Note: This short story has eight chapters and is released serially, with the first chapter having appeared in the first issue of TechNews' fall 2020 semester (Wednesday, September 2).
Travelling with Interrin and Arnash was much more pleasant than traveling on her own. For one thing, she didn’t have to pay for her stay, and the both of them can curl up next to Arnash at night, who is pleasantly warm.
And Interrin-- was not a totally unpleasant person to be around.
She told stories, loudly and often, about the adventures the two of them have been on. Arnash would interrupt to correct a particularly egregious exaggeration, but otherwise just radiated a calm sort of amusement as she went on and on.
Occasionally she’d try and get Lianthe going about her adventures, but Lianthe really only had one, and it hadn’t ended yet.
After exactly seven days pass of bathing in streams, eating bland dinners over Interrin’s hastily-made campfires, and getting bug bites from constantly being out in the open, Lianthe was more anxious than ever to make it to the mountain’s edge. Not to mention, she was sore from constantly riding on Arnash’s back.
When Interrin had said it was a week away from the castle, had she been rounding down? And would it be a much longer trip from where they’d picked her up?
“Calm yourself,” Arnash told her. The echo of his low voice in her head had become something of a comfort. She hoped she wouldn't lose him like she’d lost the last little comfort she’d acquired. “We’re almost there. See that flagpole?”
Lianthe squinted. She could see the mountains, closer than she’d ever seen them, but she couldn’t see any flagpole. Then Interrin’s arm came up around her, pointing to a specific spot on the ground. “There!” Interrin shouted over the wind.
The loss of one of Interrin’s arms around her made her grip Arnash’s spike more tightly, but she tried to ignore the feeling that she was about to plummet to her death and followed Interrin’s direction. Squinting, following Interrin’s finger, she saw it. A silver flagpole with a red flag at the top, whipping in the wind. She can’t quite make out the symbol on it from this altitude.
As she looks down on the area Interrin had pointed to, however, she does see something she recognizes. A large, red dragon. Sedna was there, waiting for them. Her hands tighten on Arnash’s pike. Why did she feel so nervous?
Arnash landed heavily in front of Sedna; she knew he was exhausted from a week of heavy flying. Lianthe allowed herself to be swung down to the ground by Interrin, but suddenly, when she was on the ground, only about a hundred feet away from Sedna, she had no idea what to do.
She could feel Sedna’s amusement, but underneath it, also her concern. “You’re alright,” Sedna said, just to her.
Lianthe nods. “I’m alright,” she thought back. “You’re alright?”
“I’m fine. Mimir and I both are, thanks to you.” A pause. “I’m sorry for leaving you.
“It’s alright,” Lianthe said honestly. Sedna wasn’t responsible for her and shouldn’t feel like she was. Lianthe craned her neck, trying to look for Mimir without it looking like she was desperate to see him.
She heard Sedna’s laughter in her head. “He’s alright. He’s inside. Come with me?”
Lianthe did, eagerly following Sedna as she headed into what looked like a large cave. It’s perhaps twice as tall as Sedna is, which is why Lianthe supposed it made such an ideal hideout for dragons.
She’s led into another, smaller cave, an offshoot of the larger enclosure. In it, she sees Mimir, rolling around on a pile of hay.
“Mimir!” She dashed across the room, reaching out to touch his snout. He seemed happy, clicking at her. It’s then that she realized her place, and took a step back. “Sorry,” she pushed towards Sedna, feeling sheepish. Just because she had essentially been a babysitter for a time did not mean she was entitled to touch him whenever she felt like it.
“It’s alright,” Sedna returned graciously. She stepped forward so that her head was right next to Lianthe, looking at Mimir. “He misses you.”
She shook her head. “That’s not true.” As much as she wanted it to be. He was too young to really miss her.
“He may not miss you in a way that you understand,” the mother rumbled, “but it’s still true.”
She swallowed, still unconvinced.
“Alright, fine,” Sedna conceded. “And I missed you, too.”
Lianthe blinked. As long as they’d known each other, and even though Lianthe had committed treason for her, she still hadn’t dared to think of her as a friend. Sedna seemed so impossibly bigger than her, in every sense of the word, it didn’t seem right.
“I have to say, I’ve never made friends with a human. Well, perhaps Interrin is an exception.”
Lianthe swallowed. “I’ve never made friends with a dragon.” She’d never even expected to meet one.
Sedna hummed. “Would you like to stay here?”
Lianthe looked at her hesitantly. “Would that be allowed?”
Senda inclined her head. “One option is that I could invite you as a friend.”
“I would like that a lot,” Lianthe admitted. But then she frowned, a little: “what’s the other option?”
Sedna turned her head to look at her, blinking her impossibly large eyes. “I could invite you as my rider.”
Lianthe didn’t think before she ran forward, throwing her arms around Sedna’s leg. She knew how much of an honor that was. She knew the kind of trust Sedna was showing her by offering, and she didn’t even think for a second about saying no.
She wouldn’t spend the rest of her life wondering what it would have been like to say yes.
“I think I would like that very much,” she admitted quietly.
It was the start of a life of adventures.