Status: Super Moderator
Join Date: Aug 2005
Current Game: Guild Wars 2, VtMB, TOR
All right, I did not like the original version of chapter 2 one bit. After the chapter in our textbook on energy, I understood why--it was flat, it didn't move, and it was rather dull in some spots. So, here's the new version.
Jailyn looked up from her brother when she heard the agonized dragon shriek. Ta'lith'ra flew overhead, her fully-spread white wings translucent against the blue sky. She furled her wings back and dove straight down. The ground thumped as she landed hard next to the young fighter. The dragon pulled Daerved's lifeless body from Jailyn, howling her anguish as she cradled him to her. Jailyn winced and clapped her hands over her ears to block the sound. She stood and reached out to stroke Daerved's short soft hair, still damp with battle-sweat.
“Daerved's gone. His kae left me,” the white dragon wailed. She closed her eyes, lifted her head, lifted her head, and howled her pain. Her tail whipped around, and she held Daerved so tight that Jailyn heard one of his ribs snap.
“Get back! Get back from the dragon!” Jailyn whirled to see who was yelling. It was a tall, black-haired warrior in scale mail. She noticed he carried an Elani greatsword. He grabbed her by an arm and pulled her back behind him and out of the way. “She's going into a death-fury. She'll tear everything apart when she does.”
Jailyn had never seen a death-fury, but Daerved had, and had described how the dragon and destroyed everything in his path until a few Elani had calmed him enough to bring him to the fort to bond with another fighter. She quickly surveyed the battlefield and said to the Elani, “We can't let her do that. There are medics running all over tending the wounded. She'll trample them to death.”
“I know that,” he replied. “I'll handle it. You stay back, move everyone to safety that you can. She's going to try to bond with anyone not already bound to another dragon. If she tries to take anyone's kae, they'll die.”
Daerved had described the bonding to her as having his life essence sucked from him as he reached out for Ta'lith'ra's kae. If he hadn't found her kae in time, he would have died then. Only those fighters with the strongest kae could survive that, and they had to spend months preparing physically and mentally for the ordeal.
“I've called for some more Elani to help me—just stay out of her sight.” The dragon fighter walked up to the thrashing, keening dragon. He grabbed her battle harness and mounted her back, leaning forward to speak into her ears, stroking her neck. She calmed down for a moment, but then reared up and howled into the sky. The dragon fighter grabbed the reins and seat horn to stay mounted. She dropped Daerved's body and picked up one of the dead Fest'ari. She ripped it apart, blood and fur scattering all around. Jailyn ran to help some of her shield mates who were trying to hobble off the field. She threw one of their arms over her shoulders and half-carried him off the field. Jailyn darted back and forth on the field and grabbed two other soldiers to bring them to safety. Ta'lith'ra shredded five more Fest'ari before she stopped, panting, the Elani still speaking softly in her ear and patting her neck. She dropped her head, huge crystal tears dropping from her eyes and falling at her feet.
Jailyn blew out a breath in relief. The battlefield was silent. The medics moved soundlessly, and the injured grit their teeth to hold back any cries that would attract Ta'lith'ra's attention.
“Da-da!! Da-da!!” Jailyn searched for the baby's voice. A little blond girl toddled over to a man lying on the ground. The father gathered up his daughter, cuddling her against him and covering her from dragon eyes. She babbled on happily as he tried to muffle her voice against his chest.
Ta'lith'ra heard the noise and swung her head around. She screeched and bounded toward the man. The Elani yelled to regain the dragon's attention. She broke into a gallop, and he gripped the seat horn.
There have been enough orphans made today, Jailyn thought. She ran to put herself in the path between the dragon and the wounded father. She held up her arms, waving wildly. “Ta'lith'ra! Stop! He's hurt! You'll kill him trying to bond!” The dragon halted abruptly, making dirt clods fly in the air. Ta'lith'ra stared down at her, red lines streaking through her pale opalescent-blue eyes. She snorted, and hot air blew across Jailyn's face. “Please, Ta'lith'ra. Daerved would never want someone to die because of him.”
The white dragon closed her eyes. A tear escaped. “I can't stop it, Jailyn,” she whispered. “His kae was torn from me.” She opened her eyes again and pointed a talon around the battlefield. “The kae of every single person on this field screams to me, calling me to bond with them. If I can't bond soon, I'll die.”
“Shh, Ta'lith'ra,” the Elani soothed. “You won't die. We'll get you to the fort quickly. There are at least three people there prepared to bond with you.”
“I won't make it, Tirius,” her dragon-contralto cracking. “I took an injury in battle, and Daerved's loss has weakened my essence. I won't survive the flight.”
“We'll fly them here, then.”
“There's not enough time,” Ta'lith'ra cried.
Jailyn's tears spilled out. “We've lost Daerved already today. We're not losing you, too.” She reached out to touch her, stroking the dragon's cheek, wiping the tear crystals away.
Tirius shouted, “Jailyn, don't....” He leaped off Ta'lith'ra.
Ta'lith'ra's eyes blazed. 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. Her vision grayed out. The ground hit her knees a fraction of a moment before it hit her face. Her heart raced, then abruptly stopped. Far away she heard Tirius call out.
"Ta'lith'ra! You can't bond with her!”
I am your Dragon. Take my essence.
Jailyn thought she saw her brother standing near, glowing. He handed her the fine cord of energy that lit the utter blackness around her. Take hold of the kae, don't let go, he said. Jailyn took the thread from him, and he smiled and disappeared. She drew the thread of the dragon's essence to her. It grew as she pulled 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. She gasped and coughed. She rolled over, 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, chest heaving as she tried to catch her breath. Her head hurt. She reached up and felt the wetness. It took her eyes a few moments to focus for her to realize there was blood on her hand.
The white dragon rumbled a short laugh. “I knew you had the strength to survive.”
“What have you done, Ta'lith'ra?” Ta'lith'ra and Jailyn both turned their heads towards Tirius. His blue eyes were lit with anger.
“I took Jailyn as my airinu, my fighter. 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, gently brushed the disheveled auburn hair off her face, and placed a hand on the young woman's forehead. “You'll be fine in a few moments, Jailyn.”
Ta'lith'ra drew up her full height and sniffed loudly. “Her kae is stronger than her brother's. I knew she would not die.”
The man gave the dragon a look that could wither an entire forest. “You were lucky, and you know why we don't allow unplanned bindings. 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 from head to toe, one hand still on her forehead. With the other, he pulled a clean cloth from a small pack on his belt to wipe blood and dirt away from where her face had hit the ground. “Doesn't look like you'll need sutures for that cut,” he said, after appraising it for a few moments. Her heart rate slowed to normal and the pounding headache disappeared. He cleaned and bandaged the cut. “Better?” She nodded as he helped her to her feet. “I'm Tirius Aldamar.”
“Jailyn. Jailyn Cordray.”
“Let's get you back to Elani headquarters to have the healers take care of you. My flight will have the honor of bringing our brother home so we can bury him with the reverence he deserves.”
* * * * *
Jailyn was 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. 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. She leaned against her dragon. Ta'lith'ra, what if they don't take us?
The egg's already hatched. It can't be undone. You worry too much, just like your brother.
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.
Jailyn bowed to each in turn.
Cirrid said, “We have two issues before the council. The bonding and the Fest'ari attack. Jailyn, the healers pronounced you well and the bond sound. 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.”