“Left at the next junction! No, not that left, the other left!”
“Relax, it’s fine. Aschefall knows where to go.”
A train hurtles past, throwing steam in the eyes of unfortunate dragons too close to the tracks. The train is a shiny black, looking brand new at a glance. A closer look, if possible, reveals stains along the wheels and pistons, betraying that this train is not, in fact, new to the Ashfall Waste. On the front of the engine, emblazoned in a fiery orange, are the numbers 812. Along the side, in a matching flame colour, the name “ASCHEFALL”.
This is the Ashfall Express.
The Ashfall Express is a steam train that runs along the railways of the Ashfall Waste, carrying supplies from across the territory to the Great Furnace and other forges that pay well enough. Their fees aren’t cheap, but they have a reputation of good service and unmatched travel times. If time is of the essence, then the Ashfall Express is the service to use. They’ll carry anything, for the right price. Metal, tools, even completed pieces to buyers (although this service costs more).
If enough money is paid they may even be persuaded to carry passengers. None of their carriages are designed for live cargo, so the journey may not be the luxury other services might offer in that regard, but the speed is an allure for the most desperate of dragons.
In terms of conflict, they remain strictly neutral. To them, everyone is equal so long as they pay their dues and they refuse to get involved in spats, large or small. Despite being only a small crew, they are more than capable of holding their own if someone takes offence at them aiding an enemy. By now, most of the best known forges in the Ashfall Waste know better than to provoke them, lest they lose the right to use them.
The Clan Edit
Sometimes, eyewitnesses report seeing a large black shape, with colouring identical to the train itself. It appears to be a guardian, more or less, but surely such a large dragon would not manage to vanish so entirely in the blink of an eye? This is Aschefall, the train herself. A sentient technology, she appears as and when she chooses to her crew, taking on the form of a guardian when she does so. It’s an apt form, as the way she treats her crew is much the same as how a guardian treats their Charge.
In the cab, a tundra can be seen leaning on a shovel, keeping an eye on the fire that powers the engine. This is Flamme, one of the two founders of the service. Although a tundra with plenty of fur to match, being born to the Fire flight his fur has a quality of fireproofing; what looks like singed fur is actually the soot he can never be quite bothered to clear off. He’s never been seen outside of the cab, and theories run rampant that he even sleeps there. Maybe be does.
Perched on top of the engine, screeching down at Flamme (who shrugs it off with no apparent care), is a mirror. This is Kohle, the second founder of the service. Also born to the Fire flight, she is one of the few dragons that can safely perch up there without getting burnt. She is also one of the few dragons permitted up there in the first place, as the conductor of the service. Nothing happens without her say-so, and she is fiercely protective of her pack.
At first glance the spiral is easily missed, hidden behind the furred bulk of Flamme and mostly coiled up near the fire. This is Klinge, and he is the driver of the Ashfall Express. His head is the only part visible, sticking out of the cab and facing forwards with a large grin on his face. A dragon born to a small Wind clan of bandits, he has a sense for adventure and enjoys finding new routes. No-one knows the railway lines better than him.
You don't see her, not until it's too late. The bright colours of the Banescale should make her stand out, especially against the dark greys and glowing ambers of the Ashfall Waste, but Schwert strikes from the sky like a viper - fast, and impossible to avoid. Her job is simple; stop thieves and pirates from making a profit from her train's cargo. There's a reason the service has a reputation for security.
Danger is everywhere in the Ashfall Wastes. Clearly, there is no better way to defend against it than to use a Banescale, which the Ashfall Express has whole-heartedly committed to. Alongside his twin, Schild perches atop the train - anywhere along her engine and carriages, wherever he feels like. Observant dragons and beastfolk may discern that there is no clear pattern to his roosting. A predictable guard is a failure of a guard.