A/N: Based on a challenge for Liliwen involving Sentrus, Word, a character of choice, a crow-drag, and a pairing of any sort. Riffs off the ending of When Darkness Falls.

Disclaimer: Not mine.


"Mr Paynn, I'm here to discuss a serious disciplinary issue regarding your son's conduct with young Mister Penn…"

"Of course. Please come in."

His robe swept behind him as they moved into the study.

"As you may know, Connor Penn's stables recently burned down a second time, and so although a parental conference would be normal under the circumstances, you are…"

"The only available. Indeed. As a matter of fact, I have another issue entirely for you to discuss."

He turned suddenly to her, a deaths-head grin spread across his face. "Let us go."

She reached out to stop him, but he had already pressed a button behind him; Sentrus looked up in shock as the walls sped away above them.

"What is happening?" she asked as they hurtled down, silver patterns shimmering on the rapidly-flashing walls as the light changed to a colder shade, from a source she could not quite place.

"I have news that the Academy must know, the more so since my worthless son has evidently disgraced himself," Word responded calmly.

"Well, his and Mister Penn's infractions were certainly significant, and I do expect you will…"

"Behold." Word gestured expansively above them; the lift jerked quickly to the right, and the ceiling above them seemed to melt away, leaving them bathed in icy purple light as they slid rapidly towards what seemed to be the centre of a vast dome.

Sentrus blinked. The light above them looked like veins glowing, deep indigo-violet; like…wings.

"You may have realized that even the Academy has no control over the air," Word said. "Oh—" he forestalled her interruption—"we use our Aero gear and thruster packs, we glide, we build higher and higher, we predict the weather and beam vidd-communication through it. But the skies are not our own."

Sentrus nodded reluctantly. "Perhaps," she said. "But really—" We are satisfied, she would have said, but he cut her off again.

"As you know, the ancients allowed themselves no such limitations."

There were legends, she knew very well, the power of the air, great battles on the wind with winged ones, the child-prince of the sky, ally to the great Dragon Booster. However, they certainly had no need for such things in the modern era.

"There was the legend—" Word Paynn said, echoing her thoughts—"and now xe has returned."

"The Baby Crow-Drag Booster," he added, extending an arm; and the vast wings above them seemed to fold upwards, and the small, young crow-drag alighted to its perch, its foils of mag-energy gathered to itself.

Sentrus gasped. "What—is—"

"Kwaa! Pleased—to—meet—you!" the thing said happily, bobbing its head.

"Magna Draconis, what have you done?" she said breathlessly, staring.

"One of my son's minions brought hir to me barely a drag-cycle ago," Word said breezily. "Xe had been exposed to both gold and black energies; I further irradiated hir with black energy and locked hir up with dictionary recordings, to grant hir sapience and speech, and xe has become the Baby Crow-Drag of Legend, as told of in the ancient stories."

"You stopped hir growth cycle," Sentrus said, making the deduction. Crow-drags, when born, were asexual, although their growth was fast, and in a drag-cycle xe should certainly have commenced puberty. "But this is quite ludicrous. Crow-drags were never mentioned in the legends—"

"Not specifically," Word remarked. "But versions of the tale give a prince of the air, others a princess, and the crow-drag is the dominant beast of the skies..."

"Kwaa," the crow-drag agreed.

Sentrus thought back to the most tattered and old of books on the library stacks, ancient scraps of parchment in languages even she barely understood, badly misspelled and long-dirtied. The heiress of the Queen of Air and Darkness… "I suppose," she said reluctantly.

"Mother believes it, kwaa!" the crow-drag said affectionately, pecking Word lightly on the cheek.

Sentrus raised an eyebrow.

"Xe imprinted," Word said lightly. "I've adopted hir as my replacement heir."

Sentrus sighed. "Anyway, Mr Paynn, regarding your son's conduct…" She raised her universal vidscreen controller, and hit the display button; Word's screens lit up with the film of the offence. "Look."

Word turned to look at it. "Is that what I think it is? Wait...no, it isn't the legendary Two-Backed Beast of the Purple Empire..."

"Indeed not," Sentrus said.

"Oh well. I've already begun to disown him," Word said, glancing contemptuously at Moordryd Paynn's activities with Artha Penn, in full view of the Academy main arena thanks to the glass floor and windows the participants had presumably failed to notice. "Although I hadn't suspected he was quite so flexible."

Sentrus shrugged. "Ah, in my youth I could get my ankles even further behind—that is to say, I would never have considered such an action in public."

"He is disowned—and I'm sure my old friend Connor would do the same to his misbegotten stablebrat, were he not so unfortunately presumed dead a seond time." Word said, pushing a button to cause the image to majestically vanish in a shower of sparks.

"My understanding is that your son and Mister Penn were initially engaged in a more martial form of contest, when it devolved to fisticuffs and subsequently…"

"That is not why I had you here today," Word said with a scowl. "You are to send me your best students, bring them to me—and the Baby Crow-Drag Booster will at last choose hir rider! Whom I shall outfit with suitable wraith-type armour," he added. "Purely for safety reasons, you understand."

"Take over the world for Mother, kwaa!" the crow-drag said happily, and started to unfurl the vast wings made of mag-energy that had earlier appeared above them.

Sentrus took in her second deep gasp of the day. "Be careful! That—"

"Hir full wing-span is nearly two full dragmiles in length," Word gloated. "Made from pure mag-energy, able to stand the weight of more than three draco-tons…"

The wings expanded, huge glowing things with the veins brilliant as gems, incongruously gigantic for the young crow-drag.


It leaped aloft.

"Show Mummy what you can do! Oo's a good wickle dear baby crow-drag booster, Mummy's fav'rit—"

Sentrus stared incredulously.

"That is to say, observe the marvelous powers of my Baby Crow-Drag Booster…"

"Watch out!" Sentrus screamed, and one of the wings tore into the Citadel's walls, sending a rain of debris cascading down upon them.

"Look at me, Mummy! Kwaaaaaa!"

Sentrus flung herself away from a descending girder, ending up trapped with Word beneath a pile of other debris.

"Yes! You're very powerful! Now remember what we discussed about indoor and outdoor…"

"Mr Paynn, sir?"

A green-haired girl's head appeared above them, looking down in concern.

"Only you said to come and give you the latest intelligence report, and I heard the noise and I—"

"Rider, kwaa!"

A vast beak metamorphosed from the crow-drag's mag-form, and took up the girl—Sentrus vaguely recognized her as a Dragon Eye from the racetracks, competent but far from extraordinary—to convey her to its back, riding in the centre of its expanded wingspan.

"No! I intended you to choose an Academy racer, not a street brat from the Dragon Eyes!"

("No offence intended, Swayy. You're an extremely talented intelligence officer.")

("None taken, sir. Can you please get me down from here?")

"Have chosen, kwaa!"

The crow-drag's yellow eyes rolled up; Swayy flung her head back and screamed. Sentrus saw black and purple energy spooling from her, with trace turquoise and red flowing to colour the wing-spars. Sapphire-glowing eyes rolled back to stare at the helpless watchers on the ground, and the crow-drag laughed.

"Will conquer the universe now, Mother! Look at me! Kwaa!"

They heard it fly away, the Citadel continuing to fall around their ears.

"Do you really think it'll take over the world for you, Mr Paynn?" Sentrus asked.

"I can't see anything to stop hir," Word replied. "The Baby Crow-Drag Booster—shall triumph!"

("Which only goes to show," he mused, "that when life gives you comedic endings to failed evil plans, train a baby crow-drag to conquer the universe.")


A/N: The pairing requirement for the challenge was of course intended to be Artha/Moordryd—"making the two-backed beast" is old slang, just in case you hadn't heard that one. Which I'm sure you have, but I like author's notes. Oh, and begging for feedback. :P