There was no silence as profound as the space between Islands, no vault as large as the moons-lit sky, hoarding its treasury of stars, nor a loneliness as soul-shadowing as the loss of betrayal. This Hualiama knew as she piloted her Dragonship away from Fra’anior Cluster. She could not sleep. Instead, she searched the emptiness with the eyes of her heart, longing for a glimmer of moonlight upon gemstone scales, for a sign that all was not dust blown into the Cloudlands.
Flicker. Amaryllion. Masters Jo’el and Khoyal. The long-dead face of her Nuyallith tutor, his knowledge lodged in her mind, unforgettable. Sometimes, she felt as though she carried more ghosts than living flesh upon her diminutive frame. She yearned for her spirit to abandon what the ballads called her mortal coil, to roam the Island-World upon wings less substantial than the wind itself; faraway, flyaway, free.
If she listened with the ears of her sixth sense, tasting and experiencing the tides and times of the Island-World, could she not rediscover that bond she had felt between herself and the Tourmaline Dragon, and sing the melody of souls united by oaths stronger than death?
Softly, she poured her heart forth in tuneful lament:
O my Dragon, I search for thee,
My spirit flying far and free,
I call to thee, Grandion; I beg, I burn,
Wilt thou not hear?
Wind keened among the inner hawsers binding spirit to flesh, and flesh to bone. Lia felt a sense of straining, perhaps the Dragon fire of Flicker’s gift bound in the form of a Human. Her hands played upon the controls as in a dream, setting a south-westerly course for Erigar Island. The sails were fully deployed to gobble up a bellyful of the night breeze. The stove burned cheerfully. She topped it up with a few chips of dry jalkwood.
A dream seemed to creep over her, a darkness deeper even than the night.
A Dragon lay in his lair.
Nay, not a lair, but a cage of indestructible Dragon bone, bound with bands of magic-infused iron. The Dragon shifted restlessly, as if gripped by dreams of his own–or touched by hers. Anger had long since guttered into grief. Hope lay crushed beneath a burden of despair. The Dragon circled his cage one more time, dragging his steps, and no light of the Island-World entered his eyes. He was blind.