Fire Heart

Chapter 1

Danger.

My eyes snapped open, gazing wildly around at the darkness surrounding me. I didn't know who I was, where I was or even what I was. All I knew was that something called Danger was nearby and I had to get away from it. But try as I might I couldn't move very much- I was trapped within some prison.

in a vain effort, I pushed against the walls of my prison and to my surprise, it wasn't as sturdy as I'd thought. Though it didn't break, there was definitely some give to it so I pushed again, and this time a small crack appeared.

Frantically, I kept pushing against the strange thing encasing me, and bit by bit more cracks appeared until finally, with a great heave, I broke through the walls holding me captive and spilled out onto a strange collection of brown objects.

Sticks

I jumped. I had heard the voice earlier, but I still had no idea where it had come from, but suddenly I knew what those brown objects were. They were sticks, and they came from the taller brown objects surrounding this…this…

Nest

Nest! And in the nest I found the remains of my prison.

Egg

An egg? And eggs hatched baby animals, which meant that I was a baby animal…oh. But where did the eggs come from? And what kind of animal was i?…the voice didn't say anything. Incidentally, there were more eggs in the nest. Some of them were even moving around. Were the animals inside trying to escape like I was? Maybe I should help them…

Danger

Suddenly I heard a noise coming from outside of the nest. It was loud noise, it was definitely coming from another animal, and it was coming closer. I had two choices, either stay in the nest and hope that the animals passed by, or flee and risk being chased.

I wanted to stay put.

Danger

I had only just hatched, surely it was safer here for a baby than out there.

Danger

I don't know what to do…

Danger

I looked around wildly, desperately trying to find somewhere in the nest that I could hide in, but nothing. Did I really have to run..!

Danger

Fighting my own desires, I ran. I didn't want to, but I knew it would be bad if I didn't. I didn't go far though, I clambered up one of the nearby brown objects (Trees) and found a spot where, though I could see the nest through the leaves, it would be really hard to see me.

And not a moment too soon. Right when I had settled into place a bunch of creatures suddenly burst out of the trees and surrounded the nest. They were strange, every one of them was about as tall as the nest was wide, and some of their bodies were silver and shiny, while others were rough and patchy.

Armor

So they weren't shiny at all, it was the armor that covered the bodies of these…these…

Humans

Humans? Strange, pink creatures that covered their bodies with protective armor. It was an intelligent thing to do. One of the humans, whose armor was shinier than the rest of the groups, barked something to the rest of the group. Many of them started performing an odd screeching noise.

Laughter

Then it happened. A commotion occurred when another one of the eggs cracked open. It's occupant spilled onto the ground, just as I had. I tried to get a closer look at it so I could get an idea of what kind of creature I was, but my eyes still weren't used to the light and from this distance I couldn't make out any of it's finer features. All I could see was that it's size was roughly the same as one of the humans midsections.

The man in the shiny armor approached my nest mate. Perhaps he meant to take care of the small creature? If so then maybe it would be ok to reveal myself…

Then he drew from his waste a long, sharp piece of metal.

Blade

The arm holding the sword drew back and quickly jabbed at the smaller creature. It punctured the infant's side, creating a bloody wound. The infant screamed, drawing more laughter from the men surrounding my nest. They closed in, creating an unbroken circle around the infant and though the creature tried to flee whenever it got to the edge of the circle, another human stabbed it.

Again and again this cycle continued until finally the infant had no strength left to run and collapsed, succumbing to it's injuries. The humans laughed and cheered and jumped in jubilation at my nest mates' death, only stopping when another of my nest mates burst from their shell.

It was terrifying, watching these humans take the lives of so many babies, it was..it was…

Murder

They were murdering my siblings, and they were deliberately taking their time, making sure they felt as much pain as possible…

Torture

And they were so happy while they did it. Were…were all animals like this? Was it going to be like this forever?…Why…Why had I been born into such a world?

I wanted to run, but I couldn't. So I just sat there and watched, as my nest mates were tortured to death one by one. When the humans finally finished they gathered up the bodies and dropped them into a cloth container (Bag).

Then something happened that distracted me for a moment from my fear. One of the humans, a man who wore lighter, finer clothes than the rest of them, pointed a carved stick at the nest. The air around him shimmered and he spoke a different tongue from the one the humans used. My tongue.

"God of fire, I beseech thee! Rain holy fire down upon the enemies of your children!"

From the end of his staff shot a ball of light that flickered and spread all over the nest, consuming everything within and turning it into a blackened husk.

Magic

Fire

Magic, the power to manipulate the mana that exists in all things. Fire, a destructive force that devours all it comes into contact with. And blades, the human tool for killing. With those three weapons the humans successfully turned the day of my birth into a bloodbath.

All I could do was sit there and wait until they left and unfortunately, that moment wouldn't come right away. The humans set up their own nest around the fire that had been mine, then pulled a few of my brood mates out of the bag.

With smaller blades, they cut the skin off of my siblings and then roasted them on a stick over the fire. After they filled their bellies with my kin they set up a watch and waited for…something. Though I didn't know what. The bright light in the sky (Sun) fell lower and lower as the day dragged on. Eventually, when the darkness came again and the only light came from the (Moon) most of the humans laid down to rest, save the few keeping watch.

I myself was feeling drowsy, but I dare not give in to sleep, lest one of the humans discover me. On top of that I was starving, though I didn't know where to find food and water. On one occasion my belly rumbled so loudly I was sure it would alert the patrolling human nearest to my tree. Thankfully, I was wrong.

Finally, when I was too exhausted to stay awake any longer, the sun began to rise, and with it the humans as well. They meandered for a little while, packing up their encampment, but they didn't seem to want to dawdle here any more. When the shiny armor roused from his tent most of the camp had already been packed away.

After one last sweep of the ground and the sky the shiny armor said something and the humans and, at last, they left the little clearing my nest had been in.

I wanted to climb down the tree and run away but I was so, so sleepy. It wouldn't hurt to close my eyes for just a minute, right?

I may have made a mistake. When I opened my eyes again the first thing I noticed was how unbelievable parched my mouth was. The second thing I noticed was that it was night time.…oops.

There were no humans around, but there were noises happening all around me. Most of them seemed to be coming from small critters scurrying around on the ground, but there were a few peculiar howls in the distance that I could tell I should avoid.

First and foremost though, I needed food and water so I promptly scuttled back down to the ground and began searching for a meal. It wasn't hard to find one, almost as soon as I started looking I noticed a medium sized furry something scurrying away from me. I jumped in front of it and clamped one of my feet down on it's head.

I was waiting for the voice to tell me what it was, but oddly it didn't speak up this time. Well, that wasn't going to keep me from soothing the pain in my tummy, so I skewered it with one of the pointy bits on my feet (claws) and scooped it into my mouth.

…wait, there it is again? Was the voice perhaps being selective? I pondered it's origin for a moment before shaking my head and returning to my meal. It didn't matter if I couldn't even tell where the voice was coming from anyway.

Since that critter was barely even a snack I was already back on the prowl for more food. While I was looking I kept my ears strained for the sound of running water. There were other animals everywhere, so I figured their presence meant that water was also nearby.

It wasn't long until I heard a trickling, gurgling noise that I was sure must be water. Sure enough, after stopping for a moment to swallow a few more morsels, I finally came across a stream flowing through the forest. I gratefully lapped it up, enjoying the feeling as the droplets slid down my jaw. After satiating myself I did a quick scan of the environment.

The water flowed downstream from the direction of my nest and continued for as far as I could discern past the wall of trees. Food would likely be easy to find around the water…but that also meant that it would be easy to be found here. From what I could tell I was a fairly large creature, at least compared to the things I'd been eating.

Even so, it wouldn't do to let my guard down- especially after having seen what those humans did. If there were creatures like them then there would surely be other monsters hiding in the shadows. I climbed back up a tree and contented myself with jumping from branch to branch, following the waters flow from the canopy of the trees.

I had everything I needed to survive in the trees. I was fed, I was watered and most importantly I was safe.

For now.

The first week of my life was spent in repetition. I would sleep during the day, wake up at night, feed on the weaker nocturnal animals of the forest, drink my fill from the stream and then climb back into the trees and follow the rivers flow.

I gathered a few new words as well from the voice, though not nearly as many as I had been learning during my first day. Forest, River, Skills and Dire Wolf.

I shuddered as I remembered the occasion where I learned the former of the three.

It had only been my second night following the river when I saw it, and It was nothing more than sheer dumb luck that it never saw me. I was halfway down the tree I had been resting in during that day when I heard the noise of someone else lapping up water from the river. There, only a few meters away from my tree, was a monstrous creature. One that put even the humans to shame.

Danger

It stood twice as tall as a human did at its shoulders and was covered in jet black fur. Fangs as long as daggers jutted from its mouth and claws, much longer and sharper than mine, pointed out of the monsters feet.

Dire Wolf

Wolves, powerful predators who hunt in a pack and obey the alpha. And Dire Wolf, a much larger, stronger kind of wolf, and one of the most dangerous animals in the forest.

It was a monster! If it turned around and looked at the tree it would be directly at eye level with where I was perched.

"I have to move! Come on…come ooooon!" But I couldn't. Even though I knew I needed to run, for some reason my body was frozen solid. It felt like I was being kept still by…something, though I couldn't tell what it was. Unless…

"That thing is using magic?" Perhaps, but my gut was saying that it was something else.

Skills

It was using a…skill? An ability that one can use without having to cast it. Sometimes they use mana, and sometimes they don't but unlike Magic, skills can't be learned from studying. They are either gained by fulfilling some condition, are inherited from predecessors, or are awakened in a time of great need.

And this Dire Wolf had a skill that kept animals near it paralyzed in fear. All I could do was prey that the wolf wouldn't see me. All it needed to do was turn its head a little…

But it didn't. Instead after it finished drinking its fill the wolf raised its head to the sky and let loose a monstrous howl, loud enough to rustle the leaves off of the trees and shake the earth. Then in one swift move it leaped the entire width of the river and crossed to the other side, landing smartly upon its four paws.

Once the wolf was out of my line of sight I could finally move again, so I scurried right back up the tree and stood there for the whole of the night, until exhaustion and stress finally carried me into a deep sleep.

"Never again will I walk into a situation without examining the area for enemies" I vowed after that.

Tonight was the ninth night after I had been born, and what a night it was. There was nothing blocking the moon and stars, so the forest was remarkably well lit. As usual I ate my fill of the small and slow creatures that made their burrows near the river and began my nightly ritual of following the river downstream.

But this time it was different. The river had been getting wider these last few nights and something told me that I would arrive at its end soon. What would be there I didn't know, but I felt excitement as it was sure to be something completely new.

For a few hours I hopped along the branches in the forest canopy, enjoying the exercise. While I moved I also tried doing magic, or performing skills. I didn't have a clue how they worked, but if I could learn even one spell or skill, I would be able to protect myself better. As of yet though, it hadn't yielded any results.

Only in the middle of the night, when the moon was at its highest point in the sky, did my journey come to an end. I found what was without a doubt the largest thing I had ever seen in my life. Larger than the Dire Wolf, larger than the trees, even larger than the river. It was a huge expanse of water, bigger than any I had seen yet. And unlike the river, which trickled and moved, this water was completely still further in.

I walked along the bank, further and further until the river's sound was almost gone. Then I stopped.

I saw something moving in this water, and now I was on guard. There was a white figure, peeking at me from inside, and it was frozen too. It didn't seem to want to hurt me, it was just scared like I was. So I took a step forward. The white figure in the water took a step too. Then I took another step. The white figure followed suit. Step by step we came closer to each other until my head and its were staring at each other. Only a foot apart. One in the water, one out.

It was without a doubt the most bizarre creature I had come across yet. It had a distinctly lizard-like appearance, with white scales covering it from head to toe. Small nubs jutted out of its head and needle like teeth lined the inside of its mouth. Its eyes were slitted, and it had four legs with clawed feet, just like mine.

It should have been a frightening creature, but somehow it looked forlorn, and sad. I could tell from its eyes, it was a lonely animal. Maybe I could be its friend…

I reached out my forefoot, inviting the animal out to play. It did the same, inviting me into the water to play. I shook my head, I couldn't go into the water, I didn't know how to swim. It did the same, it couldn't come out onto the land.

But if neither of us could go where the other was, then we would both be lonely. Tentatively, I reached my foot out toward the animal, and it reached out to me. Even if we couldn't play, if we could just feel another creature's kindness…

But when our feet met at the water's surface, my foot slid right through his and into the water. Suddenly his body distorted as my leg created ripples in the water. I jumped back, terrified that I had hurt him, and he did the same, but when the water settled the creature was just staring back at me, puzzled over what had happened.

I didn't understand what was going on, why had we passed through each other? All we could do now was stare at each other under the light of the moon…wait a minute, why was the moon in the water?

A little ways out from where I was standing the moon was just sitting there, in the water.

"Is this perhaps where the moon goes when the sun rises?" was my first thought, but sure enough when I looked up in the sky the moon was still there, bathing the world in its soft light.

So why would there be a second moon on the surface of the water? Curiously, I kicked a pebble toward the second moon. The creature in the water followed my lead and kicked his own pebble as well. I expected them to bounce off, but my pebble just sunk into the water and vanished, causing the same ripples that my foot had. But why? Why were there two identical moons, and why did his pebble vanish when it came into contact with mine? What was this creature who mimicked my every-

"It mimics my every move, it has four legs and claws like I do. The moon has a double, the pebble has a double so I…"

The creature stared at me, and I it. Its eyes had become strangely watery, as had mine. The creature, who seemed to have been so relieved that he had finally found a friendly face, was now sobbing and calling out for someone, anyone, to befriend. All it wanted was a friend. But I didn't think it would find one.

Because the creature was me, and the thing in the water didn't exist. I was alone. And as I stared desperately into the water, willing the vision in the water to come out and befriend me I heard a single word pop into my head. The name of what I was.

Dragon