Butterfly stared at the plants around him, the dense forest swathed in darkness, and yet, dozens of the flora thrived; some giving off a faint light. Humming thoughtfully, he leaned down to sniff at one of them, sneezing as it ‘exploded’ tiny spores coating the area. “Those are poisonous.” A soft voice sounded, and he turned, a dragon slipping out of the shadows. Her large liquid eyes staring at him as her form solidified, hues of colours over her as she shifted in the faint light. “I’ll be fine, but thank you for your concern.” Butterfly responded, his wings flailing for a moment before they resettled, he was pretty sure she was not his companion for this trial. “Are you here to prove yourself as well?” He asked, his crest raising as he inched closer.
Senka blinked at the male, forepaws folded close to her body, she was uncomfortable so far from Rune, but she didn’t move from him as he slipped closer. It had been building for some time, the first inkling of want when Storm bore a clutch, and then more urgent when Sihu paired with another. And now… she’d reached out, seeking a companion to prove her strength. “Yes, my companion is meant to be here.” She replied. “My names Senka.” She offered, resisting to urge to touch the flower on his chest.
Butterfly nodded nudging her gently, his friendly nature showing, and he could spot her nervousness. “It’s a pleasure, I’m Butterfly.” Suddenly he yelped, vines creeping around him that lifted him from the ground, he spotted Senka reaching him before darkness engulfed her. Hissing he tried to find who was controlling the vices, the magic pressing against him. A giggle sounded and what he had long since taken to be a plant revealed herself, the tiny dragons hide black, and her wings and tail now that she’d moved a stunning red with black spots, a ladybird…. as a dragon. “Jungle you may be, but there is always something to learn.” Lady purred, sticking a tongue out at him. Butterfly snarled, biting down on the vines that grasped him, immediately they loosened and he charged towards the black and red dragon, moving over the forest floor to his companion, orange hues vines rising up as Lady prepared her magic in retaliation against the larger male.
Senka had reached out for Butterfly before something crashed into her, startled, she had to look at the dragon twice before the box shape registered, Then again…she had an odd shadow-soul creature for a rider… so she couldn’t say anything. Still, it took a few moments before she remembered that she was meant to be proving herself. Boxy didn’t seem to mind the wait, his smile was gentle and encouraging. Senka drew herself up, before lashing out at the box-shaped dragon, much as she’d seen snakes do back in the bayou; thing was, Boxy wasn’t where he had, and she couldn’t see him, the darkness hiding him. Suddenly he lunged at her again, Senka only spotting the movement because one of the many plants around them retreated. Taking a leaf out of his book, Senka slipped into the shadows, and slipping around to the back of him; striking out with her tail as she did so.
The jungle seemed to grow ever darker as the dragons fought, flashes of orange and moving vines as Lady tested Butterfly’s strength; Boxy meanwhile drew on all his experiences exploring and adventuring to draw out Senka’s strength, as if sensing she was ill at ease with the whole thing. But between the two of them, they made sure their companions were ready.
The desert was brutal, and it wasn’t just Butterfly who felt that way; Senka too struggled in the harsh environment, despite her fire heritage, what warmth the sands may off had was torn away by the harsh sandstorm that blanketed the area. Visibility was non-existent, all that they could see was the form of the two companions that were leading through this trial; most of what Senka could see of Boxy was his dark legs, though he quite often dropped back to check on her. Butterfly’s companion blended in even further, the spotted tan dragon was all but invisible…. and she had the odd habit of darting off at times, so full of energy it seemed that she had to use it.
Butterfly tucked his head down, shielding the flower on his chest the best he could, his wings tucked as tight as possible as the sands scraped over his hide, he glanced up, blinking several times to clear the sand from his eyes and locating the currently immobile tail of King. “How are you faring?” She asked as he came up beside her, using her body to shield his own somewhat, her mane whipping in the storm around them. “I could be better, but I know it’s needed.” He replied, King was friendly enough, despite her disappearing acts. “You’re doing really well though.” She said, patting him gently before moving off, Butterfly tensed as the winds buffeted him once again, only once he was sure he could move did he start walking, aware of Senka and Boxy coming up next to him as well.
Senka tried to focus on Butterfly, but her large eyes watered as the sand pelted them, as it was, she was relying more on her innate ability of both dark and fire, to actually look through the storm. Her long body draped out over the shifting sands, and patches of her hide raw; oh how she longed for the murky heat of the bayou. She’d tried to go non-corporal, but the chaotic nature of the sandstorm disrupted her too much. “Is it much further?” she whispered, feeling Boxy next to her, she didn’t like whining, and immediately looked away. Gentle hands ran over her body, encouraging as much as assessing her condition. The box-shaped dragon didn’t answer and instead ran off, leaving Senka to crawl over the sands, wings pressed as close as possible to her body. Surely he wouldn’t leave her?
As it was Boxy hadn’t left Senka, instead, he’d ran off to find King; to get the dragoness’s help to change the trial slightly, still a challenge, but one that may help shield them from the harshest part of the storm.
Both dragons stopped as the earth shifted around them, magic flowing as rocks formed around, the deadly storm muted as it no longer tore against Senka and Butterfly’s sides. King chuckled from where she perched, her talons aglow with magic as the storm passed over the maze she’d created. Boxy leapt down, grinning at them, beckoning them onwards.
Senka breathed a sigh of relief, wincing as she moved along the narrow space. “Thank you.” she said to both Boxy and King, the knowledge that they’d changed the trial for them, made her smile. King laughed as Butterfly nosed the compacted earth. “Don’t thank us yet, you still have to traverse it.” The green glow brightened as the kobold raised a talon, and the sound of moving earth echoed. Butterfly blinked, realising the pair had the ability to change the maze at will.
The sandstorm continued to rage around the construct, its power lashing at the earthen wall King had but and while Senka and Butterfly were safe from the storm, the maze provided challenges of a different type….
The fog drifted through the trunks of the ancient forest, a stealthy intruder that further blanketed the dark canopy until only the faint outlines of trees could be seen; Butterly moved with ease through the grove, wings tucked tight; though he had more than enough room to flare them if he needed to. He glanced at his companions, a mere shift of iridescence in the darkness, she seemed far better now than she had in the desert. That trial had been tough for them both, but Senka seemed to have had it worse, though she’d picked back up once in the relative ‘coolness of the shadows. A sound ahead had him slowing, lowering his body further to the flora that clung to the forest floor. In front of them, hazily obscured by the fog and darkness, a herd of deer. Prey.
Senka longed to be back in the bayou; after her trek in the desert, if she never saw a speck of sand again it would be too soon, but for now, the darkness of the forest was enough, especially for her to complete the final part of this trial. She could see perfectly well in the gloomy darkness, easily slipping past the immense trunks as they moved closer and closer to their prey. She halted when Butterffly did, staring at the massive crown of antlers one of the stags bore; it was him that was awake, standing guard as the others rested. She looked at Butterfly and the other dragon nodded. Senka slipped further into the darkness, several of the deer looked around warily as she neared them, some instinct warning them that danger was nearby, but the fog which helped hide them also hid the dragon that flitted between the darkest shadows. She kept away from the mighty stag, instead, she focusing on an elderly beast. And then she struck, hard and fast in the darkness, the herd starting to stir as the darkness coiled around the pale pelt of her prey.
Butterfly waited only until he spotted the shadows move as Senka took down her prey, before charging into the herd with powerful snaps of his jaws; like Senka he gave the lead stag a wide berth, knowing fine well that those antlers could inflict damage; instead, he drove the herd into a frenzy using the fog in a game of hide and seek and he snapped and pushed against several to get them to move. The stag bellowed, but even he couldn’t control a panicking herd, several of them bounding into the fog to escape the two predators. Butterfly lunged, taking down a young stag, his antlers a mere shadow of the older stag, who finally, like the rest bounded into the dark night.
Both Senka and Butterfly continued to hunt the scattered herd, going in different directions as they chased individuals down; never a doe and her young, but more the older beasts or younger stags; enough to be a ‘feast’, but not too many as to truly damage the herd that it wouldn’t recover. Finally, though the last hoofbeats faded into the forest, eventually the herd would reform and settle.
Very faint embers of light started to filter through the vast canopy above, the fog finally receding, though the shadows continued to cling to the trees around them. Below, the two dragons slowly dragged their haul together; Senka had managed to hunt 3 deer, while Butterfly had taken 4. “You did well.” Butterfly said to Senka and she smiled shyly at him. “Thank you, and so did you; though its a shame that stag hadn’t of been older, i might of been tempted to take him.” She replied, Butterfly nodded and for a few moments the two dragons simply rested, their final trial complete at last.