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Stellar

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Stellar last won the day on March 17 2017

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About Stellar

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    Sexycakes

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    Male
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    Gay
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    New Zealand
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    movies, music, gaming, online gaming, writing, finding purpose and meaning in all facets of life

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  1. Stellar

    Recommended stories

    Cassie, thanks for the shout-out. ❤️
  2. Stellar

    Divine Sin

    Oh, I think we indeed do know of two that fit the description Having said that, I'm not sure I'd call what Torsten discovered this chapter a 'prophecy' so much as just as crucial secret known only to the seers. However, it must be noted that the prophecy and this new information are not necessarily mutually exclusive. They very well COULD be, but have you considered the possibility of the prophecy coming true AND the war ending through Araziah and Torsten's efforts? There are many possibilities! Don't discount anything! Glad to see you enjoyed the ancient history lesson. The feel of it should be quite stylised and metaphorical, as it is a mythical retelling at this point.
  3. Stellar

    Divine Sin

    Awesome, thanks for saying so! I aim to keep people thinking, and in suspense.
  4. Stellar

    Divine Sin

    Well, it's certainly possible for dragons to masquerade as people, as we well know, but who says said earth dragon will be willing? Thank you so much for commenting on each chapter! I'm glad you're enjoying it!
  5. Stellar

    Change

    Thanks for commenting and I'm glad you have been enjoying it!
  6. Stellar

    Blood Ties

    Agent Crawley was using dragon blood to 'power up' the glove weapon he created. As you have surmised (and would subsequently see) your comments are completely relevant to why Sebby was there!
  7. Stellar

    A Place For Updates

    Chapter 14 is available!
  8. Stellar

    Divine Sin

    The first thing I noticed when I woke up, was that I was lying on my back. Unusual because I normally slept on my side or my front. Face-up felt weird and a little uncomfortable; unnatural and difficult to get to sleep. Not today, though. The second thing was the realisation that I wasn't alone, and the memory of why. Pressed against my side, right arm draped over my chest, right leg drawn up and across my middle, his head on my shoulder in the crook of the neck, Sebby was cuddled as close as he could be, asleep still, his hair brushing my jawline. I didn't want to move, and the sensation of his touch was so natural and enjoyable that it was astonishing. His body was warm and soft, and the way he was holding me was affectionate, cozy. From where I was currently at, the idea of him being a lover, or even a boyfriend, was not so much a leap, but more like just a step. Not even a big step, either. Reaching over him, taking care not to move much, I plucked my water bottle off the nightstand and took a mouthful to ease the dryness. Settling back, I stared at the ceiling, thinking it over, muted morning light and sound drifting in through the curtain chinks. Boyfriend. There were a few similarities between Theo and Sebby, things that I liked in them both. They had a sense of humour and seemed to enjoy teasing, of the harmless sort, as well as being respectful. They were outsiders within their own kind, though the consequences Theo would have faced went far beyond any exclusion Sebby might experience for being different. Both wanted to pursue me for their own passions, and both were careful in their treatment of me. Why was I so hesitant about Theo? Physical differences aside, I liked him a lot too, but it took me that much longer to let him close. What was it that made me pause? Why was it so much easier to imagine Sebby as a more permanent fixture in my life? Also, why do I keep having giant winged reptiles developing romantic attachments to me? What the hell happened to, like, all the regular human boys? I wasn't sure I had a type, but it sure seemed I fit the interests of at least a couple of supernatural creatures. The world was full of unanswered questions. "Torsten?" A dozy mumble, low and husky. "You're awake." "I am. Did you sleep well?" "Best in a long time." The hand on my chest lightly squeezed my pectoral. "So comfortable, don't want to move." I know how you feel. "What're you thinking about?" He asked. "Just daydreaming," I said, "nothing too important, though I was wondering about something." I thought back to when we met. "You said you'd keep me safe, and you were tracking Araziah. Where were you last night?" "I was there." "You were?!" I blinked, sounding just as surprised as I felt. "I- ... I didn't see you." "I know." He nodded slowly, the movement causing his hair to slide against my skin, tickling. "I didn't want to be seen, so nobody saw me. Well, Araziah maybe knew I was around -- maybe -- but no others." I've never heard of any other dragons doing anything like ... that. "How, and why?!" "How?" He repeated. "It's magic and maybe I will show you later. As for 'why'," he paused to yawn, then pull himself closer, snuggling against me, "well, I was curious to see if Darren would say anything revealing, and he did. That, and I wanted to give Araziah his chance to do the right thing, and for you two to deal with it. If it looked bad, I would have interrupted the second you were in real danger." He took a breath, and the air brushed my collarbone, his voice still with the just-woken-up rasp to it. "Didn't need to though. You're a really good shot. Talented." I wasn't sure if it was because he had complimented me, or respected my independence, or if it was because he had encouraged Araziah to better himself, or if it was simply that he had been out there watching out for me like he said he would, but, it was all a very intense turn-on. Sebby ... Without thinking, I slid my left hand, still under the covers, across his right leg, to between his body and the sheets. Grip in place, I pulled him up, and with little resistance, a surprised Sebby shifted right on top of me. My right arm, freed from where it had been sandwiched between us, was able to join the left and I took the opportunity to enjoy what I was touching. His ass was small but perfectly proportioned; smooth, round, and pillow-soft. "Torsten?" Questioning, unsure, we were chest to chest, face to face. "I know," I smiled, "we'll go slow and be careful, but, you're doing everything right. I want you to know that, and have ... this." Leaning up, I kissed him. Instinctively, his arms rose to glide behind my head, his lips parting as he immediately began to respond, knowing it would be more than last night's offering. He arched his hips a little, his butt pushing out into my hands, his midriff into mine. Our tongues rubbed together in a slow French kiss, his inhibition as strong as his word, and for me, that self-control made it even better. It was short, only a brief sample for a few seconds, but when we broke away, I could tell his heart was thumping rapidly. I could also feel a hardness too, his excitement just as evident as mine. "You are encouraging me." He withdrew his hands, slipping down a short way on my body, so he could rest his arms and chin together on my chest, the covers bunching around his shoulders. There was a flicker of enigmatic laughter in his eyes, and his head tilted as we gazed at each other. "Are you sure this is wise?" Even like this, his appearance was striking and it was impossible to not consciously think about it. The way he presents himself, it's always so glamorous without even trying. He really is ... very attractive, and like Araziah, it's kinda alien. Unearthly. Supernatural. "I dunno," I told him, "I probably don't taste that great. Morning breath is a thing." "I did not notice it." He bit his bottom lip, the tip of his tongue peeking out for just a moment. "If I had, it would not have stopped me." "Well, I'd like to stay in bed with you longer, but I should probably go take a shower, since I didn't have one last night." "That's a pity. Joining you would be a treat -- for both of us." "A treat?" I raised an eyebrow. "Oh, yes. I know all the best ways to delight the boys and girls." The lip-bite was repeated, but now deliberate, serious and heated. "I wonder what your flavour is." Oh my god. Throwing the covers back, I dislodged him with a gentle push and sat up, Sebby coiling into a nimble ball at the foot of the bed. "Not today." I rolled my eyes, but we knew full well that it was in jest, no offence being taken. "I'll be on my own, and you should go out and talk to my mother, because her approval is just as important as mine." "Okay." He nodded, his eyes shining, his happiness at the situation clear. "I will be waiting for you, Torsten." "Good." Scooping up my towel, I retrieved some fresh clothing from the dresser and made my way to the bathroom. I could hear sounds of Mom in the kitchen, already up, and as I stood in front of the cubicle, boxers and shirt coming off while the water heated, I hoped she was going to like him as much as I did. Sebby. It's not going to take much for you to win me over. Not at this rate. The warm spray was a welcome distraction from my thoughts, but only for a moment. Really? Again? It wasn't just because it was morning, but more because of the company I'd left. Rigid, sensitive, and persistent; the hardness wasn't going away until I did something about it. Same thing happened the first time I met him. Though, now I had added inspiration. Hand enveloping it, I closed my eyes, an image in my mind of Sebby on his knees in the shower well. His hair was plastered wet, head moving back and forth, hands on my hips and lips wrapped firmly around my erection as he proved his word. -o-0-O-0-o- When I entered the kitchen, Mom and Sebby were sitting at the table, having just finished eating. The smell of eggs and hash browns was still in the air, and he was removing the last traces of the meal, delicately wetting each fingertip before wiping his hands on a napkin. I didn't fail to notice, my mind still caught up in the shower's delicious imagery, though I quickly put it out of mind. "Did you want anything?" Mom asked. "I only made enough for two, 'cause you said you were meeting Lucy." "It's okay. I will be, in a few minutes. Just wanted to see if you'd slept well." "I'm fine, honey." She sipped her coffee. "Today, I'm going to clean up the mess those thugs left in my room. The agent said to send him a bill for the damage and the he would make sure it was covered, so that's what I'm going to do with the rest of the morning. Did you have anything planned in town?" "Not really. We'll probably just waste some time until she's interrogated me as much as she can." She snorted. "Oh, I bet. What about you?" She directed the next question to Sebby. "What will you be doing?" "Leaving, very shortly. There's some business the Order wants help with, and I should see to that." His eyes flicked between us rapidly, and he gave a curious half-smile, his attention returning to me. "In fact, I think now is as good a time as any to leave, though I did say I might show you some magic. So, how about it? Would you both like a show?" "Really?" She put down her coffee cup. "Of course! I'd love to see." "Excellent." His smile widened, and he stood. "Follow me." We trailed him out the rear door into the backyard, where he stopped, turning to face us in the mid-morning sunlight. His appearance was again as well-groomed and smart as it had been outside of my bedroom, the hair and cut of his clothing so well presented that there wasn't a thread out of place. Regardless, I was having a difficult time ignoring the memory of his skin under my hands and our kisses, but that was reined in when he spoke again. "Earlier, you asked me how I could avoid being seen. In truth, it's really easy. Each of the four elements has an aptitude; a type of magic that is the primary focus. For air, it is illusion. Misdirection, deception, stealth, hallucinations; our greatest strength is to be where others think we are not, and to not be wherever they strike. So," he concluded, "would you like to see what I really look like?" "But, w-wait," I sputtered, alarmed, "it's the middle of the day, the neighbours w-" "-will not see anything," Sebby finished my sentence, "because I do not wish them to." With that, he dramatically snapped his fingers, and transformed. My jaw dropped. The creature that sat in our yard was, in terms of size, a grade above not just Araziah but also Theo. Even resting, his body relatively compact, the wings tucked close, Sebby was probably as large as our entire house, and took up almost all of the free ground space. Where the fire dragons were a balance between physical strength and agility, this one was lighter and elegant. His torso and neck were sleeker, tail longer, wings slightly more expansive in proportion to the rest of him. His horns and the coating of his scales appeared more seamless than I remembered Araziah's being, and it was as if his whole body was streamlined, smoothed over, graceful and serpentine and subtle in contrast to the aggressive uncompromising boldness of the fire type. It wasn't just the shape of him, though. From front to back, head to tail, wingtip to wingtip, the dragon Sebakâli was a moving statue of gleaming platinum. Each minute twist of a limb, shift of a flank, stretch of a wing; it all sent light glittering off his scales, diffuse visual patterns spraying across the two dumbstruck humans witnessing him. He was from a fairytale or a dream, less real than an artist's rendering; something from the imagination. Magical. His head lowered, coming closer, nudging up against us. Your neighbours are unaware. His personality was clear in the tone of his vocal projection, just as Theo's had been. When I wish it, no eye sees me, no lens captures me, no senses detect my presence. It was strange to hear a soft cultured voice come from such an enormous creature, even more so given his human appearance was, for lack of a better word, small. The human mind looks around me, through me, past me, as if I were truly invisible. Fire, water and earth; most of them may also be misled, though the wise and adept are harder to fool entirely. Next to me, I felt Mom move, her reaction awestruck. She reached out, touching the side of Sebby's head without invitation. He did not react in any negative way, and instead, he slowly turned, angling so more of that side was exposed, allowing her to pet him. Watching them, my heart skipped a beat; her fingers trailed over the scaling on his upper jaw, the silvery ridges under his eye socket, and I couldn't resist either. Imitating her, I touched him, my fingers contacting the chromatic surface of Sebby's real form. Incredible. His right eye watched us, the slitted pupil white, the iris misty grey. Mom was lost in her own experience, but when I caught Sebby's attention, it stayed on me. My hand went higher, just short of the eyelid itself, and I laid my palm flat. We gazed at each other, him and I. You're amazing. I wanted to say it out loud, but I couldn't. Whether because Mom was right next to me, or I just wasn't brave enough to speak it, I wasn't sure. Why are fantastic beings like you so interested in me? You can do what I can't imagine, you're beautiful and powerful and kind, and you still treat me like ... royalty. I'm a nobody. Just a kid. But you? You're a work of art. "They won't notice you, like this?" It was Mom's question. "You can come and go as you please?" Not without care, but yes. I fly free, unhampered by prying eyes. After all, to chase my kin is to bite at the clouds, claw at the winds. His head lifted away, and he stretched upright, his neck arching, eyes staring down at us. I will return soon, when I can, I promise. I wish to see more of you both. His wings snapped open, their span passing easily over both neighbouring properties. Until then. With a single leap, he was twenty feet up, and with one beat of the wings, then a second, he was rising. The force of the moving air so close to the ground was a sudden gale, buffeting the surrounding houses momentarily. When he reached about a hundred feet up, as we were watching, he seemed to vanish, slipping beyond my notice, the spectacle of his appearance fading into the sky itself. Gone. Around us, I would have expected the entire neighbourhood to be freaking out, his ascent being in view of hundreds or potentially thousands of Mirrorvale's residents. Yet, nothing. Across the street, a dog was barking. Four houses down, somebody was mowing their lawns. It was just another day. "So that's Sebby, huh?" Mom hugged me from the side, her arms around my chest. "The same one that kissed you when he met you, and that slept in your bed last night?" "Uh, I- ... y-yeah." "It's not something I'd say about men often, but he's very pretty. Almost to the point of effeminate. A bit of a showboat too." She hummed, thoughtful. "Mmm. Maybe a little self-absorbed, though I like his manners and he is respectful." "I- ... um," I stumbled, failing completely in my response. "I'd say he passes. You've got my permission." She let go and began to walk inside. Permission? To what, 'date' him?! "Uh ... Mom! Wait! You know he's a-" "Torsten." Mom paused at the door, her expression chiding skepticism. "I literally just saw what he really is. Remember, I don't care, so long as you're happy. Besides, is he that different? He has emotions like us, he eats, he sleeps, and I guess when he's in his human skin, all the bits are in working order?" She smirked, and I was colouring from the implication. "Your science curriculum covered anatomy, didn't it? I'll let you figure it out, I've got some bloodstains to clean and a new lock-set to order. Oh, and don't keep Lucy waiting!" With that, she was inside, her parental torture done. Mom, seriously. But ... Lucy! She was right, I really didn't want to keep Ms Atkinson waiting. Wasting no further time, I was inside too, just long enough to pull on some socks and shoes, grab my jacket, then out the front door and off to town. -o-0-O-0-o- As I told my mother, Lucy and I didn't get up to anything really noteworthy in town. We met up, then spent the better part of half an hour just killing time in the shops. Then it was to the mall foodcourt, for some junk food and Starbucks. Caramel mocha was fine for me, but she ordered a venti white chocolate monstrosity with enough added extras to instantly turn a grown man diabetic. Our conversation up until that point had been harmless and normal. It was a very black-and-white contrast to what had happened over the last few days, last night especially, but the moment we found a quite table, I knew the avoidance of the elephant in the room was about to end. "So." She stirred her sucrose abomination with a casual swirl of her wrist, then stuck a glob of the foam in her mouth. "Your mom filled me in on, well, just about everything." "I figured." "Theo, huh? That's ... really shitty." "Yeah." I sighed. "I know, but can we not? Everyone keeps reminding me, and I just want to- ... to ... let him go. Yes, I liked him. Yes, it kinda hurts to think about. Yes, I'm sad that he's gone, and no, I'm not going to forget about him soon. I want to remember him, but ... I don't want people to keep bringing it up." "Fair point." She held up her hands in a solemn acceptance. "I won't badger you about it, though has anyone ever told you your family adjusts to trauma like a bunch of fuckin' pros?" She leaned in a little, and tapped my forehead, and I frowned at her. "You and your mom bounce back so fast. Nerves of steel, dude." Mom, maybe. Me? I'm not so sure. I shrugged. "I mean, didn't you shoot a bunch of those Scourge guys full of arrows?" She took a mouthful of hot candy-caffeine, and nodded approvingly. "I dunno, if I had an entourage of freaky-ass minions coming at me with knives? It'd be Lucy steak for dinner, or whatever. Facing that takes balls." "I guess." "Speaking of which, when were you going to tell me? You promised me front row tickets!" "If I remember correctly, I promised you if I had those feelings for any boy I'd say something." I gave her my best lawyer's defence. "If it hasn't escaped your notice, they aren't boys, they're-" "Oh no you don't." She hissed it, somehow managing to lower the volume but also increase the intensity at the same time. "No semantics. Theo was male, and that's the point here, so you ca- ... wait. WAIT. Did you say 'they'? As in, the plural 'they'?" "I, uh, wasn't m-" "No. No no. You definitely meant the plural." Her mind was in overdrive, the cogs turning at warp speed, her commentary coming rapid-fire. "So who? Only two options. Can't be one of them. That'd be super awkward right now. The other? New guy. Extremely cute. So adorable it's sickening." Her eyes narrowed. "Torsten. You were late getting here and you're almost never late. You had a guest, did you? Did he stay over last night? Your mom's room was a mess. I saw it. She was obviously going to use the spare." Lucy closed for the kill, having answered her own questions as she went. "The couch? Nah, not his style. Fresh sort, not a couch-crasher. I can tell. Where'd he sleep?" "I ... uh," I tried, but it was too late. My lack of an immediate categorical denial was all the proof required, and she was on it like a ravenous shark after blood. "Oh my GOD." Her eyes were saucers. "With YOU?! That twinky piece of vanilla slice was sleeping in your bed?" She bit her knuckle to stop from squealing, so hard I could see the teeth-marks on her finger. "Yes, he WAS. Hooooly shit. You had his perfect little rear at your tender mercy all night. I'm impressed, and surprised. He has the lips of an angel, and the ass of a total uke." "Lucy, for fuck's sake, we didn't do anything!" I was trying to keep from raising my voice but it wasn't easy with her excitement constantly escalating it. "Just sleep, nothing else, and what the fuck is an uke? I don't know what your weird yaoi terms mean." "Uke. Y'know, a bottom boy. Just like Scarlet Sephiroth is definitely a seme -- that's a top. So suave and so assertive, I bet he could fuck like a porn star." Scarlet Sephiroth? Is she talking about Araziah?! "You have such a one track mind." I rolled my eyes. "Araziah isn't interested in sex, and he's definitely not interested in me. Not every halfway attractive guy is going to fit into the neverending mission to make hot dudes bang each other for your own personal enjoyment. You know this, right?" "Okay, frivolous matters of self-gratification aside," she did a girly swish of her shoulder, as if to rhetorically brush off the unwanted conversation subject, "are you sure? Because the way he was looking at you last night wasn't totally platonic. You can't deny, I am really good at picking up this stuff. I know what to look for. I know the way guys act when they're trying to subconsciously scope one another out. I also know that look of kinda-sorta-maybe that floats around in their eyes when they're liking what they see but can't really admit it, because I've seen that look all over you like waaay too many times to count. Considering I just had it finally confirmed that my best friend is gay -- and I am so fucking happy about that, you have no idea, oh my GOD ­­-- I'd say I know what I'm talking about. Track record is speaking for itself right now." "Well, you're wrong about him. Even if you were right, didn't you call him the weird option earlier? Because it would be weird." "It might be he doesn't understand it yet, because he is really young and all that stuff probably doesn't matter to him, just like sex doesn't really mean much when you're like ... a ten year old kid, but ... I'm certain there's something there." She shrugged. "Just sayin'." She has a point, though I don't think comparing a dragon that's maturing super-fast to a human child is the right way to think about it. Whatever the case was, it was indeed a very weird thought to be having, and I wanted to distract her with something else. The most foolproof way possible. "So, uh," I cleared my throat, "I may have been understating it when I told you we didn't do anything, because, um ... 'lips of an angel'? Eheh. Yeah." She froze. Her jaw fell open, and it looked like I had fried her brain. "You- ... and he-" "Uh, a-yep." I nodded. "We did." Her eyes glazed a little, and she smiled dreamily, the mania successfully killed by diversionary tactics. "That is one beautiful image." With one hand she lifted her confectionary nectar to take a genteel sip, entirely serene, and with the other she reached out and put her hand on mine and gave a squeeze. "I'm so proud of you. You're taking your first steps into the wider world. Now, we're going to sit here and enjoy this coffee break, and you're going to tell me all about this glorious incident in exquisite detail. Don't leave out a thing." I chuckled, then sighed. The funny part was, even though it was a red herring, the admission was willing. Her enthusiasm and interest in my love life came from a place of genuine care about my happiness. Despite the obsession, like my mom, she wanted what was best for me, and if there was one person to share how it made me feel, it was her. Just maybe, I kinda sorta wanted to tell her about it. So, we sat there, drank our coffee, and I told her everything she wanted to hear. -o-0-O-0-o- My decision to return to Triskeleth when I returned home from town, was as basic as the thoughts stirred up about my life from the day's interactions. Sebby, my mother, Lucy; they had all made me think about what was going on in ways that I wasn't typically used to. Following the traumatic experience of the Scourge's attack the previous day, I was realising I needed to be more proactive about finding answers and changing the situation. Going to someone who had the ability to see into the future was the intelligent way to deal with it. Returning to her was as easy as following the instructions she gave previously; hold the sapphire, recall her voice and I would find my way. It took only moments of concentration, the shift in consciousness happening with more speed than the first time. Within seconds I was there in her grove, and she was sitting in the exact same place, the scene unchanged, as if I had never left. "Ah, Torsten." Already watching me, Triskeleth was prepared for my arrival. "There you are. I was expecting you. Today you come with many questions and a desire for definitive knowledge." She gestured me closer, indicating again to sit. "Your first will be where this place is and why we are here, then you will ask about how Darren connects us, before we get to ... more pertinent matters." "You really are a seer." I sat on the stone bench, the butterflies scattering for a moment due to my closeness, before reforming into their orbiting cloud. "That's where I was going to start." "Yes." She gave a nod of genial humour, then glanced about the grove; peaceful, quiet, isolated. "It seems like an earthly garden, but in a physical sense it does not exist. What you see is entirely in my mind, and everything you perceive is a representation or an expressed concept. We can interact through the physical conduit that is the scale I gifted your grandfather, which has allowed a measure of psychic connection. The truth is I am many miles separated from you in the mundane, and in no condition to speak. This place is my only refuge; a fastness that I hide within, while my body is ... indisposed." "Indisposed?" "Confined is perhaps the better word to use. Quiet your thoughts for a moment and feel." The seeress waved in a circular motion, indicating outward. "What do you sense beyond this thicket?" Sense? I did as she asked, emptying my head, relaxing, letting myself take it in. For a few seconds, nothing, and then, with a subtle pulse, there it was. In the middle distance, not too far outside the boundaries of the grove, I could detect something. Something dark. It was a dome, a barrier of blackness, with nothing outside. The exterior had vanished, wiped from existence, as empty as the vacuum of space. There was no obvious sign of movement, but I could still tell that the bubble was, very slowly, shrinking inward. "What is that?" "An instrument of torture at work. They are using a magical device called a mind clasp, that clamps the consciousness in place and shrinks the neural perception of reason and sanity, eating away at it. The process is gradual and slow, for though the psychic ruin of infernal magic might be swift upon the human, a dragon of the ocean is another matter." She straightened, a prideful contempt showing in her stature. "We are students of knowledge and our minds are hardy. I do not yield quickly. My core is a fortress of ice." "But ... when you do yield?" "When I do, I will be lost in an infinite void of maddening darkness. It will render me dangerously insane, I will break, and then they will extract from my shattered mind the one thing they cannot acquire anywhere else: a direct translation of the ancient binding used upon their dead god." She was calm as she spoke, not batting an eyelid at the complete evil of what she was saying. "Then, finally, they will be done, and my life, at last, shall come to mercy." That is ... horrible. "Is there a way out?" I stared, aghast. "Something to stop them?" "You remind me of Terry. You have his compassion." She smiled, but it was gone too quickly. "No, for me, it is written. I knew my end well before now, but you? They do not know. Do not tell them, Torsten, under any circumstance. They believe you are another pawn, and they are gravely mistaken. You are more than they realise." More? "It was Darren who found me," Triskeleth continued, "and caused my capture. I had a vision of four brothers and the unique skills they brought, and though the identities of the middle two were confused in my understanding, your recent input clarified it. He is able, through touching a bodily article or personal effect or some kind, to know the exact position of the owner. My scale was all he required to locate me. The other, Nero; he can force a victim to sleep also through touching them, and the youngest, the one you knew as Theo? Similarly, he could absorb information from a repository of knowledge, such as a book or similar recording, by physical contact. If he had so much as laid a finger on your grandfather's writings, he would have instantaneously learned all of it. How this may have affected his intentions and desires, I cannot say. The futures of paths not taken are dim and they fade, but it easily could have become catastrophic." Theo ... "Uh, you said four?" I managed. "The eldest, who is he?" "His name and his skill are clouded. He is ... important, but I know little more. What I can say is that he is the sire of a great house and the mastermind of their efforts. He is perhaps the single most crucial individual of the Conclave's leadership. What is also remarkable is the role of his house in history and the uncommon significance of its ancestry. Any dragon of the Seventh is destined for greater consequence than most others. Their progenitor and prophecy are bound inseparably, and it is through that bloodline that everything begins and ends." So, it all comes back to the prophecy and Seventh House, the one that Theo and his brothers come from, and also, apparently ... Araziah. What did Darren say again, that Araziah was the 'spawn of Kitrax' or something like that? "Tell me." I insisted, demanding but not impolite. "Celeste didn't give details. What exactly does the prophecy say?" "You may read it," she said, "for yourself." With a flourish of her right hand in front of us, the butterflies dissolved into patterns of blue light, that twisted into lines of glowing text in the air, composed by an invisible pen. It was short, with two verses, but legible and written in plain English. In the time of the Ninth Age, it will begin. To the venerable line of the Seventh House, During the grand divide of the Fifth Era, As the waning days of the Third Season come, A child is born of fate. Through the trials and conflicts of lesser kin, The Spirit is remade into that new flesh. From the pieces of Fear and the Words Reversed, The Lord of Flame is whole, unshackled and unbroken, And all the world shall know it. "You can see, there are two parts to it. The first describes the birth of the dragon that will become the avatar for the god reborn." "What are those numbers referring to? I mean, the Seventh House, I understand that, but the rest of it -- Ninth Age, Fifth Era, Third Season -- they're time references?" She nodded. "The prophecy was made according to their reckoning of history, which, due to isolation, has become separated from the lore kept by the rest of us. Their calendar structure is unusual, but we have come to deduce what the time intervals represent. An age is the longest measurement, stretching many thousands of years. Simple enough. Then, one age is split into seven eras, themselves at least a millennium a piece. Still, rather simple. Finally, we come to the only part that has caused doubt. The era is further divided into three seasons, though we do not really know how long each is, and this has created debate." "They must be centuries, at least." "Yes. The best guesses put a season at somewhere from 350 to 400 years duration. So, along with espionage of the Conclave's communications in more recent times, we have learned that the third season of the fifth era ended, and the sixth era began, at some point in your 1950s. Combine that with the prophecy stating the avatar was born in the 'waning days', indicating the season's latter half, and the age has to be at minimum 70 and maximum 270 years old." I made a face. "Isn't that kind of ... not very specific?" "For humans, that range is broad, but you must remember, dragons live long lives and the Seventh House has only a limited group of possible candidates to fulfil the prophecy. That approximation is more precise than you might think, but not so much that the Order can conclusively know the true identity." Someone like Theo was too young, but what about Nero, Darren, and their oldest brother? Maybe one of them fits the range. It could be somebody else in their extended family too, I suppose. "Okay, the second part makes sense, it's talking about the Fear and the banishment being removed to restore the dead god to life, but why is this always about the Seventh House? Why are they so important? Can't you just tell me?" "Oh, I could," breathed the seeress, the butterflies reconstituting briefly before they broke again into a swirl of light that played around her right hand, "but words do scant justice. Now comes the most salient aspect of my teaching, and to understand the lesson, you must experience it, as only the seers before you have." Her eyes glowed blue, the magic of water jittering excitedly at her fingertips. With a sudden sweep of her arm, the hand was upon my forehead, the glare flooding my eyes. "See, and believe." -o-0-O-0-o- It began when the gods drew forth a portion of their essence, and into it was delivered the animation of soul. Thus, in each elemental quarter, the raw material of form ungoverned was filled with the everlasting mystery of life. An egg. Lines are breaking across it, fissures in the surface as it nears the time of hatching. In his children, the Spirit of Fire placed heart and resolve, and the firstborn were the foremost of his creations; symbols of his will made manifest. Seven there were, and thenceforth, seven lords and houses begotten. A cluster of eggs, all cracking with the tremours of birth. Antiris the Chosen, the First; he was the primary, and the original lieutenant of his father. The oldest hatchling, a child, a youth, a grown drake; courageous, incisive, sharp-minded, amber and yellow. Varakoth the Faithful, the Second; loyal to the core, dutiful and noble. Bulwark of brown and red, wings holding in blunt defiance, a sentinel always. Yothmorug Blackbane, the Third; a warden of light, the defence against the dark. Wine dim, black-clawed, clever and knowing, a lively presence, gifter of flame in the night. Falmath Icebreaker, the Fourth; a terrible affliction on the Tempest's kind. Proud, eager, foe of cold, iron-ochre imbued; heat upon the floes, steam and mist. Ushgorim the Ashbringer, the Fifth; warrior of the greatest skill, barring but one. Crimson chest and back but naught else, uneven hue from rust jaw to sunset tail; bold, fierce, strong. Irofex Ever-False, the Sixth; self-servant, intriguer, cunning, ruthless, and cruel. Fast, ebony-scaled, sheen of bloodied purple, wrathful, malicious, a changer of ways, a silent chaos. Last of all, Xajarkith the Brilliant, the Seventh; champion of the flame without equal, a masterful exemplar of his father's power and grace. A flash of light, a gleam of coat, a crest of gilded horn; majesty winged and crowned. Long they served their father and kept faith, and in turn, their broods grew strong and multiplied. The world knew peace, but the time of watchful balance was coming to an unforeseen finish. A shadow had come to the Spirit's soul, a furtive gnawing degeneration that would forever scar his purpose. The lords did not know of the madness growing in their father's heart. After, it would be claimed that he did not choose the betrayal, but had it forced upon him by his sister. Ultimately, accusation and argument became secondary to the inescapable doom. The call to warfare came, the lords answered it, and battle was joined. Forest and plain, land and sea; jets of fire and ice collide, wings atwirl, throated cries of anger and fury. The children of the Spirits come to blows, and they struggle everywhere in service to the grim wishes of the divine. At first, the Spirit of Fire was supreme. Water is resilient, but Fire is the agent of creation and destruction; the forge that drives change and brings renewal. His power was within his lords, and their prowess was peerless; for the dominion of flame is the purest expression of strife, and holds mastery over conquest and war. Upon the field of combat, in open contention there was no equal, and each victory begat another victory, and the end seemed near. Yet, the ascendancy was temporary, as Water was joined by Air, and the relief given by her sister brought the conflict into equilibrium. A hurricane arriving from the mountains, howling winds and lightning flashing. Finally, their brother, last of the four, beloved and closest of Fire's siblings, was roused. Unable to ignore the fight any longer, he chose to forsake the heart. Earth joined his sisters and fought against that which was dearest to him. The battle became a war of the gods, and in their clashing, the heavens were wracked by the violence of it. The storm of the elements; dragons below, a lesser fight. Above, a conflagration of fire, frost, rock, wind. Colossal shapes are lost in a maelstrom of hail and sleet, whirling fires, columns of churning rock, jagged spires of lightning and vicious cutting strikes from the air itself. Ocean and continent are upheaved; boiling magma, choking clouds of dust and ash, glacial comets, mountains split asunder. The conflict raged, the lords fighting with all the ferocity their father displayed, but it was to no avail. Antiris was the first to fall, defeated by Tiranî, the ephemeral blade of the sky goddess. In a roaring cry, a blur of saffron, torn by a zephyr of energy, collapses; the emblematic banner of his god falling with him. Falmath and Yothmorug followed, brought low by a combined vanguard of ice and rock. Copious flame in roiling constant streams is cut short, buried in a landslide of glacier and earth, a dozen foes about them. Varakoth would not retreat, faithful to the end, until the traitor Irofex abandoned him, sacrificing his brethren to preserve himself. The bastion of defence, solid and tremendous, rained upon and railed against by a score of assailants; cracking, crumbling, howling in pain. Darkened eyes, black wings, a shadow of departure leaves in treachery; the cause lost, the future perilous. Only two lords remained, with all their kind slain or routed, but they were spared further struggle. The ending was nigh, and their lesser fight was but a mirror of the greater. For it was done, the war completed, and their father was struck down by the other three. A gigantic blazing meteor crashes into the soil, the impact a shock of stone and a nova of fire for countless leagues. Triumphant, a blizzard soars over the body, wings of chill touching the horizons, her words frozen starlight, cold and distant. His brother made to leave, recognising the end, but Xajarkith could not forsake their father even in defeat. Mourning, he lingered, believing the kingdom was fallen, until he beheld the Tempest's voice and the weaving of her enchantment; a binding that would banish a god. In this moment, a choice was made. Claws grasping, closing about a scaled fragment, a dragon's grip tightens. From the corpse, he took a token, in this act saving his father from an eternity of bodiless damnation. The two then fled together, seeking the remainder of their kindred. As they stopped for brief respite, there came suddenly a fresh host of foes, and there was no rest to be had. They were hunted, with the servants of the Tempest seeking to waylay the Fear and take it from his possession. A dozen dozen wings; sky and ocean, moving without pause, intent and decisive. Two opposing, the last strength of a Spirit all but cast into the abyss. There, Xajarkith gave Ushgorim the fragment, and bade him retreat, saying unto him with a mystic foresight gleaned through the prescience of nearing death: "Brother, I have glimpsed the future in the eyes of our advancing enemy. It is your charge to bear our hopes, as it is mine to halt their approach. In a time long to come, my own blood will arise and redeem us. Our sullied honour will be restored, and the grand deception of Water will be revealed and ended. Go! Fly fast and do not return!" One opposing remains. A single dragon he is, the mightiest mortal creature to live. The Brilliant, champion of a dead god outnumbered a hundred-fold. From tip to tail, a symphony of light; gold of scale fully clad but for two seams of purest red, gold of claw and gold of eye. Thrice the size of the largest challenger, he draws all to him, and in ropes of glowing magic and sheets of the hottest flame, he ensnares, striking and rending with all the fury of a cornered titan. None are allowed to pass him in pursuit of his brother, and it is four dozen kills before he slows, and six dozen before he falters. Even as the adversary overwhelms him through numbers, he does not cease. There is no point of surrender, and it is only when a hundred fangs and claws are breaking into the very kernel of his vitality, that his fight is over. So it was that Xajarkith died. The Ashbringer took guardianship of the Fear, beginning the long struggle over its control. Two high priests of the Tempest, in that time of the firstborn, were gifted divine vision. With their eyes of foresight, she instructed they look to what fate the Fear would bring. A prophecy was made, and it was not as the Spirit of Water wished, for they saw the return of her brother from death. Yet, the first seers saw further than their goddess knew, with a perception that pierced the tangled skeins of the war. They knew what Xajarkith had known in his moment of perfect understanding before death. The Spirit of Fire had come to insanity, but, beyond that, hidden in trickery, was the Spirit of Water's own sin. They passed down, generation to generation, seer to seer, a secret truth that only those with foresight could know: a son of the Seventh House and a seer of the Tempest would end the war and in so doing, defy the gods. Together, they could succeed. Apart, the world would suffer devastation untold. -o-0-O-0-o- Her hand was pulling back from my face, the glow fading, magic dying away. "What?!" I spluttered, trying to formulate words. "This- ... this is real, and nobody else knows?" "Nobody else." She said. "Just you and I." "How did he go crazy? What was it -- her sin? Did she- ... do something to him? Do the other two know what happened?" "Only the Spirits can answer those thoughts. All I know is what I showed you, no more than that. It was the same history lesson passed down to me from the seer before, and so forth, in a retelling far older than your oldest civilisation." Triskeleth's expression was sad, tired, and she looked away, her eyes following the bubbling stream that flowed through her mind, by our feet. "We dare not ask any greater questions, for though I love my lady through and through -- how can I but love our mother? -- an admission of such knowledge would surely evoke a wrath from her too great to weather. Torsten, if you are ever to meet her, show all the respect you must, but do not blindly trust what you see and hear, and be very careful what you say. The Tempest is helping the Order because their interests align, but I cannot know her mind any more than I can know that of the other gods. It hurts me to speak contrary to my goddess, but, well, you saw it. Just as you saw how Xajarkith really was." Xajarkith. Not a power-hungry zealot trying to resurrect an insane deity. Courageous, noble, honest, loyal. Unlike the Conclave of today. "He was ... a hero. Nothing like his descendents." "Yes, and all the fire dragons worship him almost as much as they do their father. To them, he is an icon of everything they believe they should be. They glorify his strength, his ability, his power, his dominance and dedication. Revered as a legend who committed self-sacrifice to preserve the dead god, when in truth, he wanted to fix the corruption and restore balance. Did you notice, by the way, just how much Xajarkith resembled a certain someone you know well?" Araziah, but gold and red, instead of ... red and gold. "Yeah, they looked just about identical. Is- ... is he really going to end up that big? It was kinda hard to tell ratios and stuff, but compared to the dragons attacking him, Xajarkith was ... huge." "Yes. Araziah is destined to match the progenitor of the Seventh House" She nodded. "He certainly has an ego, but his understanding of what he will become is not exaggerated. He is the one Xajarkith saw, and if anybody could challenge the Conclave, he has the best chance. Unfortunately, there is also a danger here, and this is where we come to you. Specifically, what you must do." Do? What must I do? "Since we met, these last few days I have had many visions of you, and those near you. He made a decision to reject the Conclave and help you, and that choice was extremely important, as it signalled a willingness to reject the most base influence of the mad god. Yet, I do not know why, but that pressure on him has not stopped and if anything, is stronger. The risk has diminished, but it still exists, because the Spirit of Fire can feel the souls of his children from the shadow realm. Araziah is a magnificent prize and I do not doubt he has been noticed and targeted. Turning a would-be challenger into an ally, willing or not, is exactly what the dead god craves. Even if it were something as superficially helpful as Araziah embracing his destructive impulses to destroy the Conclave, it could still be disastrous. I am speaking of any eventuality where his control snaps. He might enslave your friends and family, kill at whim, destroy as he pleases and burn whatever gets in the way. The counterweight to this, is YOU." "Me? How?" "Be the stability in his life. Be reason when madness whispers into his soul. Most of all, you must guide him, and to do that, you need to know the path. As the seer, you can walk before him, and lead him. So, you must prepare yourself to receive my power." Before I could respond, she touched her left hand to her chest, and there was a sound, a weird muted zzss-chiioo of magic, like a muted sizzling thunderclap. Grimacing, she pulled her hand away and through the skin, clinging to her fingers, was emerging an orb. Perfectly spherical, it looked like a Christmas ornament made of smokey glass, except for the unnatural way the air inside seemed to blur and shift. I was about to ask what this thing was, when she nimbly passed it to her right hand, her upper body twisting as she leaned closer to me, then in a jolt of sudden movement slammed the orb against my chest. "Uh-ghh!" It didn't shatter like I was expecting, but went straight through my shirt and into my body with a lower pitched ssshh-ooop tone. Cold as ice, I shuddered and gasped from the shock, breathing heavily and directing my confusion at Triskeleth. "What the hell?! What'd you do to me?" "Normally, a water dragon would weave their own personal magical structure to hold the gift of foresight, but you? You are deficient in that regard." Wry, her eyebrow was raised, and her words felt somehow insulting, even though I knew she was stating a basic fact. "Since you are incapable, I have given you mine. I will not need it much longer. When they kill me, the power will depart my body and seek out the new seer. If you are not properly prepared to house it inside you, it will disperse until you are, and this will delay you, at minimum, five years. Six, perhaps, depending on how fast it accumulates to the appropriate level." "Five years?" I shook my head. "I don't think we have five months, or even five weeks!" "Precisely. That is why you must be ready." She gestured to the spot where the orb had disappeared. "For that structure to carry the power, it needs to be fortified. To achieve this, the four elements must fuse with it, and bond into the shell. A magical reagent for each is required." "Like what?" "Like dragon scale, or anything similar that has magical properties." Triskeleth sat back again, clasping her hands in front. "Water is already waiting for you; the sapphire that came from my coat. You are lucky. Air and fire follow you eagerly, and they will gift you what you need. The problem, I believe, will be the fourth. Earth. "Uh, where am I meant to find an earth dragon at short notice? Assuming I do, how am I mean to persuade them to, y'know, give me one of their scales?" "I don't know, and it isn't something I should help you with." She deadpanned, her eyes gleaming. "Earth dragons are reclusive and not fond of human company, as a general rule. This ritual is formidable even for a water dragon aspirant, and the difficulty is intentional. You must prove your worthiness, but ... fear not. Araziah will apply himself to your trial with zest, as will the fey princeling who is so taken with winning your affections." Princeling? She means Sebby. Uh, just how much of our interactions has Triskeleth seen? Hopefully not all of it. I'd love for what goes on in my bedroom to stay private. Brushing the thought aside, I went on. "Even so, I don't know where to start." "Oh, Torsten. Yes, you do," she chided, "because the key has been in your keeping all along. Your grandfather did research into this sort of thing. You keep forgetting about it, or putting off examining it. You've wasted plenty of time protecting his work without actually reading any of it. I know your life has had a great deal of turmoil in the last few weeks, and you are navigating it as best you are able, but now you must stop reacting and start acting. Like Terry, like your mother, you have an enduring spirit. The qualities to be what you need to be exist within you already." She grasped my arm, and her look softened along with her voice. "So go out there, and prove it." "I, uh ... thanks, Triskeleth." I looked down, touching my chest where the orb had been placed, thoughtful, then back to her. "Will I see you again?" "You will. One more time," she told me, gentle but certain, "before the end." -o-0-O-0-o- In the dusk sky over the forest near Mirrorvale, a dragon cruised, searching for the location that he knew was below. In the patchwork of trees and open land, with its bouts of foliage and field mixed, his target was a particular one. With the eagle eyes of binocular vision, he saw it, even amid the dimming light of the day's finish. Gliding lower, the adult's wings beat heavily, and he thumped onto the earth, little care given for a more precise landing. Ambling nearer on all fours, he paused in front of a section of bare ground. It was burned grass, the residue of ash days old, scattered and mostly dissipated. Leaning down, his forelimbs compressing, head lowering, he sniffed, lower jaw scraping the dusted soil, inhaling, detecting its composition. There. He could smell it. Not just the scent of Theo mixed with the charred film of an intense flame, but that of the treasonous reprobate who had murdered him. Sacrilege. So, this is it. Where he took you from us, little brother. Darren rose, neck straightening, and his glare down at the pyre site was one of baleful hatred. In a tic of fury, he flicked his head to the right and let go a raging gout of flame, a stretch of grass blanketed in fire. He will pay for his crime! Behind, there was the swish of air and rapidly approaching wings, and he turned to see two younger fire dragons land. They transformed immediately, and he followed suit. The pair were women, smartly dressed and colour-coordinated in deep reds and slate. "Why Darren, you are making quite the scene." The one with long steel-grey hair tied back spoke first; median height, athletic, voice and eyes as unfeeling and flippant as the twin beside her. "A fire at night will draw attention." "My uncle’s daughters," he sneered, "the intractable Ash Sisters. When your own siblings are slaughtered by an upstart, you can speak to me of moderation." "Oh, Kaia, I think you touched a nerve," the other murmured, gently shaking her head. She was shorter than the first by a fraction of an inch, her cut a stylish bob. "Retract your fangs, cousin. Your wounded pride is misplaced. Thyndorag’s softness was not your error, and our presence is not for mockery." "Then why did you follow me here? Are you not meant to be at the sanctuary?" "No. The Fifth House relieved us. They guard it and keep the seeress secured." Kaia's attention wandered over the scorched grass in idle curiosity as she spoke, before returning directly to Darren. "Faye and I were summoned along with Nero. He was keen to involve himself again, but he gave us leave to find and aid you until his course of action is fully decided." The concept of Nero showing any kind of tactical restraint was an aberration so bizarre as to be amusing, but Darren ignored the implication. "Is it you two alone, or did all three of Smoke-touched’s spawn come to irritate me?" "Fret not, our brother is here too." Faye informed Darren. "Not right here, but the prince did come to this wretched cesspool of a town with us. Let us say this, dear cousin. Hate us all you like for our honesty, for saying that Thyndorag was but a weak-hearted shadow of what he should have been, but remember that he was our family too. We regard his death as the insult it is, and the blood of kinslaying shall be met with blood." She smiled, a cold clinical expression. "If there is one thing the Ash Sisters have exceeding skill with, it is the repayment of blood debts." Not replying, Darren's attention darted away, scanning the half-darkened ground, the smouldering of the pasture creating dancing shadow-play. In a moment he spied what he needed, and in haste strode to the spot, reaching down to pick it up off the ground. The two followed him, curious over the break in conversation and the purpose of his tangent, but the topic at hand was persistent, and it was not dropped. "So," said Kaia, "in what way do you desire we end this kinslayer, dear cousin?" "In the manner of my choosing." Darren held up a fragment in his fingers, a ruby chip, a shard of Araziah's scale torn free in the fracas, and for the first time in days, he was smiling. "I guarantee that you will find him when and where he least expects it."
  9. Stellar

    Spirit of Fire

    Hah, well, you know I wouldn't exactly call Crawley a hero by any stretch of the imagination. For his character, I'd describe him as possibly being an amalgam of various film noir detectives with their overdone cynicism and associated vices and flaws, along with more modern stereotyped video-game throwbacks -- take elements of Tex Murphy and Max Payne for example, with their bleak but often darkly humorous outlooks. Still, the most pointed sources of Crawley's characterisation come from a sort of combination of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett; two masterful authors, and creators of many bizarre and memorable fictional personalities. They are Dirk Gently, the titular character from Adams' two related novels, who is also a PI with connections to the occult -- and Crowley (the naming similarity is NO coincidence!), from Good Omens, who is a literal demon that's been wasting time on Earth since the early days and is more interested in enjoying himself than spreading evil and bringing about the end times. Combine Dirk's jadedness and quirks of personality with Crowley's love of sunglasses, predilection for driving a Bentley (or since it's the USA, a Cadillac), and his fine cheekbones, add a pinch of Stellar's inventiveness, marinade in whiskey and cigarettes for at least three hours, and you get ... Agent Crawley! The voluminous Trenchcoat of Many Pockets is just standard business dress for our intractable agent. The things stocked inside it come from many sources -- gadgets borrowed from the Order, S&W ammunition, cigarette packets, money, hip flasks, sunglasses, pens, paper, notebooks, a cellphone, draconic baubles for special missions, Infinity-Gauntlet dragon-slaying gloves -- and are all necessary tools of the trade. He wouldn't be without his jacket, just like he wouldn't be without his fedora or his Colt Diamondback. Crawley is a man of particular tastes, and nobody can instruct him otherwise.
  10. Stellar

    Original Rift

    Perhaps I need to leave a warning somewhere that my writing tends towards complex nuanced storytelling that may take a while to fully make sense. With regard to 'good' and 'bad', I'm of the firm belief that, whilst there may be some characters who can easily be classified as such, the majority will be some intermediate shade of grey, with corresponding flaws and foibles based upon their motivations and intentions. In any case, I'm glad the re-reading helped you clarify! There's plenty left to come after this (six more, at the time of this writing) with new chapters in production, and if you should misunderstand anything, or if the detail is confusing, please remember you can ask any questions in the comments here, or in the Spirit of Fire discussion thread on my forum if you choose. Thanks for reading and commenting!
  11. Stellar

    Change

    Thank you! I love that you found it so compelling. The following chapters are under production, hopefully you won't have to wait too long for the next one.
  12. Stellar

    Change

    Ah, Crawley, ever the trenchcoat-wearing PI. His cynicism goes with that territory, though when it comes to dragons? He has never been a fan, and has quite a list of disparaging terms for them. Even Sebby's charm can't make a dent in that. Thank you! I aim to entertain.
  13. Stellar

    Change

    Thank you so much for your compliments and taking the time to comment! I'm thrilled you are enjoying Spirit of Fire.
  14. Stellar

    Change

    Thanks! We'll never know exactly what would have happened had Theo stayed around, except that, according to Araziah, it couldn't have ended well for Torsten. While you can certainly see that there might be something like a love triangle developing, your supposition is a good one. Do the two dragons mutually feel this way about the most salient point of that triangle -- Torsten? It's clear there is a mutual attraction between him and the air dragon, but the relationship with Araziah is a little more ... indistinct. What's going to happen there?!? And, yes, Sebby is a nonagenarian, though, you must realise that while 90+ years old may be a lot for a human, he's still a young dragon. Settling down and mating most probably hadn't entered his mind before his encounter with Torsten.
  15. France, you know I love you, but this time I think it'd be amazing to see the underdog win. After all, this one has been a competition where the likely suspects have been sent packing by the much less likely. Who doesn't enjoy a change of pace?

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