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Ta'lith'ra circled the carnage searching for enemies with the rest of the wing of dragons, her fully spread white wings nearly transparent against the sky. She dove suddenly, shrieking. Jailyn knew she was flying to her rider, and ran towards Daerved. Ta'lith'ra landed next to him and flipped her wings closed. She picked up his body, howling her anguish as she clutched him to her. Jailyn winced when her ears popped as she ran to them. The other dragons descended, searching for places to land to comfort their kin.
Jailyn reached the pair first. She stroked Daerved's soft hair, still damp from battle-sweat, as her tears mixed in with the dragon's over her brother's body. She laid a hand gently on the dragon's forearm. “Ta'lith'ra, I'm sorry. We tried to reach him in time. We failed.” Jailynn lowered her head. “I failed,” she whispered.
Sharp dragon talons gripped Jailyn's upper arm, biting through the hardened leather. Jailyn sucked in her breath in pain and trembled, fearing what would happen if the dragon grasped her with her full power. “Look at me,” Ta'lith'ra growled in her dragon-contralto. Jailyn forced her green eyes up to Ta'lith'ra's pale opalescent-blue ones, streaked with angry orange and yellow lines. She swallowed hard as the white dragon glared down at her, but held the dragon's gaze. “You dare to tell me you failed?”
“You're my brother's dragon. You're Elani. I can't lie to you. If I'd made it to my brother in time, he'd be alive.”
Ta'lith'ra snorted, and hot air blew across Jailyn's face. She looked around on the ground before addressing Jailyn again. “Thirty-eight against three. The Fest'ari succeeded. You did not fail. You will acknowledge the difference.” The young woman nodded finally, acknowledging the truth. “Good. You have your brother's honesty, and perhaps with time his wisdom. I would take you as my airinu. It would do honor to your brother's memory.”
Jailyn blinked as the dragon released her hold. “You're Elani. I don't have the skill or power to be your fighter-partner, your airinu.” She stroked her brother's hair again.
“Of course you don't have the skill yet. Yet I need an airinu to have full strength, and your power glows around you like it did with your brother. We will train. We will find the Fest'ari who ordered this, we will kill them, and I will eat their young. We will do this together for Daerved.”
The girl looked at the dead Fest'ari on the ground, at the limp body of her brother, and back at the white dragon. “I will do it. Tell me what I have to do.”
“Trust me with your life. I will give you my soul-essence as you give me yours, and we will be life-bound then.”
“I am your airinu.”
Ta'lith'ra set Daerved down gently and covered him with a cloak. She looked back at Jailyn. Her eyes blazed, and her life essence crackled around her, growing outward. It reached Jailyn, slamming into her, sucking away her own essence. Jailyn opened her mouth to scream at the agony of her soul tearing from her, but she couldn't breath. The ground hit her knees only a fraction of a moment before it hit her face. Her heart was racing, then abruptly stopped. Far away she heard one of the Elani call out. Ta'lith'ra! Stop! You'll kill her trying to bind!”
I am your Dragon. Take my essence.
Jailyn found the thin thread of power in the middle of the dark and took hold. She drew more of the essence to her, pulling it closer, taking it in, and then she was in the middle of the bright world again. Her heart took a beat, and air found its way into her lungs again, enough for her to gasp. She opened her eyes and stared up at the large dragon looming over her. Their thoughts, their minds, their hearts, together....
We are One.
“I almost joined Daerved twice in one day,” Jailyn rasped. The white dragon rumbled a short laugh.
“What have you done, Ta'lith'ra?” Ta'lith'ra and Jailyn both turned their heads towards the black-haired Elani who strode towards them. His blue eyes were lit with anger.
“I took Jailyn as my airinu. She will be Elani. We will hunt Fest'ari.”
“You shouldn't have done that before the Elani council agreed, and certainly not before she was prepared. I thought for a moment you killed her” He knelt down and placed a hand on the young woman's forehead. “You'll be fine in a few moments, Jailyn.”
Ta'lith'ra looked pained. “Her essence is stronger than her brother's. I knew she would not die.”
The man gave the dragon a look that would have made anyone else shrink away in humiliation. “You were lucky. The council will deal with this.”
“The council may say what it wants, Tirius, but we are One. The link cannot be broken.”
He shook his head and turned his attention back to Jailyn, surveying her. Her heart rate slowed to normal and the pounding headache disappeared. “Better?” She nodded as he helped her to her feet. “I'm Tirius Aldamar with the Elani. I'll escort you both back to the Elani headquarters when things are settled here.” He motioned to his jade-green dragon and mounted to finish his patrol. “You may have taken Jailyn as your airinu, Ta'lith'ra. However, the elders will decide who will be Elani.” His dragon snapped a downstroke of the wings, and they took off into the sky.
Jailyn didn't know of any dragons that weren't Elani, except perhaps the evil black dragons. She hoped they wouldn't be turned out. Ta'lith'ra was not an evil dragon—her essence was without the slightest taint.
“Think the council will take me?”
“You already are Elani.”
Jailyn felt dwarfed in the center of the sparse Elani council chambers, even with Ta'lith'ra's large frame filling much of the space next to her. Amphitheater would have been a better description for the room, she thought. Its wide doors and high ceilings were designed to hold not only the human fighters, but also their dragons. Large windows let in huge shafts of light. Some of the dragons slept curled in tight balls, letting the sun warm their hides.
A door to a side room opened, and several Elani came in—2 men and a woman, dressed all in dark leather pants and practical heavy fabric long-sleeved tunics. All 3 bowed their heads respectfully to Ta'lith'ra and nodded politely to Jailyn before they sat down in the half-circle of tall-backed chairs in the middle of the room.
“Let's get right to business, please,” the man in the center chair said. His graying brown hair was crew-cut short. His serious brown eyes were set deep in his weather-creased face, but there was a warmth to those eyes as well. “Welcome, Jailyn. I am Cirrid, Mai'oth'ra's fighter and leader of the council.” He pointed to the woman on his right, her blond hair bound in a tight knot in back, hazel eyes looking not only at her but into her as if Jailyn's kae might be found wanting. “This is Maedleigh. She is Fel'eth'la's airinu. She is our expert on Fest'ari and chief strategist. Our training leader is Seann, who is bonded with Anel'ith'ra.” The man on the left smiled at her, large deep green eyes contrasting with the waves of his bright red hair. “We have two issues before the council. The bonding and the Fest'ari attack. Jailyn, the healers pronounced you well and the bond sound. It's important for you to be absolutely honest about how you feel, however.”
Ta'lith'ra lifted a pale eyebrow and rotate her ears back. “I am a white dragon. I would not bond with someone who could not be absolutely honest,” she sniffed.
Cirrid's face creased in a smile, and he made a peace gesture with his hands. “I know, I know. I wanted to hear what Jailyn has to say, please.”
Jailyn tilted her head and thought a moment. “I'm not absolutely sure how the bond should or shouldn't feel, but the connection I have feels solid.”
“A truthful answer indeed--something you should always give us. I feel the bond is very strong,” Maedleigh nodded. “I understand you've studied some fighting with your brother.”
“He wanted me to be able to protect our home when he was gone.”
Cirrid said, “The rest of the Elani and I reviewed the actions in the village. The reports of your skill go well beyond simple training to protect your home. Your bonding did not conform to our customs.” He cast a long look at Ta'lith'ra, who decided to preen a wing at that moment. “However, you're bonded appropriately, and you're a fighter with a great deal of promise. We're naming you as Elani-initiate.”
Jailyn breathed out quietly and leaned back against her dragon in relief. I knew they would not send us away, Ta'lith'ra said to her.
“We need to decide who to assign her training to--” Seann was cut off as a tall dark haired woman in heavily embroidered russet velvet robes strode in, 2 guards in full armor marching behind her. All 3 bore the black baldric of House Dy'udh. Cirrid stood, and Jailyn moved out of the way to make room for the entourage. The woman stopped alone, and the 2 guards moved forward to address Cirrid.
“Ambassador Nourin Dy'udh requests an audience with the Elani,” announced one of the guards.
Cirrid nodded his greeting to her and smiled, “Ambassador Nourin is always welcome with the Elani.”
“I'm afraid you may not feel this way after the news I bring. While the Elani were fighting one group of Fest'ari in Cordinarre lands, my niece, the Princess of Dy'udh, was abducted by another group of them.” She waited until the murmurs of surprise and dismay died down before continuing. “We have evidence that House Aldamar orchestrated her kidnapping.” Her dark eyes slid over to Tirius. “We also have evidence that the Elani themselves may be involved.”
Last edited by Jae Onasi; 02-22-2009 at 06:08 PM.