Kìlashà san Draego de Mìtaran, Chosen of the Four Clans of the Drae’gon People, lay flat on the branch, watching the human below him stumble through another tangled knot of underbrush. The human let out a curse as he extracted himself and sucked the side of his hand to ease the pain of a scratch. Kìlashà frowned down at the figure below.
He’ll get himself killed, Kìlashà thought. If those thorns caught in his skin he’ll poison himself.
He was young, but probably only a year or two younger than Kìlashà himself, with brown hair cut short and angular features. He was even a little attractive, for a human, but his incompetence made Kìlashà shy away from the thought of speaking to him. Why would this human’s people allow him into the wilds if he knew so little about the area? Kìlashà could look, of course…
That would be rude, Lasha, he reminded himself. His clanmother, Mìtara, had drilled the lesson home to him over the years. It was unacceptable to look into another’s past without permission. Still… Mìtara will have my head if she finds out.
Kìlashà braced himself against a limb and wrapped a leg around the main branch for balance. His cloak fell over the side of the branch to help him blend with the leaves. Then he reached for his power. Possibility flared to life in his mind and a thousand potential futures flickered and faded as the moment shifted and made each more or less likely. Kìlashà focused his attention on the moments involving this human, pushing the other events to simmer at the edge of his perception. Once he had the current timelines isolated, he began the laborious process of identifying the true present.
The human stumbled into the knot of underbrush, cursed, and worked his way free. He examined his injured hand, looking for thorns…
No, he had not thought to check for thorns. Kìlashà pushed the vision aside to join the others he had rejected.
The human worked his way free, sucked on the side of his hand for a moment, then glanced up, seeing Kìlashà in the trees above him.
Not likely. Kìlashà blended perfectly in the dim afternoon light. He pushed that one aside, as well.
The human sucked on the side of his hand for a moment, then leaned back against a tree trunk in frustration. After a moment, he straightened and began his search again.
That was the right timeline. Kìlashà isolated it and followed it back in time, checking against his limited knowledge of the human’s earlier actions. There was where he had camped the previous night, when Kìlashà had found him. There was his entrance to the forest the day before. It was close enough to the location where he had camped that Kìlashà was sure it was correct. Before that he had traveled for two days from the west. Kìlashà snarled when he saw the sprawl of ruined buildings the human had come from. He was one of the Serr-Nyen that had taken over the ruins of Sharan Anore.
It’s a good thing I broke Mìtara’s command, though, Kìlashà thought. If they’re sending scouts this direction I need to know what they’re looking for.
Kìlashà followed time back through the human’s preparations to leave, scoffing at the inclusion of the coins the Serr-Nyen used to trade for goods and the exclusion of any form of water cleansing. He knew these humans were little more than barbarians, though. How they hadn’t all died of illness was a mystery to him.
Thank the Spirits that Mìtara saved me from living among them. Not that I would likely have lived long had she not. They do keep population down with their wars. At least the one these humans are starting is justified, unlike most.
Kìlashà skipped past two more days of the human pursuing mundane tasks and finally found the meeting with the Serr-Nyen leader that had sent this human to Kìlashà’s forest.
“Phoenix, welcome,” a woman with filthy, matted blond hair greeted, her voice melodic and soft. She glanced up from a report she was reading as he entered.
Kìlashà remembered her. She called herself Griffin now, although she had used her given name when they first met. She had been kind to him, and he had been very young. Kìlashà had not believed she could be what his visions showed. He had been wrong.
“We have a report from the east we need investigated,” Griffin continued. “You remember the ally we had out there?”
“He was called Dragon, I believe, correct?” Kìlashà’s human target, Phoenix, replied. He sounded young, but with enough certainty in his words that his question did not expect an answer. “I thought he vanished years ago.”
“So did I, but we’ve received some strange reports,” Griffin explained. “It could be him, or, honestly, it could be some wild animal. We don’t know, and we need to. If he is still around, we need his help.”
Kìlashà let the vision die and stretched out the leg he had used to brace himself. The Serr-Nyen were looking for him. He had no desire to return to human lands and involve himself in their squabbles, but they might send more if he didn’t go. As well, he was supposed to be looking for the human who would stand at his side as partner and ally against the dangers that threatened his people.
As if any of these could be of use to me. Kìlashà refused to think about what else this partner was supposed to be to him. That he could fight beside any of them was enough of a stretch. That he could like one of them enough to claim friendship was absurd. He couldn’t even consider forming a true love match with any of them. A Drae’gon did not challenge the Ancestral Prophecy, however. No matter how unfathomable the idea was, Kìlashà had to accept the dilemma. Either he would yearn for a Serr-Nyen human as his mate, or he was not the Chosen of the Four Clans. He and Mìtara had been over the signs innumerable times. Kìlashà was the Chosen, and so he must return to this human settlement. It would be easiest to return with this human, Phoenix.
Several minutes had passed since he began his Seeking and Phoenix was no longer in sight. It was a simple matter to find him. Kìlashà pulled on his power again and sorted through the flickering moments again to find himself looking down from his branch as Phoenix stumbled into the bushes. He followed the timeline as Phoenix walked away, scouring the bushes for any sign of another living creature. Another vision flared to life at the peripheral of his Seeking, pushing its way to the fore. Kìlashà let it. His subconscious often knew when he needed to see a coming moment and revealed it in this way.
Phoenix stopped by the bank of a small stream not far from where Kìlashà had last seen him, kneeling to drink with one hand still on his blade. A low growl should have warned him away, but Phoenix didn’t seem to notice the sound. Instead he filled his waterskin and ran a wet hand through his hair, then splashed water on his face in an apparent attempt to remove some of the dirt that clung to him from his travels.
A young, female Warig stalked out of her lair under the roots of a nearby tree with another growl. Many humans would mistake her for a large wolf, but only because they didn’t know what to look for. Her face was broad at the base, leaving room for more intelligence that Kìlashà found in some humans, and her reddish-brown coat was stiff enough to turn a blade.
Phoenix finally noticed the danger, drawing his sword and crouching low to the ground for balance.
Kìlashà let the vision fade and dropped to the ground. No human would easily best a Warig defending her den. He didn’t much care about Phoenix’ life, but it would be inconvenient to explain his sudden return to the Serr-Nyen without the human they had sent to locate him. Kìlashà moved swiftly and silently through the trees, reaching the stream just as Phoenix knelt to drink. He shuddered at the thought of drinking straight from the stream but ignored the action to growl a quiet warning to the Warig in her den. She slunk further under the tree roots. Like most predators, she knew when she was outmatched.