Prologue

"Valadronex is the last living dragon in the land. Surely, if I am the one to slay it, I will win the favor of our queen and no one will ever dare defy me."

Trovalyn's hand came down on the table with a satisfying bang, causing some of the items to jump about. The sapphire pools of his eyes blazed in anticipation and greed as they gazed upon the quivering youth standing beside him.

"My lord," the boy stammered, "you-you are already the queen's champion dragon slayer. You can't possibly ask for more favor than that . . . . my lord."

"Have I taught you nothing F'van?" the aged dragon slayer roared, his eyes lethal darts of color in his perfectly chiseled face, "you can always earn greater favor! ALWAYS!"

F'van winced at the ferocity of his master's words and sputtered a soft "yes, m'lord", his troubled brown eyes glued to the polished floor beneath his feet.

"Good lad. Now, to figure out where Valadronex has been hiding her lair all these years . . ."

He trailed off, studying the maps scattered across the large, chipped wooden table in the center of the dimly lit room, the light shining on his white hair to make it shine like polished ivory. The maps were riddles of charcoaled lines, swirls, circles, and fading pigments of color. Names of areas and places were written out in Trovalyn's elegant, looping script. These maps were old, for the aged knight had drawn them up throughout his years of service as the queen's champion dragon slayer. As the years progressed, he had become an expert on the lay of the land and the ways of Draglonia's fire-breathing enemies.

With his extensive knowledge of dragon lore, he should have been able to pin point the location of the last living dragon in all of Draglonia. Alas, it had been five years of searching in vain for Valadronex's secret cave. She was far wiser and far cleverer than all of the slain dragons of the past. Sometimes it was hard to remember she wasn't human.

If she is a dragon, Trovalyn thought, I can defeat her. There's a pattern linking her to the other dragons; if only I could figure it out!

His eyes flickered across the maps again.

"Have you looked here, my lord?"

"What? Speak louder boy!"

F'van pointed to a faded spot on the map, his long finger shaking slightly. His fawn like brown eyes gazed questioningly at the dragon slayer. "Here, sir."

"By God!" Trovalyn exclaimed, the pieces of the puzzle fitting together in his head, "F'van, you may have something there!"

"Yes, my lord."

There was a brief, uncomfortable silence.

"Don't just stand there like an idiot! We have preparations to make! F'van, we're going hunting."

F'van bowed and dashed out of his master's study, the knight's chilling, bellowing laugh turning his blood to ice as he ran.