Two steps behind her mother, and the distance widens in every stride. Her little steps are barely big enough to fill a sixteenth of the older woman's steps, but she tries anyway to keep up.

Fae is just old enough to walk without falling over, old enough to want to help instead of sit and play when her mother does her daily chores in the family stables. Her coordination is not good enough yet to hold a full bucket of water or food, but Addi has assured her that the fresh air she carries is just as imperative to dragon health. It swells her little girl with pride to carry something so important.

The stables are a familiar cacophony. Dragons of all shapes and sizes, all breeds and temperaments, reside in the stalls. Santklarr is a well-known name in Yggdrasil, both for sports coaching and for their dragons. Addi Santklarr breeds them for show, and hers are among the more pure lineages. There are very little in their corner of the world that would exceed her lines in purity.

The doors to the stables are opened, the entirety of Addi's stock exiting and filing into the center courtyard. Their handler has brought fresh food and drink for them this morning, one of four scheduled refreshing points for those in dormancy. Dragons in active training will be tended to more often throughout the day. There is a little bit of animosity in a few of them, those known for their tempers. It will lessen as they fill their bellies and peace will return.

Addi makes certain to check on all those who are eating and drop a tiny hint to stick their nose in her daughter's bucket. Dragons are smart creatures, capable of understanding human tongues and even more capable of carrying out requests when asked of them. They each make noise in response and on finishing, move to stick their noses in the younger human's special bucket. It delights her to see her role means something and she pats each nose that dips in with a joyous laugh before they move on to the exercise rings and open pasturing.

She has had to refill the bucket at least three times, like a good stable hand should to provide, when Addi opens the doors to the nursery and hatchery. There are not a lot of pairs at this time of year. The demand for new dragons is small as this is racing season and not necessarily the sporting season. Other stables that breed for racing are receiving more demands for new dragons or experienced racers, leaving the sporting stables in the area with low profit. Santklarr is just one of them, as they do not breed for racing.

They have four breeding pairs at this time. A pair of Magma-class, brilliant red accented in sharp blue; a pair of Nautilus-class, their trademark light blue streaked with judgmental brown; a pair of Pack-class, herding their squealing brood in the pale purple with a touch of fiery red; and a pair of Sonic-class, elegant noisemakers in startling turquoise with blatant lines of blue and green. Two pairs are expecting, two have active broods of three and five. Average clutch sizes, Addi explains. Six or more is considered large, one and two small. Anything in between is just right.

She talks to these dragons too, asking them the same thing requested of those who came before. "Please stick your nose in my daughter's bucket on your way passed. It makes her feel important."

As before, she receives replies in many different ways. Even more than a few chirps or rumbles in the Sonic family; Akuilla, the mother, continues to talk in the full vocabulary for which Sonics are known for almost two minutes. It distracts both mothers from noticing that the dragon's brood has gone from three to two.

Fae is also distracted, her young self concerned more about making sure her bucket is filled and her job is completed for all of the newcoming dragons. She doesn't hear her mother's requests, though she makes mental note that Sonic dragons are very noisy as Akuilla strikes up her part of the conversation. She sticks her head into her bucket to make sure it is properly filled with air, sneezing since it is filled with dust particles and the stale smell of old fish. A chittering squeak behind her startles her into dropping the container on her head, making a noise of disappointment as her invisible stock is ruined.

Carefully, she turns around, pulling the bucket up a bit and staring straight into the face of a young Sonic, not yet with any of the trademark fins as the adults sport. A look at the rest of the brood over her shoulder shows that it is almost half its siblings' sizes. A runt, in plain terms. It looks a little thin, probably from being bulled out of the way by its bigger siblings during feeding time.

It reaches forward with its nose, chirping inquisitively as to the use of the bucket. She knows this because it soon grabs hold of the edge of it and pulls it back down over her head. She gives a squawk at the move in retaliation, hearing it chitter and squeak back. Under the edge of the bucket, she can clearly see its short tail swishing back and forth, tiny bumps near the tip where the spade has started to break through.

It finds the game fun. When she doesn't lift the bucket so it can be pulled down again, the little dragon moves forward and tries to stick its head under the bucket with her. It wrenches a laughing squeal out of her and she pulls back to try and turn around and run off. All it succeeds in doing is confusing her immature navigation abilities and she runs straight into the feeding ring with a loud clang! as the bucket hits it and bounces off. She topples with it, laying on the ground stunned and with ringing head beneath the bucket.

The talons of the little dragon make a clicking noise as it comes to her aide, offering chirps and chitters and a variety of other concerned noises at her still form. An inquisitive noise, louder and deeper and likely from the sire, accompanies her collision, the sound of her mother making a small huff as though she cannot believe her child would do such a thing. Sound is amplified in the bucket, once the ringing in her ears quiets, and she can hear everything.

Her solitude is interrupted by a familiar beaked nose, poking again under the edge of the bucket. It chirps first before trying to grip the metal container to pull it off of her head. At first, her young mind thinks it might be concerned for her after causing the accident in the first place. This is dispelled when she lets it have the bucket and it instead trots off with it in its mouth, emitting a strange stuttered noise she can only take as a laugh.

She makes a strangled little noise before standing up again and running after the little Sonic on its way around the feeding ring. "Hey! Give it back, is not yours!"

The Sonic hatchling stops dead, looking contemplative as though measuring the pros and cons of having stolen her bucket. She almost catches up to it when it turns about, chirps in her direction, and offers the container back. She takes it, holding it to herself as though it is her most prized treasure, staring angrily at the dragon runt. Or,at least as angrily as a child of almost four years can be.

"Is mine." she tells it with a firm resolve.

The little dragon, though it is still a bit bigger than she is, cocks its head to one side curiously. It rolls a chirrup toward her, she can only assume it is an apology at first. Until she hears something in it, a syllable.

"drrrrsssss..."

It is long, a sibilant hiss at the end. She might have passed it off as another part of Sonic vocabulary if it was not for the unexpectedly sharp 'd' at the beginning. Dragons do not speak, at least not in human tongues. Maybe Sonics mimic noises they hear, like some birds she has read about. She looks slowly toward her mother, who is simultaneously watching her and the rest of the feeding dragons, before looking back toward the runty dragon. A thought crosses her mind and she points at herself.

"Fae."

The dragon cants its head in the other direction, processing this new information before trying again.

"drrrrrrrrrrussssssssssssss..."

Another noise is added to the mix as it goes on, drawn longer with a hint of impatience. She shakes her head in response.

"No. Fae."

The Sonic shakes its head and repeats the same as before, pushing the syllables out more forcefully. It is only after this third reiteration that she understands. It is not trying to mimic so much as it is trying to introduce itself. She wrinkles her nose at it comically.

"'Druss' is a weird name."

It has picked up that she at least understands the intent before stomping the ground repeatedly with its front feet, building up to something. There is an odd noise of effort, a drawn high-pitched whine, and then it snaps its head forward with jaws wide mere inches from her face.

To those outside their little bubble, the smallest roar ever recorded by a Sonic is heard, though it still causes heads to turn. To the two young ones, a human child and a hatchling dragon, it finally makes its statement heard.

"DERRYUS"

It is fast, sharp. Comes out as a single noise rather than the two-syllable name it really is but she hears it like it should be, complete with an upward inflection at the end.

Before she has a chance to respond, Addi sweeps in to shoo the little creature away to eat. She receives an inquiring chirp at the intrusion but compliance, the dragon trotting off with tail wagging to an open space at the feeding ring to indulge when its siblings are away. Gently placing her hand on her daughter's shoulder, she guides her to stand next to her.

"That one is a bit feisty, but he is a runt and they usually are." she explains. "Are you alright? Do your ears hurt? Taking a roar like that may make you hear less."

It surprises Fae to know there was a roar. She had not heard it inside their little space of influence, so she shakes her head. "I don't think Derryus roared too loud."

Addi's face twists, just a bit. Perhaps a little pensive. "Where did you hear his name was Derryus?"

That resolve of before is back. She crosses her arms at her chest in an attempt to make herself seem more important. "He told me so."

There is silence, if only for a moment while Addi thinks on this. "I think ... when he is done eating, you two should play together a little more."

Fae cannot hide the excitement to being told this and the waiting until the little Sonic is finished is almost unbearable. As soon as he is, she forgets she is trying to help in the stables and leaves the bucket by her mother's feet to rush off with her new companion. She does not see her mother waiting until the pair is a sufficient distance away, pulling up a comm link to her father to tell him their daughter has bonded. She does not hear Vaega Santklarr making up schedules and matching them with his wife concerning their daughter's future.

Fae never hears Derryus speak again. At least never in human tongues.


A/N: When War meets Derryus and their partnership begins. This one was anticipated by a few people. 'Warning' for inexplicable amounts of fluffy adorableness. And Sonics. Lots of those. They require their own warning for shitheadedness.