By the angle of light in the room, Aiden estimated he had only been asleep for three eight-marks when the wave of panic rushed over him. He was already in fighting form and at the door to the Luna’s room when conscious thought crashed over him, but the fear the guards displayed made him pause. They weren’t charging into the room, and the scent of vradin drake was heavy in the air.
“Report!” he snapped out to the nearest guardsman, a veteran vradin owl who had taken the name Flanker.
“The girl’s vradin drake, first change, not hostile yet, still disoriented. She let Healer take her pain, and started mending, faster than you even, and then Healer was falling back and she went into the change.” The guard gestured to Healer, who was out in the hallway, on the other side of the guards, leaning against the wall.
Aiden stepped forward and peered into the room, now clear of everyone but the shivering newly changed thin blood. Thin blood my nutsack, Aiden now thought, scenting the rush of Nimala’s generosity pouring into the girl.
This first change, she was small for a drake, but still easily filled half the room as she curled into herself. There was vomit on the floor, not uncommon as a vradin learned to take on their vradinnaar form. She also had six limbs, four legs and two wings, currently clenched tight to her body, which was quite rare among the ordinary drakes, but not as uncommon among the vradin drakes. The scales along her sides and down her legs were a deep nearly purple red, rather like most of the wines their human kin liked to manufacture. The forward edge of her wings were an indigo blue, flecked with forest green, brightening and taking on a golden undertone toward the center, then darkening again into shades of purple flecked with gold. Her muzzle and the ridge of spines down her back were a purple so dark that it was close to black as made no never mind, and her tail, the stinger held aloft, quickly faded from the wine color of her body into a matte black flecked with radiant gold.
She held her eyes closed, and there was a fine trembling making the colors of her scales dance in the morning light. While he watched, she made a mewling sound, the kitten calls of a still fledgling drake, and he revised his estimate of her age downward.
“Healer, report,” Aiden ordered, shifting his gaze from the Luna to the wall opposite the door, using his peripheral vision to watch both her and his guardsmen.
“Montang,” Healer huffed out, struggling up to stand. Once upright, though still leaning on the wall for support, he continued. “She was blessing starved, blocked by the Night Kind’s venom, not thin blood, and when I took her pain, it broke the block. I was already in contact and pushing healer’s gift into her; the emptiness inside her pulled in most of my gift before I could break away, not her fault.”
Aiden nodded, then with an all body shudder slid back into man shape. Pitching his voice low and soothing, and deliberately not pushing his dominance at her, he approached.
She blinked open her eyes, then flinched, snapping them shut again and rolled her head to the side, away from him.
“Do not open your eyes, that’s it, give your body a while yet to grow accustomed to your change.” It didn’t take long before Aiden was beside her, and he gently stroked a hand over her shoulder.
She was still drawing in blessings, he realized as he felt the contact pull some from himself, but Aiden had more than enough to spare one wee youth, especially one wee Luna youth. After a few moments of his touch and his crooning, she calmed, the panic washing away from her Peace, and confusion with a touch of a more enduring fear took its place.
This time barely cracking her eyelid, she began to look around. When she spotted her new limbs, a sense of unreality, of being fascinated with the bizarre rolled through her Peace.
Judging by her Peace that the Luna would be less likely to react badly to dominion, he slid a subtle tendril around her, reinforcing it with his crooning, and pulled her out of her first shift.
She shivered and convulsed and fell into her human skin, still shivering, naked upon the tile. Her hair had changed color, from the dark, dark brown he had witnessed in the great hall to a more auburn tone. He resisted the urge to draw his fingers through the locks, contenting himself with gathering her up and setting her once more upon the furs, in his lap. The Luna would need much touch, much comfort of the warmth of vradin, to settle herself, if his memory served him well.
Before the Rage, vradin had been of the sun and the moon, the Sol and the Luna. The Luna vradin were the first to cry peace, to urge avoidance of war, to forgive harms done to them, and the last to forgive harms done to their people, while the Sol vradin were quick to temper and to fight, delighted in contests of strength and dominance, and eager to take preemptive measures against their enemies. The Luna had more often served as diplomats between the tribes, the aura of calm and serenity they carried with them effective even with the most blessing-blind of men.
When training, the Sol vradin were almost universally triumphant over the Luna vradin, but on the true field of battle, the Luna were the more terrible foes. Once committed to the fight, they held nothing back, had no sense of self-preservation. Nimala seemed to love them all the more for that selfless fighting; the earth and the wind gave themselves with unequaled generosity to the Luna vradin, healing major damage almost as soon as it was inflicted upon them.
After the battles, however, the Luna vradin would honor every fallen warrior, whether friend or foe, and lament the deaths they had caused. Sol vradin learned early on not to attempt to dissuade the Luna from this course, no matter how little they might think their enemies deserved the honor. The Luna that survived that first infection of Rage had died from shame when Sushaymin forbade them that relief from their grief, not even his soul stealing so-called “Peace” able to numb their horror. Aiden doubted that Sushaymin had been all that grieved at the news, because even then the Luna had proven the most resistant to the Rage, their serenity and Nimala’s healing cleansing them of Sushaymin’s tainted vileness. No, the Rage had clung to the Sol vradin, latching on their quick tempers and natural aggression until no healing could remove it.
And when the first of the vradin learned how to shift from human to vradinnaar forms, the Luna had needed to be wrapped in human arms, to remember they were men still, while the Sol had gloried to the feel of fur and feathers and scales growing from their skin, of claw and talon, fang and beak.
But this Luna surprised him. Before her muscles had relaxed from the quick succession of changes, she squirmed out of his embrace and wrapped herself in one of the furs, and embarrassment became the predominant flavor of her Peace.
Aiden blinked, tipping his head to the side and looking at the Luna, Zoe, with his query in his face, but she was studiously not looking at him.
Lyrgrul smothered a laugh, also more a matter of surprise than anything else and said, “Montang, I think the customs of her people are to blame for our guest’s mortification. They apparently think that men and women should be clothed at all times, and should not touch if they are not lovers.”
Aiden spared a glance for his own nudity, and placed a hand over his lips to hold back his amusement. “Does this prohibition against touch apply also to women?”
Lyrgrul shook her head. “No, Montang, at least I don’t think nearly as much as between men and women.”
“Then you come here and comfort our Luna.”
Moving to obey him, Lyrgrul asked, “What does it mean that you call her our Luna? Is she not Peaceful?”
Aiden felt another arc of surprise jolt him. “We are Sol, as quick to anger as the sun to burn. She is Luna, light without heat. You have never felt what it is like to be enslaved by a sorcerer’s moldy imitation of Peace, have you?”
Lyrgrul settled on the other side of Zoe and pulled the girl into her arms. Zoe seemed to feel much happier with this maternal comfort. The older woman shook her head, crooning something wordless as Zoe hugged her back.
“A sorcerer’s ‘Peace’ steals all your emotions but for the craving for Peace. There is no happiness, no sorrow, just endurance that wears away with grief, until one day you realize that you are simply a Shade inhabiting the shell of a man. At that point, you either fade or fall into Enragement, the thrill of feeling something, anything, after that numbness beyond intoxicating. Luna, on the other hand, share their serenity, their balance, with us. They make us no less than we are, and often afford us the perspective to be far greater than we who burn could ever be without them.”
Aiden patted Zoe on the shoulder, through the fur she hid within. “It seems our Luna is in good hands now, but she will need much touch, much community. It is the way of the Luna to be reassured by the comfort of their people. I will send more women here to provide that, as she will not take the comfort from men yet.”
Lyrgrul said, her eyes on Zoe, her voice pitched to sooth, “She seemed to like Bhrett and Jakat yesterday, and they were kind with her, Montang.”
“I had heard she soothed Jakat’s Rage, but not that Jakat took well to the soothing.” He did not add his disbelief that Bhrett had shown kindness. The more experienced Luna could draw even the most angry into laughter.
“They both seemed very maternal toward her,” Lyrgrul explained, and that was, indeed, a fulsome explanation. Both women had lost daughters over the centuries, and Zoe’s youth like enough kept them from seeing her as a woman grown yet.
Aiden nodded and rose. Closing the door behind him as he left the room, he waved a hand for Healer to follow him, and said to the other guard, Shroth, a younger keasair, “Request Jakat and Bhrett come up to our Luna’s room, then let Trill know that our Luna has had her first change. He should know what to send up. Make sure he sends up women only, though, until we have a better concept of the society she comes from. No gossip about what her vradinnaar form is yet, though you may let him know that I appreciate his speculation.”
“Ayup, Montang! Jakat and Bhrett here, Trill first change, women only, quiet on Luna’s vradinnaar.” At Aiden’s nod, Shroth took off at a trot down the hallway. Aiden, with Healer in tow, returned to his room, several doors down.
With the door closed behind them, Aiden began his morning. “Tell me, old friend, everything from the moment you were summoned to the Luna’s rooms.”