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Heart of the Dragon
Andrinor stood at the top of the path, watching the sky; his hands white as he gripped the pommel of his double-bladed sword and shifted his weight several times. Prelari and Lash had been due back from the lands south of the Dragon Flame Mountains yesterday. He took a deep breath as two copper dragons appeared in the sky and forced himself to relax as they flew closer.
He bowed his head respectfully to the dragons when they landed in the clearing and two women dismounted. As soon as Lash and Prelari thanked them, the dragons took to the air once again. Despite the acceptance of their village by the dragons for many centuries and the protection granted by Ghainaess, the Great Mother of Dragons, none of Her children entered unless directed to do so by the goddess or at the personal invitation of the Matriarch.
“It is accomplished?” Andrinor looked from Prelari to Lash.
“It is,” Prelari said. “This will be my second child conceived in the outside lands. I will be free to marry after she is born.” She smiled as she laid a hand on his arm.
“You know already it will be a girl?” Andrinor stared at her.
“A woman knows these things,” she said.
“Come, the journey has been long, let us return home,” Lash said stepping forward.
Andrinor and Prelari both gave the older woman a half bow as she walked past them toward the village.
Lorymi, the Matriarch, met the three of them as they entered the village. “Your visit to the outside lands brings new life and new blood. May the Great Mother spread her wings over this child and accept her as one of her own,” she said.
Prelari knelt before the elder woman of the village and bowed her head as the blessing was spoken. Andrinor stood behind her, one hand on her shoulder.
“Matriarch, I request the lines be verified so Prelari and I may be joined after her child is born,” Andrinor said.
Lorymi looked up at Andrinor, a slight frown on her face. He lowered his gaze at the disapproval he saw in her eyes. Tradition called for the woman to be the one to approach the Matriarch regarding marriage after the birth of her second child from the outside.
Lorymi turned her attention to Prelari, whose hand had slid up to rest on Andrinor’s. “Is this your wish also?”
“Very well. We will discuss this matter in the Silver Hall.” She gestured to a large building.
Andrinor offered his hand to Prelari to help her to her feet. “Are you angry I spoke at this time?”
“Of course not. I would have been disappointed if you had not. You have always been a bit more assertive than most, particularly when it is something you care about; it is one of the things I love about you. Come, the Matriarch is waiting.”
Andrinor followed Prelari into the Silver Hall and looked around. This was first time he had ever been in the building that housed all the records of his people and his eyes went wide at the sight of what lined the walls. Dragon scales of the purest silver shimmered and gleamed creating a glow that filled the room. Only a single candle sat in the center of the Hall, yet it was brighter than midday. As his eyes adjusted to the glow, he saw writing on the scales along the back wall.
“It is the lineage of our people,” Prelari said, “going back to the time of Nyiechynia.”
Andrinor stared at the wall. Nyiechynia was the servant of the Great Mother who had come to the village ages ago. The wall held the names of all those who had lived here, who had married whom, and who had been born to whom, all going back several hundred generations. His hand reached out and hovered over his own name where it was listed under his mother’s. He followed the line of his ancestors to where it began with the name Fallion and a small silver mark. “There is no record of the woman Fallion married?” He looked at the Matriarch.
“Her name is not recorded,” Lorymi said. “That is different than no record at all.”
Andrinor looked again at the lineage and his eyes began picking out the places where there were only marks of color and not names. He found several different colors: silver, gold, black, red and blue being the most prominent. Two of the silver marks were in his own family line.
“I have been consulting the lineage in anticipation of Prelari making this request. The blood ties between the two of you are distant enough that this marriage can be allowed.” She paused and smiled at both of them. “I give my blessing to this joining.”
Andrinor shut his eyes as the light in the room grew to a blinding brilliance. The light continued to grow in intensity and silver seeped through the lids of his eyes. When the light faded, Andrinor opened his eyes to find himself standing outside a large temple.
The building, though plain in its decoration was imposing in size and something about the stone and timber spoke of great strength. The large black double doors had been polished to the point they acted as a mirror as he approached. He started to reach for the door then took a step back as his reflection was surrounded by dozens of dragons. The images merged with his own and he looked down as his hands as his reflection changed to that of a young adult silver dragon then back to his own familiar features.
The doors opened and Andrinor’s eyes widened as a creature that appeared to be a cross between a red dragon and a human greeted him. “What are you?” He continued to stare at the creature. She was taller than he was by at least a foot and red-gold scales covered her skin. Her face appeared human except for the slanted gold-flecked red eyes and the scales that covered it. From her temples a pair of horns swept back, the same as on a red dragon. Her hair flowed from the horns down her back, gleaming red-gold in color, creating a halo around her.
“I am Velainne and I am the Guardian of this temple to Sontryantyloth. I am the one you will answer to while you are here.”
Andrinor bowed his head slightly. “Why am I here?”
“You are here because The Great Mother wishes you here. She has brought you here to learn and to be tested. Follow me.”
Andrinor watched the woman closely as he followed several steps behind her.
“Not all who have the blood of both dragons and humans in their veins look as you do,” she said. “There are many of Her children who have physical traits of both of their parents. Those are the ones who come here to serve He Who Watches as his knights and clerics.” She gestured to a small alcove. “You are directed to leave your property there. You will dress in the robes provided then I will show you to your chambers so you may meditate and rest. Tomorrow, you will begin your training.”
Andrinor’s hand tightened on his sword and he frowned.
“Do not worry for your weapons or other items, they will be safe. Or, do you not trust the Great Mother or her reasons for bringing you here?”
“I trust the Great Mother. However, I have nothing other than your word that it was She who brought me here.”
“Then you will have to trust me as well.”
Andrinor continued to stare at the woman, not moving toward the alcove for several seconds. He finally nodded and turned to follow the instructions he had been given. The robes that had been laid out for him were made of silver dragon scales and he hesitated before slipping it on. Many of the craftsmen of his own village used dragon scales in the making of various items, but he had never seen any clothing that was as fine and light as this was.
“A mantle of the silver dragon,” the woman said when he stepped out of the alcove. “It suits you.”
She led him to a small room that held only a bed and a shrine that appeared to be dedicated to all three of the dragon deities: Ghainaess, Pyremar and Sontryantyloth. He knelt in front of the shrine and cleared his mind as he focused on the image of the Great Mother.
Human child of mine, I regret I have taken you unprepared from your home and family, but I need a champion to aid my children. You have the blood of two of my servants in your veins, but I must know if you have the heart to be a draconic warrior. If you pass the tests, your bloodline will be awakened and you will be my champion.
“As you have directed,” Andrinor said.
The presence in his mind vanished and he took a deep breath. The Matriarch had given her blessing to his marriage to Prelari, but now he was bound to serve their goddess. How long he would be here he didn’t know. And, would it be fair to Prelari to marry now that he had been called to serve Ghainaess?
He knew that to be called as one of Ghainaess’ champions was something that happened only every few generations and was an honor that should not be taken lightly.