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The Adventures of Howudino and Kashin

by Arthur

Chapter 2

For Seb, the first flight up into the heavens was quite scary, had it not been for the comforting closeness of Kashin, he was sure he would have fainted once again, thanks to the heavy cloak he did not feel as cold as he would without it, Kashin seemed totally unaffected and his armour glowed with power as Howudino increased his speed.

Seb found that he had to keep the hood of the cloak low over his face as the cold wind began to make his eyes water, it did not take long for him to find that if he bent forward he could use Kashin's body to act as a temporary wind break, the flight then became almost enjoyable except for the height, he tried not to look down as the ground was so far below them, this type of movement was going to take a lot of getting used to if he was to live up to his new position as Consort to the Rider of the Royal Dragon.

After a long cold flight that included flying high over mountain tops and zooming down through deep valleys, the Royal Weir came into sight, it was easily marked by the thin wisp of white smoke coming from the cone of a very close-by volcano, the boys were to learn later that this smoking mountain helped to supply the heat for the weir and the deep caves at the rear of the mountain which were used by the females for the incubation of their eggs.

As the trio drew closer, the two boys watched as a flight of brown Dragons took to the air, after circling the weir, the brown Dragons flew towards them, their small riders perched high in their seats, Kashin noticed that the riders were all armoured in brown scale armour and seemed quick to notice his rank as they all saluted both himself and Howudino by raising their short swords above their heads and cheering.

Howudino swooped down below the arriving Dragons and then accelerated and flew straight up high above them, with a twist, he turned his large body and, had the boys not been strapped in they would by now be taking a very fast dive ground-ward, it was both an exhilarating and terrifying act.

After these first greetings, the troop of ten Browns with Howudino now in the lead, all headed to the large flat area outside the Royal Weir, waiting for them were rank upon rank of other riders mounted on their dragons, all waiting for the new Prince to arrive, for the two boys it was a heady time, there seemed to be hundreds of Dragons and riders lined up on the flat area behind which was a huge cave mouth.

With a great flapping of his huge wings, Howudino landed in the centre of the landing place, once down it was easy to see he was almost half as large again as the other Dragons and his golden scales reflected the late afternoon sun like a mirror, Kashin suddenly felt a new sense of pride as he looked down on what were now his subjects.

Kashin was well aware he had a lot to learn yet about the protocols of the weir and his position within it, he only hoped he could live up to the expectations and not bring shame to Howudino and the Royal Family name, the reassuring grip on his waist by Seb gave him a feeling of comfort and hope.

As Howudino strode towards the cave mouth, the Brown Riders lifted their short swords in salute as their Dragons lowered their heads in recognition of his status and that of his Rider and the Consort, they all knew the importance of having a complete weir, there were still troubles in the land and there had been a fear that they may not receive their Prince in time to stave off any attempts to take it over by other larger weirs, Dragon fights and ambitions were no different than those of the humans.

Kashin heard Howudino's voice in his head once again.

"Well Prince of Riders, how do you like our weir, is this not a magnificent sight to be able to see far and wide from the top of this Range?"

"What is the name of these mountains, I have never seen them before?"

"You don't know the name of the highest range of mountains on your Island?"

"Island, we live on an Island?"

"My dear Rider, did you not go to school to learn all these things?"

"School, no, I never had time for school, my Mother taught me letters and numbers but that was all, it was all I needed to know for the life I was too have."

"Then the first thing we will do is have you schooled so that you know what you rule over, how about The Consort, does he have schooling?"



"Howudino wants to know if you have had schooling."

"Of course not, what would a farm boy need of schooling, I have my numbers and letters that is all, I had to work the farm from the age of nine years old, we were a poor family and too many mouths too feed."

Kashin sent the information to Howudino.

"Then you will both have to have more school, the Consort must have the same education as yourself, if it happens that you are called to war, the Consort will rule while you are away unless it is just a small fight of little importance, in that case he might like to come along too keep you company."

"You mean that I will have to fight battles and things?"

"Of course, it is what Riders do and, as the Prince, you will lead all the others, oh, don't worry, we will begin your training at first light tomorrow along with your first day of schooling, until then I will give you a short lesson."

"Hmm, well, alright, but what about Seb, he can't hear you?"

"Just pass on what I am going to tell you."

"Oh, ok, so you say we are on an Island?"

"Yes, the Island is called Hyegothe as is the mountain range although you know them as The Spiked Mountains, it is about five flying days wide and about ten flying days long, like a big fat sausage with the mountain range running down the centre, the sea around us is called the Mir of Arne, we also have about one hundred small Islands in our realm, we are one of the smaller kingdoms, there are many larger than ours, that is why they try to take over and rule us but, we have always had the largest army of Dragons, for some reason our Browns grow bigger and faster than anywhere else so we are a hard place to conquer."

"You call them the Spiked Mountains, but I have never seen them this far from my home, I thought they were just a short range, how far is five flying days for us and, I didn't know we were only on an Island, it does not seem small when I'm trying to walk anywhere."

"Hmm, lets me see, five days flying would take you about twenty days walking so for you to walk the full length of our Island would take somewhere about forty days or more as you would have to scale the mountains through a pass and that takes longer."

"And you call us a small Island?"

"Oh yes, there are Islands that would take you more than a year to walk across, they have a lot more people and Dragons, but their Dragons are very small and they seem to breed so much slower than here, we think it is to do with the Volcano, on the larger Islands the Volcanoes are either very old with little power or are totally dormant, our Island is the only one with an active Volcano that still supplies us with enough heat and occasionally there will be a lava flow through a small opening in the side for us feed on."

"Do you really feed on live molten rocks?"

"Oh yes, it is our favourite candy, it doesn't happen a lot, only when the Volcano gets too much pressure and a small hole opens up, then we can go and feed, it makes our fire last for months without having to search for old flows like on other Islands, we think that is why we win so many battles."

"So other Dragons can not eat Lava?"

"Oh yes they can eat it but they can't get it, they have to eat cold lava flows or the copper coal from deep underground, it means they can only fight for a short time before they have to go and eat, we can stay fighting for more than a month without having to feed, it gives us a distinct advantage on the battle field."

"Yes I can see it would, so does our world have a name, I see many stars at night and wonder if they all have people living on them, if so how would they know which star was theirs with a name?"

"Yes, we call our Planet, Murchurius; the stars are the suns that give us light and heat, we go around them in a circle, some of the suns are so far away that even if you lived for a thousand years, you would never get there, even on the fastest Dragon."

Kashin let the new information sink into his brain, it was much more than he thought and he wondered if he would ever be able to learn it all, just the thought of being only one small blob in the sky was overwhelming, too suddenly find out that his homeland was nothing more than an Island, and a small one at that, well that would take some more getting used to.

Kashin decided to leave his first lesson there and turned to Seb to relate what he had so far learned as, by now they were striding into the mouth of the largest cave, still on the back of Howudino, all the Browns were following along behind, standing along the sides of the long high tunnel were more Dragons, they were a little smaller and more of a bronze colour and had no Riders but still bowed their heads as the Royals passed.

"Who are the Bronzes Howudino?"

"They are the females, they tend the nesting area and when not ready to lay their eggs, they look after the weir, the Browns are the Males, the females can only conceive once in every five years as it takes the eggs four years to develop and then the females will stay with the new hatchlings for another year before they can become ready again."

"Okay, so how come you don't have your Mother here to greet you, or your Father for that matter, I thought a Prince was the son of a King and Queen?"

"Not so with Royal Dragons, I am made of Magic, all the rulers of the many, many Islands are called Princes, to be a Royal you must come from the Magic of the land and sea, our Father we call Creator, he made us all and everything on this world so we therefore come from the Magic of Creator."

"Oh, I see, there is just so much to learn, I'll be an old man before I understand it all."

"While I live you will never be an old man, and I live for a long time as you will see, now here is the Throne room, it is time to greet all your subjects and feast the night away."

The 'Hall' was a huge cavern, at the far end was a large table made from solid grey stone shot through with white quartz crystal, it shimmered in the fire light from a deep pool of hot raw lava that sat at the centre of the huge cavern, moving around the room were the very small figures of the Messadine who seemed to easily adapt to the extra heat of the lava pool, to Kashin it was getting very warm this close to raw lava, he quickly grasped Seb by the arm and made the long jump to the floor, holding Seb tightly as he landed with little effort, he then moved quickly towards the far table to be a little cooler.

Howudino settled on the floor in front of the table while the Brown Riders began to sit around the table with Kashin and Seb at the centre in two high backed and prominent throne like chairs, the Brown Dragons found places close to the pool of lava and the small figures of the Messadine slipped in and out between the larger bodies like small sprites.

Once the large stone table was filled with the other Riders, the Messadine began to serve large platters of food accompanied with cut off horns filled with sweet tasting mead, its heady flavour and slightly intoxicating content soon had the Riders all laughing and merry.

Seb sat beside Kashin, his young face beginning to flush from the drink and the heat; occasionally Howudino would turn his head and smile his Dragon smile at the two boys while the Brown Dragons around him took a large bite into the lava pool, as they swallowed the hot liquid stone, they would sometimes belch out a puff of smoke and then run their long forked tongue over their lips in delight.

The platters of food filled the two new boys with awe, there were so many new foods they did not know where to start, some of the hot meats that still steamed from their cooking fires, were also new to the boys, finally hunger took over from surprise and they began to eat like they had been starved all their lives.

As the night wore on the boys consumed more and more of the sweet mead, it soon became obvious to those around them that the boys heads were not going to be well in the morning, as they watched Prince Kashin and his Consort drink horn after horn, soon the two boys were sliding off their pillow covered stone chairs towards the floor, their young faces flushed and their eyes now growing glazed over, Howudino decided it was time to get the two boys in their bed, with luck they would consummate their joining either tonight or the following night, the sooner the better for all of the folk and Dragons of the weir.

The two boys were too far gone to know or understand what was happening to them as they were picked up by six Messadine each and carried to their new bed chamber, in the great hall the party continued, the boys would not know until the next day that they had missed all the speeches and games of the night, however the way their heads were to feel, it would have made little difference.

Morning found the two boys naked and hung over, they were entwined in each others arms, their hard boyhoods pressed tightly against each other, Kashin opened his eyes and then immediately closed them against the bright light streaming in through the opening in the cave wall, the warm arms of Seb held him close and his soft breath caressed Kashin's cheek, only the need to pee made him start to struggle from the clasping arms.

A soft mumbling voice came from Seb as Kashin tried desperately to ease himself out the warm bed, it was then he realised through the fog that he was naked, his face immediately took on a bright red hue as he looked down at Seb who was in the same condition and, even through the fog in his head, Kashin liked what he saw in his new Consort.

Kashin was finally able to stumble to the opening in the cave wall, with little thought he aimed his hardness through the opening and let the water flow, the relief was overwhelming as his hot stream flowed out into the morning light, even a pair of warm arms surrounding his naked waist could not slow the stream.

As the last dribble was shaken off, Kashin heard in his ear.

"My turn."

Kashin stepped back as Seb took his place, his young white buns almost glowed in the morning light as Kashin looked on, his own loins were now starting to stir even though his head felt like lead and his eyes would not see clearly, still his body told him to react to the sight before him.

As Seb shook and began to turn, Kashin took the bull by the horns and reach for him, drawing Seb in close he leaned forward and kissed the other boy on the lips, from then on nature took over and the two boys were soon back in their bed but, this time there was no sleep, an hour later, as their joining was finally fully consummated, a shiver of energy shot through the weir, every rider and Dragon, from the oldest to the youngest, felt the jolt and revelled in its power and meaning, the two boys were too consumed with each other too notice anything unusual.

It was nearer to midday before the boys showed themselves in the main cave hall, for first timers they had not been reticent in their amorous adventures, Seb was moving with a little awkwardness and Kashin looked as though he had run for miles and was low on energy.

When they both rose to dress, the boys were surprised to see a new set of Dragon armour set out on the table in the centre of the room beside the gold of Kashin, it was of bright bronze scales and, once he had it on, Seb found it fit him like a glove, it was now apparent who and why they were naked when they awoke, the Messadine had obviously worked hard all night long to complete it for Seb.

Beside the armour on the table was also a thin rapier like sword in a silver scabbard, drawing it out Seb saw that the blade was almost blue in colour and there seemed to be little waves running along the length, he was too learn at a later date that it was the one thousand folds of the steel when the blade was made.

Once outfitted in their armour and weapons, the boys returned to where the party had been held the night before, much to their surprise the hall was still full of Dragons and Riders, all sitting or standing silently, even though the two boys were new to the weir, even they could see that there was a new glow too everything, it was as though the whole weir had been cleaned and polished.

The new feeling of power seemed to fill the very air around the large cavern. The boys walked forward and were finally directed by one of the many Messadine towards two large thrones at the opposite end of the cavern to the lava pool, lying on the floor in front of the thrones was Howudino, his eyes following the pair as they made the long walk through the multitude of Dragons and Riders.

The largest throne was for Kashin, beside it and too the left was a slightly smaller one for Seb, both were covered in a purple cloth underneath which was a thick soft cushion, to the side of each throne was a long wooden table set at about knee height, this was for their swords and daggers while they were seated, all this was explained to Kashin by the recumbent Howudino as they approached the thrones.

Once both boys were ensconced on their individual thrones, the cavern resounded in the cheers of the Riders, at first the boys did not understand what all the noise was for until Howudino explained what the early morning joining of the two as they consummated their need for each other meant for the weir.

It had been the touch of Creator that had spread throughout the weir as the boys were joined, it was the power the weir needed to become whole and strong, everything was now ready for the future of Weir Tallas.

Once seated, Howudino began to introduce the various Captains of the Browns; this took nearly an hour as each captain had to give an oath of fealty to Kashin and the Consort and then to the defence of Weir Tallas, once all was done, Howudino told Kashin that he and Seb would begin their schooling after the midday meal, it would last for three hours and then they would take a short rest before starting their practice in weapons and battle tactics, from this day one they were going to be very busy.

Throughout the land of Murchurius at this time, was peace and, apart from the human Barons and Lords fighting amongst themselves, there was little for the Dragons of Weir Tallas to do.

Howudino had told them that for some time there had been rumblings of discontent from one or two of the larger factions but, as yet they had not taken to raiding any of the Tallas lands.

After a fine meal, the two boys were shown to a large comfortable room with a big slate at one end, at the centre there were two padded chairs set against a table, behind the table stood one of the Messadine, he bowed and smiled as the two boys entered and indicated the two chairs.

The boys sat and waited for the Messadine to begin their first lessons, for the next three hours the boys were inundated with facts and figures about the Weir and their home Island, as the time passed the boys found it harder and harder to concentrate until, finally, the Messadine teacher saw their heads begin to nod, with aloud clap of his hands, he forced the two overwhelmed boys to lift their heads and open their eyes.

Kashin mumbled something about being sorry for drifting off and promised to try to do better, the small teacher smiled and nodded, he was well aware the boys were not used to schooling in this manner and had made allowances for them, it would take time but, time was one thing they had plenty of.

Later in the day, when the temperature was cooler, the two boys were taken to the training ground, Kashin had little need of practice with his sword as both he and it were governed by magic but Seb would have to have extensive training, he did not have the benefit of Dragon Magic to teach him.

Kashin was put to learning tactics of fighting from Dragon back, when to use his 'Far Sight' and when to lean or bend forward as Howudino spun or dived seemingly without a pattern, it was not until he had time to think things over after training that Kashin saw the reason for most of the sudden manoeuvres, he was able to look back and then see where and how the Browns reacted to the tactics that he was able to piece it all together.

There had been twenty Browns in the air with them, he was told that tomorrow he would be alone with Howudino and they would have the twenty Browns attack them in unison, Kashin, he was told, would have to get used to being the main focus of mass attacks by enemy Dragons.

While he would always have a number of Browns as an escort, in the midst of battle it was always possible to get separated from the escort and he would have to fight alone until help came, the fact that Howudino was a huge Dragon, even by Golden Royals standards, would go a long way to keeping him safe in battle.

When the first day of training came to an end just before dusk, the two boys were taken to the big hall for supper, Kashin was told that after supper he would be taken by one of the Messadine to a special cave deep under the Weir, there he would be taught how to use his Dragon Magic, Kashin was disappointed when he was told that Seb would be unable to join them, Seb's Magic would be limited to the Weir whereas Kashin had to be able to use his in Battle.

Late in the evening, a very tired Kashin made his way to the Royal bedchamber, Seb was sitting at a table reading from the lessons earlier in the day, at the entrance of Kashin, Seb sat up, turned and gave his lover a broad smile, the accompanying twitch of the eyebrows and quick glance at their bed told Kashin what Seb had in mind and, as tired as he was from his first day as Prince of Tallas Weir, he was not too tired to take up the offer being suggested by Seb.

Twice during that night, the aura power went through the Weir before all was quiet once again and everyone could settle back to sleep the night away before another busy day started tomorrow.

For the next month both boys worked hard at the schooling and the other tasks they had to contend with, by the end of the month they were both much more used to learning and training, their physical powers increased with each day, Seb had become very proficient with his rapier and Kashin now had a store of Magical knowledge that would keep him safe in any furious battle.

Tallas Weir had become used to the sudden charge of Magical Aura at night, all smiled and looked towards where the bedroom of the Prince of Riders and his Consort slept, the boys were certainly busy and it all went to prove that Tallas Weir was finally on the right footing, it was much stronger and every body went about their business with a new lift in their steps.

The hardest part for Kashin were the never ending meetings with the various department heads, if Kashin found it a little boring, Seb was right in his element as it turned out, he was almost a born beaurocrat and would often see something everyone else had missed, it also reinforced Kashin's standing in that his decisions were nearly always proved correct, only if he occasionally ignored Seb's advice did little things not turn out right, fortunately that was very rare as Seb's advice usually proved to be right in most things and Kashin did not want to go against him, he was too much in love with the boy of his dreams.

It was another month before things took a turn for the worst, a report came in that a large force of Dragons from the land of Stark were making ready for war, there was little doubt who their target would be, it had been the same one for the last hundred years, the attraction of a live Volcano was always too much to ignore by any Dragon clan, the fact that many had tried and failed to take Tallas Weir only made them more determined to do so.

Kashin asked Howudino how they knew there was going to be an attack against them, Howudino replied.

"It is very simple, the Messadine, they have friends and family in all the other Islands, it is because of our never ending supply of the yellow powder from the Volcano, which is one of their most valuable sweet foods, that we are able to hold the loyalty of the Messadine far and wide, it is another reason why we are easily able to defend our Weir, we have prior warning of any attacks and can make the plans needed for our defence well before the enemy get here."

"When do you think they will attack?"

"The reports say it will take them ten days to get ready, it will then be only a matter of their flying time for them to get here, from Stark it will be half a day, I think they will leave Stark during the night so they arrive here early at dawn."

"What should we do now?"

"Between now and then you should plan your battle order, you have enough training now in tactics to know how we fight, you set the plan and let the others know you are truly a Prince of Riders and of the Tallas Weir."

"Me! What do I know; I have never fought a battle like this or any other battle come to think of it, what if I make a mistake and Dragons and Riders die because of me?"

"Some may die no matter what you plan but, remember this, you have all the training to make up tactics for us but, no tactics work well after the first contact with the enemy, the secret is to be able to change plans in the middle of a battle to get an advantage, things happen very fast and you will need to adapt to what is going on."

"I'm really not sure I can do this, I don't want to be responsible for any of the Dragons or Riders being killed."

"Unfortunately Prince of Riders, it is one of the hard parts of being the ruler of a Weir, it is not easy but for the sake of the Weir you must set out your plans to defend the Weir and its inhabitants, that is why you are the Prince of Tallas Weir."

"But you are the Royal Dragon, you know everything, you should be doing all this, remember I am just a third son of a cobbler."

"No, Kashin the Rider, you are not a cobblers son, you are the Prince and Rider of the Royal Dragon, you have all the training you will ever need to make this happen, you have your Consort, talk with him tonight and see what he says, he will stand by you no matter what."

Kashin sat and thought it all over, he knew Howudino was right but he had never been in this sort of position before, he still felt out of his depth, even though he had had hours of tactical training by the many Messadine teachers that the weir made available for him.

Kashin finally decided to talk with Seb, he knew that his lover would be by his side in any decision he made but he did need another perspective, to go into battle for the first time was scary enough, for it to be based on his plan was terrifying, the added pressure of being in charge of the mass of fighting Dragons was another pressure that caused only more doubts in his own mind.

Seb saw instantly that his boyfriend was in a quandary when he entered their sleeping quarters, Seb rushed to Kashin's side and wrapped him in his arms to reassure him that all would be well, Kashin set about explaining what his worry was, to make things a little less tense, Seb produced a board game they both liked to play in the rare times they had to take it easy.

The game was played on a round board carved from wood, it was divided up into twenty sections in the shape of thin triangles spreading out from the centre, the object was to get your ten stone counters from the outside edge to the centre where you would stack them into one pile, at the same time you had to stop your opponent from getting his there, if he did then all of yours would have to go back to the start position, it was well known that good players could keep a single game going for days, if not weeks.

The play order was directed by the throw of a single numbered dice, that is too say there were only ones and twos on the special dice, you could also use some of the counters to block the movements of the opponent, or make moves to build up to three counters on one section, there were many tactics involved in the game and it was not always the fastest player that won.

As the two boys played on and time passed, Kashin began to relax more and more as he got fully involved in their game, after a couple of hours play, something in Kashin's head struck a chord, stopping his play immediately, he sent a question to Howudino.

"Howudino, what are the usual tactics of the enemy, do they have set patterns of attack and defence or is it just a free for all?"

"There are some set patterns but usually there is just a free for all once the enemy is sighted, it would be better to talk with the tactical leader of the Messadine, he would know more than I about past battles."

"Thank you, I'll do that."

Kashin stopped the game as his mind began to race with new possibilities, perhaps, if he could use the tactics to play Jessup in the upcoming battle, they may win it after all, Kashin set about asking for the Tactical Teacher, it took only minutes and the small older figure of the Teacher was knocking on their door, at Kashin's invitation the small Messadine entered and bowed to the two boys.

"What is your command My Prince?"

"Pleaser sit with us, Ghoram, I have some questions about the upcoming battle and the tactics I should use."

"Thank you My Prince, but during a battle there are very few tactics, usually both sides line up opposite each other and then all attack en-mass, it then becomes a free for all and the fastest and strongest usually prevail."

"I see, but why can't we change the tactics, if I may ask you this, who would have the superior numbers, how have they formed up over the last hundred years, I understand we have size and strength on our side, but what if we could cut down on the number of losses by using new tactics that would surprise the enemy and give us the win without big losses?"

"I see My Prince you have been giving this great thought, for centuries there has been no real tactics set out, each of the armies would line up opposite each other, there would be some small groups out in front as first attack forces which would try to break up the formations of the enemy, many of these would turn into skirmishes while the main forces would clash head on, it was then up too the fastest and strongest to prevail, it would usually end in great losses for both sides, our main advantage is in the fact we can fight longer than the enemy can before they have to replenish their fire."

Ghoram paused to gather his breath before continuing.

"The formations are normally set for all battles, at the fore front will be a number of small groups numbering about ten Dragons, they try to get in small attacks to break up the larger formations, then the main formation will attack as one single unit once the enemy has been disrupted, there is little planned offence or defence in either side."

"I see; where are the battles usually fought?"

"We usually meet them out over open plains of the open sea where there is plenty of space to manoeuvre, why do you ask My Prince?"

"I think we should let them come closer to the mountains, we could make more use of the high peaks and deep valleys and, if there were good cloud cover on the day we would also have an advantage, I must think on this a little more, my sincere thanks for your help Teacher Ghoram, you have set my mind at rest, in the morning I will reveal our plan of defence to the Weir."

Ghoram bowed again, gave the two boys a bright smile and left their rooms, it was just in time for dinner and now both boys were starting to feel their stomachs complain, Kashin took Seb by the hand and they both walked towards the large hall where dinner was being laid out, the Dragon riders were all there waiting for their appearance.

Once the two boys were seated, all the other Riders sat and began to eat and drink, as usual the mead flowed freely and the uproar only grew the longer dinner went on, before it got to rowdy, Kashin stood up and the hall became silent as he raised his hands.

"Dragons and Riders of Tallas Weir, as you all know we have an attack approaching our shores, I have been talking with the tactical Teacher of the Messadine and have decided it is time for new tactics, to that end, first thing tomorrow morning all will assemble in the great yard for practice in the new tactics, I would also like the Lady Bronzes to be present but only those not rearing younglings or watching over eggs, thank you."

Kashin sat back down as a hum of near excitement ran through the Weir, it was unusual for new tactics but, too ask for females as well was something really new, every Dragon and Rider knew you never put Females in the way of harm, it was also a rule of war that Females were not to be harmed in any way, they were after all part of the reason for attacking a Weir, with the new blood of captured Females a Weir could become stronger and the capture of Tallas Females would be an over whelming victory for any Weir.

With the order for an early start to the morning, dinner soon broke up and the planned late night carousing was cancelled, the new Prince had already shown he was going to take his position in the Weir very seriously, their safety now lay in the hands of an untried prince.

Early next morning Kashin and Seb walked out onto the top of the stone steps leading down to the great yard, they were both dressed in their full armour, the Riders were all lined up in ranks at the centre of the great yard with every Dragon ranged around the outside, the forty or so Females were lined up in a single row at the bottom of the steps, Kashin paused to bow to the line of Females and then, hand in hand with Seb he walked down to ground level.

Kashin stopped on all but the last step, the great yard was silent as he looked around at the assembled troops.

"Dragons and Riders of Tallas Weir, I have just received more information on the approaching enemy, they will be here in four days, they number close to seven hundred, it appears that Prince Kordon, Prince Grevlar and Prince Mastik have joined forces and we are facing a major battle, it is very important that we get the new tactics working before they arrive."

Kashin paused while the new information was circulated among the three hundred or so Dragons and Riders, they had never been so outnumbered and the thought of Weirs joining together to take their Weir was a new twist.

"The Lady Bronzes will be our ears and eyes, they are not to get involved with any form of battle, we do not want any of them injured, if there is any sign of danger to one of the Lady Dragons then she must flee and leave the fighting up to those of us who are trained for it. Now as you know we are vastly outnumbered therefore we must make full use of our ground and mountains, the Prince of Dragons has told me that with a little work, he and I can change the weather pattern for the local area, to this end, the day they arrive to attack there will be heavy clouds and some rain showers."

Kashin paused again while his troops looked at each other as though trying to guess what he had in mind.

"The Lady Bronzes will be spread out over our Island but mainly in the direction the enemy are trying to advance, they will give us the positions and makeup of the forces although I suspect it will be as it has been for the last twenty battles, to this end we will be training small groups of three to act as scout units, you will attack their front lines as they come in, I have seen that they usually make them up of about ten Dragons, you will go in quick take as many as you can then disappear into the clouds again, do not try to make along fight of it, you must go in and out as quickly as you can, if you only take out one Dragon it will be enough, you keep up this hit and run tactic as long as you can, do not go anywhere near the main battle group, if they come after you then go back into the clouds and change direction."

Again Kashin pause while the murmuring was going on among those below.

"Our main force will stay hidden both below in the deepest valleys and high above the clouds, we will let them pass below us, our first attack must be made swiftly and pass right through the middle of their ranks and into the valleys below, our main force will be broken up into three sections, the first will drive through the centre, the second will drive through the leading lines and the third will drive through the rear lines, again, do not stop to fight a long battle, use the hit and run techniques, once down in the valleys, fly out away from the battle area and regain height, once you are all there then repeat the strategy, if we keep up the hit and run technique then they will soon break ranks to look for us, it is then that the smaller groups of three will again go in and snipe at the smaller forces, if we all stay as a cohesive unit we can defeat them with fewer losses than a frontal assault."

Kashin stopped again as the voices of those in the great Yard began to discuss the new tactics, it was not the way that they were used to fighting but, Kashin was their Prince and they had to follow his commands, when they had quietened down a little, Kashin continued.

"All Riders will wear a red surplus over their armour, the Messadine are making them as we speak, this way we will easily know friend from foe, my Consort, Prince Sebastiano along with ten Browns will guard and defend the doorway to the Weir, I have been told the enemy will use at least seven advance units, we will have ten units of three to meet them, each is to be headed by an officer Rider, the three main attack groups will be lead by myself and two of the Generals, we will take the first section through the centre, General Albussi will take the second section through the front and General Dargoss will take the rear attack, each main attack will not start until the one before it has disappeared into the mists in the valley, the enemy should still be in disarray after the sudden attach and will be looking to the centre for the next drive.

Once in the mist make to the North or South as quickly as you can and then return to the heights above the clouds, we will the repeat the attacks, if all goes well we should cause a lot of turmoil in their ranks, if the small units find they have routed their advance units then they can join with the main armies, the aim is to distract and harry the enemy until they are either confused or we have shortened their numbers enough to make a last mass drive into them and finish the battle in one final stroke, Dragons and Riders, are there any questions?"

A Rider at the front of the ranks spoke up.

"My Prince, how do we divide up our forces?"

"We are going to do that now, those with the most battle experience will be in the ten smaller groups, we want the best fighters for the hit and run units, the Lady Dragons will take station out over the sea and across the plains to watch the direction of the enemy, we will let them come over the plains without fighting, when they get to the mountains and valleys they will find them covered in cloud and mist, it is from their we will strike, remember, hit and run, do not stand and fight in one place, for the rest of today and tomorrow we will practice those techniques until you are all comfortable with the new system."

There were no more questions and Howudino and Kashin along with the two generals got down to making up the special units as well as forming the main attack groups, it was close to lunch time before they had it all settled, it was then on to practicing the new manoeuvres, all that long afternoon and well into the dusk of the second day the Dragons and Riders practiced relentlessly, by the end of the second day they were becoming a well oiled army, the small units would appear, practice a short fight and disappear, the larger units would take turns being the enemy ranks while the others took turns driving through them at speed and then disappearing below the 'enemy' before reappearing high above once again, Kashin's army was becoming a fast and effective guerrilla army.

On the morning of the third day alarming news arrived, somehow the enemy had made better time than at first thought, they would arrive over the coast in the early hours of the next day, Kashin gave the order for the forty or so Females to take wing to the coast and too watch all approaches to the Weir, for the rest of the Brown Dragons and Riders, there was just time to make a last practice then check all their weapons and saddles, by now all the Riders were dressed in their new red surplus that the Messadine had made for them, only Kashin in his bright golden armour was not wearing one.

Late that night, Kashin mounted Howudino and they took to the air one more time before the battle, flying high to the top edge of the volcano, both settled down on the sharp ridge, it was time for Howudino to teach Kashin how to summon up the weather gods, with the power of their combined magic, the valleys soon became covered in a thick pea soup mist that hung barely ten metres above the ground, high above them the heavy thunder clouds were roiling all over the mountain tops, small squalls of rain dotted the mountains as they were blown through with the wind, their battle ground was now set, the morning would tell the tale of win or lose.

When Kashin returned to his bedroom, it was late and Seb was now in their bed waiting nakedly for his lover to return to him, quickly Kashin stripped his armour and clothes and slid into bed next to the warm body of his loving Consort, once settled on his back, Kashin reached for Seb and pulled the warm body on top of his own, their smooth skins sliding against each other as their boyhoods took over what was natural for young teens.

Kashin wrapped his arms around Seb's back while Seb slid his own arms under Kashin's shoulders and hugged him close, as their lips gently touched and their eyes glowed with the love for each other, the final preparations for the battle hit Kashin and he sighed as his eyes grew heavy as the relaxing warm hands of Seb went to work on his tired muscles.

Kashin was feeling so relaxed until he felt a sharp pain on his chest, his eyes snapped open only to see Seb sitting on him and looking down, Kashin then saw that, while it looked like his Seb, it was not Seb, this figure above him had the same features and the same hair colour but it stopped there, the plains of the face were harder, the eyes were more piercing and the hands were more calloused, what really bought fear into Kashin were the four sharp pointed teeth in Seb's upper and lower jaw, they were showing stark signs of fresh blood.

Kashin tried to call Howudino but there was no answer, he then tried to call on his magic but it was as though he had never had any, in the mean time the leering face of this new Seb was lowering once again to take another bight of his flesh, try as he might, Kashin could not move to defend himself as those sharp pointed teeth grew closer to his bare flesh.

With only inches to spare, Kashin saw a shimmering beside the bed, from out of the very air itself emerged a tall figure, he looked to be about sixteen and was tall and a little thin, long shiny black hair hung down his back over which was strapped a long black bow, in his hands the figure held a long staff of reddish wood topped at each end with some fine silver filigree work, he was dressed in tight fitting clothes that seemed to carry all the colours of the forrest.

With little time left, Kashin looked up at the new figure with a helplessness he should not have felt as his onetime lovers teeth grew closer to tearing his young flesh from his body, Kashin then saw the new figure move with astonishing speed, with a stroke of the staff that would have killed many others, the newcomer smashed it down onto the back of the would be Seb, there was a high pitched scream and then the smell of burning flesh as the monster Seb reared back in pain, Kashin felt another sharp pain but this time on his face, he opened his eyes once more.

Above Kashin and with a terrified look on his young face, sat his Seb, there were tears running freely down the boys cheeks as he grasped tightly to Kashin's shoulders, from his quivering lips Seb spoke to Kashin.

"Oh thank the gods, you're back, I've been so worried, you seemed to leave us and your body turned to something like marble stone, your eyes went all milky white and you stopped breathing, I've sent a message for Howudino and he sent it on to some Elders of the Messadine, they should be here soon, what happened to you?"

With a quavering voice, Kashin tried to make sense of everything that had happened to him, if he had had a dream then it was a lot more realistic than he would ever want another to be, he tried to explain it to Seb as they waited for the Messadine Elders.

Kashin had just finished telling Seb about his dream when he saw the four Elders already standing at the foot of his bed, for the first time he also felt Howudino's calming voice in his head; Kashin was still shivering from the dream when one of the Elders began to talk to him.

"My Prince, you have just had your first experience of the Mastery of Visions, you saw a foretelling of an event that may be coming, we would suggest that after your battle of the morrow is over, you begin your search for the Four, you already have the first part, there are three more yet to come together, I think you will find that your vision is a part of that search, you will know when you have found what you must seek."

"Thank you Elders, but I seriously don't think I will want to have any more of those types of vision ever again."

With little ceremony, the Elders bowed one last time and walked back through the stone walls of his bedroom, with a deep sigh and still a little feeling of fear in his mind, Kashin pulled the fearful Seb down beside him and wrapped the boy in his arms, his eyes grew heavy and his breathing settled as Seb snuggled in closer, they had a battle to fight in the morning and they need as much rest as they could get in the limited time left to them.

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