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from The Gilded Knights by Elizah Godswood

Copyright © 2015–2021 Elizah Godswood

Chapter 17
No Turning Back

Flying, Tauren thought, was exhilarating. As Kaelom flew them towards the volcano, which was surprisingly close to the temple ruins, he saw a whole different world. Everything looked so different from above. The cold air rushing over his face and through his hair didn’t bother him one bit. They must have been walking for quite a while after Kaelom first appeared. To the west, through a break in the clouds, he could see the horizon turning gold as the sun neared the horizon. The day had felt far longer than it had really been. To him, it had felt like a week. 

A few other dragons swooped overhead as Kaelom cleared the mouth of the volcanic crater and began his descent to the bottom. There were thousands of dragons, paired off in twos. As they neared the ground, he finally saw that the pairs were standing guard over their nests. The bottom of the crater glittered in a rainbow of iridescent hues as the waning sun glinted off the egg shells. There was every color imaginable, and more.

Kaelom landed near the center, by another white dragon guarding its nest. It growled softly at him as he lowered himself to the ground to allow them to dismount, bumping his snout against the other dragon’s. Just like Kaelom, its tail was tipped with a massive boney club and was tightly wrapped around a clutch of six milk white eggs with pale blue spots. 

“So these are your tiny two-legs.” The female sniffed at Seida first, then the rest of them. Her breath was hot against Tauren’s skin. Her voice was deep, and left Tauren with the impression of a strong and imposing figure. “You may call me Aeryl, as the elves to the north have so named me. Titaness will suffice for me.” 

“Have the mothers been told?” Kaelom asked her. 

She yawned a big, toothy yawn and rested her head upon her forelegs. “They have been told. Not all are thrilled about your decision. They are fearful, as they rightly should be. Have you considered—”

“I have indeed considered the consequences.” Kaelom growled softly. “This is the path I wish to take.” 

Aeryl turned one of her blue eyes back upon the four of them. “You three younglings have been granted an ancient honor. I trust you will treat your future partners with the dignity and respect that your forbearers in the Knights did?”

“Without question,” Sadra said. 

“It’d be hard not to. Eventually my dragon could eat me if I didn’t,” Gregorim said, which amused Aeryl greatly. 

“A good thing to keep in mind, youngling.” Aeryl chuckled to herself. “Best to get to it now, before the last of the daylight leaves us. The mothers are growing impatient.” 

Kaelom sat up and roared, making Tauren’s ears ring. From around the crater, the other dragons responded to his call. “You may choose your eggs.”

“How do we know which one, though?” Tauren said quietly as he gazed around at all the nests. There had to be hundreds of nests within the crater, at least. “There’s so many.”

“You will know it when you feel it. You need only to touch the egg.” Aeryl gave him a gentle push with her snout to get him moving. 

With a shaky sigh, he followed Sadra and Gregorim, brushing one hand across every egg as he went. The shells were rough against his fingertips. There were dozens of colors and sizes, each neatly spaced in sets of two to a dozen in a single clutch. How was he supposed to find his supposed match when there were so many? Would any dragon want to bond with him in the first place? He was just a teenage boy, after all. 

Sadra picked up every egg with an appraising and scholarly look, studying the colors and the patterns in the light before moving on to the next. Gregorim was more casual about it, simply squatting down to brush his fingers over the shells. He seemed much more drawn to the brightly colored shells, and bounced around at random. Tauren, not wanting to potentially miss his chance, took it slow...

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