The Rise of The Dragon Queen- Chapter 15

Over the next few months, it became apparent to Vixia and me that we actually could stay in Tidalsong City. We began by taking on quests around town and eventually we became somewhat known by most of the people there. The kinder ones would give us food along with our payments for the quests and after helping out an innkeeper we managed to get a room for a few weeks. The only downside was how people looked at Vixia and me since we weren’t exactly human, but that would be an issue no matter where we went.

The first incident that we had was when we decided to go to a restaurant after finishing a quest with a hefty reward. Vixia and I were sitting at our table, beginning to eat our food, when a man wandered over to us.

He was tall with broad shoulders and hunting gear on. I assumed that he was probably part of a guild that specialized in monster population control because of the large bow and quiver on his back. As soon as he approached the table, he slammed his palms down on its surface, making all of our dishes clatter from the force.

“What’s a monster like you doing here?” he asked Vixia with a forceful tone. Vixia stared at him, her eyes wide with fear. She held up her hands defensively, but she was trembling.

“I’m not a monster,” she replied with a shaky voice. As soon as I saw the look on her face, I stood up.

“Leave her alone,” I snapped. “She hasn’t done anything wrong.” He looked toward me and I could tell that he noticed my ears because he immediately began laughing at me.

“What a pointy-eared freak!” My eyes narrowed as I gripped the hilt of my sword. I was about to draw it when one of the waitresses rushed over to us.

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” The hunter turned to look at the girl, his expression shifting from amusement to shock.

“But I—”

“Sir, you are disturbing our guests. If you refuse to leave, I will go get the guards outside.” He grumbled something and left. Vixia and I tried to calm down and go back to eating, but Vixia couldn’t stop shaking. The waitress was kind enough to bring us a free dessert and assured us that people like the hunter were few and far in between, which made Vixia feel a little better.

Overall, Tidalsong City was a place where Vixia and I could not only survive, but could thrive.


A few years passed and Vixia and I found a semi-permanent place to stay at one of the local inns. The people there were kind and let us stay for a few months at a time for a lower price than what it would have cost to rent a place of our own. By this time, Vixia and I had been together for most of our lives and I finally saved up enough to buy a ring to surprise her with. I could not imagine spending my life with anyone else, but much less spending it without Vixia by my side. I had already planned the proposal out by the time I bought the ring and decided to pop the question on a warm spring afternoon.

We were at a local sightseeing spot, a cliff that overlooked the shore and the ocean. The breeze carried the sound of the waves, but also Vixia’s voice as we chatted about her magic.

“Zelora’s been teaching me all of these crazy spells recently,” Vixia explained, leaning against the railing with her arms crossed. She was facing the ocean and the wind blew her hair away from her face in flowing wisps. I was standing beside her. “But, I think they’ll be useful.”

“I have a random question,” I interjected.

“What is it?”

“What does Zelora think about me?” Vixia let out a chuckle.

“I already talked to her about that, actually,” she replied, taking my hand. “She likes you and says that I won’t have to worry about us being apart.” She squeezed my hand three times. I did it back.

“Zelora is a wise goddess then.” I smiled and I let go of Vixia’s hand. She began to turn to face me when I dropped down on one knee.

“Why do you say—” She froze mid-turn when she saw what I was doing. I could barely hide my joy as I reached for my pocket, revealing the ring box that I had concealed inside. Vixia’s hands rose up to cover her mouth and nose and her ears stood up alertly. Also, her tail started wagging.

As soon as I remembered her face, I was snapped back to reality by the sound of a scream. I sat up, finding myself still in the back of the wagon. I looked around, realizing that Puff and Vixia were gone.

“Vixia!”

The pain in my chest grew in intensity as I got up and began to run, heading for what I assumed was the deepest cavern. That was when I saw a sight that made my blood run cold.

Vixia was lying on the ground, motionless, while Puff towered over her defensively at a massive size that I didn’t even know he could grow to. Across from him, at the other end of the cavern, was another dragon with someone riding on its back. My eyes widened in horror when I heard the rider’s voice.

“I’ve been waiting for you.”


Sparrow was sitting on the back of the large dragon. It was covered in green and yellow scales and its eyes were dark and soulless, like the others. There was a triumphant grin on the rider’s face as he peered down at me. My chest ached as a thought ran through my mind.

How the hell did he get a dragon?

I didn’t have much more time to think before the opposing dragon lurched for us. I jumped backward as Puff lunged for it as well, letting out a vicious roar that shook the cavern walls. My eyes darted around the cave until they found Vixia again, just behind the fight that was taking place between Puff and Sparrow’s dragon. I rushed over to her.

“Not so fast!” Sparrow yelled as I dropped to my knees beside her. His voice almost sounded maniacal. I didn’t know what he was talking about until I saw green flames erupt from the mouth of his dragon, heading straight toward us. At that moment, I grabbed onto Vixia and pulled her limp body close, positioning my back to the approaching fire as I braced for the burn. But it never came.

I had squeezed my eyes shut, but they opened again when I heard Puff scream. I looked back to see that he had blocked the fire from reaching us. He growled and bared his teeth as he stared Sparrow and his dragon down, his tail whipping back and forth in anger. He dug his claws into the ground of the cavern and launched himself at them again. I stared in awe before I heard a voice call out to me.

“Ketsuna?” I looked down to see Vixia reaching for my hand. She was shaking and she could barely open her eyes, but she managed to squeeze my hand three times.

“It’s going to be okay,” I promised, but the truth was that I really didn’t know. Puff’s cries ripped through the cavern as he was slammed into one of the walls. Dust and rubble went flying from the impact, clouding my sight of him. “Let’s get you out of here,” I said to Vixia, lifting her up. Her head rolled over to look toward a corner of the cavern and she reached out her hand.

“My staff . . .”

“We have to get you out of here first.” I was about to begin heading back toward the wagon when I noticed that everything around us was rumbling. My eyes darted around the cavern and I finally spotted Sparrow’s other teammates, who were lying on the ground and covered in blood. I guessed that they were dead, but there was no way to really tell. Puff let out a viscous roar, which shook the cavern around us even more, and my heart started pounding to where I could hardly hear anything else.

We need to get out of here.

“Puff!” I shouted. He had just managed to push Sparrow’s dragon off of him and hurried over to us. I managed to push Vixia up onto his back and was scrambling on myself when Sparrow’s dragon turned toward us. “We need to get out of here.”

Just as I said that, a boulder fell from the ceiling. Then, like falling dominoes, more and more followed suit, one landing on one of Sparrow’s dragon’s wings. It let out a cry as I looked frantically for an opening. Sparrow was cursing loudly when I finally found one. A large enough boulder had fallen to where the sky outside was visible through a medium-sized gap in the ceiling.

“There!” I commanded Puff, pointing up at it. He nodded and flapped his wings, pushing us up off the ground.

“I’m not letting you get away,” Sparrow screamed. As he said that, more flames sputtered out of his dragon’s mouth. Puff tried his best to avoid them as he headed for the opening. When we were most of the way there, I noticed that Puff wouldn’t fit through it at his current size.

“Shrink!” I held onto Vixia as tightly as I could as I clung to Puff’s neck. I felt it become looser in my grasp as he shrunk down and I held on tighter. We were about to be burned by Sparrow’s flames when we flew through the hole, finally reaching safety. Once we were out, Puff tried to gain as much altitude as he could and leveled out. That was when I finally had a chance to look at Vixia.

She was bleeding from her forehead and several other scrapes and cuts on her body. She was covered in dirt and dust from the cave and her clothes were torn. I wondered if she managed to land any attacks before being caught off-guard by Sparrow. I turned my attention to Puff, noticing that he had also taken quite a bit of damage. Most of his scales were singed or burnt, some of them even appearing like they were going to peel off.

“Puff, I don’t care where we go, but don’t take us back to the guild.” He nodded and continued soaring through the air, heading for the horizon as the sun began its descent.

The Rise of The Dragon Queen – Chapter 14

Late that night, the traffic in the area died down and Vixia and I slowly crept out of the crate that we were hiding in. Now it was so quiet around us that you could hear the chirping of crickets and what I suspected was the croaking of frogs, basking in the puddles from the earlier rainfall. I peered around the corner of the building, seeing that the street was completely empty. Vixia followed silently as I snuck around the wall’s edge. I stepped onto the sidewalk and looked around, searching for any nearby shops. That was when something caught my eye.

Just down the street, at the corner of one of the city blocks, there was a shop with the windows still lit. I could see the silhouette of a man behind the glowing panes of glass and guessed that he was probably preparing to close the store. I looked over to see Vixia watching him as well. I took her hand and her attention was brought back to me.

“I have an idea,” I told her. “Let’s get over there and wait for him to leave.” She nodded in agreement and we crossed the street together. We headed behind the building that stood across from where we had been, hoping to avoid any guards that might be patrolling. I looked to the sky, finding a trail of smoke that I figured was from the chimney of the shop. We followed it and found ourselves beside the shop, creeping along in the dark alleyway beside it. I edged toward the corner of the building, finding that the man we had spotted earlier was now locking the door. I ducked behind the wall and waited until I heard him walking away before I peeked out from around the corner again. He had disappeared into the night. I walked over to the door, finding a sign hanging over it.

“A blacksmith’s shop?” I whispered under my breath. I looked over at Vixia, who was peering around the corner at me. I motioned for her to join me by the door and she walked out into the light of the nearest streetlamp. She also read the sign and crossed her arms.

“What now?” she asked. I shrugged. That was when she did something that I had never seen before. Her wolf-like ears perked up as if she had heard something and she stepped closer to the door. She took the lock that was hanging off the door’s latch in both of her hands.

“Vixia, what are you—” I stopped as soon as I heard her begin mumbling a few words under her breath, but I don’t remember what they were. Her fingers glowed with an odd green light and she pulled on the lock. It clicked and when she opened her hands it fell to the ground with a clattering sound. I stared at her, amazed.

“What was that?” She turned to me and shrugged.

“I don’t know. Zelora told me to do it.”

“I still don’t know who that is.”

“I’ll explain later. Come on.” Vixia opened the door and headed inside. Now it was my turn to follow her lead. I left the door open behind us and stepped into the building, awestruck by what was inside.

The hearth at the center of the room emitted a low glow as it cooled, providing just enough light to illuminate the weapons on the walls. Swords and daggers were to my left with shields and maces to my right. My eyes scanned the room, where I found a large assortment of axes, hammers, and sets of armor either pinned to walls or locked away in glass display cases. My eyes then found Vixia as she wandered further into the shop, toward the back right corner of the room, where staffs were displayed on the wall. I followed her, finding that she was staring at them in awe.

Mage’s staffs? I had never seen one in real life before, but they looked just like the ones I had seen in books. My attention was turned back to Vixia when she grasped my hand. When I looked at her, she was pointing further up on the wall.

“I want that one.”

My eyes drifted up to where she was pointing and I instantly knew what she was talking about. There was a staff up high on the wall that appeared to be crafted from both wood and metal with a glass orb, which was about the size of the palm of my hand, secured at the top. The weapon was set high up on the wall, far out of our reach.

“How are we supposed to get it?”

“Well, how would the blacksmith get it down?” We both thought about it for a moment. We were trying to come up with an answer when we heard a shout from behind us.

“Hey!” Vixia and I both jumped and looked over to the door, finding a man standing in the doorway. I quickly realized that he wasn’t the man who had locked the door earlier, but I couldn’t tell if he was a guard or not. “What are you doing here?” he asked, stepping toward us. In a panic, I grabbed the nearest sword and held it out in front of me.

“Stay back!” I screamed, my voice cracking. “I will use this if I need to.” Looking back, there is no way that he could have believed me with how badly I was shaking. My arms and the blade trembled as I held it out.

Shit, shit, shit! I looked at Vixia, watching as she reached her hand up toward the staff. Her palm glowed again as she whispered something. The staff then shined with the same light and lifted itself from its place on the wall. She held out both of her hands and it immediately plummeted straight into her grasp. The man and I both stared at her in disbelief as a smile crossed her face.

“Let’s get out of here.” She grabbed my arm and pulled me over toward the nearest window. With a quick blow from the bottom of her staff, she broke the window and started to climb through.

“Hey, wait a minute!” the man yelled in protest. He rushed for me, but I managed to jump through the window before he could get ahold of me. Vixia and I ran off into the night, now equipped with our first weapons.


Vixia and I headed back the way that we came and found ourselves back at the gap in the city’s surrounding walls. The shorter girl shoved her staff through first and then took my sword to do the same when I finally voiced the question that I was still holding onto.

“How did you do that?” I asked.

“Do what?”

“The glowing thing with your hands,” I replied, holding out my hand in mimicry of how she lifted the staff. She shrugged and turned back to the wall.

“I don’t know, but I heard a voice. I think Zelora told me to do it.” I tilted my head as she crawled through the hole in the wall. I followed behind her.

“And Zelora is?” Vixia reached the other side and kneeled on the ground, picking up her staff again.

“She’s my friend. The one that lives at the shrine that we went to earlier.”

“Friend?” Vixia nodded as she stood up. I decided to let it go for the time being and grabbed my sword. That was when I realized that I didn’t have anywhere to put it. “Crap, I forgot to grab a sheath.”

“It’ll be fine. We’ve got to get moving, though. I’m sure there are more guards looking for us now.” She was right. We walked off, heading back into the forest.


Vixia and I spent most of our days traveling around the kingdom of Zaledrid after that. After some time, Vixia managed to explain to me that Zelora, the friend that she had referred to, was once a popular goddess but was forgotten by time. Since she had first visited the shrine, Zelora spoke to her directly and Vixia was her only follower. With the help of the magic that Zelora gave to Vixia, we managed to take up quests almost everywhere we went. As time went on, the search for the two young girls who left the orphanage died out and we were able to begin using our real names again. Even so, we never stayed in one place for too long, since I was the only one out of the two of us that was old enough to not be sent back at that time.

That is, until we came to Tidalsong City.

It was the day before Vixia’s 18th birthday and we were walking along the cliffs at the edge of the city. We were looking out at the ocean, the wind whipping our hair and blowing in our faces. I watched as the waves crashed against the shore and stared at the city sprawled out in front of us in awe. Vixia squeezed my hand.

“Pretty, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.” She tilted her head, resting her cheek on my hair. “Maybe we can find a way to stay here.”

“Sure, I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

The Rise of The Dragon Queen – Chapter 13

“All right, that should be all of the supplies you need,” Nesryn determined, putting her hands on his hips as some other guild members helped us load a few crates into a wagon. “It shouldn’t take you too long to get there. The caverns are only a few hours past the forest that you guys were in.”

I wiped some sweat off of my forehead as I turned toward her. Vixia was now sitting on the back of the wagon and the others were leaving.

“Wait, then how do we know that the dragon there isn’t the same one that got away from me?” I asked.

“I wondered the same thing,” Nesryn admitted, “but Queen Evelyn was very adamant that they were two different dragons when she sent the reports to me. I guess her soldiers found them.”

Vixia and I exchanged confused glances, but she shrugged it off. I then looked toward the guildhall again. My gaze pierced through the window as I looked toward the kitchen, finding Darius standing in the doorway. This was when I saw that he was actually looking at me first. Our eyes met and I briefly remembered when Vixia and I asked if he would come with us on this quest.

“I’d rather stay back here,” he answered hesitantly when Vixia asked him the night before.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. The guildhall needs me to make everyone’s food anyway. Stay safe out there.”

That last line ran through my head as I watched him look away. I did the same, looking down at the ground.

It’s all my fault.

“Well, we better get going,” Vixia spoke up, pushing herself off of the wagon. “Let’s get this thing outside of the city so Puff can take over.”

Puff, who was hiding in my hood, trilled. I nodded at her and we both grabbed one handle to the wagon. Nesryn watched silently as we dragged it away and when I looked back, she was waving.


Vixia, Puff, and I made the long journey to the mountains where Sparrow’s party was sent. We made it by the middle of our second day away from the guild, right on schedule. We were making our way up the mountain’s winding roads when I felt my chest begin to ache. I gripped my shirt and heaved a sigh, unsure of how else I should deal with the pain. It must have caught the others’ attention, because they both stopped in their tracks and looked back at me.

“Ketsuna, are you okay?” Vixia asked.

“Yeah,” I answered, slouching. I drew in a deep breath, which then came back out shakily. “I just need a minute.”

“Climb on the wagon, Puff can pull you the rest of the way.”

The dragon, who was now about the size of a horse, looked back at me from the front of the wagon. He nodded in agreement with Vixia, his eyes showing a level of concern that I had never seen in them before. I thought for a minute.

“All right.” I did as I was told and laid down in the wagon. Vixia walked along beside it, behind my head so I couldn’t see her. I rolled onto my side and looked at the dirt road behind us, dust swirling in the breeze as the wheels kicked it up. I cushioned my head with my arm and began to doze off as I remembered the time when Vixia and I left the orphanage as kids.


Vixia and I trudged along through the brush and debris of the forest as we wandered, having no clue where to go. I was mostly following her since she seemed to recognize where we were. She stopped in a clearing and looked around with a blank expression on her face.

“This is where they left me,” she began quietly. I was confused for a moment, but that was when I realized that she was referring to her family. I walked over to her and placed a hand on her shoulder.

“It’s okay. We’ll be fine as long as we’ve got each other, right?” Vixia turned to look at me and smiled. She nodded and grabbed my hand.

“Come on, I want to show you something.” She pulled me along as she walked across the clearing. We headed through another thick patch of forest before finding another clearing, which was a bit more overgrown. You could see trails through the tall grass that were made from animals trekking through and we followed one over to a small stone structure at the center of the clearing. A gap in the canopy above us made the moonlight act as a spotlight on the stones. Vixia looked at me expectantly as I stared at it.

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s a shrine.”

“For who?”

“Zelora.”

“Who’s that?” Vixia shrugged and kneeled down in front of the tiny shrine. She smiled at it and ran her fingers across one of the stones.

“I’m not sure, but she comforted me when I was alone. I’m glad I met her.” She clasped her hands together in front of her face and bowed her head as she closed her eyes. She fell silent and I realized that she was praying. I took a few steps back and sat down, watching her quietly. Once she was done, she lifted her head again and touched the stones.

“I may not be back for a while. Farewell.” She had a sweet smile on her face, almost as if she were talking to a family member. She stood up and turned toward me. “Let’s keep going. I think there’s a city nearby. I was brought there before the guards took me to the orphanage.”

I nodded and stood up. Vixia took my hand again and we continued on our way.


We found out that Vixia was right about the city because we found it by sunset the next day. It was Centrum City, which was the heart of Zaledrid even if it wasn’t the capital. I had never been there before, so I let Vixia take the lead. We crept out of the forest and over to one of the large stone walls that surrounded the city’s perimeter. She looked at them, her eyes glowing slightly, and let out a sigh as she slumped on the ground. I sat down beside her.

“I’m not sure where to go from here,” she admitted, staring up at the top of the wall. “These are too tall to climb, but the only other way in is through the main gates where the guards are. They’ll just send us back.” I thought about this for a moment, then stood up and held out my hand to her. She looked up at me, confused.

“Then let’s walk around the walls a bit. Maybe we’ll find something that can help us get over.” She nodded and took my hand. I helped her up and we began our walk around the walls.

The sun slowly continued on in its descent and the world around us began to grow colder as night fell. We made it all the way to what I figured was the back-side of the city and found the northern gate. We stopped just beyond the view of the guards and decided to rest for a moment. We sat down on the dewy grass and I opened the sack that we had brought with us, finding that it was nearing empty. I sighed as I took out a piece of bread and passed it to Vixia.

“We’re going to need to restock.”

“How?” she asked, taking a bite of her bread. “It’s not like we have any money.” I shrugged and closed the bag again, deciding to skip a meal to make the food last longer. I was looking around, trying to ignore my hunger, when I saw Vixia’s ears shift from the corner of my view. She quickly tapped my shoulder.

“Hey, what’s that?” She got up and wandered over to a section of the wall, one that we had passed a moment ago. I followed and noticed that some of the stones were slightly ajar. Vixia must have seen the same thing that I did because she grabbed onto one of them. She slowly moved it out of the way, trying to make as little noise as possible. It shifted, revealing a small tunnel leading through the wall. Vixia and I exchanged looks, then focused back on the wall.

“I guess that’s our way in,” she determined. “Let’s go.” She got down on her hands and knees and began to crawl through the hole. I followed behind her.

The first thing that I noticed when I emerged on the other side was the bright light coming from the nearby streetlamps. The next was that we were actually behind a tall building. The area was littered with wooden crates and the ground was covered in slabs of stone. I looked over to see Vixia dusting herself off, also taking in the sights around us. Then her gaze fell on me.

“What now?” she asked. I shrugged.

“I don’t know. I honestly didn’t expect us to get this far.” I crept over to the edge of the building, peering out at the streets. Even though it was nighttime, there were still tons of people wandering around. I was about to retreat back to the shadows and let Vixia know when something caught my eye. A piece of paper fluttered through the air, carried by a breeze. I grabbed it once it came close to me and was surprised to see Vixia’s face etched on the front of it, followed by a reward for her return to the orphanage.

“Well, this just made everything a bit more complicated,” I groaned, stepping back to show Vixia. She frowned and looked toward the street.

“I guess there’s no blending in for us now, not that we could anyway.” Her tail wrapped around her and she began to smooth out the silverish fur that covered it as her ears folded back. I tore up the flier and dropped the pieces on the ground.

“We’ll have to sneak around behind the buildings until things settle more. Follow me.” I began to walk toward an alleyway between the building we were behind and the next one. That was when Vixia rushed for me.

“Wait!” She managed to snag the back of my shirt and stop me before I could run into the street. She pulled me back and we watched silently as two guards walked by, clad in royal armor. After they disappeared from view, I looked over at Vixia to see a concerned look on her face.

“You’ve got to be more careful,” she warned. “At least, until we can disguise ourselves.” I reached up and touched my ears.

“How are we going to do that?”

“Maybe one of the stores around here has clothing or something. We’ll find a way. Let’s just lie low for now.” I nodded and we returned to where the crates were, cramming ourselves into one of them. I pressed my knees to my chest as Vixia rested her head on my shoulder. At that moment, I was tempted to pet her ears, but I resisted and drifted off to sleep.

The Rise of The Dragon Queen: Chapter 12

The weekend quickly came to an end and Vixia, Puff, and I returned to the guildhall in the morning. It was just as we had left it, except the window had finally been repaired from when Vixia broke it.

“Did they wait until we left to fix that?” Vixia asked, pointing to it as we walked up the front steps. I shrugged as Puff climbed into the hood of my cloak from my shoulder. We pushed the double doors open to see many of the guild members still eating. I looked over at Vixia to see her eyes scanning the room.

“Where’s Darius?”

I began to search with her, finding no sign of the burly cook. That is, until I spotted him sauntering out of the kitchen. He was wearing his apron again.

“Over there.” I led Vixia and we headed over to where he was. While I was used to the staring from the other guild members, this time felt different. I noticed that some looked away from us after a moment, laughing and chatting amongst themselves.

Do they know?

I felt my stomach twist a little at the thought. I looked away from the others and turned my eyes back to Darius as we approached him.

“Hey.” He stopped what he was doing and looked our way. He smiled and raised a hand to wave.

“Hey, you guys are back.”

“You were put back on kitchen duty?” Vixia wondered aloud, looking him up and down. Darius rubbed the back of his neck and averted his gaze toward the kitchen.

“Yeah. I figured that I should stick with what I’m good at . . .”

Because of me?

“Wait, does that mean—”

“Quiet down everyone!” Nesryn called, cutting me off as she made her way down the staircase. “I have everyone’s quests for today, so listen up.” She stopped at the bottom of the stairs and looked over at us. She then lifted up her clipboard to conceal her face from the other guild members.

“I’ll talk to you two after I’m done with all of them.”

I nodded hesitantly, feeling uneasy. Vixia and I exchanged unsure glances and stepped aside as Darius returned to the kitchen, likely planning that night’s dinner.

Nesryn gave her regular speech and read off all of the names. As always, the rest of the guild began to get ready for their quests and most of them left. When she was done, she walked over to us.

“Welcome back,” she began. “I hope your weekend was restful.” At that moment, I remembered what Vixia and I had talked about with the dragons.

Not right now. I tried to push it from my mind as Vixia responded to her.

“Are we barred from going on quests now?”

“Not quite,” Nesryn answered with a sigh. “I can allow you guys to go out for more quests once you get another party member. Darius has requested that he be put back on kitchen duty, so that leaves you guys without a third teammate.”

Great,” I mumbled, trying to hide my bitterness and ultimately failing.

“I’ll give you two a few days to find another one, but if you can’t I have no choice but to assign you guys chores again. Good luck. If you need me, I’ll be in my chambers.” And with that, she walked away.


Over the next two days, Vixia and I talked to anyone that we could to see if they would join our party. We quickly learned that Sparrow had spread the fact that we failed our last quest around so even the newer guild members dodged our request. We began to hear the same excuses over and over again.

“I’m sorry, but I prefer staying closer to the guildhall.”

“I am already part of a different party, sorry!”

“Have you asked so-and-so? Maybe they would be willing to join.”

But in the end, it all lead to deadends. At dinner on the second day, all I did was stare at my food. Vixia sat across from me in Darius’ usual seat and tried her best to console me.

“We’ll find someone eventually. There’s got to be someone here who would be willing to join us.”

“But we’ve asked literally everyone here.” Vixia let out a sigh as I poked at my dinner with a fork.

It’s all my fault.

“Ketsuna, Vixia.” We both looked over to see Nesryn walking toward us. She also caught the attention of some of the other guild members, so a lot of them were staring. At first, I assumed that she was going to tell us that we were out of time. I almost wanted to sink into the floor, but once she got closer I could see a troubled expression on her face. She spoke again once she neared our table.

“I need to talk to you two privately,” she said in a stern yet quiet voice. “It’s urgent. Meet me in my chambers as soon as you’ve finished eating.” Before we could respond, she left again, walking briskly.

“I wonder what that was about.” I looked back at Vixia to see her tilting her head. I shrugged and looked back down at my food.

I wonder what she wants.


As soon as Vixia finished eating, we headed upstairs to Nesryn’s chambers. Once Vixia and I entered the room, we realized just how serious the situation was. Nesryn was sitting at her desk, like usual, but she wasn’t sorting through any documents. She was sitting up straight in her chair, her fingers knitted together as she rested her hands in front of her on the desk. She was staring straight at us, an intensity in her eyes that I hadn’t seen before.

“I know that I chewed you two out the other day, but I really need your help,” she began in a low voice.

“What is it?” Vixia asked. I remained silent beside her, waiting for Nesryn’s reply.

“I need you to go save Sparrow’s crew.” I raised an eyebrow.

“Why? Have they not come back?” Nesryn shook her head. I averted my eyes and sighed. “Why would you send us? I mean, we screwed up last time.”

“I know what I said before,” she snapped, “but I was wrong. I can’t send anyone else to do this.” I looked at her again.

“Why not—”

“Some members of our guild are in trouble. Isn’t that part of the reason why you started fighting off these dragons in the first place? To save people?” I froze at her comment. In a way, she was right. I looked over at Vixia, who appeared to be worried. I turned my attention back to Nesryn.

“Fine, we’ll go get them.”

The Rise of The Dragon Queen- Chapter 11

When Vixia went and talked to Nesryn, she requested that we take a weekend to go home and decompress since we had been at the guildhall without a break for about a month. Nesryn begrudgingly agreed and I was incredibly thankful to leave the guild for a bit. That became increasingly clear to me as we approached the front door of our home and I could feel my shoulders relax.

How long have I been this tense?

Unable to find an answer, I looked to the garden. All of the plants there had dried up, withered, and died. Vixia, who had Puff perched on her shoulder, was also looking at them with a frown on her face. She let out a sigh.

“No point in restarting it now,” she murmured as I went to unlock the door, “since we’ll be back at the guildhall again in a few days.”

“Right.” I turned the key in the lock and felt the latch come undone. I turned the knob and the door’s hinges creaked as it opened. We stepped inside and I looked around, finding the hallway and living room just as we had left it. I immediately walked over to the bookshelf that stood in the corner by our bay window, which doubled as a reading nook. My eyes scanned the shelves, but nothing caught my attention. I still didn’t feel better about the mission the other day and all I could think to do was to distract myself, but it seemed like I couldn’t even do that.

“Do you want some tea?” Vixia asked from the kitchen. I looked over to see her rummaging in the cupboards while Puff climbed onto the couch and snuggled into the top of the cushions like a cat.

“Sure.” I turned when I gave my answer and felt my shoulder hit the bookshelf. It shook for a moment and I grabbed the edges to steady it. That was when a book fell from the top and hit the floor, barely missing my head. Puff got spooked and spread his tiny wings and puffed out his throat, which made Vixia laugh. I also chuckled and bent over to pick up the book that had fallen, but I stopped as soon as I saw the cover.

My old book.

I picked it up as gingerly as I could and closed it since it had opened when it fell. I stared at the cover for a moment, remembering how I used to skim through it all the time at the orphanage. It was a bit more worn now, but the illustrations of dragons on the cover were still clear as day. I flipped through the pages briefly and felt a rush of relief when I saw that none of them were crumpled from the fall.

“Oh, that’s a blast from the past.” I looked up to see Vixia walking toward me, a cup of tea in her hands. I smiled.

“Yeah, it’s been a while.”

“Are you going to read it?”

“Maybe.”

“Okay.” She held out the cup of tea and I tucked the book under my arm so I could take it. She turned back toward the kitchen. “I think I’m going to nap for a bit. Wake me if you need anything.”

“Okay. Love you.”

“Love you too.” And with that, she wandered into the bedroom. I looked back at the couch to see that Puff had already calmed back down and was starting to sleep as well. I walked over to the reading nook, placed my cup of tea on the window sill, and sat down. I opened the book and began to read.


For the next hour, I read while Vixia and Puff napped. I tried to sip my tea after every couple of pages so that I wouldn’t let it get too cold. After I got through the introductory section, I found an explanation about where dragons came from. According to the book, dragons had first been discovered thousands of years ago and none of the kingdoms, including Zaledrid, could agree on how to deal with them. Their strength and magic abilities, which I had seen for myself, made them a serious threat. Zaledrid wanted them to be exterminated, while neighboring kingdoms saw them as potential tools. Another kingdom, Draladen, sought to tame them. I briefly remembered when Ms. Emery first mentioned Draladen to me, claiming that was where I came from.  After the memory faded from my thoughts, I reached up to touch my ears.

Am I like this because I am one of them?

I was snapped away from my thoughts when I heard the bedroom door creak open and Vixia let out a loud yawn. An idea popped into my head. I quickly wedged a bookmark between the pages and set it aside. I sat up and looked at Vixia, who had just entered the room.

“I feel much better,” she began, stretching her arms out in front of her.

“Vixia, can I talk to you about something?” She stopped stretching and looked at me.

“Huh? Sure, anything. What’s going on.”

“So, you know how Puff is different from other dragons.”

“Yeah.”

“I think the dragon that I let go was too.”

“Okay, hold on a sec. Let me sit down and we can talk about it.” Vixia wandered over to the couch and sat down, careful to not disturb Puff. “Why do you think that?” she asked. I drew in a deep breath and let it out through my nose.

“Their eyes were the same. Like, not the same color or anything, but they both had . . . I guess life to them? I’m not sure how to explain it.”

Vixia seemed to think about what I said for a moment, then spoke again.

“Yeah, I can understand that. I knew something was different when I saw how you and Puff were staring at each other. So, that other dragon was similar?”

I nodded. Vixia looked back down at Puff and gingerly ran her hand down his back. He stretched out and I could have sworn that the corners of his mouth curled upward into a smile.

“That’s why I am wondering if there are different kinds of dragons, like some are monsters and others are friendly.”

“Maybe. I think we should bring this to Nesryn. Maybe she’ll be able to help us figure this out.”

My shoulders slouched at the thought and I looked back down at my book.

“I don’t think we should.”

“Why?”

“Do you not remember how she treated us the other night? I’d rather not come to her with anything right now.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. She might think that we’re trying to make excuses and ignore us anyway.”

“Right . . .” I grabbed the book again and stood up. I took it back over to the bookshelf and put it up. I made a mental note to take it with me when we left for the guildhall again.


Late that night, after Vixia, Puff, and I had dinner, I crawled into bed and my thoughts began to run wild again. Even though I was absolutely convinced that the dragon was like Puff, I still wasn’t sure if I should have let it go like that. Even worse, what if I was wrong and it decided to attack someone? I was thinking about that, clutching my pillow close to my chest, when I heard Puff trill at me. I lifted my head and saw him staring at me from the edge of the bed.

“What?”

He trilled again and scrambled over to me. Before I could react, he climbed over my pillow and curled up between the side of my neck and the mattress, tangling himself in my hair. I could feel his rough scales brush up against my skin and, for some reason, it made me smile.

“Thank you,” I whispered, using a finger to pat his head.

“You two are so cute.”

I lifted my head again and looked toward the doorway. I found Vixia there, leaning against the doorframe. Before I could say anything, she walked further into the room and climbed into bed. My doubts began to return to me as she snuggled up to me from behind.

“Do you think I made the right call?”

“With letting the dragon go?” Vixia asked. I nodded. There was silence for a moment and I could tell that Vixia was choosing her next words carefully.

“Honestly, I don’t know. But what I do know is that you’ve never led us astray before and that I trust your intuition. I think that you should, too.”

“You think so?” Now it was her turn to nod, although I couldn’t see it.

“Mhm.”

When I really thought about it, I realized that she was right. Ever since we left the orphanage, I mostly took charge with the decision-making. I was still thinking about it when my wife spoke up again.

“You know, if Queen Evelyn would have sent you to Draladen, I would have gone with you.”

“I know.” She hugged me tighter.

“Everything’s going to be okay,” she promised in a hushed voice.

I hope so.

The Rise of The Dragon Queen- Chapter 10

We headed out again after we left the restaurant and headed for the forest outside of the city. We followed a winding dirt path into the woods and quickly found ourselves deep inside of it. We wandered around for a while, searching for the dragon, but found nothing. Vixia and I were walking along behind the wagon, which Puff was still pulling, when she let out a sigh and looked toward me.

“Do you sense anything?” she asked in a whisper. Darius, who was walking ahead of Puff, was completely oblivious. I shook my head. Vixia’s eyes began to wander around until she recognized where we were.

“We’re close to the shrine now,” she stated, rushing over to Darius. “It’s over this way.” She pointed toward an area full of trees and dense shrubs. Darius looked at her, puzzled.

“How can you tell?”

“I just know. Let’s stop there and take a break for a minute.”

“All right.”

Vixia ran ahead into the brush and Darius followed while I helped Puff park the wagon. After I unstrapped him, we followed.

When we made it into the clearing, I realized that it was even more overgrown than it had been the last time Vixia and I had visited it. Everything was blanketed in snow, even the small stone structure that acted as a small shrine for Zelora. Vixia was now sitting in front of it with her head bowed and her eyes closed. Darius sat to the side of the clearing, so Puff and I joined him. He was drinking water from his canteen when I sat down.

“So, that tiny shrine belongs to the god that gives Vixia her powers?”

“Goddess,” I corrected, “and yes, that is Zelora’s shrine.”

“Hmm.” Darius watched Vixia for a moment, then spoke again. “She must be pretty devout if she remembered exactly where this is.” He motioned to the map beside him, pointing out that we were exactly where Vixia had marked it at the restaurant.

“Yeah, I’m surprised that she remembered. It’s been a long time since we’ve been here.”

“Hmm.” Darius leaned back against the trunk of the tree that he was sitting under and passed me the canteen. I was taking a drink when I felt a pain in my chest. I immediately spit out what was in my mouth and clutched my shirt.

“Are you okay?” Darius asked, panicked.

“Dragon!” I stumbled to my feet as quickly as I could and grabbed my sheathed sword, which was laying in the snow beside me. I pulled the blade out and dropped the sheath back on the ground before running over to Vixia. I was almost to her when a dragon swooped down from the sky.

“Vixia, look out!” She opened her eyes and threw out her hand toward the monster that was heading toward her.

Reflect!

A beam of light shot forth from her hand and hit the dragon. It screamed and veered away from us, falling in the snow. I rushed toward it, ready to strike. I had almost reached it when I felt something snag my clothes, holding me back from attacking. I looked over my shoulder to see that Puff was biting on the back of my cloak and digging his claws into the ground.

“Puff, what’s wrong?”

He snorted in response and tugged at my cloak again. I tilted my head, then turned my attention back to the other dragon, which was starting to get up. When it turned, I could see that its eyes were not pitch-black like the other dragons that I had fought. Instead, this dragon’s eyes were the same as Puff’s. I froze for a moment as the dragon and I stared at each other.

I was brought back to reality when Darius rushed past me, holding his axe in a ready position to swing.

“Wait!” Puff let go of me and I dropped my sword. I ran after Darius, grabbing his wrists and pulling him back as hard as I could. My knuckles ached from how hard I was holding on. “Don’t hurt it!” Darius looked back at me, his eyebrows furrowed.

“What? Why?” We both turned our attention back at the dragon as it ran a few feet and then flapped its wings, bits of snow falling from its body. It rose into the air, flying away as quickly as it had appeared. All of us watched silently as it shrunk against the horizon.

Darius dropped his axe and I let go of his wrists. He turned toward me and his eyes narrowed. This was when Vixia walked over to us, appearing just as confused. Puff joined me at my side as I stared in the direction where the dragon had gone.

Why was it like Puff?


The ride back to the guildhall was quiet and disappointment hung in the air around us. Vixia was curled up toward the back of the wagon with Darius sitting near her while I sat on the edge at the back. I stared at the snowy  ground as it passed by us slowly. I felt the cold breeze nipping at my skin, but I did nothing to stop it as I listened to Darius.

“Nesryn is going to be pissed,” he grumbled. I felt my stomach drop at that realization and the regret began to set in. That was when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked over to see that it was Vixia.

“Hey, it’s going to be okay.” For the first time ever, I didn’t believe her. I looked back down and she snuggled up to me, covering us both in a blanket.

Did I really do the right thing?


We decided to continue on our way home through the night and found ourselves back at the guildhall in the early morning hours, before the sun was even visible. We headed straight to Nesryn’s room and knocked on the door. She answered it groggily.

“Hello?” She rubbed her eyes and let out a yawn. Once she managed to actually look at us, she perked up. “Oh, you’re back already?”

“Yes, but the news isn’t that good,” Darius explained, looking down at the floor. There was silence for a moment and I felt my hands begin to tremble. Nesryn sighed and opened her door wider, stepping aside.

“Come in.” We did as we were told and stood in a line in front of her. None of us wanted to look at her, so we stared at the floor instead. “What happened?” I saw Darius tense out of the corner of my eye. Vixia was the one to speak up first.

“We failed to eliminate the dragon, ma’am.” Her voice was quiet and cold. She began to recount what had happened, but I zoned out for most of it. That is, until she struggled to explain how the dragon had gotten away. That was when Nesryn interrupted her, finally responding.

“Are you joking?” I could hear her anger rising and had only heard that sternness when she spoke to Sparrow. Vixia shook her head and Puff scrambled down her shoulder and into her hood.

“It’s my fault,” I admitted. “I let it get away—”

“What do you mean you let it get away?” I flinched at her words and made the mistake of looking at her. As soon as our eyes met, it felt like an arrow pierced my chest, so I looked back down again.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered. Nesryn stopped for a second but she hadn’t calmed down. She continued on with her tirade.

“Do you have any idea how many lives you have just endangered by doing that?” she growled. I opened my mouth to respond, but she cut me off again before I could. “Hundreds, if not thousands!” she screamed. “Their blood is on your hands now.”

My eyes widened as I closed my mouth again, pressing my lips firmly shut. At that moment, I realized that she was right. If I was wrong about that dragon, there would be innocent people that would pay the price.

“I expected more from you. The queen was wrong about you; you aren’t any more skilled than the others in this guild. Get out of my sight. I’ll be reconsidering your assignments in the morning.”

“Yes, ma’am.” She nearly slammed the door behind us after we stepped out into the hallway. My eyes were practically glued to the floor. I couldn’t believe what was happening. The three of us stood there for a moment, unsure of what to say, until Darius spoke up.

“I’m heading to bed.” He turned and left without waiting for a response. As soon as he was gone, I heard someone cackling.

“How the hell did you manage that?” I looked up to see Sparrow leaning against one of the doors with his arms crossed and a smirk on his face.

“Weren’t you supposed to head out already?” Vixia asked.

“Got delayed because the queen wanted to speak with me,” he answered smugly, “but now I’m glad we didn’t leave. The big bad dragon-slayers aren’t so tough after all, huh?”

I clenched my fists, but I didn’t say anything. Instead, I walked down the hall, heading for my room.

“Ketsuna . . .” Vixia’s voice trailed off as she watched me leave.


When Vixia finally came into the room, I was already in bed, curled up under the blankets. She wandered over to me and I quickly wiped the tears away from my eyes.

“It’ll be okay,” she promised.

“How would you know?” I replied, looking toward the window. She let out a sigh and sat down next to me. She reached over and began rubbing my back a little, but I still didn’t look at her.

“I feel like a failure,” I admitted.

“But you’re not. We’ve slain several dragons before and I don’t think that one on the guildhall will be the last.”

Even with her reassurance, I wasn’t sure how to feel. There was just no way that I could hurt that dragon, especially since it looked just like Puff. The tiny dragon was actually beside me on a pillow. He chirped when I looked over at him.

“I’m going to go talk to Nesryn real quick,” Vixia said, catching my attention again.

“Okay.” She turned and left the room and I looked back at Puff. I got up out of bed and walked toward the window. I opened it and looked back to see the tiny dragon still staring at me.

“You can leave if you want to,” I offered, motioning toward the open window. He tilted his head at me and blinked. He didn’t move. I let out a sigh and closed the window. I crawled back in bed.

“Fine.”

The Rise of The Dragon Queen- Chapter 9

The next morning, we headed out to the yard in front of the guildhall as soon as we finished breakfast. We were told that we were going pretty far and that it would probably take us a few days to complete the quest, so Darius had packed some tents and other supplies. He was carrying them when we walked outside to see that the other guild members who had taken on the dragon-slaying quests were also there with Nesryn. She was passing out supplies to one of the other parties when she noticed us.

“Oh, there you guys are. I have something for you.” She handed Vixia a rolled-up map and walked by us. “You guys have quite a lot of gear and a ways to go, so I figured you could use this.”

She leaned against a wooden wagon.

“Thank you, but . . .” My voice trailed off and Darius finished my thought.

“What are we supposed to use to pull it?”

“Well, there’s a stable not far from here. You could always request a horse there. I would recommend loading everything up as soon as you can, though. Your box of rations is by the porch. I wish you luck.” And with that, she left.

I tilted my head and looked to the porch, seeing a large crate there with our names scribbled on a note stuck to the top. Darius set down the tents and began walking toward it.

“I’m not sure they’ll be able to give us a horse on such short notice.” I thought for a moment, looking at the wagon. That was when Puff’s stirred a little in the pouch on my belt and I got an idea.

“Puff, could you pull it?” I asked. The tiny dragon nodded and seemed to smile at me from the pouch on my belt.

“All right, let’s get everything secured in the wagon and then we’ll head out.” After Darius got the crate and the tents in the wagon, we pulled the wagon to the outer edge of the city, away from any guards. Puff grew again, but stayed just a bit smaller than he had last time, and I fastened the wagon to him. We all climbed in and he began to pull it along, and so we started out on our quest.


By the time that evening rolled around, we were a little more than halfway to our destination. We found ourselves in the fields beyond the farmlands by the time the sun began to set and decided to set up camp. We pitched our tents and ate a ration of our food together around the fire, laughing and telling stories from before Vixia and I joined the guild. We were winding down from laughing at one of them when Vixia asked a question.

“Darius, what did you do before you joined the guild?” Darius seemed to think about it for a moment, tapping his fork against his plate. He straightened out his back and then hunched forward again.

“Well, I did a lot of combat training. Then I was a guard.”

“Really?” There was a tone of awe in Vixia’s voice.

“Yeah. Then the dragon attacks began. The queen put together the guild and sent me to work there instead.”

“Was it like that for everyone?” I inquired. Darius shook his head.

“It was in the beginning, but then we started getting volunteers, like Sparrow’s crew. You guys are the only recruits we’ve had sent to us by the queen since the first wave of members.”

“How’d Nesryn become guild master then?” Vixia asked. “Did the queen pick her?”

“Yeah. She was actually a high-ranking officer in Zaledrid’s military before the guild was formed.” I was thinking about that when a shiver went through me. I then realized that the fire was starting to die out.

“We should clean up and get to bed. We still have quite a ways to go.”

Vixia and Darius agreed and we got everything put away before we went to bed. Even though I was now cozy and warm in my sleeping bag, I couldn’t sleep. The night continued on while I watched silently as Vixia slept peacefully with Puff curled up on her chest. I let out a quiet sigh and rolled onto my back, now staring at the ceiling of the tent.

Maybe I should get some fresh air.

I crawled out of my sleeping bag and opened the entrance to the tent. I slipped my boots on as quietly as I could and stepped out onto the grass. I wandered over to one of the logs that surrounded what remained of our fire and sat down on it. Unsure of what else to do, I looked up.

The stars twinkled against the pitch-black sky and the moon’s light illuminated everything around me. I was still looking at it all when I felt something climbing up my back. I recognized the feeling and looked at my shoulder to see that Puff was now perched there. I was looking into his eyes when a question popped into my head.

Why are you different?

He trilled at me and rubbed the rough scales on his face into the side of my neck.

“All right, let’s go back to bed.” I gently scratched the underside of his chin and stood. We went back into the tent and went to sleep.


Almost immediately after we got up, we were on the road again. We managed to make a small breakfast from our rations and pack everything back into the wagon by the time it was 9:00. We ate along the way, but we were still pretty far from the forest. Even though it was winter, the sun’s light bore down on us like weights as it continued to climb up higher in the sky. I wiped the sweat from my forehead and shielded my eyes to find what appeared to be buildings on the horizon.

“Is that Centrum City?” I asked.

“I think so,” Darius confirmed, also staring at the buildings. “Should we stop by there and get lunch? I’m starving.”

“Same!” Vixia piped up from the back of the wagon. She was leaning against the folded tents, keeping them in place.

“Then it’s decided. Puff, head for that city.” Puff nodded and began to pick up the pace, dragging the wagon eagerly.


After Puff picked up speed, it didn’t take long to reach Centrum City. We had to stop our wagon a short distance from the city’s outer walls because there was no way that they would let us through with Puff. We parked the wagon in a place where it was hidden by shrubs and trees and Puff shrunk back down to his usual size after I unhooked him from the reins. He climbed into the hood of the cloak that Vixia was wearing and hid underneath her hair. We were able to pass through the gates without a problem and I was amazed by what was on the other side.

The city was busy, much like Tidalsong City, but there was a different atmosphere to it. Shops and homes lined the brick streets, smoke rising from their chimneys. Snow blanketed just about everything and children were playing in it, throwing snowballs at each other and building forts. I witnessed one kid get nailed in the face with a snowball when Darius’ voice brought my attention back to my party.

“Should we stop here?” he asked, pointing to a crowded restaurant.

“Would we be able to feed Puff without anyone seeing?” Vixia asked.

“As long as he stays in your hood, it shouldn’t be a problem. Plus, we can feed him some leftovers later.”

Puff trilled from under Vixia’s hair and I laughed. We headed into the restaurant and it was surprisingly calm for how packed it was. We were seated quickly as soon as the staff realized that we were wearing badges from the IronScale Hunters guild. We also received our food very quickly and the sound of other customers chatting and eating hid our conversation from the others.

“All right, let’s come up with a strategy for when we get to the forest,” Darius began. “Vixia, do you still have the map?”

She nodded and retrieved it from the bag strapped to her hip. She passed it across the table as she brushed her hair away from the side of her neck. Darius began to unroll the map on the table while Vixia ripped a chunk of meat off of a dish that we ordered for Puff. The tiny dragon poked his head just barely into view and eagerly took the piece of food.

“Don’t make a mess, okay?” Vixia pleaded to Puff. He trilled back at her in response and disappeared again. I laughed a little and took up my fork to begin eating just as Darius pointed at a spot on the map.

“If we start here, we should be able to walk in a circle around the whole forest so we can search most of it in one go.”

“Can we visit somewhere along the way?” Vixia asked.

“In the forest?”

“Yeah, I think it’s about here.” Vixia leaned forward, pressing her fingertip against a specific point on the map.

“Why? What’s there?”

“Zelora’s shrine,” Vixia answered. “Actually, let me mark it.” She grabbed a pencil from her bag and marked an x on the spot that she was pointing to. Darius raised an eyebrow at her as I swallowed my bite of food.

“Ah, you don’t know about Zelora, do you?” I asked. Darius shook his head. Vixia sat back in her seat again and was about to pass Puff another scrap of meat when someone came up to our table.

“Are you from the IronScale Hunters?”

I looked over to see a kid, who couldn’t be any older than 15, standing by our table. There was a nervous look on his face as he waited for an answer.

“Yeah, we are,” I answered.

Really?” The kid’s eyes looked like they were about to start sparkling because they widened so much. “You guys are so cool!”

Vixia and I exchanged unsure glances and Darius spoke up.

“Do you need something?”

“Oh, um . . .” The kid fidgeted for a second and stepped back a little. “Usually when the dragon-slaying guild is out here, there’s something going on so I wanted to wish you luck.” Vixia was the first one to respond this time.

“Thank you.” She smiled at the kid and he nodded before he left. I watched silently as he returned to his table.Maybe we did do the right thing by joining the guild.

The Rise of The Dragon Queen- Chapter 8

The weekend passed and Vixia, Darius, and I listened closely for our names as we ate our breakfasts on the following Monday. Nesryn was standing in front of the bar, like usual, giving everyone their quests for the day. But, by the time she finished the list, she still hadn’t called our names.

Don’t tell me she forgot to give us a quest. I tilted my head in confusion as I watched the other teams get up and leave to prepare for their quests. I then looked at Vixia and Darius, who also appeared to be confused.

“Did she skip us?” Vixia wondered aloud. I let out an exasperated sigh.

“It seems like she did.” That was when Puff, who was sitting on Vixia’s shoulder and was hidden by her hair, trilled. I looked over to see him staring at Nesryn, who was walking over to us. When she made it to the table, she set down a map in front of us. It appeared to be drawn by hand with a pencil, shakily I might add.

“This isn’t dragon-related, but I figured you could handle it,” she began. “There is a farmer who is having issues with a pack of wild dogs attacking his livestock. I’m going to need you guys to exterminate them.”

“So, the guild takes on regular quests too?” Vixia asked.

“Sometimes,” Nesryn answered. “Usually we only take them on if they are local and the regular guards are too busy.”

“So, what’s the map for?” Darius inquired, looking it over.

“The farmer drew it up so that you guys wouldn’t get lost. Do you think you can do it or do you need more time to recover?”

It had already been a few days since the dragon attack on the guildhall. This was our first day back to actual guildwork since then and in the meantime we were resting. My eyes wandered over to the window that Vixia broke, which was now boarded up.

“No, we should be fine. We’ll leave soon.”

“Thank you,” Nesryn replied with a smile. “Good luck out there.” She turned and walked away and Darius stood from his seat.

“Here, I’ll take your plates to the kitchen.”

“Thanks.” I watched as he walked away with our dishes, but something else caught my eye along the way. I spotted Sparrow sitting in the corner, glaring at me while his other two partymates were laughing and joking with each other. I glared back and rolled my eyes, now looking at Vixia. I grasped her hand and gave it a few squeezes.

“Let’s go get ready.”


Not long after we finished breakfast, Vixia, Darius, Puff, and I headed outside of Tidalsong City to the winding farmlands. It wasn’t that far of a walk, but it took nearly two hours to get there on foot. Puff rode along on my shoulder for most of the way, still recovering from the dragon fight. I was thinking about that when we made it to the short dirt path that led to the farm and Puff carefully climbed onto my shirt sleeve. I bent my arm so that he could safely crawl into the pouch on my belt, which I had emptied for him. I watched him curl up inside of it.

Growing like that must really wear him out. Is that why he always stays so tiny? Just as I pondered that, the tiny dragon let out a yawn and stretched his wings before wrapping them around himself. I smiled just before an unfamiliar voice snapped my attention back to my surroundings.

“You must be from the IronScale Hunters guild.”

I looked up to see that we had made it to a farmhouse and an old man was rising from a rocking chair on the porch. He placed his hand on the wooden railing to secure his balance and began to walk over to the porch steps. I realized that he was looking at our uniforms, which bore the same blue and white colors that Sparrow was wearing the first time we ran into each other. Fortunately, we got to choose from different options, so the only thing that was the same across our uniforms was a small badge that we had to wear over our hearts. I saw Vixia nervously grip the hem of her skirt from the corner of my eye.

“You sure are an odd lot,” he continued, eyeing us. His gaze specifically narrowed in on Vixia. “They sent a hybrid to help deal with a livestock issue?” Vixia’s ears folded back at that comment. I stepped forward, drawing the farmer’s attention to me.

“She’s just as capable as anyone else at the guild,” I answered defensively. “Her race is irrelevant.” He crossed his arms at my response and glared at me.

“So, you’re having a problem with some wild dogs?” Darius spoke up, steering the conversation back to the task at hand.

“The damn things keep attacking all my animals!” the old farmer shouted.

“So we’ve heard,” Darius replied. “Do you have any idea where they might be now? The sooner we find them, the sooner we can resolve this issue for you.”

“I usually see them running in that direction when they leave.” The old farmer pointed to his right, toward a large open field full of grains. “They blend in with the plants for the most part, so be careful.”

“Thank you.” So, we turned and headed out into the field. By the time we approached the edge of it, I realized that the stalks of the grains were much taller than I was. However, Vixia’s ears were still visible over the tops of the field and Darius was tall enough for almost his whole head to be within sight.

“Don’t get lost,” Vixia teased. “Trying to find you in here would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.”

“Wow, thanks.” I crossed my arms and pouted, which elicited a laugh from my wife. She nudged me with her arm.

“Just stay close.”

“Okay.”

“Follow me and stay sharp,” Darius warned. Vixia and I nodded and he led us into the field.

For the most part, I couldn’t really see anything other than Vixia’s back. As soon as we passed through a section, the plants would spring back to how they were before, surrounding us. I finally understood how easy it would be to get lost there. We had been walking for a few minutes when I saw one of Vixia’s ears shift.

“Wait,” she commanded in a near whisper, stopping in her tracks. “I heard something.” We waited there for a moment and I looked around me, but couldn’t see anything. Suddenly, a set of snapping jaws jutted out of the grain stems. I screamed and I fell backwards, barely avoiding being bitten and waking Puff. The tiny dragon darted out of the pouch on my belt and let out a growl. Before the wild dog had a chance to retreat, Puff fired a tiny flame at the creature’s face, burning its nose. It yelped and disappeared back into the field. When I looked up, I realized that Vixia and Darius were gone.

“Vixia?” I shouted. There was no response, just a loud yelp from one of the wild dogs. I carefully grabbed Puff and got to my feet as quickly as I could. I put him on my shoulder and drew my sword before I actually looked at him.

“Do you think you can fly?” He nodded. “Okay, lead me to them.” He nodded again and jumped off of my shoulder. He flew in a small loop around my head and rose up high into the air. He zipped through the sky, flying further ahead of me. I ran after him.

It only took a minute or so to find Vixia. She had made it to a clearing and was surrounded by a bunch of the wild dogs, who were all snarling and baring their teeth. She was doing the same while holding her staff out in front of her. It was easy to forget that she could get this way when things caught her off-guard. Her tail was stiff, every hair standing on end. They appeared to be in some sort of standoff.

That is, until Vixia began her incantation.

Goddess, heed my call

Make my foes like lightning fall

The orb on her staff began to glow and she slammed the bottom of it into the ground. Bolts of electricity erupted from the orb and darted toward the wild dogs. They were practically fried almost immediately, which was impressive for a spell that only had two lines. After the beasts were defeated, she turned back to me.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Where’s Darius?”

Just as I asked that question, we heard Darius shouting from a few yards away. I looked up to see Puff zooming in the direction where we heard his voice. I grabbed Vixia’s hand and practically dragged her as I ran in the same direction. When we made it to the clearing where Darius was, he was surrounded by more wild dogs. One had managed to sneak up behind him and lunged at him as soon as we entered the clearing.

“Darius, look out!”

He turned around just as I shouted and caught the creature’s jaws on the handle of his axe. The other dogs saw this as an opening and also went to attack, but I was just a little quicker. I stood back-to-back with Darius and slashed at the attackers, cutting them down. Darius managed to push the one that had grabbed his weapon off and split its forehead with a crushing blow. We looked around us for a moment, realizing that they had all been slain. Darius let out a sigh of relief and wiped some sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.

“That was probably the last of them.”

I sheathed my weapon as Puff circled around us. I held out my hand for him and he landed on my palm, trilling. I put him back in the pouch on my belt and after he got comfortable I lightly scratched his chin.

“Thanks, buddy.” He chirped in reply, like usual, and we decided to report back to the farmer. After that, we went home.


We headed back to the guildhall and after dinner, Vixia and I headed straight for our room. Puff and I watched from the bed as she prayed to Zelora and slowly opened her eyes. She lifted her head and turned to me with a smile before climbing into bed next to me. She cuddled up to me and rested her head on my chest. I stroked her ears in turn while Puff curled up on a pillow above our heads and we stayed like that for a while.

“Thank you for sticking up for me earlier,” she began quietly. It took me a second to realize what she meant. I ran my fingers through her silver hair.

“No problem, it’s what I am here for. What kind of wife would I be if I didn’t defend my partner?” Vixia smiled and then buried her face into my chest. I laughed.

“Still, thank you.” Her voice was muffled against my shirt. I went back to stroking her ears but didn’t say anything.

Little did I know that this was the calm before the storm.


The next week passed pretty uneventfully as the kingdom of Zaledrid began to grow colder in the approaching winter. Surprisingly, there weren’t any incidents with any dragons either. That is, until the following weekend.

It was dinnertime when Nesryn started the meeting. Everyone had just begun to eat when she ascended the steps and called for everyone’s attention. Unlike the usual meetings in the morning, everyone became quiet as soon as she spoke. Everything felt tense and still. Vixia leaned over to Darius.

“What’s going on?” she whispered.

“Something must have happened.” We watched silently as the guild master began to speak again.

“There has been another outbreak of dragon sightings,” she stated grimly. “The queen has tasked us with disposing of them immediately. I will be listing locations and if your party is up to it, volunteer. The first sighting has been found at . . .” She began listing locations as I looked to Vixia and Darius.

“Would you guys be okay if I volunteered us for one?” I asked. They nodded.

“Go ahead.” I turned my attention back to Nesryn just as she called out another location.

“The next one is in Centrum Forest.” My eyes widened upon hearing that name. I slammed my palm down on the table and stood, raising my hand.

“We’ll take that one!” Nesryn looked up from her clipboard and nodded when she spotted me. She quickly scribbled something down on her paper and continued listing.

“The final one is in the Highland Caverns.”

“We can do it!” I looked over to see Sparrow standing now, but instead of looking at Nesryn he was smirking at me. I raised a brow at him, but he didn’t care. Nesryn scribbled something else down and lowered the clipboard.

“All right, that’s all of them. Eat up and start your preparations tonight. You’ll all set out in the morning, except Sparrow’s team. I have some extra information for you guys.”

“Yes ma’am!” most of the guild shouted back. I sat down and Sparrow did the same across the room. I turned back to my dinner, doing my best to ignore him.

I guess he really wasn’t kidding about being shown up.


That night, Vixia and I finished the preparations that we needed to do for our quest in the morning. I flopped on the bed and let out a sigh. My eyes wandering to all of our gear in the corner of the room.

How are we supposed to bring all of that with us on foot? I wondered as Vixia joined me. She crawled under the covers and inched closer to me. When she was close enough, she wrapped her arms around me.

“Did you pick the forest on purpose?” she asked.

“Maybe.” I looked over to see that she was smiling at me.

“Well, thank you. It’ll give me a chance to visit Zelora’s shrine again.”

“No problem. I know it’s been a while.”

“Yeah . . .” Vixia’s voice trailed off and we both fell silent. After a moment, I pulled myself out of Vixia’s embrace and rolled over to get under the blanket.

“Let’s get to bed. We’ve got a long quest ahead of us tomorrow.”

“Okay.” She sat up and flicked off the light as I got comfortable. After that, she cuddled up to me again and we fell asleep.

The Rise of The Dragon Queen- Chapter 7

Vixia and I rushed out of our room just in time to see the whole guildhall begin to panic. The lights that hung from the ceiling were swaying as the walls trembled. Some of the guild members were hiding under tables, others were rushing for the exit. Yelling and screaming filled the air. Vixia and I dashed for the stairs and I slid down the banister, trying to get to the ground floor as quickly as possible. As soon as I made it there, I realized that the dragon wasn’t inside the building.

The rumbling intensified as dirt and dust fell down from the ceiling in small trails. It seemed to follow a specific line, ending directly over my head.

“It’s on the roof,” I said to Vixia as she ran over to me.

“So, we have to go outside.”

I looked toward the front doors but found that it was crowded. Nesryn was standing in front of them, blocking the exit.

“If you run out there now, you’ll get yourselves killed!” she screamed at the crowd. “Grab your weapons before you do anything stupid!”

Vixia and I had already grabbed our weapons on the way out, but I knew that there was no way that we were getting through that door. I then noticed that Vixia was looking at one of the large windows nearby.

“Are you thinking what I am?”

“Mhmm,” Vixia responded, grabbing her staff and holding it out in front of her.

Oh, great Goddess, we are in a dire strait

I fear we have no time left to wait

Please help me disperse this glass

So that through it, we may pass

The glass of the window shattered as if on command, catching the attention of a few people, including Nesryn.

“Wait, you two—”

We didn’t wait to listen to what she had to say. I jumped out of the window and Vixia followed quickly behind me. Once we were outside, I realized that there wasn’t a flame in sight.

“Must be fireless,” I concluded. “Vixia, is there any way for you to get me on top of the roof?”

She was staring at the top of the building. From the ground, we could only see the dragon’s wings.

“I have an idea, but it’s too risky.”

“Well, we don’t have time to think of a better one. It’ll cave the roof in if we don’t handle this now.”

“I know, I know!” Vixia snapped at me. “Just give me a second! I don’t want to put you up there because it’s curved. One wrong step and you’ll fall off.”

“And you can’t incinerate it like the last one because—”

“Everyone inside will burn up with it,” Vixia finished, gripping her staff. Puff, who was still on her shoulder, nuzzled her.

“Maybe if we had something to catch us,” a voice from behind us suggested, “it wouldn’t be so risky.” We looked back to see Darius approaching us, having also jumped through the window. There was a large battle axe strapped to his back this time.

“Darius, what are you doing out here?” I asked.

“What, you think I was going to leave all of this to you two? I am a member of the Ironscale Hunters, after all.”

“Right, but now we need to focus,” Vixia interrupted. “How can we set up something to make this safe?”

That was when Puff jumped off of her shoulder. He scampered across the grass, heading toward the building.

“Puff, where are you going?”

He stopped and looked back at us. For a moment, I could have sworn that he had smiled. He flexed his muscles in a weird way and his whole body began to grow. The three of us stared in awe as he expanded to about the size of a carriage. He then flapped his wings and began to lift off the ground a little.

So he can change his size at will? I didn’t know dragons could do that!

“Well, there’s our catcher,” Darius said. “Vixia, send us up.”


It only took a few minutes for us to begin our plan. Vixia used a spell to float both of us up to the top of the building and Puff flew around behind us in case we fell. Vixia came up herself using the same spell and we stood together on one of the stone support beams. I clutched my shirt as I got an intense pain in my chest when I stared at the dragon.

As I had noticed before, it was fireless. Its body was covered in dark blue scales and its eyes were pitch-black like the others before Puff. Its wings were outstretched to maintain its balance on the top of the dome with its claws digging into it for extra support. It waved its tail menacingly as it turned toward us, almost as if it were giving us some sort of warning. It let out an ear-piercing cry and our plan was set into action.

My pulse thudded against my temples as I rushed forward with my sword ready and Darius did the same with his axe. We made sure to attack from either side of the dome in hopes that it couldn’t block both of us and maintain its balance at the same time. Vixia covered the front-and-center area and slammed the bottom of her staff down into the material that made up the dome. She shouted a quick incantation and a trail of ice shards rushed ahead of her, jutting upward from the roof. The ice hit the dragon first, stabbing at its underbelly and chest as Darius and I went in for its legs.

“Now!”

I jabbed my blade into the dragon’s foot, which caused it to scream as Darius hacked at its shin. It kicked him off of the side of the building in one swift motion. Puff caught him just as quickly and returned him to where Vixia was standing as I removed my blade from the monster’s foot. I slashed at its leg and realized that ice was working its way upward from the roof, capturing the dragon’s feet and tail. Vixia had now frozen it to the dome.

I ducked down as it flapped its wings furiously and screamed.

“Now’s our chance!” Vixia and Darius both rushed toward the dragon, weapons ready. Puff flew overhead, his throat puffing outward as wisps of flames emerged from his mouth. He let them go as soon as Vixia finished her ice incantation again.

I jumped back just in time for both attacks to hit the dragon. It screamed out in pain and I made brief eye contact with Darius. There was a look of determination on his face and sweat was running down from his brow.

He must be thinking the same thing as me. We nodded to each other and turned our attention back to the aftermath of the devastating attack that Vixia and Puff had landed. Smoke—or was it steam?—clouded the area and made it hard to see anything other than the tips of the flames and cinders floating through the air. After the flames ceased, the dragon became more visible. At this point, it was writhing in pain, but it was also free from the hold that the first ice attack had on it. Darius and I both rushed in, screaming in both fear and anger.

Darius chopped its neck while I stabbed into its belly. The dragon’s cries finally stopped as its head dropped, detached from the rest of its body. It rolled off the edge of the roof, plummeting to the ground near the guildhall’s front door as its former body slumped and collapsed . . . right on top of me.

“Ketsuna!” I could barely hear Vixia’s muffled voice as I tried my best to scooch out from under tremendous weight over me. I could barely move at all and my chest and lungs began to ache. I reached out my arm as far as I could. I couldn’t see anything from under the dragon’s body, but I felt someone grab onto my wrist. Then another set of hands did the same, just a little further up my arm, and then they pulled. I was slowly dragged out from under the monster’s corpse and coughed as soon as I was able to breathe in again. Darius and Vixia let go of my arm and Puff let go of the back of Dariu’s shirt. They all dropped down on the roof to sit, breathing heavily. Vixia reached out to touch my face.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“I think so,” I managed to say between heavy breaths. Vixia pulled her hand away as I rolled onto my back. That was when we both noticed that her entire palm was covered in dragon blood. Her face wrinkled in disgust.

“Ew.” She wiped her hand on her shirt and we both laughed.


Puff helped us down from the top of the building and shrunk back down to his usual size before anyone had a chance to see him. The front doors burst open and most of the guild rushed out, finding us standing there. They all froze, dumbfounded. I noticed that Nesryn, who was at the front of the crowd, was staring at me in horror.

“Are you okay?’ she asked.

“Oh, yeah,” I replied with a smile. “This blood isn’t mine.” I looked over to see where the dragon’s head had landed on the ground. Everyone watched as I walked over to it and picked it up, then wandered back over to Darius and Vixia. “It’s his,” I said, holding the head up. The crowd began to cheer and most of them headed back inside as Nesryn stepped closer to us.

“You three managed to slay it yourselves?”

“Four,” Darius insisted. “You forgot Puff.”

Puff, who was now on Vixia’s shoulder, beamed. The guild master looked at him and nodded.

“Right . . .”

“Um, Nesryn, I have a request,” Vixia spoke up.

“What is it?”

“Well, as you can see, Ketsuna and I are highly capable of handling ourselves.”

“Yes, her majesty the queen made that very clear.”

“Basically,” I interrupted, “what Vixia is trying to say is, can we please be put on something other than chore duty? Can we take on actual quests inside of being stuck at the guildhall? It’s a waste of our skills.”

“I wasn’t going to go that far,” Vixia mumbled under her breath. Nesryn seemed to consider my words for a moment, crossing her arms and holding the end of her chin as she thought.

“Fine, I will allow it. Let me speak to Queen Evelyn and see what can be done.”

“Really?” She nodded.

“But parties in this guild travel in groups of three. I’m sorry, but Puff doesn’t count. You’ll need another member to come along with you.”

Vixia and I both turned to look at Darius.

“Wait, what?” Darius wondered aloud.

“Darius, come with us!” Vixia cheered, hugging his arm. “We can go on so many adventures and it’ll give you a chance to get away from the kitchen.” Darius shifted his weight away from her, but she kept her hold on his arm. He scratched the back of his head with his free hand.

“I guess you’re right. I do kinda miss getting out there like I used to . . .”

“Then it’s decided,” Nesryn said at last. “You three are your own party and you’ll begin with your regular quests tomorrow. Now I have to go through the members and assign chore duty to someone else.” She turned and went to go back inside, but once she made it to the door she stopped for a moment and looked at us from over her shoulder. “Don’t let me down.”

Vixia and I nodded and she left.


That night, Vixia and I began getting our stuff together to leave the guildhall. We had already made a plan to meet up with Darius in the morning since we would be assigned to a quest together. I had most of my stuff packed already and Vixia was collecting the last pieces of her mini altar when she asked a question.

“Should we stop by the house before we leave? There’s a couple of things that I forgot there that might be handy.”

“Sure.” There was a knock at the door. “I’ll get that.”

“Okay.” I headed for the door and opened it. At first, I didn’t see anyone, but as soon as I stepped out into the hall, I saw Sparrow waiting for me. I sighed and closed the door behind me.

“What do you want?”

“I am not going to lose to you.”

“Huh?”

“I am not going to lose to you,” he repeated. “You may have the others fooled, but you’re not invincible. There’s something odd about you, and I swear that I will figure it out. And then I’ll make you regret ever coming around this guild.”

“Do you seriously still think that I actually wanted to join this guild? I came here for my own reasons and none of it has to do with you.” I turned to head back into my room. I opened the door as he began to speak again.

“I swear that I’ll beat you! Wait, I’m not done—” I slammed the door in his face.

The Rise of The Dragon Queen- Chapter 6

Later that night, the rest of the girls at the orphanage and I clambered into the bunk beds that filled the large room that we all shared. I climbed on top of my bunk, which was at the back of the room by the windows, and was about to get under the covers when Ms. Emery walked into the room. We all stopped what we were doing and stared, everyone noticing that the new girl was following her. They headed all the way to the end of the room and stopped at my bunk bed.

“Ketsuna, this is Vixia,” Ms. Emery explained. “She’ll be taking the bottom bunk of your bed for the time being.”

“Okay,” I replied quietly.

“Why don’t you come down and say hello?” I hesitated for a moment, but then I climbed back down and held out my hand to the girl. This was the first time that I noticed her yellow eyes. “Hi, my name is Ketsuna.”

She took my hand and shook it. “I’m Vixia,” she chimed. “Glad to meet—”

“Good,” Ms. Emery interjected. “Ketsuna, be on your best behavior. Everyone, it’s time for lights-out! I don’t want to hear so much as a peep from any of you.”

“Yes ma’am!”

Vixia crawled into the covers of the lower bunk as I climbed back up onto the top one. Ms. Emery left the room, flicking the light off on the way out and closing the door behind her. I peered over the edge of the railing as soon as she was gone, and Vixia must have had the same idea as me because I was met with the sight of her glowing eyes.

“I thought she said that this place was at max capacity.”

“She did but that doesn’t make it true. She just doesn’t want any more kids here.” Vixia nodded in understanding and smiled.

“Sorry if my eyes are creepy,” she whispered. “They make it to where I can see really well in the dark.”

I beamed back at her.

“That’s so cool.”

That was the exact moment where our friendship began.


About a month passed and so did the pouring rain and winter weather that kept us confined to the inside of the orphanage. When nicer weather came, we were allowed to play outside in the courtyard. Some of the kids would garden with the other caretakers or run around playing tag, but not Vixia and me. On that day, we were sitting under a tree at the far end of the courtyard, taking in the spring sunlight as we skimmed through my dragon book.

“Isn’t that the book that Ms. Emery took away?” she asked. I nodded, flipping to the next page.

“Yeah, she usually does that. I sneak it back when she’s not looking, though.” I continued to flip through the pages as Vixia looked down at her lap, silent. After a moment, she spoke again.

“Did you have a family?” she asked. I stopped skimming and stared at one of my favorite illustrations in the whole book, which depicted an enormous red dragon.

“Did you?”

“Yeah. They left me in the forest.”

“I’ve never had a family.”

“Really? Then, have you been here your whole life?”

“No.”

“Then what happened before—”

“Look at this!” I interrupted, holding up my book. “Isn’t this picture cool?” I showed her the picture I was staring at, the one with the red dragon. However, my moment of excitement was short-lived.

“Ketsuna, what do you have there?” Ms. Emery shouted. I jumped, startled, and we both looked up to see her storming toward us.

“Crap!” I got up to run but Ms. Emery had already made it to us. She snatched the book out of my hands again and she was practically fuming.

“This again? You’re such a bad influence! Both of you, inside, now!”

Vixia and I looked down at the ground for the walk back to the house, but when Ms. Emery wasn’t looking, Vixia grabbed my hand and held it.


I laid in bed that night, staring at the ceiling above me as I contemplated everything. I wondered about why I was still there at the orphanage, when I would be adopted, if I would ever be adopted. But most of all, I wondered what it would be like to leave.

I wouldn’t have to deal with her anymore. I could explore and do my own thing. No one could stop me.

I sat up and looked out the window. The moon was high in the sky, its light shining on the trees. The shadows of their leaves and branches were cast on the window’s glass and stretched across the floor. Everything else was dyed in an iridescent blue. I was admiring the color when I made up my mind. I climbed out of bed and began to get dressed as quietly as I possibly could. I had picked up my boots when Vixia sat up and looked at me, her eyes glowing against the shadows of the room.

“What are you doing?” she whispered.

“Leaving.”

“Where are you going?”

She tilted her head while she continued to stare at me. I shrugged and began to head for the door, careful not to wake up any of the others.

“Wait.” I stopped and turned around to look at Vixia. She had her arm and hand outstretched toward me, but she hadn’t gotten out of bed. “Let me get dressed. Take me with you.”

“Are you sure?” I asked. She nodded.

“Okay.” I walked back over to her and she got dressed as quickly as she could. “Don’t put on your shoes,” I instructed. “They’ll be too loud inside the house.” She nodded again and picked them up, carrying them like I did with mine. We left the room and headed for the kitchen. I grabbed a sack that was sitting in the corner of the room and started to fill it with food.

“Wait, isn’t that stealing?”

“What else are we supposed to eat? Twigs?” Vixia shrugged and I continued to fill the bag. We then headed into the common room, where Ms. Emery put my book. I handed Vixia the sack and went to grab a chair. I carried it over to the bookcase and climbed on top of it.

“Please be careful.” I didn’t say anything back. I stood almost on the tips of my toes to peer over the top of the book case. I could barely spot the spine of my book against the darkness of the room but I could tell that Ms. Emery had made an effort to push it back further than usual. I stretched a little further and the chair shifted under me.

“Ketsuna, look out!” Vixia rushed over and grabbed the chair just before it could tip over. She steadied it while I regained my footing. I looked at her from over my shoulder.

“Hold it still. I’ve almost got it.” She nodded and did as I told her. I reached again and just barely touched the book’s cover with my fingertips. I managed to drag it close enough to grab and held it to my chest. I got off the chair and added the book to the sack that Vixia left on the floor.

“Should we put the chair back?”

“No,” I replied. “Let’s just go.”

“Okay.”

We headed for the front door and I carefully turned the knob. There was no sound until we opened it. The hinges let out a high-pitched creak as I slowly pulled the door open. Vixia and I both listened for a moment to see if anyone had woken up, but after a moment of silence, we crept outside. I closed the door behind us as quietly as I could. Now we were walking across the courtyard, heading toward the forest.

“Are you sure you wanna come?” I asked. “As soon as we cross the gate, there’s no turning back.”

Vixia stared at me for a moment, her hair shining in the moonlight. She nodded firmly as she took my hand and squeezed it tightly. We finished walking across the courtyard and exited through the front gate. Then, we slipped off into the forest, veiled by the darkness of the night.


. . . Ketsuna. Hey, Ketsuna.

I could feel someone shaking me and I opened my eyes, the world around me coming into focus. I was still in my room at the guildhall, laying on my back in bed. Vixia was looking down at me with Puff perched on her shoulder as I groggily rubbed my eyes. I sat up and yawned.

“Did I fall asleep?”

“I think so.”

“What time is it?”

“About 6 o’clock. Most of the guild is back now and Darius and I just finished making dinner.”

“All right. Let’s go eat.”

I stood up from bed and we were about to walk out into the hallway when I heard a low rumbling sound. Then everything began to shake. My chest tightened.

“It’s a dragon!”