Elves appeared in front of each of the eight newly bonded beings and their drago ns.

They motioned for the young riders to follow and walked towards the exit of the ring. Ari and Rykash walked side by side falling in step next to the woman A ri despised. She glanced over at the woman between the pieces of bangs that fell in front of her face. As quickly as she looked over she glanced away. "She's pretty... so what?" Ari thought to RyKash. The dragon's glass orange eyes rolled and made a growling sound inside h is chest. His spiked tail flicked annoyingly at Ari's sentence. Feeling his anno yance Ari shrugged the slightest bit. She placed her hand on his head to distrac t her thoughts as warmth that came off him. Each rider had an elf. Most of them were split apart and must to Ari’s dis may girl from the North and her were paired together. Ari chewed her bottom lip, but refused to look at the girl. She didn't want anything to do with her. She h ad no mother because of that girl's father. Instead she paid attention to where the elves were taking them and the sound of RyKash's claws against the stone. Pi ctures were painted on the walls that told the history of the dragons. Rykash pu rred next to her happy she was interested in their history. When the elves stopp ed two giant doors stood across from each other. The elves motioned for them to stop and they walked off without a word. "Why don't they talk?" Ari asked thoughtfully. "The black king cut off their tongues." Rykash responded growlin g in her mind. She looked down at him her eyes wide. "If you opened your mind in stead of blocking everything except for me you'd realize they did talk through y our mind." Ari didn't say anything because she still felt shocked the black king ac tually cut off the elves tongues. Realizing Rykash and her were standing outside their quarters and so was the woman from the North. She felt her body become te nse as the woman was turned to at her. Her head turned to meet the ice blue gaze of the woman.. -------------

Together, her and Myakin, walked with the other girl with the elf. He wa s purring happily beside her as they made way to their chambers. The Elf was mum bling away about the history, where they were going, how to get to certain place s, and what time meals were served. She heard bits and pieces but mainly kept he r attention to the pieces of art that adored the walls. Syrai adored art, but ke pt that formally to herself because her father hated any idea of being different ; if you didn't do as he felt right, a severe punishment was served. One night her brother caught her doodling away in a book where she desig ned a bow to her liking. It was a brilliant sketch that encased the bow in an El vin wood, with a sliver of a string that could throw the arrow for miles. She dr eamed of creating her own weapons for some time until her brother found the sket ch. He took it, showed it to his father, and well that's how the scar about her eye came. He showed her what a real marksman would be able to do and even a true fighter. However, that's the day she knew she had to become stronger and faster . Now her father or brother could touch her, but they sure knew how to get rid o f her. Myakin nudged her gently as the elf walked away, catching her attention. "You're in a better home now Syrai; New friends and family." He whispered to her with a gentle voice. A smile crossed her lips as she turned to the girl in which she would be sharing a chamber with. She hadn't really realized who she had been walking wit h until then. Her eyes met with the girl’s and a smirk played on her lips. "Play nice," he growled at her, which made her stifle a laugh. Listening to her little monster, she held out her hand. "Hi. Name's Syrai, and you are?" She politely stated, still hold ing out her hand.

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She glanced at the hand. Then up to Syrai's face. Then back at the hand. Her feelings torn between anger, hate, curiousness, and even a bit a kindness t hat was natural in her heart. "I could bite the hand?" Rykash growled besides her suggesting s omething amusing. He snapped at the air with his teeth. A small smile tugged at the side o f Ari's lips. The Master of Arms in her kingdom had taught her more than just ph ysical weapons. He had taught her when she disliked something, to kill them with kindness, which she did till she became tired of people walking on her. Roughly she took the girl's hand and held it for only a moment. "Ari." She muttered quietly to answer the girl's question on her name. There was no doubt in her mind, Syrai knew all about her and her father. She dropped the girl's hand and pushed past her to the giant double doors. Ther e she stopped short. Their chambers were the size of her father's great hall and bigger. It was open and cave like. A waterfall fell from the opening in the cei ling big enough to when the dragons were old enough they could fly out and in ea sily. A giant pool lay in the back of the cave and to the right was another entr ance to the outside. A single table and fire pit in the center of the cavern and off to the sides were two separate closed off places where Syrai and Ari could sleep. Rykash bounded forward excitedly to the pool with the waterfall. A bit m ore slowly Ari entered the chambers. The smell of earth, water, and plants sooth ed her. There was a big splash as Rykash went into the water. Steam rose from hi s body as his head appeared above the waves he created making Ari giggle softly. -------------

They turned as the girl pushed past them. Immediately her eyes went to t he ceiling of their cavernous loft. Her mouth dropped to the floor. Being in the desert for so long, this was pretty amazing. The way the earth was shaped into their own domain. Beautiful could only explain what she was looking at. To the l eft, she found her own little room. It was carved into the cavern just like her roommates and the dragons were free to roam in the room. Syrai stood in the door way for what seemed like hours, her mouth just gaping at the place she would no w call home. "Stop drooling..." Myakin mumbled as he nudged the back of her l egs. She moved forward at his push, stumbling, and carelessly bumping into th e girl. "Sorry..." she mumbled, glaring back at her little monster. A goofy grin appeared where his teeth showed the slightest bit. Syrai ca ught her balance and moved swiftly around the girl. It was rather uncomfortable to be in the same room with the girl her father wanted her to kill. Myakin took off for the pool like the other, his tail flicking back and forth until he lande d into the waterfalls pool. Her thoughts were wild. They were like mortal enemi es, yet like long lost friends. "Why do I have to be the daughter of some belligerent King and d ead Queen..." she thought to herself. Silently, she moved towards the wall that held her room. Outside of the room, vines grew in careless waves. The scent of honeysuckle emerged from the vi nes, making her head lift to gain a huge whiff of the smell. The thin slendernes s of her finger lifted around one of the flowers. Softly, she pulled out the suc kle from the vines and twirled it between two fingers. It made her calm down, en ough to get her thoughts together. She turned towards the girl once more. Her eyes looked her over carefull y. It was an awkward feeling to be in the same room where everyone wanted each o ther dead.

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Ari stumbled forward from the girl's impact into bumping into her. In th e water Rykash hissed a warning. To her own surprise she heard herself mutter, " Its okay," when Syrai apologized. Rykash jumped out of the water still hissing in warning that if Syrai to uched Ari again he'd do more than hiss. Ari bent to her knees in front of her dr agon taking his head in her hands. She looked him in the eye and rubbed his nose gently to calm him. Already, since he'd hatch, he seemed slightly bigger. Out o f the corner of her eye she watched Syrai go to her room. Sighing with frustrati on at the fact she was sharing a room with her worst enemy she stood and walked over to her own section of a room with Rykash following at her heels. Her room was lovely. White ice flowers, that she thought only grew in Re narea, covered the walls in thin vines. Her hand reached up and gently ran alone the edge of one of the flowers. The flowers made her think of her father and he r people. Her heart ached as she noticed the wedding picture of her father and m other was sitting on a rock next to the bundle of furs she'd sleep on. "You're father is proud of you and your mother is beautiful." Ry kash bounded over the furs and laid down on over half of them. "My mother would be here today if it was not for that girl's fat her. My father though, cares little." Ari thought back bitterly. "It is not Syari fault your mother's dead," the dragon asked hea ring something in the girl’s tone. "It's-" "Her father's fault, not hers." He answered for her. Ari set down the photo of her parents and walked over to her dragon, als o flopping down in the furs. Her mind chewed over Rykash's words while she leane d back against him. She realized he was right, but it was hard for her to admit it. A rattling sound came from him and she realized he was laughing at her. She grinned and poked his stomach making him do a small roar, lifting his wrings, an d stretching out his neck when he did. Ari couldn't help but laugh at him. "Love you, Rykash..." She muttered to him lying down closer to h is heated scaly body. A wing stretched out over part of her but not yet big enough to cover he r. "Love you too, little one" Laying there Ari lifted her head glancing at her parent's photo one last time then over across the cavern where Syari was. "Good night Syari!" She yelled. Maybe she could kill Syari with kindness and maybe she could kill the bi tter feeling she had with the woman. Rykash's words had impact on her. It wasn't Syari's fault her mother was dead, it was her father's. Pulling a fur blanket o ver her shoulder she closed her gray eyes for sleep; content with Rykash there t o protect her. ---------------

Her eyes followed the girl as she entered her own little room. She turne d back towards her own and entered into the doorway where she stopped to meet th e face of her parents in a photo next to her bed pilings. Anger filled her, caus ing her snatch the frame from the rock and throw it out of the room. She could h ear Myakin growl at the now smashed picture frame next to the waterfall's pool. His claws clicked across the solid ground as he made way towards the picture. "Just remember, new family and new friends, Syrai." he whispered as he turned towards his girl's room. His nails clicked against the floor some more as he stopped in her doorw ay. He found her sitting on her pilings of fur with her face in her palms. “They have turned everyone against you, not you. Turn this around for you and against them." His voice was calm and soothing, shortly after he met

her eyes where she had tears forming in the corners of her eyes. He moved forward again, just slightly too where he was leaning against h er legs to provide her the calming sensation she needed. "I'm used to being ignored and being beat upon. It is hard to st and when so many people want you to fall, like my parents want me too." She thou ght to him, meeting his blue eyes. "Syrai, you are not the girl your parents want you to be. Yes, y ou are strong and wise, but you've held yourself from so much. There is a girl o ver there struggling to hold herself together because of what you are." He respo nded with a stern voice. "Yes but-" "Don't doubt your abilities, Syrai. You are just as good as the others, you were chosen for this. The great dragon just doesn't pick people out of a family, he does see your abilities for which you are, and not what your par ents make you out to be." He could hear her sigh. Knowing he was right about everything, she laid down with her arms folding over her face. Softly he curled up next to her, bring ing a wing across her side. From afar, she could hear Ari speak, yet she didn't think her voice would hold up to even speak back. -------------

Ari awoke early before the sun rose and shone into their chambers. Putti ng her finger to her lips she gently touched her dragon's nose. He awakened then proceeded to stretch out the full length of the pile of furs she called a bed. Clamping her mouth tightly shut Ari stiffen a giggle. Her head cocked sideways s lightly looking at him. He was bigger. His strong scales were a darker gray and the spikes on him seemed longer. Shrugging quietly to herself, Ari forced hersel f to crawl out from under the warmth of the furs to get dressed. Not knowing wha t she was going to do today, her first day of training, she silently sat on the water's edge after taking a bath and braided her long golden hair. Rykash's claw s scrapped the stone so bad; she whipped her head toward him and placed her fing er to lips in a sign to be quiet. The dragon looked almost guilty and got lower to the ground and tried to move more quietly but only ended up bumping into the table. Sighing and trying not to giggle at her friend, Ari got up from the edge of the water and started to push him out the door. She looked over at Syrai hopi ng she didn't wake her. ***** ***** *****

Girl and dragon found themselves on a training field. Elves were practic ing sword play and archery. Under the shade of a giant oak tree Ari's eyes tried to watch every move. They were fast. One of the others who had bonded the same day she had walked up to her and stood next to her. She glanced over at the boy. He was elf as well. His dragon was a deep blue color. He must have caught her g lancing at him for he turned and stuck out his hand. "I'm William." He stated, though not smiling "Ari." She stated. "And this handsome Dragon is Rykash." Ari nodded over at Rykash who was looking at William's dragon, who was l ooking at a beautiful blue colored dragon. The blue dragon snapped at Rykash. Ry kash's temper flared instantly and he snapped back. "Azurea,” William muttered "Rykash!" Ari glared at him. Rykash saw her look and back down, but Azurea snapped again and got a ho ld of his leg. Ari suddenly felt pain shoot up her arm. She winced. Azurea’s grip wasn't hard but it was enough to pissed both dragon and rider off. Rykash tackle d Azurea and the two dragons started to roll on the ground snarling and growing, snapping at each other, while Ari and William were suddenly clashing stick swor ds. Both had the look of pain and anger on their faces. The elves and dragon ali ke saw their battle and stepped in to get things under control. Two enormous dra

gons picked up Azurea and Rykash and separated them. Elves knocked Ari and Willi am to the ground, pushing their faces in the dirt. Ari struggled, trying to see where Rykash was. Once spotting him and realizing he was only the size of a full grown dragon's leg she quit moving and forced herself to relax. The elves staye d on top of Ari and William. Rykash hissed, but was cut off by the larger dragon’s growl. "You will calm down. All of you." The voice came from someone Ari couldn't see. Rykash flashed the image t o her. She couldn't tell if it was elf or human or something else. Whoever it wa s had loads of powers coming from him. The elves scrambled off the girl and elf and they scrambled to their feet. Ari rushed over to Rykash making sure he was a lright while he dusted off the dirt from her clothing. "How you two acted is very disappointing." the figure spoke agai n. Ari turned to face him, keeping her eyes down. She hated getting in trou ble. "I will let it slide this one time, seeing some of you have alre ady gotten a few bruises, but if I see this happen again..." The figure didn't f inish his sentence. "Now it is time to begin your training since everyone has ar rived. Since you all have been in your own world, first lesson! Be aware what is around you at all times. It could save your life." The figure looked around at the gathering riders. Ari touched the bruise on her face while Rykash licked her leg. She continued to refuse to look around the group or at the figure. She could feel William's gaze on her and others. He r cheeks burned red with self consciousness. ---------------

She dreamt of various things. The biggest one caused her to startle hers elf and her dragon several times in the night. It was mainly her father. The way he dropped her here and expected her to either kill this girl or don’t bother try ing to come home if that wasn't completed. Syrai tossed and turned, even one tim e knocking Myakin to the floor. Sometime earlier in the morning she finally got to sleep with the dragons’ wing slowly caressing her, coaxing her to sleep. Syrai awoke, feeling as if they were alone in their cavern like home. Sh e kicked her feet off of her bed, which awoke the dragon causing him to stretch out. Her eyes widened at him and how much he had grown over the night. His tail was mighty longer and the spikes along the tail had risen slightly. His emerald color was brilliantly shimmering in what little light they had. "What are your thoughts?" He asked curiously. She met his eyes for a moment as he rolled over and moved onto the floor . "You're getting mighty bigger!" She exclaimed to him, her eyes t railing over the dragon that had almost doubled in size. "You can't expect me to stay little do'ya?" "Well, I suppose not, but still!" "It doesn't end here." She giggled a little, as he began to goofy like dance around. His claws were scraping the ground heavily. "Alright, Alright!" She exclaimed laughing. "I'll meet you outside, okay?" Syrai stated as she headed to take a shower in the waterfall. Her fingers twirled in her hair, pulling the braid out. She could hear h im exiting as she stepped into the water. The water cooled her off quickly. With in minutes she was back out and pulling her hair back into a braid and pulling i t around her shoulder. It didn't take long before she was dressed in her usual c ombat/riding attire and bounded out the door. Outside she met up with Myakin who was watching the fight between the gi rl and a male elf. He looked back at her with worry in his eyes. "Check up on Ry, I'll keep up with Ari." She quickly thought ov er to him.

He nodded as everyone was pulled apart. Syrai stepped up to the side of Ari, her eyes trailing over the girl who was beginning to bruise. "You okay Ari?" She stated quickly, while she attempted to keep her eyes on the grand beings who were speaking. -------------

Pressure next to her force Ari to glance at Syrai; her eyes scanned her over her for any threat. Seeing none, she relaxed. This morning it was hard for her to trust anyone. "I'm alright." She whispered back to her, her voice tight. A black bruise was starting to show on her cheek and arm, but she ignore d the pain coming from it. She didn't want to show any form of weakness. Her han d rested against Rykash's neck while Myakin touched noses with him. Ari then tur ned her attention to the figure that was speaking. Her eyes scanned the figure t rying to figure out who he was. She took in his clothing; long brown robes flowe d from his shoulders to the ground. In his right hand he held a staff with a rub y gem like stone. The staff had mindless engravings on it and made out of strang e wood. The figure’s face made Ari frown. He looked elf yet he was man. His hair w as white with age and pulled half back in a pony tail with a leather strap. Tatt oos circled up on either side of his eyes, but what really made her frown were t he color of his eyes; they were white. Shifting uncomfortably and still embarras sed, a thought dawned on her. "He's a mage! Master of magic!" The moment she thought of what he was his eyes were suddenly on her, yet he did not waver in his speech. The figure continued to look at her as Rykash s poke through her thoughts. "Yes little one. He is a mage. Master though? Nah. No one is mat er in magic compared to a dragon. It's best to keep your thoughts quiet and bloc ked when around him, little one." Hearing the warning his deep and rough voice, Ari concentrated on blocki ng her mind and what the figure was saying. His white piercing eyes were still o n her. They widened slightly at her before he glanced over at Syrai. "You will be split up in groups of which you have been housed. T ogether you will train. Together you will fight, learn, and hopefully survive. T imes have changed since the time when we learned." The figure glanced beside him to the golden colored dragon. The dragon was enormous and Ari realized it was the dragon she first saw when she entered Asarean with her father and king's men. It had markings up eac h of its legs and on the sides of its neck identical to the tattoos on the mage. Large spikes about the side of Rykash's tale came out from its body. The dragon looked everything deadly. "Syrai and Ari." the figure continued getting the girl's attenti on. "You will be heading to the outer caves to test your stamina with your drago ns. You will not come back till until you've climbed the mountain and gone throu gh the caves. Glancing at Syrai, Ari wondered if the girl felt as surprised as she did . If the girl did she didn't show it. The figure finished giving the others thei r instructions and dismissed them. Ari looked towards William and found him glar ing at her. Frowning ever more she shrugged. "So much for making friends." she thought bitterly. Rykash poked her side which was bruised and she forced herself not to wi nce from the pain. A rattling sound came from his chest, which she learned that was when he was laughing. Glaring at him, but smiling slightly, with her gray ey es she turned her feet towards the North. Syrai and her were supposed to climb t he mountain with nothing but their dragons. This wasn't going to be easy. -------------

Myakin returned to his little one's side after touching bases with the o

ther dragon as well as calming him. He leaned against her side, his warmth radia ting around them keeping the situation a little less intense. His tail curled ar ound the back of her ankles. They were paying close attention to the mage that s tood before them. Every now and then, Myakin would mumble something to her, expl aining a few things to her. Then, they were split up into teams to endure their first test as a Dragon Rider. Syrai didn't really know what to think at that moment. They would have t o climb a mountain and endure caves, without anything by their dragons. Myakin w as listening to her rant off about the first test. "How are we supposed to do this? Isn't this dangerous?" She rant ed off to him. "Syrai, it's nothing compared to what you'll endure if you don't complete it." "We are going to kill one another before it's over with!" "You won't, we won't allow it." "She hates me! They all do!" "You will become friends." "I doubt that." "She will not kill you. You will not kill her. Stop that." "But-" "No, now she's staring at you. Put your game face on." He finish ed, turning towards Ari, looking over her once. Syrai sighed, rolling her eyes, and then turned towards the girl. A smir k played along her lips as she could see that she was becoming stressed. "Mountains don't kill people. People kill people." She stated wi th a chuckle. Myakin turned to look at her, giving her a glare. "What?" She asked allowed as he turned, whipping his tail into h er legs. "Hey!" He began to puff, his laughter sounding like low rumbles and puf fs through his nose. "Okay, okay." She mumbled, looking over Ari once more. The bruises were now becoming more prominent. Her eyebrows rose at the bruises, wondering how they were going to make it through this mountain range an d through the caves that lie within. Sighing, she stepped forward, turning to be beside her. Myakin stepped to the left, flicking his tail around her ankles onc e more. The mountain range before them started to worry her. "We can do this..." she whispered, her voice trying to control a worry waver. The mountains were grand. They were headed to the north, which is where she originally came from to enter the land. "It can't be that difficult." She would think to herself, to tr y to calm her nerves as she waited for their next commands. They were to do this together, to show that they could work together. If they could get through this, they could get through anything. Most of all, ever ything would be laid out on the line. Every emotion, every mindless thought, eve n tactics against one another would be out in the open. Being so close together could bring one of two things, either they would kill one another, or actually b ecome greater and defeat the evil together. Either way, she had a feeling that e verything she felt would be spilled out once they got caught up in a very diffic ult situation. All of her hate and anger that her father instilled in her would come out. All of the battles against the other girl’s family could actually cause them to fight. She knew it would be hard to bear, but something had to come out. Eventually, they may come together and defeat the Black King. All she knew, she really wanted to defeat the Black King and even defeat her father and what he h ad done to the land. She didn't want to do it alone and for that, she might need Ari. -------------

The giant steel gates creaked as they opened. Syrai and Ari stood in the entrance for only a moment before starting forward. Taking a deep breath Ari's

chin lifted a bit higher; weakness was not acceptable here. Beside her, Rykash’s g lass eyes shone brighter. He was confident they would succeed one way or another . He not only had confidence in Ari but Syrai as well. Dragons did not pick any being at random, there was and is always a reason. The wind was blowing hard when they started out. Ari was used to the col d from living in the western kingdom of Renarea. Rykash seemed to thrive in the cold, his mood cheerful, as he bounded a head. He roared at Myakin playfully. Th eir path was beginning to become rocky. They would need to find shelter before d ark or find the caves. Ari didn't know these mountains, but she knew the weather . With it becoming this windy a storm would blow through soon. Turning her head towards Syari, she made herself grin. The tension around the two girls was as wi cked as the cold and bitter wind. "The weather might hit around nightfall." Ari stated the obvious then pointed up the northeastern ridge. "Do you think the caves are there? Mayb e we could reach them before night fall. It's going to be rocky.” It took good self control to swallow her pride and make an effort to not demand reasons why her mother had to be killed by the girl’s father. Why she had to pay the consciousnesses of the haunting memory of the night. Ari would make t he effort to remind her that it wasn't the girl's fault like her monster had sai d, but after so many years of building hate it was going to take more than a few reminders. Snowflakes started to sputter from the sky. Amused Rykash jumped up to try and eat one, but it always melted by the time it got close to his hot ski n. Ari shook her head. The terrain was becoming rockier. They would have to be c areful with their footing. -------------

Each of her movements started to become strategic. One wrong move, they' d fall a couple of feet and have to start over again. The dragons had it a littl e easier. Their nails could dig and grip into the rocky surface to keep moving. Myakin had to pull his wing around Syrai, keeping a warm blanket around them as they continued to move. The wind was strong as the sun started to go down. It wa s getting harder to stand; the cold was hard to bear. She was used to the warmth in the desert and the winds that could sting, but not a fierce cold wind. Over and over again, she had to remind herself that they could do this. They would have to find shelter before the sun went completed down or they would end up dead. Her eyes constantly went over the mountain to see what was ahead. On the left, an opening could be spotted. "Over there!" she screeched, turning herself towards the structu re that they could use as a shelter. She left her focus on the struggle, her body wanting to hurry to get to a warm place. One foot continued up. The other didn't want to move at first but when it did, it caught the edge of a rock. The rock moved, causing her to slip down. Her arms caught her fall as they dug and scraped at the rocks underneath h er. Myakin turned towards her, gripping her with his tail so if another breeze b lew by, she wouldn't slide any further down. She could feel a warm sticky liquid surfacing on her arms from where sharper rocks had torn into her wrist. Refusin g to give up, her fingers gripped into the sturdier rocks, pulling herself up on to her knees. Myakin continued to help pull her up, until she managed to stand a gain. His wing was around her once more, keeping her up. She held her head up hi gher, still determined on pushing forward. "Up on the left, Ari." Syrai managed to spit out as she turned l eft towards the cave. -------------

The wind tore at them. Ari's braided hair was coming loose and bangs wer e falling in front of her eyes. She struggled. Rykash had wrapped his tale aroun d the mid section of her body. Her lips were turning a shade of blue from the co ld. She had started out with Rykash in the lead, but as it became more rocky roc

ks started to come loose from the dragon's claws gripping the land as they moved forcing the dragon and rider to work side by side. Ari had refused that he open ed his wings to cover her. She had noticed the shapes of his wings were differen t than Myakin and when open they lifted up in direction first, instead of straig ht out. Her fears were the wind would get caught under his wings and haul him up in the air. Though she had no doubt Rykash was a mighty dragon, he was still yo ung and the wind was strong. The wind carried Syrai's screech to her ears and Ar i turned to look at her move towards the left. She was about to turn her attenti on back to working with the half frozen rocks when she saw Syrai's foot slip. “Syrai!” She shouted, but her voice was taken away by the wind. Rykash whipped his head around, his tail tightening his grip, and his cl aws dug deeper in the rock. Ari loosen her grip on the rocks and slid down close r to Syrai to lend a hand, but the girl had already gotten her footing. Never ad mitting out loud, at that moment Ari was impressed by Syrai. Barely being able t o hear the direction where they would find shelter, reaching up to the next rock Ari pulled herself up. Her nails dug into the gravel, her hands white, and goin g numb. The rocks had cut them, but she paid no mind. Slowly they reached the le dge of the cave. Shaking she pulled herself up onto the ledge first. Rykash's cl aws scrapped the smooth surface of the landing making visible scratches. Ari tur n and laid flat on the surface and stretched out her hand for Syrai to take, ign oring the way her hands looked; covered in dry blood, new clean blood, and dirt. -------------

She continued to climb. The dirt was starting to embed into her wounds o n her wrists causing her cringe in pain, yet she kept her focus forward. Her han ds were covered in dirt and dried blood. Myakin's tail wrapped around Syrai's wa ist pushed up her in front of him. They started to reach the top when she realiz ed that Ari was no longer beside her. It took her a moment before she felt Ari's hand above her. She reached up, gripping her hand, yet it kept slipping. Trying once again, she managed to grip the girl's hand tight enough so she could grip the ledge to pull herself up. Her teeth were gritted together, pain was searing through her arms. She was wearing down quickly. The cold was turning her lips blue. With one final pus h, Myakin had her over the edge, shortly after he appeared on the ledge beside h er. "C'mon." He thought to her. Quickly, she got up. Syrai leaned down towards Ari, giving her hand, to help her up so they could move quickly on the flat surface to get into the cave. From the place they were, she could see inside the cave. Inside, it was brillia nt. In the back, before it forked off, there was a waterfall that opened into a pool. At least they would be able to clean off and get a drink. Together, they c limb into the cave. -------------

Taking Syrai's hand she pulled herself up so she stood. The wind almost knocked her down again, but Rykash held her up. Together they made their way int o the cave. The wind no longer threatening to take them off the mountain and blo w them away once they entered and thankfully Ari noticed it was a bit warmer. Th ey shook violently. A concerned growl came from Rykash. He needed to get his rid er warm before she froze. Eyeing the water he led Ari to the wall and sat her ag ainst it. "Don't fall asleep" he warned her. Exhausted it was all she wanted to do was curl into a ball and close her eyes. She knew how dangerous it was to sleep in such cold. Many in her land had died from cold sleep; being and Dragon alike. Leaving his rider there Rykash no dded at Myakin towards the water. He trotted over it and dipped his paw in. It w asn't cold but surprisingly warm, though not warm to his liking. Slowly he slid himself into the water until his bottom half was emerged in it. Due to his hot s

kin the water became to steam after a few minutes. Eyes heavy, Ari watched him n ot really thinking of what was going on only the fact that they had made it to a cave and they found shelter. It took a good few minutes for her monster to get her attention. "Come get in the water, little one." She heard him say. Ari tried to lift herself off the stone floor but her body didn't move. "Come. Now. Ari." His voice was rough and filled with urgency in side her mind. She tried again, this time being able to move. Not trusting herself to s tand she crawled over to the water edge on her hands and knees. On her way she p assed Syrai and nudged into her boot rather roughly to get her attention. Once a t the water's edge she reached her hand in to touch the water, but she misjudged it. Ari fell face first into the pool of water. If not for Rykash she would hav e drowned. He reached with his massive head into the pool and pulled her out. Hi s tail wrapped around her waste to support her. A quiet whimper escaped her lips as the heat warmed her blood. Pain like thousands of needles penetrated her in every part of her body due to the cold. She let Rykash hold her and she closed h er eyes. Softly she spoke in the cave, her voice loud enough to echo against the walls around them. "We made it Syrai and Myakin..." -------------

Myakin leaned over Syrai. She was attempting to doze off, but he wouldn' t allow it. "You're going to freeze to death. Stay up." He coaxed her, nudgi ng her ever so slightly. His eyes followed Rykash as he warmed up the water, he hadn't thought of that. He adverted his attention to Ari who nudged Syrai rather roughly. A short growl rumbled in him, but then he realized she was trying to get her attention. "In the water. Now." He demanded, pushing Syrai from where she w as sitting and slowly moving her towards the water. She grumbled groggily. Carefully she sat on the edge of the water before sliding in. Myakin was at her back instantly to make sure she didn't slip to fa r in. The warm water immediately woke her up. It felt amazing, like a warm sauna . She didn't want to sleep any longer, if she did, she wanted to stay in the war m water. Quickly she dipped her head down into the water, which startled her lit tle monster, but she popped back up. However, the warm water opened up the fresh wounds on her wrists. Myakin looked at her worried. "You're losing a lot of blood little one." He stated, worry fill ing his voice. "I'm fine, the water will clean it." She responded aloud. She couldn't concentrate enough to respond in her mind. "Want me to find something to patch it for now?" "I don't wear leather straps and cords for no reason." "Well, strip off some straps." Softly she sighed, pulling herself up onto the ledge of the pool. Immedi ately she started shivering but Myakin was right behind her attempting to keep h er warm. Syrai fumbled with straps that laced her legs. Her fingers unlaced them from her legs and pulled them up. Carefully she dipped them into the warm water . Over her shoulder she could feel Myakin breathing on her and watching. She wra pped the strap around her most damaged wrist, her right, tightly. Quickly she pu lled a pin from her hair and pinned the strap together so it would hold tightly. "Better Mya?" She grumbled at him before slipping back into the water. "Thank you little one." She leaned her back against the pool's wall beside Ari hearing her comme nt.

"We did make it Ari." Syrai responded softly, leaning her head b ack and closing her eyes. ---------------

Time was immeasurable as they sat in the warm water. Sometime in the nig ht Rykash had ordered her to remove all her clothing. She did in a dazed state n ot really caring if she felt fat or Syrai saw the tattoos that wrapped around he r back and her left top half of her arm. Rykash had removed himself from the wat er, which was fine because his heat was making the water too hot. He had laid ou t her clothing against the stone to dry. As the girls slept his glass orange gaz e laid upon Myakin. "They will have to work together after this." He thought to the dragon who watched his rider intently. "Syrai did well when she found this cave. I can feel the draft from the back. It there must be another opening in the cav e through the tunnel." The dragon lowered his head and breathed upon his rider taking in her sc ent. Her hair had become unbounded fully and was flowing freely in the water lik e golden silk. She would need to leave the pool before it got too cold. As the d ragon gazed on his rider deep in thought she moved her head the other direction on the cool rocky floor. The cuts in her hands were already starting to heal. If they were not bounded they would have been infected by now. "They will need food... He spoke without looking at Myakin. "We can't hunt until the storm dies down, if it does. If it does not we may have to press on." Rykash was stating the obvious, but it needed to be said. They were all on their own, yet together and together is how they would come out of this. He w as a logical dragon; intelligent. He looked at the statistics of things before h im trying to look at every angle, much like his rider. Though Ari was stubborn a nd her emotions were like a winding path that was never straight. Her mind was h er most powerful, as far as Rykash could tell. He had not seen her fight yet. In her mind though, she blocked things out well when given the chance. He knew it would help her in the future. Blowing out a puff of white smoke he nudged Ari's shoulder to try and waken her. -------------

Myakin laid out Syrai's clothes beside Ari's. They needed to be dry for the next time they set out. They both had strong girls that could make it throug h, although he felt that Syrai was ready for face their pasts before they headed on. He felt Rykash's eyes on him, making him turn towards him. His eyes met his and he let out a slow yet rough puff of air. He nodded to the dragon's thoughts only to complement them with something more. "Before they go." He started to think at the other dragon. "They need to let every feeling out. If not, they will not work together. They are sl owly realizing that they shouldn't fight one another, but yet internally they ar e." He closed his eyes after finishing his thoughts and turned back to his s leeping rider. He could clearly see Syrai's dreams which were roughly the same s ince the first night together. However, she was still which was comforting to kn ow she was slowly pulling away from the nightmares. Myakin leaned over his rider , whose head was on the stone floor. Softly, he nudged her with a wing, attempti ng to wake her up. "Syrai..." he whispered to her. Startled, she awoke her eyes wid e with fright. "Calm down little one." He responded to her reaction, wrapping hi s tail around her and pulling her up onto the edge. "Get dressed, we need to get moving." Softly she nodded, slowly climbing out of the water and brushing past hi m. Syrai didn't really care to take notice that she had been undressed. Sighing, she picked up her clothes and with her back turned to the pool started to pull

her pants upon her legs. Myakin eyes her back and the scars that tore at her ski n. Intertwined in the scars were tattoos that curled around her shoulders and at her sides. His eyes were wide at the amount of scars and he couldn't keep his t houghts to himself any longer than normal. Myakin looked at the other dragon, st ill in a bit of awe. "Syrai." He stated bluntly to her. "What?" She questioned back, glancing over her shoulder to meet the widened eyes of her dragon. Quickly, she pulled her blouse onto her, realizi ng his thoughts. "What have they done to you?" "Nothing." "I'm not that gullible." "It's nothing, really." "That's more than nothing." "It's why I'm here. I told you I'm not wanted at home." Her resp onses were aloud, yet in a soft voice. He growled lowly. "I'm pretty sure you've seen my dreams. You know why and how." "Still-" "Just drop it." She growled back at him, her temper beginning to flare. Her eyes went straight to the other dragon and rider. This just irritate d her more as she pulled on her boots and stalked out towards that new opening o f the cave. Outside, the weather was beginning ease up, and the sun was slowly r ising over the horizon. Myakin eyed the other dragon and then dropped his eyes a s he had angered his rider. He knew he should let her calm down. With his nails scrapping the ground, he paced from side to side. -------------

One eye opened while Ari felt the smooth but hard nose of her dragon. He r eyes were slate gray like the walls of the cave. Lifting her wet head she glan ced at him then over at Syrai. She watched her, plainly seeing the anger on her face. The look the girl shot her before heading to the entrance of the cave shoc ked her. She had started to think after their climb they had become slightly clo ser, but the look confirmed her darkest thoughts that things hadn't. It irritate d her. Splashing loudly she pulled herself out of the water and reached for her clothes. She watched Myakin pace back and forth as she stuck her leg into her n ow dried leather plants then put her boots on. Standing she slipped her tunic on and tightened the silver belt she wore around her waist. The sun was already gl ittering slightly into the cave when she finished. As she got dressed her eyes n ever left Myakin. She felt bad for the dragon who seemed upset from Syrai walkin g away. The feeling of annoyance made her chest tighten. She reached her hand ou t to touch Myakin in some form of comfort, but Rykash's growl stopped her. "Do not pitty him, Ari. Dragons do not take pity." "No... But humans can." she muttered out loud. Slowly she lowered her hand and saw the look Mya shot her. Her furry ign ited she turned and headed towards the entrance of the cave. Almost stomping as she walked, she went right up to Syari. "What's eating at you, Syari?" She demanded an answer. "Are you so angry with life that you can't even see Myakin was trying to be comforting to you? Can't you see he cares for you just like Rykash cares for me? Her voice wa s starting to rise and her gray eyes narrowed as she delivered her final blow in one last sentence. "Prove to me you are not like your father and have some kind of heart." In the cave a deep growl came from Rykash in warning, but Ari ignored it . She was angry and she wanted to know if this girl was like her father. If she was she'd kill her right then and there, but Ari would give her a fight before s he went down. Just like her mother did.

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Syrai stared out into the mountain range. She was so hell bent on keepin g her guard up, that when she finally let it go it caused problems. After walkin g out, she blocked herself once more. It was hard to let it go and to put it in the past. She listened out, only to hear Ari stomp up behind her. She let Ari ye ll at her. Quite frankly she needed it but it didn't do anything for her already flared temper. She turned abruptly on her heel, facing the girl. Her eyes had t urn towards a darker shade of blue, revealing a mean blue. No one got by when th ey compared her to her father. "I am not my father," she started out, a growl deepening in her voice. "If I were my father, you would be dead. You would be dead like your moth er, and like your own father if he steps on my father’s toes." Syrai knew she woul d hit every angle on hurt and anger between the both of them. "I was sent here t o kill you. To then kill your father. Then we could rule your land." She snarled and turned back towards the mountains. In the back of her mind she could hear Myakin yelling at her. His yellin g flipped her like a bipolar switch. "Look, I know it's tough to not have every bit of family, a family that supports you. Quite frankly I en vy you. You have that. I'm sorry that I've put you through so much." Her voice w as soft, yet her face was still twisted in anger, but Myakin starting cooing in the back of her mind calming her down a little more. "My little monster can take the heat from his angry rider. At least, he knows how to shut me up." The last bit made her stifle a laugh because of the last time he hit her because she was being mean. Myakin looked over to the other dragon. "I started the anger." H e thought over to Rykash. -------------

Eyes widened then narrowed again at her words. She let the girl speak wh ile she clamped her teeth together to hold her tongue. When she was finished Ari was shaking with rage. Ry slammed his tail against the rock to distract her bla zing thoughts of death. He did not have to speak to calm her. "I believe you." She said after a moment of shaking and starring at the girl. At those words Ari turned back towards the cave into the darkness withou t looking back swallowing her pried. Every thought about food was forgotten. Str ipping cloth and picking up a dead limb from a dead tree at the entrance of the cave she wrapped the cloth around it. Then spying two loose stones she struck th em together once, twice, and three times before a spark emitted from the rocks a nd fell upon the stick. The cloth ignited and Ari picked up the stick placing th e rocks in her pouch. She now had a torch. Swinging the torch around at the back of the cave she realized it went on. She didn't look at Syrai as she started fo rward. "C'on" Was the only thing she muttered. Rykash waddled after his rider. He had grown larger in the night again. His gray scales shimmered in the fire light like the light of the sun glittering on the surface of water. The spikes on his body were more pointed and also long er. Ari had already noticed how sharp his spikes were when she bumped into him. The sounds of water dripping some place echoed in the cavern making her head hur t. She soon only heard the sound of her heart pounding against her skull and rub bed her temple with her hand. "I do not know what you have been through." Ari whispered in the flickering light of the torch to Syrai. "When your father killed my mother I wa s only five. I only have her memory. My father was destroyed and filled with ang er. He shunned me. My kingdom also shunned me. They blamed me for her death alon g with your father, you should know. I had a brother too, he was younger. He als o died that night. The creatures murdered him in his own bed. No one speaks of h

im. They blame me. I don't even remember his name..." Ari had no idea why she wa s telling Syrai this. Perhaps she needed to talk about it, but she continued her story looking forward. "My room became a tower. My life revolved around nothing until I proved myself. My hair used to be short and I was able to be passed as a boy in disguise. I learned sword play from the Master of Arms. I dreamed of th e dragons and becoming a rider from the night my mother told them to me." Ari la id her hand against Rykash's neck and he gently blew his calming breath on her. "My father never really loved me. He called me bastard since the night of my mot her’s murder. It wasn't until the Mage’s golden dragon came to call me to become a r ider did he take me in, but never to claim him as his own kin. The look he gives me, do not be fooled. He lies. I do not like your father, yes, but I have a hig her goal. My goal is to kill the Black King. He is the main reason why my life h as been in shambles and other lives as well.” Her words hung in the air. She didn't give all the details of her past j ust some of the more important ones. The main points she wanted to be said was h er father's feelings her were untrue, a lie, and her desire to kill the Black Ki ng. She mentioned the Black King Rykash snarled in the back of his throat as wel l as Myakin. -------------

Syrai watched the girl light a torch. Thankfully there was another path instead of falling many feet down the mountain side. She turned to follow Ari, a s well as her dragon at her heels. Myakin was mumbling to her while they walked, specially yelling at her for being so mean. He would calm down and then start f ussing again about her father. Every once in awhile she would start laughing at his ramblings, because truly he was only ranting on and on because he could. "Boy, you're talkative today." She responded to his rants. As they were walking, she listened carefully to what Ari had to say. Tru ly they were girls that were meant to be boys. It's what their parents wanted an yways. They didn't want a girl who wants to fight and ride. However, they got tw o of them. "Well, we have a few things in common. That helps." Syrai though t out loud without thinking. Quickly she covered her mouth, letting out a sof t giggle for her mistake. They truly could become companions. "Honestly, I'm sorry for everything my father did to you. He's j ust as bad as the Black King. For one, we could take him down as we take down th e Black King." She started before taking a deep breath then continued. Her feet shuffled along the path, kicking small rocks at times. "My family never wanted a daughter. When they found out I could fight and actually harm someone other than myself, they tried their best to knoc k me down." She took another breath, Myakin wrapping his tail around her waist t o keep her calm. "My brothers have had numerous times to kick, punch, slash, and stab me. My father has personally held me down and beaten me. The scars on my b ack prove it." She glanced down at Myakin who was just staring ahead of them as they walked. "I want my father dead just as much as everyone else, not just for what he has done to me, but for what he has done to everyone. Especially you. He deserves to die like the Black King does. If we make it through these training stages, we can be sure to do it." Her voice became low as the paths dipped throu gh the mountain. They seemed to walk on forever, but it wasn't. From where they were, the y could see some sort of light peeking into the tunnel. -------------

As they reached the end of the tunnel a gentle wind blew past them take out the flaming torch. They emerged from the cave and into the sunlight. Rykash opened his wings and roared. Ari couldn't help but laugh at his joy of seeing th e sky but her laughter quickly died as she walked to the edge of cliff they were on. It was a straight down drop. Ry nudged her and pointed his head towards the

distance. She had to squint to see. In the distance was their new home, Asarean . Confused on what to do next and how they had gotten to the other side of Asare an she looked at Syrai. A shadow suddenly moved over them. Looking up Ari gasped in awe at the s ight of the golden bronze dragon and the Mage rider. They dove in the air above them then circled them as if they wanted to get their attention. Rykash opened h is large wings and moved them, pushing wind with his mighty power. "Syrai...? Ari turned towards her new companion a smile slowly f orming on her lips. "Let's fly! -------------

The light was nearing and they could see sunlight and bright skies. A sm ile crossed her face as she looked out over her new home. Myakin was enjoying th e sight too, his wings flapping and his head jolted back to let out a fierce roa r. They were all laughing with one another. Syrai stepped close to the edge, loo king straight down on jagged rocks. Up above she could hear the wings of another dragon. She and Mya looked up, only to meet the underbelly of the golden dragon . "Fly?" She questioned as Mya began to flap his wings like his co mpanion dragon. Myakin nudged her ever so slightly, to encourage her that it would be al right. They were ready; they could take on anything, including their first fligh t together. A smile began to cross her face as the thought became more prominent . "Ready?" Myakin asked her, his wings creating a force that was s lowly making him rise. She nodded to him; it was their only way down. He lowered his head towar ds the surface, allowing her to climb in front of his wings. She settled in tigh tly. As soon as she settled in, he dove straight off the cliff. It was exhilarat ing. She screamed at the top of her lungs and began laughing as the soared down the mountain side. As they neared the bottom, he pulled up, soaring higher and h igher till he met the cliff. His wings were steadily holding them up. Syrai smil ed. "C'mon!" She laughed. He dove down once again, gaining power till he pulled up again and soare d up next to the golden dragon. The mage studied over them as they became one w ith dragon and rider. Syrai was finally at peace with everything, including her new home and family.

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