Prologue: The Astral Princess
Once upon a time, a human princess was ushered into a spaceship with the entire castle staff and any villagers that they met on the way. Their home was being torn asunder by a terrestrial war. Though she was only eight years old, she felt a deep sorrow for not being able to do anything to help the remaining villagers and her own parents. They set a course to the nearest planet with compatible conditions to the one that they left behind, and it wasn't until ten years later that they came across a planet that resembled a swirled, rainbow marble.
When they landed, she insisted on being the first to step out of the ship to breathe in the planet's atmosphere and to judge for herself whether it was suitable for her people. Her clothes and her face were plain. But her curly, white hair reached down to her knees, and her white eyelashes were a striking contrast to her tanned skin. She carried herself in a strong and straight posture, never letting any of her fear she felt inside show on her face, as she stepped down from the ramp. She was immediately hit with a strange static that made her skin tingle. But, the sensation was immediately forgotten as she caught sight of the gigantic, violet dragon that peered down at her.
Chapter 1: Gallant Sindri
An average sized figure walked around the outer skirt of the desert tribe. He was human in form, with the wings, tail, and webbed ears of his dragon ancestors. His dragon features were the color apricot. The golden hair that normally reached down to his waist was currently covered with a hood. Though his pupils were round like a human's, they were a dark orange hue, which barely brought his sunset-hued irises into contrast. His skin was a deep tan. Such was the visage of his kind presently. They called themselves Astral Dragons, as their human and dragon lineage had stabilized into what they now looked like. They called their human mother the Astral Princess, as she had fallen from the sky like a shooting star. The apricot dragon seemed to ignore the blazing heat of the desert sun as he continued to walk.
A lifemate did not magically manifest to become the perfect other half instantly. No, a lifemate was chosen...it had to be someone that you could stand to live with for the rest of your life because, like it or not, a lifetime is a lifetime. Sindri's mind circulated that warning as he trudged back home through dry, coarse sand. That very morning, he had been chosen by his tribe to be their next Gallant. And, ever since then, he had been walking around a close perimeter of the desert in deep thought. These were the kinds of things that young Astral Dragons were taught from the very beginning. Their origins, physical growth, how their society worked. What was that saying? Your entire life flashed before your eyes before you died? Sindri wondered if he was already grieving the death of this uncomplicated stage of his life. He had taken the small peace he had with his mother for granted.
A long time ago, their kind had stubbornly kept to themselves in units divided by their appearances and their terrain. When the Astral Princess crashed onto their planet, everything became a bit shaken up. The tribes forced themselves to interact with one another for the sake of their mixed children and grandchildren until, finally, everyone was free to go from one tribe to another without being ostracized. Each tribe still had a designated leader, but those leaders were now called Sentains. They were respected as elders. And they all answered to one representative that was respected on a worldwide scale...the Solare.
The Solare was a Gallant chosen from one tribe at a time. He or she thrived on the advice of the Sentains and remained in that position for a decade. After every decade, the next Solare was chosen. They alternated tribes and genders so that there would always be a balance. Once a Solare retired, he or she would take the place of the corresponding Sentain of the same tribe. To Sindri, it was almost like a game of musical chairs. The people of the tribes were called Visionaries. They were made up of merchants, crafters, menders, and farmers of all kinds. The Visionaries began the cycle by choosing a Gallant among their youth.
The current Solare was Solare Vitara. She was from the mountain tribe. Sindri was the Gallant of the desert tribe. He had been chosen to become the next Solare. However, it wasn't the immense responsibility of the position that had Sindri fretting so much. As the Solare representative, he was to choose a lifemate among the Gallants of the other tribes. A lifemate could make or break you, as the Solare's right hand. And they would all be male, as the tribes always took the current representative's sexual orientation into consideration. Sindri was heading out to the Middlemost City, which they called the heart of the planet. He was to choose a male Gallant as his lifemate...and become the new Solare.
When he was a child, Sindri had always wondered how the Visionaries chose a Gallant. The other children would whisper amongst themselves their ideas of how it could be. Theories like 'Maybe they choose the person they think will never get married!' would be tossed around. But, the actual ceremony left little for the Visionaries to actively choose. They would perform a ritual dance around a fire with their palms out in front of them. And then, as a group, their hands would lead them to the dwelling that housed the youth to be chosen as representative. Though they had lost much of their ancient, pure magic, the Cited Ceremony was one of the few rituals that still resonated with that kind of power. His mother had quite literally fainted when she saw the entire community pressing their hands against the sides of her house. He was her only child, after all.
"So, we're going to show you off to a room mostly full of men so that they can drool and fight over you?" Ansar asked him, startling the blonde out of his reverie.
Ansar and Sindri had been best friends for a decade. Sindri was grateful that he had asked him to come along with him for moral support. None of the other Gallants had probably even stepped into the desert, so it was nice to have something that reminded him of home. "Something like that..."
The two of them were seated on the only bullet train that connected the dessert to Middlemost City. The colder air inside the train felt amazing to them, as they were used to nothing but heat and fans that only circulated the air instead of making it colder. As the train neared the city, a set of orange and yellow eyes became glued to the window to take in the rich, rolling greens and turquoise blues of the forests and rivers.
"I'm so glad I came for this," Ansar commented excitedly as his beige tail swished from side to side.
"I'm glad that you're enjoying yourself," Sindri responded. "While you can. Remember that you're here to help me, not just to tour the city."
"Yeah, yeah," Ansar conceded with a roll of his yellow eyes. "What kind of best friend would I be if I let a bunch of guys gang rape you."
Sindri knew that he wasn't the most handsome of the desert youth, but he wasn't unpleasant to look at, either. Ansar's jokes about the Gallants fighting over him didn't scare him one bit. But, what if the lifemate he chose was masochistic? Or, worse, what if he was frigid? His mind was so lost on those seemingly insignificant thoughts that he didn't realize that the bullet train had arrived at its destination.
"Come on, let's go!" Ansar called as he walked over to the exit doors.
The apricot dragon took a deep breath and reached out to ruffle the top of Ansar's sandy brown curls with both of his hands. "For good luck," Sindri said as he walked onto the platform. Ansar's laughter rang behind him.