Chapter 20:

The Kingdom of Clouds


The next time Phos woke up, their journey to the Kingdom of Cirr was completed. The sun shone brightly in the sky, illuminating the draconian Spires so intensely that Phos and Lilia had to squint when looking at them. Dragons in every color imaginable were everywhere; some flew past with curious glances at Silver’s exotic luggage, while others mingled and traded goods. Younger dragons were playing with each other, tumbling around on the ground like oversized puppies— occasionally, one would even shift into a humanoid form. Bookmark here

The sight fascinated Phos, who took everything in with wide purple eyes. Lilia had never been so close to dragons, and shrunk away in anxiety, although her own eyes still sparkled. Silver landed in a quiet place that was less busy, roughly tossing the siblings down.Bookmark here

“At last, I arrive home once more,” he said, wiping his paws all over the snow and dirt. “I feared I would never be able to wipe the stench of you two off my paws. Truly a fate worse than death!” Bookmark here

What an overly dramatic lizard… Phos thought, looking up at him. “Do we really smell that bad? I don’t smell a thing.”Bookmark here

Lilia nodded rapidly in agreement. “Yeah, yeah! I don’t smell a thing either. How do you know it isn’t you who smells?” Bookmark here

Silver glared at her, whistling heated air through his teeth. “You will learn rather quickly here that it is considerably rude to doubt a dragons’ sense of smell, hatchling. Question the wrong drake or dragoness and your stay in Cirr will be short.” Bookmark here

I still don’t smell anything at all, though… Bookmark here

Phos decided to keep those words to himself, not wanting to test Silver’s temper. Lilia crept closer to his side— a new dragon had just landed next to them, and was uncomfortably close to stepping on them. Bookmark here

“Greetings, Silvermere!” a feminine voice sang. Her eyes widened in surprise when she noticed Phos and Lilia at her feet. “Ah, are these the hatchlings? My apologies, little ones. It is most unusual for dragons to shift into human forms in our kingdom, so I did not notice you two.” Bookmark here

The dragoness lowered her head to smile at them. She was dull grey and twice as large as Silver— or Silvermere. Apparently Phos hadn’t been too far off the mark with his name. Which made sense, considering how he was colored. Bookmark here

Or maybe his parents just have equally poor taste in names as me? That could be it, too…Bookmark here

Silvermere scowled at the dragoness, but nodded to acknowledge her. “Well met, Tsuki. I take it you’re here to deliver news from Her Majesty?” Bookmark here

She laughed. It was a beautiful sound, airy and filled with mirth. Phos instantly took a liking to this dragoness.Bookmark here

 “No, I am not. Not this time at least… Must I have a reason to visit with my brother? Especially when he brings such interesting little visitors with him. And speaking of that…” Bookmark here

Tsuki’s light pink eyes inspected Phos and Lilia up and down. Her pupils were distinctively cat-like and strikingly familiar to Phos. After a few moments, she sat back on her haunches, tilting her head and visibly puzzled. Bookmark here

“Their magic is erratic, untamed and unstable. Their human forms are most perplexing, too.. I have never seen dragons capable of perfect mimicry in their shifts. They should have horns, or at the very least some patches of scales. Don’t you agree, brother?” Bookmark here

“It is strange indeed, but chasing my tail to find answers is mind-numbingly boring, and not what a drake like me is suited for,” Silvermere spat. He stood up, roughly herding Phos and Lilia back into his paw. “I have yet to receive a response from Her Majesty. My patience wears thin, Tsuki. If you bring no tidings, I will be taking my leave.” Bookmark here

Silvermere spread his wings, ready to leap into the air. But Tsuki stepped in front of him, blocking his exit. She calmly smiled, as if the venom of his words had absolutely no effect on her. “Our Queen is currently having an audience with the matriarch of Azmanthus, Queen Viridian. She doesn’t have the time for your self-serving games, little brother. You will have to wait.” Bookmark here

At her words, the silver drake froze. A few different emotions flittered over his face, before settling on anger. Dark purple sparks crackled from his mouth, and his scales seemed to almost sizzle with rage. He squeezed Phos and Lilia, who let out yelps of pain as their bodies were constricted. Bookmark here

“S… Stop!” Lilia cried out. Bookmark here

Phos felt his own anger flaring, power rising with his fear, but Tsuki flared her pale grey wings out and snaked around her brother. Her eyes were glowing, emanating a comforting and irresistible warmth, soothing their emotions. Phos and Lilia were unable to look away, hypnotized completely by whatever magic she was using. It was addicting, a tranquil stupor.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Silvermere’s eyes glazed over, his body quickly relaxing. His grip on them slackened, and they dropped to Tsuki’s waiting palm. The dragoness untwined herself, keeping a paw on Silvermere’s shoulder to steady him as her magic faded. Phos expected him to immediately snap out of it and return to normal, but the silver drake shook his head, confused still and unbalanced. If Tsuki hadn’t been steadying him, he would have toppled over. Bookmark here

“… You’re tired, brother. You should get some rest,” she murmured softly. “I under your feelings. But you mustn’t let your anger get the best of you.” Bookmark here

Surprisingly enough, Silvermere nodded silently. Perhaps it was only from Tsuki’s magic— Phos didn’t think it was possible for him to admit defeat. But he was thankful for it regardless as Silvermere turned and left them, letting the wind carry his tired body to the Spires where his cave was. Bookmark here

“Thank you,” Phos sighed. “I really can’t explain to you how thankful I am to be parted from Silvermere… No offense to your brother, of course.” Bookmark here

Tsuki giggled, carefully putting the siblings back on the ground. “You two are odd ones. My apologies for my brother’s behavior, though. He is young, and allows his emotions to control him far more than they should.” Her gaze darkened. “I worry for him… His cruelty only grows as time passes.”Bookmark here

The dragoness started walking, keeping her pace leisurely so Phos and Lilia could keep up. The dragonets that had been playing nearby raced across their path, tussling in the dirt. An orange one crept up to Lilia, sniffing her with wide eyes. She reached out a hand to pet it, but it jerked back with a hiss before running after its friends. Bookmark here

The grey dragoness led them to a small river, sparkling with brilliant hues of aquamarine. The banks of it were filled by soft white sand and shells from unfamiliar creatures, attracting Lilia’s attention. She picked one up, turning it over in her hand happily. But Phos was more intrigued by the bushes nearby, some distance from the shores. They had broad, bright green leaves, and bore blue berries the size of his fist in small clusters. He plucked one, astonished by the soft, velvety skin it managed to maintain despite of its size. Phos was tempted to take a bite, but he knew better than to eat unidentifiable plant matter.Bookmark here

“Is this edible, Tsuki?” he asked. Bookmark here

Tsuki smiled, nodding. “Indeed it is. Those are azureberries. Dragonets adore the way they taste…” Bookmark here

Phos tossed one to Lilia, before biting into the berry. A sweetness of the likes he’d never experienced before exploded into his mouth.  The flavor was intense, with no trace of saltiness whatsoever. It reminded him of the dewberries found throughout Terra, minus the tartness. Juice dribbled down his chin, and Phos found himself scarfing the rest of the berry down in mere moments. Bookmark here

“Big brother… That was amazing.” Lilia sighed, wiping her face. “With food like this, maybe it’s not so bad here after all.” Bookmark here

Tsuki was grinning at them again, watching their antics as if they were the same as the group of dragonets they’d passed earlier. It made Phos burn with embarrassment, and be abruptly sat straighter and donned a more serious look. Bookmark here

“So… Why did you bring us here, Tsuki?” he said. Bookmark here

“Ah,” the dragoness replied. “About that… I believe we all needed some peace and quiet. You’ve never been to Aether, have you? I understand how overwhelming it can be. Especially for hatchlings like you two, who have trouble shifting.”Bookmark here

She curled her tail around her paws, soft ears swiveling around to them. She was a perfect picture of tranquility, with the beautiful river as her backdrop. Bookmark here

“I would like to offer my assistance. I can help you control your shifting, little ones. What do you say?”Bookmark here

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