Shantel - Sharona [mc88f]

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Sharona was prancing in place, surrounded by her family—fathers and both sets of grandparents.  Havelock was seated nearby, still pale and haggard but looking much improved from the time of their arrival.  They had all been staying as guests at the Realm for a few days as preparations for her Shantel were made, and she was beyond impatient for the event to finally get under way.  It was apparently the first time in a while that Bishen Realm was hosting a Shantel, and residents were beginning to arrive from all over the Refuge in anticipation of the late day ceremony and following feast.

Not that spending time at the Realm wasn't proving to be an utter and complete treasure trove.  And after that, the surrounding Refuge itself might provide even more people to talk to and learn from.  But Sharona really wanted to see what the Kailan had in store for her.

*All right, the Kailan is busy preparing,* Pierre announced as he returned to Clarinet's side.  *It looks as though we'll have a crowd to manage later on.  Everyone always turns out for a feast.  I wish Athena and Mjollnir were here...*

Clarinet leaned into her mate, affectionately brushing her cheek along his.  *Jarod and Indyana will be back soon, and we'll all help you if needed.*

Sharona glanced at Benedict, who was standing a step away from her.  The buckskin had been keeping his distance whenever Kipfel was around. She rolled her eyes and stepped over to bump shoulders with him.  He chanced a glance at the black dragon but didn't move away, and she enjoyed his calming steadiness even as her own feet just couldn't seem to keep still.

*Our grandson missed out on this, Pierre,* Gunnhild complained. *You should have waited and given him a proper Shantel.*

Pierre sighed while Clarinet fixed a glare on Gunnhild; they had been through this argument multiple times during their short stay.

*How could we have predicted that Sharona would be having her Shantel so soon after Raphael?* Clarinet demanded.

*Some of us should have predicted it...* Gunnhild returned Clarinet's look.  Next to her, Devgan fluttered his wings nervously.

*Now, dear...* he soothed.  *It's a shame Raphael didn't get to share in the feast, but he received a very good magical object!*

Sharona regretted not getting a chance to meet her brother, but she had kept her disappointment to herself.  Her grandparents were bickering too much over it already.  Still, from the details Pierre could give, Raphael sounded like quite an interesting puzzle.  She wondered what his story was.

Gunnhild huffed out a breath, unsatisfied.  *Well, our granddaughter's Shantel better go off without a hitch.*

*As long as you can stop yourself from attacking me again, it will be splendid,* Pierre promised, sounding cross.

*Wait, WHAT?* Sharona interrupted.  She wanted that story, and fast.

*Pfft, that was ages ago.*  Gunnhild flicked her tail dismissively.  *It didn't even leave a scar.*

*No, really, what happened?  Why did you attack Grandpa Pierre, Grandma Gunnhild?  When did you even meet before?  Was it at the Realm?  Was it at a Shantel?*  Sharona fired off questions, hot on the trail of something she was certain was going to be interesting.

Pierre suddenly let out an high-pitched squeal of pain and wavered unsteadily on his feet.

*Oh, honestly—* Gunnhild snapped.

*Pierre!* Clarinet exclaimed in fear, pressing into his shoulder to support his weight.

Pierre winced, righted himself, and barreled forward.  *Indyana,* he said, pushing past Sharona and Benedict and taking off at a full gallop.

Clarinet followed immediately, and Sharona blinked once before wheeling to chase after.  She heard someone else's footsteps to her rear.


*Right behind you.*

Her grandfather was crashing through brush and dodging trees and logs, ignoring all the well-kept trails and taking what she assumed was a direct path to his bondmate. The terrans quickly outpaced Clarinet, who had to go around some of the obstacles.  Sharona heard a cry of pain ahead and spotted Indyana through the trees.  The woman was contorted slightly, holding herself motionless.

"For heaven's sake, light it up, Jarod!"

There was bright flash and a small beam of light shot toward her. A loud sizzle triggered another agonized yell as the ray seemed to strike Indyana in the back.  Something solid and black dropped off to her side.  Pierre reached her as she collapsed to the ground, and he was quickly joined by another Bishel dragon.  Sharona recognized the green terran-arboreal as her great-great-grandfather Jarod.

When Sharona got to her, Indyana was hunched over with Pierre's muzzle pressed up against her temple.  The back of her tunic was torn and charred, revealing two deep gashes that were trickling blood down a nasty burn.  As she sat up and turned to look at them, Sharona realized one arm was soaked in blood, coming from several similar pairs of wounds.  Indyana held it and hissed in pain.

*I'm sorry, Indyana!  It isn't that easy to control!* Jarod grimaced, obviously the source of the searing light.

*Get a healer! NOW!* Pierre yelled at him, uncharacteristically fierce.

Jarod let out a distressed squeak and leapt into flight, rushing back to the Realm for help. Clarinet had arrived behind Benedict, and she slid forward to be closer to her mate.

*Now I really wish Athena was here,* Pierre said tensely.

"We should start walking back," Indyana growled.  "Meet them part way."

*Don't you dare,* Pierre snarled at her.  *You're bleeding too much.*

*She should raise that arm,* Benedict observed.

*Can you hold it up?* Pierre asked Indyana.  *Here, rest it on my back.*  He moved to her wounded side.

Indyana shifted with a groan and raised her arm, getting it over her bondmate's back and gripping the lower half tightly.

It wasn't a reflexive action, Sharona realized, but an effort to slow the blood seeping from the wounds and dripping onto the ground.  Glancing around, Sharona noticed several charred objects.  She went closer to the one that had fallen off Indyana as they approached and wrinkled her nose in disgust.  It stunk!  It was a bug of some sort, longer than her head, with crushing mandibles that were obviously the source of Indyana's injuries.  A crackling noise drew her attention to a nearby tree.  It was ablaze.

*Fire!* she proclaimed, in case no one else saw it.  *We need to get some water.*

*No,* Indyana commanded, a sharp edge to her voice.  *Let it burn.*

Sharona wanted an explanation, but when she turned back, Indyana had her eyes squeezed shut.  Rivulets of blood were running down Pierre's sides now, and her face looked pale.  Sharona glanced nervously back toward the Realm.  How long until the healer arrived?

*Benedict, can you do something?* she asked, moving closer to the buckskin.

*Those are bad wounds, and I don't have my scrolls,* he told her, quiet and solemn.  *I can try something, if it becomes necessary, but if there's a trained healer on the way, it would be better not to interfere.*

Sharona frowned at him.  He had healed her on a few separate occasions, but her injuries hadn't been that severe.  His own shoulder wound had been much worse, and it had taken many sessions with his healing magic.

There was a swish of air, and Jarod descended into view, closely followed by a green arboreal Bishen.  She moved to examine Indyana's arm and back at once, her face intense but calm.  She then bowed her head over Indyana's arm and closed her eyes, and a series of green gems lit up on the necklace she wore around her neck.  The wounds on Indyana's arm seemed unchanged when the green raised her head again.

*What's wrong?* Sharona demanded, worried for her grandfather's bondmate.

*I have stopped the bleeding, but we need to get her back to the Realm for more treatment.  I don't want to close these wounds until they have been cleansed.* The green dragon explained in an even and patient tone.

*She can't walk,* Pierre protested.

"I can walk," Indyana countered, trying to shift her arm off his back.  She took a quick breath through her teeth.

*Nonsense,* the green chided.  *The rest of you, step back.*

The dragons shifted away from Indyana, except for Pierre, who pressed close instead.  The green arboreal slowly inhaled and a blue cuff she wore on her tail chimed like a bell.  Sharona had time to wonder how it could make such a noise when it appeared to be a solid band of stone, and then the group of three seemed to shift and bend toward a single point.  There was a hiss, like air being drawn through a narrow tube, as they were sucked into the point, ending with a slight pop as they disappeared.

The four dragons left behind stared for a beat before turning to look at one another.

*Jarod, what happened?* Clarinet asked, getting to the question on Sharona's mind a second before she could voice it.

*Beetles,* he answered, his voice high and stressed. *Indyana and I have been locating and burning infected trees before they can spread, but this time, they attacked us.*  He cast a fleeting look at the burning tree.  *I'm sorry, I... I need to get back with some of the others to keep this fire under control.*

The upset hybrid darted off.  Clarinet turned to Sharona and Benedict.

*Keep an eye on this until Jarod gets back.  I'm going to tell the Kailan what's happened,* she said before slithering away.

Sharona and Benedict exchanged concerned glances and watched the tree burn.

Rumors quickly spread across the Realm.  Sharona overheard talk of poachers, an evil wizard, and even Indyana's death.  The happy atmosphere of the morning dissolved into tension and worry.  By late afternoon, however, Clarinet and Gunnhild were moving around the crowd, assuring everyone that the Shantel would proceed as scheduled.

Sharona was full of questions, but Jarod had been in a frenzy of activity and didn't pause long enough for her to interrogate him.  What exactly were the beetles?  How many were there?  Was the Refuge in danger?  Right now, nothing seemed more important than making sure her grandfather's bondmate was all right. Clarinet had heard from Pierre that Indyana's wounds were healing well.  Sharona wanted to go check on Pierre and Indyana personally, but as far as she could tell, they hadn't left the healer's burrow yet.  She now stood with Benedict and Clarinet in front of the main Realm Centre cabin, surrounded by a loose crowd mostly comprised of her own blood relatives.

Two unfamiliar humans approached.  A petite young woman with bright red, spiked hair and an impressive amount of shiny leather was trailed by a slight man with black hair and storm grey eyes.  The man was wearing a flashy headband and swam in a large tunic and flowing pants.  The woman spoke to Clarinet directly.

"Is there news from Pierre?" she asked.

*She'll be all right, Ramona,* Clarinet answered.  *The healers are still finishing up, but she insisted the Shantel not be delayed.*

"Of course she did.  I'm going to see if I can get in to check on her."

Ramona walked off, and something about her general appearance and purposeful stride reminded Sharona of Indyana herself.  Were they related?

"You must be Sharona," the man observed.  "I'm sorry your auntie Raina couldn't be here for your Shantel."

Seeing Sharona's blank look, Clarinet chimed in.  *Raina Lynn is one of Kipfel's sisters.  This is her bondmate, Krisr.*

Sharona examined Krisr with more interest. He had a young, open face that looked used to smiling. *Where is she?*

"Off travelling with her friend Dracstan in search of adventure and fortune, no doubt.  She's a beautiful red terran, much like yourself, so I'm sure she would have loved to meet you."  Krisr smiled, but it had a sad edge to it.  His gaze turned toward the high mountains at the edge of the Refuge.

*Why isn't she with you if you're her bondmate?* Sharona pursued, sensing a story behind that odd smile.

"My Raina Lynn is... very independent."

It did sound as though she had something in common with her aunt.  Sharona waited for Krisr to continue, but the silence stretched awkwardly.

*You and Krisr should talk later,* Clarinet suggested.  *Krisr is a bard and jester.*

"I prefer entertainer.  No funny costumes."

*Besides the one you are wearing...?*

"Har har."

Sharona giggled.  The man was wearing a bright red headband ornamented with dyed features.  Still, if he was a bard, he must play an instrument.  She would have to get him to perform later.  Maybe someone had a harp she could borrow?

Ramona came back through the Centre a few minutes later.  "The healers are almost finished," she said, as everyone nearby turned to listen in.  Krisr slid a comforting arm around her waist.  "They wanted her to rest, but she's refusing until the Shantel is over.  I'm going to go see if the Kailan can get going soon."

*She should be resting after injuries like that,* Benedict muttered to Sharona.

*Maybe you should use that sleep spell on her...* Sharona teased.

The comments were meant to be private, but Ramona somehow caught them anyway.  And, to Sharona's shock, projected right back at them.  *When I said she refused, I meant that the healers couldn't make her.  If you think you can sleep-spell a stubborn 400-year-old mage, you're welcome to try...*

She walked off, leaving Sharona and Benedict to gape after her.

In the end, the Shantel and feast were hurried along a bit.  Indyana emerged with Pierre before the general crowd was allowed into the Realm Centre. She had changed into clean clothes and her arm was now held in a sling, but to Sharona's eye, she was still very pale. Her movements were slow and measured in a way that was unnatural for her.  Pierre escorted her to a seat near Havelock and hovered until she was settled.

*Watch her,* he hissed to them as he trotted past toward the Kailan's cave.

*...What are we supposed to do if she moves?* Sharona asked nobody in particular.

*He's probably more worried about her fainting,* Benedict decided.

When the crowd was allowed in, there was a flood of whispering as the rumors of Indyana's tragic demise were disproven and other theories espoused.  Sharona decided she really needed to get the full details from Jarod before someone else did.  This was certainly going to be the story on everyone's mind, and she wanted to get it right.

Pierre was back soon enough.  *All right, Sharona, come up front here.*

She looked at Benedict, excited and abruptly all nerves again.  She thought he looked a bit strained too, but he gave her a soft smile and poked her flank with the tip of his tail.  She inhaled deeply and let Pierre lead her to the very edge of the crowd near the ceremonial rock.  The rest of her family and friends gathered into a line behind her, Pierre badgering the crowd to back up and make room.

A flicker of shadow made her look up in time to see the Kailan swoop down and make a stately landing on the rock.  The old arboreal exuded authority, and the drone of the crowd immediately dropped off.  Jarod came down behind the Kailan, holding a large item wrapped with a soft, blue fur in his arms.

When everyone was quiet, the Kailan flared out his torn wings and began.  *Welcome, everyone, to Bishen Realm for today's celebration.  Today, we welcome an entire family back into our midst to celebrate the Shantel of one of their youngest members.  It brings me great joy to see young Realm descendents returning to learn of their heritage and share in the rites of our people. Sharona, daughter of Kipfel and Ira, please step forward.*

Sharona felt her heart beating in her ears as she separated herself from the crowd to stand in the open space before the Kailan.  A field of eyes were on her, and it was overwhelming.  Then, she felt a surge of rising courage in her chest.  She could do this.

*Sharona, you are one of those blessed with a passion and purpose early in life.  You have devoted yourself to story and song, a never-ending mission that I am certain will bring you a great many things—knowledge, adventure, fame.  I hope your objects will aid you in your travels.  To you, I give a pair of Song Stones, gems that will greatly amplify the ability of your songs to work on the hearts and minds of those you encounter.  In time, they may also allow your songs to call the elements to your aid.  As a Red, heat and flame are your natural allies, but as you develop your talents, you may find others.*

He paused, and Sharona blinked up at him.  Where were the Song Stones?  From the noise around her, the crowd was beginning to wonder the same thing.

*Very recently, you and your friends vanquished a terrible foe, right outside the Refuge walls.  I'm sure you will regale us all with the tale this evening.  In the course of the battle, your instrument, a harp, was destroyed.  I hope you will allow us to present you with a worthy replacement.*

Sharona may have stopped breathing for a moment as Jarod came forward and unwrapped the item in his arms.  The lute was magnificent.  Its wood had been polished to a smooth shine.  What she could see of the body had darker inlays in the shape of leaves, and the hole for sound on its face had a matching ornate screen.  On either side of the top of its neck were cabochons of a brilliant, sky blue, what could only be the Song Stones.

There were straps of leather around it, and Jarod fluttered down from the rock and fitted them carefully over her head and back.

*We'll make some adjustments later*, he whispered.

That was good, Sharona thought, as the harness felt a bit loose on her. The lute hung too low to the ground for comfort.  She breathed in and tried to catch the scent of it.  The Song Stones seemed to glow slightly as she brought her nose close, and she examined them, fascinated.  Only the motion of Jarod stepping away brought her attention back front.  The crowd was buzzing again around her, and the Kailan looked down on them all and raised his wings once more.

*Use your gifts well, Sharona.  May you carry stories across the world and bring knowledge and hope to all you meet.*  He nodded to her, and cheers and applause broke out.  The Kailan rose up to make his exit, and suddenly, everyone was in motion.  Sharona smiled and turned to meet her loved ones.
Shantel story for Bishen Realm / BishenRealm adoptions.
Dragon: Sharona [mc88f]
Sharona [mc88f] by indyana

Collection: Shantel Stories

Side Note: Oh my effin' goddess, how many dragon links can I make from one story?  Let's find out!
© 2017 - 2022 indyana
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