a/n: Hey, everyone! We’ve got a new fandom to add to the fanfiction collection now. Yep, it’s The Dragon Prince. Starting off with something a bit silly and light. Hope you enjoy it. Kipo will be back next week.
Chapter 1: The Quest Begins
It had been no small feat defeating Viren. And much work still lay ahead. Anyone with an ounce of sense could see as much. But for now, there was peace. With the reunion of the dragon queen and her long lost son completed, the small group of humans and elves left the royal dragon family alone for some quiet time. Outside the inner cave of the Storm Spire, the former battlefield remained a sorry sight. Even so, here and there were signs of hope as elves and humans sat down and began preparing some simple meals together. Queen Aanya went to see to her own troops, Ezren to the forces of Katolis, and Soren seemed to think his time was best spent chatting up the dragons.
As everyone settled, Amaya got a look of sudden inspiration and began signing rapidly. Janai barely had a moment to draw Kazi’s attention for an interpretation. She really needed to learn this human’s hand language better. By the time Kazi came over, Amaya more or less had to repeat everything she’d just said.
“You know what would really help unite everyone?” Kazi interpreted.
Janai raised an eyebrow at Amaya and shook her head. “No, I’m afraid I do not.”
“Dessert!” Amaya signed, like it was the most obvious statement in history. She waved to one of the nearby human soldiers and slowed her signing to an ice snail’s pace. “Get me Corvus!”
The solider nodded and hurried off. When she returned, she was accompanied by a man with dark hair, growing stubble, and a scar over his right eyebrow. Amaya signed much more quickly with this man. What’s more, she turned and angled herself away from Kazi, making an interpretation impossible. Kazi looked at Janai with a hand-wringing, what-am-I-supposed-to-now gesture. Janai shook her head. If Amaya wanted whatever discussion she was having with the human to be private, so be it. The elf had ways of getting information when she needed it.
Corvus nodded several times, signed a few follow-up questions, and then hurried off as quickly as he’d come.
“I caught a little bit at the end,” Kazi volunteered. “He said, ‘it won’t be perfect, but I’ll do my best.'”
Interesting, Janai thought. She wondered if perhaps Amaya had allowed them to see the end of the conversation just to intrigue them. She was loathe to admit that to a certain extent, it had worked. Not that she would say as much. Instead, she decided to take to polishing her helmet and armor to pass the time. Amaya, whose offensive and defensive instruments were one in the same, went to cleaning her shield.
The human Corvus returned a little over an hour later. Janai’s nostrils flared at a most tantalizing smell. She looked over to see that the human was holding out a plate of…something. Baked goods, perhaps? Janai picked one up and looked it over curiously before her eyes fell to Amaya for an explanation.
“The ultimate bonding device,” Amaya signed with no hint of a smile on her face. “Oatmeal raisin cookies.” Interesting. Whenever the elves were discussing confections, they tended to be rather cheerful about it, but Amaya apparently took the business of dessert preparation very seriously.
As one should. Janai admired this human. She picked up one of the cookies in question. “And may I taste this?”
Amaya nodded in approval. Janai bit into the side, getting an even mix of its crispy edges and its softer interior. The edges tasted vaguely of melted butter, while the remainder of the cookie tasted of honey and spices. It crumpled pleasantly in her mouth. The raisins were plump and sweet, but not too sweet, and the rolled oats provided a unique texture. As far as human inventions went, Janai had seen (and tasted) far worse.
“It is…adequate,” she declared and placed the remainder of the half-eaten cookie back on top of the stack. The human holding the tray looked very confused as to what he should now do with it.
Amaya frowned. “Adequate?” She picked up the same cookie, took a larger bite out of the other end of it before she let the remaining bits crumble over the rest of the pile. “Corvus has spent years perfecting this recipe. He is the only one who is permitted to make it for me. It contains the baking strengths of all the human kingdoms combined into one single dessert delectable.” She shook her head at Janai’s sad lack of confectionary appreciation. “These cookies are more than…adequate!”
Janai smirked. “Ah. I stand corrected, then. They are…very adequate.”
Amaya stood, fists clenched as if Janai had spat upon the graves of her ancestors. Perhaps, metaphorically, she had. Janai tried her best to back-paddle without actually admitted she’d said anything wrong. “Oh, I am sure they truly are the best that humans can create,” she continued. “But if you think these sad lumps in the midst of the dough are ‘raisins,’ you misuse the term.”
Amaya raised a skeptical eyebrow. “So Xadian raisins are special?” she signed.
Janai bobbed her fist in a sign language “yes.” Just to show she’d been paying some amount of attention to Kazi. The scholarly elf had such enthusiasm for linguistics that they often shared with Janai anything they found interesting. And Kazi found almost everything interesting.
“Xadian raisins,” Janai explained, “Are a rare delicacy. They can only be harvested from grapes planted at the edge of a volcano exactly one year before it is due to erupt. The volcano’s deep connection with the sun arcanum imbues the grapes with a lovely golden color as they dry. The taste…” Janai inhaled deeply, pulling on the happiest memories of her youth. “…is legendary,” she finally finished.
Amaya didn’t say anything, and the plate-holding human Corvus looked more and more worried as he glanced between his leader and the royal Sunfire elf.
“So…you’re suggesting that if we made the recipe with these ‘golden’ raisins, the cookies would taste better?” Amaya signed.
Janai smiled. “I guarantee it.”
For a long time, Amaya signed nothing and merely looked thoughtful. Janai did not hold it against her. If she was as truly dedicated to the dessert arts as she gave the impression of being, she would consider any alternation to a time-honored recipe with extreme caution. Yet if she also wanted to achieve perfection, neither could she allow herself to become merely content with old habits.
Amaya stood and swung her newly cleaned shield onto her back. “We’ll see how right you are. What do you say to a little expedition? To nearest Xadian volcano?”
Janai couldn’t hide the determined smile emerging on her face. “A trip to a volcano with a human? This should be quite interesting.” She stood, hands on her hips. Unlike human weapons and shields, her Sunforged blade hardly needed cleaning, but nevertheless, she removed it from its sheath and examined it for any battle damage (there wasn’t any), before carefully returning it to its proper place at her side. The nearest volcano was only a few days’ journey from here, and the clearest path led the way through plenty of lush, forested areas. The amount of food and water required for travel would be minimal. So what would they need? Horses, of course. A map and compass, just in case their path was diverted. And…
“We’ll need an interpreter,” Janai pondered aloud.
Kazi’s eyes went wide. “Oh, no. Please, Your Radiance. I’m not really cut out for such a perilous journey. That is…I, um…” Amaya signed something that caused a huge wave of relief to wash over Kazi’s face. “Ah. You’ll be taking the human commander…Gren with you, then,” they interpreted.
A passing human with ginger hair paused in his walk to look over the group in confusion. “Wait. I’m going where now?”
In less than an hour, Amaya, Janai, and Gren had their supplies ready to go and approached the center of the makeshift camp where the human armies were tending to their injured before heading back to their respective homes. The new human king (was the young boy their new king? He looked awfully…well, childish) was walking from group to group, offering blankets and kind words to everyone. Well, he had the heart for the job, at least. Even if he severely lacked in the worldly experience department.
Gren approached the little king and knelt down on eye level to speak with him.
The boy, in turn, drew the attention of all the humans and elves around him. “Hey, everybody! Pay attention! My aunt and the Sunfire queen have something important to say!”
The Sunfire Queen. The title should have felt honoring, but it stung at Janai’s core. She didn’t want to think about it. Didn’t want to embrace the fact that her sister was gone and the crown had passed to her. And she suddenly had a newfound respect for the child she’d been looking down on a moment ago. For him to be ruling already…meant he must have suffered heavy losses already in his young life. And yet he kept up a smile for his people. There was something to be said for that.
Amaya stepped forward to address the crowd.
“We need to leave camp for a few days,” Gren interpreted. “Lieutenant Fen will take command of the Standing Battalion in my absence.”
“And of course, our generals will see to the Sunfire Army in my absence,” Janai quickly added on.
The humans muttered to each other quite a bit, but it was one of the elves who raised a hand and spoke loud enough for all to hear. “But where are you doing, Your Radiance?”
“I…that is…we…” Janai stumbled, sounding as un-radiant as she had ever heard herself. “We are on a very important quest,” she finally said, and Amaya nodded in agreement.
“More important than establishing a new king on the Katolis throne?” Callum asked.
“More important than rebuilding Lux Aurea?” questioned one of the Sunfire soldiers.
Janai raised her arms to quiet the crowd. I can do this, she thought. I am the queen. With that thought, her confidence flowed back into her, along with a deep breath of the magic-tinged Xadian air. Her aura of authority silenced humans and elves alike. “My friends!” she said boldly. “I know this is a delicate time. Many challenges lay ahead. But this quest involves an elven tradition near and dear to my heart. Our home may have fallen, but our traditions must live on. They are what define us as elves! If we give them up, what is left of us?”
Everyone nodded in appreciation at this insight. As quietly and discretely as he could, Callum leaned in towards Kazi. “Okay, that sounds important and all, but…what is she doing? Practically speaking, I mean?”
Kazi adjusted their glasses. “She’s going with your human general to make some cookies.”
“Oh. I see. Yeah, that sounds like something Aunt Amaya would do.”
Janai lowered her arms and exhaled slowly. It had not been the first time addressing her people as their queen. That moment, technically speaking, had been when she’d gathered their remaining forces and hurried to join the humans in defeating the monster that dared attack the Sun Nexus. But she’d been so caught up in the battle, in what needed to be done to keep fighting, that she hadn’t really soaked in the harsh reality. Now no such dire need could mask it. But perhaps this journey could ease some of the pain.