Heart of Ice, Soul of Fire 1:
The Price of Error

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

"Caurver," a light, sweet female voice drew his attention away from 'Long Range Teleportation Studies' to the scarlet and snow white furred Vixen that was leaning around his shoulder. "It is beautiful outside. The sun is shining, the temperature is perfect and the waters are cool and clear."

"I'm studying, Selinia." He huffed deeply and ruffled the crown of brightly colored metallic feathers that continued down his spine into a fan at the tip of his tail. They were both his pride for their beauty and his shame as they marked him as a Var as much as his great leathery wings did.

"Oh, come on." She rolled her eyes at the sky-blue and silver Durikan nearly twice her height. "Master Sun-Drenched does not expect you to read that entire book today."

"He may not, but I am studying." He repeated sternly, his deep green-blue eyes shifting to contain flecks of orange and gray.

"So come study outside. The fresh air will do you good." She persisted despite the warning she knew was there.

"You are just not going to give up, are you?" Caurver looked up with a swirl of reddish orange quickly overtaking the blue of his eyes.

"Nope." She grinned impishly and patted his wing shoulder. "You're going to see the outside even if I have to drag you out by the tail."

"You wouldn't dare."

"Try me." Selinia smirked and sent a tendril of magic to wrap around his tail just above the fan and tugged ever so gently.

"All right, all right." He stood in a rush, flaring his great wings wide before gathering the books and writing quill he had with him. "Lead the way, oh mistress of the wild winds."

"Flatter," she giggled and all but danced ahead of him into the fresh air and sunshine.


Everything is quiet and still.

It had taken him hours to prepare his focus and energies for this most powerful of magical weavings he has attempted in his relatively short life. Most would think it is beyond him still, but no one who knows the silver and sky-blue Durikan, Caurver Ser'Onor, thinks this.

They know better.

They know he is gifted in magic and powerful well beyond his two score of years.

Right now, his wisdom has not come close to his ability and power. It is something he will eventually learn to regret. But for now his entire focus is on the long-range teleportation spell he is weaving and his apparent success.

A Durikan mage with something to prove is a dangerous beast indeed.

The room facing Caurver was very shiny and very smooth with silvery metal, white, gray and blue dominating the color scheme. At roughly three times his height in each direction, half of it was dominated by the glowing translucent platform he was standing on.

Even not understanding a word the canine before him said Caurver had a fairly good idea he was being asked to move in a most polite manner and stepped off the platform. He turned to face it curiously once he was clear, wondering if he'd somehow connected with one of the great gate networks of the Solecri or Vandros Empires, but neither dressed in a manner similar to the sizeable gray canine looking at him uncertainty.

He made a quick mental inventory and found himself exactly as when he'd stepped threw the portal he'd created. He took a calming breath and cupped his hands, focusing his will between them to access his power and link it to his Talisman of Understanding.

("Great Path of Minds, teach me what this one understands.") He rumbled soft and deep in the most ancient of languages his kind knew from the First Times.

"Do you understand me now, sir?" The canine asked politely.

After a bit of a rocking back at suddenly getting the full contents of a dozen plus languages all at once Caurver nodded politely and carefully spoke in the strange sounds of the most dominant langue in the canine's mind even as he wondered why four of the languages were so much more ... alive ... than the other ten.

"My name is Caurver Ser'Onor of Berentia." He hoped that was a selection of sounds that could be reproduced without too much difficulty. He knew of at least two races that just couldn't pronounce a Durikan name no matter how hard they tried. "I believe I have teleported here in error."

"Quite possibly, sir." The Lupo nodded as he queried the computer and watched it draw a complete blank on 'Berentia' as a place. "There's no record of a Berentia in the Imperial databanks. Are you planning on staying?" He asked politely, wondering if maybe Berentia was a Dracon world they were keeping concealed for some reason.

"At least until I figure out how I got here and how to get home." Caurver chuckled softly, a deep rolling sound reminiscent of distant thunder. "Where is here?"

"This is the receiving station in Beltedge City, Asteroid N-20." He explained, as he typed a code into the system requesting an agent from Customs. "Elbereth Star System in the Lupo Directorate of Eternal Dracon Empire." He added, not sure how much of that would be at all helpful.

"Mmm, that would put here well outside anywhere known." He shook his head, sending the brightly colored metallic feathers of his crown fluttering a bit. "Is magic known in this land?"

"Yes, sir." He nodded, hoping the Customs office would respond sooner rather than later that was their norm. "Though not many practice it here, except for visiting Dracon officials and nobles."

Caurver nodded at that, wondering just what ran this place if not magic. "Dracons, a race similar to me?"

"Similar, yes. But different, no feathers." The Lupo explained, commenting on the most notable feature. "More clothes." He added, remembering that Dracons had a preference for either robes or uniforms.

"Warm blooded and flight capable?" He settled against the wall where he would both be out of the way and able to keep an eye on everything while he worked out something to conform to what he remembered many of the other races he had encountered considered an appropriate amount of covering.

"Warm blooded, yes. Most are only gliders, but there are exceptions." He said, smiling slightly as a Red Fox Lupo in the blue and gray of Customs entered the room.

"Officer Tarin, I understand you requested Customs assistance." The female officer said precisely.

"Yes, ma'am. Unscheduled arrival from outside the Imperium. I'm not authorized to process such arrivals." He said with a salute.

"Very true. I'll take over from here." She said stepping toward the Dracon-like person. "I'm Captain Arvina Tyrin with Lupo Customs and Immigration. If you'll come with me, we can get the required paperwork out of the way, sir." She said nodding toward the door she'd come in through and then led the way.

"Of course," Caurver smiled and dipped his head slightly in a polite greeting he hoped would be taken well. He followed her, all seven of his senses and his magic alert and taking in everything as he walked slightly behind the red and white canine barely half his height.

"Please, have a seat." Arvina said, gesturing to an appropriately sized chair as she closed the door to her office. The office was decent sized, with a large wooden-like desk and two full bookshelves. She sat down in the padded leather chair behind the desk, and pulled up the necessary forms. "Okay, first detail, what's your name?"

"Caurver Ser'Onor of Berentia." He said after he had settled in the large chair. "I prefer Caurver in all but the most formal of situations."

"Very good, Caurver." She said politely as she typed in the information. "Now is Berentia the name of a home city, country, kingdom, planet or some other kind of territory?"

"It is the name of my wyver ... the ... place ... where I train in the magical arts." He explained carefully, still slightly unsure of his words, particularly the ones that had no direct translation into the language she was speaking ... Galactic ... part of his mind supplied.

"So this would be like a college of magical arts?" She asked, hoping to supply a local equivalent.

Caurver considered the languages he had, running them threw for a close equivalent. "It is similar, yes. Much smaller and it is as much a life choice as a course of study, but I believe collage would be a reasonable equivalent."

"What planet is Berentia located on?" She asked, as she made a few notes about what Berentia was in the system.

"Patith. Though the Igranin of Solurin still call it Kundin, their name for their Mother Earth."

Arvina noted that in the system as well. "Race name, and are you related to the Dracons in any way that you're aware of?"

"I am a Durikan." Caurver told her easily. "I'm afraid I have not translated the symbols for that yet. As far as I understand it, we are only related to the Dracon by virtue of convergent evolution. They are not a known race on Patith."

"I suspected convergent evolution, but I would be remiss not to check." She smiled. "From what you've said I'm guessing your profession would be something like Mage, Wizard, Sorcerer or something like that depending on the exact titles your culture uses for magic-wielders."

"Yes," he nodded easily. "All those are used and a dozen more." He chuckled softly in the thunder-deep tone. "The 'of Berentia' would be my proper title, though I noticed that does not translate well into your language."

"Locally, people will tend to assume that 'of Berentia' means that you're a native of the planet Berentia." She nodded. "The officer in receiving said that your arrival was accidental, so I think that means that your intended length of stay is unknown currently." She said easily, looking at him for confirmation.

"Yes, that is all correct." He nodded with a soft rumble of discontent. "Until I figure out how I got here, and then how to get back home. Or decide to simply stay. This is an interesting place so far."

"Well, in that case we'll just list your status as visiting scholar." She chuckled. "That leaves it kind of open ended."

"It is also quite correct." He smiled slightly at her and ruffled the feathers along his head and shoulders.

"You'll need to stop in medical to finish your registration." She said as a conical blue crystal appeared on top of the desk. "Just take this to medical, they'll know what's required. Medical is three doors down on the left." She said, standing. "Once you've finished the physical, they'll set you up with a guide. It's been a pleasure meeting you, Caurver." She said extending her hand in a friendly gesture he accepted with the most gentle pressure out of respect for the relatively fine bones of her hand.

"Yes it was, Captain Tyrin." He addressed her as he would a military officer, as it seemed the closest thing to what she was. "Thank you." He added and accepted the crystal, holding it carefully in one had as he turned to leave and see what they intended to do in this medical place that was related to a healer but not exactly.

It turned out to be a moderately busy place with three beds in the outer office that were attached to banks of lights that blinked and bleeped in a fashion that seemed to communicate information to those working there.

"Can I help you?" A young Border Collie morph asked politely as he tried to make sence of the displays.

"Yes, I am new here." Caurver offered the male the blue crystal.

"Ah, you need the full physical workup." He nodded politely as he took the crystal. "If you'll have a seat on that bed there." He indicated an empty one. "The doctor will be with you shortly."

Caurver simply nodded and did as instructed, looking curiously at all the things here that were not magical but did what was clearly magic's work.

About ten minutes later, an eight-foot tall male avian with bright red and gold plumage came up to Caurver's bed. "I'm Doctor Isil Shen'ra." He said by way of introduction. "You're Caurver, correct?" He asked politely.

"Yes," he nodded, intrigued by the heavily magical nature of this individual in what seemed to be a very magic light world.

"Good. What I'm going to do is a basic physical workup. Just to make sure both that you're not carrying anything that might be dangerous to us, and that you're not vulnerable to any illnesses that are common here." He smiled warmly. "If you'll just lay down, we'll get started."

Caurver nodded politely and settled as he had been instructed to by Healers. He relaxed much as he would sleep: on his stomach, his wings loose and draped over the edge of the bed and his long, muscular tail relaxed between his legs to trail off the bottom of it. It also made a fine display of his prize feature, the brilliantly colored shimmering feathers that decorated his spine all the way down to the fan at the tip of his tail.

The bed began to hum quietly, and vibrate slightly while the lights above bleeped and blinked. Caurver could also feel a gentle play of magic across his body. It was clearly the scurrying magic of a Healer. "Your file says you arrived by teleportation accident." The doctor commented quietly. "Have you felt any after effects of that accident as of yet?"

"No." He looked up from where his head had been resting on crossed arms. "I feel normal, and my magic seems to work fine."

"So you consider yourself to be fully healthy for your species? Any unusual conditions or medical problems?" He asked quietly.

"I am sterile from a hatchling-hood injury, but otherwise a healthy young adult male."

"So noted, though given the lack of other members of your species in the Imperium, it's not likely to be an issue." He said simply, though there was a note of sympathy in the voice. "No obvious genetic damage, so offspring do remain a possibility if desired." He said, as he made several notes.

"I will remember that, should I find a mate here." Caurver nodded thoughtfully, a bit curious how they went about such things here.

"Well, I don't see any evidence that you're inherently dangerous to us, or us to you." He smiled, as the Border Collie brought him a hypospray. "Just a full spectrum vaccination against a variety of illness, some of which you could conceivably catch. Everyone gets one of these." He explained, tapping the hypo.

A flicker of scurrying magic danced across the object, then he nodded and shifted the wing nearest the avian. "All right. The large blood line under the joint feathers is likely the easiest place to put that."

"Quite true." He nodded, and placed the tip of the instrument against the skin. There was a brief hiss. "All done, much better than the old style needles." He grinned, as he handed the hypo back to the waiting Collie. "Now that the physical is done. All that's left is to get you a guide, seeing as how you're completely new to the Imperium."

"I expect so." Caurver rolled off the bed and to his feet with a reasonable amount of grace. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." The doctor smiled. "Would you like something to eat or drink while we wait for your guide to arrive? Or maybe something to read, if you'd like to get a start on understanding the Imperium?" She offered politely.

"Something to read sounds excellent." He nodded, mostly to himself.

"Any particular subject of interest?"

"Mmm, the primary races, locally and within the Imperium and the basics of law, particularly relating to the use of magic." Caurver relaxed and stretched upward, extending and tensing every strand in his muscular body with care for where the smaller creatures and things in the room were.

"If you'll just follow me, I set up a reading terminal in the extra office." She smiled, leading the way to an office off the examination area. "Are you familiar with the use of basic reading terminal?" She asked, mostly because she'd encountered a number of aliens who'd never seen one.

"I'm afraid not." He regarded the screen and collection of symbols -- letters he placed after a moment -- under it. "I am far more accustomed to magic than anything else."

The doctor made a note to mention that to the Guide Office. "Can you read our language as well as speak it?" She asked, hoping the hard copy replicate was operational.

"Slowly, but the magic I used to acquire this language does include the written form if who I got it from knows it. I do recognize that as the Galactic Standard alphabet." He motioned slightly towards the control panel. "I pick up new skills quickly." Caurver smiled politely at her.

"Let me get you a few books then to start with. I'll be right back." She smiled and turned to step out of the office. "Feel free to read the books on the shelf over there, if you're at all interested in medicine and genetics."

"Thank you," he inclined his head and fluffed his shoulder feathers before walking over to the shelf to select a book at random, curious just what genetics were.

The first book he picked was title "Retroviral correction of congenital birth defects", quite a mouthful. And judging from the early pages seemed to be about curing illnesses of newborns.

By the time Doctor Shen'ra came back into the room Caurver's head was cocked over ninety degrees to the side as he worked threw a few pages in one of her larger general medical dictionaries.

"Find something interesting?" She asked as she walked in carrying three medium thickness books.

"If I understood more of it, likely." He grinned a little sheepishly at her and set the book back. "I do hope those are easier for a spell-weaver to read."

"These are a little more for the general audience." She nodded. "Most of those books assume you have a college degree in biology at least, and a few of them are aimed for doctors specifically." She smiled and set the books she'd brought down. "'Imperium, a traveler's guide' is a general overview of the Imperium and the races that make it up. 'A tourist's guide to the Belt', is an overview more specific to the Belt Colonies, which is where you are. And this last one is a general overview of Imperial law, with special attention to how it applies to magic."

"Excellent." Caurver grinned. He selected the last book to start with and sat on the short couch in the room with a smile for the tall avian. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." She smiled back. "If you have any questions before your guide arrives, feel free to ask me. Unless I'm with a patient, that is." She added encouragingly and turned to leave, closing the door behind him to give Caurver some quiet to read in.

Sometime later, a polite knock on the door interrupted Caurver's reading of the law book. He sent a tendril of power to open the door without looking up from the sentence he was working threw with a little more ease that the first he'd tried. The languages were so different it was giving him a real mental workout.

"Caurver?" A young male voice asked politely. "My name is Justin SunTalons, I'm your guide."

"Yes," he finished the sentence and then lifted his head to take in the seven-foot tall male who started out with the head and shoulders of a powerful predator avian with golden feathers and piercing blue eyes, and slowly worked down into the chest and lower body of a golden furred great cat. His wings were folded behind him, and appeared to be the same golden feathers as his head and shoulders. "Are you my guide?" He smiled a greeting and set the book down.

"Yes, sir." Justin said politely. He seemed both curious and a bit deferential at the same time. Not really submissive, but an extra bit of politeness due to a perceived difference in status. He was wearing a sleeveless tunic that was gray with gold trim, with matching pants. Black leather boots completed the outfit that was rather fetching on him.

"Do you prefer to go by Justin, SunTalons or something else?" Caurver stood with a friendly, welcoming smile and extended his hand as he had seen the Vixen do. He made another mental note to himself to do something about clothing.

"Justin is fine, sir." He said politely as he shook the offered had with a strong, firm grip. At that close range it became apparent there was something magical about Justin, though it didn't seem to be active at the moment.

"I prefer Caurver." He smiled with a soft chuckle. "Sir is just so formal. What is your Gift?" He asked curiously.

"As you wish, Caurver." Justin smiled, warming to the dragon-kin a little. "Mostly just the gift of life itself." He chuckled. "And kind of a second sight for the wind, its ways and eccentricities."

"What a delightful one." He rumbled in honest enthusiasm at the idea. "It must make flying a truly wonderful time."

"Yeah, when I'm on a world with real air currents." He grinned enthusiastically. "Dome cities aren't great for flying. Though it's much better for a true flyer, than for a glider." He added. "Was there anywhere in particular you wanted to started?"

"My room?" Caurver suggested, his shimmering feathers fluffing in excitement. "Then any good places to stretch flight wings."

"Sure thing." Justin smiled. "This way, Caurver." He said leading the way out of Medical, and then out of the Customs and Immigration building. As the city became visible, it was much like the inside of the building, with the buildings being made of steel and glass. High above them Caurver could see some sort of shimmering dome, with what appeared to be a night sky behind it. The light level in the city, however, was that of daytime as was the activity level with a dozen races coming and going in the streets. A majority of the people visible seemed to be canines, though there were also a fair number of felines, avians and even a few that seemed to be rodents, though they might have been mustelids.

The Durikan felt his crest feathers begin to flatten in an awed kind of shock at what he was seeing and how completely ... unnatural it seemed. He barely remembered to look at the creatures; his silver and gray eyes were so focused on the strange smooth buildings and the starless night sky out during the day.

As they walked, another odd thing became apparent; that in the midst of this city of steel and glass there were plants and trees growing, though they were growing in very precise arrangements and locations that made it apparent their placement was by design. In the sky above, he began to notice winged people flying between buildings, mostly avian though he did spot one who looked to be dragon-kin.

"The city has a designed day-night cycle to its illumination, even though as an asteroid it doesn't have anything of the sort naturally." Justin explained as he led the way through the crowd. "The designers found that most people function best when there's a clear day-night cycle."

"Yes, I would imagine so." Caurver's quiet voice responded more an instinctive response to being talked to than truly following the comments.

"The office said you've got a magic background, with no real technology experience. Is that right?" He asked curiously, since he'd never actually met someone from a non-technological background before.

"Magic yes," he nodded absently. "There is no word that really equates to technology in my language, so I'd say not."

"Right." Justin nodded. "Then we'll need to cover the basics. Technology is what runs most of the Imperium." He said, and then paused. "Don't take this the wrong way, but does your culture have the concept of money?" He asked uncertainly.

"Yes," Caurver made the effort to focus his attention on his guide. "Many people do not use it, preferring barter or however the smallest communities handle things, but I have a basic understanding, if little experience."

"That's good, cause it's pretty much the underlying force behind society." He smiled. "Barter doesn't really exist anymore."

"I ... see." He nodded slowly, his crest flattening a little more in mild distress. "I think that will take a fair amount of getting used to." Caurver said slowly, his multi-faceted eyes shimmering a very dark gray.

"Don't worry." Justin smiled, reassuringly. "You've got time, since you're dragon-kin." He added, by way of explanation.

"Why does that matter?" He cocked his head slightly, his eyes shifting every so slightly towards blue.

"Dracons run the Empire." Justin explained casually. "They expect all dragon-kin to be guided into being able to function in Imperial society, if they want to. As I understand, the Dracons believe that all dragon-kin are related on some level. And given Queen Starfire's predilection for creating dragon-kin races, it's true more often than one might expect."

"A most interesting situation." Caurver shook his head with a bemused chuckle. "I've never been part of the dominant group before."

"Your kind isn't dominant on your world?" Justin asked curiously.

"Nor at the wyver, or even in the field of magic." He shook his head. "Durikan are not the most common, or powerful, of creatures of Patith."

"Dracons aren't the most common, but as a group they certainly are the most powerful." Justin said, still a bit amazed to hear of a dragon-kin not being the dominant group somewhere. "Part of that comes from the fact that some of their nobles are older than other races' civilizations."

Caurver stopped moving at that, his feathers fully fluffed out and shimmering silver eyes wide as he stared at Justin in open-mouthed shock, unable to even comprehend a creature living so long.

"Yeah, some of the more pureblooded nobles can live as much as ten or fifteen millennia, or longer I've heard." Justin said simply, as he waited for Caurver's shock to pass.

"Not even the Unicorn live so long." He whispered as he gathered his wits. "The oldest creature of Patith it barely half of that." He shook his head. "And here I was amazed at the Golden Queen's Fifth Millennia calibration."

"You don't see the really old ones away from Draconea too often." Justin said quietly. "Usually just the ones under five millennia. Not that it makes them any less powerful. So your Unicorns are long-lived, huh?" He asked curiously. "The Unicorns of Arcadia don't live much more than three centuries, which is long for a non-Dracon species, but not much by comparison."

"The Unicorns of one of the purest of the Noble Bloods." He nodded. "They are the rulers of Patith for the most part, though there are a few others. The Golden Queen of the Golden Realm is a Golden Dragon. Lord Xaxrif of Paradise Garden is a Phoenix. Vandros elects a new Lord every twenty years and that may be of any race, though they tend to choose Kuka, ummm ... female Hyena Lupo I think is close."

"Oh, that's interesting." Justin nodded. "Nominally, the Empire is ruled by Queen Starfire and always has been. However, the reality is that the Clan Moot of Draconea rules the Empire in her name. The Clan Moot is an assembly of the Clan Leaders of Draconea."

Caurver nodded at that and shook his body and feathers out, trying to dispel the physical effects of his shock. "Many of the inherited ruling positions use a similar system with varying degrees of actual authority for the named ruler should they choose to take an active role."

"Queen Starfire has not paid much attention to daily affairs in many centuries." He said quietly. "However, none of the Clan Leaders have any illusions about the absolute nature of her power should she chose to exercise it. They rule because she permits it."

"She is a very, very powerful individual." He half asked.

"She is a Power." Justin said quietly. "A quiet, subtle one most of the time, but a Power nonetheless."

Caurver blinked, his eyes widening into a swirling red and gold as he came up with the definition of that. "Oh." He murmured softly.

"Your eyes change colors a lot." Justin said curiously. "Is that normal?" He asked politely, but with a very strong curiosity.

"Yes," he nodded and concentrated to calming himself down so they flowed back towards the soft green-blue of neutrality. "It's something of a clue to what I'm feeling. What many races do by scent, we do by sight."

"Oh, that's cool." Justin grinned. "Most Imperial races do it by scent with two really notable exceptions; the Dracons who do it by aura which helps them but doesn't tell the other races anything, and humans who have a very muted scent communication and almost no ability to perceive it."

"Ah," he nodded and chuckled softly. "Durikan are a very social race when it comes to other creatures. It works better when they can understand what the big winged critter is feeling."

"As I understand it, the Dracon came into being on a world where they were the only sentient race." Justin explained, drawing on his knowledge of Dracon history. "It was millennia before they encountered another sentient race. I guess some psi-aware people can read the Dracon auras, but it's not a common talent."

"It's not even common magic, at least on Patith." He shook his head and motioned for Justin to continue walking.

Justin nodded and resumed heading for the apartment building. "Psi ability isn't common, though it's more common than magic in the Empire." He explained. "However, people with psi-ability are required to stay out of other people's heads, unless acting in some official capacity."

"Stay out ... oh, the telepaths." He nodded with an understanding smile. "Most psionic abilities found on Patith fall in other areas."

"Yep, here most psis are telepaths with the other kinds being less common."

"What fields of magic study are common?" Caurver prompted.

"Well, the biggest school is what was once called the Dargothic School, but nowadays they often call it Hermetic Magic. It's basically Dracon magic adapted to be more accessible to the non-Dracon races. For some reason, the Dargothic language is simply incomprehensible to non-Dracons. Supposedly, it has something to with a difference in the Dracon psyche." He said uncertainly. "At any rate, about a millennia ago, give or take, a Dracon named Caracor Hermestes ran this experiment on a planet called Earth. He translated Dargothic into a human language called Latin, and taught the magic to humans. It worked rather well, and so the Dracons have used that to teach other races as well. Basically, Hermetic magic breaks down into techniques and forms. It's been updated in recent years as the understanding of magic broadened, but it's a very flexible approach."

"Fascinating." Caurver murmured, his eyes shifting to a rosy gold with streaks of royal blue. "What is it particularly good at?"

"It's strongest area would be in elemental effects; earth, water, fire and air." He said confidently. "Conversely it's not as strong when dealing with things like spirits."

"A curious division." Caurver commented with a bemused smile. "I've never heard of a magic system that had spirits in opposition to the other elements."

"Well, it's peculiar since elementals are viewed as being separate from your other classifications of spirits." He shook his head.

"Just more proof that it is the mage, not the magic, that is the limiting factor on what can be done." He chuckled and shook his head with an amused grin.

"Yeah, I've heard that before." Justin chuckled as they entered a large glass and steel building with large open front lobby that contained many green plants arranged very carefully. There was also a large fountain of water in the center of the lobby. "That's kind of why I said it's flexible, it's a matter of how you combine the techniques and forms. And of course, strength of will and amount of Talent."

"Always important factors." Caurver nodded and took in the strange building with it's precise placement and unnaturally straight lines and flat surfaces everywhere.

Justin led the way up to a large wooden desk, that was being manned by a small black and white Fox female. "New arrival, dragon-kin flyer." He said easily, at which the desk clerk slid a rainbow colored piece of plastic across the desk and a large black pad. "Caurver, please put you hand, palm down on the pad here." Justin directed, pointing at the pad. "It's an ID pad, so they know who has which room."

He wound a bit of magic around the pad as he set his right hand flat on it, curious how the item worked. It left him with a bewildered look on his face and swirling medium gray eyes. He quickly shook it off and made a note to himself about not worrying too much about how this technology stuff worked just yet.

"This is your room key." Justin explained as he handed the rainbow colored rectangle of plastic to Caurver. "Apartment number 1220. This way."

He nodded and examined the odd piece of material as the moved.

"And welcome to the Aurora Residence Center." The female Fox said with a pleasant smile. "If you need anything just call room service." She added as the two walked away.

"Yes, ma'am." He smiled and nodded over his shoulder at her. "Thank you."

"She's cute." Justin commented with a smile as they waited for the elevator. "Your apartment is set up so that you can come and go by flying if you prefer." He explained as the elevator climbed to the twelfth floor.

"Oh, that will be nice." He smiled a little more brightly even as he cautioned himself not to expect anything like his room in the wyver. He spent most of the rest of the ride trying to figure out how to ask his next question without insulting his guide too much. Eventually he simply took a bit of a breath and got the words out as best he could.

"You ... look ... outside your own kind?"

"Almost have to, Caurver." Justin chuckled softly. "Griffs are pretty rare as species go. If I only dated inside my species, my love life would be even more uneventful than it is." He smirked. "But honestly, aside from some odd groups, almost nobody just sticks to their own species these days. The Dracons sure don't, which is probably why nobody else does."

"Oh." He murmured, not all that sure what to make of it beyond the near-instinctive rebellion at the concept.

"Mind you, I'm just talking dating here. Someone to have some fun with." He clarified. "It's a little more complicated when you get to mates, and kits and all that. Most folks do tend to have kits with their own species, cause its really complicated otherwise."

Caurver looked at him blankly, not even the language learning magic doing much to help him with the concept of 'dating'. "I think I have a great deal to learn about this society." He said quietly.

"Well, that's what I'm here for." Justin smiled as they exited the elevator. "Here's your apartment. Just slide the key along the silver strip here." He instructed, pointing out a strip of a metallic silver substance on the doorframe.

He nodded and carefully moved the key's short side along it.

There was a quiet 'click', and the door swung inward. The door opened into the living room which contained appropriately sized furniture; a love seat and a couch which were arranged facing a very complete entertainment center. At the end of the living room were sliding doors that opened onto a wide balcony. At the end opposite the sliding glass doors, was an open archway leading into a room with a table and four chairs. Across from the front door, was another open archway that opened into a hallway.

Caurver tried to take in it all, stunned beyond words at the size and complexity of it. Not even the Master of Berentia had such rooms.

"Smaller than you expected?" Justin asked quietly, trying to interpret the stunned reaction.

"S ... smaller?" He managed to stammer and stepped inside a bit further, his eyes wide and shimmering silver and a brilliant emerald green. "Sweet Sharall ... not even Master Sun-Drenched would expect this. It's ... it's just huge."

Justin quietly closed the door. "About normal for a one bedroom apartment in a good neighborhood." He explained. "Dracons like lots of space, and they influence a lot of designs."

"I see," he murmured and slowly stepped out onto the patio, looking down and around to get his flight bearings. "A very nice flight platform."

"I'm glad you like it." Justin smiled. "Just touch your key to the silver strip here next to the patio door when you leave, and again to open the door when you return." He explained, pointing out the strip that was identical to the one by the outside door in the hallway.

"I'll remember that," he nodded and wove a tiny bit of magic into the strange substance so he could easily call it to him from a distance.

"Okay, is there anything you'd like explained first?" Justin asked encouragingly. "I'm sure there's a lot of stuff in there." He gestured back to the room behind them. "That's unfamiliar."

"I think nearly all of it." He said hesitantly, more than a touch overwhelmed by it all. "Where is the cooking and eating room?"

"The dining room is that room over there with the table and four chairs in it." Justin pointed across the living room. "The kitchen is through the arch on the far side of the dining room."

Caurver looked a little dumbfounded for a moment. "You do not take meals together?"

"The building does have a cafeteria set up if that's what you prefer." He nodded. "A necessity since many newcomers aren't cooks, and some just find solitary meals too isolating. On the other hand, every apartment is equipped with kitchen and dining room because a fair number of arrivals have social codes restricting exactly who they can take meals with, and 'outsiders' usually aren't on the list."

"Ah, yes, I can see that," he nodded with a much more understanding smile as his eyes gradually shifted to a shimmering purple-blue. "I do prefer to eat with others, unless I'm up to my crest in research or a test." He chuckled softly and grinned. "That and I'm not much of a cook, except by magic."

"The Cafeteria is open twenty-eight hours a day, and there's an eating area adjacent to it on the ground floor, and another eating area on the fifteenth floor. That's for those who prefer to eat with a view, and part of it is open air."

"It sounds delightful." Caurver smiled broadly. "Is this the part where money comes in?"

"No, the cafeteria is provided as part of the residence." He smiled. "Money gets involved when you want to try one of the dining establishments elsewhere, or buy things at various shops in the city."

"Oh, yes." He nodded, his eyes flashing bright pink for a second. "I need a quick lesson is what is considered appropriate to wear in general."

"One of the more complex topics in interspecies relations." He chuckled. "It started out as 'covering the primary sexual attributes', but then got detailed as some species primary attributes were things like particular feathers, that didn't need to be covered, and other species had attributes that looked like other species primary attributes but weren't sexual to them at all." He shook his head. "Honestly, I think you're fine the way you're dressed now. A short tabard would probably make you look less like a tourist, but that's just a suggestion."

"What's a tabard?" He asked politely even as he assembled the basics of the spell in his mind.

"Sleeveless garment that covers from the shoulders to about here." He explained, pointing to about mid-thigh on Caurver. "Fairly popular with races who aren't natively big on clothing."

"Simple enough," he nodded and added those components to the forming spell. "Are there any colors or patterning I should avoid?"

"Colors, no those are pretty open. The only patterns to avoid, are probably ones you don't know anyway, like the Imperial crest, the Directorate seal and such. But no simple patterning is expressly forbidden."

Caurver considered for a moment, finalizing the design in his mind as he hummed with a light rumble. When he finally let the spell loose to weave itself into the desired form of a simple dark medium blue tabard with a soft silver strip along the edges. It's elaborate back of silver strings left his wings and spine feathers completely free while still allowing for cloth to cover under his tail and the two stripes between where the leather of his wings connected to his back and his feathers.

When the shimmering weaving of the spell faded he focused on his Griffin guide and made a slow turn to show the entire design. "Acceptable?"

"Very nice, Caurver." Justin nodded. "That's a pretty useful spell."

"Thank you." He smiled softly and fluffed his feathers out in good humor. "That was real magic, not a rote."

It was Justin's turn to look a little confused. "Real magic? I guess it must be a terminology difference, since around here spells are real magic." He explained, as best he could given how little he really knew about the inner workings of magic.

"Mmm, terminology or mindset." Caurver considered the language he had acquired carefully and found that the specialized terms of many fields he knew of were lacking. "Rotes are pre-set, well rehearsed ways to work magical energy. They always do the same thing the same way, but are fairly easy to learn and use to understand how magic works. What I just did was using magical energy to do what I want, without the limits of a rote." He considered the shorter male. "I'm not sure that made any sense. I'm a senior student, not a teacher."

"It did, kind of." Justin smiled. "I think what you call rotes, we call formalized magic. Standard uses of the form and techniques that people learn, which help them understand how the form and technique work together. Once they've got more experience with that form-technique combination, they move to impromptu magic which is letting their will decide what the form-technique combination will do, instead of using what someone else told them." He elaborated. "At least, that's my understanding from my pre-Apprentice primer."

"That sounds about right." Caurver smiled at him. "Are you interested in magic?"

"I start my apprenticeship next year." Justin grinned and watched Caurver blink and his eyes shift to the sparkling blue-gray of confused curiosity.

"You start an apprenticeship?" He repeated, sure he must have misheard or mistaken the words.

"Yep, next year after I complete my pre-Apprenticeship." Justin nodded.

The blue in Caurver's eyes deepened and gained flakes of red as he regarded the Griffon hard with his full senses open. "To learn to cast spells?"

"That's the idea." Justin grinned, not entirely sure what was so surprising about that.

The deeper Caurver looked, the more it seemed that there was a latent magic running throughout the young Griffin. It was very quiet, not noticeable underneath his innate ability unless you looked closely, but it was there.

"I see," he murmured softly and shook his head to fluff his feathers out a bit. "I do not believe I have heard of a talent as latent as yours seems be to be able to use magic beyond the most basic of rotes."

"All Griffs are latent until Awakened." Justin smiled. "Magic is just part of what we are. It's in every cell and fiber of us."

"Most unusual," he nodded in understanding. "Are many races like that?"

"Not that I'm aware of, but then there aren't many races that were created by the Dracons." He shrugged.

Caurver's head cocked to the right in several short movements until it was nearly upside down as he regarded the Griffon in bemused curiosity. "Do you have free will?"

"Yeah, we do." Justin chuckled. He was amused because people always asked that question. "We're not golems or homunculi. The actual creation was four or five generations ago, we just kind of went and became a species."

"Fascinating," Caurver murmured and righted his head, his eyes shimmering a bright blue. "I take it you hear that a lot."

"Just about any new alien with magical background asks the question, in one way or another." He chuckled. "One Mage thought I was somebody's familiar, and wanted to know where he could get a familiar like me."

"Familiar? I don't think we have those."

"Magical companions. Usually non-sentient animals who gain significant intelligence from the relationship." Justin explained. "Apparently on the alien in question's homeworld there are quadruped griffons who aren't much smarter than dogs. He thought I was one of those, enhanced by being a familiar."

"Oh," he nodded, more than a touch fascinated by the entire concept and glanced around the living room they were standing in. "If it is available, shall we sit and have a drink while we talk?" He suggested politely.

"Sure, the fridge is stock with some basics." He said, leading the way. "Fruit juice, cold water, soda." He elaborated as they crossed to the kitchen. "Any preference?"

"Uhh ... juice sounds good." He decided after a touch of surprise. "What is soda?"

"Carbonated water with flavoring added." Justin explained as he got two glasses from the cupboards and poured red juice into them from a pitcher in the refrigerator. "A lot of races like the 'tickle' the carbonation gives the water."

"It sounds rather unique at least." He chuckled with a bemused smile and accepted one of the glasses before sniffing it curiously and taking a sip of the strange fruity concoction that had traces of a half dozen flavors that mixed together for a slightly tangy, sweet and slightly syrupy whole. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." Justin smiled and took a drink.

"So, what ... type ... of magic are you going to study?" Caurver asked with a chatty curiosity and walked back to the living room to find a place to sit that still afforded them both a good view of the city and black sky beyond.

"Not sure yet." Justin admitted. "I mean, Hermetic obviously but I won't really specialize until the third year. The first two years are spent getting a good grounding in the fundamentals."

"So no given field really calls to you yet?" He asked, utterly fascinated by the way of schooling and the different way magic was looked at in this realm.

"Well, Air is pretty obvious." He said as he sat down. "But it's hard to tell before the Awakening. I could discover I have a strong affinity for Water magic, for example."

"That makes sense," he nodded and relaxed back, instinctively mindful of how his feathers and wings settled. "Most who enter magic on Patith have been at least partially aware of their magical talent and affinities since they first became aware of anything, or their parents have seen it. Do you know when you will Awaken to yours?"

"The Awakening is a ceremony held at the beginning of the Apprenticeship." Justin explained. "One of the Master Teachers focuses pure magic into a special crystal bathing pool. I go into the pool and the purified magic Awakens the potential within me."

"What if you Awaken to a field they don't teach?"

"If they don't teach it, they usually know someone who does. I'd hardly be the first student to change Teachers after Awakening." He shrugged.

Caurver nodded and paused to digest that for a little while. "So they are not so possessive of their students that they will wish you well to someone else?"

"A teacher's responsibility to society is to see that his or her students receive the training that is right for them." Justin said with a smile. "They teach to advance society as a whole, not to enhance themselves."

"Why do they dedicate their lives to teaching then?"

"Maybe enhance was the wrong word." Justin thought a bit. "I still don't always pick the right word in Galactic. Oh, the word I wanted was glorify. They dedicate their lives to teaching to better society, themselves and the Art."

Caurver shifted his bewildered gray eyes up to the dark sky over its daylight city and tried to make sense of that before focusing back on his guide. "But to open their home, support you for years as you learn, the cost of supplies needed, the time they can no longer devote to research or their own studies ... how can they afford to do that?"

"Society supports them." Justin explained. "The Ministry of Education and Magic provides a stipend to a teacher for each student they have. It easily covers the cost of having a student, and a bit more."

"Oh," he murmured, wondering what would happen if such a concept was introduced on Patith. "What is this Ministry of Education and Magic?"

"It's part of the government. The Elders created it to supervise the education of children, to provide for the more advanced learning at colleges and to encourage the development and advancement of the Art of Magic." Justin explained. "It was created by the second generation of Elders."

"How do they pay for all this?"

"Taxes, and money from the sale of some very valuable resources found on our homeworld. Minerals we don't have much use for but which are valuable to others." He smiled.

"So not everyone has the advantages of this schooling, only those that are from your world, or who can pay for it?"

"Different worlds do it differently. I'm only really familiar with the details of how Griffs arrange things. Most places tend to have formalized colleges of Magic, which are run a lot like normal colleges, but they teach Magic and they tend to have scholarships for students with serious talent who can't afford it otherwise."

Caurver's eyes swirled to mostly light gray with a touch of blue. "Colleges? Scholarships? I'm not translating those words at all."

"College, or University, is a place for organized instruction. Professors, fancy word for teacher, instruct groups of students in a variety of subjects. Colleges of Magic tend to have smaller classes than Colleges for mundane subjects but the principle is the same. A Scholarship is an award that reduces the cost of attending a College or University, and sometimes pays for it all together."

"Very different," he murmured with a nod, his mind trying to visualize how that would actually work out with marginal success.

"I guess you're used to something a bit more one-to-one, right?" Justin asked curiously.

"Yes," he nodded. "For a mage to take on more than a single apprentice at a time is very unusual, to take on more than two all but unheard of. The wyver had many apprentices of all ages and stages of training, sixteen this morning, with eighteen mages in residence, and that's a very high number of apprentices for us."

"I think the Avar still do it that way, and the Griffs sort of do, but two or three Apprentices is more normal. My understanding is that most of the other races use the College approach developed by the Dracons." Justin explained. "Of course, a lot of people never really get very far, only learning the basics. Parlor magicians as my mentor would say." He chuckled.

"Only the wealthiest of nobles could afford to train for something they have so little Gift for." Caurver shook his head. "No teaching mage would take on an apprentice that would never amount to anything without an incredible fee."

"Colleges specialize in such things." Justin chuckled. "But then that's what most races do as young adults these days, spend years learning stuff. Some of it works out to a career, but a lot of it doesn't. Somebody once told me the logic of training people who won't amount to much, is that the more people understand about magic, the more they support continued funding of it."

"As long as it works here." He murmured, not having any grounds to talk about such a concept. "Are all mages expected to teach?"

"No, many have neither the temperament nor the talent for teaching." Justin shook his head. "Teaching is best left to those who want to teach."

"Good," he let out a small breath of relief. "It is not something I'm very good at."

"There are plenty of other opportunities out there for mages." Justin said encouragingly.

"There usually are," he smiled, wondering a bit about it in this world where mechanical things took the place of most magic. "Even if I am still years away from graduating back home."

"Well, you could always check out the teaching methods here, see if any of them would help advance your studies." Justin suggested helpfully.

"But the cost of it?" He started, uncertain how much he was going to be indulged.

"Depends on where you end up wanting to get it, and how much Talent you have." Justin said simply. "These things usually work out, or so I'm told."

Caurver nodded. "I've been told I have a great deal of talent and considerable power to go with it. How that works out to the standards here I have no idea."

"Neither do I." Justin admitted. "But I know where to find people who can tell. The Belt has a fairly well respected College of Magic. There are also a number of independent scholars of Magic here."

"I do want to continue my studies." Caurver said softly. "It's been my life since I was a young hatchling."

"So what's your area of specialty, if you don't mind me asking?" Justin asked politely.

"Matter-Energy effects," he smiled rather proudly and leaned back a bit, motioning to his clothes. "Transmutation, Transportation and certain types of Healing are the most common uses. I was working on a long range teleport when I ended up here."

"Not hard to find somebody working in those areas, they're pretty popular. Though the usually term they use for Transportation is Translocation. If somebody talks about Transportation, they're most likely talking about something akin to levitation."

"Translocation and levitation effects are something else entirely." He shook his head slightly. "Those are Movement magics to us. Matter-Energy may produce similar results to a Translocation gate, but it is done very differently."

Justin chuckled. "That's what happens when a complete novice tries to translate technical terms. But matter-energy would be a fundamental principle of science applied magically."

"It's okay." Caurver grinned. "Two inexperienced mages trying to talk technical is bound to create some interesting errors."

"I guess as long as we don't try to turn the talk into magic we're probably safe." Justin grinned back.

"That would be for the best." He chuckled deeply. "Though I do know enough do demonstrate a few things."

"Yeah, I saw that." Justin smiled. "Saves time and money on shopping. So just how complex an object can you create that way?" He asked curiously.

"Anything I understand how to visualize properly and have enough energy to do the conversion." He considered it a bit. "Theoretically, there is no limit, though the practical one is definitely there."

"Yeah, tough to materialize a watchspring mechanism clock if you don't understand how the internals work." Justin said, hoping he was summarizing it correctly.

"Nearly impossible," Caurver nodded. "Sometimes it can be done with the help of mental images from someone who does understand, or with very good drawings, but it's always dicey as to whether it will turn out correctly or not. It's the biggest reason the food and drink creating rotes were created. It doesn't take much power to save your life with it, but it takes a lot of understanding of things that are very complex to do it from scratch. It's one of the few effects that even very experienced mages still tend to use the rotes for, simply because it's so much more efficient and effective."

"No sense reinventing the wheel." Justin nodded. "Formalized magic does serve a purpose, even if it's not as flexible as impromptu magic."

"That it does," he nodded easily. "It's a very good teaching aid as well, and allows those with less power to do many useful things with it."

"So, had your people started exploring other worlds yet?" He asked curiously. "Seems like you've got the magic for it."

"We hadn't found out there even are other worlds yet. Not really." He shook his head quietly. "A bit of exploring the other planes, but not anywhere in ours."

"Oh, so this is really a big step for you." Justin said quietly.

"Yeah, you could say that." He smiled weakly. "And I had thought my trip to the Vandros Empire's capitol last summer was really expanding my experiences."

"Well, there are worse places to land." Justin smiled, trying to be reassuring. "Just about anywhere in the Borderlands to start with."

"I don't think I even want to know." He shook his head sharply. "Though I'm fairly sure I ended up here because my teleport effect somehow connected to the teleport system here."

"That could be, it's a pretty active system. Bouncing millions of people around this solar system on a daily basis. It's completely technological, but I've heard mages still have to compensate for its energy output."

"And when it comes right down to it, energy is energy and energy is what I work with." Caurver shook his head. "During the transport, they likely act and handle very similarly."

"From what I know of the transport system, sounds like you must have had a dimensional slip. I could be wrong, of course, but that'd be my guess."

"I find it far more likely than if the transport was actually this far. From what's been said already, the distance I would have had to have done to stay on my home plane is unfathomable. But when magic does wrong, nearly anything is possible and I have no idea what happened where I left from."

"Well, the reason I say that is 'cause about twenty thousand years ago, there used to be planet where the Belt is." Justin explained. "In another dimension, Nemesis might never have come through or might have been diverted."

"Everything is possible, and somewhere each of those possibilities has happened." He chuckled with a slight nod. "It'll give you a headache to think about too much, but it is true as far as we know."

"Yeah, I know. Basic dimensional mechanics. For every dimension where an event did happen, there's also one where the event didn't happen." He smiled. "Not that there's any way to verify it completely, but it makes a certain amount of sense."

"Yes," he nodded and relaxed. "There's some proof in the form of visitors and very brave explorers, but not enough to prove it completely. But it makes more sense than it not being true."

"A Dracon dimensional physicist did a partial proof by visiting twenty alternate dimensions where the difference from our own was that one key event didn't happen. Well, actually it's still debated if that was the 'only' difference. But the principle was right."

"And the principle is about all you'll ever be able to prove." He chuckled softly. "Anything more would be too much for a mortal mind to really comprehend."

"And I don't think anyone's been gutsy enough to bother one of the local Immortals to find out if its true. The True Dragons are usually a little busy to bother with questions about the true nature of the multiverse." Justin chuckled. "On the really, really rare occasion that one happens to see one."

"I think I saw one in the air on the way here. Or at least it was dragon-kin."

"Most likely a Dracon." Justin shook his head. "You wouldn't have had any doubt if you'd seen a True Dragon. The power level alone makes them pretty obvious to Mages." He grinned.

"Then it wasn't a True Dragon." He nodded slightly and stood to stretch his entire body upwards. "Up for giving me an aerial tour of the area?"

"Sure thing." Justin nodded and stood. "I could use a good stretch of my wings." He said as he headed for the balcony, followed by the dragon-kin.

"What is Science?" Caurver asked as they checked the winds and best angle for takeoff.

"Normally, Science is described as the organized, and systematic study of natural phenomena to determine a cause." He said as he took off, his air-sight giving him the best angle from the twelfth story balcony. "And to understand the principles and mechanisms that run the universe. It assumes the absence of magic, since scientists very often lack any Gift whatsoever."

"How can that bring any real knowledge?" Caurver asked as he launched a moment later, entering a freefall for a moment before he spread his wings to catch the winds and soared up to come almost even with Justin and a wing's width above him. "Magic is such an intrinsic part of reality."

"That would be one of the great philosophical debates." Justin shook his head. "But several races took control of their worlds and spread out into the galaxy with most of their magic forgotten a very long time ago. It was the Dracons who revived the study of Magic among the technological races. There's very little that science is unable to explain, so far."

"Sounds like it might be a lingual issue more than a real one." He mused out loud. "They must recognize magical energy as existing, though not likely as magical energy. If you don't manipulate it, it's not too hard to understand."

"That could very well be." Justin agreed. "And some of the things science does with energy would be hard to tell from magic." He said as a Wolf without any visible means of support flew past them.

"Like that?" He pointed to the canine that wasn't using magic to fly.

"Yeah, like that." Justin chuckled as they glided along with occasional flaps to maintain their altitude and path. "I'm not entirely sure, but I think she was using an anti-gravity belt. An expensive toy currently, it's really only good for short flights."

"I would think it would be simpler to create a magic item that did the same thing."

"Perhaps, if you only wanted to created one." Justin said thoughtfully. "But with technology you can turn out thousands of those. I haven't encountered anyone who could mass produce magic items." He shrugged. "Guess it's a matter of situation."

"Why would you want thousands of expensive toys?" Caurver asked in a bewildered tone.

"It's a big galaxy." Justin grinned. "There's a lot of people out there who will buy expensive toys."

Caurver could only stare at him, his flight on instinct to stay in a relative position to hid companion as he tried to comprehend that.

"Maybe if we put things in perspective." Justin said, trying to be helpful. "What's the biggest city on your world?"

He had to think a moment. "Kobranda, the Crown City of Solecri." He answered after a bit.

"Roughly how many people live there?" He asked curiously.

"I've heard fifty thousand." Caurver said a bit skeptically.

Justin blinked, leaving his flying to instinct for a few moments. "There's about that many people in the city below us." He said quietly. "And there's about seventy or eighty of these cities in the Belt." He explained. "Now on one of your average planets you have cities of five to ten million. That's why you have so many people to buy expensive toys ... there are simply a lot of people."

"Oh," he murmured, the numbers simply too high for him to comprehend as his eyes went a soft gray and his feathers flattened.

"Yeah, it's a bit much to take in." Justin nodded. "My homeworld, Eyrie, doesn't have cities much bigger than the one below us, and most are smaller. I don't think there are five million of us on the whole planet, much less in one place." He shook his head.

"I don't think I've ever been around more than a couple thousand, and that was at the great market of Starsun's Eye." He shook his head in stunned awe. "There aren't sixty people at Berentia wyver, and I thought that was a lot. It's a big wyver."

"Well, don't try to take it all in at once." Justin suggested. "Just let yourself get used to it."

"I'm just glad I didn't land in one of those cities you were talking about." He said quietly over the wind and their wings. "The great market was almost more than I could take." He shook his head. "Though that was as much from the distain of the people as the numbers of them."

"Not something your likely to run into here." Justin smiled. "You get a certain level of respect just for being dragon-kin."

"That's going to take some serious getting used to." Caurver chuckled weakly. "The idea that this form could be a reason to be respected, instead of something I have to overcome prejudices about. It's not something I ever thought was possible."

"Around here, anyone with prejudices about dragons, keeps very quiet about it." Justin chuckled. "Oh, one thing to remember when flying here. There's a Dome that covers the city, and it's only about a mile and half up at the peak, lower near the edges of the city. You don't want to run into it, 'cause the energy shield is kind of painful."

"I'll definitely keep that in mind." He nodded and filed that under 'important things to remember at all times' in his mind. "I don't need any more injuries."

"So, anything you'd like to see first?" Justin asked, as they winged their way past the large park in the center of the city.

"Is there anywhere to practice magical combat?" He glanced over at the Griffon.

"Not in this dome. The College of Magic has a magical practice field over in New Camelot." He explained easily.

"How far is that?" He asked as they shifted slightly to pass over another green area.

"Two short, one long." Justin said without having to think about it. "That's Belt Central Library." He added, pointing out a large ornate structure adjacent to the city park. "Central information repository for the star system."

"Hu?" Caurver blinked at him in complete confusion.

"Oh, sorry." Justin said sheepishly. "That's Dome Teleport system shorthand. Two short range teleports, and then a long range teleport."

"That doesn't tell me how to get there." Caurver said quietly.

"Right. Unless otherwise indicated short range teleports always refer to the spinward teleport station. It's that way." He pointed toward the far end of the dome. "Signs for it all over the place. For the long-range 'port you just go to the Cross-system Teleport station and punch in the destination; which in this case would be New Camelot."

Caurver took a deep breath and nodded. "I don't suppose you have a map with measurements on it of this place?"

"There's a bunch of them in the Library." Justin offered. "You want to go take a look?"

"Yes, I would," he nodded and shifted his body to wing over and come around on a course to the building they'd just passed. "I like to know where I am."

"Front door then." Justin directed as he turned to glide down to the front of the building. Caurver followed close on his tail, clearly at ease with close quarters flying.

Justin folded his wings behind him neatly, before leading the way into the large stone building. Inside there were rows and rows of books, as well as numerous terminals like the one the doctor had shown Caurver. "Now did you want a map of this city, the belt as whole, just the near by section of the Belt, or something else?" Justin asked quietly, as they climbed stairs.

"Star with the Belt and move into closer views from there." He decided, keeping his voice equally quiet, though he was unsure of why.

"Okay, we'll use the map table then." He said quietly, as he walked over to a large table with a black, lustrous top and a keypad on each side. "Map table, display Belt overview with distance marks and scale." He said, apparently talking to the table which suddenly changed to display a circle of irregular gray objects circling a bright red-orange. There were a number of white stars with names floating among the irregular gray objects. At the bottom of the screen it was labeled in galactic, '1 cm = 150,000 km' which appeared to be the scale based on it appearing near the compass and table of symbols on the map.

"Where are we on this map?" He asked curiously as he memorized every detail from all the way around.

"Here." Justin said after taking a moment to located the white star that was their current location.

"Can this make a slow tour of the system, one edge to the other, and include names of the places on the way?"

"Well, if you're talking about the Belt, you'd have to tour it around the edge, since it's a circle orbiting the sun." He explained. "Now if you wanted a tour of the star system that'd be easy to do, edge to edge."

Caurver looked up a little blankly as he worked threw the option. He spoke carefully and slowly. "I would like to see a reasonably organized physical path to each habitable place in the area."

"Best to start with a tour of the Belt, starting with our current location." He said typing commands into the system.

"Beltedge." The system said, flashing the white star near the edge of the asteroid Belt.

"Marconi, Dargos' Reach, High Ridge, Goldspar, Telmaren." The system continued flashing a star as it said the name continuing around the Belt. "Lantern Waste, Garoth's Hold, Sendrakeen, New Camelot, Messarina, Port Flaming Sword, Star's Shade, Diamond Flare, Lowbidder."

Caurver focused intently as the system worked threw all seventy-five cities and their locations, absorbing the information with deep red eyes that flashed every time a bit of light refracted on the faceted surfaces.

"So, did that help any?" Justin asked curiously when the system had finished the tour.

"Some, yes." He nodded. "It's a lot of territory." He added and fluffed his feathers. "Are there any public pools in this city?"

"Three of them." Justin smiled. "Feeling a need to cool off?" He asked casually.

"I do enjoy a good swim," he smiled at the Griffon. "There's nothing quite as enjoyable as a cool spring on a hot day with friends having fun."

"Very true." Justin smiled. "And the pools are very popular on hot days. I seem to recall the forecast saying tomorrow is supposed to be a hot day." He chuckled. "They've decided to start summer early this year."

"Your weather mages are that powerful?" Caurver blinked in surprise.

"Weather control technology is, yes." Justin nodded. "And it's partially because we're in a small, artificially created environment. It's not nearly as complex as controlling the weather on a planetary surface."

"Is there anything you can't do?" He stammered, trying to comprehend what it would take to have that much control over the most complex interactions of the elements.

"Oh there's plenty of things. Creating planets and stars are still theoretical exercises. The process is understood, but actually doing it is still not happening." Justin said thoughtfully. "Figuring out Trans-Luminal Drive is still eluding us, but then even the race that created it doesn't have more than a half-dozen ships capable of it, so it seems to elude them most of the time as well."

"I ... I don't think I want to know." Caurver said very softly, his eyes a dull silver-gray and the tips of his wings trembling slightly along with the crown and line of feathers that were flat against his body. "Perhaps ... dinner and a nap?" He asked submissively, hopefully.

"Sure thing. You want to eat in the cafeteria, or would prefer your meal in your apartment?" He asked quietly.

"A ... with others," he swallowed at the mixed blessing. "Not alone."

"Okay, Cafeteria then." Justin smiled supportively. "You feeling up to flying, or would you rather walk back? It's not that far either way."

"Walk, I think." He murmured as he tried to pull his wits together. "Shaky wings are not good for flying."

"No they're not." Justin agreed as he led the way out of the library. "Should only take thirty minutes tops to walk back."

"All right," Caurver nodded slightly and fell into step just behind his guide.

"You want me to point things out on the way back, or would you rather leave the tour for another day?" Justin asked as they walked. It was a pleasantly warm afternoon with the 'sun' only being blocked by the occasional passing cloud. A few people noted the passing of an unusual dragon-kin accompanied by an equally exotic Griffon, though it was more of a polite curiosity than anything.

"I don't think I'd remember much right now." He admitted apologetically.

"I didn't think so." Justin smiled. "It's okay, you've already gotten a huge amount of stuff to take in. Out of curiosity, is your species normally nocturnal or day-cycle?"

"Whatever is needed." He smiled weakly. "I've never been much on set schedules, really. Studying at the senior level isn't very conducive to it."

"Neither am I." Justin chuckled. "But then Griffs are descended from a day-cycle species and a nocturnal species, so we don't care about day or night much as a general rule. We tend to go with the schedules of those we're working or studying with."

Caurver nodded slightly, not sure what else to say and not really feeling like talking at all. Even the meal was only a concession to knowing he hadn't eaten in a significant chunk of time.

Heart of Ice, Soul of Fire 1: The Price of Error


73 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Closed-Unfinished
Written July 10, 2004 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Todd McCall

Setting: Eternal Draconian Empire, Patith

Primary Races: Avian, Durikan, Fox, Griffon

Contents: Furry. Gen. All Original Characters, Crossover, Magic, Sci-Fi

Pairings: None

Notes: There are several nods to Vickey Wyman's Xanadu, my favorite of all Furry universes, contained within, though I wouldn't go so far as to call it even an AU FanFic. She wasn't my first exposure to the fandom, but she's made the most lasting impression.

Though it's not nearly as obvious outside my head, kudos must also go to Kaa Starhunter of anthrosaur.com as well for his Dragon Lancer universe and a lot of the dragon-morph artwork that keeps drawing me back to Scailies.

Caurver and all things Patith belong to Rauhnee Ranshanka.
The Eternal Draconian Empire and most related parts belong to Todd McCall.
The story is what happens when you mix the two.

For those who know way too much about our work, yes, The Eternal Draconian Empire is an AU based off of The Galactic Alliance. It's just a fair bit darker, according to Todd. We have not decided whether or not Shadow Empire is set in the same storyverse or not.

Blurb: When a young Durikan mage blotches a teleport spell-weaving it links into a system that sends him far, far away from home into a universe he can't even begin to comprehend, though he's determined to try.

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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