Chapter One: Hatchling

The elf dashed through the treetops, leaping nimbly from branch to branch like a squirrel. Long ginger bangs, with a slight curl to them, fringed her brow. Her delicately pointed ears quivered as she listened to the sounds of the forest. In the distance, a crow cawed to its mate. Cows lowed in the farm on the edge of the forest. And somewhere, a strange creature squeaked.

Tree limbs barely shook as the elf ran through the foliage, brushing aside twigs and thick oak leaves. Soon the elf came to a clearing in the woods. In a small hollow in the ground, a beautiful yet strange creature lay in the sunbeams. It had rosy-gold scales and slender horns that could move independently, and seemed to function as ears. At the tip of its nose was a small spike, and sprouting from its back were bat-like wings covered with smooth golden fur. A tail with a slightly barbed tip was curled neatly around its legs, and it was looking at the elf with a wise expression, as if to say, I've been expecting you. And it may have been simply a trick of the wind, but the elf could have sworn she had heard something say softly those exact words. It was barely a whisper. The creature didn't move its mouth, but still it spoke again.

I am a dragon. My name is Clemëdri. Who are you, elf? The animal squeaked again, and the elf, startled, said,

"I am…I am Kefla, daughter of Ziri." The elf moved back a pace. Dragons. She had heard of them, of course, who hadn't? But they were extinct, killed off in the years of battle between the elves and the humans, a race that was jealous of the elves for their long life and beauty. As a result, the elves had been banished to the Ancient Forest, and so long as they never made contact with humans, their kind would remain peaceful. The dragons had tried to intervene, but the humans were afraid of them and sent their knights and heroes to hunt them down. This happened hundreds of years ago, before the humans had stretched across the land and were so daring as to build on the edges of the elves' forest. They had been forgotten, pushed away. Humans hardly believed elves existed anymore.

To find a dragon here was so shocking that Kefla stood there, stunned, until Clemëdri snorted and snapped in a slightly louder whisper, Well don't just stand there like a dead bumblebee, see to my leg!

Kefla jumped and then noticed that the dragon's left back leg was twisted at an odd angle, and its flanks were covered with a multitude of scratches that oozed blood. Wincing in sympathy, Kefla carefully slid her hands under the dragon's body and picked it up, marveling at how lightweight it was, even though it was nearly as big as her. She ran a finger over the wing fur, and gasped at how soft and velvety it was. She hadn't heard of dragons having fur. Perhaps this was a kind that hadn't been noticed as much during the war, and escaped from the legends and ballads. Kefla could easily see why. It had a whispery voice and didn't appear threatening at all. Walking through the forest, Kefla went back to the city of the elves, Karis. What the other elves would say she did not know. Would they try to kill Clemëdri? Would she be allowed to keep the poor thing? Kefla's mind turned as she thought over the recent events.

The continent of Galari was steeped in turmoil. Right now, the humans were floundering in war as they attempted to overthrow their emperor, Sarin. Furthermore, an evil stirred in the unknown regions over the Jarisj Mountains. Every day, the Ancient Forest grew darker, more monsters crawling from the deep, forgotten places. The elves were experiencing unrest, too. They longed to run over the open plains, free and peaceful, as they did before the war. They wanted to fly with the birds on the backs of their Kagri, the giant eagles that had returned to the mountains when the elves were banished to the Forest. They wanted once more to trade with the humans and the other races of Galari, but they were stuck with the monsters and the encroaching darkness and the single elf city, Karis, containing the several thousand elves that made up what was left of a once great race, nearly as large as the humans.

Kefla looked at the dragon in her arms. "You could help us, you know," she said softly. Clemëdri's horns twitched feebly in acknowledgement. Kefla walked on, briskly now, for one did not want to be caught out of Karis at nightfall.