by Nicki Pau Preto
Nefyra Ashfire + Ignix
Nefyra was chosen by Axura to be the first animage, the first Phoenix Rider, and the First Rider Queen. Ignix, the first phoenix, was her bondmate. She established the Ashfire royal line, which ruled unbroken for a thousand years.
When the time came to choose her First Riders, she selected the best huntresses from the many tribes that lived atop Pyrmont. She fell in love with Callysta Lightbringer, a warrior from a neighboring tribe, during their first battle. They fought so well together that they remained by each other’s sides in every battle thereafter, establishing the concept of the mated pair, in which both Riders and their phoenixes are mates for life.
It is said that when Callysta succumbed to an arrow wound, Nefyra followed her soon after, dying of a broken heart.
Queen Nefyra was a fierce warrior and just ruler, known for her prowess in battle, and is credited for defeating the strixes—birds of shadow and darkness sent by the goddess Nox—and bringing light back to the world.
Callysta Lightbringer + Cirix
Spontaneous and beautiful, Callysta had a love of song and dance and was famed for her skill in archery. Cirix, the first male phoenix, was her bondmate.
While many professed their love for her, Callysta was devoted to Nefyra alone. It is said she brought out a lighter, happier side of the severe queen, and indeed, all who knew her were touch by Callysta’s bright light.
Despite their love, both had children so they could have heirs and continue the order of the Phoenix Riders. One of Callysta’s daughters married Nefyra’s son, forever binding their bloodlines.
When Callysta died, Cirix promised to join her, if only for a moment, before resurrecting so he could bond with her daughter. And so he did, again and again, remaining in Callysta’s family for many generations.
Oriyana Flamesong + Xhea
Oriyana was a childhood friend of Callysta’s, and both women were supporters of the arts. Oriyana had skill in a variety of instruments, but the lyre was her specialty.
While Nefyra and Callysta always flew together, the remaining twelve members of the First Riders were split into two six-Rider patrols, and Oriyana led the first of these. Though she was closest with Callysta, she often paired with Eeyla Skyfire, a blood relation of Nefyra’s.
As a warrior, she flew with grace and agility and was said to often fly solo in an attempt to lure strixes into following her, only to round a corner and rejoin the rest of her patrol, who lay in wait, ready to ambush the trailing shadow birds.
Eelya Skyfire + Xio
Eeyla was a distant cousin to Nefyra, and so adopted the “fire” suffix in her surname to indicate their relation. Eeyla and Oriyana were great friends and often flew together, but Eeyla had a competitive and often volatile relationship with Inara Sunflare. The two hated and loved each other in equal measure, and it was said that whenever they crossed paths, anyone nearby stopped and stared, waiting to see if the two Riders would come to blows or hold each other in a loving embrace.
Their tense relationship eventually reached such a pitch that Nefyra had to separate them—which only made their rare interactions all the more loaded. Legend states that the vast Smokewind fortune actually began with a bet on Eeyla and Inara; while the rest of the Riders put gold against their love, Halyn bet in favor, and won.
Siytara Strongwing + Ajax
Strongest of the First Riders, Siytara’s weapon of choice was a throwing axe. She flew with dozens of hatchets and axes of varying sizes strapped to her body, so it was lucky Ajax, her male phoenix, was largest in the flock so he could carry all the added weight.
The Strongwings remained in Pyra even after the empire was established, acting as governors in the new empire until the last living Strongwing, Governor Akadi, perished in the Blood War.
Talliya Dawnstar + Ximena
Talliya was youngest of the First Riders, and half-sister of Kiyana from the same father but different mothers. Following the matriarchal tradition, they started their own family lines, but with a nod to their relation through the suffix “star.”
Talliya’s great granddaughter, Liya, married into the Ashfire line, and Queen Lyra the Defender can trace her bloodline back to Talliya Dawnstar.
Kiyana Nightstar + Xakari
Along with her sister Talliya, Kiyana was something of a mischief maker. Whenever she grew bored between battles or in times of relative peace, she and her bondmate, Xakari, would endeavor to shake things up. She was a rather renowned thief, famous for stealing anything from goats to gold—but never to keep. Kiyana enjoyed the chase, and would often abandon her stolen prizes miles away from where she’d found them. The locals, unaware there was a bored Phoenix Rider in their midst, believed they were being haunted by dead spirits, and called her noktaspira, which translates to “night ghost.” Conversely, those lucky people who found her abandoned treasures had a different name for their unknown benefactor, and called her noktapriza, “night gift.”
Inara Sunflare + Ixiya
Inara was renowned for her distinctive hair, its common Pyraean black color sliced through by a single streak of sunlight, a birthmark that was nevertheless attributed as a gift from the goddess upon her ascension to Phoenix Rider status. Other, less favorable accounts said the two-toned hair was representative of Inara herself, who was at turns both dark and light, angry and joyful. Her back and forth relationship with Eeyla Skyfire added to this image, as did her phoenix, Ixiya, who had rare bicolor eyes.
Adalyn Brightblaze + Oxana
Adalyn was a natural performer—entertaining and theatrical—and known for wearing strips of linen that burned and trailed fire in the sky, exaggerating her and Oxana’s blazing flight. She established the first solstice games, looking for a chance to show off her explosive flight and fiery pyrotechnics and inviting other Riders to do the same.
Though she enjoyed flight and fire as sport, Adalyn was a brave warrior, and in a fitting end, performed the first known sacrificial fire dive. When her patrol was surrounded by strix and there was no chance for escape, Adalyn ignited in a blaze of fire that destroyed the strixes—and herself—but allowed her fellow Riders to flee to safety. Her daughters continued the tradition of the solstice games in her honor, and despite their mother’s death, were renowned fire wielders themselves.
Roza Heartlight + Roxana
Roza was red-haired like Nefyra, which is extremely rare in Pyra, and was therefore seen as goddess chosen. She was extremely pious, and after she retired from battle she became the first High Priestess of Axura and founded the first temple atop Pyrmont dedicated to her.
The temple stood until the Reign of Aurelya, the Golden Queen, who rebuilt it on a grander scale as a part of her renovations to the city that was eventually given her name, Aura—the Golden City.
Devyn Fleetfeather + Xariah
Fastest of the First Riders, Devyn and Xariah were small and fierce—Xariah’s wingspan was barely half of Siytara’s Ajax, who was largest of the flock. Devyn herself was short and delicate, too, but despite her diminutive stature, she was a revered battle commander and leader of the second patrol.
Devyn was childless, and so the Fleetfeather name died with her.
Halyn Smokewind + Xuli
Halyn was tall and ethereal, with hair so long it touched the ground, and it was said that suitors often begged her for a token, so she’d cut a single long braid to gift to each of them. She had many lovers and many children, so that the Smokewinds were the largest Phoenix Rider family for generations.
Halyn’s son, Haldyr, grew the family’s fortunes through trade with the Lower Rim tribes, and though the Smokewinds enjoyed centuries of prosperity, their wealth and status eventually led to lazy, entitled descendants who cared more for fun and adventure than honor and Phoenix Rider glory. Wylan the Wanderer, who declared he would ride his phoenix around the world, is the last known member of the Smokewind line. He never returned from his fabled journey.
Myra Coldflame + Lexara
Known for her intelligence and cunning, Myra Coldflame was a severe beauty who did not suffer fools. She took lovers when it suited her, but formed no long term attachments. It is said that she coveted a leadership position, but she and Nefyra never saw eye to eye. Perhaps it was that perceived slight that led future Coldflames to rise up against Queen Otiya in revolt. Unluckily for them, Otiya—the Queen of Bones—did not suffer fools either, and she not only destroyed the rebelling Coldflames but the entire Coldflame line.
Natalya Starfall + Elexa
Natalya was eldest of the First Riders, the leader of her own tribe, and often acted as advisor to Queen Nefyra. It is said that the order of the Shadowheart or spymaster was devised by Natalya, and that she managed the position to ensure the Pyrmont tribes remained loyal to Nefyra upon her ascension.
All tribal leaders were subservient to Nefyra, their goddess-chosen queen, and Natalya’s own willingness to kneel before Nefyra set the standard for the other leaders to do the same. Nefyra, so touched by Natalya’s gesture, knelt as well, and so began the tradition of queens and loyal servants kneeling before one another as an oath of devotion and fealty.