Brothers by Design 1:
Citadel Refugees

by Fur and Fantasy
PG for Gen
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

Kell woke in a very different place then he went to sleep in. The plain Citadel bed had been replaced by a much larger bed with a thick, luxurious mattress and thick, soft blankets. The other notable thing was that it had very natural smells, wood and stone primarily along with the natural fabrics of the sheets and blankets. The other thing Kell could smell was that there was someone in the room with him, and it wasn't someone he knew. It wasn't even someone who's scent fit in with the species he'd encountered before. He could hear the wind blow, which suggested that there was at least one window in the room, however there was no breeze which suggested that it was closed.

He remained still, faking sleep as his senses searched for any indication there was a window or opening that might afford him an escape.

"No need to fake sleep, little one." A deep, gentle voice said quietly. "I know you are awake."

"Guy's godda try." He opened his eyes and quickly took in the room and the winged dragon-kin much like his own flight-form, but not quite. This one had no mane and more obvious scale patters of deep sky blue. And of course he was much, much larger.

The room was much as it smelled, with the wood being the deep reddish wood of the furniture, the door and the shutters on the large window; and the stone being the stone walls and floor. The large comforter he was sleeping under was a deep sky blue with white and gold diamonds. The dragon-kin was about nine feet tall, dark blue with gray eyes and gold highlights in what was visible of visible of his wings.

"Of course." The Dracon smiled, clearly amused. "But no need to waste too much time on pretending."

"You're a Dracon?" He asked more quietly, trying to assess what such a creature would want to have to do with him.

"Yes, I am." The Dracon nodded. "Korim Al'Kar'Arador, though you may call me Korim." He said politely.

"Right." He nodded sharply. "What do you want me for?"

"You have far more potential than Citadel gives you credit for." Korim said simply. "And they do not treat you properly. No sentient being should be treated as a tool." He added firmly, and it was clear that he felt strongly about it.

"Can't say I disagree." He admitted cautiously, sitting up and taking a more full measure of his surroundings and the Dracon almost twice his height watching him.

"I am offering you a different place to grow up and explore your potential." Korim said simply. "But that is not a decision to be made quickly. Would you like breakfast now?" He offered easily.

"That would be good." He admitted.

"Breakfast will be up shortly." Korim nodded, after sending a quick mental note to the kitchen. "There is time if you wish to wash up before breakfast." Korim said neutrally, indicating a door on the far side of the room.

Kell thought about it for a second, then nodded and hopped from the bed to make quick work of getting the sleep and whatever else had happened out of his fur.

The bathroom was large, but not unusually so as Kell might have expected with the Dracon being almost twice his height. There was a large shower/air-jet stall, and a large whirlpool tub that would probably hold three or four people Kell's size. The floor was covered with white and blue swirled tiles, as was the wall to about shoulder height. Everything was clean white porcelain, except for the fixtures which were bright gleaming silver. Sitting on a shelf near the shower stall was a stack of clean fluffy blue towels, and folded neatly beside them was a dark blue button collar shirt, jeans and black sneakers in Kell's size.

He quickly stripped and slipped into the shower stall, giving it a quick look before getting the temperature right. He made a soft sound of pleasure at the rain of heat that soaked into his fur and threw his skin, swelling his sheath in response.

In the outer room, Korim smiled as he sensed the light pleasure coming from the young feline. He considered it a positive sign that the youngster allowed himself to relax that much. It meant he had gotten to him in time. He only hoped the other one faired as well.

Kell stayed under the water until he smelled breakfast, a very good smelling breakfast, reminded his stomach that it was not in a mood to be ignored.

Korim smiled figuring the youngster would come out in due course, so he quietly placed a spell around the breakfast tray to keep it warm and fresh while allowing the smells to continuing wafting into the bathroom.

He didn't have long to wait. The pre-adolescent Caracal-Servil mix was as interested as any kit in good smelling food. The kit's aura confirmed what he'd suspected, Kell hadn't eaten in several days.

"You look as though you enjoyed that." Korim smiled approvingly. "Your breakfast arrived while you showering." He said indicating the covered tray that was sitting on small table with a chair in front of it.

He hesitated a moment, torn between expecting this to be a trap of some kind, or a test, and his hunger that quickly won out.

"A long hot shower isn't something I've gotten in a while." Kell explained, somehow managing to talk between bites without slowing how quickly he wolfed it down.

"That would explain it." Korim nodded, as he casually watched the youngster. He made use of other senses so as to be able to watch, without giving the appearance of staring. He was still studying this kit to get a better feeling for what his potentials were. He'd gone to Citadel planning to take the SunFire kit, when this one had caught his eye. Now he had to figure out exactly why that had been the case.

"If you're still hungry." Korim said encouragingly, when the kit had just about cleaned off the tray. "More is available." He offered. He'd been uncertain how much this little one would want, or would accept. He had no real experience in dealing with Felsin youngsters, especially ones who were only partly Felsin.

Kell licked his whiskers back, debating for a moment between the desire to eat as much as he could while it was on offer, and not eating so much that he would be weighted down.

"Yes, I am." He nodded slightly, not questioning for now the quality of the food or this strange place and it's stranger master that was seemingly kind to him for no reason.

"It will be along shortly." Korim nodded, signaling the kitchen again. With a few minutes there was a knock at the door, and then a reddish-brown Dracon in light gray robes entered the room. He deftly removed the empty tray and replaced it with fresh one that smelled as good as the first.

"Thank you, Delmak." He said politely, as the younger Dracon bowed politely and left the room and Kell dug in with nearly as much enthusiasm as the first.

"Where is here?" Kell almost surprised him by asking between bites.

"Castle Tal'Arador on Draconea." Korim explained easily. "My home, and yours now." He smiled warmly, catching the youth by surprise again.

"Okay, so what do I do here?"

"That is something we'll have to figure out." Korim replied easily. "Once we have a better understanding of what your talents and potentials are, as well as what interests you, then we can make a decision. But I think it safe to say, it will be going to school for something. Which is what kits your age normally do."

"Kits my age?" Kell cocked his head at the Dracon, something akin to amusement in his eyes. "I'm not even a year old."

"Really?" Korim said, being the one surprised for a change. "You don't look or act a year old. I knew your were younger than you appeared, but I didn't quite figure on that young." He said thoughtfully.

"Gen 0's tend to mess up those rules." He snickered a bit.

"Yes, they do." Korim nodded. To tell the truth he was surprised to find that Kell was Gen 0. He had figured the kit to be a Gen 1 like SunFire. "However, I very much doubt you would enjoy the daily routine of a normal one year old." He chuckled softly. "I do, however, think we can find something around here that would interest you."

"Just about everything, except being bossed around."

"We'll try to keep to a minimum of that." Korim grinned, having never been fond of being bossed around himself. "However, being given direction during the learning process is quite normal. Hopefully, that will not strike you as 'being bossed around.' "

"Not if it makes sense." He nodded more seriously. "Or they aren't screaming at me."

"Screaming is not teaching." Korim said equally seriously. "If it doesn't make sense, the best thing to do is ask."

Kell nodded quietly, accepting that this Dracon had a different idea of what was appropriate than the SG.

"But that will wait." He smiled. "Would you like a tour of the castle when you've finished with breakfast?" Korim offered easily, though it was clear that Kell didn't have to accept if he didn't want to. Or it would have been if the kit had any concept of being able to refuse a master without penalties involved. Penalties that even unknown, Kell wasn't inclined to face.

Besides, he did want to look around.

"That sounds great." He smiled slightly at the much bigger male.

"Excellent." Korim nodded. "When you're ready." He said casually, as he tried to judge if the kit was done with breakfast or no. The answer became obvious when the kit stood and covered the plate again with the lid that had kept it warm on the way down.

"This way then." Korim smiled, stood and opened the door. Stepping out into the hallway, he gestured for Kell to follow. Like the room the hallway was constructed from a very solid looking gray stone, with thick dark blue carpeting covering the floor. As they walked, they passed a number of intricate woven tapestries hanging on the walls breaking up the gray stone with rich, vibrant color. "Each tapestry is an image from history." The larger male explained, and then smiled. "But mostly they are here because the castle needs a color other than gray, and because my sister is most skilled at weaving. Please, feel free to ask any questions that you have." He said encouragingly. "Even if I can't answer them right now, there is no harm in asking."

Kell regarded him suspiciously for a moment, then decided it couldn't hurt too much.

"Why build a home that needs so much decoration?"

"We build with stone because it was the most durable material at the time." He explained. "It also responds best to enchantments of protection and defense. This castle was built in a very different time. Heartrock, which this castle is made of, is the strongest of all, however, its natural color is gray." He smiled.

"Oh." He nodded, still not sure why the natural color mattered, but not really caring about it too much either.

"Decorating is something many people do with their homes." Korim smiled. "This is simply a bigger home." He said as they crossed to a broad balcony. The view from the balcony was somewhat breathtaking as it looked out over a vast sparkling mountain range, and it was clear that the Castle was high in the mountains. "The Diamondscale Mountain Range, home of my family for many generations."

He had to stop there as he realized that Kell had frozen, his fur spiked and eyes wide. Awe was radiating off him in a nearly palatable wave, the fear a much more subdued note.

"Are you alright, little one?" The Dracon asked very gently, honest concern in his voice. The awe he could understand, but the fear needed to be addressed. Especially if it was fear of heights.

"Yes." Kell answered reflexively, still staring out, mostly up at the sky and out at the open expanses. "I've never been outside before." He whispered softly.

"Never?" Korim asked in surprise. "Then there are many wonders awaiting you." He said gently. "Perhaps when you are a little more settled, we will go see some other remarkable views." He offered. "Would you like that?" He asked, with no hint in his voice as to there being an answer he preferred.

Kell took some effort to pull his attention away from the scene and back to the Dracon speaking to him.

"Yes, I would." He nodded, looking back at the open sky again

"Then we will plan to do that." Korim said easily, and then waited for awhile leting the kit look out for a time. "You may come back later, if you like." He offered quietly. "Shall we continue the tour?"

"Yes, sure." Kell nodded and followed the Dracon, stealing several more glances outside before it disappeared.

"It will still be there when you get back to it." Korim said reassuringly, as they walked down a stone staircase heading into the lower part of the castle. They passed numerous Dracons of different colors and sizes, all of home nodded deferentially to Korim as they passed. "This is the dining hall." Korim explained as they entered a large open room with large wooden tables covered in fancily decorated tablecloths. It looked as though the place could probably seat one or two hundred Dracons. There was a large rectangular table on a raised platform in the front of the hall, with a larger, more decorated chair behind it near the middle. Eleven other chairs were spread out evenly to either side of the big chair. "Everyone takes their meals here, unless there is a good reason not to."

"I understand." Kell nodded easily.

"The kitchen is staffed round the clock, because of the varying schedules our scholars and researchers are on. There are four main mealtimes, when you will find the majority of the castle here." He explained as the walked through passing a group of light blue Dracons who had just entered carrying meal trays. "But it is rare to find no one here."

"I can eat anytime." He said easily. "How long is day here?"

"Twenty eight hours." Korim said easily. "A bit longer than your used to."

"Easily shifted too." He nodded with the easy manner of a warrior.

"I'm sure." He nodded as he opened a door into a large multistory room. "As a student you'll probably be here a great deal." He smiled as he gestured the books and scrolls that stretched for four stories up and out of sight in every other direction. "This is the primary library of Tal'Arador."

"What are all these?" He asked, forgetting his place for a moment as he stared at what he was sure he'd never seen before.

"You don't know what books are?" Korim asked, a bit surprised. Though it was clear that it was just surprise, not that Kell had actually done something wrong.

The kit worried his lip as he thought. "Not that I can remember."

"Well, books are the form of record keeping that preceded the computer." Korim explained easily. "Do you know how to read?" He asked, wondering if the SG would've used that as some form of control.

"Oh, yeah." He nodded easily. "I had a lot of lessons on the computer."

"That's good." Korim nodded. "Then the books will present no problem, though you'll probably find them slow compared to a computer. But they have their own appeal, at least to some they do." He smiled as they walked through the library. "These are scrolls." He said pointing to one of the rolls of tied parchment. "They are the predecessors to books, and are very old."

"Why not just convert it all to computer, and book for those who want that?"

"Because many of these books are more than just words on paper." He explained easily. "Some of them have magic woven into them that is part of the teaching, and magic does not record well on computer."

"Magic?" Kell looked at him blankly.

"The SG would not have taught you about magic." Korim nodded. "Most of them do not understand. Simply put magic is a way to make reality adjust to your will. In that respect it is the brother to science and technology, but magic is much older." He explained. "A simple example. Creo Lux." He intoned and a small ball of light appeared in the passage way before them, shining brightly as it stayed three feet in front of them and at the focus of Kell's considerable attention. "The creation of a light source where there wasn't one before."

"Why wouldn't they want to use something that useful?"

"Lack of the Gift mostly." Korim said easily. "But also there is the problem that those with the gift rarely are blindly obedient the way the SG likes." He chuckled lightly. "It tends to encourage individuality and thinking for yourself, and I think you know what they think about that."

"Yes." He made a face. "So not everyone can use magic?"

"No, not everyone." Korim nodded. "And much like more mundane talents, not everyone who can use it, can use it to the same degree. Some never get past creating little balls of light, while others can provide light to an entire city. That's just an example, of course, there a great many things beyond the creation of light."

Kell though for a moment. "As many thing as technology can create?"`

"As many, though not necessarily the same things." He nodded. "There are reasons for using one instead of the other in some situations. And there are things that can be done one way and not the other. Technology has the big advantage that almost anyone can use something created by it. However, there are some things it still does not do."

"Like reliably create loyal soldgers." He snickered.

"Well, certainly not very bright ones." Korim chuckled. "Loyalty is easy, unless you need them to be able to think, plan and react to unexpected situations."

"What use would those kind be?" Kell glanced up.

"I believe the old term was 'cannon fodder'." Korim shook his head. "For battles were numbers are the important thing."

"Those exist?"

"They are less common than they used to be." Korim agreed. "Because few wars are fought by armies on the ground now. Most wars are decided in space, where numbers of soldiers are not nearly as important as the number and quality of ships."

"Which require skill and intelligence to man." The youth nodded easily.

"And the ability to respond to the unexpected." Korim nodded. "Because space combat is almost the definition of the word 'unexpected'. " He chuckled. "No, drone soldiers are only really useful in ground combat."

"So what about snipers?" He asked curiously. "Are they of any use in the real world?"

"Very useful in special ops, as I understand it." He nodded. "But a sniper would be impossible to create with such unthinking loyalty. The profession requires far too many judgment calls and decisions in the field." The Dracon said easily, as they exited the library. "And you have far more potential than a simple sniper. That is only the edge of what you are capable of."

"It is?" Kell looked at him, half really wanting to know, half still suspicious.

"Yes, it is." Korim nodded. "Even without proper testing I can see that. But then intelligence and drive open many possibilities, regardless of what other talents may be possessed. Possibilities that the SG would've ignored, or more likely would never have seen."

Kell fell silent for a long time as he mulled that idea over and realized that he really didn't have a clue what he wanted to do. "Oh."

"There's no need for you to decide now." Korim said gently. "Even mages don't become apprentices until they're older. You have plenty of time to explore possibilities, and decide what truly interests you." He smiled. "To find out what you enjoy is at least as important as what you are good at."

"Okay." He nodded slowly. "Sounds like I'll have a lot of work to do."

"Well, not all work." Korim corrected gently. "Part of being young is having fun and enjoying yourself. Indeed, having fun is at least as important as working. It keeps the mind fresh and alert."

Kell nodded again, accepting the statement without actually understanding it in the least.

"I'm sure the SG did not explain the concept of fun to you." Korim nodded. "And it is difficult to explain. Though generally fun is something you do because you like doing it, not because anyone tells you to, nor because it accomplishes a particular goal. In fact many things that are fun do not seem to accomplish anything at all."

"That sounds very strange." He murmured.

"If you've never done it, I'm sure it does." Korim agreed, as he opened the door to another large room. "I'm sure this is more familiar." He said as the entered a gym were a number of Dracons were practicing wooden staff combat. "While most of us are not physical warriors, we do try to keep our bodies in shape and maintain at least some minimum knowledge of physical self-defense."

"That makes sense." He nodded easily. "You never know when you will need to protect yourself, or from what."

"Very true." He nodded, as they walked past a class of a half dozen Dracons practicing unarmed combat. "Or with what for that matter. Which is why we try to practice flexibility in combat style. The problem with focusing on a single weapon is that you may not always have it."

"That's where thinking comes in too." Kell chuckled. "But as long as you know how to fight with your body, you won't be without some protection."

"Very true." He nodded, as they exited the gym. "Though most of the residents simply prefer to not get into fights in the first place. They are scholars not warriors." He smiled. "Of course, most of those scholars have the weapon of magic available, so they are not really unarmed."

"I bet." Kell chuckled. "Did you find out what I was intended for?"

"To be honest, no." Korim shook his head. "Though if you wish to know, I'm sure we can find out. What was intended isn't really important, since you will choose your path, not them."

"Kinda wondering about sleeper-weapon stuff." He said quietly. "I know I'm a Gen 0, and didn't turn out as intended. There's not real telling what's buried in here." He tapped his head.

"If you wish, we can have our mind-healer check to be sure there's nothing lingering." Korim offered, as he made a mental note to ask the Cover Operations Ministry to look into the matter.

"N-no. That's okay."

"Of course, that is your choice." Korim said easily. He'd felt the programming activate, and realized it would have to be dealt with in time. He opened a door and led the way into a wide open courtyard with carefully planted and sculpted bushes, with flowering plants between. The air of the garden was cool with a light breeze that carried the scent of many different flowers. "This is the garden of Tal'Arador, and one of the most peaceful places here."

"Wow," he blinked, his nose twitching rapidly at all the new and different scents. "I didn't know there were so many useful plants."

"Useful for many different things." Korim smiled, as they walked through the garden. "Some are useful simply in that they are pleasant to the eyes and to the nose."

Kell shot the much bigger male a bewildered look. "They aren't for poisons and healing?"

"Any plants for poisons and healing are grown in a more secure place." He smiled. "Most of these are decorative, though some also have food value."

He nodded again, even more confused than before. On a level he could see the attractiveness of the flowers, but it was very difficult to comprehend that that was their only purpose for being here.

"Beauty makes it easy for people to relax." Korim explained. "This is a place for laying aside worries and cares." He said as they reach the edge of large area of sand with a few stones disturbing the ripples of sand. All the pathways went around the sand, and a few Dracons were sitting on benches around the edge, apparently watching the sand.

"Oh." Kell looked at the strange behavior, accepting it as a Dracon thing for the time being.

"A sand garden." Korim explained. "It's used for meditation, and to remind us that a small change can have much wider effects." He smiled as one of the Dracons placed another stone, causing the ripples to change flowing outward.

It was hypnotic in a strange way, but it was seriously unsettling as well. It felt a bit like time was trying to freeze, and that set off all sorts of flight reactions in Kell's mind.

"Perhaps we should continue on." Korim urged gently, noting the flight reaction, and gently guiding Kell away from the garden. "Are you alright?" He asked gently once they were out of the room.

"Yes," he nodded weakly but quickly pulled himself together. "I'm fine."

"Just remember, if something's bother you, it's okay to say so." Korim said gently. "I can't help, if you don't tell me what's wrong."

"It's just ... creepy in there." He tried to explain something he didn't even begin to understand. "Like time was trying to stand still."

"In a sense, that's the idea behind meditation." Korim explained easily. "To step away from hurry and chaos of life so that one can put things in balance. But I can see where that would seem creepy to one whose life has probably been little but constant activity."

"Since well before I woke up." Kell nodded.

"Before you woke up?" Korim asked curiously. He got the impression the kit was referring to before he was born, but that wasn't possible even for the Gen 0's. There was no awareness before the tank opened, for it to be otherwise could lead to dangerous repercussions.

"Yeah, I remember all the data downloads they did." He shrugged. "And a few odds and ends too."

"Very unusual." Korim said thoughtfully. "Though I can see where it would make something as quiet as a stone garden seem creepy." He said as they passed a room from which loud banging could be heard. It sounded like metal striking metal. "The room behind this door is our smithy, where tools and weapons are forged. It's rather hot and noisy, so you might not want to go in, but we can if you'd like to." He offered easily.

"I think I'll pass." He smiled slightly.

"Not my favorite place either." The Dracon smiled, as they passed it by, and continued down further through the castle until the reached another door, behind which was what appeared to be a small lake in the middle of the castle. There was a bubbling in the center of the lake as if a fountain was just about to turn on. "This is the source of the castle's water, drawn from underground streams in the heart of the mountain." He said as they entered the cool, damp chamber.

"Very cool." Kell murred, feeling the sudden urge to dive in and swim.

"Swimming pool is upstairs." Korim smiled, clearly amused. "Though you're not the first person to feel an urge to dive in."

"Swimming?" Kell looked up, uncertain for a moment as he cross referenced the word to it's meaning. "Oh. Don't think I've done that before."

"The SG didn't teach you to swim?" Korim asked surprised. "What a strange oversight on a world with so much water. But that's easily remedied. It's a good skill to have, even on as dry a world as this one."

"I like a deep cold bath." He grinned, seriously considering why he wasn't the least bit worried about it and why the sparkling water was so entrancing.

"Not that's interesting." Korim said curiously. "Most felines I've known prefer long hot baths. But then you're not like most I've known." He smiled, with a note of approval in his voice.

"I'm not like any ever created." Kell grinned unrepentantly.

"I knew that when I saw you." Korim smiled back, and led the way out of the water chamber, keeping an eye on this kit who couldn't swim but still seemed very drawn to deep water.

"This is the swimming pool." Korim smiled gesturing to the open square pool that was also bubbling in the middle. However this pool was open to the sky and there probably a good dozen Dracons swimming in it.

It wasn't as enticing as the spring had been, but Kell could still feel his entire body all but vibrating in desire to be in that cool water to paddle around.

"You really do have an interest in the water." Korim chuckled. "I think we need to get you swimming lessons, sooner rather than later. Even if it isn't the usual for the not quite one year old set." He chuckled, with a grin.

"Why not now?" Kell asked, noticing that the Dracons were naked, taking out any need for special clothes.

"Well, I'll have to see if one of the swimming instructors is available." He smiled, as he mentally checked with the three Water Clan members who taught swimming at the Castle. After a moment he nodded. "Varia will be available in an hour, she's teaching a class on intermediate Aquam forms at the moment. Shall we finish the tour and meet her then?"

"Sure." Kell nodded easily with a last longing look at the water.

"It's only an hour." He smiled. "You might like where we're headed next, seeing how much you liked the view from the east wall." He grinned , as they walked. Eventually, they walked through two massive steel-bound wooden doors that opened at Korim's touch. There was a breeze blowing through the room, and a massive archway at the far end of the room seemed open to the sky. "This is our hangar where we land everything that flies from planes to dragons to Aurum students doing their first solo flight." There were several planes present, all of them very sleek, advanced fighter types.

"Aurum students?" Kell asked absently, most of his attention on that opening to blueness that seemed to stretch forever.

"Students of Air Magic." Korim clarified. "Aurum is the arcane word for it." He said as they walked across the huge room toward the opening. Mountains in the far distance became visible as they got closer to the opening.

"Oh, wow." All other thoughts vanished from Kell's mind as he took in the expanses with no barriers between him and the open sky. He desperately wanted to leap into that openness despite knowing it was fatal and he didn't want to die.

"I can take you gliding if you'd like, Kell." Korim offered, spreading his blue and gold wings.

Kell fought a very visible internal war between trust and desire. He wanted to go, badly, but it was a lot to put in the hands of someone he barely knew and didn't understand.

Korim stood silently, and Kell work out his decision. There were sometimes when you had to stand back and let a kit sort out his own feelings.

The silence turned out to be the right choice.

"Yeah, I'd like that." Kell let the tension and uncertainty go with his choice made.

"Excellent." Korim smiled approvingly as he picked up the smaller tom, so that Kell's back was to Korim's chest. With the beating of powerful wings and a tingle of ambient magic he lifted into the sky with the small Caracal-Servil held close to his chest as he climbed so that Kell could see the entire castle from above. The polished gray stone glittered brightly in morning sun with blue and gold banners flying from the parapets.

"Oh wow." Kell murmured for the tenth time in as many minutes. Despite the point of interest being the castle, he barely gave them more than a glance. His real interest was in the cragged natural wonders all around.

Spotting the kit's interest, Korim swooped gently over toward one of the craggy peaks to give Kell a closer look. "Now there's something you don't see everyday." He said quietly, as they descended to get a closer look at a trio of half-lion, half-eagle creatures hunting large mountain sheep. "Even though your world has them, I daresay you haven't seen hunting griffons before."

"They aren't supposed to be real." Kell's eyes widened in surprise without a trace of fear.

"Oh, they're very real." Korim smiled. "Many things that the SG wish were not real are." He said chuckling, as they moved closer, though Korim stayed far enough back not to disturb them.

"Like Dracon mages that walk into Citadel and just waltz off with kittens?" He snickered without taking his eyes off the animals or scenery.

"I expected they're still having fits about that one." He chuckled. "Though I don't believe its been done before."

"And again?" He asked, wanting to look at the Dracon but knowing it was pointless with their positions.

"I'm not aware of anyone doing it since." Korim chuckled. "Though I'm not the only mage capable of the feat. Just the first to do it."

"Maybe someone will. There are a lot of kits in there that need the help."

"Yes, there are." Korim nodded. "But directly interfering in the affairs of another world is not something the Council approves of." he said quietly.

"So why me?" Kell asked quietly. "I'm hardly the only Gen 0 that's been in that place."

"You were the one I noticed." Korim said quietly, hesitant to admit the kit's rescue had been secondary, but also unwilling to lie. "You were not the only kit I rescued that night."

"SwiftClaw." Kell didn't really guess.

"A very good guess." Korim said surprised. "What made you think it was him?"

"I'm always getting compared to their other major problem kit." He snickered. "It makes sense if you grabbed me, you'd grab him too."

"So the two of you have never met then?" Korim asked curiously.

"I've bumped into him a couple times, but not anything more." He admitted.

"Not surprising." Korim smiled. "They probably didn't want the two you encouraging each other."

"Yeah, we were both considered an escape risk." Kell grinned fondly at the memory of finding that tidbit out.

"And given an opportunity to work together, you very likely would have." Korim nodded. "But they would've been very careful about when they allowed you to do more than 'bump into each other'."

"Given at least one time it was when we were both out without permission, yeah." Kell snickered as one of the griffons made a sharp dive, sending up a cloud of snow when it impacted.

"That probably unnerved them a great deal." Korim chuckled, as he banked to the back side of the griffons' mountain where a mountain stream cascaded off a high rock cliff in a shimmering waterfall to the rocks below. The cold mist sprayed high into the air refracting the sunlight into rainbows.

"Wow. Just ... wow." Kell breathed again.

"I thought you might like it." Korim rumbled, as they hovered just close enough to the falls to feel some of the mist, without getting drenched.

"Yes." Kell whispered, his throat tight with sensations he couldn't describe but thought he liked a lot.

"This is what living should feel like." Korim said softly. "At least some of the time."

"Oh." He murmured, enthralled by the idea of feeling like this regularly.

"This is also an example of having fun." He rumbled encouragingly.

"Oh." He flicked his ears a bit more in the cool spray. "I like."

"Care to take a closer look?" Korim offered. "We can land by the pool."

"Yes." He grinned, a little more eager and tried not to squirm too much.

A few moments later, the Dracon touched down on the rock ledge surrounding the splashing pool. "Here you go." He said, gently setting the small tom down and watched as he once again stopped himself from jumping into the icy cold water.

"Oh, this feels good." Kell rumbled as his hands scooped up the freezing water and let it trickle down his arms, watching it fall back into the pool in fascination.

Korim watched quietly as the kit played, taking the time to get a better look a the youngsters potential. Based on his reactions and behaviors so far, Korim very strongly suspected talent for water and air magic, among other things.

When he thought about it, he rather hoped Kell had SwiftClaw's expected lifespan. The kit simply had too many gifts he could already find despite Kell's strange effect on the senses that he would need the long centuries to explore them all.

So far though it was impossible to be sure with Gen 0's though the NightBlades had shown no signs of aging in some fifty years. He decided that swimming lesson could wait until Kel tired of playing, or it was lunch time, which ever came first.

As it turned out, Kell's fascination with the water came first, sending the kit head first into a smooth dive into the icy water.

There was a momentary panic on Korim's part before he realized that the kit was swimming quite well, and hardly noticing the cold at all. He chuckled watching the kit play in the pool, as considered what a contrast he had in the two kits; one fire and one water, though both had a connection to air. Both of them also had a great many other talents as well. The important question would be, could they get along.

For good or ill, it would be a question that would be answered soon.

Kell had no trouble spotting the other Felsin kit in the grand dinning room. Between height and coloration and simply being furry, they both stood out quite well here.

Nathan was talking with a deep red Dragon over lunch, when he spotted Kell walking across the room with Korim. He smiled and waved, though it was difficult to say who he was waving at.

"Seems a good time for the two of you to get acquainted." Korim suggested gently.

"At least he's in a good mood." Kell nodded easily and moved towards the other kit that looked a year or so younger than he was.

"He was no happier than you were there." Korim said easily, just before they reached the table. "Hello, Nathan. How did your morning go?"

"Fine, Korim. All sorts of neat things in the forge." The Tiger kit grinned. "Delros was just telling me about some of the cool stuff he's made." He said, before looking at Kell. "Kell, right?" He asked.

"Yap," the spotted sandy-furred kit nodded and took the next seat over.

"Nathan." He said, introducing himself. "Guess it figures the two big troublemakers would end up in the same place." He snickered. "And they tried so hard to keep us at opposite ends of the base."

"Not that it worked all that well." Kell snickered. "They never did figure out that the best way to get something to happen was to say we couldn't."

"I overheard one of the instructors saying that we were setting new records for breaking restriction to quarters." Nathan chuckled. "He just didn't say who was ahead."

"Probably changed every week." Kell snickered.

"Bet they're turning the base upside down trying to figure out where we are." Nathan smirked. "Again."

"And loose all their color when they find out."

"I don't think they'll be figuring out just where we went any time soon." Nathan snickered. "But they'll probably waste lots of time combing the area around Citadel."

"Which is that much energy they can't devote to more destructive pursuits." Kell joined in the amusement.

"And we're out of there, for good this time." Nathan said, with a grateful smile for Korim.

"You two knew each other?" Kell shifted his glance between the unlikely pair.

"He showed me around before you woke up." Nathan clarified. "Then he left me with the metalsmith, while he showed you around."

"We had never met before." Korim nodded. "He was at least as surprised as you were to wake up here."

"That's putting it mildly." Nathan snorted. "Though anywhere was better than another day of blind-obedienceville."

"You got that right." Kell agreed with feeling. "It's going to be fun messing with their lives from the outside."

"That will happen in time." Korim said gently. "But they are not your concern for now." He said firmly. "When you are older, and properly trained then there will be time for settling scores."

"All right." Kell accepted it quietly, absently curious about when the food would arrive.

A curiosity that was settled few minutes later by trays appearing in front of them in a sparkle of lights, causing Nathan to jump back and Kell to fluff up in alarm, instantly as far away from the sudden light show as Nathan,

"Nothing to be alarmed about, Nathan, Kell." Korim reassured the startled kits. "Merely a bit of translocation to reduce the number of people necessary to serve meals."

"Warn a guy before something like that happens." Nathan murmured as he sat down, the good smells doing much to alieve his alarm and Kell's. It still took the lanky kit a bit longer to settle, eyeing the trays suspiciously before hunger and Nathan's acceptance won out and he sat back down to dig in.

"It may arrive strangely, but at least it doesn't taste like the cafeteria." Nathan whispered to Kell, between bites. Even if he was predisposed to trust Dracons, he still wasn't sure about people in authority.

"You got that." He grinned back in the same low tone. "Much better."

"And we don't seem to get in trouble for asking questions." Nathan commented. "I was always getting in trouble for that."

Kell had to snicker. "I usually got it for informing them when they got something wrong. And for not paying attention to their incessant yammering about obedience."

"The obedience one got me more than once too." Nathan grinned. "Or asking 'why' when they tell me to do something."

"My favorite reply to a stupid order was 'when it makes sense'." That stumped them for a while. Or I'd do the exact opposite, if that worked." He giggled between all but inhaling the meal.

"I never tried doing the exact opposite, I was prone to just refusing to follow the order." He chuckled. "Not counting the time I grabbed the instructors bullhorn and yelled back at him."

"About a month ago?" Kell grinned at him.

"Sounds about right." Nathan grinned back.

"I was wondering why they suddenly got so possessive of those things." He couldn't help but laugh. "I wish I'd thought of it."

"I think they were afraid I'd given the others dangerous ideas." He chuckled. "That was what they were always worrying about, me being a bad influence."

"Same here." Kell nodded. "Most of the time they kept me in solitary. At least when they could."

"Yeah, I didn't see many people either." Nathan nodded. "And I think we still managed to bump into each other on several occasions." He chuckled.

"Yap, we did. Pretty much every time I got out of my 'room'." He made a face. "More like a cell if you ask me."

"Well, that's pretty much what mine was." Nathan nodded. "Nothing like the huge room I've got here. Seems almost wasteful to have that much space for one person." Nathan chuckled.

"I don't think I've seen my room yet, but I've been kind of distracted by the outside."

"Neither of you has." Korim said quietly. "Those rooms are guest rooms, just until we get you settled."

"Oh, that makes more sense." Nathan nodded.

"I could probably live in that water room." Kell grinned mischievously. "That was one seriously incredible feeling."

"I liked the outside pool better." Nathan said easily. "Though a lake in a mountain valley would be nice too." He said softly.

"Outside pool?" Kell perked up. "Oh and there is a really nice waterfall and pool on the mountain not far from here.

"You must have gone flying." Nathan grinned. "I'll have to do that sometime. But yeah, if you go up a few levels and out back there's a big natural pool that's spring fed. Of course, there's also the indoor pool, but I like the outdoor one better."

"Oh, that sounds so awesome." Kell was nearly trembling with eagerness. "You know how to swim?"

"Been swimming most of my life." Nathan grinned. "Used to be a rare day that I didn't end up in the water at some point. But that was before the SG." He said quietly.

"And can start again now." Kell rumbled softly despite his smile. "Besides, if you don't, I'll drag you up there to go swimming with me."

"I'd kind of been planning to anyway, but since you asked so nice, okay." Nathan replied with a wise-ass smirk and got one in return.

"Maybe we'll get out to that waterfall sometime too, when we don't have to rely on Dracon wings."

"That'd be cool." Nathan nodded. "That's what air magic is for." He grinned.

"Among other things." Korim nodded.

"Or a VTOL flitter." Kell added, less comfortable with magic than the others.

"Also a possibility." Korim nodded. "Though the small landing space would require an expert pilot."

"We'll work something out." Nathan said confidently.

"We always manage to." Kell chuckled a bit, full and content and slightly disappointed that he'd forgotten to really taste the meal.

At that point a small dark blue Dracon in blue and gray robes came up to Korim. "Lord Korim, the Castellan wishes to speak with you." He said respectfully.

"Davon, please tell the Castellan that I will be available for her later this evening, after dinner." Korim said easily, though it was clear that he wasn't really looking forward to the conversation.

"Sire, she insists on speaking to you now. Imperial Privilege." He said nervously.

"She's claiming Privilege? Shards and shells." Korim muttered. "Very well, I'll go speak with her. Davon, I'm leaving these two new arrivals in your care until I return." He said and then turned to Kell and Nathan. "I have to attend to some business that will not wait. But Davon can serve as your guide, and answer questions in my absence. " He said, with a note of apology in his voice. "I will see both of you at dinner, if not sooner." He said as he stood.

"See you later then." Nathan said easily, as he looked over the young Dracon. Nathan wasn't sure but he didn't think Davon was much older than his teens.

"Is the meal over?" Kell asked quietly, watching the elder Dracon leave.

 "Only if you're full." Davon said easily, as he sat down with them. "If you watch, you'll see that not everyone arrives or leaves at exactly the same time. The basic rule is to come in when you're hungry, and leave when you're satisfied. Unless you get a good conversation going, in which case you hang around for several hours over a hot mug of whatever you happen to enjoy."

"I'm nicely full." Kell nodded easily and glanced at Nathan.

"So am I." Nathan smiled. "Two meals in a row." He chuckled. "Usually I manage to lose one for some misbehavior or another."

"If not both." Kell snorted. "And the food here is way better."

"The cooks will appreciate the compliment." Davon said easily. "Lord Korim assigned me to be your guide in his absence, was there anywhere you wished to go or see?" The teenager asked politely. "I may not have all the answers like his Lordship, but I'll answer any questions as best I can."

"I wanted to see that outside pool." Kell grinned. "Catch a swim with Nathan maybe."

"Good idea." Nathan grinned agreement.

"That would be this way, if you'll follow me." He said guiding the two young kits through the castle, and out a door in the back of the castle which led to a set of carved steps in the rock of the mountain. Climbing the steps they came to a broad and deep ledge on the mountain face that was currently in bright sunlight. There was a pool of cool clear water fed by water melting from the mountains side and running down to collect in the pool. A number of Dracons both male and female sunning themselves on the wide stone ledge around the pool. Like around the indoor pool, none of the Dracons were wearing any clothing.

"Oh, you were right." Kell rumbled eagerly and made quick work of stripping his clothing and set it in a neat pile out of the way before making a delighted bolt for the cold water.

Nathan took a little more time undressing before he followed Kell into the pool. The water was cool, but not nearly as cold as might be expected from mountain run-off. Davon followed at more leisurely pace, watching the two kits from the water's edge as they swam and splashed and behaved like normal youngsters so unlike their first few hours.

"Here you are." Korim smiled as he opened the solid wooden door for the kits. The room inside was as large as one of the guest rooms but it had two plain but very comfortable looking beds, covered with thick soft covers and fluffy pillows. There were also two desk and chair sets, two dressers and two footlockers, one at the end of each bed. There was a closet on each side of the room with appropriate sized robes and a coat hanging in it. Light was provided by a globe hanging from the ceiling.

"You can adjust the amount of light my turning this knob." Korim explained, demonstrating the full range of light from very dim, to full sunlight. "The bathroom is through that door." He pointed at the door on the opposite side of the room from the hallway door. "Any questions, anything missing that you need?" He asked in a voice that encouraged asking.

Kell made a very fast circuit around the room, checking the few things not visible before answering.

"Room's incredible." He smiled at Korim.

"Yeah, its great." Nathan smiled looking around. "Any chance of getting a computer in here?" He asked politely.

Korim blinked. "Of course, you are kits of the modern age." He smiled. "I'll have a computer ordered for you. It may take a few days to get it."

"Thank you." Nathan smiled.

"Yeah, that'll be great." Kell added, grateful Nathan had asked for it. "Is there a Galacnet link here?"

"There will be." Korim smiled. "We're not far from one of the major nodes on Draconea, so a link will be easy."

"Way cool." Nathan grinned broadly, glad that Kell had remembered to ask about that.

"Definitely." Kell's grin widened. "We have some serious catching up to do on the outside world."

"Yes you do." Korim nodded. "Neither of you has had much exposure to the real world, if any." He said, thinking to himself that perhaps a trip to the capitol might be a good educational experience, in a few months when things had calmed down. And more importantly when the Council had calmed down. A good share of them had their robes in a bunch because of what he had done.

"Did you get in much trouble?" Kell asked hesitantly.

"What makes you think I'm in trouble, Kell?" Korim asked curiously, honestly wondering how the little one would know.

"There was lunch. She was clearly upset enough to do something unheard of to summon you." He explained, his eyes on the floor. "I don't know the titles, but it was kinda obvious she ranks you. And you've been ... thoughtful ... since you got back."

Korim nodded, and gestured to the two kits to sit down. "You're correct, the Council is not happy with me." He said once they were sitting. "In this case, the Castellan was speaking as her Majesty's representative on the Council. I have been ordered to explain my actions to the Council at the next meeting."

"It's about us, isn't it?" Nathan asked quietly.

"That it is." Korim admitted. "But it is not your responsibility, it is mine. I chose to break with tradition and bring outsiders to Tal'Arador. Now I must convince them that I am right."

"What happens to us if you can't?" Kell asked quietly, his fear pushed aside by plans to deal with that fallout.

"You will be returned to Felsinor and turned over to the authorities there who handle orphans." He said quietly, and then looked at them both very seriously. "Do you want to stay here?" He asked, looked at them with deep gold eyes that seemed to look right through them. There was no doubt that the only answer he wanted was an honest one, no guessing what he wanted them to say.

"Yes." Kell said without hesitation or doubt.

"Yes." Nathan said with equal certainty. "If we go back to an orphanage we'll end up right back where we were."

"Then I will find a way to make sure that you can stay." He promised. "I did not rescue the two of you, simply to see you end up back there." He said firmly. "I am still Al'Kar'Arador, and the council needs to remember that." He said firmly. "Do not worry yourselves, I have faced worse than a petulant Council and triumphed."

"Good." Kell nodded, still uneasy but willing to push it to the background for now along with the planning for if things went wrong. "Anywhere is better than where we were."

"Definitely." Nathan agreed, unhappy at the thought of losing the second best place he'd ever been. But he figured he'd just have to trust the big Dracon to handle things.

"Now that that's settled, perhaps you'd both like to see something quite impressive." He smiled. "Seeing as you've both enjoyed the scenery here, I think you'll like it." He said, as he gestured for them to follow.

"This sounds good." Nathan grinned.

"More impressive than the water room?" Kell asked curiously and followed along without complaint, at a loss what it could be.

"Well, such things are very subjective." Korim said easily. "Not everyone finds the water room as impressive as you do."

"Or Nathan and the forge." Kell cracked a grin at the dark orange kit, who grinned right back at him.

"Exactly." Korim said, as they walked out onto a balcony on the western wall of the castle, with the sun just starting to set for the night. "There are few sunsets as gorgeous as those over the Diamondscale mountains." He said just as the reds and oranges of the setting sun struck the glittering snow and crystals of the mountains and refracted in dazzling multicolored light show.

"Oh wow." Kell whispered throatily, his eyes glued on the vision he couldn't even imagine.

"Wow, that's cool." Nathan murmured, watching the lights change color slowly as the sun slowly set. "It does this every night?" He asked in a stunned whisper.

"As long as the weather is good." Korim nodded as the kittens fell completely silent and commando still for the rest of the spectacle.

"Time to go inside." Korim said quietly, once the lights had faded and the balcony was in darkness save for the light from inside the castle. "The air up here cools quickly once the sun sets."

"Oh, right." Nathan nodded, as he shook himself from the stunned silence he'd been watching the sunset in.

Kell remain silent and thoughtful and followed along more slowly, his mind on what he had just seen and all the implications on the future.

"You two have had a very full day." Korim smiled gently. "I would suggest getting some sleep. But if you decide to explore no one will object, as long as you stay within the castle, and out of people's personal quarters."

"I understand." Kell nodded quickly, liking the idea of no more to absorb for a while. A full day was a hell of an underestimate in his opinion.

"Yeah, I think some quiet time would be good." Nathan nodded.

"Very good, I'll see you back to your room." Korim said leading the way through the castle. "Though I imagine the two of you will have little trouble finding your way in short order."

"Eidetic memories are useful." Kell nodded easily.

"Very handy." Nathan grinned, as he made note of the layout of the castle as they walked. "So when's wake up?" He asked curiously, having been annoyed one time too many by that annoying Citadel routine.

"Unless you have a specific appointment or reason for getting up at a given time, its whenever you get up." Korim smiled. "We're very flexible on schedules here. Half of us seem to prefer staying up all night and sleeping in."

The kits exchanged grins.

"That's going to be very cool." Kell added. "I am so not an evening person."

"I'm not a morning person." Nathan chuckled. "I hated those early morning calls."

"Sounds like your breakfast will match with my lunch." Kell grinned.

"Sounds like." Nathan nodded.

"Something bothering you, Kell?" Nathan asked quietly after Korim had left the two kits in their room. He was sitting on the bed, enjoying the much softer mattress. It was more like home than Citadel.

"Not really." He shook his head from under his own blankets as he shifted to look at the other kit. "Just thinking about what to do if we do get sent back to Felsinor and what the catch is on staying here."

"I don't know." Nathan said quietly. "You know the SG will pick us up as soon as we land in an orphanage." He added softly. "I don't know what the catch is yet. Dracons are supposedly pretty honorable, it can't be that big a catch." He said uncertainly, hoping Cazi had been right.

"I will not go to an orphanage." Kell rumbled stubbornly. "We both have the skills to survive on our own. It's not like the gov has a prayer of holding us."

"The SG could barely hold us." Nathan nodded. "And that was when we weren't working together."

"And if we don't stay on Felsinor, they don't have a prayer of catching us."

"Not much of one on Felsinor." Nathan chuckled.

"They caught your parents." Kell reminded him quietly. "And we're not the NightBlades."

"That was a lot more resources then they'd send after us." Nathan pointed out. "Besides two kits are alot harder to find than an entire camp. Especially in one of the cities."

"True." He nodded thoughtfully. "And I can look a lot less unique than I do now."

"Hopefully, we won't have to." Nathan said quietly.

"Yeah, but a backup plan or three doesn't hurt."

"No, it doesn't." Nathan nodded. "Just a limit to how much planning we can do, given we don't know where we'll get dropped."

"As long as it's not directly into SG hands, we'll make it fine." Kell nodded decisively. "I like it here though."

"Better quarters, better food, and they aren't yelling at us all the time." Nathan nodded. "And they let us be roommates." He grinned.

"And it sounds like we'll be able to learn fun stuff, like magic." He grinned before a wide yawn took over.

"And probably anything else we get interested in, I think." Nathan grinned back, trying to stifle a yawn unsuccessfully.

"Yeah." Kell murmured happily and snuggled into the soft, warm bed that was so much better than anywhere he'd slept before. For the first time in his life, Primal was not the most comfortable form to rest in. It felt incredibly good.

"Kell, Nathan!" Davon shouted across the outside pool to the two splashing kits. "I need to speak with you."

"Wonder what he wants." Nathan wondered aloud to Kell, as he paused to wave at the Dracon and they both moved towards him.

"We'll find out soon enough." Kell nodded, a bit uneasy about it.

"Please come with me." Davon said politely, though it was impossible for either kit to miss the tension in his body language.

"Dress first?" Kell asked quietly.

"Of course." Davon nodded, waiting as the two kits got dressed. And then looking them over. "No, we'll have to go back to your room. You really need formal robes for this." He said leading the way.

"Formal robes?" Nathan whispered to Kell.

"Council wants to talk to us." He whispered back, sure of his guess.

"Wonder if that's good or bad." Nathan said uncertainly, as they walked having to hurry to keep up with Davon.

"You should have formal robes in your closet." He said once they reached their rooms. "Dress quickly, we should not keep the Castellan waiting."

"I'd guess bad." Kell murmured as they quickly stripped and redress in the funny feeling formal robes.

"I guess this is where the term dress clothes came from." Nathan chuckled nervously, as he looked at himself in the mirror. Though the simple gray robe with blue striping didn't really look like a dress.

"Yeah." Kell nodded and quickly grabbed a brush from the bathroom to settle Nathan's hair from their swimming.

Once he was done, Nathan turned to return the favor making sure his roommate was presentable. "Well, I think we're about as ready as we're gonna be."

"Yeah." He nodded and turned to follow the adolescent Dracon.

Davon led the way downstairs to the center of what appeared to be a main audience hall. "When you are in front of the council, do not speak unless one of the Councilors asks you a question." He instructed quietly. "And answer only the question asked, do not volunteer anything."

"I think we can handle that." Nathan nodded. Not volunteering information was second nature to a Citadel kit.

"Yeah, we can." Kell added.

"I'm sure you can." Davon said nervously. "And just remember, you have Korim Al'Kar'Arador as your advocate, and that means you are in good hands. Blessings of her Imperial Majesty keep you until we meet again." He said, and though it was clearly a stock phrase, it was also clear that it was meant sincerely.

Neither kit had time to respond before the world dissolved and the they found themselves standing in an immense hall in front of almost forty Dracons, including Korim. At the front of the room was a tall, red and silver female Dracon who nodded when she saw them. "Mage Korim, are these the two in question?" She asked formally.

"Yes, Castellan." Korim nodded. "The Tiger is Nathan, and the other is Kell."

"I see." She nodded, and walked around until she was standing in front of the two kits. "I do not expect either of you to understand our traditions or laws. All that is expected is that you answer my questions truthfully, to the best of your knowledge."

"Yes, ma'am." Nathan said, impressed by the power bound to the tall female Dracon.

"Understood, ma'am." Kell nodded, a bit intimidated but holding it to himself by instinct and experience.

"Very good." She nodded. "Now, did either of you ask to be brought to Draconea?" She asked firmly.

"No, ma'am." Nathan replied reluctantly. He hadn't asked because there hadn't been a way to ask, he hadn't even known it was possible.

Kell took a moment longer, sorting out the most concise way to say it and realized that the shortest answer was indeed closest to the completely true one.

"No, ma'am."

"Was either of you asked before you were brought to Castle Tal'Arador?" She asked firmly.

Again Nathan hated the fact that the truth was that he would've agreed readily if asked, but that wasn't the question. "No, ma'am." He said reluctantly, at which there was a small amount of discussion among the Councilors. Kell's concurring statement made even more of a stir.

"Castellan." Korim objected, rising from his chair. "In my experience, performing a rescue does not require either a request or the prior consent of the rescuee, if the danger is obvious to the casual observer." He said calmly. "Indeed, civilized behavior almost requires it."

"Though for it to be a rescue, the one being rescued should believe that they are in danger in some fashion." The Castellan said firmly, turning back to the kits. "Did either of you believe that you were in danger at Citadel?"

Kell only just restrained his outrage that the question had to be asked. "Yes, ma'am." Came out much closer to a growl than he intended, but it expressed his hatred and fear of the place well.

Nathan considered his answer for a moment, before nodding. "Yes, ma'am. Frequently."

"Very well." She nodded, not really surprised. "However, this should've been referred to the proper channels, Mage Korim." She said firmly. "And there was no reason to bring them to Draconea, when there are appropriate places on Felsinor."

Korim shook his head seeing that the Castellan was going to be decidedly letter bound about the whole affair. Having seen the uncertainty and nervousness that the whole SunFire issue had aroused in the Council he knew he should've seen this coming. Given that StarFire had already said that she wouldn't intervene in the SunFire matter, he knew he had two options; defy the council, or invoke a very old principle that was rarely used. The first path would prove inconvenient in the future, while the latter might tell the kits more about themselves than he thought they were prepared for.

"Castellan." Korim began, as he walked on to the floor with her causing a stir among the other Councilors. "That is all true, but irrelevant. I invoke Cor Draconica." A statement that caused a hushed silence to fall over the Council.

"Mage Korim, I do not think that that applies." The Castellan began, having recovered from surprise quickly.

"Castellan, I am Al'Kar'Arador of the fifth cycle." He said formally. "Do not presume to tell me when the Cor Draconica does not apply, even the Imperial Banner does not give you that authority. Only the Council of Elders or Her Imperial Majesty can rule on an issue of Cor Draconica."

"This is a very serious step Mage Korim." The Castellan said quietly. "Are you quite sure you wish to do this?"

"These are uncertain times, Castellan." Korim said firmly. "Bold action is required at times. I am quite certain."

"Very well." She nodded, and then turned to the Council. "Would the members of the Elder Council please join me in Chambers?" She said, disappearing in a cloud of gold sparkling light with Korim and nine other members of the Council.

Nathan looked around at all the Councilors who had begun talking among themselves, apparently in Dracon, or least some language that he didn't understand. "I don't think things were going well." He said quietly to Kell.

"*No, it is not.*" The other kit obeyed the letter of his instructions even now.

"*You can mind talk?*" Nathan replied in surprise.

"*Yeah,*" He nodded fractionally, keeping the band private.

"*Cool.*" Nathan smiled. He hadn't had anyone to mind-talk to since his folks died. It did mean that he needed to remember to shield while talking. "*Whatever Korim did, the Castellan wasn't happy about it.*"

"*Putting it mildly.*" Kell grumbled. "*But no matter what, we can make it free. The castle and Draconea are a big advantage, but we can make do no matter what.*"

"*Yes, we can.*" Nathan agreed stubbornly. "*Were we in any danger at Citadel? Gods, what a stupid question?*" He muttered in annoyance.

"*No shit.*" He snorted lightly. "*Reminds me of the officers that think they know everything but haven't checked into reality in a few decades. I'd like to see how long she'd feel safe in that place.*"

"*Probably a lot longer.*" Nathan said seriously. "*I'm pretty sure she's a mage of some sort.*" He shook his head. "*More like the ones who think the book is right no matter how badly it disconnects from reality. Wonder how long this will take.*" He added, and then caught a female Dracon who looked to be close to Korim's age head toward them. "*Looks like somebody decided we're worth talking to.*"

"*Hopefully that'll be a good thing.*" He commented and focused his attention on the red female with gold flecks in her wings.

"Hello, boys." She said politely. "I see you got left alone here, and you probably don't speak a word of Dracon." She said in a very motherly fashion. "My name is Arianna Kar'Dranor. Kell and Nathan, right?" She said politely.

"Yes, Ma'am." Nathan nodded, thinking she was pretty good at making her nine feet of height seem a lot less imposing.

"Yes, ma'am." Kell nodded as well. "On both counts." He decided that mentioning he'd have a decent grip on the basics soon wasn't worth it. "What is this Cor Draconica that has everyone so wound up?"

"Oh that, it's very old law." She smiled. "Comes from the early days of exploration. Some times scouts would disappear, and then another scout would go through the area and find the first scouts descendants." She explained easily. "Cor Draconica allowed the family of the first scout, or if the exact bloodline couldn't be determined, any elder, to bring the Dracon-blooded into their family as kin."

Kell looked at Nathan curiously, then down at his own hands as if looking for something in himself.

Slowly he looked back at Nathan. "Know which parent qualifies you?" He asked quietly, half wanting to ask silently but not willing to be that rude to someone who was being nice to them.

"Cazi was half Dracon, but I thought he'd been disowned or something." Nathan said uncertainly.

"Doesn't matter." Arianna said reassuringly. "It's the blood that counts, and there must be some if Korim pulled out the Cor Draconica. The entire debate on the matter before the Elders is considered under oath. He can't lie there, even if he was inclined to, and he isn't." She smiled, and then looked at Kell. "Don't fret about it. Korim knows what he's doing."

"Which means whoever designed me had something very interesting in mind." He shook his head. "Dracon DNA is historically an extraordinarily bad idea to use."

"Or they had some unasked for help." Arianna chuckled lightly. "Some Powers have been known to meddle here and there, quite unofficially. Adding a touch of Dracon to genetic engineering would hardly be unheard of. But how it got there doesn't matter." She said confidently. "That its there is all that counts."

"Sounds like a Caito thing." Kell snickered a bit.

"Oh, that wouldn't be at all surprising." Arianna laughed. "That would about make the two of you brothers, seeing as Cazimir Mal'Dranor was one of the trickster's favorites."

"You knew my father?" Nathan asked curiously.

"Knew of him, dear boy." She smiled softly. "He had something of reputation in certain circles. But I'm afraid I never met him. Because of his falling out with his father, he never spent much time in Dracon circles."

"Oh, thank you anyway." Nathan said softly.

"Well, it must be close to lunch time for you two. Are you hungry?" She asked politely.

"That would be welcome, ma'am." Kell nodded politely in return.

"Yes, ma'am." Nathan agreed politely.

"In that case, follow me and I'll take you over to the cafeteria." She smiled. "It could be some hours before the Council of Elders reaches a conclusion on the subject." She said leading the way out of the Council Chambers proper into a hall carved of medium red stone.

"They like to talk thing to death?" Kell asked, half curious, half amused.

"Sometimes." She chuckled, as they entered a large hall with many Dracons sitting around eating and talking. "And sometimes they just like to be sure things are right. Acknowledging some as kin to a major House is a very big deal, especially when that House is currently in ascendance in the Empire." She smiled. "Just pick up a tray and get in line." She said indicating the line of Dracons holding trays. "When you see something you'd like just pick up one of the little counters in front of it. When you've got what you want, just find a table and sit down. You're found will be translocated out to you." She smiled.

"Okay," Kell nodded and easily got in line, not intimidated by the fact that most of the people around him were well over twice his height. "What do you mean, in ascendance in the Empire?

"Currently holding the position of High Clan Lord." She explained easily as the line moved slowly. "A position appointed by the Clan Moot four times a century. The Aradors have held it through the last three Moots."

"That makes him, like, one of the most powerful people on the planet, right?" Kell asked uncertainly and picked up markers as they moved along, trying to keep the meal balanced.

"Korim? Yes he's up there." She nodded, as she selected her own meal. "But it's actually his nephew who's High Clan Lord. Korim normally pays little attention to politics, but that's true of most of the Archmages." She said easily. "Are you alright, Nathan?" She asked looking back at the quiet Tiger kit.

"I'm fine." Nathan said pensively, as he selected things that looked and smelled good. "Just thinking a lot."

"I can imagine." She said quietly, realizing that all the Dracons were probably reminding him about his father. A father she was forbidden to tell him wasn't dead. Korim might play dangerously with the Council, but as the Mate of the her Clan's leader, she didn't have that luxury."

"So is Cazi's father still around?" Kell asked quietly.

"Somewhere, though I don't know where." She shook her head. "A strange one, he is. He manages to run a good business and keeps his family well provided for, though its mostly siblings and cousins that he employs."

"*Might be worth looking them up.*" He commented silently to Nathan. "Do Dracon colors mean anything in particular?"

"A couple of things, though there are exceptions." She nodded, as they sat down, and their meals appeared shortly after. "Colors tend to tell you elemental Clan affiliation with Reds being fire, Greens water, Blues air and browns Earth. Any Dracon with metallic flecks in wing or body coloration is a noble."

"*Maybe, I don't think dad knew any of them though.*" Nathan replied quietly. "So a blue-green would be somebody related to Air and Water?" Nathan asked curiously.

"That's correct." She nodded. "You also find the occasional silver Dracon, and that's generally an indication of very strong magic potential. Most of the Silvers are in her Majesty's direct service."

"So the Kar'Dranor is associated with fire, and is a noble one?" Kell asked curiously between bites of the heavily spiced food.

"Very good, Kell." She smiled approvingly. "Kar'Dranor is the Major House of the Fire Clans, just as Kar'Arador is the Major House of the Air Clans."

"Who is water and earth then?"

"Kar'Endor is Earth, and Kar'Telchar is Water." She said easily. "There are far too many minor clans to list in one sitting." She smiled. "And they change with marriages and inheritances and such."

"Kel means it's a major clan?" Kell asked, following the pattern he saw.

"The literal translation of 'Kar' is 'Son of', thus 'Kar'Dranor means 'Son of Dranor', with Dranor being the founder of the Fire Clan." She explained easily, with the patience of one familiar with teaching. "Kar'Dranor is therefore the senior House."

"Not like Felsin family names, that come from everywhere." He chuckled a bit and drank eagerly to cool his tongue. "Are you a clan leader?" He asked politely.

"No, my mate is Clan Leader." She smiled. "I'm not Kar'Dranor by birth, but by marriage." She smiled. "We leave getting names from everywhere to the non-noble Dracons, and you'd be surprised at the overlap with some of the non-Dracons, once you translate."

"Besides looks and parents, what makes a Dracon noble or not?"

"A complex question." She smiled. "The looks tell you that the Dracon is noble, but what makes the look is a complex combination of magic and genetics." She smiled. "Which is why occasionally you will get a noble Dracon born to commoner parents, or a commoner born to noble parents."

"What happens to a common kit born to noble parents?" Nathan asked quietly.

"Happen?" She said looking at him for moment. "Oh, they aren't mistreated or anything if that's what you're thinking. I'll admit that its a bit of a disappointment, but children are treasured regardless of common or noble heritage. The only reliable difference between the two is lifespan, because while nobles may tend to have stronger magic, some of the strongest mages have been commoners."

"How long do Dracon live?" Kell asked in fascination of something so complex that was apparently part of him.

A commoner's lifespan is usually somewhere close to two millennia." She said easily. "While a noble can live for fifteen or twenty." She explained, knowing that it wasn't her place to explain the complexities of the Dracon lifespan to these kits.

"Wow." Kell murmured, more than a bit stunned.

"*Nathan? Are you okay? You're really quiet.*" Kell sent silently to the Tiger kit.

"*Sorry.*" Nathan sighed mentally as he ate. "*I keep thinking about my folks.*" He sent back, and it was impossible to miss the pain and loss in his thought patterns.

"*I'm sorry, Nathan.*" Kell murmured and moved so he could sit next to the other kit and drew him into an awkward hug. "*I wish I could help.*"

"*Thanks, Kell.*" Nathan said quietly. "*You do help. Having a friend, I don't feel so alone.*" He said gratefully. "*Citadel was awful. I couldn't get close to anyone.*"

"*Felsin were never meant to be alone, but neither of us will be alone from now on.*" Kell rumbled protectively. "*It will never be that bad again.*"

Arianna looked at the two of them. "You've both been suddenly uprooted, and Nathan is grieving. There was no reason the Council couldn't have waited on this matter." She said protectively. "When you're both done eating, I'll find you someplace quiet to wait." She said, glad that she'd been standing in for her mate in Council today.

"I think we're done eating." Kell told her quietly without letting Nathan go. He was decidedly grateful for the offer of a quiet place. They both needed it right now.

"This way then." She said standing, and leading the way out. "Don't worry about the trays, they'll take care of themselves." She smiled as they left the cafeteria. "Sometimes Council meeting run for days, so they installed simple quarters near the Council room." She explained. "This is a short session so I don't need it, so you boys can make use of it." She said, as she keyed open the door. "I'll come get you when the Council wants to see you again." She said, standing by the door. "If you need anything, just press the green bar on the intercom here, and ask for Arianna."

"Thank you, ma'am." Kell smiled gratefully at her and nuzzled Nathan into the room. Simple by her standards was still beyond luxurious to them, and the bed was both large and very comfortable when he got Nathan to settle down.

"Thank you." Nathan managed softly before she left. "And thanks Kell." He smiled at his friend. "I never had a friend my own age before."

"Neither have I." He smiled and hugged the other kit as they sat on the Dracon sized bed. "I don't know how long I'll be your age, though. I'm maturing fast."

"We could ask Korim about it." Nathan said quietly. "I mean, if you don't want to mature so fast. I matured pretty fast when I was younger, but it slowed down."

"And maybe I will too." He said acceptingly. "But I am a Gen 0, Nathan. Like your dad Ebon. We exist under our own rules."

"I know, Kell." Nathan said softly. "But Ebon didn't accept all the rules, or even most of them." He sighed. "Guess I'm just worried about new friend getting old before I grow up."

"He's already looking into what I was created for. If it's anything nasty like that, we'll know soon enough."

"Yeah, I guess we will." Nathan sighed tiredly. "For now we just wait to see who's more stubborn, Korim or the Castellan."

"It doesn't matter." Kell held Nathan tightly and nuzzled him. "We will stay free of them no matter what happens. You said it. Separate they could barely contain us. Together, they don't have a prayer of even catching us."

"I know." He said, nuzzling his friend back. "It's just nice to have someone strong watching my back again." He said quietly. "Korim sort of reminds me of a mix of Cazi and Ebon, without the practical joker streak."

"Don't focus so much on loosing him." Kell advised him with a nuzzle. "I don't think we will."

"I don't really either." Nathan said quietly. "But I've been wrong before."

"Everyone has." He murmured. "Come lay down and snuggle with me. We both need rest, not more thinking."

"Good idea." Nathan nodded as he lay down next to his friend, and snuggle in close. "What happens, is what happens." He murmured, as he relaxed.

"Yes," Kell smiled softly and stroked the kit's hair as they settled into a resting calmness.

Kell and Nathan's rest was disturbed by a knock on the door of their temporary quarters.

"Yes?" Kell nudged Nathan up and went to open the door. "Hello, Korim."

"Hello, Kell, Nathan." He smiled. "How are you feeling? Lady Arianna told me that you'd been feeling out of sorts." He said with some concern.

"Just missing my parents." Nathan said, as he came up next to Kell.

"I got distracted by the Council, and forgot that you'd probably not had time to deal with that loss." Korim said apologetically. "Ready to go home?" He asked easily.

"Definitely." Kell smiled and nuzzled Nathan affectionately and supportively.

"Good, follow me and we'll go straight to the translocation zone." He smiled. "And we'll home in time for dinner."

"Then we get to stay with you?" Nathan asked, as the kits followed the Dracon through the halls.

"I told you I'd make sure you could." Korim grinned. "I don't make promises I can't keep."

"So I see." Kell grinned back.

Brothers by Design 1: Citadel Refugees

PG for Gen

83 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written March 19, 2004 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Todd McCall

Setting: Galactic Alliance

Primary Races: Dracon, Felsin

Contents: Furry. Gen. Alternate Universe

Pairings: None

Blurb: Nathan and Kell are most unique kittens, even for those in the Shadow Government's Kitten Commando program. But in this universe, a powerful mage has decided that he cannot stand by and let things continue as they are, even though it means defying Dracaena's government.

Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.

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