This is a gift from Matau to Okapi.

Chapter Only

Flame woke up, groaning. He’d been in the healer’s hut for days since Viper had accidentally stung him with her tail. He was completely miserable. He winced, feeling a surge of pain shoot through his whole body. The cactus juice was helping, that was clear, but he was still badly injured. As he opened his eyes, he saw a RainWing staring into them. She said, giving him the most unnatural smile he’d ever seen, “Hi!”

She couldn’t be more than half a claw away. Her chromatic, vibrant eyes were staring deep into his. Her shifting scales looked like a rainbow had been distilled into them. Her smile seemed to shine with its own light, like she had eaten the sun. The ruff behind her neck was flared with excitement.

Flame flared his wings straight up and screamed. “Get away from me, you stalker!” He immediately dove under the layers of plants. He lay there, shivering. They shifted, and she poked her nose under it. He twisted frantically, and fell out of the hammock. Tangled in the plants, he hit the soft floor face-first. He groaned again. The stalker RainWing leaned in, still grinning. He whimpered. “I NEED AN ADULT!” he screamed.

The RainWing giggled. It sounded like a parrot chirping incessantly. She said, unnaturally cheerfully, “You can check with the healers, but what for? Also, what’s a stalker? Thank you for the compliment, though!”

Now that he looked at her more carefully, Flame noticed she was younger than he was. She was probably about 3. Once he had struggled out of his floral bonds, he asked, “Ummmm… who are you?”

She recreated that disturbing grin. In her voice, reminiscent of Cirrus’s at an execution, “I’m Kinkajou! I’ve never seen a dragon with your mega-awesome colors! What’s your name?”

Once he realized she had complimented him, he choked out, “I’m Flame.”

Flame didn’t think it was possible, but Kinkajou’s smile got even wider. She pulled on his forearm, and said, “Come on, let’s go! We don’t have all day!” He staggered to his feet, still tired from Viper’s venom. Speaking of her, he felt awful about her death. Fatespeaker and Squid might have seen him as a jerk, but it wasn’t like he had wanted Viper to die.

Kinkajou pulled him out of the healer’s hut. It was a sunny, partly cloudy day. He felt a little better, even though a perverted RainWing was pulling him along and his best friend was dead.

Kinkajou had never seen a dragon like him before. He was so red and so fierce-looking. It was awesome. She pointed towards the Arbortorium, and cheered, “Comeoncomeoncomeon! Don’t be slow! There’s our center of awesomeness!”

Flame narrowed his eyes. “Come on? You think I’ll be behind you?” He laughed in a strange way. It kind of sounded like he wanted her to be upset. Obviously that was wrong. “I won’t be outflown by some RainWing,” he declared. He stretched, his muscles rippling like leaves in the breeze.

“Watch how a real dragon flies,” he ordered. He flexed his wings, testing their elasticity and maneuverability. Flame strutted to the edge of the platform, crouched low, and jumped off. He shot straight down.

Kinkajou screamed, “FLAME!” She looked over the edge, expecting to see his broken body. He hadn’t hit the ground yet, but he was accelerating. Suddenly, there was a kind of shift in his wings, and he pulled out of his dive completely unharmed.

Her eyes couldn’t track him; he was just too fast and too agile. He darted between trees like a shadow, evading everything in his way. The confident smirk on his face clearly displayed his superiority. He clearly knew he was awesome, which was something Kinkajou approved of. His fiery red scales blazed in the brilliant sunlight.

Flame broke off from his evasions, flew a few laps around the village, and then landed at the Arbortorium. Kinkajou flew over there, amazed. “That’s how a real dragon flies,” he said proudly.

She smiled at him. “You’re awesome!” she said.

Flame flared his wings, grinning. “Yes, I definitely am! It’s so nice when others agree with you about your awesomeness!” He laughed again, but it sounded somehow nicer now. “You’re pretty awesome too. I guess my awesomeness must be rubbing off on you.” He raised his talon, which she high-fived.

A surge of something flashed through her. It was, she supposed, the “adrenaline” that that NightWing had talked about. Flame smiled wholeheartedly. It looked different than his other smiles somehow, though.

Kinkajou realized she’d been continuing her high five for almost an entire minute. She withdrew her talon. For some reason, her scales were crimson, but she wasn’t sure why. She looked into his eyes, but he looked away. She shrugged, and asked, “What do you want to do now?”

Flame looked into her eyes sadly. “I have a friend to remember,” he said in a mourning tone. He took off, flying towards the portal. She quizzically followed him with her eyes, but she figured he’d want to be left alone.

She said to herself, “Well, at least I have a new friend!” She watched him leave, content.