Heather grins happily as she pulls you along.
"C'mon, let's get to the plains!"
You follow, somewhat cautiously. You're still not quite sure about this girl.
"What's on these plains?" you ask.
"Mostly the equines," Heather answers. "They love it here 'cause they can gallop all over the place and practise their flying skills as well. 'Course, we got a coupla Sarebs here too." Suddenly she skids to a stop. You cannon into her.
"Sssh!" She raises a hand and points to a group of unicorns. "Oh, I was hoping Crystal would have her foal soon!
Isn't she gorgeous?! Her mate is called Lightning and that foal's a filly. Crystal told me if she had a filly she was going to call it Frost, so I guess that's what it's now called."
"Where do they come from?" you ask.
"Oh, from LadyHipoo's Adoption Centre," Heather answers. "I think there're some more somewhere." She looks around and suddenly points. "Yes, there they are!""The mare, Forest, had her foal a few days ago. He's a little colt called Orical and so far, he seems to take after his father Electrum in behaviour! They're from LadyHipoo as well. Hey, there's Lirl!"
"Lirl is a Sareb," Heather explains. "He's one of the few non-equine adoptees that lives here."
Lirl looks at you, his large eyes getting bigger and bigger. You take half a step towards him and he lets out a high squawking sound and leaps away. You jump back.
Heather shakes her head, grinning irrepressibly.
"Nah. Sarebs are likely to leap out of their skin at the slightest thing."
There is the sound of beating wings above you and an unusually coloured Alicorn and Pegasus fly down. "Oh yeah. These are Nira and Sharol, and they're from our Centre,"Heather says. "They're kinda restless right now 'cause they're hoping for a friend to arrive from Joslynn Pegasi. We've applied for a foal to keep 'em company but no word yet." She grabs your arm and pulls you over to a cluster of rocks that have been skilfully arranged to form some kind of alcove, or niche. "I forgot," she says, "you haven't met Surani yet! Hey Surani, wake up! She's very shy," Heather explains in an aside to you, "so she tends to hide whenever a visitor comes. Kinda unusual in a dragon, particularly a queen, but there it is. Surani?"
"Alright. Alright." A low, melodic voice comes from inside the rocks. "I'm awake."
A medium sized dragon emerges and stands next to the boulders, the sun gleaming off her deep golden scales.
"Greetings traveller. My name-as you have no doubt already discovered through this young, energetic and noisy human-" Surani gives Heather a draconic and somehow maternal smile, "is Surani, and I am from The Dark Crystal Realm. I help Heather and Rajina take care of the young ones, particularly dragons. I've been kept very busy recently as we just received a gryphon egg from Nimera's Adoption Center." She turns her head gracefully to look behind her and you follow her gaze and see the sky blue egg gleaming in the sunshine.
"Speaking of eggs and hatchlings-" Surani continues, turning to Heather "-how's Orulth doing?"
Heather grins enthusiastically.
"Great! Really great! He's still eating everything in sight and when he isn't eating, he's sleeping, but he's really great! What about your three new arrivals?"
The dragon sighs dramatically.
"No signs of hatching yet. Judging by how hard they are, I'd say they'll hatch in about five or six days. We got some eggs from The Egg Agency," Surani explains to you. "One's an equine, one's a dragon like me and the other...well, nobody knows quite what's going to come out of it." Surani moves aside so you can see the three eggs behind her.
You step back, slightly startled, as what looks like a flaming red arrow zips over the eggs protectively.
"Ah," Surani says, as the arrow comes to land and turns out in fact to be a red dragon, fires flickering over its body. "This one is also from the Egg Agency; he hatched a few days ago. Meet Vesuvius."
Vesuvius growls at you and you're not sure if you've been greeted or insulted.
"He thinks it's his job to watch over the eggs while I'm talking," the golden dragon explains. "He just likes to make sure nobody steals them or anything."
Vesuvius gives you one last glance, then turns back to patrolling the sky above the eggs.
"Hey, it's been great talking to you an' everything, Surani," Heather says after you're done looking at the eggs, "but I would really like to see Rajina and Orulth needs a lotta care, so we gotta go now."
You're a little disappointed by this as you would have liked to talk more with Surani-but Heather is already tugging your arm as hard as she can.
"Heather is very fond of Rajina," Surani says, quiet amusement in her tone. "It mightn't be a bad idea to go along-at least, not if you want to enjoy the rest of the tour in peace."
"Okay," you manage to say, before you either have to go with Heather or be yanked off your feet.
"There she is!" Heather says excitedly. "Hey Rajina! Over here!"
You follow her frantically waving hand and watch as a slender, graceful creature steps over from her coaching of a young Alicorn, which the Sareb, Lirl, seems to be watching from a distance. "Rajina's a Senoch," Heather says to you, like that should explain everything.
It doesn't, but nonetheless, you wait for Rajina to come over to you.
"Welcome to the Lerin Plains, stranger," she says. "I am Rajina, and it's my job to (Nira, quit teasing poor Lirl; he's neurotic enough already!) my job to (I mean it, Nira, else you won't go flying today!) to keep the younger ones in order, if you hadn't already worked it out," the Senoch adds with a laugh. "I'm from the Senoch Adoption Agency, and I was adopted for pretty much this purpose-and I love every minute of it!"
A queer chittering sound draws your attention and you look up. What looks like a lizard with dragonfly wings is perched on the branch of a tree. It turns its head around this way and that, trying to see you better.
Heather follows your gaze.
"Oh, I was wondering where he'd got to," she says. "That's the one that hatched from the last mystery egg Surani had from the Egg Agency. He's called Tree."
Tree chirrups briefly, then snaps open his wings and flutters off.
Heather turns to Rajina.
"Hey, have you seen Yuko?"
Rajina grins and turns. You and Heather copy her and, sitting on a grassy hillock, you see... "He's dreaming right now," Rajina explains. "He just got a message from another Meliox called Laura asking if he would marry her. He's accepted eagerly and is waiting to hear from her."
"Awwww." Heather grins mischievously. "Where's his friend Fena?"
"Out with the dragons in the Kendan Rainforest, where else? Fena's a Meliox, same as Yuko," she explains to you, "but whilst Yuko is passive, tranquil and peaceful, Fena seems to be his exact opposite. She's not unpleasant by any means-her hyperactivity just takes some getting used to."
"Yeah." Heather agrees with a grin. "Me'n Chasm love to tease her about that!"
"Watch yourself, Heather! Fena's nice enough-but her quick temper is no laughing matter!"
"Aw, Raj, c'mon," Heather says. "She's just like a cat!"
"A cat who's about half as tall again as you are," Rajina points out. "Fena and Yuko both come from The Meliox Adoption Centre," she adds to you.
"Yeah, yeah." Heather waves a hand dismissively. "Look Raj, I really loved talking to you and all, but Orulth needs a feed soon and the Kendan Rainforest is too far to walk in this heat so I'll borrow Leo and Gemini if that's okay! 'Course, once Orulth grows up, it'll be easier 'cause I can fly you everywhere," she adds, turning her attention back to you. "And also, we've applied to adopt a FeatherDragon so he or she could take you whilst I ride Orulth. But 'til then..." Heather shrugs. "We're stuck with the horses. Hope you can ride...?"
She lets out a piercing whistle and five horses trot up to you. Heather takes you over to a nicely built mare. "This is Gemini," she explains. "She's kind of Leo's favourite at the moment. And this one," she continues, indicating a bright bay that's nosing her pockets for sugar, "is Leo."
"And these two?" you ask, pointing to where a mare stands keeping a watchful eye on her foal.
"Oh, the mare is called Galaxy and her colt's name is Sol," Heather answers. "And that one," she adds, swinging up onto Leo's back and indicating a pretty silver mare, "is called Silverlake. She comes from Homespun Design.She's very shy; she only arrived yesterday. Oh, one more thing..." Heather roots around in various pockets until she produces a much folded piece of paper. "This is her certificate. I'm supposed to show it to everyone who takes the tour." She folds it and sticks it back in her pocket. "And somewhere around here...oh, there you are." She indicates a thicket on the edge of the plains and curious, you take a look inside.
"That's Ebony," Heather tells you. "She was the last of the eggs Surani was taking care of."
Ebony disappears again into the thicket. Heather grabs your arm and drags you over to the patiently waiting horses, you mount Gemini and the two horses set off at a brisk canter towards the dark green mass on the horizon.
"The others are practically royalty!" Heather yells back to you. "They come from the King's Stables at the Silver Unicorn!"
You nod, partially because you don't know what else to say but mostly because even if you did say anything, the wind would whip your words away long before they reached Heather.
"Get comfy," Heather calls back, "it's going to be a long ride!"
Phew! I'm beat. Give me a break!