It takes twenty standard Arconian years for a dragon hatchling to fully mature, five for their scales to grow in, ten for their size to grow to that of a small elven house, and another five for their fire glands to develop. Once a dragon’s glands fully mature, only their size continues to grow. At the moment when they can shoot fire, they are deemed worthy of being treated as adults, and regarded as true dragons. At this point, since the treaty was made, most of the hot-blooded youths rushed off to help the elves and the dwarves fight the trolls, who despite having lost thousands of their number over the past twenty years, continued to attack new elvish and dwarven settlements. Alaron, the male hatchling of what had become known as the ‘Second Miracle Egg’, had passed every challenge a young drake was expected to master, his sister Alaria had done the same. They had been the envy of the Bearers of the Golden Gaze for five years when they were younger. Their scales had shone brilliantly since the day they had hatched. As it turned out, the day after they hatched, the other eggs that had been laid throughout the kingdom hatched as well, and it was with these new hatchlings the twins were put. Over the course of their childhood, the twins learned everything young dragons need to know to survive in the world. While most dragons stick to their mountain cities, a great number fly off into the world to find their own place. Many who fly off return home when they are much older, and wiser, but there are just as many who never return. Despite this, each hatchling is taught how to hunt, and survive, even though they may never leave the cities.

Alaron stood on the edge of the cliff outside the large hollow cavern that had served as his place of learning for the past two decades. His ruby scales seemed to burn in the sunlight, and his eyes were intensely focused upon the valley below him. Across from him, roughly two miles away on the other peak that curved up and over the dragon’s capital city, stood an obsidian scaled dragon who stared not below, but directly at Alaron. He was called Ky’Ran, or just Ky for short. He had been jealous of Alaron and his sister since the day he had hatched. Although he possessed a silver tongue and would never admit his jealousy, one only had to look in his coal black eyes to see the envy. A loud roar echoed through the area, as their mentor swooped and looped in the space between the twin peaks. “Alright hatchlings, listen up! The time for your final test has come! Should you win or lose, after this I will no longer be your mentor! You will meet your assigned opponent in the air and duel with him or her until one of you submits! There will be no killings.” The enormous cerulean scaled dragon’s voice echoed loud enough to be heard from the bottom of the valley. There would be no excuses for not hearing the rules. Alaron turned his gaze from the valley floor below to Ky’Ran. Despite the distance between them, everyone present could sense the tension between the two. Alaron flexed his front claws, and dug into the rock, preparing to lift; he crouched and lifted his wings. The ready position. Ky’Ran seemed surprised, but then mirrored him. It was then that Alaron realized his mentor was still talking. “I see!” he thundered, “It seems our first two contestants are ready to go! Begin!” Their mentor dove straight down, and twisted off out of their peripheral vision. Now it was just Ky and Alaron. The obsidian dragon snorted, and jet black flames burst from his nostrils, before he leapt into the air. Springing off his powerful forearms, Alaron did the same, pausing half a moment to enjoy the feeling of the wind in his wings. Ky was already rushing him, and Alaron knew then who would win this battle. The sun was behind him. Instead of flying up into it however, Alaron held his position, and reared his head back as if he was preparing to shoot flames, which could reach over half a mile when necessary. By now, Ky’Ran was roughly 12 feet from the ruby dragon, exactly where he needed to be. Alaron let the air out of his mouth, and grinned as he flew up into the sun’s rays. Ky’Ran followed his movements, and winced as the blinding light refracting off his scales caused Alaron to shine. It was what the prince had been waiting for. Reaching the top of his arc, Alaron angled his wings down, and folded them as close to his sides as they could go. He was aimed directly at Ky’Ran, his form was perfect, and all he needed now was an edge. With one black paw covering his eyes, Ky’Ran charged at Alaron once more, not seeing what the prince was doing in the process. Alaron opened his mouth, and shifted his body weight to his right, causing him to start spinning. It was too late for Ky to move. Red flames burst from the prince’s maw, spinning along his body, and turning him into a deadly flaming missile. He had the edge he needed. Ky removed his paw from covering his eyes so he could aim a fiery blast as his foe, only to have his mouth hang open in shock as he saw what the prince had done. The obsidian dragon flared his wings, and desperately tried to backtrack, but it was too little too late. The blazing ruby form of the prince slammed into his midsection, and Ky’Ran began to spin with the prince’s momentum. Unable to break free, Alaron kept up his spin until the pair slammed into rock. Slightly dizzy from the impact, Alaron knew his foe had taken the brunt of the hit, and a quick assessment of where they had crashed told him all he needed to know. Just below the cliff Ky’Ran had taken off from, the pair of dragons hung in the air for a moment. Alaron flared his wings wide, letting them fill and carry him upwards. Ky however, did not do so. He had been knocked unconscious, and was beginning to fall towards the valley floor over two hundred feet below. Alaron maneuvered himself into a landing on the cliff opposite from the one he had started on, and watched his foe’s fall. When it became clear Ky’Ran was out cold, their mentor, Par’oc, shot out from a lower cliff ledge and caught the young dragon. Alaron stood on the edge of the cliff, and stared down at his mentor. Pride in his victory caused his chest to puff out a bit, and he couldn’t help grinning. Par’oc met his gaze, and shot two bursts of cerulean flame from his mouth. The victory went to the prince. Letting out a burst of flame himself, Alaron roared with pride, then leapt into the air and glided down to the ledge his peers were waiting on.

They each bowed as he landed, all save his sister, who met his gaze evenly, grinning ear to ear. It was like looking in a mirror. They touched noses, and Alaron whispered, “Good luck.” To Alaria, at which she nodded, then proceeded to lift her own wings and take off towards the same cliff Alaron had fought from. Alaria’s opponent, chosen at random, was an amber scaled beauty that had caught the eye of many males, including ones much older than she. Her name was Illia, and as she landed on the cliff opposite Alaria’s, she bowed. The princess did the same, and Par’oc roared, sounding the start of the match. The two females leapt into the air, and charged each other. The sun had set low enough to be of little use for blinding, and all who were watching knew it would be a contest of strength and skill, no advantages would be won. Alaron, like the rest of his peers, watched the two in awe. Male dragons fight often, and while they mostly fight to entertain themselves, and to grow stronger, females do not. The females of their species were obsessed with their scales, and constantly polished them. Often one could tell a male from a female based on which one shined brighter, because of this, it was rare to see females fight. To lesser creatures not of the sky, a pair of male dragons in combat had a certain fierceness, which caused cold fear to creep down the spine of even the most stalwart heroes. Females were another story. Instead of brute strength, they played the waiting game, circling each other, waiting to strike. When they fought, it was as if they danced, and although most fights between two females resulted from anger and insults, they kept to this style of fighting, always. It was beautiful to watch, and in the past few years it had become common for friends to fight each other to show off for males they were trying to impress. Many elder dragons found this new practice disturbing, as males had always done the showing off, but Queen Meridra had encouraged the practice, and nobody argued with her decision. Unlike the females of elves, dwarves, and trolls, dragonesses were considered equal, even vital to the survival of their species. Often males would be left to egg-sit while the females hunted, because for reasons nobody could fathom, they were superb at it, finding prey animals with little difficulty. It was this spectacle of female fighting that had Alaron’s attention, and it was watching this fight that caused an emotion he hadn’t felt before to rise inside him. Subtly, his odor changed, growing stronger with each moment. His peers began to notice, the males were disgusted by the stench, but the females seemed to be almost attracted to it. Par’oc, who had noticed it immediately, grinned. “Focus on the fight, hatchlings.” He said, immediately breaking the spell Alaron’s reek had caused. It slowly dissipated, and Par’oc had a feeling that King Tyran would need to be informed at once. The final stage of a dragon’s adolescence was a smelly one, each hatchling produced a stench that repulsed the same gender, and attracted the opposite. Mating rituals were complex, and although mating season was still a few months away, Par’oc knew Alaron needed to be taught how to handle this new phase of development.

Alaria and Illia had clashed three times, each time they both came away bloodied, and enraged. While there was nothing personal between the two, something in the air was causing uncontrollable anger to burst from each of them when they clashed. Their blood dripped slowly from the long gashes in their once polished hides, and as the two met again, Alaria found herself in a strangle hold. Distracted as she was, Illia had managed to clamp her jaws around her neck, and was now forcing her down into a death spiral. Alaria met her eyes, and saw only blind hate within them. As the two dragonesses began to plummet, Par’oc roared from below. The sound shocked the two females, and Illia let go of her strangle hold on her opponent. Loud thuds filled the air as Par’oc flew up to the pair, who now hung in the air, scratched and bleeding, each too tired to continue the fight. “Ladies,” their mentor began, “Perhaps we should call this one a draw. Alaria, I need to speak with your father as soon as possible, perhaps tomorrow? Inform him for me won’t you?” The ruby female nodded, panting, and turned to glide down to her brother. Their class gasped as they saw her scales, but she didn’t care. She met Alaron’s eyes, and then took off again, heading for the Golden Scale Gates, and home. Nodding to his peers, the prince followed her, feeling a great deal of confusion as he did. Something had happened up in the air, it was incredibly uncommon for a female to let her scales become scratched and bloodied to this degree. He shot a glance at Illia as he flew away; she looked no better, although she met his gaze. That odd emotion rose up inside him once more, and this time he noticed the odor he was giving off. It smelled like his cave, but there was something more to it. He decided then he would ask his father exactly what was happening to him.

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away from the dragon capital of Drak’ir, the trolls of Arconia gathered once more outside of the dwarven settlement known as Mithrim. It was a small settlement, barely a decade old, but since the re-emergence of the trollish hordes it had been under constant attack. Five mighty dragons protected Mithrim, as did a platoon of dwarves, and a small company of elven rangers. As the lookouts in Mithrim spotted the trolls, they sounded the bells in their posts, and immediately the five dragons took to the air, and began circling above the settlement. Dwarves and elves rushed out of the barracks, the biggest building in Mithrim, and headed towards the walls. The front gates, made of a dwarven mixture of stone and diamond, swung open so the foot soldiers could defend them from the outside. The elves lined the stone walls, and drew their bows. It was rumored elves could hold a knocked bow for three days without tiring, a fact which impressed both dwarves and dragons. Two dragons descended from encircling the settlement, one perched expertly atop a nearby tower, and the other landed next to the platoon of dwarves. The other three hung in the air above the elven rangers, ready to spit fire from their jaws. They had done this many times, and each time the trolls had been repelled. The female dragon that had landed upon the tower was known for her incredible eyesight. Though she wore dwarven made stone-diamond armor, her blazing orange scales shone through the dull gray plates which were light enough to fly with, and provided excellent defense against troll swords and axes. Orange flames burst from her nostrils, the trolls approached. Big, brown, and nasty, the trolls were a civilization that was very religious, seeing their gods in every aspect of their lives. Nobody knew how long-lived they were, but they reproduced like small rodents. They never went anywhere alone, always afraid of the sky-lizards attacking them, they hunted in enormous groups no single dragon would dare attack. The trolls that now marched towards Mithrim were like any other trolls the defenders had seen. Four fingered hands gripped every sort of weapon imaginable, from spears to dual spiked maces, the trolls didn’t care about regiments, and they fought with what they were best at wielding. Troll armies were big, and hard to kill. Fighting them could take days. Unlike other races, they did not wear armor. Like the dragons, their skin was incredibly hard to break or pierce, even for dragons themselves. The only thing they did wear were leather and metal plated loincloths that covered their slightly softer reproductive areas. Some didn’t even wear those though, a fact which often repulsed the females who defended Mithrim. The defenders of Mithrim prepared for their charge, but the trolls halted roughly a mile away from the walls. The ground shook as the trollish ranks parted, and each of the dragons began to snarl uncontrollably. The elves and the dwarves looked at their winged allies with confusion, but each of them was focused on the massive figure stomping through the ranks of their enemy. It was enormous; roughly the size of a newly adolescent dragon, and it was green. The thing had long tusks that pointed upwards, jutting away from its’ face, but making it look all the more ugly. It stopped once it passed the front line of trolls, and roared, then began shouting in a strange language that sound like trollish, but wasn’t. Each of the dragons roared back, their eyes were slits, and flames burst from their maws as they snarled and roared at the enormous green beast. The male dragon next to the platoon clawed the ground in front of him, snarling at the green monstrosity, and roaring a challenge. The green beast lifted its five-fingered hand, which held an enormous two-handed axe, and began to charge, letting out a fierce roar as it did so. The dragon next to the platoon of dwarves began to charge as well, and pounced on the creature. The dwarves and trolls met in combat seconds later. Arrows flew from the walls, and the other four dragons, now in the air, began to torch the trollish ranks. As they flew over them, they saw a bigger force, comprised of more green tusked beasts, which also began to charge. They weren’t as big as the one that led the trolls, but they were still just as fierce looking. A loud crack echoed throughout the battlefield, and all the combatants, save the charging green monsters that were still over a mile away, stopped to look at the source of the appalling noise. The green monstrosity had snapped the neck of the azure scaled male he had been fighting. The other four dragons gaped in horror at the sight of their friend. Dragons had fallen to trolls before, or had been injured by their spell casters, but only when massive numbers of them had attacked at once. Never had a single enemy been able to match a dragon in close combat, a fact which often meant large groups of dragons were not necessary on the battlefield. The sight of the great azure dragon’s lifeless body falling to the ground caused the dwarves’ morale to snap. Before they could turn and run however, a crimson scaled dragon, one of the other four, dropped behind the platoon and roared at them. Snapped out of their fear, the dwarves halted and reformed their lines, then charged the trolls once more, who had formed up behind the green behemoth again. The red beast leapt at the green skinned behemoth, and brought it down. Within seconds it had its’ jaws around the thing’s neck, life-blood spouted from the puncture wounds left by the dragon’s teeth, and soon the beast stopped moving. Emboldened, the dwarves met the trolls in close combat once more, only to find more green skinned brutes among them. While trolls stood roughly five and a half feet tall, these green things stood at least seven, while dwarves only ever reached a top height of four feet. Despite this, they charged the mixed army that threatened their home, and with the help of the elven rangers and the remaining four dragons, they pushed them back. Eventually, the trolls and their new allies retreated. The battle had lasted a total of two days, exhausted, dwarves and elves who had switched to close-combat once they had run out of arrows, trudged back to Mithrim. They passed the three remaining dragons, who were mourning the loss of the orange and azure scaled members of their party. The mortals left the dragons to handle their own dead, messages had to be sent to their betters. These new monstrosities had killed two dragons in a single attack, not to mention half of the dwarven platoon, and many elves as well. They had to be dealt with, and quickly.

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