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The hills of the Riokonnan were considered inhospitable by the city dwellers of Tazeen and the nomads that wander the Selvin Plains.
Sord, speaker to Dragons and Keeper of Rafon, high dragon of the ridge, did not know if it was because the Riokonnan hills were home to the dragons or because the trees grew sparser as the hills grew steeper and the mountain peaks were capped in snow.
To him they were home.
A grown man now with dark hair down to his knees declaring his status, he had been but a child when he had run away from his home, left his nomadic parents and their tribe behind to climb the foothills and later the rocky cliff faces. He knew from before he could remember that his place was with the dragons.
His parents had given chase and several times he'd nearly been caught, but the scent of fire and ash, of something strong and earthy, gave speed to his little limbs and in the end he reached the plateau Rafon called his own. The dark green scaled dragon had sheltered him as he'd stood defiantly, refusing his parents' pleas to come back down the mountainside.
Sord could still remember the wonder of sleeping curled up next to Rafon's great bulk, Rafon's belly rising and falling with each breath beneath Sord's head as he slept. In fact it was how he slept still and, if he was honest, with himself if with no one else, it was still a wonder.
Sord braided his hair and wound it into a bun, holding it in place at the back of his head with a wide clawnail shed by Rafon.
Today he stood on that self-same plateau, looking out over the Selvin Plains and the city of Tazeen beyond them with purpose. Gerri, dragon son of Rafon, could not be found. The younglingcould not yet fly and his fire was only weak, not strong enough to even defend himself yet. Such young ones were supposed to stay high upon the mountains, safe within the heart of the Riokonnan. That Gerri was nowhere to be found would have been a great worry for Sord; that Gerri was also Rafon's own son made it personal.
Though people rarely came into the hills, the nomads and the city wizards both used dragon's blood and dragon's scales in healing and magics. The rich nobles of the city considered dragon meat a delicacy. There were plenty of reasons to fear for the life of Gerri.
The city buildings stabbed into the sky, all stone and wood, held together by great magics. There were more people on one single road than Sord saw in a moon, dressed as peacocks, dripping with finery. Still, he knew, as he moved closer, that there was sorrow and poverty hidden beneath.
He had only been to the city once, when he'd first grown into manhood, chasing a hunter who'd stolen treasures from the dragon holds near the lake. It had been intimidating, the feeling of magic strange against his nerves, the buildings seeming to press in all around him, smothering him. But the dragons could not go to the city themselves and someone had to find Gerri. The city was the most logical place to start.
Rafon came to stand behind him, breath loud and warm, one large, clawed hand curling around his shoulder, Rafon careful not to let his nails break the leather of Sord's jacket. He leaned back against Rafon's strength, trusting in the great green dragon to keep him upright.
The dragon language was low, deep, almost a subsonic vibration. For as long as Sord could remember he had heard that sound vibrating against him, inside him. It was an intimate thing, speaking with dragons.
"You will find my Gerri," Rafon told him, the vibrating sound accompanied by the acrid smell of smoke.
"I will, my friend. Stolen or wandered away, I will find him and bring him home to you."
A half dozen ralie birds flew up into the sky, calling raucously to each other, their midnight plumage shining in the sun. It was a good omen.