Chapter One


In the year 2100 A.D., the human race discovered dragons.

There were mixed reactions, to be sure. Many marveled at the great beasts, finding them amazing. Some praised them as godlike beings, worshipping them for their strange powers and nearly endless lifespans. A large population wanted to bring them into human society the same way that one would with a newfound but primitive tribe, by slowly introducing them to the modern world and treating them as equals.

But the vast majority reacted with fear. How had these massive creatures gone unnoticed in the modern world where nothing was new anymore, where the only unknown was far out in space, and the Earth's miracles were gone? What would happen if they decided to take offense to the human population, and rained fire and lightning down on the cities?

Then there was curiosity. How did these creatures conjure forth fire, lightning, ice, and poison from their breath? How did they fly, despite their incredible mass? By what means did they hide from humans, to the extent that they had remained hidden for thousands of years?

As humans do, scientists examined the dragons. Using all manner of inspection, from intrusive dissection to polite inquiries, the human race was determined to find out how dragons can perform such miraculous acts.

After a decade of searching, the results were found.

Dragons used magic.

Like the tales of wizards and warlocks, magic was the reason that dragons defied gravity, breathed elemental power, and evaded human notice. Magic was how dragons had come to be, and magic was how they had survived.

Naturally, humans wanted a piece of this power. The ability to manipulate the world in nearly any manner? What human being would turn that power down?

Yet it was not meant to be. Human beings did not have the ability to use magical powers, they simply could not. Perhaps it was in exchange for the ability to understand the world, or opposable thumbs, but humans lacked the power to channel magic. At one point they may have been able to use magic, but it was no longer.

So scientists once more went on a search. They explored the occult, finding nothing more than smoke and mirrors. They explored drug usage, only to find that any true effects that may have occurred were very temporary and entirely negated by the downsides. They even explored religion, hoping against hope that a reexamination would turn up new results, yet they could not make use of their findings.

Eventually, they found something amazing.

While humans could not utilize magic, almost every other living being on the planet could. Even the tiniest ant had more magical energy than a human being did. Yet this was enough incentive for human beings to continue with their endeavor.

They turned to genetic experimentation.

First the scientists tried to isolate the DNA strand that allowed for the use of magic. They reasoned that there was some part of DNA that was missing in humans, but that was in every other living being. Thousands of experts searched for this 'magic strain', only to find that it did not exist.

Logically following, they searched for the opposite, a DNA strand that blocked magic. Since there was nothing to facilitate this magical power, there must be an opposite DNA quirk that prevented it. Yet after much searching, they could locate no single trait that prevented magic. It seemed as though many of the base traits of a human being rejected magic inherently, a quality that was nonexistent when compared to DNA from even a hundred years before. The advancement of humanity had come at the cost of magical affinity.

Then, a pair of clever scientists in the eastern United States located an abandoned dragon egg, and injected human DNA into it.

The result was both scientifically impossible and fascinating.

A bipedal creature with digitigrade legs ending in clawed feet. Every inch of its body was covered in black scales, and its reptilian head was adorned with horns curling from the back of the skull. The creature had wings attached just below the shoulder blades, with a reptilian tail attached at the base of the spine.

Yet while this was in itself amazing, there was still more. The draconic humanoid evidenced not only the ability to use its wings to fly, but it also had the power to expel a cloud of darkness from its mouth and to turn invisible. This dragon hybrid had inherited the magical powers of a dragon and the inquisitive mind of a human, as well as opposable thumbs and functional wings.

The dragon hybrid was entirely unique, a marvel that could not be explained by science or magic.

Once the world learned of the hybrid, there was a mixed response. Many cried that it was an abomination, a monster made of science. Quite a vocal minority argued that the hybrid should be treated as a human would, as an equal. The scientific community had the most predictable response. They wanted to make more.

As humans do, they obtained more dragon eggs. At first they simply took abandoned eggs, the ones that the parents did not want. Yet these eggs were few in number, and often times it was because the egg was diseased. With such a shortage of unattached eggs, many resorted to thievery.

Naturally the dragons did not want this to happen. They put up a fight.

All-out war developed between dragons and humans, with the dragons using their magic to defend themselves and the humans employing high-powered weaponry. It seemed like a fairly even war, with parallels between magic and technology. But there was a single factor that drove the humans to victory, and that was reproduction speed.

Humans simply outnumbered the great dragons, and now that the humans knew about magic there was nothing that the reptiles could do to survive. In the course of five years, dragons went extinct.

Eventually, all of the dragon eggs hatched into healthy hybrids, but none of them were anywhere near mature enough to reproduce, and there was no way to know if they even could. There were no more pure dragons left in the world, and there was no way to know if the hybrids were fertile.

With their primary option gone, humans turned to other creatures.

At first there was the belief that only reptiles could be turned into hybrids, due to the necessity of injecting human DNA into a developing fetus. This resulted in turtle, snake, and lizard hybrids. Eventually other creatures were experimented upon. Amphibians, fish, and even birds were added to the ranks of hybrid creatures. With this find, scientists began to work on another experiment, the cultivation of hybrid fetuses in controlled environments. This progression allowed the creation of mammalian hybrids, from canines to felines and everything in between.

And every single hybrid had the potential to utilize magic.

Each and every hybrid was genetically perfect, and each one evidenced the ability to utilize magic. Not any specific magic either, each one showed an affinity to magic that was unrelated to species. While the dragons had been limited to a single vein of magic, the hybrids of other creatures could use all manner of magic.

Over the next twenty years the hybrids developed and grew, learning how to use their magic, and being subjected to a school system. But while many aspects of their upbringing were designed to be like that of a normal human, there was much that was not.

The hybrids all experienced incredible discrimination. The few humans that they interacted with treated them horribly, treating them as though they were less than animals. The scientists who created the hybrids were hardly better, regarding them as expendable and good only for information. All manner of experiments were performed upon the hybrids, with no regard for the fact that the hybrids were intelligent creatures.

At the end of their twenty year development period, the hybrids had had enough. Led by the first hybrid, the dragoness Night, the hybrids began to revolt.

With the intellect and resourcefulness of humans and the ability to utilize magic, it did not take long for the hybrids to become a major threat for the human race. The hybrids could utilize any human weapons they wished in addition to wielding the ability to manipulate reality. Many of them forsook firearms in exchange for archaic medieval weaponry, as the plastic weaponry seemed to block their magical powers.

Despite this weakness, the hybrids using modern weaponry still had an edge on humans. They were faster, stronger, more durable and more perceptive than any humans could hope to be. The strengths did not stop here either, as some of them were infused with magical energy. These infused hybrids were able to use abilities out of mythology, and were able to transform into the mythological creatures that these powers came from.

Most notable among the infused was Night herself. Night had the ability to become a massive dark dragon, one that was large even by draconic standards. At twenty-five years of age she was not full-grown in her dragon form, but she still had more than enough size to lift two tanks. The most devastating of her abilities, however, was her breath weapon. Humans may have developed biological weaponry, but she perfected it. Her breath was a plague that targeted pure humans, and within twenty-four hours it killed them.

Humans fled from the impossible power of the hybrids, retreating to the four corners of the earth and beyond. Many humans retreated into space, using all of their available resources to escape to other planets. A large population left with a terraforming device, and was never seen again.

Like with the dragons, it took five years for the human race to go extinct.

After the extinction of humankind, the earth mages among the hybrids got to work on restoring the Earth to its natural state, removing most of the evidence of humans. It was like the world was made anew, complete with creatures that had not existed prior and renewed resources.

Night returned to her birthplace on the eastern coast of what was once known as the United States, and founded a small village. This village grew into a town, then a sprawling metropolis known as Enersity.

"The rest, as they say, is history," The dragon said, closing his book with a final snap. He placed the book on his desk and looked out at the seats of the empty feeling classroom. "Any questions?"

After a few moments one of the couple dozen students in the room raised his hand. "What did you say you were a professor of again?"

The professor looked at the student, an orange-furred cat. "History, specifically mythology."

"Right. Makes sense, seeing as, you know, humans aren't real and never have been." The cat leaned back and placed his feet on his desk. "Plus, the only 'magic' that's real are dragon breath weapons, and those are biology."

"Yes, magic is not real. As I've said, this is mythology," The professor replied calmly, "Any other questions?"

A grey wolf raised her hand. "I have a question. Why is your name Professor Null?"

"Please stay on topic with your questions. Anyone else?" Null looked around the room again, noting another wolf with her hand raised. "Yes?"

"But, like, why is your last name Null? Why not an actual name, like, I dunno, Carter, Smith, or whatever?" The wolf asked.

"If you cannot remain on topic, please don't ask a question. Next." The dragon pointed at a fox.

"Yeah, is there going to be a test or something?" The fox asked, blinking blearily. He had clearly been sleeping through the lecture.

Professor Null sighed. "No, there isn't."

"Right, so for credit do I have to show up?" The fox continued.

"Technically speaking…" The professor wrestled with himself, eventually deciding that honesty was the best option. "No."

"Right then, one more question. Are you even a real professor if your class doesn't count for, like, anything?"

"Class dismissed." Null said with a sigh. It didn't take too long for the classroom to clear, most of the students having picked mythology just for the credit. It didn't help that a majority of the class was people who never showed up, and the rest showed up just to heckle.

Eventually there were just two students left in the room, one of them quickly walking up to his desk and dropping off a business card before leaving. The other, a bird with beautiful red feathers, walked up to the desk slowly, a shy grin on her face.

"I liked your lesson," She offered after a moment of awkward silence.

"Thank you, young lady." Null nodded.

"Please, I'm not that much younger than you," The bird protested.

"Really?" Professor Null blinked in surprise.

"You're Kerren Null, you completed your master's degree at the age of twenty-two! In fact, I'm just a year younger than you!" The bird excitedly proclaimed.

"You seem to know quite a bit about me, but I know nothing about you." Kerren grinned sheepishly.

"I've been following your exploits for the past three years, ever since you graduated," She blushed through her feathers, making them a darker shade of red. She stuck out her right wing. "My name's Alison Fiar, but my friends call me Allie."

Kerren took her feathered fingers in a gentle handshake. "I hope I can call myself one of your friends?"

"I would like that." Alison smiled brightly. "I, uh, I gotta go. See ya!"

With that, Alison ran off, clutching her textbook to her chest.

He watched the bird leave and plopped down in his desk chair.

Kerren Null was a dragon who, frankly, wasn't too happy with where his life had lead. On the physical side, he was quite imposing. A massive wingspan, a prehensile tail with spikes at the end, a height of 6 foot three, and four separate horns curling out of the back of his head all made him intimidating. His faded green scales seemed unnaturally bleached of color, but the red accents were a bloodlike shade of crimson. He certainly considered himself an intellectual, and his job reflected that, but he also knew that he would enjoy himself more if he could just get out and go somewhere. He was itching for action, and there was nothing he could do.

With a sigh, Kerren started sorting through his paperwork. For his first day as a professor, there sure was a lot of it. Almost none of it was related to his class either. There was so much spam mail and assorted items that didn't even apply to him. Advertisements for fur brushes, hair dye, and skin products all went in the garbage immediately, followed shortly by bills for a car he didn't own and…

"Why is there a stack of resignation papers on my desk?" Kerren muttered as he dropped the whole pile in the trash can. "I think someone's trying to tell me something."

After removing all of the junk papers from his desk, he had only one thing left. The business card that one of the people attending his class had left. He had no clue who the stranger was, or even if they were registered in his class. He hadn't even taken note of what species they were. But for some reason they had left a business card on his desk. Kerren picked up the card and examined it.

Take this to your employer.

Terra wants to see you.

Kerren flipped the card over, then back to the front. Two simple sentences that made almost no sense to him. Who was Terra, and why did someone want him to let the dean know?

Shrugging, Kerran stood up, pocketed the card, and walked out of his classroom, making his way to the dean's office. Hopefully Dean Henry would know what the card was about. After all, it said to take it to Kerren's employer, and the dean was the closest thing to that. He was the man who had appointed him, after all.

It didn't take Kerren long to get to Henry's office, stopping just outside the door and knocking politely.

"Come in."

Kerren pushed the door open to behold the dean. Quite a large man, although that was because he was an elephant, Henry White was seated behind his desk. He rarely left the desk during the work days, and Kerren honestly didn't blame him. Arthritis was particularly terrible on the knees.

"Ah, Kerren! How has your first day been?" Henry greeted jovially.

"Could've been better," Kerren replied, nodding in greeting. "There's a small problem, though. Most of the students didn't show, and many of the ones that did are probably not coming back."

"These things happen," Henry apologized, "Many a student signs up for a class, then either doesn't show up or decides that they don't want to take it anymore."

"I expected as much." Kerren shrugged. "I received a bunch of junk mail too, and a stack of resignation forms."

"Hmm…" Henry hummed to himself in thought. "New professors often receive that particular prank."

"Oh, and this…" Kerren pulled the card out of his pocket and placed it on Henry's desk, watching anxiously as the elephant read it.

"Oh my." Henry squinted at the card, then turned it over for a moment. He looked at the front of the card once more and blinked in surprise before repeating himself. "Oh my."

"What is it, exactly?" Kerren asked.

"I… I can't quite tell you. Um." Henry glanced up, then back at the card. "This card was given to you, right?"

"Yes, someone placed it on my desk directly after the lecture," Kerren confirmed.

"I… don't quite know how to say this. Because you received this card I am… legally obligated to inform you that I cannot employ you further…" Henry nervously swallowed. "You are hereby relieved of your position as professor, and I will send a good deal of compensation money to you within the week. Please do not tell anyone about why you have been removed, and do not seek another job."

"What?!" Kerren sputtered. "All this because of a business card?!"

"Mister Null, I cannot tell you how proud I am of your progress, but I cannot change these circumstances," Henry apologized, "But I will ask you a question. What do you know about the Protector's Alliance?"

"Supposedly, they were one of the warring factions from about…" Kerren paused in thought. "Two thousand years ago. A thousand years after the supposed extinction of the human race."

"I… see." Henry placed the card on his desk and sighed. "Kerren, I need you to do exactly as I tell you. At twelve-thirty P.M. in two days' time, go to the museum of draconic heritage. Go to the section on war and examine the ancient weapons exhibit. Wait for someone to approach and ask you what you think of swordplay, and answer by saying 'I am untrained, but interested'. Please, please do this to the letter."

"But… why?" Kerren protested.

"I wish I could tell you, but I can't. Don't tell anyone else about the card, the instructions, or anything else. This is for your protection, Kerren," Henry instructed, "Now then, have a nice day."

"Is that it? Just fire me and not tell me why?" Kerren said, flabbergasted.

"My hands are tied," Henry explained, "Please be on your way now. You haven't settled in yet, so just as well they found you now rather than later."

Kerren sighed and turned, pausing before he left. "Can you at least tell me what's this is about?"

"Even an old war has new soldiers, Kerren. The problem is that the other side has a lot more," Henry remarked, looking down at his desk and studiously writing. "Go rest. You'll need it for what's happening in a couple days."

With that, Henry quite finally went silent. Something told Kerren that he wouldn't get any more out of the old elephant.

Sighing, Kerren walked out of the dean's office. His first day and he was already fired, all because a random person placed a business card on his desk. What kind of law forced Henry to relieve him of his job? Not even that, but it removed any chance of future employment! He was finished because of a business card!

And what was the whole deal with the Protector's Alliance anyways? The Protector's Alliance of old was a group started by one of Night's four children, specifically Terra.

That card had said that Terra wanted to see him, right? But that should be impossible, Terra was long dead, her body was buried under Enersity, along with her siblings. Terra was buried in the eastern quarter, Photoss in the north, Tenes in south, and Eldor in the west. The four's conflict was the primary reason that Enersity was separated into four quadrants anyways. The Alliance, the Order, the Army, and the Brotherhood. Four factions, each with a different goal and specialty.

But that was all a myth. The bodies were impossible to locate because they never existed. Night herself may have been the founder of Enersity, as well as a dark dragon with a plague breath, but there was no way she had four children with different breath weapons, much less four that were all infused. Infused didn't exist. Period. It defied the law of conservation of mass and energy, a normal sized dragon transforming into a massive quadrupedal creature with a wingspan the size of a football field was absurd and impossible.

And the whole concept of 'hybrids' was absurd too. Hybrids of what? Humans and animals? Humans didn't exist, and there were no animals of the same species as the intelligent people of the world. The only canines that weren't bipedal were creatures like cerberi, creatures that could not possibly become bipedal, much less intelligent.

Even if the stories were true, technology had degraded quite a ways since then. There was a very good reason for that, however. The government always said that the slow advancement of technology was to protect the environment, but if technology truly had degraded in the past three thousand years then the stories of magic were true too. And if magic was real, then it could easily repair the environment.

Right?

So absorbed in his thoughts was he that Kerren didn't watch where he was going. One wrong step and his foot slipped off of a recently mopped floor and went careening forwards. He braced himself to crash into the floor.

Only to collide with something soft.

And a rather familiar shade of crimson.

Kerren quickly scrambled back to his feet, reaching down to try and help up the bird that he had accidentally knocked over. "I'm so sorry!"

The avian grabbed his hand and pulled herself up after him. "It's all okay sir, I- Oh! Professor Kerren!"

"Professor no longer, I'm afraid…" Kerren sighed. "But that's not too important. What're you doing here, Alison?"

"I was just heading home for the day, to an apartment complex in the eastern quadrant," Alison replied, "What're you up to?"

"Same thing, actually. I'm off to my apartment on Tyr Street," Kerren explained.

"I live just a block away. Since we're going the same direction, would you be willing to walk home with me?" Alison asked, "It's a long way there, and it gets boring sometimes. Unless you have anything else you need to do along the way. That's fine," She added.

"It would be a pleasure to walk you home." Kerren offered his arm. "Although you must forgive me if I'm a bit old-fashioned."

Alison looped her arm around his. "Well, I'd prefer chivalry to callousness."

Now that he was less distracted by other matters, he could take note of Alison's appearance. Like all birds, her arms were actually wings, with fingerlike protrusions at the end. While most of her feathers were indeed a brilliant red, she also had orange and yellow highlights to her feathers, with her wing and tail feathers tipped with a verdant green. Her beak was an orange hue, matching her feathers nicely, but her eyes were a contrasting blue. She was currently wearing a tank top and shorts due to the summer weather, but it certainly accentuated her slender figure.

"So, what would you like to talk about?" Kerren asked as they set off. He only now gave thought to his own outfit, a suit that had been hell to put on with wings and a tail, and mentally disregarded the fact that it was a somewhat poor choice for the warm weather.

"Doesn't really matter to me. But-," She pat her belly. "I'm starving. Let's grab a bite to eat on the way."

"Where did you have in mind?" Kerren inquired curiously.

"It's a great place for takeout." Alison replied.

"And what would the name of this place be?" The dragon clarified.

"Oh, I'm sure you'll know it on sight." Alison happily answered with a wink. "Trust me."