Marnys knew it was morning. Her sense of time told her so. She opened one eye, to check if it was right. It was. Still dark and gloomy, but the stars were fading. She looked out the window until she was awake enough to get out of bed and prepare breakfast. 
"Up early too?" Meryk asked, yawning as he came out of bed.
"Yep, you bet ya. I'll be the one leaving first today." Marnys said, flipping a pancake with precise timing.
She was wearing the dark leather jacket she called her 'adventure garb'. The dark vest brought out the colour of her light blue eyes and dark blond hair, which was tied back in a tail. 
"Should we wake Myan?" Meryk asked.
"Nah, she didn't tell us too. Besides she has the shortest distance to walk." Marnys said, flipping another pancake.
"You could have woken me you know." Myan said from under her covers.
"Yeah, we would have, at dawn." Meryk said, smiling.
Totally unlike her sister Myan only shrugged, walked out and waved back at them.
"Don't you need to eat?" Marnys asked.
"I made something for eating on the road." she answered.
"Well what do you know." Meryk said, leaning backward on his chair.
Quickly Marnys grabbed her bag and left him sitting at the table. 
"I'll check up on you as soon as I get to Lav'intay!" she shouted and started running. Lav'intay wouldn't reserve an egg for her. She'd better get there in time. And if Myan was already on her way, she'd better be quick. If she had thought about preparing breakfast she would have been smart enough to plan her whole trip. She'd probably been cooking this up weeks before she brought it up. Maybe Myan did have some rebellious streak in her like she and Meryk had.

In the next town she found out how rough travelling Icarus would be. When she entered a tavern to get a room for the night, some of the men in the tavern looked at her in ways that couldn't predict much good. This place had clearly seen it's best days years passed, but she didn't have much money to spent and she didn't have time to work, or she'd loose the bet.
"One room for the night please." she said.
"All our rooms are full." the man at the desk said, hardly looking up from the book he was reading.
"You can share my room." a young man, maybe 25, with dark black hair and an air to match his rich clothes said, grinning foolishly.
"And why would I want to share a room with you?"
"Because I can show you things no other man could." my this one was sure bold and stuck up."
"No thanks." she said.
Alas he wasn't ready to give up just yet.
"I said, you can share my room." and grabbed her hand.
Marnys didn't like this for one bit. She wasn't at home anymore where everyone knew her. These guys wouldn't help her. Not if they were still sitting down. She turned and slapped the young eager rooster. That apparently got him mad. He started pulling her arm. She wasn't weak, but she wouldn't be able to hold her position against his rage for long. Her only way out would be to pull herself loose and hope someone with a little bit of decency still walked these streets.
She grabbed the nearest drink, getting an angry look from it's owner, and splashing it in the rooster's eyes. The alcohol did it's work and made him lose his grip. She thanked every high entity out there that the man had been drinking whiskey and not water and ran out of the tavern as fast as her legs could go. 
Outside she turned some corners until she finally bumped into a few man right outside the town.
"He! Watch out where you go." the one she hat hit shouted.
"Sorry, I had to run fast to get away." Marnys said, gasping for air.
"Lucky for you you didn't hit Anaryn."
"Whose Anaryn?" she asked, wondering why that would have been worse.
"My drak, he doesn't like to serve as stop for running humans."
Marnys' heart jumped as she thanked the entities again for making her lucky.
"You wouldn't by any chance be from Lav'intay castle?" she asked. She hadn't gotten far from home yet. She had only walked 8 days, and occasionally ridden on the back of a wagon.
"Yes we are."
"I was hoping to be an aspirant at your clutch." she said.
"Hmm, we'll let Anaryn take a look at you. He'll be happy you hit me and not him."

The sun was at it's zenith when Marnys went out to the landing flat. Three days now she had been at Lav'intay. 11 days after she, Myan and Meryk had started out. She still couldn't believe she had been the last to reach a castle. How could that be with all the luck she had gotten? 
Soon she spotted a male drak that would suit her purpose. The earth looked ready to mate, his rider young and stubborn. Meryk had been at a loss when he found out that he had missed the Mi'ihen clutch. She would make sure he'd get a go soon enough.
"That's a fine looking drak you have there son." Marnys said, trying to sound older than she really was.
"Don't let him hear you. He might become unbearable." The boy joked.
"Do you have a Drak?" he asked.
"Me? No, not yet anyway. My name is Marnys and I'm to be an Aspirant for the next Lav'intay clutch, but I've studied Draks for years." she answered, forgetting her disguise as wise, older woman.
"Yes, I knew I was going to ride one ever since I was three." she smiled at the memory.
"So what can you tell me about Xelet, oh wise woman of the Draks." he asked.
"I can tell you he's ready to mate."
The boy looked doubtfully at his Drak.
"He won't get much bigger," she pointed at Xelet's horns, "see, his horns are almost in proportion with the rest of his body."
"There's a duowinged Green Nexus Dragon rising at Mi'ihen if you are interested." she tried. No need to keep Meryk waiting any longer. The drak looked strong enough to please a female dragon.
"How do you know all these things?" he asked, serious all of a sudden. She had been to pushy.
"My brother is waiting for her to clutch so he can be an aspirant there."
"So how large is your family?"
"Three. Two girls, one boy. I'm the youngest. And what about you."
"All alone." he said, avoiding her question. 
"How sad, I love the company of my brother and sister. Are you going to go?"
"I suppose." he said. 
She could smell victory when she saw it. Or something like that. Anyways, all she had to do know was wait for her clutch to hatch. She would win. She just knew.

But things didn't turn out as she had planned. The Clutch still was a few weeks from hatching and Marnys had asked a leave to see the city. It was highly unusual, but she was granted it. Call it luck, call it faith, call it hot summer weather and a well tempered high prince... 
That is how Marnys escaped Death. She was in the town, lodging with a few other young adults like herself when word came. Marnys had thought a lot about Lav'intay during her brief absence. But the Castle would be her life for the rest of her days... and she knew that meant working. Marnys wasn't lazy, she just figured she might as well take some time of to get her energy up for the little drak she would soon find. 
"Tomorrow.." she whispered.
"What about tomorrow Marnys?" Isha asked.
"I'll be returning to Lav'intay of course."
Marnys didn't foresee the dark clouds on the horizon, nor the small ray of light that would be brought with it. All she saw was a last careless day in the village. Maybe help Isha with his chores. Isha, a farmer's son was 16. He reminded her of her brother Meryk. Marnys smiled. She had heard all about his secret plans - So there HAD been a girl in the barn - and his new drak... It wouldn't take long for her to pair too.
Word had also come from Dun Keiba that Myan had impressed a Water. Marnys smiled at the thought of those two calm entities sitting together without saying a word... Something she could never do. But a water was perfect for Myan.
She opened the door to the basement of the farm where Isha was preparing cheese. She found him up to his elbows in milk that was already sifting to yellow. She took over churning a bit, though not for long since she wasn't that strong. On her parent's farm she had usually herded the cattle, a task that needed wit more than strength.
"Isha..I was wondering..." she started. 
"I can drop you of later tonight." Isha said.
"That'd be great. Thanks Isha." Marnys said glad that she wouldn't have to sound ungrateful for the time she had had here. It was just that she now really wanted to start the new chapter in her life.
"You really like it there, don't you."
"Yeah... It's home already." home wasn't always a place.., sometimes it was people too.

Only hours later the news came. Lav'intay was gone. With one sweep all her plans, hopes and dreams about a future at the castle were wiped away. Lav'intay was dead. Literally. All the people and draks in it dead of some disease... The thing that amazed her the most when she looked back at her thoughts in that exact moment was not that she was worried about how worried her siblings would be. It was that one face that came back to her. The face she had sent off to fly. She prayed with all her heart that he was still safely at Mi'ihen. Alexis. Only then did she stop to think about her siblings... They'd be mortified!
"Isha!" she yelled as she saw the boy turning a corner, "I need to go back." she said.
"There is nothing for you there." he answered with a painful look in his eyes.
"No, but I need to find someone to take me to Mi'ihen or Dun Keiba so I can alert my brother and sister that I'm safe. They'll be worried to death."
"But what if the disease is still there."
"You don't understand! They'll come looking for me... They'll enter the castle. I can't let that happen."
Marnys dreaded the possibility of either one of her siblings dieing even more than she was afraid of her own dead. She ran out of the house, determined to get their on her own if Isha wouldn't take her. It would take her 2 days at the least, only 4 hours with a horse. 
Isha followed her out and held her back before she could leave the yard in the dark of the night.
"Don't be foolish." he said, "You'd get lost out there. We'll take the horses tomorrow."
Marnys gave in, but she didn't sleep at all that night. By the morning she was half a zombie, mechanically doing what she had to to get on her horse and keep it running. Minutes went and soon the first three hours had passed. They could see Lav'intay in the distance. A team of Draks was flying around the castle, hesitating. They didn't know if it was safe to go in yet.
Suddenly one drak spotted their little dust cloud. It left the formation and flew toward her. The horses, spooked by the giant animal above them, froze and stopped. Marnys narrowed her eyes to see the form behind the dust more clearly. Painstakingly slow the dust settled. 
"I never thought I'd see you again." the knight said.
Though his voice was affected by the grieve he surely too must be feeling, Marnys immediately recognised the knight she had sent off to Mi'ihen."
"Alexis!! You are safe!" she called.
"But only by chance. I arrived here only moments after the first messages of the disease started to spread. I didn't know why I couldn't get in, why no-one called me... I know now." he said, tears again in his eyes.
Alexis stubbornly wiped his eyes. "But you survived."
"I was away. Tell me quick, when did the disease first appear."
"I wish I knew. Only the ghost know I guess."
Bringing her mind back to the living, Marnys struggled to ask what she wanted to know. Finally she just decided to be blunt about it.
"Alexis, do you know how my brother and sister are doing?"
"We could barely contain Meryk when he heard. Renylt is with him, but he will be so pleased to hear you are safe. I believe Myan is even around here somewhere, though I have never seen her."
"Could you take me to her?" Marnys asked. She wanted to see her sister more than anything else in the world.
"I'd love to." Alexis said. He helped her down from her horse and onto Xelet. She had been right about him, he didn't look to have grown an inch since she had last seen him. 
"Did he win?" she asked when Isha had gone back to the farm and Alexis climbed up behind her.
"In fact he did, and still won't shut up about it."
"I have too!" the drak said, interrupting their conversation.
"Do you know your sister's drak?" Alexis asked.
"It was a rather difficult name to remember," Marnys said, "She's a water and she hatched from the most recent Dun Keiba clutch."
"Do you spot anyone like that, Xelet?" Alexis asked.
"Is it Zhelduar?" 
"It sounds like it." Marnys said.
"We'll fly by to see." Alexis said and helped Xelet manoeuvre through the growing group of rescue-draks.
When they flew by the water, Marnys recognised Myan instantly. She sat silent for a moment, not knowing what was going to happen, not even knowing what she should do. Then Myan spotted her too.
"Marnys!!!" she yelled. "You live!"

Night slowly settled and the draks were mostly gathering at the camp site. Myan and Alexis introduced Marnys to a few of the others while they walked around talking.
"I'm afraid we're going to put ourselves in quarantine after tomorrow." Alexis said.
"We're going in. Haven't you heard?"
"No..." Marnys said, immediately getting afraid for their lives again.
"Don't worry." Myan said when she recognised the look on her sister's face. It's just a precaution. The disease is most likely gone and we'll be wearing mouthcovers."
"Those don't always protect you..."
"I know, but the risk is small. Now let me get you out of here. You can do nothing here and I wouldn't want to see you get ill."
"Nor would I want to see you get ill." Marnys answered.
"Yes, but we can't settle our bet until you find yourself a drak. So off you go. Where do you want to try?"
Marnys pondered. Quickly she said the name of the first castle to pop into her mind: "De Corvo."
"Then De Corvo it is."

Outside, the weather was sunny and bright and warm. The Draks and their Knights were flying about, enjoying the nice weather and the faint breeze. A number of Draks were reclining on the outer cliffs of DeCorvo, sunning blissfully. All seemed just too good to be true, and too good not to take advantage of.
Inside, however, it was cold, stuffy, dark, and crowded. After three years of waiting (less for Marnys since she had been the last arrival), the clutch at DeCorvo had started to hatch. Marnys stood outside waiting, a grin on her face and her heart soaring high above.
Seven draklings were guided in before the aspirants. After some short dawdlings on the drak-side of the cavern, Laerdei pushed her children toward the humans: "Don't be shy. Go on and pick out your knight!"
Koavenei was the last and smallest of all of them, and she stood where she was for a long time. Clearly, her wait was just for show, for after a few moments she grinned toothily and approached Marnys, the last Aspirant standing. "I'm glad that you chose to come here," she said, straining to stand up as tall as she could. "I'd be sad if you hadn't, since then I might not have Paired with anyone. That is, assuming you approve of me. And you do, right?" The tiny Drakling folded her wings and came to rest on all fours, giving up on trying to appear as tall as her siblings.
"Of course I do! Do you think I want to wait any longer? I'm the last of my siblings, and I'm already a year behind on them. Besides, I like the way you look."


Return to DesCas
Marnys looked back at DeCorvo and sighed. She almost felt like she was cursed. It was almost as if bad luck followed her. She knew she shouldn't think so supersticious, but what had happened to the two castles she had visited? One had fallen victim to a horrible disease while she had been enjoying herself in the countryside, and the other had closed due to inactivity. What would she bring the castle she was headed for now?
"You will bring me." Koavenei said.
"I might also bring pestilence and a hoard of Nex Necii." she said.
"Well that's nothing they couldn't handle. Besides I want to meet your brother and sister... and that Knight on his cute earth."
"Have you been reading my thoughts again?"
"It's hard not to when you project them so clearly."
"It will be nice to meet up with Alexis again. I was so glad when I heard he had made it out of Lav'intay on time to escape the disease."
"Yes and you told him to get out. Maybe you don't bring bad luck. After all you saved his sorry behind."
"That's not language I'm used of you." Marnys grinned.
"I can't help it...That Earth has been featuring in your dreams a lot lately."
"In yours maybe, mine have been elsewhere."
"Yeah, with his rider... What did you call him again? Yummy?"
"Quit it!" Marnys called out, "You're lucky I don't have anything to throw at you."
All gloomy thoughts were banished to the back of her mind, and sunlight filled Marnys' eyes. Maybe the future would be bright after all.

Marnys paired at Castle De Corvo.
Koavenei has found a life mate in Earth Xelet
In memoriam of Lav'intay Castle

Castle DesCas