The Girl who Caught Fire- Prologue- Fear

The evening winds blew fiercely across a vast plain of grass, breaking against the tree line of a small forest. The sky, though still painted a deep blue, was just beginning to show signs of the coming night. Among the trees of the forest rested a small handful of men, finishing their preparations before battle.

The majority of the men wore simple military garments, chain mail armor accompanied by a spear and buckler. They were the soldiers never mentioned in tales of great battles, forgotten and never spoken of. However, among the group two knights stood proud, awaiting the coming confrontation.

"Well, Ethan, this is it," the larger of the knights spoke, slamming an armored gauntlet upon the other's shoulder. In comparison, the knights were like placing a river next to a stream. One knight large; powerful and tested. The other a mere boy in the shadow of a giant. "Your first mission in the name of emperor Gillion. Nervous?"

Across the plain of grass a silhouette stood proud on the horizon. A small town, and the target of the soldiers journey. As night grew closer the town began to glow with the faint light of torches.

"Who, me?" Ethan laughed, shifting under the weight of his iron armor. "Nervous? You've got to be kidding, Caelub!"

In the blink of an eye the young man drew his sword from it's sheath at his hip, and with a flick of his wrist spun the blade through the air; the weapon whistled as it danced before him. A thunderous laughter bombed from the larger knight as he drew his own blade.

"Well, I suppose that just leaves one of us then."

Immediately the young knight turned, eyeing his elder with a growing suspicion before speaking. "You? The slayer of dragons and seventh captain of the emperor's guard, scared?"

"Aye, boy, though I fear no dragon nor any foe, for my blade has proven itself against steel and scale alike," Caelub swung his sword at the nearest tree to prove his point, the thing splitting straight in half. "No, what I fear is loosing you."

Sheathing his weapon the captain turned to Ethan, brandishing a large, warm smile. The same smile seen time and time again during Ethan's training, the training that had only just been completed several days before.

"Stay close to me, boy."

Before Ethan could respond, one of the foot soldiers approached, addressing the two knights. "Captain Caelub, Sir Avory, the men are ready. Your orders, captain?"

Turning his attention from Ethan, Caelub spoke. "Gather the men. We move in at once, but keep your weapons sheathed. We have not yet proven the town guilty, and I have no intention of causing needless fear."

"Right away," the soldier turned to return with the news, but was stopped by a large gauntlet gripping his shoulder.

"One more thing," Caelub waited for the soldier to turn and nod before continuing. "Ethan will be leading this mission. As a new knight, I wish to test his ability."

"Sir, yes sir!"

The soldier turned to take his leave.

"Me? Leading the mission?" Ethan looked skeptically at his mentor, the boy's sandy-blonde hair standing on end. "Are you mad?"

"That depends. Can I trust you?"

"Y-yes, of course, but-"

"But nothing," turning to the woods Caelub watched as the twenty four foot soldiers lined up for battle, four columns of six facing the two knights. "Make me proud, boy."

After quickly checking to make sure that his armor was properly attached, and turning to the men, Ethan looked to the sky. Was he really ready to do this? He was but eighteen years old, and had hardly seen a real battle field before. What if worst came to worst and the towns people were... Guilty. Was he ready to kill for the emperor?

For years Ethan had trained in solitude, under the watchful eyes of Caelub, but now... It was as if the weight of the world rested on his shoulders.

"Sir?" one of the soldiers drew Ethan's attention from the sea of blue above.

"Yes?"

"Are we not going to commence the assault?" the soldier spoke fearfully, as if speaking out of line, and awaiting punishment.

"No," Ethan glanced quickly to the other knight. "We wait until twilight."

Again the soldier spoke. "But... Why?"

"Because tonight... we are hunting dragons," Ethan watched as several of the soldiers flinched away from him, but quickly regained their posture. "And the only time to hunt dragons is during the twilight hour, whilst they are blind."