Everyone was talking about the dragons the next day. Everyone. Walking through the playground, I caught snippets of individual conversations.
"...there was soo many of them..."
"I was petrified..."
"I didn't think they ever came out the forests!"
"All stripy yellow and black..."
"Hey!" I jumped as someone yelled happily in my ear. I turned around and grinned when I saw Katja, my best friend standing behind me, waving her arms ecstatically.
"OMG! Did you see those dragons? There was so, so many of them! I - " I let Katja ramble on in this vein for a while. I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up. Her mouth and mind worked at a speed so fast, no one else could get a word in edge ways.
"So." said Katja finally "Did you see the dragons?" I rolled my eyes as the bell went and the crowds of people started to head for the classrooms. "They were kind of hard to miss Kat." Katja linked her arm through mine with a laugh. "C'mon! Time for school!"
It was looking to be another very boring school day. Katja fell asleep on my arm after an hour of maths, so I spent a very enjoyable time drawing all over her face - childish, I know, but you're only young once. Our teacher had just walked to the back of the class to inspect her precious potted plant when the window shattered as a boy came tumbling through. Everyone, including me, screamed, and the teacher leaped back in alarm. The boy got up from the floor and brushed himself off. He held out his hand to Mrs Holden, and said, grinning:
"Captain Kian Bane, second division, the West River tribe." This latest news didn't seem to make Mrs Holden want to shake his hand anymore than before. She eyed it like it was a highly dangerous snake. She looked him up and down, and a look of distaste crept into her eyes at the sight of his short white tunic, belted at the waist with a gold buckle, his leather sandals, black leggings and white band keeping his light sandy blonde hair out of his eyes. I don't know how the boy didn't break under that look. I'd been its victim many times myself. Then her eyes narrowed further as she looked at the smashed window. Kian turned around and his grin faded. "Ah. Sorry about that. My lieutenant..." He strolled over to the window and dangled out of it.
"Lutzia!" he yelled "When I said can you get me inside, I did not mean throw me through the window!" Next instant, he had jumped aside as a girl came flying in through the window and landed gracefully next to Kian. She spread her arms wide and bowed.
"Lutzia Reed, Kian's Lieutenant. Blah blah blah." I studied Lutzia. She had dark brown hair tied in a complex knot, complete with a pale brown and blue feather. Her skin was tanned, like Kian's, but she wore a pair of flowing trousers, and a top made out of the same white material. She wore a belt around her waist that looked just like a snake. Until this point, the whole class had been sitting in silence. Then Katja stood up. Everyone looked at her. "Listen," she began "I don't know who you people think you are, but I think it's about time you left." She folded her arms and tried to look stern.
"Is there, um, a reason your face is covered in little pictures?" asked Lutzia. Katja dived into her pocket for her mirror and then frantically started scrubbing at her face. I grinned sheepishly, but my eyes locked with the ice cold ones of the tribal Captain, and I turned away. He strode forward to the front of the classroom. All eyes were on him. Now there was no trace of the awkward grinning teenage boy - he meant business now. "Listen up! The dragons have started, for whatever reason, to change their normal behavioural patterns - no doubt you saw this last night." I held my breath, along with everyone else in the class. "Dragons are dangerous creatures. They must be treated with respect. But equally, with caution. So in light of this new development, our esteemed chief has sent us to see if you would be willing to form a... Truce, between our peoples, so that we can both take comfort from each other's strengths. And protect each other from this rising threat." I stood up. Kian turned to look at me. I tried not to let my legs turn to jelly under his piercing gaze.
"Sorry to ask," I asked all the same, "But why are you two running errands for your chief? Why are you even in the army? You look a little young." Lutzia hopped up and down on the balls of her feet, waving her arm in the air, making excited little noises. "Kian and I are only sixteen, which makes me the youngest female ever to reach Lieutenant, and Kian the youngest person ever to reach Captain, despite..." But she trailed off at the 'Drop it now' look that she received from her superior. Suddenly a yell from outside made everyone turn to the window. Kian gestured to Lutzia. "Stay here." Then he crossed to the window and jumped out.
There was silence for about three seconds, then we all ran out of the classroom and down the stairs, pushing and shoving, with Mrs Holden chasing after us, trying to get us to return to the classroom. Fat chance. Whatever was happening, or about to happen, was sure to be much more interesting than double maths. We spilled out into the yard, where Kian was standing, scanning the skies. Katja walked up to him and rolled her eyes. She was tall, but still quite a bit shorter than him. "Would it have killed you to take the stairs?" she drawled. Kian didn't answer. He seemed to have bigger things on his mind. Katja nudged me in the ribs, leaning down to my ear. "He's quite good looking isn't he?" whispered Katja. Unfortunately she whispers very loudly. "Nice hair, athletic figure, pretty eyes..." Kian dropped his gaze from the sky to glare at Katja. She continued to 'whisper' in my ear. "I don't think that outfit really works for him though..." Katja and I both broke out into fits of giggles behind our palms. But then, at that moment, a huge shadow fell across our group of assembled pupils. I screamed as I looked up and saw a massive dark shape above my head. I threw myself on the floor in terror, choking on dust and dirt. Kian just ducked instinctively, then his eyes, sharp as an eagle's, followed the course of the dark creature. His head snapped around to where Lutzia was standing in the window of the first floor classroom. "Lutti! What is that thing?" his voice was hard and urgent, with the ring of authority - the voice of a soldier. I picked my self up, trying to fight down panic and nausea. Lutzia leaned out of the window craning her neck to see. "It's big and black." she started hesitantly. Kian rolled his eyes. "I spend hours teaching you dragon types, and you come out with big and black?"
"Dragon?" I cried in a strangled voice "That was a dragon?" Kian gave me a quick sideways glance, then Lutzia called out from her spying position. "It's turning round... I can see... Holy hell!" Lutzia's eyes widened in terror and she started yelling in panic. "Everyone for themselves! Run for your lives! We're all going to die!" Kian simply put his fingers in his mouth and whistled, which seemed to get her attention. She dropped out the window and came crashing through the crowd of people. I saw the wild look in her eyes as she passed me. "Oh Kian!" she panted "Marcon!" Kian's eyes widened in fear, and he took a sharp breath. I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. Naturally. Kian and Lutzia started having what looked like was meant to be a private conversation - as private as you can get in the middle of a crowd of children. "We could just go back now. We'd be fine." Lutzia began. Kian shook his head.
"They'd never make it. And it would be all our fault." Lutzia crossed her arms and pouted at the floor.
"You're always playing the stupid hero." she muttered. He managed a small smile. "C'mon lieutenant. If we don't do this we haven't completed the job, anyway." Lutzia sighed. I felt awkward standing there, watching. I felt like I was intruding on something. I only had a faint inkling of what they were talking about, and if I was right... Lutzia turned away from Kian and towards us. Then her sharp eyes caught something in the sky behind the school building - three tiny specks on the horizon. "What?" asked Kian. He followed her gaze. His mouth dropped open. "They wouldn't - I - I don't understand. They're solitary hunters - Why...?" He turned to Lutzia. "Zi, you would have made it. All the way to first female admiral, I swear it." I heard his voice shake with emotion. Lutzia laughed shakily through tears.
"No way. But you... You would have been awesome... It has been an honour to work alongside you." I was getting angry now. I had not the slightest clue what was going on, yet these kids apparently thought the end of the world was coming or something. It was explanation time. "I need answers." I said as I stepped between Kian and Lutzia. Yup, definitely a lot more there than first met the eye. "What's going on, and what was that huge, scary death thing?" Kian looked me in the eyes. Katja had been wrong when she said his eyes were pretty - they were terrifying. "That was a Marcon. And this, is your Doomsday."