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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