Axiom - February 2000
Preconceptions - karne
Scorch - michelle
(page 9/18)

Preconceptions

"...Shadow Wraith, male, 8 years, tourney champion..."

Keeper delays long enough to see me settled into my stall. The wort bale was fresh this morning, but the thought of food makes me nauseous. Water is far more welcome and washes the taste of blood-metal from my mouth. I close my eyes as she tends to me; spit and sealant for my wounds - few that they are - and words of comfort and false cheer. I'm sure she's as unhappy with the result as I, but she's too kind to say so. Probably a little cautious too - I've snapped at her only a few times over the years, but most of them after a loss like this.

Fierce and foolish wyrm.

It's not all that serious really, the prize money isn't that important. It would have been nice, but I never let her place bets on me, so we haven't lost out financially. But I was tourney champion when I entered the arena and to lose that hurts more than money or my throat does. I knew Red was good, but thought I was still better. Maybe I'm just getting old.

Eventually she gives up and with a final pat leaves me too it. She'll seek out a drink or five I should imagine, no doubt of a powerfully intoxicating nature. I don't try to stop her, I've always preferred to be alone after a fight. It gives me time to relive the bout in my mind, identify mistakes, the strikes and feints that land from those that did not. Time to sulk too - if I'm so inclined - which I am, truth be told. Dangerous thing truth, never know when it'll sneak up and bite you.

Scratched hide, scratched pride.

Resting quietly, my breathing slows and I can imagine the Fury ebbing from me like ink on a mirror. The tourney's over for the night and most of the watchers seem to be seeking the same things as Keeper - eats, drinks and friendly company for slurred conversations. The colours of the crowd fade as it disperses, dappled excitement in blue and yellow, washing out to greys. Feeling calmer, I amuse myself by feeling her colours blur and marble all together. Alcohol does that; I find it beautiful, although she's always slightly amused whenever I mention that. It's hard to describe the aesthetics of a state of mind - even to a Keeper.

With that thought, I reach out and touch her with my signature - a sweeping black mist. Her sending is a warm, affectionate red - she's happier now. Silently, I imagine the night sky and my intentions to breathe the night air - she doesn't object. I'll probably return and find her fast snoring in my stall. That often happens - she claims its too far back to the truck and the stall is warmer anyway. Why she proceeds to complain that all her clothes smell of dragon, I'll never understand.

scorch by michelle Pushing my door open, I step out and stalk between the ranks of stalls, some twenty or so on each side. Some are bolted from the outside, but most are from within or not at all. Out of several, curious eyes glance at me. I politely exchange colours but they sense I don't wish to talk. The sounds of my kin surround me as I go - soft noises - rustle of wing and scrape of scale. Feels like the arena all over again.

There's a pair of guards playing dice on a small table just inside the gate. They rise as I approach and I halt when I note the Stingers at their waists. One of them raises his hand and says something - I don't follow the words but understand his tone. Turning my neck, I allow a pattern of gold inlaid scales to glitter in the light, a mark of my citizenship. The guard gets excited when he sees that and mutters something to his companion. She also asks a question - again I don't catch it and instead send an image into their minds - white specks on a dark field. After some more discussion and assorted shrugs, they submit to opening the door and I walk out into the cool night air.

karne