Chapter 0:

Prologue: Silverscale Falls

The Heir of the Dragon

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MareaBookmark here

Marea had been waiting for her husband to arrive for hours now.Bookmark here

She sat in the Grand Hall of SIlverscale Castle, the massive chamber filled with long tables stretching from one wall to the other, each capable of seating a hundred men. At each of the room’s five corners, large daises were raised-- dragons once rested upon them, but now laid empty.Bookmark here

As an archduchess Marea had played host for more people than could comfortably be seated, but now the Grand Hall stood empty; her only company the ghosts of the past and the familiar roar of the fire in the Great Hearth.Bookmark here

It had filled her with awe when she was a child, a feeling that had not dulled with age. It spanned the length of the wall, high and deep enough for five men to stand in line within. Once, this hearth was lit with a single breath of silver flame from a great dragon. But those times were more than a hundred years past. It now took a dozen servants a dozen minutes to stir the fire into a comparable blaze, and though Marea had never seen the flames of a dragon before, the fire before her must have been a pale imitation.Bookmark here

Marea placed her hand on the lip of the hearth, running her fingers across the hot stone as she walked along it, reaching the center. Within its blazing depths, wreathed in flames on all sides, five rounded objects sat. Bookmark here

She stepped forward, into the fire. The flames rolled across her pink skin and licked at the edges of her short brown hair, but they did not find purchase to burn. The enchantment on her red and silver dress shielded her from all heat and flame, reducing it to little more than the summer sunlight. She strode into the heart of the hearth, where the greatest treasure of Castle Silverscale was held.Bookmark here

Five eggs, each the size of a man’s head, sat in a ring upon the stone altar.Bookmark here

The first of the eggs was the color of a deep green forest, vibrant and bright with the bumpy rounded scales on the egg tipped in a rich gold that glowed in the fire.Bookmark here

The second was slightly smaller and colored a rich crimson, with sharpened scales that rose out of the shell like a small flame. Lines of black spread across it like veins that seemed to throb with life in the heat.Bookmark here

The third was large and smooth, so smooth not a single scale could be seen, the color of the night sky with orange starbursts shimmering across its surface like a precious gem.Bookmark here

The fourth was the smallest of the lot, smooth and soft with scales so small they were difficult to make out. It was a gentle sky blue with cream-colored swirls that passed over it like clouds.Bookmark here

The final of the eggs was the largest of all, a dark brown and bronze with large scales jutting sharply out of the shell like the cone of pine tree. It looked so rough to the touch that it might cut flesh.Bookmark here

Marea looked upon the eggs and felt joy and sorrows fill her heart in equal measure. These were the last five eggs of the House Harker, the last dragon eggs known to exist. They had sat in this hearth for decades, bathed in the heat of the flames in a vain hope by Marea’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather that they may one day hatch, birthing a new generation of dragons. But it was a fantasy. Dragons had been hunted to extinction long before Marea had been born, and she would not live to see them return.Bookmark here

Marea ran her hand over the bumpy scales of the green egg. It was teeming with warmth and life, as though it might hatch at any moment. It felt the same as it had decades ago, when first she’d touched it. Like the promise of a false future. Nevertheless, the eggs, and the hope they represented, were the greatest treasure of House Harker, more than gold or lands or even their ancestral sword, Soulfire.Bookmark here

“Hope” was irreplaceable.Bookmark here

As Marea knelt before the altar on which the eggs lay, she prayed for her husband’s safe return. Letters of promise were a comfort, but she could not shake the feeling that something was wrong. It was odd, how many nights had she waited like this, beside the roaring fire, for Alaine to return from his latest expedition? More than she could remember, to be sure. This was the way of their marriage, she would govern and he would explore. Bookmark here

For as much as she loved her husband, he was not the sort to be an archduke, to wait in his castle and rule. No, even after all their time together he was still that farm boy-turned-adventurer from the Gulchwood Elms, whose eyes held hopes of great adventure, who spoke to her of beasts and puzzles and amazing wonders of the skies while she listened in quiet awe. That love of adventure that had so swayed her, seduced her away from promises of engagements to those closer of her standing, and bid her marry the man she treasured.Bookmark here

As her memories filled her breast, she renewed her prayers with greater fervor. Please, Celestials and Dragons above, please guide him through the skies safely back to me, she pleaded. Her tears fell from her eyes and were consumed by the flames with a hiss.Bookmark here

Her prayer complete, she rose and departed the flames, giving the eggs one last treasuring look before stepping out into the cold of the Grand Hall once more.Bookmark here

Upon her return to the world that humans could tread, she noticed she was no longer alone. A familiar figure awaited at the far door, still as a statue.Bookmark here

“Fiona,” Marea greeted the young maid. Fiona lifted the hem of her dress, curtsying respectfully in greeting. Marea gestured her to rise and Fiona met her gaze, the light of the flame illuminating her features and causing the silver dragon emblazoned above her breast to shine.Bookmark here

“Begging your pardon, m’lady,” Fiona respectfully addressed her. “I know you wished for no interruptions tonight.”Bookmark here

“Nonsense, Fiona, I take no offense to the intrusion,” Marea assured the young woman with a warm smile. “Is this about Blake?”Bookmark here

Fiona gave a terse nod. “The young lord wishes to know when the lord of the house will return, m’lady.”Bookmark here

Marea sighed, a smile sneaking its way onto her lips.Bookmark here

“I shall see to him,” she informed the maid. “Fiona, please wait in the courtyard for Lord Harker to return. When he arrives, bring him here.”Bookmark here

Marea paused for a moment, feeling a little mischievous.Bookmark here

“If I’m not back by then, tell him I said it was his turn to wait for me this time,” she chuckled. “Dismissed.”Bookmark here

“As you wish, m’lady,” Fiona said, bowing her head. She departed the hall while Marea directed her attention towards the fire place one final time, basking in the heat as she turned towards the stairs up to the private quarters, and began her climb up to see her son.Bookmark here

The climb of stone up the tower was uneventful, but like every step she took in this castle it was filled with memories. Silverscale was a great castle, one of the finest in the sky. Gazing out the window at the large armored dome that shielded the stone walls from attacks from above, the courtyard itself was bathed in shadow. But Silverscale was always bright in her mind. She could picture those high walls and large gates, and her five mighty stone spires that reached high into the sky. Each named after one of the great dragons; Marea could recite them by name. But now was no time for stories. Bookmark here

This time was for her son.Bookmark here

When she entered Blake’s room, it was no surprise that he was still wide awake. She suppressed the urge to giggle as she saw him, perched at the window.Bookmark here

“At this time of evening, children should be getting rest,” Marea said. Her son turned around and his face filled with joy, stumbling out of the covers and rushing to her. He stared up at her with those big brown eyes of his, eyes that were filled with light and life, just like his father.Bookmark here

“Mother, has father returned?!” Blake asked, his voice filled with hope. Marea beamed at him and reached out, tenderly ruffling his brown hair and shaking his head.Bookmark here

“Not yet, my little lord,” she sighed. “Your father has a great desire to keep us both waiting.”Bookmark here

“It’s okay,” Blake said through a yawn, fighting to keep the weariness from sinking into his bright eyes. “I can… *yaaawn* wait for him…”Bookmark here

“No, no, you need your sleep my love,” Marea said, reaching down and scooping him up into her arms. “A young lord needs to grow up to be big and strong, like a dragon.” She carried him over to the bed, swelling with pride at how heavy he was getting. Her son was growing every day. Setting him down, she tucked the covers up to his chin and sat beside him, stroking his cheek the way her own mother always did.Bookmark here

“But… but I want to see father…” Blake begged, even as the sleep began to creep into his face. “He promised to read me a story for bedtime when he gets back…”Bookmark here

Marea laughed at the months-old promise and rose from the bed, turning towards the shelf filled with book upon book of dragons. “Well, that could be some time, sweetie. What if I read to you instead, tonight, and your father reads to you again in the morning?”Bookmark here

Marea ran her fingers along the spines of the books, knowing already which one her son would ask for. She didn’t have to see the pout to know it was there, her son’s insisting voice was more than enough. “I want one about dragons!”Bookmark here

“Yes, yes, always dragons,” Marea laughed, retrieving “House Harker and Dragons of Saekoria”, an old book that had been read so many times the boy likely knew the words by heart. The book had been old when she was a girl, and her father read it to her. “Let it never be said that you are not my son.”Bookmark here

She returned to Blake’s bed and sat down beside him once more, flipping the book open.Bookmark here

“Dragons are the coolest!” Blake said, his dark eyes sparkling. “I want to see a dragon in real life!”Bookmark here

“In real life?” Marea asked, not able to tell her son that there were no dragons left in the world.Bookmark here

“Yeah! Father has traveled everywhere, right?” Blake asked hopefully. “He must have seen lots of dragons out there!”Bookmark here

“Maybe so, little one,” Marea mused, shaking her head, staring at the drawing of the dragon on the front page, a majestic figure of scales and fangs and flame standing proudly on the parchment. Its eyes shone with life that almost made it seem real, like it would leap off the page and begin breathing fire right in front of the both of them. But that was all it was, a drawing.Bookmark here

“I’ll be an explorer like father someday,” Blake promised, nestling down into the soft pillow. “I’ll visit all the islands and countries in the sky, and I’ll see a dragon someday, too! And then I’ll get on its back and ride it back home, to show you and father!”Bookmark here

Marea smiled at the hopeful dreams of a child, and began to read. Blake beamed up at her and closed his eyes as she told him stories about noble knights and dragon riders, tales of Marlowe Harker and his glistening crimson blade, flying into battle on the back of Maeven the Silverflame, and countless more legends that had been read to her by her father, and grandfather, and great-grandfather as well. Halfway through reading of the five great dragons of Silverscale, Marea glanced at her son, and saw he had long-since fallen into blissful sleep, the cutest of smiles on his pudgy little face as visions of dragons no doubt filling the skies in his mind.Bookmark here

She rose from bed and replaced the book, leaning down over her son’s bed and kissing his forehead to grant him only the sweetest of dreams. “Good night, my little dragon,” she whispered, and left her son with his dragons.Bookmark here

As she walked down the tower, something caught her eye in the window that brought her pause. It was a girl. She rubbed her eyes to make sure it was not simply tiredness, and checked again to confirm that, no, it was a girl, or perhaps a boy, it was hard to tell at this distance with her hair as short as it was. She stared up at her, a thin stick of a girl who looked like a ghost, with her pale skin, white hair, and white tunic, and for a moment Marea thought that she was. What would a girl she did not recognize be doing within the castle walls, wandering the courtyard at this hour? A servant’s child? Bookmark here

She rubbed her eyes again, but the figure was gone, a specter of the night. Marea sighed. She hoped that Alaine would be home when she reached the base of the stairs, this night was long, and uneasy, and she wished more than anything for it to be over and for her Alaine to be in her arms again.Bookmark here

Standing in the Grand Hall when she arrived, staring into the flames of the Great Hearth, was a great bear of a man, tall and broad-shouldered, squeezed into a vest that bulged out from his muscled form. In one of his beefy hands he clasped something long and wrapped in cloth, the flames illuminating him like a Celestial’s halo.Bookmark here

A smile curled across her face and she called to him, “what, pray tell, are you doing in the Grand Hall of Castle Silverscale at this time of night, weary traveler?Bookmark here

The man turned to greet her, warmth flooding his bearded face as he smiled, his eyes twinkling at her. “Begging your pardon, my lady, but I have traveled a great distance to come give greeting to the lord of this castle, is he in?”Bookmark here

Flashing a coy smirk, Marea strutted across the stone floor, holding her hand against her forehead and sighing in exaggerated wistfulness. “Alas, your long journey had met an unfruitful end. For my husband, the archduke has been away a great while, and I do not know when he shall return.”Bookmark here

Marea closed the distance between them, staring into his eyes as she resisted the urge to throw herself upon him then and there. She passed him by, walking to the flames, their heat matching her own as she continued, “I’ve been so lonely these past months, longing for my husband’s touch, just… mmm… yearning to see him again.”Bookmark here

He wrapped a thick arm around her waist and pulled her back against his broad chest, causing Marea to let out a gasp. His hand was ice-cold!Bookmark here

“I must express my deepest sympathies, my lady,” his hot voice causing her ear to burn. “To leave a woman of such beauty alone for so long, you must be married to quite the fool.” He pressed his lips against her neck, the familiar scratches of her beard causing her to let out a giggle that nearly gave away the game.Bookmark here

“Mmm… yes, he is a fool, such a fool… but a fool whom I love nonetheless… and you, my good sir, would do well to not be so forward with a married lady!” In spite of her words, she reached down and wrapped her hand over his, letting out a deep sigh.Bookmark here

“Even if I should come bearing a gift, for a lady left alone with but the roaring fire as her company?” The man asked, raising his kisses up to her cheek. She smiled.Bookmark here

“That could be a different story of course, my love,” she murmured out a yearning whisper. She lifted her hand and he pulled back from her, allowing her to turn and look him in the eye once more. Unable to resist any longer she threw herself into Alaine’s arms and hugged him tightly, feeling the comforting grasp of her sweet and gentle bear. “Welcome home…”Bookmark here

“I’m home,” Alaine warmly replied, as though his mere presence wasn’t enough to confirm it. The two parted, far too soon for Marea’s wishes, but she gave it no mind. There would be time enough for that later.Bookmark here

“How was your expedition?” She asked, trying to keep her voice from sounding too hopeful. Alaine smiled at her, his eyes twinkling, and he raised the wrapped object up to her. Marea felt her heart begin to pound. It couldn’t be, and yet she hoped it was. Alaine took her by the hand and led her to the head of the great stone table, setting down the object and gently unwrapping it, revealing to her the treasure that lay within.Bookmark here

What she saw within made the fire in her chest roar louder than the Great Hearth itself.Bookmark here

“Soulfire,” Marea breathed, her voice just above a whisper, staring down at the crimson sword of her family. “You found it.” Even with it sitting in front of her, she couldn’t bring herself to believe it.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry I couldn’t figure out how to unwrap the cloth,” Alaine apologized. “Such a legend, and the blade-“Bookmark here

“Nonsense,” Marea shushed him, lost in to the world in the beauty of the great sword. “Nonsense… you found it. After so many years, Soulfire once again dwells within the walls of this castle.”Bookmark here

She had not once expected to see it in her lifetime, not even when she was a hopeful little girl in this same hall, staring into the flames of this same fireplace while sitting with a wide-eyed smile on her grandfather’s lap. She had doubted her husband’s success at the time, but now…Bookmark here

But now, here it was, hot in her hands. The legends were wrong: the pommel was not topped with a silver dragon. Rather, the sword lacked a pommel entirely. A crimson guard, thick and sharp, like the blade of a battle axe, was wrapped around a grip meant for a hand-and-a-half blade. In fact, at a glance, one could mistake the sword itself for an ornate axe of some sort. The long blade of Soulfire was wrapped tight in a long stretch of crimson cloth, not an inch of the red steel to be seen. It looked as though one could grip it by the edge and swing the hilt into their foe, hacking him down.Bookmark here

Her husband had found it for her, as he promised he would. She set the blade down and turned to Alaine, throwing her arms around him in another tight hug, tears rolling down her cheeks and soaking his vest. The two stayed embraced for a time, before finally parting. Marea beamed up at her husband, dropping her arms and walking past him, staring down into the flames of the grand roaring fireplace.Bookmark here

“So what now?” She asked, turning back to him. “Another expedition?”Bookmark here

“No, no,” Alaine said, shaking his head. “This one was too close a call. I’m not a young man anymore.”Bookmark here

“And who was it that said he wouldn’t be happy unless he died fighting some phantom beast in an underground labyrinth on some far-off island in the clouds?” Marea laughed, slapping him in the chest. “That doesn’t sound like the man I married!”Bookmark here

“That man was a young fool,” Alaine chuckled. “Right now, I want nothing more than to take care of my family. No more grand adventures or expeditions. I’m retiring.”Bookmark here

Alaine turned to look at Soulfire, left on the table, guard and wrap glimmering in the glow of the flames.Bookmark here

“Besides, what greater treasure could I bring home than this?”Bookmark here

“You’re home, are you not?” Marea said, pulling her mountain of a husband into another loving hug. “That is treasure enough.”Bookmark here

BlakeBookmark here

Blake was roused from his sleep by the rustling of footsteps and shouts echoing from the courtyard. He felt someone shaking him roughly, forcefully dragging him from his sleep.Bookmark here

“Wha…?” Blake yawned, blinking, his eyes adjusting to the darkness.Bookmark here

“Blake, you need to wake up now,” his mother’s whispered voice catching his ear. She sounded panicked. Blake turned to look at her, worried and confused.Bookmark here

“Mother? What’s going on?”Bookmark here

“Just come with me,” Marea said, helping Blake out of bed. “We need to go, now!”Bookmark here

“Is father here?” Blake asked. “Is he coming?”Bookmark here

“Not right now,” Marea said, shaking her head. Blake was scared because she looked so scared. His mother was always cool and strong, seeing her panicking like this was really worrying.Bookmark here

“Wait,” Blake said, running over to the bookshelf and grabbing his favorite book. He clutched it closely to his chest. He was scared, really scared, and he wanted the dragons in the book to give him strength. Whatever was going on, he didn’t like it.Bookmark here

Marea took Blake by the hand and led him out into the corridor. In her other hand, she held a large sack over her shoulder, which bulged strangely. She was walking quickly, and Blake had to struggle to keep up. His heart was pounding in his chest as they approached the grand hall, the shouts getting louder and more frantic.Bookmark here

“-there! Stop them!”Bookmark here

“-tect the-“Bookmark here

Fragments of sound echoed in his ears, and it sent a shiver down his spine.Bookmark here

“Hush, sweetie, don’t listen,” Marea urged Blake, looking back at him. But even her voice was panicking, completely failing to reassure Blake at all. She was never like this! He could feel her tight grip on his wrist, holding onto him so tightly it was starting to hurt.Bookmark here

Marea rushed around the corner and stifled a scream. A figure in a black robe and a white dragon mask leapt out at her from the shadows with a snarl, a curved blade in their hand.Bookmark here

“…Glurk-!” The figure uttered, stopping in place. It collapsed to the ground in a tumble, the shiny knife clattering away.Bookmark here

“M’lady,” Fiona appeared behind the figure, and nodded to his mother. A slender blade glittered in the light of the torches, thick blood sliding down it. She flicked her wrist, sending droplets of blood everywhere. In the heat of the moment, Blake could see each drop flying through the air.Bookmark here

“Fiona! Thank the Celestials,” his mother breathed a sigh of relief. “Come!”Bookmark here

Fiona nodded, turning on her heel and storming down the corridor in long strides, already knowing where they were going.Bookmark here

“The crypts?” Blake gasped, a shiver running down his spine as he looked at the intimidating black door, already picturing the dark stairwell descending down into the shadowy depths beneath the crypt.Bookmark here

“I know you’re scared sweetie,” Marea said, kneeling down next to him. He could see that she was crying. “But you have to be brave for me, okay? You have to be very brave right now, like a dragon. Go with Fiona, she’ll keep you safe. She knows what to do.”Bookmark here

“You aren’t coming with me?” Blake asked, his eyes widening. Going into the crypts was scary enough, but without his mother? He shook his head. He didn’t want to go!Bookmark here

“I need to go find your father, sweetheart,” Marea said. “He’s out there right now fighting for all of us, and I need to go help him.”Bookmark here

“But mother-!”Bookmark here

“I’m sorry, Blake, I’m so, so sorry,” Marea cried, dropping the bag she was carrying and throwing both her arms around him in a tight hug. He could feel the cold sting of his mother’s tears on the side of his face, the same tears he was crying. “I wish I could have protected you from this for a little longer. There’s still so much you don’t understand, I wish I had time to tell you, but I can’t. I love you, my little dragon, your father and I both love you. We did this for you.”Bookmark here

“Momma, what are you saying?” Blake sobbed, unable to keep from crying any longer. He didn’t understand what she was saying: he was scared and tired and wanted to go back to his room with her. He didn’t want to go into the crypts, he wanted to go back to sleep and wake up tomorrow and eat breakfast with his parents. His father still needed to tell him all the stories about his adventure, why was everything sounding so scary?Bookmark here

“Blake, will you forgive me?” Marea asked, pulling back from him. Her face was white and streaked with tears. Blake didn’t know what she was sad about, but he wanted her to stop crying so he nodded his head.Bookmark here

“Of course momma…”Bookmark here

“Even though I’m such a terrible mother?”Bookmark here

“You’re the best mother, momma,” Blake said. “Of course I forgive you!”Bookmark here

Marea smiled softly. She brushed his hair out from his forehead and pressed her lips against it in a gentle kiss.Bookmark here

“Even if you may change your mind someday, thank you my love,” Marea whispered. She picked up the bag from where she had left it, and placed it in his tiny hands. It was almost as big as he was, and it was really, really warm. “Take care of these for me, just for a little while, until I get back, okay? They’re our treasures.”Bookmark here

Blake drew open the string and looked down into the bag, seeing round objects that glittered in the low light of the torches framing the crypt doors. He gasped. The dragon eggs from the grand hall?Bookmark here

“But momma, why-?”Bookmark here

“Keep them safe for me, please,” Marea urged him. Blake gulped and nodded, his heart pounding with wild fear as he stared down at the green egg on the top of bag, the heat coming off it drawing him closer. He reached to close the bag and let out a gasp of pain. His hand had scraped against the surface of the egg, burning hotly.Bookmark here

“Owww!” Blake cried out, the bag and his book slipping from his hands as he cradled the burn.Bookmark here

“Oh, no, sweetie,” Marea took his hand and kissed it, the pain of his burn draining away immediately. She picked the bag back up and drew it closed, handing it to him. He wrapped both arms tightly around it and held it close, grabbing onto it with one hand and his book in the other. As his mother stood, his eyes rose to follow her, and he put on the bravest face he could.Bookmark here

“My family cannot thank you enough for this,” Marea told Fiona.Bookmark here

“As one who bears the silver dragon crest, it is an honor, m’lady,” Fiona said, lowering her head and placing her hand over the silver dragon emblem stitched above her heart. “It is more than enough for the debt I owe to your family.”Bookmark here

“That debt is repaid as of today,” Marea smiled at the young maid, who simply responded with a tight smile and a shake of the head.Bookmark here

“M’lady, would it not be better for you to join the young lord? I can go find the archduke and bring him to you, if you so-“Bookmark here

“Thank you Fiona, but no,” Marea said, shaking her head. “Castle Silverscale is my home. I will not run and hide in the crypts while my guards and my husband fight to defend it.”Bookmark here

Marea held her hand out, and bright crimson flames erupted from her fingers, spreading over her palm and then her entire arm, bathing the corridor in bright light.Bookmark here

“As you wish, m’lady,” Fiona said, lowering her head. She pushed the door to the crypt open and too Blake by the hand. Blake winced. His mother’s hand was warm, but hers was so cold. He glanced over his shoulder to see his mother looking back at him one last time, before Fiona led him down into the shadowed depths of the crypt. The heavy door rumbled shut behind him, trapping him in the darkened stairwell. Bookmark here

Fiona lifted a torch with her other hand and led him down, the flames casting shadows across the towering stone walls that made Blake feel very small and afraid. They descended into the lowest level of the crypt, the Dragon’s Graveyard. The massive skeletons of dragons glowed in the light of the torch, no longer the majestic creatures they had been many years before. Bookmark here

Now, they were shadows of their former selves, towering monstrosities with pale white bones and sharp fangs, ghosts of the past that looked ready to move forward and snap him up in a single bite. Blake always hated these things, ever since his mother had first shown them to him. He loved her mother and her love of dragons, but he couldn’t share her love for these scary monsters.Bookmark here

The warmth of the dragon eggs was soothing to Blake in the cold, haunting air of the crypt. He clutched the bag tighter to his chest, worried he’d drop it. He tried to pull his hand free from Fiona, but she refused to drop his hand no matter what.Bookmark here

“I want momma…” Blake sniffled. “Mother and father, when are they coming back?”Bookmark here

“Hush young lord,” Fiona urged him, her voice a soft and stern whisper. “We must not make a sound. They can’t find us here.”Bookmark here

Blake nodded; looking at the thin blade strapped to Fiona’s waist, the same blade he had seen her plunge in that masked man’s back not twenty minutes prior. He didn’t want to disagree with her, he had never seen her acting this scary, not nice Fiona.Bookmark here

Fiona looked up at the high ceiling of the tomb, Blake looking up as well. He couldn’t hear the muffled voices or the footsteps anymore, the only thing he could hear were his footsteps and the pounding of his heart, and the dull crackle of the small fire Fiona carried.Bookmark here

The dragons won’t hurt me, he reminded himself. They look scary but they won’t hurt me.Bookmark here

A thump sounded from somewhere off in the darkness, breaking his concentration. Fiona whirled around and shoved him behind her, Blake landing on the dusty stone floor, staring up in shock. The maid brandished her torch with one hand while the other drew out her blade, holding it in front of her. In the light, Blake could see the panicked glimmer in Fiona’s dark eyes, and he shivered. Fiona, usually so stern and strict, and yet he could see such fear on her face…Bookmark here

Blake curled up in a ball and clutched the bag tightly to his chest, his book lying forgotten on the floor of the crypt.Bookmark here

“Who’s there?” Fiona whispered. “Show yourself!”Bookmark here

There was no answer to her question, not in words. Soft footsteps echoed through the chamber and a figure emerged into the large ring of light from the flame, shadows cast across her pale features like a ghost emerging from her tomb.Bookmark here

Blake’s eyes widened in realization. It was the girl he’d seen before! Only now that he got a closer look at her, she didn’t look like a girl. She was taller and older than he’d first thought, but still looked young and pretty. For a moment, he wondered if she was one of the elves that he had heard about in stories, but a glance at her ears said she wasn’t.Bookmark here

The girl raised her hand and Fiona tensed, clutching the blade harder. Blake squinted. What was that girl holding, wrapped in red cloth?Bookmark here

“Come,” the girl whispered her voice soft and gentle like a bell. She gestured for Fiona and Blake to follow her.Bookmark here

“Fiona…” Blake glanced at the maid, watching the girl in white retreat to the edge of the ring of light, waiting for them as the shadows crawled up her body. Fiona made no move to follow her.Bookmark here

“Young lord, we can’t trust her,” Fiona said, stepping closer. “Allow me to take care of this intruder.”Bookmark here

“No,” Blake cried, shaking his head. “I don’t… no more killing.”Bookmark here

Fiona scowled.Bookmark here

“Silverscale will fall,” the white girl said, glancing back at the two. Her golden eyes flickered in the light. “I have taken Soulfire for safekeeping. If you wish to protect your young lord, then follow me.”Bookmark here

Blake looked up into her eyes. They were warm and kind, and oh, so familiar… where had he seen those eyes before?Bookmark here

Blake held the bag tighter, the eggs in his grip throbbing with warmth. A voice rang out in his head.Bookmark here

“Go!”Bookmark here

Blake looked around, but could not find the source of the voice.Bookmark here

Who-?Bookmark here

The sound of footsteps drew the attention of everyone in the room. Distant voices echoed from the stairwell. Blake looked up at Fiona’s grimacing face, and got worried.Bookmark here

Fiona clutched her dagger tightly, and her face darkened. That was when Blake made the decision for her. Whoever it was, he didn’t want to be here when they came. He was scared, and wouldn’t spend one more second in this dark, spooky crypt if he didn’t have to.Bookmark here

Clutching the bag to his chest, he ran over to the girl in white, who nodded her head slightly and headed deeper into the crypt.Bookmark here

“Young lord!” Fiona cried after him, and he froze. But his fear pushed him forward again. He heard her footsteps echo behind him, and then they stopped. More sounds rang behind him, shouts this time, and the clang of blades. He heard Fiona grunt and in spite of the how scared he was, he looked back to see if the maid was okay. Just in time to see her torch hit the ground, extinguished. Blake felt tears roll down his cheeks as he thanked the maid silently, turning his head forward and running as fast as he could to catch up with the white-haired girl.Bookmark here

Blake didn’t know where the girl was taking him. He could barely see where he was going in the inky blackness of the crypt. And suddenly, he could. A soft light appeared in front of him, glowing gently against the stone walls of the narrow corridor. He squinted ahead, and to his surprise he saw that the source of the light was not a torch in her hand, but that the girl’s hand was glowing itself!Bookmark here

“Wow…” he whispered, awed by the light that could only be magic. His mother was the only wizard he knew. “Is that… magic?”Bookmark here

The white girl nodded her head. He followed her down the corridor, until they reached a dead-end. A pile of rubble blocked any further progress, some of the crypt having caved in on itself.Bookmark here

“Here.” The white girl set the strange wrapped object down on the ground and knelt, dirt smearing her tunic. With a slight flick of her wrist, the light in her hand rose up from her palm and floated up toward the ceiling, a tiny ball of light like a sun. The girl in white pushed on a section of the wall with both hands, and with a rough grinding sound the wall slowly slid inwards, revealing a passageway even narrower than the hall they were standing in. The passage was barely wide enough for Blake and the girl to make it through.Bookmark here

“You… you want me to go through here?” Blake gulped, not sure. The girl in white nodded sharply, her face a cold mask of certainty. Blake took another look at the passage. It looked dark and cramped and scary, even worse than the crypt.Bookmark here

“Young lord!”Bookmark here

Blake and the white girl turned to see a dusty Fiona standing in front of them, having followed the faint light from the white girl’s spell. Her clothes were torn and there were cuts on her face and arms. Her torch and knife were both gone, and in their place she clenched his favorite book tightly.Bookmark here

“Stay. Go.” The white girl picked the long, wrapped object off the ground and rose to her feet, slipping into the passageway. The orb of light followed after her, the corridor growing darker and darker.Bookmark here

“Fiona…” Blake looked desperately at the maid. She grumbled a word he didn’t recognize and nodded her head, storming after him into the passageway. The stones rumbled shut behind them and they were trapped. There was nowhere to go but forward, into the tunnel, and after the odd girl in white whose magic lit the path ahead.Bookmark here

Holding the dragon eggs so tightly he thought they might burn his hand again, Blake chased after the girl, feeling Fiona’s presence right at his heels. It was a tight squeeze through the passage at several points and he nearly tripped over stones and roots a few times, but he quickly managed to catch up with her.Bookmark here

“Where are you taking us?” Fiona demanded. The girl didn’t answer.Bookmark here

Blake looked cautiously up at her, and gulped.Bookmark here

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“Um, what… who are you?” Blake asked.Bookmark here

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