Sintel: The Dragon Crystals

by Robert Teague

This story was written for the entertainment of Sintel fans, and no copyright infringement is intended. This story may be reproduced, provided no changes are made, and you let me know.

Chapter One A New Town

A lone figure came into view, cresting a hill on a well-used but unpaved road. It was a young woman in her early twenties, with dark red hair and red-gold eyes. She was thin and fit, her skin a medium tan from traveling. Her traveling clothes were a gray sleeveless shirt and brown leather pants. A short knife was on the right side of her leather belt, and she held a thick staff that was a foot taller than she. She also had a backpack and bedroll. A light gray tattoo was visible on her left shoulder.

Her name was Sintel, and she had left her home city of Ishtar to find a friend, a baby dragon she had nursed back to health only to have him taken away by an adult dragon.

She stopped, wiping sweat from her brow, and shielding her eyes with her hand, gazing ahead. Just as her map said, a city was here on the edge of a lake. It was surrounded by a high wooden fence, and had three gates in the side nearest her. On the lake were fishing boats, and she could see houses with smoke rising from chimneys. This was, it seemed, a successful place. Green was everywhere, trees abundant for shade, and a field of yellow and green maskob flowers were in bloom. It was far different from Ishtar.

There was one unusual thing. Moored at the far side of the town, floating some fifty feet in the air, was a wooden craft.
It was large, with nine wooden buildings arranged in a three by three square. Each building was supported by an even larger cloth sack open at the bottom. How it stayed up she had no idea. A rope ladder descended from an edge house, and she could make out someone using a winch to bring up a crate. Probably supplies, she thought. She had never been afraid of high places, but getting up there would be tricky, especially if it was windy.

She resumed her trek, and at the foot of the hill found a sign, declaring "Welcome to the City of Zharing". Good, she was on the right track. She had heard the people here knew much about dragons, and she hoped to find some clues about where she might finally locate Scales.

She entered the city without challenge, and looked around. As usual, merchants crowded the entrances, hawking a wide variety of wares. She wanted to get started making inquiries, but first things first; find an inn and get a room. She had some money from a farmer who hired her to help harvest his crops, so she could afford it.

A few inquiries directed her to a modest but clean and tidy house. A wooden sign confirmed it was her goal. She checked in,
and was taken to a small room with a bed, a wash stand, and a couple of chairs and a table. The innkeeper introduced herself as Mrs. Bekkan.

"So, what is that thing overhead?" she asked the middle-aged woman who had brought her to the room. As she spoke she put her backpack on the table, and the staff against the wall.

"Ah. The Watchtower is in town. It belongs to the Gatekeepers," she answered, "They patrol these lands against dragon attacks."

"Dragons?" asked Sintel, hiding her excitement. Maybe she was getting close to finding Scales.

"Yes," nodded the innkeeper, "They live far away, but sometimes when food is scarce they forage as far east and north as this. When they do, they aren't always picky about their meals."

"Wow..." said the redhead. She went over to the window, and found she could just see the craft over the tops of nearby buildings if she craned her neck. "Could I get a better look at it?"

"I suppose, if you went to the Gatekeeper's Lodge and asked nicely," she answered, "But I wouldn't expect too much. They keep to themselves."

"How do I get there?" Sintel asked, withdrawing her head and looking at her hostess.

The woman's directions were simple and clear; the town wasn't that big.

At the inn's door, Mrs. Bekkan said, "Dinner is at four bells."

Sintel translated that automatically as "sundown". "I'll try to be back by then, thanks." She gave a brief wave and headed out the door.

S:TDC S:TDC S:TDC

Along the main street, a middle-aged woman sat in the shade of a restaurant and ate her lunch. She was deeply tanned, with bright blue eyes and thick, black hair with some streaks of gray in the front. She was dressed in a simple shirt and leggings, with calf-high boots, all various shades of brown. A matching wide-brimmed hat sat on a chair beside her, and a leather sheath held a short sword at her side. The only ornamentation she had was a silver disk engraved with a tree that rode over her heart.

By her right hand was a translucent white crystal about five inches long that tapered to a point. It was about as thick as her thumb. She would glance at it once in a while, as though waiting for something to happen. But the crystal continued to do nothing. She kept an eye on people as they came to or left the restaurant, or passed by on their own business.

Lady Marska sighed to herself. Why did they bother to do this? Someone making the Dragon Crystal react was rare, and she had seen it happen only twice herself.

As she finished her meal, she glanced down the street, eyes coming to rest on a young woman, looking a bit out of place as she kept staring at the Watchtower. The locals had seen it often enough to ignore it. The girl had the look of a traveler about her, as she was dusty with dried mud on her mismatched boots. Oh well, not her business.

She stood up and fixed her hat, putting down a few coins for the meal. She reached for the Crystal and stopped. It was glowing a soft white. What in the...?

She picked it up and gazed closely. Surely enough, it was glowing. That meant someone who had close contact with a dragon was nearby. It was her duty to find them.

She left the building, holding the Crystal with the point away from herself. The glow began to fade, which meant the person was getting too far away. She couldn't lose them, it was too important.

She turned in a slow circle, watching the crystal. The glow, plainly visible even in the sun's light, grew slightly brighter to her left. She headed in that direction, walking quickly.

To her relief, the glow grew brighter as she walked, and finally she knew who it was pointing to; the young female traveler she had seen earlier.

She put away the Crystal and followed the girl as she walked along the street. Once in a while she would stop at some shop or other, looking at their wares. But she never bought anything. Lady Marska could tell this one had a goal, but wasn't in any particular hurry to get there.

But after a few minutes, that goal became clear; the Gatekeeper's Lodge. While still at some distance from it, the black haired woman hurried a bit and caught up to the redhead.

"Excuse me, are you going to the Gatekeeper's Lodge?" she asked.

The girl looked at Marksa with surprise, and a new detail was added; the girl's eyes were a golden-red. Marska had never seen eyes that color in a human before.

"Why, yes, I am," was the reply in a rather husky voice, "Why?"

"I am one of them." The older woman bowed slightly. "I am Lady Marska."

"My name's Sintel," was the reply. This woman talking to her was beautiful, which made her self-conscious for her own plain looks.

"So, Sintel, what business do you have with the Gatekeepers? If it's to ask for a ride on the Watchtower, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed."

Sintel smiled. "While that would probably be one of the highlights of my life, no. I have other questions."

"I see. Perhaps I can help," said Marska. Sintel hesitated, so she added, "Have you eaten yet? I'll buy your lunch."

That made the decision easy for Sintel, and she soon found herself at the same restaurant, having food put in front of her.

"Eat up, and don't worry about the expense," said Marska. She had ordered only a piece of pie for herself.

After the meal, Sintel told Marska everything. Finding Scales and nursing him back to health, and then losing him to an adult dragon that had flown into the west.

"So why do you seek the Gatekeepers?" asked Marska.

"To find out where dragons live, so I can find Scales," was the answer.

Although she was excited, Marska hid it. THIS was the kind of person they sought! Finding Sintel would enhance her own status, but that was secondary to her. She had to get this girl into the Lodge!

Just then, three bells rang, and they looked around in the late afternoon's light. They had hit it off so well, and been talking so long, that the afternoon had passed!

Sintel stood up. "I need to get back to the inn while it's still daylight and I can find it. But I'll come to the Lodge tomorrow morning. Will you meet me?"

Marska stood. She didn't want to spook Sintel by insisting they go to the Lodge now, so said "I will. I will also help you with your quest. It has been a great delight talking with you, Sintel."

"You too, Lady Marska," Sintel grinned. "It's been a long time since I've talked as much."

Marska watched her new friend walk back the way she came, then turned toward the Lodge. She had some research to do. And if she was right...