Winter 567 of the Fall of the Watch

Sera Neve hid in the closet as the wind screamed around the house like a banshee. Hail pelted the house as she shied from the violence of weather. Nights such as these were the worst; though half of the house was protected by the E’chr Mountains, she was small and timid. Her father tried, relentlessly, to train it out of her, but no matter how many hours she spent with a weapon in her hands, she stayed calm and withdrawn. No matter how her mother coaxed her to go play with the children of the Carth clan, Sera would stay.

A loud bang shook the house making her curl up further into herself. Lucky for Sera this night, her sister was away at school. The young girl could only handle so much violence. She heard and felt the door to her bedroom slam open. Guttural words found her ears, but she could make no sense of them.

Her body began trembling, the sword by her feet glittering in the near blackness of the space. Being noticed, loud noises, anger, those things terrified her, but the dark was her home.

Then the scream, her mother’s piercing voice making Sera press her already covered ears harder. The absence of it terrified her more. She grabbed her sword, knuckles white on the hilt. She eased out of the closet, the loud crashes sounded like they came from the kitchen rather than the weather.

The door to her room hung open on the hinges, splinter but still as one piece. Candlelight flooded into the room from the hall. Voices carried over the screaming winds and crashing in the kitchen. Slowly, Sera inched out of her bedroom. She cast shadows on the walls of the hall, the voices getting louder as she took step after soundless step.

Poking her head around the corner, she stifled a hissed breath. Three men were crowded in the kitchen with her parents backed up to the wall near the wash basin. Swords at her parents’ throats, Sera’s grip on her own sword tightened even further as she crept behind them.

Her father taught her much with a blade. For the past four years, he drilled his daughter, sparred with her, taught her weapons, hand-to-hand, and a mixture of the two. While Sera didn’t particularly like all the swordplay, she would admit she did have a knack for it. As she stood behind the closest intruder and they exchanged harsh words between themselves, her father saw her, his head moved half of a fraction with fear in his eyes. Not for himself, but for her. Her father was starting to step into the shadows behind him, her mother was throwing curses at the intruders. Sera stayed completely still, her ten winter old mind locked in fear. She couldn’t do this.

But she could.

It was a small nudge, something inconsequential, something to overcome the fear. It was the nudge that started this whole ordeal. She shoved her blade into the back of the man before her. His scream echoed through the world, through Sera’s skull. The first life she took, her first act of violence, and she hated herself for it. Because the man she killed was the one holding a sword to her mother’s throat. The moment she stabbed the man, he pitched forward, the blade going through her mother’s throat.

To this day, she still believes she killed her mother, but we all know where the fault truly lies.

The world erupted into action. The man holding her father at sword point made a gurgling sound and blood pooled from his mouth, her father standing behind him, stepping from the shadows. The last man in the house merely nodded, standing to defend himself.

His head was hairless, his body gaunt, his clothes hanging loosely from his body. Her father’s eyes were on the man as he spoke in a low voice. “Run, Sera.” She didn’t move at first, but when the bald man lunged for Sera, hesitation fled with her.

She barely saw her father slam the man into the wall as she dove for her bedroom. In the room, she used the hilt of her sword to break the window above her bed. Glass shattered and she heard a roar, something between man and animal, and she didn’t know who made the sound. The temptation to check on her father didn’t make her hesitate as she flung herself out the window…

...and into the arms of a waiting intruder. Sera twisted and turned against the man that clutched her in his huge arms. He said something in a commanding tone as the fight in the house pushed out doors. As Sera struggled, she caught glimpses of short red hair and insert color eyes. Her sword firmly in her grip, she tried stabbing him, but he slapped the sword away. The sounds of her father’s fight no longer reached her ears, and her struggle began anew with a ferocity that would scare most men.

The man was walking away from the house, away from her father. Sera screamed and frustration and bit down on the man’s arm. Blood pooled into her mouth, but she didn’t let go.

Her captor cried out, releasing her, and, spitting, she darted away. Towards the house, towards her father. Wind and hail battered her as she made pushed forward. When she could make out the porch, hands grabbed her again. She lurched against them with no success at freedom.

A silhouetted figure stood, black against the shadows near the porch. She was forced to still her struggling as she watched with horror.

The gleam of a blade in the silhouette’s hand.

Her father’s voice screaming her name in the darkness.

The laughter of the man who held her tight.

Metal cutting air, cutting…

The hail stopped, the wind calmed.

A thud in the darkness.

Her own cry torn from her throat, ravishing her voice, anger and grief that the world gave back with its silence. Her heart beat loud in her ears, steady and calming.

Thrum. Thrum.

The man holding her noticeably stiffened. He shouted at the other man and began carrying her away from her home and the mountains.

Thrum. Thrum. Thrum.

The bald man caught up with them, his skin a translucent gray with rust colored lines underneath as it faded into a more natural hue.

Thrum. Thrum. Thrum.

The wind became violent again, dirt and leaves being kicked up, Sera’s hair whipping around her face and insuring her vision.

Thrum. The sound of trees snapping and a great crash shook the ground. The man clutching her started yelling at her, but she could only stare as a massive black dragon landed before them.

    Her heart thudded in her chest, thrum, thrum thrum.

    A bright green eye peered down at her. With a fast swipe that betrayed its size, Sera, her captor and her father’s murderer were flung to the side. Her captor released her as they tumbled through the air. She landed on the ground in a heap, hand still clenched around the hilt of her sword. Ever so slowly she pulled herself to her feet, eyes wary, searching for the men. Finally, her gaze rested on the dragon.

    With a sweep of her arm, she folded herself in half as she’d been taught. The respect for the Watch was ingrained deep in her bones, and those that gave proper respect were rewarded. So she had been taught.    

Mid-bow she was snatched back by the hair. She didn’t scream or wail. Instead, she swung back with her sword, the loud snap of a shoulder as it dislocated, and a shout of pure agony from her assailant. Ripping her hair from her skull, she yanked out of the man’s grip. He stood with a hand full of hair, a wound in his stomach bleeding profusely, facing a girl with a dragon at her back.

The dragon roared, a sound that echoed across the night and could cut through shadow. The red-haired man roared an inhuman sound back, the bald man raising his own voice. At this rate they would summon the Watch. The dragon slammed a claw down on the red-haired man, only to have him hold it up from crushing and the dragon pushed him into the ground.

With a cry of frustration, Sera threw herself forward at the man, wielding the blade with her uninjured arm and giving the man a deep gash on his arm. The dragon took advantage and forced his hand to the ground. The audible snap of the man’s arms was a relatively pleasing sound to both the girl and the dragon.

The bald man was still there, close to where his partner was imbedded in the ground. As the dragon lifted its claw, the faint glow of magic was underneath, protecting the red-haired man in a bubble that was buried in the ground.

With another roar, the dragon unleashed his breath, black flames of shadow swallowing the area. Sera felt herself being shifted through the shadows, the wispy flames reaching out to touch her. The shadows lifted, the dragon was next to her, somewhere in the forest; she didn’t even know if it was still her forest.

The dragon lowered its head to peer at her. Its canines that rested past its jaw were easily twice her size, maybe more. It huffed a breath of smoke that twirled around Sera and enveloped her.

She killed her mother.

Her father was dead.

Alone with a dragon, no way to find her sister.

Fat tears rolled down Sera’s face. The dragon’s maw nudged her ever so gently. She rested a hand on its nose, the scales warm and smooth beneath. “Give me strength, dragon. I beg you…” The pain in her shoulder throbbed as she rested her forehead on the great beast’s nose.

And she felt him, in her skull, an echo that felt familiar. Thoughts shifted through her mind unbidden but not unwelcome.

He wouldn’t give strength; that was not his dominion. Shadows pooled out of his mouth, surrounding Sera with a loving touch. “Give me anything, Kalinth.” Her tears had ceased, features marred with an anger. “Help me protect what’s left,”

With a self-satisfied purr, the dragon pulled back, and ran a talon through the palm of a claw. With another talon, he ripped open Sera’s back. She refused to cry out in pain. Her blood was on the talon, dripping into his wound. He let his own blood hit her wound. The night devoured Sera, and the dragon slept, satisfied with his charge.