"Well, well... get stuck with tour guide duty again?"
A voice floats through the trees from above you. You stop to peer into their branches, but Ramona keeps going, ignoring the voice. Suddenly, there is a flash of light in front of her and a brief sound, like wind gusting through a tunnel. A young man materializes, blocking her path. He is about a head taller than her, dressed in leggings and a belted tunic. His short silver hair and aqua eyes are unnatural in appearance, and his stance is conspicously self assured. An orange featherdrake glides down from the canopy above to float around his shoulders.
"Hello, Termut," Ramona says stiffly, speaking the name as though it leaves a sour taste in her mouth.
"My dearest Ramona, how wonderful to see you again," the man says grandly.
"Wish I could say the same, you t--no, wait, I called you that last week... oh, I know, how about 'caped orc'? 'Fetid troll', perhaps?" Ramona says, glaring at him. You get the distinct feeling the two do not get along... and that is putting it mildly.
"Oh, such words from a fair lady!" Termut scolds.
"Hmm, 'fair lady'? That wasn't what you were christening me last time we met."
"Speak not of the past. I wish to bury the hatchet, call a truce, enact a cease-fire. Perhaps we could have a celebratory dinner...?"
"Never say the words 'cease-fire' around me, cretin. They tend to get on my nerves."
Without any further warning, Ramona suddenly raises an arm and makes a throwing motion at Termut's feet. The brush explodes in a shower of bright orange sparks and flames. You gasp in horror, but the man has already disappeared in a flash of light. The orange featherdrake screeches at Ramona, but oddly enough, the flames and sparks are flowing around it, never touching the drake. It soars up and away, disappearing into the leaves.
You stare at Ramona and the burning area before her, a bit shocked. She makes a brusque sweeping motion with her arm, and the fire immediately is gone, leaving only a browned and blackened patch in its wake.
"Come on," Ramona says to you, her countenance still glinting with fury, and she starts walking again. You catch up cautiously and take a breath before speaking.
"Do you really hate him that much?" you ask quietly.
"You would too if you could hear the other side of that conversation," Ramona says testily.
"Uh... what?" you ask. You are treading on perilous ground, but you can't help your curiosity. Ramona exhales sharply, gathering her patience.
"He's a telepath," she says. "You were only hearing half the conversation. The other comments were... less innocuous."
"Oh..." you say. You wonder what they were, but that question is outright invasive. Choosing to mind your manners, you change the subject. "Was that one of the Coal Featherdrakes from Pilani's house?"
"No, that was Walter. He follows Termut everywhere. He has a personality just as irascible as his owner's, but I would never hurt any creature on this refuge. Annoying men, however..." She trails off menacingly.
Good thing Termut has fast reflexes, you think. Ramona snorts quietly. Then, she slows and steps out of the undergrowth, revealing a beaten path on the other side. The sight of a path makes you feel better, although by now you are fairly sure that Ramona could navigate the Creature Refuge without one. You steal a glance at her, and you are glad to see she looks calmer.
"Where to now?" you ask, looking around for any landmarks.
"We will head through the forest and see what we can spot," Ramona answers. "Eventually, we should reach a protected grove we can rest at."
You nod and start watching the forest as you follow along, your eyes searching out hidden secrets and moving shadows."
Featherdrake from Featherdrake Aeyries
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Last Updated: June 16, 2004