An Ill Wind Blows (Side Pinkerlocke) - COMPLETE

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Re: An Ill Wind Blows (Side Pinkerlocke)

Unread post by Varethyn » Fri Feb 21, 2020 6:29 am

Yeah I'm definitely happy with the idea if characters leaving instead of dying. I don't want to use it too often so it depends on what's going on in the story. It made far too much sense between the story and connections with existing dragons (Shears) to have Iris move on to a new life, which I think we can all agree she deserves.

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Flipped Tails so nothing happened.

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Rolled Lupin, Alstroemeria and Zinnia

Nothing exciting happened. A couple of crits on Merry but nothing drastic so they romped the 20 rounds.

Notable drops:
Image - Rolled a 2

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Re: An Ill Wind Blows (Side Pinkerlocke)

Unread post by Varethyn » Sun Feb 23, 2020 9:23 pm

I have some writing to do from yesterday but I've not been in the right mindset for, well, much of anything honestly. I'll try to get it done soon but today I got this:

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I think we are all in agreement that this had to happen then:

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Re: An Ill Wind Blows (Side Pinkerlocke)

Unread post by Lupis » Mon Feb 24, 2020 2:04 pm

OOOO yay, I'm excited to see the babies and I hope they both survive!

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Re: An Ill Wind Blows (Side Pinkerlocke)

Unread post by Varethyn » Tue Feb 25, 2020 9:08 am

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Flipped heads, rolled Magnolia, Hyacinth and Verbena

There were a few shady moments with the Moonlight Fungi (Shadow) otherwise it was a complete roflstomp.

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Treated as a coliseum pull and rolled a 2 (20-30)
Rolled Plumeria, Acacia and Magnolia

This run can be summed up with one word: DODGE. Ugh, far too many close calls with this one as everything dodged at least once. Plumeria went down and flipped Heads for death, but Achike sacrificed themself so she could live. RiP amiable, stretchy snail.

Acacia is now lv14 and Maggie lv12

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Re: An Ill Wind Blows (Side Pinkerlocke)

Unread post by Varethyn » Thu Feb 27, 2020 9:17 am

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Rolled a 2 (20-30 rounds)
Rolled Zinnia, Acacia and Wisteria

With Wisteria being so much lower than the other two I played it safe by taking them to the Forgotten Cave. Acacia, as always, got heavily targeted but all three made it through easily.

Wisteria is now lv10 and Zinnia lv13.

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Rolled a 3 (30-40 rounds)
Rolled Acacia (sigh), Aster and Hyacinth

MY HEART

I went risky and took this lot to Thunderhead Savannah. Hyacinth got hit by a super-effective attack from an ampelope (Lightning), but flipped tails so he got to live. Then Acacia got crit KO'd by a king quillrunner, but also flipped tails. Then Aster got KO'd by vultures BUT ALSO flipped tails. Then Hyacinth got crit KO'd by a STARRY ampelope (Shadow), flipped heads to die but his corpse cleaner rolled 6 to sacrifice itself for him. AAAaaaaagh.

Acacia is now lv15, Aster lv13 and Hyacinth lv12.
Hyacinth now has the Rosaline Strangler from before cos I forgot about the poor thing when Achike died.

Notable drops:
Image - Rolled a 1
+1 Heart Attack.

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Re: An Ill Wind Blows (Side Pinkerlocke)

Unread post by Tårnfalk » Thu Feb 27, 2020 10:53 am

Wow sound stressfull round in the coli this time. Glad they all made it.

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HUGE thanks to Makoes, Syleye, FeralClaw, Pingupuff, Karin,Bowno, Varethyn, Ashaine, Kishay, Aki (Täräin13), my friend Marie and some lovely ppl on Fligth Rising for my lovely sig

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Re: An Ill Wind Blows (Side Pinkerlocke)

Unread post by Varethyn » Sat Feb 29, 2020 8:47 am

Happy Leap Day everyone!

...I swear this wasn't planned. I legitimately didn't know it was a leap year until a few days ago. So... how lovely is it that Aster and Magnolia's kids are leap babies?! Meet Camellia and Amaryllis!

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Camellia is perfectly healthy but sadly Amaryllis flipped Heads and so didn't make it. She is available for adoption should anyone like her :hug:

OF NOTE

These two will not be present in the current story as it will be ending in the next few chapters if I can poke my motivation into doing something meaning there won't be time to see them. BUT I have an idea for the next challenge if/when I do it so they weren't hatched just to be thrown away.

Recent drops:

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No one else is eligible for breeding in the story so nothing happens.

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Rolled Hyacinth, Magnolia and Acacia (true randomness am I right?)

Did a few rounds in Bamboo Falls for safety then moved into Thunderhead when I felt they could handle it. Nothing of note happened, they blitzed through it with ease.

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Re: An Ill Wind Blows (Side Pinkerlocke)

Unread post by Varethyn » Wed Mar 04, 2020 4:53 pm

Sorry for the silence the last couple days, I've not been in a great place mentally. Besides, Pink keeps giving me materials. I get it, Pink, I need to finish the pending chapter. I'll get to it when I get to it. Sheesh.

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Rolled a 2 (20-30)
Rolled Acacia (!!!), Aster and Allium

As there is a massive level difference between Acacia (thanks to Pink wanting her dead apparently) and Allium (who Pink didn't want to die) I played it safe. Aliium got crit once but they all made it through.

Acacia is now lv16 and Allium lv11. Fun fact: Acacia is now tied for highest level with Anvindr.

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Rolled a 3 (30-40)
Rolled Hyacinth, Magnolia and Wisteria

I got overzealous with having two healers for this run. Round 5 Wisteria got focused by bats with one taking her down with a crit where she otherwise would have lived. Flipped a Heads for death and Analika sadly failed to save her. Analika has been moved to Plumeria, Wisteria is available for adoption if anyone wants her.

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Rolled a 2 (20-30)
Rolled Plumeria, Allium and Hyacinth

Allium got KO'd once by a super effective move from a Frostbite Dryad, but flipped Tails so they're fine.

Hyacinth also got KO'd once by a super effective move from a Barkskin Watcher (who ticked off the dryads, huh?) but also flipped Tails so he's also fine.

Plumeria ALSO got hit by a super effective move also from a Barkskin Watcher and ALSO flipped Tails. ...but then immediately got struck down by a Flora Cerdae, flipping Heads. Analika rolled a 5, saving Plume but dying in the process.

Guys, please. I had enough heartache a few battles ago.

Hyacinth is now lv13, Plumeria and Allium lv12

There... was also a plant drop but I did that on the day and forgot to take notes so I have no idea what happened. No one died, that's for sure!

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Re: An Ill Wind Blows (Side Pinkerlocke)

Unread post by Lupis » Wed Mar 04, 2020 11:13 pm

Dang, tons of deaths or close calls, lately! Sorry to see Wisteria go, though at least her familiar was able to save Plumeria. The new bab is adorable, and I played with a few scries-

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Re: An Ill Wind Blows (Side Pinkerlocke)

Unread post by Varethyn » Thu Mar 05, 2020 10:51 am

Lupis - In a way I deserve it for constantly futzing with the rules :lol: Hopefully next time I'll actually be set on that and have fewer casualties. Camellia's scries look great! They've given me a few ideas for her for later.

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Pink says that if I'd rather fight than write, fight some more.
Rolled Zinnia, Allium and Aster

Started off safe by going to Forgotten Cave, then moved to Bamboo Falls when Aster levelled up. Someone really wants more of my dragons to die and since Acacia wasn't there they focused poor Allium instead. The little Fae drank so many potions that I doubt they will be able to fly for a while. Managed to complete all 50 rounds however with everyone safe.

Zinnia and Allium are lv13 and Aster lv14

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Re: An Ill Wind Blows (Side Pinkerlocke)

Unread post by Varethyn » Wed Mar 11, 2020 8:21 pm

Sorry for going quiet for the last week. I'm better than I have been but still struggling, so finding time to think about only the story has been hard. Also Pinkerton has only been giving me materials and food (and one battle stone) but I really don't want to risk more dragons dying because I've neglected the lore side of things, or for them to grow too big in levels. So for now I'm taking a break until inspiration returns. This weekend I'll try to sit down and get something done but I can't say when the next update might be. I really am sorry I keep disappearing like this.

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Re: An Ill Wind Blows (Side Pinkerlocke)

Unread post by Varethyn » Sat May 30, 2020 7:22 pm

Chapter 27

At long last the day of departure had arrived. For so long, possibly too long, the Nameless Band had settled in amongst the residents of Saltwind Heights. For better – Magnolia and Aster's newfound love for one another – and for worse – Gardenia's death and the decision of both Iris and Orchid to leave. Now all the drama had finally reached an end. Or at least a clearing. The eye in a storm of unfortunate events. Many Windborn dragons still yet paraded the skies, still yet revelling in the return of their element. The market holders were hawking their wares. Fishing trawlers and lone fisherdragons returned with bountiful catches.

Life was good.

And yet it felt heavy for one albino Coatl. Winding her way through the streets, ignoring all the gazes and comments about the pure white dragon Wisteria forced herself to focus on putting one paw in front of the other. Now and again she could not help but look skywards, hoping to catch a glimpse of the familiar batlike silhouette of her once friend and companion. This is how it's meant to be. she reminded herself dully, shaking her head in attempt to remove the tears threatening to leak from her eyes. This was the plan. My plan. Orchid only came along for the ride. This was all about me. Me and, she arced her neck around to regard the sphinx plodding alongside her, Analika. As if the winged catlike creature heard her thoughts Analika suddenly pressed against her owner's side, chuffing affectionately. Wisteria smiled.

Rounding a corner the white-plumed dragon came across the Nameless Band gathered in the main square. Apparently it was the new Wildclaw who had called them that and everyone decided to use the title. Whatever they chose to go by, she'd be going with them. There was no place for her here, she felt, and that her best bet would be to wriggle her way into the group to join them in their travels. Or travails as the case may have been.

The Ridgeback and male Guardian were sat to one side, chatting with each other, snacking on something and occasionally nuzzling. Disgusted, Wisteria scanned the rest of the gathering as she slunk closer. The Skydancer was sat away from everyone else, back turned, attention locked on something she could not see. The male Gaoler sat not far from him, the monochrome Fae wrapped around the stump where an antler used to be, with the dryad and a centaur conversing at his side. The Wildclaw was poking around as she chattered with the Bogsneak of all dragons as they took down jars and pouches from a temporary alchemy station. The purple Fae was sat on top of her stupid-looking snail as she entertained the excitable female Gaoler. There was no sign of the female Guardian.

All around them were scatterings of boxes and crates and sacks and bags. When they weren't busy talking each individual would take from the containers to add to either their own belongings or a growing pile in the centre. Saltwind Heights was providing for them for their journey.

For the first time in a long time Wisteria felt her spirits quail. Setting down a confident paw she was suddenly racked with uncertainty. A fear she had not expected. It was supposed to be simple: Walk up to them, declare she was joining them even after all the misgivings of imprisoning herself and Orchid with the promise of breaking off once a new opportunity arose. Yet... What if they turn me down? What if, now that everything's returned to relative normality, they'd turn me in for those false crimes? ...Okay fine, and actual crimes. Doubt gripped her, freezing her limbs. She couldn't stay here, that was for sure. Maybe... rather than walk up to them and outright say it she simply follow them instead?

As she went over her options there was a clamour from the alchemy station. Everyone was on their feet as the rickety shelving collapsed, sending jars and vials flying. Many were caught by those nearby. Others shattered. A few landed in the cauldron, from which one last potion had been brewed and ladled. A billow of colourful smoke began to bloom from the iron pot as the contents bubbled furiously. Verbena and Zinnia gawked at it in shock before finding the sense to move.

Too late. A small explosion erupted from the gaping mouth, spewing a blueish liquid onto the ground around it, and the two dragons. Obscured by the smoke all that gave away the safety of the pair was a cacophony of coughing and smears where they waved wings and arms to clear the air around them. Everyone waited with baited breath to see what had happened. Were they different dragon breeds? Were they still even dragons?

Soon they both staggered out where they could be seen, Hyacinth darting over immediately to fuss over their health. Then stopped a few steps away, his golden eyes going round with surprise. Verbena and Zinnia stared at him in confusion through watery eyes, then at each other.

And both fell about laughing. Laughing! The Bogsneak was laughing! Wisteria blinked several times. What on Sornieth had transpired during their stay here? Whatever it had been their latest mishap had given the pair matching blue stripes that ran from nose to tail. The so-called Skink patterning known also as “the mark of the alchemist”. This was probably how it got that name.

“I'm surprised this hasn't happened sooner!” Zinnia chuckled, wiping away an errant tear as the group gathered closer. Chuckled. Wisteria remained hung back, shaking her head in disbelief. The black Bogsneak had never shown signs of positivity while she'd been around.

Once the mess had been cleaned up and the rest of the station, pots and jars and vials and bags, had been packed away the Nameless Band made their move, bidding those who followed them a grateful farewell. Dropping down low and running a slalom of legs and tails the Coatl wound her way through the crowd in a bid to not be seen. Not yet. She'd wait until they were away from town. That way if they did abandon her it wouldn't be where others could see her. Whether the charges were still in place or not, she wasn't about to risk it. Surely someone would have pointed you out while you were wandering about. Her inner voice chided. Why be so careful now? She ignored it, using another commotion to press forwards.

“At last!” Came the exasperated voice of the missing group member, the female Guardian who'd tagged along right before this entire mess. Acacia, was it? Yes, her. “I've been waiting for hours! Where were you? I can't resist the pull of my Charge any longer!” Oh right. That's why she'd joined. Guardians and Charges. Wisteria was immensely thankful to not need to worry about such trifles.

“Sorry to have kept you.” Lupin, always quick to appease , bobbed his head apologetically and sending a mat of forest-green fur dancing over his face. “There was a... situation.” Everyone turned towards Zinnia and Verbena, who once again glanced at one another and began snickering.

“You were always welcome to head out on your own.” Aster pointed out, not unkindly. “I'm personally surprised you're still here at all.”

Acacia's tail swept the grass behind her, the nebula-patterned dragon falling silent as she fumbled for an excuse. “I... simply wished to offer what I am capable during the trying times this clan faced.” She said at length, standing as tall as her small-for-a-Guardian stature would allow, frilled chest puffing out with pride. It wasn't an untrue statement. While she had hidden herself away from the goings-on Acacia had thrown herself into the middle of a catastrophe, using her Shadow magic to contain the rampant wildfire a few days prior. Neither was she boastful of her aid, much as her inflated chest might have suggested. She did as she did, and that was that. “I could not leave to satiate my breed's desires while dragons were injured or... killed.”

Silence hung in the air a moment, the entire group lowering their heads and closing their eyes as they whispered prayers to the lost Gardenia. One paw lifted to rub the opposite arm, Wisteria's crest falling with guilt at her inaction. She had barely known any of the group, only approaching them in the hopes of scrounging out some coin or trinkets, and then been treated as a criminal. Yet Orchid's explanation of Gardenia's deteriorating health had struck something deep in the Coatl's mind.

“Regardless,” Hyacinth stated once they'd all risen, “it is long past time we continued our quest. Ilmatar is still at large, but now that the Twisting Crescendo has revived we can now search from land and air. With this limitation lifted we can cover more ground far more effectively than we had.” Murmurs of agreement rippled between the gathered dragons, Wisteria finding herself also eager to take wing for the first time in months. Briefly she wondered if she even remembered how to fly. “However,” the Skydancer continued with a disturbingly serious tone, “we must still keep our wits about us. Iris...” He swallowed at her name, as if it had gotten stuck partway. “Iris informed me of a group of feral Mirrors. The ones who rendered her paralysed. They followed her here to the Plateau and from her description... they may well have suffered the same fate that,” he paused to regard Aster softly, “that Amaranth did.”

Another blanket of silence, this one thicker, heavier. What had happened? Something before she and Orchid had chanced upon them, that much was clear. Fate? Feral Mirrors weren't exactly uncommon. In fact, civilised Mirrors were the rarity in their breed. “Excuse me, but what do you mean?” Wisteria flinched as the very words she wanted to speak were instead delivered by the centaur that had appeared in the middle of everything.

“I, too, am curious to know what you are talking about.” Acacia chimed in, momentarily forgetting about her Charge. As would I... Wisteria added in her mind.

Twisting his long neck to view the gathering residents of the Saltwind clan behind them Hyacinth declared, “Let us head out first. I don't wish to alarm anyone after everything else that transpired here.” A few grumbles, a few mumbles of agreement, others of impatience. Turning to face everyone properly the grey-furred Skydancer rose his voice so they could all hear. “Thank you, all of you, for providing us food and shelter on our journey. It is with deep regret that so many terrible things occurred while we were here, and it is with regret that we leave such a welcoming community now. It is good to know there are such places left after the disaster of the Crescendo's disappearance. This place is an inspiring one and we take our leave with hope in our hearts.”

A cheer rose from the crowd as each member of the clan personally added their own thanks and comments and well-wishes. Hope may have been in the hearts of the Nameless Band, but Wisteria's fell to her feet as she caught the voice of Orchid in amongst the clamour. Please just leave already...

For all the jubilation at their departure the group fell into a grim silence once the town had disappeared over the hill. A sudden tension in the two Gaolers, of which Wisteria noticed Alstroemeria was sticking very close to Lupin. While the male was discomforted by her close proximity both had their heads down, fur puffed out, taking deliberate strides ahead of the others.

“What's gotten under their tails?” Verbena asked in a playful yet hushed tone so the pair didn't hear her. “I thought we were excited to leave! I know I am. I can't wait to see what's out there! Sooo much better than ash and magma. When I first saw flowers I-”

“Shh.” Hyacinth lifted a finger to his beaklike lips to shush the Wildclaw. “They're concentrating.”

“On what?” Acacia inquired, arching an eye ridge at the Skydancer. “Is this to do with what you said earlier?”

“I would quite appreciate that explanation now, too, if you would.” Joined in Peryle, folding her arms in front of her chest and swishing her horse tail. “Although...” her voice fell as she chanced a glance over her shoulder. “You realise we're being followed, don't you?”

That was not the question Wisteria was expecting, freezing in place as her fur puffed out and feathers splayed. She'd known? But she was doing such a good job in hanging far enough back, wasn't she? Not well enough apparently. her mind growled irritably. You went soft back there. You didn't even try to entertain or pickpocket or anything!

At once the group turned to see her clamped to the grass. At her side Analika pressed into her fur, snarling at the troop. Okay, Wist... play it cool. Sucking in a long, deep breath through her nose Wisteria forced herself to relax, stood straight, adopted her usual smirk. Oh well hello, darlings! Wonderful day for a stroll, no?” Gently she draped a wing over the sphinx's back, soothing her. “Don't mind her, now.”

“What do you want?” The dryness expected of Zinnia returned as the Bogsneak narrowed her blue eyes suspiciously. “You're lucky you got away with your flimflamming already. What? You hoping to get your mitts on the gifts those people gave us or something?”

“You wound me, deary.” It had legitimately hurt. “I merely-”

“Then why are you following us?” Aster joined in, stalking closer and using his size to intimidate her. Wisteria was nonplussed by the display, rolling her eyes at his posturing.

Because,” she drawled with a hint of annoyance at being interrupted, “I needed to escape the confines of the lair. I've always been on the move and, frankly, being cooped up under suspicions that were forgotten made me uncomfortable. Why follow you instead of go my own way?” she asked quickly, knowing someone would point it out like they had with Acacia. “First, because I believe that greattusk belongs to someone else.”

Magnolia turned to the elephantine creature that had been following her ever since the Nocturne he'd originally carried had taken to the life of a healer. “It just... started following me.” She shrugged, not sure what else to say on the matter. If Orchid had wanted him back she'd have said something, right? “It's happy enough and helps us carry stuff, so...”

He,” the Coatl corrected, “is my friend's familiar.”

“And it would seem he has chosen a new master.” Aster pointed out, having only barely lessened his display.

Something about the statement caused her heart to ache. Djembe had been with Orchid for as long as Analika had been with her, both purchased from the shady travelling merchant caravan and cared for by themselves. “Well I...” The excuse died on her forked tongue, her mind plucking at other ways to explain. Why had that upset her? “I... wanted to make sure you treated him well.” Wisteria ground out. “After all, Djembe here has- had been with Orchid for quite a long time after all. Poor dear must be fretting over him even if she did let him go willingly. And besides!” Again, cutting in before anyone could call her out. “Didn't you mention a feral Mirror pack unlike any other potentially roaming the area?” She let her pink eyes settle on Hyacinth, smirking again as his ruffled feathers belayed his worry. “How could I possibly travel alone knowing such a thing?”

“She has a point.” Acacia admitted sourly, circling to face the Skydancer as the rest of the group did the same. “As Peryle asked back in town, what afflicts this pack of Mirrors so much that we need to be careful?”

Shooting Wisteria a glare, who returned it with a knowing grin, Hyacinth sighed as he sat down in the soft, green grass. “Very well. It does need to be said” He took a breath to centre himself, and then began to recount their encounter with Amaranth. “Why she hunted us specifically, I cannot say.” Hyacinth finished. “Although it aided us in finding one another and she has since been put to rest.” He motioned a talon-like hand at the black-streaked rose Aster carried with him, and that Alstroemeria kept glancing at cautiously. “Given Iris' description of the pack, however...” A frown crossed his face and he glared at the spot between his feet as if the answer lay there. “It is very possible these Mirrors suffered the same. Dying in some fight, possibly a scrap over territory as they are known for doing, being reanimated by their own elemental energies and becoming conduits for the Shade to consume through. And they are here. That is why,” He lifted his gaze to give everyone a hard stare, “we must stay vigilant and why our Gaoler friends need to concentrate.”

As if the explanation had sucked the moisture from her, Wisteria's mouth went dry. To come to such an end. A newfound respect for the male Guardian surfaced as she looked away in shame. Which was replaced by dread and desperation. “A-and that is why I need to stay with you!” The Coatl blurted, finding herself scooting closer to Lupin. “A lone dragon like me wouldn't stand a chance against something like that!” The larger Gaoler grunted at her closeness to him as he moved further away. Skittish, Wisteria back-pedalled slowly after him, only to jump as he let out a low growl. “H-hey! No need for that, I only want to be-”

“Ugh, what is that smell?” Verbena groused, pulling her upper lip back to reveal rows of sharp teeth in her disgust and cutting off the Coatl. “You guys smell that too, right?”

Everyone stopped to take turns sniffing the air. Some seemed confused by the Wildclaw's claim, others concerned. One of the Fae buzzed, causing Wisteria to frown. Fae were the only dragon species she hated dealing with because her own could not understand them, between the Coatl's way of perceiving sound and the Fae's manner of making it. And of course there were two of them. Searching the faces of the rest of the group for a translation it was the dryad, Willow, who answered for her, “No, it's worse than that. There's too much to be a forgotten meal.” A green mist began to seep from their fingers, thinly drifting over the immediate surroundings. Their eyes shot open in fear, mouth moving soundlessly in their discovery.

“What is it?” Wisteria demanded a little too quickly. “What's going on? Is it those things?”

“Calm down.” Hyacinth instructed, though his words trembled slightly with worry. “Everyone please calm down. Let's... let's move. Away from here. Quickly and carefully.” Waving an arm to gesture everyone in the chosen direction the Skydancer looked to the two Gaolers, who were both reluctant to move. “You as well.” he ordered, nerves making the command sharper than intended. “Watch our flanks if you must but we must get away.”

Lupin and Alstroemeria exchanged strained glances as they tore themselves from their post. Up on his head tiny Allium patted their big brother as they whispered soothingly into his ear. This soon broke his instincts, allowing the Gaoler to trudge behind the group, the action bringing Merry along with him. Though the pair kept casting wary glances over their shoulders.

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Without truly knowing where they were going and opting to stay on the ground as a group for safety the Nameless Band made otherwise swift progress into the unknown. All they knew was they were headed away from both Saltwind Heights and the river. The rest was up to the Deities now.

Sometime mid-afternoon they ducked down wherever they could as a small flock of harpies flew overhead. Either they didn't see them or chose not to bother them. Whatever the case they were left well enough alone. Wisteria overheard Magnolia, Zinnia and Hyacinth comment on one particular member of the flock – one with a crooked leg. Had they encountered that one harpy before? She bit back the desire to ask.

The rest of the day passed them by and before long dusk began to claim the sky, staining it with orange and purple as the sun dipped below the horizon. The decision to make camp was made and while the scent hadn't been picked up since that morning everyone remained on edge. Even with the two Gaolers, the dryad and the centaur keeping watch the night was a restless one.

The following morning saw a very haggard group scraping the camp together messily and hastily. Still no one had caught the rank smell of rot and decay, still they didn't want to risk staying in place for long. Progress was a lot slower as the burden of drowsiness hampered their movement. Meandering across the grassy plains the group stopped by a pond only long enough to top up supplies, not taking chances.

At the same time Wisteria was starting to doubt their choice of action. She was grateful enough that the scare allowed her to join them after all, even if only for the moment, yet having not detected any further evidence of the so-called Shade constructs, zombies, whatever you wanted to call them.

Another night came and went, this one a little more rested than the last. Feeling more settled it was asked that the two Fae fly as high as they were able to scout out their location, as it seemed improbable that they'd find nothing in all this time. When they returned, and after a brief translation for the Coatl, Allium and Plumeria announced that they had in fact doubled-back on themselves in their unease and that there was something interesting about a day's walk away.

With renewed vigour in this discovery and in the relative promise of safety here on the Nameless Band pressed onward. Not far from their new destination, guided by one or other of the Fae a final camp was set up. In the morning they'd at long last get some kind of information. Whether it was useful information or not remained to be seen.

They were too careless.

Wisteria awoke abruptly to the sound of the Gaolers growling and the stench of decay in the air. Bolting upright she cast about in the gloom, saw that the others were also rising, hunkered down amongst the lean-to shelters as the rest of the group went to investigate. It wasn't long before they returned, the Gaolers calming if only slightly. Whatever it was passed them by. Whatever it was spooked them out of the desire to sleep.

Morning couldn't come soon enough and when it did they left immediately, scarfing down breakfast as they moved. It wasn't long before a strange sight greeted them, one that sent a surge of excitement through Lupin and Willow. “Nature magic!” Cried the Gaoler as he sniffed the air.

“The combined effort of the Children of Nature and dryads created this forest.” Breathed Willow as they caressed one of the arched trees. “No pain or discomfort, no sadness. Not a normal position and yet they're happy. Amazing.”

“As long as it means other dragons I don't care how it was made.” Grumbled Wisteria as she pressed her wings closer to her body, grateful for Analika's company.” A few glares were shot her way.

“Wait.” Acacia paused, seemingly staring into nothingness as they entered the enchanted forest path. “This feeling...” She locked eyes with Aster, who gave her a knowing smile. “Is... is this what it felt like for you, Aster? A feeling of... something awakening inside? A realisation?” He merely nodded. “My Charge...” The star-speckled Guardian gasped, lifting a great paw to her chest. “My Charge is on the other side! We're so close!”

No sooner had those words however did a strange sound came from somewhere to one side. Peryle wheeled around, grasping for her bow and knocking an arrow to it. It was an unearthly sound, an odd mix of a growl and a hiss like the air was escaping. Another odd sound, this one a rattling croak. Everyone was on their feet in an instant, flaring wings, preparing magic. Djembe trumpeted loudly, stamping in panic. Wisteria threw herself onto his back, stroking his leathery neck in the way Orchid had.

“Keep him calm before he disturbs the trees!” Willow cried as the greattusk narrowly avoided trampling a sapling.

“I think that's the least of our problems...” Another growl sounded, covering Zinnia's observation. This time it came from somewhere behind them. She turned, as did Wisteria and the Gaolers. And all of them sucked in a breath as they saw Achike, Plumeria's dragon snail, slowly sliding towards them.

Admittedly it was mostly its fault for the slowness – snails aren't known for speed and no one wanted to carry the slimy thing – but that was fine up until now. Now it was a giant target. Too slow to join them or flee, the trees too close together for the bigger dragons to manoeuvre easily. A figure shot out from the forest. A lithe figure. A lithe, too-thin figure that resembled a Mirror. It leapt from treeline to treeline, and Achike was gone. There was a squelching sound and a final snotty bubble escaped from between the boughs.

Wisteria clamped her paws over her earholes as a high-pitched drone pierced her skull, presumably from Plumeria as she cried out for her lost familiar. “Move. Move!” Aster yelled from up front. “We need to get out of here, now!”

No one needed to be told twice, a tidal wave of fur and scale lurched along the dirt path as fast as their combined bulk would let them, screams and shouts of annoyance and fear could be heard as they wedged together in tighter corners. Someone was missing however, and Wisteria found herself risking a look behind her. Yes, there! Plumeria! The stupid Fae was going the wrong way in her grief. “It's gone! There's nothing you can do!” The Coatl shouted at the diminutive dragon, knowing full well anything she said in turn would be lost on her.

The next few moments crawled by in slow motion. Plumeria only turned to look at her, unmoving, tears rolling down her cheeks. Blind, she wouldn't know where to go without her trusty steed. A rustle in the bracken. A bony figure. The reek of death. Pale red eyes gleaming as ivory, flesh-laden claws stretched out. Closer. Closer. Wisteria tried to move, couldn't. Shouted again. Still Plumeria wouldn't move. A flash of dusty yellow. A yowl of pain. Feathers flying. Blood spattering. Analika was gone. Adrenaline coursed through the Coatl and she finally broke out of her stupor long enough to gather up the broken Fae, turn tail, flee. Wet warmth mattered her face fur.

Analika was gone.

Her last companion.

Her only companion.

She didn't look back. Didn't think. Only ran. Skidded to a halt as a blockade of dragon backsides denied her passage.

“You move back!” Aster roared.

“No you move back!” Acacia shrieked.

“I'm sorry! I'm sorry!” Magnolia wailed.

Tails wiggled, wings flailed. “Get out of the way! Wisteria cried, unleashing her suddenly overflowing pools of magic, fuelled by fear, by anger, by grief. The most powerful contuse blast known to dragonkind saw Ridgeback and Guardian and Gaoler and Skydancer and Wildclaw and Fae and Bogsneak careening forwards at an alarming rate.

Too slow. They were ahead of them now. Stunned from the blast they could do nothing as they staggered to their feet, the ravenous shells of once-Mirrors closed in on them, black sludge dripping from their mouths, their eye sockets, their exposed chests.

This was it. This was the end.

And then it went black. The already dark forest path was plunged into darkness. As the light vanished so too did their breath. No one moved. No one spoke. The only sounds were the gurgles and hisses from the undead dragons.

FREEDOM! A voice cackled from the shadows. “Sweet, sweet FREEDOM!” Maniacal laughter filled their heads, seemingly coming from every direction. “I think not, little deathlings. This is my home, and you are not welcome here.”

Darkness within darkness. A hole of nothingness appeared within the murk. Piercing shrieks of anger echoed throughout the forest as the Mirrors were sucked inside. Then it closed. The shadows lifted. It was as if nothing had happened, save for the loss of two faithful familiars.

No one moved.

A figure materialised within the natural shadows of the trees. Actually materialised, as if he were made of shadow himself. A Tundra, dark as his surroundings with a mane like roiling storm clouds, crooked grin on his face as he fixed them with glowing lavender eyes. “Welcome, welcome. I do hope you enjoyed my show. I have been quite looking forward to putting on such a display for a long time.”

She couldn't take it any more.

Her heart felt fit to burst.

Wisteria placed Plumeria gently on the ground and turned.

And ran.

Back to Saltwind.

Back to safety.

Back to Orchid.

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Last edited by Varethyn on Tue Jun 09, 2020 1:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: An Ill Wind Blows (Side Pinkerlocke)

Unread post by Tårnfalk » Sun May 31, 2020 2:08 am

Ohh no sweet wisteria
Such an amazing read - thank you
You should write books hun

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HUGE thanks to Makoes, Syleye, FeralClaw, Pingupuff, Karin,Bowno, Varethyn, Ashaine, Kishay, Aki (Täräin13), my friend Marie and some lovely ppl on Fligth Rising for my lovely sig

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Re: An Ill Wind Blows (Side Pinkerlocke)

Unread post by Falcon » Sun May 31, 2020 4:42 am

And yet another cliffhanger! This was a good read well worth waiting for! Poor Analika and Achike, but at least it was a quick end for them. :(
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Re: An Ill Wind Blows (Side Pinkerlocke)

Unread post by Varethyn » Tue Jun 09, 2020 1:17 pm

Chapter 28

Silence.

Utter, dumbstruck silence.

Even Plumeria's racking sobs had ceased in the presence of the strange dragon and his power. A black hole, a rift of sheer nothingness, had opened before their very eyes, consuming the Shade-driven undead constructs. How did anyone respond to such an act?

Still seeing stars other than those decorating her hide Acacia was first to find her feet, wobbling slightly from the force of the contusion. Her Charge lay this way and Shadowbinder damn her if she was going to back down because of this twisted freak. As she stood she was dimly aware of the Coatl's departure, a streak of white in the corner of her vision.

She let her go.

“Who are you?” The stout Shadow Guardian demanded, setting her feet in preparation to charge in if need be. Something about her voice gave her pause however. Ignoring it and shaking her head Acacia tried again. “You call this your home. What clan hails from these parts? What magic did you use just now?” Answer me! She wanted to add, only to lose the will. The power in her words had withered long before they reached her tongue, more curious than berating. This feeling in her chest. This feeling that had tugged at her from outside the magically formed forest.

It came from him.

No. A shudder ran the length of her body, causing her to lose balance a moment as Alstroemeria shouldered her way in front. “Shade monster.” The mossy Gaoler spat, taking up the stance Acacia had wanted to. “You reek of it. Yet you control it. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't tear you to shreds!” It was almost ironic how much the two women had effectively swapped places in this moment.

The Guardian, often first to throw herself into action rendered soft by the discovery of her Charge despite the aura that surrounded him.

The Gaoler, usually bouncy and inquisitive now baring long fangs and standing firm at the head of the group against a potentially dangerous threat.

“Wait.” Green fur puffed out as Merry, not so merry right now, whipped a flabbergasted glare at the purple dragon. “He's...” She swallowed, uncertain despite the clues. “He's my Charge. Or... part of it?” Yes, that sounded right. The Tundra himself wasn't her Charge so much as we was part of a greater whole. A whole that lay beyond the trees.

Leaden eyebrows shot upwards in amused surprise. “I am? Oh goodness, what an honour! What a day!” A fluffy arm shot up to place the back of a dark-furred paw against his forehead as he mock-fell in exaggerated joy. “Not only am I free from my bindings but I have a Guardian as well! Oh whatever did I do to deserve it all?” He chuckled as he rested against the trunk behind him, tail coiling around its base.

“Charge?” Aghast, Alstroemeria alternated staring at the Guardian and glaring at the Tundra. “That thing is your Charge?”

“He is part of my Charge.” Feeling confidence return in her realisation Acacia stood tall against the frazzled Gaoler. “And you shall not touch him.”

Alstroemeria sputtered a moment, throwing pleading looks at Lupin to help fill in for her only for the male to stay his tongue as he watched carefully a few steps behind her. “B-but he's Shade-touched!” She blurted at length, jabbing an accusing finger at the stranger. “And it's our duty to rid the world of it! Whether it be death or eternal imprisonment!”

“Death? Imprisonment?” The Tundra echoed, all hints of his previous excitement as drained as his pelt was of colour. Sullenly he slid down the tree trunk to collapse in a heap at its base, head turned away as he propped it up with a paw. “My disappointment is immeasurable and my day is ruined.” Then, arcing his neck back so to look at the group upside-down, he added, “Well, if that's the case then you'll just have to catch me first.” At that the strange Tundra seemed to disintegrate, his entire body falling apart into a fine, dark mist that scattered into the surrounding darkness of the forest.

“No, wait!” Acacia cried, too late as the last vapours faded from view. Yet she could still feel him nearby. What magic was this? Even her own Flight wasn't capable of such ability. Frowning in confusion the Guardian turned to face the group only to come face-to-face with Alstroemeria, wearing an expression akin to a puppy who'd had her toy taken from her.

“Why would you let a Shadebeast wander free?” The Gaoler's voice was almost quivering with misery. Not anger. Not disappointment. Misery.

“Because he is my Charge,” Acacia repeated grimly, standing firm against the large, green puppy-dog eyes the supposed rugged, cold ancient species gave her, “and it's a Guardian's duty in life to protect their Charge. No matter what. Besides,” she shifted uncomfortably, feeling as if someone was watching them from the trees, “he seemed like a normal dragon to me. One with... interesting capabilities. That's all.” Uncertainty made her clear her throat, knowing full well that wasn't completely true.

A sudden cold wind enveloped the group then as a figure took form between the closest trees, claws digging into their bark to hold him aloft as he snaked his head forward, a wry grin on his face. “Aww! Well isn't that sweet and noble of you. You'd do anything to make sure I'm safe?” The Tundra's lips parted to show unnaturally sharp teeth for his species as he let out an unnerving chuckle.

Immediately Alstroemeria and Lupin pushed in front of Acacia again, bracing their front legs and splaying their wing-arms in a show of dominance. “All right, enough of this!” Using the tree trunks for leverage Aster shoved his way in front of the Gaolers, receiving a startled yelp from Lupin and a cry of annoyance from Merry.

“W-what's going on?” A quailing voice peeped from the ground behind them. “What's happening? Where are you?” The purple Fae staggered around with her tiny arms outstretched, hoping to find someone, or something, tears making her faceted pink eyes gleam all the brighter.

“It's alright, I've got you.” Verbena soothed, the wildclaw darting over to Plumeria to lift her blind friend to safety. Tucking into the bigger dragon's neck the Fae clung to the ashen fur as grief and fear racked her.

“Ooh another Guardian?” Inquired the Tundra playfully. “Are you here to protect me too?”

Aster shook his head before angling it towards Magnolia, who was stooped at the very back of the group warily as she attempted to keep Djembe calm. “No, my Charge is over there.” Returning his gaze to the stranger he continued, “But if we are to stand here bickering then I may need to take action.”

“Agreed.” Haycinth chimed in, stepping up. “This is getting nowhere. While congratulations are certainly in order for Acacia having found, or is otherwise close to finding the entirety of, her Charge, we cannot remain here. If you would be so kind-” Aster snorted loudly at that word, “- to please tell us your name and where we are we would be most grateful.”

Like someone was playing with a switch the Tundra's attitude changed again, his manic humour replaced by blank offence as he stared with pale purple discs. “You're welcome by the way.” He sneered, continuing to hang from the bark, tail lashing below him. “For saving your hides back there. I don't do that for just any dragon, you know.”

“And we are very thankful for that.” The Skydancer agreed, bobbing his head in response. “We're all simply flustered from everything that transpired and would like a safe haven to get our minds together.”

“Most of us anyway...” Zinnia muttered to Verbena, holding a chubby paw to her jaws to direct the sound away from the weird dragon who she pointed at with her tail. The Wildclaw, despite herself and her distraught friend, snickered.

“I'll pretend I did not hear that.” The Tundra growled, causing the hecklers to glare at him. “And I suppose that could be arranged.” He continued to Hyacinth as he allowed himself to slide down to the ground. Once he'd sauntered far enough away from the trees Willow leapt off Lupin's back to examine the damage, murmuring to them in apology. “After all, there are more of them out there.”

Eyes widened in alarm and several members of the group swung their heads around to watch for more of the Mirror-creatures. “There's more?” Merry demanded, pushing Aster aside once more as the male Guardian's attention was snapped away by the prospect of another attack. “You know? How many? Are you the one controlling them?!”

“Calm yourself my distant cousin.” Alstroemeria was stunned into disgusted silence as the Shade-ridden Tundra reached out to pat her reassuringly on the snout. “I am in no relation to these... things. We are bound by Shade essence, sure, but we are nothing alike.” Taking a few steps back and receiving a look of revulsion from the autumnal dryad he added, “I am known as Ayaz. And, honestly, I don't know why you're still attempting to divulge information from me when you could so easily have walked the rest of the way through the tunnel to find what you seek.” He grinned toothily. “You confronted me as another Shade-being, though have I really prevented you from leaving beyond mere curiosity?”

Shuffling awkwardly Hyacinth conceded, “This... is true. We could easily have left rather than stand and argue.” He shot a pointed look at Alstroemeria and a disappointed one at Lupin and Acacia. “Well then, Ayaz, if we are welcome to continue then we shall.” Addressing the nervous group he added, “Shan't we?”

Not needing to be told twice Magnolia all but picked up the spooked greattusk to stop him from charging and barrelled past the rest of the gathered dragon as best as the restrictive space would allow. Aster snorted in distaste once more, cast a final glance over his shoulder and then trotted after his mate. While she rolled her eyes in disbelief at the encounter Zinnia couldn't help but also snatch a peek behind them as she fell in step, Verbena following suit as Plumeria continued to huddle in the crook of her neck, Spangle clattering at her feet. Allium attached themselves to their favourite perch on Lupin's antler stump, though the brown-furred Gaoler was as reluctant to leave as his green counterpart. Acacia, too, lingered as she studied the being that called himself Ayaz, though she also found resolve enough to make her way across the threshold.

“Come on you three.” Hyacinth commanded gently to the Gaoler pair and the dryad. “No sense standing around here.”

“But he's-” Alstroemeria began, only for Lupin to shake out his fur and turn.

“Cin's right.” He spoke quietly, with a hint of frustration behind his words. “We should leave him for now. We have other things to worry about.” To make a point he switched his attention back to the black-laced rose Aster carried with him. “If we get inside we'll have a better place to protect everyone if those Shadebeasts follow us.”

Slipping along the treeline to walk level with the younger Gaoler Ayaz smirked proudly. “Or I can take care of them like I did the last lot!” The Tundra was forced to a stop as Lupin thrust his snout into the shady dragon's face, an expression that read “we'll handle it” furrowing his features. “Or, you know, you can take over. I'm not arguing.” Ayaz surrendered with a shrug. “I could use the break. It's too bright out here.” Once more assuming his mist-like form the Tundra vanished into the gloom, this time taking the chill and disquieting sensations with him.

Deprived of a reason to hang around any longer Alstroemeria heaved a sigh as she plodded after Lupin, lifting her head to watch Willow skip between the trees to catch up with her chosen dragon. Behind her came the rustling of wings as Hyacinth took up the rear.

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“Oh, wow...”

All the previous events seemed to disappear from memory as the Nameless Band stepped out of the confining enchanted tunnel, anxiety giving way to awe at the sight that awaited them. Two flat, round rises jutted from the ground; The first maybe a third the size of the second and sprinkled with pieces of wood seemingly hammered into the ground, each one bearing marks where something had rubbed against them.

Behind it, connected by a natural ramp formed by years of the trampling of many feet, the far larger one sported what was once some kind of decorative feature surrounded by seats and benches of varying size and shape, many broken. A gathering place perhaps, as suggested by the ring of pre-dug dens and pre-built shelters of unknown origin. Between each sprouted large, sturdy trees linked with platforms and bridges formed from the intertwined branches of each tree. Possibly encouraged by the same magic that had formed the tunnel. Some were in great need of repair as verandas hung uselessly and bridges dangerously where they'd been broken. Some of the trees seemed to be hollow, others had dens dug out beneath them. One in particular appeared recently used.

Paths of packed dirt split off from the plaza, leading to other parts of the clan grounds. To one side the sparkle of sun on water suggested a large pond, lake or even part of a river. Likely one of the former as the entire region was ringed by mountains though it wasn't impossible that a valley lay that way. The other side was a mess of various plant life from native trees to wild-growing crops to a dizzying amount of weeds. Fields once upon a time maybe? Whoever decided to take over would have a heck of a time clearing it out.

Behind the plaza more paths wound like snakes around the outside and up the side of the main cliff. Some disappeared into the rock, suggesting caves and vaults and the like, as others continued up to the top where more wooden stakes could be seen silhouetted against the afternoon sun.

“The remains of a Wind clan?” Light's natural inquisitiveness took hold as Hyacinth scanned the area, a glint of fascination in his eyes. “Why would someone leave a place like this? It's remarkable!”

“And decrepit.” Zinnia pointed out, though no less amazed by where their adventure had landed them. “Doesn't seem anyone's been here for a long, long time.”

“What about them?” Skydancer and Bogsneak alike twisted long necks to regard Allium, the monochrome Fae pointing in the direction of the water. Lifting their gazes they first stopped when they saw Acacia had already moved that way, standing hesitantly as she stared at something, or someone, in the distance. The Guardian was fighting an excited smile. Everyone gathered around her to see for themselves and, as Allium pointed out, there was indeed another small group of dragons.

A dark-scaled Spiral with veined red wings and a bronze underbelly. A red-and-black Snapper with patterns like the waves of the ocean. A large, blue, female Ridgeback with purple stripes. A pink Pearlcatcher dressed in the brown furs of a wolf, and wagging their tail like one. A cream Fae with a conical hat and light armour.

A red Coatl whose pelt seemed to be fading at their feet and tail and decorated with black stripes and splotches with seemingly no pattern.

“Is that...?” Zinnia sucked in a breath.

“It might be.” Hyacinth agreed. At long last, could they have, by chance, stumbled across their target? The wayward heir of the Cloudweaver clan, Ilmatar?

Was their journey finally at its climax?

“My Charge.” Snapped out of his pondering Hyacinth stared in dismay at Acacia, who had now given up trying to hide her elation. “They're my Charge! All of them! Their clan is my Charge! At last!” Without paying attention to her own actions the star-speckled Guardian began to wander towards the gathered group that lay tantalisingly close.

His heart all but stopped in his chest. First the supposedly Shade-ridden Tundra from before, now the one who may well be the one they had, indirectly, volunteered to return home? Panic set his pulse running from zero to a hundred as he searched the faces of Zinnia and Magnolia. The three of them had set out together for this, despite their initial unwillingness and Maggie's lack of judgement. Now they stood mere meters away only to have their chance taken from them because of another breed's instincts.

“If that's Ilmatar...” Hyacinth started, mouth growing dry.

“And she's part of Acacia's Charge...” Zinnia continued, fins flattening, tongue flicking from between her teeth.

“Then we can't take her home.” Magnolia finished mournfully. She had every right to be upset. After all the Ridgeback had been the one to start it all. Knowing her, she'd take all of this personally. If they failed, then she had failed.

“It... might not even be her.” A sudden hopefulness entered the black Bogsneak's voice, trying to lessen the blow. “If that's not Ilmatar then it's all fine, right? Sure we'll lose Acacia but we can stay here to rest up and resupply then keep looking for her! There's plenty of red Coatl out there... right?”

But Hyacinth wasn't convinced. Watching as Acacia slowly approached her newfound Charges he deliberated their next move. Did they let the Guardian introduce herself first, since they are her Charges, and listen in for more information? Did they run ahead to see for themselves? I should've asked Ayaz if he was familiar with the name. He silently chided himself.

With Acacia quickening her pace Hyacinth realised he was running out of time to decide. Cogs whirring in his brain the grey Skydancer turned to his companions. The two dragons who accompanied him and each other to the end despite everything that had happened along the way. “Okay Zinnia, Maggie.” The two girls perked up at his announcement. “We follow behind Acacia and let her get the group's attention. We then introduce ourselves, make some light conversation to make sure we have the correct dragon, then go from there. Sound good?”

“I got nothing else.” Admitted the skink-lined Bogsneak with a shrug. “I'm just ready for this to be over honestly.”

“We'll follow your lead.” The cherubic Ridgeback chirped encouragingly. “But whatever happens, we do it together!”

“Most certainly.” Hyacinth affirmed with a smile. Minds set, the trio began to trail after the ecstatic Guardian. No sooner had they taken the first step however did they get distracted once again.

“Do what together? Something going on?” With one hand cupped over the still-quavering Fae at her shoulder Verbena hopped over inquisitively. “Hey do you know those guys? You seem happy to see them! Can I join you? I mean, Plume and I weren't really going anywhere after all.”

Stifling a sigh Hyacinth turned to address the Wildclaw, only to pause. He'd expected a beaming grin, sparkling orange eyes filled with wonder. The same expression she usually wore at seeing some place new, chattering away to her friend as she described the area to the blind Fae. Or, he had noted with a cheeky grin, around Zinnia. Now that spark was gone. Curiosity still yet filled her fiery irises but something was missing, like a piece of her very being had been torn away.

He found himself swallowing as he recalled the brief interaction he'd had with her when they met properly in Saltwind. How young and naïve she was, how passionate she was to explore after being secluded for so long. Since then she'd witness death and terror. The raging of the elements. Gardenia's passing. The loss of two animal partners, one of which she'd been close to. Wisteria abandoning them. The monsters chasing them that resulted in that decision.

This hadn't been the world Verbena had wanted to see.

“Wait, who's that?” Cried an unknown male voice, making the five of them whip their heads around. The other group of dragons had turned at Acacia's approach, the Spiral pointing a long, shaky digit at her. Two low growls sounded behind the Nameless Band as the pair of Gaolers puffed out their fur. Tearing themselves away from the enchanted tunnel, which Willow had gone back to tend to, the ancient dragons positioned themselves either side of their group, fixated on the Coatl.

“Wh- Who are you?” The Coatl stammered, the black markings on her hide seeming to squirm, though it could just have been the way she moved. “What are you, even? What do you want?”

“This again?” Acacia barked, turning on her once-companions. “Shade or no, you will not hurt my Charges!”

“Step away from her.” It was Lupin who stepped forwards this time, snuffling the air. “There... is something not right.”

Blocked off by the brown-furred Gaoler Merry snorted. “Shade.” She said simply, dangerously.

“I mean you no harm!” The Guardian called in turn, flaring her wings to obscure the Gaolers and bowed her head low. “You. Your clan. You are my Charge and I will do what I will to protect you.” Her entire body trembled with barely constrained excitement. “I am relieved to finally have found- Oh, uh... hello?” She broke off in surprise as the wolf fur-covered Pearlcatcher and a red-breasted hainu ran over to her, sniffing and barking happily like a pair of domestic dogs. The Pearlcatcher attempted to lick her face, she pulled back, he licked her shoulder instead, leaving trails of black gunk that trickled down her arm.

“Hey, hey! Calm down you two.” Both of the stopped, looked at the Fae who was talking to them, looked back at Acacia then bounded over who they assumed was their master. “I'll, um, explain later.” He offered with a bob of the head and the flaring of fins as he regarded the towering mountains of fluff.

“Charge?” The other Ridgeback tilted her head then searched the others, interrupting the odd scene. “What's a Charge?”

The Coatl muttered something too quiet for anyone to catch, then gently explained while not taking her gaze away from the three newcomers, “A Charge is something a Guardian must protect for the rest of their life. No one knows, not even them, what it will be until they find it. It can be anything,” she, as her voice gave away, flicked her coiled tail in an unidentifiable gesture, “including a clan.”

A small ticking sound was heard then, a sound that no one realised was the clapping of tiny Fae hands until they saw the motion from atop the hainu-dragon's head. “Oh most wonderful!” He chirruped. “Does this mean to say we are officially a clan then? I know there were reservations earlier, but with Matar present and the arrival of a Guardian whose Charge is a clan, does that make those dreams a reality?”

“'Matar'?” All eyes fell on Hyacinth at his question, a mixture of confusion, wariness and distrust that sapped the courage from his chest. Feeling small and vulnerable the avian dragon sat back on his haunches, one hand on his chest as the other indicated Zinnia and Magnolia behind him. “Um yes, pardon my intrusion.” He began, struggling to keep his voice steady. Of everything that could happen he hadn't anticipated the wall of scepticism. Especially when one they'd been travelling with was a part of the resistance. “My name is Hyacinth and these are Zinnia and Magnolia.” The white Ridgeback waved nervously while the black Bogsneak simply dipped her head in acknowledgement. “And we... um...” His throat felt tight. “We were sent to... to find... you.”

The rainbow of coloured stares narrowed at him; some sad, others questioning. And then Ilmatar's own. Hyacinth struggled to swallow as he realised how similar her eyes were to Ayaz', only green instead of purple. “'Find me'?” Matar echoed snarkily. “Did my father send you?”

“Y-yes. He did.” Hyacinth's throat felt like it was full of rocks. “We're... supposed to bring you home.”

“Go home?” A bitter laugh escaped her. “No, I don't think I will.”

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Next Chapter
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Note: Verbena's coppercoil creeper familiar has been renamed from Twink to Spangle as "twink" is considered a slur. And having found out what kind of slur, I hope I did not offend anyone by originally naming it that and apologise if I did. I was not aware and so it was not intended.
Last edited by Varethyn on Mon Jun 15, 2020 11:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: An Ill Wind Blows (Side Pinkerlocke)

Unread post by Tårnfalk » Tue Jun 09, 2020 5:09 pm

That Tundra is so spooky.. I love how the guardians react to their charge

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HUGE thanks to Makoes, Syleye, FeralClaw, Pingupuff, Karin,Bowno, Varethyn, Ashaine, Kishay, Aki (Täräin13), my friend Marie and some lovely ppl on Fligth Rising for my lovely sig

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Re: An Ill Wind Blows (Side Pinkerlocke)

Unread post by Falcon » Tue Jun 09, 2020 10:10 pm

Another well done chapter and I absolutely adore Ayaz. I'm glad the arguments ended without fighting since the Nameless Band could definitely do without such for a while.
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Re: An Ill Wind Blows (Side Pinkerlocke)

Unread post by Varethyn » Sat Jun 13, 2020 8:09 pm

Just a heads up that the next chapter is going to be the end for both Ill Wind Blows and Winds of Change! I know I've said some stupid things here and there but I really hope you all enjoyed the stories. I plan to do another challenge soon after I finally get this one wrapped up and I hope you all look forward to it! I know I'm eager for some fresh content :)

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Re: An Ill Wind Blows (Side Pinkerlocke)

Unread post by Tårnfalk » Sun Jun 14, 2020 3:33 am

I loved the story and your pinkterton :D

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HUGE thanks to Makoes, Syleye, FeralClaw, Pingupuff, Karin,Bowno, Varethyn, Ashaine, Kishay, Aki (Täräin13), my friend Marie and some lovely ppl on Fligth Rising for my lovely sig

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Re: An Ill Wind Blows (Side Pinkerlocke) - COMPLETE

Unread post by Varethyn » Mon Jun 15, 2020 11:06 am

Chapter 29 - Finale

No one argued.

With the bob of the head Hyacinth politely excused himself and the Nameless Band, minus Acacia and the two Gaolers, to reconvene a short ways away to begin council. This was going to be difficult. “So what do we do now?” With the flick of a forked tongue Zinnia slumped to the floor, keeping her sight trained on the Coatl and her new clan. “We came all this way, found our target by pure chance... and can't take her back both because she's now a clan leader and under the protection of a Guardian whose Charge is the entire clan.” She straightened to regard her group. “Even if we manage to convince her to leave somehow Acacia won't like it.”

“Why were you looking for her in the first place?” Aster growled as he took a spot next to Magnolia, the Ridgeback squeezing her eyes shut tight and biting her lower lip so hard that the skin threatened to split. “Must have been something very important to have spent so long looking.”

“Right...” Hyacinth sighed, placing a clawed hand over his face. “We never properly told any of you what we were doing. Only that we were travelling, looking for someone.”

Lowering herself into the gap between Maggie and Zinnia Verbena asked, “You said you were supposed to take her home. Did something happen?” Then after a brief pause tapped a talon on her lip and added, “I wonder if anyone's looking for me since I left home, too.”

“Perhaps, if you didn't tell anyone and your leaving affected the clan in such a way to prompt a search.” The purple-scaled Guardian explained. “Which is what I'm assuming happened with this Coatl woman.” An inquiring eyebrow raised at the Skydancer as he spoke.

“Well...” The blue-streaked grey Wildclaw ran a hand through her purple head crest sheepishly. “I did kinda run away cos my mum and dad expected me to do stuff I didn't want and were never home to even see it...” Regret flashed in her amber gaze.

Everyone stared at the Fireborne for a moment. “That's awful.” Allium squeaked from their new perch on Maggie's arm, doing their best to help calm their giant aunt. “You should at least send them a letter or something. They must be worried sick.”

Verbena wilted slightly. “Maybe.” She picked up the coppercoil creeper from where it had been running in circles behind her, awaiting orders. Legs continued to flail for a few seconds until it registered it was no longer on solid ground, letting out a series of almost confused-sounding beeps. “I heard machines like these can deliver messages and stuff. Maybe if I can get someone to fix it I'll send Spangle with a note.”

“Probably not a bad idea.” Aster sighed irritably, then addressed Hyacinth once more, “You were saying, Hyacinth?”

Pulling his enchanted cowl tighter over his jewel the Skydancer took a breath before recounting the story from the beginning, that Ilmatar was next in line to take over the floating Wind lair of Mistral Zenith and the Cloudweaver clan, how she vanished when the Twisting Crescendo failed, how Maggie – who choked on a sob at this – had volunteered the three of them to find the errant Coatl. “And now that we've found her,” he concluded with an air of defeat, “we are unable to return her for a multitude of reasons.”

“She doesn't want to go home, she's founded her own clan and that clan is now Acacia's Charge.” Aster summarised with an understanding nod. “Take her back forcefully and risk angering a Guardian, or return home with bad news.”

“Given the circumstances the latter is more likely.” Zinnia finished drily. “Meaning all of this drama was for nothing.”

“Well that's not entirely true.” A small, quiet voice came from Verbena's shoulder fur as Plumeria trembled, body, frills and fins alike. “You all found and helped us along the way, didn't you?”

“True.” Hyacinth agreed, not completely convinced though with genuine understanding. “Had we not set out we'd never have saved those eggs from the harpies, and so brought Lupin, Gardenia and,” he waved a claw at the smaller Fae, “Allium into the world. In turn we would not have found Iris on the beach and rescued her. Or the road that led us to you, Aster.” The Guardian shuddered at the thought of what may have happened to him had they not saved him from his depression, or put Amaranth to rest. “We never would have met Orchid and Willow, odd as the pair had been, or aided Acacia in her quest to find her C harge.”

“Even though we failed...” Magnolia sniffled, finally allowing herself to join in the conversation, “We still... gained so many memories.” She clenched the fist Allium wasn't balancing on, a thin trickle of blood running down her lip as she clamped her teeth again. With a companionable rumble Aster leaned supportively into his mate.

“And learned a lot about each other.” Zinnia admitted, placing a one paw on the Ridgeback's balled hand and the other on the Skydancer's. “And... ourselves.”

Silence held the group a while as they basked in their lessons and achievements, triumphs and pitfalls, as across the way the Coatl they'd spent so long searching for spoke with her clanmates. Despite the advance and appearance she sounded chipper. Excited even. Acacia claiming her clan as her Charge had sparked something in the red dragon. Hadn't the pale Fae said that they weren't officially a clan until that happened? Maybe the prospect of realising her dream of being a clan leader had been riled in that discovery.

That made their decision all the more difficult.

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Time seemed to drag after the Band broke council. While not obliged to stay or leave the group opted to stay close by within the general area. Giving the newly-formed clan a comfortable berth while they continued their own assembly everyone attempted to make themselves busy. Food and water was distributed, the familiars were cared for.

Peryle, unsure of her purpose now that her charge had completed their journey, trotted aimlessly as she inspected the quality of her bow and arrows. While the centaur had not had any need to utilise them so too could disuse lower the quality of her weaponry. Then all too quickly the arrow in her hand was knocked to her bow at the shuffling of feathers above. A blue harpy had settled herself onto the branch of one of the outer trees of the enchanted tunnel entrance. Peryle lowered the bow, though did not release the tautness of the string. <You... have no mask.> She stated in Beasttongue, tilting her head. <I have never met a harpy who bore no mask.>

<I am an outcast of my flock.> Replied the avian simply, showing no sign of fear or offence, like she expected the action. <In a fit of desperation led by the cripple Ariana, a group of us cut ties with Talona and her ilk for fear of worse a fate than living with dragons.> She waved a wing at the smaller group of dragons still discussing something by the lake. <Harpy, serthis,> she pointed specifically at such a red snake in their midst, <and maren.> The finger shifted to the shark hunter lurking below the surface of the water. <We found this place at the same time the lizards did. The few of us split off from the greater group, who seek similar refuge with other willing clans, hoping for safety and sanctuary lest we be hunted like animals by our own.>

<And so you removed the mask as a sign of trust to the dragons?>

<Indeed so.>

Remaining incredulous towards the harpy's words Peryle hesitated for a beat then returned the arrow to its quiver and the bow to her shoulder. <And how is it working out for you? Are these dragons worth it?>

The fellow Beastclan shrugged, glancing again at the clan. <I am yet here, as are Nathrach and Laika. I was turned down in the aid of brooding eggs but that was to be expected. Mothers are protective of their young regardless of species. So long as I am alive, not being chased and otherwise allowed to remain, I feel that, yes, they are worth allying with.>

<Why then do you not join in their council?>

A soft sigh left the stormcloud harpy as her gaze became more wistful, longing. <I feel I failed in a duty I did not yet have, and so feel unwelcome in major gatherings such as the formation of a clan.> She returned her gaze to Peryle, a sad smile on her thin lips. <I was excited by the white, two-legged one's brood, my own instincts wishing to nurse them since my nest was...> She shook her head, a line glinting on her Prussian skin. <Too quick. She did not trust. So now I keep my distance. As I said they do not hate me and so I remain, waiting for a chance to redeem myself.>

<I see.> Swishing her horse tail uncertainly Peryle's gaze switched between the birdlike Beastclan and the group of dragons she watched over. Then with a curt nod said, <Peryle. What name do you go by?>

Performing a brief curtsey the harpy replied, <Ociara. A pleasure, Peryle.> As she rose a flicker of movement caught the attention of both Beastclan members. The clan was moving, flanked by Acacia and the two Gaolers. <It would seem a decision has been reached.> Ociara remarked, intrigued. Turning to Peryle she asked, <Shall we join them?>

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All of the present dragons formed a circle at the edge of the lake. On her side, closest to the water so that their maren friend could join in, Ilmatar took the head with the Spiral, Anvindr, and Snapper, Vunguza, at her left and the blue-and-purple Ridgeback, Meifeng, at her right. Next to Meifeng the Fae, Aure, was doing his best to keep the Pearlcatcher, Ciro, calm and still. It wasn't working well apparently, as the fur-clad dragon kept squirming impatiently, not helped by his hainu familiar who was play-bowing to him from the edge of the pack. Acacia, pearlescent flakes clinging to her shoulder, took up a spot beside Anvindr and Vunguza, casting wary glances at the red serthis potionmaster that skulked alongside them. Ociara picked a perch on a large rock a little away from the gathering.

On his side, as it was decided he would act as leader of their group, Hyacinth sat opposite Ilmatar. Zinnia took his left side while Maggie took right. Aster positioned himself next to his mate as Verbena settled next to the Bogsneak with Plumeria still on her shoulder. Completing the circle were Lupin and Alstroemeria on opposite sides, the mossy green Gaoler snatching as many glances at the earthy brown male as she did Matar. Allium clung to their favourite perch on Lupin's stump as Willow sat on his back and Peryle waited at his side.

“Sorry to keep you.” The Coatl began, the defensiveness from earlier reduced to a hard but not unkind stare. “Now that we've agreed that this clan is official I wanted to punt some ideas around with my friends. Well, clan members now.” Spiral, Snapper, Ridgeback, Fae and Guardian nodded at their own speeds.

“Forgive the immediate interruption Ilmatar.” Hyacinth put in quickly, raising a hand. “But are we not missing one of yours for this?”

Black-rimmed green eyes rolled. “Oh, right. Ayaz. I'm sure he's listening from someone's shadow or something. I'd set us up inside somewhere but we haven't exactly had the chance to explore much let alone set aside a dark enough cave for him. He'll just have to deal with it.” Given the slight venom to her words Hyacinth guessed she wasn't a huge fan of the Tundra either.

“From someone's shadow?” Verbena asked, mildly alarmed as she peered at the dark reflections on the ground around them. “He can do that?”

“Annoyingly, yes.” Ilmatar nodded in her Coatl's hiss-inflected voice. “You would've known in he was in yours, believe me. Anyone feel cold or like they're being watched?” Everyone shook their heads collectively. Ciro, thinking it a game, shook himself so hard he almost sent Aure flying. “Good, then no one is haunted right now.”

“Forgive me asking,” Zinnia cut in before either Matar or Hyacinth could continue, “but why exactly are we all gathered together for this?”

Turning his head to address his friend Hyacinth politely answered, “So we can discuss our quest I'm imagining. To reach a compromise of sorts perhaps.”

Forked tongue snaking from between her teeth the Bogsneak added, “Even so, why everyone? Wouldn't Ilmatar,” she nodded respectfully at the Coatl in question, “want to discuss this herself since, I dunno, she's the one we're trying to bring home?”

“I brought everyone,” Ilmatar stated, flaring her crest slightly in offence, “because I wanted to make you guys an offer.” Relaxing and adjusting her posture she put on a smile. “There is no chance that I'm going home. And if you try to force me we will fight back.” Vunguza and Anvindr exchanged glances, troubled by the idea. “However I'm not exactly going to tell you to leave. You came a long way looking for me after all and I respect that. You're welcome to stay here as long as you need, although we can't provide you with much ourselves unless you wanna help out. And in fact,” a twinkle gleamed in her eyes, “you're all welcome to join our clan if you want.

“Of course, if you do,” her eyes narrowed dangerously, “well. Thanks to your... um... Tundra-like friends – we're going to need to talk about them by the way – you're already aware that there is a large Shade presence here. If you choose to stay you'll have to be prepared for it. And swear never to mention it outside the clan grounds.”

“Join your clan? Shade?” It was the turn of the Nameless Band to exchange glances. Many of their group weren't of the Cloudweavers, or possibly from any clan. Such an offer could be tempting now that the adventure was over, as long as the Shade presence was kept under control. And with two Gaolers and that weird Tundra, Ayaz, that lessened the threat.

A wave of dread struck Hyacinth then. That included Allium and Lupin. He, Zinnia and Magnolia had raised those two, along with Gardenia, like their own children. It amazed him just how long this journey had gone on for, to see them hatch and grow into young adults under their care. Would they want to find their own way now? The Skydancer wondered if this was how a parent felt when their children were old enough to leave home.

“That is indeed a gracious and highly generous offer.” He admitted at length, trying to shake the tendrils of despair trying to grip his mind. “And while there may be some here who may agree to that I'm afraid I shan't be one of them.” Adjusting slightly he puffed his fur out as a sign of certainty. “Someone needs to deliver the news that you will not be returning. And in good time so that a new leader can be picked at Leesil's passing.” Across from him, at the other side of the circle, Ilmatar bristled, the glimmer leaving her eyes as they closed. Regret, he decided, watching the way her claws dug into the clay-laden soil, the way her tail flicked behind her. Regret for a lost father, but not enough to make amends with whatever caused her to leave.

“Wait, you're just going to let everyone leave?” Zinnia almost sputtered at his side, paws placed on the ground ready to push herself up if needed. “After all we've been through?”

“You'd sooner I insist we all go back to Mistral Zenith together?”

Not unlike a fish, Zinnia's mouth opened and closed a few times as she floundered for a retort. Nothing came, evidently, as she grouchily gave up, settling back down and pouting. Hyacinth regarded her sympathetically. Zin hadn't been completely the same since Iris left. Since she'd poured her heart out to them.

“Anyone is free to make their own way.” Pointedly Hyacinth glanced at Zinnia, then at Magnolia, then finally at Lupin and Allium who now focused their attention on him. “That... goes for you as well.” He forced himself to say. Even as he turned away he saw them stiffen. “Our journey is at an end. We have made, and lost, great friends and allies. Now,” his breath caught in his throat, “no one is obligated to stay together. Come with me back to Mistral Zenith, stay and join this new clan or find a new path entirely. The choice is in your own hands.”

“Well I'm going with you!” A wide paw slapped the earth forcefully with Zinnia's declaration. “If you're going to bear the burden then I'm going to bear the brunt with you. We started this together, we end it together.” She arced her neck to peer up at a rather shocked Magnolia. “Right Maggie?”

The Ridgeback fidgeted uncomfortably and cast glances down at Aster, the Guardian nuzzling supportively into her. “Um... actually...” Magnolia stared at the area between her paws, bracing herself as if expecting backlash from what she was about to say. “Aster and I... We...” She took a deep breath in attempt to stabilise herself. “We... want to start a family together.” Squeezing her eyes shut the giant white dragon cringed in anticipation. When nothing happened she continued, “So we... We've been talking about finding a... a place for ourselves. So this...” Tears streaked over her cheeks as Maggie looked down at her friends, subconsciously licking the cut in her lip.

“This would be perfect for us.” Aster finished for his mate. “A fresh start, somewhere to raise hatchlings to love and cherish-”

Magnolia couldn't hold it in any longer. With a cry of anguish she gathered her two, smaller friends in her arms, holding them in a tight embrace as she sobbed loudly. “I'm so sorry-hee-hee!” The Ridgeback wailed, tucking her head between the pair of bewildered dragons in her grip.

“H-hey. It... it's all good!” Zinnia attempted, gently patting the great white arm around her. “It's... it's all good. I promise. I know I said-” Another wail drowned her out.

“Should we do something?” Anvindr inquired, seeming panicked by the situation as he flung his claws into his long mouth. “Should we say something to them to calm her down?”

“Naw lad,” Vunguza replied gently with a shake of his broad head, “let'm be. Ne'er easy leavin' ye friends.”

Nathrach clicked his tongue irritably. “Are you dragonsss alwaysss ssso sssoft when it comesss to sssplitting the group?”

“Dependin' on t'reasonin', aye.” The Snapper gave the serthis a reproachful look.

“A-and besides...” Magnolia managed once her tears had run dry, wiping her face with the back of her hand and giving Hyacinth and Zinnia a quivering smile. “We c-can... We can help these guys set up the new clan. Cl-cleaning up an-and burrowing and stuff.” She sniffed, rubbing at her nose and hiccuping. “I'll finally... be able to help build something. Do s-something good.”

“You've done plenty good.” Zinnia argued sweetly. “You saved those eggs. You brought Aster out of his depression and gave him a new future and mate. You helped with the building projects in Saltwind.”

“And most of all,” Hyacinth added, “you brought us together. We never would have made it here as friends if it weren't for you.”

“G-guys...” With the threat of further tears Maggie gathered her friends together once more. This time Aster came around to join in, as did Lupin and Allium leave their spot to take part in a big, family hug. Verbena, Plumeria and Alstroemeria sat awkwardly on the sidelines.

Until... “You know what? Deities damn the Shade, I'm not missing out on this!” A flurry of green and red and Merry had piled herself on top of the mass of limbs. A series of confused and surprised grunts made their way out of the ball of dragon.

Verbena looked down at Plumeria. The Fae looked up ate the Wildclaw. “Make room for us, too!” And the pair had also wedged themselves into whatever open spot they could find, with the combined weight of everyone sending the pile toppling over in a fit of screeches and giggles. At the other end of the circle Matar and her clan stared in utter bemusement, took their turn shaking their heads and laughing at the sight.

“Not bad for a bouquet of flowers with half the display missing...” Matar murmured to herself.

As the writhing mass wobbled with affection a chuckle was heard from within a cluster of rocks not far from where Ilmatar was positioned, causing the new clan to whirl around. Before they could investigate it was followed by Ayaz' voice calling, “You might want to look up!”

At his words the Nameless band struggled to disentangle themselves as Ciro and Risetta began barking excitedly, bouncing on their feet a moment before bounding over beneath where a red and gold Skydancer was trying to land, followed by a brown hainu. “Oh... um... is... is this a bad time?” He stammered, shifting from side to side in attempt to touch down in a way he wouldn't step on the playful pair. “I-I... I have a letter? For s-someone named Matar?” A claw reached to tug nervously at the equally red and gold scarf around his slender neck. “I can come back later... if you prefer...”

“A letter for me?” An eye-ridge raised as the Coatl approached the newcomer as the Skydancer wrestled to keep his staff from being stolen by two canines and a canine-like Pearlcatcher. “No one should know that anyone's here yet. Do you know who it's from?”

The male withered in shame, shaking his head. “N-no. Raijin, someone from my clan, asked me to deliver it here for someone.” He rubbed a shoulder. “It did take a while to find this place thou- Hey! Drop it! Boney, come back!” Suddenly he was chasing after the hainu pack as Risetta and the apparently-named Boney began a tug-of-war with the stolen staff, Ciro trying to get in on the action by snapping at it when they came close to him.

“...Huh.” Matar grunted, inspecting the envelope as the mound of wings and tails fell apart and her clan came over.

“Who could it be from?” Anvindr asked, peering over the Coatl's head to see.

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“Lani?” Meifeng exclaimed happily once Matar had finished reading. “Lani's okay?”

“An' somethin' 'appened tah Whisper?” A concerned Vunguza chimed in.

Ilmatar's brow creased as she processed the writing. Catching sight of Hyacinth and the Nameless Band over the top of the parchment she let out a soft sigh, rolled it up and turned to the new dragon. Who was currently yanking his staff from Ciro's mouth. “Thank you for bringing this here... um...?” The sentence was left hanging as an invitation for the stranger to introduce himself.

“Oh!” He cried, realising his mistake. Or from falling back as the Pearlcatcher let go at Ilmatar's voice. Getting to his feet hurriedly and brushing himself off he blurted, “Lucas! M-my name is Lucas. Sorry about that...” Lucas shuffled apprehensively. “A-and you're welcome! Um... should I bring anything back?” He jolted to the side as a pair of hainu jaws snapped at the wooden weapon.

“No, it's okay.” Shaking her head Ilmatar forced a smile at the young Skydancer. “We're in the middle of something right now. I'll get one of my clan mates to bring a reply at a later time.”

“O-okay. Sure!” Lucas bowed awkwardly, keeping his staff close to his body. “S-see you around! Come, Boney. We're going home.”

Boney, the brown hainu having just initiated a game of chase with Risetta and Ciro, stopped in his game and let out a small whine of disappointment. Giving his new friends a sad look the winged wolf trotted obediently after his master and together they took to the air. On the ground behind them Ciro and Risetta bounded after them, not understanding why their new playmate had left them, barking at the departing figures until Aure flitted over to get the two under control.

“'In the middle of something'?” Hyacinth asked once Lucas was far enough out of ear and emotion-shot. “I realise we did interrupt with our, ahem... “huddle”, but you make it sound like there's more.”

The glint reappeared in the red-feathered dragon's eye as she folded the letter and tucked it in the translucent shawl about her long neck. “Oh yes. I've been looking forward to announcing this.”

“Hoo boy, 'ere we go.” Chuckled Vunguza behind them. “We were 'avin' a chinwag, like, afore ye came along. Ye wouldn't think it fer lookin' at her, but Matar were so excited.” Despite his jolly demeanour Hyacinth couldn't help but detect even in simply looking that the Snapper was worried about something. No doubt to do with the Shade business in the area, which he made a note to investigate before he, Zinnia and whoever joined them left.

“It is finally time to give ourselves a name!” Ilmatar declared triumphantly. “I gave it a lot of thought and I feel that we are ready. We,” she gestured at Anvindr, at Vunguza, at Meifeng, at Ciro, at Aure, “we shall now be known as Clan Rising Chorus. Because every new voice adds to our song! We will grow to be the most harmonious breeze ever to grace the Plateau!

“And this,” standing on her hind legs she stretched out her stubby arms as far as they would go, using her much larger wings to add to the emphasis as she encompassed the ruin they had claimed, “this is the Prismatic Aria. Every dragon of any colour, of any flight, of any race, of any belief or orientation is welcome here. Every new member adds another verse to our song, our story, as it continues to be written into the annals of time!”

For a few moments no one spoke, only stared at the exultant Coatl. Her smile began to falter at the lack of reaction, more so when the Goalers returned to their original positions to watch her. The Nameless Band members glanced between one another. Acacia had her head tilted in consideration. As Matar began to lower herself back to the ground in embarrassment a rapid clapping was heard from one side.

“Bravo! I love it! I think it works perfectly, don't you, Guz?” Anvindr's words all but fell from his lips as he spurted compliments, hands almost catching alight from the quick, constant applause. With an amused snort Vunguza began to pound the ground rhythmically with his forepaws.

“Indeed! A fitting name I'm sure!” Aure chimed in, clapping his tiny hands again along with the other two. “Already this is a diverse group, and your acceptance of others speaks volumes about you. It only makes sense that is reflected in our home's title!” A few murmurs drifted from the Nameless Band, but they nonetheless joined in the ovation.

“Very appropriately named.” Claimed Hyacinth with an approving smile.

“I don't get it but it sounds pretty!” Called out Verbena, slamming the ground with her feet as much as she clapped her hands together.

Ilmatar's embarrassment turned from feeling foolish to being overwhelmed by praise. It was shaky with some, she could tell, but that was to be expected from dragons not from Wind flight. “You guys...” she managed softly, curling her wings in front of herself and ducking her head down. Finding her voice she made herself say, “Th-that's not completely final i-if anyone wants to offer input!” Clearing her throat she tried again. “After all, I want this to reflect all of us, not purely my decisions.”

“I like what you chose.” Meifeng put in supportively.

“Aye, no argument here, and but.” Added Vunguza.

Acacia hesitated a moment, seeming to be in deep thought. “Not something I'd call a clan or territory.” The galaxy-patterned Guardian admitted at length, causing several others to catch their breath. “However,” she continued gently, “it “feels” right. It might not be something I'd use personally, but it suits my Charge. I approve.” Those holding their breath released it with a whoosh of relief, the whoops, cheers and acclamation resuming.

“I think that concludes everything that needs be said here.” Ilmatar claimed, puffing up with pride and wiping her eyes as they threatened to release tears of joy. “Thank you all for your support, for sticking with me and making my dream a reality. This clan will grow to be a prosperous one I'm sure!”

With that everyone gathered into the centre of their ring, finally allowing themselves to meet one another properly as clan members and as allies. As Hyacinth made his way over to Ilmatar to speak something on his mind he was cut off by a large, fluffy shape. “Cin.” Lupin addressed the Skydancer, voice soft and unsure. His feet shifted beneath him and the Gaoler appeared unable to make eye contact. “I... want to...” A deep breath was taken. “I need to tell you something. You and Zin, since you're both... leaving.”

Hyacinth pressed his lips into a thin line. He didn't need his gem to know what his adoptive son was thinking. “You want to stay here too, don't you?” Lupin flinched as if he'd been struck. Seeing that the avian-like dragon stood on his back legs to wrap his arms around the bigger dragon's neck, pressing his face into the thick, shaggy green mane. “It's okay. I understand. We all will, I'm sure.” Pulling away Lupin turned so they were face-to-face, the sunlight catching a film of unshed tears. “You've finally found your calling with all this Shade business. Which I want to discuss with Matar before I leave. I'm sure you and Willow will be happier down here than in the sky anyway.” He forced a smile. This was harder than he expected.

“And um...” again the mound of fluff shuffled. “A-Allium... says they want to stay with... with me.” Lupin gestured towards where Willow was currently sat on a tree stump, holding the sobbing silver form of his ersatz sibling. “Th-they couldn't bring themselves to say it. So...” He returned his gaze to Hyacinth hopefully.

A pain unlike any he'd known shot through the Skydancer's chest. Casting a quick glance over at Zinnia he found himself unable to get her attention as the Bogsneak conversed with Verbena and Anvindr, nor Magnolia as she and Aster were approached by Meifeng. He'd have to do this alone. “You and Allium...” He started slowly, carefully, “were forced to grow up quickly. Hatched and raised on the road with a deadly threat chasing us. And losing Gardenia as well.” Hyacinth pulled back to better regard the son he never had. “I think you're both big and strong enough to make your own decisions. You have a place protecting us from the Shade, a potential mate,” Lupin snorted at Merry's mention, “and a long life ahead of you. And I promise,” Hyacinth's grip on Lupin's pelt tightened, “I promise we'll come visit now and again. With the wind returned it'll be an easy flight to and from Mistral Zenith. This isn't goodbye forever.”

Where did all that come from?

Lupin smiled even as rivulets of salty water ran down his face, pulling the smaller dragon into another hug. “Thank you.”

The pair held each other a moment longer before reluctantly parting. With gracious smiles on both sides Lupin lumbered over to repeat the scene with his adoptive aunts. Steadying himself, adjusting his robes and hood and taking another deep breath Hyacinth made his way over to Ilmatar, inviting her to a secluded spot to discuss matters concerning the Shade. Agreeing the Coatl guided him towards a cave at the far end of the clan grounds. As they entered, the silhouette of a Tundra followed them inside.

An uncounted number of days passed since then, everyone now on equal understanding of the troubles clan Rising Chorus must now deal with alone, in secret. It was hard for Hyacinth to accept but in the end he swallowed his pride enough to agree to keeping it on the down low for the time being. Stopping long enough to help tidy up the ruin to be somewhat more presentable and aiding in stocking larders, now magically chilled by Magnolia's innate magic the time came for Hyacinth and Zinnia to say goodbye. Surprisingly to both of them Verbena asked to join them in their return to Mistral Zenith, as did Plumeria. While questions and concerns arose they ultimately agreed and so the four of them set out on the long journey home – for which Zinnia apologised profusely for and cursing her undersized wings.

As they faded from sight so did a rumble of thunder echo across the land. The storm itself was elsewhere in the world as the inverted Twisting Crescendo once more cleared the Windswept Plateau of clouds, yet its effects were still felt within the ground itself. Despite the warming air an unsound chill afflicted the minds of many a dragon within the lands of Wind. Eyes cast nervously skyward. There was something wrong, the voices on the breeze said.

A black wind was beginning to howl.

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~ THE END ~
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