“You will not set another slave’s basket on fire,” I scold Snoot-Snoot as she rests on my shoulder, huffing out a sigh of complaint, “Next time you see a basket - you will ignore it and save your dripping venomous fire for Rawk and Zoraul - when I find them,” I had been searching all morning for one of my mates. In fact, I had explored many corridors in this Horde of Venom. I had learnt it’s name when I asked a passing slave - the very one that now had a burnt basket due to Bezzle’s perceived threat of the straw.
The funny thing about this Horde was that the Dragons that made up it’s presence were mostly my Breed. Older and more mellow, but still Fire-Spitter’s to the bone.
Snoot-Snoot’s mother and sister had been busy stripping meat so I had volunteered to babysit for the day.
While behind me, five Dragon guards follow at a safe distance. They proclaimed themselves as my Watchers.
Rawk was busy - often, they said. Zoraul could be anywhere, if not banished already.
I continue my speech to Bezzle, “Now, when we find either pig headed mate of mine, we shall request that they show me their food stores. I will request access. 24/7 and no less. If they give me and you full access to meat - I will give them something in return,” I explain this quietly as I make my way up a stairwell towards the very top of the boulder hillside that the Horde was disguised inside of.
I wanted to know what was on top.
“Lady!” one Watcher calls out from behind and when I halt on the steps and turn to face him behind me, I already have a hand raised and lit with purple tinged fire that sparks naturally.
“One more word and I will poison you,” I hiss, “Although I do like that you called me Lady - I am a Lady.”
“Yes, yes you are,” the short silver headed Dragon nods, “Yes, my lady.”
“Not. Another. Word,” I growl, but I smile slightly when Snoot-Snoot snarls aggressively on my shoulder, raising her wings, shaking her head violently so that her venom drips down onto my chest and neck like baby drool, “If I am not to be respected - Bezzle will be my Punisher. She will remind you of my position. And yours.”
“My lady?” Another Dragon speaks, sounding a little amused by my speech, “What do you mean by that? You are a guest here.”
“What is your name? In fact, what are all your names?” I ask, slowly raising a brow.
“Sox,” the one who annoys me speaks first.
“Like the stinking socks which slaves adorn upon their grubby feet?” I ask, mockingly, “How appropriate.”
“My name is Horn,” the one who fears me and calls me lady speaks next.
“Good day, Horn,” I nod to him, “And you three?”
“Killaw,” one with a gruff voice answers with a nod and his eyes down cast.
“Mendrix,” this one smirks, tilting his head at me, “Me lady.”
“Fronk,” the last one answers, this one looks like a typical follower.
“Fronk, you sound like a musical sound - I will crush your windpipe if you cross me. Mendrix, if you dare smirk again I will bite your balls off. Causlaw - that is what you sound like to me and it’s what you will become if you question me. Sox - I will have your guts for room decorating if you feel like confronting me on my authority. Horn? You are my favourite so I will kill you last... if I should ever feel the need to rid the Watchers on my back,” I smile kindly, “Fair words? Let’s continue.”
Bezzel snoots in approval of my speech while each Tempest scum Dragon behind me just gaze on at me in shock.
I spin on my heel and continue up the stairs, two at a time. By the time I’ve reached the wooden rickety door at the end, I kick it open.
The sight before me is unlike anything I have ever seen. I physically pause to gaze in wonder at the rocky plateau, spelled with magic to keep the snow from covering too much of the rock. Snow flakes fall across this marble smooth surface, round and spelled to be a perfect circle. Around it, boulders act as a stage, rising in formation.
“It is beautiful,” I whisper, just as Snoot-Snoot lifts her wings and chirps in surprise as the strong wind strikes her concave wings and tumbles her off my shoulder into a gust. I watch and laugh as she opens her wings to fly with the current of air, coming back around to start snarling and thrashing through the snowflakes as if they are little enemies, “My day is made!” I call out in joy as I run forward, spinning on my heel to see the five Dragons looking on at me from the door I’ve kicked - not open... it’s off it’s hinges. Woops, I didn’t realise. Oh well, not to matter! Rawk was rich and could pay a human to fix it or command a slave, “Sox, Horn, Causlaw, Mendrix, Fronk, you Tempest scum! Come dance with me!” I hold out my arms and close my eyes, smiling as I’m twirling in the wind and the snowflakes melt against my warm skin, “Oh Sky Gods of weatherly beauty - I love twinkle gems!” I hold out my hand and catch a few snow flakes that Snoot-Snoot hasn't ravaged, “Twinkle gems... my favourite kind of snow,” I whisper to myself in awe.
“Lady!” Sox calls out, “You’ll catch your death if you do not transform!”
“Do not speak another word, scum!” I call out.
“Lady,” I hear the ferocity in this call, the dared snarl - this one is from Killaw. I do not believe he appreciates his new nick name of Causlaw.
I lose my smile as I strike out my hand and a purple orange flame sparks from my palm, streaking through the air towards my five Watchers. The flame halts an inch from Killaw’s nose, “Do not make me warn you again! I require obedience - stand around me, quickly!” I watch as each Silver Breed shares a glance before shrugging.
“We must watch her anyway,” Fronk speaks, shrugs and pulls his over sized coat in around his shoulders. Clearly he felt small for a Dragon and was trying to appear bigger. He was just young and hadn’t grown into his full size yet.
“Like a clock!” I yell out again as Snoot-Snoot eventually lands to perch on my head. She sits in a nest of my purple hair, making sure the Watchers do as they are told. They willingly come to stand around me, fifteen feet away each, lining the circle, “Well done, Tempest scum! Now - we dance with fire!” I laugh, cackling as I twirl as if on ice skates before allowing sparks to fly from my palm. From those sparks, streaks of fire spread, shooting for each Dragon, “Careful you don’t get poisoned!” I call out as Sox ducks and slips off his feet, Mendrix gives me a mock bow while avoiding the fire gracefully, Killaw blocks my fire with his own and Fronk yelps out as he also slips like Sox and they both scrabble to their feet together. I leave Horn alone.
Bezzle wiggles her bum on my head, her tail thrashing back and forth. She is about to take flight to dance with me - however the moment she launches from my head she squarks and angles her wings to fly back into my hair, where she tries to burrow beneath it.
I turn to see what frightened her and I see a massive figure above, shadowed by snow that can not hide the terrifying size of this Silver Breed.
Rawk is perched above the rock boulders, teeth bright, throat snarling as he watches over the scene before him.
You will disperse, Rawk snarls through all our minds, leave Minx to me. Watchers - Leave! Bezzle - go back to your family!
When Bezzle does not react right away, I reach up a hand and pat her on the head.
“It is okay,” I murmur and she struggles out of my hair strands, biting a few off before launching into the air and swooping close to the ground, heading for the entrance to the Horde of Venom.
Each disgruntled Watcher quickly leaves without a word while I stand in the middle of my dance floor, surrounded by my twinkle gems - which is all I needed to remain happy.
“It is beautiful!” I yell out to Rawk, “Like the back of your ass when you bend over from being ball punched!”
I expect a quick reply.
Instead, I watch as Rawk tilts his head in slow motion, his golden eyes unblinking - his scales ripple down his neck, as if I’ve irritated a nerve. Even his wing jerks with the twitch.
I wait for his response and put my hands on my hips.
“Since you do not wish to talk, I wish to bargain!” I scream out to be heard over the wind, “Full access to your meat stores - for Snoot-Snoot and I. Then - I will grant you one wish!”
Now, I must get a reply, for sure.
But I don’t get one.
Instead, I see those teeth even whiter in the snow as his gums pull back further. Twinkle gems surround him as Rawk just watches me, in combined frustration and utter disbelief.
I shrug and I turn, walking casually to return inside. As I turn my back on him and continue on my way, I see the door snapped off it’s hinges, resting in a bed of snow between boulders.
I smirk - and then I halt.
I can go no further as mist encircles me - tickles me even, as Rawk solidifies in the entrance, blocking my way back inside.
I gulp in relief when I see that he is clothed in his grey leather pants, a tunic and a grey coat.
I’d lose a bit of confidence if he was naked.
Now, Rawk doesn’t smile, all that is staring at me is golden eyes and a black curious scar.
“You lost your tongue, Lord?” I ask.
“You wish to grant me a wish - forgetting that you are below me. You wish to bargain - forgetting that only I make the rules in my Horde,” Rawk states quietly in a confident, controlled drawl.
“I hear no rules,” I answer.
“Before I address your actions last night - let’s have a normal, appropriate discussion then, Minx,” Rawk suggests and I nod with a smile, “Your oh so glorious Breed believes in honour - when you’re not busy thieving. You broke my door - you will fix it.”
“I will n-not,” I stutter only because my eyes are distracted by a second shadow.
Out of the cave walls behind Rawk, Zoraul seems to solidify. Not from mist - but his own form of magic commonly used by Shadow Assassins.
“Will you repair it if I help you, my lady?” Zoraul asks, giving me a wink as he comes to stand behind Rawk, resting an elbow on Rawk’s shoulders.
The moment he makes contact, Rawk jerks away in disgust.
“I will have her for a lifetime, brother. You may have her for but a moment,” Rawk spits at Zoraul’s feet, “To fix my door,” as Rawk turns and stalks away, Zoraul blinks away the insulting tone while his silver waist length hair, sways in the wind, not bound. In fact, I watch now as Zoraul reaches for his pocket and pulls out a leather strap - binding his hair back now.
He seems calm enough - unlike his brother.
“It is your turn?” I ask, nervous as I take a step back as Zoraul takes one forward.
While he smirks at me, he does not reply as he turns past me to pick up the door. As he brings it back to the blown hinges, he nods to the steel broken bits.
“Find the metal pins,” Zoraul rests the door aside while I look down. I see nothing and then I turn to search the snow. I burn it with my fire until I see two metal pins close together. I walk forward and lean over to pick them up, but as I do, I feel a hand wrap through my hair unexpectedly.
I gasp as Zoraul jerks me back up and frightens me with the random act.
My head is bent back, my knees wobbling as I am pulled so far backwards - I am unsteady on my feet and uncomfortable because of it. Zoraul is above me, leaning down to gaze at me, to assess my obvious surprise... I think he is looking for any sign of fear. He’s kind eyes and accompanying smile is gone - no gentle nature remains. I know this not just from the hand firmly gripping my hair, holding my head back painfully so I must meet his gaze - but from his gaze alone. His golden eyes are raging with passion and a hidden well of extreme emotion he doesn’t often show.
"Never insult my brother,” Zoraul snarls down at me, ”Ever. I may not like Rawk- but I respect him. As should you. The fact he has not punished you yet just means he is considering his options. Be thankful he has not carried through with his mind - you won’t like his punishments. You’ll be in tears before you even start.”
“You’ve been spying on me all morning and you lie about your true nature!” I hiss up at him, while he looks down at me calmly, narrowing his judgemental eyes.
“Minx... I control an anger no one in this realm has seen - from my father, I’d say - but I also inherited his respect of respect. You may disrespect anyone - but not my brother... nor I,” Zoraul slowly smirks out of the blue, “I’ve listened to your every word and action today. Smashing a door off it’s hinges. Granting a wish. Bargaining, Minx? What do you have to bargain? You are completely out of line, you do not know your place,” Zoraul let’s my hair go and I jerk upright before I fall. When I’m steady, I furiously throws the pins into the snow again.
“You - y-you - argh! I no longer wish to fix the door!” I yell out in frustration, not finding any insults readily available after he caught me so off guard with his rough handling and cruel words.
Zoraul steps back and focuses his golden gaze on my confused and contorted face, “...you will. If you act like a child Minx, you will be treated like one.”
“I thought you were kind!” I continue to yell at him, “I liked you better! Now I hate you completely!”
“I have a bargain for you,” Zoraul changes the topic abruptly, “Fix the door - apologise to my brother and I will treat you to a dinner you do not deserve.”
“How generous,” I turn from him and grind my teeth while gazing into the distance.
“...desert as well?” Zoraul asks, “And a chance to fight me, no scales - simply man on man-lady, my apologies, little beast.”
“You said that on purpose to anger me,” I spin back to face him and I see Zoraul watching me with a calculating gaze. He is all over the place and unpredictable. Kind, gentle, quiet.... then he is suddenly threatening, menacing, evil, “You are... you are unstable - like a babe Fire-Spitter. You can’t be trusted.”
“You simply do not know me. I am a Dragon of feeling, knowledge and great power. I demand respect and I feel when something is wrong... and you... you are a pest to me and my brother. Doing the wrong thing can be fun and is usually what I indulge in - I just wish you’d join me to learn of my nature, respect it and earn my respect in return. We’ll have a date when you’re ready... when you’re not so pathetically terrified,” Zoraul shrugs, reading through my feigned bravery to my increasing fear.
As I stand trying to remember how to breathe... I decide I must bluff.
“I have another bargain - I mean I have another idea,” I change my wording last second as Zoraul’s eyes flash with a warning not to ignore his previous statements, “I will fix the door without your help and you will leave me be.”
“To let you escape your fate? I think not, you will do as you’re told,” Zoraul nods to the snow, “The pins, Minx.”
I pause to consider my options.
“You and your brother are... so very strange,” I add more quietly, “I have made a decision. I will fix the door... and then I will see that I will stay two weeks. Yes, an additional week,” I watch as Zoraul’s eyes lighten in surprise at my decision, “However, this second week will only occur if you both agree to date me, together, not separately. It must be you two together. You must tolerate one another. Until the two weeks of courting is done.”
“You will fix the door, that is wise,” Zoraul answers, “...and then I will allow you this one thing - I will speak to my brother afterwards and gather his mind on the matter. Your Watchers will return while I am gone.”
“Deal,” I slowly smile and Zoraul simply gazes me over, his eyes flicking up and down, “Zoraul, pray to the Sky Gods that you survive. Both of you should pray. I feel a prophecy in my bones. In two weeks, you’ll either both claim me... or you’ll kill one another.”
“We die, you die, Minx, we are your mates and you cannot survive our combined deaths, our absence will destroy you,” Zoraul murmurs.
“From grief, usually that is the way, but there will be nothing to miss,” I smile widely and talk lightly before I then turn to find the pins.
They can’t be too hard to find.
“...a word of warning, Minx,” Zoraul eventually adds while I again burn the air as I melt the snow, searching for the pins. I find them quickly and as I retrieve them and stand, I stalk to Zoraul to face him, holding out the pins to show him, waiting for his continuation - his threat, no doubt - and a threat it is, “If you manage to reunite my brother and I,” Zoraul leans down slowly until his nose is inches from my own and his golden eyes flicker with amusement, “You will be shocked to find how quickly you are brought to heel. Follow me - little beast - and I suggest you pray that such a thing never happens.”
I do not expect these words and I pause a bit too long, showing some vulnerability.
Zoraul reaches out and closes my fingers around the pins in my palm, smirking with sharp teeth and golden all-knowing eyes before he turns to help me fix the door.
As I turn to follow, I think rapidly.
I believed his words.
But I also believed another thing.
He wanted and wished to reunite with Rawk - I could sense it.
But Rawk would have none of it.
Yet with Zoraul’s threat, which was also clearly a true and very real promise... perhaps it was a good thing that Rawk kept pushing his twin away.
If they reunited - I knew what type of force they’d represent. They’d be absolutely formidable and they may even manage to outsmart me.
No. Oh, Sky Gods, no!
I couldn’t think like that!
Zoraul was sneaky - this was his fault! This doubt in my mind.
The way he turned on me had scared me...
...Zoraul’s moment of anger had shocked me and shown me a side of him I did not want to provoke.
While he managed to put doubt in my mind - he had almost succeeded in breaking down my firm resolve to remain independent, since I had almost started to believe they’d win this courting game by their way with manipulation... common to Twin Leading Breeds... as was their way.
I had to remember why I was here - to have fun and to toy with them, as was my wish.
To think of them as mates was dangerous.
They were my toys - my playthings - I would not become one of theirs!
Careful, little beast, Zoraul’s voice filters through my mind as I carefully put the pins in the hinges while he holds the door in place beside me, if you feel too hard, I might just pick up on exactly what you’re thinking - and you might give me an idea you may regret.
“I do not know what you refer to,” I answer, shrugging.
“It is okay, little beast, when I speak to Rawk soon about the possibility of us dating you together, I’ll mention that perhaps - together, as you wish... you could be our... hmmm... perhaps our plaything?” Zoraul answers in a casual tone but also with a promising whisper with his last words - for shocking effect - as I pop in the last pin and the door fits back in place, the task done.
My heart has skipped a beat in fright, Zoraul succeeding in garnering such a reaction out of me, by echoing my terrified thoughts of potentially becoming their plaything.
As I stand swiftly to face my mate - he is gone.
Into the shadows.
Leaving me bereft - and with no sense of control... doubt creeps forward again.
I stand back and turn to the twinkle gems... this was unacceptable.
My cheek twitches and I lash out with my hands and hit a few snow flakes, releasing my rage in a furious scream.
I was angry because I was scared.
“You Tempest scum!” I hit a few more snow flakes and drop to my knees, feeling like I am thirteen years old again - I want to cry out my frustrations.
However, I hear the door squeak open and I scrabble to my feet.
I turn to my Watchers, wiping away a stray tear.
“Do not dare to stand close!” I snarl at them as I push past each Dragon. I then hop down the steps.
Luckily, my Watchers all choose to hold their tongues.
However, my mind is still racing.
Yes - I could fight my mates in a battle of wills, of games and manipulation.
But my mind was already latching onto another option, my first idea when I first entered this place.
Rawk and Zoraul were no longer twin brothers I wanted to toy with any more.
I wanted to leave.
I wanted to run.
Damn this empty stomach, shrinking and growling by the second!
I had to eat meat.
I was hungry yet again and it was perhaps my actual reason for rage and doubt.
I had skipped breakfast - never a good idea.
Damn my lack of self respect - never again would I miss such an important meal!
My mind is now made.
I would eat!
Then, with a clear mind, I would decide if I would stay... or run.