Chapter 2:



Leagues above the surface of Terra, among the clouds that peppered the vast blue skies, the islands of Aether floated, as they had for an immeasurable amount of time. 

The many towns and settlements of Terra looked like mere ants to Aurelia, as she gazed down from the edge of Azmanthus, the main island in the chain ruled over by her kingdom. The weather was fair here, warm and welcoming, so most dragons were out sunning themselves, or feasting on the spoils of their hunting. Some dragons were even courting each other among the Spires, towers of bone-white marble that the dragons in her kingdom called home. But Aurelia was not invited to such social affairs... She huffed in boredom, watching tiny specks move about Terra— she could only presume they were humans. Her ears pinned back in disdain. 

Humans. What was good about them? They were Grounded, flightless beings. Most dragons thought they were pitiful. Others thought they were cursed by the gods for an ancient hubris, doomed to never fly among the inhabitants of Aether. But Aurelia thought they were just gross. 

They lacked fur, scales, or fins. They had only two legs, and naked bodies so fragile that she imagined anything could squash them. To boot?A single human male was said to stand only a quarter as tall as a dragon’s front leg, and they were the larger ones. This made her puzzled; female dragons were always larger than the males. Just how backwards was human biology? 

Geh... Enough with this mental torture. Time for a change of pace.

Aurelia thwacked her tail against the rocks in agitation, then spread her wings, and leapt from the island edge she had been relaxing on. The wind whipped at her face, ran down her spine, and the warm sunlight reflected off of her pale white scales. She shivered in delight, adjusting her wings to soar higher into the sky. Nothing got a dragon’s blood pumping like a good flight. 

A small group of dragons passed by her mid-flight, heading for the Spires. In their talons were an assortment of exotic fruits, native to the Aether. The dragon leading them, a bright red drake, perked his ears in curiosity, beckoning her to join. The other dragons glanced at her, but lost interest quickly and went back to chatting among themselves. Aurelia hovered for a moment, debating. 

Looks like they’re headed for the Spires... A feast, maybe? But fruit...?

She beat her wings, and fell into position next to the red drake. Up close, she noted that he was exceptionally large for a male. Slightly larger than her, even. But she was sure she’d outgrow him over time. She was still young.

Her red eyes met his amber ones, questioningly. “What’s all of this fruit for?”

He flicked out his tongue, edging closer to Aurelia to speak. “Her Majesty is preparing to lay her first clutch of eggs.” 

As if that answered anything. 

“And? Does Her Majesty require mangoes and pears for her nest?” she scoffed. The red drake laughed heartily, his voice booming. The other dragons in the flight startled, and a pale yellow dragoness hissed at the two of them in irritation. 

Aurelia sighed. She didn’t really say anything funny. Most dragons would consider that rude, actually. 

“No, no. Her Majesty simply requested for fruits. She’s been craving them for days on end, ever since she’s felt the time coming for her to lay. My flight is delivering them.”

The Queen was originally from a smaller kingdom, further south of Azmanthus. She had heard fruit was eaten there commonly. It would make sense that she’d crave it, but Aurelia had never liked the taste. Nor had most dragons. 

“I see... So why was I invited?” She tilted her head at him. They were approaching the Spires now, and many dragons flew past them without sparing so much as a glance, flapping to and from the entrances carved into the marble. Some were carrying artisan goods, other various food items, some even clutched glittering ores and gemstones in their claws. 

Aurelia was unused to the commotion, and her heart was pounding in her chest. She felt dizzy. So many dragons here today... I really shouldn’t have bothered coming.

The red drake smirked, puffing out his chest. It seemed he had misinterpreted why she was nervous. 

“I invited you because you’re cute,” he declared, bumping her shoulder. “And it’s odd to see a dragoness like yourself alone. Won’t you fly with me at the Queen’s laying celebration tonight?” 

Aurelia regret coming here even more.