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~ Previous Chapter ~
This could be the beginning of the end!
Then again, this chapter is really long so I might split it into two, but my head is not in a good place this week and I couldn’t focus long enough to work it out.
Either way, now that the excitement’s over, maybe the Dragon Moot can finally get some work done…
“A FINE WELCOME, elders of the Clans.” The silvery woman strode away from Mhysra and her friends across the beach to stand before the Starshines and all the dragons gathered on the terraces above. “Is this how the dragons Meet their guests in the Cleansed Lands, these days?”
The watching dragons fidgeted uncomfortably, while the Starshine elders sat in silence.
“A wound was done to my Clan,” Elder Stoneheart muttered, shifting their not inconsiderable weight. “It was our right to challenge.”
“A challenge,” the woman murmured, turning slowly to scan all the terraces, meeting each and every elder’s eye.
“To call a challenge is every dragon’s right,” Goryal said, in their voice of distant chimes. “At each Moot, they may demand an answer to insults made. All dragons of all Clans are allowed to challenge any other dragon from another Clan.”
“But these guests are not dragons,” continued another Starshine elder, one who spoke so softly it sounded as though he was whispering directly into Mhysra’s ear, even though he was around a hundred feet away. Where Goryal was pale and ethereal, this Starshine was darkness flecked with pearly white – nails, eyebrows, hair – like a night sky strewn with stars. “Our rules are not theirs.”
“The challenge was excepted, fought and finished,” growled Elder Jewelwing. “It’s a little late now for rules.”
“Foolishness,” Reglian muttered to those around him. “As Jarvenerald’s acknowledged grandmother she was directly responsible for his raising, over and above any duties to him as his kin Elder. His bad behaviour is her failing, his defeat her fault. Accepted or not, that challenge should never have been issued.”
“Indeed,” the silver stranger agreed inside the circle, though she could just as easily have been answering Reglian. “It is all a little late for rules and niceties. No intervention was made, and it is only through the courage and strength of one human that tragedy was averted. Think on these things, elders of all Clans.” She looked pointedly at the Starshine dragons. “And remember whatever insult kin Jewelwing felt, they attacked first.” With a curt nod, the woman left the circle and stalked back to check on her patients.
“Indeed,” Goryal chimed, drawing everyone’s attention back to the circle. “There is much to be answered for. Let us begin by calling Elder Stoneheart, Elder Jewelwing, Elder Earthdrake and Elder Stoneskin forth to answer for the behaviour of their juveniles.”
The four elders stepped forward, leaving one very self-conscious Stoneheart kin elder behind. It was difficult for a huge boulder of a dragon to make themself invisible, but they still tried, hunching their shoulders with embarrassment. Mhysra felt sorry for them.
“Perhaps it is time that Clan Stoneheart took a new kin?”
Stones hissed as Mhysra and the others swivelled to face the newcomer. Another human-shaped dragon. Although this one looked a lot like a bear – built broad and tall and dark, with a scruff of thick black hair more akin to a pelt – the dragon was clearly another Stoneheart. And female, with generous curves enhanced by her practical clothes of leather breeches and animal skins. There was nothing silk-clad or dainty about this dragon, and Mhysra liked her immediately.
“You always say that, Estenarix,” Rhiddyl mumbled, her head lowered to keep her voice down and not draw attention. “If you had your way, Clan Stoneheart would have three new kin.”
Estenarix smiled, an expression that could frighten small children. “We all know that to be a sound idea. There is too much erosion.”
“But never in kin Boulderforce,” Reglian and Rhiddyl said together, and she laughed like a distant landslide.
“Never let it be said that Clan Skystorm have bad memories.”
While Reglian rolled his eyes, Rhiddyl raised her head. “The charges have been laid.”
The group looked over towards the gathered elders again and fell silent.
Goryal stepped forward. “Clan Starshine have considered this breach of the welcoming laws and have decided thus. The juveniles Hestharre kin Earthdrake, Tarvenn kin Stoneskin and Jarvenerald kin Jewelwing of Clan Stoneheart, are hence force to be placed under the jurisdiction of Clan Starshine, to be fostered into other Clans at our discretion. This rule shall also apply to all Jewelwing juveniles and young.”
When the kin elder in question hissed a protest, the seven Starshines silenced them with a collective glare.
“This is not the first complaint raised against your youngsters, Elder,” the tallest of the Starshine elders spoke, willowy in form but adamantine in tone, “but it will be the last.”
Ignoring the venomous expression on the dragon’s face, Goryal looked up into the terraces. “It is time for kin Jewelwing to choose a new elder. Their selection of candidates will be presented at the Summer Moot, six moons from now.”
“Ha!” Estenarix slapped a triumphant hand against her thigh. “That’s knotted her coils, the poisonous old snake. You can always trust Goryal and Bavadh to do what needs doing.”
Similar conversations broke out around the cove, until Goryal raised their hands for silence. “Elder Stoneheart, look to your young. This erosion must stop.” The seven Clan Starshine elders nodded as one.
“Now let us move onto our second matter of importance.” The voice was soft and sneaky, and it took Mhysra a moment to realise who was speaking. It was the wolf. Inside her head. She wasn’t the only one to tug her ear in confusion.
Which was when the wolf looked over at their little group, tongue panting in amusement. “I, Yulunan Clan Starshine, call the Rift Riders and miryhls, visitors from beyond the Veil, to speak before this Moot.”
There was a pulse of silence as every dragon in the cove stared at them. Then Reglian cleared his throat. “Estenarix, I trust you will remain with Rhiddyl. Everyone else who can, follow me. This is what you’re here for, after all. Pardon the affront to your dignity, miryhls, but I believe it best that you walk.” And he strode off, shrinking in a shower of sparks back into his human form. Reluctant to leave the still unconscious Lyrai and Hurricane, Mhysra hesitated, until the pale woman frowned at her.
“You have little to fear from me, child. I worked too hard on reviving them to damage them now. Young Rhidystel will ensured I do them no harm.” She shooed her away with her hands. “Go. You have come too far to stop now.”
Sharing an anguished look with her friends, Mhysra hurried after Reglian, the miryhls strutting behind. Stones and pebbles twisted and crunched beneath her boots as Clan Starshine turned slowly to watch their approach. Finally Reglian brought them to a halt before the semi-circle of ancient elders and the packed terraces behind them.
“Greetings, unexpected travellers from afar,” the Starshine elders spoke as one, voices sounding in Mhysra’s head and ears. “The Cleansed Lands welcome you. Come in peace, and in peace you shall stay.”
“You have been Met,” Yulunan continued inside Mhysra’s head. “Albeit a little unorthodoxly. Now you may speak. What is your request of the Dragon Moot?”
~ Next Chapter ~
Thanks for reading.