Chapter One: The Escape
It was the Hour of the Devil, often referred to as the witching hour, in the small quiet town of Johenne. If the time was not enough for the citizens to be indoors, the relentless downfall of the chilly spring rain was more than reason enough. Aside from a lone man.
Bundled in rags and breathless, he rested up against a wall in a dark alleyway, trying desperately to get a simple bit of respite from both the rain, and his pursuers. His bundle shifted and let out a sharp cry, echoing down the silent alley.
The chase was on again. He was chilled to the bone and exhausted, but the racing footsteps behind urged him to go on despite his heart burning in her chest like never before. Dizziness threatened to overtake him and he knew it had been exacerbated by the zealots working their magic.
He used to believe in their lies. The promise of everlasting life and power beyond compare was very appealing to the young man he once was. Everything changed when this little girl was found. This innocent being whose only crime was to be born a mystic.
When he found out what the ecclesia had planned for the child, his faith was shattered. He did not know where she came from, but he knew the child did not belong to them, no matter how special she was. They ripped her from her home, her family, everything that a person deserved to have in life. He would not let them use her. Not ever.
He came upon the edge of the small town and was faced with a choice. Continue running through the streets or breech out into the forest. He hesitated.
The choice was not an easy one to make. This town was dominated by the ecclesia. They controlled everything down to the types of foods you were allowed to eat. Once the rain cleared, everyone and their children would not hesitate to turn him in.
On the other hand, there was the forest. No one went into the forest if they could avoid it. Much myth and legend came out of those woods that grew just as wild and fast as the trees. Few survived to tell their tall tales.
A man in a robe swept out in front of him.
“Ah, there you are, Jinjo. We were starting to worry.” His dark eyes sparked with the volatile chaos of magic.
Jin had been conditioned like everyone else in the sect to resist magic, but it was not foolproof. This man was alone, but he would not be for long. More magic pitted against him would eventually wear him down.
He looked around for ways to escape. His options were even more limited.
“Jin.” The man let out a suffering sigh. “Stop this nonsense and come home.”
“Never.” Jin spat out bitterly.
The man’s eyes sparkled violently and the air became heavy. Magic gathered around him and Jin had little choice in what to do next.
They did not think he would take the chance to delve into the forest. They were wrong.
Diving into the dense overgrowth, he drove forward as if the devil himself were at his heals. Shouts of alarm reverberated through the air behind him, but even they would pause before coming into this wilderness after him.
Suddenly he felt a sharp stabbing pain in his back. It took the wind out of him and he tripped over a bulging root. He threw himself into the fall, making sure that he did not land on the baby he had bundled in his arms.
The landing was rough, but he managed to keep her safe against all the odds stacked against him. No matter what he had for defense against magic, there was nothing he could do to protect himself from arrows.
He could feel the shaft protruding from his back and it was suddenly difficult to take a deep breath. He knew it had pierced his lung and he wasn’t going to last much longer.
With his last ounce of strength, he got back on his feet and stumbled forward as far into the forest as he could get. His only hope was the forest would live up to some of those stories he heard so many times before.
Chapter Two: Found
The ground shook violently. Such as was the case when two adolescents wrestled together.
Magatek rolled head over tail down a steep hill, followed by his younger sister, laughing gleefully. As much as Magatek hated to admit it, he adored Pentaga. It was hard not to love the little broodling. She was charming and smart as a whip, but perhaps a little spoiled by their parents.
She had been the first female born to their breed for nearly a generation and the survival of their brood was her burden to bear. It was going to be a big responsibility for her, but until she grew up, he would make sure she got the happy childhood she deserved.
Pantaga squealed when she landed on Magateck and he tickled her to get her off him.
They both looked confused when the sound reflected back to them from the forest at the base of the hill.
It was different though. A higher pitched, elongated squeal. Not happy, but very, very distressed. It lingered also, breaking with coughing or hiccupping. It was hard to tell which.
“What is that?” Pantaga asked.
Magatek shook his head with concern, “I don’t know.”
Pentaga took a step forward toward the forest but Magatek moved in her way, wings outstretched to make his point. “Oh no you don’t. You know what dad said about the forest.”
She looked at him with an air of superiority, “Maga, we are freaking dragons! The ultimate apex predator of the whole world. We have nothing to be afraid of. Dad is just being overprotective.”
“You know I don’t like agreeing with him on anything, but the forest is nothing to laugh at. Remember Glintick?”
“That’s just a stupid story that makes no sense.” Pantaga scoffed and flared out her wings.
She took off into the air lightning fast and Magatek had to scramble to catch up. He tried to grab her in the air, but she was quick and agile. Every attempt he made was easily dodged by the nimble creature.
Before too long, she dove into the canopy of the dense trees, creating a hole. The hole he made after her was much bigger.
Magatek landed beside Pantaga and there was an overwhelming smell of rotting decay. Something nearby must have died recently and he felt like retching. Nothing was much worse than that smell. Even though his kind were the dealers of many deaths, they always kept themselves clean.
“Pent, we have to get out of here.” For no understanding of his own, he was whispering.
“Look.” She held out her taloned hand. Inside her palm was perhaps the tiniest creature he had ever seen.
He wrinkled his nose and the squirming pink thing. It was alive, but smelled like death. “Why does it smell like that?”
Pentara pointed over to a bloating human corpse with an arrow sticking out of its back.
“Humans? In the forest?” He was baffled. “Gah, put it back.”
“But it is just a baby,” she whimpered, “it will die.”
“We eat humans all the time. So what?”
“This one is…different. Can’t you feel it?” She held it out closer to him.
He recoiled and stared skeptically at the little thing in her hand. It had stopped crying, probably because it was warmed by Pantara’s skin, and it stared back at him with disproportionally large eyes of wonder. Then it hit him. The overwhelming magical aura that came from this tiny creature. Not even a dragon had that much power.
“It is dangerous,” he warned. “Put it back or eat it. Either way, be done with it.”
“No.” She stated defiantly.
“What do you mean, no?” He growled angrily and reached for the thing, but she cupped her hand closed and kept it away from him.
She took off again, creature in hand, and evaded him all the way back home.
To this day, Magateck would never be able to understand how Pantara convinced their parents to let her keep the creature. Weather it was her irresistible charm or her magnificent powers of persuasion that won out at the end of the day was anyone’s guess. Either way, for the first time ever, and never again, the dragons had a human “pet”.