Emine (pt 18)

On Emine’s eleventh birthday, she flew.

“Hold on as tight as you need, you can’t pull out my feathers.”

Those were the first words Norro had ever said to Emine. She had picked Emine right off of the ground and placed her at the base of her neck, a ways before the place where her wings met her torso. Emine had no fear of pulling too hard on the feathers, she had cleaned off Milwurl’s and Milwurl’s had been strong. Norro’s were stronger. These feathers could not be compared with a bird.

“Do not worry about falling. Even if you let go, you won’t.”

Whether that meant she would still be able to cling onto Norro’s back or if Norro meant that she wouldn’t let Emine hit the ground, Emine didn’t know. But from where she sat, holding onto Norro, she didn’t think she would be going anywhere that neither of them wanted.

“Have fun!” she hear Sanni shout.

Then Norro took off. Emine’s heart beat in her throat. She held where she was, before pulling herself forward with Norro’s feathers until she could see properly off the side of her neck. There was the Heights, becoming smaller and smaller as they ascended.

Everything was so small. Like from a dragon to a human. Dragons made more sense.

Emine began to laugh, unable to help herself. And as she did so she heard Norro, in such a foreign and draconian fashion, do the same.

Emine (pt 16)

As far as Emine knew, people didn’t ask that sort of thing of a dragon. Even if humans tended to ask more of dragons than she would have initially imagined. Sanni certainly hadn’t been expecting it. Emine wondered if she’d overstepped her bounds.

Sanni took her to Ramar’s nest. Why Ramar? Emine didn’t know. Sanni and Ramar just had some sort of connection that wasn’t a Bond, but something else. Emine wasn’t sure.

“Ramar? Is Arvid here?”

Ramar had to have known they came in, but she took her time in turning around to face them. “Why?”

“I’m here, Sanni,” came Arvid’s voice from the other side of the red dragon.

Sanni didn’t go over to Arvid though. She fixed her look onto wherever it was she had deemed it safest to stare at Ramar. Ramar stared back. “How dare you wait to ask something of me until making certain Arvid was here.”

Sanni remained unfazed. “It’s Emine’s birthday tomorrow.”

At first, Ramar said nothing. She was quiet for long enough that Arvid was able to walk around her and into view. “Why is this the first I’ve heard of this?”

“She wants to fly for her birthday.” Arvid stopped walking then. From Emine’s vantage point, she could see Ramar’s eyes focus in on Sanni. Then to Emine. Emine wondered if she should look away, but Sanni didn’t back off. “Which one of you would give her a flight?”

Ramar then acted very peculiar. Her feathers rustled, but because of a shift of her muscles underneath. Without a word, Ramar left.

Emine would have been concerned, except for the fact that Arvid began to laugh.

Emine (pt 13)

Milwurl had a tendency of standing on the ceiling of any given room. Emine didn’t know if she liked surprising the humans who hadn’t gotten used to looking up, or if the dragon did it for her own purposes and the startling of people was an amusing addition.

Emine had been startled already. Several times. This time, she had already darted her eyes upward to see Milwurl there. She did not crane her neck up to look. She had passed that phase. When Milwurl’s long brown neck, flecked with black and grey, came down, Emine did not jump.

“You are not busy.”

Emine had just been busy, but Milwurl was correct. While she had been hoping to return to her room now, hopefully see Sanni, Emine was not busy. “You have whatever energy I have left,” Emine said with a shrug.

“This is why I like you.” Milwurl’s head didn’t move, while the rest of her body made it down the wall. She had a much longer neck than any of the other dragons. As well as thicker nails and shorter wings. She didn’t fly as often, she would glide. “You are much like Sanni, you are honest.”

“I didn’t know honesty wasn’t common.” After all, Emine would think a dragon would know. Very quickly, if not immediately. Emine couldn’t imagine hiding something from any of them.

“It’s not to say the others are liars, dear Emine.” Body on the ground, Milwurl shifted her head into a different position. She still looked directly at Emine. Emine looked at her wide nostrils, where she could see Milwurl’s dark grey and green eyes. “They simply choose to keep certain things to themselves. Or come up with an excuse, which is true, but an excuse nonetheless. Now come, I have need of you.”

No one asks the dragon if they really like the taste

A long, low rumble sounded from underneath the two of them. From the very rock underneath. He looked over at her, his question of “where is the dragon?” falling away from his mind when realization struck.

“How soon are we getting eaten?” he asked the elf.

She might have bit her lower lip, but not hidden in her foresty home she obviously didn’t want to appear less than perfect. So, instead, those lips twitched as she refrained from doing so. “You might want to fly, fae.”

He almost spoke up, then remember. Right, the spell was still active. She thought he was fae. If he was, he would definitely fly away. As it was, he was a centaur in disguise and had no idea.

Time to pretend chivalry. “I’m not leaving without you.”

“I will talk with the dragon,” she said, as if she believed she really could.

“Will you now?” asked the dragon underneath them, opening his canyon of a mouth.

As they dropped down, he considered how now one had ever told him dragons were this big.

Off the edge

It was two hundred feet to the ground. Ria adjusted her goggles.

“Are you insane? You can’t beat a dragon!”

She took a couple of breaths. “I’m not trying to beat him, Nashita. I’m just proving I can do it.”

“Why do you have to prove anything?”

Her gloves felt warm, her chest tight. Ria knew it was because of the start of her adrenaline rush. “Are you coming or not?”

The fairy flitted under her hat. “We better not be flattened.”

Ria smiled. “Of course not.” Looking afar, the dragon’s golden eyes stared deep within her. She grinned back at him.

Then she stepped off the edge.

The smell of earth

Kun could smell the earth outside. Dry, damp, alive, dead. He could feel it in his very skull, where the curse was engraved in his mind. It called to him, inviting him to stay out there and disappear within the soil.

Perhaps he should have found a place in the city. There were places there that could have distanced himself from the nature that beckoned him. However, Kun didn’t want to avoid it completely. He wanted to live alongside it, surviving it, much as he had for the longest time.

Now that Ling was gone, though, everything had changed.

The years went by and Kun pretended he was all right. The children couldn’t tell. He taught them the best way he knew how, unsure if he should be allowed to. Unsure if he should be allowed near anyone at all. Yet he was too selfish. He couldn’t let go of what he had left. He might take loss in silence, but he wouldn’t let it go without struggle.

Then what was this? This time that passed, this time that was empty? He knew the whispers were encompassing Shui and there was nothing he could do.

Kun didn’t know when he had last seen Jin.

“Surely this is boring to you,” he said to the dragon. The warmth of the creature, face pressing into his side, was more than abating the cold. “Don’t you want to go fly away? For more than a few hours. I’m not always available. I know we understand this. Maybe Shui would bring you more entertainment?”

The last suggestion he let out to see the expression on the dragon’s face which Kun had always equated to laughter. Kun’s eyes sparkled.

I want you to talk to me about Ling.

Kun felt the emptiness creep up upon him. The petrichor permeated his scent, a tight grip on his heart. Constant, but only hurt when he let it. “Very well. What do you want to hear about Ling?”

The dragon gave him a look that was all-encompassing.

Kun would talk about Ling. Even when it hurt, he kept talking. Because he was asked.

He wished he could distance himself from it all, instead of surviving it. He wished.

Desire for the quiet

The whispers were louder.

Or maybe Shui was simply listening more. The silence which beckoned the voices, the silence that Ling used to fill with useless chattering – the useless chattering that Shui loved. Gone. It ripped into him more than anything had in a long time.

He missed the silence. He missed a lot of things. Trying to think about it selfishly lessened the pain somehow, dulled it, turning it into an ache which he could put aside with all of the other things which had ached him in life.

The nightlife wasn’t loud enough. It never was anymore. Shui felt like he was going crazy. Stopping at the bottom of the hill, he looked up at Kun’s lodge, at the dragon wrapped around one side of it. Kun was home. They all had homes now. That had been a while. It felt like a time before Ling.

The time before, the time after. What had Jin said about the children of earth? Shui wanted to throw up. He stepped up the embankment, hands in pockets.

“How’s it going?” he asked the dragon, not expecting a response. The dragon and he had only ever gotten along because of Kun. The fact that hadn’t changed much was more comforting than how Jin had become.

Silver scales gleamed under the fur which poked out from under each plate, from a light that came from nowhere.

Shui nearly walked right past the creature when a tail tripped him.

God fuck damn, you-” Shui bit his tongue before he could shout more at Kun’s pet.

“Shui? I thought I heard you.”

He picked himself off the floor and looked toward the door. As always, Kun’s home looked inviting, even when he could barely look inside. “Yeah, I’m here. You’re still up.” Thank god. “Wanna do something?”

Perhaps he would thank the dragon one day, for realizing before he did that he might walk right back down the hill and disappear into the town. Kun didn’t drown out the whispers.

But he spent too long trying to hear them.


Ling inhaled the best he could and coughed out the blood that the action brought into his lungs. “Jin?”

The push he felt against the side of his face wasn’t Jin’s hand, but the side of the dragon’s face. Ling brought his hand up, placing it on the nose.

Was this it? Jin said children of the earth didn’t have anything after death. “Jin… can’t worry ‘bout me. Tell ‘im that? Please?”

He could see the look in the dragon’s eyes, despite how dark everything was. The shine, as the marks which made the pupils swirled counterclockwise. Shèn.

Ling couldn’t blink. “Shèn? ’s your name?”

The swirling slowed down. Ling tried to keep his hand there, but it fell off Shèn’s face.

“Thanks, Shèn. For everythin’. Keep th’ others… ‘kay?”

Until you return, Ling.

By the time Jin could make it to where the dragon stood guard, Ling was gone.

The last fight

He saw the danger in the distance. There was no time to get the others, to help them that way. Ling knew the only thing he could do was head straight into it himself.

“Out of the way, boy!” Jin’s assassin snarled.

Ling grit his teeth and jumped on him. He might have been a child, but roughhousing had always been his specialty. The assassin was expecting a child’s strength, not Ling’s. He bit the man on the arm, putting as much pressure through his jaw to get through the sleeve, to break the skin. He tasted blood – both his victim’s and his own as he lost a tooth in the ensuing struggle. He used a leg to block the assassin’s other arm from trying to rip him off.

He started swinging, knowing that Shui would have a few corrections to make about his form, but Ling didn’t want to think about it right now. Reaching out, he grabbed the assassin’s head and started to twist.

At some point he let go. Probably because he couldn’t hear the commotion where the others had been. Because the assassin had crawled away and Ling was fine with that. As long as he couldn’t hurt anyone else.

His chest hurt. Ling pulled the handle away from his chest, but it didn’t make it better. In fact, there was even more blood then before.

Falling to the earth, Ling watched a shadow descend upon him, as the dragon arrived.

The next day, they would thank the dragon for it.

“It appears that my shoes are missing.”

Shui rubbed his eyes. “Not just you, buddy. Mine aren’t here either. What the hell.” He was too tired for the absurdity to hit him yet.

Kun searched their room for any pairs of their shoes, still quiet as to not wake up Jin. Ling was nowhere to be seen.

“I bet it was the kid.”

“My, aren’t you quick to accuse,” Kun teased.

Shui rolled his eyes, rising to his feet. “Well he’s not here.”

Jin grumbled. Both of them quietened. Shui gestured that he would check for Ling. Kun nodded. Shui left his friend alone with the non-early bird and tracked down Ling. It didn’t take long to find him, he was outside with the dragon.

“Where are our shoes?” he asked Ling without any preamble. Ling glared back at him, then pointed at the dragon. “Why did you give the dragon our shoes?”

“I didn’t!” Ling scowled. “I woke up and they were gone!”

“Then why are you blaming the dragon?”

“Because I saw it eat them!”

Shui and Ling stared at each other for a few moments. Then they both looked at the dragon. Shui sighed. “You’re serious.”

Ling nodded.

“I’ll get Kun.”