They stumbled out of the gateway, Riyagh flying out ahead. He has made this trips so many times that he has forgotten how the vortex can change perception. He has learned to look through the illusions.
"Where are the others?" Altoona asks when the vortex closes behind her. Only a minute ago she had felt the hand of Rittev gripping hers, but now it is gone.
"They took a wrong turn." Riyagh admits with pain in his voice.
"What do you mean?" Altoona yells at him, she is nearly at her breaking point.
"I could not stop them without dragging us all down. They still have a chance."
But his heart is certain that this chance he speaks of isn't real. He has failed her again. His daughter has died once more now that he has lost Jypress. The loss ways down on him like the sky on Atlas' shoulders. He feels that he cannot move, cannot contain his animal form.
Riyagh falls... His knees touching the ground and his hands clasping his face when he realises how he has failed yet again. The tiny light of hope remains burning in the distance. Would it be better to think that she is death? Or would he find piece in the hope that she was still out there somewhere. Suddenly forever looking doesn't seem so bad.
"Riyagh?" Tysterin asks him.
Riyagh looks up, his full black eyes scanning the young man before him. Suddenly he gets why they look so stunned. They had only seen him as the bat. Never had he shifted to his original self, the image of humanity being lost for him for so long already that he hadn't thought about approaching them as a man. Carefully he looks down at his body. It's still the same, though he has not looked upon it for many years. He is still too thin and pale to look healthy, his hair has grown a bit, though not much, it's hanging loose and curling softly on his bony shoulders. It's black like his eyes, though he remembers it being brown in the light of the setting sun. The memory of the setting sun and Garyan below it, brings back more painful memories. 
"I'm fine." he says, getting up, though he isn't fine at all.
But Riyagh knows that he has been given the choice again. He shall not make the wrong mistake again. No more wallowing in sadness. No more self pity. No more hiding behind an animal mask.
"Where should we go?" Tysterin asks, looking at both Altoona and Riyagh.
"I don't know." Altoona says, "Though I doubt it's our choice to make."
She points in the distance where a dark form has appeared in the distance. The flying beast approaches them more quickly than anyone dares to admit. When it is close enough not even Tysterin could keep his usual disattachment when he saw what could only be described as a dragon.
"Hello there!" they hear someone shout.
The dragon lands and a human appears from behind it's neck. The man walks toward them, smiling. Maybe he didn't see their confused looks and the determination to not let themselves get killed when their friends depend on them.
"What do you want?" Tysterin asks while Altoona stares wide-eyed from behind his back.
"I'd like to ask you if you'd be interested in coming to Cy Dragonstake with me."
"Why should we want to do that?" Altoona asks.
"Because you'll get a place to stay, something you don't have now... and because maybe you want to do me a pleasure." there is that smile again, "I need to find candidates for a special clutch."
"Candidates for what?"
"To bond a dragon. Don't worry, it's great."
"And we're supposed to believe that?"
"If you don't, my friends might die." a strange voice suddenly sounds around them.
"Hush, you know dragons don't die anymore when they go unbonded." the man says, "They really don't, but it's still better if they get a human companion."
"Oh." Tysterin says, turning to Altoona and Riyagh with a question in his eyes.
"I guess it's better than staying here." Altoona shrugs.
"You won't regret it." the voice says again, "My species has some interesting abilities that might help you."
Tysterin shrugs, while Riyagh still isn't very keen on the idea. He thinks they need to start their search now, before it is too late."
"What if I tell you that my kind can take you to the time before anything went wrong?"
There is that spark of hope again. Maybe he needs to do the opposite of everything he thinks, Riyagh considers this thought for a moment. Maybe that is just what he needs to do.


The day the Apocalypse begun the sun was shining and the sky was a sapphire kind of blue. Chaos and Destruction don't always feel like the gloomy darkness Tysterin, Altoona and especially Riyagh were used to.
But still, it was on this day that the three were called to the hatching sands where the outer circle eggs awaited them. The three huddled close together, well Tysterin and Altoona tried to keep as close as they could to the bat they still associated with Riyagh, they had hardly ever seen his human form for longer than 5 minutes. Trying not to look at the mysterious barrier that separated their half of the sands from the other part. They could only guess at what was going on there.
"Nothing good." Riyagh said dryly, "If it's being guarded this closely then what's behind it must be dangerous.
"No one guards bunnies." Altoona joked, but she didn't manage to get a laugh out of any of her two companions. Tysterin grinned nervously, watching the inner circle with something close to fear in his eyes and Riyagh... well he was still Riyagh: Silent and flying out of view in the shadows. Altoona had hoped that he would join them in his human form for once. Would the dragons even know that he was there?
"The eggs!" Tysterin suddenly said to her, giving her a firm nudge in the side, "They're hatching."
He had been watching them for lack of anything else he could, or wanted to look at. Tysterin never actually had seen any egg hatch, but still he got the feeling that these eggs were rocking more violent than any baby chick... but maybe he was wrong.
Time passed and several dragons hatched, bonding to the outer circle candidates. Everything seemed to be normal, corresponding to what they had heard about hatchings. Normal until they heard it. The loud, terrified scream of someone in mortal danger. Tysterin swallowed anxiously and he heard Altoona gasp. Terrified both he and she looked up to see Riyagh still beating his wings, apparently untouched by the scream. But he must have felt something...
In fact Riyagh had. The screams reminded him of before, of Garyan's death which had been just as painful as the person's demise in the inner circle. But the many nights of remembering, of nightmares and self-blame had hardened Riyagh's heart. He could distance himself from human suffering... though not from all. Maybe his heart wasn't hardened at all, just hid ears. Whichever it was, Riyagh could keep his attention focused on the eggs before them.
More eggs hatched in the outer circle, driving the scream back into the realm of mysteries which seemed to lay behind the translucent barrier.

A red hatched next and he had an unpleasant glint in his eye when he approached the candidates. Tysterin watched a bit dazed as the hatchling was intercepted by a biped antilope. There was something wrong in the picture. Soon Tysterin found out what was wrong.
"Tysterin!" the hatchling said in his mind, "Why do you let this creature approach me? I shall fight my own battles, now and in the future, but help would be appreciated."
The red dragon bit the antilope-creature and moved toward Tysterin, the daring look still in his eyes. Tysterin shook his head for a moment, realising what had happened. A grin appeared on his face. This was so cool!
"Yeah, come on, Avagin," agreed Tysterin. "He isn't worth it."
"I'll say," replied the red as he headed over to the human. "He didn't even taste good!"
Some more time passed and the eggs in the outer circle grew sparse. Three dragons hatched, one of which almost immediately attacked most of the candidates heading his way. The candidates, not put off by the aggression, instead turned to the two yellows that now were left on the sands, yellows who both had their eyes on one person. Looking directly up at Riyagh who knew, but waited for them to make the first move.
"Riyagh," began one.
"You have spent so much time watching."
"Perhaps it is time that you have someone to watch with you."
"I am Yotogi."
"I am Iramara."
The giant bat had managed to find himself two yellow bonds. His life would certainly be changed after this! But the life he wanted to change, to save was in Riyagh's mind. He was certain that he could rescue Jypress with these two fine dragons. They were young now, but soon...
Altoona had watched as first Tysterin and later Royagh had impressed. They were standing back, waiting for her to find a bond, but that chances of that happening seemed less likely with the minute. Only three more eggs lay on the sands.
The second to last hathian egg, a blue, hatched as a flow of angry Cy Knights streamed into the hatching Sands. Altoona took a step back to let the stampede pass through knowing perfectly well where they were headed, but in doing so, she placed the hoard between her and the dragoness on the sands. When the hatchling saw the stream of people threatening to cut her off from her chosen she gave a yelp and bolted to one of the last two candidates. 
Altoona!" she squeaked as she hid behind the girl's legs. "Too many people!"
"I know, Itesaseu, it'll be ok."
Altoona didn't know why she so suddenly wanted to hug her dragon, but she gave into the need and felt that it had been just what her Itesaseu had needed. Someone to comfort her.
Smiling broadly, Altoona got back up, looking at Tysterin and the fluttering Riyagh, now easier to spot with his two yellows around him, with stars in her eyes. Her mind too was on the peoples not with them, but not yet lost to them. There was a new hope for them.
Hope that would soon florish...

Continue to Touched by Darkness

Riyagh and Male Yellows Yotogi and Iramara
Altoona and Female Blue Itesaseu
Tysterin and Male Red Avagin
Cy's Apoclaypse - Abri's Midsummer Night's Dream
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