Prologue

Windale – Capital City

‘There he is.’

Kivian spun around to find four rough-looking men following behind him. With his dark hood and cloth covering his features, he was certain no one could truly identify him, but as they walked closer he held his breath. He didn’t know them. Why would he know every low-life in the city? He was the king’s man…the king’s assassin. And if anybody knew how to get out of this predicament…he did.

Kivian breathed a sigh of relief when they walked past him. Instead they walked directly to one of the stall venders selling his wares and decided to rough him up a bit. The men and women gasped as they stepped back. One of the men, medium sized, unshaven dirty face and teeth to match, pushed a woman away from the stall harshly. She landed on her left wrist and side and gave a short cry when her wrist broke under the harsh landing. People began to help her out of the ruffian’s way and the man who had pushed her, smiled crookedly at them as they disappeared into the now forming crowd.

Kivian stood watching as two of the men beat and kicked the stall vender who now curled up on the ground. Blood covered the man’s face as he lay there…helpless. Anger flared up in Kivian like a wild bull. He didn’t wait for the law to do something.

Taking note of his surroundings, two of the ruffians stood on the other side of the stall looking out into the crowd with their long, old swords balanced out in front of them, keeping the crowd under control and also, keeping an eye out for the guards. While the other two taller men continuously punched at the man with no reprieve.

Taking long sweeping strides to reach them, he unsheathed his sword in one fluid moment, their right sides were exposed, they didn’t see him coming until it was too late.

The man closest to him turned his head around too late. His eyes widened as Kivian’s sword slashed across the man’s neck. The man instinctively threw his left hand up to his neck trying to foolishly stem the flow of blood as it dripped onto the cobbled street.

The short man who stood to his left, suddenly ran at Kivian ferociously, like a wild dog he slashed and slashed at Kivian’s face. Kivian just stepped back out of the man’s reach and swiped the next incoming blow to his right and easily slid his sword over the top of the man’s arm and into his stomach. Penetrating cloth and leather. The man crumpled into a heap as he barely had enough breath to cry out in pain.

It was at this point the other two men stopped in their beating, they glanced at each other before removing some nasty looking serrated edged swords. ‘You’re going to regret that,’ the tall man on the left said. His eyes looked like they were being devoured by his sockets with his equally unnatural thin face. The man on Kivian’s right was more muscled, with a hideous strangulation mark along his neck; this man was set for the gallows, but who would intervene? Blaze!

They both walked towards Kivian in unison. Kivian was a good blade smith and blade master. He had to be. He had to be the best. Kivian took a wide stance as they approached. His eyes darted from left to right. The trick was not to look at their blades but to in fact lock onto their eyes. My master always told me that their eyes would always give away their next move, and he was right.

Standing mere paces away, the muscled man swung his blade first and then followed by the unnaturally thin man. Kivian deflected a blow from his right, punched the muscled man in the face, he stumbled away still clutching his sword, while Kivian dealt with the thin man. Kivian deflected a thrust to his stomach and twisted to the man’s side and landed his elbow squarely in the man’s nose. Blood rushed out as he stumbled away, nearly spraying Kivian before he reacted to another blow from his right. Kivian blocked the overhead swing; his strength was put to the test as the muscled man bore down on him with his weight. Kivian clenched his jaw and swiftly grabbed a hidden knife from his garments and stabbed the man in his waist before swiftly stabbing him again through the heart. He didn’t die immediately, even with the lethal stab to his heart, the muscled man managed to eye Kivian carefully before he died.

The thin man rushed at Kivian’s back with his blade high over his head, Kivian spun and side stepped away as the thin man sliced thin air, his momentum carried him to the stall nearly tripping on the muscled man’s body before he turned on Kivian again. The man glanced from side to side gazing at his dead comrades before he swallowed deeply. Kivian advanced on him. He circled Kivian like a hawk, watching and waiting.

But the sounds of guards trying to push their way through the crowd startled the thin man. With one quick glance back to Kivian, he turned and fled down the cobbled street Kivian had walked up from.

Kivian sprinted in pursuit. The man was quick but not quick enough for a knife that embedded itself into the back of his neck. Kivian quickly recovered his knife from the man now sprawled head first on the ground. He glanced at the sword that lay stiffly in the man’s grip. Kivian’s brow knitted at the familiar blade he had once seen before. He swiftly picked up the sword, sheathed it next to his own and fled down a shadowed ally. I need to get out of the city. And fast! With the commotion now drawing itself to the market, Kivian was free to sprint around the back of shadowed buildings before he reached the west gate. Luckily, the news hadn’t travelled here yet and he easily walked beside a wagon half full of straw and a few crates of belongings as it rolled past the large gates. The guards nary gave even a glance as he walked past them. With a hidden smile from behind the cloth covering his face, Kivian didn’t even glance back behind him as he walked away.

Neàmlight Pàhr’st (Moonlight Forest) 

Two weeks later

It was an early spring morning. A warm breeze crept through the trees, disturbing the leaves in the canopy above, creating a restful sound of whispering throughout the nearby Birch, Oaks and Beech trees.

I was scouting ahead, crouching beside what seemed to be the biggest oak tree in the forest, surrounded by dense ferns and bracken. I smelled a dampness from the ground of the age old forest, so thick, I could almost taste it as I walked. Some old leaves crunched underfoot as I moved around the large trees.

It brought a memory of when I was little. Back in our house with the warm fire, my mother telling me stories while father always scratched his quill against the new parchment.

‘Tarì, stop fidgeting and pay attention. I am trying to tell you a story. And I will tell it to you if you keep still.’

I remember when my mother always told me stories, especially ones about giants and trolls, and of course…dragons. It was those dragon stories that were always my favourites, and my mother would tell me a different one every week, as long as I was good.

My mother and I sat near the hearth; it was in the middle of winter, so the fire kept us warm while she told the story. I was sat crossed legged on the floor by her feet while she sat, with her back straight in the high chair. Father was busy sitting at his desk, reading his usual mound of books and scrolls piled high on his desk near pots of ink wells and quills. The quill scratched and etched across a new sheet of paper after dipping it into the various coloured inks he had scattered across in front of him.

‘Elûvian, do you have to do that at this time of night? Come and spend some time with us,’ my mother asked as she twisted in her chair to face him. He had his back turned towards her.

‘F’nera, I’m busy. I’m so close…’

‘Too busy to spend any time with your daughter?’ F’nera shot back, her brow creased as she stared at Elûvian, while he slowly turned in his chair. ‘Surely you could spare some time, just for tonight? It would please your daughter and me,’ F’nera said in a more calming tone. She stared at him, with a pleading look that won every time.

He sighed when he knew she had won, ‘okay,’ he placed the quill back into the pot, put the scroll back down onto the table and slowly walked over, picked me up from the floor and sat in the other high chair near the hearth.

‘Is it a story about a dragon?’ I asked.

F’nera smiled as Elûvian sat me on his lap, ‘of course,’ she took in the moment before she began her story. ‘The story is about a man who had lost everything to the destruction of war. And to sate his need for revenge, he prayed to Qre’sos, the dragon deity of strength.’

Mother saw my wide smile and I chuckled as I waited in anticipation for the rest of the story.

‘The man who had lost everything, Jora was his name, and he went to the dragon’s temple.’ F’nera continued.

Jora knelt before the altar of Qre’sos, the dragon deity of strength, with his arms crossed on his chest. He pleaded, ‘oh, Qre’sos! Give me the strength to avenge my family! My darling daughter…dead. My wife…dead! I need your guidance, your strength, your determination to defeat my foes!’

The temple shook, and cracks began to form along the walls, when a dragon cry erupted around him. He covered his ears as the noise was deafening to hear. Jora was suddenly propelled backwards with an unknown force that flung him up against the temple pillar. An arched bolt of light shot forth from the dragon statue atop the altar and straight into Jora himself. He crashed to the ground, his head in his hands as he slowly stumbled out of the temple’s entrance. He misplaced his footing and tripped, falling down the remaining steps until he landed on the golden sand at its base. He gave out a short cry of pain and fell unconscious.

A few hours later, he awoke. But he felt odd. Big. He opened his eyes, and discovered he had been transformed into a dragon.

The great dragon deity, Qre’sos, upheld his end of the bargain. Jora was able to defeat the men responsible for killing his family. But, he was deceived. For when he asked for aid from Qre’sos, he had entered into a contract that bound Jora to him. Now, Jora was bound by the will of Qre’sos, and his first command involved the death of hundreds, if not thousands, of lives to satisfy his thirst for blood.

Jora couldn’t stop himself. And before long, he began to enjoy it. To lash out on the world like it had done to him and his family. Although he could still take on his original form, it did not stop his cravings to kill. In the end, it took an army, led by a woman who had joined the Fûins and Aoil’ns together under one banner. Namiko of Delmenia. An elf, who had risen to the ranks as Herald of Justice, a title that had been given to her by the people. The armies had gathered in the west.

Namiko selected Mar’ath and Tristania to go with her, down to the valley, where Namiko started to sing, an old elven song, one that had been passed down in generations and was to be sung in generations to come.

As she sang, the great dragon appeared above the sheer cliffs, baring its teeth as it descended from the clouds like lightning searing the earth.

The dragon landed upon the earth with quaking effect. With a swift command to the armies above, Namiko led them against the beast. It took two days and two nights to take down the beast. And when he had finally been vanquished, the dragon returned to his original form. Jora lay on the golden sands, his blood seeping into the ground as he uttered, ‘thank you. You have saved me,’ and with those last words, he died knowing he can finally be with his family.

‘What happened to Namiko?’ I asked my mother when she finished telling the story.

‘Well, that’s a story for another time. It’s time for you to go to bed!’ F’nera smiled as I tried to wiggle out of my father’s arms.

‘Oh no you don’t, Tarì! Not this time!’ Elûvian laughed as he rushed to his feet, still clutching me in his arms.

I laughed so hard that my stomach hurt when my father finally got me to bed. Mother stood at the foot of my bed as father tucked me in.

‘Sweet dreams, sl’et dûinens, little one, lì’tlìl ‘aìl,’ he kissed my forehead as I smiled up at him.

‘Sl’et dûinens,’ my mother repeated as I leaned up at her, I hugged her defiantly.

My thoughts suddenly jogged me back into reality.

I always liked walking through the forest, it felt like forever, and it had always brought back some fond memories. But I liked it even better at night, when the stars and the moon shine upon the forest. Some of the plants glow at night, almost lighting the way. It knew how to draw you in. you couldn’t resist it, at least that was what it felt like to me anyway.

Movement caught my eye as Azreàl was approaching from the left, through the dense bracken. ‘Ah, there you are. Do you always creep away like that? Why am I asking, I already know the answer,’ he said exasperatingly, ‘I know you like wandering around the forest, but do you have to do it so often? I mean, don’t you want to slow down?’ He said, with a quizzical look upon his face.

Smart, handsome Azreàl, with his short dark hair, kept back by his dark russet head kerchief which brought out his bright green eyes and golden complexion. ‘Are you kidding? Life is never going to slow down, so I rather try to keep up with it. Besides, I have so much I still want to do, like bonding with another partner, having children, this time. And have you never asked yourself why I keep asking you to come with me all the time?’ I replied.

‘Oh,’ he said awkwardly.

‘Oh, is that all you can come up with? I make a move and all you can say is ’Oh?’

‘Well, I wasn’t expecting the attention, especially from a Uhrfer’cils…a princess.’ He smirked as he looked at me.

‘That is because all you do is work, going out for weeks or even months at a time on your little adventures. You don’t make room for anything else in your life…like me.’ I said softly, feeling heat rush to my face. ‘You are just like my late bond partner. Gale.’ I heard my voice falter as I thought of him, and a stab of anguish filled me for a moment as I remembered him. ‘And I can choose to be with whoever I want, so I don’t have my father on my back all the time.’

Silence suddenly befell on us as we stood next to each other, until Azreàl spoke through it.

‘I know I’ve been selfish, you’re right, I spend too much time away from home … away from you.’ His voice suddenly became softer, gentler even.

I looked deep into his eyes, and he into mine. I smiled and laughed out loud, Azreàl was trying to supress his laugh. I walked towards him and put my arms around him, while leaning my head on his shoulder. He whispered into my ear ‘I didn’t think someone like you would be interested in someone like me. Besides you were way out of my league, or so I thought.’ I whispered back ‘why would you think I was out of your league, just because I am a Uhrfer’cils, a princess doesn’t mean there is a barricade between me and any man of lower birth, besides we are all equals in my eyes. I can decide for myself who I deem suitable as a bond partner, so don’t think that my father or anyone else can make my decisions for me. Okay?’

He smiled, and for what seemed ages, we just stood in each other’s arms, until a deer came crashing through the brush. It stopped in its tracks and stared at us. The doe, her ears forward, wasn’t scared of us, why should she? No animal resided in the forest with elves, illuils, lived in fear, for all nature was cloaked under elvish magic or also known as the Source or the Phase, and lived in harmony with our folk. All knew of the magic, elves have towards animals, for we can talk to them. We become one with nature, with its flora and fauna, we elves keep everything in balance, and as it should be. The doe sniffed the air, twitched her ears and bounded off, running past us through the dense trees, I smiled, as she faded back into the forest, with nary a sign she had been here, but I realised that we needed to return before someone became worried about either of us.

‘I guess we should head back before my father sends out a search party, I swear he worries about me too much.’ I hated saying we needed to go back, but I knew how father reacted if I am away too long.

‘Okay, lead the way your highness,’ speaking the last words with a mock sarcastic tone and a smile.

‘Oh, ha, very funny,’ I said with a scowl across my face.

I maybe a Uhrfer’cils, but I treat every one of my people as equals. And I wanted people to treat me not as a Uhrfer’cils but as someone just as down to earth as they are. So we headed back towards home, with mossy green banks, and fallen tree limbs to climb, we made it back with plenty of time in hand.

Next Chapter: Chapter 1