December's chill had hit the little village of Liore hard that winter, a thick blanket of snow covering the dirt roads and open fields, heavy and wet. Families stayed huddled together near their hearths to keep warm as the winds whistled just outside the walls of their small homes. Fathers and sons woke early to dress in their layers of fur for the long trip down the mountain into the city to sell their wares, and bring back food and supplies. The trip was a long one, often filled with slippery roads and viscous, starving creatures. If nature didn't do you in, then the bands of thieves would. Andante was a rather harsh country, but that made the people their tougher, able to survive under such conditions. It was on one such morning that Xanthe awoke to the howling wind, scarlet eyes blinking away the remnants of his sleep. Beside him, wrapped in heavy woollen blankets, slept his Ka'Ellu (Father) and Ka'Ellas (Mother). A slight frown cross the young male's face as he took in his Ka'Ellu's sunken eyes and bony cheeks. The sickness was starting to take hold of him with a stronger grip. It wouldn't be long before the man was as cold as the ice outside. With a soft groan, Xanthe pushed himself to his feet, keeping the blankets wrapped around him to trap the warmth he had accumulated while he slept. He blew his white bangs out of his face irritably as he shuffled to clothes that hung near the hearth, the wooden floor feeling icy beneath his feet. Only when he was near the clothes did he let the blankets fall from his body. He let out a small hiss as the cold air hit his black skin, hurriedly donning the first layer of clothing of lighter linens, followed by layers of warm wool and fur, his boots being pulled on last. No longer required, he draped the extra blankets over his Ka'Ellu, hoping the extra warmth might do him some good, before quickly exiting the house. The door was hurriedly shut behind him to preserve warmth. Every little bit counted in these dark winter months. The snow crunched softly under Xanthe's feet as he made his way over to the storage house, which also held their pack dragon, Bruelle. A smile touched the corner's of his lips as he caught sight of her blue scales, raising a hand to rub her nose gently. "Good Morning Bruelle." He greeted. The dragon gave a soft purr in response, her tail flicking excitedly. "Eath Wo'al, Xanthe. Are we to go down the mountain today?" She asked, her eyes sparkling. The warmth in her voice seemed to reach his core, some of the winter chill that seemed to grip like a vice shedding off. "Yes. Now stop wagging your blooming tail, and let me pack the carts." That earned him playful nudge by the dragon's snout. One hard enough to knock him on his back into the snow, releasing a soft 'oof'. The red eyed glare that Bruelle received did nothing but spur the dragon into laughter, which infected Xanthe a few moments later. He stood and brushed himself off, moving to the rear of Bruelle, hitching the large cart up to the dragon's harness. Liore's economy, as small as the village was, was rather strong; based entirely on the crystals that were grown in the fields. An assortment of crystals, in any colour you could think of. They powered the hearths and machines that the cities used, and the green ones were eaten by the dragons. Nothing in the country was more valuable, yet underpriced, as the crystals. With the boxes loaded on the back of Bruelle, Xanthe opened the barn doors, leading the dragon out into the clod morning. The dragon didn't seem to be affected by the freezing conditions, laying her neck down to allow Xanthe to climb up on to the saddle. Situating himself, and strapping himself in -He had taken a fall off of Bruelle's back before. Broke his shoulder in three different places. Never again- the two began the long journey down the mountain road. The movements of Bruelle's steps rocked him from side to side, the familiar rocking bringing him into a better mood, pulling his mask up over his nose to help keep in warmth. "How fast are you feeling, Bruelle?" He asked, giving her sides a light kick. Bruelle growled, though both understood that it wasn't threatening. "Watch that mouth of yours, boy." Xanthe gave her a friendly pat, and the two fell into a comfortable silence. It was safer that way. Bruelle would be able to hear if anything was sneaking up on them easier if they didn't talk. It was one of the wonderful advantages to having a pack dragon; wonderful hearing. While Bruelle's ears were focused on the surroundings, her eyes needed to stay focused on the mountain road to avoid slipping and dropping them both off the edge of a cliff. They might have been able to survive if Xanthe could release the cart quick enough. So Xanthe's eyes were watching their surroundings, red irises trained to catch the slightest of movements. His head swivelled, making sure he could see almost all of the area around them.