Heather stops a short way along from Ascella's nest and motions you to go in. By the looks of things, this nest has only recently been created.
"Larana!" Heather yells at the top of her lungs.
"Did you have to yell so loudly?" you demand, while waiting for the ringing in your ears and the echoes to die away.
"Yep," Heather answers happily. "Larana's something of a daydreamer, you see. If we startle her, she gets a little irritable. Besides, sound doesn't carry well in this area, so I had to shout. LARANA!!"
You manage to cover your ears in time for this last yell.
"Okay, I'm coming, aren't I?"
Heather grins and hoists herself up onto a rock ledge, swinging her legs. A girl about fifteen reelays old comes in. She's taller than most girls her age-she's about 5'11-and slender to the point of being downright skinny. You notice she walks with a slight limp.
"Hi," she says quietly, brushing a bit of fiery red hair out of her grey eyes. "I'm Larana."
You introduce yourself to her. Larana notices you looking at her leg and smiles ruefully.
"It's nothing serious. I went out riding on Leo the other day and he stumbled. I fell off and sprained my ankle." She shrugs. "It should be fine in a day or two." Her grey eyes narrow as she catches sight of Heather. "Of course...if a certain someone had thought to tell me about the rabbit hole on the plains, I might just have avoided it!"
Heather grins irrepressibly and you take a quick look around the nest.
It's about average size, not as large as Ascella's, maybe, but definitely large enough to comfortably accommodate a fully grown dragon. Unlike the other nests you've seen, however, this one sports a colourful mural on all the walls. A mural dedicated to dragons in every shape or form-dragons flying riderless with their flame lighting up the night sky, dragons sleeping, a dragon guarding her clutch. The only half-finished mural is one of a cluster of young dragonets in different activities. This particular mural takes up the ceiling, with the exception of a bare expanse of rock.
Larana follows your gaze and shrugs.
"I left that blank on purpose," she says. "If I'm successful at Draconia Nest, I'll paint in my dragon. If I'm not...well, I'll see what happens. Maybe I'll try again, or maybe I'll fill it in with another dragon out of my own head."
"These are really good," you say honestly, looking around and drinking in the sight of dragons upon dragons. Every time you look at a wall or scene you find something new to appreciate.
Larana smiles warmly for the first time since you met her.
"Thanks," she says, seeming genuinely pleased. "I've always been the quiet, creative type; I'm not your typical fiery redhead."
Heather snorts and rubs her arm pointedly. At this Larana blushes almost as red as her hair.
"Heather crept up on me once," she admits to you, "and startled me so badly I swung round and accidentally caught her on the arm with my palette."
"Yeah," Heather mutters. "That was my favourite top as well."
"I said I was sorry, didn't I? Come on and let me show you around."
You follow Larana through into a comparatively large room filled with sand in one half and water in the other. Like the other room, this one is decorated with murals, but this time of nature scenes, such as plants, waterfalls, trees. The overall effect is that you're standing in a huge jungle.
"This room's really two rooms," Larana explains. "Both had a huge hollow in the floor, so I filled one with sand for the dragon to sleep in and one with water if it wanted to take a bath. It's also large enough for a dragonet to swim, if they wanted."
"Yeah," Heather cuts in, "and most of us were amazed that with a ready-made swimming pool you didn't have to fight R'shi for it!"
"R'shi likes to be high up, Heather, as you well know," Larana answers. "Getting back to the subject at hand, however, I got Ascella and Sheratan with Cabrauntes in to help me knock the wall down, which I used to build ledges so I could reach my dragon to take care of it more easily."
"Witcheds helped too, didn't she?" Heather persists.
"Yes, she did-she wouldn't be left out for the world! Ascella would have helped anyway-she and I grew up together."
"Yes," you say, feeling curious, "just how did you end up at Draconia Nest?"
Larana shrugs again.
"Like I said, I grew up with Ascella in Rindon. The others have stories of escaping thieves, being rescued, rescuing and so on, but I'm afraid I'm a little more boring than that. Ever since I was young, though, I was fascinated by dragons and drawing. Needless to say, the two soon became one and I ended up sketching dragons and fraces wherever I could. Then I added in backgrounds, landscapes, and it kind of built up from there. There weren't many other kids in Rindon, and those that were there were a little too extroverted for me. So Ascella and I soon became fast friends-she did her music and I did my art. In a way, it worked out rather well-Ascella said her music was often inspired by my paintings and when she played her own compositions, I started to see pictures in my head, an ocean, a range of mountains, dragons, fraces, cats, just about anything. So I painted it."
"Do you sell any of your paintings?" you ask. Larana shakes her head.
"No, I was never interested in that. Sometimes I'd trade one for some food, or do a painting for a special occasion, but mostly I just painted for myself. When Ascella left for Dragon Mountain-"
("That's this place," Heather tells you. "We call it that 'cause that's where all the candidates for dragons live.")
"-I became very lonely, so I just painted even more. Ascella's letters told me about Witcheds and Vampira, so in the end she persuaded me to try and become a candidate. I've applied but I'm still waiting to hear."
You've almost forgotten about Heather during this lengthy narrative, so her tug on your arm comes as something of a surprise.
"C'mon, we'd better go. I'll take you to see Koronna."
Thanks to Icon Bazaar for this background