Peering through an ethereal ring of silver flame, Sefeldri lowered a final branch from the surrounding forest onto a pile with a telekinetic grip. The firewood creaked and shifted under this new weight as the drake’s attention was drawn to a nearby rock, where a mass of stars fell from the sky. The ring before her face winked out as two bright lights shone from the errant piece of night. The cosmic canine silhouette turned to regard her.
She glanced up at the encroaching night, then back down to her companion. “Even if the colors were right, the stars don’t match.”
“They’re not your stars,” answered many voices.
“So you’ve told me, Fate,” she replied dismissively. “And since I’m not going to cross the desert to find out where, I’ve taken to hoping it’s actually when. Unless you want me to follow the dragons to find out?”
“Oh no, I hope you never do,” Fate said. “Nor would it help. It’s not a sky any dragon’s ever seen.”
Sefeldri’s eyes widened, “Not even the Patriarch?”
“Not even him.”
She sat back on her haunches and regarded the Spectator. “Why didn’t you ever tell me that before?”
“You never asked.”
“You can read my mind.”
“I try not to do it often. Keeps things interesting. Besides, there’s a lot he doesn’t know. That’s why he needs you, after all.”
Shaking her head, Sefeldri focused on the stack of firewood again. As she tapped into a different spell within her helmet, the silver flames appeared again before her face. She gently blew through the ghostly ring, and a gout of flame shot forth to ignite the stack.
Fate cocked his head. “It’s been centuries since anyone fell for that affected fire-breathing.”
“I can see why they would, though. And I can see why dragons did it. Flow within to match flow without. It feels proper.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Fate said. “They’d probably think you silly though, lighting campfires and sleeping through the night, only to take flight during the day.”
“It’s too hard to look for a human at night.”
“Have you decided what you’ll do when you find him?”
Sefeldri’s gaze dropped to the ground under her front talons, before responding quietly, “Not yet.”
“You’re running out of time.”
A brief moment of irritation flared and died in the back of Sefeldri’s mind, and she met those bright lights that passed for Fate’s eyes again. “You still haven’t told me why you care.”
“He might be able to help us with a special task.”
“Do you trust me?”
Sefeldri snorted, “You know you’re the only one I trust. That’s why your silence bothers me.”
“You’ll have to live with being bothered for a while longer. Not too long, I promise.” It was Fate’s turn to look away, as if put off by his own reluctance. “I do hope you’ll listen to me when the time comes.”
“I want to! I’m a spy, not...” Sefeldri shook her head, “I can’t just ignore a command from the Patriarch like this, though, as uncomfortable as it makes me.”
“We’ll find a way. We always do.”
“Sometimes I just miss the times we didn’t have to,” she shot back. “The times when we could just roam until we found something interesting to bring back.”
Fate didn’t respond. The sounds of the forest spoke in his silence, carrying the calls and cries of creatures that were, like drakes, nocturnal. All reminders of how far Sefeldri drifted from her brethren when her responsibilities called for it.
If Fate wouldn’t, she’d interrupt them herself. “You know what tonight is?”
“Twenty years since I found you.”
“You’ve been following me everywhere for decades and still need to ask if I trust you,” Sefeldri said, her hurt tone shown false by a smile.
“Call it guilt,” Fate said, his voices sounding oddly muted. “Sometimes I think your answer might change.”
He didn’t have to tell her why. She might trust him, but he knew things he could never trust her with. He’d promised her, when they started traveling together, that he’d tell her anything that might endanger her. Most times, that was enough.
Fate hadn’t met looked back up at her yet, and she found herself staring at the strange hole in space his body formed. Before she could lose herself in the stars forming his folded wings, she turned skyward to look at the night’s own spread. Patriarch Dėherodase was supposed to know every star in the sky, in configurations dating back almost a thousand years. He’d traveled to places never visited, especially southward, just to witness the stars nobody ever sees. She felt something of an obligation to learn, now that she knew there were patterns even he hadn’t seen.
“Could you take me there again tonight?”
Fate finally looked back to her, tilting his head in silent question
“Where you take your appearance from. Can you show me again? Not the same as going personally, but with what you’ve now told me, I doubt I ever will.”
“If you’d like.”
Fate cocked his head in the opposite direction at that. “Ready to sleep already?”
With a shrug, Sefeldri settled down on the matted grass beneath her. “Why not? The earlier I rise the better. Wake me if anything comes close.”
“I’ll keep you safe.” Somehow, Fate’s response never sounded as rote as her request.
Shortly after she closed her eyes, entirely new surroundings exploded into existence around her. A dense forest spread around where she was suspended in midair, covering the ground out to distant mountains that ringed the entire scene. Immediately below her was a placid lake, its shoreline occasionally broken by colossal crystals that glowed faintly in the night. Above her spread stars in a cloudless sky, a sky divided by a band of bright filaments running from one end to another. Not her stars.
“Now,” Fate’s voices came from everywhere around her, “let me show you my constellations.”