It was the extreme headache that brought Macro out of his sleep. The throbbing in his head pulled him from his dreamless slumber and he groaned in pain. It was several minutes before he could stand to open his eyes. When he did he paused to take in his surroundings. It was not the room he had been staying in the past couple of nights, but rather an extremely humid chamber. Tree roots broke through the ceiling overhead and holes in the roof allowed rays of sunlight to poke in, warming the chamber from the outside. The walls were covered in moss, as was the floor which he now rested on.
A sudden burst of flame from the overhanging roots caused Macro to jolt upright, and another wave of pounding to surge inside his head. The chimera whimpered and squeezed his eyes shut.
"Oh you're awake I see." A voice spoke up. When Macro managed to open his eyes again, he stared into the face of a large, female amphiptere. She dangled from her long tail in the roots, her wings folded in front of her chest almost in a scornful manner. "Lie down youngling. You need to rest format he looks of you."
Macro was confused, but did as he was told. The amphiptere slithered down from the roots and over the where she had spat the fireball. In the corner of the underground infirmary was a crack in the wall where water flowed into a small pond. The water's surface was steaming, adding to the humidity in the room. The stone was charred black from previous fireballs and smoothed to a glassy texture. The amphiptere extended a wing into the water, testing the temperature before nodding in satisfaction. She dipped her head into the water for several minutes before slithering back to Macro. Beside him were two large leaves that measured the size of Macro's head. Using her wing barbs, the amphiptere began to puncture holes in the leaves before placing the first on Macro's back.
Feeling the pressure reminded the chimera of what had happened and he winced. "Stop your whimpering." The serpent ordered. "I will not have a youngling make such a fuss over such a trivial little injury. Now hold still." Macro watched with as the amphiptere opened her mouth, letting the water she had drank just moments before trickle from the back of her throat and onto the leaves. It was hot, almost to the point where it was unbearable. The chimera bared his teeth but did not make a sound. The water mixed with the sap of the leaf, making Macro's scales around his joint feel sticky.
After emptying half her load, the amphiptere repeated the process on his opposite shoulder. This time the feeling was more soothing than painful and Macro began to relax. He lay his head down on the warm moss and stared at the far wall in silence until the serpent was done.
"There." She chirped, admiring her handiwork. "Compared to what others have gone through you're certainly lucky."
Macro's eyes rolled around to her as she moved towards his muzzle. "Why are you helping me?" The snake's head swiveled around to stare at him curiously. "You know what I am. So why help me?"
The fire-breather hissed, letting a tongue of flame shoot from her mouth, grazing the chimera's snout. It was clear she was insulted, and not ashamed to show it. Macro did not recoil from the gesture but continued to watch the amphiptere closely. "Perhaps it is polite where you come from to question those who give you aid. But here we simply take help where it is given. And to answer your question, I have a purpose in this world. I carry it out for whomever needs it, regardless of who my patient might be."
"Even a chimera?"
"You are the first chimera I have ever treated."
The youngster eyed his caretaker for another moment before sighing. "Thank you."
The amphiptere ruffled her wings almost gleefully. "You're welcome. I'm glad to see that at least one beast has manners." Macro stared blankly for a moment and the serpent turned her head away as if to ignore him. "It appears you have a visitor." She bowed respectfully and the guardian of the forest slithered into the cave. "Shall I leave you two for the time being?"
"That is kind of you." Flyvende Slange bobbed his head in acknowledgment. "But it will not be necessary." The guardian was smaller in size than the female amphiptere making Macro realize that size was not the key to these creatures social status.
Flyvende Slange coiled himself up before Macro and crossed his wings in front of him. "How are you feeling young chimera?" He asked, studying his pupil's expression.
"Fine, sir." Macro mumbled.
"Are you sure?" Flyvende Slange flicked his tongue slowly at him, as if tasting the woefulness of the youngerster's heart. "You tried to take off in the middle of the night and yet somehow managed to crash and injure yourself in the process. Not that I am not grateful to see you are alive, but it is still a wonder to me that you were not killed." Macro's eyes lowered to the floor and Flyvende Slange lowered his head to meet his stare. "What is going on young Macro? What is it that you are keeping from us?"
Macro choked after a couple minutes of tense silence. "You all think I'm a monster." He spoke in nearly an inaudible whisper. "Everyone looks at me in this way that makes me hurt inside. No one wants me around and no one will talk to me other than you and Master Tsunamien. And even that may just be because I'm my father's son." The female amphhiptere piped up at this and swiveled her head around from what she was doing.
Flyvende Slange sighed and extended his tail towards Macro and draped it over his snout. "You are indeed modeled after your father. You're very keen on the world around you, even though you do not understand it at most times. I believe your father did not tell you what you were in comparison to the rest of us because he wished to raise you differently than the way most of us would have."
Macro's eyes blinked curiously at that. "Differently?"
"You have been talking with Staerke Vogter, the hydra with the missing tail, yes?" Macro thought for a moment then nodded. "He was not lying to you when he said that many of our young are raised to fight in this war with the chimeras. They are taught to hate the chimeras and their allies so they do not question the morality of life when on the battlefield. I cannot say the same, but I would be certain that the chimeras and drakes exercise a similar behavior. Your father did not wish to do the same with you."
"Because I am one of them?"
The serpent bounced slightly. "Yes. It would be counterproductive to the war effort if you were taught to hate what you are. Right now is a prime example. You are torn inside between what you knew before and what you know now. Do you disagree?" Macro could only respond with a low whimper. "Macro, you are still very young and you have a very pure innocence to you. I am not Breander, but in all the years I knew him, I would be willing to bet that he was counting on this factor when he…" The serpent's voice trailed off for a moment before he continued. "When he raised you. It's that innocence that makes you such a unique indiviual to our society. You are a clean slate. A chance for the world to change for the better. I understand that you are scared because Breander kept you in seclusion for your entire life thus far. But change can be a positive thing, even if it does not appear to be at first. You should embrace it and see what happens." Flyvende Slange uncoiled himself and nodded thankfully to the female who sat patiently beside the pond.
"But how?" Macro exclaimed, grabbing the guardian's attention before he could leave. "How can I try and make the best of it when everyone views me as a monster? How can you say that this is a good thing for me when everyone I go near would rather turn away than return a greeting?"
"That will change with time." The serpent replied casually. "But don't think that you haven't made at least a couple of acquaintances since you have arrived. Staerke Vogter is already hopeful that you will help us put an end to this war. And even your chamber mate seems to hold some compassion for you."
Macro raised his head and tilted it sideways, studying the amphiptere. "Who?"
"The black dragoness who resides in the same chamber as you."
This caught the chimera off guard. "You must be mistaken." Macro shook his head violently. "She's terrified of me."
"Perhaps of the idea of you is what frightens her." Flyvende Slange suggested. Then he shrugged. "But then, who do you think saw your fall and came running to inform us what had happened?" Macro's brows jumped slightly and Flyvende Slange flicked his tongue out quickly. The chimera could have sworn he saw the guardian smile. "However, I could be wrong. She has only come in every morning and evening to check on you. I suppose only time will tell." With that, the serpent slithered down the hallway and out into the glaring sunlight. Once outside, he gave an amused chuckled to himself before flapping an air current beneath him and gliding back up towards the temple.
Back inside the infirmary, Macro sighed to himself as the day went on. It soon got to the point where his constant silence was almost torturous to the amphiptere tending to him.
"Are you chimeras always this silent? Or are you simply one of a kind?" She snickered as she dribbled more hot water onto his leaf bandages. The patches dried out rather quickly and needed to be moistened every three hours.
"What do you think Master Flyvende Slange meant by, the idea of me?" Macro asked, without regarding the nurse's remark.
The amphiptere sighed, irritated at being ignored. "It has to do with what you are. Your kind are technically our enemy. And no chimera has ever come to this city on good terms. The fact that you're here now and not an official enemy is... unsettling. I would be willing to wager that it's not your personality that they fear but what you stand for."
"Death. War. The loss of life."
"That's one way to look at it."
"So how do I change that?"
"I couldn't tell you." the female shook her head before finishing off her load. "But perhaps you can start by making friends. Or at least getting to know those who you are involved with every day."
"Easier said than done." The chimera grumbled, setting his head down on the moss. The humidity was causing the water in the air to gather all over his body. The water gathering around the rims of his eyes was making him close them more often, thus making him drowsy in the process. Before long, he was fast asleep. It was not until he heard the soft murmur of voices that Macro returned to his conscious state. He blinked the water away that had gathered around his eyelids and gave the infirmary a quick visual sweep. The light from outside was fading away, darkening the room considerably.
"I'll be right outside if you need me." The voice of the female amphiptere came from down the corridor and then the sound of soft, muffled footsteps followed. Macro waited and listened as the visitor drew closer until he could hear them breathing, adjusting to the thick air inside the cave. The chimera lifted his head and turned to see nothing, but a pair of eyes in the darkness, staring back at him; one blue, the other red. He did not need to ask who it was, but his mouth hung open none the less.
For a long time neither youngster spoke. Then the eyes closed and the dragoness vanished from view. Before Macro could say anything, the eyes opened again, this time only a few feet away from him. The chimera recoiled slightly, his spines quivering in alarm.
"They say you're feeling better." She spoke, her voice soft and reserved. Macro only managed to squeak his acknowledgment once, but no words came to his lips. The dragoness studied him closely, trying to get a clearer look at his features. "You're not much of a talker are you?"
Macro's spines stood on end at her remark. He narrowed his eyes, giving off a rather evil appearance. "So says the one who hasn't spoke a word to me until now."
The black dragoness rolled her shoulders and her crest flattened against her skull. "I have my reasons. What excuse do you have?"
Macro, surprised by the retort, frowned in response. "Being quiet is how my father taught me to survive. By being quiet I can listen to my surroundings."
"That's good for growing up in the wild. But then, there aren't many feral clans left anymore. So who does that these days?" A growl rattled in Macro's throat and the dragoness responded with her own, which echoed in the infirmary.
"That's enough you two." Both younglings turned to see the female amphiptere coiled in the entry way. "This is a place for healing, not fighting."
"Sorry." The youngsters chimed together. They shot each other a quick glance before Macro gave a laugh.
"What's so funny?" The dragoness demanded.
"We answered the same thing at the same time." Macro chuckled. His sides ached still but he did not mind it. "It was funny."
"It happens more often than you think." The dragoness replied with a raised brow. "It gets less and less funny the more it happens."
"I don't know. It just does." The young female shrugged all four of her shoulders. "Wait, you seriously never had that happen before?"
"I said it was my first time hearing it." Macro pointed out.
"Dear ancestors, have you been living under a rock your entire life?"
Macro pondered the question for a moment. "Technically they were caves, but I suppose that is one way of looking at it."
The dragoness gave a disbelieving huff and shifted her long talons on the mossy floor. "That's not exactly what I meant. It was a rhetorical question."
A grin spread across Macro's jaws. "I know. But I thought it would give you a chance to know a little bit about me."
"Well she can learn more later." The amphiptere interrupted. "It's getting late and you both need to get your rest for the night."
"Yes ma'am." The dragoness sighed, a bit reluctant to have to leave, now that the chimera was beginning to open up. The serpent escorted her towards the entrance to the cave, but then Macro called out to her.
"Are you going to come back?"
The dragoness was surprised at first but then nodded slightly. "I suppose I could spare the time. I'll see you first thing in the morning. Deal?"
"Deal!" Macro bobbed his head excitedly.
The dragoness gave the chimera a sly smirk. "By the way Macro. You never asked my name."
Macro cocked his head curiously, before realizing he had not taken the time to do so. "I'm sorry." He apologized, lowering his gaze for a split second before lifting his eyes to meet hers again. "What is your name?"
"Skygge." She said. Quick and sharp. The way she said her name made it sound as dangerous as the blade on the end of her tail.
"Skygge." Macro parroted back, tasting the name on his tongue. "I like it."
"Good." The dragoness huffed in subtle amusement. "Because I'm not changing it. See you tomorrow Macro."
"Sleep well." The chimera waved with a frail arm as she was escorted away. When they were gone, the grin continued to spread across his mouth as he lay his head down to close his eyes for the night.
It was another week before Macro was allowed to leave the care of the amphiptere looking after him. There were other winged serpents coming and going to oversee his recovery, but the golden female, Yunari as he one day discovered, was his primary caretaker. During his time in the infirmary, Macro was often visited by Flyvende Slange. The guardian would often hold conversations, mainly learning about Macro's childhood and training. These conversations were often repeated when Skygge returned during the evening before returning to their pavilion chamber.
"It sounds like Master Breander was a very careful dragon." Skygge pointed out when Macro was telling how much he moved around during his childhood.
"Looking back on those days now, I can see that for myself even more." Macro sighed. "He told me that it was dangerous outside the safety of the caves, but it wasn't until we met that messenger, that I really believed him."
"What happened?" Skygge asked, leaning closer, not wanting to miss any part of the story. For the past couple days, she had been finding the chimera to be more interesting than frightening as she had initially thought.
Macro's eyes lowered to his hands folded on top of each other between his front legs. "Wyvern."
Just the name of the venomous creatures aroused a hiss from the black dragoness. "Ruthless savages! They have no sense of respect or regard for life!" Her bi-colored eyes lifted to connect with Macro's but the chimera's gaze was elsewhere. He shut his eyes and lowered his head on top of the mossy bedding before releasing a dejected sigh. Skygge leaned down towards Macro until her snout was nearly touching his. "They were the reason you came alone."
Macro only sighed again, not wishing to think about it. He heard the sound of the dragoness shifting her weight on the moss, and before he knew it he felt something fall upon his back. The chimera opened his eyes to find that the black dragoness had moved to lay down beside him and had her winged arm draped over his back and was pulling him closer to her.
"What are you doing?" Macro gasped, pulling away in fear for a moment.
"It's called a hug." Skygge answered calmly, though she did find it rather surprising that he was so put off by such a gesture.
"It's a gesture to show comfort or affection. I just thought after what you went through, you could use one. It's the least you deserve."
Macro stared at the dragoness's side as she raised her middle limb, offering him another chance. Even if it had been for a moment, he had enjoyed it. Hesitantly he scooted closer to Skygge until their sides were touching. Her body was warm and her scales were soft, unlike the rough and often thorny side of his father's. The chimera let out a satisfied growl as he felt her arm wrap around his shoulders and her wing membrane create a leathery blanket for him. Skygge smiled when Macro subconsciously leaned his head against the side of her chest. She lay her head down on her front paws and closed her eyes for what she thought would only be a moment. Yunari slithered in several minutes later only to find the two sound asleep.
"You're free to go." She announced the next morning, rousing the two youngsters to meet the new morning. "I think you can manage from here on your own. But no more reckless flying, understood? I don't want to make taking care of you a habit."
"Are you sure I'm okay? Macro asked, getting to his feet and flexing his stiff muscles.
Yunari gave an amused hiss and flicked her forked tongue out. "I would say so, judging by the way the both of you were curled up together like a pair of badger cubs. I would say you're much better in the care of your new friend."
Macro turned to look at Skygge who could only turn away in embarrassment. Yunari flicked her tongue several more times in silent amusement before ushering them outside. The dragons blinked into the sun, shielding their eyes from the glare with their wings until they were adjusted. After thanking the amphiptere, Skygge led Macro back up the streets leading around the side of the mountain.
"Are you planning on still resting today?" Skygge asked after several minutes of silence. The residents they passed in the streets eyed the two of them with awe and surprise. The black dragoness had never been the center of attention for any lengthy period of time. But walking in the streets with a chimera trotting alongside her made the stares, unpleasant. However, Macro paid them little attention as his focus was on his female guide.
"I think I should get back to training with Master Tsunamien. Master Flyvende Slange has been saying that he has grown impatient with my recovery and that I am falling behind on my lessons."
Skygge chuckled. "Hate to tell you Macro, but all instructors are like that. But I can imagine that having trained under guardians your entire life, you're used to it at this point."
"I never thought about it like that." The chimera bobbed his head, seeing the dragoness's point. His father, Breander, had been one of the many guardians and representatives of his species, according to the stories Flyvende Slange had told him. But to Macro, he had always been known as 'Father'. A moment passed between the two before he spoke again. "Would you ever want to learn under the guardians?"
"Me?" Skygge looked shocked. "I would doubt that they would see me as fit to be a guardian. I'm a hybrid dragon, so I'm not limited to just one element like some dragons are. I can't recall of a guardian being a hybrid, now that you mention it."
"That shouldn't mean you couldn't try at least." Macro pointed out.
"I suppose not, but I'm sure it's the right occupation for me."
"Why is that?"
"You ask a lot of questions."
Macro smiled and shrugged his wings. " How can you truly understand the world unless you ask questions?"
Skygge returned the smile. "It all sounds great and everything to be respected and admired by so many. But at the same time, you could have thousands of enemies out there all vying to bring you down. And you're responsible for the lives of even more spirits who rely on you for protection. I don't think I could deal with that much pressure on a day to day basis." She stopped and looked Macro in the eye. "Do you have any idea how many enemies there really are out there?"
"I'm guessing quite a lot."
"You haven't got the slightest clue!" Skygge burst out causing several heads to turn in their direction. "The number of enemies beyond the walls of our home are nearly impossible to count!" She stopped her momentary rant to see Macro had shrank away from her and silence had filled the streets. She hung her head and gave Macro a gentle nudge. "I'm sorry. I guess I'm just having mixed feelings at the moment."
"About me?" Macro asked, using his snout to lift her chin so he could look up at her. She was easily a head taller than he was, and nearly a full meter longer than him.
"About a lot of things Macro. You included. I won't lie, it's going to take me some time to fully get used to you being a chimera and the fact that you're…don't take this personally, but very ignorant about our world." It was the chimera's turn to hang his head. It was not his fault that he did not know about what was going on around him, nor did he have any power over it. "I'm not mad at you." Skygge continued, placing a paw on his shoulder. The padded gecko-like feet felt tight against the chimera's scales as if she were gripping his skin between her digits. "I'm just letting you know as a friend that this change is not going to be easy for anyone."
Macro glanced around the crowd of faces staring at them. Amphipteres, flicked their tongues out scenting the youngsters before moving on. Badgers hobbled along, only glancing out of the corner of their eyes, but not raising their hair on their backs in displays of aggression. No one spoke to them, but the youngsters could feel the tension hanging in the air.
"I should get going." Skygge spoke up, breaking the silence between them. "I have to get to the training grounds. And I don't want you missing another of Master Tsunamien's lessons." Macro only bobbed his head once. Skygge gave him a soft smile and bumped his snout with her own; a bit more playful than comforting this time. "I'll see you tonight okay."
"Alright." Macro sighed and nudged her back. "Work hard."
Skygge only chuckled. "I don't have a choice. But thank you still." She stepped away from him and extended her arms, spreading her wings to their full length. With her four other feet firmly planted on the ground, she lunged into the air, turning into a tight roll before beating her wings. Macro watched as she disappeared over the rooftops of the pavilions. He gave one last look around and, seeing that passersby were pretending to ignore him, took to the air and began the long climb towards the temple at the top of the mountain.
The morning was warm, creating a nice thermal to lift him higher with less effort. His wings began to ache halfway up the climb, reminding him that he had not taken a flight like this since he had first arrived at the city. He was thankful when he was able to reach the temple so he could let his wings rest. Macro half expected to see the guardians waiting for him out in the sun, but found the area to be completely empty.
Puzzled by their absence, Macro walked up to the entrance to the temple. "Hello?" He paused to listen inside but heard no voices or the sounds of the hydra's heavy footsteps. Slowly, the chimera entered into the temple. Along the walls were carvings of dragons, hydras, and other reptilian creatures he could not identify, dug into the stone. Polished gems, stones and crystals surrounded the carvings, similar to many of the pavilions in the upper levels of the city.
The farther down the corridor he went, the darker the temple became. There were no windows, or breaks in the stone to let the outside light shine in, making the chimera wonder how he was still able to see. It was not until he looked up at the ceiling that he saw the crystals, growing out of the wall, casting their various colors of light around the hallway.
Curious, Macro flapped his wings, hovering up to the high ceiling to study the stones closer. Each emanated a different color; oranges, greens, blues and yellows. Macro hovered closer to a large orange crystal, captivated by its warm glow. The longer he stared, the brighter the crystal continued to glow. Macro's green eyes began to shine with the same energy until he felt too hot to stay any closer. The chimera backed away and the aura faded as well. Still curious, Macro moved to look at one of the light blue crystals. Unlike the previous one, the crystal's light did not increase the closer he came to it. He soon learned that the other crystals like it did the same.
"This topic is closed to discussion!" A gruff voice echoed from down the hallway. Macro turned his eyes towards the floor as the sounds of voices could be heard coming closer. The youngling flapped his wings towards the nearest wall and latched on with his talons, digging into the stone as best he could.
"The youngling is not ready to face such a challenge!" Tsunamien's voice argued in clear irritation. "He needs more training and has yet to discover his third element!"
"I don't care!" The original voice snarled. "I want that chimera ready to fight! No excuses. If he has only two elements, then we will use those to our advantage!"
"Macro is still too young to and inexperienced to be combat ready." Flyvende Slange pointed out. "Tsunamien is right to say that he needs more time."
"Then put him into training with the others younglings!" The voice growled. Down below, Macro saw the source emerge from a side hallway. The lizard was over twenty feet in length, crawled on eight short stubby legs, and was covered in thick horns and armored scales. Behind him lumbered Tsunamien, followed by a long slender dragon with long tendrils hanging from his snout and jawline. He resembled the sentry Macro had met days before but older. Beside him was a wyrm measuring nearly forty feet in length. Beside the wyrm slithered Flyvende Slange, dwarfed by the enormous olive-colored serpent.
"That may not be the wisest of choices." Flyvende Slange swayed his head disapprovingly from side to side. "Many of the city's residents are already uneasy about having a chimera within the walls of safety. If Macro starts taking part in daily routines too soon, it may do more harm to him, as well as our cause."
"You're not seriously making excuses for a chimera are you?" The lizard-like dragon turned on the smaller winged serpent with teeth showing in the crystal light. "He's a chimera Flyvende Slange. One of them!"
"That is where you are wrong Bronco!" All four of Tsunamien's heads turned on the antagonist. "He may be a chimera, but he is not like his ancestors! He has not been raised as they have been, and he does not view us as they do!"
The guardian growled, backing away from the amphiptere. "Give it time. Remember what happened the first time…"
"We are not making the same mistake twice!" One of the hydra's heads snapped. "If you think you are going to do a better job at finding a solution to end this war, then we would like to see it in action! So rather than criticize, we suggest you leave the youngling to us in Eastern City!"
"That is enough both of you." The dragon interrupted, bringing his long, frilled tail in between the guardians. He turned to Tsunamien. "Because our late friend Breander sent him to you, we will allow you to be in charge of his training. But do not dilly dally in doing so. Neither of our forces have been able to achieve a strong decisive win over the other for some time now. If we wish to finally end this war, we must act soon."
"Well understood." Flyvende Slange agreed. He crossed a wing in front of his chest and bowed slightly. "May safety be with you as you return to your homes."
The dragon and wyrm both bowed to the amphiptere and hydra respectfully. The eight-limbed lizard, Bronco, was hesitant but lowered his head as well. "May the light of the ancestors guide your way." With that said, the three exited the temple, leaving Flyvende Slange and Tsunamien in silence.
It was the hydra's middle head that was the first to speak. "That basilisk can be as thick as the ground he walks on!"
"Temper now, old friend." The amphiptere coaxed in a calming tone. "You know how Bronco is. He has his reasons and his history just like the rest of us."
"He was never like this when Breander was still around." Above them, Macro felt a knot twist up inside his chest.
"Yes he was." Flyvende Slange corrected. "But I will admit he was never this tense. Breander was always so calming in his words and wise in his decisions. I feel that sometimes we lose more sight of that the longer this war continues."
"You may be right." The hyrda's heads sighed, letting their frosty breath chill the floor. "If only…"
"Don't start." The amphiptere scolded. "Wishing never got anything done. We can only hope that his soul is resting peacefully now."
"Masters?" Both guardians' heads snapped upward towards the ceiling. It took them a moment to focus on the young chimera latched onto the wall with his front talons while struggling to maintain a steady footing with his hindquarters.
"Dear ancestors Macro! What are you doing up there?" Flyvende Slange exclaimed.
The chimera released his hold on the stone wall and parachuted with his wings down to the floor. "I was searching for you so I could continue my lessons." Macro lifted his eyes to the ceiling overhead. "When I came in, I saw those and was inspecting them when I heard you all approaching."
"Strange that we did not hear you." Tsunamien pondered aloud, with one of his heads exchanging a glance with Flyvende Slange.
"My father raised me to be quiet when needed." Macro shook his head, then stared at his talons. "It was how we survived."
"Sounds like Breander." One of the hydra heads chuckled. "He did well in raising you youngling."
"Thank you." Macro murmured, a solemn tone weighing his voice down.
"Something the matter?" The ice-breather leaned all four heads down to inspect the chimera closer. Macro bit his upper lip for a moment before staring the nearest head in the eyes.
"Was it my fault my father died?"
Tsunamien's eyes narrowed slightly but he showed no expression otherwise. "We do not believe it was your fault Macro. You're too young and naive to be considered a threat to anyone larger than a badger. But in due time you will become strong enough to stand up to those to the world and put an end to this conflict between our kinds."
Macro's four eyes blinked. Was he really a figure of hope for everyone, or just the few city inhabitants who knew him? After a moment of silence, Tsunamien stepped forward with his chest thrust out before him. "If you wish to discuss your status in our society, we shall continue it at a later time." His middle heads leaned towards the chimera and his eyes narrowed. "In the meantime you and I have much to catch up on."
"Y-yes sir." Macro stammered and shrank back away from the ice-breather. The hydra lumbered towards the front entrance to the temple with Macro bounding along behind him. Flyvende Slange watched them go before flicking his tongue several times at the crystals overhead. He stared as several began to glow brighter and he bobbed his head as if listening to a voice. Without a word the slithered away back into the darkness of the temple.
"Again!" Tsunamien bellowed and three of his heads shot forward. Concussive balls of ice fired from the mouths of the hydra. Two missed the young chimera as he moved to dodge but the last ball of ice clipped Macro's hindquarters. He spun around once before hitting the marble platform with a thud. Pain took control of his lower body as he used his front legs to get up. Heavy vibrations shook the marble and the youngling beat his wings hard as another trio of ice balls struck where he had been. The remaining head snapped forward, launching another projectile. Macro inhaled as he ducked and reared up on his hind legs to counter. A bowling ball hit him in the stomach and a cloud of ice burst from his maw. The cloud of icy particles covered the platform, covering the hydra up to his knees. Even if the move had been an accident, it was certainly an improvement since their last lesson.
Coughing, Macro inhaled as best he could and breathed a burst of flame towards the hydra. Tsunamien easily swiveled his heads out of the way, only to find the spot where the chimera had been, now empty. All four heads swiveled about, searching the perimeter of the platform. There was no sign of the youngster anywhere. As the winds began to carry the icy fog away, one of the heads caught sight of a figure in the dissipating vapor. It turned, ever so slightly, not fully indicating that it had noticed its target. Down on the deck, Macro froze momentarily, before leaping towards the hydra's chest. Macro squalled in surprise when a sudden force struck him from the side and he found himself struggling in the vice-like grip of the hydra's jaws.
"Clever trick youngling." Tsunamien chuckled as two of his heads leaned in close to eye his student. "Did your father teach you that or was it of your own doing?"
Macro cocked his head. "Trick?"
The hydra blinked momentarily. The youngling had just launched an attack on him without even realizing it. It was beginning to become clear how little Breander had taught the young chimera despite having lived in constant hiding for three years. Macro had most likely been using his knowledge to escape undetected, but had been innovative enough to turn it into an offensive strategy.
The head that held Macro in its jaws set him down onto his feet. He winced slightly and shrugged his shoulders. The hydra's long teeth had punctured his skin in several areas, but not so much that it caused any more than mild discomfort. Tsunamien inspected his pupil, closely eyeing the spots of red before covering them with a cast of ice.
Macro shuddered at the sudden chill then yawned. Tsunamien was about to scold him for yawning in front of a master, but stopped when his second head lifted. "I believe that shall be all for today." He spoke in a rather placid tone. Macro looked up at him, confused. He was expecting the hydra to order him back to training. However, when the serpent head made a thrust forwards, Macro understood why.
"Skygge!" He barked cheerfully. The black dragoness stood at the top of the steps at the edge of the platform. If there had been no moonlight bouncing off her glossy scales, he never would have seen her. Her crimson eye nearly glowed as she fixed him with her fierce stare. Macro was about to bound over to her but halted himself.
"Go on." Tsunamien ordered. "Making friends is just as important as your training."
"Yes sir!" A smile tugged at the edge of Macro's mouth as he turned to return to Skygge. The dragoness waited until the two of them had walked down the stairs from the temple before speaking.
"Are you okay?" Macro noticed she was staring at him and swiveled his head around to see that she was eyeing the marks where Tsunamien's teeth had done their damage. To his surprise, he had not felt them and even now he could barely feel the mild pain. Skygge inspected the perplexed look in the chimera's eyes and sighed. "I guess you're fine." Two of Macro's eyes locked on hers. "You really aren't much of a fighter. Though Master Tsunamien is right, that was a clever trick."
A grin formed on Macro's mouth. "Really?" Skygge nodded. She had seen the way Macro had silently moved into the could of vapor positioned himself closer to the massive hydra to launch a surprise counter attack. It was almost as if dumb luck had saved the guardian from being caught off guard as he should have been.
The black dragoness sighed as the two of them stepped off the stairs. Macro made an automatic turn down one of the stone corridors towards their sleeping chambers, but Skygge stayed behind. Macro stopped and looked back at her as she stared down the side of the mountain. The chimera walked back to her. "Is there something wrong?"
"No." She replied without looking at him. "I'm just thinking to myself."
"What about?" Macro followed her gaze to see the city below. Tiny lights zipped throughout the air and trees with orbs of light illuminated the city itself. He had not noticed them previous nights and found himself captivated by the sight. Skygge's blue eye fixed on him then looked back down at the city.
After another few minutes of silence she turned towards the descending steps. "Follow me." Macro snapped out of his trance and watched as she began making her way down the stairs. When she disappeared from his view he galloped after her. The dragoness led him down two flights of stairs and down several halls carved into the stone of the mountain itself. As they walked, Macro began to notice the gentle hum in the night air.
"What is that noise?" He asked aloud. The noise sounded like thousands of crickets all chirping at once. The hum seemed to sooth the chimera in a way that made him realize how exhausted he was; like a natural lullaby, intending to put its listeners to sleep easier.
"You'll see." Skygge replied with a smile on her muzzle. She escorted the youngling around two more turns and came to a stop. Macro shielded his eyes from the bright light coming off the tree she had stopped in front of. The trunk was thick with branches bending towards the ground from the weight of the orbs that grew from its bark.
"How does it light up like that?" Macro asked curiously, moving up closer to Skygge.
The dragoness smiled inwardly, happy to see he was taking an interest in what she had brought him to see. "Take a closer look." Macro stepped forward and squinted as his eyes adjusted to the light. The glowing orbs of the tree were its fruit. They were large and oval-shaped husks, with segmented parts providing an almost decorative contour. The light coming from inside the rigid fruit pulsed in random succession making the chimera's curiosity spike. A sudden chirp beside him caused the chimera to jump as several small creatures zipped by him. Macro watched as the tiny dragons buzzed up to one of the tree branches and landed amongst the leaves before staring down at him.
The creatures were no more than six or seven inches in length. They crouched on sturdy hind legs and tucked their two pairs of wings against their backs. Each of them had a long tail with a glowing, firefly-like tip. The antennae that reached back out of their skulls sported the same glowing tips, which pulsed in a similar manner to the fruits of the tree.
"What are they?" Macro gasped, as he moved closer to the tree.
"They're called feydragons." Skygge replied as more of the tiny dragons buzzed around her head. "They're the nighttime sentries of this city."
"What about the wyrms that guard the outer wall?" Macro asked, turning back to look at her.
Skygge frowned. "They need rest too you know. They're not nocturnal so they are given rest time as well."
"I see." Macro turned back to look up at the branch only to find that the feydragons had moved. His four eyes darted across the branch and noticed the insect-like creatures climb down the side of the glowing fruit orbs and disappear inside an opening in the bottom. Macro moved until he was directly under the tree and reared up awkwardly on his hind legs. He could see now that the fruits were completely hollowed out, allowing the dragons to occupy the entire rind itself. Upon closer inspection, the chimera could see nearly a dozen of feydragons inside, much smaller than the ones which had landed on the branch outside. "They're nesting!" He exclaimed.
The sound of his voice alerted the feydragons to his presence for what seemed like the first time. Several chirped angrily at the volume of Maco's voice before ducking inside their nests.
"Keep your voice down." Skygge warned. "They do not like loud noises when they are in close proximity to the rest of us. Their hearing is far more acute than ours so the vocal sounds that we make can be detrimental to their well being."
"Sorry." Macro whispered and backed away slightly. He had turned to move back to Skygge when a fey bumped into his massive head. The chimera blinked and felt the tiny body hit his hoof-like talons. Macro stepped back and leaned his head towards the fey lying on the ground. The little dragon chirped in distress as it tried to roll over onto its feet. Once it had regained its balance it stared up at the monstrous chimera with no sign of fear. The dragon's long neck shot forward and struck Macro's snout. A spark of electricity caused the chimera to reel back in surprise.
Skygge laughed as she watched the youngling stagger back and fall on his hindquarters. The fey chirped angrily and scrambled up the tree trunk, disappearing into the cover of the branches. "I forgot to mention, they also carry the ability to exert small sparks of shock magic." She walked over to him and nudged the chimera. "Are you okay?
"Y-yeah." Macro stammered. "It just surprised me."
"I bet." Skygge giggled and Macro fixed her with his eyes. It was the first time he had heard her laugh in his presence. Skygge seemed to realize this as well and averted her eyes, but continued to chuckle. The smile on Macro's muzzle grew and he too began to laugh. Hearing his laughter only encouraged Skygge to laugh out loud even more. Before they knew it, both dragons were laughing hysterically. Above them, the feydragons watched curiously, grumpily chirping in their own language as their larger cousins struggled to regain their lost breath.
When Skygge and Macro were finally able to breathe again, they retreated short distance from the colony of fey nests. They lay down and took several minutes to gaze at the illuminated tree with occasional giggles passing between them. When the two youngsters had gotten control of themselves enough to be silent, Macro let his two left eyes fall on the black dragoness beside him. The light from the fey colony made her dark scales emanate a soft golden hue. The chimera smiled and brushed her shoulder with the back of one of his hands. Skygge turned and looked down at him, somewhat taken aback from the gesture.
"Thank you." The youngling murmured.
The black dragoness jolted in surprise. "For what?"
Macro tucked his hand back in under his chest and stared at the colony in the tree. "For being my friend. This is one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen."
Skygge raised a skeptical brow. "One of them? I thought you were raised in seclusion."
Macro turned towards her. "That doesn't mean I haven't seen anything beautiful between then and now."
Skygge's eyelids drooped slightly as she locked her gaze on the chimera's feral-looking eyes. "Is that so... Why don't you tell me more about it?"
Macro opened his mouth to speak when the hum of the feys turned to a piercing screech in the night. The trees suddenly became alive with tiny fey dragons scrambling out of their nests before immediately taking to the air.
"What's going on?" Macro asked, his eyes darting around anxiously.
Beside him, Skygge's eyes widened and her spines flattened against her body. "Oh no." A split second later, the fey colony went dark and a high pitched shriek pierced the night