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Sons of Winter 10 The Endless Night
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Sons of Winter 11 Arcane Fever

sons_of_winter_11_arcane_fever.txt
Keywords male 625193, female 505941, wolf 109566, dragon 78499, anthro 60724, love 16103, fantasy 11425, magic 11277, character 8096, sfw 6763, story 6609, of 5117, winter 3290, adventure 2846, warrior 2352, series 1921, plot 1803, general 1645, war 1268, life 1188, medieval 786, novel 705, affection 643, no-yiff 436, emotional 425, hatchling 384, development 341, bonding 245, sons 134, survival 123, slice 103, cheetahs 81
Hello there, and welcome back to this novel! "Sons of Winter" is a bit of an experiment on my part. It is what I call a "High creative-freedom novel commission" in which the commissioner allows me a great deal of liberty to detail the plot, as well as employ any number of OCs I deem necessary to help guide the protagonist down his fated path. So, the reason why I liked to call this a personal work is because it definitely feels like one. However, after talking with my beloved patron, he allowed me to credit him in order to give proper recognition to his OC, as well as provide an example into how these sort of novel commissions look like ^^

Chapter description: Just as Aleks' worst fears come true, a stranger from the human lands happens upon him and Nyrisa, his intentions ambiguous, and his direwolf downright terrifying.
Aleks belongs to Teufel: http://www.furaffinity.net/user/dragonteufel/

The other characters featured in this novel are my creation


Missed the previous chapter? Find it here! https://inkbunny.net/s/1695843

*Sons of Winter 11 Arcane Fever*
Despite the verdant, artificially alive sanctuary that Nyrisa wrought around them to keep the cold at bay, Aleks' sleep had been fretful. His fears, worries, guilt, shame, regret interwove into his dreams, hurling him from one frightful scenario into the next, with only the trepidation welled into his pounding temples to remind him of them.

He didn't move. He didn't yawn, didn't blink, and didn't even spare Nyrisa a glance for fear of what he might find. Instead, he marveled at the magically-infused willow, with its lush, low-hanging boughs acting as a drape against the lazy snowflakes rolling down from a bleak, peaceful, uncaring sky.

She shouldn't have done it. They had the proper means to fight the cold. Why? Why did she...?

Aleks sucked in a deep breath to calm himself. Nyrisa was still with him, very much alive. Warmth radiated from her petite body, and soft ribbons of steam left her nostrils every time she exhaled. Exhilarated that this terrible night came to an end, Aleks rested his head back against the willow's trunk, his wry, uncertain smile blooming just like its leaves, turning into a grin laden with relief.

"We made it," he said, more to himself than to Nyrisa. "That warning didn't hold true. Uncle always said magic is treacherous, and that only the humans held the key to unlocking its true potential."

He remained like this for a while, head splayed back to marvel at Nyrisa's doing. Now that both of them woke up, he could truly appreciate the results of her magic, only now starting to relish the boon bestowed upon them.

"You kept us dry and cozy through the night, Nyrisa. I half forgot what warmth feels like until this morning. I'm also famished, and I suppose the same goes for you."

He gingerly lifted the bear hide off Nyrisa, rolling a fingertip across the edge of her crest to tickle her to awareness.

"Wake up, sleepy. I'd let you rest in the knapsack if you but desire it, but I suppose you'll be a rebel and go against my word yet again."

Her crest frills remained idle, exhibiting not even the slightest sign of discomfort.

The grip of despair seized Aleks' throat, clutching it in a vice-like grip. He swallowed through that painful lump, grabbed one of Nyrisa's forepaws, and sneaked a claw between her paw pads, tickling the sensitive, leathery tissue lining the crevices between her toes.

The hatchling remained idle, her breathing even but shallow, unresponsive to calls, unmoving even when Aleks forced himself to pinch her frills and toe pads, hoping that discomfort might rouse her from this eerie, unresponsive state.

Aleks froze with one hand placed over Nyrisa's back and the other fondling the toes of a forepaw. Time dilated as he did naught but stare at her, as paralyzed as her but for the slow, involuntary movements of his fingers, his mind rushing back to that fateful moment, and to the words she said.

"I will assist you the best I can, but after I collapse, I have two requests of you. If I recover, we both sever ties with our families. If I perish, I want you, in person, to return me to my mother and my siblings."

The memory haunted him, taking away his thirst, his hunger, his very will to lift himself off the ground. The outcome that she had described didn't happen. It was one thing, for her to fall limp right after the battle, her strength spent, and another for him to wake up to her in this state. She braved the unknown after defeating Leobard. She warmed him, kissed him, forced life back into a tree to keep the snow at bay for the night.

She was alive when they went to sleep. Awake and alive. Not inert, not...like this.

And it was all because of him. She had fought in a battle that wasn't hers to defend her most unworthy companion, and after that, she had used her remaining strength to guide him here, where she presented him with one last splendid display of magic.

"I'm dazzled by how a tiny creature such as you achieved such a feat," Aleks murmured, stroking her neck with a thumb as his numb mind clung onto the familiarity of the customary praise he always offered Nyrisa. "In the tale, the priests were ancient, well into their powers, but you...you have replicated the miracle that had kept them alive throughout the Endless Night. A small, frail thing of only a few months on this world, managed what no adult dragon had tried back home."

She didn't trill appreciatively at the empowering words. Nor did she clamber up his chest to curl about his neck, or leap out of his reach to attempt a greater, even more impressive magic.

It was then, when realization sunk into Aleks' breast, a dark, terrifying serpent that gnawed upon all the happiness he harbored, leaving him as hollow, lost and apathetic like Nyrisa. It was real. Not a figment of his imagination, nor a hallucination in the heat of combat. It might not have happened the way she warned him about, but the outcome was the same.

"How...how can I help you recover?" he asked of her, half expecting the same eerie magic from before to engulf them, for Nyrisa to find a way, like she had always done so far.

Nothing happened.

"I...don't want to go back home, but I will. I'll follow you, Nyrisa, just like I followed you here, to this barren place to which you brought life... but enough of that," he said on a more resolute tone, swallowing back the emotions that threatened to overwhelm him.

"We need to rest. Both of us do. The knapsack is hardly a proper place for sleep."

He draped the doeskin over the ground, placed the limp body of Nyrisa on it, and tucked her under the bear fur, touching his nose against hers before getting up on his weak, tired, trembling legs.

"I'll be close by, in case you wake up. Need to make sure we're the only ones here."

Aleks' sword never felt more foreign in his hands, or heavier when strapped to his back. It was nothing but a lump of metal, refined and beautiful as it was, incapable of defending him the way Nyrisa had done. He owed her not only his life, but his happiness as well, short lived as it turned out to be.

She's not dead yet, you wretched, impotent, craven fool, Aleks sought to banish away the despair creeping from the corners of his mind. Fight for her, just like she had fought for you.

The necessity of patrolling the surrounding area filled Aleks up with determination, stripping away his awe and curiosity with Nyrisa's magic. Without even rubbing a green leaf between his fingers to test its texture, Aleks broke through the verdant curtain and into the whiteness sprawling all around, broken by the blacks and browns of the cliffs towering to his right. He inspected that ridge first, holding a hand above his eyes to shield himself from the lazily drifting snowflakes, well aware of what a prime ambush spot it made.

Check it first, or later? Behind him lay their destination, the valley's mouth, where the ground rose and the slopes became tamer, enough to allow him to climb on top. Ahead, he couldn't even spot their tracks anymore, his and Nyrisa's efforts to make it here buried beneath fresh layers of snow, impassive and uncaring to the testament of their struggle. Better that their passage had been hidden. Only a hapless IceHowler or a foreigner to these parts would cross that treacherous pass, so Aleks confidently put his back to it to face the enormity of his task.

The gentler nature of the western landscape masked its true perils, instilling a false sense of hope into Aleks. From here onward, only the strong had claim over the land. It wasn't only the enemies of the IceHowlers, the ones branded as turncoats by his father, that lived here. More savage, magic-less humans began their incursion here as well, shunned by their stronger, more elevated kind, forced to endure the bitter cold their thin, furless coats couldn't possibly withstand. Though he hadn't seen those humans yet, the very notion made Aleks grit his teeth in anger. Rather than unite the clans against a species with a well-known thirst for conquest, his father entertained petty feuds, unaware of the rising power of the west.

"Grrrrrrrh," came a growl from behind Aleks.

The blue wolf whirled on his feet, his paws catching one another, causing him to trip and fall into the snow. Exposed before a dark, gigantic wolf the likes of which he had never seen, Aleks instinctively drew his sword, pointing it at the beast that materialized from the very cliff.

"That's mighty foolish of you," a voice said from atop the cliff. Aleks didn't look at it right away, more concerned with the threat in front of him than the one towering hundreds of feet above. "You made two crucial mistakes that have left you open, furred one. First, you point what amounts to a toothpick at a direwolf. Second, you should be more concerned with the one holding the Grandbow."

Irrational as it was to listen to the words of a stranger, Aleks instinctively turned his head towards the silhouette perched atop the cliff. The male--a human by the rich, smooth sound of his voice--wore a long, dark, elegant cloak, an immense bow almost as tall as him pointed at Aleks, its very arrow as thick and long as Aleks' arm.

"Who are you?" Aleks shouted the first thing that came to his mind.

The human must've found his question particularly amusing, for his bow shrunk into his very hand, until it became invisible.

Summoning magic. A basic spell, yet unmistakable in its nature. No anthro had found a way to attune objects to the erratic whims of arcane magic, yet the humans discovered ways to hide an entire construction into a rune-etched pebble.

"What are you?" The human shot back, his tone crackling with the perverse enjoyment at cornering his prey. "Fox? Mountain hound? Can't see through this blasted snow, but you're definitely canine, for my Garrun got closer to you than he should have."

The wolf backed down several steps, admonished by the human's words. He was an impressive creature, reaching up to Aleks' shoulders when standing, bearing a sleek coat as thick as pitch. His amber eyes stared Aleks down, but there was no malice in them, as hinted by his sniffing nostrils; only curiosity.

"Wolf," Aleks said, then repeated, louder, so that the human could hear as well. "I'm a wolf."

"Interesting. Know how we found you, wolf?"

"My scent?"

The human's audible laughter rolled down the cliffs, as refined as his poise. "In Garrun's case, perhaps, but your little shelter there, impressive as it is, attracts unwanted attention, as you have just noticed."

The human's attention shifted to the revitalized willow, its enchanted, leaf-laden boughs blocking Nyrisa from sight. "Whoever's there is asleep, I suppose?"

Aleks' grip on the sword tightened, but it did little to reduce the shivers crawling through his arm, unbalancing his aim at the huge, terrifying creature before him. "I'm alone. By myself."

"And that is what you shall become if the dragon or the sky serpent there isn't at least a juvenile. My sister cares for orphaned dragons, amidst her other preoccupations, a word that is far more open to interpretation than you initially suspect. But since she is your Kindred companion, then I suggest you start being truthful with the nature of her exhaustion, otherwise your ignorance will exert a heavy toll."

"She is...unwell," he spoke the truth, his mind incapable of treachery in the face of his demise. He only bested Leobard thanks to Nyrisa's help, but unlike her, he couldn't defend them.

"Garrun, on your haunches. He's not a threat. He can't even stand upright, let alone aim his sword straight, for god's sake," he insisted when the wolf hesitated. Eventually, Garrun followed his command, towering over Aleks despite the distance separating them.

He shouldn't have unsheathed his sword, let alone point it at this wolf. What had he been thinking?! As if to make up for his lapse of judgment, he allowed Oathbreaker to fall from his limp hand, feeling a strange sense of relief at discarding that wretched thing and surrendering to fate's mercy.

Up on the cliff, the human tilted his head to the side in bemusement.

"If a sword tires your arm so quickly, then I suggest you keep it sheathed in the face of a threat you can't possibly overcome. It creates grave misunderstandings." He turned left, pointing at where a slope led down into the valley.

"I'm going to make my way down while Garrun keeps you company. It might seem ridiculous of me to say it, but you're safer with him than on your own. Had somebody else but me found you...well, better that it didn't come to that."

Aleks remained in the snow, mystified by the human's words and behavior, rooted in place by the direwolf looming before him, and paralyzed by his own impotence. It took one tamed direwolf and a human's words to disarm him and put him down on the ground, where he belonged. Had he loosened his arrow, or gave Garrun the freedom to attack...

Rather than dwell on that, Aleks' gaze darted between the slope, the willow and Garrun, every passing second more excruciating than the last. In the past, he had ways to escape danger, and when danger cornered him, Nyrisa was there to assist him. But now...now, it was over. Truly over.

I'm not going to let him take Nyrisa away. We shall remain together, no matter what that entails.

As if to prolong his agony, the human walked at a moderate pace, savoring every sluggish step he took through the shin-deep snow.

"Garrun won't attack. You have my word. He will, forever, remain on that side, in case a less savory character pays us a visit." He pointed at Aleks' fallen sword. "May I?"

Not like he had a choice in the matter...

"Are you certain?" The human insisted despite Aleks' nod. "It's good craftmanship."

Aleks unstrapped the scabbard from his back, throwing it at the human's feet. "It's yours. Take it, so that I may never hold that accursed thing again."

Despite the fear coursing through his veins, Aleks' voice remained eerily flat, devoid of stutter or emotion. The human's brow furrowed, his dark, bushy eyebrows perking.

"I'm not a scoundrel, to part wolf and sword, but given that a band of those unsavory characters I mentioned before happens to prowl through this territory at this very moment, it's best that I hold it. They're not as...respectful to your kind as I am."

Without even looking at the sword, he slipped it back into its scabbard and hurled it across a shoulder. "Oh, don't be so gloom. You'll get your deserved praise for the sword, but compliments can wait until I check up on your unwell dragon, yes?"

The human offered him a hand to help him onto his feet, which Aleks reluctantly accepted. Strong, powerful, callused warrior hands hoisted him up, and also steadied him while Aleks' bare paws stumbled for purchase.

"Much as you need it, rest will have to wait. Garrun can carry you, should your legs betray you."

Carry him? Carry him where? Aleks paused for a second as he stared into the human's green eyes. They had a grizzled look that contrasted with his otherwise clear skin, devoid of visible scars. Under the hood of his robe, his short cropped dark hair covered just the tip of his brow, the locks rough and unruly, similar to his direwolf's fur. He had a short, unconventional mustache that thinned at the sides, bridging with his equally scant beard that adorned only his chin. A strip of dark, spiky hair clambered up to his lower lip, where it became slightly broader, giving him the appearance of a sorcerer more than a warrior.

Then again, Aleks had never seen a human from up-close, especially not one Kindred to a direwolf.

"Shall we, then?" He said, splaying an arm left, towards the willow. "Suppose it helps alleviate your concerns if you walk into your shelter first."

As they began to move, Aleks noticed the human signal the direwolf to remain in his place at the edge of his vision.

"Does he speak to you?"

The human's features remained impassive. "Not through the conventional methods. We're not Kindred, like you anthros and your animal companions are. It's one of the fundamental differences between our kinds. Despite studying the very essence of magic, humans have never managed to reproduce this particular type of bond, yet there are means to supplement that lack, which Garrun and I do not particularly favor."

Aleks kept the perks of the Kindred bond to himself, uncertain--and also unwilling--to share them with a foreigner.

"You come from the west then? You and your sister?"

He chuckled at that notion, only to scoff a second after. "This counts as west for me, and north for you. But if you mean the fabled human kingdoms to the west, then no. At least, not yet. Working towards that."

Aleks wanted to ask more about the humans and their culture, but after they passed through the boughs of the willow, his curiosity soured into sorrow at the sight of Nyrisa. He went straight to her, forgetting about the human in his rush to nuzzle, stroke, and share his affection with the hatchling. He told her of his encounter with the stranger, of how he knew about dragons, and that he might turn out to be the only person who wouldn't pose an immediate threat to their safety.

He held Nyrisa tight against his chest, licking at the liquid film of fever coating her pads. They were cold, so cold. They shouldn't have been sweating, and yet, they did.

"May I?"

Aleks trembled at the sudden disturbance, growling at the human, forgetting his purpose for a second.

"I..." he licked the fear off his muzzle, drawing upon every ounce of his strength to retain his composure. "You may."

The human nodded, lifting a hand when Aleks tried to get up. "Not necessary. You can hold her. She's your Kindred companion, not mine."

Aleks kept Nyrisa in his lap while the human inspected her features. He touched certain patches of scales in apparently random locations with the tip of his finger, rubbed the leathery frills and wing membranes between his fingertips, smelled her breath and paws. He grunted as he did the latter, insisting on performing a similar check all over again. Finally, he drew back, a weary sigh fleeing his meaty lips.

"Are you familiar with the affliction called arcane fever?"

Aleks shook his head, unable to form coherent words.

"I'm hardly a scholar, but my sister is a sorceress, and she taught me the basics of spotting arcane fever, which is quite different from exertion through the use of magic. The problem isn't that Nyrisa expended her mana in what I believe to have been the revitalization of this willow. It's that she tapped into your residual mana pool in order to accomplish this task. If you've never used magic, you wouldn't notice this at all, unless your Kindred companion purposefully drains you dry for their selfish goals, but I've yet to hear an accounting of that. Sounds delightfully callous. Give me a moment," he said to Aleks when the blue wolf's silence became too thick to bear, noticing his distant gaze.

"Can you cure her?" Aleks asked, hope igniting in his breast. Maybe he had a way! A spellstone, a trinket, an arcane ritual, something to pull Nyrisa out of this unnatural slumber!

"No, but what I can do is make myself a tad more comfortable, as we're going to remain here for a while."

The human rolled his eyes at Aleks' snarl.

"Curing her is far beyond my ability, but I can lessen the symptoms, and I'll need your help to do so. Warm her paws if you can. It'll help calm her dreams."

Aleks wanted to rebel at the human's ineptitude. His kind was supposed to understand magic down to its roots, which meant he either refused to help him, or that he wanted something in exchange. Rather than jump to conclusion, the blue wolf snuffed out his frustration, focusing on Nyrisa instead. He grabbed her in his arms, crossed his legs, placed the knapsack across his thighs for extra height, and rested Nyrisa on top of it. This way, his muzzle had easy access to the frigid pads on her hind paws, while each hand cupped a forepaw.

While he tended to Nyrisa, Aleks' eyes constantly followed the human. He first removed the sword's scabbard from his back, kneeling in front of it, inspecting the pommel, the handle and cross guard.

"This is good craftsmanship. You made it?"

Aleks didn't respond. The connotations associated with that sword produced a shudder down his spine as icy and prickly as the sweat clinging to Nyrisa's violet paw pads. Now that it traded hands, it felt as if a gloom had fled Aleks, freeing him from that oppressive burden.

"You'll have it back. Don't you worry."

Aleks lifted his head from Nyrisa's joined paws, his gaze resolute. "I don't want it back. I want her back," he said, nuzzling her little toes. "She's the one who protected me, who cherished me, who...loved me..."

His faltering voice made the human uneasy, for he immediately reached for the knots tying his cloak to his shoulder guards, sliding it off his lanky frame to reveal a surcoat embroidered with gold and silver threading. The runes were foreign to him, as well as the order to which he belonged to. If given a few more moments, he could have deciphered some of the swirly lines, but the human removed that as well, remaining in a smooth, dark leather vest under which he wore a white woolen shirt. His vest had an impossible number of pockets, from which he removed several perfect, obsidian colored spheres, each etched with a differently glowing rune.

Aleks instinctively snarled at those tiny, knuckle-sized pebbles, and the human deposited them behind him, not quite putting them back from whence they came.

"They are not what you think they are."

"And yet, one of them is your bow," the blue wolf cut to the chase. "I may not have seen summoning magic from up-close, but I know what they are, and what you plan to--"

"I'm Brannen," the human interrupted him, stretching forth a cordial hand to show that he meant no harm. "Might I know your name?"

"A--aleks," the wolf stuttered, recoiling from him, taken aback by the human's openness.

Upon noticing his hesitation, Brannen removed his hand, squatting in front of Aleks, hands holding his knees. It was a silly, relaxed posture meant to dissuade his worries. "There is a measure of distrust going between our two people, but one thing that you and I share is an affection for dragons. You'll understand more about it as we travel to my sister, but for the time being, all I can ask of you is your trust. Not for my sake, but for hers," he said, green eyes skipping over to Nyrisa.

Aleks mulled over Brannen's words. The briny taste of Nyrisa's pads seemed to become stronger, her toes colder, as if her will to cling onto life began to drain from her at an accelerated rate. Unlike him, Nyrisa wasn't a coward. A tiny hatchling stood against an enormous bear, the squad leader of Lothering, a grizzled veteran who had weathered dozens of battles.

"Tell me more about her affliction," Aleks chose a middle ground, one that even Nyrisa could find it in herself to respect. Humans were known to be cunning, and if Brannen truly favored dragons, then he better understood more of this so called arcane fever that he had mentioned.

Brennan scratched at his scraggly hair in thought, chin rested against a fist as he sat cross-legged from across Aleks.

"Arcane fever manifests when a Kindred animal unintentionally invites foreign mana into their being. It mixes with their own pool of mana, muddling it, sometimes preventing the dragon from assimilating new reserves of mana from their surrounding. That's another, different lesson expanding and theorizing  the existence of arcane energy in its apparently infinite forms, but what is relevant to us is that Nyrisa must've cast a beneficial spell on you without understanding the process--or the risks-- associated with it."

Aleks continued to rub warmth into Nyrisa's forepaws with his thumbs while his tongue did the same for her hind ones, his expression grave, his gaze sharp.

"She isn't just exhausted, Aleks. A multitude of spells go off inside her at this very moment, trying to cleanse her mana pool, and that taxes the mind greatly. She might be unaware to her surroundings, but that's because she is locked in another plane. Or well, her conscience is. Again, a lesson that I can't impart given the circumstances. Dragons usually resort to these desperate measures during critical moments, so if she saved you from a threat, the little thing keeps reliving that battle over and over again, and every single time, she faces defeat. Worst of all is that she is not alone. You are right there, with her, and she probably witnesses you getting mauled, dismembered, or whatever gruesome scenarios you might conceive that ends in your death, but never hers, since it is you she cast the spell upon. There's a reason Dream magic gives you nightmares the night after you use it. Ironic as it sounds, that is the primordial will of the arcane magic, to always fortify its vessel and have them use it in better ways during future dangers. In the case of the arcane fever, it is also speculated that Nyrisa's struggles are also a projection of her own mana attempting--and failing--to purify itself. Since mana is naught but arcane energy, it needs a medium through which it can gain shape and purpose, and it relies on Nyrisa's subconscious by having her cast all manner of spells instinctively."

Brannen paused for a moment, inhaling a deep breath that he let out in a drawn-out sigh.

"Be grateful she's a hatchling. The older the dragon, the stronger and more complex the spells, to the point where they affect the physical world and those around them. These," he said, bringing forth the spheres from before, sifting through them until only three remained in his outstretched palm, "are a bundle of dried Frostflame blooms, tincture of Netherflame buds, and the ever reliable Manaweed."

"Can they...."

"They're all for adult, conscious dragons," Brannen's truth shattered Aleks' rising hopes into dust. "I won't deceive you by overinflating their properties, nor shall I withhold their drawbacks."

He then proceeded to explain how the arcane fever affected every dragon differently, and that it was up to their conscience to treat the offering as a boon or a threat. And the bad turned to worse, for each of Brannen's orbs held more despair than Aleks could stomach.

"But this won't help her at all! You're talking...you mean...imply that..." the tears threatening to break loose from the corners of his eyes prevented him from continuing, so Brannen resumed with the same calm, patient tone.

"Nyrisa doesn't know me, Aleks. These are reagents, neither good nor evil. It is the spell that determines the role they fulfill, and the host that chooses to respond to them. It is dragons that choose to cast this spell on their kin, or somebody very close to them when the latter are nowhere to be found, such as her Kindred companion."

Aleks shook his head. There was no point in deluding himself further. "I haven't cast a spell in my life. It is mighty doubtful I'll start doing so now."

Brannen nodded, his eyes swimming with the same sorrow in which Aleks drowned. "Shall I?"

"What if we just take her to your sister?" Aleks forwarded the simpler, easier to swallow, far less risky proposition. "She cares for dragons, does she not? Why subject her to something that might forever cripple her when her kin can simply cure her?"

"Cure her?" Brannen clicked his tongue at that. "This isn't a disease that you can banish through a simple arcane ritual. It isn't a poison that can be negated by sipping an antidote. It will take months for Nyrisa to completely recover, Aleks. Months," he emphasized, draining the color from Aleks' ears, causing them to sag in defeat.

Months...months spent in the company of humans, amidst tortured, crippled, or broken dragons. Nyrisa's was a proud kind, accepting aid only when it made the difference between life and death. Whoever Brannen's sister was, she didn't solely rely on her benevolence to rescue said dragons. Humans didn't do such charitable acts without a solid goal behind it.

We'd be prisoners, just like under Father's heel, Aleks realized. Alas, what choice did he have?

"Months," he said, the word heavy on his tongue.

"Perhaps even a year," Brannen added, throwing one sphere from one hand to the other, not at all worried that the summoning spell might activate against his will. "Returning her to our plane is a quarter of the battle, perhaps even less than that. My sister will want the other dragons to help rehabilitate her after the ordeal, and then train her to deal with the recurring nightmares that will plague her, as well as develop her abilities in all of the existing schools of magic. It's equal parts recovery, equal parts prevention, for we both know how foolhardy dragons tend to be, especially when Kindred to the likes of you."

Aleks' way of coping with this sudden wave of stress involved returning to Nyrisa's paws, but Brannen shielded her pads with a hand before his tongue alighted upon them.

"You've done all you could, Aleks. You can't just like a harm like this away, regardless of how much Garrun might disagree with me."

Brannen's certain hands grabbed his trembling ones, shifting them away from Nyrisa so that he could grab her instead.

"Go to Garrun," he commanded rather than suggest. "It is better this way."

Aleks didn't respond. He simply prepared Nyrisa's bed, so that Brannen could tuck her in there on her back, for better access to her snout. "I'll have her sniff some Manaweed, don't you worry. That alone will halve the adverse effects of the other two, and if we're fortunate, cancel them entirely."

"I...even so, I..."

Brannen didn't immediately soothe Aleks' worries, and neither did he press him. Instead, he assumed his previous role, that of stroking Nyrisa's hind paws to keep the blood flowing. "You are taking a chance, yes, but she already lives on borrowed time, Aleks, if this can even be called such. The more she sweats, the more dehydrated she becomes, and in this state, she can't eat nor drink, which forces our hand more than I'd like to admit."

He paused to lick his lips and apply the same strokes to her forepaws, the human visibly shaken by Nyrisa's predicament as well. "Besides, it is not her physical condition that concerns us, but that of her mind. The longer we take, the longer she fights, and the lesser she becomes. Whoever will return into this petite body won't be the same Nyrisa from before, but she can be, if I give her some aid. That right there," he pointed at the surcoat with his chin, "is the tabard of the Frostguards. Whoever she's fighting doesn't stand a chance against me. I guarantee."

Guarantees aside, it sounded asinine for Aleks to let Brannen attempt to use a Dreambind ritual in order to replicate Nyrisa's magic and, in the process, to risk tainting Nyrisa's mana further. He might have been a proficient warrior, but his plan relied on Nyrisa to accept him as a friend instead of considering him a new enemy, and that troubled Aleks more than anything. He knew Nyrisa well enough to anticipate her reactions.

"She'll first see the human, and not his intentions," he mouthed, loud enough for Brannen to pick it up.

"Aye, but I'll carry that into battle," he said, eyes swerving to Oathbreaker.

Aleks moved to grab it, encouraged by that notion, but Brannen chuckled at his ridiculous effort, giving him pause. "Dream magic doesn't care for the physical possessions you bear. I'll be armed accordingly, don't you worry."

That was the third time he said that. How could he not fret while Nyrisa's life hung in the balance?! If Brannen didn't smile like a drunken fool, Alex would have given him a piece of his mind, but the human's optimism was infectious, as was his bearing.

"Go check on Garrun, Aleks. He doesn't like being on his own for too long."

"Do your best," was all that the blue wolf said before he stepped out into the snow, the wind's bite bringing about a chilling epiphany that he loathed with every fiber of her being.

It should have been him to care for Nyrisa, not a stranger, and definitely not a human. He turned around, intent on putting a stop to this folly, but the distinct shimmer of arcane magic already pulsated through the boughs of the willow, causing the leaves to grow further as they absorbed the residual energy.

Aleks stumbled away from the freaky occurrence, yelping as his back hit something solid, his paws tripping over Garrun's oversized foot.

"Sneaky bastard!" he growled at the impassive beast, gathering his limbs under him. As he prepared to push himself back up, a submissive, instinctive whine fled Aleks, only now realizing who he spoke to.

Not a Kindred animal, but a tamed beast, and a potentially dangerous one at that.

As if to convince him otherwise, Garrun offered him a foreleg to help himself up, pointing at it with his muzzle.

"Thanks, but I'm fine," Aleks said as he got back on his feet, dusting off the snow clinging to his furs. "Took me by surprise, you did. I...you're not a bastard. I didn't mean that."

The wolf's ears shifted his way to register the words, but whether he understood them, Aleks couldn't tell. Like any ordinary beast, Garrun insisted on sniffing Aleks, insisting on his groin and tail, his oversized muzzle refusing to budge even when Aleks twisted his body this way and that in failed attempts to dissuade the direwolf.

"You won't win," Brannen's voice came from behind.

Aleks spun on his feet, emitting a sharp yip as he almost stumbled into the human who held a furred bundle to his chest.

"Steady, friend. You're suspiciously alert."

"I...I've been here for less than a minute, and you're already..."

A sly smirk tugged at the corner of Brannen's mouth. "When I said it'll be a while, I referred to the convincing part. It might have been a minute for you, but for us, it's been a whole lot longer."

He worked one of Nyrisa's hind paws out, urging him to grab it.

As soon as Aleks' pads touched hers, a gasp fled the blue wolf, his lower jaw hanging in utter shock.

"She's...She..."

"She is better," Brannen continued for him. "And I'd be grateful if we leave the rest of the details for when we make camp. The little one is not out of the woods, and neither are we, metaphorically speaking of course."

The human, already clothed up and with Oathbreaker strapped to his back, shifted Nyrisa in the grip of a single hand as he used the other to mount his direwolf.

"Grab your knapsack. You'll need to keep Nyrisa in there at all times while we travel, and pretend she doesn't exist. If we have the misfortune to meet other humans, they most certainly won't treat her with the respect she deserves, and my skill with the sword doesn't quite match my sister's abilities while fighting groups."

Aleks accepted that ominous warning without much of a thought, elated that Nyrisa's condition improved despite the lack of details. Though he burned with the curiosity to know more, Aleks rushed to the willow to get himself prepared for the journey ahead, intent on running all the way to Brannen's sister if that is what it took to save Nyrisa.

Brannen burst into a fit of laughter at that, handling Nyrisa over to Aleks, not trusting himself to hold her as he hunched over Garrun's neck.

"My dear...ahaha....wolf, you're not walking, and you're not running. We are riding!"


END OF CHAPTER 11


Hooray, you made it to the end! I hope you enjoyed this story enough to at least drop it a fav and a comment if you have the inclination for it. I love reading your opinion about my writing!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Just as Aleks' worst fears come true, a stranger from the human lands happens upon him and Nyrisa, his intentions ambiguous, and his direwolf downright terrifying.

Keywords
male 625,193, female 505,941, wolf 109,566, dragon 78,499, anthro 60,724, love 16,103, fantasy 11,425, magic 11,277, character 8,096, sfw 6,763, story 6,609, of 5,117, winter 3,290, adventure 2,846, warrior 2,352, series 1,921, plot 1,803, general 1,645, war 1,268, life 1,188, medieval 786, novel 705, affection 643, no-yiff 436, emotional 425, hatchling 384, development 341, bonding 245, sons 134, survival 123, slice 103, cheetahs 81
Details
Type: Writing - Document
Published: 1 week, 4 days ago
Rating: General

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