Written by Andoria Sunok and Stellar StarElven

Written in cooperation with Andoria Sunok.

*****

Written in cooperation with Andoria Sunok.

Mythical Meetings:

The farbles grazed peacefully across the broad grasslands of Zenshee 3.
Third planet of the Valik Prime system and one of the three "food planets"
maintained by the Eye of Valik clan. Suddenly they bolted. Leaping easily
20-30 meters in a single bound, the herd of giant rabbits raced for the
cover of a large forested area a few miles away.
Snatched from the air in mid-leap by the huge jaws of its hunter, one of
them squealed briefly before the crushing teeth silenced its cry. Thinned
in numbers by half when the herd of farbles finally reached the safety of
the forest, the 3 hunters departed satisfied with their quick meal.

"It is too dangerous!" She refuted his argument vehemently. "You don't
know what is out there. No one does."
"That is why I must go. We HAVE to know what is there to be prepared for
the future." Onshir replied to her rebuff with equal ardor. "Besides, do
you think I would not return to watch our child be born and grow as we teach

it about life? Nothing in the universe will keep me from that experience."

Fyrsha didn't like the idea of her mate going out there alone, yet she knew
that arguing with him was futile. Not wishing for the last words they had
to be in argument, she left the rest of her points unsaid and simply gazed
lovingly into his blue, almond-shaped eyes.
Lying back into his strong embrace, the female elf allowed her fears to fade

and just enjoyed their time together. Rising from the bed as the first rays

of light poured in through the large stone balcony, Onshir kisses his love
in parting before slipping out of their cavernous home.

Leaping off the balcony, the male elf hangs there in midair for a moment
over the impossibly deep and wide cavern, Onshir seems to stretch incredibly

as his upper torso begins to drop down into the unseen depths while his feet

seem to remain unmoving and meld together. The entire transformation takes
less than a second and Onshir's wings catch the air, with a powerful beat
launching him back upwards into the sky.

'Any parting instructions, Sire?' Onshir's question appeared in the
Dra'Keshi King's mind after he accepted the mental request for
communication.

'Yes. Be careful and keep your senses alert out there. Your wife would
skin me alive if anything happened to you...' The last was sent in an
undercurrent of humorous emotion, which then turned toward a more serious
feeling. 'Seriously though. Take care out there. We know not what lies
within the sector beyond that border.'

Having been rising into high altitude during the telepathic conversation,
Onshir beat his powerful wings several more times as he rose out of the
atmosphere of Heartstone. The quick empty feeling slipping through his mind

briefly as he ended the mental contact with his King Pausing at the edge of

orbit, he brushed Fyrsha's mind with a parting contact full of emotion
before turning his full attention toward the task ahead. 'I love
you...both.'

The long sleek dragon's form began slicing through space with steadily
increasing speed. His powerful wings pushing him easily forward while his
mental senses followed the paths of his kin and he adjusted course slightly
to avoid any possible collisions with the standard patrol network of his
kin. Flight was so much easier out here than within the heavier atmosphere
surrounding the planets and Onshir was soon crossing out of the Valik Prime
system and into the even lighter atmosphere of space outside his home
system. His senses still picking up occasional traces from the outermost
patrols, they found nothing but emptiness stretching out before him in the
unknown region toward which his wingbeats pushed him ever nearer.
Rumor had it that other sectors of the universe had no atmosphere at all,
while others had an entire different makeup altogether. The thought of
exploring such places was both intriguing and frightening to the male Drak
who was soon to be a father. Would the child be male or female? Onshir
wondered as the emptiness of space filled his senses both before and behind
him. Fyrsha had been adamant that they not sense the gender of the child.
She wanted the mystery to remain until it's day of birth and he had
supported her decision completely. Still he wondered, which was
understandable, and added one more reason upon many to his desire to return
home again following this risky, yet necessary mission.
He had not been chosen for the mission for the fact that he is Zylen's
eldest son, quite the contrary, several objections had been raised toward
his selection for exactly that fact. Still, he was the most qualified Drak
besides the King who was needed to remain at the throne. If the region were

known another would have been chosen. Onshir's ranking both in physical and

mental ability however gave him the greatest probability of success and
survival. Besides the honor of being given such a mission, his nearly one
and a half millennia of life experience made him the best candidate of the
entire EV clan.
Of course both FlameTalon and SheerWing clans had offered to send a
representative along, however Zylen had decided that this particular mission

required the undisrupted senses of a single Drak, and his reasoning was
sound to all who heard of it.

A slight tingle broke his musings as Onshir returned his attention fully to
the present. It felt odd, certainly not "natural" like his kin and home.
The sector edge was near now, he could sense it like a faint and distant
roar of water over a high cliff. And just beyond the edge the odd sensation

was felt again. Accompanied by a taste of metal in his draconic maw, as if
he had just taken a bite of silverstone. 'Discover what lies within the
unknown.' Onshir reminded himself as his steady wingbeats continued to push

him rapidly toward the unfamiliar object.

* * * *

On a solo reconnaissance mission 500 miles outside of Oryn Prime air space,
Sage Vanryl began a routine mapping of the stars. It had taken him 4 days
to reach the edge of Sector G, and the Q-Dex leveling technology provided by

the Selesthians and New Asgard had proved valuable. The ship had performed
well and all systems were operating at peak capacity. Something had
changed in this sector of space over the last several months: strange
signals were being picked up by the laser satellite systems that were
confusing. The familiar sound of the radar sweep was becoming monotonous
and so he silenced it by lightly taping the control panel, asking the
on-board computer to alert him if he was needed.

He put the Star Chaser Delta on autopilot and leaned back in his seat,
closing his eyes. Maintaining humanoid form was beginning to tire him and he

wanted to rest. His robes of black, brown, gray, and white contrasted
greatly with his azure eyes. His long brownish black hair was tinted with
white and pulled back into a warriors knot resembling that of the knot work
used hundreds of years ago on ancient ships of Oryn Prime. Sages were
perfect for reconnaissance work not only because they preferred to work
alone, but also due to the fact that their mental disciplines could remain
heightened for long periods of time. As he began to morph into his natural
form of a large Nighthawk, he felt something brush against his mind, ever so

slightly. He sat upright, glancing at the radar screen. A small, faint
light pulsated just outside of viewing range. However, even at this
distance he realized that the object had to be at least 1000 feet long. A
cruiser class starship perhaps. A rest period would have to wait.

He addressed Bynzar, the on-board computer. "Perform a broad sweep of our
visitor, outside perimeters only. I don't want to draw too much attention
for the moment. Does the ship match any configurations in our database? "

"Negative, captain."

Vanryl raised one eyebrow as he began monitoring printouts of information
pouring across his screen. "Please give a description of the unknown."

After several minutes the computer answered. "The unknown matches that of
an Andorian mythological creature....a sentient living being."

"What! Bynzar, what kind of answer is that? Is it a living ship whose hull

matches that of a mythological creature?"

"No sir, it is sentient, living. I am picking up life signs of a singular
nature."

Vanryl cocked his head to one side, and fighting the excitement within him
to remain objective, asked. "Okay, so Bynzar, what mythological creature
does it match?"

"A dragon, sir."

Vanryl's eyes grew wide. "A very large dragon. Continue on this course.
How long before contact?"

"Fifteen minutes to contact."

The Sage hit his communications panel and contacted the Prime Minister of
the Telecommunications Center on Oryn Prime. "This is Sage Vanryl of the
Star Chaser Delta. Please be aware that I will intercept a (he hesitated
about mentioning a dragon) ...new life form in fifteen minutes, 500 miles
outside of Oryn Prime Space. Monitor beacon has been activated. He slowed
the Star Chaser to impulse and continued his course.

Several questions went the through the Sage's mind. How was he going to
communicate with this dragon? Also, the Star Chaser was equipped with a
laser defense system, but it would only stun this size of a creature in a
hostile situation, hopefully allowing him to escape if worse came to worse.

It was completely illogical, but somehow he didn't believe that it meant him

any harm. He felt like it was the will of the Prophets that he should be
here. He felt the all to familiar feeling of a thousand needles pricking
his skin and glanced at the wide copper bracelet covered in Runes. To his
surprise the Rune symbol of Ehwaz glowed brightly, symbolizing trust,
partnership, and commitment with someone who wants to make things work. Was

this a very strong telepath wishing to deceive him....or something else. He

grew more intrigued by the moment. He glanced at the radar screen. The
creature was larger than he had imagined.

Bynzar spoke quietly, in a matter-of-fact tone "We are within viewing range.

Forward screens activated."

Vanryl rose from his seat and stood looking out into the stars. "Magnify."

"Complying"

The Sage gripped the handrail in front of him. The creature was huge, at
least 2000 feet long and 150 feet wide. The wingspan alone was nearly 1500

feet. "Computer, ready laser weapons, standby alert status only." Vanryl
didn't want to send unfriendly signals, but the fifty-foot long Star Chaser
was dwarfed by the magnificent creature that loomed before him, and the
precaution seemed logical.

Bynzar spoke in alert mode. "Sir, target is slowing down, hovering in
position."

* * * *

Onshir could see the long sleek form of the unfamiliar object before him.
If it had not been for his mental sweep, he would have missed it at first.
The almost fluid-looking hull blended with the stars, enabling it to appear
cloaked. He could tell it had powered down and he felt himself being
scanned, first by regular sensors, and then by a mind reaching back to him.
He attempted first contact.

The mind present within the unnatural vessel appeared open and adept in
regards to mental abilities. Using the standard mental contact used among
his kin, Onshir extended the friendly greeting and request for mental
connection, which was only polite where telepathy is concerned. The sending

was purposefully light and non-obtrusive so that the recipient would not
perceive it as a mental attack or infiltration. Feeling the acceptance of
his request, Onshir carefully thought out what it was that he wished to
communicate and initiated the mental connection.

'I am known as Onshir. I stand as FirstClaw of Zylen'Valik, my father and
King of Valik Prime. I greet you with friendship and courtesy. My
intentions here are investigation and understanding of what lies near to our

empire. I ask of your moniker and intentions.'

Slowly, like small waves building, the Sage could sense a light mental touch

growing stronger and stronger. The language was familiar, and yet he
couldn't place it. It sounded similar to the language spoken on Oryn
Prime's sister planet Karae', long extinguished by a solar burst over three
hundred years ago. The mythological dragons were to have supposedly
inhabited the small planet at one time, though little was known concerning
their history or culture. He wondered, could this be the same race?

Again, the mental contact came, like a flood this time. He reached out,
focusing his empathic and telepathic abilities toward the creature. What
he sensed amazed him. This creature was like himself, for he "felt" a form
within a form, humanoid, but different. He sensed no hostility, just
curiosity. This dragon was not lost, he was on a mission, and Vanryl was
honored to be the one to establish first contact. He closed his eyes and
concentrated on the Rune symbol for peace until it was clear and concise in
his mind, blazing with light. When he was satisfied that it was strong
enough to reach the dragon he raised his hands and released it. Exhausted,
he leaned against the railing and gazed out in the distance.....and waited.

Receiving the rune symbol in response, Onshir paused to consider the visual
rather than vocal reply. Perhaps the being's language would not translate
to thought? Regardless it had apparently understood the communication and
had answered one of the requests. The symbol was a rather archaic
representation for Peace. The more relevant realization being that these
people may have at one time had contact with Dra'Keshi in some way or other.

The memory floated to the fore of his recollection. He had been very young
then, only 2 centuries of age. A well-balanced group had departed from
Valik Prime on a similar mission to that which he was now on. They had
never been heard from again, however, and Valik had made the decision that
this area of space should be avoided until more could be learned about it.

Perhaps the fate of those kindred could be learned from discussion with this

being. Sensing that the communication seemed to be tiring for the other
being, Onshir sent a symbol from the same runic set indicating "a meeting"
followed by a second symbolic of "royalty".
Coiling his long neck back over his body, Onshir turned around in place and
began to move off slowly toward the Center of the Valik Prime system.
Keeping his senses active to determine if the unknown being would follow to
meet with the King and himself in person, also taking care that his flight
speed did not exceed the abilities of the metal ship.

With relief he felt the odd vessel following along after him, gradually
increasing the power and speed of his wingbeats until he was flying at ΒΌ the

normal speed he and his kin were accustomed to. Time was fairly irrelevant
to dragonkind, however Onshir did make a mental note that the return trip
would take a few days longer than the 2 day flight out to the sector edge.

The mission had been given a month duration before Onshir would be
considered overdue and so he had no concerns regarding the slower return
speed.

Taking the time during the long flight back to attempt further conversation
with the "visitor", Onshir casts a spell used to translate languages. The
same spell had been used to communicate with other ambassadors with great
success. Sending another mindspeak, this time magically altered by the
spell. The spell would likewise reverse translate any response to the
sending it was cast upon.

'My people are known as Dra'Keshi. We do not live only in the form you see
now, our other form is humanoid. If you are understanding this know that I
will also be able to understand your mentally voiced reply. What might I
call yourself and your people when introductions are performed?'

To his surprise, Vanryl could understand every word be spoken. "My people
are known as Sages, guardians of the planet called Oryn Prime. The
humanoids inhabiting my world are called Andorians. We live in harmony and
make up what is known as the known as the Andorian Dynasty.

* * * *
Sage Vanryl had sent a message to Oryn Prime asking permission to act as
ambassador to the Dra'Keshi, along with giving as much information as
possible concerning his first contact. Permission had immediately been
granted. He had instructed Bynzar to continually map the region and send
reports every hour to Oryn Prime as to his location. A squad of Star Chasers

was being deployed even as he spoke in case he required assistance.

The slow escort trip back to Valik Prime passed without incident and Onshir
sent out a mental announcement to his kin in the system patrol network to
get word to the Zylen that a visitor from the adjacent sector was being
escorted to land at Cauldron Bluff on Heartstone.

Realizing that the vessel would likely need some type of flat area for a
landing, Onshir had immediately thought of the flat topped bluff sheltered
all around by high peaks which resembled a cauldron of sorts.

Having alerted his kin to the path they were taking so as to avoid any
conflicts in flight path, Onshir sent a symbol meaning "Soon" to the
visiting being as they began to near the planet of Heartstone.
Knowing that his father would be waiting at Cauldron Bluff for their
arrival, Onshir led the metal ship down into the thicker atmosphere of the
planet and soon they approached the determined landing site. Upon passing
over the bluff while sending back a symbol for "Here", the large dragon rose

to a higher altitude to allow the ship to land before doing so himself.

The bluff was quite large enough for the vessel with a good deal of flat
area all around it as well. Coming back around on a slow glide, Onshir
hovered nearly motionless over the bluff and snaked his tail down to touch
the ground. The tail splitting apart into a pair of legs as the dragon
transformed back to elven. Zylen glided down from his perch upon the edge
of the cauldron and likewise became elven to stand beside his son.

*****

Ash gazed intently over the shelves and piles of books around him
with a mix of pride and sorrow glimmering in his emerald colored
eyes. He was fairly young among his fellow Draks, being just barely
past his 5th century. He was in fact the second youngest Drak in
history to be accepted into the organized military. Onshir having
beaten him by a mere 20 years.
Ash comforted himself with the fact that, unlike Onshir who had
remained on Heartstone most of his life, Ash had spent a fair amount
of time on all three of the Dra'Keshi worlds.
Finally giving up on his search through the books around him, the
young elf brushed a lock of waist-length blonde hair behind his
pointed right ear and sighed deeply. Ash's drive for knowledge was
unmatched among his kin, his early acceptance into the military was
due largely to this. Rather than physically bashing through many of
the challenges in the acceptance test, Ash had thought his way past
most of the obstacles. Receiving very impressive scores of 97 in
mental and 85 in physical mastery, Ash had been presented with the
highest award a military candidate could receive. The Valik Award,
was only given to one student each century.
His emerald eyes lit at the memory and he clasped the scale hanging
upon a gold chain around his neck. The award was one of Valik's own
scales, with Ash's final scores engraved into the back.
Shrugging solemnly, the elf turns and leaves the FlameTalon library.
Returning to his quarters, Ash ran through a series of physical
stretches and exercises before dropping onto his bed with another
sigh.
He had already read and studied all the written works on both
Heartstone and Dervish. Now it seemed that Ember had naught else
left to offer him either. He had also visited and meditated within
all the sacred sites of all 3 worlds.
Ash considered for only a moment going to the Sha'Sivi ruins again,
however his better judgement won over quickly. The ruins were behind
flame fall from a currently erupting volcano and had been listed as
off-limits by the clan safety council.

Ash sat up abruptly as he felt the king's mind brush his with a
request for communication. 'Why would Zylen'Valik wish to speak with
me?' Ash wondered to himself before accepting the mental link.

'Yes Sire? How might I serve you?' Ash greeted and queried once the
connection was established.
'We have need of your rather unique talents. How would you feel
about going to live in another sector as an ambassador?' Zylen
taunted, knowing the answer already.

The young elf leapt to his feet and was already tossing items into a
large pack while he mentally answered his king. 'It would be the
greatest honor and privilege your highness. Ambassador to whom? If
I may be so bold...'

Ash's father had been killed in solo combat while he was still in his
first decade of life and his mother had fallen victim to an unforeseen
eruption nearly 3 centuries ago. He had no siblings and there was
nothing to tie him here on Ember where he had been born.
While Ash respected the solo combat rite, he felt inwardly that it
should be moderated to preserve life. An opinion which he kept to
himself as it would not be proper to voice such things regarding that
long standing tradition.

'Onshir has made contact with a people who call themselves
Andorians. We are about to meet with a representative of their
people and I felt that if you are to be our contact in their empire
you should be present for this first meeting. We are meeting at
Cauldron Bluff on Heartstone.' Zylen finishes and waits silently.
'That is wise and sensible majesty. I shall arrive as quickly as
possible.' The empty feeling slid through Ash's mind as the
communication was ended and he tossed the filled and secured pack
onto his back. An instant later, Ash was rising out of the heavy
atmosphere of Ember and made full speed for Heartstone.
The Andorian vessel was landed and both Zylen and Onshir were
standing on the bluff when Ash arrived and resolved back to elven
form on the bluff beside them. The pack he carried and clothing he
wore, both reintegrated instantly from the Pandimensional mass which
made up their draconic forms, remained exactly as they were before
his transformation.

The young elf's gaze gliding over every visible part of the alien
vessel as he waited silently and patiently beside his elders.

*****

Sage Vanryl cautiously followed Onshir, FirstClaw of Zylen'Valik, to the
Cauldron Bluff of Heartstone. It reminded him of the towering mountain
ranges of Oryn Prime where he hunted small game as nourishment. As the
StarChaser descended Vanryl noted that it did indeed resemble a cauldron.
He had kept the wide angle viewing screens on-line and was amazed to see
Onshir's tail split upon touching the ground whereby he immediately
transformed into elven form. Vanryl's heart beat fast as the StarChaser
gently touched ground and he sensed his instincts for survival kick in.

Bynzar, the on-board synth, had revealed that the atmosphere was a bit thin
here, but he would easily adapt. He shut down the craft, leaving it in
standby status for the time being, and opened the hatch. He had instructed
Bynzar to contact him immediately with any and all incoming messages from
Oryn Prime, including those from the incoming StarChaser squadron. He then
returned to his true Sage form, a large hawk and exited the ship.

Onshir, Zylen, and Ash watched in excitement as the portal opened. They
were just as startled when a large predatory bird with a wingspan of eight
feet swooped out and rose high above them, circled the bluff and landed on
a small ledge just above the landing area. The creature's feather's
glistened in shades of black, brown, gray, white, a touch of red surrounded
the head. Strong talons gripped the ledge, and azure eyes watched them with
intense curiosity, scrutinizing every move and response as the Dra'Keshi
encircled his ship, touching its hull and peeking inside the portal. They
jumped back in amazement, when as they came within a meter of its opening,
the portal melded together in front of them. The hull then began to
shimmer and for a moment all they could see was the Cauldron Bluff around
them. They realized that the hull was reflecting its surroundings, thus
rendering visual identification from above impossible.

Satisfied that they meant him no harm, Sage Vanryl silently, swooped down
from the ledge and transformed into humanoid form. Onshir and Ash took a
step backwards, but King Zylen'Valik calmly stood his ground. Vanryl had
determined his status, and had purposely presented himself before the both
gentle and intimidating presence of the King. He bowed on one knee.
"Your Highness, I am Sage Vanryl of the Andorian Dynasty, Oryn Prime. I am
honored to greet you as ambassador to Valik Prime."

Zylen nodded formally in return as a matching gesture of respect.
Indicating first Onshir and then Ash in turn as he presented the
introductions. "You have already met somewhat, my eldest son Onshir'Valik,
who performed most honorably in bringing you here safely. The other
present here is Ash, being our most well versed in Dra'Keshi lore, he has
been selected for the honor of being ambassador to your fine people."

The formalities behind them, Zylen and the other two Draks relaxed into
more comfortable stances. "I see by your display that you share a nature
akin to our own, in that you have two forms just as we do. It is fortunate
to have such a shared trait."

Glancing around the site, Zylen smiles broadly and gestures toward a vast
array of alcoves within the side of a cliff upon the largest visible peak.
"Shall we continue this in more... comfortable surroundings?"

Not wishing to offend the new ambassador by asking if he wanted to be
carried, and considering Vanryl's other form he should be quite capable of
the short trip to Valik's Hold, capital of the Dra'Keshi empire. Following a
nod from Vanryl, the three Draks turned as one and took flight in dragon
form. Followed closely behind by the Andorian ambassador in hawk form.

Despite the rather plain and mundane guise that Valik's Hold displayed from
outside, once within the largest of all Dra'Keshi cities those were two
words that could never be used as descriptive. Cutting deep into the solid
stone of Heartstone's highest peak, Valik's Keep
is the gem of the Dra'Keshi Empire. After the three Dra'Keshi landed,
returning to elven form and were joined by Vanryl, they walked casually
along one of the several broad avenues leading through the city. Etched
into the polished stone walk on either side, intricately carved images of
long serpentine dragons bordered either side of the path. Evenly spaced
along either side upon the walls, engraved sections told the history of the
Dra'Keshi people and tales about their greatest heroes. Set into
impressions within the ceiling on either side, and evenly spaced down the
entire length of the avenues, glowing globes shed a soft yet encompassing
light upon the street.
Passing by the cavernous offshoots that served as homes, gathering areas,
or other such things. Some of which were covered over by elegant curtains
of various colors for privacy. For anyone accustomed to the need for locks
and other such security, this place would seem odd indeed.

Glimpses of the beauty within some of the homes could be seen in passing as
the curtains rarely drawn except during times when the occupants were being
intimate. Meticulously shaped statuettes made of stone, wood, or various
other materials stood on open display within the dwellings of those who had
created them, inherited them from ancestors, or received them as gifts from
others. Colorful paintings on canvas and sometimes directly upon the stone
walls themselves depicting scenes from the lives of the inhabitants or those
they cared greatly about. Within some of the homes stood finely crafted
musical instruments of nearly every imaginable type, occasionally music was
heard coming from a dwelling by one or another who were practicing their
talents.

From time to time the group passed through intersections where two of the
avenues crossed each other, these crossings were set with a round
centerpiece containing either a marvelously crafted fountain fed magically
with water, or in some cases where light poured in from an opening above,
large well-tended trees stood within magically restoring earth. Arriving
near the heart of the mountain, the group entered into a very large cavern
with a huge stone pillar carved into its center. Easily over 500 feet
wide, the central pillar was known to be the throne of the empire and
dwelling of the Valik family. Carved into each side of the pillar, the
shape of four huge dragons appeared to be holding up the ceiling of the
vast central cavern. The work had been done in such a way that they
appeared to shift position slightly from time to time.

The broad avenue upon which the small group walked sloped gradually down to
the base of the pillar where a large plaza circled around it and connected
to similar streets leading off to other sections of the city. Set within
the sections between the streets stood vibrant gardens of trees and flowers
of various type and variety. Living within them, various small birds and
other wildlife made their homes within the magically supported natural
setting. Passing through an archway into the interior of the central pillar,
the group arrived within the audience chamber where Zylen's throne stood.
Matters which necessitated a physical meeting between one of his people and
the king himself were held here. Floating silently at the edges of the
circular room, 8 obsidian-crystal forms hovered protectively should
anything threaten the king while he sat upon his throne. Positioned within
the center of the floor, a large clear crystalline disc waited to carry any
who stood upon it to the upper levels of the pillar.

It was to this disc the group arrived and rode the magical lift up to the
next level above, which Zylen used for non-official meetings. Decorated
with various art donated by members of the community as well as several
pieces done by the Valik family itself. One end of the room was furnished
with a half circle of comfortable couches and chairs, while the other end
was taken up by a large table surrounded by chairs. Taking seats upon the
soft couches which offered more comfort, Zylen turned his attention to
Vanryl.

"I would be pleased to hear of your impressions of what you have seen of our
people thus far and then it would be wise to discuss the process of Ash's
introduction into the Andorian Empire..."

Sage Vanryl had been mesmerized by all he had seen so far. Your Highness,
"In some strange way I feel as though I have returned to a distant land
which somehow is part of my ancient heritage. I have flown amongst these
bluffs in my Vision Quest, an unknown land beckoning me, but always outside
my reach."

He turned to Ash, Onshir. "I feel that The Prophets have brought us
together. I also feel that....." The loud chiming of the comlink echoed
throughout the cavern. Vanryl removed his communicator and spoke. "Yes,
Bynzar."

"Incoming from Colonel Myjak marked priority one."

Vanryl eyes narrowed. "Send message..digital only."

Vanryl's heart sank as he read the message. "Oryn Prime on battle alert
status..unknown has penetrated the asteroid base."

He turned to King Zylen'Valik. "Yes, there is great urgency in proceeding
with ambassadorial talks."

*****

A Sealed Alliance

Onshir and Vanryl walked the many corridors of Valik's Keep. Vanryl stood
almost level with the Dra'Keshi, and had a build very similar to Onshir as
well. After the meeting with King Zylen they had descended the massive
pillar and Onshir had explained the mystical and symbolic meanings of the
many carvings contained on the walls of the cavern. Vanryl was extremely
interested in the Dra'Keshi use of crystal. The sights and smells, and even
the climate within the mountain, heightened Vanryl's senses, an unrelenting
tugging of his soul and spirit to pull him back into ancient times, to soar
high and far upon the air currents of this world. Vanryl sensed a people,
ancient and proud, full of wisdom and masters of magic and sword. In many
ways their two worlds were alike, and both suddenly plunged into the chaos
and order within the greater galaxy.

Ash had left before them, eager to gather his belongings and prepare for the
journey to Oryn Prime. As Onshir and Vanryl neared an intersection between
two corridors, Onshir took his leave of him and directed him to Ash's home.
They promised to meet for a hunt prior to departure. Vanryl also was
looking forward to meeting Fyrsha and seeing first hand the Valik way of
life. He wondered for a moment if Fyrsha's unborn child would be brought
forth in elven or dragon form.

Onshir turned with a smirk tugging at the corner of his lips as he answered.
"Dragon." Vanryl looked at him startled, realizing that Onshir had heard
his thoughts. Onshir continued. "Our children are born live in space,
feeling the air beneath their wings is the first experience a Dra'Keshi
knows." Walking away, the Valik prince added over his shoulder. "Ye shall
need to learn silent thinking if ye wish to keep any thoughts to yourself my
friend." Vanryl nodded and smiled to himself.

As Vanryl approached Ash's home he saw heavy curtains parted and Ash deep in
thought as he concentrated on the books before him.

To the right of the doorway he saw a crystal prism floating above a stone
pillar. Not knowing if it was for protection or to announce a visitor's
presence, he calmly approached and mentally sent a message of friendship. He
touched the top of the prism lightly and to his delight and surprise a
chiming of pure musical notes rang throughout Ash's home. The elf raised his
head and smiled in Vanryl's direction.

"Greetings Sage Vanryl! I am delighted to see that you have arrived at
last. I take it that matters have been resolved and we will soon depart?"

"Yes, I had received some rather disturbing news from my home planet, but
that matter is in good hands. Preparations are underway to receive you as
ambassador, and an understanding has been reached with King Zylen regarding
trade interests. I am sure that our alliance will be a profitable and noble
one. We have much to learn from each other.
Upon escorting you to my world, I will return to yours."

Ash clasped his hands together. "Ah, I am so pleased!" Vanryl had to
smile. He sensed in him the great excitement and wisdom of a scholar, along
with a child-like sense of wonder at the thought of exploring a world other
than his own.

As Vanryl glanced around he saw a small orb that caught his attention. The
object felt warm within his grasp. He watched as it began to glow pure
white, first in the center, and then changing colors as fingers of light
reached outwards. The Sages mind was filled with light and visual
manifestations of his present spiritual state. Vanryl was standing upon a
high cliff with water rushing around his feet and over the edge in a cascade
that vanished into mist far below. Leaning forward, he was unafraid and
allowed gravity to embrace him as he dropped over the edge to join the
carefree flight of the water all around him. Wind rushed through his hair
and tugged upon his clothing as he gave himself fully to the freedom of the
moment. Not a loss of freedom, rather an extension of it, Vanryl captured
the wind within wings which had been arms a moment ago. Wingtips cut
cleanly through the air, feathers where fingers had been, and let it slip
through them. He soared upward, bidding a fond farewell to the falls, which
despite their freedom would never know the greater joy of riding the
currents of the air in full control of the flight. There were other
memories, too, not his own. He realized that they were Ash's memories and
he felt like an intruder, but was unable to stop or control them. He felt
Ash pull the orb from his grasp. Pain torn through his mind and vertigo
caused the Sage to grow nauseous as he struggled to keep upright. Ash
caught him as he began to fall to the floor of the cave.

Ash shook his head. As he had been packing he had turned just in time to
see the Sage pick up the orb. He thought to cry out, but hesitated on
purpose, in order to observe the sentient's reaction. If he did not possess
strong empathic skills he would sense nothing, if he did he would be
overwhelmed. It had been a test of the alien's natural skills. However,
the Sage had not been able to control the memories. Ash wondered if this
was due to the fact that he was unskilled, or taken off guard.

It took several minutes for the reaction to wear off. During that time
Vanryl understood why the elf was so eager to leave his home world. He was a
walking database! There were three worlds within the Dra'Keshi Empire and
this sole scholar had visited and absorbed the knowledge of all three. He
had no family to tie him here, much like himself to Oryn Prime, and had been
waiting for centuries, also like himself, for just the same opportunity. By
the Prophets, this was destiny!

When his mind had sufficiently cleared, Vanryl apologized for his actions.
He was surprised when the elf smiled, and merely stated that he regretted
the incident with the memory sphere. Vanryl then realized that the elf felt
that the throbbing headache he was now experiencing was his just dessert.
Lesson one. Ash had then dropped the orb into his pack along with
everything else that he had chosen to take with him on this grand adventure.
Cinching the leather object closed and resting it easily over his right
shoulder, the Dra'Keshi ambassador...Ash mentally noted that he liked the
sound of that..nodded toward Vanryl with genuine anticipation. He indicated
he was ready and walked with the Sage along the broad avenue leading out of
Heartstone's capital city.

Ash felt the familiar twinge within his stomach as they neared the wide
balcony ledge that opened upon the south cliff side. Knowing of the plans
that had been made for
Vanryl to join in a hunt before parting, Ash turned upon the balcony edge
and studied the Sage for a moment before asking, "Have you ever wished to
fly through space without your ship? If you remain near to me while we fly,
I can guarantee your safety for the short distance between here and Zenshee
2, which is the nearest of our three food planets."

While waiting for Vanryl's answer, Ash pondered the concept briefly. While
certainly the Sage would be unable to hunt the Farbles, there were several
types of small wildlife that he would likely find acceptable there.
Recalling the madness that comes over the huge rabbits during a feeding, Ash
momentarily harbored a concern for Vanryl's safety. He dismissed the
thought just as easily, considering the Sage seemed quite capable of taking
care of himself. Typical to its ever moving nature, the Dra'Keshi then
wondered if Vanryl would be affected by the dragon fear, which struck most
who came into contact with dragonkind outside of the shielded environment of
technology.