Heather stops in front of a curtain made of some fabric you can't identify.
"Just a quick note; Shaula's a little...overbearing. She recently Impressed a green dragon from Draconia Nest and boy, is she proud!" She pushes aside the hanging and sticks her head into the cave. "Hey Shaula! You in here?"
"Hi Heather!" A girl of about seventeen (they all seem to be about that age, you notice) comes out of a side cave, carrying an empty pail from which an iron smell is rising. She's small, petite-about 5'4"-with platinum blond hair and bright blue eyes. She has a scar down her shoulder.
"Hi, traveller! I'm Shaula and I came from Rindon with Ascella, you know her?" You nod. "So I don't have to bore you with her side of the story," Shaula says, winking. "But me, now, that's different! Ascella was really envious when I was chosen for candidacy and she wasn't." Shaula's eyes suddenly unfocus and you realise she's talking to her dragon. After a few minutes, they return to normal.
"I've just persuaded Mamyds to come out. She's a little shy sometimes."
"You Impressed a dragon then?" you say pointedly. Shaula grins happily.
"That I did! If I can...oh, here's Mamyds!"
The small green hatchling comes up to Shaula, rears up and nuzzles her injured shoulder. Shaula's eyes unfocus again.
"Yes, my love, don't you worry," she says reassuringly. "I'll get some more ointment on my shoulder soon." She reaches down to scratch Mamyds' eye ridges and the little green croons happily.
"Anyway," Shaula continues, "until then, I'd been wandering around this place, completely lost and sticking to the Lerin Plains most of the time."
"How did you come here?" you ask.
Shaula grins, pleased.
"You ain't really interested in all that old history, are you?"
"Sure I am!" you persist. "After all, I might want to apply for candidacy!"
"True, true," Shaula says with a teasing smile. "Okay. I was born at Rindon-it's like, really small. Not many people know about it. Well, when Ascella'n'me were about ten, we went out looking for firedrace clutches and we got attacked by thieves."
"Is that how you got that scar?" you ask, indicating her shoulder. Shaula grimaces.
"Yeah, but don't remind me of that now, kay? So, Ascella'n'me are like, really scared and we turn and run back to the town. Ascella always was a faster runner'n me, so she got back a few dragonlengths ahead. I wasn't so lucky-in fact, I'd've been killed for sure if it wasn't for blue Quireds and his rider, Y'tan." Shaula shakes her head. "They saved my life. I swear, I came this close," she holds two fingers a quarter of an inch apart, "to being murdered. Then I made it back and my parents weren't too happy about my being reckless, so I had to endure the usual lecture and blah blah blah, you know how devastated we'd be if blahdy-blahdy-blah, etcetera, etcetera. Anyway, to cut a long story-and a long lecture short-about two weeks after this, K'shar came on his black and said that I had been chosen to go to Draconia Nest. So I came here to the caverns and moved in. Well, a few months later, another dragonrider, Z'cal and his dragon Werads, came and told Ascella she'd been chosen, so she moved in! Recently, I was summoned to the Hatching Sands and I Impressed my Mamyds." A soft expression quite unlike Shaula's usual bubbly enthusiastic grin crosses her face and she smiles tenderly at Mamyds, who continues to gaze up at her rider with adoring eyes. You think of the relationship between Sheratan and Cabraunteth and grin.
"I think I understand what that must be like," you say.
"Well, it was really nice talking to you, but I really need to scrub Mamyds." Shaula turns away and her eyes unfocus again as she addresses her dragon. Heather grins and grabs you.
"See what I mean?" she whispers. "I think we should leave 'em now. C'mon, let's go visit M'lani! Oh, and incidentally, if you want more details of Shaula's Impression, just tell me and I'll take you to the place where it was all recorded."
Phew! I'm beat. Give me a break!
Thanks to Icon Bazaar for this background