The Dawn Scale City Chronicles by The Lady of Dragons
Chapter 3 – Races and Secrets
Part 1 – Dragon Thunder
A week has passed since last we saw our heroes, or hero, and the very first race of the season is set to begin in just under an hour.
Artha and Parm walked towards their race tent on their way to retrieve the gear rack for the race when they heard someone shout, "HEADS UP!" and quickly ducked. There was a thud and a piece of thick blue draconium landed in a heap of boxes a few feet away. They heard another voice, different from the one that had shouted.
"Pierse, I told you that combination of gear didn't work," the new voice was soft and very pleasing to the ear, even in a chastising tone. Artha and Parm whirled to find the source of the disturbance and found a young woman standing with an eyebrow raised and one hand on her hip, looking at a brown haired teenage boy. The woman noticed them, "Are you two alright?"
Their reply was cut short as she walked over. She was extremely beautiful. Her dark skin was smooth and bore not a blemish or scar. Her soft inky black hair was shot through with streaks of light green and pulled up into an intricate net of braids. Her racing jacket was a light forest green, with angular silver swirls on the shoulders accompanied by the Dragon Claw mark on her upper left sleeve. Her smile was bright and went all the way to her sparking green eyes.
"We're perfectly fine, Miss…" Parm trailed off in a silent request for her name.
"I'm Bladde, one of the Dragon Claw elites," she replied kindly. "The one who almost blew your heads off is Pierse."
"Hey! I didn't almost blow anyone's head off," the teen replied grumpily as he joined them. "It's not my fault Tinkr couldn't fix a cuckoo-clock."
(AN: Bladde is 19 and Pierse is 16, making him the youngest of the Dragon Claw elites.)
"No, but you're the one who let him try to fix your gear."
"Alright, fair enough. Anyway, sorry about that."
Artha waved a hand dismissively, "Nah, don't worry about. Right, Parm?"
"Oh, what? Yes! Sorry, I'm afraid I was a bit distracted."
"That's perfectly alright," Bladde flashed him a smile. "It was nice meeting you. Come on, Pierse, we have to get the gear matrixes recalibrated if you want Dagger's draconium to flow properly when you use them. Otherwise it might go off again." She placed a hand on his shoulder and led him back to the dragon whose gear had exploded.
Parm stared after her, "She was talking about gear circuits and matrixes. And she knew what she was talking about. Oh my."
Artha suddenly got an idea as he watched the two elites walk off. "Hey Parm, I can get the gear on my own if you want to go help them."
"Are you sure?" Parm took a tentative step forwards. "I can always come with you…if you need help…"
Artha put a hand on his shoulder, "Parm, just go."
Parm smiled, "Thanks Artha." He hurried after Bladde and Pierse. "I'll meet you by the tent ten minutes before the race!" he called over his shoulder.
"See ya!" Artha waved and grinned, shaking his head. Parm sure had a knack for making things hard for himself.
"MIGMA! COME BACK HERE!" Coal bellowed as he chased after his dragon. He chased her through the streets, dodging people and dragons left and right. She ran ahead of him, slowing herself so she was only just out of reach. Coal growled and ran faster, but she continued to elude him.
This had started just a bit ago, back at the Volcanite compound. Coal had been getting ready to leave for the race track, and while he was trying to saddle her, she had bucked off the saddle, causing it to land on him, snatched up his wrist com. in her jaws from a nearby table, and dashed out of the stables, leaving him in the dust.
Now he chased her into the mass of people at the race track, without really registering where he was. He also wasn't watching where he was going.
He ran smack into the solid mass of a dragon and was knocked backwards, sprawling on the ground. He sat up and tried to ease the pain in his head, "Ow."
He opened his eyes and looked up at Sharrd. Evidently, he had crashed into Vulken, and he felt rather stupid for not seeing the large bright blue dragon right in front of him. But, to be fair, he had been blinded by anger.
He gave a mental groan as he understood Migma's plan. Oh, she was clever, that little red devil dragon of his, yes, she was. Here he was. Alone. With Sharrd.
"Coal, are you ok?"
He could feel himself heating up at her concern and quickly nodded.
"Why doesn't anyone ever ask me if I'm ok?" Vulken grumbled, pretending to be hurt by her lack of worry over him.
"Because we know you're ok. Your scales are as hard as a rock and you weigh about as much," Sharrd replied, rolling her eyes.
"Are you calling me fat?"
"No, I am not calling you fat. Mature dragons are supposed to be heavy. Not that you're mature by any means."
"Now that was just mean. I am more mature than you are, little human, both mentally and physically!"
"You did not just call me little! I may be short, but I'm older than you!"
Coal watched in amusement. He could only understand one side of the conversation, but it was hilarious to watch them bicker sarcastically back and forth. At Sharrd's latest outburst, he couldn't help it any longer and began to laugh.
Sharrd looked at him skeptically, grinning despite herself, "And what are you laughing at? Last I checked, you came sprinting in out of nowhere and ran smack into Vulken without realizing he was there."
"Yeah, I did," and he continued to laugh. She joined him and he noticed Migma standing a ways away. She walked leisurely over to them, smirking at him, and dropped his drool covered wrist com. on the ground next to him.
"Uhhh…" Sharrd shot him a questioning look.
He just shook his head, "Don't ask."
Migma grinned again, "Hello, Sharrd. I brought your boyfriend."
"He is not," Sharrd replied with an eye-roll.
Coal stood up, giving her a confused look, "I'm not what?"
"How do you know that wasn't directed at Vulken?"
"Then what did she say?"
"Fine," Sharrd gave a small sigh. "She called you my boyfriend."
His face became slightly pale and he nodded, "Agreed."
She raised an eyebrow, "And just what is that tone supposed to mean?"
"You know exactly what I mean," she poked him in the chest, looking as directly into his eyes as she could with their height difference.
Unfortunately for the two of them, it was at that exact moment that Parm and Bladde walked up to them. Seeing the two crew leaders only inches from each other, Bladde's eyes widened and Parm just stared awkwardly.
"Are we interrupting?" Bladde asked curiously.
Sharrd turned to face her elite and Coal breathed a sigh of relief that he was momentarily free of her scrutiny. "No, I was just chewing him out for something. Is there a problem?"
"Well, not exactly," Parm scratched his head in embarrassment. "I was looking for Artha and wondered if either of you had seen him."
"I can't say that I've seen him today," Coal replied. "Sharrd?"
"Nope. Sorry, Parm."
"That's alright, I'm sure I'll find him soon. Thanks anyway," he waved as Bladde led him off again. When they were out of sight Sharrd turned back to Coal.
"Now, where were we?"
He grimaced and sighed. She was not about to let him go without an explanation.
"Those two," Bladde shook her head and sighed.
"Yes, what is the deal with them? I thought Sharrd told us they weren't a couple."
"That's what they say. But they sure act like it sometimes. I don't think either of them realized that both their faces were pink a minute ago."
"They're just like Artha and Kitt. I guess that no matter where you go, some things never change."
"Well said, my foreign friend."
"Artha, come on. The race is going to start in fifteen minutes. You've been checking Beau's gear for the past ten. It's fine. Now let's get going," Kitt urged, tapping her foot impatiently.
"Hey, I'm the one racing with the crew leaders in the first race here."
"You won the coin toss, I know. Don't remind me."
"I have to make sure Beau's gear is on right; otherwise I'll lose for sure."
"What happened to that upbeat attitude of yours, Stable boy? I was getting used to the positivity."
"I am being positive. I'm positive that they'll beat me if I don't have my gear on right."
"I thought we'd cured that sarcastic attitude of yours."
"Can you please stop criticizing, and just help me check the gear? I want to do well in the first race and show the crews here that the Penn crew racers aren't pushovers."
Kitt smiled. She liked it when he talked like a real leader instead of an obnoxious teenager. "Sure. But we have to make it quick. Gear won't make any difference if we're not there when the race starts to use it."
Sharrd sat with her back against Vulken's side in front of the Dragon Claw tent. She was fuming silently. The nerve of him! Running off without giving me an explanation. And not figuratively either. He literally ran off when I asked him. Seriously, you'd think after growing up together and living in the same house for just over ten years he'd be able to stand a few questions.
It's not the questions he's afraid of, it's the questioner. All the training in the world couldn't prepare him for you.
Vulken, that was private.
I'm your partner.
That still doesn't give you the right to intrude on my thoughts.
When I do it, it's never intruding. Our minds are connected, remember?
How could I forget?
That's what I'd like to know. But it's hard for things to remain private when you're shouting in your mind while it's open to mine.
Oops. My bad; I forgot to close it off before I started ranting.
Not a problem, Sharrd. He raised his head and nuzzled her affectionately. She smiled, lifting her hand to scratch the scales right under his jaw, and was rewarded with a deep rumbling purr.
"Hey, Sharrd! Ready to race?"
Sharrd looked up and grinned at Hunnter as the Dragon Fang strode calmly towards her. "When am I not?" she asked, getting to her feet.
"You sound like Coal."
"Don't speak to me of Solen right now."
"What, are you two having a lovers' quarrel?"
Sharrd stopped and raised an eyebrow, giving her friend a warning look, "There are so many ways in which I can respond to that that would make you embarrassed beyond belief."
"Okay, okay, I take it back. Just keep your embarrassing responses to yourself. Anyway, what happened?"
"I said I didn't want to talk about Solen right now."
"You must be pretty mad at him."
"What makes you say that?"
"Whenever you're really upset with him, you start calling him 'Solen' instead of Coal."
"Huh, I never noticed." Why am I so upset with him? It's just him not wanting to answer a relatively awkward question, so what's got me so stirred up? "I still don't want to talk about Coal right now," she shot a pointed look at Hunnter.
"Alright, fine. I know when I'm fighting a losing battle."
"And uphill to boot."
"Yeah, yeah. Let's just get to the track already."
"Now you're talking."
"Then you can be angry at Coal in person."
"So much for 'a losing battle'."
"I'm a General, Sharrd. Sometimes even when I lose, I win."
Sharrd grumbled something unintelligible and they headed off for the race track.
"All participants in the first race of the season please report to the starting line. The race will being in five minutes," declared a voice from the loudspeakers.
"Ah. Roya's as prompt as ever," Tydal mused aloud.
"Who's Roya?" asked Artha. He and Kitt had run into the Aqua Scale leader on their way to the crew tents and Kitt had excused herself on the grounds of needing to find Parm and Lance before they got themselves in trouble. Now the two boys, accompanied by their dragons, made their way towards the throng of people gathered by the entrance to the starting line.
"Roya is one of the Blues," Tydal told him as they walked. "They're the triplet sisters who do announcements and serve as the race marshals. They're fraternal and each sister belongs to a different crew. Roya is an Order Code, Ajura is a Dragon's Whisper, and Cerula is one of mine."
"They're all from crews that are different shades of blue!"
Tydal chuckled, "That's why we call them 'the Blues'. Roya is dark blue, Cerula is light blue, and Ajura is turquoise. They've all got different personalities too."
"Does everything here have a hidden meaning?!" Artha demanded. He had only been in the city for a short time but he was already fed up with all the allusions and secret references that were abundant in Dawn Scale.
Tydal shrugged, "Almost everything. But you get used to it after a while. It's sort of like a big game."
"Okay, what's your name an allusion or reference to?" Artha raised an eyebrow skeptically.
Tydal chuckled again, "Come on, Artha, it shouldn't be that hard to figure mine out ." Artha just gave him a blank look, and Tydal shook his head, "Tydal Sunai. Tidal wave and tsunami are two different words for a big wave of water."
"Oooh," Artha smacked himself lightly on the forehead. Beau snickered and Artha glared at the dragon, "Give me a break, boy, you didn't get it either."
Beau held his head up stiffly and pretended to ignore his rider.
Tydal looked at the pair thoughtfully, "You know, you two remind me of Sharrd and the other Dragon Claws, the way you communicate."
"Yeah, but I suppose that's a conversation for another time. We have a race to win," and with an ease that inspired jealously and admiration at the same time, he swung himself smoothly into SlypStreem's saddle and the two dashed off.
"Sometimes I hate how cool that guy is," Artha muttered to himself. Beau nodded moodily. No Nautilus class had a right to move so fluidly, fishlike body or no.
"You and me both, Penn; and he's my best friend." Artha and Beau whirled to find Coal and his red dragon Migma standing being them. Coal grinned wolfishly, "Come on, you're lined up next to me. Let's go," he beckoned and they followed him, arriving at the starting line just in time for the short opening announcement.
"Welcome, racers from all crews, local or otherwise," Hunnter began. She stood with Onslaut in the middle of the track, just beyond the starting line, the Pack class standing proudly beside the young General. "Racing is not what our ancestors planned those many years ago when Dawn Scale was built, but they left us this magnificent city, with dragons so proud and strong it would be a dishonor to our founders not to race! We must take full advantage of what we have been given, and let the world know Dawn Scale is the home of champions! So let this year's race season be the best Dawn Scale has ever had!"
The crowd let out a roar and Artha looked to his right at Coal, "Why is Hunnter doing the opening speech?"
Coal smiled, "Well, why wouldn't she? She's the head of the Council."
"Wait, you guys have a council too?"
"How else did you think we ran the city?"
Whatever Artha had been about to say was lost as the crowd cheered deafeningly. The cause of their excitement was three girls, each dressed in a different shade of blue, making their way out onto a small balcony protruding from a white building as Hunnter and Onslaut took their places at the starting line. Artha could only guess that the building was the race officials' headquarters.
The girl in dark blue, Roya, as Artha remembered, crossed her arms and began to speak, he voice amplified by a concealed microphone, "Alright, racers, you know the rules. No cheating, no excessive bashing or smashing, and no screaming excessively crude or rude things at your opponents; otherwise, you're out."
"Everybody ready?" the light blue triplet, Cerula, inquired from her position lounging atop the table behind her sisters. The crowd roared again in response.
"Then let's get this race underway!" Ajura, the turquoise triplet, declared happily.
Cerula smiled. "Reaady," she drawled, drawing out the word smoothly.
The crew leaders and their dragons crouched lower, settling themselves into the best starting positions as the starting lights began to flash red.
Roya's words were as stiff as her posture, "Set,"
Myght and Terros sat on the sidelines watching their companions. Their Bull and Earth class dragons weren't built for this kind of competition, but they would have their turn later when the first Jousting tourneys and Drag Ball matches began.
Ajura was beside herself as her turn came, "GOOOO!"