Alaron banked to his right, and descended towards the closest peak of the closest mountain his group was near. After having a long argument with his father, he had convinced him to let the prince choose who would go on the scouting mission, in addition to the best scout Draco’gar could provide. The chosen group followed their prince’s lead. As Alaron landed, Zoran came up behind him, and gazed upon the lands in front of them, lands never recorded as being seen by draconic eyes. “It’s so large…” Zoran whispered, “How will we ever find the capital, how will we ever find the trolls…what if they’re already on the move…heading for home...” “Zoran.” Alaron interrupted, “The girls will be fine. Alaria and Illia are tougher than they look. Remember, my father is guarding them, as is Aronikus. Do you doubt their ability to do so?” Zoran looked down at his claws, and kneaded the earth below him as he replied, “No…but I worry.” “Not once has the great capital of Drak’ir been breached by a foe. It is our best defended city, save maybe Draco’gar. They will be fine. If all defenses should fail, they still have each other, and I doubt even a force great enough to penetrate the Golden Scale Gates would be able to take them on together. They are in the best defended cave in the best defended city. Now focus, I need your mind, not your fears.” “Yes my prince.” the emerald scaled male responded. The larger form of Master Scout Zaro flew over the two young males, then circled around and landed in front of them. The next one to land was Larion, his gold eyes met the prince’s, and he gave a short bow. Two more Bearers of the Golden Gaze who had grown alongside Alaron landed next, Golganor, who possessed obsidian scales, and Nozaron, who possessed bronze colored ones. They, like Larion, locked their golden eyes with the prince’s, and bowed before standing on the edge of the relatively flat summit they had landed upon. “Zaro,” Alaron began, “Based on what we’ve seen so far, which direction should we turn to begin our search?” “Well my prince, we are currently south of Bloodwing Pass, but I saw no armies in that direction. I believe we should continue southeast from this position, and pray to Draco we find something before our food supplies run out.” The scout responded. Each of the dragons had saddlebags full of salted meat draped around their bodies, snuggly behind their wings, but for growing dragons such fare would not hold them over long. Hunting in a strange land would be difficult, especially since they were all males. “Very well,” Alaron said, “Southeast it is.” He opened his wings again, and noticed them in his peripheral vision for the first time. His chest swelled with pride, he knew he was getting bigger. With a powerful downstroke, the son of Tyran launched himself into the air, and immediately down downwards. Now that they had passed over the protective mountain chain that separated their homeland from this one, they would have to fly low and recall everything they saw for future map-making.

They spotted the city the next day. The exhausted scouting group had flown all night, and rested for a few hours that morning. It hadn’t helped much. They had found evidence of some sort of civilization, and as they followed it south east, it became increasingly obvious that something lived out here. They saw the actual city when the day was brightest, and when they did, each dove for cover immediately. No alarms rang out, no archers or ballistae appeared on the walls, and each of the dragons sighed with relief. They had not been spotted. The trees that surrounded them would provide excellent cover for the duration of their mission. “Zaro,” Alaron whispered, despite the fact the group was miles from the city, “This is where you come in. Try to find out what lives in this city, stick close to the mountains, and report back immediately if the inhabitants aren’t orcs or trolls.” Nodding, the dun colored dragon lifted off again, and headed back towards the mountain chain. His scales would blend in perfectly with the rock faces. By sunset, Zaro had returned with a grim look on his face. Alaron raised an eyebrow as he landed, and the scout began his report, “My prince, the city is indeed Orcish…but there is more. It is obvious they are preparing for war; I spotted a smaller settlement further to the southeast of their city that looked like a training camp more than a village. Their armies are enormous; their city has an uncountable number of barracks within it, all with the green skinned monsters inside of them. I saw no trace of magical power in their city, which leads me to believe that this might be why they are allied with the trolls.” The scout paused to take a breath, and Alaron encouraged him to regain his composure before continuing. Once he had eaten a mouthful of salted meat, and had his fill of water from a nearby stream, he continued his report, “Their foot soldiers number in the thousands, as do their archers, but what really sent fear down my spine was what they were riding in the air.” “Hold on,” Alaron interrupted, “You mean to tell me these beasts can fly?” “Yes my Prince, they ride upon leathery black skinned creatures that almost look like us. They lack scales and front legs, but make up for it with their speed. It is unnatural how fast they can go without a rider, but from what I saw they need riders to keep them in control. They are still quite fast though. Furthermore, I was able to sneak close enough to a passing patrol to overhear the riders…and their mounts. These creatures seem capable of communication, which leads me to believe they are intelligent. I couldn’t understand what the orcs said, but I think they may be warring with these creatures further north; they had many troops coming and going from that direction. I suggest we continue southeast over the mountains once more, and have Draco’gar confirm my suspicions with another scouting party to the north. It will be a much shorter trip for them.” Zaro said, ending his report.

“Zoran,” Alaron said, turning to his brother-in-law, “Relay a message to Master Koran, tell him to contact Commander Skor’jon and send out another party to the north. We don’t have time to hold another meeting to vote on sending another scouting party, tell him our suspicions, and that I will deal with any retribution from my father. If the orcs are fighting these black skinned creatures with the trolls, we need to know how close they are to victory. Also, tell him to inform my father that Dravaldar must be started immediately. If we miss this opportunity to construct the city while our enemies are preoccupied, we’ll have to deal with air and land attacks while we build.” “Zoran nodded, and stepped away from the group. He began chanting in the oldest tongue of dragons, his very words caused the air around him to shimmer. All dragons had the ability to use magic to a certain degree, but only the truly exceptional were apprenticed in Salaron. Others acted as relays and food teleporters. The problem with using this magic however, was one’s knowledge of the Old Language of the dragons, the language they had been rumored to have spoken in in the times before their enslavement by the elves, dwarves, and trolls. There were precious few records of the Old Language, and every dragon who knew every word that existed was tasked with re-writing the words down. Occasionally, new words would be discovered, others would become unnecessary or forgotten, but from what the Salaronian scholars knew of the Old Language’s grammar rules, they were able to try to come up with new ones. Alaron himself knew quite a bit of the Old Language, though his magical aptitude left much to be desired. Zoran turned around, and looked back at the scouting group, “It is done my Prince, and the message was received successfully.” “Good, we should get moving once it’s dark. I’m sorry you won’t have much time to rest Zaro, but once the sun rises again, we’ll camp on a nice ledge and carve out a cave to rest in. Then we can try to hunt, and regain our strength before moving on.” Alaron said as he leapt into the air. The others groaned at the thought of another all-night flight, but their determination drove them on.

Two days later, after having fully recovered, and successfully hunted enough for all of them to eat, the group continued south along the mountain chain. The day they spent flying was uneventful, since all they could see was endless gray mist around them. They were shocked to see they had over flown the southern edge of the mountains by three miles when they descended to rest. This discovery caused an argument to develop. “We should go back Alaron!” Zoran shouted, his voice echoing around the large natural cavern they had been lucky to find. “The mountains curve eastwards from here as far as the eye can see, there’s no possible way the orcs or trolls could get around them. We should head back home, there’s no need to continue south.” “You’re wrong Zoran,” Alaron retorted, “Though my father will never admit it, we need more allies. As strong as the elves and dwarves are, their numbers are nowhere near that of the trolls or the orcs. Without us, they will be overrun, and as numerous as our race is, it would take every single dragon alive to completely defeat the trollish and orcish hordes. I don’t want my offspring being brought up in an endless war that will slowly erode our species to nothingness. Nobody has ever been south over the mountains, we always considered them too dangerous to cross because of the gale-force winds that blow through them, but we have crossed them without much difficulty. There must be a reason nobody has dicovered this gap in the winds before. We’re here, we might as well find out if there are any creatures down here that could be able to help us.” “That could take weeks though!” Zoran shouted back, “We should be home, training, preparing for war, not flying over unknown lands looking for creatures that might not even exist. What if we do find something eh? What if what we find is too barbaric, or weak, or too small to be of any help to us? We’ll have wasted weeks for nothing!” “We’re going south.” Alaron replied, a tone of deadly finality in his voice, “As I said, we’re here, we might as well have a look. If we don’t find anything in three days, we’ll turn around and head home. Is that acceptable to you?” Zoran snorted emerald flames at the prince, the draconic equivalent of giving someone the finger, and said, “Fine. Three days though, and no all-night flying unless we’re close to Drak’ir.” “Now,” Alaron continued, “Our food won’t last three more days, as well as through the journey home. We’re going to have to hunt whatever passes for prey in this land if we want to survive.” The others simply nodded and went to sleep. When survival became a factor, any dragon could hunt.

Two days later, after having flown both night and day, the group stopped to rest, and prepared to journey home. Alaron looked around the clearing they had landed in, and scented the air. What he smelled caused the spikes along his spine to stick straight up, and a low growl escaped from his mouth. Confused, the others did likewise and immediately pulled their saddlebags off. They weren’t alone. Each of the dragons had backed into a circle, they were covered from every direction, and whatever they smelled was all around them. Alaron shouted through the snarling, “Whose there!? Show yourself!” In immediate response, a head poked out from the nearby shrubbery that grew around the edge of the clearing. It was clearly draconic, but it took Alaron a minute to relies that its’ eyes were completely yellow with only black slits in the middle of them. They resembled the eyes of the fur-covered creatures the elves sometimes kept as pets, creatures that were not for eating. The creature emerged completely from the brush to reveal that it was far larger than it had first appeared. As wide as a dragon across, though not as long, the other glaringly obvious difference was the complete lack of front legs, the creature crawled on its’ wings, which had three sharp talons on the edges of them. Cautiously, it crawled towards the group, and the group ceased their snarling. Every pair of eyes was focused on the creature, and since it didn’t seem hostile, they relaxed their guard slightly. The creature’s scales, while not as shiny as the prince’s, sparkled a dazzling red color. Alaron lowered his head to the creature’s level, and stared at it. The creature froze, clearly expecting an attack, but when the prince made no move to harm it, it cautiously crept forward and sniffed the prince’s snout. Alaron did likewise, and flicked his tail, the signal for the others to lower their guard. Once they did, other creatures began to emerge from the bushes. There were enough to overwhelm the small group of dragons, and Alaron realized he had to play it safe. He looked the red creature in the eye once more and said, “Can you understand me?” The red scaled thing tilted its’ head and snorted. Alaron switched his language to Draconic, what was spoken before Arconian became the primary language, and asked the same question again. This time, the creature nodded vigorously and said, “Indeed large one, indeed! Northerner came here long ago and taught us to speak your tongue. Very long ago, yes. Drakel only knows little bit of your tongue.” “Drakel…” the prince responded, “Is that what you are called?” The creature nodded enthusiastically once more, and began speaking rapidly, almost too fast for the prince to understand, “Yes, Drakel is my name, yes, come large one, king will want to know the northerners have returned. Prophecy is being fulfilled, yes, come, follow Drakel.” As soon as he finished speaking, Drakel opened his wings, and power flapped into the air, as did the others who had hidden with him. A few stayed on the ground and went back into the brush. Alaron looked at the others and grinned, “My friends, we may have just found what we came here for. Treat their king as you would treat my father. Come.” Without a word the others lifted into the air after their prince, Zoran looked back the way they had come and sighed. Instead of flying further south however, Drakel and his kin led the group east towards the mountains.

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