Zodiac Dragons – Council Rock

August 4, 2016 Danielle 0

The gem in her pocket started to vibrate around the same time that Keirax arrived near Shinya and Kayelinth. She gave up being casual and cautious and yanked the thing out of her pocket before it could explode, or whatever it was going to do. It didn’t explode. Instead it vibrated once more, and then shimmered with a soap-bubble aura of colours. The stone started to glow, and then a small illusion of a dragon formed in the air above it.


The illusory dragon looked a lot like Dworkin, one of the teachers who periodically gave lessons to the hatchlings. Like Dworkin – and like no other dragon that Keirax had ever seen or heard of – the illusion had no particular colour. It was a sort of drab, beige-brown colour, without the metallic  iridescence of the Bronze or Brass clans, but with an odd, shifting shimmer instead, and a scattering of scales and feathers in a  variety of other colours too. From one angle, the brown scales and beige feathers looked like they were on the verge of moulting to reveal a pure red, or maybe Golden or Copper dragon; from another angle, there was a distinct undertone of Obsidian or Emerald, or perhaps a deep Sapphire; from a third, Keirax would have sworn he looked like a dirty Crystal clan dragon. The hatchlings had an ongoing bet on what Dworkin’s original colour had been, but he wouldn’t say. Or rather, when they asked, he said that he’d lost his colour in the hedge, and he couldn’t remember any more what it had been. Which was very much like refusing to say, but more polite. More Dworkinish, too – he was never unkind, or deliberately confusing, but he was distinctly odd. Even the Topaz elders thought he was unusual.


The illusory dragon said, in Dworkin’s voice, “Good, you’re paying attention. Come to Council Rock this evening, an hour before sunset; I have something to show you.”


It was a long flight to Council Rock. Keirax flapped wings sore form a whole day of flying and kept her eyes set on the smudge of greenery which marked the ledge on the island’s east coast where Dworkin normally taught the hatchlings about the Council. It seemed as good a place to head for as any, and the message hadn’t been all that exact.


Quiendrix and Kayelinth landed first, with Keirax close behind. Phos dipped to the waterline at the last moment, probably in search of something shiny, and Shinya hung back to keep an eye on him. Raziel flew in last, muttering under his breath about wingstrain. He was at least as good a flyer as any of the rest of them, he just complained about it more, so people thought he had trouble. Keirax had watched him practising aerobatics, though, when he thought no one could see. She figured it was just an Obsidian clan thing, keeping one’s hoard close and one’s lair secret sort of thing.


Dworkin wasn’t there when they arrived, but he arrived within minutes in his usual mysterious way. His appearance was marked by  a muffled shriek from Raziel, followed by a splash as he fell off the cliff and into the ocean. Shinya immediately rushed to look over the edge after him.

Kayelinth looked at Shinya, and said “He didn’t just fall off the ledge, did he? Is he okay?”

Shinya nodded and said, “he’s ok. He’s just wet. Anyone can lose their balance.”

“Not me,” said Quiendrix. “I would have thought you would all have more care for the dignity of your clans. Even Obsidians have a standard to uphold.”

Raziel pulled himself back up onto the ledge, dripping and muttering, glaring darkly at anyone who looked his way. Keiraz stifled a chuckle, and turned it into a small cough.

“Dworkin,” she said, “you asked us to meet you. What’s going on?”


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The Dwarven Kingdoms

July 15, 2016 Danielle 0


The Dwarves are the third eldest race on Yarthe, though they have only recently come into contact with humans. The Dwarvish Nations spent the first age living below the ground, in cities carved into the hearts of mountains. Their crofters kept small Dascha on the surface, farms where they grew vegetables and grain, and grazed their flocks, but they did not live there or build dwellings. At most, a Dascha might include a small hut or barn as shelter form unexpected storms – but a more likely shelter would be a cave or a hollowed out hill reached by a hidden door.  In Europa, even now, small groups of Dwarves live on the surface for the summers, herding their flocks of goats, sheep, and ponies through the high mountain pastures before retreating to their underground kingdoms for the harsh winters.


Even the Strix do not know when the Dwarves first started carving out their underground cities. The oldest of the Dwarvish artefacts still kept and in use date to well before the fall of Mu, although there are no surviving Elvish records regarding the Dwarves. There is some indication in the old legends of the Dwarves that they came from another world, having lived for generations as servants to the gods. Their creation myths indicate that they were made by these gods to be their servants and companions, but fled a conflict amongst the gods which threatened their survival. The old gods mentioned in these legends are, for the most part, no longer worshipped.


There are six major Dwarven Kingdoms in Europa: the Apeneit Kingdom, the Douros Kingdom, the Carpathian Kingdom, Rhon, the Kola Kingdom, and the Volga Kingdom. Almost all of the Dwarves of Europa claim allegiance to one of these kingdoms; the only Dwarves not included in the kingdoms are the monastic orders, whose monasteries owe allegiance to no mortal kings or lords, and who can claim aid or assistance from any of the six kingdoms. The Apeneit Kingdom and the Rhon are the Dwarven Kingdoms best known to the human population of Europa, although some of the Dwarves of the Douros Kingdom have made their way north and east on diplomatic and trading missions.


The Dwarves of Douros and Rhon are constantly either at war or in a state of cold war detente with the Ghost Elves, due to their proximity to Malnibos. Dwarvish ethics do nto allow the keeping of slaves, and as slaves are central to Ghost Elf culture, this causes constant friction between the two groups. The Dwarves are one of the few races of the Deep which successfully resisted the Ghost Elves when they began their conquest of the Deeps of Europa after the fall of Mu. There is some unofficial trade between some of the Dwarvish clans (sometimes called the ‘Grey’ clans, and regarded by other Dwarves as being ethically ambiguous) and the Ghost Elves, but most of their interactions are less than friendly. Many of the major roads through the Deeps were built and are maintained by the Dwarves, and as such are only safe to travel with the permission of the Dwarvish clans who control them – such permission is freely given to friends and allies, and may be bought for a toll by others, including the Ghost Elves. The tolls are a source of bitter resentment and enmity from the Ghost Elves.


Although they have a reputation among humans as a dour and humourless people, in fact the Dwarves have a subtle sense of humour and a warm and supportive culture. They are thoughtful and imaginative artisans, and capable engineers – always always willing to experiment, and inclined to fix a thing rather than replace it if they can. Their culture has a word for a thing which has been broken and then fixed, and is now more beautiful for being less than perfect – and this word can be used for interpersonal relationships which have gone sour and then been mended as well.


Honour and tradition are very important to the Dwarves, and they have a complex cultural system of social standing and social capital which almost no non-Dwarves understand. They may take some time to judge if a person is worthy of their trust and loyalty, but once given, their friendship knows no bounds. The rare non-Dwarf who becomes the trusted friend of a Dwarf also becomes an adopted member of that Dwarf’s clan, welcome to all gatherings at any time, and included in clan celebrations. They gain the right to wear the clan tartan and braid their hair using the clan patterns, and to claim or the clan’s hospitality in the home of any clan member – or of any other Dwarf not at war with their clan.


Male and female dwarves pride themselves on the length of their hair, and men often decorate their beards with a variety of clasps and intricate braids. The various clans can be identified by the patterns of the braids in their hair and beards, as well as by the patterns and colours of their traditional clan tartans.


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clear skies

July 8, 2016 Danielle 0

Soft as rain at night

the sky goes on forever

like footprints in snow.


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June 30: the wizard’s cat, part 5

June 30, 2016 Danielle 0

(This is the final #BlogJune post for this year – we’ll go back a more normal schedule of one post a week for the rest of 2016. To everyone who’s been keeping up, thanks for reading.)


Rules, he said. But the first thing he did was get a tiny silver snake out of his pocket.I thought at first that it was a piece of jewellery or an ornament, a solid silver thing worth half a duke’s ransom to look at it. But then he whispered something to it, and it moved. He held it on his palm for me to look at, and although it looked like pure metal, it moved again, fluid and organic like something alive. It was beautiful.


“Caitlyn,” said the wizard, “I’ll be away for two days from tomorrow, picking up the apprenticeship contract and sorting out some other business. While I’m gone, I’m leaving a minder to keep you out of trouble. This is Trimble.”

He held the little silver snake out to me.

“Trimble,” I said. “She’s lovely. What is she? Is she venomous?”

“She’s harmless to you, although she can secrete venom if I tell her to. Here, hold her while I give her some instructions.”


I held my hand out, palm up, next to his. The snake flicked her tongue out, tasting my scent, then slithered onto my palm. She was heavier than I expected, and her scales were dry and smooth, and warm like a cat. I gently stroked her with my finger, and she made a rumbling, ratcheting noise that sounded like purring. I almost dropped her in surprise.

The wizard smiled, and said, “She likes you.”

Then he started speaking in his scary, echoing voice again, only this time it wasn’t in a language I could understand. He didn’t hiss or anything, but he was clearly speaking to the snake, and she turned her head to watch him.


After a minute, the wizard stopped talking. The snake made a little chirping noise, and then coiled herself around my wrist and didn’t move. She was still warm to the touch, but no longer soft and pliable and alive – she felt like a simple silver bracelet.

I looked from the now-inanimate snake around my wrist to the wizard, and said, “What did you tell her?”

“She’s to take care of you, and stop you from doing anything too dangerous. She’ll also give you my instructions, tomorrow, as you need them. We’ll start you out by learning the garden, and Trimble can help you with it.


I slept that night on a featherbed in what must be a guest chamber. I don’t know how the tower was large enough to have a guest chamber, but it did. With its own fireplace, and a big, heavy wooden bed, and a window that opened ot look out over the garden and the orchard beyond the wall. All night, even sleeping, I was oddly aware of the little silver snake coiled around my wrist, innocently inanimate.


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June 29: Devil’s Breath

June 29, 2016 Danielle 0

It was the hat that did it. Except for that, Gryphon would never have noticed her. He didn’t like to think of himself as jaded, but beauty in a woman was no longer enough to draw his attention.


It was an old fashioned top hat, in dark, dark burgundy satin. Almost black, but distinctly, if subtly, coloured, against the pure obsidian shine of her hair. A deep red tuxedo matched the hat, with a spill of black lace cuffs at the wrist, almost invisible against black satin gloves. All that colour, or the lack thereof, drew the eye to the pale, porcelain quality of her skin, the hint of laughter in her dark eyes. Gryphon was intrigued.


She was beautiful. But there was more to her than that, a touch of wildness behind the perfectly groomed exterior and the perfectly worn arrogance. An innocence which he was unaccustomed to seeing in the places he frequented.


One of the waitresses brought a drink, something frothy and scarlet, with a wedge of peach on the rim. The girl tucked a bill into the waitress’ top, and said something to her. She spoke softly; Gryphon failed to make out the words, but the flush rising up the waitress’ throat and cheeks made him chuckle.


Lex sipped her drink, and watched the man loitering across the room from her, pretending not to watch her. He spoke to the waitress as she went past, and a few minutes later he was in possession of a drink identical to hers. He was wearing black leather, and probably suffering from the stuffy, heated rooms of Margarethe’s yacht-party as much as she was. He didn’t show it. But then, neither did she.


Most of the other immaculately dressed guests had shed some or all of their elegant, formal clothes. Lex suspected that the heat was up quite so high to encourage this. She intended to keep hers on, however, irrespective of Margarethe’s plans for the gathering.


Gryphon decided on a direct approach, and walked over.

“Eric,” he introduced himself.

Gryphon never gave his real name at first meetings, and had documents to support several different identities.

Lex nodded politely, and replied, “Alice”.

She declined to shake the hand he offered.

Lex didn’t tell random men her real name, ever. If she decided that someone was actually worth while, she could always claim that he’d misheard, that she had said ‘Alex’, or that she had recently been the target of a stalker. Names had power, anyway, and some of the people at Margarethe’s parties would know that, so here, especially, she used a pseudonym.


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