Chapter 3: The Land of Naje

When Italyn came-to it was dawn, the first rays of the morning gently touching the horizon. The dimly-lit sky was a mosaic of beautiful hues of pinks, oranges, yellows and purples. Small whisps of cloud were colored as if some child had taken their crayons to it. Sloppy, but in an attractive was a sight to behold.

Italyn sighed and yawned, bringing her hands up to rub her eyes before she rememberd what happened previously that night. As soon as she remembered her eyes widened and she took a good look at where she was. The sky. Gasping in surprise and light horror she looked around her at Opa's crystaline body, his vibrant blue hue finally reaching her eyes.

"Ah, so you're awake." Victor smiled and looked back, watching Italyn with a twinkle in his eyes. "I was hoping you'd wake before we got to the main city." He nodded to her, looking forward again. "You may not know it yet but we're in Naje, we crossed over the portal last night when you were sleeping. I have time to tell you more about our land; if you wish."

Italyn paused for a moment, trying to get her bearings about her before she nodded. There was a moments pause before she remembered, flushing slightly as she nodded again then spoke. "Yes, please."

Victor gave a nod of his own, resting the leather 'reigns' in his lap as he stretched, thinking a moment for where he was to begin. "Well, last night I told you where our world is in relation to yours as well as some of the creatures that you might know. Our world is indeed magical, filled with beasts of every shape, size and color. Some, I know that you Earthlings haven't even begun to imagine, though we live with them on a day-to-day basis.

"Now, I know that you have one major question in your mind. I know that I told you are land is not very big, only able to barely hold who we have at the moment. Looking around I can imagine you're shocked at the size of Naje." He smiled, looking back at her. "I didn't lie to you, but Naje is much larger than Earth. Our problem is that we only hold a small portion of the land, for there are far more evil occupants on our world that good.

"That is why I told you that, and all the dragonbonds have a large battle to fight, as we've been fighing for years upon years. Neither side has gained any ground as of yet, but I will not bother you with such matters yet." He smiled and looked back to her. "Enjoy Naje my friend! We're nearly there- you can see the city in the distance- so we can talk more once you've become settled."

Italyn blinked, turning her attention from the man to peer around his bulky form and onto the land beyond. Indeed, there was something nearing them in the distance. Past the rolling hills and the ebony forest that stretched below them. From what Italyn could see the city was surrounded by large walls, and was much bigger than any she had seen back on Earth. The buildings were gray and most likely built out of stone. At the far end from them a large structure could be seen, what Italyn would call a castle or palace. Though, as they neared hundreds of openings all in a ring around the topmost dome caught the womans attention, and she now could see the forms of dragons randomly coming and going from the openings. Apparently it was the housing structure for the dragon bonds, or that was the conclusion that Italyn could draw from it.

Her gaze swept the city as they flew over it, Opa swooping low to allow Italyn a better look at her new home. There were indeed many people who were moving about in the streets, Italyn didn't know the time. Wooden stalls and brightly colored banners were displayed at every corner and wherever some merchant stood to sell their goods. Some people, she noted, looked up in awe at the dragon, especially small children who would jump up and down, shouting something lost in the din of the marketplace.

A smile touched Italyn's lips as she looked forward yet again, her head was beginning to spin from the ground speeding below her. Soon they began to rise again, and Italyn could take a look at the tops of the houses and other structures, spotting the roof-top suning areas and gardens. She saw none on the ground and guessed that all the small flowers and rare fruits and vegetables were grown up there. She had yet to see any farms to grow major crops and reminded herself to later ask Victor about it.

Passing over the last of the rooftops Italyn now saw a vast, grass-covered plaza of sorts. The area was immense and was covered with people and dragons alike. In fact, when she looked closer, Italyn could see firey forms that rested on shoulders, the ground, or even flying about in the air. She was about to ask Victor about them when Opa suddenly climbed again. Italyn let out a cry of surprise and griped onto Victor to prevent herself from falling off.

The man infront of her laughed heartily, giving Opa pat on his side. "Opa, it seems as if we need to get her used to riding." Looking back at Italynhe grined to her. "No need to fear. Opa won't let you fall and you're quite securly straped onto him." He let out another laugh as they entered one of the holes in the dome, the change in light momentarily rendering Italyn blind.

Italyn's breath caught in her throat when her eyes finally adjusted to the light. They were now in a large cavern, easily able to fit a mountain or two within it. Forms flew about in the open area in the middle, swooping and diving around only to land on one of the hundreds of ledges around the outside edge, fly out one of the hole, or hang themselves upsidedown on perches that hung from the ceiling.

Running short of breath Italyn let it out and took in another deep one, baby blue eyes darting from one area to another, unable to take in everything around her. Soon she could feel the dragon below her turning to the side, banking towards one of the many caves that covered the inside. There were rumblings of dragons as they passed by, some seeming to disintigrate in a way only to re-appear in whole a few meters away. Italyn had to rub her eyes when she saw this, unable to believe the sight before her.

Too soon for her Opa landed, a rough jar ripling through Italyn's body. She shivered and waited for Victor to unlatch himself before he helped her out, hopping down and lending her a hand. Her feet hit the stone floor with what would've been a loud noise had there have been no dragons around. But instead, it was little more than a soft thud and she waited a moment before realizing that Opa was gone and Victor was walking away down the tunnel.

She rushed forward, catching up to the man before walking beside him, studying the strange lights that just seemed to hand in mid-air, held up by nothing. They walked in silence for a while before Italyn's questions couldn't be held in any more. They came out in a massive string of words, making Italyn sound like a small child who was going to DisneyLand. "Where are the farms? Where do you get your food? What were those little flaimingforms in the courtyard thingy? What on Earth was that dragon doing when it disintigrated then came back? Are all the dragons gem colored? Where are we going? How am I supposed to learn my way around here? Who-"

Victor held up his hand to stop her string of questions, his eyes twinkling with mirth. "Hold up there young one. I can't answer questions when I you fire them at me like that." He watched her face for a moment, stopping her again when she began to speak. "Not now Italyn, first we get you settled and comfortable. Then I'll take you for a grand tour of Delondo, the city. All your questions will be answered soon enough." A nod was given to her as he moved forward, jesturing for her to follow. "It won't be too far to your rooms from here. Come on."

She had been shown her room and taken to pick out three decent outfits for herself from quite the selection. Her stuff now in her new home she and Victor made the long decent down a flight of winding stairs to make it to the ground floor where Italyn would get her first looks on the city of Delondo. She couldn't help but be excited, nothing like this had happened to her ever before and, well, it was new.

When they had finally reached the bottom Italyn had to stop for a nice, long drink of water. "Wow.. this water is amazingly clean.." She looked to Victor who smiled in response and nodded, taking a swig from the mug he held.

"Yes, I know. We don't have the same technology as Earth, as we don't need it. Hence our air and earth quality is much higher. You'll find no pollution on Naje and the air is amazing copared to that of Earth." He gave another nod then pushed himself off of the wall, placing his cup on a holder which Italyn followed. "Ok, that's enough rest. Time for your tour."

Italyn haistaly hurried after Victor as his pace seemed to be at that more of a dragon than anything eles. Soon she found herself at a jog to keep up with him, footsteps echoing about them in the cavern. "How far does this tunnel actually go? I've noticed that all of them are like.. huge, and yet little to no one uses them." Her face expressed the confusion that she felt as she looked up at the taller man as they continued along.

"It's a simple reason. First off though, this building is old, very old. It's been said that it dates back to the first days of the dragons, which were hundreds of thousands of years ago. Back then the animals were larger, and generally the dragons walked through these tunnels. Records show that dragons were all wild once, and yes, we have wild dragons now, but they lived all on their own before making a packt with humans. They built this cavern, a place where they could easily rest and protect their young and elderly. Seeing how they needed such wide birth they needed to make a place to accomidate their sizes; enough for two to walk abreast. Hence the size of the caverns." He gave her a nod and turned a corner, now wandering down a smaller tunnel. "The entrance is just up ahead. If we had continued on the way that we were going we could've ended up at the dragon bathing lake in the back." He smiled to her as they finally steped out into the light.

Italyn shielded her eyes at the sudden burst of light, it was as if the tunnel had narrowed at the entrance to prevent too much sunlight to leak through. The initial blast caught Italyn off guard but she quickly got over it. Blinking and squinting her eyes slowly ajusted to the light until she could see the vast expanse of the green courtyard before her. She blinked a few times, letting her gaze sweep over the area. There were tons of people there, men, women, children. Along with dragons of all shapes and sizes.

Yet again her gaze passed over one of the flaming bird-like creatures. Now that she was closer she found that they resembled that of a pheonix that were told in fairy tales. Of course, she wouldn't think it true if she wasn't where she was, but with the dragons and everything else what sort of difference dida pheonix make?

She turned to Victor, realizing that he was watching her amazment with mild amusement. She blushed lightly, ducking her head a moment to glance back at the bird. "Victor... what's that? Is it a pheonix?" She pointed to the blue-flamed thing, getting a nod that she did not see.

"Yes, very good eyes m'dear. That is a pheonix, and another one of the 'good' animals that we have here in Delondo. They 'bond' to humans much like dragons do but the pheonix's are far less picky. They're actually quite intelegent though can be more than a pain. I'd tell you more but you'll have plenty of classes to learn about them. Don't give me that look. You can't become a dragonbond without classes to teach you about our land and policy. I could tell you plenty but not nearly enough of the more important details for you to get by."

Italyn had indeed been frowning at this. She hadn't been told before that she'd be taking classes. Then again, she hadn't asked either so she really couldn't blame anything on Victor. Turning back to the courtyard she slowly began to walk forward, followed closely by Victor. Apparently he was going to allow her to go where she wanted, he'd bring her back in time. As they walked her gaze went from one side to the other, noting how the people there would look at her for a moment before going back to what they had been doing previously.

Eventually Italyn grew bored of watching people talk or just sit. The dragons were interesting enough but she was too shy to go and ask to actually see one. So she picked up her pace, soon finding herself at a massive archway proped up by immense walls one either side.

She stopped and looked over to Victor who gave a light nod, informing her that she could advance. She gave him a bit of a smile before moving forth, the muffled din of the marketplace infront of her reaching her ears.

Though she had seen the market from atop Opa from above Italyn didn't truly realize what it was like there. The streets, as large as they were, were cramed full of people doing their daily shopping. Shouts from merchants raised up above the crowd, each one trying to make their goods sound like the best. As if the noise and mass of people wasn't enough you were hit by wave after wave of bright, vibrant colors. Banners above permanent shops flapped in the light breeze, colors of orange, yellow, green, blue, red, purple; anything you could imagine, were all there.

She stoped just before the actual street of shops started, letting her eyes take in everything before she plunged in. They were not just here to take a look around but also to get Italyn some of the things that she would need. Clothes, accessories, perhaps some small trinkets. Everything else such as food, bedding, riding gear, and the like, would be provided for her in the Dragonhome. The problem with that was that Italyn had no idea where she would start; there was far too much to see.

Turning to Victor she gave him a slightly pleading look, asking him to help her with the impossible task before her. He smiled back at her, taking swift strides forward. Italyn quickly followed, diving into the large crowd and doing her best to keep up with Victor.

It was difficult, as the crowd seemed to break apart for him and mould back together before she could get through. In fact, Italyn was quite afraid that she'd get lost. So afraid that she grasped his arm tightly so he wouldn't leave her sight.

It worked quite well for the pair, and soon they had made it off of the busy street onto a far less used area. When the last of the crowd was behind her Italyn let go, taking a deep breath and glancing behind her at the wall of people. She shook her head and looked back to Victor; he was on his way to the other side of the street. Shuffling forward she caught up, scanning to see where they were headed.

Before them stood a small shop. It was an older stone building and it lacked the brightly-colored banners that was a trademark of the market shops. This one had a pitch black door at the left side of the building, leaving one, fairly large window on the right. A brown sign and windowshutters were the only outdoor decorations. On the sign it read: 'Miss Yuvel's Fassion' with a thread and needle pictured on it.

Italyn blinked and turned to Victor who was already striding forward towards the door. She took a breath, slowly moving to follow him into the opened doorway.

Once she had crossed the threshold of the doorframe the luminescent feeling from outside dissapeared. The shop was dark and slightly musty. Several small and dimed lamps gave off an pale orange glow, giving enough light for one to manouver in the room. There were shelves on the walls, holding neatly folded cloth and some random sewing tools. In the center of the room there was a large table that had a few cubby holes in it, scissors and measurement tools scattered in and around it. Naked manequins stood on either side of the tinted window. The only other thing that occupied the room was a wooden cubby that barred the path to a door at the far end.

She heard footsteps before seeing Victor walking over to the cubby, moving in a more leasurly pace. She quickly followed him. He held the plank of wood up for her to step through, hesitating at the midnight curtain that hung before her. A gentle push and a smile were the only things that made her go through, and she soon found herself in a fairly large room that looked much like the one before.

Victor steped through behind her and looked around, smiling as his eyes landed on something - someone rather - who was sitting in a chair.

It appeared to be a woman in her late 50's, grizzled white-gray hair and wrinkled skin. She wore bright clothing, much of a contrast to the dull look of the room. There was a smile on her face and a twinkle in her brown eyes as she spied the pair. She got to her feet with amazing grace and swiftness and made her way towards them, embracing Victor in a hug which the man returned.

"Victor! It's been so long!" Her lips raised in a wrinkled smile, the woman barely reached up to his chest! "I was wondering when you'd return to geta new garnment or two."

The man smiled back at her though shook his head at her last coment. "Not here for myself Yuvel dear, I'm here to get some decent wear for Italyn here." He placed his large hands on her shoulder, pushing her forward with a smile. "She's a new recruit Opa and I brought back today."

The sparkle dwindled slightly as she turned to look Italyn over. It was the strangest feeling in the world to the girl. It was almost as if the woman was inside her as she watched the girl.

After the woman turned away Italyn gave a shudder, rubbing her hands together in a nervous way. 'I hope I never have to go through that again.'

Apparently Victor caught her shiver and uneasyness, giving her a wide grin and a wink as Yuvel mused around her shop, taking down cloth and other things as she muttered to herself. "Don't worry, you'll get used to it. It just takes time." He smiled and nodded to her, gaze moving back to his busy friend.

A few hours later Italyn walked out of the dusty shop with Victor. A large pile of clothes were wraped in brown paper in her arms, the fruit of their venture. She was in a much better mood now that she was out of the shop. Something just didn't feel quite right in there, and she was happy to be rid of it.

The walk back to the courtyard was silent as Italyn thought of the old woman and fought to keep up to Victor in the dense crowd. Thoughts and questions were still dancing in her head and she couldn't let them be for very long.

Catching up to his side she gave a thankful sigh to be out of the hustle and bustle of the market. "Hey Victor." She looked up at the man, tilting her head at him. "Wh-Where are we going next?" She had been about to blurt out her multitude of questions again but the look on the man's face told her otherwise.

He smiled to her and pointed to the dragonkeep, where she knew her room was; somewhere. "Back to the keep m'dear. We'll stop off to drop off your new clothes and you can change. Then I'll take you for the grand tour."

It was always funny how getting somewhere when you were excited took longer than the previous trip and she was shaking by the time she was trying to put her new clothes on.

"There's no need to rush Italyn! We have plenty of time." Though he stood outside the door he could hear her shuffling about, hopping and falling a few times.

When she finally emerged he had a twinkle in his eyes, looking over her bright, but simple attire. "There. Now we can go for the tour. You look very nice by the way."

Leaving Italyn with a bit of a blush he turned with a smile and walked towards the long hall that took them from the open cavern. Italyn had recognized where he was heading as she trotted next to him, excited to see the dragons - and Opa - again. The swift pace of their steps got them to the entrance in less time than it had taken her to go to her room before. Yet, instead of Victor steping through the arch or stone he turned to the right, cloak that he wore billowing behind him as he began to decend a flight of stairs. She hurried after him after realizing her had turned. She looked over a sholder, dissapointed. "Victor... I thought we were going to see Opa and the other dragons."

The man smiled as he came to a landing, stop and turning around to watch her anxious and dissapointed face. "We are going to visit some dragons, but not Opa at the moment. He's resting and doesn't need to be disturbed and that's only the ledging and exit for the dragons." He grinned and swung open a door, holding it open for her. "Where we're headed is much more exciting and more towards what you need right now." He nodded as she entered the room, coming in behind her.

At first her eyes had to adjust to the dimmer light bu finally Italyn could see. Soft shuffling sounds and the smells of hay and other farm-like produce came to her nose, causing her nose to itch slightly as she gave a bit of a sneeze. Pushing those aside she looked around at all the wooden stalls, four rows with two 'hall's between them. People in their least fancy clothing were bustling about, shifting straw in the stalls or carrying tubs or other bottles and bowls. Italyn was very interested in all this, and had taken a few steps forward when a soft squak made her jump.

Victor laughed heartily behind her as he came up beside her, resting his hand on her shoulder. "Don't let the little things startle you Italyn. This is our beast and Dragon Egg room. You see our beasts - such as pheonix's, fluretts, and the like - are kept here in the stalls. Come with me." With his hand he gently steered her down the hall between the stalls, moving too fast for Italyn to really really get a look at the animals as they walked by. Not that she really cared once Victor had brought her where he had intended to.

The small hall had suddenly broadened into an immence circular room. It was hotter and stuffier than it had been before and a funny smell like dead fish reached her nose. She scrunched it up but kept her eyes wide as she looked onto the mass of eggs before her.

They were all a dull gray in color and came in exactly the same size. They were arranged in simple patterns - cemi-circles, lines, waves - of about ten and rested atop some more straw. To the right were tables with piles of meat that just sat out there - where the smell was coming from.

Though it was an atrocious smell Italyn bit it back and looked along the shells, there looked to be about 50 eggs. Give or take a few. Italyn couldn't believe her eyes. These were dragon eggs? No way could something from such a small space grow to be so huge. She voiced just this opinion and turned to Victor who laughed softly at her.

"You'd be surprised m'dear, at the way that the magical creatures grow here. These," he swept his arm out to the clutch, "are dragon eggs and will grow to be of any size imaginable. Even smaller than you if they're lucky."

Italyn blinked, absorbing his information as she looked at the eggs, watching them carefully as they just sat there. It didn't look as if they were alive, let alone hatch, but Victor assured her that it would be ok. Shrugging this off she found that they were quickly told to leave by one of the women working there, a smile of appology going to Victor who was the only one who noticed. Seeing the dissapointment on Italyn's face he smiled. "Cheer up lass, there'll be plenty of time to see them eggs. Come on, I have loads more to show you."

By the time she had gotten back to her room Italyn was tired and her clothes were covered in sweat. Who knew that they had to learn how to fight! And to be put through a lesson on her first day there? Italyn didn't think it was fair but the look Victor had given her. Well, she didn't want to argue with him. But she had learnt so much about the dragonbonds and their home. She had seen the records and stories halls, the dragon eggs, training room, guest quarters, choosing area, and lesson rooms, amongst so many others. The kitchen was a huge area and the smells were so plentyful that she hadn't been able to tell one from another. It was certinally an interesting place. The people were nice too, or at least most of them were. She was afriad of the teachers but some of the other potentials had told her not to worry; so she wouldn't.

Now she curled under the blankets, in a clean nightshirt, quickly slipping into a sleep with dreams of dragons and teachers.

Well then, longer than expected and very informative. The actual action type-stuff will start shortly and the plot of the story will begin to roll as well. Hope you like the chapter though, and I hope it explains some things.

Vulpes: Wow.. I never expected such high praise from a reader. Thanks so much for the positive compliment to my story! .