"You clearly can't make suitable choices!" Twilight heard Father growl, making the small dark-amethyst dragon coil back into her hiding spot, shivering in fear. Burying her face in the crook of her arm, Twilight whimpered, visions bombarding her mind.
Her father brutally murdering Deadlyclaws...
Deadlyclaws being arrested by NightWing officials...
Mother coming home...
"If you made suitable choices, you wouldn't be forcing her!" Deadlyclaws spat back, squaring her shoulders defensively. "You have no place to do that to your own daughter!"
"And you have no place to question my decisions, child," Scourge hissed, jabbing a claw at Deadlyclaws, making her flinch. "She will go and you can't do anything about it!"
Scourge's pale blue eyes narrowed to a scowl as he advanced on his eldest daughter, mouth twisting into a grim smile, making Deadlyclaws recoil in time to his thundering talonsteps.
Twilight was absolutely terrified. She wanted to help her sister, but who knows what her father might do to her. The last thing she wanted was to find out the hard way.
Oh, Penguin, she thought miserably, crawling into the small crevice beside the prey shelves, squeezing her thin body through to the other side. Why did you have to leave at a time like this...
Reaching her claws back into the hole, Twilight pulled at the wood pole with all of her might as she shifted the structure in front of the entrance slowly, concealing it completely from the alert eyes of her father. She grunted, pushing against the obsidian wall with her back talons to get her claws out, throwing herself backwards into her bed. The NightWing dragonet collapsed on the thin blankets with a small thud.
* * *
Scourge shouldered past Deadlyclaws, icy eyes narrowing at the shelves lightly scattered with small prey and an abundance of rodents, barely enough for three hungry dragons.
"Speak of the devil," the father breathed, lowering his head to the bottom shelf, peering past the tiny mice at the wall behind it. "I could've sworn I heard that little good for nothing brat--"
"Don't speak of my sister like that!" Deadlyclaws exploded, talons trembling with anger. Scourge looked back in genuine surprise, raising his neck once again as he regained his dominant posture.
"What did you say?" he asked, his voice dangerously quiet. Turning abruptly, Scourge took a small step closer to his shaking daughter, raising a brow at her nervousness in amusement. "For a moment of disbelief, I thought I heard my useless dragonet speak up without my consent. Of course, I know I heard wrong. Why, she would never dare argue with me... would she?"
"Private Deadlyclaws?" One-eye wrapped his thick talons on the front door, pressing his ear to the heavy wood. "General requests your presence."
"Lucky," Scourge whispered. He stalked stiffly out of the room, slamming his bedroom door behind him, making the furniture rattle.
Deadlyclaws sighed in relief, smiling as she walked to the entrance, pulling open the arched wooden door. One-eye yelped, falling onto the dark purple dragon, making her collapse backwards. She cried out, breathing shallow. One-eye managed to land on top of her, his only slightly larger figure trapping Deadlyclaws underneath him, his claws digging into the ground either side of her. She exhaled deeply, her warm breath brushing against his snout as his head was barely two inches away from hers. He grinned charmingly, his silvery white glass-eye contrasting against his other real, deep blue one.
"Interesting meeting, is it not?" One-eye cleared his throat, curling his thin tail around hers, making her look away.
"Get off me, you clumsy sheep," Deadlyclaws rolled her eyes, averting her gaze away from him.
"I kinda like this," he chuckled. "Look at meee!"
One-eye placed his talons on both sides of her face, making her look up at him, amethyst eyes glistening. He giggled, squishing her face underneath his claws. Letting go, she gave him a bored look, folding her arms.
"You said the General needed me," she said, rolling him off her so One-eye lay on his back beside her, tilting his head in an attempt to catch her gaze; and failing.
"Oh yeah," he gave her a lopsided smile, clearly not serious.
She kinda liked his silliness. It distracted her from the stress of her family that took up so much of her mind all of the time. She kinda liked the way he grinned at her and the way his blue eye glowed with happiness. She kinda liked how he gave her his lunch whenever she was hungry. She also kinda liked the way One-eye used his speed and smaller figure to be agile in the battle field while the other troops used brute strength to gain a risky advantage. She kinda liked the way he fought side by side with her, making sure she was never hurt too badly. And maaybe she also kinda liked the way he sat beside her in the medical wing all night when she was badly injured so he ensured she was alright. While One-eye thought Deadlyclaws was asleep, she would occasionally sneak a glance at the handsome dragon, as if to make sure he was still there even though she knew he wouldn't leave her. The medical dragons were already used to his long visits and ignored his stiff figure while he watched Deadlyclaws.
"We're having a little get together with the rest of the troop," he said, staring at the ceiling thoughtfully. "And the others are inviting friends and I thought maybe you'd like to come with me. If that's alright, of course."
"Deadlyclaws?" She heard Twilight's quiet voice snake into her attentive ears, making her sit up.
"I'll be back," Deadlyclaws stumbled forward, rushing into her sister's room. Her chest tightened with worry as she saw Twilight clinging to the thin sheet on her sleeping stone, eyes glistening with tears.
"Oh, great moons," she sat beside Twilight, hugging the small dragonet to her chest protectively. "I am so, so sorry."
"What are we going to do?" Twilight breathed, burying her face into Deadlyclaws' front as her older sister wrapped her large wings around her, pulling the small dragonet closer.
"You are going to sleep," she rubbed Twilight's head gently, smiling softly. "Father is going to cool down tomorrow. I promise."
What about Penguin..? Deadlyclaws heard repeating in Twilight's flooding mind as she tried to block out the constant thoughts, finding it nearly impossible.
Penguin hasn't come back yet. What if he's dead? What if--? What if--? What if--?
"He will come back. I promise," Deadlyclaws said reassuringly.
"What were you talking about earlier with Father?"
"Do you remember how we talked about that thing with Fearless?" she chose her words carefully, making sure she didn't say anything that would scare Twilight. "Well, turns out you aren't going to the queen.""Wait, what?!" Twilight's ears perked, her face glowing with hope. "I thought you said--"
"I guess he changed his mind. You know how boys are." Deadlyclaws chuckled nervously, nudging Twilight's shoulder with hers.
Penguin is nothing like Fearless.
"I know that."
"Stop reading my mind!" Twilight couldn't help but giggle as she clutched her head in her claws, trying to keep her thoughts inside.
"Ok, ok. But you go to bed, alright?" Deadlyclaws retracted her wings, sliding off the stone. Nodding, Twilight lept under the blanket, curling her body under the ratty material.
"Goodnight," she whispered as Deadlyclaws blew out the lantern on the hook beside the door frame, stepping into the light of the main room. "I love you," Twilight called after her, making the warrior pause, turning back to face her sister. She smiled a little, her usually fierce eyes lightening.
"I love you too," Deadlyclaws breathed, yelping. One-eye grinned from his position in front of her, making her jump.
"Three moons, you scared me out of my scales," she sighed, rubbing her eyes gingerly.
"I'll see you there tonight?" he asked, pawing the ground nervously. "We're gathering in the Eastern Hall. You know, if you wanted to come."
Deadlyclaws glanced back at Twilight who was sound asleep, before turning her gaze to Scourge's locked door.
Nodding slowly, she grabbed the parchment from Twilight's desk, dipping her thin, sharpened claw into the ink pot, ashy black liquid dripping off her talon. She looked down at the paper, scribbling down a quick note for when Twilight wakes up.
"I'll meet you there, then," One-eye turned and left, closing the front door quietly behind him.
Deadlyclaws admired her messy work, tilting her head at the parchment splattered with ink spots. Dropping the note and the small glass bottle on the small wooden table, Deadlyclaws sprinted out of the room, locking the entrance door as she left. * * *
It wasn't far from Deadlyclaws' home to the eastern wing of the palace.
Determined to make it to the gathering, Deadlyclaws rushed through the empty hallways, talons thumping on the ashy obsidian floor. Her thin claws scraped against the weathered bricks as she ran, wings folded firmly to her sides.
Nearly there, she thought, her whole body trembling with anticipation.
One-eye had invited her to the gathering! Not anyone else. Her. As much as she hated to admit it, Deadlyclaws knew she was growing closer to the clumsy dragon.
Just as friends, she repeated in her mind whenever these thoughts attacked. Friends.
Deadlyclaws was positive she could win any battle, despite who the challenger was. The only thing that stopped her from winning this time was that it wasn’t claw-to-claw combat; it was her heart. It bounded against her chest every time she saw him, thrashing to break free. It shrivelled up all her confidence and pride, turning her into a stammering mess. The war raged on between her judgement and feelings, neither prevailing after every fight.
Turning a sharp corner, Deadlyclaws let out an exhausted sigh, looking up to smile at the large oak door separating her from One-eye. Deadlyclaws took a deep breath and exhaled, calm flowing through her snout when she inhaled again, letting go of the anxieties pulsing in her mind.
Pressing her palms to the door, she shoved it open.
At once, loud music chorused into her ears as four dragons clutched a different instrument each, all of them playing a diverse harmonic tune. Deadlyclaws grinned at the familiar faces of her troop members dancing in time to the song, laughing and cheering. Glancing to the side, her eye caught on General Shadowstalker sitting down against one of the walls, the corners of his mouth tilted slightly upward in a half-hearted smile.
There weren't many dragons in the theater-like building. Maybe forty at the most. The music blared in her ears, making Deadlyclaws wince slightly.
Her excited eyes passed over the crowd that formed in the centre of the large room, dark purples and blues standing out in the group of black scales. From her position on the steps leading down onto the shiny obsidian floor, Deadlyclaws could just make out a familiar NightWing amongst the others. Her eyes couldn't look away from him. Scales like the deepest oceans glistening in the dim light given off by one of the moons through the small skyhole in the arched ceiling, he flashed his charming smile, making her heart pound even faster. He turned his head to face her, silver glass eye twitching as it tried to focus on Deadlyclaws from her distance.
She felt her talon lift gently off the ground, slightly outstretching towards him, as if Deadlyclaws was reaching out for One-eye. He raised his own talon forward to hers, despite the dragons between them. A large spotlight flashed on above One-eye, making his dark blue scales glow brightly. He tilted his head at her in confusion, retracting his claws.
It was then that Deadlyclaws realised she was staring at him. The large ray of light had disappeared as soon as it had come. She also realised there was never a spotlight. Rubbing her eyes tiredly, Deadlyclaws shook off her interrupting imagination as she hesitantly moved forward, placing her talon gently on the first step.
Suddenly, a thin black NightWing appeared from the crowd, swaying her hips as she stalked over to One-eye, circling him.
A strange feeling entered Deadlyclaws like a stab in the heart, piercing her mercilessly.
Who was this dragon? What is she doing near One-eye?! Not that I care...
The dragon snaked her thin tail around his, squeezing it tightly.
It's probably nothing. Maybe it's... a friendly gesture. For friends.
Deadlyclaws reached into the small pouch wrapped around her ankle, carefully pulling out a thin horn coil, brushing her claws lightly over the large sapphires studded around the silver branches. She exhaled deeply, looking back up at One-eye.
It's not that hard. All you have to do is tell him how you kinda like him and hate the dragon attaching herself to him.
She smiled at him again. The unfamiliar dragon had clung to his arm, reaching up to nuzzle his chin.
"Get off, Dreamseeker," One-eye whispered quietly, trying to shake Dreamseeker off, averting his eyes away from the clingy dragon. Giggling, she craned her neck to rub his snout gently with hers, orange irises glaring back at Deadlyclaws.
Deadlyclaws tried to reach her mind, straining herself to see past the brick wall seemingly built around Dreamseeker's brain. A sliver of a thought slipped between the bricks, making its way through the crowd to Deadlyclaws, breathing into her ear: Too late, princess. He's mine.
"No.." her heart thumped in her throat as she stood there, claws tightening around the silver coils. Deadlyclaws didn't care that she had to work three different jobs around the city to afford the gift she had poured everything into for him. She didn't care that she was still hunched in front of the door like an idiot. She didn't care that she could feel her eyes glistening with tears.
Deadlyclaws had never cried in her life. It showed how weak and vulnerable she was on the inside. But at that very moment, she knew that she was going to cry. The pain of knowing she wasn't as tough as everyone thought was too hard to imagine. Deadlyclaws had spent years building an image for herself to show that nothing was wrong. No one had to know about Scourge and his childish behaviour or her own pretentious actions being rewarded wrongly. The one thing... dragon she thought she could rely on crinkles into nothing before her eyes.
Her claws slipped on the cool silver, the horn coil crashing on the dark bricks loudly, causing the whole room to go quiet. Everyone looked up, trying to see what caused the noise. The musicians put down their instruments, craning their necks sideways to find out why everyone had stopped dancing.
At once, the tears rushed from her glistening amethyst eyes, rolling down her cheek. She turned abruptly, covering her face as Deadlyclaws sprinted out of the room, head down.
"Deadlyclaws! Wait!" One-eye yelled after her.
Her head was spinning from the pulsing thoughts pressing against her mind.
What is up with her? Did something happen? Was that Deadlyclaws? Darkfang is being such a pig. They've run out of snacks. Where is she going? The music stopped... is everything alright? Is she hurt?
No, she curled her wings in further while she ran, slowing to a forced jog. This can't be real. I'm dreaming. This could never happen.
Deadlyclaws collapsed against the wall, wrapping her wings around her hunched figure. Burying her face into the crook of her arm, she cried softly, her heart feeling as if it smashed into a million pieces before being crushed mercilessly by a Dreamseeker-shaped boulder. She curled her tail over her back talons so it wasn't trailing out a little into the centre of the hallway.
"Don't be fooled by her innocence," a fierce voice echoed into the empty corridor, making Deadlyclaws' ears perk backwards toward the sound. She lifted her head out of the tent made from her wings, glancing around.
"She's only doing it for the thrill of the kill," came the dragon again, this time the hunched figure slinking into the light, brown eyes sympathetic, yet at the same time glistening with a strange rebellious energy. Her black scales were dull and familiar to Deadlyclaws. This dragon intrigued her, though. How had she appeared so quickly and why?
"I'm Starchaser," she nodded, tilting her head at Deadlyclaws before slumping beside her, wrapping a wing around her sagging shoulders.
"I'm... Deadlyclaws," stumbling over her words, Deadlyclaws rested her head on the strange dragon's shoulder, shuffling closer to her. "How do you know--"
"I knew a while ago," Starchaser replied coolly, wrapping her claws around Deadlyclaws' talon, squeezing reassuringly. "Dreamseeker isn't one to mess with."
"I knew that," Deadlyclaws felt her eyes fill with tears again. She let out a slow cry, melting into Starchaser's warmth.
"It's alright," Starchaser whispered softly, hot breath prickling against her scales as Deadlyclaws shuddered, claws shaking. Gripping her palm even tighter, Starchaser sighed, looking back at Deadlyclaws.
"She is a predator who feeds off other dragons' weaknesses."
"I'm not weak," Deadlyclaws breathed, closing her bleary eyes slowly, struggling to stay awake.
"Of course you aren't, honey," the other dragon smiled a little, streaks of gold glowing in her umber eyes. "You should really sleep."
Deadlyclaws dropped asleep on Starchaser's shoulder, claws still clutching her talon. Starchaser giggled a little, resting her own head on Deadlyclaws', falling into a hazy sleep with her.
Seven years before the hybrid's prophecy...
Sandstone paths speckled with pebbles. Arching palm trees casting long strips of shade across the town. Small buildings squeezed between every alley, varying in sizes and width. Thick aromas dripping with humidity snaked around the stalls lined up on one of the busiest streets in Possibility, drawing in SandWings to the shows of smoked rabbit and pieces of coconut soaked in honey.
Jerboa felt he was fairly ordinary. Well, as ordinary as an Outclaw could be. He looked the same as other SandWings; pale golden scales like the colour of sand, ridge trailing from the top of his snout to the end of his tail which was tipped with the usual curled tail barb. Often he wondered if being ordinary was a given to dragons with his few, but promising, privileges. He, of all dragons, was an Outclaw. How much more awesome could that get? Yet, Jerboa would find himself thinking, could it be possible that maybe, just maybe, this dragon of all dragons was extraordinary? Maybe, he had a destiny that wasn't cooking in the royal kitchens or even being a loyal soldier in a wing of the Queen's army. Maybe, he would step up and save the world. Maybe he would be a famous adventurer that crossed the forbidden seas. Maybe someday, everyone would know his name.
First, Jerboa looked down at his thin talons. I need to survive today and hope tomorrow would come sooner.
Jerboa raised his snout shyly, letting the smells erupt into his nostrils. The thought of food made made him begin to drool. His stomach growled for the millionth time that morning, painfully reminding him of his expanding hunger.
Why does food have to be so expensive? Jerboa thought glumly, grimacing when he glanced at the overly priced food hanging from the multicoloured tents.
Bulky claws thundered down the dusty road, getting louder as the dragon seemed to be running toward him. A tawny dragonet bouldered into him, shoving the terrified SandWing backward. Jerboa looked startled at the dragon's startling amber eyes and larger, toned figure. Scattered mud brown scales were speckled across his back, giving him an unfamiliar look that stood out against the other SandWings in Possibility. Jerboa would be lying if he said he wasn't intimidated by the odd dragon. The most peculiar thing about this SandWing was that Jerboa could tell that they both were similar in appearance, excluding the other dragon's splotches of umber.
"Sorry!" The golden SandWing leapt off Jerboa, flapping his wings frantically to get away.
More talons stormed past Jerboa, shouldering each other to get to the dragonet who was already soaring above the buildings. In a few wing beats, the strange dragon was already heading to the east.
"Crummy thief stole my produce!" A large SandWing roared from behind Jerboa, making the smaller dragonet jump. The stall owner pounced into the air, giving chase after the escaping dragonet. A few more dragons followed her, spewing flames and flicking their tails threateningly.
Glancing quickly from one thing to another, Jerboa felt a plan click into place as he shouldered past the crowd of eager SandWings, reaching for the small stream trickling down the middle of the road. Jerboa trailed his claws in the water, shovelling the mud into his talon. Regretting it nearly instantly, he splattered the mud on his warm scales, rubbing the cold mush on his underbelly. He scrambled up a narrow residence building, avoiding the obsidian eyes of onlooking SandWings. Jerboa spotted the cluster of dragons flying close together distantly, growling under his breath. He leapt off the weathered roof, expanding his wings to catch the constant wind current flowing east.
It didn't take him long to catch up to the tiring hoard.
"Hey!" Jerboa yelled at the top of his lungs from underneath the irritated dragons. "I'm here! Come catch me!"
Slowly, each dragon took a moment to look down at Jerboa, their piercing gaze stabbing through his wincing figure. One after the other, the angry mob dove towards him, baring their anticipating fangs for the first spurt of fresh blood.
Oh, three moons, Jerboa looked back at the SandWings snapping at his tail, exhaling bursts of flame. Well, at least I go down knowing I'm good at disguising myself.
* * *