Private Tales Scorched Earth

Fife

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Her brow slightly furrowed before she remembered to keep it slack. That was a hard question. Did that affect her answer? Fife's eyes searched around, as though she might find the answer lying around.

After a few moments, Fife shook her head. No. While it added more finality to it, her answer remained the same, made on other principles.

// Raigryn Vayd //​
 

Raigryn Vayd

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"Then yes," Maellarn replied in short order. "If you change your mind then you can return to me any time. I cannot promise to immediately slot you into our training sects of course, but we would work something out."

She tilted her head to one side, eyes narrowing as she appraised Fife again.

"It is wise for someone who had so few options, to cultivate them now. I do not think that Raigryn has ever truly learned to see beyond what is right in front of him. And sometimes it takes time for him to see that," she said. Now came a statement that was neither an answer or a question. It was simply there for Fife to reply. Anything she communicated was information that could be used.
 
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Fife

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A single dip of her chin acknowledged the answer. It was a generous offer, even in the expectation of her response. If I return implied leaving, after all.

Maellarn likely hadn't intended for her comments on Raigryn to elicit a smile, but Fife's mouth twitched at the corners briefly before she forced a neutral expression on it once more. Her brows had risen with her humor.

I know, she said. He is bad at plans. I am no better. But I leave footprints to follow back. Perhaps not literally, of course. A colorful way of saying she was keeping her options open in the absence of those words in her vocabulary. Her taut shoulders relaxed and when she looked up, Fife was more confident in her gestures and there was warmth in her dark gray eyes.

I thank you, but I must say no. I will go with Raigryn.

// Raigryn Vayd //​
 
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Raigryn Vayd

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"There is nothing I can offer which would change your mind?" Maellarn asked.

She felt she knew the answer already. She gave a slight tip of the head in respect for Fife's position.

Maellarn knew enough. She knew where Fife had come from, what she had survived. She had a hundred agents scattered around the world who had come from similar places. Fife was just more shrewd that most. Combined with magic and skill of arms, Fife represented a worthwhile asset.

Not every move paid off. That was why she was making many every single day.

The survival of her people depended on it.
 
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Fife

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Fife shook her head. For now, there really wasn't. Could she in the future? Probably. Raigryn might not have planned any direction in the future, but she was still a teeny bit hopeful of finding somewhere to land and settle. If Raigryn could be convinced to stop wandering -- which didn't seem terribly likely.

The thought gave her a brief pause. When had she started thinking of her future only in tandem with Raigryn? It was a startling shift from the solitary mindset she had always lived in, though not unwelcome.

Thank you for teaching me the Silent Way. It is good to have a voice. Noting happiness, Fife nodded her head respectfully. Such a simple statement didn't even begin to encompass what her lessons had given her, but it would have to do.

// Raigryn Vayd //​
 
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Raigryn Vayd

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Even Maellarn let her stoic expression crack for the sentiment. Her chin fell towards her chest and she let her hands fall to her sides. Her left expressed something akin to friendship, in as much as the common tongue could be tied to the idemni signs.

"Raigryn has a habit of getting his way, but everyone deserves a voice. I would be glad to have helped you find it under any circumstances. If he starts to forget the signs you bring him straight back here for some more stringent lessons!"

From one of the caverns an idemni appeared. He looked down at them both at made a few signs towards Maellarn. There was no common construction between the way his hands moved and anything Fife had been taught. A third sign language known only to a few.

"I wish you all the best. Just remember that fighting is not always for proving yourself and your skill as Aretta would. When the stakes are high," she said, leaning closer and whispering, "Honor be damned."
 
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Fife

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If someone would told her she would be departing from Maellarn on a note of amity, she might have doubted them. Fife kept most at arm's length, and her wariness of the woman prevented her from feeling as fondly of her as Aretta. But the exchange was pleasant, friendly even. It made departing bittersweet.

The moment wasn't to last. Another Idemni came out from her caverns and Fife watched their hands, but to no avail. It was as lost on her as any other language she didn't speak.

Maellarn offered her parting wisdom and once again Fife fought the pull of a smile.

I will remember, she returned with a flick of her hand to indicate humor. Fife bid her farewell and, with nothing more to keep her, turned toward the path back home.

// Raigryn Vayd //​
 
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Raigryn Vayd

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Raigryn was feeling more of his own emotions than he had done in a long time. He turned around in the central space of their tent, pausing to look down at their belongings. They travelled lightly. Several sets of clothes and weaponry. His writing tools took up as much space as anything.

This was the first time a place had felt like a home. He didn't belong here in this town, but this tent had been free to be themselves. On their own and together. Raigryn felt a strange sense of melancholy at the sight of it all packed up.

He sensed Fife before he heard her step into the tent. Turning to look over his shoulder, he offered a strained smile.

"We can leave in the morning if you'd like," he said softly. He decided not to directly ask about the meeting.
 
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Fife

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Fife was in a good mood as she returned. It was a far better day than yesterday, the tension and fear bleeding away. She could leave feeling some happiness and come back to the same familiar faces.

Raigryn was standing amongst their things when she returned. Fife wasn't sure if it was where she had been or the sight of their things packed away that caused the pinched smile. His question could have been either and offered her little aid in deciphering his expression.

Fife shook her head and came to stand beside him to survey their belongings. Was this all? It seemed like so little, yet ideal for traveling comfortably without burdening their horse and pony. Her pack looked a little fuller. She did own more clothes than before.

She ran her hands anxiously down the front of her shirt. While Fife had grown comfortable here, she didn't know how she was going to feel outside of Indretar. A question that wouldn't be answered until they hit civilization at the edge of the desert.

Tomorrow, she finally replied. I have to say goodbye to Ylerial. And return my… small bright things. She pointed out her tiny trinkets and trophies, then smiled to herself. They should be home again.

Fife looked up, her features happy and thoughtful. Do you want to walk with me?

Her list was very obviously buying time. She could have easily said her brief goodbye to Ylerial in as much time as her chat with Maellarn. She didn't really care about returning the rocks and feathers and petrified wood. A little white lie she didn't expect him to mind. It gave them one last night here, in a place that had been more home than she'd ever had before. It was one last dinner in the community tent and one last night feeling safe and comfortable.

// Raigryn Vayd //​
 
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Raigryn passed his eyes over her treasures, nodding slowly.

"I would like to leave tomorrow as well," Raigryn agreed. "You should keep one of your treasures for the road. I didn't pack them all because..."

He left it unspoken that they would have needed an entire extra bag for all the items she had collected.

Raigryn took a moment to think about what he was doing. He was going to let go of how he was feeling and turn to a nice relaxed walk to carry it away. He was shielding Fife instead of sharing. It couldn't be his job to hide how vulnerable he could be from her any more.

"I will miss feeling settled in one place. It's been a long time since I stayed anywhere for this long," he admitted, turning towards the entrance of the tent.
 
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Fife

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Fife gave him a sheepish grin. There was a lot; she had spent a month or better collecting them all and knew every piece.

Most were pointless, random things she merely thought were interesting enough to pick up and bring home. Others had some small significance or a distinct memory attached to them -- what she had been doing or had done that day, or even what she had been thinking and feeling when she had picked them up.

She would happily keep one. But which one?

Raigryn spoke and Fife looked up with all traces of her guilt and amusement gone. His sentiment stuck very close to the feeling she had at seeing their things set out and answered the question she'd asked herself when she had returned.

I have never, she replied simply. None that I remember.

She chewed her lip and surveyed her trinkets. Pushing them aside, she found what she was looking for. It was a small, flat piece of a broken shell worn smooth, coarse and white on the exterior yet shimmering in the full spectrum of colors on the interior.

To remember the feeling? Fife smiled and offered it in her open hand. Was it odd to give someone a weathered piece of old shell as a gift as a means to comfort them when they were sad? Probably. Was it right on brand? Absolutely. If she could keep something small, why couldn't he? He had fiddled with this shell any time it was on the table, enough she considered it part of the Raigryn collection of trikets.

// Raigryn Vayd //​
 
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Raigryn Vayd

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His smile widened as he looked down at her offering. He felt his heart break just a little, in just the right kind of way for the moment. It was just a shell. A particularly pretty one but just a shell. Raigryn placed his hand over hers and nodded slowly. For once he had nothing to say.

Rather than scoop the shell from her, he clasped her whole hand. Raigryn stood closer, accentuating the difference in height. His mind was open and the myriad of emotions matched the inside of the shell.

Raigryn kissed the crown of her head and turned towards his things. He unlatched the leather satchel of his writing implements. The shell made its home in an empty compartment next to the ink wells.

Memories. There was still time for more. Raigryn turned towards Fife, leaving his satchel half open. He was typically so calm and gentle, reassuring when he reached for her. There was nothing gentle in the way he grasped her tunic and pulled her along as he took a deliberate step back towards one of the side chambers.
 
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Fife

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Fife felt somewhat ridiculous giving him something so commonplace as a memento. And yet it was a piece of this place -- something born of the secret lake by which these people made their home. It had no meaning or significance other than that which they gave it.

Raigryn must have ascribed something to the shell or the gesture. The image painted by his emotions were soft yet brilliant as he held her hand and stepped closer. Fife didn't withdraw or pull away as he bent to kiss her head, her own mind opening for him as well.

Her colors were a little brighter than his, marked by a sense of calm and happy relief at a day of good news and positive affirmation. There was still the undercurrent of sorrow, but leaving Indretar didn't seem to be as sad for her as it was for him. She had grown much here; Fife was barely recognizable from the scrawny girl he'd first brought. Leaving the branch that she had anchored her chrysalis to would be bittersweet, but the sky awaited.

She watched him stow the shell without a word. Perhaps she had done a better job with her cheesy gesture than she had thought? Raigryn was rarely silent on anything. A happy grin was still on her features when he straightened and stepped back to her.

He grabbed her shirt and led her along for a step, and Fife gasped at the abruptness of it. Her feet automatically took the quick little steps to keep up, matched by the lurching gait of her heart, and her hands had grabbed his wrist out of reflex. It wasn't frightening, per se, but it took both of those steps before she was thinking with any amount of sense again.

Just Raigryn, she reminded herself. It's just Raigryn.

Fife's white-fingered grasp on his arm softened and she looked less like a frightened deer as she looked toward his side of the tent. There was no misunderstanding his intent when she could see the emotions that colored his actions. Perhaps she had done too good of a job with the gesture?

Raigryn didn't need to pull her along the rest of the way. Her hands moved along his arm to rest over his and a faint smile curled her lips. A knowing blush had crept onto her cheeks and a violet warmth answered in the language only her fellow Empath could understand.

// Raigryn Vayd //​
 
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Raigryn Vayd

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Little by little, he hoped those qualms would be less of a barrier to their intimacy. They would never go away. Her early life was a part of who she was now, just as everything that had come since she tried to rob a battle mage. He took every night where she slept in relative peace as a step forwards.



Figure

Drakormir bursts free of the Forbidden City


They were just an few hours from Indretar. They had laid together for a time, taken a walk and explored everyone corner of the town once again. They had said their goodbyes. Raigryn did well to keep well away from the topic of her conversation with Maellarn, despite his burning curiosity.

The ride had been in silent contemplation. Even Raigryn, with everything he had been through, was taking time to process their departure. For the first time in years it felt as if he had laid down a full chapter in the book of his life and was turning a page to a new one.

Then the ground shook. Fife's bond with her pony might have kept them on the path, but his own was so dull that it took the event in its stride.

"Well, I haven't heard of an earthquake like that in these parts for a long time!" he declared, trying to make that seem entirely normal.
 
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Fife

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The tone of their departure was different from that of their arrival. When they had first come to Indretar, Fife had still been guarded and uncertain. She hadn't fully trusted Raigryn, keeping her fears close to the chest. Leaving, she was confident and unfettered by the fears that had so long held her back. Bit by bit, they had crept closer together. Their relationship had evolved into something new and unexpected yet precious and beloved. Fife was different. They were different.

After wasting a decent swathe of the day, Raigryn walked with her to return her found treasures. It would have felt wrong to simply walk out and toss them, and the exercise served them both good, getting out and seeing all of Indretar and its dry red valley one last time.

In the end, she was left only with the magpie feather -- her favorite. Holding it carefully between her fingers brought an irresistible smile to her face. She tucked it away in her things where it wouldn't be easily knocked out and lost.

Fife wasn't very good at goodbyes, but she made them all the same. She conveyed as much as she could to Ylerial, promising to return to see her again someday and expressing her eagerness to see her skill in swordplay at that time. Saying goodbye to her was, strangely, the most difficult of anyone. They had hardly spoken, but her companionship and mere presence as a kindred spirit had been a great comfort for much of her stay in Indretar.

Departing was much easier than the farewells; Fife was, admittedly, far better at running away than communicating her feelings. She managed to do so with a smile, steering an excited Socks to ride beside Dusty. They passed beneath the mural one last time and their journey across the scrubby landscape.

Raigryn was thoughtfully silent and Fife offered nothing to break it, letting him work on what he was working on. At least, not without a number of glances in his direction. He had expressed his feelings on leaving yesterday, so for once she wasn't left guessing what was on his mind.

After a while, however, she had begun to think of a way to raise his spirits. Talking of the food and drink to be had on their way to meet his bookish friend, questioning where the nearest hot bath would be, requesting stories about past adventures that were still nibbling at her mind. The options were almost limitless.

Socks began to prance anxiously before she could lift her hands. Fife gathered the reins and put her foot down from where it had been comfortably tucked in front of her in the saddle. What was making him so nervous? She scanned around them and saw and heard nothing, but he whickered and danced to the side like she was asking him to ride toward a pack of wolves.

She would feel the tremors shortly thereafter. Her limited experience with the ground shaking had involved the emergence of hidden cities that house dark and dangerous beings, relics from bygone ages or nightmares not of this world. It sat about as well with Fife as it did with Socks.

She shushed him and patted his neck all the same, making her best attempt to comfort and calm him. That didn't mean she didn't look to Raigryn with a distinct glistening of fear in her eyes as the earth shook beneath them. Dusty didn't seem distressed at all.

// Raigryn Vayd //​
 
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Raigryn Vayd

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The tremor stopped. A few seconds later the ground shook again. Echoes reverberating through the ground itself.

"Did you know that sound takes time to travel?" he asked. Most people saw it at some time in their life. They could see someone shout at the other end of a field and realise the sound came a fraction of a second later. He was regaling Fife with the story to try and calm her nerves.

"They were experimenting with fireballs from one side of a river to the other to try and measure it whilst I was a student. I wasn't actually a very good student at times but that..." Raigryn paused. Looking over his shoulder to talk to Fife and make sure Socks was behaving his gaze was drawn to the horizon behind them. To the dark shape that seemed to be rising.

"Fife head for the trees," he hissed. He wasn't sure what that was. A spell or a wave of dust perhaps. Better to have cover, regardless.
 
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Fife

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There was a pause in the earthquake and Socks stood still long enough to blow noisily. He paced back and forth between hooves and tossed his head anxiously, but Fife sat a sound seat. She didn't budge, though she hardly felt much better than the pony.

Raigryn was doing his best, and she threw him a grateful look. Even though the tremors renewed, he filled what would have otherwise been a silence interrupted only by her pony's nervous noises. He might have felt he exasperated her with the unending string of things to say, but Fife appreciated the way he broke the empty quiet when she couldn't.

Another day, at another time, perhaps she would find a way to express that. For now, Fife followed his eyes as he paused.

The dark shape emerging was formless and strange. It didn't matter what it was. Fife gathered the reins, whistled sharply to Socks, and guided him toward cover. Trusting Raigryn had gotten her this far and she wasn't about to question his wisdom and sense of self-preservation now.

Fife also didn't look back. A shiver glanced over her body and the fine hairs on her arms and shoulders stood on end. Something wasn't right. She wasn't looking back at the shape again, but there was something very wrong going on that was just beyond her understanding. She didn't like it.

// Raigryn Vayd //​
 
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Raigryn Vayd

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Everything happening was beyond Raigryn's understanding too. He was far too accustomed to keeping his mind open to her. She would feel the note of panic that he was trying to surpress himself.

It wasn't the adrenaline rush that came before battle. It wasn't even the suppressed terror from the caves. It was a dark tendril weaving in. The fear of the unknown. A situation beyond his control.

They took shelter and he tied Dusty to a tree, waving for Fife to do the same with Socks. As soon as they were tied he returned to a place in the copse to look back. The dark shape on the horizon grew. It swelled to a set cadence. Bigger and smaller every second.

It was the rise and fall of wings.

"Fuck," he hissed. It was a dragon. By his reckoning, if it was on the horizon still, far larger than any description he had seen in books. Far beyond the eagles they had seen.
 
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Fife

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Whether from the myriad of adventures they had had in a singular year, or if she was reaching back to dozens of escapes from the years prior, Fife managed to keep relatively calm in a mild state of fear. Looking back was always bad and whatever it was, it was far enough that she didn't have to duck and scramble from an immediate threat.

They rode into a copse of trees and Fife dismounted as Socks came to a bouncing halt. She whipped his reins around a tree next to Dusty, then did her best to hush and pat the pony for a moment before following Raigryn. She had to jog to match his long strides. When he stopped, she remained hidden behind him. Resting her hands on his back to make sure he knew she was there (and she didn't catch a startled elbow to the face), Fife peered around him at the rising dark shape.

He must have come to some conclusion before her, cursing softly to himself. Fife glanced up with a concerned pinch in her brow and looked at the shape again. It reminded her of a bird, but it was too big to be a bird. Then what….

Oh.

Fife gasped. It wasn't really a dragon. It couldn't possibly be. They weren't real -- were only stories from old tales of knights and princesses. They didn't actually exist… did they? As soon as she discredited the idea, her memory summoned half a dozen events of things that couldn't exist to support the merit that no, this was very obviously possible and real because she was looking at it.

Once again, she didn't know if it was an old numbness to accept things without question because she didn't have the means to explain it, or if Raigryn's fascination with things that should have rightly scared her was finally rubbing off. Whichever was the root of it, Fife's eyes were fixed, a frightened fascination unfurling.

// Raigryn Vayd //​
 

Raigryn Vayd

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As it loomed above the line of the horizon, Raigryn was starting to appreciate quite how large it truly was. It was as wide as an entire mountain.

Raigryn felt fear and uncertainty of a kind he hadn't experienced for many years. It kept on coming. They couldn't even hear the beat of its wings for how far it was. Yet it was growing larger and larger.

"It's a dragon," he hissed and he took Fife's hand. "So large that we probably aren't even ants to it. It shouldn't even see us here."
 
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Fife

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Fife was having issues wrapping her mind around the sight in general, especially the size of the dragon as it came closer. She took Raigryn's hand but hovered close to his side. For once, she seemed to be in a far calmer state than him.

She did toss him an amused glance. It was quite obviously a dragon, but she was reassured by his speculation that they would be too small to attract the enormous beast's interest. Hopefully. Why waste time shelling sunflower seeds when there was roast on the table?

Not that she hoped it ate someone else. But she would absolutely prefer it take its interests elsewhere.

Nevertheless, she tugged his arm to kneel down while still watching. They might have been tiny in comparison, but she would rather be safe than sorry where sorry involved being eaten.

// Raigryn Vayd //​
 
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Raigryn dropped to one knee beside Fife. It occurred to him that she could have been signing this entire time and he wouldn't have noticed at all. His gaze was so inexorably drawn to the horizon.

"Just so you know, I have never seen a dragon before," he explained. In the depths of his shock, he managed to find a note of humour.

"They are not supposed to be that big," he hissed. "I mean...none of the pictures in books...one hasn't been seen in..."

Raigryn fell silent again.
 
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Fife

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They could have spent a whole afternoon digesting why she was so surprised by his confession that he had never actually seen a dragon. He had so many stories of mysterious beasts and rare wonders from all over the world, but none about dragons. In all fairness, she had assumed they were entirely fictional, so he was not alone in the shock that they were, in fact, quite real.

Speechless Raigryn, she decided, was charming. It was enough to draw her eyes from the dragon for a moment to see the unfettered awe in his expression.

This, she realized. This was what she couldn't take away from him -- what he lost sitting still. A similar look had overtaken him so often on their journeys that it was familiar yet easily forgotten until it appeared again. Whether or not he had planned a life of adventure with no home to go back to, Fife didn't know. But seeing it again, and how right it seemed on him, made the last of her doubts about leaving Indretar fade away.

It was an odd time for such a revelation. Fife smiled and settled in to watch the dragon. She didn't try to sign, letting him watch without dividing his attention; she could save her questions and remarks to let him see as much of the mythical sight as his heart desired. This was, after all, the stuff of one of his books come to life.

At the very least, if they didn't die they would have one very interesting story to tell at the next tavern.

// Raigryn Vayd //​
 
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It blotted out the sun. The woods went very still. Noises he hadn't even noticed: small rodents rustling and birds chirping, they all stopped. There was just their breathing and the rhythmic beating of the dragons wings. Even the ponies went still where the could have panicked.

They didn't even get to see its eyes. Its head was as large as a castle, but they only saw the underside. The right wing passed overhead. It was high in the sky and yet on that downward beat the tree shook from the gust.

The light returned. The regular noises of life returned. Raigryn was fairly certain they were all quiet compared to his heartbeat.

"That...really just happened?" he checked with Fife.
 
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Fife

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Whatever she had imagined traveling with a white-haired scholar would be like, it had not been with the expectation of being nearly knocked over by the gust of a dragon wing. Fife teetered a bit and was thankful she had knelt down. She still had a handful of his coat on her hand when he looked toward her at last.

Raigryn would find her smiling, still somewhat dazed as well.

I think it did. Or Maellarn finally poisoned us. Adding a note of humor, she hissed in laughter and stood, offering him a hand up.

// Raigryn Vayd //​
 
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