Tag Archives: dragons

Domina Cultures – Dragons

Every flame has a dawn.”

Io, the Concordant Dragon

After the Big Three (fels, lupes, and ursas), the laces were one of the first kemo cultures to arise. While they were initially as confused and chaotic as the rest, they were soon brought to heel by their Animal King. This was Io, the Concordant Dragon, who knew that the toy maker was not powerful enough to give him what he really wanted—the body of a dragon. Io did his best regardless, giving himself scales and fangs, and eventually a long snout and curling horns. He even tried some Canian fire-breathing buffs, with little success.

Under Io’s rule, the laces flourished, even with the war between the crocs and the gators. His ten sons and daughters became general-purpose warlords for the culture, keeping them strong despite outside threats.

However, soon after the Rampage, Io died. His massive body finally overpowered his weak, mortal heart, and he passed away in his bed. Only one of his children was present at his last moments—along with a witness from Necessarius and a small horde of nurses—and heard his last request. Io wished for his dream to not die with him.

His son left his side and did as he ordered. The son was baseline at the time, but he had himself heavily modified using a ‘sarian toy box in a way that mirrored his father: Thick scales, strong claws and a long snout, and even a tail and wings. He put his own spin on the package, however, choosing bronze scales and decorative webbing on the ears and running down the back.

He named himself Chronepsis, the Silent, Wyrm of the Dispassionate Watchers, second of the dragons. While his siblings warred, he met with Necessarius and officially founded the culture, with the signing witnessed by the Paladins. Only Lendys, the Balancer, joined the initial signing, but it did not take long for the others to put aside their petty feuds and sign as well. Their pride would allow nothing less.

The ten children of Io always had their share of followers among the laces, but becoming their own culture changed things. Suddenly they were free to recruit from pools of people who did not want to associate with the kemos. Tiamat and Garyx recruited from the Acheroni demons, while Bahamut and Tamara found allies among the younger angels. Baselines who had never been interested in any of the cultures suddenly found one they were willing to join, and the dragons accepted them with open arms.

Io’s children still fight, but nowhere near to the extent as before. Lendys works to keep everything nonlethal, and Chronepsis and his Watchers take note of those who break pacts and alliances. Slowly, grudgingly, the dragons are moving towards peace.

Things are not perfect, however. Many laces see the existence of the dragons as a betrayal, and have launched raids against the new domains. Other kemo cultures think the dragons are trying to dodge old debts by rebranding themselves, and are willing to fight for what they are owed. And the fey, for unknown reasons, are gleefully finding every excuse to attack the dragons at any opportunity. Feyborn Princes lead raids on dragon supply trucks, and supposedly wild monsters continually slip past dragon security to wreak havoc.

Now, the entire city holds its breath, waiting to see what the newborn dragons will do. Will they fight for vengeance against those who have wronged them? Accept fault and pay retribution? Or will they simply splinter into civil war, brothers and sisters unable to accept their father’s plan for them?

Dragon honored are called dragoons, while their deviants are known as linnorms. Their warlords are called Wyrms, and their novices wyrmlings. Their subcultures are called clans, while their microcultures (the sub-subcultures) are called blazes.

Subcultures:

Adroit Appraisers of Astilabor

The followers of the Acquisitor, the Appraisers are working hard to build a real economy for the dragons. They have done their best to open up trade with other cultures, but are still having difficulty due to misunderstandings with the kemos. They have made some progress with several demon clans, however, such as the Mammonites. Their domain is Hoardkeep, in West Middle.

Beatific Dancers of Hlal

The artists and performers of the dragons and followers of the Keeper of Tales. As expected, they are in charge of theaters, libraries, and all other forms of entertainment under dragon control. The fact that they can name a number of famous actors and artists in their clan gives them more popularity than most of the dragon clans. The Appraisers have repeatedly attempted to use them to make deals and establish trade, but the Dancers have little interest in such things. Their domain, such as it is, is the Laughing Lizard in West Inner. It is little more than a bar with some rooms above that the Dancers are free to use.

Compassionate Healers of Tamara

The medics, doctors, and nurses of the dragons. They also have a large number of scientists and researchers among their number, working closely with their counterparts in the Dispassionate Watchers. They follow the Mercy, and she personally trained most of them. They have begun building hospitals in their territory, which has made them the most popular of the newborn dragon clans. Their domain is Quellar di Irisvari (often inaccurately just called Irisvari), in North Outer.

Corrupt Horrors of Falazure

The vampires of the dragons. Not only do they get nighteyes in addition to the standard dragon package, but they emulate the terror tactics of the earliest vampires. While so far they have kept from becoming unreasonably violent, there are still many eyes on them, wary of another Striga and her Bloody Thirteen. They follow Falazure, the Night, a lithe beast with jet-black scales and the ability to teleport through shadows. Their domain is hidden and unknown, if they even have one.

Dispassionate Watchers of Chronepsis

The first dragon clan, they would be the masters of the culture if their wyrm, the Silent, was at all interested in ruling. Instead, he prefers to simply observe and record everything and everyone. While technically the Watchers are the dragon’s spies, they do so little with the information they collect that it is difficult to call them that. They are better known as librarians, as their outposts always have massive book libraries in addition to the data archives that nearly everyone else in the city uses. Their domain is the Observatory, in South Central.

Merciless Justicars of Lendys

The police and judges of the dragons. While the other clans have their own security and enforcement personnel, the Justicars are the ones called in whenever anything gets even the slightest bit complicated. They are of course still too young a clan to have a proper history of trials and precedents, but they are quickly gaining a reputation as being fair, if harsh and humorless. Necessarius has even called them in to help adjudicate a minor dispute. The Justicars follow Lendys, the Balancer. Their domain is the Hall of Justice, an old court house in North Central from the early days of the city.

Sacred Warders of Bahamut

One of the primary branches of the dragon army, the Warders are more interested in defense and fortification than aggressive actions. They consult with every other clan on domain defenses, and are hired far and wide as guards and security personnel. They have even begun to find work outside the dragons, thanks in no small part to their wyrm’s old security connections. The Warders follow Bahamut, the Platinum, a man of shining ideals that might eventually be tarnished by Domina. Their domain is simply called Bahamut’s Palace, and is in East Outer, right up against the wall.

Screaming Destroyers of Garyx

The wild berserkers of the dragons, the Destroyers are known for a complete lack of fear, a bloody and merciless approach to combat, and a shocking loyalty to all dragons. While the Destroyers are far too wild to be a standard part of the dragon army, they make excellent shock troops, and have proven their worth several times against fey attacks. They follow Garyx, the Firelord, but he generally leaves them to their own devices. They have no domain of their own, but they are usually welcomed at any dragon domain.

Unholy Ravagers of Tiamat

Despite their disturbing name, the Ravagers are a calm and controlled clan who serve as the offensive branch of the dragon military. They believe strongly in first strikes and offensive deployment, and specialize in lightning-fast attacks that leave the enemy decimated before they even know what is happening. While they have undeniable friction with the Sacred Warders, in the end both sides grudgingly admit that the other is necessary for the continued safety of the dragon culture. Their wyrm is Tiamat, the Chromatic, one of the most dangerous of all dragons. Their domain is Azharul, in West Outer.

Unstoppable Messengers of Aasterinian

The Messengers are, of course, in charge of all forms of communication among the dragons. In addition to couriers and delivery drivers, they also have telecommunications specialists, social media experts, and programmers dedicated to keeping everything running smoothly. It is widely agreed that they are the most valuable of the dragon subcultures, and the culture would quite likely already have died an ignoble death without their assistance. Their wyrm is Aasterinian, the Messenger, who is rumored to be a changeling bruscar. Their domain is Brassberg, in North-West Outer, but it is often referred to as simply the Post Office.

Blazes:

Bahamut’s blazes:

Falx Templamut’s blaze

Falx Templamut was moderately famous even before he became one of Bahamut’s first dragoons. He is seventy years old, which makes him one of the oldest people in a city where it is very rare for anyone to live past fifty. He was also completely baseline, without any health buffs to help with his failing age. Now that he is a dragon, he has embraced the opportunities of the toy maker, and he is as lithe and fast as any wyrmling. Members of his blaze tend to be on the older side, but he does not discriminate by age. Instead, he looks for wisdom and patience in his recruits—things far more difficult to teach.

Saint Leomar’s blaze

As his name implies, Saint Leomar was once an angelic Saint, a Dawn-caste working closely with Sealtiel. Outsiders often refer to him as “Bahamut’s greatest catch,” but Bahamut himself insists that Leomar is simply a close friend who decided to join him when the dragons were founded. Leomar’s blaze is still small, but counts many former angels among its number. Leomar drives them hard, trying to prove his worth to the clan.

Medrinia’s blaze

Medrinia the Tearful is a former Rahab, recruited after she fled the worst parts of the merfolk culture. Rumors persist that Bahamut plans to send Medrinia and her blaze back under the waves to fight the Rahabs, but nothing solid has manifested yet. While most of Medrinia’s blaze does consist of former merfolk, none of them have returned to White-Cap Bay since their transformations. The blaze rarely leaves the Palace, and are only known by the rest of the city due to Medrinia’s public recruitment.

Vanathor’s blaze

Vanathor was once a generalist demon, with a few tribal tattoos showing allegiance to the Mother Monster, but little else. He is known for his excellent singing voice, and rarely leaves Bahamut’s Palace, as he is too busy organizing entertainment with his blaze. He and his blaze work with Hlal and her men on a regular basis.

Xathanon’s blaze

Xathanon the Energetic was once one of the most skilled Day-caste angels under Saint Nicholas. When he became a dragon, he made sure to include his dayskin in his new form. His golden scales often seem to glow with an inner light, and in an emergency he can unleash a Daybreak that even an angel would find impressive. Xathanon does not have dayeyes, though, instead relying on thick eyelids to protect him from his own light. For some reason, most members of his blaze are former vampires. While most of them have given up the nighteyes, they still prefer to stalk the streets at night, defending dragon domains from all comers.

Tiamat’s blazes:

Amduscias’ blaze

Like Malphas, Amduscias is a former Acheroni, but in his case he served under Hextor the Tyrant. While Amduscias hated Hextor’s wanton cruelty, he understands the important of discipline and punishment. He rarely leads raids, instead preferring to stay at Azharul with his blaze, policing Tiamat’s domain and maintaining the jails. His blaze counts many former slaves of Hextor among their number, but also a surprising number of former followers from Wee Jas, Maglubiyet, and Lei Kung.

Goap’s blaze

Goap was once an angel. What his name was, his caste, or anything else about him—these are all mysteries. Goap cut off ties with the angels, removing his dayskin and dayeyes, and refuses to answer questions. He has a number of former angels in his blaze, but none of them have kept any of their angelic toys. He spends most of his time launching raids on minor angel outposts, but it is a well-known fact that he wants nothing more than to attack one of the Heavens themselves.

Malphas’ blaze

Malphas the Heavy-Handed was once an Acheroni demon, a disgraced orc working under Gruumsh. He was personally recruited by Tiamat, who found his interest in monsters to be useful. Malphas spends most of his time researching fey monsters, sometimes even capturing and taming them. His blaze is one of the few groups of scientists among the dragons right now, though that will likely change as the other wyrms put more money into research.

Wyrms:

The Acquisitor

Astilabor, the Lady of Hoards, the Green-Scaled Heart, is the wyrm of the Adroit Appraisers. She is known for her shrewd economic insight, as well as a shocking lack of greed. Current estimates put her personal net worth in the neighborhood of several hundred dollars; she has sunk the rest of it into building the dragon economy. She is a harsh and no-nonsense woman who always seems to be rushing around Hoardkeep fixing something. Physically, her modifications are minimal. She has green scales and sharp teeth, but little more. Rumors persist that she has the ability to fly under her own power, but this is unconfirmed. While she is technically a chromatic dragon under Tiamat’s command, she prefers to be left alone so that she can do her work for the good of the culture as a whole.

The Balancer

Lendys, the Justice, the Law-Bringer, the Pure White Order, is the wyrm of the Merciless Justicars. She is a loyal chromatic dragon following Tiamat, and often personally presides over Unholy Ravager trials. However, she gives no special treatment to Tiamat’s men; all are equal on the Balancer’s scales, and she will even fight Tiamat if her judgment is controversial. She has worked with Necessarius several times, but normally through proxies. She seems to avoid getting within ten miles of NHQ if at all possible.

The Chromatic

Tiamat, the Queen of Chromatic Dragons, the Wyrm of Many Colors, Most Beautiful and Terrible. In addition to being the wyrm of the Unholy Ravagers, she commands the chromatic dragons, which consist of Astilabor, Lendys, Garyx, and Falazure. However, in practice, she avoids exerting her authority too much, as she is well aware that her siblings are not particularly fond of her. She is the oldest of Io’s children, though she only beats her twin, Bahamut, by fifteen minutes. She is large and imposing, with wickedly curved horns, a maw filled with dozens of razor-sharp teeth, wings, and scales blending beautifully between the five chromatic colors—black, blue, green, red, and white. On a more personal level, Tiamat is swift, merciless, and unimaginably destructive, but slow to anger and quick to smile. While she is slow to trust, her siblings all grudgingly admit that she would do anything for any one of them.

The Firelord

Garyx, the Destroyer, the Renewer, the Phoenix and the Flame. He is one of the most well-known of the dragon wyrms, as before Io’s death he was a famous party animal, inviting people from every culture to take part in his latest rager. His parties could last for days and were always legendary, though they did have an unfortunate tendency to leave the building a smoking ruin. Now that Garyx is officially a dragon warlord, he has tried his best to rein in his excesses. Parties are still common, but they are less likely to leave people in chem-comas or missing for weeks. He works closely with Hlal, who is trying to get him to control his clan, most of whom are violent berserkers. On a more personal note, Garyx is a small man with blue scales, a large maw with sharp teeth, and a huge horn almost like a rhino’s. The horn has become something of an unintentional symbol of Garyx, and many of his dragons have copies of it. It is almost more common than blue scales.

The Keeper of Tales

Hlal, the Jester, the Joker, is above all else a scientist. Her titles are something of a cruel joke from her siblings—Hlal loves all forms of storytelling and jokes, but she herself is absolutely terrible at them. Her clan is one-half scientists and researchers, one-half novelists and jesters. She struggles to keep both sides balanced, and has yet to find the proper equilibrium. Her people have flashes of inspiration, however, and her entertainment companies are bringing in enough money to keep the clan afloat. Hlal herself has copper-colored scales and large, webbed wings. Her hands are smaller and more delicate than most of her siblings, the better to perform her latest experiments.

The Mercy

Tamara the Silver is by far the kindest of the dragon wyrms. She cares for nothing but healing the sick and comforting the dying, and puts nearly all her money into hospitals. What little money she has left over goes to scientists and researchers trying to discover new medical techniques and cures. She works closely with Chronepsis and his researchers, and also Hlal—though Hlal’s researchers are rarely good enough to be called in on major projects. As her name implies, Tamara has silver scales, buffed almost to a mirror sheen. She is one of the few wyrms not to have wings, but she doesn’t mind.

The Messenger

Aasterinian, the Courier, the Messenger, the Runner. She is a talented programmer and a savant with social media, skills she cultivates in her clan. More than her siblings, her clan mirrors her almost perfectly. Every single Unstoppable Messenger is laser-focused on keeping dragon communications moving smoothly, and they often sell their services to outsiders, which makes them perhaps the richest dragon clan. Aasterinian’s skills are so impressive that it has been theorized that she is secretly a changeling bruscar. While that is unlikely, she does have a small number of bruscar among her ranks, perhaps making her clan unique across the city. Aasterinian herself is a lithe, sinuous beast with brass scales who rarely smiles, but if a joke can get past her defenses, it can leave her rolling on the floor.

The Night

Falazure, the Horror, the Terror, is a loyal servant of Tiamat and a powerful tool in her arsenal. As a former vampire, he is well-acquainted with terror tactics, and more than one enemy of the dragons has only known of his presence when all the lights went out and people started dying. Falazure is a strict, no-nonsense wyrm who refuses to compromise on anything for any reason. He is relatively small for a wyrm, but between his black scales and shadow teleportation, his stealth more than makes up for any physical weaknesses.

The Platinum

Bahamut, the King of Metallic Dragons, the Platinum Dragon, the Shining Ideal. In addition to the Sacred Warders, he commands the metallic dragons, which consist of Hlal, Tamara, Aasterinian, and Chronepsis. He has more authority than Tiamat, and is unofficially the lord of the dragon culture. He is well-liked by his siblings and his followers alike, and fights hard to keep the dragons together in order to honor his father’s dying wish. He once fought with Tiamat, his twin, almost constantly, but he has managed to restrain himself ever since Chronepsis convinced him that the dragons needed to stand as their own culture. While Bahamut himself has platinum-colored scales, the Sacred Warders prefer gold scales to show both loyalty and deference.

The Silent

Chronepsis, the Fate, the Reaper, the Judge. He was the only one of Io’s children present at his death, and the first to become a true dragon. Chronepsis is calm and composed at all times, always calculating the next move. While he himself prefers simple observation, he has invested quite a bit into research and science in order to advance the dragons and the city as a whole. Because of this, his clan is known mostly as scientists and librarians. He has a close relationship with his sister Lendys, who helped him found the dragons. Other than that, he is largely a mystery. He is so closed-off, even to his siblings, that it can be difficult to tell what he is thinking.

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Scene 299 – Relinquo

RELINQUO

ADAM

January 1st, 2002. A Tuesday, of all days. It felt weird for this to be happening on a Tuesday. It just seemed… random. Which I guess it was. The fact that it was the first of the year was far more important.

I stood in a crowd at the square of South Gate, watching the ambassadors leave. South Gate was also called Demon Gate, which was an important symbol. The demons were the most open-minded culture, or so Lily had told me.

There were ten ambassadors, but they each had at least a handful of bodyguards. That made the procession a more confusing than it needed to be. Thankfully, Lily was standing right next to me the whole time.

“That’s Sargeras,” she said, pointing at an older demon in a crisp military uniform. He was tall and muscular with red skin, but just normally muscular. He didn’t look like a warlord. Most warlords looked like they bench-pressed cars in their spare time. “He’s one of the founders of the demon culture.”

I nodded. I wasn’t completely ignorant. “He’s the leader of the hellions, right?”

“The first one, at least, and he leads the largest Legion. But calling him the leader of the entire subculture is a stretch.”

Sargeras continued marching, looking straight ahead. His face was impassive and unreadable, and his six bodyguards looked about the same. One of them had a flagpole with two flags. I recognized the demon flag on top, but underneath it was another one. That was probably the hellion flag, or even Sargeras’ personal one.

“That’s the Dragon, right?” I said, pointing to the next group in line. The vampire leader was easy to pick out—he was the only one not wearing daygoggles. He smiled and waved at the crowd, those perfect eyes of his twinkling. His entourage remained stone-faced, like they were just putting up with his antics. He had a flag-bearer too, but his only had one flag. That must have been a statement; the Dragon didn’t need his own flag. The vampire one was more than enough.

Lily nodded. “Dracul is the one who started all this, you know.”

I frowned. “I thought it was Butler and President Martinez.”

“Not that. I mean he’s the first one who decided to come himself, rather than send a representative. Everyone else decided to follow suit. That’s why they each sent a major warlord instead of just a diplomat.” She smiled. “He often does things like that.”

I raised an eyebrow. “You like him? I thought a lot of people had problems with him.”

She shrugged. “I like everyone. I see the best in people.”

Fair enough. That was why we were dating.

“Here come the angels,” Lily said. “That’s Pistis Sophia up front.”

The woman was… well, she wasn’t quite a woman any more. She was naked, but she had no sex organs at all. Even her breasts werelittle more than bumps. Her skin was a light green and glowed just a tiny bit. It was hard to see under the morning sun. She smiled and waved at the crowd, but her six angels didn’t. They wore large, concealing brown robes, probably to hide their dayskin from American eyes.

I struggled to remember. “She’s in charge of… the spies, I know that, but which Heaven…”

“Solania,” Lily said. “The Crystal Heaven.”

“Ah, yes.” The second flag on her pole was crystalline. “I should have guessed. Should the angels be sending spies to these things?”

She smiled at me. “They’re all spies, dear.”

“That’s not what I meant. I mean one so obvious.”

“Ah.” She shrugged. “She has her uses. The Hebdomad knows what they’re doing.”

I sighed, and nodded to the next in line. “Who’s the fel?”

He was a full anthro, with a squashed face and white fur. I was pretty sure he was wearing clothing, but it was hard to tell. The fur was light and fluffy, and obscured most of his body. He gave a few half-hearted waves to the crowd, but otherwise didn’t seem to be paying much attention.

“That’s the White Cat.”

“Never heard of him.”

Lily chuckled. “Oh, you are such a dear. That’s the founder of the fels. One of the three founders of the kemos, in fact.” Her smile faded. “He’s the last one alive.”

I watched him walk by. He didn’t seem all that impressive.

His entourage was far more interesting. There were two fels, two lupes, and two ursas. There was one flag-bearer for each, with a different flag underneath the kemo one. I didn’t recognize the flags, but I was willing to bet that they were the fel, lupe, and ursa flags.

Next were the giants. Most of the subcultures were represented in their entourage. I recognized the trolls, Nifs, and Muspels, but they were easy. There were a few hairy guys who I assumed were either sasquatches or yetis. I didn’t recognize the ambassador himself, though.

“Who’s that?” I asked. “That’s not Thor, right?”

Lily chuckled, but she seemed a bit sad. “No. That’s Skrag the Slaughterer.”

I stared at her.

She shrugged. “He was the only option. The ogres are mostly neutral among the giants.”

I turned back to the procession. I should have known Skrag was an ogre. He was shirtless, with a big bouncy sumo belly. His muscular arms were adorned with tribal tattoos. Broad, sweeping designs that probably meant something important. Not that I knew what. He had a short beard and was bald. This contrasted with the other ogres in his entourage, who wore their hair wild.

Behind the giants was another group. Their leader was a beautiful young woman in a stunning black gown dusted with diamonds. Her black hair was cropped short, like a boy’s, and her eyes glittered like stars. She smiled at everyone as she passed, but no one smiled back. I didn’t need Lily to tell me who this was.

Maeve, the Princess of Wind and Frost. Maiden of the Unseelie Court.

One of the bigger girls behind her was carrying a flag. It was one I hadn’t seen before. It seemed to be a standard mythological fairy, with cute wings and long hair. It looked absolutely nothing like Maeve or any of the other fey I had seen. I wondered if that was the joke.

“I’m surprised one of the actual fey is going,” I said. “Are they sure the homunculus will be able to operate so far from the city?”

Lily nodded. “That one has an upgraded radio package. She could pilot it on Luna with only a tiny delay.”

“Do you recognize anyone in her entourage?”

She shook her head. “No. But they might have been altered too much to tell for sure. Maeve is loaded for combat, though. The big one is a tank, the little one is stealth. With those two, she could probably conquer New York if she felt like it.”

“What about the medium-sized one?”

“Either a support gunner or something specialized. Poison, maybe. Now shush, the changelings are coming.”

They were. I was surprised they were right behind the fey, but I guess whoever decided the order of the procession had a reason for it. I recognized Eccretia in the front, followed by Domothon and Ferenil. There were two other changelings I didn’t recognize. They were probably representatives of the Black Hats and the Gray Hats. They were all glaring at the fey in front of them, but Maeve didn’t even seem to notice. The changelings didn’t have a flag, which made them seem a bit awkward among the other proud cultures.

Behind them came something unexpected: Two women, twins. They appeared to be completely baseline, but I wasn’t fooled. They both worked together to hold up a a flagpole with two flags. The top was a twisting fish, and underneath it a shark.

“Those the Dagonites?” I asked.

Lily nodded. “Hevatica and Dilithase. They’re both sirens, which is only to be expected. The Naiads almost managed to get one of their own chosen as the ambassador, but fought with the Nereids and the Oceanids. The twins swooped in and took the place themselves.”

“Why don’t they have an entourage?”

“They do. Made up of representatives from both the Atlanteans and the Dagonites. But the twins are the only ones with a power that lets them stand for long enough to be part of this procession.”

I glanced at her. “What are they going to do for the actual discussions? Wheel in a fish tank?”

She smiled. “Maybe. The merfolk don’t need much from America. They just need to make sure they don’t get screwed over when they’re not looking.”

“Well, I—” Something caught my attention. “Who is that?

The last group in the procession consisted of five people. They strode with their heads held high, but I didn’t recognize their culture. They had thick scales, more like a crocodile than a lizard, and some of them had long and narrow snouts. Each of the five had different color scales: Red, green, white, blue, and the woman in front was silver. Her eyes were strong, and she smiled an anthro smile at everyone she passed.

I didn’t recognize the flag, either. It looked like ten triangles arranged in a circle around a sphere. It was more geometric than some of the other ones.

“That is Tamara, the Mercy,” Lily said. “Wyrm of the Compassionate Healers. They’re one of the ten dragon subcultures.”

Oh, right, dragons. I had forgotten they were a thing now. Laura had tried to explain to me the politics of Io’s death, but I hadn’t been able to pay attention. Tamara appeared to have wings on her back, but they were folded up and were hard to spot.

“I’m surprised they’re allowed to send an ambassador.”

“They’re an official culture. They registered with Necessarius and everything.” She smirked. “Besides, can you imagine the riots if the fey were allowed to go and the dragons weren’t?”

I chuckled. Yeah, even someone as politics-blind as me could see how that would be a bad idea.

Lily watched for a few moments longer, then pulled me away, away from the procession.

I frowned. “What is it? Isn’t the ‘sarian delegation coming up next?”

“Yes, but you need to leave soon.”

I sighed as she pulled me through the crowd, down a few side streets. I had been trying not to think about it. “I didn’t—maybe I made a mistake. Maybe this isn’t the best time for me to leave the city.”

“You need a vacation,” Lily said. “Besides, this is the perfect time. With the ambassadors coming in, no one is going to pay attention to you.”

That would be nice. I was beginning to miss my anonymity. Even now, some of the people we passed whispered and pointed me out. Well, some of them pointed to Lily, but most noticed me first. I had tried not to make a big deal of it, but I had saved the city pretty much by myself. That was the kind of thing people remembered.

“Do I have to take a plane?” I asked. We were out of the crowd now. Lily hailed a cab. “Couldn’t I just… I don’t know… hide out on the ambassador boat?”

She rolled her eyes.

“Okay, fine, that wouldn’t work.” For like a million reasons, starting with the fact that the ambassadors wouldn’t let me. “But can’t I just take a different boat?”

“All the ‘sarian ships are either escorting the ambassadors or remaining behind to guard the city, just in case. There aren’t any others available.”

The cab pulled up, and we piled inside. “What about the prisoner transfer boats? I came in on one of those. Not as a prisoner, but you know what I mean.”

“The airport, please,” Lily said to the driver. He nodded and drove off. She turned to me. “Those boats are controlled by New York, not Domina. Calling for one would attract a lot of attention. Defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?”

I sighed and sat back in my seat.

Lily cocked her head at me. “Are you that worried about your parents?”

I rolled my eyes. “No. They’re annoying, but it’ll be fine.”

“They won’t force you to stay home or anything?”

“No, nothing like that. They’ll tell me to be careful about a million times, but that’s all. They’re big on the whole trusting me to make my own decisions thing.” I smiled. “Besides, what are they gonna do? Cut me off? I make more money monster hunting already.” I thought about it. “I should tell them to stop sending me money. It’s not like I’m going to class any more.”

I never used to think about that sort of thing before I met Lily. If someone offers you money, you take it. Well, you check that it’s not a trap first, but you don’t worry about morality. Growing a conscience was annoying.

“Then what’s the problem?”

I paused, embarrassed. “I’ve… never been on a plane before.”

Lily blinked, then laughed. “You’re scared! That’s so cute!”

I scowled. “It is not.”

“Yes it is! You fight monsters on a daily basis, but one little plane ride has you looking for escape routes! That is just adorable.” She pinched my cheek and giggled. “Oh, I wish I had more time to make fun of you for this.”

I pushed her off. It took two tries. The first time, she accidentally used her strength to resist me. I couldn’t even move her an inch. “I’m getting on the plane, don’t you worry about that. I almost came to the city in the first place on a plane! I just…” I shrugged helplessly. “I just wish that there was another way.”

She just sat there, smirking.

I sighed. “What are you going to be doing while I’m gone? More work with Clarke?”

“No, we’re mostly done with that. I will be doing a few things for Necessarius, but nothing directly related to Clarke’s experiments or the toy maker. It’s a bit complex, not something to discuss in the back of a cab.”

I nodded. “Fair enough.” The cabbie didn’t seem to be paying attention to us, but that didn’t mean anything.

“We’ll talk more next time I see you,” Lily said. “But for now, let’s just enjoy the drive.”

She leaned up against me. I put my arm around her, and we spent the rest of the drive to the airport like that.

Behind the scenes (scene 299)

Lily/Adam scenes are a bit too cute for me to write regularly. But they also work great since Lily has so much knowledge of the city, while Adam is still lagging behind everyone else on that front.

Scene 249 – Sanctum Gladium

SANCTUM GLADIUM

DEREK

Monday, November 26th, started out pretty simple. March over to Zero Forge with Necessarius, watch Chronepsis and Lendys sign some papers Butler provided, then everybody shakes hands and munches on snacks for a while.

“I’m surprised you agreed to come to this,” my mother said with a chuckle as she stirred something into her tea. “I know you dislike stepping into the spotlight. What made you change your mind?”

“It was the right thing to do,” I grumbled.

She raised an eyebrow, but didn’t argue the point.

I knew she wanted to, though, and the reason why was obvious. Giving a potentially dangerous band of lizards the rights and responsibilities of a culture without vetting them at all looked like a really bad idea from the outside. There was a difference between cautious optimism and blind stupidity. Necessarius couldn’t even spy on them too much; part of the rights of a culture meant they couldn’t do that without just cause. They’d do it anyway, of course, and everyone knew it, but they’d have to keep it minimal.

But I had discussed this with Butler. Io had been a good man, and while his children were an eclectic band of characters, they worked well together when they allowed themselves to. Chronepsis, the new warlord of the Dispassionate Watchers, was not the type to break laws. If anything, his biggest problem was that he might just stand idly by while everyone else did whatever they wanted.

But that was what Lendys had been recruited for. He was not called the Balancer for nothing. The pair would work well together, building a culture that their brothers and sisters would be proud to be a part of.

But try explaining that to my mother. She was a criminal, born in the slums surrounded by criminals, and helped build this city with other criminals. She was a social Darwinist, a member of the Kongeegen party. She just didn’t understand altruistic motives.

I was being too harsh on her. She certainly tried her best, she just had difficulty always seeing the best in people. Mostly, she assumed everyone would betray her, and always stood in a position to take advantage of that. It made her surprisingly chipper.

“Well, if you don’t want to talk about it with me, you don’t have to,” she admitted. “But the Silent is coming this way. I think you’ll need to spend just a bit more time talking with him.” She patted me on the shoulder as she headed off.

The eight-foot tall mountain of muscle, scales, and other body modifications nodded politely to my mother as she passed, and then to me as well. “Honored Paragon. Thank you again for your assistance in this matter.”

“All I ask is that you live up to your promises, Honored… Wyrm. The city has enough cultures like the Nessians and the ekolids. I would appreciate it if the dragons were not added to that list.”

“A reasonable enough request,” the warlord rumbled. “Though I will admit I have heard little from the ekolids recently. Mister Anders’ reports from the Rampage noted that their nests seem abandoned. And Obox-ob has been missing for quite some time.”

“Rumor is that the Composer got him,” I said. “She didn’t say anything about it, but she rarely does. I don’t think she ever even took credit for Mjolnir’s death, now that I think back. Or anyone else, really.”

The dragon quirked his head, almost like a bird. “How are the Thors? I know that the Hammer was the glue holding them together. Thor himself has never been much of a leader of any sort.”

I sighed and sipped at some juice, beginning to wish I had picked something stronger. “Well, they haven’t imploded, but that’s about the extent of the good news. They ended up in a war with the trolls somehow—don’t ask me how, I have no idea—and last I checked the two were trying to destroy each other.” I shrugged. “Though that was before the MEE.”

“Wasn’t the Hammer dating a troll?”

I nodded. “A nice Manca girl doing research on…” I couldn’t remember. I had met her once, and she had told me, but it was a while ago. “…something. Something space related, maybe. Plotting more efficient angles for the space cannons? Anyway, the Thors adored Mjolnir. You’d think they’d follow his legacy and cut down on the racism. But they somehow managed to get themselves embroiled in a war instead.” I shook my head again as I sipped my drink. “At least the other Aesir clans and troll colors are staying out of it for now.”

“That is best,” the massive bronze dragon said with another nod. “Let them work it out. Interference breeds contempt. And worse.”

That made me smirk. “You named your subculture the Dispassionate Watchers. I already knew what your opinion on the matter would be.” My smile faded. “But it’s not like we have much choice. Everyone is too busy dealing with the fallout of the MEE to waste energy on two giant subcultures feuding.”

“Yes. But Anders’ CS Squads and your kensei are helping.”

“Well, I—wait. Adam’s CS Squads? They’re Necessarius.”

“Butler put Anders in charge of training them.”

“Really?” That was news to me. Silver and gold, why was I always the last one to hear about this sort of thing? “Good for him, then. I guess that explains why they’ve been doing so well.” If anyone had experience fighting people with powers, it would be Adam Anders. True, he fought screamers rather than speakers, but still.

I couldn’t read the expression on the dragon’s face. Not just because his elongated maw made it hard, but because he didn’t appear to have an expression. Again: Dispassionate Watchers. “The fact that the two most successful organizations of the moment are aligned with Necessarius helps cement his legitimacy.”

“As does a new culture requesting his permission to operate,” I added.

Finally, Chronepsis managed an expression I recognized—a smirk. “Yes. That helps.”

“Derek,” Laura said as she strode up, only giving a slight nod to the dragon. “We should probably leave. We have things to do today.” I was sure he couldn’t tell, but her stiff demeanor around the newborn warlord told me that she was afraid of him more than she would like to admit. I wondered if she even realized it herself.

“Quite right. Apologies, Honored Wyrm, but we should really be going.”

We bowed to each other slightly, Laura and I said goodbye to our parents, and we headed out through the ever-present noise of Zero Forge itself. It had been a few weeks since the battle between Adam and Elizabeth, and the engineers had done an excellent job of repairing the facilities. Other than a few banks of equipment being newer than the rest, you’d never be able to tell.

Laura remained silent even as we left the Forge, though, and passed through a couple ‘sarian checkpoints. It wasn’t until I realized that we were halfway back to the dorms that I finally decided to speak up.

“Okay, stop,” I said as I grabbed her arm. “What’s up with you? Weren’t you the one who said it was dangerous for us to be walking out alone?” The street was busy enough that people had to walk around us; I pulled us to the side. Many of them gave us second glances, but luckily it didn’t seem like they recognized us.

She took a deep breath. “This has just been a very long day, that’s all.”

“It’s not even noon.” I checked my watch. “Scratch that, it’s not even ten.”

“Yes, that would be my point,” she snapped. She closed her eyes, hand on the diamond ring hanging on a chain around her neck. Where did she get that? It was bugging me. She didn’t have it before she left the district years ago, but she said it was a gift from her mother. It was all very confusing.

I focused back on her. This was not the time to wonder about irrelevant things. “Laura—”

She sighed. “I’m sorry. The city is… changing, and we’re all in the middle of it. It’s very stressful. I just need some time alone, that’s all. I think I’m going to walk back alone.”

“That’s not a good idea. Are you even armed? Let me—”

“It wasn’t a request,” she spat, eyes suddenly hard. She threw off my hand and stomped away, in a slightly different direction than we had been walking before. That way was slightly faster, but it would probably involve walking through ghoul territory.

I sighed, waited until Laura was out of sight around a corner, and whistled.

A young man, fifteen or sixteen with ruddy red skin, dropped down beside me. His brown hair was longer than expected, and tied up in a ponytail with a red ribbon. He nodded deeply as a greeting.

“Honored Paragon?” he asked, hand on his sword.

“Follow her, please,” I ordered. “Without being seen. If there’s any trouble, handle it, but don’t worry about her seeing you in that case. She’ll figure it out anyway.”

“Yes, Honored Paragon,” the kensei said with another nod.

Then he was gone, the only mark of his disappearance being a red streak of light, the afterimage of his ribbon as he activated his speed and jumped to the top of the nearest ‘scraper.

Not all the changes the city was going through were bad.

Behind the Scenes (scene 249)

The kensei were one of the first things I thought of for the series, after the cultures. This has been a long time coming.

In other news, I’m finally getting a Patreon!  Should have done it months ago, but it should be ready by next week.

Scene 248 – Draconem

DRACONEM

LAURA

“This was not a date,” Derek said firmly as we walked down the street.

I glanced down at his arm, which I was clinging to lightly. He had offered it to me in a gentlemanly way as we left the restaurant, and I had accepted it without complaint.

“Not that I care,” I admitted. “But a candlelit dinner at a restaurant with waiters is a date. Even you must know that. You even paid for me. I can pull up a definition for you, but I really don’t see how this is difficult to comprehend.”

“First, it was a thank-you for everything you’ve been doing decently.”

“A thank-you date.”

“Second, I didn’t realize there would be candles. Or wine. Or music. I just heard there was good food, and thought it would be nice to bring someone with me. Killing two birds with one stone.”

I smiled at the unintentional pun. “Well, I suppose being accidentally romantic is better than the opposite. Then again, you’ve always been unintentionally charming.” I felt the smile slide off my face. “This isn’t… you’re not still—”

“No,” he snapped a little too sharply. He took a deep breath. “No,” he repeated, softer this time. “I know this could have been a date. I’m still getting headaches, but they’re not as bad or as frequent. I just don’t want you to think I’m leading you on.”

I resisted the urge to make a comment about the fact that, with my hand in his arm, he pretty much literally was leading me on. “It’s all right. I was mostly teasing. And you were right—the food was very good.”

He grumbled something that sounded almost like agreement.

We walked in silence for a few more blocks, enjoying the cold night air and the simple joy of watching our breath mist out in front of us. More than a few of the vampires and other night-goers recognized us, and gave us quick and friendly nods as we passed them on the street.

It was November 25th, a Sunday, already three weeks after the MEE, and the city was slowly returning to something like normal. The streets were filled with people again, even if they were a bit sparse at this particular hour, and powers were being integrated into society slowly but surely.

The counter-song devices Clarke and I had made were selling well, though they weren’t used quite as much as I thought. I expected people to leave them on at all times for protection, at least in shops. Turned out that people preferred to have their own abilities active rather than to have those of potential enemies deactivated.

There were still a few dozen cases of people using powers for crimes that popped up every day, but that was unavoidable, and Butler’s CS Squad was containing them quite well. Clarke and I—well, mostly Clarke—were coming up with new and improved uses of the toy maker every day. His flesh morphing ability had proven a bottomless font of knowledge.

All in all, things were far from perfect, but they were as close as they ever got in Domina.

So I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Elizabeth was still alive, still out there. Silk had said she dropped her in a volcano, but we didn’t know how long that would hold her, and when she came back she’d be pissed. She wouldn’t be able to turn the entire city into screamers again, but she was far from harmless. She could recruit more Blackguards, I was pretty sure. Even if she couldn’t, an immortal—

“You all right there?” Derek asked with a small smile. Not one of his heart-stopping ones that had earned him affection from every girl he ever met, just a little one to remind me he cared. “You’ve been quiet for a while now.”

“Just thinking,” I admitted. “Trying to figure out where to go next.”

“Well, there’s an ice cream shop up ahead.”

“I meant more broadly. Goals for the future.” I paused for a moment, considering. “I know Akane is doing quite well with those kensei of hers. What about you? You planning to recruit and soldiers of your own?”

“Technically, the kensei are my soldiers,” he said with a grin. “I’ve been using them on some monster hunts, and that’s been going pretty well. Might even start sending them off on their own soon.”

I looked at him sideways. “Really?” I had no complaints, but he had a well-deserved reputation for refusing to let anyone do anything mildly dangerous without his direct supervision. Akane complained about it quite a bit, on the rare occasions she decided to talk around me. She was quiet around everyone, but more so around me, and I still didn’t know why.

“They’re a good bunch,” he admitted with a shrug. “And Akane is training them well. Plus, there are about a dozen of them now. There are just too many of them for me to oversee personally at this point.”

I still had a feeling he was less happy about that than he was pretending, but I was at least willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. “Well, good. You can’t protect everyone, despite your best efforts, and I don’t want you to feel like you have—”

“Hey, what’s that over there?” he said with a frown.

Annoyed, I followed his gaze, barely in time to see a dark shape dart down an alley and out of sight.

No.”

He ignored me, stepping forward. “C’mon, I want to see what it is.”

I held him back with a hand on his arm. “I do too, but we are not walking into an obvious ambush. You know better than that.”

He tugged, dragging me along behind him. “There’s something about this I can’t put my finger on. Something about the man. His skin, maybe? C’mon, we’ll be careful, but we need to see this.”

I fruitlessly tried to restrain him. “Be careful by not going.”

More ignoring me. It wasn’t too long before we were at the mouth of the alley, trying and failing to penetrate the darkness with nothing but our baseline eyes. I thought for a moment, then pulled out my phone and turned on the light, illuminating the corridor.

The shadow was waiting for us.

It was as tall as an ogre, seven or eight feet and change, but covered in thick bronze scales, almost like a croc or gator, but with a shiny metallic sheen and interlocking together more smoothly than those of the order crocodilia. Indeed, I nearly mistook him for an alligator at first, with his long, smooth snout with only a few teeth poking out. But his large ear-frills and the webbed spines edging along his vertebrae told another story. Whatever this thing was, it wasn’t a standard alligator or crocodile kemo.

A thick, strong tail, also lined with the same webbed spines that worked their way down his back, thrashed on the ground, drawing attention to his massive feet, strong and broad like a lizard and clawed like a dinosaur.

Then he spread his wings.

Just once, a short flap of agitation, but it was enough to see that they were some ten feet wide, webs of membrane supported by two long, thin arm-like limbs, with the membrane itself stretching from his shoulders down to his rear. He folded them away carefully, not quite managing to hide them behind his massive bulk, but doing a good job of trying. I doubted they would provide lift for anything of his size, but that was a problem with his weight, not the wings themselves. They were, without a doubt, fully and perfectly functional. If they were on my back, I would be able to keep up with Robyn in the air.

This creature, whatever he was, was a monster that even the toy box would have difficulty creating. Either another box had been stolen when I wasn’t looking, or he had some power that made such things far easier.

“Knight Derek,” he rumbled, his voice surprisingly low and refined. Not at all like the gravelly gargle most kemo anthros possessed. “Dame Laura. A pleasure to meet you both. Apologies for ambushing you like this. But your secretary has been blocking my calls.”

My face remained calm, but the light from my phone shook slightly. “The pleasure is ours.”

Derek, being Derek, managed to seize on the least important scrap of information in the world. “Secretary? What secretary?”

I sighed. “Not all speedsters are warriors. One of the kensei is a terrible swordsman, but a wonderful assistant. I’ve been using him as a secretary. He’s quite useful, most of the time.” And it was better than letting Derek answer his own phone. He tended to jump at any call for help.

“And Akane allowed this?”

“It was her idea.”

Derek frowned, but turned back to our… friend… and bowed slightly. “I apologize for the difficulty. But due to that, I am afraid you have us at a disadvantage. You know us, but we do not know you. To be honest, I am not even certain of your culture.”

The creature bowed in turn. “And I apologize as well. I am Chronepsis, the Silent, sixth child of Io, the Concordant Dragon, and warlord of the Dispassionate Watchers. I am a dragon. Second of my kind.”

“Chronepsis?” I asked, puzzled. Derek was puzzled for a different reason, of course—he never paid enough attention to politics; he rarely recognized warlords he hadn’t fought or worked for. “I was under the impression that you and your father were not on speaking terms.”

“I made an exception. When he called from his deathbed.”

“Ah.” That certainly explained why he had been more active recently, then. Some sort of last wish from his father. Such things were common. I definitely hadn’t heard about him making such extensive modifications, though. Last I checked, the sixth child of Io was completely baseline. Had he made such major changes in just the last three weeks? “I am sorry for the loss of your father, Honored Wyrm. What may I do for you?”

The dragon smiled in that strange manner of anthros without proper lips. It is difficult to explain, but they manage it well enough. “Ah, you have heard. Of my attempts to build my father’s dream. A culture, a true culture, not just a tiny little kemo clan.”

I nodded, ignoring the look of befuddlement Derek was giving me. “As I understand, you are having some trouble with your siblings. Bahamut and Tiamat are still at war, and the others have been taking sides.”

The newborn warlord started ticking names off on his fingers. “Aasterinian, Hlal, and Tamara fight with Bahamut. Astilabor, Garyx, and Falazure have taken Tiamat’s side. Thankfully, Lendys has joined me in neutrality. But he has never been the most powerful of my siblings.”

I struggled to remember the various colors assigned to each sibling. Io had always been a very well-known warlord among the laces, and his massive family wasn’t exactly a secret, but it was still hard to recall exactly what names and titles went with which personality. “So… they’re split by color, then? The metallics—minus you—side with the Platinum Dragon, and the chromatics are working with the Chromatic Dragon, not counting the Balancer. Is that right?”

“Correct,” he rumbled.

Derek crossed his arms over his chest. “And now… you want our help to sort everything out? To unite your feuding family under your banner?”

“Not in the way that you think. I do not wish to lead them. I do not wish to control them. I wish only to watch.” He spread his clawed hands wide. “But my father has given me a task. I must see it done. The dragons must become a culture. My siblings must take up our father’s mantle.”

Realization dawned. “You want us to talk to Butler for you, to talk to him about signing you in as an official culture, with all the associated rights and responsibilities. You really think that will work?”

“Correct,” he rumbled, stretching his wings briefly again.

“Need I remind you that the last time a culture was officially recognized, they turned around and declared a weird crusade thing on the city days later,” Derek pointed out, his gaze strong and unwavering. “And they’ve been suspiciously quiet ever since. What proof do we have that the dragons will not go the same way as the fey?”

“The fey are insane.” He didn’t elaborate.

In fairness, it actually was a pretty compelling argument all on its own.

“Still,” I said, pushing past the many questions I had. “What proof do you have that this will even work? Even if the dragons become a real culture, what proof do you have that your siblings won’t just ignore you and continue fighting?”

“We will wait,” he explained, webbed spines ruffling. “I will sign. Lendys will sign. And there will be eight other lines waiting for my siblings. They will come. They will sign. Their pride will not let it stand unanswered.”

“I’m still not sure they’ll care. Necessarius isn’t in the best of shape these days.” Failing to prevent the MEE made Butler look weak. There had even been a couple failed votes to oust him. His reputation was recovering, but slowly.

“You underestimate yourselves.”

I frowned. “What?”

Now it was Derek’s turn to nod in understanding while I was confused. “Ah, yes, I see. You don’t want us to just go to Butler, you want us to actually witness the signing. Along with the rest of the Paladins as well, I take it.”

“Correct.”

Finally, I understood. “That will give a legitimacy to your culture that Butler alone could never manage. I’d be very surprised if any of them could stay back for long. I’d give it a month, maybe less, before they’ve all signed.”

“It will not be quite that easy,” Chronepsis warned. “My siblings are eclectic. Tiamat hates following. Falazure does not enjoy interacting with others. Tamara dislikes Necessarius. But this has a better chance of working than waiting.”

“Quite right,” I said with a sad smile. “When did you want to do this? Tomorrow? Friday might be better, though I understand if you don’t want to wait that long.”

The massive warlord remained silent.

Realization dawned. “We are not doing it now,” I insisted, forgetting for a moment that this creature was big and strong enough to crush me like a pea and not even notice. “For about a million reasons and more.”

“It’s not like we’re busy right now,” Derek said mildly.

I rolled my eyes. “We might have been once we got back, if you hadn’t just screwed up.” He frowned, trying to parse what I had said, before I turned back to the dragon. “Even ignoring the Paragon here being thick-headed, it’s already late. Butler is likely asleep, and waking him is a bad idea. You’ll probably also want this recorded for the news, and I’m sure most of the non-vampires are in bed.”

“Eliza Cassan has an insomniac gland.”

That explained a lot. “She’s still off work. And most of the vampire newscasters aren’t on work yet. You just picked a bad time for this.” I reached out to touch his scaled arm with a hand that trembled only slightly. His scales were mildly cold, and felt like metal. Or maybe it was just a trick of perception? “Just wait until tomorrow. We can do this in the morning.”

There was a long pause.

“Very well,” the wyrm rumbled. He retreated farther into the shadows, beyond where my light could reach. “I will be at Zero Forge at 0700 tomorrow morning. Bring Butler and the rest of the Paladins. Do not be late.”

Then he was gone, and only the sound of flapping wings marked his exit.

Derek gave me a pained look. “…maybe we should have checked with Butler first?”

I winced as well. “Too late now.”

Behind the Scenes (scene 248)

I initially had a previous scene with Chronepsis actually at Io’s death bed, but it added very little, so I removed it.