Chapter One

The Storm

Down in the town, humans lived their comfortable lives, untouched by most of the world. Tonight, the weather was particularly bad. A blizzard moved into the area. It wasn't fit weather for man or beast. Yet, fighting her way through the swirling snow was something that was neither one nor the other.

Nemesis, a healthy dragon of thirty centuries, fought to keep her course in the storm. She may have gotten a bit stout in her later years, but that wouldn't keep her from her travels. The winds changed direction every few seconds. At some points, they threatened to dash her against the mountains, invisible in the snow. At others, they forced her far off course.

Just as she reached the limits of her endurance, which was no easy feat, she saw the cave. It would be a dry place to rest before moving on. She forced herself down for a landing.

As she landed on the broad ledge, another dragon stepped out. His name was Gymish. At thirty-five centuries of age, he was twice as large as Nemesis. His bulky frame nearly filled the cave entrance.

"Enter and be welcome," he said.

"Thank you, Gymish," Nemesis replied, walking inside. "The storm is getting fairly bad. I did not want to hit any planes, curse the humans."

"Well, at least we can make some friends with them if they don't run in fear." Gymish laid on the cave floor. He winced only slightly when he put pressure on his injured foot.

Nemesis laid down as well. "How did you hurt your foot?"

"Stepping on a broken metal pole." He settled into a more comfortable position.

"That must be horrible! Human?"

Gymish yawned. 'No. Ruins. Was walking through some old abandoned town."

"So human, they leave their useless, on-living towns to get others hurt by them."

"What's caused you to be so bitter about the humans?" Now that he was finally comfortable, Gymish laid his head on the cave floor.

Nemesis tossed her head. "The death of my friend," she said, laying her head down as well. "And the attempted murder of me."

"Not all humans are bad, you know. One of my best friends is human…sort of. I'm meeting him and his secret lover here in two days' time. You are free to join me if you want." As he spoke, the older dragon looked outside, watching the storm.

"Okay." It was impossible for Nemesis to form a more coherent answer, as she had fallen asleep.

Gymish looked at her sadly and shook his head. "I guess I'll take the first watch then."

Gymish woke Nemesis around midnight to change watches. Nemesis took up a position in the entrance, facing the dark night outside. She gazed into the darkness, watching the shadows shift in the swirling snow and ice. The shapes she saw were familiar, yet strange and hostile. That was one effect the Shadows had on the world. Nemesis shuddered at the thought of such evil taking over the world.

Before he fell asleep, Gymish looked over at Nemesis. "It looks as if you're scared of them," he said drowsily. Before she could reply, the older dragon was fast asleep, his massive bulk filling a good portion of the cave. Nemesis turned back to the swirling snow outside.

Above the cave, battling her way through the storm, was a white female dragon with scales edged in black. The wind blew her every which way. Her better-than-hawk-like vision was no use in the storm. With all the snow, she could barely see twenty feet in front of her snout. Up ahead, the shadowy form of a cave appeared in the darkness. Disregarding the very real possibility that the cave was just a hoax, she headed for the entrance as quickly as possible.

Nemesis looked up from her watching to see a shadowy shape approaching. "Gymish. I see something coming," she said, willing the huge dragon to wake up.

Nimi, the white dragon in the snowy sky, flared her wings to land. Just as she did so, a strong gust of wind caught her tail. Like most dragons, Nimi used her tail to steer. Thus, when the wind caught it, it sent her crashing into the side of the cave. Luckily, there were no loose rocks that could crush her.

Gymish awoke at the sound of the crash. Thinking that the Shadows were attacking, he rushed out onto the landing ledge, only to see a dragon fighting to land. "State your name and business, youngling," he said imperiously.

Nimi looked up and saw a very old dragon staring down at her. When he called her a youngling, she felt anger rising in her throat. "Excuse me? Did you just call me youngling? I'm offended, I'm not that young. I'm lost, I can't see twenty feet in front of my face and I saw this cave so I thought I could wait out the storm," she explained with a gesture at the malicious winter night.

Nemesis looked at the crumpled figure on the ledge and saw it was a dragon. "Hello. Name's Nemesis."

Nimi smiled at the other dragon, a pure white female. "I'm Nimi."

Gymish grunted and said, "Sorry, I'm a little worried right now. My name is Gymish." He moved over to help the small dragon to her feet.

"That's okay, I suppose all the dragons are worried. Humans are smart. Thanks," she said as Gymish helped her up.

"How many times have you been hunted?" Nemesis asked, suddenly curious.

"Hunted? I've never actually been hunted by humans, but they turned my home into one of those nature reserves and practically kicked me out," Nimi replied. Nemesis couldn't quite wrap her mind around it. A dragon not being hunted by humans? Preposterous. All Nemesis knew were dragon hunts, as did many others her age. The concept of a nature preserve was equally confusing.

"I've been hunted by the humans, but I've also made friends among them," Gymish said. He turned around as tightly as the cramped (to him) space of the landing ledge would allow and headed back into the equally cramped cave. To him, the concept of human friends was easy enough to understand: Know thy enemy. Having human friends meant he could predict their next action. Of course, human friends also meant friends small enough to squeeze into tight spaces.

Nimi followed behind the older dragons. She noticed that Gymish had claimed the back wall of the cave and Nemesis was settling as far from the warm fire as she could manage in the small space. "Ugh, I can't feel my tail," Nimi said, dropping into a spot as close to the fire in the center of the cave as was comfortable. Gently, she flamed on the numb appendage.

"Don't ask me to warm your tail," Gymish rumbled sleepily. "I use rays of light to incinerate things." In demonstration, he lit up a loose log that had been laying on the floor. It was too big to use for firewood, so the older dragons had set it aside. In a bright flash of light, the log vanished. Nothing remained of it, not even a speck of ash. "See?"

Nimi nodded. "That's cool." She curled up and rested the tip of her tail on her snout, just like always. "Thanks for letting me sleep here. Night." And with that, she drifted off to sleep.

Gymish looked around the cave. Nimi was asleep already, flame flickering in her nostrils. Nemesis was also sound asleep. Small jets of ice shot from her nose every time she exhaled. "Great, got to take first watch again," he grumbled, hauling himself to his feet. He dropped down at the entrance and lit things in an attempt to stave off the inevitable boredom.

That night, Nimi was having nightmares.

She dreamed that the seven evil dragons were trying to get her mother to join them again, but they were in a dark cave and she couldn't see anything. She could hear the entire conversation, but when the first dragon attacked her mother, Nimi didn't hear her bite down on his neck. She heard a snap, a dull thud, and laughter from the evil dragons.

"Looks like we win, boys. Find them," the voice of the green dragon said. Nimi heard several squeaks, coming from her little brothers and twin sister, and the dragons grumbled something as several lighter thuds echoed around the room.

This isn't how it's supposed to go, Nimi thought to herself. We're supposed to get away.

Suddenly, the leader of the group of evil dragons poked his big, ugly, green head out of nowhere and said, "It's over, you're gonna lose." He reached out his jaws to bite Nimi.

Just then, she woke up.

Meanwhile, Nemesis started in her sleep. She jumped awake and shook her head. When had she fallen asleep? She couldn't remember. Frustrated, Nemesis shot ice at an empty part of the cave.

"Sorry, Gymy!" she said in apology for drifting off. "You want me to take watch?"

"It's okay, I can do it," he replied, ignoring the nickname. He stared outside, then shot a ray of light into the darkness. The light illuminated a few yards of the surrounding area before the swirling snow and deep darkness swallowed it.

Nemesis blew a bit of frost on the older dragon's back. "I'll do it."

Gymish yelped and jumped away. "That's cold!" He shook his body to get rid of the thin layer of frost. Small silvery flakes drifted to the cave floor, looking like the gentle snowfall that should be outside. Some of the flakes drifted too close to the fire. They melted into drops of spring rain. Once he was frost-free, Gymish dropped back onto his spot against the rear wall of the cave.

When she woke up, Nimi looked around. She saw Nemesis staring out of the cave and Gymish asleep, snoring lightly. She shook herself to warm up a bit, then shifted her position and began to drift off. She knew there was a war coming, and she wanted to be ready.

Gymish dreamed of the past, when dragons were not secrets, but out in the open. He was reliving his days in the dragon army. "YOU, SOLDIER!" shouted an officer's voice.

Gymish snapped to attention, wings tucked tightly against his back, head forward, staring off into space. "Sir!'

"The general wants you in his cave," the older dragon growled in annoyance.

"Sir, yes Sir!" Gymish said, stomping his foot in respect as the older dragon left. He then turned and walked to the general's cave, muttering, "You stupid old coot."

Before he could get to the cave, Gymish woke up.

Thunderhawk, a huge dragon the color of a midnight sky, landed a short distance away from the cave. "This looks like a place where I can rest…" he muttered. The cave indeed looked very inviting. A bright fire could be seen, its flickering light illuminating the shadowy figure of a dragon on the landing ledge. With a nod of confidence to himself, he started climbing up to the cave, ignoring the snow and ice that had accumulated on his hide during the trip. He hoped that this would be a place where he could forget about the attack.

Nimi stood up and shook out her hide. Her back right leg felt weird. She had probably been laying on it. Without another thought, she reached around to scratch at it with her sharp fangs. She saw Gymish open his eyes slowly.

Gymish, on waking up, noticed the dark figure approaching the cave. He stood and made his way to the entrance. He passed Nimi, who was bent around herself in such a convoluted way it made his joints ache just looking at it. She was chewing on her leg for some unfathomable reason. "Looks like we've got another friend here, huh Nem? Come on in, youngling," he called down to the dark figure.

Nimi untangled herself from…herself…and went out to meet the new dragon. So far, to her excellent eyes, he or she was just a large black spot against the dark background, coming ever closer.

Thunderhawk, on reaching the ledge, nearly jumped out of his hide at the sudden appearance of a third dragon. "WAAAHHH! How did I not see you? Umm… uhh… sorry… Hi?" he said awkwardly to the smallest of the thee.

Nimi smiled. "Hey. S'okay, you probably can't see anything in this storm."

"Hmm…good point. So, is this some kinda colony or something? I've never seen so many dragons in one place," Thunderhawk replied. In truth, he had seen that many dragons in the same place, but it had been many years ago. He had been a part of that group for a short while. Two of them he knew to be dead, and the third was as good as in his eyes.

Gymish stepped forward to address the newcomer. The two dragons were fairly close in size, but the newcomer had a much darker hide. "That's hard to believe," he said before turning to the two females. "He's a lightning dragon. They are at home in any kind of storm. Lightning dragons are known for their eyes," he grunted.

"Well, he didn't see us," Nimi said, rolling her eyes. She then turned to the newcomer. "No, this isn't a colony, just a huge coincidence, I guess."

"Heh, guess I'm just losing it. By the way, my name's Thunderhawk," Thunderhawk said after the short little argument. "And hey, big guy, how'd you know I was a lightning dragon?"

Nimi raised an eyebrow when Thunderhawk said 'big guy,' but didn't say anything. She actually couldn't tell that much of a difference between Gymish and Thunderhawk, aside from color.

"The general of the dragon army was a lightning dragon and he wasn't much bigger than me, yet he was also younger. He was actually my best friend," Gymish rumbled.

"Oh." Thunderhawk laid down on the landing ledge outside the cave. "So are you a part of the army, or just know them? Or do you just not want to talk about it?"

"Around… let's see… five hundred years ago, I was a soldier in the army. It was back when I hated humans," Gymish said as he stood up to stretch. A young lightning dragon like Thunderhawk might be able to sit on a landing ledge in a blizzard and talk all night long, but Gymish couldn't.

Nimi raised both eyebrows this time. "You were in the army? That's cool. I've only heard stories about it. Apparently my dad was a deserter." She rolled her eyes when she mentioned her father. She had never known him. He had had what the humans would call a 'one night stand' with her mother and disappeared afterwards. "So, exactly what did you do in the army? If you want to tell us."

"Sorry to interrupt before you start, but two things," Nemesis said. "One, the army collapsed two hundred and fifty years ago, and two, what if we were a colony? What if it wasn't a coincidence? My dad always said, 'All that happens has its reason to as well as the falling parts.' It never made sense before, but now it does!"

Nimi blinked. "I guess…"

"Nem, were you not paying attention? I said five hundred years ago. I was a common soldier, and Nimi, what was your father's name?"

"Sorry, I just wanted to throw that in, I guess." Nemesis kept quiet for a good portion of the conversation.

"His name…was Blackentuff the Slayer."

"Was he nice? He sounds like he could kill…" Nemesis murmured.

"The general? Yeah, he was nice, a good friend. He was against the Dark Dragon Council's way of recruiting," Gymish said, looking over at Nimi. The snow continued to swirl outside the cave in the darkness, piling up into deep drifts that were soon blown away by the biting wind.

"What?" Nimi asked.

"I heard about your family. I was dispatched to protect it the day they were brutally murdered by the Dark Dragon Council. We were the only two that survived. My comrades were killed immediately. I killed the Council, then dropped you off at my sister's den." Gymish's eyes misted slightly as he lost himself in the memory.

Nimi's eyes widened. "WHAT? You have got to be kidding me…How did you know about us? Are any of them alive? Are my brothers alive? Is my sister?" Nimi choked up when she fully realized he had said 'they were brutally murdered'. "They're all dead, aren't they?"

Nemesis reached over and touched Nimi with the tip of her snout. "Sorry."

"After I dropped you off, I went back to the den and buried your familys' bodies." A tear rolled down the side of Gymish's face as he spoke, reliving that horrible night. "Your mother was a good…friend of mine." He turned away and laid his head down, refusing to say any more.

Gymish's words echoed around in Nimi's head. After all these years, she had sort of gradually assumed that they were dead, but she had always harbored a tiny flame of hope that they had all escaped somehow. Now that she knew for a fact that they were all dead, the weight of it crashed down on her. She leaped at the cave entrance, but, instead of flying away like she wanted to - flying helped her burn off stress and clear her head - she let out a huge column of white-hot fire that left her jaws with a loud roar. But, in her grief, she had unintentionally accessed her magic, which tinged the flames dark pink.

Nemesis jumped back. An idea came to her. She blew on the flames, coating them in frost. Finally, the flames were entirely encased in ice, which looked like diamond. She caught it before it could crash to the floor. "A gift of grief," she said, handing it to Nimi.

Nimi took the ice. The exterior was cold, but heat radiated from its interior. "Thanks," she murmured to Nemesis.

"Anything to ease the grief."

Nimi gently placed the ice against the wall and curled up in front of it. In an impressive display of flexibility, she twisted her neck around and placed her head on her back so she could see the other dragons and the ice-fire out of the corner of her eye.

Gymish drifted into a sad memory as he fell asleep, which Nimi noticed. It seemed to remind her that she was also tired. Her eyelids started to droop as she, too, fell asleep, comforted by the presence of the ice-fire.

Late in the night, the storm continued, the wind blasting the snow at the cave, where the four dragons slept on. The wind blew a bit of snow into the cave, where it was melted by the fire. The wind also carried something else: the scent of someone approaching the cave. The wind swirled around the cave, brushing against Gymish's nostrils. The massive dragon inhaled deeply in his sleep, drawing the scent in. As soon as the scent registered in his mind, he woke up and ran to the entrance, shooting blasts of light into the darkness.

The sound woke Nimi, who yawned and stood up, blinking at the bright, flashing lights.

Gymish didn't notice. He shot a stronger beam then murmured, "Something's wrong, he's too soon. He's not supposed to be here 'til tomorrow." He kept mumbling and staring out into the storm.

Nimi sighed, then said, "If you want him to hurry, you use the one thing he doesn't have."

"He HAS wings!" Gymish kept shooting.

"NO! That's not what I meant! Is he a dragon?" Nimi asked.

"No. You may have heard legends of him. His name is Gri, a high lord of the sky." Gymish shot another beam into the stormy sky.

"Exactly. He's not a dragon. And no, I've never heard of him. Anyway, I was talking about size! You're huge! You're a huge bounding dragon! How can that be hard to miss?"

"He's the size of a normal human. I've known him all my life."

"Exactly. If you go out there and melt the snow, then he'll have to be blind not to see you."

"If I destroy the snow, the ground will go with it."

Nimi blinked. To her, that was pretty intense. "Fine, I'll do it." She swept out to the ledge, not leaving anyone a chance to stop her.


She swished her tail slightly in response to Gymish's comment and flamed the first snowbank she saw. At first, she couldn't see anything, or hear anything over the moaning of the wind. It took her a moment to realize that someone was moaning with the wind. Whoever-it-was smelled somewhat like a human, but with a few differences.

Nimi then started to flame a huge snowbank. Her flickering fire danced around it. She saw one shadow move towards her. It looked like a human. The figure must have mistaken her for Gymish, since it didn't hesitate like most others would. She lunged towards it, and scooped it up in her claws. It took her a moment to realize that there were two of them. She held them close to her chest, while using her hind legs to get back up to the cave.

Nemesis laughed at the sight. "Nim, you look utterly hilarious! And I think you are suffocating them."

Nimi rolled her eyes at the other female and placed the humans on the cave floor near the fire so they could warm up.

"So, how are you two friends with Gym? I'm Nemesis."

"GRI! KIRA! Are you okay? What made you come before the appointed time?" Gymish asked, walking towards them. Nimi settled close to the fire to watch the scene play out.

"They're back, the Dark Dragon Council is back! They chased us all the way here. The only reason we weren't killed was because I kept firing my arrows at them," Gri said.

"WHAT? THEY'RE BACK?!" Gymish shouted. Nimi froze. Things could get interesting. "Did you see the leader?"

"Yes. It was old Bloodhawk." Nimi didn't know the names of any members of the council, but that one made her blood freeze over.

Nemesis growled low. "We must not let them find this cave. If they do…" She let that hang and walked over to the cave entrance, blowing ice over the opening. Once a thin layer of crystal clear ice covered the entrance, she stepped back and added another four layers. "They will only find us if we are loud and light a big fire." Nemesis looked out at the blue haze. The only things she could see through the wall of ice were the black shadows of rocks and trees.

Nimi's jaw dropped. "Wait, what? I know hiding is probably a good idea, but what about all the other dragons? What about all the humans? What are they going to do? How are we going to tell all of them to hide in their caves, if they have one?"

Nemesis turned her head towards the other female. "By Dragon Thought, of course. I may hate humans and know only what I need to, but of dragons and our secrets I know a lot. Think as hard as you can of the danger. Then think of sending that thought far and wide, they will receive the message." Nemesis then followed her own instructions, not realizing that at the very moment the message was received, a blue-gray dragon changed course, and all their lives would change forever.

Nimi shifted her weight. "But what do I say? I mean, yeah, there's danger, but then what? They'll want to go somewhere safe, and where will that place be? Here?"

"Let me out. I must face Bloodhawk," Gymish said, his voice full of venom and hatred.

"We say to go to the north and south regions. We will meet them all there," Nemesis answered Nimi. She then turned to Gymish. "Just walk then." She placed her nose on the wall of ice, which instantly became vapor. "Go quickly if you must."

Gymish launched himself out of the cave and into the stormy night. He slammed right into Bloodhawk, who had been searching for the cave. "Oof." He dropped to the ground.

Thunderhawk looked out of the cave at Bloodhawk. "What the - This the guy you were talking about?" Gymish nodded and prepared for a fight. "Anything special I need to know before we do this?" Thunderhawk asked, his body crackling with electricity. This would be the perfect thing to make him forget.

"Yes. Watch where you throw those bolts."

"Pfft. This is gonna be fun!" Thunderhawk joined the attack. Bloodhawk swiped at the approaching Thunderhawk and flamed at Gymish, who twisted away and swiped the enemy dragon with his claws. Thunderhawk twisted away from the lethal claws and shot a lightning bolt at Bloodhawk's foreleg, hopefully crippling the dragon. The bolt struck true, but Bloodhawk managed to slash Thunderhawk across the chest. Gymish lit Bloodhawk's other foreleg, which vanished in a flash of light. Nimi remained crouched at the cave entrance, ready to help if it was needed. "AARRRGG!" Thunderhawk yelled, sending a bolt into the stormy sky. Nimi winced for the midnight-colored dragon and began to creep down towards the battle.

"Die already!" Bloodhawk shouted.

"Never!" Gymish replied in kind. He tackled Bloodhawk. Nimi smirked to herself and stopped moving, blending in easily with the swirling snow. Thunderhawk noticed Nimi sneaking ever closer and planned the perfect distraction. Nimi swished her tail, watching for an opening, not realizing that one would soon be provided.

Thunderhawk looked at the empty sky and screamed, "GALHAS! NOW!" Nimi paused for a split second. What? Who's Galhas? Then she realized that Galhas wasn't there, it was only a distraction. She slinked up to the battle, stopping only when she was a few feet away. Just as Bloodhawk turned around to look for Galhas, she jumped on him, pinning him beneath her.

"Akkkk!" Bloodhawk shouted. Gymish jumped back in surprise, not expecting the younger female to do that.

Nimi kept Bloodhawk pinned tightly to the ground. "Should I kill him?"

"No. We can get information out of him via torture," Gymish replied. Bloodhawk gulped.

"M'kay." Nimi grinned. She was strangely fine with the idea of torture. It might have just been the idea of torturing Bloodhawk, their enemy, but she couldn't be sure.

Nemesis walked out of the cave and said, "Torture is my area of expertise." She walked to Bloodhawk where he lay pinned under Nimi and breathed on him. "So, Bloody, what is the -" she looked at Gymish "- meaning of this attack?"

Nimi pressed down harder and whispered, "And you better answer truthfully…or else something seriously bad is gonna happen to you." Nemesis smiled and chuckled. She decided to breathe frost on him again. Nimi backed out of range of the frost, grinning when Bloodhawk shivered.


"Okay! Okay! I was sent to attack because Gri wouldn't join us. Please, no more! I beg of you!" Bloodhawk said.

"Because you were a soldier once, I will grant you a painless death," Gymish said. He looked up at the others. "Hold his neck out."

"What? You're going to kill him just like that?" Nimi asked.

"Yes. Now move or you'll be killed as well."

Nemesis pushed their prisoner's head straight and rolled him on his side. She made sure her paws were out of the way, so she wouldn't lose any. Then she folded her head to her chest in case he missed. That way, he'd only hit her protective neck spikes. "Do what you will but I do not think he told the truth." She tensed her paws, making her claws dig in a bit further.

Gymish took a deep breath. "No! Please!" Bloodhawk screamed. But it was too late. Gymish fired a beam of light, which severed the prisoner's head.

"It is done."

"What now?" Nemesis asked.

"Freeze the body." Gymish turned and walked back into the cave.

Thunderhawk followed. "Yeeeeaaaah…Remind me not to get on your bad side, Gymish," he said.

Nemesis froze the body and walked back inside. "I think we should leave in the morning. It'd be way easier to…um…well, we, or I, should just go to the Arctic."

"If you go to the Arctic, I'll go with you. If the bad people are rising again, we really shouldn't be alone," Nimi said.

Nemesis nodded. "Best get some sleep, then." She curled up as far away from the fire as the cramped cave would allow and fell asleep.

Gymish stayed up, lost in his thoughts. A plan was forming in his mind, but he would have to talk with the others.

Nimi followed Nemesis' example and fell asleep, a bit closer to the warmth of the fire.

In the morning, Nemesis left to hunt. She brought back two deer and dropped them on the cave floor. The storm was still raging outside.

Gymish started eating. "Everyone, we need to talk."

"What about?" Nemesis asked.

"I don't think we should just abandon our kin to the Dark Dragon Council."

"Who said we were going to? But to fight them we need power. Four dragons is hardly enough to do guerilla attacks."

"You're right. I can gather others though."

"You do that. I have some friends in the Arctic. They may or may not help. As a very, very last resort we can ask the humans, but they wouldn't know the difference between friend and foe."


"So, what now?"

"What else? We build an army." Gymish crunched a bone in his mouth.

"While you work on that, I am going to start tracking down the blood dragons and planning swift strike attacks." She left the cave to do just that.

Thunderhawk watched her leave. "Nemesis may need help if she's following evil dragons…" he said to himself. His mind made up, he took off after her.

Gymish looked around the cave. "Guess it's just you and me, youngling."

Nimi swallowed the last bit of her breakfast and arched her back. "Yep. Let's hope we don't get attacked again."

Far above the cave, battling her own way through the storm, another dragon approached the cave. She angled her blue-gray wings for a landing, mindful of the growing egg inside her. She used her mind to determine how many were down there. According to her mind-touching, there was one on the ledge and two more inside. She thought about the plan she formulated during the flight. "Greetings. I sensed you from a ways away. I also got your message. The name's Twera. I'm good with mind-magic. So, what is it you want me to do?" No, that would never work. The blue-gray dragon landed gracefully on the ledge. She gazed around with her near-sightless lavender-colored eyes, searching for the one with the power to contact her. "Which of you is the one called Nemesis?" she called. Improvising made for good plans.

Nemesis arched her neck elegantly. "I am. Twera, do you serve the Dark Dragons?" she asked, using her new name for them. She noticed the other dragon, Twera, was with-child. That could make any dragon hostile and rash. She was glad she never experienced it. "And," she added, "If you are, I would hate to kill an unborn because of the mother's lack of wisdom. But, alas, if I need to, I shall enjoy it."

Twera bowed deeply, remembering her respect for elder dragons. "Nemesis, I am here to join you. There are things out there that cannot be seen with the eyes. I know things about this world that would freeze your flame." Even though her eyes didn't work as well as they should, she knew where the elder dragon was. "I serve those beyond this petty war. I serve the Great Ones themselves, and you would do well to remember that."

Gymish spoke up. "Really? Like?"

Twera turned to face the other voice. "Like the Dark Dragons themselves. They aren't pure dragons. They were dragons participating in an experiment conducted by my family. Human genetic material was placed inside them. It was hoped that it would allow our kind to live among them. Something in that genetic material corrupted them, turned them evil." She moved towards the fire. The dancing flames made her recall memories given to her by her father. "I am the only living dragon that can reverse the experiment." The minds of the others felt troubling. She realized she would have a hard time controlling them. A thought then struck her. "Where is Thunderhawk?"

"Hunting. What's this about controlling us?" Gymish growled.

Twera returned his challenge with an even fiercer snarl. "You would do well to respect me. You'll never be able to cooperate without me. The Great Ones themselves gave me this mission. I suggest you do as I say." Instinctively, she crouched, ready to fight the other dragon if the need arose. She knew her power would give her the upper hand in any fight, but she also knew it would be unwise to become too confident.

Nemesis growled and swung her tail at Twera. "DO NOT EVEN THINK OF TRYING ME, BLIND THING! AND DO NOT SPEAK TO ME OF FREEZING FLAME! I FREEZE OTHERS' FLAMES FOR FUN!" Nemesis stood and clawed the air while roaring. Something about her confidence and sense of importance made her mad. She opened her wings and flew above the younger dragon and placed a layer of frost on her, then she landed. Nemesis stood tall and said, "And what were you saying?"

Twera shook off the frost. "You don't realize what's out there. You think you can just frost the enemy and call it a day? You need me. You'll never coordinate an army without a mind-toucher." Something in Nemesis' mind catches Twera's attention. She lowered her voice and spoke only to the older dragon. "You loved once. You would have had a family like me, had they not come that day. I know what you lost. I can help you get your revenge. All I ask is your cooperation and a safe nest. I lost my family, too. They came in the night. They never knew I was there. It was how I shielded myself. I was scared. Had I known what they were going to do, I could have shielded them all…" Twera's voice broke. Dejected, she sank to the cave floor and let the memories overtake her. She felt a twinge from the egg growing inside her, but the feeling only saddened her further.

"Just don't think you can control me, youngling. If you do, you'll regret it," Gymish said, still a little mad.

Twera didn't even bother looking up at the other dragon. "If I were to leave, you would be going into this war in the dark. For example, I know that one of you is bringing a human here. That human has evil intent. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to make my nest." Some instinct of hers was telling Twera she'd need a nest rather soon.

Thunderhawk returned with his kills: three deer he had killed with a burst of lighting. "Hey, everyone, I got -" He stopped and stared at the newcomer, wondering why she seemed familiar.

"Hello, Thunderhawk." Twera stopped digging the shallow hole she had started. "I'm sorry to barge in, but the storm…is that deer I smell? I haven't eaten in days." Twera looked closely into his mind. "Don't you recognize your own sister? I spent years searching for you."

Author's Notes and Comments

And so begins Book 1 of the Shadow Trilogy. This chapter was, for me, one of the most interesting to write so far. Not only is this the opening chapter to the book, but the entire world of Eden.

Anyway, it's interesting to look at this partcular chapter and see how the characters interact with each other, and their choices. Character interaction and choices will be a major component of the Shadow Trilogy.

My favorite part was the battle with Bloodhawk. That entire sequence seemed to play out completely in my mind as I wrote. What about you?