Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 196,828,660 Issue: 944 | 17th day of Gathering, Y23
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Star Light, Moon Bright, Take Flight


by neoghia

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Sendore - sin-DOOR

     Peinture - pe-in-TOUR

      Year 13, The Month of Storing

      Shadows cast by the roaring fire danced along the walls of the room. Old tapestries and cracked stone came to life with the war of light and darkness. The room smelled of smoke and cocoa. A mature Draik stood before the enormous fireplace and peered in at the flame. His golden scales shone in the light. Behind him, on the long couch, a small Xweetok boy lay curled and fast asleep. The Draik, Sendore, was restless despite the late hour, for his thoughts had turned sour when the young prince fell asleep. He looked back at his young ward, who was breathing heavily in his slumber. An empty, overturned mug lay next to him. This was supposed to be a simple job, just to get me by for a while and here I am two years into caring for this boy all alone. And what about the crown? How can an old pirate act like a king... or raise one? How can I be like a father when I never knew mine? He shook his head as if that would clear the thoughts from his mind.

     He walked briskly but quietly from the room and began down the long hallway with no particular destination in mind. He’d paced the enormous castle halls many times in the years since the attempted coup had taken the king and queen from them. The plush rug was soft on his tired feet and he flexed his claws in and out of it for a moment before continuing on, his knees popping as he did. Most hallways in the castle led back to the main foyer like roots to a tree and this one was no different, he came into the large open room and into the shining light of the full moon through the stained glass window set high in the wall. The window depicted a village constructed entirely of paint, each building swirled with colour and vibrancy. They say, the queen had told him once long ago, that it was how Peinture village was made. The royal bloodline carried a mythical power to summon and control paint in an incredible way, shaping it and moving it with thought alone.

     Sendore’s heart swelled when he thought of the queen, she had been the one to hire him, so vibrant and courageous in her way of living. She’d never met a stranger or a challenge, only friends and feats. Quite a woman, I’ll never match her in heart. Or the king’s wit for that matter, wherever he is. The boy deserves better than… Just then, as he stood alone and afraid in the pale light of the moon, small against the enormous stone foyer, he saw something that caught his breath. Snowflakes stuck to the glass of the window as they lazily fell from the sky. The first snowfall of the year. And an idea struck him. There were so many things he knew he couldn’t do but there was something he could.

     ---

     They stood atop the center spire of the castle and the snow fell all around them. The Prince was strapped to Sendore’s back between his enormous golden wings and he was laughing wildly at nothing in particular in the way only children can. Sendore smiled as he looked around at the beautiful night they had been given and felt himself surge with excitement. I used to board enemy ships alone and now a little night flight gets me all aflutter. My, how things change. He laughed then along with the young Xweetok on his back.

     “Are you ready, Your Grace?” The Draik asked over his shoulder.

     “Yes, Sendore!” The Prince answered in a bright, jovial voice.

     “Very well.” The draik walked to the edge of the spire as he spoke and peered off into the night. The stone of the castle reflected the moonlight some but it was still quite dark. His heart pounded in his chest and he stretched his wings out before folding them in close again. He stepped one foot out into the open air, miles of darkness beneath. “Hold on, my child.”

     They fell, roaring through the night, cold air whipping their faces. Over his shoulder, the Prince let out a thrilling screech and Sendore immediately unfurled his wings and pulled up where they began to soar high up into the air again.

     “Your Grace..” Sendore began in a concerned tone but the boy fell into a fit of laughter and the old Draik found himself smiling and then chuckling as well. They were coasting through the air now and the snowflakes fell all around them. Sendore looked up at the enormous full brightness of Kreludor and noticed that from this height you could see Neopia’s smaller moons at their full brightness as well. What a beautiful night. Sendore felt warm in a way he hadn’t in a long time despite the falling snow.

     “Are you alright back there?” He called over his shoulder, the wind carrying his words away quickly. A tiny voice replied but he couldn’t quite make out the words, then a few moments later a paw poked his shoulder and pointed downward. Sendore laughed, his breath rising in a fog against the cold. Then, he tucked his arms in close, folded in his wings and plummeted headfirst into the screeching, cold darkness. They could smell the trees coming before they hit them and the old Draik still had sharp reflexes from his younger days. He let out a burst of flame that scorched a perfect path through the canopy and then opened his wings to coast them through the forest. The young prince squealed with delight every time they quickly curved around a tree. The small creatures that came out this time of night scampered away as they flew overhead.

      He banked sharply around a tree and extended all four limbs to catch the trunk in his claws. The rough, living bark crumbled under his curved talons. He crawled quickly up the trunk until he could see the sky again.

      “Thank you, Sendore!” The small voice came musically over his shoulder.

      “Of course, Your Grace. I’m quite chilly though, aren’t you?” The young prince was quaking against his back but Sendore knew he wouldn’t ask to return to the castle. He pushed off the trunk with a kick from his powerful legs and then beat his wings against the night air. They soared off toward the enormous castle glowing silver in the moonlight.

     ---

      The old Draik carried a steaming mug in each hand and had his tail tightly wrapped around a large bowl of popcorn that glistened with butter. Two cushions had been pulled off the long couch and close to the fire, the Prince was curled up on one with heavy eyelids. Sendore sat the bowl down and then crouched, his knees popping, to wave the cup of hot cocoa under the young boy’s nose. He perked up, grabbed at the cup and drank from it greedily.

      “Thank you!” He squeaked with chocolate staining the fur around his mouth.

      “You’re quite welcome, Your Grace.” Sendore sat on the unoccupied cushion and sipped from his cup. The chocolate was warm and rich with a caramel undertone. The fire burned low in the fireplace and Sendore let out a burst of flame to rekindle it. The room swelled with warm air and woodsy smoke.

      “Sendore?” The Prince spoke up again in a sleepy voice.

      “Yes, Your Grace?”

      “Nevermind.”

      “Alright, Your Grace.” He looked down at the Prince who had his eyes closed. The firelight danced across his multicolored fur. I didn’t ask for this and I’m not sure I’m up to it but I owe it to them. He could see both the boy’s parents in his young features. And even more than that, his heart swelled as he realized it himself, I want to see how our boy turns out.

      The End.

 
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