But unfortunately, such untamed beauty carried with it an equivalent price: wild and deadly creatures stalked the region. From the tiny colonies of poisonous mantis whose carnivorous tastes include stalking down elephants and rhinos, to the vicious sabegans whose monkey-like bodies provide terrifying adaptability and mobility to thier deadly saber-toothed jaws. Many touring noblemen would hire numerous Febhed mercenaries and bodyguards to watch over them during their vacations, and quite a number of such excursions would end with at least the loss of a few lives and damaged property.
Vandross and Nicodemus soared above the golden sands. It was only after some delay, Nicodemus had agreed to search for the emerald dragon and Vandross could not help but worry that the decision had come too late. Nightfall had began to paint the horizon dark and there was no sight of the emerald dragon's passage.
* * *
Rocks fell dangerously too close to Savati's face as the earth folded away like a massive blanket. The surge of fresh air stirred Savati back into consciousness as the emerald dragon found itself opening its tired eyes to the blurry image of a man and his saffron steed. The emerald dragon recalled the heavy chains and hooks that were employed to force it down and stretched its painful limbs upon realizing that such binds were no longer there.
"Vandross," the emerald dragon called out but instead realized what it was seeing was merely images of a similar time in the past. Where the man and the dragon stood instead was a burly dwarf of a man who held a large filled bucket in one hand. Savati was not in some earthen tomb. Instead, the dragon was laid upon a makeshift bed of leaves and moss. Not far from where Savati lay came the trickling sounds of a gentle waterfall. A rockface nearby had provided some wall against the strong winds, and at its foot, a pool too small to be a lake but too large to be a pond provided some fresh water. Though there were no heavy chains or barbs or hooks holding the dragon down, Savati noticed a glimmering thread that was looped around its body. The thread had no physical presence, and an attempt to tug at it lead to Savati wondering if it was merely some kind of light cast upon its scales.
"It is to keep you from escaping," a stocky fellow by the waters' edge admitted as he drew a wooden bucket from the water. He made his way back towards Savati, walking calmly as if Savati was merely some guest rather than some captive. He then dug into his side pocket and drew out a small bar of minty smelling soap. "The boss and I had some trouble finding you at first, until we realized you were good at hiding thanks to your knowledge of Maya. Too bad for you, the boss knows a thing or two herself."
Savati tried to rise up upon its hindlegs, but that moment the glowing thread shifted into a menacing red hue. An immense feeling of weight suddenly clamped down upon Savati and forced the dragon to catch itself with his four limbs. The pressure continued to grow more and more intense, as if some invisible hand was adding more and more weights atop the dragon's back.
"Stop," Savati growled, but then realized the man could not hear his words. All the man heard was the gutteral sounds emerging from the dragon's throat. "STOP!" The weight pressed on more and more. Savati felt its claws beginning to sink into the makeshift bed. The pull was becoming so strong it was painfully crushing the dragon.
"If you stop fighting against it," Alucita suggested as she walked towards the two. In her hands, she carried a folded brown towel. "The more you resist, the more the force grows."
Savati felt the growing painful pressure and closed its eyes to hold the pain inside. The woman had stopped barely a yard from Savati and had begun to unravel the towel in her hands. Her companion then motioned to the darkness beyond the torch light and mumbled something about keeping watch.
Tears were welling in Savati's eyes. The crushing grasp of the stranger's enchanted thread was terribly strong now that the dragon could barely draw breath. The bed itself began to crack as the branches snapped and the whole area began to sink against the earth.
"Savati," Alucita called out to the dragon, "Stop fighting."
The dragon stopped, not because the woman had told it to, but because it had suddenly realized that the woman knew its name. That very moment, the threads ceased all pressure and reverted into their harmless glimmering hue.
"How do I know your name?" Alucita smiled, "Well, the fact of the matter was, I didn't. I simply called out to you. But you heard your name, because you knew what it was. A simple trick of Maya which I am surprised you didn't recognize."
Savati stared at the woman. The idea that this woman was aware of Maya, a rare ability among dragons, was hard to fathom. The fact that she claimed to have used it was harder still. Alucita seemed to read Savati's gaze too easily and continued, "Maya is but one of the many Harmonies of the Dragon's songs. Just as the Febhed have learned the Earth intonations, each elemental intonation is but a smaller aspect of the Dragon's Song. And Maya is a Harmony, a combination of two or more intonations. Just as Pratensis, the most common among dragon Harmonies is a combination of Earth, Air and Water intonations."
"We have a lot to discuss, and to be quite frank, there are a lot of things I would like to know more about you before I deliver you to our employer. I can assure you, however, that you will not be harmed. But if need be, my associate and I will defend ourselves," the woman opened the towel now, holding it wide like a curtain for Savati, "In the mean time, clean yourself. The water is from a nearby stream. The soap is from Tahara. You had a nasty fall when we snared you. You can even assume a more human form if you prefer. The thread binding you only inhibits intentions to commit acts of violence or escape."
Savati quietly pulled itself closer and invoked on Maya to transform itself into the human form of Mesin. She then reached for the bucket and soap and looked up at the mercenary woman who had begun to intrigue her. "Mesin," Savati offered as her name as she began to wash the dust and sands off her face.
"Meeting you is a welcome experience, Mesin. I am Alucita. My associate is Sunaj. "
"Why?" Savati asked as she began to wash her hair clean.
"A very influencial man wishes to meet you. There was mention that you were of some great importance."
"Who?" Alucita shook her head slightly, finding the name unfamiliar.
"Nothing," Savati mumbled.
Alucita then gave Savati the towel and suggested, "Get some sleep. We won't be leaving til some time when the sun has risen. Again, try nothing stupid and you will be unharmed. Don't bother trying to walk out of the camp either. Sunaj and I are expert trackers." Savati nodded and pulled the towel around her tighter.
"Oh and Mesin," Aluctia gave a smile, "I know Mesin is just an alias for that form. When you believe you can trust me, I would appreciate your real name." Alucita's smile faded before heading off to where Sunaj had gone. The dragon watched as Alucita walked beyond the glow of the torch left behind and found herself wondering what tommorow may bring.