Shantel - Raphael [mc89m]

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Literature Text

The instant she spotted the tarnished silver necklace, Anastasia knew it was destined to be a magical object.  It was nestled among some charred beams of an old church, dropped by some patron and long forgotten after the place had burned.  She had been overjoyed when, upon a careful cleaning, the pendant was revealed to be a tiny, perfect mirror set into a silver frame.

The necklace sat in a jumble of knickknacks for several weeks before the young dragon decided what magic it would hold.  The delicate jewelry spoke of old times, long forgotten, a bit of memory left behind of happier days, so warm memories and a feeling of longing for the past went into it.  It was one of those objects in which natural elements had no hand, and the results were always variable when working with the more abstract magics.  Still, Anastasia was greatly satisfied with the final results, which she dubbed the Nostalgia Curio.

*You want me to deliver it?*

Pierre turned to her with a harried look. He always looked harried.  *Yes, Anastasia.  Mjollnir and Athena are already out on assignment, Jarod is busy with Indyana managing the invasion of boring beetles, and I'm running all the Kailan's errands.  This world should be safe enough if you find Raphael and don't dawdle.*

Anastasia frowned slightly, feeling worried.  She usually didn't go on Shantel deliveriesshe just provided the items.  She didn't like to be away from Alexei and the others for too long.  Still, Pierre was the only one here, and Bishen Realm was usually full to the brim, especially during the winter.  He needed help.

*All right,* she relented, *but how will I find Raphael?*

*With this.*  Pierre plucked a small arrowhead on a loop of leather from the desk.  *Hold it like this and ask it to find him.*  He held up his foot, upturned, and set the arrowhead down flat on the sole.  After a moment, it rose to hover and made a slow spin, stopping to point toward the door.  *We'll try to get you into his world close by so you won't have to travel much.  You're going to have to keep as hidden as possible; dragons aren't a common species on his world.*

Well, thought Ana, it's a good thing you're sending a bright pink and purple furry Bishel dragon there then!  She kept her comment to herself as Pierre passed her the magic arrowhead.

*Come on,* he said. *We'll use the main Realm portal.*

Everything changed drastically as Anastasia exited the portal on Raphael's world.  It was night here, and dirty buildings of stone towered around her, oddly straight and flat in the dark.  She was immediately struck by the sharp lines of the city around her, and the sheer scale of it.  There was a murmur of background noise, and although it was muted in the alley where she stood, it spoke of a vast and bustling place.

Pierre had reminded her not to linger before she stepped through, so she quickly pulled the arrowhead off her ankle and held it as Pierre had showed her.  Okay, find Raphael, little arrow.

She felt a little swish of magic as the object rose and spun lazily around, just as it had for Pierre.  It finally settled on pointing further down the alley, and she turned and started walking.  Luckily, the immediate area seemed quiet enough.  Not even a rat or a breeze.

Eventually, she found herself facing a solid wall.  The arrow tilted up into a sharp incline, apparently pointing over the building.  There was a door, which she tried with one clawed foot, but it was locked.  Multiple floors of windows stretched above her, and there was no way to climb.

Well, that's not good.  Anastasia looked around again, in case she'd missed something at first glance, but there was no way to proceed.  So much for an easy delivery.  She had just turned and started walking back down the alley when she heard a slight scrape from above.  Glancing back, her sharp Terran vision picked up the form of a woman swinging over the side of the building.  As she repelled down the side, she was followed by a second shape, and this one had a familiar, serpentine silhouette.  To confirm her suspicion, Ana pulled out the arrowhead again, and it almost immediately began pointing at the dragon, which had opened a set of wings and was rapidly gliding down into the alley.

She trotted toward his likely landing spot, and he turned to gape at her in surprise, nearly bungling the landing completely.  He steadied himself with his wings on the ground, and she saw that there was a set of clawed toes on each wing.  A Terran-Arboreal then.  She whistled quietly as she approached, a friendly note the Realm residents used to greet one another.  *Hello. Raphael?*

*What?  Are you...?  Wait, my Shantel!* He blinked as his confusion cleared, batting long eyelashes.

This one is a quick one, Ana thought.  And rather easy on the eyes, as far as male dragons went.  She prepared to launch into her speech.  *Raphael, I am here from Bishen Real—*

*Stop.  We can't do this here.*  Raphael slithered forward, head jerking back and forth between Anastasia and the woman behind her.  He moved past Ana, back down the alley, turning to look over his shoulder at her.  *Can you come with us, please?  We need to get out of here.  Now.*

Anastasia suddenly realized something wasn't quite right with the two of them coming down from the roof of that building.  Why hadn't they used the stairs and exited out the door?  Were they locked in?  Escaping?  She blinked but moved to follow Raphael as he quickly met the woman at the base of the wall.  No, wait... on closer inspection, it wasn't a woman, it was a young man.  He was lithe, with blazing red eyes and hair that hung low around his shoulders.  Ana assumed this was Raphael's bondmate, a theory confirmed when they held a silent conversation in front of her.   She wondered if that was what she and Alexei looked like to outsiders, all silent mimed expressions.

The man said something in a language Ana didn't understand and quickly jogged away from the building with Raphael at his side, forcing her to spin around again and follow them out.  They quickly turned into a gap between two buildings and continued in the dark.  Anastasia was again grateful for her Terran vision as she avoided tripping over anything in the narrow space.  At the end of the crevice, they spilled out onto a smooth walkway of stone and approached an odd, metal vehicle.  A hatch opened on it as they approached, and the man pulled open a second, rear hatch as he reached it.

The man spoke to her with a grimace as she reached the contraption with Raphael.  She gave the other Bishel dragon a confused look.

*Come on,* Raphael said, climbing inside onto some sturdy cushions.  Ana followed; it was a tight squeeze for two fully grown dragons, and she curled around herself to try to leave Raphael enough room.  The hatch slammed shut behind her, and she squeaked as some of her fur was caught in the closure.  There was no time to complain though; the vehicle roared forward with a jolt as the man was jumping into the seating area in front.  A woman sat in front, controlling their ride with a large wheel.  An imposing, angry vibe radiated off her, and Anastasia scrunched herself further back against the cushions and glanced nervously at Raphael.

The younger Bishel dragon seemed much more relaxed than he had in the alleyway, obviously satisfied with the way their escape was proceeding.  He tilted his head toward Ana, looking apologetic.  *Sorry about that.  We're in the middle of something, and it would probably be a bad idea for two dragons to be gathered together in public.  We're not exactly a common sight.*

Ana nodded at him, although she knew he was purposely being vague.  It was difficult to hide deception when communicating via telepathy, although he didn't seem to realize it.  She wondered if he had ever spoken with another dragon before.  He sounded a bit garbled to her, like she could get the impression of what he was saying but not the exact wording.  Was he out of practice?  Or was he, like his bondmate, speaking a language she didn't understand?  So many questions...

In the front seat, the man and woman had begun carrying on a conversation in their own language.  Ana thought it sounded angry.  At least the woman sounded angry.  Anastasia looked at them again.  There was something... yes, there was magic there.  Hidden and barely accessible, so they weren't mages, but it was present.  It stood out in this city where so little seemed to exist beyond cold stone.

*Where are we going?* she asked Raphael.  The scenery outside was full of strange, straight-edged buildings and large stone highways and walkways.  Bright globes of light gleamed everywhere without  flame, but the city felt cold and silent, not full of magic, so Ana wasn't certain how they made their light.  If she concentrated, there was a faint, hair-raising buzz, muted by the layers of stone.  The vehicle they were in growled as it turned a corner and accelerated.

*To a safe place,* Raphael assured her.  *We can talk more there.  So, are you really here for my Shantel?*

*Yes,* she confirmed.  *My name is Anastasia, and I'm here from Bishen Realm to present you with your first magical object.  You were expecting me?*

*Well, not you exactly,* Raphael said, eyeing her furry form with open curiosity, *but I know what a Shantel is, and why else would another Bishel dragon suddenly show up exactly where I happened to be?*

Ana didn't have to answer. The slowing of their transport provided a reason to halt the conversation.  The man jumped out and opened the hatch for her, and she clumsily got herself uncoiled and out the door.

Raphael slid out to her side and moved quickly across the walkway toward another alley. Anastasia followed, trotting to keep up, and heard his bondmate shut the hatch behind her.  There was another growl as the vehicle moved away, leaving them to their destination without the woman driver.

The younger dragon led the way to a heavy metal door, which his bondmate soon opened. Once inside, they wound their way through corridors and stairways, all strangely smooth and straight.  The final corridor was a sea of uninterrupted carpet that led them to a plain, white door.  There was a complicated system of bolts on it, and once inside, the bolts were all spun and snapped in place with a frenzied attention that put Ana on edge.  She privately thought that anything that could smash its way through a bolt or two could take down the entire door.  That many locks seemed excessive.

Raphael's bondmate sighed loudly and plunked himself down on a cushioned sitting bench, nervous energy draining off into exhaustion.  Even in his tired state, he had a bit of an aura around him, flailing and fluttering just beyond the realm of sight.  Ana wondered what the two had been up to, but again, too many questions that there wasn't time for.  The questions probably wouldn't be appreciated anyway.  These two struck her as very private and contained.  She turned to find Raphael looking her up and down, taking in the appearance of another Bishel dragon for what she assumed was the first time.

With her attention on him, he drew himself up and flared his wings slightly, an unconscious bit of posing that almost made her snort.  Still, she was struck by his smooth, gem-like spines and incredibly thick lashes.

*So, you were saying...?* he prompted with a lilt of amusement.

To business then, thought Anastasia, slightly miffed that he hadn't even introduced his bondmate.  His manners could use a bit of polish.  Then again, maybe he was just excited to see his magical object. It was a big event for a young shrape.

She carefully unwrapped the silver chain from her ankle and replaced it with the arrowhead she had been given.  She then held the necklace up for Raphael to see.  *This is the Nostalgia Curio, your first magical object.  When you wear it, you'll basically remind people of a happy memory.  People will want to know you, to help you, and just be more friendly in general.  It also allows you to breathe out a gray haze that can provide cover from any enemies.*

Or a quick escape, she added to herself.

*The haze can't be blown away by wind, it has to dissipate on its own.  You can also learn to control it.  The Nostalgia Curio is a conduit for memory magic.  You can learn more abilities related to memories and perception if you practice; this just a starting point.*

She finished by holding out the necklace and mirrored pendant for Raphael to take.  He gently grasped it in his talons and examined it.

*This can do all that?* he asked, looking at it as though he wanted to know what made it tick.

Anastasia nodded.  *I made this one myself.  It'll do exactly what I say it does.*

*You made this?*  Raphael's gaze sharpened as it moved from the object to Anastasia.  *How?*

Anastasia shifted, leaning back on her haunches. *It's my magic.  I can put magic into items.*

Something seemed to occur to the young Blue.  *Wait here,* Raphael said and slithered off into the next room, on a sudden mission.

Anastasia blinked and glanced over at his bondmate, who was watching silently from his position of respite.  Staring with his odd red eyes.  Not awkward at all.

Luckily, Raphael returned in short order, carrying a small box.  Anastasia picked up on the vibrations coming off it before he even reached her.

*Oh, I wasn't sure you even had magic here,* she said, tilting her head at it.  *The rest of this city seems so empty of it.  Well, except for your bondmate and his friend.*

Raphael's eyes narrowed a fraction.  Anastasia wasn't certain she liked that look, but she didn't feel particularly threatened.  *What do you see?* he asked.

*Well, this box, for example, has a feel to it.  An energy of its own.  And your bondmate, and the woman from the transport vehicle, they have a shine to them.  I can almost see it if I concentrate hard enough... it's not blatant, the way a mage aura would look.  There's potential though.*  She frowned, not certain how to describe it to the younger dragon.  *Can you feel it?  You should be able to feel something from the Nostalgia Curio too, although the magic is very different.*

Raphael furrowed his brow at the items but nodded.  *Yes, I can feel something.  Can't you tell me anything more?*

Anastasia tried to tap deeper into the feeling from the box and instead got a warning, hairs raising along her neck.  There was powerful magic here, and it didn't want to be revealed before its time.  She knew if she tried to access it, it wasn't going to cooperate.

*No, I can't.  Some magics are only available under certain circumstances, certain times, and I can sense this is one of them.  It's resistant.*

Raphael frowned again, and she could tell he wanted to know more, but suddenly, the arrowhead on her ankle flew up and twitched at the end of its tie, wavering and pointing to the door.  The door disappeared in a wash of brilliant white light a second later.  Raphael jerked to look, raising his tail defensively to the side.  Across the room, his bondmate leapt up with a babbled exclamation and pulled a metal hand weapon from behind his back, aiming it at the portal.

*It's all right, it's just time for me to leave,* Ana explained.

Raphael glanced at his bondmate, but the man only lowered his weapon slightly to point at the floor and did not put it away.

*Congratulations, Raphael.  I hope I'll see you again one day.  Good luck with the Nostalgia Curio.*

*But...* Raphael paused. *...Thank you.*  He sighed, obviously not completely satisfied.

Anastasia smiled at him.  *Don't worry, it will all work out.  Everything comes with time and practice.  Believe me, I know!*

Raphael and his bondmate frowned at one another, but Anastasia had already spent enough time away.  It was time for her to get home and back to her own bondmate.  She trotted into the portal of light and was on her way, leaving the two to figure out the path before them.
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karimuffin's avatar

So, I absolutely adore that you chose to write it from Ana's perspective. I enjoy the way you did her narration and side comments about the situations. XD You did a great job getting her character.

Raph's item is beautiful and absolutely perfect. :heart: Thank you so much.