Chapter 2

She runs.

Hopping like a rabbit over roots and bramble bush, twisting as a racing horse around the bendy trees; branches smack her hands, her face, narrowly missing the eyes; her cloak hood long drawn back, exposed dark bun of hair is tugged ruthlessly by sneaky overhanging climbers.

She does not stop.

The forest is deepest here, where light has dimmed to only a slither, shafts of rays peeking into a living night. Arianna is lost, the panic is rising like a gathering wave; she wants to stop, lungs pleading for a reprieve.

An arrow is shot from behind, narrowly missing her left arm, she dives for cover behind an ancient oak, her breath is shaky.

"Come now darlin', that shot was only a warnin'." The languid drawl is punctuated by a steady rhythmic crunch of approaching footsteps.

Arianna grasps the hilt of her small dagger, always ready by her hip. It was a tool for cutting leaves, not for fighting men. She waits and calms her breath, hands kept still and ready; heart fluttering like a trapped butterfly in a glass jar.

The man reaches her spot, only a step away around the bend, she spies a heavily laced boot, and tan breeches- before he rounds the corner.

She ducks and steps towards him, avoiding a sword jab at her neck. He startles back, a loud cry of surprise- Arianna drives her dagger at his throat, he grasps her hand too late, the damage already done.

The sword falls soundlessly on a blanket of ground ivy, likewise does its owner.

Arianna does not dwell near the body, she yanks the dagger out with her remaining strength, trying to avoid as much of the blood as possible, wipes it on the tan breeches, and then dashes away.

After several twists, and innumerable turns, when her body cannot sustain the pace any more, she stops near a lit clearing. Leaning against a trunk for support, unbidden her hands wander to her inner pocket, pulling out the pouch that lay at the very centre of this striking adventure.

The pouch is made of velvet, a deep burgundy colour, with matching tassels to secure it. What could this possibly be? She wonders, as her fingers pull at the soft, threaded mouth.

From inside slides out a small, green egg. It is made of emerald.

The connection is instant, so clear that she almost gasps. Her pursuer had been a dragon poacher.

Dragons did not forgive, and never did they forget.

This egg would bring the village, the forest, wherever she left it- to absolute ruin.