Wings of Fire

Chatterbox: Inkwell

Wings of Fire

Wings of Fire FanFic

I will be posting my Wings of Fire fanfiction on here i was wondering if people culd give me feedback--including you, Admins :). @Admins, if you don't like soething, please edit it out instead of not posting the comment. Thanks!




    PART ONE -- the Rising Wind



Sand crept closer and closer to the old rich RainWing. A bag of coins jiggled at the other dragon's ankle. One quick slice with her claw and those coins would be hers.

"Oh, but one coconut is never enough," purred the coconut vendor that the old RainWing was buying from. "Buy two for the price of four and I'll throw in another for free."

Sand rolled her eyes as the old RainWing nodded eagerly. That's three for the price of four then, Rainbow.

"Oh absolutely! Let me just get my purse," said the RainWing.

Uh-oh. Better work fast. Sand seized the strap of the purse and slashed her claws along it, then grabbed it and leaped into the crowd. The RainWing discovered an empty ankle and blinked in puzzlement. The vendor, unfortunately, noticed Sand and shouted, "THIEF!"

Sand tucked the purse into the pouch around her neck and dove into the chaotic crowd. She tucked in her wings as tight as they could go and wove through the oblivious dragons, ducking poisonous tails and wayward talons.

"Catch her!" yelled the vendor. "She ran off with my customer's scales!"

There was a murmur of alarm. Sand ran faster.

There--just ahead. The wall of the Pit. 

She reached the edge of the crowd and scaled the wall with groping talons and quick wingbeats. Swarming over the top, she hovered for a minute, looking down. All eyes were turned to her.

"She's in the Pit," said the vendor. "No chance to catch her now." And then the familiar refrain: "That place's lawless."

The crowd began to lose interest. Sand waved at the coconut vendor and dove down.

The Pit was a huge, fortified area in the center of the Scorpion Den. It was the place where criminals came to hide out, the place where you could never be safe. 

It was Sand's home, and it was run by her uncle.

She slowed down, the adrenaline in her veins dulling to normality. Now as it drained away she felt tired. Another morning in the Scorpion Den.

She followed the sound of splashing to the oasis that her uncle, Cactus, had built by running water from the main oasis to the Pit. His oasis was small but just as good as the big one. Sand, thirsty, drank for a full minute.

Next she flew down to the camping grounds. This was where everyone in the Pit lived. Some tents were rented out for three scales an hour, but Sand had her own tent.

The funny thing about the Pit was that, despite the fact that it was home to most of the criminals in the Scorpion Den, within its walls it was forbidden that any dragon steal from another. So Sand's things were safe.

She flew down, landed, and went into her tent, where she tucked the coin purse in with the others she had gathered over the past year. Then she zipped up her tent and went to find her uncle.

Cactus was overseeing the building of a prison near the edge of the Pit. He looked up when he saw Sand and grinned.

"Ah, there you are, my dear. Where have you been all day?"

Sand shrugged. "In the market." She didn't both4er telling him about the pockets she'd picked. Not because her uncle had any morale or conscience, or because she was worried he'd be angry with her, but because she'd been doing it for so long it was old news for both of them.

Cactus smiled in an oily way. "What do you think of the prison construction so far, dear?"

Sand shrugged. "It's ok. But why do we need a prison? We're the criminals."

Cactus's smile faded. "In case we need to contain some dragon who's making trouble, of course. Now, Sand, what do you plan on doing the rest of today?"

Sand was planning on meeting her friend Solstice in the afternoon, but she didn't want anybody, least of all her uncle, butting in, so she said, "I was going to go back to the marketplace."

"Oh," Cactus said. "I'm afraid you'll have to change your plans, dear, we have some visitors from neighboring kingdoms today."

"Oh," Sand said, surprised. It was rare that anyone came to visit the Pit, given its reputation (only its residents knew about the no-one-steals-here law). "Alright. Which tribe?"

"You'll see!" Cactus said gleefully.

Sand looked nervously at him, then launched herself into the air and flew back over the wall of the Pit. She had to find Solstice before their planned meeting time and let her know she'd be missing it.

There weren't a lot of NightWings in the Scorpion Den but in the writhing mass of dragons below, with many wearing black, it was hard to pick out true night-colored scales. She'd have to go lower.

As Sand circled down, the dragons became more recognizable. She spotted a NightWing and dove towards her, but the black dragon was too big to be Solstice and she flew away again.

After a few more false alarms, she finally found Solstice. The little NightWing was curled on a rooftop (her favorite place to be), reading a scroll. She looked up when Sand landed.

"Oh, hey, Sand," she said. "What's up? We don't meet until later."

"I actually can't come," Sand explained. "We're having visitors and Uncle needs me there, for some reason. But if I can I'll come find you afterwards."

"Oh, ok," Solstice replied. "Visitors, really?"

"I know, weird, right?" Sand muttered. "He won't even tell me what tribe they're from."

"Odd. Well, keep me posted!" Solstice turned back to her scroll as Sand flew away.


"At last, Sand! Our visitors should be arriving shortly," Cactus said as Sand swooped in the window.

Cactus's alcove (as opposed to a throneroom-all Pit-dwellers hated royalty) was open and airy, constructed with coolness in mind. The hot desert wind blew through the area, making the curtains flap. Cactus plucked a date off his tray and chewed it thoughtfully.

"Sand, just imagine if, one day, all the tribes were ruled by one dragon," he said suddenly. "Imagine--the unity!"

Sand winced. "But imagine IceWings and NightWings together," she said reasonably. "It'd be chaos."

"Not if it was ruled by a strong leader," Cactus said, waving a date at her. "They would be able to control their dragons."

"There are millions of dragons in Pyyrhia," Sand protested. "How could they control that many?"

The sound of wingbeats drowned out Cactus's answer. Sand's uncle sat bolt upright, looking eager. "Sand, come sit to my right," he said. His two bodyguards, Quicksand and Snakebite, settled on either side of him, glaring menacingly into space.

Sand came and sat by Cactus, who lounged in a even hammock absently peeling the skin off a date, bit by bit.

Three SkyWings landed in the alcove, accompanied by three of Cactus's SandWings. Sand stared in fascination.

She'd seen SkyWings before, of course, in the marketplace, but never up close like this. The leader was dark red with streaks of orange on his wings, the one standing on his right was bright red and gold and the one on his left was purple-red with craggy horns. They all looked very formidable, but the red-and-gold one was the youngest, looking just a bit older than Sand, and he seemed uncertain, shifting his claws and glancing around anxiously like the walls might jump on him. Sand got an irrational urge to go pat him on the shoulder. Instead, she closed her eyes and forced a neutral expression on her face.

"Cactus," said the lead SkyWing.

"Falcon," said Cactus, raising his snout. "Do sit down. Would you care for a date?" He held out the tray.

"No thank you," Falcon said stiffly. 

"Very well!" Cactus said. "Let's get down to business, then. Sand, take this tray away."

"Yes, Uncle," Sand said through gritted teeth. She hated being told what to do. She carefully picked up the tray and flew out the entryway. Outside, she dropped the dates one by one into a jar while keeping one ear on the conversation inside.

"Sir, we have come to offer a trade." That sounded like the lead SkyWing.

"A trade, yes! I do like trades. A trade for what?" 

Sand screwed on the cover, then began scrubbing the tray.

"We are the liaisons for the SkyWing group the Night Owls," explained the SkyWing. Sand put the tray on the shelf and flew back in as he continued.

"We would like to offer you a prized animus-touched object in exchange for treasure," announced Falcon.

"An animus-touched object, really. What does it do?"

"It turns you invisible." As the SkyWing went on to describe the object, Sand ran through what she knew about the Night Owls. They were like the Pit in some ways, a hideout for criminals, but they were always on the lookout for treasure.

"Our force has grown in numbers so that we no longer have use for the Gift of Invisibility," Falcon explained. "And we thought we would trade it with you. I am sure you could find a use for it."

"You're right, I could," Cactus said. "Let's take this to my treasury. Come along, Sand. And you, Quicksand...Snakebite, go find Barb and then follow us."

Interesting, Sand thought uneasily. He wants another bodyguard...why? Does he think they'll try to attack him?

Cactus could be paranoid. He probably thought they'd take the treasure and flee. Which they might. So maybe he's being smart, Sand reflected. Still, she couldn't shake off the uneasy feeling.

The treasury was kept in an underground cellar. Sand had only seen it once--the mounds of gold that Cactus had accumulated; over the years of stealing and trading. It was quite overwhelming.

Cactus opened the trapdoor, waving to the treasury guards, and led them down the stone stairway. Inside it smelled like cold metal.

Snakebite and Barb joined them a moment later. Cactus gestured to the heaps of coins. "Behold, my much do you ask in exchange for the Gift of Invisibility?"

"Three 20-pound bags, two filled with gold and one filled with jewels," Falcon responded.

"Done!" Cactus said gleefully. "But give me the Gift of Invisibility first."

"Treasure first."

"Perhaps you do not understand. I don't need the Gift of Invisibility. I want it, but I don't need it. Give it to me first, or there's no deal."

Falcon sighed and handed over a diamond strung on a thin silver chain.

Cactus stroked it happily, then hung it around his neck and immedietly dissapeared.

"Guards and bodyguards," he said, his voice coming from everywhere and nowhere, "capture these SkyWings and take them to the prison!"


The three bodyguards sprang at the startled SkyWings instantly. The two guards from the tunnel mouth bounded down, looking confused,  but once they saw what was happening they immedietly joined in.

The little red-and-gold SkyWing shot into the depths of the treasury with Quicksand in hot pursuit. Barb and one of the treasury guards sat on the purple SkyWing and began rapidly tying her up. Falcon protested loudly as they did the same to him.

"We had a deal!"

"That's what you get for making a deal with the king of double-cross," Cactus said, putting on an injured look. "You have no-one else to blame!"

Sand sighed. She had seen the same story again and again. Her uncle never passed up on an opportunity to lie and cheat.

"Where is that little SkyWing?" grumbled Cactus. "Sand, go see what's taking Quicksand so long."

Sand obediently slunk into the shadows of the treasury. In the back, she bumped into someone.

"Oof! What--" Talons wrapped around her snout, silencing her. She froze.

"Shh," whispered the voice of the young SkyWing.

As Sand's eyes adjusted, she could see the dim shape of Quicksand blundering about, tripping on coins and groping wildly with his talons. After a few minutes of falling over his tail, he lumbered away towards the entrance, presumably to ask for a light.

The talons unwrapped from Sand's snout and a dim light began to glow in the darkness. As it steadily brightened, Sand looked up into the face of the young SkyWing. He was holding something that glowed in his talons.

"Hello," he whispered. "You're the little one. What did he call you?...Sand. Sorry, but I couldn't let you get me caught."

"It's alright," Sand whispered back. "He does this with everyone. I don't like it, but I can't openly defy him."

"He tricks everyone like this?" The SkyWing's wings drifted closed. "Wow. I wish we'd known."

"What's your name?" Sand asked curiously.


"Follow me, Eagle."

The SkyWing hesitated. "Are you gonna lead me into a trap?"

Sand shook her head. "No, I'm going to lead you OUT of a trap. There's a secret way out of the treasury. It should be somewhere back here..."

"Take this," said Eagle, handing her the glowing thing. It was just a rock, but it emitted a bright blue shine.

"Wow, what is it?" Sand asked.

"A type of mineral that reacts to darkness."

Neat. Sand raised it, running her talons along the wall until she came to a seam. she dug her talons in and wrenched the trapdoor open, revealing a very dark tunnel. Sand felt around, then pressed a switch, turning on a row of dim lights.

Behind them they heard Quicksand's footsteps growing closer and closer.

"Quick, in, in!" Sand bundled Eagle into the tunnel and yanked the door shut.

Holding up the glowing mineral, she started off at top speed, trying to be quiet. "It might be cramped," she warned. "We didn't build it with your huge wings in mind."

"It's ok," Eagle said. "I can tuck them in."

Then they crept in silence. As the sound faded, Sand's thoughts rushed in. What was she doing? This was the ultimate betrayal. She was helping her uncle's captive escape! She felt a thrill of defiance. 

I won't stop!

After what seemed like hours of walking, the tunnel ended abruptly and Sand pushed open the trapdoor. She peeked cautiously out, then called, "All clear," and popped out into a dank alleyway.

The young SkyWing clambered out behind her and Sand shut the trapdoor.

"What am I going to do?" Eagle sat down suddenly. "Where do I stay? Should I fly back to the Night Owls?

"Not yet," Sand said. "I'll do everything I can to rescue your companions. In the meantime, you can probably stay with my friend Solstice. Don't go out; my uncle will be looking for you. I'll bring you food."

"Why?" he asked.

Sand was taken aback. "Why what?"

"Why are you helping me?" Eagle asked her, looking in her eye. "There's no reason to; you're just putting yourself in danger. Why are you helping me?"

Sand sighed. It was more than just wanting to defy her uncle, she knew. Much more. 

"I'm not sure," she admitted. "I just have a feeling about you, like I should do everything I can to keep you alive. Now let's go find Solstice." And with that she took flight, uncertainty and determination lifting her on their conflicting wings.



Sand and Eagle found Solstice easily enough. 

Solstice lived in an abandoned building on the third floor. She'd set up almost a little home there, with carpets and food. She looked up as Sand came in the door.

"Hello SaaAAAAgh! What is a SKYWING doing with you?!" Solstice demanded.

Sand glared at Eagle. "I told to wait outside!"

"Some SandWings flew over and I didn't want them to see me," he explained.

"Oh," Sand said. She turned back to Solstice. "This is Eagle. I helped him escape from my uncle. Do you mind if he stays with you until I can rescue his companions?"

"Why not." Solstice didn't look overly happy about it, but she also didn't seem upset. "He can have that room over there. I only use it for eating."

"Great. I'll bring him food every time I can," Sand promised. "Will you be alright here, Eagle?"

"Heck yeah," he said happily. "This is better than I'm used to! We Night Owls live in tents at best, boxes at worse!"

Solstice looked intrigued. "Night Owls?"

"I'll leave you two to get acquainted," Sand said hastily. And she did.

Flying back to the Pit, she took a weaving route. Stopping at the market first for a snack of stolen bananas, she next flew over to the large oasis and waved hello to some orphans she knew from the marketplace, Scratch and Banana. Then she went over to the wall of the Scorpion Den and gazed out at the desert for a bit. At last she returned to the Pit and found her uncle pacing in the alcove, lashing his tail furiously. 

"Sand!" he bellowed. "There you are! I was afraid that little SkyWing did something to you. He's escaped, did you know that?"

"No, Uncle. It was too chaotic for me, so I left. Maybe you didn't notice me go by."

"I suppose." Cactus glowered at his talons. "I can't believe my guards let the little one escape. Well he won't get far. I have dragons looking for him all over the city."

"Good luck," Sand said, wishing him the opposite. But she kept her tone neutral as she said, "I'm going down to the market."

"Bring me back a coconut," Cactus called after her as she flew into the afternoon sky.


That night, Sand picked up one of her coin purses and set off to the night market. With a list of things her uncle needed and her own list of food to buy for herself and Eagle, she landed at the edge of the square.

It was surprisingly hard to steal at night--every sound seemed twice and loud and it was all too easy to fall into a duck pond--so instead Sand bought things with the money she'd stolen during the day.

Music echoed through the stalls as she trotted along, stopping first at a stall selling dried goods. She bought enough to last Eagle three days, along with the stuff from her uncle's list. The next stall was canned goods and then fresh. After that, Sand used the remaining scales to buy some hot chestnuts and went down to see who tonight's musicians were.

A band of SandWings, ones Sand didn't recognize, were playing drums and odd stringed instruments. The music was bouncy and she found herself humming along. After a bit dragons began to dance and Sand was swept up in it, laughing.

But despite the fun of the moment, she felt a little sad. These were the only times she could participate in activities like this. If she tried in the daylight, she'd be recognized as a common thief and driven away.

She watched the dragonets dancing with their parents and felt an additional stab of sorrow. She had only vague memories of her mother and none of her father. She knew her mother had died when she was very young, but she didn't know the details. Cactus refused to talk about it.

Could I have had a happy life like that, if she hadn't died?

Sand curled in her claws. Suddenly she didn't feel like dancing. She crept away from the festivities and, as she took flight, she felt empty--like the desert dunes, cold and lonely in the moonlight.


The next day, she took Eagle's bag of food to Solstice's apartment building. As she came in, she could hear the murmur of voices.

She peeked in. Solstice was cooking breakfast on an old stove, and Eagle was complaining that SkyWings didn't eat what she was cooking. Sand flared her wings open, making them both jump.

"Never fear! I have arrived."

She handed the bag to Eagle, who looked at it with a pleased expression. "Thank you," he said.

"Tell him to stop complaining about everything or he can have the next floor down!" shouted Solstice, brandishing a rusty spatula threateningly. "I hear the rats are looking for a roommate!"

Sand snorted. She loved when Solstice let her fiery side show.

"I'm not complaining," Eagle said. "I'm very grateful that she's letting me stay here. But SkyWings and NightWings are...less than compatible."

"At least you're not an IceWing," Sand told him. "The rivalry between that tribe and Solstice's go way back to the Darkstalker."

"The what?"

"Never mind," Solstice and Sand said together.

"Anyways." Sand upended the bag onto the carpet. "I brought all kinds of things! Beans...canned goods..meals AND snacks..."

"Oh, good," Solstice said. "Thank you."

Sand nodded. "I need to get back," she said. "I'll return in 3 days. Try not to argue too much." 



"Good afternoon, Uncle," Sand said, stepping into the windy alcove.

"Hello, Sand! I was just about to go down and check the prison. It's not done, but we had to fortify one cell for our SkyWing prisoners."

"Ah," said Sand. She decided to risk a question. "Uncle, why did you cheat those SkyWings?"

"Oh, Sand, I thought I had taught you better..." Cactus shook his head. "You should never pass up an opportunity to get without giving. Now I have a lovely animus-touched object--and my treasury is not depleted at all! The only problem is that little SkyWing that got away. He might be looking to free his comrades. But I have lots of guards posted."

"That's...great," Sand said. "Can I come to the prison with you?" She wanted a look at the layout so that she could make the escape easier.

"Sure," said her uncle. He spread his pale wings. "Follow me."

The prison had already advanced since Sand had last seen it. The wooden scaffolding was slowly dissapearing under sheets of metal. 

Cactus waved to the guards as he and Sand made their way through the door.

Inside, the prison was obviously still in construction. There were cells without bars, bricks being stacked and welded together with mouldings, working SandWings everywhere. Sand memorized the layout of the prison as her uncle led her through it.

At the very back was the cell. The wall of the Pit acted as the wall of the cell. The bars had obviously been hastily added--the hinges were loose and the lock was old. Sand grinned. The variables were in her favor. Not only the hasty construction but the fact that the cell was at the back of the prison--the guards wouldn't hear the door opening.

Sand tapped the lock discreetly. It would be easy to pick. 

"Hello, Lizard," Cactus said to a tough-looking SandWing who had just appeared. "How goes construction?"

"Very good, sir. We estimate to have the prison complete by the next full moon."

"Very good, very good." Cactus knocked on the bars, waking up the SkyWings, who had been curled up miserably in the corner.

"Ah good, very good," Cactus said. "Nice strong iron." He went on about cell doors and locks and things, but Sand wasn't listening. she had ducked into the next cell over and was looking at the wall between it and the SkyWings. Maybe it could be broken.

"Sand!" Cactus called. "Sand, we're leaving...what are you doing back there?"

"Just looking around." Sand emerged from the cell. "Let's get out of here."



Sand checked and double-checked her pouch, m

asking sure she had all the necessary items. Rope, screwdriver, dagger, and a special prop to distract the guards.

Sand slipped out of the camp grounds and flew across the Pit. the prison was easy to find because even at night, a few dragons were working on it, and the glow of candlelight filled the night.

Sand landed just outside the ring of light and pulled out the special prop--a dragonflame cactus. She edged away, making sure that she was out of the guards' sight, then checked to make sure no-one was around.

Step 2: She took a deep breath and shot a jet of flame onto the cactus, then leaped into the air, swooping out of the blast zone as fast as she could. The cactus exploded with a huge boom and hundreds of flaming seeds hurtled in all directions.

Sand swallowed a yelp and flew a little higher as one of the seeds arced past her head and burned straight through the roof of Cactus's alcove. A roar of surprise came from within.

Everyone by the prison scattered, then regrouped and hurtled towards the sound of the explosion. Sand pulled in her wings and dove like an arrow, adjusting her trajectory so that she flew straight through the prison doors.

Inside, it was dark and still. Tiny lamps flamed on the walls. Forgotten tools leaned against scaffolding.

Sand pulled a torch from her pouch and lit it, making her way to the last cell. Both SkyWings were awake, staring into the darkness. They leaped back when Sand appeared.

"Three moons, kid, thought you were a ghost," said the female SkyWing. "What are you doing here?"

"And what was that noise?" added Falcon.

Sand started picking the lock. "That was a dragonflame cactus I set off," she explained. "I'm here to free you, like I promised Eagle I would."

"Eagle!" exclaimed the female SkyWing. "He's alive?"

"Alive and safe," Sand promised. "I can take you to moment." She finished picking the lock, then swung open the door.

The SkyWings stepped out, blinking. "Thank you," said Falcon sincerely.

"No problem." This wasn't actually true, there had been a few problems, but Sand didn't have time to say all that. "Come on, we need to get out of here."

The SkyWings followed her down the tunnel. Sand poked her head out, frowning at the shouts she could hear, and froze.

From the spot where the cactus had exploded, tendrils of flame licked hungrily at the buildings and trees of the Pit.

Sand shouted in shock. "Fly, fly!" she exclaimed to the SkyWings as they emerged, blinking, into the harsh red light.

Oh, three moons, Sand thought in horror. The whole Scorpion Den could burn down tonight...because of me.

No. That can't happen...I won't let that happen.

Determined, she turned to the SkyWings. "Eagle is down on Lichen Alley, the abandoned building on the left," she said quickly. "There's a sign on it saying 'Oasis Printers.' Eagle is on the third floor."

"What's this?" said a voice from ahead. "Sand...? is that you?"

It was her uncle.

Sand rolled to the side and threw up her wings, hiding her face. She was glad that the glare his her features.


Sand leaped into the air. The SkyWings flew away.  

"We need to get water!" she shouted. "Buckets! From the oasis!" But even as she said it, she knew it was too late. The flames were spreading outwards, devouring everything in their path.

Sand seized a hammer lying on the ground and flew up to the great bell her uncle used to summon everyone in the pit. She crashed the hammer against it as hard as she could and the bell tolled out. Again and again she struck, hoping to wake everyone in the Pit, hoping there would be time for them to flee.

Sure enough, the dragons were rising, rising above the walls and the flames, flying away. Sand let go of the hammer and twisted and dove, down to the campgrounds which were still untouched. She flung open her tent and leaped inside, searching frantically through her flung-about things. Then she found it; the photograph of her father, a mild-looking SandWing with glasses.

Sand clasped it to her chest and ran from the tent. She could see that the flames were beyond containing. They wouldn't stop at the Pit.

Will the Scorpion Den really burn down?


With that, he grabbed a lever sticking out of the wall and pulled hard.

Instantly, water began to spray from the wall through a thousand tiny holes. He must be pumping it from the oasis, Sand realized, impressed that he had thought so far ahead. The water poured on. It didn't extinguish the fire, but it kept it from going beyond the Pit.

Sand, relieved that she would not be responsible for the destruction of the entire Scorpion Den, decided she had better check on Eagle.


As the crackle of the flames faded behind her, Sand's racing heart calmed to a normal beat. She flapped her wings slowly, feeling exhausted. A weird shiver went through her when she imagined seeing Eagle again.

Don't be stupid, she scolded herself, he probably left with those SkyWings. 

As she arrived, she saw Eagle and Solstice standing on the roof of the building. As she landed, they both spun around, looking relieved.

"Sand! There you are," Eagle said. "Mother and Falcon said that the Pit was on fire!"

"Mother...? That SkyWings is your mother?...Then why are you still here?"

"I wanted to make sure you were alright," Eagle explained.

Sand was surprised. "Are you going to catch up to them now, then?" she asked.

"No," Eagle said, shrugging. "It isn't actually the greatest life, with the Night Owls. I thought I might find a place to live here. Luxury!" He pointed at the building they stood on.

Sand shoved down the weird shivery feeling. "Well, that's nice. At any rate, I'm fine. I actually started the fire, by accident."

"What?!" Eagle and Solstice said simultaneously, then cut eachother glares. "Jinx," Solstice snapped.

Sand spread her talons and began to describe what had happened. She watched their eyes grow wider and wider.

"Moons!" said Eagle when she'd finished. "Thank you for doing all that to save them. But it must have been so awful, seeing your home on fire like that."

Sand looked over at him. "Yeah, it is," she said. Although it's not much of a home, she thought ruefully.

"You can come here and stay with me if you want," Solstice offered. "For now, I mean. Until the fire's over."

"Thank you," Sand said, leaning against her friend.

Eagle cleared his throat. "You can share my room!" he offered. "Um, so that we don't take up Solstice's space."

"Thank you," Sand repeated.


When she woke up the next morning, she wasn't totally sure where she was. It took her a moment to realize that the cracked ceiling was Solstice's home, and the sound of soft breathing beside her was Eagle.

She sat up as quietly as she could and looked around. She'd been too tired to notice much about the room the night before, but this morning it seemed to shine with detail. The walls were dirty but smooth, stolen rugs covered the floor, and Eagle was snoring beside her on a long, patterned pillow.

Sand got to her feet, stretched, and padded down the dusty hallway into Solstice's living area. Solstice wasn't out yet, so Sand started cooking breakfast, humming to herself.

Leaving the pan smoking, she climbed the stairs to the roof and looked west to the Pit. The air over and around it was hazy with smoke, but it appeared that the fire was out. For the moment.

Sand hurried back downstairs and flipped the breakfast just as Solstice emerged, yawning, from the hallway. 

"Ooh, smells good," the little NightWing said cheerfully. "Good morning, Sand...I'm surprised you didn't sleep in."

Sand had never been a late sleeper, even on the occasion that she had stayed up past midnight running errands for Cactus. She tended to wake up with the sun, regardless.

Eagle came out a moment later, shaking sleep-ruffled wings and blinking several times. "Oh, hi," he said to Sand. 

Solstice waved her tail cheerfully as he completely ignored her. "Hello to you too!"

Sand hastily inturupted before they could start bickering again. "Breakfast is ready!"


After breakfast. Eagle offered to fly over and have a look at the Pit. Sand would have gone herself, but she needed to steal some food.

She headed down to the marketplace. The familiar whirlwind of sounds and smells assaulted her senses, and for a moment she allowed herself;f to forget the events of yesterday and lose herself in the jangling chaos. 

"Fresh coconuts for sale!"

"Boxed stringbeans, haf' price!"


"Embroidered pouches! Jewelry, cheap!"


Sand closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. Everything smelled sharp and hot and spicy. Here, the cool scent of cactus; there, the warm smell of cooking bananas. She loved it.

But at the same time, as she wandered through the laughing dragons, she felt like the only one without a family...the only one who was alone.

She shook her head, snapping herself out of it. There was work to be done.

This time, instead of stealing a customer's coins, she just stole the coconut instead.

She swiped a few more food items and one coin purse. Then, humming to herself, she left the marketplace to take the long way home.

As she left the heady smells and distracting sounds behind, her head cleared and she started to feel better. She half-spread her wings and arrived at the larger oasis.

As of this moment, the large pool was open to all. Now and then some power-hungry dragon would try to control the oasis, keeping others out unless they paid a price, but before long someone else would come along and overthrow them, then get bored, decide there was a better life in the palace, and leave. It was pointless.

Sand sat down by her favorite palm, took out a scroll and began to write. Writing was a sort of hobby of hers, but she wasn't very good, at least in her mind. But it was calming. 

After a while, she returned to the abandoned building just as Eagle was landing.

"Hello, any news?" asked Sand.

The red-and-gold SkyWing shook his head. "You have to go see for yourself. I'll take that in. It's pretty bad, Sand..." He added as she prepared to take off. "Are you sure you..."

"I can handle it."

"I was going to say, Are you sure you don't want me to come with you?"

Sand hesitated, then shook her head. "It's fine."

She alighted on the wall and stared down at the destruction she'd caused. Until about ten feet out from the still-damp wall, everything was untouched. But past that...

Sand circled over the devastation. There was almost nothing recognizable left. Cactus's alcove was gone. The prison was a pile of ashes. The campgrounds were nothing but cinders. The only recognizable thing was the oasis pool, dark with ashes, empty of palm trees.  

Sand landed on a building and closed her eyes, blotting out the sight. All this destruction, caused by a simple dragonflame cactus...she should have used a less violent distraction...

Why? Why did I do it?

She took a deep breath and opened her eyes to find Cactus sitting a foot away.

"Oh! Uncle!" 

"Sand," he said, inclining his head. "I am most relieved you are all right. When you weren't with the survivors..." But his tone was less I-am-so-relieved and more what-are-you-doing-up-here. 

Sand folded her wings and looked back at the ashes.

"The fire was caused by a dragonflame cactus," her uncle said slowly, "set off near the prison. it's unclear exactly when it was, but I assume it was the prisoners escaping."

Sand kept her expression neutral while she scanned the area for good escape routes.

"Why do you think they used a dragonflame cactus for escape?" Cactus asked, his eyes fixed on her face. "Was it just a sloppy distraction...or did they mean to set us on fire?"

Instead of answering, Sand snorted a burst of flame and asked, "Was anyone hurt?"

Cactus gave her an apprising look. "Yes, about 25% of the Pit population were injured and 15% is still missing. We're searching, though. Our dragons fled in various directions. It's mostly thanks to you, though, that so many escaped unscathed...your quick thinking in ringing the bell saved them."

Sand nodded, forcing down any glow of pride. She had long ago decided that nothing her uncle said meant anything; he was a walking spiderweb of lies, deceit, and smooth-tongued truth-twisting.

"Yes, well." She waved one wing at him. "Must be going."

"So soon, Sand?" Cactus stepped closer, his forked tongue flicking in and out. "But you've only just wrrived. We haven't had any fun yet!"

Sand's street instinct kicked in then, letting her know there was something dangerous going on here. She felt her tail curl as she crouched, ready to fly.

Cactus grinned at her, spreading his enormous wings. "Why would you leave anyways? It wouldn't be to check on a certain SkyWing, would it?"

Sand's heart seemed to skip a beat. She backed away. "I don't know what you're talking about." 

"I saw you with them when they were escaping! Don't lie to me!" Cactus did not seem too upset that she'd betrayed him. He shook his talon threateningly, looking delighted. 

"Oh, but uncle," Sand said sweetly, "lying is what I do best."

She slammed her wings open and beat them twice, stirring up all the ashes caught in the wall. As Cactus coughed, looking alarmed, Sand shot into the air and flapped wildly, struggling to see through the ashy cloud she had created.

Grimacing as the dust caught in her scales, she flew as high as she could, then dove as fast as an eagle, landing among the ashes and immedietly burying herself in them until only her nose poked out.

I can't believe he saw me, she thought, miffed with herself for being so stupid.

Cactus suddenly swooped so low she could hear his wingbeats above her. "SAND!" he bellowed. "I know you're here somewhere! I won't hurt you."

Yeah right, Sand thought. She held very still until she heard Cactus fly away.

"Quicksand, tell the others to spread out and search for Sand," his voice said.

"Yes, sir." Quick wingbeats faded away.

Sand catiously poked her head out. The sky was empty.

She slunk out from the ashes and hurried towards the wall of the Pit. Sliding through its shadow, she thought glumly of the easy days, before SkyWings, fires, and prison breaks had come into her life. 



That's as far as I got! Hope everyone likes it!


--Shining Star 


submitted by Shining Star, age 13 eons, The Milky Way, she/her
(January 14, 2022 - 5:35 pm)


Okay, this is 100% amazing.  I am super intrigued, and I can't wait to see if you write anything more! As far as critique, the only thing I would change is Sand's name-- Sand the SandWing is a little weird.  I LOVE this story!! As I read, I started shipping all the characters in my head... it's really exciting.  Great job, Star.

(I'm also AMAZED on the sheer amount of content) 

submitted by Tsuki the Skywolf
(January 18, 2022 - 11:03 am)

Hello, Tsuki!

Thank you very much!!!!! I really enjoyed writing it and yeah, I would change the name, it was really more of a placeholder because I couldn't think up any good SandWing names. I want her name to be kind of mysterious and i couldn't think of any sand names like that. Do you have any?


Who have you shipped? I'm really curious. I don't have too many ideas for that so suggestions are WELCOME! 


--Shining Star

p.s. Thanks again! 


submitted by Shining Star, age 13 eons, The Milky Way, she/her
(January 18, 2022 - 5:34 pm)


submitted by T, age O, P
(January 18, 2022 - 4:40 pm)

OK, i changed her name to Sphinx and added stuff!



(for the Admins' sake, i didn't post the whole story again with the name change, just picking up where i left off)


She lashed her tail and glanced at the sky, where Cactus was hovering, shouting something at the bodyguards. Since he was facing the other way, Sphinx decided to make a run for it.

She flung herself into the air and began to beat her wings as fast and as strong as she could. All the SandWings whipped around.

"THERE SHE IS!" Cactus shouted, pointing. The bodyguards leaped after her.

Sphinx didn't dare look back; instead, she put all of her energy into flying. Flying. Flying, as hard as she could.

If I get to the Market, I can lose myself in the crowd. Goodness knows I've done it enough times.

She was over the wall of the pit. She was diving into the maze of houses. Behind her she could hear the wingbeats of her pursuers, but she didn't turn her head. She strained her wings, closing her eyes.

"Sphinx, stop!" Cactus bellowed. 

As if I would! Sphinx thought defiantly. She turned and flew down towards the market. The air rushed past her ears and she felt the. familiar thrill of a chase; the thrill she felt every day. Only now instead of the Pit being the safe zone it was the market. A detached part of her brain was amused at the irony while the rest of her was energized by the adrenaline pumping through her veins, like she was made of lightning.

She circled and plunged into the chaos of the market. Instead of casually strolling the stalls, she quickly found the merchant who sold shawls and dove into the stall the back way, curling into the smallest ball possible among the silk.

Wrapping her wings around herself she wished she was a RainWing; she could easily escape her pursuers then.

"HEY!" The bodyguards had arrived. "We're looking for a little SandWing. Where did she go?"

The noise of the market lulled a little as dragons looked around.

"I saw a little one a few minutes ago." Sphinx gave a start at the voice of the shawl merchant, right above her. "She dropped into the crowd and I saw her go into the alley behind my stall. But then she dissapeared."

Huge wingbeats--the sound of Cactus landing. "spread out," he said, his voice harsh. "Check the alley first. If she isn't there, search the stalls along side it, like this shawl-seller."

What? They were going to search her stall? This was bad. Sphinx tried to think. 

They'll probably search this stall first. I should've been more careful.

Well, I can be now.

Carefully, she reached into the rack above her and pulled down the most colorful scarf she could see. It was blindingly bright, in various neon hues, and contrasted nicely against her scales. She grabbed as many imprints of the scarf as she could and covered as much of herself as possible with them. Soon, only her claws, wings, tail and nose were visible. Hopefully they wouldn't be recognizable.

Standing up, she quickly slipped out the side of the stall and emerged, blinking, into the sunlight. She hurried round to the front of the shawl stall, cleared her throat and, attempting to disguise her voice,  said, "Hello. As you can see, I've bought scarves from you before...I was hoping for a look at your new patterns." She tried to slow her voice into more of a drawl.

"New patterns?" said the merchant. "Very well." She lifted up a cream-colored scarf with circles drawn in black on it. "here we have the newest patter...the creamy color represents the sand and the circles represent the oases."

"How very beautiful. I'll buy it," Sphinx said. "How much?"

"We're charging thirteen scales for the new patterns, but the price should go down by the next full moon."

"I'll take it now." Sphinx picked up one of the stolen coin purses and handed started counting out scales. "So, um...what's all the commotion?" She pointed at the SandWings who were emerging from the alley.

The merchant shrugged. "I don't know. Some little SandWing escaped from their prison, I guess...I don't care about anything to do with the Pit. That place's lawless."

Sphinx shook her head. "Oh, yes. Just out of curiosity, what would you do if that SandWing they're chasing asked you for help?"

The merchant shrugged. "I would turn her in. Because if I was caught with her, it wouldn't be good for me...nice doing business with you." She swept the scales into her talons and slipped behind the row of scarves.

Sphinx turned away, her tail dragging in the dirt, and placed the new shawl over her head.

I need to find Eagle, her mind repeated. I need to find Eagle...and Solstice,  of course.

She turned, tucking in her wings, and took a side step into an alley. 

Then burly talons wrapped around her snout, and a raspy voice hissed, "Got you."



Sphinx froze as something touched her spine--a venomous tail, perhaps?

"Don't scream," warned the raspy voice. "Not that anyone would help you if you did..."

Sphinx stood still, her heart pounding. "You've got the wrong dragon."

"Perhaps. Perhaps not. Either way, Lord Cactus is arriving shortly...he'll be able to tell."

As if on cue, wingbeats cracked above them. Sphinx instinctively ducked.

There was a puffing noise and a burst of heat. Sphinx realized the dragon holding her must have sent up a flame signal. Cactus would be here at any moment and then it would be over.

She heard the talons land but couldn't see because her scarf had fallen over her eyes. As fast as she could, she twisted free and jerked the scarf off her vision.

It was Cactus.

Above them, the roofs were so close there was barely a foot between them. No room for her to fly. She was trapped.

Oh, moons, she thought despairingly. What have I gotten myself into?

"Sphinx," Cactus said sorrowfully. "That's why I never wanted you around other tribes, my dear...I know they'd corrupt you, just like they did my brother..."

"Your brother? My father? And what do you mean by corrupt?" I demanded.

"You met that SkyWing, the little one," Cactus said. "Shortly after, you betrayed me. He forced you to free his companions, didn't he?"

Sphinx spread her talons,decideing to come clean. "He didn't make me do anything. I chose to free them, because the way you cheated them isn't right."

Cactus seemed to swell to twice his size. "Right?" he spat. "RIGHT? You're one to talk about right, you who steals from dragons in the marketplace each day!"

Sphinx flinched.


Sphinx flinched again as if struck. Her uncle's words cut to the bone. 

It was true.

She was a thief.

She had no conscience.

How dare you speak to me about right and wrong?

Sphinx knew what. was happening; she had felt it before when er uncle got going. He put dragons down. He burned them with words. Bit by bit, he chipped away their defenses until he was left with their raw self, which he could manipulate so easily...

Sphinx knew this feeling. She'd felt it before.

But she wasn't going to stand here and take it. 

She was going to fight back.

"Maybe I'm wrong to speak to you about right," she said, inturupting Cactus mid -shout. "And maybe I haven't go a conscience. But what if IA am wright to speak to you about wrung? What if it's a different kind of conscience--the kind that says it's wrong to cheat dragon when they've come so far NOT to cheat you?" What am I even saying? she wondered. "I steal to survive. I don't cheat to simply build myself up or get more..." She trailed off, scraping one talon through the dirt.

Cactus snorted. "A fine speech, Sphinx...the question remains...what right have you to speak to me about right and wrong?"

"No right." The words were coming easily now. "No right at all. But I'm not going to hold myself back, crush myself into your shape just to satisfy you. I may be your niece, but I'm not you, and I'm not your clay to mould as you please. I belong to me, and only myself." As she spoke, she felt the weight lift from her shoulders. 

I'm free.

Cactus, meanwhile, looked like someone had snatched a camel r--or a treasure from under his nose.

"How dare you--" he began, snarling.

"I dare, uncle. I dare." And even as he advanced towards hr, Sphinx felt completely at peace.

Then something hit the side of. head and everything went black



Sphinx awoke slowly, inch by inch, as though she'd been disintegrated and her body was pulling itself back together, molecule by molecule. When at last her eyes creaked open, she wondered if they really were open, because all she could see was darkness.

She stood up cautiously, waiting for pain, but she felt free and fine. Her head ached duly but 

otherwise she was okay.

She craned her head to look up, and a dim light met her eyelids, somewhere far above. She flexed her talons, wondering where she was, and her tail smacked into something hard.

"Ow!" Sphinx exclaimed, whipping around with a snarl. Butt there was no menacing villain standing there. In fact, she couldn't see anything at all.

She reached out her talons, and they came in contact with what felt like a wall. Sphinx wondered if she was somehow in a waterless well, but then decided that it was too deep to be a well, waterless, or otherwise, and besides, there were no wells, in the Scorpion Den.

A thought struck her. What if she wasn't in the Scorpion Den anymore?

What about Eagle, she thought, and Solstice? What happened to them? I hope they have the sense not to try and rescue me. In fact, it would be better if they fled the Scorpion Den altogether.

She felt her way along the wall, hoping that her eyes would adjust, but she wasn't a SeaWing and the dark stayed dark. Her SandWing claustrophobia began to kick in, and she crouched, wondering how her uncle had been cruel enough to put her down here, knowing what tribe she belonged to.

But oddly, the claustrophobia didn't seem to be as bad as she'd always heard it was. she didn't feel scared, just uncomfortable, and the dark felt comforting.

Sphinx spread her talons, and felt something wet touch them. She jerked back reflexively, and a soft object bumped her chest. 

They'd left her with her pouches? How dumb was that?

But then, Cactus wasn't known for his brightness.

Sphinx sighed, flared her wings as wide as they would go, and felt walls brush them on both sides. She took a deep breath and spun slowly around. She felt a draft of chilly air on her left side and turned rapidly towards it.

The air seemed darker there.

She twisted around and stepped in that direction, talons held out in front of her to make sure she didn't hit anything. But the air seemed to grow wider and cooler with every step she took, and soon her wings were no longer touching the wall. she lowered her talons in puzzlement.

She must be following a tunnel, she realized, and her claustrophobia surged slightly. but strangely enough lessened as she continued and the darkness grew deeper. 

She let her tail drop, slithering over the stones.  The shadows embraced her like a cloud of ink.

Somehow she sensed the walls of the tunnel tightening around her. She instinctively tucked in her wings, but even so they scraped the sides of the passageway as she walked.

Where was she going? she hesitated. What if she got lost, going down a fork she hadn't known existed? Oh well, better to go on than to go back, as she remembered her mother saying when she was so small.

And so it was that Sphinx continued on into the darkness.


It felt like she had been walking for hours, while really it had only been about twenty minutes. But it was hard to tell time underground, with the absence of light and the presence of shadow.

It got her thinking, this analogy; was there really shadows below the earth if there was no light?

it made her head hurt to think about it, but it was distracting and besides, her head was already hurting so what difference did it make?

So, she thought. If shadow is the place where an object blocks the light and here no light exists, does that mean that there is no shadow or only that shadow is the only thing that exists?

She rubbed her head dubiously with one talon. It was quite confusing.

She felt the curve of the tunnel and circled around into it. The walls pressed tight against her and she felt the ground beneath her begin to decline.

Where am I going? 

She shivered as the draft of cold air washed over her. Lifting her wings, she realized that though the tunnel had grown narrower it was also taller and she no longer had to duck. Ahead of her, she heard a strange rippling noise, like the oasis on a still day when no-one was there but her.

She instinctively slowed down as the draft of cold air increased and the rippling turned into a rushing and continued into a roar.

Now Sphinx was shivering. She wrapped her wings around herself and took a few more steps. As she rounded the corner, a dim light appeared.

Before her the ground dropped away and she stopped, speechless. Beside her the roaring was so loud she could not hear her thoughts. A thundering waterfall burst out of a hole in the cliffside and leaped away into a vast lake below. The walls were plastered with glowworms, their light bouncing off the surface of the water. the cool air coming from the waterfall rushed over Sphinx's body like an underground wind, despite the fact that the air, though smelling of clean water, was stale, being underground.

Sphinx stood taking it all in for a moment before she decided to fly down and check it out. She opened her wings, wincing slightly at the pain and flapped them twice. As she soared out over the lake, she turned her head, amazed at the power of the waterfall.  Below her the still surface reflected the glowworms' light, giving Sand the surreal expeiriance of flying over the sky. She tucked in her wings and dove, circling and shivering at the beauty of it all.

The water trembled as the gusts from her wingbeats ruffled its surface. Sand noticed that the water was almost utterly still at the center of the lake, but by the waterfall it churned and by a certain place on the opposite side, it seemed to grow smooth with rapid movement.

Sphinx flew down and hovered beside the smooth place. As she watched she became aware that the water was flowing out somewhere. Which meant that she, too, could likely get out that way, if only she could hold her breath.

But I'm not a MudWing, she thought ruefully. And I'm not a SeaWing either. I could get through if the passage was short, but if not...Her thoughts trailed off.

She leaned close to the place where the water went out, and listened. Her ear picked up on a faint rushing sound and she wondered if it too was a waterfall and if so how far away it was. She betted it wasn't all that far or she wouldn't be able to hear it, but what if it was just water rushing through the passage? Then she'd be forfeiting her life for nothing.

She winced and tried to think, but just then something heavy dropped from above and smacked her wing so hard she fell out of the air and into the water.




Sphinx jolted with the shock of the freezing water. She flailed around but something clutched her wings, dragging her down. She twisted, snarling bubbles, and slashed her claws, feeling them hook in something. She flailed harder as the water grew colder and realized she was sinking.

Then she turned and surged upright, flapping her wings wildly. The thing holding her seemed to slip before catching her wings again and Sphinx turned, opened her mouth, and bit down on it as hard as she could. There was a burst of bubbles and she was free.

She immedietly shot to the surface, flapping her wings, and took in a gulp of air, her eyes still closed. Lashing out in all directions with her talons, she lea[leaped into the air, flying towards the roof of the cavern.

From the water burst a blue shape which hovered across from her. Sphinx blinked water out of her eyes and the shape resolved into a SeaWing.

"Hello!" he exclaimed, looking surprised. "Who are you?"

Sphinx glared at him. "Why did you pull me underwater?" she demanded.

"Um, I thought you were going to attack me," he replied, flying in circles. As Sphinx looked closer, she realized that he was not much older than she; perhaps a year or less.

"I see," she said dubiously. "And what are you doing down here?"

"I was gathering freshwater algae," he replied. 

Sphinx swooped around in a circle. "Where are we?" she asked.

"Just an underwater cavern," he replied. "By the Kingdom of the Sea. Why are you here? I mean, what's a SandWing doing so far away from the sand?"

Sphinx snorted. "I don't know, I woke up here. I'm guessing my uncle dumped me here after knocking me out and threatening me."

"Wow, bad luck with family members," said the SeaWing carelessly. "Whatever, if you want to get out of here, I would be happy to take you."

"How do I get out of--" Sphinx began but just then there was a roar from the tunnel and Cactus burst out, snarling.

Sphinx gasped and leaped back, pressing herself against the cliff. She looked down and saw that the SeaWing was gone, no doubt hiding like any smart one would.

"Sphinx," Cactus called. "I'm surprised you fought your claustrophobia and found your way here. I hope you like this prison, because it's where you're going to be for the next year."

Sphinx flew over to him. "What are you talking about?"

"I obviously can't trust you, so I'm keeping you here for your own safety. I don't want you gallivanting off with SkyWings or such," Cactus snapped.

"I see," Sphinx replied conversationally. "But why here, by the Sea Kingdom of all places?"

Cactus blinked. "Have you lost your mind? We're under the Scorpion Den. At any rate, here's your dinner." He tossed something unrecognizable at her, then flew away. 

Sphinx poked it glumly and it crumbled to dust.

"Oh my, he gave you a black rock!" exclaimed the SeaWing, flying up out of the water. "There are some of those in the kingdom of the sea." He waved his talons at the dust drifting below. "So, was that your uncle?"

"Yes," snapped Sphinx.

"Wow, he's rude." The SeaWing did a cheerful flip. "WELL, are you ready to get out of here? I mean, why is he imprisoning you?"

"I betrayed him," replied Sphinx. 

"Oh WOw," said the SeaWing, "I totally get it, I mean, dragons like that are practically shouting 'betray me!' amirite?!" He beamed. "Whatever, let's get out of here."

Sphinx flexed her talons thoughtfully. "I can't breath underwater," she began.

"How dumb do you think I am? I can see that. But you can hold your breath for a minute can't you?"

"Of course," Sphinx said. She could hold her breath for so much more than a minute, although not half as long as a MudWing could, but she had learned how to hold her breath for ten minutes. She thought of the class, where she'd stood there with the other students, their faces in the water, their motivation that for all the remaining minutes in ten that they weren't under the water, they had to...

No, don't think about that, she reminded herself.

"THEN LET'S GO!" screeched the SeaWing, diving towards the smooth patches of water there where it flowed away.

Sphinx seized the end of his tail. He didn't even slow down, plunging into the water.

Sphinx's eyes adjusted to the dark, a freaky ability she had. She saw the dim outline of a cave ahead of her, and then they were through it and into the passage.

She felt all the memories rushing back as she held her breath. How to keep her heartbeat normal, erase any stress from her body. To not expend energy. To let the water carry her.

And then there was a sudden boil of water, bashing her into the stones, and she was falling.

She flared her wings open, but it did little to stop her as she was being propelled by a giant waterfall.

The air shivered as she splashed into another freezing lake. She poked her head up and discovered that this one was open to the sky.

"WOO-HOO! That was awesome. Wasn't that awesome?" The SeaWing grinned and did a flip. "I'm Elkhorn, by the way. Pleased to meet you!"

Sphinx rubbed her head. "I'm Sphinx." She flew up out of the lake and stared out blankly into the distance.

They were right at the edge of the sea.

"HOLY MOONS," Sphinx said loudly. "HOW DID I GET HERE?"

"Whee whee whee whee whee," hummed the SeaWing, circling above her. "I'm sure I don't know. Now I have to take these back to Master Cornpuff."

"Master Cornpuff?" Sphinx echoed.

"His real name is Algae but we all call him Cornpuff. He's the teacher at our school."

Wow, he's pretty free with SeaWing information, Sphinx thought. "Look, I need to get back to the Scorpion Den," she began. 

He gave her a weird look. "The Scorpion Den? That's hundreds of miles away. If you wanted to be there, why were you here?"

Sphinx hovered, debating whether or not to tell him as he was obviously not so good at keeping secrets, but in the end she decided that she didn't really have any important secrets.

Except for one, she thought, touching the pouch silently. Then she spread her wings.

"It's a long story and I'm happy to tell it to you, but if you have to take the algae to, er, Algae, then perhaps--"

"I have time I have time I have time!" he shouted excitedly. "I mean, I'm already in trouble with Master Cornpuff, which is why I was gathering algae in the first place, so why should I waste this chance? I should be as naughty as possible and get it all out of the way now. Besides if worse comes to worse I can just tell him I got stuck in the tunnel for a while. he already thinks that I eat too much and this will only reinforce his opinion which I don't care about so..."

Sphinx rubbed her eyes dizzily. "Okay but you had better sit down," she instructed.

Elkhorn flew over and landed on a spire of rock, carefully setting down his pack of algae. He wrapped his tail and talons around the rock, beamed, and said, "I'm ready!"

Sphinx landed too. Spreading her wings she recalled how much the dragonets at the big oasis had loved it when she told stories. Only this time, she had a real story to tell.

"Alright," she began. "It all started when my uncle had some SkyWing guests..."


The sun was setting by the time Sphinx was finished telling Elkhorn her story.

"Wow," he said, spreading his wings. The sun was directly behind him so all Sphinx could see of him was his silhouette. "That's quite a tale! You could write an adventure story outta that!"

"Yeah, maybe." Sphinx glanced down. 

"I bet the cavern was animus-touched," offered Elkhorn. "And that's how you got from the Kingdom of Sand to the Kingdom of the Sea." he gave a little laugh. "Wow! I could've gone up and seen the Sand Kingdom! Gee, I wish I had."

Sphinx shook her head. "No you don't. If a strange SeaWing had shown up in the Pit, that would not have been good for you."

"ALL THE BETTER! Adventure for me!" He pumped his talons, then paused and stared at her suspiciously.

"What?" Sphinx asked.

"You aren't making this all up, right?" he asked. "Because this is finally my chance to have an adventure!"

"Your chance?" Sphinx echoed in alarm. "Why? We will probably never see eachother again."

"OF COURSE we will!" he said exuberantly. "Because I will heroically accompany you BACK to the SAND KINGDOM!"

Sphinx winced. "Um, no, I do my heroic adventures alone."

"Sorry, but I'm just going to follow you anyways," he said, with a sheepish grin. "So isn't it better if I just come along with you and then we can protect eachother?"

"Ok, I guess so," Sphinx conceded. "But only if you always do exactly as I say."

"AGREED!" he shrieked happily. "OK LEt's GET gOIng!"

"Three moons," groaned Sphinx. "I can't believe that I have gotten into this!"


"'re saying we can't go back through the hole," Sphinx said.

Elkhorn shook his head. "Not if you aren't a SeaWing. I managed to get through because I could hold my breath long enough to push through the waterfall's pull but I doubt you could stay underwater that long."

Sphinx nodded reluctantly. "I guess we're going to have to go back the long way, then," she said sorrowfully. And by the time I arrive, she thought, I 2ill probably be too late to save Eagle and Solstice. If only there was a way for me to send them a message."

"I am gonna go drop off the algae with Master Cornpuff and give him a note for my parents," said Elkhorn. "But do not fear, sweet Sphinx, I shall not reveal our destination."

"Good at least you're that smart," she replied.

Elkhorn waved and dove off the cliff, wings spread to catch the updraft. Sphinx curled into a ball and hoped he wasn't about to bring reinforcements.

Apparently he was trustworthy enough because he appeared a bit later with a pack secured to his back. "LEt's GO!" he shouted. Sphinx covered her ears and wished she had never agreed to this.

A few minutes later they were on their way, winging their route on a course for the moons, setting directly behind the place where Sphinx knew the Scorpion Den lay.

But as she flew her wingbeats grew heavy. and though she knew she must go for the sake of her friends, she felt absolutely no desire to return to her birthplace again.




Sphinx spread her wings, catching the updraft as she soared over the Mud Kingdom. Behind her, Elkhorn's wings flapped sluggishly.

"I don't know how you're keeping up such a pace," the green-and-blue SeaWing exclaimed, "but I'm not really in great shape, so could you slow down a bit?"

Sphinx shook her head. "You know, you're the one tagging along here. I have a mission and I'm not just gonna twist my schedule for you. If you can't keep up, too bad."

Elkhorn frowned but didn't argue.

However, Sphinx found herself slowing down a bit. She shook her head at her own weakness, but nevertheless didn't speed up.

As they continued flying, the moons set one by one and a dim light appeared in the east. It was nearly dawn.

Sphinx glanced back at Elkhorn. "We should stop at the MudWing village below us," she suggested. "Get some breakfast and then go on. Besides, if anyone was following us, it'd degrade suspicion."

Elkhorn appeared skeptical but nevertheless followed her lead, folding his wings and sinking rapidly to earth. 

Sphinx spread her wings and walked through the door of the MudWing tavern at the end of the street. Inside, there was an array of dragons, mostly older MudWings, but a few from other tribes as well--she saw a SkyWing, a SandWing, and a NightWing sitting at their respective tables. 

Good, she thought. We shouldn't stand out so much here.

She stepped inside and there was an audible intake of breath. The barkeeper, an elderly MudWing with a chipped horn, smiled politely despite his obvious puzzlement at her being a SandWing.

"Good day, miss--" he began and then rapidly broke off as Elkhorn entered.

After a moment of visible shock, everyone settled down again and the barkeep resumed his polite smile.

"Good morning, what may we do for you two today?" he inquired.

"We'd like to order breakfast," Sphinx said. "Whatever is your special today."

"Very well, ma'am, and what would bring you by our humble town this fine day?"

The unspoken question implied was of course, what the heck is a SandWing doing with a SeaWing in the Mud Kingdom.

Sphinx drew back her wings. "That is none of your con--"

"We're goin' to the Scorpion Den!" Elkhorn advertised.

Sphinx gave him a sharp kick.

"OW!" Elkhorn shouted. "Oh, yeah, I forgot it was supposed to be a secret! Oops."

You idiot, Sphinx thought at him. That will just attract more attention. It's always more interesting when a dragon has something to hide.

"It isn't a big secret," she told him loudly. "I mean why would anyone be interested in a SandWing returning home?"

"I'm interested in the answer to this question," said one of the old MudWings standing around the sides of the café. "What the heck is a SandWing doing returning to the Sand Kingdom with a SeaWing in tow?"

Sphinx spread her wings. "it's none of your concern," she snapped, taking a plate from the barkeeper. "But he's my friend and he wanted to come with me, so I let him, if you must know."

Elkhorn gave her a delighted look, mouthing "friend." Sphinx rolled her eyes. Now he'll be insufferable.

"What be your name, young 'un?" asked the barkeeper as Sphinx chose an empty table and sat down. 

"I'm Date, he's Abyss," Sphinx offered. Elkhorn looked at her in surprise and she gave him a kick under the table. As soon as the barkeeper turned away, she seized a piece of paper from her pouch and wrote on it, "they're aliases, dum-dum."

Elkhorn nodded hastily. "That's right, I'm Abyss," he said loudly. Sphinx rolled her eyes. It's like he's never even heard of being inconspicuous, she thought. 

After they ate breakfast, Sphinx stood up to leave. Just then, a tired-looking SandWing entered the café, carrying a soft bag. He slumped to the countertop and wheezed, "Water, please."

The barkeep brought him a glass and the SandWing gulped it down. He looked familiar but Sphinx couldn't place him.

"Have you seen a dragon around here calling herself Starshadow?" he asked.

Sphinx froze.

Memories cascaded into her head like a waterfall. There were not many of them but the ones that existed roared like the surf in a storm. 

Her mother, cradling her gently as thunder crashed outside.

Her mother, shielding her from Cactus as he raged about the coconut milk she had spilled in the garrison.

Her mother, gently pressing a cooked banana to her snout and whispering, "Remember this taste, Sphinx. It was your father's favorite food."

Sphinx clutched her head, amazed by the sheer force of the memories. She ducked below the table level, took a few deep breaths, and surfaced.

These memories were the only that remained of her mother. She was sure there had been others but when she tried to push and see, there was onoly foggy darkness. But she did remember one other thing, and that was her mother's name.


She wrapped her talons tightly around her pouch that held the photo of her father. It had been a gift from her mother. 

As quietly as possible, she took out the photo and looked at it in the light from the door. The SandWing pictured was quiet-looking, with a soft smile and glasses. Sphinx looked closer and saw that on a chain around his neck he wore what looked like a timepiece. She wondered why anyone would wear a clock around their neck.

The SandWing who had just come in leaned against the table, drinking from the glass of water.

How did he know her mother? Sphinx peered at him but his back was to her. All she could see was the faint glitter of gold around his neck. did that mean that he was a rich dragon or perhaps even royalty? 

She pressed against the wall behind her, took a few deep breaths, and then crossed the café to tap the dragon on the shoulder.

"Um. Why would you be looking for Starshadow? Who is Starshadow?" she asked, wondering if maybe there was a different Starshadow.

He turned, a surprised look on his face. "Do I know you? Or did you know her?"

Sphinx spread her talons. "I may have heard her name once or twice." She decided it was best not to reveal her connection to her mother until she discovered this dragon's true intentions.

"I'm Hourglass," he said. "I'm looking for her because I made a promise to return to her."

Sphinx wrinkled her nose at him. There was a small scar on his snout, jagged and slightly red as though it were recent. The closer she looked at his face the more she was certain that she had seen him somewhere before.

"Do you remember 3 where you heard her name?" he asked.

"No," Sphinx said untruthfully. "I mean, I think it was back in the Scorpion Den when I stopped, er, to trade by the Pit."

"You are so young, why were you at the Pit? That place's lawless," muttered Hourglass, shaking his head. "Honestly, I'm surprised you survived without scars. Cactus is crazy."

"Cactus?" Sphinx's heart sped up.

How did this dragon know her uncle? Cactus generally stayed away from any traders who came by and let his bodyguards deal with them. 

How did this dragon know him?

"I suppose you wouldn't have seen him," said Hourglass. "He does so dislike seeing lowly traders." His voice grew hard and angry.

That's funny, Sphinx thought, we were just talking about why did it sound like he said "lowly TRAITOR"?

"At any rate, I guess I'll try the Scorpion Den first," the dragon called Hourglass said. There was something so familiar about him...had Sphinx seen him there before?

"Well, my friend, you're in luck!" exclaimed Elkhorn. "me and my companion, er, Date here, are headed that same direction! You can accompany us."

"Me?" Hourglass looked startled. 

"Yes, that's a good idea," said Sphinx. "We provide safety in numbers and you provide protection in size" She gestured at him. He wasn't a huge SandWing but he was graceful-boned, larger than her, and obviously a good fighter. As Sphinx looked closer at him she noticed that he had a good loop stabbed through his ear. 

An earring...I wonder if...her thoughts trailed off. What was she wondering?

"Well, let's get going," she said, grabbing a bottle of cactus juice to go.


They left the swamp by midmorning and by midday were flying over the mountain range. 

"Wow, it sure it beautiful," Sphinx whispered, stretching out one talon towards the ground.

Hourglass flew a little below them. Since they'd left, he hadn't spoken a word, except to mutter something about how quiet it was up here, it unnerved him. When ever he tilted, the golden thing around his neck flashed in the sun.

Sphinx swooped down beside Elkhorn, who'd been uncharacteristically quiet. "It's amazing, isn't it?" She indicated the sweeping mountain range, glowing in the haze of midday.

"Yeah, really nice." Elkhorn drifted for a second before beating his wings once more. Sphinx guessed he was suffering from Sea Kingdom Deprivation -- i.e., homesickness!

She crested the mountain range and gazed at the desert, glimmering with heat.

My home is just around the corner...

Hourglass flew up. "We should land, it's getting late," he said.

"Oh, alright," Sphinx agreed reluctantly. 

"Just think, if we land now," Elkhorn said cheerfully, "we'll be able to reach the Scorpion Den easily tomorrow."

"I was convinced already," Sphinx replied. She felt oddly happy, as she couldn't remember feeling for years.



That night Sphinx stayed up on watch at their makeshift forest camp/ Hourglass had gone off into the forest at sunset and was yet to return. In the meantime, Elkhorn was snoring loudly, alerting ay dragons in the vicinity of their location, but Sphinx was fairly certain they were alone, except for the crickets and frogs, singing their nighttime chorus into the windless darkness.

She curled her claws in, sinking them into the dirt. The utter stillness unnerved her a little. She sighed, tipping her head back and gazing at the few stars that were visible between the dense canopy.

Nearby, a stick cracked.

"Hourglass?" Sphinx called into the dark.

There was no answer. Sphinx backed up, almost stepping into the smoldering embers of the fire. She reached around and grabbed the heavy stick they'd been using as a poker. "Hello?" she said.

The darkness seemed to tremble slightly, but nothing emerged. However, Sphinx had a weird sense that someone was there, watching her.

She sat down again, every muscle coiled with alertness. Her heart pounded loudly, so loud she was sure it was quaking the earth. Her talons jumped in the tremors...wait. That wasn't her heartbeat making the trembling--that was a real earthquake! Alarmed, she leaped to her feet and grabbed a tree branch for balance, but the shuddering quickly stopped.

Still, that weird feeling of someone watching her remained...

Three moons, I must've been reading too many adventure scrolls, she thought. I must be imagining it.

Just then, the stick cracked again, even more loudly, followed by the soft flutter of a leaf falling. Sphinx jumped.

That crack had come from above her.

She looked up just as the pale shape of a SandWing descended on her.

Sphinx shouted and leaped out of the way. For an instant she was certain that this was Hourglass attacking, before she saw the medallion emblazoned with a cactus.

This one was sent by my uncle, she had a moment to think before the SandWing was upon her, all flashing talons and teeth. The poisonous tail lashed into view and Sphinx braced herself, but it dissapeared again. 

Sphinx snarled and went limp. Surprise radiated from her attacker as he loosened his grip. "His Lordship Cactus has decreed that--" 

Sphinx didn't wait for him to finish. She launched herself from the ground, throwing off the SandWing.

"--you are to be brought to him alive," the SandWing finished weakly. "So it doesn't make much sense for him to send an assassin...although he did mention something about a SkyWing?"

Sphinx's heart clenched. Eagle.

"Eagle's not with me--" she began.

"Whatever. I don't care." The SandWing leaped at her, talons outstretched, bowling her over. Sphinx went limp, but the assasin just snorted. "If you think I'm falling for that, you must be part MudWing."

He started to drag Sphinx towards the forest.

His talons were pressing into her shoulders--and then suddenly they weren't.

Sphinx sat up, startled, and saw The SandWing writhing on the ground. Standing beside him, his teeth clamped firmly on the vulnurable spot in the assasin's tail, was Elkhorn, looking bored.

Sphinx shot to her feet, spread her wings, and rushed over the rough terrain to come to his aid. Elkhorn seemed unconcerned, but come to think of it, she snew this assasin, and he wasn't anyone you'd want to mess with.

"Hrrgh," snarled the SandWing, whose name was Onslaught. "Get off me, you scrap of a SeaWing."

Sphinx barreled into his side, catching him off guard, and slashed at his underbelly. Elkhorn, still holding Onslaught's tail in his teeth, flopped down and began to clean his talons. 

Sphinx glared at him, but she had to admit, keeping the SandWing's venomous tail out of the way was probably the smartest thing he could do.

Onslaught twisted around and managed to get to his feet, but Elkhorn gave his tail a yank and he crashed heavily to the ground again.

"Well, I'm not under orders to bring any SeaWings back alive," announced the assasin, then turned and slashed his claws across Elkhorn's neck.

The SeaWing drew back slightly, but Onslaught's talons raked uselessly across his neck. The SandWing drew back, shock evident upon his face.

"What the--"

Sphinx blinked, but Elkhorn just clamped his jaw tighter around Onslaught's tail. The older dragon yelped and twisted around, lashing out again. His talons hooked in Elkhorn's scales and Sphinx flinched, but again, his claws slipped off as if he were clawing glass.

"Get out of here," Elkhorn said, releasing Onslaught's tail gently. 

"Yes, do," Hourglass agreed, leaping from the shadows and pinning Onslaught to the ground.

Sphinx's jaw dropped. She caught herself quickly, raising her head. "Were you there the whole time?"

"No," he replied. "I just arrived."

"And who might you be?" hissed Onslaught.

"Onslaught. I remember you," Hourglass hissed. "You were always a little standoffish, but eager to fight. No surprise you chose this path." He seized Onslaught's horns and bent close. "Do you remember me?"

Onslaught went still, his wings tense. "Hourglass," he hissed. "I don't know what Starshadow saw in you..."

"Well, all she saw in you was a grumpy, violent dragon," Hourglass said. "She told me so herself!"

Onslaught bared his teeth. "I see." His voice cracked slightly.

"Do you know what happened to her?" Hourglass asked.

Onslaught was silent.

"I asked what happened to her!" Hourglass dug his talons into Onslaught's shoulders. The assasin gasped.

Sphinx winced. "Hourglass," she whispered. "Please...he might..."

"Such a coincidence that you two found eachother," smiled Onslaught, unruffled by Hourglass's sharp talons. "In all these miles, and he would run into you."

"What are you talking about? Answer me," Hourglass repeated.

"I don't know what happened to Starshadow. she was here one day and gone the next," said Onslaught. "But you should care more about what's right in front of you...her daughter."

Hourglass whipped his head around to stare at Sphinx. "You're her daughter?! When were you born?"

Sphinx backed hastily away. "Uh--

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"I didn't know why you were looking for her."

Hourglass looked utterly devestated. "I thought she wouldn't forget me...ah well, I don't suppose it matters. Who is her father?"

There was no answer. they turned and saw that Onslaught was gone.

"I'll go after him." Elkhorn dissapeared into the trees.

"I don't know my dad's name," Sphinx said softly. "But I know what he looks like." She pulled the photo out of her pouch as the first ray of sunlight broke over the horizon.

As she held out the picture, the sun's rays caught on the chain around Hourglass's neck.

At the end of the chain was a timepiece.

Sphinx gasped as the photo slipped from her talons.

"What's your favorie food?" she demanded.

He paused, puzzled. "Cooked...bananas?"

Sphinx dropped to the ground in a spray of soil.

"Are you alright?" Hourglass gasped.

Sphinx sat up straight and handed him the photo. 

There was utter silence as Hourglass blew a burst of flame into the air to better see the photo.

Sphinx fought the urge to flee.

Hourglass looked up, realization spreading across his features.

And just then, Elkhorn emerged from the bushes.

Hourglass snapped his mouth shut, and Sphinx jumped, wondering if he was embarassed by her.

"Hey," Elkhorn said. "I couldn't find whats-his-name--Onslaught?"

Hourglass shifted. "Perhaps you should look harder."

Elkhorn shook his head. "I think we should get going. The faster we rescue Sphinx's friends thfe better."



Only the next day, when they were flying, did Sphinx have a chance to swoop down to Hourglass. He was flying, staring straight ahead.

"Are you okay?" she asked him.

"Sphinx." He turned towards her. "I don't know how I missed it."

"Missed what?" Sphinx said nervously.

"You have your mother's eyes." He stretched out one talon towards her face. "They were so warm and brown..." He trailed off, his wings drooping.

"Where did you go?" Sphinx couldn't help but ask. "Why weren't you there all these years?"

Hourglass tipped his wings sadly. "I...had to return to my queen. And then..." He trailed off. "It's hard to explain, but I couldn't find your mother again. It was like she had...vanished off the face of Prnzychha."

Sphinx tipped her head back, gazing at the sky. It was in so many different shades of blue.

"I miss her," Hourglass said softly. "But I have you now. I'm sorry to have missed out on your growing-up. How raised you?"

Sphinx shivered. "Cactus." She couldn't keep the anger and fear out of her voice.

"Really?" Hourglass sounded horrified. "I would've picked almost anyone tyo raise you over my brother. Greedy...power-hungry...a criminal...If only he and Onslaught hadn't stayed..."

Sphinx shrugged. "It was ok. Yeah, he's horrible, but I can think for myself. I've been doing it my whole life."

The Scorpion Den gleamed ahead. Sphinx spread her wings as wide as they could go, basking in the desert sun. Suddenly, in the sand below, something caught her eye.

"Hey," she said, pointing down. "There's a dragon down there."

Hourglass frowned, squinting. "You're right. A SandWing. Good eye. Why are they walking, not flying?"

"Maybe they're hurt," Sphinx suggested.

"I'll fly down and check!" Hourglass swooped down, then just as rapidly flapped back up. "It's Onslaught."

"Oh...really?" Sphinx frowned. "What's he doing down there?"

"Can't tell. Digging in the sand. Let's get to the city before he notices us!"

After a morning of flying, they reached the Scorpion Den. Sphinx didn't bother stopping at the pit. She flew straight to Solstice's house.

Even from a distance, she could see a number of fast-moving figures on the roof. As she drew closer, she realized it was Cactus and several other SandWings, in the middle of fighting Solstice and Eagle.

"Where is Sphinx?" snarled Cactus, pinning Eagle down.

"I might ask you the same--"

"Right here," Sphinx said in the deadliest voice she could manage, swinging her venomous tail over Cactus's neck. "Long time no see, Uncle."

But Cactus was staring over her shoulder in utter horror. "No..." He gasped. "I'm hallucinating! I must be! He cannot be here! He can't!"

And before Sphinx's very eyes, Cactus took to the air and fled.

"Brother," Hourglass sighed. "Always the coward."

The three SandWings on the roof stopped attacking Eagle and Solstice and turned in surprise.

"Lord Hourglass?" One began, looking most shocked.

"Plateau," Hourglass nodded pleasantly. "Savana. Steppe. So good to see you all again."

"The same to you!" began Plateau. "Oh, the way Cactus has treated us..."

"I will deal with Cqctus," Hourglass said firmly. "And I will talk to you later. In the meantime, I must see to it that my daughter and her friends are safe. Steppe, take me to the closest inn."

"Why do they all answer to you?" Sphinx asked.

"For a short time, I was the lord of the Scorpion Den, much as Cactus is the Crime Lord now," explained Hourglass. "It matters little. As long as your settled, Cactus should be easy enough to eradicate. He always does as I say. I won't even have to hurt him--one little motion of my claw is always enough to send him scurrying. Don't fret, Sphinx."

I wasn't, she thought.

Once they had a room at the inn, Hourglass left, promising to be careful. Sphinx curled up next to Summer, reading a scroll together. Well, Summer was reading. Sphinx mostly reread the same sentence over and over--"As the rain drummed down, she stared gloomily out over the forest"--and worried about Hourglass.

Not long later, Hourglass returned, flexing his talons thoughtfully. "Cactus surrendered before I even opened my mouth,. but then he fled across the desert sands. I'm afraid he may be off to conspire with an assasin or something, and that won't do..."

Sphinx nodded distractedly. 

"Either way, you can come home now," Hourglass said.

"I'll stay here for the night," Sphinx replied. "Just so the room doesn't go to waste. But I'll come--home--tomorrow."


Her first real home. 




Please tell me what you think!


--Shining Star 

submitted by Shining Star, age 13 eons, The Milky Way, she/her
(January 29, 2022 - 7:05 pm)