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 17)

“You have to dress warmly for flying,” Sanni told her.

Emine almost couldn’t hear her. She couldn’t believe this was happening. She wanted it, of course she had wanted it, but she didn’t believe that the dragons had agreed. She wasn’t Bonded. This wasn’t for a reason. It was just because she wanted to. And apparently it was okay.

Sanni helped her decide which coat to wear. “There is more you’ll be putting on, so it can’t be too thick.”

Emine nodded, following Sanni out from their rooms to the Alcoves. They met up with Tove, Ghelli’s Bonded.

“I had this made when my girl was about your age,” they told Emine, handing over the jacket. “It should fit you. She grew up way too fast and didn’t get to wear it much. It’s for longer flights, after all.”

After putting on the jacket, she got to put on Tove’s daughter’s gloves. Those fit perfectly, unlike the jacket which fit well enough. Emine could tell she was trembling. Tove put one of their hands on her head.

“You’ll be fine. If it’s too much, say so. No matter the gravity of the situation. Say so and come down if you need.”

Finally, between Tove and Sanni, Emine could speak. “Who’s taking me up?”

“It took them quite a while to decide,” Sanni admitted. “Apparently there was some fighting over you.”

Emine stared up at her. Sanni smiled down. “We’re going to Norro’s nest. Come.”

Norro? Emine couldn’t believe it. But with Tove smiling after the two, Emine followed Sanni there.

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 15)

“What do you want for your birthday?”

Emine hadn’t known anyone here knew her birthday. She shouldn’t have been surprised Sanni did, but she felt it nonetheless. Her birthday. Eleven years old. A year since her parents cast her out.

Sanni’s expression went from a measured amount of excitement to some concern. “Emine? Is something wrong?”

She shook her head. “I… No, nothing is wrong. I wasn’t thinking about it. I don’t know.”

“Surely there is something you want.”

Sanni sat down on her bed and Emine, after a moment, went to sit next to her. Sanni did something her mother used to do, which was put her arm around her while she sat next to her. Emine barely remembered it though, because she had been very young when her mother had done so.

“Yes.” There were quite a few things she wanted. But a birthday was when you asked for something you didn’t think you could ask for during the rest of the year.

“Tell me about it.”

Emine’s mind raced. What did she want right now that she might not get the rest of the year? Surprisingly, her mind settled on something quickly. Something Sanni couldn’t give her. But Emine wanted it nonetheless.

“I want to fly on dragonback.”

Emine (pt 12)

The dragons were having a fit. As far as Emine could tell. However, they weren’t in the Alcoves, but up outside of the cliff and on top of their home. If she looked out any of the opening, she could see them on the other side of the valley, discussing whatever it was above there. She could even hear sometimes the dragons that were above the side she was on.

Emine had never seen this before. Even when other things were going on to upset them, all of them had never been outside to chatter. At least, she was pretty sure it was just about all of them. Most of them.

“Are they still going?” Sanni asked, looking out over Emine. Her tone was subdued.

Emine nodded. “Is something wrong?”

“They found some broken eggs.”

Sanni usually explained what things like that meant immediately, but this time she didn’t say anything. Emine couldn’t imagine why, but by looking up at Sanni’s face, she had somewhat of an idea about the enormity of the situation.

She didn’t ask, but eventually she heard a sound from one of the dragons she had never heard before. Staring across the way, she saw it come from Norro.

Emine didn’t have to think long or hard to know it was grief.

Emine (pt 10)

“Emine.” Sanni stroked Emine’s hair back, the few strands that were even long enough to reach her face. “I don’t want you to worry too much, but apparently we’re having troubles with the shades.”

Emine tried to remember anything about the shades. “They… they’ve taken over the southwest coasts, right?”

Sanni nodded, leaning back in her chair. Emine liked their new rooms better than Sanni’s old ones. Though she continued to regret saying as such to Sanni. “They massacred the merfolk. It’s why they’re extinct. We’ve kept them at bay… They haven’t been seen outside the water in over twenty years. Since I was your age.”

The dragons spent long enough discussing other things before acting sooner than anyone else might think. “What does that mean?”

“A lot more motion. They won’t suffer a shade on their land.” Sanni’s smile turned a bit wry. “What we have to worry about are tempers. I can count the dragons on one hand who can keep their calm completely when dealing with shades.”

“Ramar more snippy?”

Sanni’s smile twisted as she tried not to laugh. “Don’t let her hear you say that.”

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.