straight from the ground, in front of it a stone slab that serves as a table to display various items for trade. Sitting behind the table, an older stone dragon hunched over and whistling. Arathad approaches the old dragon and the dragon fails to acknowledge him. The old dragon continues to whistle as he peels a large melon on his lap. His claws tear the green exterior to reveal a bright orange center. The Stone King Arathad clears his throat. “Old one..” he starts to say. The old dragon jumps and drops his melon on the ground.

“What?” The old dragon asks. “Oh yes, my wares. Take a look, but don’t you touch anything unless you’re going to pay for it.” He takes a bit from the melon and juices gush from his snout. He scours at the young white scales.

“I’m looking for Stone Clan runes… something like this.” He pulls out a smooth stone with a rune carved on it. The Old Dragon reaches to touch the stone. He snatches it from Arathad’s hand and holds it close to his ear, he listens carefully for a moment. The old dragon looks up at the white scales then to Arathad. He squints at the marking of the rune, he sniffs the stone and licks it lightly. Arathad starts to get impatient. The old dragon hands it back to Arathad.

“What you want with something like this?” The old dragon asks. He continues to eat his melon.

“I was hoping since you’re the only trader here from the Stone clan you might have some of that Stone Clan charm.” Arathad says. “I must have been mistaken.” The old dragon wipes melon juice from his lips and pulls out an old leather pouch. He empties the pouch onto the table. Two stone runes roll out. One rune is a rough cut stone the other smooth like Arathad’s. Arathad smiles.

“These aint for anyone, ya know?” The old dragon whispers. “Runes are an old superstition. They can ruin you if you don’t know what you’re doing.” He picks up the rough stone and holds it up. “ This one is rough, but it’s symbol is that of harmony.” He places it back on the table neatly. He grabs the smooth stone and holds up where the white scales can see. “This one is smooth, but it’s symbol is that of illusion.” He places it back on the stone table.

“How much for these?” Konin asks. He reaches out to grab one, but the old dragon pushes him away with a stick poking into his forehead.

“I will only sell you one. “ He says to Arathad. “It would be irresponsible to sell you both.”

“I will take one.” Arathad says. “I wouldn’t want to upset an old cranky dragon such as yourself.” Arathad reaches for the rough cut stone. The old dragon wacks his hand with a stick.

“No! This one… “ He pushes forward the smooth stone. “You take this one, it matches yours. Do not tempt fate.” He pauses for a moment. “That will be One hundred Helios.”

“Are you serious?” The Stone King asks.

“Can you not pay?” The old dragon shrugs. Arathad signals to his servant from across the market. The young servant scurries to meet up with Arathad and holds up a large leather bag.

“Give this old fool a hundred.” Arathad takes the rune with him and the white scales follow. The group is directed by the overwhelming scent of warm food. Arathad makes his way towards a cart selling some kind of dessert. An older female dragon is handing out sweet bread with her daughter. Konin wants to get closer, but he gets pulled by Yendri to catch up with Arathad and the rest of the group. They come to the corner of the market where meat and animals are being sold. Arathad marches straight to a large boar being hung up and exclaims “I’ll take it!”

Back at the Den.

Marobi enters the Dennery to be greeted by her mate Kyro and his family. The excitement to see her is greatly diminished when they notice Konin is not with her. Kyro is curious “Where is Konin?”

Marobi replies “He is at the market with Arathad. Is that not okay?..”

“At the market?” Myra interrupts. “You should not be sending your son to the market with an arrogant puff ‘king’ like Arathad. He is not the kind of example you want your son to follow. I’m sure all of his focus is on lavious things.”

Ronin stops her. “Please, Myra I’m sure that Konin is fine, he will be back here soon enough. Marobi wasn’t expecting us to be waiting here, now was she?”

“Well, no I wasn’t, we were just..” Marobi says.

“Well I would have liked to go to the market as well. I traveled a great distance from the North to see Konin.” Anora jumps in.

“Hush now, there will be plenty of time with the little one. Now, let us seize this time of peace and garnish your trays and ready our feast. This day is not about squabbling, it is about Konin.” Kyro is off to set the table with his smoked boar.

“And I’m starving anyhow.” Adds Ronin. Myra, Anora and Marobi follow Kyro while Ronin sits there rubbing his belly for a moment.

Back at the Market.

Arathad, Arathid, Del- Rhys, Yendri, and Konin are now leaving the marketplace. Arathad’s servant follows behind them with a cart well over full with various deserts and salted meats. The thing held most dearly to the young stone king, the rune he holds in a small leather pouch around his neck. He watches his son as he walks in front of him. His eyes nearly water as his heart fills with pride. Arathad stops the children. “Wait! We nearly forgot!” Konin and Del-Rhys jump with fear. Del-Rhys smacks Konin as if to say ‘I’m not scared, you’re scared.’ Arathad continues with a booming voice “Let’s go find those risin berries!” Like a mad dragon he storms off towards the river. The white scales caught off guard, turn and storm after him. Arathad’s servant drops his head in defeat. He kicks the cart and lets out a big sigh. The servant waits a moment, takes a deep breath and reluctantly starts to push his big cart towards the river.

Yendri and Arathid are trying to keep up with Arathad. They are bumping and stumbling into each other until finally they realize they’re surrounded by trees and cannot see anything. Then a large crash opens up a big ray of sunshine. Arathad had knocked over a tree accidently, Yendri climbs over Arathid and pushes him down with a leap. Arathid stuck on his back for a moment as his big belly keeps him down. He jumps up and continues after them. Konin and Del-Rhys stay together as they march through the trees, they spot the river, but do not see the others. Del-Rhys spots some berry bushes and approaches them. Konin whispers “wait… let me see it.” Del-Rhys looks surprised and starts to ignore him. Konin pulls on Del’s tail. Del-Rhys retorts

“Why? I should hold onto it until it’s safe to give it to Herra.” Del- Rhys whispered. Del-Rhys turns back toward the berry bush and reaches out. Konin nudges him again.

“I thought I was going to give Herra the stone?” Konin gets in front of Del-Rhys and pushes his hand away. “These aren’t risin berries by the way.” Del- Rhys steps back, a little irritated with Konin.

“I know, I was just testing you to see if you knew. These are obviously Herrip..undun… Berries. You can tell because of the shape of the thorns and the way that the light is different.” Del- Rhys and Konin stare intently at each other for a moment, staying silent.

“Herripundon Berries, huh?” Konin smiles.

“You two stole this??” Yendri is holding the Harmony Rune stone. Del-Rhys and Konin nearly jump out of their white scales. Konin takes the rune stone from Yendri.

“Give that back!” Del- Rhys yells. He tries to take it from Konin, but Konin holds it in the air where Del-Rhys can’t reach it.

“It’s for Herra!” Konin adds. Yendri looks disappointed.

“You could have gotten somebody hurt over this.” Yendri shakes his head. “I thought you knew better, Konin. Besides, everyone knows girls don’t like rocks.” Del-Rhys and Konin look at each other.

“They Don’t?” They say at the same time. “But everyone likes rocks.” Konin says. “And this one has the harmony rune.” Del-Rhys snatches the stone while Konin is distracted.

“I know Herra better than you two, I’m pretty sure she will like this one.” He starts to turn away. Konin grabs at him. “Don’t worry about it Konin, I’ll just go give it to her.”

“I think it should be me!” Konin yanks at Del-Rhys. “Give it!” Del-Rhys pulls away from Konin, making Konin lose balance. Then Del-Rhys uses his tail to knock Konin down.

“I’m the one who snatched it from that blind old dragon, I’m the one who gets to give it!” Del-Rhys shouts at Konin.

“If I hadn’t distracted him, you wouldn’t have been able to snatch it!” Konin swings up effortlessly and tackles Del-Rhys to the ground. The two roll out of the tree line into the sand. Yendri rushes to them.

“You guys are forgetting something.” He tries to get their attention, but the two keep wrestling back and forth in the sand. Konin pulls at Del-Rhy’s wings and then Del-Rhys throws Konin into the river. They splash back in forth in the shallow river until Yendri lets out an ear piercing whistle. The two turn their heads to see Yendri with the rune stone. “You can’t give this to Herra, If I give it back to the Old Dragon.” Del-Rhys goes to leap from the river, but Konin pulls his tails, Del-Rhys face plants into the sand. Konin flies from the river and chases down Yendri. Yendri sprints back into the trees, but is stopped abruptly by a large standing Arathad. The stone falls into a hole in the ground. Yendri and Konin hear it clacking and bouncing off of some deep underground cave walls. Del-Rhys catches up and sees Arathad and Arathid standing over Yendri.

“What’s the fuss?” Asks the stone king. Del- Rhys picks some of the berries he found and before Konin can stop him, Del-Rhys throws a handful in his mouth.

“I got some Hyponfrendom Berries” He chuckles with his mouth full. Konin presses both hands to his head in disbelief.

“Ah…” Arathad sighs “ Oh Dear… “ He looks around for a second. “You really shouldn’t have eaten those, young Del-Rhys.”

Yendri busts up laughing uncontrollably.

Back At the Dennery.

Konin reunites with his mother, Marobi and not long after his grandmother Myra greets him. Kyro approaches and introduces her. “Konin, this is my mother and your grandmother. Myra of the Ethyr Clan.” He picks up Konin so that she can have a better look at him.

“My son, so formal. Young Konin, you can just call me Grandmother.” Myra kisses Konin’s forehead. Konin stares blankly as if he is trying to ignore the fact that some old dragon just kissed him.

“Nice to meet you, Grandmother!” Konin says with some forced excitement. He starts to run off to check on his friend, but is scooped up by his father again.

“It is time for the feast, my son.” Kyro says calmly. “You are not running around anymore.”

“Del-Rhys is sick, Father. I must check on him” Konin squeals as he tries to get away from his father’s grip. Marobi nuzzles her snout against the young white scale’s chin. Konin relaxes his struggle against Kyro.

“Del-Rhys will be at the feast with us, little one. I’m sure he will be fine.” Marobi whispers. She seems to float past her mate and her son like a cloud. Kyro’s eyes follow her movements as she seems to stretch across the dennery with a mystical glide. Marobi now sits at the grand stone table centered in the dennery hall. Konin’s eyes widen as they enter the hall. Candles and light fixtures decorate the walls, hanging ornaments shine with dancing light. Servers bring an assortment of foods to the table. Konin’s mouth waters, a savory blend of salt and meat fill his nose as they walk past a table with thirteen huln boars steaming and decorated in red sauces. Konin can feel his stomach growl, a growl he’s never known before, he quivers with hunger. The family sit together on the north side of the table. Thodin and his family are already seated next to them. Myra, Ronin and Anora join them soon after. Anora pinching Konin’s cheeks. Yendri and his parents sit across from Konin. Yendri mockingly pretends to throw up all over the table. Konin chuckles under his breath. Yendri’s father, Yuritahnan smacks Yendri, then lifts his head up to straighten his back, Yendri’s wings flop open and Yuritahnan pushes his wings back down to his sides and nudges his son as if to say “show some respect!”. Yendri’s countless cousins, aunts and uncles pile into the hall and fill up a good portion of the massive stone table. At the head of the table to the East, Stone King Arathad sits with his mate and young white scale Arathid. An anxious old servant dragon gently places a white shelled dish platter in front of the king and quietly steps away. On the West end of the table Daso-Rhys and Del-Rhys sit. Del-Rhys attempts to sit up straight, his head wobbles and his face turns red. He disappears under the table and hurls. He pulls himself back up and makes eye contact with Konin. He gives a shrug and straightens his back. Herra reaches for Del-Rhys across the table, but her sister, Hothima pulls her back to her seat.

After some time, it seems everyone is at their seats. They all stand strong and stiff, They wait for their feast to begin. The Adults all stare blankly forward. The White scales eyes all wander the length of the table, planning their attack on the many different new and exciting foods. Konin glances over at Herra as she is eating something, but then she nearly chokes when Hothima hits her on the back of the head. Marobi, without looking, places her hand on Konin’s head and turns it towards the center of the table. Konin’s eyes roll. His stomach growls again, this time it really hurts. He places a hand over his belly as it aches. ‘When can we eat?’ he thinks to himself. Some more time passes and Yendri and Konin have been eyeing an assortment of cooked duck that is displayed across the center of the table. They look to each other then to the duck then to Del-Rhys who seems to be barely holding it together. Del-Rhys shakes and covers his mouth as a wretched belch crawls out. The noise and the smells distract that end of the table. Yendri sees his moment and jumps out toward the duck to grab a piece. Yuritahnan, effortlessly and without hesitation pulls his son back, still with a straight back and forward demeanor.

Not long after, Skovus enters the hall with an iron chest mounted on some kind of cart. It’s wheels scrape the stone floor. Skovus places it near the head of the table behind Arathad. She opens the chest and the iron clang echoes sharply through the dennery. She announces “White Scales, approach!” Konin looks around for a second, the other white scales aren’t reacting. Konin turns toward Skovus. She is looking right at him, he tenses up and straightens his back again. Kyro pushes Konin away from the table then towards Skovus.

“That way, son.” he whispers. The other white scales follow. They line up in front of Skovus. Inside the chest they see several Urns. They look of glass, A faint glow emits from the urns. Suddenly the warm dennery went cold. One at a time Skovus asked the White Scales to step forward, First Arathid stepped forward and the middle urn lightly dimmed, it had a glow of stone grey light. Skovus had him return back to the line. As he pulled away from the urns they all began to glow slightly more at different times. To Konin it looked like a show of lights. The urns abruptly stopped and went back to their faint glow. Next, Herra stepped forward, this time two urns dimmed, The yellow glowing urn on the far right and the white glowing urn which was to the left of the grey one that had reacted to arathid. Herra stepped back and again the urns danced with light. Skovus cued Yendri to approach the Urns.

“Approach the guardians.” she said. Yendri was hesitant. He stepped forward. All of the parents are now watching proudly, Daso- Rhys, slumps over. A blue glowing urn shook with light as Yendri stepped toward it, but Yendri jumped back. The urn’s light dimmed as the other urns’ light flared. Skovus stepped past Yendri and approached Del-Rhys. She placed her hand on Del-Rhys’s head and she could feel his ailment. She closed her eyes and pulled the toxins from his stomach. Del-Rhys vomited on the floor. He looked back up to Skovus, with worry in his eyes. “All is well..” she says. Del-Rhys looks down and sees his vomit disappearing, little leafy vines crawl through the dirt and rock, taking it away. “Approach the guardians, young Del-Rhys.” Del- Rhys, with a new energy, steps to the urns. Instantly a massive burst of light shines from the red glowing urn. Skovus and the white scales cover their eyes. Daso-Rhys from across the hall stands up in attention.

“By the Aurora…” Daso whispers to himself. Just then Daso-Rhys spots the Elder Ignitus watching from the dark corridors of the dennery. He nods to Daso. Marobi sees this occur, her scales shutter at the site of Ignitus. His eyes beam through the dark like that of a rat waiting for a crumb to drop.

Young Del-Rhys steps back from the glowing urn. Skovus lays a gentle hand on his shoulder. “What does this mean, Skovus? Is this our guardian?…” Del- Rhys asks with some fear in his voice.

“Not quite, Del-Rhys, but this does tell us something about you.” Skovus says with some excitement. Del-Rhys wears a face of confusion; he looks to Konin and the others for some assurance. Konin shrugs and scratches at his head. “Well, we can rest easy if we placed a bet on your type. Being from the ember clan and this guardian showing it’s light. These are the ashes of Thoridiir, the phoenix of the sun. You, like your father, will of course be a mighty ember dragon. Perhaps you will find your fire and bring back fire to the rest of us…” she pauses a moment with a blank smile. “Anyway, a beautiful gesture. I have never seen a guardian glow so bright. “ Del-Rhys lifts his chin, he looks back to his uncle Daso. Daso no longer sits at the table. Del-Rhys drops his chin and turns back to the urns. Skovus now approaches Konin.

Skovus directs Konin to approach the guardian urns. Looking up to the assorted urns on the table, to Konin, they look as if they hold ghosts. A feeling of eyes watching him now overwhelms him. His scales feel tight. He swallows his fear and steps forward. A voice speaks, seemingly from nowhere, but the words are soft and unrecognizable. The voice now gets louder as Konin tries to tune into the words. It’s coming from the far right urn, it glows white. It’s speaking to him… “Konin” he hears between a few lines. They speak a language he does not know. Then suddenly the words become familiar. “I will be your guardian.” The voice says. Konin becomes excited when he turns to Del-Rhys, but Del-Rhys is not there.. And neither are the other white scales. Skovus can not be found either. Konin turns to the giant table. No one remains, the dennery is empty. Konin jumps around; it is now only him and the six urns. They begin to glow, one at a time they produce a puff of smoke and disappear until finally the urn which glows white transforms into a large bird. It surrounds itself with white fires. The guardian stands before him and speaks. “Konin, son of Kyro and Marobi. I am Shaba of the Phoenix Guard. Greetings.” Konin cowers at the sight of the phoenix standing ten times his size.

“Greetings, ..Guardian… where has everyone gone?” Konin stutters.

“They still sit at the table and the White scales still stand at my feet. Young Konin, It has been a long time since I have had the pleasure to speak with one of your kind. We are among the light of spirits. A rare occurrence for your kind, but for me I am always here.” The guardian explains. Konin turns pale. ‘Am I dead?’ he asks himself, he sees a shadowy figure move across the walls behind the guardian.

“Watch out!” Konin yells as he jumps forward. Skovus catches him before he hits the urn. The table shakes and all six urns rattle. Everything was back to normal. Herra and the other white scales look of worry. Skovus places Konin back in line with the others.

“As I was saying..” Skovus announces to the dennery. “This dennery has been chosen by Shaba: of the spirit. His light will aid your white scales in the trials. He will bring them bravery and heart. With Shaba’s ashes we will line the dennery so that he may know the fires of your younglings and, we hope, this will guide them through the trials and keep them strong in spirit. You may now feast!”

The white scales hurry back to their seats at the table. Konin was still, stunned by what he saw. He wonders if he imagined it, but he looks to the urn. It still remains a white hue glowing with what looks of dust surrounding it. Konin feels Shaba within it, he swears by it. Ronin already with a mouthful calls out to Konin from across the table. “Konin, come eat! you’re so thin, you must eat!” Konin rushes to his family remembering the assorted meats. Suddenly, all he could smell was the salt and the blood. Kyro with great excitement parades the hog he had hunted across the table. He presents it to his son. Kyro reaches into the hog and pulls out its’ heart and plops it in front of Konin. Konin scrunches up his face as if to say “what is this?”

“As is our tradition, son you must eat the boar’s heart first. This will give you strength in the upcoming months.” Kyro says to Konin. Konin looks to his mother.

“Do I have to?” Konin asks. Marobi nods.

“Yes, Konin. This is the way.” Marobi says softly. Konin looks down the table and sees Herra hesitantly licking her boar’s heart. Then to Arathid who is surrounded by hearts decorated in candies and candles. Yendri devours a heart and asks for another. Konin looks to Del-Rhys, his uncle Daso returns to the table and places a heart before him. Del-Rhys looks to Konin; they both pick up their hearts and raise them to each other from across the table. The first bite felt chewy, the second bite gushed blood. Konin squirmed then the smell of iron filled his nostrils and the taste of the heart became deep and savory. He salivated and then the heart was gone. It wasn’t long until the rest of the boar filled Konin’s belly then the second hog was presented. It too found its way into the young dragon’s belly.

Kyro and Marobi look proudly upon their son as they eat. Then Marobi remembers the lingering Ignitus she can’t help, but feel something is not right. She can’t place what it is exactly. She leaves the table. Kyro looks at her, she gestures to him; follow. He quietly leaves the table. They go into their den, out of sight from the grand table. “Something is not right..” Marobi whispers. “ I have that feeling again.. Like that I felt when the serpent attacked us.” Kyro holds his mate and looks around.

“Fear not, this is a safe place. I too feel uneasy when in the presence of the guardians. It is nothing to fear. They are protectors.” Kyro says confidently.

“No, it’s not the guardians, Kyro. It is Ignitus. He was watching the ceremony.”

“This again? What of it, he is an Elder. He has every right to observe.” Kyro responds.

“When the lights of the sun phoenix were shining for Del-Rhys Ignitus called upon Daso.. They spoke privately.. I do not trust him.”

“Marobi, do we not speak privately now? This is not a matter of worry. Skovus tells the boy the phoenix thinks him special. We do not know what was said between them, perhaps Ignitus agrees and was simply telling Daso-Rhys the same. That Del-Rhys is that of a special breed as was his father. This means nothing to us. It is one elder simply congratulating a young father.” Kyro turns away from his mate as if to return to the table.

Marobi pulls Kyro back to her. “Daso is not Del-Rhys’ father, he is his uncle. Why does no one ask what happened to his parents? They looked healthy and bright when we last saw them just under a year ago, yet they are not here now?” Marobi sighs.

“Surely you are not accusing Daso of murdering his brother.” Kyro says softly.

“Of course not, Kyro. Don’t be ridiculous. I am only wondering what business Ignitus has with Daso-Rhys. They are of different clans and their families do not mingle yet they act with some sort of familiarity.” she pauses. “.. and you know what happened to me… when Ignitus was my tutor.”

“This was so long ago, Marobi. Do not let the past ruin our son’s future. Let it go.” Kyro says assuringly.

“Mother, Father. What are you doing?” Konin asks. The two smile to Konin.

“I just wanted to sneak in a few kisses without disturbing your appetite, of course!” Kyro says as he holds his mate close and kisses up her arm. Konin turns around and runs back to the table yelling ‘Disgusting!’Konin’s parents follow him back to the table. Ronin meets them before they take their seats.

“I’m sorry to leave so soon, but I must attend my dennery for the presentation of their guardian. Perhaps, I might return and eat what little food may remain.” Ronin pats Konin’s head. “See you soon, little one.” Kyro and Marobi say their goodbyes. Myra turns to them.

“Fortunately, they do not call upon Elder’s mates for ceremonies, so I will remain here and eat. You know the trials are just as stressful for grandmothers as they are taxing for the white scale.” Myra says with some snobbishness. Some time passes, bellies are full. Some dragons sleep at the table, while others retreat to their dens. Decorative candles nearing their end. Wax drips from the columns. Pigmy drakes scrounge and pick at the bones of leftover food.

Skovus, Ronin and Ignitus Enter the dennery together. They look about the scene of a satisfied bunch of dragons. “Well, another feast done well. Another Trials underway. These are good times.” Ronin says to the Elder Ignitus and the Alder Skovus.

“Indeed, Ronin. These are good times. Exciting times. It has been a few mother moons since a new ashkin was born.” Ignitus says, staring blankly at the grand table in the center of the dennery. Skovus speaks up to Ignitus.

“Yes and a what a promising bunch we have this year. Again, I must say I am humbled to be the speaker of the council.” Skovus kneels to the elders.

“No need to be so pleasant, Skovus. There is no consideration of anyone, but you. You are a blessing to the council and it is your time.” Ignitus holds his hand out to Skovus “Now rise, your white scales are resting. Let us also get some rest.” Skovus takes ignitus’ hand and stands tall among them. Ronin nods in agreement. The three exit the dennery and disappear into the shadows. Marobi watching from her den, lays still. She watches them leave then turns to her little one. Konin is in a deep sleep. Kyro snores loudly. Marobi scans the dennery one more time. Just sleeping dragons, still Marobi feels a quiet danger. The warm den now feels cold and out of place. Marobi thinks of her home in Yetlam’s Rock. She misses her neighbors and the animals that she took care of. Marobi looks at Konin and smiles thinking about him playing with the sheep in the grass. Her claws dig into the dirt of the den, it feels warm underneath. She wants to bury herself, instead she snuggles close to Konin.

“I am here.” She whispers.