Gazing I: Notice

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Sometimes the stars visited in fire and rock and for a night we fluttered a little nearer to heaven.
Down here, while you rested belly-down on some harsh slab, the stars could almost be painted on a shell, and whatever numinous world they limned could well be an existence apart.  Most times it was.
Dusk dwindled away, and the stars were settling down.  I thought they’d be as bright and beautiful as ever.  Below them, though, as some dark blue dot on some crumbly butte in some forgotten spate of cliffs in the vasty night, I stared up and couldn’t keep the dew from my fangs.  Couldn’t not wonder just how we connected to this infinite sky under which two dragons could die, without it even flinching.
A bright white rock was up there, burning its way across the dusk like an arrow sped from some forgotten bow.  The night sky was vast and aimless; but then like to a cynosure you could look up, and see that heavensent rock flying right there as it crossed the threshold of worlds, unbarred and unbourned, yet swift on some unknown mission.
I saw it, and I smiled.

Rousing V: Suspect

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“The bodies need to be guarded,” the pink-scaled guard was saying to Adwyn, “don’t they?  You’re plenty big and strong sure, but I can watch your back.”
Didn’t they hear me? “Who are you?” I asked again, a bit higher. I stood somewhere behind Adwyn, beside Digrif, but I knew they could hear me.
The short, mouse-like dragon at last glanced over, frowned, and tossed me a, “Ceian,” before turning back to the schizon-clad adviser.
Hinte stood beside the orange drake. “Do we need a little fledgling slowing us down?”
The guard glanced at her, and his frills popped open and there may have been a gasp or mutter.  “You’re the alchemist’s spawn!” they said, and stepped back.

Rousing III: Interpret

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In silence I slinked away from the Gären estate and toward my sinkhole of morning shift.  Around me the west end was sleeping.  The birds didn’t chirp too loudly, there weren’t very many dragons out walking, and even the wind seemed to hold its breath.
That left it easy to hear the soft, stealthy padding that came up behind me.
I said, “Hello again, Adwyn-sofran.”  Your tongue caught the scent of eyepaint.
“Greetings, Kinri of Specter.”
A twitching blue frill brushed my headband, and metallic-red eyes caught that.  I walked on, forcefully, and left the orange drake trailing behind me. Why here, why now? I’d had enough of this smirking, scheming wraith at breakfast.
“What do you want?” I asked him.  “I need to get to work.”

Sifting VII: Anneal

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Along the roads into Gwymr/Frina the scattered lamp- and sign-posts mixed with bright-colored signs warning of trenches and sudden drops. Little glider-scorpions emerged from the deeper crevices, flitting in the night with the short, sporadic glides that named them.  Often the whirring of bats rose with the calls and buzzes of the scorpions, but when one appeared, the other would grow silent, hiding or hunting.
We passed a few houses dotting the ravine at its widest, where the posts instead fenced off their yards.  Here, netting rose from the fence-posts, and blocked any inward flight.  The nets met big poles rising from the roofs, making the houses like spiderly pyramids.

Sifting V: Blow

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We hunted.
I’d learned hunting from my tutors, but some details were different on the surface. In the sky you could exhaust yourself and fall to your death, or drop your prey and lose it forever.  But the basics hadn’t changed: every predator had its own unique skills, own way of hunting its prey.  Without a lot of strength, or any deadly venom or really big claws, you had to rely on teamwork and better senses⁠ ⁠—⁠ your eyes, frills, and above all else, your tongue.
Hunting on the ground was so much safer, so much more secure, than what I grew up on; the surface had a ton of flightless prey, like so many easy pickings.
For example: the ape I now hunted. Not just injured and exhausted, it also lugged around a corpse, and there was no thought at all in tracking the fear and sweat.  How could these creatures survive in the first place?
I flew low and slow, in a bounding flight, holding my breath for the ape to relax or stop moving⁠ ⁠—⁠ and for Hinte to finish bandaging her tail.  It was only one wound⁠ ⁠— the first fight with the apes was worse.  I couldn’t help the knot of worry in my stomach, but I could think.  Hinte would be okay.  She had to be.

Sifting IV: Melt

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i.*

Kinri.  Do you smell that?  I smell blood.
I flicked my tongue and whirled its forks.  After a beat it was pressed against the roof of my mouth, and I only smelled the evil sulfur of the Berwem.  I ignored it and grasped for the tastes at the fringes.  Grape and chamomile?  No.  Boily crab meat?  No. Faint sweat and blood blowing in from the distance⁠ ⁠—⁠ there it is.
What had happened?  The lake was stingy with life.  And for what it did allow, none were mammals.  Was it something wandered and lost in the lake?  Had it come here on purpose?  Why here, and what did it want?  Was it dead?  Had something attacked it?  But why⁠ ⁠—
“Follow me.”  Hinte’s voice stole into my fluttering mess of questions.  The command to do something felt so simple, so commonsense, almost not worth giving.  But it worked.
Then I waved my tongue.
“Hinte?”  I saw her turn back to me, fangs bared.  “Are we going toward the blood?  It might be⁠ ⁠—⁠ it’s dangerous.  We should head back to town and⁠ ⁠—”