Zidhizalye, Late Spring, Dragon’s Accord Year 307

 

Ėnyenyėmo rine zuhyėfimo zi mėlyisorrėnyėmo rrėshiso tha me sėhizo zi tėaė…

Visemvė fiddled with his writing quill in one claw, contemplating. Translating Fėlehoseru’s many works was always a fine art; Dragonsong was a language for simple and vivid ideas, but the quirky dragon had attempted to ‘fix’ that. She used it for a great number of academic treatises, essays, and accounts for which it was awkwardly suited at best. She might have gotten somewhere too, if it weren’t for the untimely demise of all but one of her kind. Now that the number of speakers was low enough that they could – and frequently did – fit inside a single room, it fell to him to translate it into the language of human and reytra, even for texts rendered irrelevant by their contents being common knowledge

The drake Prime sighed and took his quill up in a magical grip, the spellring’s silver glow illuminating his work further, then put it back to page.

I standardized these units by considering maritime units and rearranging them by sixes…

A flash of blue plumage brought Visemvė’s attention to his library’s entrance, where a young drake stood in silence. He immediately returned his attention to his work and said, “If you want something, speak up.” The other drake started at the informality, or perhaps the swift response; who knew how long he’d been standing there?

“The Primes are gathering and want your attendance.”

“I doubt it, but they have no choice. Fine, tell them I’ll be there shortly.”

After a moment, the drake realized he was dismissed and left in a rush. Visemvė growled to himself and reviewed his two pages again before letting his holding spell collapse. The silver ring winked out, dropping his quill to his desk, but he lit the ethereal fire again just to pick it back up and stab it into the wooden surface point-first.

Always with the interruptions from that stuffy crowd.

Visemvė left his library, breaking a silence that filled  the Dusk Palace’s entire wing with slow clicks of his claws against the stone floor. Its plain architecture showed its three centuries of age; Drake styling evolved considerably since its inception. After studying Vefezeseru’s analyses of Reytra design philosophies, he often wondered if the Patriarch would ever remodel it and incorporate elements gleaned from the other races since their closer relations. Humans in particular were brilliant architects, and Visemvė pondered leaving  Zidhizalye for a time to write a follow-up to Vefezeseru’s only published work. The aspiring architect may have drawn even more influence from human practices, had they been around in his youth.

Leaving the city, however, felt suspiciously like work to him. Not just work, but work away from the many books he still had to read, and translations not yet finished, and various other responsibilities he filled in for from time to time. Traveling abroad was for other drakes, who he’d likely rarely interact with, considering how only the young ones tended to hang around him. What generation was the one who summoned him, anyway? Thin antennae-like feathers off the top of the head, was that Fifth or Seventh Children? They all passed in a blur after the third or fourth generation, and examples of almost every one could be found sprinkled throughout whatever generation was dominant in each of the classes he visited, when he took breaks from educating himself to educate others.

Transitioning from the cramped side wings of the palace into the preposterously massive central hall, Visemvė flinched against the brightness of the space. He hadn’t expected it to be dawn already; the rising sun’s light already penetrated the hall with great shafts from well-placed windows. It mingled across the ceiling vaults with soft glows of various colors emanating from different points along the vast ledges just underneath the arches supporting the all-stone construction’s immense weight. A couple heads were visible where the glow’s sources deigned to pay attention to the goings-on beneath them; the Senex were not often awake, but a few turned their enlightened and enlightening eyes upon important matters to inform the rest in due time.

Turning from his many mothers, Visemvė approached his father. Even Patriarch Dėherodase’s large form was dwarfed by the size of the hall he constructed, though the architecture emphasized the apse that The Last Dragon considered his throne. The rest of the Primes clustered in front of it, most of them watching Visemvė’s leisurely journey to join them.

“Were my eyes deceiving me, or did you almost bow when you entered?” Niholste said to him upon approach. Though not physically set apart from his half-siblings as the Primes were from Children, Niholste was their de facto leader. Visemvė didn’t give a damn.

“Me, deferential? Hardly,” Visemvė replied, before turning to regard the figure before them who was over twice his size. “Hello, Father.”

Dėherodase grumbled with a low chuckle. “You are fortunate I find your irreverence a constant source of amusement, my son,”

Visemvė bobbed his head in a draconic version of a slight shrug. “I aim to please. What’s the fuss, this late?”

Over two dozen heads turned to regard the dragon, who inclined his own in acknowledgment.

“I’m no longer confident we are keeping our edge,” Lireysvu began, his heavy helmet of white and blue porcelain standing out in spartan contrast against the ornate headpieces and masks of his half-siblings; a helm to protect in his duty as head of the guard, rather than the purely decorative pieces the others wore. A silver disk was its only embellishment, centered on his helmet like a third eye. The sapphire inset of its pupil swept sightlessly over the gathering as he took them all in. “We should release some fruits of our research, to trade for their most recent magical developments.”

Murmurs rippled through the assembly as Niholste responded, “I thought You-Know-Who was eliminating our most recent problem on that front.”

“Even if she succeeds with dispatching the lightning mage, his formula is still stored in the humans’ Diamond Conclave in Threshold. The Liyeland Royal Army, at least, will still have access to that spell. As long as the Accord remains in effect, we must assume all other powers will be able to obtain it.”

“She should hurry up.”

“She might be inclined to,” Visemvė said, “If you all weren’t so hostile to her presence among us at these meetings.”

“Children shouldn’t-” Niholste started, but stopped after directing his attention to Dėherodase. The Patriarch turned his head to one side and fixed an eye on the all-but leader of the Primes, in a caricature of intense examination.

“We will not debate our father’s decision yet again,” Lireysvu said. The guard captain spread his wings a fraction, not bothering to hide his irritation. “Regardless, you who spend their time in Zidhizalye may not appreciate how large the Human and Reytra realms are. Even when her task is complete, as I said, it wouldn’t solve-.”

“I refuse!” Zhėnyedso shouted. The metallurgist was the only one besides Lireysvu to wear armor; his attire featured of hundreds of spell-bars that clattered together as his tail thrashed in agitation. “We have given up enough of our precious few secrets to these vermin.” His final word earned him Dėherodase’s disapproving stare in Niholste’s place, though the smith’s back was to the dragon. “If we must acquire their new spells, we can do so by force.”

“And prove their disdain for us correct?” Niholste said in near-monotone.

“They already have reason enough to dislike us,” Visemvė added. “Don’t pretend otherwise; our metallurgist friend just proved it.”

“I liked you better when she was here in your place,” Niholste shot back.

“And I’m sure you like her better when she isn’t here at all.”

“As you said, they are our secrets,” Lireysvu replied, directing attention back to himself and the metallurgist. “Not yours alone. You do not decide yourself what we do with them. At any rate, I will not charge my subordinates with breaking a peace that has lasted three centuries.”

Dėherodase grumbled, then raised his voice to boom over the growing argument. “We will trade. Since you are so concerned, Zhėnyedso, I task you with selecting our offerings. Do so as soon as possible. Visemvė, write a message to Sefeldri to come back at her next opportunity; she will be our negotiator.” The Patriarch stopped abruptly, looking over his sons and daughters.

After the group waited to see if the dragon to continue his thought, Niholste said, “Alright, what’s the next order of business?”


Not far north of Zidhizalye, at least not far as flying distances were concerned, a message tower came into view. The rugged wooden structure was little more than a sturdy framework with a two-tiered enclosed platform at the top. Metal hoops and rigging adorned the fringe of its roof, with the outermost spars holding swaths of thick cloth and a few banners. Wide rings of bright white sand radiated outward from the tower in even widths, breaking up the thin reddish regolith normal for the surrounding badlands. From his position aloft, the land looked like a huge target.

As he landed just outside the pattern, that image was made complete by an elongated arrow burying itself with a puff of red dust not two chains distant. Fighting down the instinctive response to such a near miss, he fetched the arrow and placed it in his pack before making his way on foot through the closer of two safe paths to the tower.

Inside, a ragged-looking human, a reytra who wore only his chest and hip wraps, and a drake of the Ninth Children looked up from a scoreboard for their dice game. The latter put down his rolling cup and came quickly, sitting on his haunches before Visemvė. He had earned his name earlier this year, from an assignment in Threshold. Or was it late last year? What was it…

The drake waited, a perfect image of patience, until Visemvė remembered.

“Dėmeztli, if we receive any messages from Mahre or a city in the Sunthravale, I want it delivered to me personally.” The drake nodded enthusiastically, and Visemvė moved towards the two others at the table. He fetched the arrow he retrieved and handed it off to the human, along with a rolled-up scroll. “This needs to go to Sterant.”

The man nodded and accepted it without a word, leaning their recently-arrived arrow against the table. He slipped Visemvė’s roll over another long arrow shaft, secured it behind the bell-shaped tip of its head, then slid a canister around it and locked it into place to protect the message. He fetched the only strung longbow out of a haphazard pile of similar weapons, looked back to Visemvė, and finally spoke. “Whozit fer?”

“Our embassy.”

The man nodded and made a few marks on the shaft’s canister, then strode to the tower’s northern face. After squinting at the banners fastened to the surrounding metal rigging, he nocked his arrow and drew, aiming through one of many hoops around the tower’s platform. A green-yellow spell ring appeared a short distance in front of his bow along his line of sight. He adjusted his head until the fiery circle sat just before the arrow’s tip.

After another moment of aim, he released the meteor bow. As soon as the arrowhead hit the center of the spell ring, it accelerated so fast it appeared to vanish instantly. The man observed its track for a few more seconds – how much of that served a purpose and how much was just for show Visemvė didn’t know – then casually tossed the meteor bow back onto the pile it came from. He returned to the table and collapsed heavily in his seat, looking back over the scoreboard. Just as Visemvė was about to turn away, the man cuffed the reytra on the back of his head, then moved a peg a couple holes back. The reytra didn’t even look up from the message container they’d just received.

Visemvė turned to where Dėmeztli still sat at attention. The young drake eyed him back in silence. “Well? What do you want?”

“Oh, nothing much,” Dėmeztli replied. “Tell me what’s going on back home.”

Sighing at the code phrase – distressingly common, lately – Visemvė looked around for the stairs to the lower level. “Yeah, sure, I have a bit of time.” He descended into the darker floor where the three lived, Dėmeztli trotting behind.

“Big increase in Riptide communication,” the younger drake said once they descended.

“Even through this tower?”

“Especially through this tower.”

“We’re a bit out of the way for that.”

“I know!” Dėmeztli said, bobbing in excitement. “I think they’re trying to keep it hidden. Only reason I can think of to route messages this far around. There’s four reytra towers we can hit from here, but the northernmost one tends to be avoided. They’re probably trying to go around Belanflow.”

“Important enough to avoid the capital, but not important enough to send a courier?”

Dėmeztli shifted his wings in an equivalent of a shrug. “Can’t tell you the reasoning behind it, just what I’m seeing.”

“Alright, thanks. Bad timing, I suppose; the message I just sent out was for Sefeldri. I’ll talk to Lireysvu and figure out another time to send something out.” Visemvė turned to a balcony-like platform, and prepared to take off. “Get back up there before they cheat you out of the game.” As he leapt airborne, he heard the young drake scrabbling back up the stairs.

He made sure to fly over one of the two safe tracks away from the tower, only angling for Zidhizalye once he was clear of the visibility rings on the ground. He suspected his message was already buried in a white or red ring surrounding another tower, a league to the north. When it was picked up there, however, was another question.

It’s a shame even the youngsters feel courier duty is beneath them nowadays.

Flying back to Zidhizalye only took a few minutes, and some Ninth Children complained about being made to fly even that. Leaving the city was, more and more, considered demeaning in its own right, and Children competed among themselves with greater intensity for those supposedly prestigious postings that would allow them to come of age without ever stepping outside it. Even written in Dragonsong, their messages would be much more secure if they could be hand-delivered. As it was, they had trouble finding postings even for message towers, and lately had to use named drakes like Dėmeztli for such matters.

Of course, with the vast majority of their race inside a single city, protected by both the Patriarch and his many consorts – which was more dangerous was anyone’s guess – who would want to leave?  Lireysvu, however, had a good point before; with how things were going, he doubted drakes could afford to ignore the outside world for much longer.