The Rowan

(Thanks to NamesFromGraves for the beautiful cover, your hard work is always loved :) )
Before the Falling, there were Dragons.

Dragons who's breath could set a forest ablaze, who's wings could cause hurricanes, who's claws made canyons in the rocky earth, who's scales shone like glass and who's bones were made of gemstones. Fearsome guardians of all elements.

There were no humans who could tame such beasts. Not until The Rowan.

The Kingdom of Tiber was a harsh place, where magic was outlawed, and even the Dragons were on the verge of extinction. But in the middle of hide, the last pair of Dragons find a human baby, cold and alone, left to die with their strange appearance.

As the child grows under their care, a war begins brewing, something ancient stiring beneath the surface, and a prophecy to be fuffilled by The Six Branches, a band of six adventurers who must give up their lives to go and complete training to save their kingdom from destruction.

But they sent the wrong six.

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7. The Sixteenth Hot Moon

Castellia and Julij stood side by side, Castellia, holding two pieces of fruit and animated trying to explain her thought process to Julij as to how to spend their money.

"You see Julij, if we haggle, we can get these for a lower price!" Castellia huffed, though smiled at her taller companion fondly. Tilting their head, Julij leaned forwards, feeling the fruit with their own finger-tips.

"Do we need this... fruit?" Julij grumbled, causing Castellia to frown even though she knew it would not be seen by Julij.

"Yes! As much as you like it, we can't live off meat forever," as Julij opened their mouth, sharped teeth catching the light, Castellia held up her hand in protest "and no, you can't go hunting."

"Julij the last time you tried, you broke your arm jumping from a rock because you said you could fly."

Julij huffed and crossed their arms, standing upright and gently poking at the arm in question. Castellia had done a wonderful job on healing the worst of the damage, although it was still encased within a metal-and-daub brace, to ensure the bones would not move out of place again. Sighing, Julij slumped around the shoulders, tapping their foot impatiently, listening to Castellia strike up the haggling talk with the stall owner.

"seventy Ptsars?! B-But they were only fourty for two last time!" Castellia cried as the price was quoted to her, green eyes widening in surprise and horror. The vendor shrugged and took the fruits back, placing them back into the box upon his stall.

"Not my fault lady, the harvests have been bad this year, since that.. Seal started actin up."  Castellia sighed, but Julij leaned forwards, oblivious to the vendor's increasingly worried stare at the giant being dressed in dragon scale and fur.

"So...How about the chances of you lowering your prices?" The smile that Julij flashed still needed work, it looked more like a snarl. A bare-toothed challenge of authority that nobody could argue with.

The vendor nodded quickly, and took only twenty Ptsars from Castellia's roughened hands, the metal clinking against each other merrily. Pulling Castellia, Julij led them away from the stall and to the next one, though Castellia frowned deeply, sighing and shaking her head.

"You know Julij, you can't do that to everybody!" Taking back her hand and gently laying the fruits in her woven basket, Julij frowned and huffed, a sign that Castellia now had begun to understand as a disagreement.

"I don't know what you mean, I just smile." The smirk that pulled at Julij's lips made Castellia huff in return, it was the smirk that showed even without their sight, Julij knew the effect their smile had on people.

They spent the rest of the trip in silence almost, Castellia doing most of the talking since Julij would terrify most others if they talked to them. The day was breezy, but neither person minded, they were just eager to return to the cottage that they had started calling home in the last moon's cycle. Julij loved the scents of all the flowers, and they remembered as days had grown warmer, Castellia describing each one to them.

Their favourite was definatly a snap-dragon, although it wasn't for the name. They had a sweet smell to Julij, one tinted with something they could never quite put their fingers on.

The day grew hotter, and Julij shed their furs, carrying it over one arm, and revealing the tightly formed waist-coat, hugging their figure. Despite their still feminine figure, their pale skin showed strong lines of muscles beneath, some little and nearly faded scars dotting their shoulders and fore-arms. Years of playing in caves and mountain faces would do that to a person. Castellia glanced over and smiled to herself, a small amount of pride building in her chest as she saw that Julij had already applied the newest version of the cream that protected her skin from the sun.

Castellia nudged Julij softly, causing the tall companion to turn to them slightly. "Do you think... That maybe people like us could live happily? D-Different people I mean?"

"I suppose so, but I think a Dragon and a Magical living together is enough for the world right now." The smile that broke across Julij's face made Castellia blush, for although their teeth were sharp, there was something about recieving a smile from Julij that made everything seem better.

It had been a while before Castellia finally accepted that Julij believed they were a Dragon, but now accepted it full heartedly. Laughing loudly as they entered the shade of the trees, dappled sunlight falling onto their skins.

"So who does that make me? Talia?" Both laughed, the sound bouncing back from the trunks of each tree, echoing it for long after it had stopped. Leaving both clutching their sides and breathing a little more heavily.

The sunlight was cooler inside the shade of the trees, where the dappled patterns created new skins for both of them temporarily. It was easy to see why Castellia preferred living in the forest, it hid her own dappled skin. But Julij had to keep a hand securely against their companion in the forest, since here, their eyes were at their worst, neither darkness or light and their eyes could not adjust quickly enough to see even the vaguest shapes.

Many steps had passed before they reached the cottage, and beside it, stood a villager, a concerned expression on their face as they held a paper tightly to their chest. Castellia and Julij looked at each other before approaching, the villager speaking before either of them had a chance to.

"Did you hear? The Branches' Heirs have reached the Seal," 

"No? But at least the balance will be restored, praise Tiber." Castellia rolled her eyes, trying to brush past the villager but they caught the Magical's attention as they finished their statement.

"That's not all though. They had to retreat, the Seal won't open for them!"

Julij frowned, brow furrowed in confusion, whilst Castellia whipped around, eyes wide. "What do you mean that the Seal won't open? The Branches can open it."

The villager shrugged, and Castellia furrowed her own dark thick brows. Running a hand through her curly hair, causing the strands to fluff up and thicken her already wild locks. She began pacing, and Julij sat against a birch, leaning into the cool shade as they tried to figure out what was going on.

"The Branches are the six people who can open and close the Seal, which keeps some great evil at bay," Castellia began explaining, looking over at Julij to see if they understood what was happening. "but if the new  Branches can't open the Seal..."

"Don't suppose they sent the wrong ones do you?" Julij chuckled, somewhere between a growl and a human laugh, Castellia rolled her eyes.

"And how would they find the new ones?" Placing her hands on her hips, she tapped her foot impatiently, leaving Julij to think about their answer in silence for a few moments, before turning and grinning, pulling down their glasses to reveal their dull red eyes, although they seemed to sparkle with mischief at that moment.

"I suggest that we go try our hands at it."

 

 

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