The Dragonpeople of Khairis

Chapter One

Lia stirred, and opened her eyes. Light was coming in through the thin curtains: a pale light, as if the sun were apologising for awaking everyone and was hiding behind rainclouds in order to make up for it. The birds did not seem to mind; they had been singing earlier and earlier each day.

She pulled back the covers and lowered her feet to the floor. The rug felt pleasant beneath her skin, but she shivered slightly as her bare left sole touched stone. Lia brushed her brown hair away from her face and walked over to the window. It took her only a moment to pull the curtains back.

It was a grey morning; a soft drizzle could be seen falling on the grass and the forest. Lia opened the window partially and a delicately soft scent of wet grass came to her nose. From what she could see of the forest, it looked as though some trees were in blossom.

She opened the window fully and allowed the fresh air to enter her bedroom. Walking over to her wardrobe, she took out a blue tunic and black trousers; after getting dressed, she slipped her feet into a pair of canvas shoes. The stone floors would undoubtedly be cold, especially in the dining hall. The sitting hall might be warm, though, if Mac had lit a fire there.

He probably hasn't. He might in the evening, though.

The wind blew lightly into her bedroom, rustling the curtains and blowing Lia's hair into her eyes. She shook the strands of hair away and sat down upon her bed.

Where did I put my comb?

It was by her bedside, exactly where she'd left it the night before. She shuffled over to the small table and began to move the comb through her hair, wincing when she encountered a particularly nasty tangle. Within a minute, her hair lay smoothly on her shoulders. Carefully, Lia wove her hair into a braid, like Elaine had shown her. Fastening it with a small piece of blue ribbon, she got off the bed and proceeded to smooth the covers down until they looked as though they had not been slept in. She decided to leave the window open until after breakfast was finished.

She opened the door and was instantly glad she'd chosen the tunic with long sleeves as opposed to one of her shirts. The landing and entrance hall of Eadair Hall were colder than her bedroom. A small window at the end of the landing allowed a small amount of light to shine through.

We'll have to light the lamps.

Her canvas shoes made soft padding sounds as she walked across the landing towards the stairs.

"Good morning, Lia!"

She turned around to see Finola just leaving her room. Like Lia, she wore a tunic and trousers; she'd left her blonde hair unbound, and loose below her shoulders.

"Did you sleep well?" Finola asked.

"Very well - did you?"

"I did. Do you know if Jena's awake?"

Lia shook her head. "I don't think she is just yet. Should we start getting the dried fruit and bread for breakfast?"

"Yes. Will Marielle be coming in today?"

"I think so. Mac will know if she is."

The girls walked down the stairs, and into the cold cavern that was the entrance hall.

"I'm glad it's early spring," muttered Finola. "Eadair Hall won't feel so cold."

"I'm happy it's warming up as well. The forest is so beautiful in spring."

They moved into the kitchen. Finola took plates and cups out of the cupboards, and placed them on a large wooden table in the middle of the kitchen. Lia opened the pantry door and took out a collection of dried fruits: apples, apricots and raisins.

"The market should be in the area soon," she said over her shoulder to Finola. "I'll ask Mac if I can go and buy the food."

"Isn't that what Marielle does?"

"Then I'll ask if I can help her with baking bread."

Finola laughed. "It's a good thing Mac isn't afraid of cooking or cleaning."

"I know - he taught us to cook!"

Once the dried fruit and bread were arranged neatly on the table along with a large jug of water, the two girls sat down. They could hear the rain pattering against the clear glass window-pane.

"Should we wait for the others?" asked Finola.

"I think so - they shouldn't take long."

Mac walked into the kitchen, dressed in his burgundy tunic and black trousers. "Good morning," he said pleasantly, sitting down opposite Lia and Finola.

The girls repeated the greeting cheerfully.

"Is Marielle coming today?" asked Finola.

"She is. In fact, she and her husband are going to be staying here for a few days."

The sound of footsteps coming up caused Lia to turn her head; Jena entered, stifling a yawn. Her eyes - the colour of golden honey - were still partially clouded over with sleep.

After they had eaten bread and fruit for a few moments, Mac said: "There's something I'd like to talk to the three of you about. Tomorrow, I will be leaving to attend the Council session."

All three girls looked at Mac with surprise. Although he was permitted by law to be present at the Council, he had never done so.

"After the chores have been done, I will need all three of you to pack some clothes: travelling clothes, and some suitable dresses - and all your jewellery. All three of you will be accompanying me."

Lia looked at Mac in complete amazement.

Since becoming a foster-parent to the very young Jenefa Armstan, Mac had removed both himself and her from the various societies and communities to his family property, Eadair Hall. Becoming a foster-parent to one child more often than not meant taking on another: Finola Vega was taken under his protection after the death of her parents, and it was out of her old friendship with Mac that Alana Whyteleafe asked him to foster her younger daughter.

He had kept his foster-daughters in Eadair Hall while they were growing up; the girls had never complained about it. Jena had been quietly accepting, Finola did not seem to care and Lia loved the area and the forest too much.

Announcing he was taking them with him to a Council session was nothing short of astonishing to Lia. Finola looked just as surprised. Jena, however, didn't. There was a slight tensing in her shoulders.

"...You're taking us with you?" asked Lia. "Why?"

"Because I think it's time the three of you got a taste of what life is like outside Eadair Hall. In all honesty, that should have done that a long time ago and that is my fault."

"But...we can't just leave here," Finola protested. "Who would look after the Hall?"

"Marielle and her husband will. That's why they're staying here until we get back."

"Do you trust them?" asked Jena doubtfully. "I mean, you don't think they will steal anything?"

"I have known Marielle and Ervan before any of you were born. Yes, I trust them. The only things in Eadair Hall that are really worth stealing are you three."

To be continued. Reviews are extremely welcome.