He was quite sturdy now and he had learned much…about
these beings and about his place with them. He could now easily tap into the great consciousness of his own kind which held
wisdom reaching back thousands of generations, across time and place and plane. He was proficient enough in his abilities
that he could have revealed himself anytime but he hung back, sensing that she was not, that they were not, ready. That was
fine. For a while longer, he would content himself with exploring this place unseen and unnoticed; the creatures here who
occasionally sensed his presence and turned quickly, expecting to find someone with them, only
ever saw the barest flicker of sparkling shimmers just beyond their field of vision, a mild unsettled aspect in the air. They
thought he was just a trick of the light and their own imaginations. That was fine, too. It was perfectly possible that the
wise course of action was to only ever permit himself to be seen by those specifically under his vigilance. Either way, any
extra time he allowed simply gave him extra opportunity to study his situation, and learn more.
His new mistress was more than acceptable to him. He did not understand the name she had bestowed upon him –
Astro - but it seemed to bring her pleasure. She was strong-willed and could be uncompromising, but she was also kind and
gentle and there was a sweetness about her that she frequently kept to herself or showed only to her mate. He knew all this
by the colors of her emotions and also by her scent. She visited him in his part of their cave nearly every day and she had
from the beginning adopted the habit of scratching his ears when she passed in front of him. He realized she believed the
simple gesture was no more than a whimsical habit, a good luck charm, a little act of fanciful deference that she performed
to give herself amusement and assurance.
She needed both sometimes for there were days when she felt fears and concerns for the hatchlings she carried
no matter how often she told herself that all would be well. He knew that ‘hatchling’ was not the correct term
for them in her language, but it was the only way he could think of them from his own scope of knowledge. He knew they would
not literally hatch, but he assumed the end result would be the same: little helpless beings who would require guidance and
care. He knew that even when they had both grown up and grown old, he would still call them hatchlings. He knew also that
generations from now when he, himself, had long since become the much beloved totem of the clan that would proceed from the
mistress and her mate, the term hatchling would be employed to designate the youngest members of the clan as an affectionate
nickname. So he continued to think of them as hatchlings.
Her worries were not usually based on anything specific, but rather general fears for their future and their
safety in this odd, unnatural cave structure. He would have liked to communicate to her that they would be healthy and, for
their species, long-lived, as she would also be with her mate; that eventually they would find what they now sought and no
longer have to live in this strange colorless world…but he knew this species was not allowed to know their own destiny.
These creatures were still far too fragile in their evolution, too insensible of other types of existence and differing life
forms to properly use such information.
The hatchlings were, in fact, already very healthy. Inside their mother, they could communicate with each other
and he could communicate with them when he chose. This special meeting of minds was not something the hatchlings would remember
after their births, but the ability to connect with each other and with him was something they would retain and use till the
day they moved on to their next existence.
The hatchlings had been sired by the mistress’ current mate, and he knew that till the end of their present
days, these two would remain mates. Indeed, in the time to follow, they would likely be mates again as they had been before,
several times, in their pasts. They seemed to possess no sense or memory of this which he thought was a shame. Awareness of
their pasts might have given them comfort during all the times before and all the times still to come when their many fears
for each other’s security would threaten to consume them. This information, too, he would not give them; they would
eventually learn it for themselves or not. His job was to guard, as had been the job for so many of his kind throughout the
universe, throughout time and space. He would guard the mistress, his name-giver, as long as she lived. By virtue of blood
bond, he would also guard her hatchlings as long as they lived, and by virtue of their blood bond to their sire, he would
likewise guard her mate. And so on. And so on until the end of their line.
He was glad the mate had not been his name-giver. The natural moodiness and edginess of the mate made him difficult
to relax around. To have the mate as master would have been like a constant itch beneath one of his scales. But the mate was
not unkind. He was also brave and loyal and he was devoted to the mistress and to the hatchlings. If need be, he would willingly
sacrifice his own life force to save any of the three of them. For those reasons, too, he would be protected.
Astro was uncertain of their origins but the mate seemed to come from a different place than the mistress. His
colors were very different and so was his scent. The mistress, unless she was severely troubled, sent out clear, calm blues
and greens. At times she smelled anxious or uneasy, as when she worried about the future; but often she smelled tranquil and
happy. She was especially happy with her hatchlings and also with her mate.
Her mate, conversely, was troubled about something nearly all the time. On occasion he seemed more akin to a
caged dragon than his fellow humans. Astro had thought more than once, that if this species possessed the ability, the mate
could have fairly easily been taught to breathe fire just as he himself could. The mate sent out harsh reds and oranges, blistering
yellows, and sometimes inky blackness. Frequently, the mate’s scent was tense, sporadically angry. If any of these colors
or scents had been directed toward the mistress, something would have had to be done, but this was hardly ever the case, and
when it did occur, it was short-lived and involved no danger to her. In fact, once the mate got near the mistress, the harshness
of his colors nearly always began to fade to more subtle ochers and browns. As soon as she touched him, her cool blues and
greens reached out into his reds and slowly overcame his innate fieriness. He stopped smelling quite so restless and his scent
became much more serene. The mate drew great support and comfort from touching the mistress, so Astro tried to overlook the
annoying tempestuousness of his soul.
At this hour, the mistress was once again seated in the vehicle that was his conduit into her world. Very soon,
his strength would increase enough so that he would no longer need this particular portal to stay on their plane; he would
be able to take up residence in any talisman he chose and exit any talisman he chose whenever he desired…but the chair
was convenient. It kept him in the cave section where he had the most solitude and once the hatchlings arrived, it would be
the place where his watchfulness was most needed.
Her scent was peaceful, with softly swirling blues and whites surrounding her. In front of her was a small table
and on that sat the box with the window. There were similar boxes all over the white cave system, apparently objects of this
species’ presumed technology. It puzzled him for the window in the box was not a window to the outside or even a window
to another plane. It did not seem to be a box of magic; there were no tendrils of enchantment coming from it, though these
creatures did seem to sometimes employ it as a doorway of communication. Sometimes it contained pictures, but more often just
many, many lines of the written form of their language. His mistress spent much
time drumming unrythmically upon it with her fingers, but spent equal time reading the strange words. Perhaps she was a bard
for her people in addition to being their potionmonger. He did not as yet understand.
Every so often one of the hatchlings moved gently inside her and each time, it made her smile and tinged her
colors with a beautiful rosy hue of quiet joy. The hatchlings were currently debating the merits of their coming lives. They
were hoping for some excitement as their current daily activity was dreadfully boring; safe and warm, with lots of opportunities
for cozy naps, but boring.
The mate would soon be arriving at their home cave. He had just left his table in his other space where he spent
a lot time sitting and staring and ordering others about. Sometimes he shouted. Many days he questioned his existence and
abilities. Most of the time, he seemed to simply hope for the best and silently wish for all those in this place to survive
Out of the mistress’ vision, Astro stretched himself and flicked his tail and prepared for evening watch.
Once her mate arrived, she would spend the next several hours in his company. They would eat and then, most likely, they would
engage in their mating ritual…or they might engage in that prior to eating. Astro had noticed that they seemed to mate
with frequency, which surprised him given the uninteresting nature of their behavior. He had observed them in the practice
more than once and found it unbearably dull each time…no biting or clawing, no roaring and never once did her mate attempt
to subdue some of her thrashing movements by clamping his teeth onto her neck.
Why they even bothered to continue with such bland activities he failed to understand, especially since they had successfully
created their offspring and now only had to await their arrival.
Still, he had to admit they both became quite at ease afterwards and extremely relaxed, too. These feelings,
he knew, were of importance and would be of even greater import in the coming days. For something was stirring in the deep
underground, in the ancient lava tubes of this moon; something dark and nasty. These creatures, so ignorant and immature in
the use of their own senses, were as yet unaware of it; but it was there. He had gone investigating for it just yesterday,
but it had eluded his discovery. He could smell it, he could feel it in his wingtips; a disturbance that should not be here,
but it was. It was coming nearer every hour and once released from its confinement, it was going to wreak destruction without
and within these artificial walls. Astro would protect his charges as was his responsibility; how many others of their kind
he would be able to protect he could not just now foresee.
Hours from now, while his mistress and her mate rested, he would do some further investigation. Perhaps he could
yet catch it out before it reached its most dangerous level.