Drake had just finished tightening the last of the saddle straps on Ebony as Tir finished putting on the dark green riding leathers that had specially been made for him. Marek and Feras had already taken off with the little hatchling, and Tir and Drake where the only ones left to leave. Tir couldn’t help but feel the excitement of his first dragon ride begin to fill him. Soon they would be airborne and on their way to the gate that would transport them to Recura. It would only take Ebony half a day to reach the gate out in the barren desert, where it would have taken them a couple days on horseback. It had been decided that it would be easier for Tir to ride with Drake and have a couple of other riders bring the luggage, since Ebony had agree to take him.
“Are you ready?” Drake asked, turning to look at Tir.
“Yes,” Tir said with an excited smile, playing with the end of his hair that had been bound for the ride.
“Good, it doesn’t look like you are nervous. Come on, lets get going,” Drake said, holding out his hand.
Tir walked over to take the man’s warm hand for a moment, looking up at his smiling face that reassured him. He grabbed the ropes, helping him to pull himself up Ebony’s side and into the saddle specially designed so he and Drake could ride Ebony together. No dragon had ever allowed anyone other than their rider ride on them in centuries, and they had to specially design a saddle for the both of them. Drake, with a practiced ease, placed himself in front of him as they both buckled the straps that would hold them in place no matter what Ebony did in the sky. Soon they were strapped in and ready to go, and Ebony launched herself upward.
Tir felt Ebony surge forward as she jumped into the air, and Tir automatically gripped Drake’s waist as he heard man’s deep chuckle that soon became lost in the sound of rushing wind. Tir watched with fascination as Ebony’s large wings beat as she grew further and further from the ground, her body moving up and down, jarring him a little until he became accustomed to the rhythm of her wing beats. The wind rushed around him and he felt an incredible sense of freedom fill him. He would have never dreamed he would ever be able to experience what it was like to fly.
He loosened his hold on Drake’s waist as he began to relax, enjoying the experience as he felt Ebony’s mind join with his and her feelings of pleasure about being off the ground and once again in the skies joined with his own sense of pleasure, and their feelings melted into one another, an experience unique to his communications with the female dragon. Despite their height, Tir felt no fear, knowing with certainty neither Ebony nor Drake would allow anything to happen to him as he watched the ground speed past with interest.
As time went on the novelty of the flight wore off a little and he found himself alone with his thoughts. The rushing wind made it impossible to hold a conversation with Drake and he could feel most of Ebony’s attention focused on Drake. It was very rare that Ebony ever spoke to him, despite the fact she could. She seemed hesitant to speak with him, since Drake could not and he always felt a strange sense of guilt from her when she did. Tir respected her wishes and tried not to draw her into a conversation despite the fact that she had a very interesting personality that Tir would have loved to get to know better with words.
Tir didn’t want to think about what was coming, knowing with certainty if he started brooding about the situation he would become even more nervous and frightened, yet try as he might he couldn’t stop himself from thinking of meeting his father and even more so he found himself thinking about his brothers. He wondered if they were ok and what his father had told them when Tir had disappeared. He wasn’t sure if he would even be able to see them, but he desperately hoped he would at least be able to find out what had happened to them while he had been away. His mind began to conjure images of what could have happened to them as he tried to think of something else to occupy distract him.
“Don’t worry, I am sure Drake and Marek will be willing to stay long enough to find out what happened to your brothers, even if you don’t find out before the conference is over,” Feras said, startling Tir enough that he felt himself jump a little.
Drake looked quizzically behind him at Tir as he smiled and shook his head.
“I would have thought you would be talking to Marek. Most of Ebony’s attention is focused on Drake,” Tir said.
“Marek is asleep right now,” Feras said drily.
“Asleep?! But we are flying,” Tir exclaimed in his mind, to hear Feras chuckle.
“Yes, but that isn’t unusual. Marek finds it very peaceful to fly and besides, all three of you were up fairly late and Marek isn’t one for getting up early,” Feras explained.
“Isn’t it kind of rude to sleep while you are doing all the work?” Tir asked.
“I don’t mind, besides it is best if he isn’t grumpy,” Feras replied.
“Why is the gate out in the middle of nowhere? I mean wouldn’t it make more sense to have it closer to the capitol?” Tir asked, glad that Feras had time to talk to him and that he could avoid thinking about the upcoming meeting.
“Because they were built during Levan and Vash’s time, and haven’t been used since then. They take a mage on each side of the gate working in concert to use, and they also take a fair amount of power. Logan will be able to open the gate, but he will be exhausted for a few days after doing it, he is the only rider strong enough to do it,” Feras said.
“Drake said something about his father helping, but I didn’t know that he would be the one opening the gate. But what about Tristan, how does he know what to do? He doesn’t have a dragon, so how does he know about the gates and how to use them?” Tir asked, finding himself even more confused.
“You’re father is the one that actually suggested the idea. How he found out about them and how to use them is a mystery, although like I said before he has been mucking around with his power for a long time.
“You’re father has actually been at the center of this whole peace negations from the beginning, getting both sides to agree to the temporary halt in hostilities, and peace talks on a neutral territory. Of course, we were willing to talk from the beginning, yet where was the problem. Nolan was completely stuck on having them in Recura, yet that was, what we thought, impossible with the hatching. When the talks where going to fall through because neither Logan or Drake could travel to Recura, Tristan is the one that came up with this solution and sent the mirrors for communication between Terma and Recura, so we could get the timing right,” Feras said, his voice holding a little bit of uneasiness.
“Tristan is powerful isn’t he?” Tir asked, knowing without Feras saying anything that his father mucking around with magic was making all of the dragons nervous, and Tir’s talks with him about bonding a dragon might become even more important than he first thought.
“We don’t know, but the fact that he can hold half of a gate is telling. You also say a lot for you father’s power. Since we bonded you, most of us have become more uneasy,” Feras answered slowly.
“Yes, you are very powerful, which makes it probable that your father is at least close in powers,” Feras said.
Tir sensed that now the topic of discussion was making Feras depressed so instead of continuing on despite his questions, he decided to steer the conversation in a different direction. Thinking for a moment, he decided to ask Feras to teach him more about Terma. He felt Feras’s surprise even though the dragon quickly agreed.
Time sped by and Tir found that Feras was an apt teacher, especially since he could actually show Tir images when he didn’t quite understand something. He was certainly a more enjoyable teacher than the rather dry and dust old men Drake had found for him. Tir was surprised at the extent of the dragon’s knowledge on the complex political balance within the King’s court, until he realized that all of the dragons where bonded to some sort of nobility and by extension the dragons would know most of what their riders knew.
As they talked, the barren desert stretched on, making Tir realize how different Terma was from his own home country. He had seen very little of the land outside the palace, and now flying over the white dessert made him more aware of stark differences from his own lush green homeland. Although the desert only made up a fourth of Terma, it still affected the country intensely by providing not only the dragons, but a harsh border protecting them from many other lands. They only had two other countries that bordered them and because of it had enjoyed centuries of peace, at least until now.
“Look up ahead, there is the gate,” Feras said, breaking their conversation about the complex guild structure of Terma.
“It is huge,” Tir said in amazement, looking at how small Feras and Sela looked standing next to the enormous stone pillars that formed the sides of the gate.
“Yes, it has stood out here for centauries. We are lucky it wasn’t buried in sand,” Feras said.
As they drew closer Tir poked his head around Drake to gaze at the black pillars of stone that stood out in stark contrast to the white sands of the desert. On top of the square pillars of black stone was yet another large slab of stone forming the top, which had to be almost as tall as Tir himself. He had no idea how such an incredible structure could have been built in the middle of the desert. He couldn’t imagine how they were able to get such a huge stone to the top of the large pillars, nor how they had gotten the stones there in the first place. It had to have been done by magic more powerful than anything he could have imagined.
He felt the in rushing of wind as Ebony landed delicately in the sands a little away from the others, so as to not bring up sand at them, then walked over to the group of dragons and riders waiting for them. Drake and Tir dismounted as Logan and Marek walked over to them.
“Well, how did you enjoy your first flight?” Logan asked curiously as he approached.
“It was wonderful. I don’t know how you can stand not to fly,” Tir said, knowing Logan seldom took his own dragon out.
“The motion makes me rather sick,” Logan admitted cheerfully.
Marek snorted and rolled his eyes as Drake shook his head.
“Have you contacted Tristan?” Drake asked.
“Yes, he is standing ready. These mirrors of his are rather useful, see if you can find out how he made them. We have enough mages we should be able to make enough for all the riders,” Logan said.
“We aren’t going there for a pleasure trip father. If I don’t succeed we will be going to war,” Drake answered, frowning.
“I know, that’s why I want you to. Don’t you think it would be rather convenient to coordinate everyone with these things Drake?” Logan replied, his tone turning serious.
“You don’t think I will succeed?” Drake said, looking sharply at his father, something unspoken passing between them.
“Let’s just say Nolan’s reasons for this war don’t make sense, meaning there is something deeper going on,” Logan said vaguely, looking at his son.
“Let’s hope you’re wrong, the only thing is you hardly ever are,” Drake said with a sigh.
“Finally you admit my genius,” Logan said with a fond smile.
Marek and Drake both snorted as Logan laughed at them, lightening the mood. Tir remained quiet, listening to the talk, more than a little worried. It was sometimes too easy to forget the real reason for their trip, with all the other personal worries he had. He vividly remembered the time Marek was away scouting the borders. If Drake didn’t succeed, Tir realized the consequences would be staggering.
“Come on, let’s get the dragon’s loaded and that hatchling back where she belongs,” Marek said, looking over at the purple dragon that was investigating the side of the pillar with interest. Tir went over to the young dragon to see what had her so interested while the others went over to Feras and Ebony to put their baggage on the two.
He realized as he approached that the gate was inscribed with words. Putting his hand over the engraving he wondered what they said, for they were in a script and language unfamiliar to Tir. He noticed the little one was looking at the words with her keen eyes, as though reading them. Tir looked over at Feras, sending out a questioning thought.
“I’m a little busy here Tir, but yes she is reading them. She is looking for the translation in the group mind right now, that is why she is so intent,” Feras explained as Tir watched Marek loading the poor dragon up.
“Too bad I can’t talk to you, then you could tell me what it says,” Tir said, kneeling down next to the purple dragon, who chirped at him before turning her attention back to the inscriptions.
Before long Feras approached them and picked his offspring up with his mouth and tossed her on his back as she protest loudly. Tir smiled up at the two as he watched Feras hiss at the little dragon, who abruptly stopped her ear piercing shriek. He wondered if all young dragons where as imperious as the young female or it was just her personality.
He heard Feras snort in his mind as Drake, Marek, and Logan approached. Despite their playful tone earlier he could sense the tension and serious mood coming from the group.
He realized it was time, and felt himself hesitate. There were so many conflicting feelings and thoughts running through him. So many things could go wrong in so many different ways. Anxiety about his family, the dragons, mages, and the war loomed over him, threatening to overwhelm him now that the moment of departure was at hand. Within minutes he would be back in his homeland, a place he never thought he would see again, and meeting the man who had sired him.
Suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see Drake with his usual cheerful expression on his face. He looked down at Tir with understanding in his deep black eyes that seemed to soften his worries.
“There is nothing to worry about, little harem boy. You have two dragons and their riders to protect you, and don’t worry about the conference, that’s golden boy’s job after all. We can spend all our time in bed while he works,” Marek smirked as he looked at Drake.
“If you think I’m going to let you off that easy, you’re sadly mistaken Marek, I fully intend to work both of you,” Drake answered sweetly with a smile as Marek frowned a little.
“Thank you, both of you,” Tir said, looking between the two men, knowing both of them in their own way were trying to calm his fears.
“Don’t worry Tir, no matter what Tristan says you are now part of Terma,” Logan added as he looked over at one of the young riders that had accompanied them, who was holding a large hand mirror, and nodded.
“Come on, it’s hot out here and I would prefer to be at my palace with a couple of harem girls than standing out here baking,” Logan said.
“You’re right, Tristan is waiting,” Drake said. “I will succeed father.”
“I hope so Drake, just be careful,” Logan said seriously, before turning to the young rider.
“We are ready,” Logan said as Ebony and Feras approached the gate.
“Be ready to run, they can’t keep it open for very long,” Drake said as they moved behind the dragons.
“Now Your Majesty,” the young rider said as he gazed intently down at the mirror.
Tir watched as the empty space inside the gate began to swirl violently as it turned black, flecked with bright reds and purples, caught within the maelstrom of the gate’s center. Tir stood still with shock as he could almost feel the energy emitting from the swirling vortex.
“Now,” Logan barked as Ebony, then Feras rushed without fear into the black storm.
Tir felt Marek grab his arm as Drake grabbed the other. Before he could let out more than a squeak of fear he found himself pulled into the gate. Contrary to what he expected, he felt for a moment a calm stillness surround him as he lost all of his senses. He couldn’t see anything and lost the feeling of Drake and Marek’s hands on him as the stillness surrounded him, then he suddenly found himself lurching forward into a startling green glade with a cool breeze.
Tir blinked, trying to get his bearings as the black vortex began to disappear. He looked around to see a group of people surrounding a tall, beautiful blond man who stood absolutely rigid. When there was nothing left of the energies of the gate he watched the man fall, the men around him stopping him from crashing totally to the ground. Tir quickly realized the man must be Tristan, the King of Recura, and his father.
Without thinking about it he rushed to the man’s side as they lowered him to the ground, kneeling down as he sent out a anxious thought to Feras. The men surrounding Tristan looked startled but did not protest his presence.
“He has used too much power. Logan had Sela, but he had no one to support him,” Feras said as Drake came up beside him
“Tir, Ebony tells me you have untapped power? Give me your hand, and concentrate on the blood flowing through your body,” Drake said.
Tir looked at Drake confused, but complied as he sent out a questioning thought to Feras. The dragon responded, reassuring him that it was different from when he had been hurt and that magically restoring what Tristan had lost would help him. He felt the dragon delicately in his mind show him what Drake meant by focusing on the blood that flowed through his body. He found that his life blood was connected to the very magical energy that mages used. It was the simplest way to reach his own magical power, although raw and unrefined in any way.
“You have found it?” Drake asked quietly as Tir nodded. “Good, now try to push it out to me.”
Tir frowned and concentrated, trying to mentally force the energies he now felt out to Drake. Drake frowned for a moment then suddenly his face calmed as Tir actually felt Drake begin to pull the energy from him. He found himself watching the man intensely, trying to follow with his mind what Drake was doing, yet he found himself unable to. Frowning he waited impatiently until he felt Ebony literally take hold of his mind and guide him so he was suddenly able to see how Drake was taking his raw energy and transforming it from the light purple into a darker richer color that matched the flickering energy around his father. The wildly surging power coming from him was soothed into a steady stream that increased the glow around Tristan while barely impacting his own.
“With training you could do this without Drake, but he will always be able to convert different types of energy with ease. No mater how powerful you are you will never be able to do what Drake does as easily, or without great power expenditure,” Feras said quietly, trying not to break Tir’s focus.
It didn’t take long for Drake to break the connection between the two of them as Tristan began to stir. The men around him murmured and a couple of them smiled in relief as their King opened his eyes to look straight at Tir.
“What are you doing here? I thought you had been sold? I’ve been searching all over for you, Kasarah’s son,” Tristan asked, his wide, amethyst eyes locking on Tir as a frown appeared on his beautiful face.