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Ayla and the Arrival of Nyxo

by Anna Michaletz 4 months ago in Fantasy
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Chapter 1

There weren’t always dragons in the Valley. And yet, there lay in the grass, a mass of heaving black scales, covered in the remnants of its broken shell. Its tiny chest rose rapidly with the exertion of its first endeavor. Ayla watched in awe as the creature’s talons, no bigger than a kitten’s claws, gripped the earth beneath it as it wriggled out from under the wreckage. Its dark, armored head lifted as it opened its eyes for the first time and gazed at Ayla. The girl gasped as she stared at its cerulean irises. She felt as if she were looking straight through the little dragon right into the babbling brook behind it.

Ayla leaned down, her copper hair falling over her pale shoulders as she reached out to pick the creature up. A magical aura tickled her fingers as she made contact with the dragon’s smooth scales. A crackling wave of vitality traveled up her arm and into her chest, giving her a warm, fuzzy feeling toward the creature. Ayla’s unique spirit could sense the magical energy source the moment she entered the Valley on her morning horseback ride. She felt drawn to the warm, pulsing energy pocket before she realized just how extraordinary the source would be.

Ayla knew dragons were feral, dangerous, and extremely rare in the Valley south of her kingdom. Why on earth was there a dragon egg left in the middle of the Valley with no parents in sight? The dragons of the continent, Demeter, had been all but wiped out since the Realm to the southern border, Mithrial, had hunted them to the brink of extinction. Rumors speculated the dragons had fled to the Asterian Mountain Range northeast of the Valley. Ayla’s mother, Selene, Queen of Chandria, lamented the loss of any creature and launched a crusade to protect the remaining individuals of the species. Mithtrial and Chandria had been in conflict for months, inching closer to an all-out war between Demeter’s two largest Kingdoms.

Dragons were usually hunted for their components used in potions and elixirs and, of course, for armor. Smugglers would pay a substantial price to get ahold of a dragon egg, let alone a Black Dragon egg. Magic of any kind was banned in Mithrial, but that didn’t stop the citizens from killing the dragons for other reasons. Many Mithrialians believed dragons were evil, bad luck, the scourge of the earth. Recently, the beasts were being slaughtered due to a rising, superstitious fear amongst Mithrial’s populace: that the dragons had been spreading evil magic to humans on Demeter.

Ayla lifted the tiny creature to her freckled face, her azure eyes drinking in every detail of this extraordinary sight. This slimy little ball of ebony had to be the last Black Dragon in the region. Ayla knew it would be helpless on its own and shuddered to think what would happen to it if the Mithrialians came across it. She also knew that a dragon would be forbidden in Chandria’s castle, even if she is the princess. She turned the little creature over to check its sex, deciding it was a male dragon. He chirped at her, hungry and exhausted. Ayla strode back over to her dapple-grey mare and hoisted herself up into the saddle, hiking her skirts up over her freckled knees, and wrapped the baby in a cloth borrowed from her saddle bags.

“What should I call you, little one?” Ayla cooed at the tiny dragon, deciding the risk of leaving him to die was far worse than the risk of getting caught with contraband.

“How about Nyxo? The King of Night!” Ayla exclaimed with delight. The dragon’s sky-blue eyes blinked at her sleepily from beneath the shabby blanket. She would take that as a yes.

Sneaking a forbidden magical creature into Chandria would be difficult for the average citizen, but Ayla was not one such person. As princess of the Realm, she was afforded certain permissions and would not be searched upon entering the gate. She also possessed a unique ability to sense magical auras. Very few people knew about this special skill, as all magic was a source of fear in Demeter.

“Princess Ayla, you are late!” A tall, burly man stood shaking a finger towards Ayla, the late morning rays bouncing off his armored helmet, blinding her.

“Yes! Sorry, Herc!” Ayla flashed him a blinding smile and rode over the bridge and through the reinforced wooden gates towards the towering stone castle before the head of the Queen’s Guard could question her.

After tossing her reins to a castle footman, she smuggled Nyxo up a spiral staircase into the easternmost turret of Castle Chandria. Ayla’s room filled the circular tower, consisting of a soft, four-poster bed, a sapphire blue chaise, and a writing desk with many drawers and quills. Ayla quickly hid Nyxo in a chest located at the foot of her bed, wiping him clean of the pieces of shell and mucus that remained on his shining black scales. Next to him lay a family heirloom of the Chandrian Clan; a golden necklace with a large sapphire dangling from the center. Unlike most physical objects, this piece gave off a strong magical presence that matched the feeling of Ayla’s own spirit. White-blue, bright, and powerful energy was condensed into the gemstone. Of all its wearers in recent history, Ayla alone could sense this power.

Ayla snuck down to the kitchens, being very careful not to be seen. After stealing several cuts of meat, fish, and a flagon of water, she crept back up the stairs to her stowaway. Queen Selene was standing in the middle of Ayla’s room, arms crossed. She was a short, curvaceous woman with fire-red curls and emerald-green eyes. Her pretty face was scrunched into a snarl at her only daughter, disappointment radiating from her entire being.

“Darling, what are you doing!? I told you to be ready for an audience with a representative from Mithrial before mid-day!” her mother said, exasperated. “Put that food away and change into your court dress at once! I will send in a maid to help you finish.”

“I know, mother. I… lost track of time” Ayla added lamely. She gave a sigh of relief at her mother not having noticed the hatchling dragon in the chest. The Queen mistook it for defeat and dropped her arms to her sides. Queen Selene gave Ayla a stern look but squeezed her shoulder on her way out of the tower.

Ayla rushed to shove all her loot into the chest but stopped once she opened the lid. She could feel Nyxo’s bright, blue-hued soul radiating magical aura at once. His cerulean eyes gazed up at her with calm curiosity. On the edge of his obsidian snout, a white egg tooth was hanging off one nostril. She brushed it away and felt another surge of energy enter her chest, filling her with warm aura. Everyone’s soul had a touch of life-aura, from the massive pack horses that tilled Chandria’s farmland to the minuscule insects that Ayla would catch with her younger brother, Prince Calisto, in the Valley. But she had never felt a connection like this with any other living creature.

Realizing that her mother had only lied about sending a maid to increase her haste, Ayla calmly fed Nyxo, piece by piece, until her entire stash was depleted. Nyxo’s dark, shiny head bobbed as he nodded off to sleep, curling into an ebony ball of scales. He radiated heat, both in his spirit and off his tiny body. She tore her perception away from him, she would have plenty of time to spend with him later.

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Princess Ayla walked into the castle’s main hall dressed in a high-waisted, cornflower blue dress trimmed with gold, the colors of Chandria’s Kingdom. A delicate, golden circlet sat on top of her auburn waves with a small sapphire embedded in the center. On her pale chest, the magical sapphire dangled on the end of its fine golden chain, its aura warming her spirit. She followed the deep blue carpet that stretched the length of the hall, leading to the throne on which Queen Selene now sat. Ayla’s mother rose to her feet, not gaining much height in the process.

A portrait of King Mani hung over the Throne in memory of the late ruler. He was handsome, with dark brown hair under his golden crown and slate-blue eyes that crinkled with the remnants of many smiles. A dark beard and mustache covered half of his face, but Ayla could remember the warm expressions behind it. Her heart ached slightly as a pang of hurt gripped her soul. Chandria had only just lost its King the summer before and was grappling with the loss still.

“You look lovely, Darling!” Queen Selene exclaimed warmly, gesturing for her to come closer.

Ayla smiled in thanks and quietly thought to herself that she looked like a maid next to her mother. The Queen was covered in an intricate gown of deep blue with gold embroidered accents and a golden sash around her chest. The heavy golden crown on her fiery hair was laden with sapphires and diamonds.

“Stand to my right, please. Our guests will be arriving soon.” Selene said, not meeting Ayla’s eyes. But Ayla had just noticed a bright soul with bubbling optimism at its core standing on her mother’s opposite side.

“Ayla, I gotta show you the net I made! I caught ten fish and all I had to do was sieve it in the river for a few hours!” Calisto blurted this sentence out quickly as if he had been unable to wait another second for their mother to finish speaking.

“Oh, so THAT’s what made you late to your sword fighting lessons today? Master Herc won’t let you off the hook without punishment if you’re tardy again.” Selene scolded her younger child.

“I can’t wait, Cal, show me tonight after supper.” Ayla smiled at her little brother, who was already almost as tall as she was. Calisto was only 12 years old, but he was King Mani in miniature, with matching steely blue eyes and dark hair. His boyish face was still decades away from the bearded portrait on the wall, but there was no mistaking the resemblance. Calisto may be heir to all of Chandria and had a natural talent for just about every Royal skill, but Ayla still felt like she had to protect him from the outside world. Without her father, and her mother busy running Demeter’s largest Kingdom, someone had to look out for the young prince with a close eye.

Two tall men were being led into the Throne Room by the Queen’s Guard. The two strangers dressed in crimson and gold, the colors of Mithrial. The first man was older, with dark hair streaked with gray and a hardened, lined face. He looked remarkably like the second man, who was bulkier and stood just a bit taller than his kin. Both men had identical dark brown eyes and long noses. Ayla thought the younger man would be handsome but for the unpleasant expression on his face. She then noticed their auras; the older man’s blazing red with anger and destruction, the other a faint orange glow, warm but with hesitation and distrust at its core.

“Queen Selene of Chandria, Princess Ayla, and Prince Calisto, may I introduce, King Ciro and his son, heir to Mithrial, Prince Aiden” Herc boomed his introduction into the vast hall.

“It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Princess Ayla.” Prince Aiden bowed slightly to Ayla but didn’t take his dark eyes from her light ones. “I expect we will grow to know each other quite well in the coming months.”

Ayla looked at her mother, confusion etched on her freckled face.

“Pardon, your highness, but I don’t quite understand what you mean.” Ayla curtseyed toward the stranger to show respect, but she was growing wary by the second.

“Ayla, Darling, I have agreed to unite Mithrial and Chandria by accepting a peace treaty.” Queen Selene was still looking away from Ayla’s face. “One parameter of this treaty is your marriage to Prince Aiden. You will go with them to Mithrial to start preparations tomorrow morning.”

Ayla’s stomach dropped. She felt as though the floor had disappeared beneath her. Her heart raced and her cheeks flushed with anger. How could her mother have agreed to this without so much as a whisper, let alone asking her for permission? Suddenly, her anger turned to fear as she thought of her secret ward up in her room. Nyxo needed her to survive, and she was about to be whisked away to another kingdom for who knows how long! Panic and betrayal seemed to boil in her chest as she gaped at her mother, not caring how the Mithrialians interpreted her reaction.

The Princess calmed herself, knowing she would need to avoid suspicion if she was to get out of this situation with the Black Dragon alive.

“Oh, yes, of course!” she managed a convincing laugh and hurried to conceal her emotions. “Excuse me, your Graces, I must go to my chamber to prepare.”

Ayla broke into a run the moment she was beyond the sight of those in the Throne Room. She was leaving with Nyxo tonight. She was going to find the lost dragons.

Fantasy

About the author

Anna Michaletz

My path has changed so much, that I'm not sure I'm on the right one! BS in Biology, passed up Dental School to work with my family for the last 8 yrs. I love reading fantasy. Hopefully, my first attempt at writing isn't too shabby.

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