People Of The Flames
"Woa! Be careful!" Song grabbed Jade's hand before he fell the couple hundred feet to the forest floor, "You don't have wings anymore remember?"
"All too clearly," Jade groaned, he still hadn't quite gotten over the fact that he couldn't fly anymore.
Under close inspection the clearing had revealed the traces of a timed spell, set to go off at a specific time. Someone had been expecting them and knew their capabilities, judging by the accuracy of the timer. But why make them both human? It certainly slowed their progress a great deal, but Song doubted that was the reason.
The two continued slowly up the rocky mountainside, higher and higher towards the place where the peaks appeared to meet with the blue dome of the sky. They stopped two or three times two rest and eat before reaching a ledge they had spotted earlier where the stone flattened out and led into a ravine that cut into the mountain.
"Maybe we should have gone around," Jade remarked uncertainly as they stood before the mouth of the ravine.
Song grimaced, "We can't go back now, might as well try this way. Plus, it would have taken longer to go around the mountain."
They started into the ravine. Stone walls towered high overhead to either side of them, giving the feeling of a cave, though the sky could be seen as a thin ribbon of pale blue above them. Here, sheltered from the harsh winds and sunlight of these heights, ragged vegetation clung to life, patches of green in the endless reddish brown. But despite the apparent peace, a chill ran down Song's spine, they were being watched. She glanced around, no living being stirred in the shadows, there was nothing visible that would cause her unease, but sight rarely told all there was to know.
"It opens out ahead," Jade's voice was barely above a whisper, eyes darting nervously from side to side.
Song nodded silently as they continued, closer and closer to the bright patch up ahead where the ravine walls opened out to either side. She moved ahead, muscles tense, feeling those unseen eyes upon her.
"Halt!" the unknown voice echoed through the ravine.
The two froze, automatically dropping into fighting stances, and searched their surroundings.
"Who are you?" Song called.
The answer came as three figures dropped, practically right out of the sky, to stand before the surprised dragon-turned-humans. All three looked human at first glance, but there was no way they could have been taken as such once one looked closer. Their eyes were slightly larger than a human's and slanted slightly with what appeared to be a gem on their foreheads, and their slender forms didn't give the impression of fragility that they should have, but more of a steely, fluid strength, like those of cats. But the greatest giveaway-were their wings. Each of them had a pair of folded, leathery wings, arraying in color from electric green, to sapphire blue, to orange gold.
"Who are you?" Jade was staring in shock.
"We should be asking the same question," the one to the left, a girl with flowing black hair and electric green wings spoke, voice stern.
"Give them a break Zapwing," said the middle one, the youngest, and apparently the leader, which was odd since he looked younger than the other two.
He winked at the two Jeweled Dragons, "We're the leaders of the Fantrys Canyon Warriors, guardians of the home of the drakaines. I'm Blaze, this is my sister Zapwing, and the silent one over there is Auqualight. And you are?"
Song stepped forward, "I am Songwind of the Jeweled Dragons and this is my companion Jade. We are following a man whom we believe passed this way not long ago. I ask that you let us pass so we may be on our way."
Aqualight shook his head, "No one but you has passed this way for many weeks, and beyond this pass is the canyon where we live. A stranger would have been spotted immediately. What makes you think your prey came this way?"
Song frowned, but she was acutely aware of the spear Aqualight carried, it glowed with a faint blue light, and the gold scepter at Blaze's belt that radiated power.
"Since when did you see everything that happened here?" Blaze said mockingly to his companion, then he turned back to Song and Jade, "We could take you to our home and you can talk to our leaders, but we aren't allowed to just let you through. Basically, you can go back, or come with us."
"I think we should go with them," Jade whispered. Song nodded slightly in agreement.
"We will go with you," Song replied.
"All right then," Zapwing smiled slightly, "you'll have to hold one of our hands because you can't fly yourselves, there really isn't any way to get around Fantrys without wings."
Song took Zapwing's hand while Aqualight took Jade's, Blaze had offered to help but Zapwing said that that would be a bad idea. So they walked to the edge of the cliff to see a beautiful canyon dropping thousands of feet down filled with strange rock formations shaped by the winds. The stone was all in the orange brown spectrum, but that somehow added to its grandure.
Song wasn't quite sure if Zapwing could carry her or not, but as soon as the left the stone she felt something like an invisible cloud that supported her in the air. She looked over to find Jade blinking in surprise as he discovered the same thing. Zapwing's eyes glittered with amusement but she didn't say anything.
Then they found out why having Blaze fly one of them would have been such a bad idea. The youngest drakaines startled them all by diving straight down between the other two, then he turned to grin at them while back winging. Song was almost positive he was going to slam into the stone wall behind him but when he was just about to slam into it he folded his wings slightly, and dropped sideways. A few dozen feet down he snapped his wings out to catch himself, spun in he air, and shot sideways between to boulders that were barely two feet apart.
Zapwing shook her head at her brother's antics, "See what I mean? Best flyer in the canyon, but if he keeps flying like that I'm positive he'll get himself killed one of these days. To think that he'd be chosen by the Fire Scepter!"
The canyon below them widened until it became a huge valley of stone pillars, ledges, and strange formations. Song gasped as she spotted several dragons, larger than those of her own clan, sprawled on the cliffs, sunning themselves.
Zapwing noted her surprise and laughed, "I didn't mention it did I? My people are born with two forms, dragon and humanoid. Now, hold on tight and don't let go."
They dove, slicing through the air in an almost vertical dive, then pulled up sharply to settle gently onto one of the ledges lower down in the canyon. Blaze was waiting for them here, and as soon as Aqualight landed he lead the group deeper into the mountain.
The passage lead to a chamber lit by several balls of mage light, hovering near the ceiling all around the room. Under the golden light cast by these were five, older looking drakaines in their human forms. They turned to look at them as the group entered the room.
"These are the ones we found at the eastern pass," Zapwing explained before introducing them to the council.
"The Jeweled Dragons?" one of the council members asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Oh, well, we were caught in a spell trap," Song explained, relating what had happened since they'd passed through the portal and what they were looking for.
Jade paced the small stone waiting room. They had been brought here to wait for the council to decide what to do. Zapwing and Aqualight were waiting with them while Blaze kept sneaking down the passage to see if the council was done yet.
Will you stop pacing? Song demanded in mind speech, You're making me nervous!
I can't help it! What if they decide to send us back and we end up having to go around the mountain anyway? By then the trail would have grown cold.
Don't think about that till it happens, Song advised, you never know, they might decide to help us.
No further conversation could take place for Blaze came running into the room, grinning from ear to ear, announcing that the council was ready for them.
A.N. How was it? ^_^ I'll try to update a little faster if possible.