All was, seemingly, right with the world. An IceWing dived through the mountains, the birds sang... Wait, an IceWing!? The SkyWing guards leapt to their feet.
"Did you see that IceWing?" One of them looked out towards the entrance.
"Of course I did, he was right there!" The IceWing disappeared from view, and the SkyWing guards resumed playing cards.
"Well, it's someone else's problem."
Queen Burn looked over the trapped IceWing. She dangled the about-to-hatch egg over the cliff, then dropped it.
"Oops." She smirked malevolently; but a MudWing snatched the egg and flew off.
"Sorry, Snowface!” she called over her wing.
Burn angrily followed, but the petite MudWing was too quick. She disappeared and Burn was left to contemplate what on Phyrria she would do if the dragonets hatched.
"I got it! Snow-face the GrumpWing was attacked though..." The same small MudWing rubbed her leg. "Maybe we should go somewhere else. I feel... unsafe here."
"I know of a place," said Webs. "Jade Mountain'd be acceptable?"
"Hmm," said Kestrel. "Safe, secluded, not really in anyone's kingdom... let's leave now."
So, the four caretakers and the five eggs flew off to Jade Mountain.
The dragons, tired from their flight, collapsed onto a ledge. It was large, rough and gray; exposed to the stars, but facing the rainforest. No one would find them there, no one would find them in the caves beyond. Suddenly, the red egg rocked. It resumed this motion for a bit longer, then suddenly it stopped. A crack formed in its surface, then another. Finally, a small brown talon burst through. Then a second one. The egg's top splintered and a brown head popped out, and started attacking the other eggs.
Kestrel made to stop him, but Marsh-hen spoke up. "MudWings do that by instinct," she explained. "He's helping them."
The SeaWing egg was the second to hatch. It too rocked, but it flew over on its side and smashed into pieces on a boulder. The tiny blue dragonet looked up, photophores randomly flashing.
The large SkyWing egg didn't rock at all. It just splintered, and the surprisingly tiny dragonet lay in the shards of its shell. The SkyWing's dark, shimmering orange scales caught the light of the dusk.
The tiny MudWing attached itself to the silver egg.
Wait, silver? thought the guardians. But they shrugged it off.
The egg cracked and splintered, revealing a silver-dappled NightWing dragonet. Four silver scales shone around his eyes, and even more glittered on his wings and on his white underscales.
The faintly shimmering golden egg cracked delicately. The other tiny dragonets, except the SkyWing, looked at it expectantly. The top popped off, and a small, almost-sand colored dragonet poked her tiny head out. Her scales were too dark to be normal, and tiny, almost invisible silver scales dotted her snout like freckles. But no one really saw those tiny scales... nor the ones around her eyes.
Chapter 1— The Darkest Dark
Kestrel roared, aggravated. "How do you know what I'll do before I do it?" She hissed and lunged at the small SandWing, who had already leaped out of the way.
Sunny shrugged. "I don't know," she said, dodging another of Kestrel's attacks. "I just do."
Kestrel closed her eyes. "Why don't you leave?"
The tiny dragon scampered out of the cave, the light from the holes in the rock shining on her wings. Tiny shimmers of light, just barely suggesting silver scales, shone on her wings.
But the SkyWing shook it off as a trick of a light.
The smallest 1 (almost 2!) year old dragonet fluttered into the air, then landed. She looked backwards, and Starflight stuck his tongue out.
"What did you do that for?" asked Sunny.
Starlight smiled, lowering his scroll. "That was what you were thinking," he said seriously. "So I did it." The silver scales around his amber eyes gleamed.
Sunny then remembered that her best friend wasn't really a regular dragonet.
"No, I'm not. You know I'm not," commented Starflight from the corner.
Sunny sighed. She really hated when he did that.
"Yes, but you love me. Plus, better I read your thoughts than Clay's.. or..." he shuddered. "Fireback."
Sunny winced too. The SkyWing was tall, muscular, and horribly grumpy-- the two smallest dragonets feared her, and avoided her as much as possible.
"Yeah." Sunny grabbed Starflight's talon and pulled him. "C'mon, I wanna go talk to Glorious."
Starflight smiled. "Sure! RainWing culture is so interesting!"
"Hi!" Glorious's vibrant scales splashed with pink and yellow, contrasting the bored gray they were before. "Why're you here?"
Sunny smiled and flew up to the branch Glorious was hanging on. When she alighted, Glory shifted her scales to exactly the same colors for an instant, then back to the happy greens and yellows. Starflight flew up too, apparently on his own but Sunny had a feeling that Glory wanted to have everyone up in the tree. Starflight latched his claws onto the bark and swung himself onto a branch just above them.
Glory repeated her question. "What're you here for?"
Sunny decided to let Starflight do the talking.
"Well," he explained, "we live with two large, grumpy red and orange dragons. We need you to scare them a little. Um, they've been mean to us and we need you to scare them. Not enough to make us leave, but a little bit."
Glory nodded. "Can do. But we need to know what would scare them enough."
Starflight thought for a moment. "I remember Kestrel-- the red one-- is afraid of Dune or Webs betraying her. But that would be moving time... Well, I know that Fireback is terribly afraid of Sunny or I overpowering her... I'll get back to you about Kestrel."
Glory concentrated on Starflight's face. Her scales shifted and rippled, and Sunny could soon see two exactly identical Starflights. She got right up in copy-Starflight's face and poked her snout. "Uncoil your tail. And Starflight has four silver scales underneath his eyes, not three."
Glory made the aforementioned changes, then spread her wings slightly. Underneath, instead of black with stars, the wing was pure deep blue. "So you can tell Starflight and me apart." She went back to her normal, superbright colors, and hung upside down again. Starflight flew up and spiraled down onto the stone ridge outside their caves.
Starflight, you'd better be careful. Sunny followed him, her wings spread wide. Glory watched her disappear, and for a second, she thought she caught a glimpse of shiny scales, burning like fire in the sun's heat.
She didn't pay attention.
When Sunny and Starflight got into the caves, Tsunami was walking dejectedly out of the training cave. When she noticed someone there, her wings opened up, and the luminescent scales on her tail and some of the ones on her wings shone in a pattern, blazing out easily recognized words. Starflight, of course, was just reading her mind, but Sunny was paying attention to the words. After all, one picked a bit of Aquatic up when living with two SeaWings for one's whole life.
"Tsunami," scolded Sunny. "That's not particularly nice."
Tsunami tossed her head and looked down her blue snout at Sunny. "I don't care that much. Wanna come swimming with me?"
Sunny blinked, then smiled. "Um, could you maybe find Clay, and Starflight and I will talk to you about something really important."
Tsunami bounded off and Sunny had the feeling she was altogether too happy to find Clay and not Fireback.
Sunny lowered herself to the floor. Starflight smiled. “Tsunami will bring just Clay. She…” He trailed off.
“I’ll come,” Sunny grinned. “To the swimming cave? We should wait for Tsunami, though.”
Starflight looked at her, slightly terrified. “That was exactly what I was thinking. Are you a mind reader like me, or something?”
No, Sunny thought. You’re the NightWing here. I’m just… a useless, funny-looking SandWing.
Oh, no. Starflight hugged Sunny tightly, not letting go. You may be a funny-looking SandWing, but you’re my funny-looking SandWing.
Sunny relaxed in his grip, almost like she knew what he was saying.
Starflight knew, at that moment, wether it be from premonition or simply blind faith… everything would be fine.
Chapter 2 — Premonition
Starflight, almost two years later, knew he wasn’t just a stronger mind reader. Thoughts bombarded him all the time, unless he ran away.
That was how he found the NightWing.
The big, slightly creepy NightWing was named Stonemover, and he told Starflight that he was an animus. He also told him (in his thoughts) that he had made a huge mistake.
Starflight had not imparted upon Stonemover the fact that he could read minds. He also had found out that all NightWings were trained to block mind reading.
That was how Starflight was made aware of the tunnels. He rushed to Glory.
The slender, vibrant RainWing hung out of the tree, her scales rippling in resplendent shades of hibiscus and baby blue. “Hello,” she said, smiling. The young dragoness flung open her wings, somersaulting out of the tree and landing on all fours in front of Starflight. “What brings you here?”
“Glorious! I… there are tunnels to the Night Kingdom? They are planning to take over the rainforest…” He cringed away from her as her thoughts stampeded through both their minds.
No way! What? We have to find them! Should we kill them? No, too harsh… We need to do this though. Soon. Very soon.
Starflight took off desperately. The RainWing’s thoughts hit him like a million pebbles, until he got to the mountain and was able to retreat. He curled up in a corner. But he was unable to calm down, for a strange thought hit him.
I see fire and ice
I see death and doom
I see all the paths
I guide us to the light.
Starflight saw that if they stayed, for any time longer, the NightWings would come. He had to leave, he had to stop them. That path is most likely. Now.
He dashed out of the caves, Sunny making a grab for him.
Starflight? What are you—
Glory arced after him, her scales surprised, blazing yellow. Starflight landed, and Glory skidded to the ground.
What, Starflight? What? What are you even doing?
I’m stopping the NightWings, he thought, forgetting that Glorious couldn’t read his mind. “I’m stopping the NightWings. If I don’t now… there will be death, and blood.”
He ran into the tunnel in the tree, back claws scrabbling on the wood.
And the hellscape he found himself in was far from what he had imagined, even from what Stonemover had told him.
The smell, the stench in the air was horrible.
Flashes of flames, ash, death.
The island was dark.
Clouds billowing across the sky.
Starflight shook himself off, just to hear Glory sliding down behind him. She barreled into him, adopting an altered Starflight guise; stars under the wings, faintly blue scales, and no silver on her face but lining her tail.
Oof, she thought, helping Starflight up.
Their talons clicked on the stone. “Not very well guarded, is it?” asked Glory, her voice hushed.
Starflight closed his eyes and concentrated. “If you say that now… and we go that way, then we find two guards waiting…” He shivered. All of this was so sudden, it was hard to imagine that only a few minutes ago he was innocently minding his business.
“Wait!” He peered into the future, timelines presenting themselves in front of them like a million paths to take.
“Who are you two?”
Starflight peered up at the tall, pitch-black NightWing. “Um,” he said quietly, timelines swerving in all directions. “I’m Starbright and this is Gloryseeker, my friend.” He cringed under the big, dark dragon’s intuitive stare.
He’s not registered. The huge dragon frowned down on him harder.
Can you hear me? cried Starflight into the empty thought-void. No one responded. “I’m alone,” he murmured under his breath. Glory beamed up at the larger Nightwing.
“We’ve got to go,” she grinned, her eyes shifting. “Starbright here is… hurt. He hit his head… on his… bed?”
The older NightWing’s eyelids clicked shut, then opened, his brilliant brown eyes shimmering almost familiarly to Starflight. Where have I seen those eyes before? he asked himself.
“The medical wing is that way,” the NightWing pointed.
Starflight pressed a talon to his head and wobbled. “Ow,” he groaned. Glory took his talon in hers and pulled him, her taller frame and longer tail brushing against him.
“Come on,” she insisted. Starflight stumbled after her. When they were out of sight of that eerily familiar NightWing, Starflight straightened.
He heard someone he knew. Near the tunnel to the RainWings. He turned around and dashed out to the tunnel, Glory fluttering overhead, in leaps and bounds.
Whoa. This place is bad.
Starflight rounded the corner and Sunny bared her fangs and raised her tail. She relaxed and grinned. “You’re here!”
“Sh! We have to get out!” Starflight, Sunny, and Glory clambered into the tunnel, Glory going last to hide the two others. “Thanks,” whispered Starflight, finally climbing out of the tunnel after Sunny. Glory looked up: two of the moons were full. Starflight pulled Sunny into a tree, hissing for Glory to join them.
They sat silently as a NightWing climbed out, Glory hanging by her talons and her tail almost brushing the guard’s head. He slouched back into the tunnel.
Sunny let out a long breath. “That was close.” She jumped down and her wings hit the air and sailed up to the sky. Starflight followed.