1. Night of Chaos
Anyka tossed and turned, trying to fall asleep. But her personal demons would not let her go. Sighing she sat up and stared at the dimly glowing fire. It was nearly extinguished and a look outside proved to her that she was several hours into the new day. Maybe four more hours before light would come, though she would need to rise in two. Time enough for her to sleep a little while longer, but she knew she would not sleep again. She was not sure why, but dark shadows had followed her in her dreams, undoing all that was good and light. She clearly remembered red eyes glaring angrily at her, trying to kill her with just a look, and then she had woken up. 
Remembering the eyes she felt a cold ring around her heart, chilling her without reaching the extremities of her body. It was a very strange feeling that made her feel even less sleepy. She got up silently, making sure she would not wake her father and brother sleeping on the other side of the fire. 
Looking through the smoke hole in the top of the ice-hut again she saw stars twinkling and wondered what would happen with her father and brother when she would marry. She had told neither of them that Ynock had asked her for the third time last night to marry him. She was already old enough for a year and had dated only one of her friends seriously in that time. Ynock was a good catch, he was strong and a good metalworker. Though she knew her father wanted her matched with a hunter, she could not see her self with a man who was gone half the year. 
Sighing she knew that was not the reason why she was declining Ynock's offer. He would be gone at times as well and it didn't bother her one bit. What really stopped her from saying yes was that she would have to leave her family behind. Ynock had told her he would have more to do in Rondise where the metalworker had died last winter. IselWegn had three of them and not the same need as Rondise which was a bigger settlement. But that would not make it home. She would have felt less bad if she had just gone live on the other side of IselWegn. It felt like she was abandoning her father and brother. And she could not pass the notion in her heart.
And then there was the question if she loved Ynock. She felt no passion toward him like her friends had told her about when they met their sweethearts before they had the proper age. She had never given in to Ynock's questions and hints. Sharing a bed was something that waited till you were wed. That was how she knew it had to be. That was how it had been with her parents...
Smiling sadly she remembered what her mother had told her: "If he loves you and you love him, a few years is no time at all to wait." and she knew what she was saying. Joryk and Ysela had known each other for five years before her mother's parents had finally agreed with a wedding. The way Ysela had told it, with a look in her eyes that spoke of true romance had always made Anyka dream. That was what she wanted and she did not want to settle for less.
Returning to the present, she could hardly believe that red was already streaking the edges of the sky. Had she fallen asleep again? A muffled cry sounded outside and then the meaning of the orange red in the sky, much to bright to be northern light, rushed into her mind. Fire. Her eyes opened wide. Attack.

***

Sveryk paced around in the main building where he had his own small room. That was unusual, but though he had been against it from the start, he had to agree that walking around all day was too tiring for him. That was about one of the only accommodations he had let them make for him and his cripple leg. Sveryk did not want to be personified with his useless leg, he might not be a fast runner, but there were more things a man could offer than swift legs. 
Truth be told, it was his leg that was keeping him here. First snow would come soon, he knew, his leg told him as certain as the stars told him light was on it's way back to the world.
In other years they might have left a week before, but this year the weather had been exceptionally good, with clear skies and warm nights into Septembyr. Now it was the end of Novebyr and Sveryk felt the need to move tug at his troubled mind. He should have pressed moving in stead of letting himself be persuaded by the elders to stay. 
The truth was that he too had had reason to stay though he knew he shouldn't have. The reason Sveryk had for staying was selfish, ridiculous even, but not less human for that. He sighed and told himself that he had stalled enough, he knew he would have to give over the command in the Winter cities. There his voice was worth nothing between the voices of all the gathered elders, there his voice would not be tolerated to speak his mind. And he hated the thought, his face convulsed into a mask of anger, he hated being diminished by them. He hated not being heard, he hated being treated as if he was a worthless cripple. He hated to admit that that was how they saw him. That that was who he was...
Turning his head away from the stars Sveryk saw the flames for the first time that night. Flames eating at cold houses, burning on the snow, defying nature as if it was rebelling. Defying all logic. At night, the outside air must be freezing, but still a fire had spread through the village. Wrapping a couple of furs around his body, Sveryk stepped out of the Common Hall and found himself entering a nightmare... 

***

Yannick held his eyes closed more tightly when he felt Anyka kept shaking him. He was nearly a grown man, he should not be treated like this. If he wanted to sleep more he could, just this once. He was about to tell her as much when he heard her shout: "Fire!"
Maybe he was still dreaming. Fire? Fire was something that happened when some fool let the fireplace in the communal Hall untended with wood in front of it. Nothing to worry about. He had once as a boy counted the scorch marks on the Hall floor, The floor was more black than brown around the fireplace and he had gotten to 38 before the patches had grown too close together to say which came from different incidents. 
"Wake up Yannick." his father called close to his ear, pulling the cover furs away from him. Feeling the cold seeping in he wondered again what he had done to deserve such treatment. He opened his eyes and when he saw it was still dark outside, he groaned.
"This is no time to be grumpy." Joryk, his father said, "Get dressed and help your sister, we're being attacked."
"Attacked?" that sure woke him up. Yannick looked at Anyka with an incredulous look, "Did I hear that right?"
"Look at the fire." Anyka said, pointing to the window onto the sky, where the stars were faded in an orange glow. "It's an attack, what else could it be?"
"But no-one shouted. The guards..."
"Were probably taken by surprise." Joryk said, "When was the last time we needed them?"
A wild puma had tried to run off with some meat only a month ago, driven down from the North by the approach of winter, but Yannick knew what his father meant. There hadn't been a war between clans for years. 
Wasting no more time, Yannick got up, put his shirt back on and found himself standing behind his father trying to peer outside over his shoulder. A dark shadow suddenly fell over their house and their father was pulled outside. Yannick grabbed his hands, but felt them slip almost immediately with the force that was pulling Joryk out. Still, Yannick tried to find a strong hold to fight as best he could. Joryk shook his head and let go, slamming the door shut as he flew out. Then he was gone. Almost as if the night had swallowed him.
Anyka cried then. It was odd, Yannick thought from a sort of detached morbid thinking. He had never seen his sister cry before. He knew he should feel something, but he didn't. He just felt like running outside and never coming back. That would get him killed, he knew, but he couldn't care less. Nothing seemed to matter much anyway. He reached for the door.
"No!" Anyka called, jumping in front of him, blocking the door.
"Let me go!" he called, trying to make his wish sound reasonable, "We have to go look for him."
"It's too late. Didn't you hear the screams?"
"Screams?" Yannick had heard no screams. Only silence, dead silence.
"It is too late for our father, Yannick." she was crying again, "We need to get out of here. Whatever grabbed him, it won't stop until all of us are dead. I saw it, Yannick." he eyes went wide, "When it flew over our house. I dreamt about it. It was a dragon."
Old stories of ill-luck and death following the dragon's shadow bubbled up in his mind. He did not want to believe what the elders had warned him for, did not want to believe in things that hadn't been seen for generations.
"If it is the dragon's shadow, how are we going to get out?"
"I don't know." Anyka sighed, "But we have to try. I won't sit here waiting for it to come."
"What if it is waiting outside?" Yannick asked, pulling his hand away from the door as if it suddenly had changed into a mass of wriggling maggots. It almost felt as if they were trapped with Death all around them.
Anyka struggled with her feelings, but finally she said: "It isn't."
"How can you know?" Yannick called.
"Don't you feel it? I knew it was here before the shadow crossed our house, it's vile, Yannick. It's evil."
"How are we going to get out?" Yannick repeated.
"Follow me." Anyka said, pulling her brother out, trying to not look at the strange patch of black snow to the right of the door, a spatter that might seem scarlet in daylight. Yannick felt his stomach turn, but Anyka pulled him further into the cold. All around them flames were dancing, running on the snow as if they had a life of their own, cold and heartless not even melting the slightest layer of ice. 
"This way." Anyka whispered, finally letting go of her brother to follow her on his own.

2. Pidazzi's Revenge
Pidazzi walked among the flames and laughed. Revenge did indeed taste sweet. Her face twisted to a deadly smile, her white teeth looked ready to lunge at every human who still had blood running in his veins to end the beat of his heart. And she laughed, she loved every minute of it.
"Ersatz!" she called, opening the telepathic pathway to her shadow soul, the first of the true chaotics to have come into the world. The one to survive. Pidazzi's eyes darkened to a shade close to blood-red, flames reflected in the mirrors to her soul. She too had survived, hour after hour, day after day. And now they would pay, the people of IceLand who had shunned her, who had left her for dead because she had been able to hear Ersatz, feel her pain. A month she had just dreamed of a blackness that seemed to bleak to be night. Total nothingness and a hunger that drove her mad. 
"Dwelling on the past never gave us anything." a black whisper sounded in her head.
"It gave us vengeance." Pidazzi called.
"We ride with death tonight, my sweet Yinpai."
"Don't use that name, it is in the past."
"But this night we make them pay. This night we return for one last time."
"To burn." Pidazzi answered, her eyes gazing into the past.
"To scourge."
"To purify..."
She was 14 again. A young black haired girl with dreams and hopes like any other in IceLand. She had a mother, a father, friends and family that loved her. But it had all been an illusion. soon the nightmares had come during the day, darkness and hunger. Hunger for blood and a lust to feel alive.
They had found each other there, the naive Yinpai and the young mistaken shadow soul. They were one and the same and nothing that stood between them was permitted to remain. Ersatz life had already been undone of unnecessary bonds, but Yinpai had bonds to spare. Taking a knife from the kitchens in the hall where she had been assigned to work, Yinpai had returned home to stab everyone. No-one with bloodties to her was to remain alive. And no-one had. They had found her there, her people, soaked in blood and laughing, hugging the small lifeless body of her baby brother in her arms, smiling serene.
They had brought her to the mountains, to the Northernmost borders of IceLand where human life was impossible. There she was left to die the horrible dead of starvation if she did not die of freezing the first night. Yinpai, no longer the innocent girl, made no effort to look for shelter. Shelter was for weaklings. She had cast off all ties and weaknesses to make room for that one bond that would fill her and make her complete...
"And bring you your revenge."
"They did not see the glorious bond between us, Ersatz." Pidazzi said angrily.
That night Ersatz had reached Syl'Neriss, pulled by Yinpai's mind. The young girl had felt her arrival. It was the first time a dragon's shadow passed over the villages in decades, but the people remembered. And Yinpai had conquered. Yinpai lived to become Pidazzi, live to return for her revenge...
"And we did take revenge." Ersatz said, "Not only on IceLand, but on the shadow souls. My True Chaotics will find them and kill them wherever they go, fleeing before us like the mindless cattle they are."
Revenge is sweet." Pidazzi said.

3. Escapingthe Flames
Sveryk walked through IselWegn, dragging his leg a bit. He did not know how long this fire had been going on, when they had been invaded. But who ever had attacked IselWegn had done it quick and thoroughly. Sveryk felt like he was walking through one of the deserted villages they sometimes found when they moved West for Winter. Abandoned, dead villages, void of human life. A sense of wrongness came over Sveryk as he walked through the village, his village. Somehow the night seemed warped, as if something was very wrong, more wrong than any human attack could justify. But what other possibility was there?
Wandering, Sveryk walked from street to street, passing through the houses like a ghost, advancing slowly, listening every few steps for a sign of life. But he heard nothing...

***

Yannick looked around the house that had previously belonged to the village's head weaver, his aunt, though everyone in a village was somehow related to each other. He felt Anyka tense beside him and knew she felt the same as he. Was she dead now too? Or had she slept through the light of the flames and were she and her family still safe?
Yannick reached for the door and was stopped only centimetres short of reaching the handle by Anyka. She shook her head and said: "Either they are dead and we can do nothing, or we will only wake them into a nightmare."
"What if the shadow finds them?"
"They are safest in their home." Anyka said, "We can move unseen because we're only two people, but we cannot hope to escape when we move in a group of 14."
"So we just leave them?"
"No, we hope that that shadow will get enough and go away like it is said it will."
"When all the world is dead."
"That's got to be an exaggeration."
"But what if it isn't?"
Anyka looked at her brother with a tortured look on her eyes. She knew she was running away, but what she had said was true. If they found other survivors they would diminish their chances greatly.
"I'm going in." he said, leaving no room for negotiating.
Yannick opened the door and stepped into the his aunt Ylla's house. Hearing Anyka enter behind him, he looked around and found nothing. The fire was out and the blankets were stirred, not unlike how their house would now look to anyone who entered it.
"Do you think they made it out?" Yannick asked.
"I don't think so." Anyka said with a heavy voice.
Yannick turned and froze at the bloodstain on the inside of the door. Something had wiped across the stain, but if it had been the shadow or an IceLander he could not tell. 
"Maybe some of them made it out, like us." Anyka suddenly said. 
Suddenly Yannick knew that his sister too was just a woman, only one year older than him. She did not know any more than he what he was doing. He knew that she was scared, that she had not wanted to come in in fear of what they might find.
"They are close to the edge of the village." Yannick nodded, "They had a chance."
He needed to be there for his sister, like she had been there for him all of his life. She might know every way in or out the village, he was still the hunter. he had been trained from his early years to handle dangerous animals and if this shadow wasn't dangerous, he didn't know what was.
"We have to move quick." he said, "If it finds us our life is worth nothing."
"That's the first sense I heard you speak all night." Anyka said, "We have to move to the right, past the communal hall and then to the forest to hide."
"Why not to the left? We'll be outside IselWegn in minutes. You propose walking right through the heart of the village!"
"Have you lived here all your life?" Anyka asked, "Here we'd have a mile of snow to wade through, the other side of the village is much closer to the forest. There we have a fighting chance."
"I guess you know best."
"You know what's good for you." Anyka nodded.
They got up from their drawing in the snow and looked to the right. The fire seemed to be brighter in there.
"Maybe move along the edge of the village?" Yannick suggested.
Anyka shrugged, "I imagine we'd want to avoid the center."
Yannick started to move around the outer skirts of the village. They stayed just inside the circle of houses, but kept their eyes on the center where the flames were burning high. Running from house to house, it was Anyka who heard the footsteps first. They ducked behind one of the houses and watched the young woman pass through the houses. She was laughing softly, talking to herself. Anyka started to get up as soon as the woman had passed, but Yannick pulled her down. Putting his finger against his lips, he motioned her to silence. One thing his dad had learned him was that evil moved in group.
Soon the dark shadow flew behind the young woman, following her and seemingly unaware of their presence, as if it was busy with something else. The two disappeared behind the next circle of houses. The steps faded for a while, but then grew stronger again. Anyka held her breath, maybe they hadn't been unnoticed. 
Suddenly another figure appeared at the edge of the houses. By the way the man walked he was easily recognised as Sveryk, limping as he advanced slowly among the houses.
"They'll see him!" Yannick whispered.
Anyka was away before Yannick could stop her. She dashed through the snow, ran faster than ever, given wings by fear and adrenaline. She might be scared, but she could not see another man die in front of her eyes. She soon became aware of her brother running along side her, counting down. 
"Seven, six, five, four..."
Anyka tackled Sveryk, propelling him toward the houses. He uttered a muffled cry, but the sound was dampened by the snow.
"Three..."
Anyka and Sveryk fell into a heap of loose snow.
"Two..."
Yannick fell in beside them.
"One..."
The young black-haired woman appeared back in sight, followed by the shadow drinking in all the light. She looked around with her dark eyes and lingered for a moment on the mountain of snow. But her eyes moved beyond it and she soon vanished behind the other houses.

4. Blood in the Snow
Sveryk got up and looked around. The shadow was gone. 
"What was that?"
"Something evil." Anyka whispered, "We have to get out without it seeing us or we die."
"Like everyone else." Yannick added, his eyes darker than they had been before, they looked older too as if he knew more than a few days gone.
"We don't know that for sure." Anyka said.
"I saw no-one in the streets." Sveryk said, "No-one in the entire village since I left the common hall. I don't think there's anyone still alive."
There was a painful silence that lasted several seconds, the whispering of flames around them while the three all thought about the people they had lost. They had found no bodies, but also no living people. On the other hand, there were more than a few dark patches in the snow. Patches that faintly glistened in the changing light of the flames with a dark red gleam.
"We need to go." Yannick finally said, "We're wasting time."
The three of them moved along the edges of the village. Yannick was up front while Sveryk closed the line, his leg obviously paining him, but he did not suggest slowing the rhythm. He had not fallen low enough to give up his dignity. He would flee in style with as much pride as he could muster. 
"We're close to the forest, sis." Yannick said, standing still.
"We need to go past Uyna's house and then move out behind his stable. That stable will give us cover and if we're lucky no-one will see us moving there. We'll be moving in shadow so watch the ground. Oh and keep right, the path to the left is longer."
"How do you know this?" Sveryk asked.
"I timed it." Anyka shrugged.
"Why?"
"Why not? Because it might prove useful at a time."
"Point taken." Sveryk said, though he wondered why that beautiful young woman felt the need to chart all back ways out of IselWegn if she had not considered running in the first place. He knew who the two were now. There were 200 people in the village and he could not recall all of them by name and face, certainly not in a panic in the night.
There had been a time, a few years back when he had looked at Anyka a lot. But she had never looked back, he did not blame her. He would confine her to IselWegn, to the Communal Hall even. And clearly that was not what she wanted.
A high cry rose from IselWegn. Where the Hall had been a high column of fire now rose. The silence of the night was broken, dozens of voices seemed to scream in pain as the fire burned brighter. Pinned where they were Anyka, Sveryk and Yannick looked at the fire, hearing the screams and not being able to move though they wanted nothing more at that moment. 
"They were alive..." Yannick whispered.
"There must be more that got out like us." Anyka said, repeating it like a mantra before she averted her eyes. Sveryk just stared in silence, his face distant and empty. Anyka looked at him to ignore the flames. he looked so sad. She had not seen him often without a frown on his face, without it, he looked almost tired, ready to give up. 
It was Yannick who pulled them out. Anyka had not known how easy it could be to lean upon her brother. Somewhere along the line he had grown up. The irresponsible boy he had seemed to be only yesterday was gone and he took the lead, the youngest of their pitiful group, he did not hesitate however.
"Run, now." he said, "They are distracted."
He did not need to urge them much, even Sveryk seemed to run faster that moment, with the screams fading in the distance. Maybe it was selfish running away from the cries, but she could not think to do anything else.
Sveryk panted as he ran through the shadows toward the forest. The screams echoed in his head, those were his people, his responsibility, his family. And still he ran, as fast as his legs could carry him, toward the forest, toward safety. He could not even tell himself that he ran to take revenge later, or even to one day return. He wanted to start over sure, but if he ever saw the shadow of the dragon again he would rather kill himself than live through this nightmare once more. He felt like such a coward, but he also could not bring his mind to committing suicide by running back. He could do nothing and there were two people here that needed to survive. They needed him. And he hated that he held them back. 

5. The Last of IselWegn
A single wisp of grey smoke in the tight blue sky told them that IselWegn was still burning. That did not seem strange the way the flames had behaved the previous night. Burning on the snow as if it was dry wood.
Anyka was busy making a list of all the people she had lost. Bitterly she thought that the two people around her were all that was left of her old life. She had not done a very good job in protecting her father, nor her friends. And she would not have made it if Yannick and Sveryk hadn't helped her. 
That brought her mind to Sveryk. He hadn't said much since they had escaped. It almost seemed as if he was years her senior, but when she thought about it, she remembered him as a boy, only a few years older than she. The grey in his hair had thrown her off. She wondered for a moment who he had lost, but it was weird to imagine Sveryk as someone who had friends and family. He had always been solitary, drawn back. 
Yannick came into view, carrying a bunny. The three of them had run for an hour before Sveryk had collapsed. She had seen that he was mad at himself, but they all had been tired, cold and panicking. Standing still was maybe better than continue running. Now at least they were getting organised. Yannick had gone almost immediately to catch some wildlife. Anyka had started gathering kindle and Sveryk had lit a fire with the firestones that he always carried in his jacket. Usually he used them to light his pipe, broken when Anyka had tackled him. He doubted he'd get a new one any time soon.
It didn't take long for her to skin the rabbit and roast it above the fire, spiced with some mushrooms. It had taken her long to find them, the pickings were slim around this time of year, Winter creeping closer. But whatever food they found would keep them going. West was the way to go, to the winter cities where they would find some family members that had moved to other villages. She hoped they would take them in, maybe they would not. Even if they were accepted, Sveryk would have a much harder time getting accepted.
"What do you want to do Sveryk?" she asked, "I mean when we reach the cities?"
Sveryk looked up, his face still sagging, but his eyes regaining some of their determination. "I hope to find people in the cities, a new village to start over. Build a new home, better guarded than the one I lost."
"How can you guard against a shadow?" Yannick asked.
"The answer is simple." Sveryk answered, "To vanquish the shadow you have to stay in the light where it can not touch you."
"Kind of hard, don't you think? The sun isn't always here to help us."
"It might be, South."
"That's just a children's story." Anyka said, "And even if it has a base of truth, our ancestors left the South for a reason. Why leave paradise if you had too?"
"I've been thinking about that." Sveryk answered.
Anyka quirked an eyebrow. She doubted Sveryk ever not thought.
"What do we do now?" Anyka asked.
"We migrate." Sveryk said, "Like we always do."

***

"Are you sure this fire was something unnatural?" Lityan asked Chaltyk.
The look her husband gave her was both comical and serious. It was hard to be serious with round sunglasses covering you eyes, but Lityan knew Chaltyk enough to know he meant every word. The concept alone of a fire in IceLand of all places was rather unbelievable. Let alone that it had caught so many people unaware. Lityan deliberately didn't look at the communal hall where a few grisly remains still told that people had died there. 
"Want to look for survivors?" Chaltyk asked.
"Do you think there are any left?" Lityan answered.
"There are always survivors. And they'd be perfect."
"Somehow that makes me feel bad about what we're doing." Lityan said, "I know that bonding a dragon is wonderful, but to rip some of our people out of their world after they've gone through this seems sadistic."
"I think they'd be easier to persuade. They have lost everything here."
"I'm just glad I didn't bring Lysen along."
"I think she's too young to know what happened here, Lityan." Chaltik said, "She's only a babe."
"This is no place to bring any child. If I could I'd level this village and burry it under a mountain of earth to give these people some peace."
"We can't interfere." Chaltyk said, "I want to make everything right again too, but we can't, we promised."
"To protect them."
"To give them time to evolve, to change just enough to accept the possibility."
Lityan sighed. Chaltyk was right of course, but the shadow of the dragon still flew in the night and Lityan wasn't completely sure that it was just myth. Pidazzi had been strangely calm lately. She was often away and Nizryth had told her that more than once she had come to IceLand. Why she did so, no-one knew.
"Are you coming?" Chaltyk asked, pulling Lityan from her trail of thought.
"Yeah." 
Chaltyk's Tiger Eye Brown Xersenyth and Lityan's Clouded Purple Nizryth flew down to pick up their riders. They had seen more than one set of footprints, but most of those were old. They had no option but to scan the surrounding areas, starting with the forest because it was the most logic place to find anyone who had fled the flames.
Half an hour later they noticed three forms moving below them. They had taken shelter almost as soon as Chaltyk had seen them, but they were there. Chaltyk motioned Lityan to follow his lead and land. Touching down in front and behind the three they virtually cut off all way of escape. Chaltyk did realise that what they were doing was close to kidnapping their fellow IceLanders. But he could quiet his conscience knowing they would not regret bonding a dragon.
"We won't harm you!" Lityan called, "We're IceLanders just like you."
"We're here to help you."
"They are afraid." Xersenyth spoke, "They have seen the shadow of the dragon before their village burned."
"They also saw a woman." Nizryth added, projecting the image of a laughing young woman in their heads.
"Pidazzi." Lityan gasped, recognising the True Chaotic's bond at first sight. 
"Who are you?" Sveryk called out, "Give your name and Village."
"Lityan and Chaltyk of IsStede." Lityan called, "We vanished three years ago."
"It'd be more correct to say we found our bonds and could not return." Chaltyk added, "Seeing as how you reacted to Nizryth and Xersenyth I'd say we were right putting off our return."
"Not all dragons mean bad luck." Lityan said, "Though I know someone who will be unlucky when we return."
"We have no authority over Pidazzi."
"Somehow I doubt the Laedrysses will let her go unpunished."
"And what do you want from us?" A female voice, Anyka, called from the undergrowth.
"Only to take you to the South, Lantessama Isle, and then to Ryslen where you might find bonds like ours."
"The South?" Sveryk called.
"Yes, Whatever happened there centuries past is long gone. It truly is paradise on the Isle, and we are not alone there, For the moment there are 10 of us IceLanders there. With you added we'd have 13 people to make sure we get the best for IceLand. And one day, maybe bring all of our people back to the world they inhabited."
It was quiet for a long time, though Nizryth couldn't help but to listen in on some of the thoughts of the three possible candidates. "They are leaning in our favour." she said smugly, but only if you two promise to sweep the surroundings for a few days to find any other survivors there might be."
"That's a given." Chaltyk thought to his wife's dragon, "We'd have done that anyway."
"We accept your terms!" Lityan called, "If you come we shall return here for a month to search for survivors."
"How did you know?" one brown-haired youth asked, getting up from his camouflaged cover. Yannick truly looked amazed that they knew what they had been discussing.
"Dragons tend to take privacy of thoughts as a flexible rule at the best of times." Lityan grinned, "She only conveyed your terms, nothing else."
"Are you coming?" Chaltyk asked.
"We are coming." Sveryk answered.

6. Lantessama Isle
They had been on Lantessama for a week now. Getting to know their fellow IceLanders, enjoying the warm weather and marvelling over the new things they saw every day. The people were friendly, well almost all people were friendly. Seeing Pidazzi again for the first time, marching around the isle as if she owned it, made Sveryk nearly crazy enough to run after her and kill her on the spot. Anyka had stopped him then, hugging him and telling him not to be stupid. Going after her would only mean dead. Lityan had promised Pidazzi would be punished and they had to believe in that.
Sveryk had been stunned at her embrace, had tried not to read too much into it, but every day since that one, she had stayed with him, hugged him, even kissed him. She confused him to say the least. She had not once told him she had feelings for him, but she had acted like she loved him. He had thought about asking Yannick, but he had hardly seen Anyka's brother, busy as he had been talking to Zreshyn and Ype. He seemed to no longer be interested in hunting alone, in stead his attention had shifted to guarding. Maybe not that strange considering. Zreshyn might have a word with him about what he wanted to guard this afternoon, when they were all supposed to have lunch in Cyan's fazzle garden.

***

"Anyka!" Sveryk called and Anyka looked up. Her heart made a little jump though she tried to hide her feelings away. She still wasn't sure if her feelings for this man were real or some weird remnant of her fears in the night that IselWegn burned had driven her to him. She couldn't help but wonder why she had grieved about her father, but had not shed a tear for the man that had asked her to marry her. Maybe she had never loved him to begin with, like the passion she knew their relationship had lacked.
"Yes?" she asked.
Would he dare tell her he was going to another adoption agency? He looked in her eyes and could not.
"Will you walk with me to the fazzle garden for lunch?" he asked in stead.
"Sure." she said, feeling that he held something back. But she never mind talking with Sveryk, he almost made her feel smarter, that much better.
"Do you believe in fate?" she asked.
"No." he answered, "I think fate and freedom of choice cannot exist at the same time. And if I have to choose, I want to believe in freedom of choice."
"I believe in fate." Anyka said determined, "I know we were meant to be here. My village did not burn without reason. And All of this will one day prove to be necessary for another good. I cannot see it any other way." And maybe, just maybe, fate had helped her find Sveryk at just the right time.
He placed his arm around her shoulders and Anyka gladly leaned closer to his body. Being strong was overrated, sometimes being together was more than enough. She realised she had given herself the answer she needed. Fate had shown her her path and she would take it. 

***

"Hey guys!" Lityan called, waving to Sveryk and Anyka as they entered the garden. Yannick was already sitting beside her, cradling one of the small plant-like creature sin his arm.
"They're really cute, Anyka." he said, "You've got to try one of them."
"I never imagined you'd like a pet."
Anyka had never seen her brother as someone who would take care of others. She had always known him to be someone who enjoyed having fun. He had returned to that image she had had about him since they had been at Lantessama. Maybe the essence of people always stayed the same. It was a rather comforting thought.
"A pet? Oh no, I'm just holding this one..."


Yannick's Wyrosa

"You've got to be careful with fazzles." Lityan smiled, "They tend to fasten themselves to you without you knowing it. But don't worry, they're not that demanding. Kind of like real plants."
Soon Sveryk was trying to dislodge a pine-looking fazzle from his lodge, while Anyka was petting a small white-berried forest fazzle. No others tried to come near them, maybe because Lityan called Nizryth to keep them back, or maybe because these fazzles didn't like to be crowded... probably the first. 


Sveryk's Linda - Anyka's Sneuwe

Yannick smiled, he did not really mind having this small companion that reminded him of home. He knew the flower the fazzle had been made to resemble, a bright red or white flower that grew even in the forests around IceLand. Winter's Rose they called it and he had always liked them. Having one when they went to this Ryslen place was comforting.
"What do you think Ryslen is like?" he asked Sveryk and Anyka, "We're leaving soon, i know, but no matter how much Zreshyn has told me about the adoption agency, I can't imagine how ity truely must be."
"We'll find out soon enough, this afternoon, i've heard." Anyka smiled.
"Right now, even." Lityan interrupted, "Nizryth and Myoth are waiting to take you to your temporary new homes."
"Homes?" Anyka asked.
"About that..." Sveryk said, "I've asked to be taken to another world to bond, a place called the Vella Crean." He did not dare look at Anyka. He still did not know how she felt about him, but he needed time to sort things out before he could even feel worth enough to have anyone like him. he had not had much experience in the matters of the heart.
Suddenly he felt her hand on his cheek. ust for a second, she touched him so lovingly, so heartbroken that he wasn't going with her that he knew he shouldn't have doubted her feelings. She took a few steps back then, also looking down, maybe to hide tears he saw falling to the ground.
"Go where you have to go." Anyka said to Sveryk, "We will meet again in better times."
Sveryk nodded, he knew that she really believed they would meat again. Maybe they would, maybe this fate thing was worth believing in, it certainly seemed to make things easier for Anyka. Still he wished she was going with him in stead of with her brother. Immediately he felt guilty for having the thought. Wasn't he fighting for the reunion of families? If he wanted to build up IselWegn again with new families, was it fair then to break up existing ones? Sveryk knew when his mind was talking reason.
"May your skies be clear and your nights bright with the fires of friends." he said before he turned and headed for the dragonrider that would bring him to the Vella Crean.
Anyka wiped away a tear that had sprung from the corner of her eye. Why did saying goodbye always hurt so much? she wondered, she would see Sveryk again, there was nothing she was more sure off. But why was she so sure of it? Her heart leapt in rebellion against her mind that tried to rationalise the world. Her heart was right, the feeling did not come from her mind, her certainty came from her gut, a knowing that surpassed reason. 
"We will meet again." she said determined, "Clear Skies and Friendly Fires."
And with that said, she turned to the dragonrider that would bring them to the flurry. Yannick was already boring the poor man with questions and thoughts. She smiled, some things would never change.
"Hey sis! Do you know that if we return here I can still become a hunter and a guard for that matter? I'll be hunting evil to protect the people that live on this planet."
"Father would be proud." she said quietly.
Yannick's face darkened for a moment, but then he nodded: "I believe he would."
Maybe some things were not as firmly set as she thought they were...

Continue to Part 7a: At Ryslen
Continue to Part 7b: To the Vella Crean

Lantessama Isle.
Anyka and Yannick are
novos at the Ryslen Flurry 2004
Sveryk is a Candidate for the Vella Crean Blood Court