The dragon's hot breath scorched my hair as I swung my sword high at its head. The dragon reared its head back and roared with pain as the sword made contact. Grinning, almost feeling the treasure in my hands already, I moved in quickly for the kill, as someone snickered off to my left...

With a pop that could almost be heard, Leandra's fantasy adventure vanished. She stumbled a little, her wooden sword dropping from her hand to the cobblestone street. She grabbed for her open book with the other, trying to keep it from also spilling into the street. She clasped the book tightly to her chest and dropped to her knees to pick up her sword, which now had a jagged crack along the wooden blade. Sighing heavily, Leandra looked up at the villagers who were standing around staring at her.

"What does she think she's doing? She's never had to lift a sword in her life!" One villager whispered loudly to her neighbor. A murmur of agreement sounded through the crowd. Leandra looked back down at her sword, blinking back the tears that threatened to spill down her cheeks. She gathered up her now broken sword gently and picked herself up off the street. With one last glance around her, holding back her tears of rage and humiliation, she lifted her chin and walked regally away from the crowd and toward her home.

"Why am I finding my beautiful daughter in the garden on a day like today, when she should be in town enjoying herself?"

Leandra looked up from the stone bench she was sitting on to see her father walking through the garden's entranceway. He was dressed as always, in velvets of dashing reds and silvers of the Rouse household. He sat next to her on the bench, sighing with contentment as his gaze scanned over the gardens. Leandra glanced up at her father through her lashes, wishing she could be like him. Brave, strong, without fear. But I'll never be like him, she thought with a heavy heart as she looked back down at her broken sword lying in her hands. She blinked back her tears, not wanting her father to see.

"What happened to your sword?" Her father's voice broke into her thoughts.

"I dropped it. It was an accident." She replied quickly. Her father raised his eyebrows slightly, and she dropped her gaze.

"You can't let them get to you, Leandra. They are angry only because of your station in life."

"I know, papa."

"Then let's not think on this anymore. Come with me, I've a present for you." His eyes sparkled as he rose from the bench. "I think it came just at the right time." Curious now, Leandra followed her father in from the garden. He led her through the front parlor and past the grand stair case that led to the second floor.

"Where are we going papa?" She asked as she struggled to match his stride. He only gave her a knowing smile as he reached the end of the hall and opened a door. "Your study? But what could be in here?" Leandra asked. For as long as she could remember, no one but her father was allowed to enter this room. She'd always been curious, but her father had told her that there was nothing but papers and ink inside. Nothing a little girl would be interested in.

"Come now, before I turn to dust." Her father pushed her gently into the room. She blinked for a few moments, not quite believing her eyes. As realization dawned, she looked about in awe, taking in all she saw. Maps, goblets, swords, vials, scrolls, gems. But this couldn't be right. She rubbed her eyes, trying to snap herself out of this dream. This cannot be my father's study! It just cannot. For if it was, that would make him a...

"Treasure pirate." Her father finished her thought for her. Leandra whirled about, gaping. "It is what I am, what I have always been. I was never one for business, myself." He grinned devilishly at her as he walked about the room. "I always wanted to travel the world, see everything, collect the most coveted items of all."

"So you became a treasure pirate. But what about your shipping business?" Her father turned and smiled again. He picked up a goblet and turned it in his hands. It was the most beautiful goblet she had ever seen, with emeralds and rubies circling the middle.

"I do have a shipping business, but I do not actually run the business, as is believed. I pay those who do run the business, and only check in from time to time to make sure everything is going smoothly."

"And instead you search for treasure?" Leandra was not able to keep the awe from her voice. Her father placed the goblet back in it's place before turning to her.

"Yes. And I've always believed that is where you, and your brother, have gotten your knack for finding items in the most unexpected places. It's in your blood."

"In my blood."

"Treasure pirates have always been in the Rouse bloodline. My father, and his father, and his father before him were all treasure pirates. It has been passed down, generation to generation." He walked over to a display of beautiful swords and carefully selected a small, curved dagger from it's position. "I believe it is time for you to have this, instead of those wooden swords that are always breaking on you." He took Leandra's hand and pressed the dagger's hilt into it.

"But papa, I can't take this. It's so beautiful, I'm afraid I'll only break it." Even as she said the words, her hand was closing around the hilt, and she was examining the dagger's blade. It had engravings on it, what looked to be a language that she did not know.

"The language is that of the Al-Hud, a dangerous people that live in the sands beyond Galdrin's borders. The rough translation is Within my power. I believe this dagger will serve you well while in your possession." Leandra could only stare at the dagger, scared that if she were to blink, it would disappear. She raised her gaze to meet her father's. His eyes were sparkling, and she could no longer contain herself. With a squeal of delight she hugged her father tightly, and he laughed as he held her. I wish it could be like this always, she thought as she let go and looked at her father, a smile stretching ear to ear.

"Am I interrupting?" Dimitri spoke from the doorway. Leandra turned her smile on her twin and ran over to him. "Look what father has given me, Dimitri." She said breathlessly as she pushed the dagger out in front of her. He looked at it with interest for a few moments, then ruffled her hair playfully.

"Now you can slay the dragons with this instead of those wooden swords you've been stealing from the weapon's shed." Leandra had the courtesy to blush from his statement, and was rewarded by Dimitri's warm laughter. She looked up at him, grinning. But her grin faded as she saw the sadness around his eyes.

"What is wrong brother-mine?" She asked as she touched his arm. He looked down at her, and opened his mouth to reply.

"I believe you should go test out your new weapon, just to make sure it is good enough to slay monsters." Her father's voice stated from behind, interrupting Dimitri. She turned and saw the look on her father's face and knew that she was not to hear their conversation.

Turning back to Dimitri, she saw the sadness had disappeared from his eyes and he was now smiling at her again. Must have been my imagination, Leandra decided as she turned to go. With a mock heavy sigh, she breezed through the door and managed to make it to the end of the hall gracefully before she ran the rest of the way to the training grounds.