Tarnet was not one of Riktor's usual haunts. Its main exports of beer, ale, spirits and wine were too heavy for a dragon to carry in quantities large enough to be remotely profitable, and most of the city's post went north across the lake by boat or south with their trade caravans. Only high-priority letters brought him to the city for business reasons - more commonly, it was simply a stopover between Coridia and his 'home' city of Riverport.
Today, Riktor's harness was devoid of goods or letters as he made his way south, so nothing was splashed or jostled loose as he drew his hind feet over the surface of the lake. Holding his tail out directly behind him to steady himself, he wrested a large pike from the water. The fish thrashed and struggled, but the crushing twist of Riktor's feet and two piercing sickle-talons quickly stilled it. He rose quickly, the beats of his wings leaving a wake in the water below until he steadied out at about sixty feet above, well out of the way of any oncoming boats.
Pike was a nobleman's fish, he had been informed, valued for its mild, tender meat and ferocious attitude. Perhaps it was only ferocious to those who had to use lines and nets to catch their fish, he thought, flexing his talons around his lifeless catch. Carefully so as not to drop his prize, he wrapped his hands around it, only releasing his hind feet when certain he had a tight grip on the blood- and water-slick scales. Digging his short, barely-sharp front claws into the flesh, he set his sights on the shore around Tarnet to eat.
A dragon alighting outside the gates of a major city would usually lead to the rallying of guards and panic among the populace, but the small, sleek Riktor was at least not unfamiliar in the area. People still clutched their knives closer to them as they watched him land, hind legs first to take the impact, but nobody raised a hue and cry. Riktor could recognise people from beyond the city as they stared, looking between him and the mostly unperturbed locals before deciding that if nobody else was panicking, maybe they shouldn't, either.
Ignoring the stares that had become so passé after a century of living among the civilised peoples of Rivyn, Riktor lay his catch on the cobbled road, away from the grass that lined it. He drew back his head and reached for the fire in his belly, then blew a gout of flame onto the exposed side of his fish. In his head he counted the seconds he knew pike took to cook to his liking, even as the previously calm, if wary, people darted back and placed themselves between Riktor and their children. Once he could smell that the flesh was nicely grilled, he turned the fish over and repeated the process on the opposite side, alarming the populace all over again after they had convinced themselves that the display of dragonfire was over.
The cobbles were blackened except for a fish-shaped silhouette, but Riktor didn't care. He lifted his pike and inspected it - the fins were nothing more than scorched charcoal, so he flicked them off with a claw, but from the smell and the colour of the meat where several scales had flaked off, his meal was cooked. "Sorry!" he said to the travellers, traders and street food vendors, then took his lunch off to the strand to eat in relative peace.
The wall of Tarnet didn't extend onto the beach, for obvious reasons, so among the piers and jetties Riktor was technically inside the city. He looked out onto the docks with vague curiosity, following the comings and goings of boats and their cargo with his eyes. He found himself a spot away from the bulk of traffic, and turned his attention to the still-warm pike. Tearing through the meat with his teeth, he didn't take time to savour it - every minute he spent not working was a minute he wasn't earning his keep. A little part of his mind told him that he really ought to be eating on the wing, but a much larger part reminded him what eating while moving did to his stomach.
Past the scent of grilled fish, something else caught his nose, something oddly familiar. To begin with he brushed it off, more interested in filling his belly and moving on than whatever peculiarities Tarnet had to offer. But the smell persisted, and, halfway through his fish, it began to bother him. Taking the remainder of his meal in his teeth after licking the blood from his claws, Riktor made his cautious way into the city.
People on the streets gave way to him, one or two with whom he had done business calling out their salutations, to which Riktor could only mumble a reply. The smell of his pike filled his nostrils, but as walked through the streets, nose held high to test the air, he knew he was drawing closer. Turning onto another winding street, this one narrower than the major arteries he had kept to so far, he saw the source of the scent he'd been following.
It had been decades since Riktor had seen another dragon.
Yes, this one was concealing herself in the skin of a half-elf - good for her, Riktor though with the slightest tinge of bitterness - but the smell of her, though cut through with her humanoid scent, was as unmistakeably dragon as Riktor's own. He lowered his head to look straight at her, digging his teeth more firmly into his fish as he felt the instinct to protect his kill. Don't be rude, he told himself, and even as he fought to keep his nose from wrinkling he set his catch down in front of the shapeshifted stranger. It wouldn't do to lose a chance at meeting another of his own kind.