Tribe Information Edit
The Piacrasma Prophecy Edit
A fire is starting, across the sea
A fire is starting, changing the trees
Wings of gust will start the fire.
Wings of aura will set it out.
And wings of thunder will burn it anew
Burn it anew, burn it anew
The wings of thunder will burn it anew, and the others will learn how to fight it.
Wings of gust will write it
Wings of star will bite it
And wings below, sub-surface wings... will teach the others to like it...
Clouds drifted slowly across the sky as a small, stocky dragon sat on the reading and writing cloud. She tapped it thoughtfully with her talons as she dipped her quill in an ink pot, and began to write again.
Oh, moons above. It's Mother AGAIN.
Her mother, Queen Drizzle, poked her head outside. "Dear, are you busy writing?"
"Yes!" shouted Cumulus. "I AM!"
Mother looked hurt. "I just wanted to tell you your grandfather will be here in a couple of hours. If you want to see him then, please do consider coming." She went back inside.
As soon as Drizzle had gone, Cumulus hopped up, closed the lid of the ink pot, and fastened her scroll. She loved when her grandfather visited. Altitude did talk about the old days a lot, and he had a creaky old voice, but everything he said was so interesting!
And he understood her love of writing scrolls, unlike her mother and sisters. When I'm queen, Mother and my sisters will be sorry. It was true she had three competitors for the throne, but Mother was getting old and weak, and her sisters were incompetent. Even if they beat her to it, she would get the throne anyway. She cackled as she got up to go see Grandfather. She trusted him. She would tell him that she was planning to challenge Mother. Soon, she thought. Soon they'll all realize how strong I am....
Part 1: Distant Wisps Edit
Chapter 1 Edit
Cloudjumper was flying outside under the moonlight. She just loved the smell of the wet grass, the sound of crickets chirping, and especially the taste of the creatures she found outside. Nighttime was the only time she would ever agree to hunt. Suddenly, she heard the sounds of rustling from a nearby bush. She froze, and prepared to pounce on it. Whatever it was, she could use a meal. The bush shook more, and out popped ... a ToothWing. Oh. She had seen plenty of those before. It was probably here to deliver a message.
"Uh... excuse me, do you know where your queen is?"
"Yes, and I can take you to her. But why are you here so late at night?"
The messenger looked nervous. "The news is urgent. It couldn't wait."
"Okay..." she said, still a little bit suspicious. And she led the ToothWing to the palace.
"So.. I never got your name?" she asked the ToothWing.
"Molar." She nodded and they kept walking.
"Cloudjumper. Oh, we're here." She pushed open the silver door, still not sure whether she was doing the right thing.
Queen Cumulus was lying on her marble throne, a comfortable sky blue cushion with purple trim resting on it. She was breathing deeply, but Cloudjumper walked up to her and yelled in her ear. The queen woke with a start.
Cloudjumper watched with no fear on her face at all. After a moment, the queen looked at her, and her face relaxed.
"What is it, my daughter?"
Molar looked at her, confused, and she indicated him to the queen.
"This is Molar, Mother. He says he has a message for you, and that it was urgent." Molar looked sheepish.
Cumulus blinked, looking as if all she wanted was to sleep. "Deliver it, then."
Molar twisted his tail anxiously. "The message is ... the StarWings have disappeared."
The queen looked bored. "That's all? Those good-for-nothing dragons are probably off making another prophecy, or gazing at the stars until their eyes go blobby again."
Molar looked really worried now. "No, I mean they've completely disappeared. Off the face of the continent. And just in case you were about to say it, plenty of people would miss them, in fact I have a very good friend who's married to a StarWing, for your information!" Molar was starting to lose his temper. Queen Marrow had warned him that Cumulus tended to take the path of least resistance, trying to make everything as easy as possible.
But Cumulus was also starting to get a little annoyed. This strange ToothWing was trying to override her authority, and to be honest, she just wanted to sleep right now. The StarWings could handle themselves, she was quite sure. She settled back into the cushion and dismissed them without another word.
Chapter 2 Edit
Molar ranted about the queen the whole way back outside. Cloudjumper just nodded, until he turned to her and said, "You never told me you were one of the queen's daughters!"
"The only one, actually. And the time didn't seem right just yet. To be honest, I wasn't sure if I could trust you."
Molar nodded, his anger cooling. "Well, at least a few GustWings know about the StarWing problem. I guess I'll be off now, my only instruction was to let the queen know."
"Yeah, and I'll spread the word if you'd like."
"That would be great. See you around, Cloudjumper." He lifted off into the night sky.
Cloudjumper watched his shiny white scales against the sky for a while before turning around and heading back inside. I should probably go to bed... She was really tired. She walked inside and rolled into her comfy bed. And then she was fast asleep
When she woke up in the morning, the queen immediately summoned her. "Did you have anything to do with that strange ToothWing from last night?"
Cloudjumper shook her head. "All I did was invite him inside. We have an obligation to let him in, we have an alliance with his tribe." The queen sighed.
"I will look into... this supposed problem." she said exhaustively.
Cloudjumper bowed. "Thank you, Mother." She dismissed herself. The moment she got outside, she paused to think. Cloudjumper was good at that. The StarWings disappearing was a much bigger problem then her mother thought it was, the StarWings did have real power. And the whole tribe? Never, ever, had she read about something that serious happening. She had read about the time that some mysterious dragons from another continent had stopped by their continent, she had read about the SubWings and SlamWings having a endless rivalry, but never a whole tribe disappearing. Perhaps she could convince somebody to help her out?
Chapter 3 Edit
Molar wasn't having a good day. First the GustWing queen completely dismissing his warning, than encountering a SlamWing on his way back to the queen, and then his own queen dismissing him because she was busy. Nevertheless, he wasn't in a good mood, so when someone knocked on his door, his first instinct was to ignore it. But with a sigh, he opened the door... and found Cloudjumper standing there waiting for him. He smiled. "What's up?"
Cloudjumper looked anxious. "I'm thinking of going on a quest to look for the StarWings, but I don't really have many other friends, do you know anyone who might want to go?' Molar winced.
"I'm afraid I'm not available, but I do know a good inter tribal meeting hub of sorts, you might find some willing participants there... I believe it's not very far away, would you like me to take you there?"
Cloudjumper nodded. "Thank you so much!"
When they arrived at the hub, it was full of dragons of all shapes and sizes. A LightWing's tail flickered as she lay on the floor groaning, a SlamWing was boxing a CrabWing in the corner, and over in a shaded part of the building, a StarWing who was looking at the ground shiftily. Molar discreetly pointed a claw in his direction. "That's Celeste. She'll help you, if you're polite about it. Do you need me to stay behind?"
She shook her head. "You've done enough today. I really appreciate it." He nodded, and left.
Cloudjumper walked nervously towards Celeste, who looked up at her. "You want something, honey?"
She nodded. "Um.. Molar said I might find some people here who wanted to go on an adventure, and that I should talk to you for info on that?" Celeste scowled.
"Molar, huh? You've better follow me." She brushed aside some black curtains and Cloudjumper followed her down the tunnel behind them.
"I'm Celeste, by the way. I don't know if Molar told you."
"Cloudjumper." she said. "And yes, he did."
Celeste didn't say anything else. They walked along in silence for awhile, before she brushed aside another set of curtains, and they emerged into a dark, shiny room.
Cloudjumper gasped. The room was small, but it was completely covered in glittery, shimmery, satin black curtains with silver designs on them. The effect looked like she was floating in space. Sitting at a small purple table were five dragons with hoods over their snouts.The closest one to her was holding a deck of cards, and when they turned to the side, Cloudjumper realized that it was a StarWing. She had already seen Celeste, of course, but it was still a bit surprising.
This StarWing's scales were a dark blue-black with hints of purple, and he said in a creaky voice, "Celeste. Who have you brought before us?"
"A GustWing, Jupiter. She wishes for partners to adventure with her." The dragon, Jupiter nodded.
"Perhaps she would want to hear the prophecy?" Cloudjumper nodded eagerly. She had read all about the StarWings, and although their prophecies had always seemed a bit cryptic, she was excited to hear one.
The one farthest away from her cleared her throat, and all five of them (Celeste stayed silent,) recited in complete harmony:
A fire is starting across the sea
A fire is starting, burning the trees,
Gusting wings will start the fire
Aquatic wings will set it out.
And aurora wings will burn it anew, burn it anew.
Aurora wings will burn it again,
And the others will learn how to fight it.
Blowing wings will write it.
Celestial wings will bite it,
And wings below, sub-surface wings, will teach the others to like it....
Chapter 4 Edit
Cloudjumper shivered uncomfortably. Celeste shook her head. "I'm sure you've had enough cryptic prophecies for one day, Cloudjumper. Is there any chance you'd like to meet my son, Sol? He's always talking about the same kind of stuff you're talking about now."
Cloudjumper nodded. The prophecy had unnerved her a bit. As she followed Celeste into a tunnel, Jupiter spoke from behind her. "You can't protect her forever, Celeste! Someday she'll know her dest-" Celeste growled.
"I know, and that's exactly why I'm not telling her." She noticed Cloudjumper staring at her, and smiled. "I think you'll like Sol. He's always talking about adventure, and prophecy, just like you."
After a couple more moments of silence, they arrived in a spacious, rectangular room, where a young StarWing was sitting down at a wooden table. He had stunning blue scales, with green splashes all over them. When he turned around, Cloudjumper saw that his eyes were the brightest orange she had ever seen. He turned around and smiled at Celeste. "Hey, Mom. Who's this?"
Cloudjumper blushed. She wasn't used to being noticed by other people, but this StarWing seemed pretty nice.
"This is Cloudjumper, Sol. She expressed interest in meeting you, and possibly gathering members for an adventure." Sol nodded slowly.
"Sounds cool. Nice to meet you, Cloudjumper." Celeste left without any warning, leaving the two of them alone in the room.
Cloudjumper smiled nervously at him. Sol smiled back. "So, you're gathering dragons for an adventure? What for?"
"Oh, well, I heard that the StarWings had disappeared, and…” Sol stopped her.
“Oh, that. I have got some answers for you. So, we didn't vanish, but some of us left because we thought none of the other tribes here would ever want us. About half of us went to try to find a new place to live, and the rest of us are living underground now.” He sighed. “It’s hard.”
Cloudjumper was surprised. “Well, I guess I don’t need to go on a quest anymore.”
Sol’s eyes widened. “Are you serious? There doesn’t need to be any reason to go on adventures, they’re just fun!” He smiled.
She looked at him quizzically. “Do you think so?”
Sol nodded. “Come on, I know some people who might want to come with us!”
Cloudjumper followed him out of the room and back into the hub, wondering what she had gotten herself into.
Chapter 5 Edit
Sol led her back into the main room, where it was as noisy and chaotic as ever. The boxing CrabWing was standing over the unconscious SlamWing, and the LightWing from before was brushing herself off, staring at Cloudjumper suspiciously. Sol led her outside, pushing through a small crowd towards the back of the building. A couple of dragonets were sitting there, under a large canvas tent. The bustle of the outside world faded, and was replaced with the smell of warm bricks. An AuraWing dragonet got up and hugged Sol. "You're finally back! We've been waiting for ages."
Sol rubbed his neck. "Sorry, Dream. I brought someone new?"
The dragonets seem to notice Cloudjumper for the first time. A ThunderWing went up to her and extended a talon. "I'm Storm. It's good to meetcha." She nodded, a lump in her throat.
Dream smiled. "Hi, I'm Dream! Nice to meet you." She turned to Sol. "I found someone else who's interested as well." The two of them started talking excitedly and Cloudjumper turned to Storm.
"Why are you guys here, anyway?"
Storm's electric blue eyes widened. "Oh, Sol didn't tell you? We're the dragonets of destiny."
"What? But- that's impossible... right?" said Cloudjumper.
Storm nodded. "Yeah, I was joking."
"Oh, okay. But, you know... it could still be possible-" She became aware that Sol and Dream were watching her and Storm talk.
Sol beckoned her over. "Can I talk to you for a second? I... wanted to explain to you what's going on here."
She nodded, and went over to him. "Ever since he heard about that StarWing prophecy, Storm has been convinced that it's talking about us. We've all tried to tell him it could be about anyone, but he just won't listen. We're supposed to be a group."
Cloudjumper tilted her head. "Well, maybe-"
Dream cut her off. "Sol, tell her about the thing! The thing I told you about!" She bounced excitedly on the balls of her feet.
Sol chuckled. "Alright. So, Cloudjumper, Dream was walking around town, and she managed to find a SubWing who seemed interested! How cool is that?"
Cloudjumper grimaced. She had heard a lot of things about the SubWings. That they were barbaric, that they were ruthless, there were even rumors that they were prone to eating dragon eggs. "It sounds good, but how would we get to the SubWing kingdom anyway?"
Storm laughed. "You didn't seriously think that we were flying there, did you? Nah, Lazuli's meeting us here. In fact, she should be any minute now..." He tapped his foot impatiently on the rough brick floor.
Well yeah, I did.
Dream interrupted. "Hey, Stormy, why you gotta be so... what's the word... spiteful all the time?
"Well, one of us has to be the adult around here. And it's not spiteful, it's realistic." said Storm, turning away from the rest of them.
Sol joined Cloudjumper. "Hey, look over there! I think Lazuli is on her way." He peered up at the sky in a confused way. "How-" But before he could finish his sentence, a SubWing dragonet dropped through the canvas tent, leaving a gaping hole. Her eyes were narrow and bright pink, and her body was toned and slightly muscular.
She let out a deep breath. "Sorry, I'm just not used to the surface-" She stopped to breath in. "air yet. I promise I'm not usually this... um, helpless." The other dragonets looked at her in shock, with Sol staring at the hole in the roof in horror, and finally, Dream spoke up.
"I thought you could only breathe underwater?" Lazuli shook her head.
"I can breathe both ways, but I'll need some time to get used to the atmosphere up here." Storm extended a talon slowly, and the SubWing took it.
Sol got to work on patching up the hole, with plenty of apologies from Lazuli. Cloudjumper was still stunned, but finally worked up the courage to ask, "So, um... how'd you escape? I heard the SubWings didn't really like their dragons going to the surface."
Lazuli smiled toothily. "Oh, they definitely didn't like it! But I was sick of having to stay underwater my whole life and never getting to see the world, so my friends organized a distraction and I... escaped! I did have to fly here, though, since the queen's soldiers are totally looking for me."
"All that for our little club?" said Sol in disbelief. He shook his head and continued working on the damage.
Lazuli shrugged. "Well, it wasn't my original plan, sure, but I got betrayed to the queen by my first hideout, so I had to come here. And it's pretty inconspicuous, right?"
"Absolutely. I think you'll fit right in." Storm said, nodding.
Sol rolled his eyes.
Chapter 6 Edit
"Well, I should probably be going now." Cloudjumper said after they had been there a couple more hours. "It's getting late, and my mom will be really mad if I don't get home on time."
"Alright, but make sure not to miss tomorrow's meeting! We're going to decide where we want to head next." said Dream excitedly.
"Wouldn't miss it for the world." said Cloudjumper, smiling. And she took off into the dark sky beyond.
I have friends! Cloudjumper thought as she flew back towards the giant cloud fortress in the distance, looming like a giant misshapen mountain. Actual, genuine, for real friends. She couldn't wait to return there tomorrow, and get away from her writer's block. She had never had many friends when she had lived at the GustWing palace, just being known as the weirdo queen's daughter who sat and wrote scrolls all day. At least her mother never bullied her about it, she always joked it was from her side of the family.
Finally, Cloudjumper arrived at the palace door. She went up to the balcony, and grabbed Peak, her hunting falcon. She didn't want him staying outside in the cold. Peak chirped at her curiously and Cloudjumper quietly walked to her room, putting Peak in his cage. She felt the pangs of hunger in her stomach, but told herself she could eat in the morning. Exhausted, she climbed into bed, rolled over, and was fast asleep in the blink of an eye.
And that was when she heard the screams.
Cloudjumper startled, rolling out of bed with a painful thunk. Eyes watering, she sprang up off the floor and drew aside the curtains. All GustWings were taught to use the height of the moons in the sky and other factors to determine what time it was. Cloudjumper squinted at the sky and determined that it was about four hours till sunrise. She suddenly heard the screams trail off unexpectedly, and heard footsteps growing closer. Freezing, she went into the GustWing customary defensive stance. Even though she was a writer not a fighter, she wasn't incompetent either. As the footsteps went directly in front of her door, (a bead of sweat formed on her face that she didn't dare wipe off) she heard a voice say something in a whisper.
"This is almost too easy. Look, just bust down that door and we're home free."
Another, much more nervous voice, barely audible, "Not so loud! You're treating this like a picnic in the sun, Flea, and we still don't know what we're going to find on the other side of that door!"
The other dragon, who must have been Flea, winced. "I want to get back to Chigger as much as you do, but this is the only way we can get our money's worth. Nobody trusts us anymore, not after Seaweed." Flea said bitterly.
The other dragon sighed in a defeated way. "Alright, but if you get us caught, I will flay you alive, dad or no dad.
And the door slid open.
Cloudjumper was on her feet in an instant. As the first dragon came through the door frame, she sprung and pinned him down to the ground. The other dragon's eyes widened as he entered too. Without thinking, the dragon flipped the light switch on.
"Rookie error." Cloudjumper said gleefully as she knocked the light switch dragon unconscious with a flick of her talons. Only then did she register that the wide-eyed dragon trapped under her was only a dragonet, and the unconscious dragon was a full grown adult. From what she could tell, the dragonet was only a couple years older then she was. She felt a sudden rush of sympathy. Against her better judgment, she got off of him, but still kept a close eye on him the whole time, in case he pulled some kind of trick. The dragonet got up slowly with many deep breaths, and finally Cloudjumper noticed a couple things about him and the other dragon. They were both LeechWings. After some rushed interrogating, She found out the older dragon's name was Flea, as she had expected, and the younger one's name was Louse.
Cloudjumper realized that this was the most violent she had been in a long time. She felt a sudden urge to smooth things over with the pair of them. "So" she asked Louse after they had talked for a while. "Who's Chigger?"
Louse's face tightened. "I'd rather not talk about it."
Cloudjumper was seized by some unexpected anger. "In that case, how about we talk about why you tried to MURDER ME?"
Wow, I don't know if it's the full moon or what, but I am not acting like myself today. First attacking other dragons sort of unprovoked, and now actually getting mad. I hope I'm not going crazy.
Louse looked unconcerned, as if he had to deal with this kind of anger all the time. "We're starving at my house. We've had to turn down some crazy paths to keep ourselves alive. And this is just another failed job for me and my dad. And he always acts so unprofessional about it all..." He turned away, and the rest of the sentence was unintelligible.
A small voice rang out from behind them. "Sorry, love, but this is my last chance to save myself from Vein and her mercenaries." And then Flea was pouncing on her from behind, and their were voices all around her, and was that her mom's voice?
And she was falling...
Part 2: Rolling Thunder Edit
Chapter 7 Edit
When Cloudjumper woke up, she was lying on a wonderfully soft bed in a polished marble room. She turned over, and saw her mother crying at her bedside. She tried to speak, but the world spun, and she passed out again.
When she awoke, she immediately knew where she was. The GustWing infirmary, on the biggest bed there.
Her mother was no longer next to her, but a few empty beds over was an heavily breathing, extremely wounded GustWing dragonet. Cloudjumper's stomach lurched as she realized it was Cirrus, the wispy bodyguard of the Queen's chambers, where she was supposed to sleep.
Cloudjumper didn't know what was worse, that a innocent dragonet had been wounded, which wasn't exactly her fault, but she could have prevented it, or that her mother thought she was dead. Cloudjumper blinked and sat up. Why was she here, anyway? Did she have any kind of injury? She searched her body carefully, and found nothing.
If that was the case, certainly she was well enough to leave. She gingerly stepped out of bed, whereupon a nurse grabbed her arm and put her back into bed roughly.
Upon discovering she could speak again, Cloudjumper's first words were "What happened to Cirrus?"
The nurse sighed. "It's a long story. The assassins were unusually educated about our defenses, and broke through stealthily. Whoever hired them knew a great deal about the structure of the palace. First, they went for the Queen's chambers. Cirrus was caught off-guard and badly injured. She was rushed to the infirmary twenty minutes after, but the assassins had already moved on to your room. The queen and several guards snuck along behind them.
You conversed with one for quite a while, and the older LeechWing attacked you. The queen and her guard broke into the room, and neutralized the older LeechWing. You passed out around this time, and the younger assassin came quietly. The older LeechWing is now in our prison cells, awaiting trial, and the younger one wishes to speak with you when you are recovered." She leaned forward. "How are you feeling?"
"Fine." Cloudjumper croaked. "So, I'm not injured?"
The nurse nodded. "No, the assassins were captured before they could do any damage. But the queen would prefer you stay here for a few hours, just to make sure."
Cloudjumper settled back into bed. She felt terrible, and didn't mind staying for a couple hours if it meant avoiding her mother.
When Cloudjumper was finally discharged, she had a lot to think about. She had decided to go to the meeting with the other dragonets, but later, as she had other things to do in the meantime. It was afternoon right now, and the meeting was about 2 hours before dusk. First, she bought Cirrus a get well soon gift. She had heard that the young GustWing was making a speedy recovery, but wanted to apologize anyway.
As she walked to Cirrus's bedside. Cirrus bowed and then groaned. "Princess- ouch- Cloudjumper."
"I brought you... uh... gift." Cloudjumper stuttered awkwardly. She gave Cirrus her present, a small purple and blue pillow with the words Get Well Soon written on it.
Cirrus grinned. "Thanks. What should I do with this when I get better?"
"Maybe save it for a rainy day?" Cirrus was a really good friend.
"Alright, I'll do that. Wait, all our days are rainy cause we LIVE ON A CLOUD." Cirrus gave Cloudjumper a hug. "Hang in there!"
Alright, conversation with a friend, check. What's next?
When Cloudjumper got to the throne room, Cumulus was shouting something at one of the guards. Something along the lines of "I don't CARE that she needs to rest, I want to see my daughter, Swift!"
"I'm right here, Mother." Cloudjumper said quietly.
Queen Cumulus turned around, and seized her daughter in a huge hug. "Cloudjumper! I thought you were dead!"
Swift, the guard that Cumulus had yelled at, interjected. "Your Majesty, I believe that the princess is suffocating."
"Oh! Ah, yes." the queen stuttered, releasing Cloudjumper from her tight embrace.
Deep down, Mother's just like me. Well, sometimes at least. she thought, watching Cumulus hurriedly shoo her out
of the throne room.
She was ready to go. As she flew from the palace to the meeting tent, she thought about everyone she was meeting there. She felt a kind of happiness she never had before, not even with Cirrus. The other dragonets were all so interesting and friendly. This would be a lot of fun.
When Cloudjumper got to the white canvas tent, only Sol was there. He nodded at her as she arrived. "Hey."
"Hey, Sol. Where is everyone?"
"I dunno. Dream's on her way, Storm's usually late, Lazuli should be here by now, and you and me are already here." Sol said, counting on his talons.
As he finished speaking, Lazuli broke through the canvas entrance flap, wild-eyed. "Hello!" she said brightly.
Sol recoiled, as he usually did when Lazuli got too close.
Cloudjumper glared at him. Truth be told, the SubWing dragonet freaked her out a little, too, but Sol was being very rude about it.
She smiled warmly at Lazuli. "Hey, you're pretty early. Welcome!"
Sol gave her a how did you do that look, and Cloudjumper responded with her best with basic dragon decency, Sol you stupid head.
At that moment, Dream busted inside, thankfully breaking the awkward silence. "Hey everyone! Sorry I'm a bit late."
Sol brightened immediately. "Dream!"
Storm arrived after about fifteen minutes of mingling. It was pretty usual. Sol avoided Lazuli, Cloudjumper avoided Dream, and Lazuli tried to be as friendly as possible to all of them.
Cloudjumper found herself warming to the SubWing dragonet.
When Storm arrived, they immediately launched into their meeting.
"Alright. I think it's time we see the world. We're a bunch of dragonets who have pretty much never seen the rest of the continent. Why wait?" Sol said confidently.
Lazuli shrugged. "I'm okay with it, but you guys shouldn't take me with you. I'm a liability, ya know?"
"Fine with me." said Sol blandly and continued talking. But nobody was listening.
"No way!" said Storm hotly. "You're one of us now, and we don't care that you could get us caught. So could all of us!" he roared.
Everyone cheered. Sol stood there, livid, and finally admitted defeat. "Okay." he squeaked. "Lazuli's one of us... now."
Chapter 8 Edit
After leaving the meeting, with promises that they would prepare to set out the next day, Cloudjumper headed home. She was speedily escorted to Louse's cell.
Louse beamed when he saw her. "Princess!"
"Um, no need to be so formal. It's fine." Cloudjumper coughed.
"Oh, alright. Yeah, so I wanted to tell you something. I'm... sorry." Louse said.
"Okay then. For what?"
The LeechWing looked genuinely surprised. " Uh... trying to kill you? My family's in a rough spot right now, but honestly, you've opened my eyes to how wrong it is to keep doing this." He looked up at her. "From now on, I'm going to be more honorable. I'm sure there's another way to live. Thank you, Cloudjumper."
Louse turned around, and effortlessly smashed through some of the bars around his cell. He crouched down, and flew out of the jail, and into the distance.
Cloudjumper watched in awe. What did I just witness?
Suddenly, she realized she was incredibly exhausted. It was near midnight already.
A distant voice flashed across her brain about how mad the LeechWing queen was going to be when she saw Louse missing, but there was nothing she could do about that right now.
Princess Cloudjumper flopped into her bed, and fell asleep.
In the morning, Cloudjumper was told that Cirrus had been discharged with only minor injuries, as GustWings were well known for having good healing abilities. But Cirrus was also quite tough despite her slim build, so Cloudjumper wasn't particularly surprised. She brushed her mother off when she asked her how she was holding up, and felt a kind of tingle in her heart. She couldn't wait to go back to Sol and the others, but the queen insisted she eat before she left.
She scarfed down some mountain goat and a bowl of berry juice and cicadas, then flew off with a "Bye!"
When Cloudjumper got there, everyone except Storm and Sol had already arrived, which was unusual. Sol was almost always early, as he was the self-elected leader of the group. Privately, Cloudjumper thought he might be somewhat upset about what happened the day before with Lazuli. He definitely had made it clear he disliked the SubWing dragonet.
As for Storm, he was usually late, but it was still a bit strange.
Lazuli got up to greet her "Hey, Cloudjumper! We were just talking about you!
Dream stayed where she was. "Maybe we should wait for the others before we start talking?"
"Oh yeah, sorry." Lazuli said, sitting back down. She gestured for Cloudjumper to join her.
When she sat down, the canvas tent flap opened up. Storm was standing there, looking... well, stormy.
Okay, that's genuinely really weird.
Storm sat down. "Bad news, you guys. Just got a message from Sol. He said he can't make it today."
"As if. Seems to me he's just avoiding Lazuli." Dream said bluntly.
Lazuli looked hurt. "What?"
"No... you don't understand. He's in a lot of pain right now. I'm sure he wouldn't miss this meeting unless it was super important." Storm said, shaking his head.
"Really? What happened?" said Cloudjumper with interest.
"Probably none of our business." said Storm. "He never told me."
"Oh wow. He can tell you that something is wrong, but he can't even tell you what it is? What a great friend." Dream said sarcastically.
Cloudjumper felt scared. What kind of problem could be so important that Sol would miss his favorite thing in the world for it? Was he in trouble?
"What is your deal today?" Storm said, furious, to Dream. "You're usually so bubbly!"
"Well maybe I grew up a little, Storm!" Dream roared back at him "Like you clearly need to!"
Soon they were in a full-on shouting match, and both dragonets were starting to breathe small jets of flame through their nostrils. Cloudjumper was terrified that the two of them would start trading blows if she didn't do something.
Turned out, she didn't need to. Lazuli, looking absolutely mortifed, lept up and latched onto Storm's neck and stared right into his eyes. Storm didn't even try to shake her off. His eyes went glassy, and his powerful body relaxed.
Lazuli did the same thing to Dream, who reacted the same exact way. As soon as the SubWing's eyes left Storm's he shook it off, but seemed dazed and peaceful for a little while longer.
That's.. maybe the scariest thing I've ever seen. Can she do that to anyone? Cloudjumper shivered. She did not like the thought of those hypnotic eyes gazing into hers... or maybe she did. Who knew? Not her.
"Alright, on with the meeting..." said Storm.
Chapter 9 Edit
It was pretty tense that day. Lazuli absolutely refused to talk to Cloudjumper about what she had done, and Storm and Dream were too dizzy to do much of anything. And most of all, she missed and was worried about Sol. She had a bad feeling about this, a really bad feeling. It was about two hours of nothing happening when Sol, who looked badly injured, came inside. He looked at everyone else, but it was Cloudjumper he came right for.
"Cloudjumper! I'm so sorry I almost missed and I got hurt and I'm in danger and I shouldn't have came what am i doing here I'm sorry-"
She interrupted him "Hey. You're alright. Can you tell me what happened?"
Sol nodded. Cloudjumper had never seen him like this before, he looked scared. "I... I got attacked. It was just like what happened to you, I was so stupid! Okay." He exhaled, trying to calm down. "Okay. So I was walking around the town last night, and all of a sudden someone grabs me from behind! I ran away, back home. I usually live at the beach, in a StarWing settlement we built a few years ago." Sol explained, seeing Cloudjumper's confused face.
"Celeste and Jupiter live there with me. We have a protocol for things like this, since we live so far away from another StarWing locale, and most other tribes wouldn't help us. But they were smart, they knew where our weak spots were, and..." He looked like he was about to cry. "Cloudjumper, they killed Jupiter. Me and Celeste escaped to the StarWing tent, but they followed us. They wrecked the place. Everyone escaped, but Celeste was injured. She gave them a false lead, but they'll be back. And if they find us-" Sol was crying for real now. "We'll all die."
Lazuli stepped up next to Sol. "Hey. It's gonna be alright." Sol was so distressed that he seemed to forget that he didn't like her.
Sol sniffed, wiping his eyes on the canvas tent. "You're right. But... this is all my fault. I led them to my family. And I might lead them to you guys. I don't know what we can do."
"I'll do it." Cloudjumper said.
"What?" Storm said, tilting his head.
"I'll let my mother know. She can-"
But Sol shook his head. "We don't have enough time. The queen would need a full battalion to stop these guys, they were skilled. To stop them, we would need other assassins."
Cloudjumper smiled. "I might know a guy."
"Alright, I assume you're talking about the two LeechWings who tried to kill you a couple days ago? said Storm.
"I don't know if that's going to work..." said Sol. "But we can try it."
"I'm super confident in them." Cloudjumper said.
"Okay, that's settled." Dream said. "But we all agree Cloudy's doing the negotiation?"
"Mm-hm." said Lazuli, who seemed distracted. She still wouldn't tell Cloudjumper how she had hypnotized Storm and Dream.
Cloudjumper sighed. "How dare you all do this to me!" she said teasingly.
"Way of the world." Storm said, with a rare smile. "Now go find them."
It didn't take Cloudjumper very long to find them. In fact, it would be much more accurate to say they found her.
Cloudjumper had somehow forget about the other set of assassins, the ones who attacked Sol. Two dragons who she assumed were them were standing nearby, looking extremely shifty. One was a slim SlamWing, and the other was a cruel-looking ThunderWing.
She began to have doubts. Would two relatively untrained LeechWings even have a chance? Cloudjumper looked closer and noticed that the ThunderWing had speckles of neon blue blood on his front legs. That was what spurred her into motion.
Cloudjumper flew into the sky like a bullet, going up high.
She felt hot fire and massive talons on her tail. A dragon roared behind her, and she felt her wings give out.
A SlamWing roar, Cloudjumper thought, remembering her dragon research. They can paralyze you if you're not careful.
The pair of dragons pinned her to the ground, growling.
"It's another one! We lost the StarWing, but we might just get the GustWing." she heard the ThunderWing say.
Cloudjumper's head spun. The ThunderWing was slowly crushing her, and she could barely breathe.
"You just might be right, Boltstrike!" the shifty SlamWing said. "But can you hurry it up a little?"
Cloudjumper heard the whooshing of wings. "Hey! Fearful! What in Piacrasma are you doing?"
The dragons above Cloudjumper flinched. "Louse..." they said sheepishly.
Fearful stood up. "What right do you have to boss us around? You're barely a dragonet!" she chuckled.
"Yeah, she's right." Boltstrike said, nodding furiously.
Another, very familar voice sighed. "He may be, but last time I checked, I'm not. That dragonet you're about to murder is a princess. Step off her now." Flea said, sounding tired.
Fearful rolled her eyes, but got off of Cloudjumper, muttering.
Cloudjumper thought Flea looked terrible. There were giant bags under his eyes and his frame was much more bony.
Louse still looked fine. He blinked slowly at her, looking confused. "What..."
"You never let me kill anyone." Cloudjumper heard Boltstrike saying sulkily to Fearful. "Isn't the whole point-"
"Seriously?" Fearful said. "You imbecile, she's a princess!"
Cloudjumper felt a soft hand on her shoulder. "Let's get you out of here." It was Louse, looking into her eyes.
A tingle went through her whole body as Louse unhinged his jaw and bit her on the leg.
She screamed, but nothing happened.
A dry bite? What...
Flea had the grace to look embarrassed. "It was Fearful's idea... We're going to administer a anesthetic. The bite was to stop you from feeling any pain. It will knock you out in a couple seconds so we can bring you home."
"You're working with those two? They almost killed Sol!" Cloudjumper cried out, feeling her brain fog up.
"Sleep." Flea said.
And she did.
Chapter 10 Edit
When Cloudjumper woke up, she was lying in a surprisingly comfortable bed. Louse and Lazuli were sitting next to her, talking about something in low voices.
It suddenly occurred to her how many times she had been knocked out recently. A lot.
She tried to stand up, but felt like her bones were cracking. Another heave, and she managed to pull herself into a sitting position. "Where am I?" she groaned.
Lazuli smiled, but in a forced sort of way. "You're awake!"
"Sorry you two, I gotta go do... something." Louse said, standing up and leaving Lazuli and Cloudjumper alone.
"So yeah!" Lazuli said, cutting her off. "This is Louse's house. Flea and Fearful are here right now, and so are Storm and Sol. Dream had a.. prior engagement."
The walls were quite thin, and Cloudjumper could hear a voice a couple of rooms over that sounded like Flea.
"She's getting worse by the day. I- I'm not sure she's going to make it, son."
Louse's voice reverberated back to them. It sounded like he was angry.
"No! She can't- She can't just-" The voice stopped being audible.
Lazuli creaked open the door. "You're free to leave. You don't have any major injuries."
"Thanks." Cloudjumper said, nodding.
The house was shabby. It had the distinct impression of having once being quite lavish. But everything was covered in dust, and the whole house was creaky and made strange noises. Cloudjumper, who was used to the spotless interior of the GustWing palace, was shocked and revolted. Several bugs skittered away from her as she walked down the dismal hallways.
"Nasty, isn't it?" Storm had appeared from nowhere, a thin smile on his face. "I can't believe this is where Mr. Fancy Assassin lives."
Cloudjumper felt suddenly defensive of Louse. "It's not his fault!"
"Woah there. It was just a joke." Storm said, recoiling. "I'm sorry!"
Sol came running out of one of the rooms. "Cloudjumper! You're okay!"
Storm raised his eyebrows.
"Um, I mean, Louse wanted to see you." Sol said sheepishly. "He's in this room over here."
When she entered, Cloudjumper saw Louse kneeling down at the foot of a large bed. This room was the darkest yet, and she couldn't see who or what was in there.
Louse lifted his head, eyes puffy. "Hey. I want you to see something." He lit a lantern.
On the bed was the sickest dragon Cloudjumper had ever seen. She had thought Flea looked bad, but this was almost indecent. The dragon had copper scales, but they were so pale it was almost like looking at a corpse. They were so thin they looked like they might blow away in the slightest breeze. Their eyes were closed, but when they shifted over, Cloudjumper could see that they had a small, shriveled bite mark on the left leg. The bite looked like a LeechWing's, but the milky venom looked more like a SubWing's work.
"This is Chigger. My mother." Louse said in a hollow voice.
This is why they became assassins. To try to find a cure for Chigger.
But they never will, because they don't know that it's SubWing venom.
She felt a sudden sense of responsibility. Chigger was clearly on the verge of death. Cloudjumper might be the only person who could save her.
Louse peered at her. "I was hoping you could find a cure, with all your dragon knowledge." He sighed. "Guess not, huh?"
"Wait, that's why you brought me here? What about my friends? Did you just bring them here.. as leverage?"
"N-no! I just... I thought you might be able to help. I've been trying to cure my mother for my years. It's been my whole life, and I've never met anyone who... who could..." His voice broke and he turned away. "I get it. Leave if you want."
"I think I will." Cloudjumper said, feeling furious. Was the opportunity to cure Chigger all she meant to him?
She looked out the window, seeing that the weather matched her mood perfectly. Ominous gray clouds were pouring across the sky, and every now and then, lightning flashed.
A storm was brewing.
The five dragonets met up in the dining room, with a exhausted Flea and a subdued Louse. Neither of them were really engaged with the conversation, and Louse wouldn't meet Cloudjumper's eyes.
Fearful and Boltstrike were there too, but they seemed out of their element here.
After a couple minutes of chatter, Sol gestured for silence. Everyone listened, even the adults.
"We're leaving." he said, standing up. "We see no reason to trouble you here any further."
Cloudjumper agreed. "I second that."
Storm and Dream nodded, but Lazuli seemed a bit uncertain. "Uh... yeah."
"It's decided then. You've made up your mind." Louse said, with more than a little bitterness in his voice.
They all nodded, and Sol made a move for the front door.
And then Fearful struck. She grabbed Lazuli and put her in a headlock, as quick as a whip.
"Don't move, any of you!" Boltstrike yelled. He was grinning manically. "Or the SubWing gets it!"
"NO!!" Flea screamed. "What do you think you're-"
"You're not in control here anymore, old man. Unless you want us to rat you out? I'm sure Queen Vein would be very surprised to hear about how all times you two had disobeyed her." Fearful said.
Flea was gritting his teeth in rage. "Y-you said you wouldn't-"
"Now Flea, did you really make the mistake of trusting someone? How cute. Now Boltstrike..." She smiled evilly."Get them all."
And with that, she flew out of a window. With Lazuli still stuck in her grasp.
Chapter 11 Edit
Cloudjumper was confused. Surely Boltstrike couldn't handle six dragons all by himself, even if they were mostly dragonets?
And then her stomach dropped, as she realized. She hadn't noticed before, but both Storm's and Boltstrike's eyes were glowing with a faint blue light.
She heard a tremendous crash, and the roof imploded, under the weight of redirected several lightning bolts.
For a second, all was noise and light. As she got used to the brightness of the outside world, she saw something unbelievable.
Storm and Boltstrike were darting around each other like cats, sending lightning bolt after lightning bolt towards the other, in a graceful performance like something out of a painting, as the house was shattered in front of her eyes.
"Where is she?" Storm screeched in a voice that was not quite his own, as thunder boomed around them. The storm itself seemed to be attracted to their duel.
Boltstrike laughed, a hollow, horrible noise that reverberated all through the ruined house."Heck if I know! Fearful doesn't trust me with much. By the way, you're pretty good at this, kid. For a beginner."
Louse had flung his arms around all of the dragonets to protect them, but Cloudjumper's frail frame had been blasted into a hallway. She hurt all over, and she could feel a wet patch on her side that still crackled with faint static.
And Lazuli was... gone.
Cloudjumper's vision swirled in and out of focus. She forced herself to stay conscious, refusing to go down without a fight.
Sol yelled something incomprehensible at Cloudjumper. It registered and she rolled aside to avoid a gigantic blast of lightning. Both ThunderWings were now inside a sort of air bubble. She saw Sol breathe fire at Boltstrike, but it harmlessly dissipated in the swirling vortex. Debris flew around the two, and thunder crackled violently through the air. Some onlookers gathered to take in the scene, but most fled in terror when they got a closer look. An especially stupid AuraWing was hit straight in the chest by a lightning bolt after clamoring to get a better view of the action.
That got rid of most of the crowds.
"Look, kid!" Boltstrike finally yelled. "I have places to be. You might be good, but nobody can match me in combat! Nobody!"
Cloudjumper saw Storm's eyes widen in fear, quickly replaced by confidence. "We'll see about that." he said, voice clear and strong.
And then the most powerful lightning bolt in the world smashed the two dragons down into the floor.
She saw it in slow motion, like a nightmare. Storm's eyes were their normal purple again, bright and furious. He raised his hands, and the bolt of thunder came down. With a crack, the ancient floorboards shattered, plunging Boltstrike and Storm into a massive sinkhole underneath the house. After far too long, a frantic, squeaky voice shot up from the pit.
"Cloudjumper? Sol? Dream? Anyone? I-I'm okay. I can't move one of my wings, and I... I think Boltstrike's unconscious." Storm said.
Flea unfurled his wings, and the dragonets came tumbling out, unscathed but more than a little dazed.
"Hmm. " Flea said. "Is everyone okay? That was a pretty impressive show, Storm, for someone so young."
You could almost hear the pride in Storm's voice. "I didn't even know I could do that. It just... sort of happened."
"Are we going to help him out?" Dream said.
"Yes please." said Storm, sounding a bit weary.
The dragonets carefully dragged Storm out of the pit. Flea did the same with Boltstrike, after binding his wings and limbs with some rope.
Cloudjumper's chest was still crackling with electricity. It hurt a lot, so she just watched as everyone else pulled Storm to safety. One of his wings seemed to be crooked, so Flea decided to reset it. Storm gritted his teeth and nodded. Flea yanked it to the side, and it was over, with minimal pain involved.
Sol walked over awkwardly. "Storm... I just wanted to say..."
"Don't bother." Storm snapped. "You already apologized anyway."
"I... I understand." Sol said, hanging his head in shame. "So... Thunder powers, huh?"
"Oh yeah!" said Storm, looking grateful at the change of subject. "Well, as you guys might not know, my tribe are born with the ability to redirect lighting bolts, summon thunder, or even move faster, but only when there's a storm overhead. It's really powerful, and is usually..."
At that point, Cloudjumper zoned out a bit. She already knew most of what Storm was saying, because she had took an interest in dragon biology at an early age. But her head was finally filled with the most important question of all,
What are we going to do about Lazuli?
Cloudjumper knew that if she suggested going after her, Sol would scoff and try to say no, and she didn't know how the others would react. But the SubWing had started to grow on her, and they couldn't just leave her behind. She was a part of the group, even Sol had said so.
With her mind made up, she walked towards the others, moving gingerly to avoid jostling her injury.
"Hey, everyone? I have-"
Before she could finish, Louse interjected. "What are we going to do about Boltstrike?"
Flea shrugged. "I say we throw him right back in there. It's not like he deserves better. If the others are against us too, there's no point in dropping him back off with-"
"What do you mean, the others?" Dream interrupted.
"Oh, um, the-"
"Excuse me!" Cloudjumper finally interjected. "Are we going to go help Lazuli?"
Flea turned towards her. "Oh, the SubWing. I mean, it's your decision... but I wouldn't, if I were you."
"She's probably better off without you guys. Didn't she say she was being followed by SubWings?" Flea said, picking at his talons. "I've dealt with them before. It's not much fun."
Cloudjumper felt her talons clench. "How do you know that?"
Dream looked surprised. "Wait, you didn't know? Fearful and Boltstrike threatened us into spilling all our secrets before we could leave our rooms. Louse stopped them from doing you, though." She gave her a look that was probably meant to communicate something, but Cloudjumper was too angry to pay attention.
"And Flea let them do that?"
"It's pretty standard in this business." Louse said, shrugging. "We have to make sure we don't get followed or anything like that."
Something icy and unfamiliar welled up inside Cloudjumper. Speaking very carefully and deliberately, she said, "What did they threaten you with?"
Dream took a deep breath in, and her eyes widened. "Hey, calm down! It wasn't... Okay, it was bad. They, um... Maybe it's better if I just show you." She unfurled a wing, and Cloudjumper could see a long, red, raw set of talon marks.
Chapter 12 Edit
Storm and Sol nodded. "They did it to us as well." They each lifted a wing, showing similar wounds.
Cloudjumper turned to Flea, who looked like he might be sick. "I swear I didn't know... I had no idea it was this bad."
She felt a sudden stab of pity for Flea. But that didn't change anything. "Would you mind telling us who the others are?"
Flea shook his head. "Sorry, I can't."
"Alright, then I guess we're leaving. And you can deal with Boltstrike and Fearful and whatever else all by yourself."
"Wait, no! Cloudjumper-" Flea said desperately.
"I haven't forgotten what you did to Cirrus, and what you let Fearful get away with. It's over."
Sol nodded. "I'm sorry, but it's not our responsibility to help you. We'll be back, once we save Lazuli."
"You don't understand!" Louse yelled. "She's in danger, and you will be too, once she's back with you! The prophecy-"
"Be that as it may," Storm said, "She's still important to us. To all of us. Goodbye."
Then the dragonets got to their feet, and flew away, following Fearful's trail.
And down in the ruined house, a LeechWing broke down in tears. "Cloudjumper... please come back..."
It was a lovely feeling, being so high up you could almost taste the clouds above you.
When she was very little, Cloudjumper had escaped from her room multiple times to leap across the sky gracefully in the dead of night. In the morning, her mother would find her face down in one of the magical clouds surrounding the GustWing fortress, fast asleep. At first, it worried the queen sick, but eventually, it became such a common occurrence that she was even named after it. Cloudjumper, the weird little princess who loved scrolls.
It was an unusual name, as GustWings were usually named after cloud formations or sky phenomena, not verbs or combinations of words. But with no other heirs ever born, Cumulus thought it was a fitting name. Cloudjumper's father, a GustWing commoner named Sparrow, had been killed during a siege on the palace when she was only about a month old. All she really remembered about Sparrow was that he used to tickle her when she was very small.
As she drifted lazily through the breeze, all of her worries seemed to evaporate, replaced with a sense of bliss and freedom. She was in her element here. Like all other dragons, GustWings drew strength from their natural environments.
Because the thunder was still booming overhead, Storm seemed happy and comfortable here as well.
So did Sol, because he was closer to the stars under the evening light.
Only Dream seemed a little uncomfortable. AuraWings were fumble-footed, and had trouble maneuvering in the air due to their large wings and limbs throwing them off balance. They drew strength from strong emotions, and with everyone so calm, she was simply at normal power.
Cloudjumper's senses felt massively enhanced. She could feel everything from the wind to the slight scent of Fearful and Lazuli upon the air.
A eagle of the species that GustWings trained to hunt for them flew past the dragonets fast. Cloudjumper checked its back as it flew by for the insignia the GustWings harmlessly etched on the birds, two crossed feathers, but it was a wild eagle.
The trail began to become less strong. As it grew closer to evening and the thunderclouds began to fade, Storm began to visibly weaken. As they dipped closer to the ground, Cloudjumper felt her senses diminishing as well. She could still track Fearful's scent, but just barely.
Finally, they neared a small outpost near a SlamWing village. The trail disintegrated completely here, so they all dismounted from the air currents. With all of them back at normal strength, they had time to address the big problems.
"Alright." Sol said, once they had located a safe spot to hide. "So where do we start?"
Dream shrugged. "Why don't we split up into groups of two? I'll go with Cloudjumper and Sol can go with Storm."
Cloudjumper knew that Dream had said that just to spite them both. Sol and Storm definitely didn't get along very well, but it would be a nice bonding opportunity. "Seconded."
"Oh, alright." Storm said.
They knew that wherever Fearful was would most likely be hidden, so Dream suggested that both groups start in the nooks and crannies of the outpost. The dragonets agreed to meet up in the town square in a couple of hours, and they were off.
The place was mostly deserted, save for a few SlamWings who scowled at Dream and Cloudjumper as they went by.
Nobody commented on them being there, so Cloudjumper just tried to stay as quiet as possible.
Dream seemed unusually moody as well. She was completely focused on searching for Lazuli, and didn't even try to make conversation.
Suddenly, Dream's head snapped towards a movement in the bushes.
"There." she whispered. "That's her, I'm sure of it."
"Who you kids looking for?" A SlamWing seemed to melt out of the background. "We don't usually get visitors around here."
Dream's demeanor changed on the spot. "We're looking for a friend. She got lost in that hedge somewhere."
The dragon smiled. "Then why don't we go look for her?"
"Be my guest." Dream muttered.
"I'm not sure about this..." Cloudjumper whispered.
"I have a plan." the AuraWing responded.
And the three of them headed into the foliage.
Chapter 13 Edit
As they walked, the strange SlamWing tried to make conversation. They learned that his name was Clobber, and that he was a a self-proclaimed protector of the outpost they lived in.
The hedge was no longer a hedge, exactly. It was made up of wet, decaying wood, but it was clear it hadn't been used in a long time, because patches of it looked as if they might fall apart.
Cloudjumper still didn't trust Clobber, so she was careful not to reveal anything important. It felt a just a little too convenient there was an escort available right when they needed it.
The wood had formed a long, sloping passageway, and Cloudjumper was now very confident that they were on the right track.
Dream was tense and uptight, walking with a purpose down the perilous slopes.
Clobber was a little more relaxed. Cloudjumper could tell he was at least a little nervous, because his tail bludgeon was dragging behind him, making an strange noise in the eerily empty halls.
The tunnel began to turn from rotting wood to concrete. The hideous smell of sewage filled the air, and it was clear that they were getting closer to... whatever was down here.
All three of them were silent now. Suddenly, a shriek erupted from even further down.
"I can't believe this!" a furious voice said from below.
Dream had stopped in her tracks and instinctively flung her arms in front of Cloudjumper. Blushing furiously, she lowered them again. "Who was that?"
"Let's just keep going." Dream said. "But, uh... be careful, everybody."
They continued downward.
After a couple of minutes, they could no longer see any hint of daylight. They had to rely on Clobber's excellent night vision to see where to go next. Even so, they still fell down occasionally.
Finally, the tunnel opened up into a large room, about the size of Cloudjumper's room back home.
And what she saw there was unbelievable.
Fearful and an unfamiliar LightWing were sitting at a wooden desk, looking over some papers with sleepy eyes. Cloudjumper had expected to see Lazuli there, perhaps scared or trapped.
And she was there, but she was helping.
Every time Fearful turned a paper over, she would roll it up into a scroll shape, and pass it to Lazuli. With the same expression, she would stamp it and throw it into a wooden box labeled 𝓣𝓸 𝓑𝓮 𝓓𝓮𝓵𝓲𝓿𝓮𝓻𝓮𝓭.
Dream was staring at these strange proceedings with a strange gleam in her eyes. Suddenly, her eyes glazed over, and she fell to the ground, snoring.
Clobber was watching with an entirely different kind of look. "Fearful?" he whispered. Suddenly, he rounded on Cloudjumper, eyes blazing. "Did you set this up?" He lifted his club over his head, snarling.
Fearful shook herself. "Clobber?"
"Moons!" Lazuli yelled, getting to her feet. "Cloudjumper, why-"
"Is this where you go when we're not together?" Clobber said coldly.
"No!" Fearful yelled. "No, this is unrelated! I swear!"
Lazuli knelt down next to Cloudjumper. "Let's get out of here, and then I promise I'll explain everything."
The LightWing nearby was still going through the exact same motions, copying yellowed pages of text onto fresh white paper, then passing them to an empty seat while Clobber and Fearful continued to argue.
"Let's." she said.
Lazuli dragged Dream behind her, and the three of them raced out of the tunnel.
When they reached the weak concrete portion of the path, Lazuli used her powerful tail to destroy it. The rubble completely blocked the tunnel off.
Eventually, they reached the exit. Cloudjumper could hear dragons slamming against the blockade behind her.
Sol and Storm were waiting in the town square, looking anxious.
Oh, no. How long have we been gone? It had to have been over two hours by now.
Sol finally caught sight of them. "You're back!"
"LAZULI!" Storm yelled joyfully.
"What happened to Dream?" Sol asked, trying to ignore Storm and Lazuli having a reunion in the background.
"She's fine." Cloudjumper said, looking at the AuraWing. "She passed out from stress, I think."
"I'm awake." Dream dropped onto the ground. "So what's next?"
"Uh, first you tell us everything." Cloudjumper said. Lazuli had just returned to the group.
"Sure thing, but can we move somewhere more private first?"
Everyone agreed, so the dragonets decided to head to a small, abandoned farm they had seen on the way there.
They sat over the ruined crops, and Lazuli told them what had happened when she had been kidnapped.
"Okay, so you know the first part. Fearful kidnapped me, and she took me here. I don't think she even thought that you guys might come to help me. Honestly-" She stopped there, but it was obvious that she had been about to say Neither did I. "As soon as we got there- Oh. I need to tell you about my power I discovered."
Storm leaned forward. "I remember when me and Dream had our fight, you looked into my eyes, and it made me feel really relaxed."
Dream nodded. "The same thing happened to me."
"Yeah. Some SubWings have that power. If you are relaxed when it happens, it lasts longer. Since you and Dream were angry at the time, it sort of mellowed you out, right?"
Cloudjumper could remember that. "Can you do that to any dragon?"
"Depends. If the emotions are really strong, it might not work at all. But most of the time, yeah. Also, I have to concentrate to make it work, and I have to be able to look into their eyes."
"Alright." Sol said. "Go on."
"So then I used that power on Fearful and that LightWing you saw- her name is Brilliant, by the way- but then I had to pretend I was willing to help them, in case anyone came in. Fearful and Brilliant were relaxed when I used it, so I didn't have to focus on anything else but keeping an alibi."
"What about the scrolls?" Dream said. "Before I empat- uh, passed out, I saw this big stack of scrolls."
"Those? Oh, yeah! The yellow ones are copies of the prophecy that they stole from Sol's underground bunker."
"Why would they want those?" Sol said, grimacing.
Lazuli grinned, making her face look even creepier than it already did. "Fearful's working for an organization that wants to know more about the prophecy. What it says, who it pertains to, and most importantly- how they can change or stop it to suit their needs. They're scared of the prophecy, and they're copying it so they can have it available whenever they want."
"And why would they go after us specifically?" Cloudjumper asked. This is what she had been curious about the whole time.
Her reply was bone-chilling.
"Because they want to kill us, I assume."
Chapter 14 Edit
"Why us?" Storm asked. "We haven't agreed to be in this prophecy, so why would they hunt us?"
"I think... I think we might have to." Lazuli said. "Here. I stole some notes from the base when Fearful wasn't looking. They're pretty uncanny."
Sol snatched the page. "Alright." His eyes widened. "Bear with me here... Two princesses, twists and turns, a being from beyond, lightning strikes an urn, deepest sea will soar, swirling wind, a bright pink tinge. Prophecy comes forth, stars will find their mark, frigid water burns, auras disembark."
Dream looked horrified. "That makes no sense at all."
"I think it does." Lazuli said. "Or at least parts of it. Swirling wind? Two princesses? That sounds like it's about Cloudjumper, although I have no idea who the other princess could be. A being from beyond and stars will find their mark sounds like Sol. A bright pink tinge and auras disembark has got to be Dream, lightning strikes an urn is Storm, and..." She coughed. "I suppose deepest sea will soar and frigid water burns is me."
"And what could those lines mean? What about the ones you didn't mention?" Dream said.
"Hold on!" Lazuli held up her talons. "I'm not some kind of prophetic wisdom-doer!"
"Wait..." Sol said suddenly. "Now that I think about it, Celeste said that if she made it out alive, she'd return to Multiverse's house to wait for me. We could head there, and see if she knows anything about the prophecy."
"Who's Multiverse?" Cloudjumper said.
Sol shrugged. "Some StarWing my mom's friendly with. Apparently he's almost as rich as some of the royalty."
"Sounds like a good plan. I know we've all got questions about this prophecy." said Storm.
"All in favor of going to Multiverse's house?" Dream said
Everyone was in agreement, so Sol gave them all directions. "It's kind of a long journey, so I was thinking we should go on foot, so we don't get as tired."
Lazuli snorted. "And leave ourselves vulnerable to ambush?"
"Why do you always have to contradict me?" Sol said. "This isn't really that big of a deal."
"Well, maybe I think we should be more careful!" Lazuli snarled.
"Oh please. I don't think that's a big worry at the moment."
"Just because you're the oldest doesn't mean you get to order us all around!"
"I"m the leader in spirit!"
The two dragons were down on their haunches, growling in the blink of an eye. Nobody was going to interfere this time. Lazuli was too agitated to activate her stare, so it was up to Dream, Storm and Cloudjumper to do something before it escalated.
"Um, wait, guys!" Dream said nervously. "Are we really going to-"
"I GOT KIDNAPPED!" Lazuli started to scream. "I got kidnapped and you say we don't need to be careful? We're just a bunch of dragonets who can't defend ourselves!"
Storm shrugged. "I hate to be disagreeable, but I think we'll be just fine out there. What about you guys?"
Dream nodded tersely. "Anything's good with me."
"I'm not bothered either way." Cloudjumper said.
Lazuli was fuming. "Fine."
And they were off.
It was a very hot day, the exact opposite of the cool, wet atmosphere it had been. The temperature became almost unbearable very quickly, especially as they were on rocky ground. Multiverse's house was located in one of the last territories on the continent that was completely owned by the StarWing tribe. Sol told them he had bought it for himself and a few friends. They had all died off mysteriously one by one, leaving Multiverse with a massive chunk of land, and more inheritance then he knew what to do with. He had gone a bit strange while being isolated for so long. After meeting Celeste, Sol's mother, in a StarWing annual conference where all the StarWings on the continent regrouped for one day, the two of them hit it off immediately, becoming good friends. Jupiter, Sol's father, had taken an instant disliking to Multiverse. He said it was very suspicious that all of Multiverse's acquaintances disappeared soon after he met them, but Sol could tell he was more than a bit jealous as well.
It wasn't long until Multiverse became a point of contention in their household. Eventually, he unintentionally drew a wedge between Jupiter and Celeste that would never be fully mended. Sol said he wasn't exactly sure how to feel about Multiverse yet, but he hoped for the best.
The house was located near a relatively abandoned piece of ancient SubWing territory. It was no longer in use, and Lazuli told them that the SubWings barely remembered it at all.
It occurred to Cloudjumper that she didn't really know that much about her friends. Apart from Sol, most of the dragonets didn't talk about their pasts a lot. This could be a great opportunity to learn a bit more about them.
"So, um... how's everyone feeling today?" Cloudjumper asked.
Three moons. Was that just about the worst conversation starter in the history of Piacrasma?
"I dunno." Storm said awkwardly. "Fine, I guess."
"I feel nothing." Dream said.
"Edgy." Lazuli said, with just the ghost of a smile. "I used to say things like that once."
"That's not it." Dream responded. "You wouldn't understand."
"I think I would. You don't say things like that without a reason."
"Well, now I feel much better."
"Aw, am I that great of a motivator?"
The AuraWing looked genuinely confused. "What? No, I mean that I feel better because you feel better."
Feel better... emotions.... AuraWing...
"Dream!" Cloudjumper exclaimed. "You're an empath!"
"Uh... a what, now?"
Storm nodded. "I think I've read about those before. An AuraWing that picks up on emotions and mimics them, right?"
"How could I have a power and not know about it at all?" Dream said, not meeting Storm's eyes.
"Most empaths do it unconsciously." Storm said. "Only the most powerful ones know about it. If you're in a group, you'll very subtly take on emotions."
"Is it uncommon?"
"I dunno." Cloudjumper said. "I'm pretty sure it's only obtained through genetics, and from what I've heard it's pretty rare. A lot of dragons think that Queen Empathy is one, but that could be a misconception based on her name."
Dream had gone slightly pale when she heard Queen Empathy's name.
"Oh right." Lazuli interjected. "Cloudjumper, don't forget that Empathy is Dream's monarch. She answers to her."
"It's nothing like that... I just had a bad experience with her when I was little. Anyway, Lazuli, what's your family like?"
"Uh, they're okay, I guess." Lazuli said. "Actually, they're probably worried sick about me. The queen hates it when dragons try to escape. Oh, I hope she's not punishing my family!" She flared her lapis-colored wings, pink eyes wide.
Cloudjumper had heard quite a lot about Queen Trench. Out of the eleven tribe leaders, she was the most cunning and the best at keeping dragons under her claws. She had done such a good job of keeping the SubWings out of the public eye that most dragons had forgotten about them. And she inflicted needlessly harsh punishments and any dragon who dared reveal tribal secrets. What kind of positive spin could you put on a dragon so wicked?
"Um... I'm sure they're fine? We all have people at home who miss us. Cloudjumper, I'm surprised yours hasn't waged a war." Sol said.
"I sent her a message on my pet messenger falcon before we left. I said I'd be gone for a couple days, so everything should be just fine."
"The GustWings have messenger falcons?" said Sol exuberantly. "That's so cool! My tribe don't keep any pets at all."
"I have a bunny at home." Storm said. "Her name is Fluff."
"Don't ThunderWings usually eat their animals?" Sol asked.
Storm looked shocked. "How dare you! I would never eat Fluff!"
"I was just messing with you." Sol snickered.
"Oh, you are so mean!" Storm said, and he tackled Sol to the ground.
"Um, I hate to interrupt," Dream said. "But are we getting close yet?"
Sol got up again. "Oh yeah! We've been walking for a while, huh?"
The other dragonets stared back at him.
"Yes." Storm said.
"Well, really!" Sol said, throwing up his hands. "I guess that's what I get for trying to be nice! Seriously, though, it's about an hour more."
"We really should have flown... thanks for that, Sol." Dream said.
"Hey, if it makes you feel any better, this is a pretty long trip either way."
"What does Multiverse's house look like?" Cloudjumper asked. She wasn't exactly sure how she felt walking into a strange dragon's territory, but it would be nice to see Celeste again.
"I've never actually been there... most of the time we only interact once a year at the StarWing annual conferences. But I've heard it's pretty big and luxurious."
After that, a bit of time passed with nobody saying anything.
Finally, Storm stopped in his tracks, sweating. "Can we please switch to flying? I'm so tired."
"Sure, why not. We're on the last leg of the journey anyway." Sol said.
Everyone was just as exhausted as Storm was, so they took to the air.
From the sky, Cloudjumper could see a mountain peak fairly close to them. A gigantic mansion was precariously perched on a plateau. It seemed to mostly be composed of silver marble with purple and white accents.
'"I can see the mansion!" Sol said.
"Me too!" Dream yelled.
They touched down in front of the mansion's giant ivory doors, and Sol knocked gently.
After a couple of minutes, a short, imposing, lightly scarred StarWing who looked only slightly older than Sol opened the door. "Sorry, but we're not-" They broke off mid-sentence. "Are you... are you Sol?"
"Sure am." Sol said, looking nervous. "Are you Multiverse?"
The dragon shook their head. "No, I'm Nebula. And you must be my little brother!" And Nebula dragged Sol into a ferocious hug.
Chapter 15 Edit
There was absolute silence for a minute as Nebula pulled away. "Come in, come in! Multiverse and I have been expecting you for forever! We thought you'd never make it!"
Cautiously, everybody stepped through the doors.
"What-" Sol tried to ask, but Nebula interrupted again.
"I promise I'll explain everything as soon as we get there!" Nebula sang. She seemed incredibly happy. "You've just got to have a tour once everyone's introduced!"
Eventually, they reached a stairwell, and Nebula stopped the dragonets. "I'll go get Multiverse. You five stay here!"
"This is really weird..." Lazuli whispered to Cloudjumper once she had gone.
"Just give them a chance." Sol said firmly. "I'm curious."
There was a racket from upstairs, and Nebula finally returned, almost dragging two dragons behind her. A sleepy-eyed, purple-scaled StarWing with olive eyes and patches of bright gold on his scales blinked sleepily at them.
Celeste was standing there, looking confused. Her eyes met Sol's, and her face lit up. "SOL!" Mother and son embraced.
Cloudjumper didn't think it was possible, but if anything, Nebula looked even happier. "I see you've met Celeste before?"
"Oh yes." Celeste said, coming out of the hug. "Sol's my son."
"I KNEW it!" Nebula said. "I knew we had a connection!"
The olive-eyed dragon stood up, and shook Sol's arm. "Lovely to see you again, Sol. I see you brought friends with you this time!" he chuckled.
He turned towards the other dragonets. "My name is Multiverse, and this is my daughter Nebula."
Cloudjumper's head was spinning. "So that means-"
"Yes, GustWing. Before I owned all this land, I was married to a lovely StarWing named Crescent." A flicker of sadness played across his face. "She tragically died, but not before Nebula here was born. Because of that- well, I'll let Celeste tell you."
"Gladly." Celeste said, beaming. "The two of us are getting married! And you and Nebula will be step-siblings!"
"But what about Jupiter? What about me?" Sol said.
Celeste actually looked sympathetic. "You know we were drifting apart anyway. Obviously I'm devastated he's gone, Sol, I'm not heartless! But Multiverse and me have been in love for much longer than you might think. As for you, well, Nebula has wanted a friend for a long time, and now we can all live together! The mansion is just a bonus!"
"But I don't want to have to leave my friends!"
"There, there. You can still see them once a year if you want."
Sol's face tightened in a strange way. "I'm assuming you two haven't been officially married yet?"
"Oh, no!" Multiverse said. "It'll be a couple of weeks from now. It's going to be the biggest celebration the world has ever seen! I'll have to invite every StarWing on the continent! Moonshard, and Glimpse, and..."
Cloudjumper looked over at Sol, who had the facial expression he often wore when he was planning something big. "I hope you know what you're doing..."
Sol nodded. "I'm counting on it..."
Multiverse had finally stopped rattling off names. "You kids can have the guest room for now. I've included all sorts of things you might like."
The dragonets started to walk off, but Multiverse stopped Lazuli. "Oh no no no. Not the SubWing."
"WHAT!?" all the dragonets said at once.
"SubWings are notorious criminals, murderers, and assassins. We can't possibly let that kind of behavior near my new stepson, right, Celeste? Frankly, I'm not even sure how you found this one."
Lazuli's face was pinched up and furious.
Celeste nodded. "I suppose, but I've never seen Lazuli do anything remotely criminal before. She could share with Nebula if that's okay?"
Multiverse nodded, but Cloudjumper could tell by his lashing tail that this was not the answer he wanted. "Off to your rooms, kids, we've got a big day tomorrow."
And the dragonets headed upstairs.
The rooms were lovely, spacious, and comfortable, but Cloudjumper couldn't focus. Sol was kicking the silver marble walls, seeming out of it as well.
"So what's your great plan?" Storm asked.
Sol looked around shiftily. "It's not safe to talk here. We could be being watched."
"We could be being watched anywhere. Also, why can't we just escape?"
"I want to, believe me. But Celeste would be heartbroken, and I still think we can find a way around this."
"Are you serious right now? Multiverse is crazy!" Dream yelled.
"I don't think he is. I've always knew he was in love with Mom, I just never knew she was so desperate to leave Jupiter... and plenty of dragons don't like SubWings." He bit his lip. "But I've never seen him like this before, maybe he just acts different around company."
Storm yawned. "I miss Lazuli."
"We all do." Cloudjumper said. 'We'll figure out some way to see her again in private."
"I'm actually super sleepy all of a sudden... what about you guys?" Dream said, rubbing her eyes.
"Now that you say it..." Sol stretched. "I'm exhausted. Can we sleep?"
Cloudjumper felt the same way, so everyone climbed into bed.
"Goodnight, everyone." Storm said, shutting off a fire-powered lantern.
Chapter 16 Edit
Cloudjumper woke up to a pink blob hovering over her. "Cloudjumper! Wake up already!"
Dream came into focus, grinning widely. "Everyone else is already at dinner. I waited for you, sleepywings."
"Okay, okay!" Cloudjumper said. "I'm getting up."
She hopped out of bed. "What happened while I was asleep?"
"Well, Multiverse is outside making wedding preparations, and everyone else is eating. Nothing's really happened yet."
Cloudjumper slowly descended the ebony staircase.
Celeste turned her head. "Cloudjumper! Please, do come down and eat."
Lazuli and Sol were animated, chatting to each other like they didn't bicker every other day.
Everyone else was digging into some food, mostly related to their individual tribes. Sol, Nebula, and Celeste were all eating some strange pink vegetable Cloudjumper didn't recognize.
She sat down as well, taking a few bites of her breakfast, goat meat and berry juice.
The goat was rich and meaty, with just a hint of spice. Even as a prestigious princess of the GustWings, Cloudjumper hardly ever experienced flavored food, except for special occasions. Her tribe didn't have easy access to spices because of their unusual location, but on this occasion it was delicious.
The berry juice felt just like home, with the perfect balance of tangy and sweet.