Emine (pt 8)

“Time to divert it now.” The large dragon with the black and silver feathers usually came up with the solutions. Or was the one to say it out loud. Her name was Norro. Emine didn’t think Norro liked her. She had yet to acknowledge Emine’s existence. “Ramar?”

Ramar seemed pleased. “I’ll sculpt the mountain. I’ll not divert.”

“I’ll keep Ramar from destroying anything,” Andra commented. He had feathers of blue and talons of white. He was a little larger than Ramar, but his feathers looked longer, sleeker.

Emine frowned. Arvid chuckled. “Ramar doesn’t need help,” he assured her. “She just wants the company.”

“Sculpting a mountain is lonely work,” Ramar said to the two humans, voice quiet enough not to carry around to the other dragons.

“I’d go with you, you know.”

The sound Ramar made was almost a long inhale, but not the type to fill her lungs. Emine had become aware that was a way dragons expressed frustration. “You will not, my pet. You will be tended to here.” She focused on Emine. “Emine will tend to you directly, won’t you?”

Emine focused on the bridge of Ramar’s nose again. Despite the order, she didn’t mind it at all. “Of course. I like Arvid too.”

Arvid chuckled. Ramar seemed pleased.

Emine (pt 7)

Working in the Alcoves was harder than working in the town. Emine could point at the reason for that in a heartbeat. The dragons. They certainly acted as though they were in control of everything.

And they were. Emine had no way of forgetting, like she had before. The dragons were definitely in control of everything here and the rest of the country. They didn’t seem to mind if a small creature walked through the room as they debated how to take care of issues in many different places. She hadn’t even been aware there were so many problems in a country.

“The next earthquake that hits, that mountain is going to fall on all of them.”

“Well, it’s about time for it to crumble.” Ramar snorted, preening her wings with her hands. It was toward Ramar that Emine went.

Not for Ramar though. She walked over to Arvid, who sat at Ramar’s side, leaning into her feathers. Emine offered him the drink she was sent to bring him.

The older man smiled at her. “Thank you, Emine.”

She liked Arvid. Which was why she didn’t like his cough. Ramar’s feathers bristled, no matter how quietly he did so. It made Emine like Ramar better, though she wished she didn’t have to. She was hopeful this medicine would make him better soon.

Sanni said it would and Emine believed her.

Emine (pt 6)

“Do people make the jump to Unbonded often?” Emine asked Sanni. She stayed close to the woman’s side, staring at a place made by dragons for dragons.

Sanni smiled down at her. “Well, sometimes. Usually though, they come back with someone from another place who wants to come serve them. The more common change is Unbonded to Bonded. Dragons don’t choose lightly. They usually will have someone around for a while before they decide they want a specific person for themselves and not for the horde.”

While Emine wanted to ask why they were going to be Unbonded now, she couldn’t bring herself to do so. Sanni had been so calm and stable, but Emine could tell there was uncertainty under the surface there. She didn’t know if that had always been the case with Sanni or if it had only come the more and more the dragons had paid attention to the both of them.

The Alcoves were set into both sides of the valley that contained the town. From the bottom, from the town, the only sign of life were the holes set into the tops of the ridges, where the dragons came and went. There was an opening (okay, more than one) for people who couldn’t fly to make their way into the caverns.

They stood there now, each holding what they hadn’t wanted anyone else to move for them. Emine hadn’t had much she was attached to. It fit in the same bag she brought here.

Sanni brought just as much, but it had to be a greater sacrifice. Emine took her hand. Sanni squeezed it and they entered the Alcoves.

Emine (pt 5)

“We have discussed. You come to the Alcoves.”

The voice woke Emine up abruptly. She didn’t have to question what they were talking about. The voice was that of a dragon speaking the language the rest of them understood. Not Ramar, that much she could tell. Another dragon. Over the last couple of months, Emine had seen a lot of dragons. She could only keep a few of them straight in her head yet. Between them and the humans around, there were a lot of people to get used to.

They had to be talking about her. Sanni’s voice was angry. “No, no. You can’t do this to me. You don’t do things like this. What are you talking about?”

“The both of you are moving to the Alcoves now.” The dragon’s voice held no question.

“I don’t understand.”

“We like how she makes you act, Sanni. But other than that, you don’t need to understand.”

How she made Sanni act? Emine had no idea what they were talking about. However, it sounded as though that was all to the conversation. She watched the plants outside sway as the dragon took back off into the sky.

Getting out of bed, she had barely started to get dressed when she heard Sanni knock at the door. “Emine?”

She had tried to see this place as home, but it seemed things were going to change already.

Emine (pt 4)

“What is your name, small human?”

Sanni appeared as fazed as the horses were by a dragon. Emine tried to act the same. “Emine.”

Ramar stared at her. Emine had the idea she shouldn’t look into her eyes. At the same time, she didn’t want to look like she was cowering. What the middle ground was between those two positions, she had no idea. She looked back, deciding to fix her gaze on a particular point on the bridge of Ramar’s nose. From there, she could see the dragon’s eyes without looking at them.

It still made her feel a bit dizzy. She heard a sound that she had no idea how to interpret. Something distinctly draconian, not a hiss or a growl. Like a sigh with clicks.

“What’s so funny?” Sanni asked.

“Nothing.” Ramar’s head pulled back. “You’ve picked well, Sanni. Good for you.”

Emine didn’t know what that meant, but Sanni’s face flushed slightly despite saying nothing. Ramar didn’t await a response either. She took off into the sky, meeting another dragon somewhere halfway up the closest slope.

There really were dragons everywhere. Emine stared for a while before looking back at Sanni. “Am I okay?”

Sanni started out of her thoughts and looked down at her. “Yes. Yes you are. Ramar is a little pushy, but she already likes you. That’s good. Let’s go home, Emine.”

Home. The word meant nothing to Emine now. But it was time to redefine.

Emine (pt 3)

By the time they arrived at the Heights Emine had gotten used to seeing dragons in the sky. This was good, considering the bright red dragon was there to greet them before they could even pass by the entrance into the valley.

“You’ve brought new blood, I can smell it. Show me.”

The words were creepy, but the tone was far too smooth. It actually made it a bit more creepy, that Emine didn’t feel as bothered out by the words because of the tone. She hid behind Sanni, who appeared to be waiting on whatever it is the man behind the reins said.

The horses didn’t appear to have any problems with a dragon right next to them. Emine squeezed her bag to her chest.

“Why don’t you ask her yourself?” Sanni called forward.

Emine could feel her heart in her throat as the long neck snaked over. The face of a dragon wasn’t what Emine had imagined. The feathers became smaller and smaller, to the scales that surrounded the eyes and mouth. On this dragon, the smaller feathers were gold. Her eyes were not serpentine, as Emine had thought they might be. They appeared to have several pupils that were not black, but white against a ruby backdrop, moving independently of each other.

A hand appeared in front of her face, breaking her concentration for a moment. “Please, Ramar. Don’t make me warn her not to look into your eyes. They’re so beautiful and I’d hate for her to have this first time spoiled.”

“Flatterer,” the dragon called Ramar said.

Emine (pt 2)

“I’m sorry,” Emine’s travelling companion said, after proffering water to help Emine swallow. “Did no one tell you what we do at the Heights?”

Emine shook her head, wordless.

“We run things for the humans that live there. Sometimes the dragons forget about some of our needs, so it’s good to have other humans around. Make sure nothing is forgotten.”

All Emine knew was that the country was very large. So large that she had never confronted the flying owners of it. It hadn’t occurred to her this would change. “We take care of people?”

“Yes. Humans tend to take one of three roles. You’ll be joining me down in the town, where most of the humans are. We run the place, really, no matter what anyone says. Then there are the Unbonded, who live up in the Alcoves. They are the ones we really have to watch over, because they have to do all of the things the dragons need.”

Emine nodded, digesting this new information. “What’s the third group?”

“Those are the Bonded. Those who have been chosen by a particular dragon. I believe a lot of people know them as dragon riders, because they are allowed travel on dragonback more often than the Unbonded.”

Swallowing, not food, but back the saliva produced by her nerves, Emine gripped what was left of the jerky in front of her. “I’m in the town then?”

“Yes, you’ll be in town. With me. My name is Sanni. Will you be all right with that?”

To be honest, Emine knew she didn’t have a choice. But Sanni still seemed really nice. Emine nodded and tried not to think about the Heights. They would be there in a month.

Emine (pt 1)

When she was ten years old, her family sent her to the Heights.

Emine might have protested more. Or cried aloud. However, at ten years she had long since become aware that she was the latest in a string of children her parents could not afford. While she wondered why they didn’t send away one of her less helpful siblings, she reminded herself that all of her remaining siblings had to be loved more than her. It was only sensible. (Even if she did not know why.)

She sniffled in the back of the cart, as quiet as she could manage. She had kept from crying as her parents bid her farewell. Now on the road, there seemed to be no point.

The woman sitting near her offered her some candy. Emine shook her head. “Sorry. I don’t like sweets.”

With a smile, the woman returned her candy to her pocket and pulled a stick of jerky out of her bag. As Emine chewed on that, the woman told her something she had never thought of. “You’ve come from a remote place. Ever seen a dragon before?”

That was right. The Heights were the centre of everything. The jerky stuck in Emine’s throat.