Setting Off

In Adventures ・ By zaxarie
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Dawn spilled over the horizon, soft watercolors painting layer upon layer of fluffy clouds. Tea Cake held a delicate cup in his big hands, the steam from the drink drifting on the morning breeze that combed through his long, yellow hair. A familiar feeling kicked with all the subtlety and force of an angry horse behind his sternum. It knocked the wind out of him, and he swayed for a moment, uncertain, before new air flooded his lungs, crisp and clear, as if he’d been breathing something stale and forgotten the taste of adventure.

A grin split across his face, and he took a deep breath again.

By the time Nikostratos, the Bestia whose family had taken him in, awoke, Tea Cake had already loaded up what few belongings he had onto his dragons. “It’s time for me to go,” Tea Cake said brightly, as if this had been a long-deliberated decision and not something he had simply known this morning.

Nikostratos looked stricken. “I can’t come with you.”

“Not yet,” Tea Cake said.

The lion-shaped Bestia huffed and ran an irritated paw through his mane. “Hang on. At least take a tent and a sleeping roll.” Then turned and bounded back into the clay-brick house without waiting for an answer.

A few more adjustments made with harnesses and saddles — “Why do I have to carry everything?” Marble pretended to grumble while preening Plum’s flight feathers, who was carrying just as much as he — to distribute Nikostratos’s gifts which included food, and they were off to the nearest gate to the Chronoscape.

“Where are we going?” Cupcake asked as they set off, barely containing the urge to rush ahead, to run and get excess energy out before returning to Tea Cake’s side. The shadow of Marble passed over them.

“Home,” Tea Cake said. “Wherever that is.”

“You don’t know,” she said, ears flattening.

“Nope,” he grinned. “It’ll be fun!”

At that, Cupcake did choose to race ahead to the gate, barking at Plum until his strides began to lengthen and they were running side by side.

Smores swept in on the other side, her hooves barely touching the ground as her mane caught in the wind. “The journey’s the point,” she said. “Earth dragons — once the going gets rough, once there’s a challenge, they’ll understand.”

She was right. On the other side of the gate, the gentle spring breeze turned into a biting and bitter wind, whipping with such force against Tea Cake and his dragons that even proud Marble decided to land rather than risk fighting it. Plum and Marble, the larger dragons, put themselves between Smores, Tea Cake, and Cupcake, but the wind snaked between their legs and buffeted the smaller travelers.

Tea Cake put a hand on Plum’s nearest leg, and the dragon came to a stop, lowering himself so Tea Cake could climb up on his back. He ground his teeth as the wind ripped at his hair and skirt, kneeling on Plum’s back between his closed wings and trying to get a better idea of where they could go.

All around them stretched a long and lonely plain, the green grass bent by the wind. A wide river crashed on the left-hand side, white-capped rapids carving against heavy, dark stone. Tea Cake frowned; where had the stones come from? It would make sense in a canyon or if there were any surrounding mountains, and in one direction, there was a looming blue silhouette, barely visible at this distance, but it seemed a far way off.

Plum’s hood flared as he tossed his head, nosing upwards to ask, “Is that where we’re going?”

“No.” The possibility of the mountain was more than any other direction offered at this exact moment, but that made it an easy choice, even if it would take several days to get there. “We’re going to follow the river.” It seemed as good a plan as any. Down below, he saw the shadows of Cupcake and Smores ranging out, examining some brush and flowers, occasionally digging into the soil. Tea Cake began to slide back to the ground when Plum tipped his body forward, shrugged his wings, and hissed.

“Ssstay. You can direct us better up here.”

Tea Cake frowned. “You’re already carrying so much.”

Marble gave a friendly scoff, “Sweet little sugarplum can carry you without breaking a sweat.” His neckfrills pushed out, and he spread his wings wide. “And I could carry the little cakes, if need be.” He grinned toothily. “Smores could be picked up and carried by the wind if we’re not careful.”

“I’m afraid, darling, that I can fly without those cumbersome wings and the work they take,” Smores said airily. She moved with the sudden agility of a snake, weaving her long body through the grass before leaping gracefully into the air. Her legs continued to work like an antelope springing along, but her hooves met with nothing, and she moved with liquid-like ease through the air, only her mane and beard ravaged by the wind. Smores bared her own sharp teeth in a smile. “So can Cupcake.”

Cupcake bounced from paw to paw, velvety scales bristling and the crystals along her shoulders and tail catching in the sun, gleaming as violet as her eyes. Smores had stuck several flowers and green plants in among her velvet scales, apparently having decided to bring some along. “I’ll walk,” she said, her voice a throaty growl.

Without another word, she shot off towards the river, low and small to decrease the drag of the wind, her paws thudding against the suddenly-hard ground that softened the moment her paws left, returning to the softer, natural soil.

Marble and Smores went after her, but Plum stayed, ruffling his wings as Tea Cake slid into his saddle and fastened the necessary straps. He reached into one of the saddlebags for a hair tie and put it up into a horsetail, sighing with relief as the stinging whips against his eyes suddenly ceased. With the extra time he had, he gathered up the excess of his skirt — he should change into trousers when they stopped — and tied it into a knot at his thigh. He lost some of his mobility, but he would have lost it anyway, fighting the drag of the wind if he really needed to move.

“Ready?” Plum asked softly.

Tea Cake skritched where soft scales gave way to the downy feathers of his wing, watching with fondness as the entire wing trembled and arched slightly. “Let’s catch up to them.”

Plum was not built for speed, but once he built up a pace, his long legs could cover an extraordinary amount of ground as it quaked beneath him. Marble turned his head, beaming to see the other dragon and his rider catching up, one large forefoot gently holding a ground-bird’s nest with eggs still inside. But Smores’s eyes were on Cupcake as she neared the expansive river.

Anxiety and doubt rippled through Tea Cake as Cupcake’s paws left the ground, for a moment imagining that she plunged into the river and sank heavily to the bottom. They would have so little time to save her. Smores was too light and might be just as easily swept away. Marble was close, but was he close enough—?

Cupcake’s paw never touched the water. A stone rose out of the ground to meet her first step, and another came with a cascade of water to meet the next. Thus she went across the entirety of the river, never once breaking stride, so confident in her use of magic, unaware of the breath caught in Tea Cake’s lungs, the visceral fear that made his heart pound against his breastbone.

One day, he would get used to that. One day, magic would occur to him as a thing that was available, that could be wielded by someone who felt like an extension of his soul as much as she was her own dragon.

One day.

Setting Off
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In Adventures ・ By zaxarie

Adventure Type: Gathering
Terrain(s): Wind/Ocean
Familiar Search Tools: N/A
Buffs: N/A

Wordcount: 1332

Submitted By zaxarie
Submitted: 1 month agoLast Updated: 1 month ago

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