Heather leads you down another passage (how does she find her way in this labyrinth? you wonder) and into a large cave, similar in design to Ascella's but a little larger. A girl who looks to be about seventeen or eighteen years old turns and grins at you. She is very tall and slender with curly chestnut hair cascading down over her shoulders, down her back and framing a mischievous face with bright blue eyes.
"Hi there!" she says enthusiastically-a drastic change from Koronna and Ascella's quiet manners. "I'm Sheratan and this is mine and Cabrauntes' nest!"
"So you Impressed then?" you ask. Sheratan's grin becomes wider.
"I sure did! I was a candidate at DragonMoon and I Impressed Cabrauntes-he's a bronze dragon with a 40 foot wingspan! Cabrauntes?" she calls, looking around for the dragon. "Cabrauntes, where are you? We got visitors!"
A bronze dragon pads in from another entrance. He's big-fully grown.
Greetings, stranger. I've just been talking to Surani-please forgive me for not being here to greet you. You hear this well satisfied voice in your mind and realise it came from the dragon.
"Cabrauntes, I'd like you to meet our guest," Sheratan says and introduces you.
"Pleased to meet you," you say politely.
And you also, the bronze dragon replies and then curls his sinuous neck around Sheratan's shoulders. Sheratan smiles fondly, an expression completely different from her usual mischievous grin.
"Hey, Sheratan, what did you do with that photo album?" Heather asks. "You have to see Cabrauntes as a child!" she tells you. "He's so cute!"
I was tiny! Cabrauntes says, a gentle feeling of amusement flowing into your mind.
"And now, he's a fully grown bronze dragon!" Heather says.
Sheratan laughs lightly.
"Okay, okay. What did you do with it, Cabrauntes?" she asks her dragon.
Cabrauntes tries to look innocent.
I didn't 'do' anything with it.
"Yeah, right!" Sheratan starts to dig in the sand round by Cabrauntes' sleeping area. "He gets a little embarrassed sometimes, so when we know we're having visitors, he always hides it somewhere! Oh wow, I forgot, you haven't seen this yet!" she says.
"Seen what?" you ask.
Sheratan darts into a small side cave and reappears a moment later holding a tub full of hot sand. In the tub is a small egg about the size of your fist.
"We got approved to have a firedrace egg from Draconia Nest!" Sheratan says. "I'm really glad 'cause it'll keep me'n'Cabrauntes company here. Cabrauntes has grown really attached to the flit fair...now we can have our own firedrace to keep us company at night. And Shiron's pack can put that in their pipe and smoke it," she adds under her breath.
"Do you sleep in here?" you ask her.
"Of course not," she laughs, "my room's just through here, if you want to see it. I only use it for sleeping though. Now I've Impressed Cabrauntes, I spend all my time with him!"
You nod politely and sneak a quick look into Sheratan's room. It's pretty well organised; despite having a bubbly nature and complete butterfly personality, Sheratan actually seems to be quite tidy.
"Found it!" Sheratan says triumphantly. "C'mon, let's take a look. That's one of Cabrauntes when he was a little hatchling,"
Sheratan says. "Isn't he sweet!"
Okay, okay! Cabrauntes says irritably, no need to overdo it!
Sheratan grins and turns the page.
"And here's one of Cabrauntes as a rebellious teen!" she says, her tone teasing.
"Yeah, you! And me showing our guest this photo of you is getting you back for that time when you got the last visitor to look at a picture of me dressed up as a guppy!" She shuts the photo album.
You nod, not entirely sure why Sheratan would have dressed up as a guppy but a little too wary to ask.
"So how'd you come here?" you ask.
"Well, I'm a friend of Surani actually," Sheratan explains. "I recently arrived here and was a little lost with coloured mists swirling around me-" (you feel you can really relate to that) "-and then Althne came along with Gond, Stal and Chrysial and said how they were responsible for getting the visitors to the crossroads. I enjoyed my ride on Chrysial so much I asked Althne if there was any chance I could Impress and her face just lit up and she said, actually, she was hoping I'd ask that as apparently there aren't many people here and would I like to move in? I mean, sheesh!" Sheratan whistles and runs a hand through her hair, an annoying habit she usually does when she's tired or taken aback or surprised. "I'd just come and she asks me if I want to stay!"
"I don't see what's so odd about that," Heather says. "She asked me to stay!"
Sheratan shakes her head, grinning.
"No she didn't Heather-you've been here longer than she has, remember? Anyway, I was exploring and I met up with Surani, who is responsible for taking care of candidates and helping them if they get into problems with their dragons. Like if I was to break my leg or something, she'd help me take care of Cabrauntes until I could do it myself. Anyway, Surani took one look at me and said 'How would you like to be a candidate?' I just leapt in the air-I was so excited! So she showed me to the Caves and let me pick the one I wanted! Here I can talk to Ascella and also listen in on her playing if I want! A week or so later, I was taken to DragonMoon Weyr and I Impressed my bronze Cabrauntes!" Sheratan smiles happily at the memory. "Since then, I've been real busy taking care of him, feeding, bathing, oiling, you name it! Ascella-you met Ascella, didn't you?" You nod and Sheratan continues. "Well, she sometimes helps me get Cabrauntes to sleep he's so energetic! He has to see everything and can't wait until I'm awake and it's time to go flying around to meet all the other dragons and animals in the mornings. So Ascella usually plays a tune or two on her pipes to calm him down. It never fails-have you heard her playing?"
You nod wistfully, remembering that beautiful melody that Ascella had played whilst you were in her Weyr.
"And her friend Shaula often helps me feed him."
Heather tugs your sleeve-her way of getting attention, you realise.
"Hey, you wanna go meet Shaula?"
"Sure!" you say.
"Before you start talking like Sheratan all the time," Heather adds cheekily and ducks the playful swipe both you and Sheratan take at her. "C'mon then. She's usually in her Nest at this time of day with Mamyds-we may just catch her!"
"Yeah, I should start getting ready," Sheratan says. "Cabrauntes tells me that it's time to go hunting! I'll see you around! Drop back anytime."
Thanks to Icon Bazaar for this background
Phew! I'm beat. Give me a break!