Into the Strange Lands - A War Dragons Story

Fera stepped carefully around shattered wood totems, keeping her crossbow raised. Out ahead of her was an abandoned town, the second she had found on the Northern Prairies. The last was empty, if a bit eerie, and she meant to ensure this one was too. Might even be a decent spot to spend the night.

Three weeks of travel and still nowhere safe. About a day’s ride behind her was the caravan; her caravan, really. She’d found them early on, refugees just like her fleeing the wars after the Celestial Rift and last year’s eclipse, and she had somehow become a leader of sorts. She didn’t like it. Scouting out some creaking town in the middle of an empty prairie wasn’t wonderful or anything, but it sure beats trying to get a few hundred people all moving in the same direction without fighting too much or doing anything stupid.

She stopped and spat down on the low green grass as she thought of all the disputes she’d broken up, the rowdy caravan meetings she had to shout down, and those few poor souls she’d lost along the way. She moved forward again, gliding soundlessly now towards the closest buildings, wooden and shuttered, which the wind moaned through.

Fera had come to the same conclusion just about everyone had who came this way: something wasn’t right about the Northern Prairies. It wasn’t just how the hairs on your neck raised all the time for no apparent reason, though that didn’t help. For one thing the dragons up here were mostly unknown. She dwelled on that as she got closer to the town, where the scrubby grass gave way to sand and packed dirt. Scholars had been studying dragons for centuries and dragonlords the world over pride themselves on knowing the fiercest and strongest dragons. Yet up here, on these endless empty prairies and parched plains, no one really knew what was out there. She’d spotted one monstrous fellow off in the distance early on when passing through a long patch of desert.

A woman in the caravan claimed that the dragon was called “Gilas” but that was all anyone knew. Fera swept her eyes over the horizon from the edge of the town, seeing if she could see wings off the distance. Wandering, unknown dragons near her or her caravan were no comfort.

Not that anything was much of a comfort up here. The few locals were suspicious and practiced their own customs, though Fera swore there was something mystical about their accent and way of speaking since she caught herself and the others in the caravan talking like the locals on a regular basis. But even the sharp, endless wind up here never felt quite right. It swirled sand at odd angles and created strange eddies on the plains, and often carried the faintest scent of spoiled milk. Fera rolled her shoulders and stepped past a boarded-up building, onto the main street. Some broken wagon wheels, a lone tumbleweed, and the banging of a loose sign, depicting a needle and thread, were all that greeted her. Down at the far end of the double row of wooden buildings, she could see the sun begin to set. Above her the sky was turning from a sheer, endless dome of blue into the purple and yellow swirls of dusk. Fera lowered her crossbow. They would need to sweep through each building first, but it seemed like a mighty fine place for the caravan to–a creak of wood, behind her, to the left. Fera spun around with her crossbow as fast as she ever had or ever would move in her life. Another crossbow greeted her:

For a heartbeat, the two women stared at each other. “Mind pointing that elsewhere?” Fera rasped, her throat suddenly bone-dry.

The woman with the bandana shook her head, very slightly. Her bolt, pointed at Fera’s throat she was pretty sure, did not even twitch.

“Howdy. I reckon we have each other at a disadvantage,” the woman went on, in the distinctive cadence of the Northern Prairies. Fera nodded, using the moment to adjust her sweat-slick grip on her crossbow.

“I’m Fera. Lately of the Glowing Cradle,” she offered up. She’d never been in a standoff before.

“Name’s Dettie,” the woman replied, who with a jangle of spurs took her foot off the empty barrel she’d been casually leaning on, and took a step to her left. Fera paused, uncertain, then also took a step to the right. They stared at each other for another long moment, and Fera realized Dettie had had the sunset in her eyes and that’s why she had moved.

“Hey, you hear that?” Fera asked. Dettie narrowed her eyes and tilted her head like she was about to say something, and that’s when Steelwing swept down the main street.

The enormous dragon floated to a sudden stop right behind Fera, and her shoulders sagged in relief. She had been pretty sure she had just heard the particular whirring of her dragon and it would have been mighty unfortunate if that hadn’t been the case.

“Mind pointing that elsewhere?” she asked again, and this time, carefully and slowly, Dettie put up her crossbow. But she seemed otherwise unbothered.

“Alright. But someone not from around here, with a pet dragon to boot?” Dettie’s voice dripped with suspicion. Fera arched an eyebrow, then glanced around the silent town. “What, you think I did this? I just got here.”

Dettie shrugged. “Been looking into these here disappearing towns. I ain’t dumb enough to throw down with no dragonrider, but if you’re stirring up trouble, I’ll ask ya politely to leave,” she said, touching the brim of her pale pink hat with a nod, a gesture Fera had learned that the locals used for respect.

Fera couldn’t help but smile at Dettie’s brazenness. “I’ve got a caravan of other folks like me, and we’re just looking for somewhere safe to settle. So, really, it’s quite the opposite of disappearing towns,” Fera then paused, another idea coming to mind, “Say, you got any advice for us?”

Dettie removed the sharp bolt and put her little crossbow within her coat, looking thoughtful, and Fera lowered hers to be polite. Behind her, Steelwing hovered, patient and implacable.

“Avoid Deadwinds Pass, good few miles east of here, for starters. The Smoke Jaguar’s prowling ‘round there again. Don’t go into no tunnels or caves or mines you see either, anywhere. There’s–there’s not good things down there. And just keep your eyes open, you know? These parts ain’t the safest; never have been and never will be,” Dettie finished. Around them, the wind picked up. Down the street, Fera could see a saloon door bang open. She watched the darkness of the open doorway for a moment, then turned her gaze back to Dettie.

“That’s mighty nice of you. I’m going to go get my people and we’re going to camp here for the night, if that’s alright. You’re welcome to share some stew with us,” Fera said, as she began to hop up onto Steelwing and then gingerly climb up its back. “We’re real lucky this one took a liking to me,” she called down, feeling briefly self-conscious.

Dettie tipped her hat again and walked over to a rocking chair left in front of what looked like a feed store. She took a seat, stretching her legs out and crossing her spurred boots atop each other, looking the very picture of relaxation. Fera shook her head at the odd folks up here, then she and Steelwing took to the sky.

Nearby was her caravan, and many others were also making the grinding, dangerous trek to the Northern Prairies, fleeing the chaos and war elsewhere on Atlas, not knowing what truly awaited them in the Strange Lands.

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Yes, you are back! I’ve missed reading this

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Who are these ladies? And when can I have them as portraits?!?!!! :heart_eyes::ok_hand:t3:

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Ive missed these :heart_eyes:

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I already want this hopefully it’s a good rider or something

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There’s no new rider they said… but yeah I’d like to have that portrait please without background :sweat_smile: animated

Just wondering, how does that first lady hit anything with that stance of hers?

Magic. Remember… it’s “strange” lands. Lol

Where is the badass man ?

Atlas possibly

they said no new riders this season or atlas season :thinking:

They said no new Atlas seasonal rider. There will be a new rider with the new spell ability. The old riders (Champion Riders) will not have the spell ability added.

I also would like to know where/when these portraits will be available.

She looks like one of the Strangelands’ Season Leaderboard prize portraits. Hmmn :thinking: :face_with_monocle:

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I really hope not unless she’s the one everyone gets!

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Yup. I don’t like her to be in Season’s Leaderboard too. Sigh. But likely she’s falling in there since the portraits from branches are shown already (Inquisitor & that other Joker / Jester looking one, ah I don’t like 'em both :weary:), Champion riders are based on old ones (Grogg, Kayla, Tor), no riders from regular lines for this season & likely from Atlas too. So yeah looks like she’s landing on leaderboards (hope not the top prize lolss).