Authors: Mell Eight
Tags: #fantasy, #M/M romance, #Dragon's Hoard
It wasn't long before Tori let out another gasp, standing right in front of White's sleeping place. He tried knocking on the ice and calling out a few times, but that didn't have any effect.
"Hey, Jerney?" Tori asked without turning around.
"I can already see all the spells that have been tried," Jerney explained gently. "I don't believe there is anything I can do."
Tori grumbled and frowned, then took a deep breath.
"That's probably not a good idea either," Jerney cautioned.
Kam had no idea what was going on, but he could feel how resolute Tori was about trying to get White free. Kam thought about explaining that the Tribe had been attempting the same thing for centuries to no avail, but Tori also had stubbornness coming off of him in waves so Kam didn't bother trying.
"We should probably take a step back," Jerney explained to Kam.
In what should probably be described as a cough rather than a proper exhale of breath, Tori spewed out flames from his mouth. He missed the ice the first time, which made him frown and take another deep breath. Try number two was dead on, pressing against the unmelting ice and spraying off in all directions. Jerney was quick to wave his hand and quench the flames that came too close to where he and Kam were standing.
Tori ran out of breath quickly and took a step back to survey his efforts. The ice looked unmarred and Tori's shoulders slumped.
"This is weird ice," Tori grumbled, turning his head towards Jerney with a pout on his face.
All of a sudden there was a loud groan and a cracking sound. Kam felt the loneliness vanish, to be replaced with something that felt like hope quickly stifled. Tori backpedaled until he was gripping Jerney's arm.
Then, the ice melted.
Piles of gemstones and jewelry were revealed first as the ice dripped away far too quickly to be caused by anything but magic, then the massive, white head began to emerge. Tori crept forward, crouching down next to the head as the ice began to flow away from the neck and body behind it.
Kam decided to stay next to Jerney, who was mumbling potions ingredients to himself under his breath and had his hands at the ready to cast a spell.
Slowly, one eye cracked open, but it closed too quickly for Kam to get more than an impression of a flash of gold. A moment later White groaned and two forelegs came into view as the bulk of his body shivered in a long stretch. Then both eyes opened.
White's irises were pure gold, exactly like Tori's eyes, but his pupils were white instead of the standard black. He looked upwards from his position on the ground to where Tori was crouched approximately five inches from the end of White's nose.
"You are a curious youngling," White said in a gravelly voice tight with disuse. He spoke slowly and formally, as if every word held more gravity than normal.
"That's what Toel says all the time," Tori said with a happy nod of agreement. "'Cept I've never been able to tell if he's making fun of my hair color," Tori added with a pout.
"You are strangely colored for a dragon," White agreed.
"Mama-Gail says that I'm prettier than other dragons," Tori agreed with another wide grin.
"An'tatoel and Ana'gail were both mere hatchlings at the time of the Riving," White replied with a frown. "Now you are their hatchling?"
"I'm number two," Tori chirped. "Nyle, um, An'nanyle, is my big brother, but he's off playing with his werewolf right now."
"Curious indeed," White murmured. "Now, why have you woken me, hatchling?"
"My name is Tori and I wanted to say hi!" Tori explained. "You shouldn't be hiding inside ice anyway," Tori explained, his reasoning no doubt making sense in his own mind. "Right, Jerney?" Tori asked.
Jerney just sighed, hiding laughter behind one hand.
White's head finally lifted off the ground and turned on his long neck to look at where Jerney and Kam were standing.
"You are not one of mine," White said thoughtfully to Jerney.
Jerney shook his head, but Tori gasped angrily. "Jerney's mine!" Tori snapped. "You can't steal him! No more stealing!"
"Very well, An'tatori," White agreed with infinite patience in his slow voice. "You," he added, as his bright eyes caught on Kam, "are also not one of mine. But one of mine has seen to your protections. Heartening news, to know one of mine still lives."
"One of yours?" Kam asked, trying to figure out the mix of emotions coming off of White. Tori's feelings were mixing with White's too, which made it more difficult, but Kam thought that much of the loneliness that had plagued White for so long was abating under Tori's continued cheer.
"My hoard," White explained with a great sigh. "I was once known as the White Witch, my hoard the Ice Witches of the Tribe."
Kam shook his head sadly. "There's only two left," he tried to explain gently.
Instead of looking shocked or worried, White just nodded. "I knew what would happen should I sequester myself, but my ire could not be given outlet. To do so would raze the mountain and destroy the fields of ice."
"So you buried yourself alone in the mountains?" Jerney asked, echoing Kam's curiosity out loud.
"Awaiting the day a dragon would come to mend the Riving," White agreed. "And now An'tatori has arrived."
"Umm," Tori began slowly. "I just wanted to get you out. What's a riving?"
White turned his head sharply towards Tori. "You have not been educated?" he asked, sounding incredulous.
"Umm," Tori repeated. "Mama-Gail decided she didn't want to squish me, so she sent me to the humans? I could ask Toel?" he added.
"We could easily send a message to An'tatoel or An'nanyle about this," Jerney agreed.
"Do so," White ordered. "I wish to understand what has occurred during my centuries of sleep. Take me to the Ice Witch who protects you so diligently," he added to Kam.
"Okay," Kam agreed, because there really wasn't anything else he could say.
White looked at the three human-sized men standing below his gigantic head, snorted, and shifted into human form. He had long white hair, intricately braided with feathers and stones just like all the Tribe members Kam had ever seen and looked to be about thirty years of age. His gold eyes with the odd pupil remained the same in his handsome face.
Kam led the way back out of the caves towards where Hern was waiting with their lunches and the sled. Tori skipped happily at White's side, holding tightly to Jerney's hand as he went.
Kam decided that dragons were really weird creatures. Powerful and scary, certainly, but their personalities were decidedly weird.
They stepped back out of the caves in a large group. Hern caught sight of them and dropped the fur he was rearranging, his mouth opened in shock.
"White?" he asked, his eyes wide and fixed on White.
"You are of the Tribe," White agreed with a formal nod. "I wish to speak with your Ice Witch," he added while climbing carefully aboard the sled.
"All right," Hern agreed, flashing a curious look over at Kam, who pointed at Tori and tried to make fire gestures with his fingers. Hern just shook his head and moved to climb onto the driver's perch at the back of the sled.
The ride back was silent, Tori curled in Jerney's arms. All of them took turns trying to covertly stare at the white dragon sitting calmly in the middle of the sled, although Tori's stare was less covert and more awed.
They pulled into camp well ahead of schedule, which brought both Lor and Mae running.
"Is everything okay?" Lor asked Kam as Kam stood from the sled first.
"Sort of?" Kam asked, waving his hand towards White.
Lor froze in place, his gaze caught on the dragon in human form slowly freeing himself from the safety straps.
"I've sent a message to Toel and Nyle," Jerney murmured to Lor and Mae as he and Tori joined Kam at Lor's side. "They'll have some idea of how to handle this."
"You are one of mine," White said gravely as he studied Lor. "But this is not the Ice City," he added as he glanced around the tents and the camp.
"The city was lost in a great blizzard centuries ago," Lor explained, finally coming to his senses. More members of the clan were drifting over, curious about the commotion. "Half the Tribe was lost, the rest forced to live in a large camp like you see here. Eventually the camp splintered into two. Today only those two clans and two witches remain."
"I shall look into the city's location," White mused. "And the Riving?" he asked.
"The dragons remain separated, their human city thrives at the base of their mountains. More, we have been unable to learn," Lor replied.
"The dragons and humans have an alliance with the werewolves and maji from the Wilds," Jerney added. "And they are currently trying to organize the witches from the human city also."
"Only the Tribe remains separated," White snorted. "The Riving remains."
"Actually," Jerney cut in politely again, "I don't think the humans knew there were people living so far north before a week or so ago; they knew there were fur trappers working the tundra, but not living here permanently. I can't speak for the dragons, but two should be flying here soon who can explain."
"I shall wait then," White agreed.
They didn't have to wait long. They all settled by the fire, Tori held in place by Jerney, Lor with his arms wrapped protectively around Kam, and White staring patiently into the flames. The first exclamations of surprise came through the camp as two golden dragons flew overhead and circled in to land just on the outskirts of the tents.
Kam saw a man with long black hair climb off of one of the dragons before both golden dragons shifted into human form. The smaller dragon took the black-haired man's hand and led the way over to the fire.
"Tori, what have you done, now?" the smaller dragon asked sharply, but with a gentleness in his voice that kept Tori from doing more than pout.
"Nyle," Tori whined.
"Introduce us," Nyle added.
Tori nodded and then bounced to his feet. "This is my big brother Nyle, his werewolf, Prince Leon, and my hatch-father Toel. This is Lor and Kam, Mae, and this is White."
"White?" Toel gasped. His emotions felt contained to Kam's senses, although surprise flared suddenly when he saw White. "Thou art White Witch? We thought thou lost!"
"Lost?" White asked. "Certainly that is an apt term. However I was Riven, not lost, when Eldest abandoned me. In my ire and sorrow I froze myself in my hoard room, awaiting the day Eldest saw fit to end the Riving."
"I've never heard of a Riving," Nyle interjected, his emotional sense also seemingly calm, although there was a larger sense of wildness to him that echoed Tori's childishness. Kam thought the rougher sense to Nyle might have more to do with Leon than with Nyle's relationship to Tori. Leon felt wolf-like and wild underneath his human exterior to Kam and had some sort of deep, binding connection to Nyle. "But I bet the Eldest knows."
"So what do we do?" Leon asked curiously.
"Speak with the Eldest, certainly," Toel murmured. "We must learn the circumstances of this Riving and strive to end it."
Tori nodded emphatically. "White's really nice and the Eldest lets me play with his rubies. They'll be great friends." He turned towards White and smiled. "You should come with us! I'll show you Jerney's store and my hoard in the castle. And you can see where the werewolves live in the Royal Forest. And you can come play with the Eldest's rubies, too!"
"Such optimism," White said. Nyle was busy trying to hide a smile behind one hand and Toel looked particularly stiff necked at Tori's declaration.
"That sounds like a great idea," Leon said, his own voice filled with no small amount of hidden mirth.
But White shook his head. "I dare not approach Eldest until the Riving has ended. He must come to me to formally end our separation."
"Uh-oh," Tori said with a pout. "The Eldest doesn't leave the mountain, ever." He paused to think further about the problem, but couldn't seem to come up with an answer.
"Toel and I will go speak with the Eldest," Nyle said to Tori and White.
"What about the negotiations?" Jerney asked, sounding like he thought that maybe it wasn't the time to bring it up, but also knowing that if he didn't remind everyone of their original purpose in the ice wastes it would be forgotten.
"We agree that creating this school could be beneficial for our Tribe," Mae replied. "We would need to hammer out the particulars, including the possibilities of increased trade and witches coming to stay with the Tribe for training, but as a basic idea the Tribe has agreed."
Toel nodded. "Very well. Thou must have dialogue with Nyle, who will speak on behalf of the dragons. I believe Bast wished to speak on behalf of the humans, as this is his endeavor. Shall I inform him that he might meet with thou at the location in question in four days?"
"That is a very long time for Lor and I to be away from the clan," Mae said sharply. "We need Lor to keep an eye on the weather."
White craned his neck, glancing in all directions for a long moment. "There are no storms on the horizon for at least a week. Your charges should be safe for duration of this meeting. I wish to search for the other living clan and for the lost Ice City. I shall also meet at this location in four days."
"In four days, then," Nyle agreed, seeing Lor, Mae, and Toel nod agreement.
Nyle, Leon, and Toel said their goodbyes to Tori and the Tribe before walking out of the camp into the wide expanse of snow. Nyle and Toel shifted into dragon form a moment later. Toel took to the air, but Nyle waited for Leon to climb onto his back and get settled before he joined Toel. Both dragons flew sharply south and were gone from sight in a few minutes.
White also nodded his goodbye. "I must fly as well," he explained. "In four days we shall speak again about what is to be done to revive the Tribe of the White Dragon."
With that final statement, White also walked out to the clearing where he shifted form and jumped into the sky. His white coloring made him blend into the pale colored sky until he vanished.
Lor looked at Mae, shock clear on his face. She shrugged helplessly. "We should begin preparing to journey south as well," she finally said, as if she didn't know what else to talk about. The sudden appearance of White, as well as the revelation that the Tribe might be saved either because of White's power of because of the trade agreement about to be discussed in a few days, seemed to have left her mostly speechless.