Chapter 31:

Wind & Flames


“Big Brother! I’ve missed you so much!” 

The cold winds of Cirr, the Kingdom of Clouds, were a welcome change to Phos. He, Aurelia, and Veskar had arrived two days after their departure from the horrible, blasted, utterly misery-inducing Desert Kingdom of Durange. Now, Lilia welcomed him back to their temporary home with open arms. 

Phos was surprised to see that his little sister was in her human form. Her light grey hair had grown longer, and now approached the same length as his own. It was the color of ash, spilling down her back in silky strands. He brushed the dusty particles of snow off her head, giving her a weary smile. 

“I’ve missed you too, Lilia. I’m glad to see you’re as energetic as ever,” he said, looking her over. “I’ve got some damn crazy stories to tell you and Veld.” 

Lilia’s large eyes sparkled, and she grabbed on to her elder brother’s hand, tugging him along to Tsuki’s cave near the river. “That’s amazing! Come, come, come on! I’ve got something even more amazing to show you. I bet you won’t be able to believe it, big brother!” 

As they ran together, racing along the forest floor, their boots crunched on hard packed snow. If Phos closed his eyes and let his mind wander, he could almost fool himself into pretending they were both back in Terra, running through the snowy roads of their hometown. But when he opened his purple eyes, the scenery was utterly different. Trees grew everywhere in Cirr, flourishing in the nutrient rich soil, despite being covered in frost for most of the year. Sweet berries and exotic plants grew, nestled in the crooks and crannies of the forest. And perhaps most importantly, the snow here was as white as the scales of his friend, Aurelia. 

The snow on Terra had always glimmered with iridescent hues of purple and pink. As the wind blew it, it giggled and laughed with glee, and when the infinitesimally small ice crystals were crushed underfoot, their voices faded into nothingness. 

The snow in Aether wasn’t imbued with whatever odd, mischievous magic the flakes in Terra were. Which sparked his curiosity…

Why did Terra grow progressively colder and colder every year, while the Aether remained unchanged? Once you crossed the barrier of clouds that separated Aether from Terra, it was like you had been transported into another world entirely. And the higher you flew, the warmer and more tropical the mystical floating islands became. 

“… Big brother, we’re here! We’re here!” Lilia cheered, breaking him out of his musings. She practically dragged him into the cave after her. 

Stepping inside, Phos entered Tsuki’s den for the first time in weeks. It was as tidy as ever, containing only the bare minimum of necessitates needed for a dragon to live comfortably— which, compared to humans, was barely anything. However, Tsuki did have blankets spread across the floor. They were poorly dyed, and made from rough cloth, but neither Phos nor Lilia minded. A blanket was a blanket. Whether or not it was artistically pleasing was irrelevant in the end.

“Oh? Phos, is that you? It’s been a while, little one.” 

Tsuki’s calming, relaxed voice rang out from the room. But instead of a dragon, she had shifted into her human form, and was kneeling on one of her blankets. She stood a few inches taller than Phos, with light pink hair so long that it cascaded down her buttocks and trailed along the floor behind her, dirtying itself in the dust. Despite this being her shifted form, patches of her dove grey scales still were scattered along her arms and on each side of her face, giving her an otherworldly appearance. Two horns curved back from her skull, just as they were in her dragon form. 

Her eyes crinkled as she smiled at them, extending a thin and dainty hand to Lilia. She accepted it, helping her shifted mentor stand. 

“My sincerest apologies. I do not use this body often, and I find it difficult to walk on two legs. Not having my wings or tail to help me balance also proves to be troublesome, but I am sure I shall adapt, given enough time.” Tsuki said, walking over to Phos with practiced strides of her bare feet. All she wore was a thin dress of silk, cut at a length far too long for her legs. Like her locks of hair, it drug behind her, and the hem was caked with filth. 

“… It’s quite alright, Tsuki. But if I may ask, why are you shifted into your human form? Is there a special occasion that requires it?” 

Phos could count the number of times he had seen Tsuki shift like this on one hand. The grey dragoness was more open minded than the other dragons he had met so far— a saint compared to her brother, Silvermere— but she still preferred the form of a dragon, which she felt most comfortable in. She had only shifted as a demonstration to Phos and Lilia during their lessons in controlling the magical energy within themselves. 

Tsuki stepped outside into the sunlight, waving the two sibling to follow her. She held her pale hands up to the sky, reaching for the clouds above. “There is much for us dragons to learn about humans. I wish to pursue knowledge of all kinds, so that I may pass it down to the next generation of dragonets. The next egg I Bless shall inherit memories of my choosing, and so will countless eggs afterwards. I must gift the hatchlings with my wisdom, so that they may develop into creatures of light. It is my duty in the Kingdom of Clouds to do so, as well as my life’s calling… “

Tsuki shook her head now, changing the subject. “But never mind me. Lilia had something to tell you, young Phos. It’s much more interesting than the prattling of an old dragoness like me.” 

Lilia bounced on her feet when Tsuki brought the topic back to her, at last. “Guess what, big brother? A few days ago, I discovered which element I have an affinity for!” She chirped, green eyes shining. She clutched on to Phos’s parka, which he had put back on when he returned to Cirr. “Come on, take a guess! Guess which element chose me. I bet you can’t!” 

Phos looked Lilia up and down, trying to spot any differences in his little sister. But nothing has changed, at least that was visible to the naked eye. 

Hmm… I guess I’ll just have to make an educated guess, then. He thought. Given her personality, I think it’s fairly obvious she attuned to the element of light. Or maybe even life? It’s hard to say, it’s a close tie between those two for sure though… 

Every dragon Phos had met so far had an element that reflected their personality in some way. He was willing to gamble that the two things were linked, and so he arrived at his answer after a moment of quick deliberation. 

“Light,” Phos declared out loud, his voice affirming his certainty. “It’s got to be the element of light.” 

“Wroooong~!” His little sister cheered, putting her hands on her hips as she smiled smugly at her older brother. “Completely wrong. Not even close! I’ll be nice and give you one more try, big brother.” 

“Life, then. If it’s not light, then that’s the only element left…!” 

“Nope! You’re wrong again, big brother. You must not know me very well, huh? It’s fire!”

Phos gaped, surprised by her response. He hadn’t met another dragon attuned to the element of fire yet. Despite what a human might think, it was one of the rarest elements for a dragon to bond with. Not many were chosen by the fire elemental, but most dragons considered this a good thing; fire dragons had the most destructive magic, and were deadly warriors that left blazing trails of scorched earth and charred corpses in their wakes during battle. All dragons could breathe fire… But only a fire dragon could control it, and summon it forth from nothingness. 

Phos shuddered. How could his little sister have been chosen by such an element? This revelation scared him more than it excited him. But he knew her better than anyone else— right? He believed in her. She had a good heart, and always had cheered up everyone around her, making friends and socializing easier than he ever could hope to do himself. 

“That’s amazing, Lilia. I’m happy for you, I mean it.” Phos said, patting her on the head. Despite the conflicting emotions swirling around his heart, he wasn’t lying. He really was happy for his little sister, and he did his best to shake his worry off. 

“I heard you got chosen by the element of wind, big brother. Aurelia told me a while ago! That’s really cool, too! I’m friends with a wind drake, and he can use his magic in all sorts of different ways!” 

Lilia shifted into her dragon form, faster than Phos could blink. She towered over him and Tsuki, her yellow scales the color of sunflowers. She winked at him, before grabbing a small branch off a nearby tree. Its vibrant green leaves were stilled connected by their spindly stems. Lilia held it up to her mouth. “Watch this, big brother!” 

She drew in her breath, and her scales began to faintly glow with reddish-orange light. Lilia made sure to be careful as she huffed out a breath of dragonfire, bright crimson and vermillion flames scorching the branch, it crumbled into cinders, then immediately disintegrated into particles of ash. The remains were blown away by the wind, returning to nothingness. 

“No dragon can breathe fire as hot as us!” Lilia said triumphantly, proud of her newfound power. “I can’t do much more than that yet, but I’ll learn eventually. In fact, I’m thinking about going to apprentice under Nero. She’s the Guardian of the Flames!” 

Phos had heard of her. The Guardian of the Flames resided in a kingdom far from here, known as the Kingdom of Magma, Moltren. Great volcanoes watched over the lands there, melting through earth with their flowing magma. It was said to gather in pools that only fire dragons could enter, swimming through the lava like water… He wasn’t sure whether or not that part of the story was a myth, though. He’d have to ask Aurelia later. 

“If that’s what you truly want to do, Lilia, then I think you should do it. But be careful, okay? Fire magic… Can really, really easily hurt people, or even kill them. Promise me you’ll be careful.” Phos looked her in the eyes, his gaze solemn now. Tsuki watched the two of them intently, but remained silent. 

Lilia pinned her ears. “Of course, big brother. I’m not a little kid. I know how fire works.” She lowered her yellow head, bumping her older brother lightly in his chest with her nose. “I promise, okay?” 

“Thank you, Lilia.” He sighed. 

Phos believed in her. Lilia would keep her word to him.