It was night in the frozen wastelands and the wind flapped against the skins of the tents with a blind fury. Outside, too large and proud to even attempt to fit in such a shelter, the dragon relied on her tough scales and inner fire to remain warm.

To her mild (and, of course, invisible) surprise, when she settled to rest, none other than Caim emerged from the tent, hand on sword. She had come to realise that it was more or less affixed to his hand by a sealing spell of its own, and had long since settled into the thought that he slept with the hilt under his pillow or something akin. Such strange creatures, these humans, so fickle – so helpless without their false claws.

Caim had stood silently before her and then, finally permitting him to rest beside her, the dragon had tented a wing around him, if only because she didn't wish to feel the foolish creature's cold.

Nothing was said – for they were within the other's head at all times, regardless of wont. It was no help, the dragon mused to herself, that she had taken the young man's voice as her fee. A meagre price, she maintained, for having one such as she as a guardian – and for a life.

Her pride would not allow her to consider that she, too, would be dead without the man. Rather death than dishonour, naturally – and she, of course, could have done far worse. Far worse indeed. At least her partner had some renown – renown for blood-lust, ruthlessness, and insatiable vengeance, yes, but renown it was. A bestial part of her found this quite fitting. 'Twas only a shame that he were not a dragon, for he could have made a fine companion if not for his fragile flesh and wingless back.

After some time engrossed in her thoughts, she noticed him gazing up at the clouded sky with 'that look' again. His hand was on the hilt of his sword as usual, its tip burrowing into the frozen earth as he absently twisted the blade.

Only for the kill. Sleep was an obstacle, humans were an obstacle. He was ploughing through a maze of spite and sorrow in which there was no goal. Should he have found one, he would have turned his back, for he would never rest until the Empire lay as ashes below his feet. Caim was broken, twisted, purposeless, and in it, the strongest human that the dragon had ever known.

He would never rest until he had destroyed the very reason he continued to exist: his all consuming hate.

Knowing all too well the wyrd of the avenger whose purpose was fulfilled, the dragon lifted her horned head.

"Caim," she addressed him quietly. The noise was a hiss, inhuman, yet not so alien that any human would dare mistake her for a male; the voice of a feral warrioress. "Caim."

The man turned to look at her with an unamused question in his eyes. Expelling a gust of warm air in a world-weary sigh, the dragon warned him thus:

"You must not live only for slaughter, Caim."

He was asleep, and she dozing, when that other human, Furiae, flounced past. Pah! Pity the humans, and their need to bind their own to keep back what they feared. Pity the girl, and her inability to face what the dragon knew. Pity that other man, more, for this thing called 'love' he pursued her for.

Not wishing for the woman to go past unscolded, the dragon snorted a small spray of sparks and stared at her as she passed by.

"There is no need for jealousy, my dear. The Goddess and I are merely outside for some fresh air." the Hierarch, always there to protect her, chuckled amiably at her irritation.

"Hold your tongue! A mere human would never understand the feelings we dragons have; we do not care for your foolish kin. It is merely that Caim is mine, I have his voice, after all. He is my pact partner, but he is a mere human."

Verdelet shook his head in regret and made to turn away, not wishing to wound the dragon's pride. Having dealt with his own for so long, he knew how they thought to an extent, though this dragon never failed to intrigue him. However, now was not the time for pursuing whims.

"Our lives are tied together. He hurts himself enough without the interference of his supposed allies, Verdelet. I would have died rather than seen my pact partner petrified." the dragon growled after him, not to be bested by a mortal. Disrupted, Caim sloped off to catch his rest elsewhere. So small was he that the dragon did not acknowledge his passing.

"So would I, but then, I have a duty to the Goddess to uphold. As you have a duty to the Union. Now please. You are exciting Arioch." Verdelet answered calmly before casting his milky gaze to a tent from which shrill laughter was stabbing in a manic staccato.

With that, he headed away to calm the madwoman before caused herself -or others - injury. Always the mediator, he thought to himself. But what right had he to preach?

Realising her own misstep, the dragon saved face and decided that chasing this human further was below her. With her dignity intact, she watched the back of the Hierarch's marked skull bob away then turned to shuffle and form a comfortable crater in the thick ice.

She suddenly noticed that she lacked the little human against her scales now, yet somehow, that displeased her. With another reptilian sigh she remembered her warning, and knew in her fiery heart that it would forever go unheeded. Not deterred by her doubts, however, she closed her golden eyes and lay her great head down to rest.

By morning, the ice would be a miniature spring below her girth.