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Literature and Writings
Unscoured - P2A1C03Previous Chapter Index CHAPTER 3: DRAGONS ARE NOT SLAVES, 2/2 Morning, January 21st "Queen of the SkyWings, Scarlet, was it? Is that you there next to that SandWing?" Altamir watched with some degree of curiosity as the jaws of most of the dragons in the stands collectively fell open. It was as if they had expected those in the sands to just die wordlessly or...whatever, and so they were caught off guard when someone refused to do so in the most spectacular way possible. Especially Scarlet, given her squawking after a long twenty or so seconds of silence. "Wha...WHAT?! Th-Th-The scavenger...THE SCAVENGER TALKS?! HOW IS THE SCAVENGER TALKING?! WHY IS THE SCAVENGER TALKING?!" "What, do you think we're supposed to be merely seen and not heard or something like that?" Altamir retorted. "My kind are PROPERLY called 'humans', by the way, and of COURSE we can talk! We've ALWAYS been able to talk! Perhaps you haven't been listening closely enough?" More silence filled the arena, Altamir hearing the errant gasp or two from the stands here and there. He took the opportunity to look in the direction of the human boy that he'd saved and waved him over...and after a brief stumble, the boy was running over to him as fast as he could. After watching him approach for a few seconds, Altamir turned his attention back to the Queen, who was looking offended now. " dare mock me...?!" "And what if I am?" Altamir retorted to the Queen yet again. "It's not like you're in any position to clutch your pearls; I've had to listen to your crowing about how things are oh so 'thrilling' all day, all night!" After yet another brief silence, Altamir continued. "So, this is your 'set-up', isn't it, Scarlet? Where dragons and humans alike are brought here to die for your amusement? Because you find it entertaining and, again, 'thrilling'? Very interesting!" Then, Altamir heard the boy finally reach him and stop a few feet away. "H-Hey...what are you d-doing...?!" "You'll see in a minute." Altamir quickly replied before turning back to the Queen once more, unsummoning his sword in his right while then summoning his 'bow' in his left. "You know, you're not the first individual I've met, human or dragon, who had a taste for bloodshed and death in this matter; I've met others somewhat like you. Some who are just as bloodthirsty, just as enjoying of the carnage of lives ending. But there's one thing that they all tend to forget, and that you seem to have forgotten as well." He then 'strung' an 'arrow' in a bow as he finished that sentence. "And what exactly have I 'forgotten', scavenger?" "Oh, it's something very simple that's a constant in bloodsports!" Altamir answered the Queen's questioning while charging up the 'arrow'. "Simply put, Queen Scarlet, when bloodshed and violence are in play, ANYONE can get involved!" The 'arrow' glowed brighter and brighter as he did so. Almost there... "Anyone?" Scarlet asked, this time in a manner that sounded genuinely quizzical. "Exactly, Scarlet! Anyone! And I do mean it, too! Even up to...and including..." Then, having finished charging the 'arrow', Altamir spun around in a clockwise manner once...twice...three times...and then after the third time, he quickly 'locked' the 'arrow' onto the Queen's putrid face. "...THE QUEEN!" After roaring the last bit out, Altamir then loosed the 'arrow' at the SkyWing Queen.Near her, the large SandWing seemed to realize that if something shining and glowing this brightly even in daytime was flying at you, it was probably exceedingly dangerous, and so had the mind to jump out of the 'box' that the Queen was standing in. Lucky SandWing... "WHAT IN-" *KABOOM!* ...not-so-lucky SkyWing Queen. Due to the magical, arcane nature of the 'arrows', they may have caused fiery explosions when they hit something, but they also didn't really leave any smoke behind except for the burnt dust or whatnot of whatever they blew up whatever they hit. In this case, it was the bits of Scarlet's skull, as well as the pinkish-red mist that was the blood and the pulped remains of her head's softer organs and tissue...which now coated everything around and behind Scarlet as her now-headless body collapsed to the floor of where she'd been standing, blood pouring out of the stump where her head used to be connected to the neck like a fountain and spilling over the side of the 'box'. That was the most satisfying sight of the day thus far, given her deeds. While the screaming and shrieking from the stands was beginning as the audience realized that their 'beloved' Queen was dead, Altamir quickly turned to the boy standing dumbfounded near him, noticing that he was olive-skinned and brown-haired. "Alright, I'm gonna warp you up behind this dragon with glowing scales. She won't eat you, she's on your side...just don't touch her, because her scales will burn you if you do. Just get down as low as you can behind her, alright?" "Uh, okay..." The boy nodded. "But...whaddya mean by warpi-" Altamir hated to cut him off, but he needed the boy out of the way as soon as possible, so he warped the boy over to behind where Peril was mid-sentence (Peril clearly still standing where she had been, as was the plan). Now for the next phase. With the Queen dead, the guards and soldiers were his next obstacles that stood in the way of rescuing the dragonets. Best way to eliminate such obstacles was to draw their attention to him and then take them out as they came. So, that's what he did. "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!" Altamir roared out as he looked about the frightened audience in the stands. "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?! IS THAT NOT WHY YOU'RE HERE?!" After a few seconds, he continued, actively mocking them and the guards and soldiers now. "What's the matter? You came here because you found bloodshed and death to be a fine and dandy thing...all I've done is merely give you just that! Oh, what's that, did I kill your 'precious', 'beloved' queen? Who totally wasn't going to literally kill dragonets in her arena for fun? What's wrong, guards and soldiers, aren't you going to try and avenge her, or are you too afraid to do so? If the latter one's so, then how disappointing for a 'mighty warrior tribe', and how pathetic!" Altamir acknowledged that this would usually be quite unlike how he normally was, as he had a respect for life and a loathing for the (nonetheless necessary) task of killing thanks to years of war, and many years of tragedy and loss. However...for one thing, that 'loathing' DID have an exception; namely, when someone whom he was dealing with was either utterly and irrevocably evil and well beyond the point of redemption, or had 'simply' committed atrocity after atrocity after atrocity (in which case he would not lose sleep for killing such individuals)...the latter of which was certainly the case with these soldiers and guards, given what they did under Scarlet in generally using Karmin's good name as an outhouse, and while he would seldom admit it aloud, he often delighted in giving such individuals a taste of their own medicine...if these guards and soldiers had a thing for bloodlust, he'd show them 'bloodlust' alright. For another, this front of mockery was an act, an act meant to goad the guards and soldiers into foolishly attacking that he could then strike them down by the dozen. And sure enough... "That little..." "...he's mocking us!" "How dare he make a fool out of..." "GET HIM!" "AFTER HIM!" ...they were swooping down towards the arena in an attempt to kill him. Looked to be a good twenty or so of them, as far as Altamir could tell. How foolish...they didn't know what they were dealing with. The armor that they were wearing, while clearly of relatively sound metallurgy, wasn't going to save them. Neither would their fire breath, their fangs, their tails, or their spears. Some of them (six of them, specifically) tried to either grab or spear him...but, faster than their eyes could see, he leapt above their arms, bow un-summoned and now with his long-form sword in his right hand and ablaze with flame once again, landing on the head of one of them. "Too slow." Altamir mocked them yet again. "You little...!" The SkyWing he landed on tried to grab at him...but only grabbed at thin air as Altamir leapt into the air once again. "GET BACK HERE!" "How sluggish..." This time, Altamir wasn't going to content himself with merely AVOIDING them... "now die!" No, he instead rocketed right at them from above... "ORAAA!" *ZNSH!* *KNSH!* *TNSH!* *SHNK!* *TNG!* *SLASH!* ...and cut right through them, landing about five or so body lengths behind one of them. One of them finally noticed where he was. " little...get back here-!" "Like I said, too slow." Altamir replied. "Don't you even know you're dead already?" "Eh? What's that supposed to-" Then, a glowing line went through the SkyWing's chest, and another through his head. "Wha-Wha in-wha's goin' on? Why am I-d-d-d-DOPII-!" *KABOOM!* With a final, distorted cry that was then cut off, the SkyWing fell to pieces in an explosion of blood and flames, and his comrades panicked at the sight... "WAAH!" "WHAT HAPPENED TO-!" "HOW DID HE-!" And then the other five started having glowing lines appearing on them as well... "Huh? Wait, no! No no no don't-I-I-m-m-MAKABAA-!" *KABOOM!* "GOJIPWAA-!" *KABOOM!* "ZHA-TOO-!" *KABOOM!* "PEYGAAA-!" *KABOOM!* "KIDABAA-!" *KABOOM!* ...before they, too, shared that comrade's fate as their voices distorted before they fell to flaming pieces, their blood pouring into the sands. Altamir would usually feel QUITE bad about killing in this manner...but how much fear and terror had these same guards and soldiers and whatnot inflicted upon so many dragons and even humans under Scarlet's orders? There were people and dragons much more deserving of mercy in his mind. The other SkyWings who were in the sands were backing up, stricken by fear after seeing how this 'tiny little thing' had managed to effortlessly kill six of their own, and in such a manner. But a (likely high-ranking) SkyWing in fancier armor wouldn't have any of that, clearly. "DON'T COWER AWAY FROM HIM! UNTIL THE NEW QUEEN IS CROWNED, WE FOLLOW THE LATE ONE TO THE END! THE FIRST ONE TO KILL THAT SCAVENGER AND BRING HIS PUNY HEAD TO ME WILL GET A PROMOTION!" This, along with the arrival of roughly twenty or so more armored SkyWings, turned the tides of the SkyWings' morale towards 'attack' again, and they now rushed Altamir once, now numbering at least 34 (not counting the fancy-armored one). "Follow her? Very well then..." Altamir simply leaned back a bit... " can follow her TO HELL!" ...before rushing them right back himself. This time, he went in, blade a burning inferno that was whirling as hard and fast as he could make it as he went all in on cutting down the SkyWings as quickly as possible. "ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA!" *BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG!* "ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA!" *BANGBANGBANGBANGBANG BANGBANGBANGBANGBANG BANGBANGBANGBANGBANG!* "ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA! ORAAAA!" *BANGBANGBANGBANG BANGBANGBANGBANG BANG!* Despite the number of SkyWings, it didn't take him that long to cut through them all. He'd come a long, LONG way from when he'd personally cut down thirty or so of Wērōd's bodyguards at age 17, so taking down a troop of SkyWings even this numerous wasn't particularly difficult for him. And it showed. "YAGAAA-!" *KABOOM!* "TEKIYAA-!" *KABOOM!* "PUJJII-!" *KABOOM!* "SUWOOO-!" *KABOOM!* "TEGOO-!" *KABOOM!* "GEZOO-!" *KABOOM!* "UWARABAA-!" *KABOOM!* "DOEHEPUU-!" *KABOOM!* "ABESHII-!" *KABOOM!* "TAWABAA-!" *KABOOM!* *KABOOMKABOOMKABOOMKABOOMKABOOMKABOOM!* *KABOOMBOOMBOOMBOOMBOOMBOOMBOOM!" Before long, all 34 of the other guards and soldiers that had come after Altamir up to that point had explosively fallen to pieces, with him having either cut around their armor, or even right THROUGH their armor. Ignoring the now terrified crowds in the audience, Altamir now landed in front of the SkyWing in the fancy armor... ...who clearly couldn't believe what he was seeing. "What did did you-?!" "What's wrong, mister fancy armor?" Altamir now applied the 'mockery' method to him as well. "Have your minions turned out to be not as mighty or as powerful as you want to believe of your tribe? Guess the whole 'SkyWing Might' deal isn't all it's cracked up to be." The fancy-armored SkyWing clearly hated hearing that. " dare you mock my tribe...!" "You made a mockery of life itself by killing so many dragons and humans for your own amusement." Altamir retorted. "And you have the audacity to get upset now? You're really one to talk." This seemed to make the SkyWing lose his patience big time. "-Gah! I won't let you make a mockery of my tribe for any longer, scavenger!" Then, he charged at Altamir. "KNOW THE NAME OF YOUR DOOM: PRINCE HAWK OF THE SKYWINGS!" This would be intimidating to anyone else, perhaps... ...but Altamir wasn't impressed. He simply dodged the SkyWing's spear and then flashed right through him with his burning blade, faster than the latter could see, before landing behind where the SkyWing was. "Hmm...seems like with all of your 'might', you couldn't kill me." Altamir was still mocking the SkyWing, who turned around, clearly looking extremely irate. "What's wrong? Are you gonna cry about it or something?" "GRRRR...GRAAAAAAGH! I'LL KILL YOU-!" "Well, too slow, I killed you first. You're already dead." "...huh?" Then, the SkyWing's armor shattered. "Wha-?! What's going on...why am I-?!" Then, the lines started appearing all over him. "H-Hey! What did you-did-you-di-di-di-HIDEBUU-!" *KABOOM!* And then he, too, fell to pieces in an explosion of blood and flames. Just like his minions had. Altamir just shook his head in exasperation. "I told you that you were dead already...and you didn't listen." Altamir said to no one in particular as he kicked the now-severed head of this 'Prince Hawk' down the stairs. "Not so 'princely' anymore. Should have known...none from any tribe can even hope to face up against me." Then, he looked around at the crowds. "Show's over! Any more of this 'killing dragons and humans for your own amusement' nonsense, and I'll be back for round two!"With that final message, he warped himself back to where Peril was, where he found her and the human boy both looking shocked at what they had just witnessed. "I'm back." He said simply. Peril and the boy both looked startled by what they had just seen before they backed down a bit... ...though clearly still confused. "Okay...h-how did you...DO all of that?!" The boy's croaking out of that question seemed to be silently mirrored in Peril's facial expression. "Don't ask how I did it...just know that it's done." Altamir replied. "Now...a few more things, and then we'll go. First..." When he said that, Altamir finally cast the spell that would turn 'Ruby' back into Tourmaline, as well as everything related to would take effect when 'Ruby' next landed after a flight. Of course, that was just one spell he was casting, and not the last. "And, next thing..." Then, he warped Pyrite to where he and Peril and the boy were standing. "Huh? Wha? Where am I? Where am-" As 'she' was panicking, Altamir cast a sleeping spell on 'her'. "" Within a few seconds, 'she' was out like a light. "Whoa, uh...what did you just do to her?" Peril asked, alarmed. "Don't worry, I didn't harm her..." Altamir waved away her concern. "...I just made it so that she's asleep now. Easier to transport this way." Then, he turned towards the cage. "Oh, and one last thing...before I forget..." Altamir then used his magic to hold the cage in place so that it wouldn't fall as he then, with his blade, cut away the portion that was holding the cage to the bar, before gently setting the cage down (so as to not harm its 'contents'). " that's done..." He then quickly looked at everyone and everything he wanted to take with him. "Let's get outta here!" So, with that, Altamir then warped himself, Peril, the human boy, the knocked-out 'Pyrite', and the cage (and all of its also-out-like-a-light 'contents') away from the SkyWing arena...---------------------...and all the way back to Maroon and Acorn's cave, hundreds of miles to the south. "Alright, we're back!" Altamir called out after making sure that the cage hadn't roughly clattered, which would injure its 'contents' more than they likely already were. It hadn't, so he turned his attention to Maroon, who answered as he came into Altamir's view with Acorn on his back. "Oh, hey, you're ba-" Maroon's voice trailed off as he was clearly not expecting there to be seven more dragons in the cave. "...uh...I thought you were just gonna go take down the...?" "I was..." Altamir replied, scratching the back of his head, "...however, there were certain...things that required my attention, to put it this way. I...yeah, I should probably explain this." Beside him, Peril shrank away from seeing the other SkyWing. "You mean that you should explain why you suddenly came back with seven whole dragons?" Acorn asked dryly. "Yeah, I think ANYONE would want that to be explained, buddy. You trying to crowd this place with 'em or something?" "Well, I..." Altamir sighed. "...let's just say that, while I was there, I found a group of...someones...whom I couldn't leave behind. Also, it's not just seven dragons, but another human here as well." "Oh...I see..." Maroon then came a little closer to Altamir and his 'cargo'. "...he looks pretty scared. Though, for that matter, so does that SkyWing..." But then Maroon stopped in his tracks and eyed the SkyWing in question, before looking at Altamir. "Uh...Altamir?" Maroon asked pensively. " realize that you brought in a Firescales, right?" "Yes I did." Altamir nodded, eyeing Maroon in turn. "What, are you going to ask me to throw her off a cliffside or something? Because that's not happening. I thought that that whole 'tradition' had long-since died off by the time I was born. Nevermind, it hasn't." "Wait, it died off...?" "Well, it HAD." Altamir shrugged. "Guess it couldn't stay dead like it should have. Ugh..." After burying his forehead in the palm of his hand for a bit, he then moved on to Peril herself and who she was. " young lady right here...her name's Peril. She was...well, unfortunately, Scarlet kept her at the arena for use as...basically a living weapon. In other words, she was the sort that Scarlet would throw dragons and even dragonets to and have her kill them...just so that Scarlet and those crowds in the stands could get a kick out of it." Nearby, Peril winced... ...while Maroon sighed. "Oh...well, gonna be honest, that sounds like something Scarlet would do. Though...I don't remember ever seeing Peril before." "That's because she's seven and a half years old." Altamir responded. "You fled her palace eight years ago, remember?" "Huh? Ah, that's, you're pretty good at listening to and remembering stuff, Altamir." "Had to be." Altamir rolled his head on his shoulders. "Won't say the profession I had...but it was one in which I couldn't afford to miss details like that." Then, he looked at the seven dragons and one human that he'd brought with him. He had a little bit of...spell-work to do, to say the least. "Hmm..." Altamir thought somewhat aloud. "Now, where do I start..." Though, before he could make whatever was going to be his initial choice on who to start with, he felt someone tapping his shoulder, and saw that same human boy he'd rescued from the arena looking at him with wide eyes. "...what?" "Y-You..." The boy was stammering all over his words. " to...a..a dragon. You to a dragon. You..." "...yes, I can talk to a dragon." Altamir replied, an eyebrow raised at the boy. " it so unusual to you? Last time I remembered, it was a perfectly normal everyday thing. Is it not so wherever you live and such?" "" The boy then looked between Altamir and Maroon. "...uh, what specifically was he saying?" "He was simply asking about why I brought seven dragons back to his cave. I thought it would be rather loud and clear." Then, the boy put his fingers together. "M...Maybe you it is...but..." He seemed to have a hard time putting whatever he was going to say into words for a bit before he finally said what he wanted to say. " do I say this...I'm...only hearing one side of the conversation." "Only hearing one..." Altamir tilted his head, trying to figure out what was going on. "...what do you mean by that? I heard what he was saying perfectly..." But then his voice took its turn to trail off as Altamir started to smell a rat. "Wait a second...something's off." The boy had said something along the lines of being unable to understand what Maroon was saying. "But Maroon and I are speaking the same language as he is! How could he not understand a thing that Maroon was-" ...! And then he finally picked up on something that he had been feeling from the boy.While he'd always known that his sword and 'bow', whenever he summoned either of them, had this unique 'feel' to them, it was shortly after he'd met an animus dragon for the first time early on in his rule over all of Pyrrhia that Altamir found and realized that he had an actual sixth sense: he could sense Animus Magic. Specifically, he could sense who was a user of it and what (or, occasionally, who) it was used on, and he could do both by sensing the signature of the aura that such individuals and objects and whatnot gave off (it was how he was able to pick up that both Maroon and Acorn were Animi). And while he hadn't been really paying attention to it like he probably should have, given that his current 'task' of rescuing these dragonets and taking down Scarlet along the way, as well as doing the spell-work that he'd have to do on those dragonet, had been occupying that attention, he was now feeling it very, very strongly from the boy... "That's...the signature...that's an Animus signature! Just like on 'Pyrite' and 'Ruby'! And they were enchanted into being entirely different dragons...if it was possible to do that with Animus Magic, and this young man can't understand what Maroon is saying when he should be able to..." ...and it was all coming together. "...then this young man...he may have been...he has to have been..." "Hey, wait, hold on," Altamir went to figure out the exact circumstances of what was likely a spell (or, rather, a 'curse', as Altamir would call it in such a situation like this), "what specifically are you hearing from him? Are you unable to understand a thing he's saying, if you can hear him at all?" "I-I-I hear him! I hear him! It's just...I...can't...I...I can't really figure out exactly what he's saying to you, okay? It...well, to me, he just sounds like he's making a bunch of roars and growls and hisses and stuff...not real, actual words. I can't know what he's saying unless you tell me." "Just a bunch of...well that's not normal." Altamir then looked over at Maroon. "Maroon, he's saying that he can only hear 'a bunch of roars and growls and hisses' whenever you're talking. Is there, in turn, anything 'funny' going on on your end when it comes to hearing him?" "Uh..." Maroon looked around at the cave floor before answering. "...well, if it helps you, I'm only hearing a bunch of squeaking and 'yibbling' from him." "So it's on his end as well..." Altamir then looked back at the boy. "...though...a single spell can affect those around an enchanted individual or an object also. Either way, time to break this thing out of this poor kid." Altamir had no idea why someone would put an 'enchantment' like this on some kid. It probably had to do with the Animus in question being an Animus Dragon driven mad by usage of his or her powers. Things like this made a statement by his late uncle about how "madmen and madwomen see what they see" ring very, very, very true. "...alright, so..." Altamir then turned back to the boy as he put an arm around the latter under his arms and just under his shoulders, "...I want you to hold still and not panic. Just gonna do something here, alright?" "Gonna do what?" As the boy asked this, Altamir got to work breaking the spell with a 'counter-spell/spell-breaker' that he'd developed over his years of existence just in case he DID encounter someone who had a curse placed on them...and now it came in handy. "Wait, what are you-" *BZZAP* Just then, Altamir finally broke the spell...but the recoil from him doing it upon the boy was pretty nasty to the latter... the point where the boy fainted in Altamir's arm. "That's a strong spell..." Altamir was alarmed, but shook his head and then got to work with healing magic to make sure that nothing serious had happened to the boy. "Okay...don't panic..." Right...he'd heard from records dating back to Tomur's time that breaking in this manner a particularly powerful spell that had been placed on someone could result in the latter feeling dizzy or unwell for a time if it was a human who had been 'enchanted'. Dragons didn't seem to have this problem...but they were also generally bigger and more durable than humans, who were smaller and much more physically frail by comparison. Though...Tomur wasn't necessarily talking about Animus Magic when he said that in that record Altamir read...and besides, Animus Magic generally didn't have this issue. Had there been more than just Animus Magic to cast this spell, or...? " he okay?" Peril asked, cutting Altamir out of his thoughts and finally speaking after having been quiet for a while. "What did you do to him?" "Broke the spell, that's what I did." Altamir replied. "I think he'll wake up again in a little bit...ah, there he is." Sure enough, the boy was awake again. "...wuh...wha...? Wha-Wha happened to me? What did you..." Behind him, Peril's jaw fell open again. "Broke whatever spell it was that was put upon you." Altamir replied as he carefully sat the boy down. "Sorry about the 'fainting' pun intended." "Whoa...he...he can talk too?!" Peril reacted with shock for the second time to a human being able to talk, for some reason. Poor girl really must not have been able to experience the outside world, hadn't she? Oh wait right she had lived in an arena- "Of course he can talk." Maroon sighed. "It's just that now you're able to hear what he's saying, Peril." Then, Maroon walked over towards Altamir and the boy. As he did so, Peril shrunk away while the boy clung to Altamir's leg as Maroon then looked at him. "Hey there...what's your name?" "Uh...Leaf?" "In what spelling?" Altamir then asked. "L-E-I-F?" "No, with an 'A', not an 'I'." Leaf? After the thing that fell from the...what, were they all named after tree parts and tree-related things now? What next, was this kid gonna have parents named 'Branch' and 'Trunk', and a sister named 'Stump'? Seriously, what in the name of the gods had happened to the naming conventions, anyways? Ah, whatever...he'd ask about it later. "Well, Leaf," Altamir said after a bit, "glad to see that the whole 'communication' issue is resolved." Then, he looked at the seven dragonets that he had brought back. "Now then, I've got some work to do on these kids here. I suppose you can go hang out with Maroon for a bit while I do that." And so, Altamir then began walking back over to the seven dragonets. It was then that he remembered that he was still wearing his armor...but he decided, for certain reasons, against taking it off just yet. Though, before he could get far, Leaf (by the gods, he couldn't believe that was his name) interrupted him. "Uh...sir?" "Hm?" "Um...I...I'm not the only human you need to save from...that palace or whatever." ! " aren't?" Altamir felt a wave of dread over him upon hearing that, though he tried not to show it. Oh no, he'd forgotten some, hadn't he? "...yeah, I'm not." "Well then, who are the others?" "Uh, they're named Cranberry, Rowan, and Thyme." "...alright. So you want me to bring them here?" "Y-Yeah, please do." "Very well." So, Altamir took a few steps back over to Leaf before looking into his mind briefly to identify who the five humans were. Once he did, he then picked out a spot about ten feet to Leaf's left, and then warped the three humans from wherever they were to that particular spot...and they appeared in a flash. "Whoa...just like that?" Leaf asked in clear awe. "Yep." Then, Altamir walked over to the three humans (Cranberry and Rowan being female, Thyme being male, and all looking Seleukian in complexion like Leaf was, and all three looking to be...roughly in their early twenties, if Altamir was to estimate), and as they were all mumbling in a daze as to how they got here... "...huh? Where are..." "What in..." "How did we..." ...Altamir got their attention. "Cranberry, Rowan, and Thyme, was it? Is that who the three of you are?" The three humans looked at Altamir in surprise before Thyme answered. "...uh...yeah? How did you know our...?" "Leaf here told me." Altamir answered back in turn, motioning to Leaf standing next to him. "That's how." "Um...okay then." Rowan seemed to accept this, though she quickly began looking rather frightened, as did Thyme and Cranberry. "But...uh...""'But' what?" " realize that there's a...a dragon behind you...and another one over there...right?"Altamir figured pretty quickly that Rowan was talking about Maroon and Peril. "Oh, those two? Yeah, there are. What of it?" "...shouldn't you be...worried about that?" Cranberry asked, clearly questioning Altamir's sanity. "What, do you think that they're like the ones that managed to get their talons on the four of you?" Altamir cocked his head at her. "Because they're not." "...are you sure about that?" Before Altamir could answer Thyme's questioning, Maroon cut in. "Uh, Altamir, they have the 'squeaking and yibbling' thing going on with them from my end too." "...they do? Well, that's a bit of a problem." At that, Altamir walked over to the three of them and went to repeat with them what he'd previously done with Leaf. "Alright, you three come here for a bit..." So, Altamir broke the spell on them as well, the three of them also fainting briefly at having that spell broken, and they also reacted with shock at being able to talk to dragons (again, it was a normal thing, or at the very least was supposed to be). Once they got used to the idea of being able to talk to dragons, Altamir then sent them and Leaf to the back of the cave with Acorn and Maroon ("Alright, the lot of you can go talk to him. I'm needing to work on some things here.") so that he could focus on his task. While he heard some of the group of humans apparently arguing with Acorn about going with Maroon in the background (he heard at least one "come on, he won't bite" from Acorn), Altamir found himself standing before Peril again. At least this time, she was sitting up, though there was a great deal of uncertainty in her eyes. "Peril?" "A-Altamir?" "I'm sure that you might have noticed that there is a...glaring issue that you have. You know what I'm talking about?" "Uh...I served Scarlet?" "We've already fixed that one. The other one. The reason as to why I'm currently glad you're on a stone cave floor." " mean me being a Firescales?" "Mhm. So, obviously, it doesn't change that I find the whole practice of 'let's throw this defenseless hatchling off a high cliff for having too much fire' to be disgusting, but...well, you know some of the problems that being a Firescales can bring, right?" "...yeah...I do. Lots of them." "Indeed. Prevents you from living your life normally, makes you a walking hazard to anything and anyone around you." Altamir then looked at 'Pyrite', then at the five dragonets in the cage, then at Peril again as he wondered how to put this. "So, Peril...if there was an opportunity to, say, either get rid of your firescales or be able to 'turn it off', so to speak...what would you think of that?" "I..." Peril's eyes lit up. "...I'd love that! I'd do anything for that! I'd love to just be a normal dragon!" "So you would." Altamir then chuckled for a bit. "Well, in that case...I have just the thing for that. Thing're not the first Firescales that I've ever encountered, Peril. When they found out that I could do something about their burning scales, they pretty much begged me to do that. I, however, have, each time, done something better than that." Then, he walked closer to Peril until he put his hand on Peril's front right limb, once again showcasing his inability to be burnt. "I can turn something this debilitating into a superpower." "A...wait, a 'superpower'?" "Exactly." Altamir nodded. "Now, obviously, it more than gets in the way of everyday life, but your condition also means that you can't get burnt, you recover from frost breath very quickly, you can't be poisoned, and SandWing stingers bounce off of you like they're nothing. So, while there's a lot of downsides, there are some pretty key upsides. What I'm thinking of...instead of getting rid of it period, why not be able to have it 'turned off' when you don't need it, and 'turned on' when you do? Because not being able to turn it off isn't the problem here." "Uh...oh yeah, that's better than just getting rid of it!" It then seemed to sink in as to why Altamir said that to her. "...wait, does that mean you can do that for me?" "Wouldn't be saying so if I couldn't." Altamir grinned. This led to the sight of an at-least-30 foot-long dragon giving him the puppy eyes. "Pleeeeeeeease? Please please please pretty please?" Altamir laughed at seeing this. "Alright, alright, alright, I'll get to it! Just get down here for me and we'll get started." So, Altamir got to work on the first of seven dragons, with Peril being that first. Frankly, giving her the ability to turn her Firescales off and on was the easiest part, given how he'd been able to do so for so many Firescales dragons he'd met. The somewhat-more-complicated part was getting her to be able to know how to use it, as Altamir had to walk her through being able to do so. That took a few minutes. Nonetheless, it only took that long for Peril to get the hang of it, and once she had..."Well, Peril, you can be a normal dragon and still have something that's very useful and that you can turn on whenever you need it. How's that?" He didn't get a word from Peril at first...but then he saw a drop of water hit the ground, and then more and more. He looked up and saw tears streaming down a 'scales off' Peril's face. Something that had likely never been able to stream down her muzzle before. "Does this mean...that I...I don't have to be called a...a 'monster' or 'freak' anymore other dragons?" "You never were either of those, Peril. You merely had the misfortune of being under someone who was indeed both of those things." Altamir sighed, before stretching out his arms for her. "Come here..." So then, Altamir spent the next few minutes holding Peril's snout in an embrace…and getting himself soaked in her tears. He would never turn down a dragonet in distress...though he very much also knew that he had six more dragonets to work on, so, after those few minutes, and after Peril had calmed down enough, he gently broke off the embrace and had her go hang out with Maroon and the others in the back of the cave. It was for good reason as to why he did this. Hailstorm was next. "This is likely to be the trickiest one." Altamir noted mentally as he walked up to the sleeping Pyrite. "I must be careful about this. Not only will I have to undue this forced 'Pyrite' guise and erase all of his memory of his time under it to make sure that it won't damage him mentally, and make sure that he doesn't wake up too early during that time, but I'll have to anticipate a flight-or-fight response from him once he wakes up. With his time as Pyrite out of the picture, the last thing he'll have remembered is having been captured by Scarlet and being held prisoner by her, so if he sees Maroon or Peril before it can be gotten through to him that the two of them are not enemies, he'll either try to attack them or bolt. Both are bad - the latter since, given that the MudWings and SkyWings are both allied to each other and also at war with his tribe, and that we're roughly on the border of both SkyWing and MudWing lands, he's be deep in enemy territory and very, very far from home. I need to be the first thing he sees so that he can see someone who is significantly less threatening and perhaps be reasonable enough to have it explained to him that Maroon and Peril are not his enemies...and then I'll have to find a way to get him somewhere safe." If he messed this up, not only would all of his hard work be for nothing, but a prince of a tribe, a dragonet, a boy, would be dead, and the blood would be on his hands. Altamir grit his teeth as he set to work on the young dragonet. "Here I go, Hailstorm." First, and critically, he made sure that the sleeping spell currently on 'Pyrite' would carry over to Hailstorm himself as well once 'Pyrite' was a 'had-been'. Once he did that, then he set to work at getting rid of the 'Pyrite' guise. Now, getting rid of the guise wasn't that difficult in and of itself; it was clearly the case that the enchantment was 'contained' in the necklace that 'Pyrite' was wearing, so, at least on paper, taking it off would turn Hailstorm back to normal (well, sort of, anyways). If anything, the thing that Altamir was worried about was whether or not something bad would happen because of Hailstorm being asleep when turning back into well as because 'Pyrite' was apparently smaller than Hailstorm actually was. Altamir had to be careful that such wouldn't happen. So, he decided to magically suspend 'Pyrite' in the air...and once he did, and with a quick prayer to the gods that nothing would go badly, THEN he took it off. And...well, what happened next would have given him a heart attack if he hadn't read in those same records that the whole 'changing back' bit tended to look this way... ...because it wasn't exactly what one would call 'easy on the eyes'. The dragonet's scales slid off as though 'Pyrite' was melting, and the body changed shape, form, and build as if, at once, both growing and snapping into place, with the snout narrowing and lengthening, the orange color bleeding swiftly out of each scale, and sharp spikes ramming up through the skin along the tip of the tail. This transformation had to have been exceedingly painful, and by the gods was Altamir glad that Hailstorm wasn't conscious, because there was no way that this wouldn't have been a horrifying thing to be awake through. Regardless, when it was done, Altamir was relieved to see an at-least-apparently unharmed IceWing that he was now magically holding in the air, and so, with a sigh of relief, he carefully set the snoozing dragonet down in a position that was a much more natural one to sleep in...though he checked to make sure that nothing was 'messed-up', so to speak, and then hit Hailstorm up with a round of healing magic anyways just to be sure on that part. Altamir had to admit that every tribe of dragon could look beautiful, majestic even, in their own way, but when it came to at the very least appearance, at least in his opinion, IceWings were...probably number two when it came to 'most beautiful', just ahead of SeaWings (which were number three), and only behind RainWings (who were an admittedly obvious choice for first place). And Hailstorm here proved it; he certainly was a very pretty dragonet...Altamir was betting that he probably had the attention of all of the girl dragonets his age back in the IceWing Kingdom. Though, while he COULD admire Hailstorm's good looks and all...he had a task to do. So, he continued upon it by moving to the next step. Erasing Hailstorm's memories of his time as 'Pyrite'. After 'pocketing' the necklace used to enchant Hailstorm into Pyrite (it was yet another of the myriad of abilities that he'd developed and/or discovered after being on this world for so long: he could magically store objects away until they were either needed for use or he needed to present them to someone), Altamir got to work once more. Altamir didn't like messing with someone's head like this, given that it would entail erasing an entire YEAR of memory in this case, but, again, the effects of having been under the forced guise of Pyrite for so long would be...damaging, to say the least, if he just, say, made Hailstorm wake up without doing this. This was a necessity. Altamir did not like having to find the exact time that was right before the necklace was first put on Hailstorm, but he needed to do so to find the 'cut-off' point as for how far back he was going to do what he was going to do. Sure enough, he found it, and so prepared the spell that would do this. It would be a one-off spell that would only take effect once, and probably wouldn't be entirely permanent, with the possible chance of his memories as Pyrite coming back piece by piece in his nightmares, but he did not want to magically compel Hailstorm's brain to artificially force it to never remember anything about Pyrite ever again, as he felt that such would be doing too similar of a thing that Chameleon did when forcibly turning into 'Pyrite': robbing him of his free will. Besides, if it came back only in bits and pieces, and Hailstorm had the basic knowledge of what had happened during that missing year, he'd understand why he was suddenly remembering such things, and it likely wouldn't cause him too much distress... ...well, aside from how an entire year of his life was wasted thanks to that damn maniac Scarlet. Good riddance to her, once again. Regardless, once the spell was ready, Altamir cast it upon Hailstorm. He didn't know if Hailstorm would notice anything different while he was asleep...if he was even actively dreaming at all. The IceWing dragonet didn't notably fidget or shift around in his sleep when Altamir did this, perhaps not. But now, now that all that had been was time to go through the difficult task of waking Hailstorm up. So, Altamir carefully positioned Hailstorm's head so that the boy would be looking at the wall when he opened his eyes, and so that Altamir would be the first thing he saw. As he did so, though, he then noticed something that hadn't really registered earlier. When he 'saw' for himself Hailstorm's original disastrous run-in with Scarlet, he noticed that Hailstorm was...rather on the large side for a dragonet his age at the time. Dragonets who had just turned 5 years old were generally, on average, 22-27 feet long from nose to base-of-tail, and 10-12 feet tall at the shoulder, with a mean length of 24-25 feet long, and a mean height of 11 feet tall. So, logically, Hailstorm, who had quite recently turned 5 at the time of his original capture at Scarlet's talons, and was (at least apparently) at the upper end of the average ranges in both length and height figures back then, should have been roughly 31 feet long and roughly 14 feet tall by now, given that those figures were the upper end of 'average' for 6-year-old dragonets, and it had been a year from the time he'd been captured to the time that Altamir had rescued him. Instead, however...Hailstorm was the same size now as he had been back then. That was...alright, that was odd. That was not normal. Wait, so...did that mean that...that Hailstorm's body, and possibly also (perhaps, at least, maturity-wise) his mind, had basically been frozen in time while he was 'Pyrite', and so, in effect, he was still 5 years old, for all intents and purposes? If such was the case...then if (and hopefully when) Winter reunited with his big brother, the effective age difference between them would effectively be only one year, rather than two, and it would also show in the size difference being less. But alas, enough piddling. It was time to wake Hailstorm up. So, Altamir deactivated the spell keeping Hailstorm asleep, and then gently began tapping the IceWing on the snout. As was typical of his tribe, his scales were cold to the touch - he would not exactly be an opportune pick for someone looking for a companion to warm up with in the cold weather that was floating about right now, but he'd be an excellent companion for someone needing to cool off on a hot summer day. Regardless, after a few seconds, the dragonet began stirring a bit, and then opened his pretty blue eyes common amongst his tribe, blinking them a few times. "Where...ugh, where am I?" The IceWing groggily asked himself as he was waking up, before focusing his eyes on Altamir. "I...oh...huh, there's one in front of me...wait, how is it so close and not running away...?" "" Altamir tilted his head at the dragonet. "What do you mean 'not running away'?" Altamir had only meant to innocently ask about his mumbling question, and was about to ask about the usage of 'it' to refer to him. But before he could ask that...he saw Hailstorm's eyes widen, and then the IceWing's head shot up a few feet before he went still as a statue. "D-Did you...did you just t-talk to me?" The words came stumbling out of Hailstorm's mouth, as Altamir saw not just shock in those eyes... ...but horror as well. But why? All Altamir did, period, in front of an awake Hailstorm was talk! "I...was just wanting to ask you a few things, you know...I was wondering if-" "I'M SORRY!" Altamir took a step back in surprise and confusion as Hailstorm himself scrambled and stumbled back until he was up against the wall of the cave. "I-I'm so sorry, I didn't know you guys could-could talk! I...I...uh, I..." "Wait, what?!" This statement was...baffling to Altamir, to say the least. "What do you mean you had no idea? It's a perfectly normal thing! How could..." But then his voice trailed off as he made a connection. "...this is the third time that a dragon has reacted with shock to me being able to talk. This poor kid's got the worst reaction so far; he looks horrified." A small part of him had thought (and was hoping) that this was limited to one tribe, and that Scarlet's shenanigans were the reason behind why...but Hailstorm was an IceWing, and while he had spent a full year as Pyrite, Altamir had erased his memories of such, and... " is? R-Really?" "Well, it's supposed to be." Altamir answered Hailstorm. "Hold you even know that we're properly called 'humans'?" "...oh, so that's your proper name? Uh...n-no, I never knew that. A-As far as I know, we usually call your kind 'scavengers'." "So it's indeed not just the SkyWings. The IceWings have this issue as well. I don't know how many other tribes this affects, but even then, that still tells me: something has happened to Pyrrhia while I was gone." What specifically was it, though? Was it a steady decline, or something sudden and catastrophic? And if it was someone, not something that did it...who did it? As he thought about this, he couldn't ignore that Hailstorm was a stuttering mess just like Peril was. "Hailstorm being this nervous and horrified, though... odd coming from a dragonet who had previously been so brave, despite his circumstances." And this shock and horror and...fear seemed to have been specifically set off by him being able to talk to Hailstorm...was it related to whatever had happened? "...does he know something that I don't? Something that would give me a heart attack if I heard what specifically it was from him?" Part of him wanted to press the issue with Hailstorm...but much as that curious, investigative side of him wanted to do so, he just couldn't do it. Hailstorm was a confused dragonet waking up from a year's time of being imprisoned inside another dragon, for one thing, and Altamir just wasn't the person to interrogate a child, a boy, out of curiosity over something. For another, if the usually-brave Hailstorm was this horrified about whatever it was...then it was probably something that it would be better that he not find out. And for yet another, he STILL had a task to do with regards to Hailstorm and the other five dragonets. " uh, wh-where am I, e-exactly?" So, with the opportunity given to him by Hailstorm asking him this, Altamir (reluctantly) dropped the issue of this mysterious event, and simply answered that question. "...where are you?'ll take a bit to get it to roll off the tongue, but let's just start by saying that, along with a few other dragonets I saved, I've managed to rescue your snowy hide from Scarlet and her minions...had to kill her and a lot of those minions just to do it, though." Altamir watched Hailstorm's jaw fall open when he told the young IceWing this. "...wait, you really-?! actually...?" "You heard me correctly: yes, I did." Altamir nodded, allowing himself a small grin. "Turned Scarlet's putrid, gaudy face in particular into a stain on the wall and floor around her." Hailstorm chuckled in seeming disbelief. " job getting me out of there, I guess...? Though...uh...h-how in three moons did you even do that?! You're so small..." "Oh, come on, I've always been small!" Altamir laughed a bit himself before he properly replied. "A little life lesson for you here: you should never underestimate someone or something based on size. While I can't quite show you specifically how I did it because of the cramped quarters here and all...let's just say that I have my ways. If I could show you, you'd probably believe it pretty easily." "Um...alright then...heh...never thought I'd find myself being saved by a sca...human, of all things..." Then, though, Hailstorm lowered his head to Altamir again. "...uh...what's your name?" "Eh? Ah shit, we've never introduced ourselves to each other, haven't we? name's 'Altamir'." "Altamir...oh, I guess you humans have different naming customs than we dragons do...and you can call me 'Hailstorm'. Prince Hailstorm." "We do have different naming customs...and Prince Hailstorm? Well, how about that, I ended up saving a prince of an entire tribe." "You did...and in all seriousness, thank you for saving me." Hailstorm then brought his snout low enough for Altamir to hold it with his own arms...which he did. "I know I do put on a brave face most of the time...but I really did think that that was going to be it for me...that I was going to die in her arena for that monster's amusement. Call it stupid or cowardly, but I don't wanna die. Especially not like that..." "There's nothing 'stupid' or 'cowardly' about not wanting to die." Altamir sighed as he embraced Hailstorm's snout like he did with Peril's before. "Especially not from someone as young as you are. I have no idea who put it in your head that it somehow was...but whoever it was, they're wrong. Far from it, it's perfectly normal...particularly when one is dealing with someone like Scarlet." "'m not..." "No, Hailstorm, you're not." Altamir gently patted Hailstorm's snout as he held the IceWing dragonet. "It's alright, buddy. You're still a kid. Kids shouldn't be having to worry about dying in ways like that, or in general. I'm not the sort to shame someone for their 'brave face' slipping in a situation like that. It's alright." So, Altamir held Hailstorm in that embrace around the young IceWing's snout. It was a carry over from his days with his companions of old and raising so many orphaned dragonets...but being able to hold dragons and dragonets like this always put him at ease, allowed him to clear his mind, to banish the stresses and miseries of the world around him, at least for a little while. Given how Hailstorm was even leaning into it (much like Peril had when they'd first met last night), it seemed that he was enjoying this embrace as well, as had so many of the other dragons and dragonets he'd either adopted or had been close friends with (though, to be fair, Altamir was always gentle whenever he did this, and would respect any dragon or dragonet not wanting him to do this with them, so it probably had something to do with that). Alas, he couldn't hold Hailstorm in this embrace forever (which, of course, was a great shame), and he'd need to fill in the IceWing as to what circumstances he was found in, and where they currently were, so he released the IceWing dragonet from it after a few minutes. Even Hailstorm himself seemed a little disappointed that it ended as well. It was then that Altamir pulled himself to getting around to properly filling in Hailstorm on those aforementioned things (albeit not mentioning that the 'SkyWing' who turned him into 'Pyrite' was actually a RainWing). He hated having to wipe that nice smile off of the dragonet's face, but it had to be done. So he did it. Once he was done, poor Hailstorm was simultaneously horrified to find, and seemingly having a hard time wrapping his head around the fact, that he'd been turned into an entirely different dragon as a particularly twisted form of 'imprisonment', and that he'd been 'imprisoned' in such a manner for an entire year, and that Altamir had to resort to wiping his memories of that time in such 'imprisonment' for the sake of his sanity. And he was quite dismayed to find that he was still deep in enemy territory and also even further from home than he already was. Though, he took a while to catch on to something that should have been somewhat obvious when Altamir explained in detail about the forced guise of 'Pyrite'. "'re're an Animus?!" "I...yes." Altamir sighed in response. He noticed that he was sighing an awful lot. "Yes, I am.” "But...that's a...a dragon's ability! Or...wait, so humans can be Animi too?""Yes, yes, yes, they can." Altamir nodded. "It's even rarer than it already is in dragons, but they can. And when they are, they compensate for their rarity by being perhaps even more powerful than dragon ones are." "...really? Even though you're smaller?" "...didn't I already tell you not to underestimate anyone or anything based on size? When it comes to Animus Magic, the physical size of the user simply doesn't matter. That's how I was able to take down Scarlet and...roughly 40 or so of her guards and soldiers, as well as Prince Hawk, one of Scarlet's sons, and save your frosty hide." "...oh, so that's how you took her down and saved me." "Indeed. Now then..." Altamir then began to think aloud as to how to get Hailstorm somewhere safe. "...what am I going to do about you being deep in enemy territory? As we know, you're at the very least half a continent away from even the most southeastern portions of your tribe's territory, and trying to fly there from here would mean flying through hundreds of miles of enemy territory, and hundreds more miles of potential enemy territory, which would bring with it the chance of you being attacked and either getting captured again, or even killed this time. So, I'm afraid that that's out of the question." Then, Altamir put his hand to his chin. "However...I do have a bit of an idea as to where else I might be able to send you." "You do? What is it?" "...well, alright, I should clarify that I might possibly have a bit of an idea...depends on how you answer this question for me." "...and that question is?" "Hailstorm...what do you know about the RainWings?" "Huh? Uh...not a lot, admittedly. Um...they're pretty lazy? They don't really do anything but eat and sleep all day? They're not participating or getting involved in the war at all? None of them have fought in any battles against the other tribes ever since the war began? Is that...that's what you're asking of me, right? Sorry, Aldy, I really don't know a lot; my tribe never considered them to be very...important to know about, as there was no real point to it." "Perhaps not." Altamir acknowledged, then remembering a tidbit from his questioning of Maroon about the state of Pyrrhia. "But...what you HAVE told is consistent with what I've heard from another dragon, who said something very similar to what you've told me. And that dragon was from an opposing tribe to yours in this war. If two different dragons from two different tribes on two different sides of a war...hmm..." It was then that the pieces fell into place. "...ah, I see. Ah, yes." "" "So, said that the RainWings haven't gotten involved in the war, nor have they ever fought or fought in any battle with the other tribes, right?" "...yeah, I did. My tutors used to say that it was because they were simply too lazy to put together a proper army to do so." Altamir rolled his eyes. "...alright, so, I will say that that's probably a stereotype...reality could be different. That being said...if they haven't gotten involved, nor fought in any battles ever since the war started..." Then, Altamir began to chuckle. "...uh, Altamir?" Altamir then crossed his arms with a grin. "Oh, come on, Hailstorm, don't you love it when a plan comes together? I love it when a plan comes together." "...I mean, yeah, I do too...wait, you got a plan?" Hailstorm lighting up at hearing what Altamir said was still adorable. "Oh, I've got one alright." Altamir clenched his right hand. "Now then, Hailstorm...when in a war like this would make sense for you to have your troops stationed either along the border or close to it so that you can either repel attacks from, or launch attacks on, your foes, right?" "It does, yeah." "Ah, good. So, in the case of the MudWing-SkyWing alliance under Queen-Claimant Burn...that would mean the western side of this mountain range, and their western coasts, against your tribe, as well as against which portions of the SandWings are under Blister and Blaze, and then their eastern coasts against the SeaWings, wouldn't it?" "It...uh, yeah, it would. Uh...the western side of the mountains was where Winter and I got..." "Yes, it was." Altamir nodded, and then he said something that he hoped would make the connection. "But we're not in any of those places. We're on the EASTERN side of the mountain range, on the border between the two tribes in that alliance...and they're on the same side as each other. That, and we're specifically in the southern part of that eastern side, far away from the action. And the nearest other tribe from here is one that, as far as we know, hasn't ever gotten in the war ever. In nineteen whole years of it." "Right..." Hailstorm then indeed made that connection. "...wait, so there's probably way less soldiers down here, right?" "Indeed." Altamir was pleased to see Hailstorm catching on. "Now, there may still be some, but given how far away it is from the action and whatnot, it wouldn't make any sense to station any more than the bare minimum anywhere between here and the RainWings' territory. Speaking of the RainWings...have they ever been attacked by any of the tribes involved in the war?" "'t think so? At least with my tribe, anyways. My tutors said that it wouldn't be worth the effort." "Which, again, is also what I've heard from that other dragon...and his tribe's queen was Scarlet. Scarlet. If even she apparently considered it not worth the effort as well, then the same may be true of the other tribes in this war." "...oh, so that 'other dragon' was a SkyWing-" "Yes, I know, but that's besides the point, Hailstorm." Then, Altamir took a few steps forward until he had his hand on Hailstorm's right forelimb...which, up to the shoulder, was a little over twice as tall as he himself was. "That point is...if they're not getting involved, and they've never attacked, nor have they been attacked by, any tribe...then, perhaps...perhaps...the RainWings' territory could be somewhere you can go to get away from the MudWings and the SkyWings. If you can get there, and you avoid angering, offending, or provoking the 'locals' into ceasing to be 'lazy', you should be able to do just fine. Food's plentiful down there, and if no other tribe is attacking, it should do just fine as a safe bolt-hole." Hailstorm looked at him in silence for a few seconds before responding. ", you want me to actually go among the RainWings...?" Altamir sighed. "Hailstorm, I can tell you want to get back to your tribe, but like we've discussed earlier, that just isn't feasible or possible right now. The next best thing you can do right now is to go somewhere safe." He emphasized the last three words with one hand-tap on that forelimb for each word. "Alright?" Hailstorm nodded unenthusiastically. "...alright. I...okay. I understand." "Good. Now, for how you're going to get there..." Altamir then looked in the direction that Maroon and Peril and Acorn and Leaf were in before looking back to Hailstorm. "...we need to remember that, while there are going to be less soldiers along the way, it will likely be certain that there will still be, I'll have to send you there with someone if we're to increase the chances of you getting there safe and sound." "...uh...uh-huh. Though...who are you gonna send me there with? Yourself?"Altamir laughed at this. "Me? Look, Hailstorm, I'd love to, but I'm still gonna be kinda busy with these five dragonets here." He then nodded towards the five dragonets still in that cage. ", then. But then...who else?" "Well, Hailstorm..." So, Altamir got to explaining, albeit carefully, about the two SkyWings who were at the back of the cave. Initially, Hailstorm was, predictably, very alarmed at hearing that there were two dragons of the very tribe that had captured him in the same cave as he currently was, but Altamir did get him to settle down after he drove it home that Maroon and Peril had, in fact, defected from Scarlet, and so were not at all the young IceWing's enemies. Then, Altamir, carefully (again), introduced Hailstorm to Maroon and Peril in-person. Things were, predictably (also again), tense at first, but after a minute or so, Altamir was able to get it so that Hailstorm at least didn't regard Maroon and Peril with hostility. Once that was out of the way, Altamir then went over the idea that he had for where Hailstorm could go, and asked Maroon and Peril, and by extension Acorn, if they wanted to volunteer for taking Hailstorm to the RainWing territory. He'd expected them to either hesitate or say 'no' outright to the idea...but to his surprise, they instead were pretty quick to get on board with it. Though, when they explained as to why, their reasoning for it made a great deal of sense. Due to their respective situations, none of them had any particular desire to stay in SkyWing territory; Maroon and Acorn had been living like fugitives and moving often due to Maroon being a runaway prince from the palace AND an Animus, and him not wanting to be discovered to be such, and Peril didn't feel like she could stay in the SkyWing realm for any longer after having been Scarlet's bloody pawn for so long. If anything, the three of them admitted that they very much liked the idea of being in the RainWing Kingdom and away from all the nonsense of the continent-wide war. With their eagerness to be in on the plan confirmed, the next few minutes or so were spent discussing the finer details of the plan, including what to do along the way, and what specific route to take. Then, after a quick, last meal, Acorn, Hailstorm, Maroon, and Peril were at the entrance, readying themselves to leave as Altamir and Leaf saw them off. "Alright, Peril, remember what we said about when and how to use your firescales?" "Have them on when we're flying or when other dragons are nearby, and have them off when landing and no other dragons are around?" "Exactly! Now then, the rest of us are going to stay here with these five dragonets still in that cage. I'm planning on rejoining the four of you for these four here, they've got some time to figure out where they're gonna go." "Well then, Aldy, we'll see you later!""Good luck!" And so, Hailstorm, Peril, and Maroon (who had Acorn tightly clinging to his back) all took off into the frigid breeze as Altamir and the other four humans watched them leave. Once they were gone, Altamir then saw Leaf looking at him with nervous eyes, and the other three giving him similar looks. "So...uh...what do we do now?" Leaf asked as the five of them all walked back into the cave, the others following Altamir. "What do we do now?" Altamir repeated Leaf's question back at the boy before answering. "Well, we're going to go work on these five dragonets in that big cage there. I'm going to get them out of that cage, and then I want you four to help me with a few things here and there with regards to them." " expect us to help you-" "Yes, I do." Altamir was a bit sharp in his reply to Rowan, making her flinch. "These dragonets, these kids...they need our help. We will do the needful. Simple as that." "Whatever you say..." Thyme shrugged as Altamir kept walking towards the cage, intent on making sure that the dragonets would not have to spend any longer in the damnable piece of metal. Seeing those poor dragonets still in that cage made Altamir's skin just about crawl off his body and start climbing the cave walls. To keep a dragon, especially a dragonet, in a cage like this, particularly when they'd done nothing wrong aside from merely existing in the wrong place at the wrong just wasn't right. It just wasn't right whatsoever. It was like keeping a beautiful bird with a beautiful voice and a friendly, loving personality in what was effectively a tiny, chain-link box. Soon, that beautiful bird would wither away from the stresses of being kept in such a horrific confinement. The only reason why he hadn't gotten them out of the thing already at this point was because things kept getting in the way. But now that everything else was was time to set the caged birds free, so to speak. Altamir was soon standing in front of the cage, mentally laying curse upon curse on Scarlet's name as he looked at the 'contents'. The five dragonets inside were all still asleep, Altamir watching their chests move and expand and contract with each breath. He still had that 'sleeping spell' on them, one which he could not afford to break just yet, but that he wished that he could. Alas, these dragonets clearly had wounds that needed tending to, and it would be much easier to do so with them asleep. "Okay, so, how do you intend to get them out of that thing?" Cranberry asked Altamir, clearly a bit skeptical of whether or not he could do such. "Well, I did manage to warp all of you and those other dragons from Scarlet's arena to here." Altamir answered her. "Perhaps it would be an impossible feat for someone else...but for me, this is actually the easiest part here when it comes to these five. Watch." And so he displayed this to them. Picking up five spots in relatively close proximity to each other roughly a hundred feet or so further in the cave, he warped each of the five dragonets to one of those spots, right out of the cage, and right out of the chains, cuffs, collars, and whatnot that they'd been bound in... *CLING CLANG KA-CLANG!* ...leaving those to clatter uselessly to the floor of the cage. "Damn, that's a satisfying sound." "...shouldn't have underestimated you, magic man." Thyme remarked dryly. "Some still manage to do so, even after all this time." Then, Altamir looked at the now-empty cage with contempt. "Now to dispose of this thing." So, using his magic once more, Altamir picked up the cage and all of the chains, cuffs, collars, and other metal binds that were in it... "...what are you doing?" "If I were you, I'd duck." ...lifted it all up roughly twenty feet or so... "Duck? Wait, what are you gonna do with that?" ...turned it all ninety degrees to the side, with the top now facing the cave entrance, and lifted it up another ten feet... "I said 'duck'." "Uh...oh snap, you're gonna throw it out the...!" ...and then, as hard as he could... "ORA!" FWOOSH!* ...hurled it right out of the cave at a tremendous speed. He then dusted his hands a bit before walking towards where the dragonets were now... *BANG!* ...chuckling as he heard the distant-but-also-satisfying sound of the cage and its contents smashing into the earth in the distance behind him. "...okay, if I'd known you were gonna do THAT...yeah, I probably would have ducked." Leaf admitted. "Also, wow, you can be loud." "I guess I always have been able to." Altamir nodded. "Funny how things can change - when I was a kid myself, I was known to be fairly quiet." He then refocused on the task at hand. "Now then...let's go deal with whatever injuries and whatnot. The most difficult part, gaining their trust, will be what's going to come after this, but they'll probably be in a better mood if they see that they're all both out of that stupid cage and also healthy and in good shape." Well, at least he hoped so, anyways. Truth be told, Altamir didn't know exactly how these five dragonets ended up in Scarlet's clutches, let alone why. Did she kidnap them just for the sake of it? Or were they sold out to her by someone? Without them awake and trusting enough in him to tell them, he didn't know what it was. But whatever the case, he had to be prepared for the possibilities that would be likely once they were awake. Altamir knew full well that they could react in any number of ways to seeing him. Either they'd be surprised to have been rescued by him but nonetheless grateful and so relatively easy to trust...or they could be jittery, terrified, and weary of any strangers, and could possibly be full-on fight-or-flight; in the latter case, they'd either try to attack him or bolt for the entrance, and if they did the latter, there was no real stopping them...which would be a very bad thing, because given their situation, there was the distinct possibility that they'd fall back into the clutches of their prior captors. Something that Altamir couldn't let happen. If he had been needing to be careful with Hailstorm, then that was the case even more so now. That, and he needed to make sure that the four humans who approached the still-sleeping dragonets with him wouldn't mess things up. He would have to lead them carefully. Very, very, very carefully. "Alright..." Altamir began to lay out how he wanted the others to help him, ", what I want you to do here is to assist me with looking these kids over for injuries, wounds, scars, infections, and things like that. I'm going to do that myself with the big orange-brown one first, so I want each of you to pick one of the other four and look them over for those things until I can get to them. If it looks like one of those, let me know. Be thorough. Don't miss a spot. I'll set up some light sources above so that you can see better in this cave, alright?" "Yes sir." Rowan nodded, with the others doing so quietly. "Just...please also make sure that they don't...uh, actually, forget it, let's just get to it." So, 'get to it' they did, and Altamir set up the 'light sources' in question (nine of them, all in a square-pattern that went from one side of the cave to the other so that there would be no shadows that escaped his and the others' notice on the dragonets). Once he did... ...oh, by the gods, these poor dragonets. Well...right away, he could tell they all had a fair few wounds and injuries that needed attending, to say the least, including various claw marks and scratches, which could have been from Scarlet's minions grabbing and manhandling/restraining them while chaining them up and/or carrying/dragging them into captivity, as well as burns from where the chains and cuffs and collars and whatnot had rubbed against them, and a fair few bruises here and there. The only real comfort that he had was that at least they didn't look like they were malnourished or underweight given their frames and apparent ages (which meant that Scarlet mercifully may not have 'had' them for that particularly long by the time Altamir had first encountered them), and the things that he was seeing on them weren't anything that he couldn't fix up. And even then, it didn't prevent him from having a perpetual grimace plastered upon his face from what he was finding when he started taking a closer look at the dragonets and investigate further in that regard (including magically lifting them into the air so that he could look for any injuries or wounds they had on their undersides). For one thing, he found that they also had a few broken bones and dislocated joints here and there (including a dislocated wing on the SeaWing that he would have to reset himself because no one else in the cave could). For another, and worryingly, he also found that some of the wounds were starting to become infected, something that could become lethal if it wasn't properly dealt with, and that, if he went about utilizing his abilities improperly (i.e. not cleaning the wounds out properly), he would only worsen, not improve. And for yet another (also worrying) thing, upon closer inspection, Altamir realized that the dragonets having been captured (or, more accurately, kidnapped) by Scarlet and her minions couldn't explain ALL of the wounds and scars that he found on them. A lot of the ones that he found on them were clearly older than that particular event, including a fair few scars that looked quite old, clearly from wounds that were either quite severe or which had either not been properly treated at all or only partially properly treated, and so healed imperfectly as a result. This caused a creeping worry in Altamir that these dragonets' misfortune and maltreatment went back further than just Scarlet. Altamir's healing magic, after centuries of him developing and perfecting it, could do a great deal of things that so many would consider miraculous, including erasing scars and making lacerations close without leaving more scars, stitching broken bones together rapidly in real time, resetting dislocated joints and limbs, and repairing what would otherwise be irreversible nerve or organ damage...anything short of raising the dead, basically. However...he'd never quite gotten rid of the issue of such healing frequently being excruciatingly painful if the patient was awake during his dealing with some of such issues this way, and so when, after what felt like a long time (but, in reality, was probably only about ten minutes or so), he and the others FINALLY got a proper inventory of the dragonets' various injuries and scars and did the necessary preparations (like properly cleaning out the infections and grime first), he was glad that the dragonets were still asleep thanks to that spell while he began utilizing such magic upon them to finally get rid of such injuries and scars and whatnot, because if they weren't, the whole cave would, by now, be filled with pained shrieking...a sound that, if he ever did hear for real from them at any point in time, would haunt his nightmares to the point where he would likely never sleep again. He worked hard with such magic to get rid of not only every single injury and wound that they had, but also every single scar that they had as well, as he felt that such things had no business belonging on dragonets this young. That, and if they awakened to find themselves in great shape and in no pain, and their lovely scales bereft of even a single scar thanks to him, it would probably make them be more willing to trust him... ...if only because he could heal their wounds like no one else could. Though he did hope that he could gain their trust in other ways, like showing them that he wasn't going to bring any of this stupid harm upon them, and that he'd value their lives and their wants and wishes, as he always had with the dragonets that he'd raised. Eventually, it was done, and he carefully set the dragonets down, sighing in relief as he saw them now spic-and-span. "Finally, that's done." "Well...looks like you fixed them up pretty good, magic man." Thyme remarked. "I guess you're about to go wake them up now or something?" "Oh, I'm almost there." Altamir replied. "It's just that I'd rather get them a little bit more comfortable first." Then, he dismissed the light sources above them before magically picking the dragonets up again. "Let's go to the back of the cave. Maybe if things are a little more cozy for them back there, things won't go pear-shaped when it comes to them trusting me." Altamir noticed that, while the other humans nodded, they still seemed...weary. He supposed it was because he'd had to rescue them from some maniacal SkyWing Queen who was basically Wērōd and Honorius put together in the form of a female dragon, but he was hoping that such a thing would abate itself if he could show them that they wouldn't have anything to fear from dragons...or, at least, these five dragonets...if he managed to, in turn, gain their trust as well, and... ...yeah, it was best to just focus on what he was doing instead. So, once he got to the back of the cave, Altamir then gently set the dragonets down again relatively close to each other and got to work making them comfortable. First, he got them into more natural sleeping positions that would be less likely to leave them 'waking up wrong'. Then, in front of them, he made a sort of 'magical campfire' - one that otherwise looked, acted, and behaved like a 'real' one, but that didn't require any physical fuel and so didn't emit smoke, and which he could control the heat and size of. This way, he could keep the dragonets nice and warm in the cold weather, and it would give them a reason not to bolt from him. And after that was done, he had Leaf, Rowan, Thyme, and Cranberry stay on the other side of the fire from the dragonets, with the advice to them being that they stay in view of the dragonets and yet also stay silent and let Altamir do the talking until it was safe to do otherwise. He didn't want the dragonets mishearing anyone talking as 'guards discussing their fates' and so being led to believe that they were merely being held prisoner differently than before. When everything else was ready, Altamir decided to do one more thing before he broke the spells on the dragonets. While he did think it rude to look into the minds of others without their permission, Altamir felt quite strongly that it was prudent to know who they were and which was which by more than just tribe, as not doing so and only knowing them by their respective tribes would be degrading. So, he quickly did so (without looking at any of their actual memories, of course), also taking the time to get a good look at what they looked like in general now that he wasn't having to focus on looking them over for injuries. It turned out that they were all five years old, going on six years old in ten days... ...and by the gods did they respectively look like dead ringers for Togay, Sorkhagtani, Gulay, Chagatai, and Gunesha. It was not a joke that they all looked damn-near identical, with only a few differences here and there, to how those old companions of his had looked at that age. The male MudWing dragonet who looked so much like Togay was named 'Clay', and much like Togay had been, he was both huge for his age and quite the 'muscle man'. The boy wasn't even 6 years old, and yet he was at least (and probably a little over) 35 feet long from the tip of his nose to the base of his tail (and likely at least 16 feet tall at the shoulder), which heavily suggested to Altamir that he was a 'Bigwings', much like Togay himself had been (and a rather large one, at that), and in that case, he also had similarly huge folded wings likely more than putting the 'big' in 'Bigwings' when fully spread out. Clay also had scale coloring that was basically the same as Togay's had been; dark brown on his back, his upper shoulders, his wing frames, the back of his neck, the top of his head and nose, and the top of his tail, orange on the rest of his face, the sides of his neck, the fronts of his forelimbs and back legs, and the tops of his front talons and back feet, and sandy tan on his underside from under below his chin all the way to the top of his tail, as well as his wing membranes, the backs of his forelimbs and back legs, and the undersides of his front talons and back feet. He, also also, and again, shared Togay's stocky, burly, muscular build, along with also similarly, a massive, thick neck, huge talons that were nearly as long as a man was tall, and that he could probably pick up an entire house with, huge back feet, and a huge, blocky head that, even by now, was probably ALSO as long as a man was tall at the least (and even without the horns, at that). He knew very well that his mind was going to the word 'huge' a lot when it came to Clay, but he would bid any man good luck trying not to use it to describe the boy. Oh, and it turned out that, just like Togay had been, Clay was also immune to fire. Regardless, though, he hoped that Clay would share Togay's kind, gentle nature...because if he didn't, then Altamir's plan, and a good portion of all of his hard work, would be completely and utterly fucked. And even IF Clay did indeed (at least normally) have that nature, Togay, being a Bigwings, was also quite protective of the others among Altamir's companions, so Altamir was worried that Clay might see him as a threat that the MudWing dragonet needed to protect the others from. Especially after what he and those other dragonets had gone through before Altamir finally rescued them. The female SeaWing dragonet who bore such a great resemblance to Sorkhagtani was named 'Tsunami', and much like had been the case with Sorkhagtani to Togay, Tsunami was fairly large for her age, though obviously not to Clay's level (regardless, she was the second largest of these dragonets). Being at least (and likely just over) 30 feet long from the tip of her nose to the base of her tail (and likely at least 14 feet tall at the shoulder), she was definitely a big girl alright, and she was roughly the same size as that which Hailstorm should have been by now (and would have been if it weren't for the whole 'getting turned into Pyrite' nonsense that was courtesy of Scarlet and Chameleon). Tsunami also similarly had scales that were varying shades of blue, from the deeper, more vibrant blue on her legs and the upper/over-side of her body that shone like cobalt glass in the fire-light, to the lighter sky-blue that was present on her underside and on the various bioluminescent spots on her body, as well as on her wing membranes...which, interestingly, had the same swirl-and-star-burst patterns on their undersides as the ones that Sorkhagtani's wings had on those same areas. And also like Sorkhagtani, Tsunami had what was clearly a strong a powerful tail...not to mention that, while again not quite to Clay's level (just like with overall size), she was...pretty muscled and powerfully-built in general for a SeaWing her age. Though, he had to say that, yet again like Sorkhagtani, she was quite beautiful for a SeaWing...not that Clay wasn't 'good-looking' himself (quite the opposite, really - Altamir imagined that quite a few girl dragonets would probably be swooning over that boy if they ever met him) - he was just a different sort of 'good-looking'. However...Altamir was worried. Yes, Sorkhagtani was ultimately a friendly, fun-loving soul who could show a level of kindness and compassion that one wouldn't normally expect from someone as brash as she could be. But, and especially when she was Tsunami's age, she nonetheless had a temper, and she was often also quite suspicious of someone new if she was in the mood for it (or, at least, wasn't in the mood for being 'friendly'). That made Altamir quite worried - if Tsunami also had those particular traits, and he made a misstep, there was the not-absent possibility that she would take a 'bite first, ask questions later' approach with him, and that would be more than a handful to deal with. He certainly hoped that it wouldn't happen...but if he didn't want it to happen, he'd have to do his best to make sure he didn't step on whatever nerves she might have had. Though, given what she and the others had gone through, he'd have to prepare for that likely being easier said than done. The female RainWing dragonet who so closely resembled Gulay was named 'Glory' (and yes, it was basically two letters and an anagram away from being the same name as well). Unlike with Clay and Tsunami, there was nothing really unusual about her size, and she was roughly in the middle of what was 'average' for her age when it came to height and length, as had been the case with Gulay; she was somewhere in-between 25 and 30 feet long from the tip of her nose to the base of her tail (which corresponded her being, likely and also-roughly, 12-13 feet tall at the shoulder). RainWings were jokingly reputed as not being able to make up their minds on what the hell they wanted their scale colors to be, but Glory's colors were the same as the way Gulay used to 'wear' them: emerald green on a majority of her body's 'overside' and a lighter green on her underside, with the top of her head and her nose being dark blue and bordered by rings of lighter blues around her eyes, the membranes of her wings and frills being orange-red, and varying spots, stripes, and patches of yellow, blue, and orange in varying places around her body's 'overside'. While she was a slightly different sort of 'beautiful' from Tsunami, beautiful was something that she nonetheless was with those vibrant colors and that sleek, elegant frame, just like Gulay had been. Though, speaking of vibrant, Altamir noticed that, before he got to healing her, her scales were rather dull and mousy-looking, as if she hadn't been out in the sun like she should have been. After he'd finished healing her, however, he now realized that her scales were looking far brighter and more, well, vibrant than they had it looked like she'd been regularly getting a healthy amount of her 'sun-time'. It did make him wonder how that was the case, though; it was relatively easy to get some sun-time if one was simply out in the sun long enough. Unless she had somehow been kept from... ...uh, yeah, nevermind, he'd worry about that later. Er, one thing that he really needed to worry about right now was what would happen if he approached things wrong with her. Yes, Gulay had been a very smart and intelligent level-headed sort who was good at using that brain of hers to, well, actually think things through. However, she was also quick to resort to a lethal strategy if she felt strongly enough that she was being faced with an enemy, and she was quite good at utilizing them, too. Altamir was weary of whether or not Glory would feel the need to do so with him - given the situation she and the other dragonets were in before Altamir rescued them, she would probably be more on-edge than usual. And if she was, and he made a misstep in dealing with her...she'd probably spit something extremely deadly at him. Right...RainWing Venom. Given the oh-so-cuddly nickname of 'Magical Death Spit' by at least one soul who saw it in action, RainWing Venom was feared for eating through flesh and bone, and even plant life, at a terrifying rate. And given that, and that it was a liquid...a liquid that would probably splash around in the cave even if he did manage to block it, and that it might land on one or more of the dragons or humans in here if it did...well, it went without saying that Altamir really hoped that Glory didn't feel the need to spit that at him. He very much didn't want anyone in this cave suffering from the 'death' part of the 'death spit'. Regardless, and that aside, there was then the male NightWing dragonet who was such a close look-alike to Chagatai, and his name was 'Starflight'. Much like Chagatai, Starflight, while having a grey underside, little silver-white spots running along his sides, and beautiful silver-white spots of varying sizes that looked like the stars in the night sky on the underside of his wings, nonetheless had mostly midnight-black scales which had glints of purple and deep blue. He wasn't particularly burly or heavily-built, and while still in the average range, he was still smaller than Glory when it came to length and height, being just over 25 feet long from the tip of his nose to the base of his tail (and just under 12 feet tall at the shoulder). These were traits that Chagatai also had, though Chagatai still had a bit more muscle on him at this point in his life than Starflight did now. He was still a very good-looking dragonet either way...Chagatai himself had been 'popular with the ladies' for that reason despite having mated for life and only once, and Starflight clearly had the same good looks as him. Chagatai, in his life, had been an incredibly smart, brilliantly intelligent dragon who was by far the most liturgically-inclined (and advanced) of Altamir's companions, and was fairly good at being a voice of reason and a strategist. That being said, this did mean that the other companions of his had tended to regard his words with a lot of weight, especially when it came to those they didn't know; if Chagatai regarded that someone as an enemy, the others would only not do so if Altamir himself intervened and said otherwise. Altamir hoped that, if Starflight was also a very smart dragonet and prone to being a voice of reason, the dragonets would be more inclined to trust Altamir if Starflight did...or at least they wouldn't jump to regarding him as an enemy if Starflight didn't. Otherwise...well, he'd really be in for it. And finally, the very last and smallest of the dragonets, and the one who (mostly) resembled Gunesha...was the female SandWing/NightWing hybrid dragonet whose name was 'Sunny'. Much like Gunesha, Sunny was quite the small dragonet; at only over 20 feet tall from the tip of her nose to the base of the tail (and at only 10 feet tall at the shoulder), she was smaller than even the lower-bound part of the 'average' size for her age, and looked positively tiny next to Clay. Her scales, much like with Gunesha's, had these beautiful shades of gold and orange that came together in what could best be described as being like 'rippled sunshine', with her orange wing membranes in particular bringing to mind the skies around a rising or setting sun. Though, one difference that Sunny had from Gunesha was that Gunesha had had NightWing-like 'starry sky' spots on the undersides of her wings...while Sunny did not. Even then, she nonetheless still had the same small silvery-white spots running down the sides of her body as the ones that Starflight had (and, in turn, that Gunesha had), so one with the knowledge and a trained eye could still tell that she was half-NightWing. Regardless, just like Gunesha...Sunny looked both beautiful and very precious and endearing...even though, despite her small size for a dragon her age, she was still way bigger than Altamir himself was. Gunesha was a deceptively smart dragon underneath her sweet, outgoing exterior, but she had nonetheless been the kindest, friendliest, and most trusting of his companions, usually willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt as long as the other party didn't go out of their way to do things they shouldn't have been doing. Altamir, as such, was hoping that the same would be the case with Sunny, and that she'd give him the least to fear. No, this wasn't meant to be an insult to her capabilities or what she could do...rather, it was his hopes that her friendliness and willingness to trust, if it was true she was like Gunesha, would allow him to get his foot in the door with the other dragonets, so to speak. They were probably protective of her given her small size...if they saw that he meant no harm to her and wasn't taking her trust for granted, then perhaps they'd realize that he didn't mean any harm to the rest of them either. Though...whether they resembled his old companions or not...Altamir had to acknowledge that the dragons all looked adorable while they were sleeping (ESPECIALLY Sunny). He could have sworn that he even saw a few of them smiling in their sleep, and as he gently walked up to them and gently ran his hand over each one's scales, it came across as though he was looking at a quintet of giant scaly winged puppies or kittens. They were so precious... ...gods, one would have to have a heart of stone not to love them. It also made his blood absolutely BOIL that someone had been willing to chain them up in some cage or inflict such wounds on them. He'd already made the ones who did the latter pay for it dearly... ...all that was left was to deal with those who inflicted those wounds. But, was time to wake the Dragonets up. Altamir was hoping that things would go well. Altamir was basically praying to the gods that things would go well. "Please trust me. Please trust me. Please don't regard me as an enemy." So, after walking back some fifty feet from the dragonets and leaning back against a rock, positioning himself where he could look at the dragonets without them quite noticing YET that he was looking at them, and after giving a final warning to Leaf, Rowan, Thyme, and Cranberry to do as he asked them to do, he magically dismissed his armor, lowered his hood off his head... ...and cast the die. It only took a minute or so after the spell that was keeping them asleep was broken for the dragonets to start waking up, and they started waking up basically all at the same time, most of them then revealing themselves to be green-eyed (except for Clay, who was brown-eyed), and Sunny revealing herself to have a NightWing's eyes. So they even had the same eye colors as their counterparts among his old companions had. Anyways, after they were all awake, they were all looking around, seemingly trying to get their bearings. "...huh? Where are we?" Clay muttered aloud, revealing his voice to be jarringly higher-pitched than his huge size and bulky build would suggest. "We're not at the arena anymore..." Then, his face fell. "...oh, we're in another cave." "ANOTHER cave?! Ugh, three moons..." Tsunami sounded quite frustrated, at the same revealing her voice to be rather brash and boyish. "All that effort to escape that thing, and all we got was getting caught by Scarlet and ending up right back where we started! At least we're not chained up in some stupid tiny cage anymore..." "Yeah, but given our 'experiences' with being kept in caves, is it really an improvement?" Glory remarked, revealing her voice to be smoother than Tsunami's, but of similarly low pitch for a female dragonet her age. "Wouldn't be surprised if they never let us out again now." And so Altamir's blood froze yet again. "Wait...'escape'? 'Kept in'? 'Never let out'? Oh no, don't tell me..." At hearing this, Altamir stood up from the rock he'd been leaning against, alarmed by what was reaching his ears... ...and began walking towards the dragonets, albeit not looking at them and instead looking at the ground off to his side so as to not make eye contact with them. Meanwhile, Starflight was the one talking now, his voice a little deeper than Clay's (despite his slight build suggesting that the opposite should be the case), but still definitely a 'tenor' dragonet. "Well, that's if it's still the..." His voice trailed off from whatever he was saying when he noticed Altamir come to a stop in front of him and the others. "...oh! Uh...guys? There's...there's scavengers in this cave. Four or five of them, actually!" At Starflight saying this, now all five of the dragonets had their eyes on Altamir. "And this one's getting really's like he's not even afraid of us." Right...there was this thing where dragons were calling humans 'scavengers' for some reason. Whatever stupid spell that was that he broke on Leaf and the others...apparently it was a rather widespread thing. Altamir had no idea who cast it, but whatever it was, it was really damn annoying. "Wow, this little guy's so brave!" Sunny, meanwhile, seemed to be very curious about the human who was in front of her and the others, revealing her voice to be a squeaky high pitch that befitted her small size and (thankfully) apparent bright and cheery personality. "Maybe he's friendly? Maybe he and his friends here managed to get us out of there?" Altamir wasn't sure if he'd call himself 'brave'. 'Brave' would be managing to actually do what he did while having a normal human's strength. Altamir did not have a normal human's strength. Though, he did appreciate the sweet dragonet's compliment... ...while the others didn't. Particularly Tsunami. "Oh, come on, Sunny, don't be ridiculous! Don't you see how small he is? He is SO tiny! What makes you think that someone like him could have somehow taken on Scarlet, let alone bundle us under those tiny little limbs of his and carry us off?" "Well, anything is possible, right?" Sunny defended her statement. "There's no other dragons in here, and if he's brave enough..." "...I mean, yeah, anything is possible, Sunny." Glory rolled her eyes. "Even then, though, there is no way that a little scavenger as tiny as this guy could have managed to face Scarlet and all of her guards and soldiers and somehow get us out of there while he was at it..." "And what if there was?" Alright, Altamir probably should have kept his mouth shut rather than letting that slip out right as he was right in front of them. Well, once it happened...the dragonets suddenly had their eyes glued to him, those eyes widening, their pupils shrinking, and their jaws slowly falling open. "Shit." For some reason, even though their reaction was less extreme than Hailstorm's or Peril's had been to hearing him talk...this was the most awkward of all, especially seeing them look at him with wide eyes and mouths hanging open in shock. Altamir screwed up. There was no way he hadn't. Ah, fuck. Well, now, he had to break the awkward tension that he'd created. "So, uh...what was that about 'escaping' or being 'kept in caves' or being 'never let out'?" Taking a gamble, he focused on Glory. "Does...that have something to do with why you in particular had those really dull-looking scales when I first found all of you? It's like you weren't getting any sun-time at all! Don't tell me that Scarlet wasn't the first to keep you all somewhere against your will..." He hoped that the dragonets weren't about to have a heart attack at hearing him talk. Or try to bolt.

Mature Content

Unscoured - P2A1C02Previous Chapter Index Next Chapter CHAPTER 2: DRAGONS ARE NOT SLAVES, 1/2 The frigid roaring air above, below, and around Altamir as he now flew over snow-covered Central Pyrrhia and into snow-buried North Central Pyrrhia at high was a match for his whirring, whirling mind that had absolutely no idea what in the name of the gods was going on and was still trying to piece that together while he was in flight. First, there was where and how he ended up waking up before going on this flight. Last thing he remembered from "last night", he was going to sleep as he usually did in that bed of his in mid-spring, when it was warm. Nothing was out of the ordinary, nothing was unusual, nothing was out of place. It was a perfectly normal night. But rather than also waking up there, he'd instead found himself waking up in this...this mountain cave on the east side of the south central portion of the Iapetos Mountains that had already had both a dragon and a human living in it...and it was also now winter. Winter. And on top of that, Altamir had this strange sense that he had somehow died and was brought back to life, for some reason. Second, the aforementioned dragon and human. That there was a dragon and a human living together in a cave was not the unusual thing here (if Altamir were to say that, he'd be an enormous hypocrite). No, what WAS unusual was that both of them were animi. Granted, Animi were still quite rare to begin with, but Dragon Animi were still far, far, FAR more common, with at least a few usually being alive at a time somewhere on the continent...while Human Animi (like himself) were quite literally born hundreds of years apart. To see two animi, one each of both dragon and human, living in the same cave...what were the odds? And he had this creeping suspicion that they had somehow managed to...bring him back to life? He knew not why they did this...perhaps they were curious as to whether or not they could do this? Perhaps they did it to see what would happen? Perhaps they...needed him for something? Their potential reasoning aside, Altamir didn't know what to think of that. On the one hand, he'd developed a belief in "the natural order of things" when it came to death; when someone died, that someone was to stay dead. On the other hand, they at least weren't malicious with their intentions, as far as he could tell, and he had to admit that he was impressed that they had proven that such a thing could be done. Oh, and there was also that while the Dragon, who was a SkyWing (yes, he'd taken to, over the years, referring dragon tribes the way that the dragons themselves did, rather than how he used to do so the typical 'human' way), had the name of "Maroon", which was a perfectly normal name for his tribe and likely came from his brownish-red scale color, the human (who was chronologically the same age, 14, as the brownish-red SkyWing, but was a teenager compared to Maroon's being a young adult)...well, his name (yes, both were male) was "Acorn". Acorn. Now, Altamir wasn't any stranger to seemingly odd naming customs - his mother (and by extension one of his Dragon Companions of old) had a name that literally meant "Pox Girl" for the love of the gods - but at least in that case, it had a purpose that wasn't humiliation (namely, to ward off evil spirits and make them leave the child in question alone). And yet...Acorn? Taken directly from a word in a Common Tongue, a commonly-used one at that, and after something so small and diminutive? That...that sounded more like someone would name their pet rather than something that someone would name their own son or daughter. "Angus" or "Aodh" or "Aradai" were other names from the Galatians, Gergovians, and his own people the Qalmyqs that also started with the letter "A", but were quite normal and didn't sound like something one would name, say...a hamster. Though...if there was a name to match the young man's personality (somewhat flippant and short-tempered, but with a good heart in there), it would probably be something like..."Berke". Another name from his people that meant "stubborn". A trait that was neither necessarily a bad thing or a good thing. Anything that was a proper human name, and not something for a pet rat. Speaking of humans...that was the third thing that was on his mind...namely, with regards to a burning question that he had right now. ...where in the name of the gods did all the people go? Yes, to be clear, it WAS, well, winter, and basically the height of it, at that. And winters in this part of Pyrrhia could be very, very, very nasty. No sane person wanted to be out in this weather, this cold, the sort that could literally freeze someone's hide off...the only way that one could feasibly go out would be in various layers of heavy clothing...perhaps to hunt game or clear snow off of their homes and other structures. As a result, Altamir would have been unlikely to see anyone out and about, even (and especially) from this distance.But, obviously, he'd still be able to see (or at least make out) the buildings and structures of the various towns and cities below, even if they were covered in snow. That, and while this part of Pyrrhia (specifically, the eastern, inward-curving edge of the Iapetos Mountains) wasn't exactly that densely populated, there were absolutely still towns and cities in this area the last time he checked (and a fair few, in fact; there were more than a few trade routes that ran through the mountains under his rule, and cities had sprung up along these routes with time), so he most certainly should have been able to see plenty of buildings and structures along the way. And yet...that was not the case. At all. Instead...all that Altamir had seen during this flight of his was a single village. One village. One. Village. And that Otherwise, when it came to humans, he not only saw not a single soul otherwise, but didn't see any human structures, as if none had ever existed in such a location in the first place. This...more than disturbed Altamir. Where were all of the other towns and cities and villages that he otherwise would and should have seen while flying overhead like this? It's like they had all vanished into thin air! Had something happened to them long ago that either caused them to move away or, worse, be wiped out? Or... ...oh, no no no no, NO! Damn it, not right now! He couldn't think about that! He was on a mission! He had a task to fulfill! Right...his task. That was the fourth and final thing on his mind at the moment, and it was the reason why he was going where he was going (having used the powers he had to turn himself invisible to all but himself). Apparently, Maroon was a prince of the SkyWings in self-exile who had fled the palace because his mother, the current queen...was a bloody tyrant. And when Altamir had asked for details on that...------------------- " this 'Scarlet' is of the 'Mad Queen' sort, isn't she." Altamir had disliked having had to start burying his native accent not that long after he'd originally become the ruler of Pyrrhia in exchange for a more 'common' one, but he'd wanted to make himself easy to understand. "One way of putting it, unfortunately." Maroon clearly did not enjoy discussing his mother. "Even if you didn't know what she was like, the fact that she's gone through six different kings during her at-least-30-year-long rule would be a tip-off...I was the youngest egg of the last king. She rules her family and the SkyWings with an iron talon. She very harshly punishes anyone who questions their orders or her style of ruling, often in 'creative' ways, and she sometimes had dragonets just so that she could kill them if they weren't slavishly loyal to her, and sometimes even if they were, when they were older. She believes that every dragon is hers to torment, and tends to see other dragons as just playthings more than anything. It's even worse if the dragons in question aren't SkyWings. In that case, being a plaything is the only purpose they'll have for her at all. I remember one time when I was a little dragonet, and I was wanting to please her, and asked how I could make her happy. Scarlet responded by taking a terrified little SeaWing dragonet and dropping her in front of me, and telling me to kill her. When I didn't, Scarlet responded by eating that poor little SeaWing in front of me, and telling me that I had not made her happy at all." Altamir physically recoiled at hearing this from the SkyWing. "Oh the gods, she's fucked up in the head!" "I know...she is." Maroon sighed again. "You could say that again with regards to all the things she's done that no queen, or dragon, for that matter, should ever do. But most of the worst things that she does happen in an arena that she built near her palace. For the past twenty years, there's been a war going on called the 'War of SandWing Succession', a war between three SandWing sisters, Burn, Blister, and Blaze, who are fighting over who has the right to the SandWing throne after their mother, Queen Oasis, was killed by a group of, humans. Anyways, Scarlet supports Burn, who's the most bloodthirsty of the three sisters, and who is all too glad to give her her prisoners of war. Scarlet then takes those prisoners and makes them fight each other for her own amusement. She loves seeing them tear each other apart, and loves the bloodshed that results, finding it 'thrilling'." Altamir, already sickened by this Mad Queen's deeds as a ruler, steadily grew angrier and angrier as he heard more about her. Damn it...of course something like this would happen without him to 'regulate' things. Maroon then continued about the mad queen's practices with those prisoners that she had, clearly disgusted by what he'd seen. "Aside from seeing them shed blood, she also has a thing for tormenting her prisoners that she has. If two or more prisoners care about each other dearly, like close friends, siblings, parents and children...she may or may not make them fight each other. If a prisoner refuses to fight another prisoner, she 'punishes' that prisoner by depriving them of food and water until they're desperate enough to do anything to get some. And she also likes to bait them with the promise of letting them go if they win enough battles, and also a tradition called the 'Champion's Shield'. With the former, she promises that, if a prisoner wins enough times against other prisoners, then she will let them go free. What really happens is that she either constantly increases the number of wins they need to go free so that they are more or less indefinitely stuck, or she DOES let them go free...only to then kill them when no one is looking. And with the latter, the Champion's Shield is a tradition that, in theory, allows the arena's current champion to fight for a prisoner in order to secure their release. In reality...Scarlet tends to skew it against the champion in some way in order to make them lose, so that the prisoner will be doomed to die." " that's all?" Altamir asked upon Maroon stopping, his blood now boiling. "Well...enough to get the point, anyways." Maroon answered. "Point is, Scarlet is the last dragon I'd ever have wanted as a mother, and that's why I ran away from her, ditched all of the royal jewelry and whatnot, and changed my name when I was six." "She's bad news, Aldy." Acorn, who had apparently picked up on that common nickname for him (not that he really minded), added. "There's a damn good reason why the two of us tend to hide from everyone else if we can. To make sure she doesn't find us."---------------------- "...Karmin aided me in getting rid of tyranny...and now this descendant of hers acts like Wērōd and Honorius put together." Altamir grumbled again. "The likes of Scarlet are a blight upon this continent...there's only one good antidote for that." He knew full well that it was time to become the 'Tyrantslayer' again. 'Tyrantslayer'...that was an epithet that he'd picked up among his supporters after he'd struck down the two aforementioned, well, tyrants, as well as Phrahatava back when he was twelve, and also the various nobles who were Wērōd's and Honorius's lap dogs and complicit in their respective atrocities, and then the various slavers (as well as the 'slave owners' who refused to voluntarily give up the people that they thought they had a right to 'own'). He truly did get no rest. But he couldn't afford to so as long as the likes of Scarlet tainted this fair land.--------------- So, on did Altamir fly, following the directions that Maroon gave for where Scarlet's palace was. Initially, Maroon had been very reluctant to give such, with both the SkyWing and Acorn having tried to dissuade Altamir from going after Scarlet. But after Altamir displayed and showed to them that, yes, he absolutely could and would take her on, the two had backed down and Maroon had then given the directions in question. The directions in question were to follow the eastern edge of the mountain range until he found the palace, which was ALSO on the range's eastern edge, but, well, much further north. And sure enough, he found the palace...though, he had to admit that he was very thrown off by how...different it looked from the SkyWing Palace that he had remembered. Did they tear it down and rebuilt it or something? Or did something happen to what was now the 'old' one? Or..., no, no, focus! Focus! This was not the time for getting distracted by architecture! He had a tyrant to eliminate! Now, where was the arena that she frequented... ...oh. Oh, for... ...well, there it was. The bloodstained cradle of death in this realm. The place where Scarlet got a kick, a 'thrill', out of making dragons whom she'd captured, imprisoned, or kidnapped fight each other to the death for her own entertainment. And it bore more than a passing resemblance to the Tarantine ones, clearly operating rather like them as well. "And I worked long and hard to put an end to such a practice like forcing other people to fight to the death for amusement back she brings it back again?!" Altamir took a harsh breath as, still invisible, he began approaching the arena from the air, trying to keep a handle on himself as best as possible as he moved in to assess just what exactly he was dealing with, and also weary to make sure that some SkyWing flying about didn't ram into him because it didn't see him (then again, he couldn't LET them see him, because he was about to topple their tyrant of a queen in the most lethal way possible).As he slowly approached, he noted roughly one hundred or so pillars rising from either within the stands of the arena or around the arena itself, with what seemed to be dark wires running around the tops in rings. Initially, Altamir thought them to be a mere 'design choice'...but then he noticed how SkyWings in armor would fly two and from those tops...sometimes carrying dragons from other tribes...dragons who were clearly bound by in metal cuffs by their wrists, ankles, and wings, and metal collars by their necks. This grabbed Altamir's attention, so he flew upwards...and then he realized that this was a means of holding dragons prisoner (in a rather twisted means of 'saving space' on the ground), with these all mainly seeming to be IceWings, SandWings, and SeaWings. While briefly wondering why they seemed to be mostly of different tribes than SkyWings, Altamir then remembered Maroon making mention of there being a three-way war going on (of which the RainWings were the only tribe not involved) while warning Altamir to be careful about his mission. Then, he flew down to about four hundred feet or so above the arena's sands...and what he heard and saw would have made him vomit if he had any less control over himself. Down below, there was a Firescales SkyWing burning an IceWing by merely touching him, the latter screaming in agony as he was brutally scorched alive. This made Altamir's stomach flip end over end already, but what made it ten times worse was how the crowds in the stands were reacting to such a thing. Not with shock or horror, but with cheers and applause. "So...this is some sort of twisted spectacle to them?!" Altamir couldn't help but mutter to himself. Devaluing and dehumanizing those from different polities, and having them die horrifically for the sake of 'entertainment' was bad enough when humans had been doing it to other humans back then... ...but dragons doing this to other dragons? Courtesy of the very same tribe that Karmin herself led so wisely? She would've had a damn aneurysm if she'd seen this! Just what had Pyrrhia come to?! Had these dragons forgotten everything Karmin and all the other wise Queens from their history had taught them?! Altamir had to hold his mouth shut with his hands just to keep himself from letting the last bit come blazing out of his mouth and giving him away. Roiling as he was at the moment, he HAD to keep cover until he could find a way to properly down Scarlet, so he couldn't let himself be revealed by shouting. Though, he did start putting some lateral distance between himself and the scene of the now deceased IceWing, whom the Firescales had finished basically burning inside out. Someone dying in a manner like that (unless they had done something vile enough to ABSOLUTELY deserve which there was NO indication that the IceWing had done such a thing) disturbed him just as much as it did everyone else, so he wanted to not be 'up close and personal' to that while he was figuring out a plan to eliminate the tyrant. As he backed up horizontally, though, Scarlet (if that was the one wearing the jewel-encrusted breastplate) was laughing. "Ooohohohohoho...ah, what a wonderful, marvelous, thrilling, show, as it always is!" Altamir's revulsion only grew once he laid eyes on her smug face and heard her ear-grating voice, and especially after he heard yet more applause for the mad queen's exultation as he hovered over that audience. But the queen wouldn't shut the hell up like Altamir would have loved her to at least do. "Though, I must say that I do have an announcement to make. As I am sure that everyone in this realm knows, tomorrow is my 40th hatching day! So, to celebrate the occasion, as I always do, I wish to arrange for a special show to be put on!" Yet more applause followed this announcement. Whether it was genuine or forced, Altamir could not could guess it was a mix of the two, as tyrants like this tended to have certain equally insane adherents who were blindly loyal no matter how horrific the atrocities that their 'lieges' committed. But then, the queen looked in Altamir's direction. Altamir was invisible, and he hadn't made a sound (thankfully), so there was no way that she was looking at him. She had to be looking at something near or behind him,, what and why...? Altamir got his answer for the 'why' part before he could finish his thought. "Earlier today, my guards and I stumbled upon something most ridiculous - a group of vagrant dragons claiming to be of the 'Talons of Peace' who were living quite literally under MY mountain without even knowing who I am! And I'm the QUEEN of this tribe!" The crowds laughed at the apparent farce of such a thing - Altamir himself might have admitted that such a 'feat' of not even knowing who the Queen was while living under her mountain was rather impressive in a way had the Queen in question not been a monstrous tyrant (and that's if she was being honest; she might have been pulling things out from under her tail, so to speak) - before she continued. " to fix that...I know! I'll give them a nice 'guided tour' of my arena...with my champion as the 'guide'! Ah, yes, that will be a grand and thrilling time - a perfect fit for the occasion! Let's see how far those upstart, self-proclaimed 'Dragonets of Destiny' in particular can get before they're nothing but ashes!" This elicited the loudest round of applause yet, louder than the previous rounds. But that was not the thing that he heard that really caught his ear. Nor was it the thing that made him freeze mid-air. Rather, it was the mention and usage of a certain three-word phrase. One that he'd known well, and all too well, at that, from a certain, particular nightmare that he'd had while his own Dragon Companions were still alive. "Dragonets of...Destiny?" Altamir muttered in surprise as he started looking around... "H...How does she know of such...? When and...where did she-" …?! "-NGH?!" Altamir couldn't help, nor stop, the sudden, startled noise of shock and horror that left him as he then saw what was right behind where he'd stopped mid-air. It was a sight that made his blood freeze. Merely twenty feet away from him were the bars of a giant cage. A cage that was hanging from a different, thicker, overhead bar running from the side of one pillar to the side of another pillar. It was already the case to begin with that looking at a dragon-sized cage (and just the general IDEA of one) made him weary... ...but what, or rather who, was inside...that was what made it a thousand times worse.In the cage were a group of five dragonets, all chained, cuffed, and collared, and all crammed together within. There was an Orange-Brown MudWing, a Blue SeaWing, a predominantly-Green (albeit dull-scaled) RainWing, a Purplish/Bluish-Black NightWing, and a SandWing...possibly SandWing/NightWing hybrid...and they all looked to be 5, 6...maybe 7 years old at most? He didn't know their names, and he didn't know who they really were... ...but that mattered little compared to how he was basically in that same nightmare again, with the grotesque difference being that, this time, it was for real. Down to seeing the same fear and hopelessness on these poor dragonets as he did the ones in that nightmare... ...or were these the exact same dragonets? Was that nightmare not so much one as it was...a vision? Either No. No, no, no. He couldn't let it happen. He couldn't let Scarlet have her way. He had to do something. He couldn't let them die like that. These Dragonets were too young to die, and certainly did not deserve to get burned alive inside out like that poor IceWing did. This need was punctuated as he looked back over and realized that now that same Firescales was burning alive ANOTHER dragon, this time a SandWing. He HAD to save these Dragonets...but do it in a way so that the Queen's minions wouldn't come after him and them. That, and he needed to kill that same Tyrant Queen. He needed a plan. In that moment, wrath towards a tyrant and fear for the lives of five young souls undeserving of such a grisly fate that same tyrant intended for them...those two things came together and combined. And from those things combining, the same grim determination that he had felt back when he led those wars against Wērōd and Honorius came roaring back. And the cunning and experience from having led those wars and downed various other tyrants during his long reign came back with it. And as he looked each of those Dragonets in the eyes as he hovered in the cold winter air, even if they couldn't see him, Altamir knew what was to be done. "Dragonets of Destiny, if that's who you are..." Altamir silently vowed, "...just as I did long ago for those enslaved by Wērōd and Honorius...I will do again for you. I will deliver you from this captivity by Scarlet, and I will learn your names and see that fear and despair banished from your eyes and faces. I will bring that mad queen down from the spinning spheres, and drop her miserably into the jaws of Tamag. Erlik Khan awaits her!" So, with a silent request to the late Karmin to forgive her foolish tribe (and to forgive him as well for likely having to kill a fair few members of that tribe in the process here), and with a cracking of his knuckles, Altamir set off to start putting together that plan. That plan to rescue these Dragonets and topple the tyrant queen as she richly deserved to be.------------------- Any good plan that was going to be made in a situation like this would require some intel, as just about anyone could tell, let alone Altamir, so that was exactly what he set as he staked out the Arena and began scouting it and the main Palace for things that he could find to aid his plan, as well as potential obstacles and complications that he'd need to plan around, all the while using yet more manifestations of his 'powers' to monitor that cage to make sure that whatever those guards did with it (and/or the dragonets inside) would not escape his notice. By the gods, had he developed so many different ways to use such things, either out of necessity or just because. Granted, he HAD lived for a very, very, very long of course he would over the years. Either way, though, as he now put several of them to work at once (particularly the 'invisibility' and 'wingless flight' ones), he was glad that he'd developed such things as he flew in and out of the palace and arena through halls, passageways, windows, and the like, avoiding crashing into any SkyWings as he scoured those and the various rooms, nooks, crannies, and whatnot, and leaving no stone unturned as he looked for anything (and perhaps anyone) useful or important that he could find. Well, he certainly ended up finding a lot, to say the least. How well-equipped the guards were, how well they were trained, how they generally acted and behaved, where they were stationed, where and when their patrol ran, for instance, as well as other things like the general layout of the arena and the palace, more of the general workings of the arena, and even some important individuals, including, particularly, who the Crown Princess was; he was to become a tyrant-slayer, yes, but he was NOT going to plunge this particular realm into anarchy, no matter how much it disgusted him to see that audience applauding Scarlet's debauchery, so knowing who her heir was would absolutely be very important. Though, given the type of dragon that Scarlet was as a queen and in general, he really should have expected at least some of these findings to be disturbing, and he did with regards to the arena. What he wasn't expecting was to find that she apparently had an animus dragon (well, in a sense, at least) at her service. How did he find out? Well, he found two different dragons who had been each forcibly turned into different dragons. He had only ever heard of this happening in myths, legends, and historical records by the time he came about, and it had never happened during his lifetime because Altamir kept animus dragons in check by making it a requirement that they be sent to him as soon as their animus status was discovered so that he could ensure that them using their powers wouldn't drive them mad (yes, he knew how to ensure such a thing, and it had very likely saved the continent a great deal of trouble while he'd reigned over it) and also ensure that they would use them properly, and know not to abuse their powers or otherwise use them for immoral purposes. He'd done a good job of making sure such a thing hadn't happened...and yet here there were two whole examples of it happening. Given that these were things that he'd never encountered before, and how disturbing it was that this was a thing...he very strongly felt that he needed to investigate both instances...though he also was aware that he needed to do so quickly and be careful to not get sidetracked. Now, obviously, it would normally be the case for the average sort that trying to investigate two animus-enchanted dragons who were (at least apparently) members of an enemy-regime-ruled tribe while he was right in the heart of such an enemy's territory would be a fool's errand, and would only end up one way. But Altamir, much as he loathed the idea of flaunting it, was no 'average sort'. Over the years, he'd further and further developed what was previously merely his mindreading-related abilities and had taken it so that now it was well beyond just that. Now, when he wished to 'go into someone's mind', he didn't need to actively be looking at them at the moment. Rather, he'd simply have needed to have seen or heard or otherwise encountered them at all at any time, whether in the present, or previously. Not only this, but he could then apply the same thing to the individual whose mind he'd 'gone into', and could then 'jump' to yet another individual's mind. His ability to look through someone's mind was increased as well, to the point where he could basically, in a sense, go 'back in time', and through quite literally every detail about someone, even ones that they themselves either forgot about or otherwise didn't remember. The apogee of all of this was that he could combine both things together to even look through someone who was presently deceased, and could then continue the 'jumping' with other deceased people from before then provided the aforementioned 'did they encounter' requirement was fulfilled. All of this put together allowed Altamir to find the truth of many things, and correct both mistakes and deliberate forgeries in historical records. For instance, he was able to write a proper record of his ancestor Jangar's life, leading to the latter becoming one of the most beloved historical figures on Pyrrhia. Not to mention that he could pinpoint with perfect accuracy who had, say, committed a crime, and whether or not someone was either innocent or guilty of such a thing. Now, of course, he still had to actively be using such abilities 'manually', and could not do so passively or automatically, so he had to pick the right time and place to do so, as if he didn't, he ran the risk of being distracted and something happening while this was going on...but that was how it always had been with such abilities, and given that Altamir could do such things silently and while remaining hidden, he had ways to work around this issue. Regardless, in the present, Altamir was combining such abilities with yet another one that he'd discovered that he had from those years: the ability to detect animus magic, be it those who could use it, or any enchantments or spells or curses that they'd cast/placed. With the latter, he could analyze such things, what they did, and who cast or placed them, and he could then use the aforementioned 'beyond mind-reading' abilities to figure out why the animi in question cast or placed them and for what reasons and/or purposes, be they benign or malignant. Putting all of these abilities to joint work, Altamir had been able to find a wealth of information about this case without burning too much daylight or drawing any attention to himself...and it was disturbing. As for who the two dragons were... Well, one of them was, in fact, the aforementioned Crown Princess, Princess Ruby...or, as she actually was, Princess Tourmaline. The other of them was a female SkyWing named Pyrite...or as HE (yes, he) actually was, Prince Hailstorm of the IceWings. In Ruby/Tourmaline's case, Tourmaline was a strong-willed, determined princess who was set on challenging Scarlet for the throne (i.e. fighting her to the death for it), so Scarlet had 'worked around' this by having her be enchanted to be weak-willed and submissive to her, and to never be able to win such a 'challenge'; the enchantment had also changed her appearance from a bright-orange SkyWing to a dark-maroon one, and made it so that she could not remember her time as Tourmaline, something that had been exploited by Scarlet, who had used the opportunity to lie that a Firescales SkyWing named "Peril" was somehow responsible for 'Tourmaline's Death', when in reality, it was clear that this "Peril" had never done such a thing. Though, due to the time crunch that Altamir faced, he wasn't quite able to figure out in detail on who this "Peril" was other than that she was a Firescales...was she that same Firescales doing all the killing in the arena on Scarlet's behalf as her champion? Was that why Scarlet was able to lie so 'convincingly' to 'Ruby' that she'd done such a thing, because, given her status as Scarlet's champion, it wouldn't necessarily be 'unlike' her to do so? Questions for later, as there was also the matter of Pyrite/Hailstorm...and Altamir found this instance to be particularly unnerving. For one thing, it was not only the case that Hailstorm was an IceWing Prince who had been captured by Scarlet a year previously, but he was a DRAGONET at that (only 5 years old, roughly equivalent to a 14-year-old human boy, when it had happened), and he'd been captured because he'd been taking his little brother, Winter (who was 3 years old at the time, equivalent to a 12-year-old human boy) to go see a "scavenger den" in in SkyWing territory, as Winter had apparently had a fondness and great interest with regards to these "scavengers". Now, obviously, one could absolutely question the logic of going into enemy territory to do such a thing, but that didn't change that what had happened to Hailstorm was both undeserved and utterly disgusting. Under the forced guise of Pyrite (which was a particularly cruel form of imprisonment), he was magically compelled to be completely loyal to Queen Scarlet and the SkyWing tribe, to be insecure and weak, to have no memory of his or her former identity, and to wear the necklace containing the enchantment at all times with life-or-death urgency. It was particularly insulting, as Hailstorm was apparently a talented and skilled young prince in a variety of things, so to be forced to be anything BUT the gods, how beyond humiliating. At least Winter had apparently managed to escape...but the poor boy had to have been missing his older brother dearly. Altamir was now very glad that he had never encountered such cases before now...because this was among the most disturbing things that he'd ever encountered. Being actively forced and compelled to be something that one was not by way of some magical artifact with no way to break it on one's own...that had to be nothing short of horrifying...he couldn't imagine what Tourmaline and Hailstorm were going through. Though, as for the dragon who had cast such enchantments and spells and whatnot, it turned out to be a RainWing named Chameleon who was the culprit. A RainWing who wasn't actually technically an animus himself, but, using this animus-enchanted scroll, could not only cast these spells and enchantments, but even used it to be able to shift between four other guises; an accessory-wearing MudWing named Bog, an IceWing named Cirrus, a NightWing named Shapeshifter (a name that was a dead-giveaway), and a spiked-collar-wearing SkyWing named Soar (ah, so that's who that was). Apparently, the scroll itself was made by this Night/Ice hybrid named "Darkstalker", though, once again, his being pressed for time meant that he couldn't really afford to look into who this "Darkstalker" was. Either way, though, now, his mission had an additional set of objectives: free Tourmaline and Hailstorm from their respective enchantments, and rescue Hailstorm in particular from his captivity under the SkyWings. Though, given the current...situation...doing those things was going to be tricky. He knew full well about that, and that he would have to think about how to do such, especially when it came to working around Chameleon. Whatever plan he did make, he'd have to be quick in executing it so that Chameleon would be too slow to cast any sort of enchantment or spell to stop him. Regardless, his scouting and staking out of the arena and the palace while effectively keeping extra sets of eyes on certain objectives continued on throughout the rest of the day...though, given that it was bitterly cold, he had to make sure to check on those five dragonets to make sure that they didn't get hypothermia or frostbite (especially since the only one of them that likely had any sort of real resistance to the cold was the SandWing/NightWing hybrid one, and that came from her SandWing side; the other four were from tribes who lived in climes that, generally-speaking, DID NOT get this cold, so they were huddling around her in particular in there). To this end, he took to discreet, stealthy means of keeping them warm and preventing them from falling victim to such things. Yes, his capabilities with healing magic had ALSO greatly improved with time and absolutely could reverse such things, but it was better to never have to use them in the first place. Eventually, the sun set to conclude the day, and nighttime was approaching. Altamir may have had a great deal of endurance, but even he would have to get some rest...especially when it came to what he was going to do tomorrow morning. He was in the final stages of putting together a plan...though he wanted to make sure that he took some things into account. Particularly this "Peril". Yes, that very same Firescales SkyWing. The one who was this mad queen's 'champion', or rather, flash-fire butcher. Now, Altamir did generally feel bad for those SkyWings who were afflicted with Firescales, as it meant that they would never be able to live normally, and he was all for making sure that they could get some form of employment...but this was not the sort he was in favor of. At all. Whatsoever. Particularly since, again, she seemed to think very little doing such a thing on Scarlet's behalf, and that she was supposed to do to those Dragonets whom he was trying to save the very same thing that she'd done least five other dragons today alone, as far as Altamir had seen for himself. Needless to say, he could not let that happen...and he particularly loathed the idea of someone blowing off burning those poor Dragonets alive. So, he was relatively set on the fact that, if it came to where she was intending to do that, then he would have to eliminate her just as he would the mad queen she served, and he decided to finally see her up close for himself to confirm his decision... ...and yet, he managed to get himself thrown for a loop.----------------- Altamir found the Firescales SkyWing, her orange scales glowing like a fire in a pit, in a relatively empty corner of the arena that was high up and had no guards posted around (probably because, given where it was, there was nothing to gain from having guards posted there). He'd heard that old anecdote many times about how many didn't reveal who and what they truly were until they were either under duress or in private, and the latter part of that was admittedly why he was doing this. To be honest, he didn't exactly know what he was going to find when he did this...though given her apparent blaséness from killing the various prisoners that Scarlet basically spoon-fed to her, at least part of him was expecting her to be either laughing or joking to herself about those kills, or conniving to herself about what killing methods to use next. Or both. Then he actually saw her for himself up close (albeit still invisible)...and those particular notions went out the window. For one thing (and he was now kicking himself for not having picked up on this or her being generally smaller than her probably-generally-adult 'opponents' earlier), he quickly realized that Peril was, age wise...just a dragonet herself. By his guess once he properly saw her up close and gauged her size compared to the average adult dragon, she was, at most, probably a year or so older than those five dragonets he was seeking to save, and was either the same age as Hailstorm or also a little older than him, and that was it (so, probably 6 on a low estimate and 8 on a high estimate...equivalent-wise, she'd be a 15-17 year old girl if she was a human). Damn it, he had been considering killing a dragonet. For another thing (and in something ELSE that made him reconsider killing her)...there was her personality and how she carried herself. To Altamir's surprise, there was this sort of...awkward shyness to her. It was as though she was the type to make herself look as small as possible and shrink away from other dragons, to be surprised when someone offered to talk to her, and he could see in her blue eyes that there was a...lostness to her, as if she didn't know what to do, where to go, or who to go to. Perhaps she was aware of how the other dragons regarded her as a 'monster'. Perhaps, going by her eyes, which looked just as sad as those of the five dragonets did last time he looked at them, she herself even agreed with such assumptions about her. It was a massive contrast to how, in the ring, she'd come across as a sadistic, maniacal demon just as mad as her Queen who needed to be similarly eliminated...and it came across as though her self in the ring and her self that he was now looking at were two different dragons altogether. Here, even though she was likely at least 30 feet long from her nose to the base of her tail (and likely at least 14-15 feet tall at the shoulder were she standing up), she still managed to look so...small, like a lost child seriously needing proper direction. He couldn't kill a dragonet like this. Especially not one who seemed so...sad. Altamir mentally admitted to himself that it was not very often that he could go so quickly from wanting to kill someone to wanting to hug them...but that was exactly how he felt about Peril here. Best guess, this poor girl was probably being used as nothing but a tool by Scarlet for the latter's own entertainment. So...was this a SEVENTH dragonet he was having to rescue for Scarlet?! Altamir was starting to feel as though things were headed that way - by the gods, the number kept rising - and he began to seriously consider adding yet another objective of turning her away from the mad queen to his already somewhat-complicated mission... ...and then Peril did something that pushed him to the other side of the fence and made it impossible not to do so. "...huh? Oh...uh...hey there, little birdie..." Altamir watched as the dragonet's attention was drawn to a bird that was stuck on an icy surface by the feet and was flapping manically in a fruitless struggle. It was a pitiful that was definitely painful to look at. Peril clearly agreed, a desire to help the poor bird clearly intent in her eyes as she slowly and gingerly approached the stuck little creature. "I know I'd probably burn you if I came too close to you, little guy..." Peril clearly acknowledged the blazing heat radiating from her due to her condition, "but maybe I can thaw you without burning you if I'm...this far away from you?" As she said this, she then laid down a distance of at least fifteen feet or so from the bird. Far enough away that her scales wouldn't cook or roast the poor bird alive, but clearly still close enough that she could quickly melt the ice sticking the bird down and also warm the poor thing up to the point where it could fly away. And sure enough, in less than a minute, the bird was unstuck and flying away, and Peril seemed adorably pleased with herself when that happened. "Okay, bye bye, birdie! Glad I could help you! Good luck!" Though, after the bird flew away, she sank to the floor and sighed as her joy faded away. "Well...I wish I could help someone else like that...but every other time I touch someone, I set them on fire instead..." Alright...that did it, that was it. He was NOT leaving this poor girl behind in this mad queen's playground. But in that case, he needed to see just what exactly he was dealing with here. And in order to do that... ...he would have to talk to her. So, at least to her, he decided that he would reveal himself by way of 'adding an exception' for her to his having turned invisible to everyone else but himself...with a bit of a lead-in. "Oh, I promise you...there are ways to do that even with your condition. More than a few, actually." "...really? You...You mean I...?" Peril lit up at hearing this (again, adorably)...but then she became very confused, obviously because she couldn't see who was talking to her as she looked around. "...uh, who's talking to me? Who said that?" Then, as she was looking around, Altamir revealed himself in front of her by adding that 'exception', and then dispelled all doubt. "That would be me." Altamir watched as Peril laid eyes on his form, her eyes gradually going wider and wider, until... "...uh...WAAH?! WHA-WHA-WHAT IN THREE-GAH-" *THUMP* "-ACK-! Y...YOU CAN TALK?! A...A T-TALKING-?!" After taking a few seconds to react, Peril was so startled that, when she shot up, she tripped over her own tail and fell over on her back, and Altamir had to dodge her thrashing tail and wings as she flailed about like an overturned turtle. A giant one with burning scales that left a hotspot where she'd been previously laying the other way up, that was. "Alright, alright, not so loud." Altamir said with a little bit of exasperation. "And yes, I can talk. Mouth's moving, you're hearing words from me, that sort of thing, right? Guess you just...never met someone like me before? Or you just don't have that many dragons who talk to you? Something like that?" "I...I...uh...I mean...y-yeah? K-Kinda?" Peril did her best at what was clearly a shrugging motion while still on her back. That, and her face that had that sort of "awkward smile" on it...if there was any response Altamir would have had to someone questioning him on why he'd find such a dragonet to be adorable... "Heh...I've met a few who react to my voice this way." Altamir chuckled and then shrugged. "They never expect something this deep from someone as 'tiny' as I am. Every time it happens, I can just see 'what is that shorty doing with a voice like that' written all over the faces." Peril giggled like a hatchling before outright laughing. Adorable as that was, Altamir mentally admitted that the whole 'contrasting his voice with his height/size' as joke material was rather basic...though, given that and how she didn't say no on the 'not many dragons talking to her' question...oh dear, Peril really didn't have anyone who was willing to engage with her like this, didn't she? When her laughter subsided, Altamir stepped just a little bit closer to her. "Alright,'re...Peril, right?" "Eheheheh...uh...yeah, that's me?" "Ah, good, don't want to get any sort of 'mistaken identity' here." Altamir then looked at his hand for a bit before introducing himself to her. "So, uh, my name in particular is Altamir, sorry for not introducing myself earlier. I'm here for a...let's just say 'a reason'." "A 'reason'? Which one?" "I'll tell you in a bit." Then, Altamir took another step towards her. "Though, before I do that, I want to show you a little 'talent' of mine. Don't panic..." "'Don't panic'? What do you..." And then, Altamir began walking towards Peril, while the latter was still on her back, and she began panicking. "Wait, no, no no no please don't-!" Right as she was, though...Altamir touched Peril on the side of her shoulder. Even though she was a Firescales. Oh, there was certainly an enormous amount of heat that he felt in his hand, and in general. But Altamir...didn't feel any pain that came with that heat. Nor was his hand burning or getting any burns on it. Not even the clothes on his body were getting burnt. "...huh? Why are you...why are you not burning or on fire?" Peril asked, bewildered. "I did say it was a 'talent' of mine." Altamir answered with a sly grin. "Among many more." Though, he then turned a bit more serious. "Would I be correct in supposing that you're generally afraid of others touching you like this, because they'll burn to ashes when they touch you?" "...yeah. I am." Peril nodded...but then her face lit up again. " can touch me. You...I don't have to worry about burning you, Altamir?" "Exactly." Altamir smiled...but he then motioned for her to quiet down again. "Keep it down, though. I know this is exciting for you that you can't burn me and all...but I'm about to tell you as to why I'm here, and...well, let's just say we need to be quiet about it, as it's something that I'd rather it be only between you and me." "Uh...okay I...sit up and..." "Actually, I'd rather you stay laying down while I talk to you about this, Peril." Altamir was fully aware that what they were going to discuss was likely to make her faint...he didn't want her falling and hurting herself or worse. "It's for a good reason." "Uh...okay?" So...the conversation began. Altamir knew right away that it was going to be a rather awkward one, but if he was going to get this poor dragonet away from Scarlet, it needed to happen. Altamir began by asking Peril a series of questions with regards to how she lived on a day-to-day basis, what specifically she did for Scarlet and why, how Scarlet had found her in the first place, and what she thought of Scarlet. Peril answered truthfully each time...though he should have expected to be disgusted by what answers he got (not AT Peril, of course, but rather FOR her...he hid it from her regardless). So, apparently, the SkyWings had developed (or rather, resurrected, as Altamir knew it, given that it had been a common practice before Jangar's reign) a horrid tradition of throwing Firescales hatchlings off of high mountains to kill them; this was apparently supposed to be Peril's fate, but Scarlet supposedly rescued her...'supposedly', given what kind of dragon Scarlet was, and that was if she was being honest; already, Altamir was very sure that Scarlet would lie about things as easy as breathing. This suspicion was proven rapidly correct as Peril repeated what Altamir could tell as being an extremely blatant lie that Scarlet had most definitely put in poor Peril's head...namely, that she supposedly needed to eat black rocks, which Altamir suspected was likely coal, every day in order to survive with Firescales, and that the one time she didn't because she was upset that Scarlet wouldn't tell her more about her mother, she got very, very sick. Yes, Firescales indeed could not live normally due to their condition and did need special attention, but eating coal was a 'quack' method at best, and Altamir, who'd attained centuries of medical knowledge, highly suspected that the 'coal eating' lie was a method to control Peril and keep her at the palace/arena, and that the real reason as to why Peril had gotten sick was because Scarlet had poisoned her. Other things that Altamir could tell right away were neither normal nor acceptable was Peril recounting being kept in a cage of this coal at a year and a half old (NO responsible adult dragon would ever put a dragonet in a cage), or when Scarlet had her burn nearly all of an entire batch of dragon eggs on the "Brightest Night" at roughly around that time (on an unrelated note, that meant that Peril was, or was at least roughly, 7 and a half years old), or how Scarlet generally treated her in various ways that any good, sane, or responsible human or dragon would regard as abuse and maltreatment, particularly the (false) notion that every other dragon saw her as a "monster", and that only Scarlet could love her...and Peril told him all of this in a very casual tone that made it clear that it was lost on her just how messed up and just plain abominable her situation was. This, along with the whole 'being taught only how to kill dragons in horrible ways in the arena' and how the gravity of that was lost on her... ...that only made it clear to Altamir that Scarlet was manipulating and just plainly abusing poor Peril into being a puppet, a pawn for killing, and that getting her away from the mad queen was just as vital as the other objectives were now. If he wanted to do that, he'd need to show Peril that Scarlet was lying, and to point out every single lie or disgusting, abominable thing about how Scarlet was treating her and why she was keeping her at the arena. So, still doing his damndest to not explode with rage as he was doing so, that was exactly what he did. Peril was initially confused about Altamir telling her that Scarlet had lied an awful lot, but as he got to it and then continued doing so, the poor dragonet gradually became horrified as her entire 'world' unraveled around her, particularly when Altamir then moved on to what Maroon had told him about Scarlet, and multiple times Altamir had to stop her from seeking out Scarlet and keep her laying down, both for her health and safety, and because Scarlet would most likely not only be unapologetic and un-remorseful, but would likely also just pile lies on top of lies unless she could use the truth to simply harm Peril further. By the end of it...poor Peril. Poor, poor Peril. The poor thing had had her world turned completely inside out, and it broke Altamir's heart to see just how...shattered she was by these revelations (the faint stream of steam escaping her beautiful blue eyes clearly being only one thing)...particularly when she asked, with a tiny, wobbling voice more befitting a dragonet a mere hundredth of her size: " I evil m-monster? I-Is what I-I'm doing...e-evil? I d-don't wanna be e-evil m-monster...I...I...!" Altamir sighed raggedly, beyond furious at what Scarlet had done to Peril, but sound-enough of mind to remember his plan and his objectives, and that the best way to avenge Peril's suffering was sticking to that plan and adjusting it accordingly. To refocus himself and clear his head a bit, he decided to claim an honor that no one else ever could, Scarlet notwithstanding. So, he strode forward to the sobbing Firescales dragonet... ...and wrapped his arms around Peril's snout. Normally, and obviously, embracing a Firescales SkyWing like this would basically be a guaranteed way of ending one's own life for both human and dragon alike. But certain MudWings who hatched from blood-red eggs had the ability to not get burnt or harmed by flames or fire-breath or whatnot, so they could touch a Firescales without being burnt to a crisp. Altamir had a similar ability, having accidentally discovered it when a SkyWing sneezed flames on him, and his immunity in this regard seemed to also extend to anything (or anyone, as was occasionally the case with the latter) he was wearing or holding. This was absolutely not the first time that he'd managed to gain a Firescales' trust by hugging them. Being able and willing to do something like that when no one else would or always did wonders in that regard, and for those Firescales' mental states, showing them that there was someone out there who didn't fear or hate them for their condition, and that they were just as deserving of love as everyone else. Poor Peril needed this more than anything else right now. And sure enough, Altamir's embrace around Peril's snout, while getting a surprised squeak out of her, was something that she clearly greatly appreciated, given that her sobbing quieted down, and that she even leaned into it as he gently patted her snout with one of his hands. He held the dragonet like that for a little while, before pulling back a little bit so that he could look Peril in her eyes. "No, Peril," he told her, "you're not an evil monster. No, what's happened here is that the actual 'evil monster' has been using you as a tool for living and attaining her twisted desires. Yes, I'm talking about Scarlet. She's the one who is evil, she's the one who is a monster and THE monster. That that's the sort of dragon that she is, and her also being a Queen at the same time...that's the reason why I came here in the first place. I'm on a mission against her." "A mission?" "Indeed...a mission. See, the one who sent me here was Maroon, a SkyWing who is actually one of Scarlet's own sons...but who fled the palace because he feared for his life. Basically, my aim for that mission here is killing Scarlet. If you're worried about redeeming yourself, Peril...well, perhaps you could aid me here in this mission?" "Uh..." Peril was silent for a few seconds, before nodding. "...yeah?" "Ah, good. Now, then, I've been putting together a plan..."----------------------- So, Altamir finally gained an ally, a teammate, when it came to his plan. His plan to take down Scarlet, replace her with a (hopefully) much better Queen, and make off with seven dragonets whom she'd captured/kidnapped (Peril herself included). First, with regards to those five dragonets, he'd have Peril strategically position herself in front of the cage holding them. Peril's Firescales condition made her very feared, obviously, so it would make it difficult, if not impossible, for the various guards to work up the courage to remove the dragonets from the cage to drag them to the arena sands. Additionally, since it was still freakishly cold, weather-wise, it would also keep the dragonets in question warm, allowing Altamir to be able to focus on other things than having to manually do such a task. As for those five dragonets themselves, Altamir would make sure that they'd be asleep during all of this, as if they were awake during this and saw what he would be doing, they would likely be absolutely terrified by this mysterious tempest of a figure dicing apart all of the guards and soldiers around them...and Altamir couldn't have that happen. No, he couldn't have that happen at all. Second, with regards to Tourmaline and Hailstorm, he'd prepare a few different things for those two. With Tourmaline, once Scarlet was dead, he would, long-distance, completely deactivate the spell/curse on her that forced her to be "Ruby", and turn her back to normal, and then, once he got himself, Peril, and the five dragonets out of the arena, he'd send her a mental 'message' warning her to cease the practice of forcing dragons to fight and die in the arena against their will and to either release all of the prisoners or at the very least 'house' and treat them properly and with some dignity...or else the one who killed her mother and all those guards/soldiers would come back for a second round. Then, once he and what would become his little entourage WERE out of the arena, he'd warp "Pyrite" to himself and knock "her" out, turn "her" back into Hailstorm, and find a way to erase the memories of his time as "her" so that the effects wouldn't be damaging or permanent upon his mental state (he'd heard in tales and legends and read from historical records that dragons who were forcibly turned into other dragons by way of animus wouldn't properly recover from such a thing unless such a process happened). And finally, with regards to how he'd kill Scarlet herself...well, Altamir would simply wait there with Peril in front of that cage until the time was right, with Peril having a few excuses on talon as for why she'd been standing there. When that time came (probably when Scarlet called upon Peril for whatever reason), he would then reveal himself, while wearing armor as to disguise how he looked without it, and then he'd kill Scarlet with an 'arrow' right to her head in front of the arena. Once he did that, he'd then set about cutting, hacking, slashing, slicing, and splitting apart each and every SkyWing Soldier or Guard that he spotted within or around the arena. This would cause the rest of the SkyWings at the arena to be too terrified to go after whoever the blazes it was, as well as cause a disorganized panic that would give him, Peril, and the cage and its "contents" the perfect time to vanish amidst the chaos. It was a plan...and he would start putting it into practice once the sun rose again. Sure enough, Altamir (who went to sleep early in a hidden location) and Peril were both up early the next morning to initiate this plan. Soon, they were soon standing in front of that cage, the dragonets inside snoozing away thanks to a spell that Altamir had put on them to make sure that they'd remain asleep until he took the spell off, Altamir himself still invisible to all but Peril (and also wearing armor, which was also affected by the 'invisibility', as it also extended to anything he wore or held), and Peril herself making whatever necessary excuses for standing in front of that cage; to a soldier who asked why she was standing there, she simply said that she felt like watching things from up here and that she'd move when the time came for her 'matches', and that her warming the dragonets up would ensure that there'd be a nice bit of challenge in her 'fight' against them, and then when Scarlet herself asked her as to why she was standing there, Peril repeated the same 'challenge' excuse, as well as that she wanted to make her entrance to her first 'match' a nice show for the crowd. All of these excuses were apparently taken at face value by the guards/soldiers and Scarlet, the latter even laughing and saying that that was 'the spirit'. Everything was going good so far. It didn't seem like anyone suspected a thing about what was with Peril. The guards and soldiers were unaware, the crowds were unaware, and especially Scarlet herself was unaware. All they needed to do was wait for the right moment, and... "Umm...Altamir?" "Hm?" Peril's (quietly asked) question drew him out of his thoughts. "You know what they're talking about when they say 'scavengers', right?" "I've heard them mention the word...what do they mean by it?" "Well, uh...they're talking about your kind. Whatever your kind is actually called, anyways." ...?! Wait...what? How the hell would they not know that?! Humans and Dragons had been living together for thousands of years! " kind are called 'humans', Peril." Altamir replied, confused. "Just 'human' if you're referring to just one of us." " that's what you guys are called? Okay..." Peril now looked nervous. "Uh...I brought this up because of the next fight that's about to happen." "Next fight? What about it?" ", there's this one SeaWing that's a prisoner here whose name is...'Gill', I think? Er, anyways...he refused to fight his opponent last time when Scarlet wanted him to, so she decided to make sure that he would 'be good and fight next time' by making sure he got no water until he was so desperate for it that he'd drink it from his opponent's blood." Altamir's disgust for Scarlet's tyrannical madness hit an entirely new level with that reveal. Intentionally depriving a SeaWing of water until they went insane...that was one of the cruelest, most abominable things that a dragon could do to another dragon. Especially since SeaWings put under such situations usually never recovered, or at the very least not fully, and that while in such a state of insanity, they were a severe danger to EVERYONE around them, especially humans. "That's fucking disgusting." Altamir couldn't help the invective-laced snarl that escaped his throat. "I...I know." He could hear the wince in Peril's voice. "Well, I said about it because...uh...Scarlet wants to show off how 'ferocious' he is now by pitting him against two of your kind...two humans. There's...only one way that's gonna end. I think you...might wanna do something about that now." ...what was he hearing? Was Scarlet really... ...just how depraved could someone get?! And then, before he could process what he was seeing and hearing with his own eyes... ...his blood froze as he then saw things unfold. On one side of the sands, he saw the SeaWing. Gill, if that was he was...he wasn't so much 'walking' onto the sands so much as he was shambling onto them. He was literally foaming at the mouth, his eyes bloodshot, and snarling like a feral beast, a rabid animal. This was bad enough as it was... ...and then he saw the other side of the sands...where two humans were roughly shoved onto them, with only one possible reason for them being there. To die for Scarlet's sick, twisted, demented, depraved pleasure. As Altamir tried to believe what the hell was going on, Gill rushed forward in a scrambling sprint towards the two humans. One took off running to the side, while the other, clearly too paralyzed with fear to run, stood there like a deer facing an oncoming tornado... ...before dying with a horrific scream that was then cut off as Gill snapped the human up in his jaws and devoured the poor soul, and then started trying to eat the remaining blood out of the sand. Altamir had never seen something like this...ever...and he'd hoped that he'd never have to...and yet he was seeing it with his own damn eyes! Oh, by the gods, how there were times that he hated having them!And as Gill then turned his attention in his mad haze to the other human, who was still trying to run, but clearly never going to escape the maddened SeaWing that was stalking him...Altamir snapped. That was it...he'd fucking had it with this damn tyrant! "Peril, stay here...I'm going NOW!" When the last syllable left his mouth, Altamir was surging through the air away from where Peril was and descending upon the sands like a falling meteor. Long-form of his sword in hand, and it wreathed in flames and him enveloped in a fiery orange-red aura, and throwing to the wind his invisibility, he rocketed towards where Gill was as the latter was now rushing towards the other human, who had tripped over his own feet and fallen... ...and then as Gill then noticed him at the very last fraction of a second... "USHAAAAAAAA!" *SHNKSLASH!* ...Altamir, with a roar, swung his sword hard and well in a figure-eight motion, making a crater in the sand as he finally landed, only skidding a few body lengths because he magically slowed his momentum...before turning around. Gill was standing there, as if frozen, for a few moments...before collapsing into at least three pieces, Altamir having horizontally bisected him through the chest and wing, and severed his head from his neck. Altamir watched him do so with displeasure, having wished to never have to put a SeaWing out of such misery, before looking over to the human in question...who was sitting there a mere twenty feet away. Altamir saw and realized that the human in question was just a boy...probably only in his teens (perhaps 15 or so), and was clearly in shock and confusion. Not just with regards to what he'd gone through, but also how this...surprise savior had even done such a thing. "Wh...Who are you? H-How did did you..." The boy asked after a few seconds of silence. "You'll find that out later." Altamir stiffly replied, rattled as to what he'd just had to save the boy from. Then, Altamir leapt high into the air, much higher than any normal human could ever even hope to hop, before landing squarely in the center of the sands. Speaking of was now eerily quiet. There was no cheering, there was no jeering, and there wasn't even anyone gasping. All of the audience...all of the guards and soldiers...and even (and ESPECIALLY) Scarlet herself... ...all were silent. It was as if they had NEVER seen something like this happen in the arena before. They were utterly speechless. After looking around the crowds and seeing this reaction from them, Altamir, still holding his long-form sword in his right hand, then turned her attention squarely upon Scarlet herself. He noted a quite large SandWing in a breastplate/cuirass standing there next to her, who seemed to be muttering or mouthing something, probably at what the hell she was seeing. Then, the tyrant queen of the SkyWings found her words again. "What in...what is the meaning of this?! What in three moons is going on here?! How did a scavenger..." "SCARLET!" Altamir cut her off as roared out the SkyWing Queen's name, pointing his sword at her from the sands as he now had her attention, being able to see her shock at hearing him. "Queen of the SkyWings, Scarlet, was it? Is that you there next to that SandWing?"
Unscoured - P2A1C01Previous Chapter Index Next Chapter PART 2: THE SWORN SWORD OF DESTINYBEGIN ARC: THE SHEATHLESS, SULLEN, BLOODIED SWORDCHAPTER 1: DUSK FALLS After Altamir inflicted the final defeat on the Tarantines at the Siege of the Capitoline City, the remainder of them surrendered to his (and Scipio's) rule, and over the course of the next few months, the remaining other peoples, the Aetolians, the Qatabanians, and the Baeticans, cowed by the defeat and surrender of the Tarantines, all followed suit and bowed and bent the knee before him, allowing him to attain also the titles of "Imperator Magnus of Tarentum", "Megas Archon Basileus of Aetolia", "Malik al-Muluk of Qataban", and "Sufet tal-Sufetin of Baetica", and thus crown himself, at 20 years old, as the Great Khan of All Pyrrhia. At long last, he'd done it, and done it at a far earlier age than that which Tomur was when the latter finally achieved such himself, at that. He had united Pyrrhia under one banner. Now, he could have simply basked in this victory, given that he was only merely the second person in the histories to, after Tomur, unite both all of the continent's dragon tribes (a task that, in and of itself, he was fourth in, after Jangar, Tekuder, and Tomur again), AND all of the continent's human polities, and he was also less than half of the age that Tomur was (42) when the latter achieved this. But, ever duty-bound and ever beholden to the responsibilities of being a responsible ruler, Altamir had better things to do than just sit about and 'bask'. No, he had work to do. Right after he became properly crowned as being the Great Khan of the continent, Altamir immediately set about eliminating as many forms of unfair, undeserved oppression as he possibly could as fast as he possibly could. Of course, the main one he went after was obviously slavery. As part of his accepting their surrender, he mandated that the Baeticans, Qatabanians, and Tarantines outlaw acts like owning a person as a slave, as well as buying and/or selling a person as a slave, with such acts required to be punishable either by death or by life imprisonment. Mandates that now-Emperor Scipio, in his act of redemption on behalf of his people, willingly took to enforcing, but that Grand Sufet Hanno and King Harun had to be made to implement at sword-point. He then took all of the freed now-ex-slaves and mainly resettled them in their homelands, ancestral or recent, but if that was not possible, he instead resettled them in Makhimon Valley, a valley in southwestern Seleukia that was between the Dardanian mountains to the west and the Gergovian rainforest to the east and southeast. Of course, things that were related to slavery were not the only such practices and forms of unfair oppression that he sought to eliminate. In Aetolia, he went after the island realm's various arbitrary rules, laws, policies, traditions, and practices that had relegated and rendered an entire half of the population as little more than servants and property. He made it illegal in every single realm under his rule to force individuals, regardless of age or whether they humans or dragons, to be married off against their will in any way, shape, or form, and in Aetolia in particular, it was mandated that women and girls receive more or less the same education as their male counterparts (i.e. much, much more than just house work). It was required that women be allowed to participate in political matters (including voting and running for, and holding, office) and represent themselves in law, and that they not face any arbitrary gender-related restrictions on economic matters, including earning money and conducting transactions, and also in general. Of course, given that these traditions were deep-rooted, unjust as they were, there was a lot of resistance to the changes that Altamir mandated, and there were a great many attempts to subvert them and 'preserve the sacred Aetolian traditions'. But Altamir remained diligent in implementing and enforcing these changes, especially with the aid of the Sea Dragon Queen, Delphine. Kind and benevolent, but at the same time firm and stern as a Queen, Delphine was enormously vital when it came to stamping out such attempts at subverting his rule of law in this regard, and Altamir took great satisfaction in personally watching her put the arrogant Archon Basileus Menestheus in his place for trying to demand that Altamir 'respected the ancestral traditions of the land' by reminding him that he was going against the laws of Tomur, the previous Great Khan of All Pyrrhia who had first mandated similar changes five hundred years before, and so was technically committing treason and insurrection against the current Great Khan, who had taken on and inherited HIS ancestor's will, by refusing to submit to and accept such changes. Menestheus, after a great deal of grumbling, backed down, and begrudgingly began acceding to the changes and quieting his people's attempts to subvert Altamir's rule. There were also other changes that Altamir began enforcing throughout the lands now under his rule, like, among other things, those related to sacrifice. Specifically, human sacrifice. Many, of course, were horrified by such a practice being in place anywhere at all whatsoever, and sought to eliminate the practice. But many others, who lived under (or at least had grown up in) such pantheons and beliefs where it was indeed practiced, albeit uncommonly and only under certain circumstances, sought to keep the practice, believing that it was the greatest means of honoring their gods and reaffirming the strength of their beliefs. After hearing arguments, defenses, and statements from both sides, Altamir made the decision to go for a compromise. On the one hand, he made an effort to understand the beliefs of those who indeed practiced it, but on the other hand, citing a rare, but ghastly practice from Baetica in which children were forcibly thrown to the fires as sacrifices to Ba'al Hammon, he made it clear that there needed to be limits as to when and with who it could be carried. For one thing, those being sacrificed had to be at least twenty years old. For another, the ones being sacrificed either had to be entirely willing (in which case, their families had to be sufficiently materially compensated), or (in the only instance in which anyone could be sacrificed against their will) criminals who were soundly and fairly convicted of serious, heinous crimes warranting the penalty of death (as, in such cases, it was merely a fancier execution). Failing to comply with these laws related to human sacrifice would result in those performing the sacrifice to be sacrificed themselves as an apology for profaning the gods. While there was initial protest to this from both sides for varying reasons, they eventually more or less conceded that Altamir was being fair and impartial, and accepted his decision on the matter. Regardless, though, behind all of these new changes and reforms and rules and laws and whatnot...Altamir did indeed have an end goal. Now that the wars that had plagued the continent were finally over, he could finally achieve (or at least make a damn good try at achieving) the other part of his dream for Pyrrhia. Namely, he wanted for it to enter a proper, continent-wide Golden Age. One where no Pyrrhian, human or dragon, would ever again have to suffer tyranny, unfair oppression, unjust persecution, or needless suffering from any other human or dragon ever again, and one where Pyrrhia would become a true Cradle of Civilization, the envy of all the world. He knew that he would likely never fully achieve every single bit of this dream, and that there was always going to be a few 'bad bits' here and there. But if perfection could not be reached, then the next best thing was the pursuit of excellence. Excellence in rule. And that was one thing that, diligent, hard-working, and honor-bound as he was, he would seek endlessly so as long as he lived as a ruler of Pyrrhia. He was beholden to his duties, so it was for the best that he damn well kept to and upheld them.------------------------------ Early May, 1528 B.S. It had now been two years since Altamir had become the Great Khan of All Pyrrhia. He was now twenty two years old, his oldest son having recently turned five, and his four youngest daughters having all turned three even more recently. His dragon companions, now full adults at thirteen years old each, had all finally reached their full sizes when it came to length (and height). Togay the largest of them was now an astounding 60 feet long from nose to the base of the tail (and 27 feet tall at the shoulder), with Sorkhagtani being a close second at 50 feet long (and 23 feet tall at the shoulder). Gulay and Peksen were both roughly the same size at 45 feet long (and 20 feet tall at the shoulder), with Shiban slightly behind them at 44 feet long (and 20 feet tall at the shoulder). Chagatai, the second smallest, was 40 feet long (and 18 feet tall at the shoulder), and Gunesha, far and away the smallest, was 36 feet long (and 16 feet tall at the shoulder). They'd also all found their mates for life from within their respective tribes, all from one of each tribe's various noble families, and all of them had eggs with those mates, eggs that were set to hatch any day now. Things were beginning to settle down a little around Pyrrhia. Old wounds were starting to heal, and old grudges, rivalries, and enmities were starting to smooth over, or at the very least decrease in heatedness and intensity. Trade was now flowing quite freely between...just about every single polity and realm on the continent, and prosperity was generally on the rise, with poverty starting to recede and the trappings of a growing middle class were starting to appear. Altamir had heard and seen some of the various arts that were starting to flourish all over the continent. Literature, theater, visual art, painting, sculpting, architecture. Such things were becoming grander and more vibrant as, finally free of the constant worry about war and tyrants both internal and external, artists, playwrights, writers, painters, and sculptors set about creating their finest work, competing with each other to be seen as the greatest and grandest in this regard. Indeed, it DID seem like the beginnings of an actual, real, genuine Golden Age. Altamir's rules, laws, policies, and reforms were well and truly working. It was actually happening. Altamir should have been happy. He should have been more or less celebrating. But he wasn't. "Gods...damn it...damn it, damn, it damn it...why...why did...?" Altamir was no stranger to killing at this point. He hated the task, and he regarded it as a hideous one, having never taken joy in such a thing outside of two instances (and both of those instances involved personally killing oppressive tyrants that he was at war against), but he knew full well just how many times he had been left with only a single option, and he'd never exactly been 'averse' to doing so when it was necessary, as he'd never been able to afford any aversion, having had to first kill at nine years because his life and that of his little brother's had literally depended on it. A side effect of that, he supposed, was that, once it was clear that killing was the only option...well, he'd never exactly hesitated to kill, like many who were killing or about to kill for the first time out of necessity often did. He always just did it and got it done and over with for the sake of those he loved and for those whose lives depended on it. And this lack of hesitation was something he'd seemed to have always had… ...with human enemies, at the very least. Dragon enemies, though… Well, not long after he'd finally properly become the Great Khan of All Pyrrhia, Altamir and his companions had been attending a routine meeting with his dear friend Queen Karmin of the Sky Dragons, when the topic of Jangar, Tekuder, and Tomur having all personally slain dragons on their own without any outside help came up in the discussion. Much like so many dragons, Karmin wasn't bothered that they had done so...if anything, she, like the majority of dragons, was quite impressed by such a feat, given that Jangar, Tekuder, and Tomur were all humans and were striking down foes many, many, many times their own size, even if it was thanks to the powers and abilities that came with them being Human Animi. Altamir himself acknowledged that, yes, these deeds were quite impressive...but he was nonetheless VERY unenthused with the thought of having to perform such a deed himself, making it clear that he'd killed and was killing enough as was...did he truly need to add more to his figurative plate? Karmin had replied by pointing out that not all dragons were kindly and benevolent, with some being rotten to the core, and even some who were a living danger to everyone and everything around them, and that should Altamir ever, out of necessity, have to kill a dragon of, say, even her tribe, she would hold absolutely no grudge or ill will against him over it. Altamir's dragon companions had backed Karmin up on this, pointing out that humans and dragons were both equally as capable of good or evil as each other, and that, at some point, he would have to kill a bad one to protect/save the good ones. After hearing this, and an additional plea from Karmin to start developing methods and techniques of taking down rogue/evil/enemy dragons so that he could protect those he loved and cared for, just as he did against human foes, Altamir reluctantly conceded that it would likely happen at some point...albeit with an aside that he hoped that it never would have to happen. Thus, once he returned from the meeting, he assessed his usual methods of taking down foes. The 'bow' and 'arrows' could and would undoubtedly work, but given the 'explosive' nature of such a thing, that also had the capacity to get messy, especially if there were populated areas around or the potential to get allies and innocents caught up in the cross-fire. As for his Qanda...well, that could certainly cut through a dragon's scales and bone, given its sharpness and arcane unbreakability, as well as his own, dragon-level strength...but as it was, it was also FAR too small to reliably kill a dragon quickly nonetheless; it would take many, many, MANY strikes to kill a dragon that way, and in serious situations, he likely wouldn't afford to be able to do that whatsoever. The results of the assessment were clear; he needed, and was lacking in, a quick, efficient, reliably way of immediately taking out enemy dragons without the possibility of collateral damage or casualties. So, he'd put his mind to work trying to figure out how to develop such a way… ...until Togay had suddenly offered a solution from a(n admittedly infuriatingly) simple place. Namely, simply making the blade of his Qanda longer. As in, eight times its original length, or roughly the length of a Sarissa Pike. With its sharpness and inability to be broken by normal means thanks to the arcane unbreakability that was put upon it, blade width or thickness wouldn't be an issue, and given that the blade would now be roughly as long, almost as long, or perhaps even longer than, most dragons were tall at the shoulder, Altamir could rapidly behead or split in half any rogue enemy dragon of any size, allowing for quick elimination of threats without (much) capacity for collateral damage thanks to the lack of 'explosiveness' of such a method. By the gods...gods damn it. Togay was not a literary mastermind like Chagatai basically was by now, but damn it if he didn't have sense! So, Altamir did just that, giving his Qanda a 'second form' in which the blade was that specific great length (while still also having the 'first/original form' in which the blade was the original length). Indeed, he now DID have such a method of taking out enemy dragons quickly, reliably, and efficiently. It was just that he wished that he never had to use it. He was far too used to seeing dragons, majestic beings who were humanity's only equals, as friends, family, allies, loyal followers, constituents. He didn't want to 'break that streak'. He wished dearly that such a day where he had to do it never came. But, that day had come. And it was neither pleasant nor pretty. Altamir was visiting Queen Karmin once more when came a certain case, a legal dispute between a Sky Dragon mother named Mynah and a Sky/Sand Dragon hybrid father named Condor over who had 'rights' over their three young dragonets, came up that Karmin had to manage (with Altamir, as usual, aiding her in doing so, as he commonly did on his visits to her). Apparently, Mynah and Condor had been arguing and fighting over various things, and this led to the mother getting irate enough to try and legally force Condor to give all of the dragonets up to her. Altamir could tell from the beginning that he couldn't let Mynah get her way. She was very irate and argumentative, and seemingly constantly on the verge of exploding in rage, not to mention very, very unpleasant and seemingly utterly unwilling to have any regard for her dragonets' wellbeing or happiness. By contrast, Condor was was a mild-mannered, polite lad who made an effort to follow procedure without arguing, and seemed to both place great value in his dragonets' best interests and take their wants and needs quite seriously. It was very clear here, sadly, that only one parent actually loved the dragonets. So, right from the beginning, Altamir did his damndest to make sure that the dragonets did not end up stuck with Mynah while at the same time still respecting the fact that it was Karmin who was the Queen of the tribe. First, he had the dragonets seated with himself, so as to prevent them from being intimidated into choosing one or the other by either parent. When it was explained why this was being done, Condor accepted it without complaint, albeit clearly a little upset, while Mynah angrily argued with this decision, claiming that the dragonets HAD to be near their mother...though she quieted down when Karmin firmly ordered her to stop. Then, he made sure that Condor was able to make his case, which the latter did by detailing how Mynah was acting and behaving around and towards him and the dragonets and giving numerous examples of such behavior, with Mynah often angrily interrupting and claiming that he was lying (Altamir and Karmin both had to order her to be quiet numerous times while Condor was speaking). And then, Altamir and Karmin made the choice to have the dragonets themselves inform their decision and hear their wishes as for which parent they wanted to be with, which led to Mynah loudly protesting that they 'couldn't be expected to know what was best for themselves', and it took being ordered at spearpoint for her to quiet down this time. Given her actions, her attitude, and her behavior, as well as what Condor and the three dragonets had testified about how Mynah was acting, Altamir and Karmin ultimately decided that the only one who had rights over the dragonets...was Condor. And that was when things went straight to the hells. To say that Mynah didn't take the decision well was to say nothing, for it sent her into a fit of shrieking, screeching, screaming rage unlike anything before it, and in the midst of this mad tantrum, and an equally-mad declaration that "if [she couldn't] have them, no one [would]"... ...she inhaled and then blasted an intense gout of flame at Altamir and the three dragonets. Altamir, reacting quickly, was able to get in front of the dragonets and block the flames with a quick on-the-spot magical barrier...but only towards himself and the dragonets, as while the dragonets were unharmed, albeit greatly terrified (understandably so), Sky Dragons had the most powerful and intense fire breath of all Pyrrhian Dragons, so the flames then boiled off to the side...leaving Karmin and numerous guards near her and them burned, some badly so. As his companions and other guards frantically rushed to the aid of the downed Queen and their comrades...Altamir, distraught and beyond furious by the sight of a dear friend injured by this...this damn maniac, was seeing red, and before he knew it, he was surging forward, 'long-form' Qanda now in hand...and his own comparatively tiny frame be damned, he violently severed Mynah's torso in half the long way, and he then circled around (much as he'd done with Ariq over a decade ago) and cut her head off for good measure. Then, his anger turned to panic as he then remembered Karmin and the other guards and rushed over to them. What then ensued was a bout of what was perhaps the most intense healing magic usage that Altamir had ever utilized in his life. Thank the gods that he was able to make sure that there were no permanent or life-long injuries or disabilities as a result of this cesspit-fire, but… ...gods damn it, things didn't have to go this way! Regardless, now, Altamir and his companions, after seeing off Condor and the latter's dragonets, and making sure that Karmin and those guards were stable, had concluded what had become a very harrowing visit, and were returning to Avraga. All the way, Altamir could hardly find any words to say whatsoever, the day's events beating in his head like a drum.His companions noticed it eventually. "Aldy?" Gunesha asked after Altamir was silent for a long time. "Aldy, are ye there?"Altamir finally turned his head to look at her and opened his mouth in an effort to say something...but nothing could come out, no matter how hard he willed himself, before he looked at his hands shamefully. Then, he heard a sigh from Gulay. "We ken, Aldy, that whole matter today was a bloody mess." "Aye." Chagatai agreed. "What matters is that it's over, and that nae one else was killed or crippled for life." "...I should naet have let it happen like that...Karmin..." "Aldy, everyone was caught off guard by what that Myn-iac pulled on us." Shiban replied. "It was naet just ye. We all underestimated haew much of a bloody lunatic she was." "I mean, it was easy tae see from the start that she had a few nails missing in there," Peksen remarked, "but trying tae murder her own dragonets, and the ruler of Pyrrhia and the Queen while she was at it?" "Karmin will be fine, Aldy." Sorkhagtani assured. "Same thing with thaese guards, taew. Though, I have tae say, I've never seen ye use THAT much healing magic on someone before. Ye probably healed away naet only thaese burns, but alsae every single ailment that she would have otherwise had for the next week!" The other dragons chuckled a bit at this, but Altamir couldn't delight it with a response. He just looked down at was like he could still see the blood that had splashed over him when he killed Mynah. Togay seemed to pick up on this. "We ken, Aldy, we had tae kill a dragon today." "I...I wish I could have gone for longer without have tae ever had tae..." "And we get that. We absolutely do." It was then that Togay's wisdom struck again. "And yet, here's the thing, Aldy; the other side of humans and dragons being just as smart as the other means that those of both kinds have the same capacity for evil. Just as there are thaese who are rotten tae the core among humankind, the same is the case for haew such individuals exist among dragonkind. Oftentimes, cutting thaese sorts daewn is the best thing we can do for the good and innocent, be it human or dragon." "Exactly, Aldy." Gunesha agreed. "Killing is never a pleasant thing, but we're alsae never going tae hate ye for just doing what ye need tae for everyone's sakes. We ken ye love dragons dearly, but part of life involves having tae do things that ye dinnae like tae do, right? As long as ye kill only when necessary, and never kill anyone innocent or undeserving, then even if it DAES upset us, we will always understand. Just allow us tae make sure ye never lose yer way, alright?" "...alright." Gods, his Dragon Companions could be so much wiser than him at times...who knew what he would do without them?------------------- The fall of the latter of the two "Great Tyrants" of Pyrrhia, and the unity of the entirety of the continent under the banner of Altamir Jahangir Alchono, High King of the Dragon Tribes and Great Khan of All Pyrrhia, saw the ushering in of an era that was considered, far and wide, to be Pyrrhia's Great Golden Age. Under the young but brilliant and capable leader, man-made scourges like slavery, tyranny, warfare, and more were more-or-less eliminated under him, and even from early on in his continent-wide reign, a great many advances and developments in the arts, the sciences, ideas, philosophies, schools of thought, knowledge, management, governance, and human and dragon welfare were made. Advances and developments which Altamir himself was a patron of in a conscious effort to improve the lives of those on the continent in pursuit of his dream, with his Dragon Companions standing loyally by. Aside from the prosperity and splendor that Pyrrhia became awash in (for the most part, at least), arguably the most notable advances of those were of the 'sciences' sorts. While Altamir was undoubtedly most known early on for his martial ability and talent, and for having united the continent at least partially through force, he, in reality, had a great distaste for warfare and pointless bloodshed, so, aside from the welfare and well-being of his subjects, his greatest interests were in culture, the arts, learning, and knowledge, the latter two arising from a curiosity about how the world around him worked, and the various natural processes and phenomena that existed in it and upon it. This curiosity of his about the natural world and its processes and phenomena had been a thing with him ever since he was very young. He'd had a tendency to ask a great many questions about such things to those that he trusted in his youth, often doing so relentlessly until he got an answer that would satisfy him, which drove his tutors up the walls at times. Now, as an adult, once things settled down on the 'welfare' front, Altamir continued this side-quest for more knowledge of such things, now having the support of an entire continent's worth of great minds, thinkers, scholars, philosophers, intellectuals, and more whose assistance he could gain with regards to attaining such a thing. There were some who questioned this thirst for knowledge, with at least one overzealous man going as far as attempting to accuse Altamir of 'blasphemy' and 'attempting to usurp the gods'. Altamir shot the man down by pointing out that he full well knew that it was they who had made Pyrrhia, not him, and that he was merely wanting to see how the things that they had created worked. And see how such things worked he would and did, for it was under him that many, many, many discoveries were made in many fields involving the natural world. From the earth beneath, around, and occasionally over them, where various advances were made in the knowledge of mountains, their makeup, and how they formed, as well as of various geological events like Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Tsunamis and how to properly respond to them; to the various flora and fauna that inhabited Pyrrhia, of which breakthroughs were obtained regarding the understanding of how they lived, acted, and behaved, what illnesses and blights that they could have, and how humans and dragons were to treat them; to even humans and dragons themselves, of which Altamir fostered a great deal of innovations with regards to understanding how they could live best and how they could properly deal with any illnesses, physical or mental, and how such illnesses could be prevented, counteracted, or at least mitigated; and to, of course, the skies above, of which various weather-related and meteorological phenomena, like rain, wind, clouds, storms, droughts, dry seasons, rainy seasons, monsoons, floods and flash floods, thunderstorms, severe storms and thunderstorms, cyclones both tropical and extratropical (including hurricanes), derechos, dust storms, hailstorms, snow storms, blizzards, cold waves, heat waves. hese and many other things were all heavily studied and documented under Altamir, who developed his animus powers even further and ever further by the year, and put them to use in aiding these studies, allowing him to go places, studies-wise, where no normal human or dragon could go given their technology and natural abilities. Though, while all of these scientific discoveries and advancements were certainly notable… ...arguably among the most notable were Altamir's studies on tornadoes. Tornadoes were a rightly-feared force of nature that were notorious for the death and destruction that they mercilessly caused wherever they could form (Altamir's own Qalmyq people even referred to them by a term that meant "Black Wind", and many on the steppes believed tornadoes to be the terrifying manifestations of bloodthirsty evil spirits, leading to other nicknames like "Sky Demons/Devils" or "Spinning/Swirling Demons/Devils" and the like). But other than that they formed mainly in a large swath of land stretching from the Eastern Steppes, through Seleukia and Gergovia, and all the way into Sagartia, and that they (at least generally) formed in certain times of the year, and that they spun and rotated, came in different shapes and sizes, and could move at many different speeds, they were quite poorly understood, and many believed it fruitless to attempt to study something as chaotic, as wild, and as deadly and destructive as they were. Altamir, however, thought otherwise. The great thinkers of Pyrrhia were able to, say, figure out the length of a day, length of a week, and length of a year, were they not? If they could do something like that, then they could absolutely study something like, say, a tornado.And study tornadoes he, and they, did. Under him, a proper definition of what a tornado was was established, and it became mandated for officials at all levels to report and document any tornadoes that occurred, regardless of when and where, and what they did and what they hit. This allowed for a proper record of how many tornadoes happened a year, as well as what structures they impacted, if any, and what injuries and deaths in humans and dragons that they caused, if any. If the opportunity presented itself, Altamir himself would even personally go out upon the steppes during the storms that formed these apparitions to find one (or more) and follow it (or them) from birth to death to study its (or their) behavior and see how it (or they) moved and acted, and what shapes or forms it (or they) could take. Not to mention that he'd also heavily study the damage done throughout a tornado(es)'s path to see what notable, interesting, or intriguing things he could find, and what such finds could provide when it came to understanding these wraiths of the skies. The result of these and other practices that Altamir put in place was a wealth of information, some odd, some bizarre, some straight-up absurd farcical, some astounding, some shocking, and some horrifying and terror-inducing, about tornadoes, including how they formed, how they worked, how they moved and behaved, how large they could get, what damage that they could do or deal, and just what kind of destructive power they could contain in those whirling, swirling winds. Tornadoes, as it turned out, were the products of a process in which differing masses of air of different temperatures and moisture content colliding against each other in the skies above, which caused certain portions of Cumulonimbus clouds (already powerful to begin with and bringing with them threats like high winds, heavy rain, and occasionally even large hail) to begin rotating in (relatively-speaking) tight circles, known as Mesocyclones. It was from these Mesocyclones that Tornadoes formed, and they were fueled by the storms, propelled along by the front of cooler, drier air, ingesting warmer, wetter air from their front-right quadrants, and could keep going as long as their 'parent' storms still had a steady stream of warm, wet air to feed off of...until they didn't, at which point the tornadoes would dissipate. No two tornadoes looked the same, and they, again, came in a variety of shapes and sizes. They could vary in height from a quarter of a mile to more than a mile tall, and while they generally averaged out at anywhere from a fifth of a mile to a quarter of a mile wide when it came to width at the ground (which was marked by the swirling wind field, NOT by the visible condensation/debris), they could be anywhere from less than 50 feet wide at the narrowest to over a mile wide at the widest (with a VERY rare few even breaking two miles wide). They could, also again, take a variety of forms, from thin ropes, to stout 'stovepipes', to enormously wide 'wedges'... ...and sometimes, there were ones which either had, or basically were, a cluster of smaller, tentacle-like sub-vortexes that were narrow-but-powerful tendrils not so much made of air as they were of concentrated chaos and destruction. Not to mention that, when it came to how they moved, Tornadoes could be unpredictable; they usually had an average forward movement speed of 25-30 miles per hour, and generally moved in the direction of "northeast", but they absolutely could and did change direction, and their forward movement speed in practice varied from near stationary to over 50 miles per hour, the latter being much faster than any horse, and at which point only dragons in flight could escape from, and that was if they themselves started fleeing in time, given the tornadoes' possible size. While generally happening in the afternoon hours of the day, tornadoes could happen at any time of the day, including in the dark of night, often meaning that it took hearing the roaring winds or the tornado being illuminated by a lightning flash for someone to realize that it was there and coming either at them or right by. It was also not uncommon for tornadoes to be heavily wrapped in rain, which ALSO made them hard to see (let alone see coming). Speaking of "powerful" and "destruction"...there was the severity of such things that tornadoes could respectively be and inflict. Now, it was to be mentioned that tornadoes differed from each other just as much in intensity as they did in size, so, again, no two tornadoes were the same in that regard either. Due to this, Altamir eventually developed, out of necessity, a scale for measuring tornadic intensity. The scale was a seven-point one, ranging from 0-6, and was known as the "Salqin Scale", after the Qalmyq word for "wind". Most tornadoes were, at least relatively-speaking, on the "weak" side. Damage from these particular sorts of tornadoes was generally limited to damaged roofs, broken windows, and battered chimneys, as well as signs that were insufficiently anchored being blown down and trees getting branches knocked off and sometimes being uprooted outright if they were, say, shallow-rooted. Of course, "weak" was, again, relatively-speaking, as these ones could absolutely still cause injury and death to both humans and dragons, as humans could be hit by flying glass, struck by falling trees or tree branches, or be on boats or in horse-drawn carriages, wagons, or carts, which these tornadoes could most certainly respectively capsize and flip over, and smaller and younger dragons could potentially get blown out of the skies by the upper end ones among these so-called "weak" tornadoes if caught up in them by carelessness or misfortune. Nonetheless, while these sorts of tornadoes were certainly not harmless by any means, they were still by and far the most survivable sort of tornado, and so Altamir deigned them to the bottom two levels of the scale. "S0" was for tornadoes with windspeeds of 85 miles per hour or lower, and "S1" was for tornadoes which had windspeeds of 86-115 miles per hour (and was more or less the point where the aforementioned "carriages/wagons/carts getting flipped over" and "smaller/younger dragons getting blown out of the skies" started happening). Things got uglier and uglier the further one moved up the scale, however. "S2" tornadoes, with windspeeds of 111-135 miles per hour, and "S3" tornadoes, with windspeeds of 136-165 miles per hour, were the next two levels on the scale, with both sorts of tornadoes being considered "strong" (and S3 and above being considered "intense"), and this part of the scale marking where fatalities really started to happen in both humans and dragons (particularly with regards to S3 tornadoes). At S2, well-built structures would now considerable and/or serious damage, including roof loss, and more poorly built structures would be battered beyond the point of any reasonable repair due to the loss of external walls, not to mention that small objects would now be turned into projectiles, increasing the potential for damage. Carriages, wagons, and carts would now be either rolled several times or tossed into the air, and most certainly be destroyed regardless, and wooded areas would usually have large percentages of trees snapped or uprooted, not to mention that any dragon, not just the smaller and younger ones, would be blown out of the skies. Things only got worse with S3, against which well-built structures would generally lose most of, if not all of, their outer, external walls, and against which poorly-built structures would be destroyed outright. Larger and larger objects (including the aforementioned carriages, wagons, and carts, as well as trees and pieces of destroyed structures) would now be tossed and hurled about as projectiles, and wooded areas would lose most (if not all) vegetation, with those trees that somehow weren't uprooted by these still likely to be stripped of their bark. Higher end S3 damage was the point where tornadoes started tearing grass out of the ground, a phenomenon known as "ground scouring", and from this point on, those caught without sufficient shelter faced either severe maiming or certain death, be they human or dragon. But it was in the top three levels where things got truly horrific. "S4" and above marked tornadoes that were to be considered "violent", and S4, the 'lowest' of this sort of designation, still readily proved it with winds of 166-200 miles per hour. At this point, any structure hit, even the most well-built ones, would likely be simply destroyed, with the poorly built and poorly constructed ones in particular being utterly obliterated. Large, healthy, mature trees would be severely debarked, and that was not counting being snapped off close to the ground or being uprooted outright, and in the latter case, they and other large objects could be ripped into the air and launched as projectiles. Ground scouring now became more uniform and more severe (frequently two or three inches deep at the least), and, critically, this was the point where sheltering in the most interior room of a structure, which could at least be counted upon to save one's life in a well-built structure with those S3 and below, would no longer guarantee someone's safety, and at this point, it was better to be underground. And then came "S5", which was at least generally the strongest that tornadoes got, with winds of 201-260 miles per hour. Now, destruction was almost always 'total', and it was to be emphasized that incredible phenomena would occur. S5 tornadoes were more than capable of ripping apart and obliterating the most well-built structures, sweeping their foundations clean and sending their pieces skyborne, and now even the foundations themselves could be damaged, with even basements of homes potentially not being enough to protect people now. Wooded areas would now be brutally, crudely, and violently "clear-cut" in, the trees frequently simply vanished in such winds, ripped to pulpy shreds. Speaking of "shreds", very little recognizable debris would be left from a such tornadic intensity in general, with most building materials being reduced to a coarse mix of tiny particles, a phenomenon that tended to take "sand-blasting" to an all new level when it came to such intensity happening in populated areas (which also tended to simultaneously turn the tornado into an extremely violent "blizzard" of debris on top of the maddeningly powerful winds, intensifying the destruction even further). Ground scouring was now very severe and intense (with such tornadoes ripping not just the grass, but also the soil itself to a depth of as deep as 12 inches or potentially more), large objects could be thrown for miles, the bodies of humans and dragons caught in such tornadoes would frequently be mangled beyond recognition (and that was if pieces of them could even be found), and those communities unlucky enough to be struck by such intensity, be they villages, towns, or cities, tended to be either simply be leveled entirely or at the very least have large portions leveled, with smaller villages simply vanishing in the winds with only small pieces left. It took several years of investigating various tornadoes of varying intensities in various areas to put the scale together, and Altamir and his companions came across an awful lot of very strange damage in that time, to the point where one would think that it came straight out of an Attican absurdist comedy. More than a few times, dining ware like forks, spoons, knives, and plates, as well as other small household objects, were found embedded in trees or the sides of destroyed buildings. Pieces of paper or parchment from destroyed towns were often found many, many miles away, with the greatest distance being one from central Seleukia that was blown out to sea and landed on a ship off the Seleukian coast...over 300 miles away. There was also how oddly capricious tornadoes could be when it came to damage, particularly true with "multiple-vortex" ones. More than a few times, a one or more structures would be utterly destroyed, while other structures near it would be only lightly-damaged at worst. In a few instances, the rest of a structure would be entire destroyed, but the door was still standing strong (and still closed, at that). In other instances, a structure would be dragged off of its foundation entirely, but still be at least technically be relatively intact (in one particular instance, there was this particular structure that was turned entirely on its side, and the residents had to use a ladder to get in the front door salvage what they could). Sometimes, the structure was otherwise destroyed, but certain objects (like, in one instance, a pastry on a plate) were left untouched and intact. And in one rather memorable instances, a group of chickens were stripped of their feathers but otherwise alive (cue the "behold, a man!" jokes about "featherless bipeds"). By far the single strangest tornado that Altamir had investigated while forming this scale was the tornado that hit Moudania, a town on the Halys River, Seleukia's northern border with the Parlataeans. The tornado ultimately being rated S5 (albeit a multi-vortex one that only inflicted such intense damage and destruction in scattered areas of the town) and causing 45 deaths were frankly the least strange things about it. Happening late at night and moving fast in November, only visible during flashes of lightning, the tornado first completely destroyed a wealthy farm estate to the point where one could not tell that the farm was there...except for five horses which were found a quarter of a mile away still tied to the same fence post, and remarkably uninjured. At the edge of Moudania, a home was grazed and unroofed, with the inhabitants not realizing the latter had happened until they went outside to check the neighbors' house for damage. A little further in Moudania, one structure had its back wall blown out and scattered, but various tables and shelves and everything on them in the structure seemed basically untouched, while another structure was destroyed and only had a single fragment of a wall still standing...but two wooden racks on that piece of wall were still intact, as were most of their contents. At another large farm on the edge of town, hundreds of livestock were slain and the barn was obliterated, but the farm house nearby had only a blown-in door to show for damage. But perhaps the most memorable aspect of the tornado was the various objects and debris that rained out of the skies upon confused steppe herders in a very large area of the southeastern quadrant of the Parlataean Steppes to the north and east of Moudania. Of course, there were the papers and parchments (including a four-page love letter found 60 miles away from the town) but there were also other objects as well, like roof shingles, splinters, fragments of books, an entire sack of flour (found over a hundred miles to the northeast, likely the longest that an object heavier than a pound was ever carried by a tornado), and even dead ducks (indeed, the tornado had killed an entire flock of migratory ducks near Moudania, and Altamir remembered very well when an irate steppe herdsman who had been 40 miles northeast of Moudania came to complain about the slain birds raining upon him out of the skies, with some hitting his livestock, including his horses, one narrowly missing hitting him on the head, and one even crashing right through the top of his tent). This led to the coining of the local phrase "raining letters, flour sacks, and dead ducks", which was an equivalent to the more uniform one of "raining cats and dogs". Either way, though, all of this damage and destruction, and yet...there was still one level of the scale remaining. Altamir had originally intended for "S5" to be the highest level on the scale with windspeeds of over 200 miles per hour, as it seemed that it was simply impractical for the scale to have any level higher. But then, while he, his dragon companions, and his then-teenaged sons and daughters as well as his companions' respective second batches of dragonets, were all investigating the aftermath of the Great Sozopolis Tornado, a monstrous mile wide tornado that struck the aforementioned town and several others in central Seleukia (coming dangerously close to Seleukia's capital city in the process) and ultimately incurred a death toll of over three thousand, making it one of the deadliest tornadoes in Pyrrhian history… ...and what he and they found was horrifying enough to make him cut off S5 at 260 miles per hour and add the seventh level, S6, which marked tornadoes with windspeeds of over 260 miles per hour. As for what such incredibly rare and powerful tornadoes could do? was best left unsaid. But, anyways...Altamir's studies on tornadoes and their effects, and what they could do and how they worked, acted, and behaved, as well as officials documenting such things that happened when they went through various areas, meant that these things about tornadoes became much more well-known amongst the populace. On the one hand, this meant that tornadoes became even more feared (and rightfully so) than they were before, including in areas where inhabitants either hadn't realized that they had them, or previously thought that such things "could never happen here". On the other hand, this fear got the populace to take tornadoes as the serious threat that they were, and start taking measures to protect themselves from them (Seleukian and Sagartian authorities in particular cracked down on shoddy construction, as well as recommending that those who could do so dig and build themselves underground shelters). Tornadoes were not the only natural calamity that Altamir studied, however. Derechos, windstorms, hailstorms, ice storms, sand storms, droughts, blizzards, floods, flash floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, avalanches, tsunamis, heat waves, cold waves, and more were all, again, also among the natural disasters and phenomena and whatnot that Altamir investigated and made advances in the knowledge of, and of how to properly prepare for and survive them, and how to counteract them in necessary. He always considered it to be among his finest achievements that so many who would have otherwise died in these phenomena survived thanks to his advances in knowledge of such things. Natural calamities were not the only area that he made new advances in, of course, nor was natural science for that matter. For it was also under him that he built a multicultural capital named "Saraybaliq" (a Qalmyq-Qipchaq word meaning "Palace City") on the banks of the Almaz river, as he recognized that conquering on horseback and dragonback was easier than it was to dismount and govern, and he'd need something more permanent if he was going to rule for so long. Not to mention that trade between Pyrrhia and another continent, Panchala, was finally properly started for the very first time. Panchala was a few days' dragon flight (and yes, it is meant by 'days') from Pyrrhia, and though it was only two thirds the size of Pyrrhia, it was a thriving continent with at least twenty different human realms, and with its own dragon tribes. Namely, these tribes were the Beetle Dragons (self-designated "BeetleWings") and the Leaf Dragons (self-designated "LeafWings"), as well as two developing sub-tribes of the former in the Hive Dragons (self-designated "HiveWings") and the Silk Dragons (self-designated "Silk-Wings"). Now, it was to be noted that the dragon tribes of Panchala were not actually native to the fact, they (or at the very least the Beetle Dragons and the Leaf Dragons, anyways) were actually originally native to Pyrrhia, but went into exile to Panchala in Jangar's time to keep a threat affecting dragons safely contained away from Pyrrhia. Due to this, it was forbidden on both Pyrrhia and Panchala for dragons from one continent to go from another, as to continue to maintain this threat containment. Humans, though, did not have such a ban upon them due to the threat not affecting them like it did dragons, so while the sea journeys between Pyrrhia and Panchala were definitely long, they certainly could and did happen, and soon, trade routes by sea opened up between the two continents, eventually leading to an exchange in cultures, ideas, languages, religions, and technologies, including something known as 'black powder', a fiery, explosive material that was dangerous, but also had a great deal of potential for usage. However...this trade didn't start happening until long after Altamir had came to rule Pyrrhia...and long after his dragon companions finally died of old age. While Altamir still lived yet. Ah, right...about that… Back when Altamir was 25 years old, he was silently grappling with a certain...issue. Namely...what would happen to Pyrrhia and everything he had worked for when he died. On the one hand, he absolutely understood that death was a natural part of life, and he was a strong believer in the natural order of things, not to mention that he found the idea of outliving all of his immediate family, particularly his own children, exceedingly painful. But, on the other hand, Altamir had, at that point, already sacrificed a great deal for the sake of a peaceful and prosperous Pyrrhia, and he was beyond terrified of the idea of it all going to waste. He could not let that happen. He could not. He simply could not.When Altamir confided in this to his dragon companions, they were, as usual, doing their best to keep him sane and be there for him...though, they were themselves divided on what to do with regards to this issue. Well, they least until Gulay made a semi-joking remark about how, if he was that worried about his work falling apart if he died, then he could simply just live forever.Gulay intended it to be a joke to lighten things, just as she and Sorkhagtani always tended to do...but Altamir took it a different way. Such was he afraid of losing all of his progress and hard work that, on the spot, he asked them very seriously if he could do that. Gulay initially tried to tell him that it was just a joke, but she and the others realized that there was no taking things back now. So, they reluctantly walked him through such an idea and a decision, and about the various downsides to it which would come about if he took it. Then, after they did that, they then finally asked him if he would be willing to attain such a thing in a way that would not harm or kill anyone else, if he was willing to always remember that he was not a god, and if he would at least be willing to live with outliving those dear to them if they died of old age after having lived long, happy lives. Altamir said yes to the first two, and then reluctantly said the same for the last one. When they got these answers from him, they then said that the choice was his, in the end, and that they would support whichever choice he made, but that if he indeed decided to go for it, they would not be joining him, figuratively-speaking, as they all were decisively against 'living forever' themselves, and all very much wanted to live and die normally. So, after more thinking, and putting his personal happiness last yet again...Altamir made his choice. He compromised. Basically, he decided to go for it in a way that specifically removed the possibility of him dying from old age or from any infectious or otherwise potentially fatal disease or illness or whatnot, but still left him open to dying in other ways. This way, him dying was now a mere possibility, not necessarily an inevitability, but it also meant that, while he wouldn't age and would stay young, he was still mortal and could otherwise die like anyone else, so he'd still have to take care and make sure that such a thing didn't happened if he didn't want it to. For a time, Altamir was able to hide the decision, passing off his still looking and moving young as being good fortune. However, after he turned sixty years old, he finally disclosed what he had done with himself, heavily emphasis the "not a god" aspect and that he absolutely was, again, still mortal...just one who wouldn't die of old age now, and that it was done for the sake of stability on Pyrrhia. There was an uproar about this for a time, but, within a year or so, most generally let it go, and more or less everyone let it go within a few years. By that point, however, the aforementioned 'price' was already happening. Tahmasp, the Shah of the Panjians and a dear friend to Altamir two years his junior, tragically died young at the age of 42, albeit not before gaining the title of "Tahmasp-i Marmatgir", "Tahmasp the Restorer", due to his and Altamir's work in restoring a battered Panjistan to great prosperity, with a young but kind and talented son named Anushirvan succeeding him. Anushirvan, aged 19 at succession, would rule wisely and fairly, in a way that would have made his father proud, for 50 years before abdicating in favor of his own grandson, Ardashir, and would live to be 82. As for Altamir's various other allies, Ptolemy would live to 71, Kleomenes would live to 70, Domnall would live to 68, and the various other leaders, generals, and princes that had fought in his army or at least supported it would all live to ages ranging from mid-60s to early 80s. Of his immediate and close family, friends and allies, Altamir's mother, Sorkhagtani the Elder, as well as his aunts Temulun and Ozlem and his uncle Khingila, were the first to go, all dying in their 70s and 80s of various natural causes. Next to go were Babur and Toregene, who both lived to their early 80s despite their hard line of work. Then, after that, came Altamir's siblings and cousins and also Rustam, all of whom had their children and lived long lives, and then died in a range of ages from late 60s to early 90s. And then after that came Tomirish, who lived a VERY long life and managed to break a century old before finally dying of old age. As for his children, aside from Bleda, who died very young in a horrific incident, the rest, too, lived long lives, had their children, and died at ages ranging from late 70s to late 90s. Each time these beloved family members and close friends and whatnot died (except for Bleda's case, in which he was unable to do so due to severe circumstance), Altamir would give them the grandest funerals possible, doing his best to properly honor their lives and their memory, and ensure that they would be properly remembered and never forgotten. He loved and cared for them dearly in life, so he made sure to do so for them in death as well as he returned them to the skies that his people believed that they came from. At Tahmasp's funeral in particular, he even sang a song that the latter had penned in his youth, "Morgh-e Sahar". Throughout all of these funerals for his human family, his dragon companions were there at his side, faithful and loyal as they always had been, even if they had their qualms about Altamir's decision. After the funeral of the last of his daughters, he simply asked them to stay with him and live for as long as they could. With them each now being 106 years old but not about to give up on life, they agreed to what Altamir asked, and so they stubbornly lived on. Dragon aging being different from human aging meant that they could live for much longer than the average human, and indeed, all of his dragon companions lived for at least a further century, owing to their excellent health and stubborn determination… ...but alas, once that century passed, and once they were all over 200 years old, they, too, began to die one by one as age finally caught up to them. The first of them to die, Shiban, did so at 206 years old, and then the rest followed (Togay at 207, Peksen at 208, Chagatai at 210, and Sorkhagtani and Gulay at 213) until the last remaining one of them, Gunesha, died at 216 years old, an age that made her the longest lived dragon in Pyrrhian history. Given their great popularity with both humankind and dragonkind on Pyrrhia stemming from their kind-but-firm personalities, their level-headed wisdom, their skill when it came to leadership, administration, and diplomacy, and their ability to aid the Great Khan in wise, fair, responsible rule, as well as many other achievements of theirs (like the developing of an entire new literary language by Chagatai in particular)...their deaths were mourned far and wide. But none mourned as hard as Altamir did. It was already the case that each and every single death from those close to him was very, very painful, particularly those of his mother, his uncle, his aunts, his siblings and cousins, and especially his wife and his children. And yet...even with the knowledge that they'd lived long, happy, healthy lives, were able to see all of their own dragonets to adulthood without a single one of them turning out bad or dead, never went senile and remained sharp as blades throughout their lives, and that none of them died by way of any horrible illness or foul play… ...the deaths of Togay, Sorkhagtani, Gulay, Chagatai, Gunesha, Peksen, and Shiban were by and far the most devastating. Given how long they had been a part of his life, as well as how faithful and loyal they were, each and every single one of their deaths ripped his heart out and smashed it under a landslide. It felt as if a piece of his very soul was being torn away from him each time one after another of them passed on. At each of their funerals, he had an incredibly hard time keeping a handle on himself as he gave them one final embrace and memorialized their lives before returning them to the skies in the Parlataean tradition. It was a predictable thing that Altamir grieved their deaths long and hard, particularly after Gunesha's death. After her death in particular, he was described by others as being rather "lost", as if his life was lacking in purpose...he was only barely able to do his job, and he had to take time off to try and steady himself, if only for a little while. For a time, Altamir's rule was lacking the purpose, the gravitas that it usually had. He never 'became a tyrant', thank the gods...but it was seen by those around him to not quite be doing it as well as he could have, no thanks to his great loss. This continued until, one fateful day, while he was on a belated visit to Seleukia, he stumbled upon a group of (quite young) Mud Dragonets who had been abandoned by their (horribly irresponsible) "mother". Horrified by this as he was, he initially considered finding someone else to take them in, given the pain of losing his Dragon Companions and the knowledge that if he took them in, they would inevitably die under him...but upon hearing and seeing them begging and pleading with him to give them a home...he couldn't say "no". So, he took them in...and in the process of giving them a proper home and a proper upbringing...he finally realized his true secondary calling (alongside his existing one of ruling a peaceful, prosperous Pyrrhia, that is). Namely, that of being the one to take in and raise those human children and those dragonets who were particularly unfortunate thus far in their early lives, be it being abandoned by their parents, being abused by their "parents", or being orphaned because their parents died. Before long with this, he began to do this in full, reinvigorated by having found this secondary purpose, and soon, he earned yet another meaning to his nickname of "the Father of Pyrrhia". That, and eventually, he became the sort whom the various kings and queens of Pyrrhia would send their heirs to be fostered under so that they could learn how best to rule their respective realms under his watchful eye...arguably the most notable of these being Queen Margarita, a Sea Dragon Queen who, despite having to become the Queen of her tribe at 5 years old, became known as being perhaps the best Queen that her tribe ever had, and one of the most universally beloved. So with this new secondary purpose, he properly resumed ruling Pyrrhia, ruling it wisely and with care for hundreds upon hundreds of years...---------------------------------- ...until, one day, he didn't. That morning, just shy of his 1050th birthday, and just shy of what would have marked his 1030th anniversary of ruling Pyrrhia, Altamir Jahangir Alchono, King of Kings, Malik of Maliks, Shahanshah of Shahanshahs, Khan of Khans, and the Great Khan of All Pyrrhia...was found dead, having died of mysterious causes. It was never agreed upon as to what exactly caused his death. The only thing agreed upon was that there was no sign of foul play, and a consensus upon the matter was otherwise never truly reached. Unfortunately, given his death, and given that, by this point, there was no real specific heir to the rule of All Pyrrhia, his realm that he had spent over a millennium building gradually broke apart along tribal, ethnic, and cultural lines. With this, and without a wise ruler to keep out any potential tyrants, Pyrrhia went into a slow decline on both the human and dragon fronts, and soon, Altamir's dream became a dying one, especially after wars between once-friendly realms began breaking out against one another. This would continue for hundreds of years after his death… ...until, when it had very nearly been five hundred years after his death, and right around the time of the new year...a great and most horrific calamity occurred. One that utterly obliterated the already dying dream that Altamir had possessed. The Scorching. Or, as the human survivors of the event would label it, "The Great Apocalypse". Aside from keeping the realm together by wise rule, one thing that Altamir had also done was taking in any dragon animus born on the continent, with an order to the various tribes to send to him any young dragonets found to be animi, so that he could make sure that their powers, and the usage of such powers, would not drive them insane, and so that he could teach them that with great power came great responsibility. Without him here to carry out this vital task, it was inevitable that an animus would go mad and cause a catastrophe. And it came in the form of Bloodfang. A Night Dragon Animus, driven mad by her powers and her usage of them, had developed an unhinged hatred of humans, and despised that dragons on Pyrrhia would dare to associate with them and call them friends and even family. So, she decided to 'do something' about it by developing a spell. In that spell, which would be placed upon all humans of Pyrrhia, humans and Pyrrhian Dragons would no longer be able to communicate with or understand each other, with the latter now hearing only nondescript squeaking and 'yibbling' from the former, and the former now hearing only nondescript growling and roaring from the latter. Furthermore, as long as she lived, Pyrrhian Dragons would now actively hunt and kill (and perhaps eat) every single human that they came across. And when she cast that spell, the results were nothing short of beyond horrific. When the spell was cast, humans found themselves being hunted down and slaughtered (and even eaten) en masse by the very same dragons that they had previously closely associated with, even the ones they had mutually regarded as friends and family. The bloodshed was beyond anything Pyrrhia had ever seen, with millions upon millions of humans being slain and even devoured in this act of betrayal. The active slaughter only stopped when a young human woman managed to find Bloodfang by a stroke of luck and kill the both of them in a self-sacrificing manner… ...but by then, it was much too late. Most of the human peoples were either wiped out or almost wiped out, and there were few survivors of the slaughter overall. And Pyrrhia's figurative landscape had already been irreversibly and permanently changed, with dragons now having completely and utterly forgotten their long amiable history with humans, and humans bitterly mourning their lost friendship with dragons as they were forced to hide away in groves and coves and even underground from the beings whom they had once regarded as a 'sibling species', as family. Thus began the new normal, with dragons and dragon tribes warring with each other over this and that issue, while humans were forced to live in the shadows. And this new normal would persist for centuries upon centuries...------------------ ...until one day, five thousand and eleven years after the great calamity, a most momentous event happened, unknown to all upon Pyrrhia at the time. In the mountains of Central Pyrrhia, in the lower-middle-right side of what Dragons now knew as the "Claw of the Clouds Mountains", a human animus and a Sky Dragon animus, able to understand each other thanks to that human, being a human animus, being unaffected by the curse that afflicted all of the rest of his kind, were living together as they had for seven years up to that point, and they had gotten curious about this figure from the distant past whom they knew as "All-Tamer". So, they endeavored to see if they could raise the dead so that they could be sure that they’d be able to bring him back to life. When they were able to first resurrect a mouse and then a hawk whose carcasses they had found, with both creatures respectively running and flying away no worse for wear, they then resurrected a "random fox that had died six thousand years ago", and the result was a live, healthy fox being brought back from nothing and, too, running off no worse for wear. When they saw this success, they then set about bringing this mysterious, mythical "All-Tamer" back to life...but when they cast the spell that did so...their cave filled with light, and they felt a great wave pulsing through them that then radiated outwards, soon reaching all of the rest of Pyrrhia.------------------------------ January 20th, 5011 A.S.------------------------------ " What was that?" Clay, a nearly-6-year-old MudWing Dragonet who had been taken in by the beauty of everything outside of the cave that he and a similarly-aged SeaWing Dragonet named Tsunami had just escaped from, was distracted from that beauty by some very odd feeling suddenly flooding through him. "...uh...yeah, good question." Tsunami had clearly felt it too, given how she looked and sounded as Clay looked at her. "Don't know what that was either." "...should we go back to the cave?" Clay pensively asked his friend. Tsunami seemed rather offended that he'd ask this. "...after all of this hard work to get out of there? No! Not a chance! Let's keep going!" They didn't notice the SkyWings approaching them...----------------------- "...hmm?" The usually unflappable Glory, a nearly-6-year-old RainWing Dragonet who was helping Clay and Tsunami escape, and intending to follow along with a similarly aged pair of dragonets, a NightWing named Starflight, and a SandWing(?) named Sunny, was genuinely confused by this foreign, alien feeling pulsing through her. "What was that?" "I...I don't know." Sunny was confused by the feeling as well, contrasting her usual cheerful nature. "Uh..." "...question for later, I guess." Starflight remarked. "Uh, guys, let's keep focused on getting this fire started."------------------------- "Huh? What was..." Peril, a 7-year-old SkyWing Dragonet with Firescales, was waiting for the next fight to start in Scarlet's Arena when the odd feeling hit her and then left. "Uh...okay, I guess that just happened for some reason...whatever."------------------------- "...wha-?" Moonwatcher, a 3-year-old NightWing Dragonet who had the (mis)fortune of being born with mindreading powers, sat up in confusion in the RainWing forest. "What was that?" This feeling that had just hit was nothing like what she got from her powers. "I...hope I'm just imagining things..."-------------------------- "Whoa...that was weird." Kinkajou, a 3-year-old RainWing Dragonet, stopped in confusion at the strange feeling. "Never felt THAT before..." She didn't notice the trio of NightWings approaching her from behind...-------------------------- "...muh?" Qibli, a 4-year-old SandWing Dragonet, confusedly tilted his head as he felt the odd feeling rushing through him. "Qibli?" Thorn, the adult SandWing who had taken him in as her 'advisor', noticed his confusion. "What is it?" "Huh? Uh..." Qibli then shook his head. "...must be my mind doing weird stuff for no reason. Nevermind."------------------------------- "...huh?" Anemone, a 2-year-old SeaWing Dragonet who was both a princess and (annoyingly) tethered to her mother, Queen Coral, felt something strange going through her. "What is it, dear Anemone?" Her mother (or rather, her mother hen) asked her, clearly concerned. "'s nothing, mother." Anemone answered somewhat irritably.If only she could get away from her mother just for a minute or two...------------------------------- "Hm?" Turtle felt himself startled to his feet by the odd feeling that went through him like an ocean wave. " must be my mind playing tricks on when I thought that I could be a hero." That was a failed dream...especially ever since THAT incident...-------------------------------- "" "Wha..." 4-year-old Winter and 5-year-old Snowfall, a pair of IceWing Dragonets who were a respective prince and princess of their tribe and cousins to each other, were right in the middle of asking Crystal, Snowfall's 9-year-old older sister, if it was REALLY a good idea to try and protect Gharial (a 7-year-old MudWing Dragonet who had been captured in a recent battle and was a prisoner of war, but whom Crystal had come to like and care for) from being executed by way of being a live training dummy by instead taking him as a personal butler and assistant to her, when IT had pulsed through the two of them. "Uh...are you two okay?" Crystal asked, noticing how surprised and confused they both looked. "Huh? No, I'm fine, I'm fine." Winter quickly dismissed her concern. "Yes, we're both fine." Snowfall joined her cousin in this. "Anyways, Crystal..."---------------------------- And this wave reached even beyond Pyrrhia, washing over Panchala (or rather, Pantala, as its inhabitants now called it) as well...----------------"...huh? What was that?" Blue, a 5-year-old SilkWing Dragonet, felt the strange feeling blasting through him. " me. I don't know either." Luna, his similarly aged sister, shrugged, also having been hit with the feeling as well, and being equally unknowing of what it was and what it meant.------------------------------ "...wha?" Cricket, a 5-year-old HiveWing Dragonet, felt something strange pulsing by. "Uh...I don't know what that was..." "Cricket?" Katydid, her 15-year-old big sister, asked, concerned. "What is it?" "Uh...I don't know?" Cricket wished she could know what that was...oh, how she wished she could know. But she didn't know if she ever could or would.----------------------- "Hrm?" Sundew, a 5-year-old LeafWing Dragonet, jolted up in confusing, having felt this odd feeling utterly alien in origin flooding through her. "Uh..." "Sundew?" Willow, another 5-year-old LeafWing Dragonet, whom Sundew had snuck off to meet with, asked, concerned about her. "Oh, it's nothing." Sundew replied, dismissing her concern. "I've got no idea what THAT was,'s probably nothing.------------------------------ But it was not nothing. Far from it, it was something that would herald Pyrrhia and beyond permanently changing once again. Something that the likes of which had never seen before.And as the human animus and dragon animus stared at the red-haired human still asleep in front of them, they would find out just what and how much in the coming day.
Ref Sheets
[ OPEN ] ADOPT The Lord of the depths by BARSSYK
[AUCTION - CLOSED] Purple Dragon by CarinaAyland
Pixel Art
Telzok in Orbit (Pixel Animation) by Dragongrafx-16
Pixel Tundra the Dragoness by DashaSalty
Flappy - Philoxus by Kurrya
Flappy - Areikzar by Kurrya
Dragon Comics
On Amber Wings - Page 5 by AABartonArt
Subaru dragon by dudidraak
Digital Art III - FULL
.:Krypto 2019:. by Kryptangel
Digital Art II FULL
Welcome to cookie world by Skaizek
Digital Art - F U L L
Sekmet by Lycandra
Traditional art - FULL



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In case you were wondering about some of the categories you see here...

The keeper is a gallery moderator. Here you will be able to submit up to 3 pictures a day, automatically approved. This also means that you are more responsible about what you submit. You may vote on pictures and make sure they are submitted to the right folder. It is also your task here to look through the groups folders and make sure that pictures that have already been approved are surely in the right category. They can do almost anything; keep an eye on the activity of the loyal to make sure they do the job right, and in case something wasn't properly passed they can fix that. They also do most of the work helping out the founder with contest and major group decisions and what not.

The Loyal are activity moderators. They help vote on group decisions overall (not just member submissions, but affiliation request, blog entries, etc), and can submit 2 pictures a day with a vote required. You have a wide variety of responsibilities here, but you do not have permission to manage the gallery as the Keepers do.

The founder The founder is the root of the entire group. They can manage the settings for the group, manage members, contributors, co-founders, etc. Basically if there is an issue and it is out of the power of the moderators, the task is up to the founder to fix the issue as such. They also help collaborate group projects with the rest of the moderators in the group.

The original founder of this group was ThylacoleoCarnifex, but has since passed on leadership to other more active and trustworthy people and friends.


Hi again, still looking for a new Founder as I don't have the time to be in charge of the group anymore. I will give it another week and if no one steps forward, I will have to close the group. I can't leave the group as I am the founder so I need to pass it on to someone else or I will have to request DeviantArt to close the group down. After the whole AI thing, most of the other mods left the group or just aren't active which has left me as the most active and without the regular help of others, it's a lot to do when I don't even really use DA anymore.
Please step forward if you think you would be a good founder for the group! If not, I will request the closure next weekend.
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