They smell like blood.
That was the first thought that crossed baby Leth’s mind when she was first introduced to the grey Guardian and the shadow Skydancer, Winse and Lymph. They were her adoptive older brothers, the big tomato-red Guardian named Zone told her. The two were older than her, bigger than her, stronger than her.
And they smelled like blood.
She was found by Zone in the Wandering Contagion, cared for by a Deadwood Boar that had carried her across the wasteland upon their meeting. Zone had been friendly, if a bit forceful, in getting her and the familiar to follow him home. Ultimately, they arrived at the big lair with the loving blood-colored Mirror named Safe and the two bigger dragons that were to be Leth’s brothers.
She arrived on a day that would end in tears. There had been three more dragons, two Mirrors and a multicolored Tundra. They were gone when she arrived. When they returned, it was only their bodies brought home by Zone.
Leth was young, too young to understand what happened. Why Safe had cried. Why Zone had yelled at Winse. Why Lymph had looked so guilty. Why Winse had spent the night outside instead of in the warm lair with the rest of them.
It wasn’t until she was about to officially grow up that she learned about death. It was Lymph who told her, one day when he returned with Winse from playing outside. They hadn’t been out playing.
They had been fighting. Killing. Surviving.
Just like those three from the day she had arrived. Bola, Malihini, and Pizzicato. She hadn’t known them, but their names and faces echoed in her memory. They had died doing this.
Winse and Lymph were still going forward with it. They had conquered the area, Woodland Path, that had killed the other three. They had mastered the art of physical and magical combat. They were strong, much stronger than their adoptive parents, who rarely left the lair except to scavenge in Wind territory. Winse and Lymph had been bringing in all of their food and a large portion of treasure from their near-daily treks into the wilderness.
But the wilderness carried life and death with a fickle mindset. At any point, Winse and Lymph could lose their lives, as their three siblings had.
It scared Leth. Weren’t they afraid?
“Of course we’re scared,” Lymph had answered. “But it’s this or a torturous wait for the plague to kill us.”
Lymph then told her about the plague, the loss of Zone and Safe’s first nest, the bodies out in the Wandering Contagion. It scared Leth. But…it also inspired her. She didn’t want to die like that. Compared to a death like that, the wilderness looked like heaven.
“What do I do? How do I help you?”
“You grow up first. Then you wait for us,” Lymph instructed. “We’ll go out together.”
It has been two days since she had grown up, a long Spiral with brilliant patterns and a soft teal underbelly. She and Lymph hunted down proper battle stones for her. She couldn’t use them now but Lymph says she will be able to soon. She just needed to get strong enough to handle the magic in them, the power.
Leth thinks she can handle it. Anything her brothers can do, she’ll just have to do it ten times better.