Keemara stood in her white dragonleather watching Thunder as he circled the island. She was on the high cliff of her horse-shoe shaped island watching and listening to the chatter of announcement as if rocketed about the Dragon Isle. She shook out her hands, but her mind went to estimating his physical presence.
Opal wanted to talk to him. You can't just condemn someone for having been gone. There was a need to see if he was the male of his youth, or if the madness still lingered.
Keemara was betting on the madness. If he had the hand-footed crows locked up, then that didn't really speak well for a kind, caring sane person. There was a chance, but it was slim, that Thunder was involved in some deep-end game – and not knowing anything about the current First and herself was just playing his cards tight to his chest. Still, he didn't seek out the dragons that had known him. All the bits didn't add up to anything positive.
Opal was so young. 72 years was nothing to the dragon race. She and Brimstones had given him a kinder life than the one they had. He was trusting and thinking, and that was often something she didn't do well. The brown-haired lady looked down to where Opal stood near the hatching grounds. Karrac was next to him, and there was a ring of people – dragons and folk – who had come to his side.
She rubbed her coat at her elbow. A hug, a feeling of security? She was wrapped in her bond-mate.
The chatter was clear now.
Thunder made a noise that rolled over the space. The cliffs picked it up and traded the noise in echos with each other. He began to circle down to land.
Keemara teleported down. She walked over feeling a fighting calm seeping into her.
Opal's mind touched her own. He didn't chide her, or reminder her that he was in charge – he was just glad she was there.
Jandari stood next to his Karrac, wearing his white leather coat. Keemara decided she should go and stand with him. Karrac leaned his nose down and breathed warm air around her. She reached up and rubbed the bottom of his jaw. Diamond came over with Gary and stood next to the group. Somewhere in the back of Keemara's mind she thought she should get Gary some white dragonleather.
Thunder landed quickly, his claws slashing at the dirt ground.
His white hyde contrasted with most the dragons gathered there. His blue slitted eyes slid past Karrac and caught on Opal.
Keemara admired his bravery – it took guts to walk into a dragon stronghold. Didn't mean she was on his side. She crossed her arms and then unfolded them consciously.
“You are Opal.” His voice was deep. Deeper than any dragon she had ever heard before.
He raised his wings. “I am Thunder. I am First!”
“There are many in the recent past who claimed to be First.”
“I will fight you for my place. You and me. All these may stand witness.”
“That just proves you are strong, not that your are my Grandfather.” Opal shook his head. “Strength of body is not the way to proof. Iridescent white hyde has been a faked sign of royalty. I am First now. I need better proofs.”
“You are a Hatchling and should listen to your elders.” Thunder said clearly. He did not sit. He did not close his wings or sheath his claws.
“I am listening to my elders.” Opal said and did not look over at Karrac. “I stand of traditions of our race's recent history – History built on your life's circumstances. Submit to these tests and we will see if you are who you say you are.”
Thunder sat. “What are these 'tests'?”
“Sapphire, who is known to me, knew Thunder in his day – must examine you. She must satisfy herself – by body – that you are who she remembers.” Opal gestured toward the blue dragon lady near-by but did not turn away. “You must open your mind to the Dragonsoul, Keemara – rider of Brimstones. She will see you clearly – by mind. Lastly, you must submit to a test of laying on of hands from Jandari, Eldest, rider of Karrac – by soul. Body, Mind and Soul. Then, we will know if you are Thunder.”
“These three will judge me? One dragon, a human and an elf?”
“Judgment? No. A Dragon of the Blood, The Dragonsoul and the Eldist who is first rider, They will advise me. I am First.” Opal's tail thumped the ground.
Thunder's head shot forward, “And what will you do, hatchling, when you find I am who I say I am?”
“If you are Thunder, then you are First – as Karrac is First, as Diamond will be First. As I am First.” Opal's answer played to what Thunder wanted to hear without really promising anything.
“I do not fear these tests. I am who I say I am.”
Keemara heard that echo in her memory. She had stood with Brimstone before Dragons hearings – listening to some other dragons looking for the title that was Brims. She shook her head to clear the sudden cobweb. She frowned, memory of test after test came at her un-bidden.
Thunder curled his tail around him, “I will have my own witnesses.”
At his statement, Angels appeared among everyone. A startled gasp and growl slipped across the Dragon Isle. They were beautiful things, glory-filled and in one moment, it seemed best that they were there. They were different sorts of angels; ones in armor, one chained with books and paper wings, one with a fox head and multiple tails.
Keemara tore her eyes off the angels and looked back at the white dragon before her. He was smug.
Karrac nudged Opal.
Shaking his head, Opal called loudly. “Let us start these tests. Now that we are all gathered.”
Sapphire stepped forward. Her blue head darted around to look.
Trill stepped up beside Gary, Jandari and Keemara. “Sapphire remembers Thunder pretty well. About the same age. This guy has Skai – reminds me of someone.”
Keemara jumped when Trill poked at her. “Don't even go there. You didn't trust us in those first days.”
“This sort of day makes me feel alive. The ..energy... in the air. Fate walks this day, here with us.” Trill was alert.
Sapphire's exam was straight forward. She walked around him, looking hard. She looked at Opal and spoke with him telepathically.
Jandari stepped forward after Sapphire stepped aside. Karrac said softly, “We pretty much figure that it is he, my rider's examination is not the information we need.”
Whatever it was that Jandari did was over before Keemara could turn her head back from looking at Karrac. He walked over, bowed to Opal, and gave his finding telepathically as well.
Keemara stepped forward. Thunder looked down at her, smug. Slipping her mind forward, she reached out to touch him.
'You should have died with my son.' The thought was clear, angry, sorrow-filled.
'I did! I have a purpose beyond rider or dragon.' She shot back at the initial thought and began looking into the dragon's mind. It – well, it thundered at her intrusion. She was the Dragonsoul, she could manage the barrage. She proved who she was as she went, he hadn't believed that she was the prophecy. His mind was broken, twisted and didn't make much sense. He bombarded her with thoughts of his Laedalice – Brimstone's mother – his love for her, the loss. The Loss. Desperate loneliness... It played along the raw edges of her broken bond with Brimstones. It hurt. The two of their souls howled about wanting to join the dead.
Keemara grabbed at her soul's lifeline. Her work. Her family. The things she loved gave her strength – that's why she went on. She was neither rider nor dragon; she was both.
She looked in Thunder's mind. What was his lifeline? Why did he stay instead of go on? She found hate. Abhorrence for the clerics that could not raise her. Despising mages who could not help. A strength of being First, and therefore able to do something.
That was his story. Keemara knew she would find the loss of love – though it was so strong. And everyone is allowed to hold their own viewpoint to interact with the world. Hell, Vastar's viewpoint was different that Gurth's, Rabon's, Ben's, Opal's – that didn't mean you just discarded the person. Just because you didn't think the way they did, was no real reason to kill. Killing Dragons was completely out of Keemara's worldview. How could she fit him into this life? Could he be made sane again? Could they live around him?
He was strong willed. Hate filled. Sorrow-filled. He wanted his life back. He wanted to hurt life, living and mostly lash out at magic. He seemed to accept that there was life and death – it was the essence of magic that he keyed on. Magic offered him the promise of being whole – and it failed him, and he was going to lash out at it. As First, he could do something now.
Hate filled plans to stamp out magic. Twisted logic that said it would be reserved for Dragon-kind and no-one else. A unformed idea of utopia at the direction of dragon's alone. There was some idea to start with arcane magic as sheep/people would still need the divine for a while longer yet – at least the idea of preaching and promises would need to stay. Keemara could see that Thunder wanted DarkFawn to be like Earth. Broken promises of raise dead spells needed to be taught a lesson.
It was a twisted path of logic that she walked back out of. She blinked, and her eyes fell on Jandari's worried face. He grinned at her, his green eyes lighting up. She wanted to nod at him, but she turned to her dragon son.
Opal tilted his head.
Keemara reached out to touch his mind. Concern for her, sorrow that he had to make her do this, confident that she could, pride in her.
'What, no questions about him?' Keemara reached her hand up.
Opal leaned down, 'You first.'
'I'm okay. He's crazy – but it is Thunder.' She gave him her findings opening her mind to him. He had to see. Her emotions were colored by her experiences – but Opal was neutral as he could be.
'Not on my part.' Keemara thought for him
'The others were certain as well. It is Thunder.'
She half wondered if he wanted her help in making his decision, and half cursed herself as she knew she wasn't First and always seemed ready to act that way. He took it well, noting that it was a motherly thing to do. Part of him was annoyed, but only in an eye-rolling sort of way – he had known her ways all his life.
Keemara went to Jandari who opened his arms for her. Karrac peeked inside her mind with a friendly curiosity and sent her love.
Opal stood, his back claws scratched a line in the dirt. Dirt was kicked up. “It is my place to make the pronouncement. You are Thunder.”
Thunder roared. The sound passed around the space and reverberated in everyone's bones.
“I am First. I rule.”
“That is still debatable.” Opal said evenly into the quiet that came after.
Thunder gulped in air, his body tensed.
Continuing, Opal said, “The mantel of the First was retaken by the strength of your son and his rider. It passed to me through normal traditions.”
“Listen, hatchling.” Thunder was not willing to listen to some argument that he obviously already knew was not formulated to help him. “I intend to rule. I am First before you. I did not 'lay down' the 'mantel' – I was locked away from it, and as I return, I return to be who I am. I am First. You can oppose me – and we will fight. You may have some hope that I am past my prime – or grown lazy in being locked up; but you are a child.”
Opal merely looked at him.
“You can pretend to rule while I rule – and we will cross paths and come to blows. I don't need you. I have her.” Thunder pointed at Diamond. “Her hatching is so close to your own. That doesn't leave her much time to rule after you go, does it? Or does it? Fate weaves an early death for you. Surely, you have seen it. If I am that instrument – so be it. I still have her.”
“She is my daughter.” Opal barked.
Thunder didn't stop his thought. “Or, you can step – temporarily – down, be First of the First again. Live your childhood. Build your dreams rather than having them thrust on you. Take them up when you are old enough. I am past my prime – I already do not fear death as it holds more for me than what is left here. You won't have too long to wait.”
“You didn't lay down the title because of your absence – your blind grief left the title behind. This rant does not help your claim to sanity.”
“Kings are born – Firsts are hatched. The Dragon lineage is clear.”
“Good Kings are not merely a nod from God.” Opal eyed the angels. “You want to be First for your own selfish reasons, or perhaps for someone else's whispered reasons.”
Keemara realized that Thunder had issues with succession. Perhaps there was a reason he waited so long in starting a family besides the infertility of his love. She also heard the echo of the tests that she and Brim had undergone – and the tone Thunder took was one she knew. There were people who held out against her and Brim's rule for years, and whispered against them. She also saw a lot of herself and Brimstone in his actions – they might have been good friends if he hadn't gone insane.
“Our line was appointed by God. From First to First to First, un-broken. From Karrac and before.”
Karrac raised his wings and was no longer silent. “I do not know you.”
Thunder looked at Opal only. “We can go on and on. This arguing settles nothing. I will go, and you can talk amongst yourselves and decide whatever you choose. I choose to rule. I am First. Any that will be true to the lineage of the dragon race must bring me tribute. That way I will know my friends from my enemies. I demand Tribute! For my horde! For My Kingdom. Bring your gifts to my Branchcove; the rest may talk till you are blue in the face, I will take action as a better coarse.”
As a group, they took wing. White dragon wings amid the feathered wings of the angels arched into the blue of the sky, and winked out.
The Dragon Isle broke out in talk.
“Friends, we do not now if there are still fallen angels amongst us.” Opal said.
Everyone looked around. Several someone's asked, “How do we guard against that?”
“We invoke God.” Opal said, “Jandari, a prayer please?”
The prayer was quick and at the end, people seemed to feel better about being spied on. Diamond went over and rubbed her head against her father.
“Let us adjourn to the Beach house. There is obviously a lot that needs to be mulled over and brought together before we start making choices. I would like to see if we can bring up some of town's people, and perhaps Zintriny and Gurth as well.”
Trill smacked his hands together and rubbed. “Makes you glad to be alive.”