With nothing but children as far as his eyes could see (without peeking into the viral spectrum as their father would put it) Variola watched the pediatric ward. Sometimes, the guards or lab techs would shoo him away, but he would always come back.

That was part of the whole deal - being a virus meant you could be everywhere all the time. Mutate, and come back later on unnoticed.

He learned that wearing lab coats like Virus kept him from being moved along, more often than not. It also kept him getting embarrassing questions aimed at him. While Virus was in fact almost completely versed in the human body and its ills, his children didn't have the whole benefit of that deal.

"I can try to bring your son's temperature down," Vari told a woman. Before he really got the chance to insert his own brand of badness into the boy's bloodstream however, he noticed that some other bacteria was waging war in him.

So he replaced his own, smallpox virus for them. He was curious to see how the boy's antibodies would fight off something it wasn't prepared for.

But the child's temperature went down, all right.

It would be back. Later.


Variola strode around the Cathair, as though he owned the place. While most of his time was consumed by watching out for the Cathair leaders, always in the back of his mind was a far more important mission.

Just barely after he had arrived at the Braethas Raug sands the first time, there had been a terrible disaster. Opposing creatures and their riders, vicious and terrible, struck the Cathair. While many of the locals were riders themselves, they still had a hard time fighting off the Leviathan and its ilk.

Which left a huge wake of pain, misery, death and destruction behind.

Variola stood in the doorway of the infirmary and helped people in and out. One had a gash the length of his arm bleeding freely, another had bite marks all down her leg. That was the tip of the iceberg - most riders or their dragons had sustained some kind of injury, and those who came in without as much experience usually didn't come out from the fighting at all.

Many dragons and their riders were lost - but worse, many of the candidates were lost as well in a particularly horrific attack. Variola remained in the infirmary for weeks - helping mend the broken bones or soothe the burns on skin blistered by fire breathers.

He would only introduce himself as "Vari" to people in the infirmary, naturally. How they would react if they knew his full name? Well, if they had proper education they would know.

The Raug dragons announced that some of their eggs were ready to hatch - but Vari was quite busy in the infirmary. He was told that while he was needed there (they still considered his 'healer's upbringing' to be important in the hospital wing) there would still be eggs left on the sands, and if a dragon really wanted him, they'd find a way to get to him. It'd happened before, it would surely happen again if need be.

Later, he thought - worried - that some of the dragons suspected something was wrong when two weeks after the war ended, dozens of injured riders began coming down with severe flu like symptoms. There was a rash on one rider that looked worse than the burns she'd had healed. One rider's temperature refused to go below 102 no matter what herbs or ice packs were given to him. Then the blotchy spots appeared...

And Ketrenal was furious. He stormed into the small den that Vari was holed up in for the duration of waiting for his dragon, livid.

Of course, he was nearly incomprehensible with his accent and the anger that drove his speech patterns into a lilting 'seethe'. He let off a string of swearing that would melt a sailor's heart - or burn it to a crisp more likely.

What Vari got out of this first little meeting was "do it again and die!"

"Sir I was chosen to bond with a dragon," Vari said carefully, and while on the other side of his cot from the angry Cathair leader. "And I hope that that event won't be denied to me."

Ketrenal let off another tirade. Vari waited until he was finished, panting, and then nodded his head low as though he understood more than three words out of ten.

"I understand that what I can do is... unusual, sir. But, just as you have walked your path, I must walk mine. If the dragons wish me to be here for them, I will be here. I ... will try and refrain from my... task."

"GOOD!" Ketrenal bellowed, the first sure word that Vari understood. "See'titdonnahoppan agin!" And with that, the leader stormed back out of the den.

Vari stood staring at the still-swinging door, which nearly came off its hinges with the man's anger.

"Father would do ... what?" Vari asked himself. "Stick with his oath? Or ..."

Vari decided that while he wanted to continue playing with the injured and already-sick, he really ought to concentrate more on learning about dragons and flying. That at least would keep him relatively occupied, and out of trouble, until the second hatching.

And after that... Anything goes...



It was a good wait, healthy. At least, healthy for most people around Vari. He did dig himself into the learning mode, and got pretty far along in his study of dragon anatomy and scale/hide cleaning, when the call went out for the hatching's second round. Br'gt, he heard from several Danachians, was what they were calling it. Braethas Raug Group Two. How odd.

Variola had to refrain from dancing in the aisles when so many people were stuffed into the cathair's sands. Many candidates, and huge numbers of visitors...

He caught a glance from Ketrenal, and suddenly went cold in the limbs. The man had murder in his eye, whenever he looked at Vari. So, keep to the plan. Keep to the...

He was so very pale, this dragon who swaggered up casually to Variola. Though his color was announced as copper-rainbow-ice, it was more like white-on-white. A beautiful color. Subtle.

Well hello, he said. Excellent that you made it. I would not like to have to walk all the way to the hospital caverns. I must say I fully approve of your task, and will assist if I am able. Haersarith is yours to command.

Variola grinned and was about to say something when he felt a hard hand on his shoulder. It looked like the jig was up. Kataela didn't know, but Ketrenal had caught him in the act already, and warned with his heavy accent, "Draag'n or' n't, V'ri," he warned low and menacingly, "Y'caause f'rther haarm in m' Catthaair an' y'die." No one else heard. Perhaps they assumed that he was congratulating the young virus.

"N'w g' 'fee' y'r draag'n."

Since he wasn't smiling and wasn't all happy-happy like people expected him to be, the place went kind of hushed, as Vari and Haersarith left the sands together.

"This will be most entertaining..." Vari muttered.

Variola left Danach rather quicker than he expected to. There was talk of another battle - and while he wanted to help out, really, the rest of the leadership of Fionabhainn insisted he leave and head back to whatever hole he'd come from.

Vari didn't pout. In fact he was ready to leave, a while before. His beautiful ice dragon proved that he could certainly impress girls as well as fly with the big boys. Haersarith was ready to fly - mate, with whomever would have them. Now if only they could find a place to do that...