Chapter Three: Blissian’s Clutch
Uriel regretted the fact that she hadn’t gone to get a heavier pair of shoes. Even Purshk seemed to be dancing on top of the sands, wincing lightly as his paws came in contact.
The chamber that held Blissian’s clutch was deep underground, heated by the thermal energy that rose from the Earth’s core. The dragon had arranged herself around the large chamber, curling about the clutch of nine large eggs that lay partially buried in the sand. The saddle Uriel had ridden on was hung on a group of pegs off to the side.
Uriel hissed as her feet came in contact with the sand, dancing on her feet in an attempt to keep them cool. She envied the Hawfox. They could hover above the sand if they wished. After a minute, Blissian reached her paw forward, and Uriel gratefully stepped into it.
*Mama won’t let you burn your feet!*
‘Which egg are you? Or do you know?’
*I’ll know when you get near me!*
Uriel clutched at one of Blissian’s fingers, her eyes scanning the clutch for any sign that would point her towards her partner. She found her eyes drawn to one particular egg a few times, and after a moment, she made her decision.
“Blissian, could you move me closer to that egg?” Uriel asked lightly, pointing to a small egg that seemed to sit aside from the others.
The small egg was colored similar to the aurora, Uriel thought to herself. It was a deep blue at the base and gradually shifted to purple, then pink, and finally faded to white at the top.
Blissian carefully shifted her paw, moving Uriel to her tail. The woman was soon straddling the great dragon’s tail, the egg in the sand next to her. She tentatively reached forward, brushing her fingertips along the hard shell of the egg.
Uriel felt something akin to a spark the second she made contact, and her entire body flushed and trembled.
*You found me!*
*Speak her name…*
The second voice that had joined the first was deeper, more mature. Uriel automatically knew the voice belonged to Blissian.
And somehow, in the back of her mind, she knew the name of the dragon curled up in the egg.
“Arorua, dear heart, my partner,” Uriel whispered to the egg, smiling as she stroked its shell tenderly.
“Meeting your partner for the first time has that effect on ya, huh?”
The sudden interruption startled Uriel and she jumped up, only to tumble into the sand. She automatically cried out as her side connected with the hot sand, her head cracking against the egg.
*Are you alright, patja!?*
Uriel could already hear the laughter of a few of her “peers” as she crawled back up onto Blissian’s tail, bruised and burned.
The ones who weren’t busy laughing quickly rushed over to make sure Uriel was alright, with the Youkai representative in the front.
“Here, let me see that.”
Uriel flinched as Mino carefully held her burned arm, amethyst eyes examining the damage to her skin. After a moment, he gave a soft smile and reached into his hakama. He took out a bottle of water and carefully poured some of the liquid over Uriel’s burn.
“Tat, come here for a second.”
The small Icamu was quick to be at Mino’s side, and he carefully held his hands over Uriel’s burn. It seemed like the two had a lot of practice with this.
Cold air seeped into her arm as Mino tore off his sleeve, using the silk to carefully bandage Uriel’s arm.
“That should work. You’ll have to see a healer once we’re done here, though,” Mino stated lightly, turning to smile at her.
“It’s no problem. We’re glad to help,” Tat said softly, tentatively smiling at Uriel.
“You’ll want to keep your distance from Attu, Purshk, Merucas, and Mako. They’re the troublemakers. Kint, Weru, Kao, and Lio normally keep to themselves, but they’re alright. Inio, Maon, Kotim, Canti, and Koutma are the outgoing ones, they’re naturally friendly. While me, Tat, and Makhonis are friendly, but we aren’t outgoing.”
Uriel nodded gratefully as Mino finished speaking. After Uriel had gotten burned on the scorching hot sands, Blissian had moved four of the eggs closer to Uriel. The five eggs were now huddled in a small circle. Both Uriel and Cotutat sat on Blissian’s tail, while Mino, Makhonis, and Aleoweru sat on the sand. The four eggs that had been moved contained the Hawfoxes’ partners.
“So, what are the names' of your dragons?” Uriel asked lightly after a moment of silence, glancing to each of the men in turn.
Aleoweru spluttered lightly, coughing into his hand and turning to look at Mino.
“We aren’t supposed to speak of this. Only the dragons know who will partner as early as this, and we aren’t supposed to give it away,” Mino whispered to Uriel, looking around to make sure no one had heard her comment.
“Then what do the ones who won’t partner do at this stage?”
“They spend time with each of the eggs. That’s how it’s been since this started. But those of us who will partner spend most of our time with our egg, but we still visit the others. You should do so too,” Cotutat explained, giving another of his soft smiles.
“But, it just wouldn’t feel the same… I mean, Arorua is in this egg,” Uriel mumbled, looking down at the sand.
“It’s alright; it just makes it easier for those who won’t partner. And besides, if you spend enough time with some of the other eggs, they might get comfortable enough with you to talk to you, even if only once in a while,” Aleoweru soothed, placing a comforting hand on Uriel’s knee for a brief moment before it moved back to his egg.
“But if you really want to know, this little guy is Omni,” Mino said, giving her a sly glance.
“Hao is going to be my partner,” Aleoweru added, following Mino’s example.
“Mani’s mine!” Cotutat chirped, giggling lightly and leaning down to pat his egg affectionately.
“Covah is my partner,” Makhonis said softly, his ruby eyes sparkling as he looked at his own egg.
“And Arorua is who’s in this egg,” Uriel stated, smiling at her new companions.
The five fell into silence after introducing their partners, too busy with absorbing the presence of the eggs to speak with one another. However, their peaceful silence was not meant to last long.
Uriel could almost feel the hairs on the back of her neck rise, and watched as the fur of Cotutat’s tail bristled. She couldn’t explain the sudden feelings of dread, fear, and adrenaline that surged through her body, tensing every muscle in preparation for something unknown.
An ear-splitting screech echoed through the underground cavern, and she cried out, pressing her hands against her ears. The sound ricocheted around her head, echoing in the corridors of her mind.
A flurry of wings… Blissian’s enraged roar…
The dragon instinctively curled inwards, pulling the eggs, and Uriel, with her. The others had been fortunate enough to escape, but she wasn’t quick enough.
‘What’s going on!?’
*Stay still, child. You are not ready to face him… I shall protect you…*
Blissian shifted slightly, moving so that Uriel could see through the coils of her body.
Every Hawfox in the cavern was standing near the entrance, and Uriel could vaguely sense an awesome amount of power approaching.
Then, in a burst of wings, a gigantic Chaos Roc emerged into the cavern. Mounted on the Roc’s neck was an intimidating man with snowy hair and emerald eyes. And sitting behind him was a woman who looked a little older than Uriel, clinging to the man’s waist.
“Well well well, what do we have here? Did you filthy creatures decide to have a party without inviting me?”
Uriel could hear Nhoj growl in response. Singkarm was standing slightly behind him.
“Zaqrin, what are you doing here?”
Uriel’s eyes flickered over to another Hawfox, one that stood next to Singkarm. He was relatively short when compared to his fellow Hawfox, but he stood proudly. His hair was almost the same shade as Singkarm’s, but his eyes were an ice white. Makhonis had mentioned someone like him…
“Well, if it isn’t the son of that bastard… Did you come here so I could finish you off?”
This time, it was the woman who spoke. She stood up on the neck of the Roc, maliciously laughing as she looked down at everyone before her.
“I’ll show you!”
“Protect the eggs at all cost!”
Uriel cautiously looked at the man still mounted on the Roc. She couldn’t understand why, but for some reason she felt as though she knew him. Sensing her gaze, he looked straight at her… And smirked.
Everything was going black… She could feel the touch of Arorua in the back of her mind before she slipped into the blissful realm of the unconscious.
“Be quiet, she’s waking up!”
A slight groan passed Uriel’s lips as she shifted slightly. Her eyes slowly fluttered open, and she gazed blankly around while sleep left her drifting back into the physical world.
“We can’t explain yet, dear. Have to make sure you’re alright first.”
Uriel recognized the voice of Annahs, and after a moment she blindly reached to her side. A calloused hand grasped hers, and she felt it, tracing the familiar lines and curves of the appendage.
“Papa? Is that you?”
Yiska’s chuckle met her ears.
“You know me all too well Uriel,” he said softly, smiling as his daughter pushed herself up.
“How did you get here? What are you doing here? Where am I?”
Thousands of questions raced through Uriel’s mind as she looked around. She recognized most of the people who sat at her bedside. To her immediate right sat both Yiska and Makhonis, and Annahs sat on her left. Leaning against the far wall was Singkarm, as well as the strange blue-haired Hawfox she remembered from earlier.
“Uriel, how are you feeling?” Makhonis asked lightly, his ruby eyes flickering towards her almost hesitantly.
“I’m alright… I just want to know what’s going on…”
“It’s a long story.”
The stranger against the wall pushed himself forward, his tail flicking slightly as he walked towards Uriel’s bed. It was only then that Uriel noticed the woman who had been standing beside him. And it looked like she held a fussy winged fox in her arms, the little white creature chewing on her fingers.
“Who are you?”
“Uriel, this is Morad. He is the King of the Wavi, the clan with the most power,” Singkarm said lightly, chuckling to himself.
“But… Isn’t he too small to be a king? He looks so short when compared to everyone else…” Uriel mumbled to herself.
She only realized then how unwise it was of her to say that. Morad’s fur bristled, and she could see him gritting his teeth.
“I am not short!” he yelled defensively, giving a low growl.
“Koibito, don’t get upset. She is new to our world, after all…”
Morad’s tension eased almost instantly, and he looked over his shoulder towards the woman who stood near Singkarm. Uriel guessed that the two were married, judging by the way they looked at one another.
“Thank you, Nyoko.”
The woman merely smiled in return, her golden eyes sparkling in the dim light of the room. After a long moment of silence, Yiska cleared his throat, looking at Morad expectantly.
“Are you going to explain the situation for those of us still out of the loop?” the artist asked, his hazel eyes sparkling with a mixture of mirth and curiosity.
“Yes, of course,” Morad said abashedly, and he then cleared his throat to begin speaking. “I expect you all know by now, that Zaqrin has returned. He is most likely after Blissian’s clutch, either to exploit the magical power of the eggs or, even worse, kill the dragons within them.”
Morad let the idea hang in the air, and both Makhonis and Uriel shivered at the thought. The Hawfox then turned to regard Singkarm, his icy white eyes glowing darkly.
“Singkarm, I want you to go throughout the kingdom and inform everyone to remain calm.”
This time, Morad turned to regard Uriel and Makhonis.
“As candidates, I urge you two to protect your eggs with your lives.”
Morad then returned his focus to everyone in the room, his tail flicking behind him, as though something had agitated the young man.
“I, myself, will send out some of my spies to search for Zaqrin,” he concluded, offering a reassuring smile. “Now then, does anyone have any questions?”
Uriel tentatively raised her hand, feeling like a child in school for the first time since her graduation. Morad chuckled and nodded towards her as permission to ask away.
Morad gave Uriel a blank stare, as if he didn’t quite comprehend exactly what she was asking him.
“Yiska, I need to speak with you when you have the time,” Morad said lightly, shaking his head at Uriel’s oblivious question.
“Of course,” Yiska replied, falling silent for a long moment. He seemed to be thinking intently, as though he wanted to say something but wasn’t quite sure if it was appropriate. Then, throwing caution to the wind, he spoke. “You know, you look just like your father.”
Morad settled a stare upon Yiska, and within it Uriel picked out a deep sorrow, as though some ghost constantly leeched the man’s strength and fed upon some vulnerable piece of his very soul. She also saw a hint of concern flash across the icy white eyes, before the Hawfox hardened and briskly walked out of the room. Sending a sympathetic glance to the blonde woman, Nyoko followed him.
Singkarm excused himself afterwards, rushing after Morad. And after sending Uriel a saucy wink, Annahs exited as well, leaving only Yiska and Makhonis in the room with Uriel. The blonde woman suddenly felt very alone in the room, and quickly filled the silence by asking Yiska how it was he knew Morad.
“It’s a long story, Uriel. Right now isn’t the right time to talk about this,” Yiska said softly, squeezing his daughter’s hand affectionately and fondly gazing at her. “I need to be getting home, for reasons I’m sure you can predict.”
The half-elf bent forward to softly kiss Uriel’s forehead, before he left the room as well. Uriel was positive she knew exactly what he was talking about, and she rolled her eyes playfully at his back.
It was only then that she realized she was completely alone in the room with Makhonis, and a thick knot of anxiety coiled in her belly. She’d only met the albino recently, and she wasn’t sure what to think of him. Part of her wanted to simply run away from the predicament, while the other part insisted that she stay and get to know him better.
Uriel felt the sudden urge to walk off the odd sensations that blanketed her skin, leaving her warm and short of breath. She quickly forced herself out of bed, fighting down the sudden wave of nausea that assaulted her as she got to her feet.
“Can we see the eggs again?” she asked nervously, her eyes flickering about the room.
“I’m not sure. The recent events make things...” Makhonis drifted off for a moment, as though he were searching for the right word to convey his meaning. “Complicated.”
Uriel couldn’t stay in the same room with him. His presence was overwhelming to her. She thought that if she stayed in it to long, she would drown in its depths and forever lose herself to the murky abyss that was Makhonis.
She fled from the room, her heart pounding in her ears. She knew she’d have to apologize later, but right now she could only think of getting away, of running the tension out of her limbs.
Uriel turned a corner and pressed her back against the wall, gulping in air as the panic passed. She pressed her eyes closed and focused on breathing, on the feeling of the air filling her lungs before slowly sliding back out. She focused on the fading jolts of excitement that rolled down her spine, setting her nerves afire.
Upon opening her eyes, Uriel realized just how alone she was. In a single day, she’d been torn from the familiarity of her home and planted in someplace completely foreign. Everything had seemed so much like a dream that she could almost believe she would wake up at any second. But that single moment, alone with Makhonis, had shaken her very soul.
She’d been intently aware of the way his ruby eyes had focused on her every move, and she could still feel his gaze on her.
‘Why does he make me feel like this?’ Uriel wondered, trying to sort through the sudden confusion her thoughts had settled into.
*Because you love him.*
Uriel was startled to hear an answer to her silent question, and she quickly glanced around, trying to find its source. But then she recognized the familiar brush of Arorua upon her mind, and calmed, closing her eyes and relaxing against the wall.
‘That’s ridiculous. I don’t even know him!’
*But you still love him. Don’t deny it, patja. I can see into your heart.*
Uriel knew Arorua was speaking the truth, but she still denied the statement. Intent on distracting the unhatched dragon, she changed the subject.
‘What does patja mean? I’m not familiar with the language it’s from.’
Again, the chiming laughter rung through her head, and Uriel smiled to herself.
*It’s Draconic, silly! It means bond-mate. Although others translate it as partner.*
‘How can you know Draconic? You haven’t even hatched yet!’ Uriel teased lightly, her fingers slowly exploring the cold smoothness of the wall behind her.
*I don’t know. We aren’t yearlings yet. Mama says we’ll find out when we’re yearlings.*
Uriel let her eyes flutter open again, and she slowly began to walk, hoping to find a familiar hallway or face. She wasn’t quite sure where her room was now, and she didn’t want to stay lost in the labyrinth-like halls of the palace.
She turned a corner, and stopped. Although she still felt the warming presence of Arorua in her mind, she was vaguely aware of another presence nearby. She blindly followed the tug of the other being, and soon began to hear voices.
One of them sounded familiar, but she couldn’t quite pin the name the voice belonged to. She edged even closer, before halting. There was a curtained room right around the corner, and she knew that the voices were coming from within it. She suddenly felt, however, that it would be wiser not to interrupt the conversation. Instead, she merely listened.
“Morad, you must be reasonable about this.”
Uriel instantly recognized the person as Singkarm, and it sounded like he was frustrated. It was only then that Uriel realized that the other voice belonged to Morad, the Wavi she had met earlier in the infirmary.
“I will not allow myself to trust someone like that!”
“At least give her a chance!”
At these words, Uriel clung to the wall, her heart pounding in her chest. She wanted to know who they were talking about. She wanted to know who it was that Morad found unworthy of his trust.
“How can I?”
“Morad, I don’t think she’s like-“
“You know what he did!”
Morad’s enraged roar rang through the corridor, and Uriel’s breath caught in her throat. An icy chill ran down her throat, settling into her stomach. They were talking about her.
“I won’t allow it.”
Morad’s tone signaled the end of the conversation, and he abruptly left the room. The man turned, only to see Uriel’s shocked face. He frowned at her, and kept walking, turning the corner at the end of the corridor she had earlier been running through.