Chapter One ~ Forever
Esteria’s large, dark wings unfurled as she leapt off a violet crystal. As the daughter of the current King of Dragons, Asazin, she’d learned to sense when something was wrong within the kingdom, when someone was in trouble.
Her brilliant blue eyes gleamed with worry as she glided through corridors, towards the source of the loud rumbling. Her heart pounded louder than a thunderdrum’s roar. What’s happened?
The glowing stalagmites littering the cavernous area she flew through flickered, dimming the light. Pools of perfectly crystal-clear water rippled as the ground shook, the rumbling growing louder.
As Esteria reached the point of destruction, she dove down to the trembling ground, her talons click-clacking against the rock as she walked. She stared at what used to be the Sand Wraith’s hatchery.
She stood before a crumbled cavern, debris strewn everywhere. A pile of eggs lay safely outside of the destruction’s range. Shards of crystal gleamed eerily before the largest mass of debris.
Unaware of the gathered dragons behind her, Esteria lifted the piles of rock. Setting them aside, her breathing faltered as she looked down on an obsidian-black, motionless figure.
A heap of shadow is what it appeared to be. Completely still, dark as the darkest night. Esteria fell to the ground before it, finding the peacefully closed eyes of her father’s lifeless body.
A sob-like roar escaped her. She pressed her snout to his, and closed her eyes to contain her silent pleading before the kingdom. Grief and terror flooded her body, she was trembling uncontrollably.
She wrapped her tail around her father’s corpse, holding him close. He was no longer warm, his comforting touch no longer there. He just felt cold, his scales dry.
Her mind flashed through images of Esteria sitting with her father, the wonderful alpha who had ruled over the Hidden World, being as fair and just as Alphas could be. With him gone, she’d be taking his place.
I could never live up to him. I’m nothing but a disappointment of a dragon.
A final sob escaped Esteria as she acknowledged that he was gone for good. Never again would she speak to him. He was gone, forever, and she was alone.
Her body ached with grief, but she stood, allowing Azura, a violet stormcutter, to lift the body and carry it away to be buried. Her heart seemed still as she began to follow Azura away.
She froze midstep when a crumble came from a pile of rock. A sandy-brown figure emerged from the rubble, limping.
A Sand Wraith held a single egg, safely placing it beside the rest. From the crowd of dragons that had gathered to see Asazin, burst a shimmering white Light Fury, with pinkish tinged eyes. She rushed to the Sand Wraith who Esteria recognized as Oasis, and the Light Fury was Serenity.
She watched the two exchange, but something didn’t feel right. The dragon looked fine, beat up and injured, but he was alive. This didn’t settle right in Esteria’s gut, something was off.
Suddenly, the Sand Wraith collapsed to its knees, a grunt escaping him as he fell.
Serenity cried out in horror, sitting before him. Her eyes moved through the crowd and landed on Azura and King Asazin, and her face fell. She looked petrified.
Oasis’ breathing was unsteady. He smiled up at Serenity, letting out a soft coo of comfort for her.
Serenity curled up closer to Oasis, holding him as Esteria had held her father. She sobbed with long, grief-filled roars while Oasis let out his last breath, and died.
Esteria felt the grief she’d tried to bottle-up rise within her again as she watched Serenity sob over Oasis’s lifeless body. She clenched her eyes shut and tried to hold it in. All she wanted to do was disappear, curl up into a ball and cry her heart out for her father. Not before the kingdom. Her kingdom. She had to be strong.
That day, something inside of Esteria broke. She would never be the same again, a gaping hole left in her heart.
The sound of Lyra’s teal high-top skates on the paved trail soothed her throbbing headache. She pushed herself onward as fast as she could as if speed could take away her fear.
The images still flashed through her mind, of gunshots and screaming, of the blood-covered streets of her hometown.
She clenched her eyes shut and tried to push the memories to the back of her mind. All she wanted to do was forget, but sometimes the memories one most wants to forget, are the memories that remain forever.
She sped up, the crisp autumn breeze making her chestnut-brown hair blow all over her face. But it didn’t bother her, she didn’t stop to tie it behind her. She just kept skating.
As she neared the part of the trail that went right behind the white-sand beach, she slowed down. She allowed herself to glide to her favorite spot under the trees as she listened to the crash of the waves. Lyra used her toe-stop to stop herself, and she carefully walked off the trail and into a grassy area with tree cover overhead. She sat on a large rock and stared out to the sea, which looked endless. She couldn’t tell where the ocean ended and the sky began, it was just endless blue.
She steadied her breathing and moved her thoughts to the ocean. She wanted to shove the horror of her past in the water, drowning everything forever.
The beating of Lyra’s heart fell in sync with the crash of the ocean waves against the white sand, and Lyra felt at peace for the first time that morning.
Chapter Two ~ Falling to Pieces
Esteria sat atop the largest crystal in The Hidden World beside an elder Night Fury, Auraseer. Auraseer's voice boomed throughout the large cavern that the Crystal was centered within, loud enough to reach the hundreds and hundreds of dragons that had gathered.
"Due to King Asazin's unfortunate passing," He began. He circled the Crystal so every dragon got the chance to see his face. "We gather together to crown his daughter, Esteria, as Queen."
Esteria gulped, her heart pounding. Night Furies had become the Alpha Species thanks to their natural leadership abilities and kindness to all dragons. Asazin had always told Esteria that one day she'd become Queen, and she'd be wonderful. But neither of them thought it would be happening so soon. She scanned the crowd of dragons for anyone that looked like they intended to challenge her, but no such dragon appeared.
"Any of those worthy may now step forward to challenge for the Alpha position," Auraseer said, watching the crowd for any who might step forward.
"If anyone's gonna challenge Esteria, they'll have to go through me first!" A small voice chirped. Esteria looked down to see Birdie, Nightfall's younger sister, leaping around the Crystal and growling at random dragons.
Esteria, despite herself, giggled at Birdie's attempt to be menacing. This earned a glare from Auraseer, who was obviously containing a laugh himself.
"Since none are stepping forward, we will continue with the coronation." Auraseer shot Birdie a look, earning him a childlike-growl. Birdie then put her head up and flew gracefully back to her spot beneath Nightfall's wing.
For a moment, Esteria caught Nightfall's eye. Her heart did a little flip-flop as she looked deep into his emerald-green eyes. He smiled sweetly, and her face grew hot and she looked down. Already, she was in a better mood. Thanks Bird. She thought to herself.
"I hereby declare that Esteria, daughter of Asazin, will now be known as Queen of the Hidden World, and Alpha of dragons!" He gave Esteria the signal, and she spread her shimmering wings wide and roared a majestic, booming sound that echoed through the cavern. She willed her glowing yellow markings to glow, causing her wing tips to glow yellow, as well as a star marking around her right eye. In response, the crowd of dragons bowed their heads and raised their wings, showing respect for the new Queen.
From the sound of the roars erupting from the crowd, came a high-pitched chirp of Birdie's voice once more. "Yay Este!" She screamed. Esteria smiled at her, and everything seemed perfect for a moment.
Esteria soon caught the pinkish eyes of a familiar Light Fury. Serenity. Esteria remembered, from Oasis's burial. Serenity's face still looked stung with grief and pain, then she saw Esteria looking at her and she composed herself before leaping off of her rocky perch and flying away.
Esteria nodded at Auraseer, who dismissed the crowd. She flapped her wings and dove after Serenity
Serenity bowed when Esteria landed on the ground beside her.
"Please don't bow, I'm not ready for that yet." Esteria said.
Still silent, Serenity nodded and sat up before Esteria.
"Serenity, right?" Esteria inquired. Another nod. Esteria flew close. The newly crowned Alpha dragon could tell the Fury was uncomfortable in her presence. "Uhm, well, uh," Esteria stuttered, unsure what to say
"So," the dragon said flatly, waiting for Esteria to continue.
Esteria took a breath. "I'd like your opinion, I am aware that you've lost, as I have, due to the hatchery collapse. So I feel you could help me make my decision." She said, feeling a bit more confident. "Before my father's, er, passing, he had a dream of sorts. He dreamt that the Hidden World would no longer be able to stand, that it would collapse in on itself and take the life of everything within." Esteria's voice became shaky as Asazin appeared in her mind again.
"Just to clarify," Serenity whispered, her voice thick. "You're asking me, a Light Fury you haven't paid attention to until now, to help you."
Esteria gulped. "I-I'm sorry, I haven't-" She took in a breath. "I'll go."
"Your father wanted that, too. He wanted to leave. Run away from his problems," the dragon said. "I think we should turn around and face them."
Esteria's pupils narrowed and her mood changed. "I refuse to allow you to speak of my father in such a way." She huffed, smoke coming from her nostrils. "He never wished to run away from his problems, Serenity. This is genuine danger. I care about my kingdom, my people. I will not lose them, like, like-" She closed her eyes and took another deep breath. "Like I lost him. Like you lost Oasis."
The dragon's features softened and all that was left was a look of helplessness. "I don't know what to do anymore, Esteria. I thought we were safe. And then..." She shook her head, blinking rapidly.
"I know. Trust me, Serenity. I know." Esteria held down the urge to fall apart right then and there. She held strong. "The outside world is at war. My father told me many stories of what he'd witnessed. Our world is falling apart, and theirs will, too. Unless we do something, we lose everything. I am facing my problems. I think we should leave, in groups, after I scout. We'll find safe places for rest, and we'll bring Dragons and Humans together. Then we'll be safe."
The dragon stared at Esteria, but not in anger. Her eyes were flickering with the light from around the cavern, her mind processing the information.
"I admire your strength in this situation, Serenity. I need your opinion on what we do, and I'd like to leave you as Alpha when I'm gone scouting. I see strength in you, I see leadership. Now I know this is a lot, but I see you as worthy. This means that if," Her heart pounded as she said it out loud. "If I don't return, you maintain leadership over all dragons. It's all up to you. Now, because of this momentous responsibility being thrown on you, you will not be working as Alpha alone, you'd be co-Alpha beside Nightfall. He'd be the leader of the second group to leave, he'll organize that and maintain communications with me. You'd act as my Father did, with the normal Alpha responsibilities. What do you say?" Esteria had been thinking these things for days now, saying it out loud released a lot of pressure from her shoulders.
"Why... me? Why not Nightfall by himself, or someone more experienced, like Auraseer?" Serenity responded. The dragon looked panicked. "I... don't think..." She trailed off, looking down.
"I think you can. The reason Furies have become the Alpha Species over the years is not only leadership abilities, but their compassion towards the Kingdom. Auraseer can maintain order, but not peace. If he sees a dragon in trouble, but he also is hungry, he will disregard the danger of only one. He doesn't see the importance of only one dragon when there are so many. You obviously do. You have everything an Alpha should, I don't see anyone else more worthy. But, as I am only fifteen, I know how big of a deal it is. Nightfall is only seventeen, and I don't want to put it all on him. I need you, Serenity."
"You really mean that," the white dragon whispered, her eyes shimmering. "Then... I... I will be your backup Alpha."
Esteria smiled. "I was hoping you'd say that. Now, I will proceed with scouting duties not tomorrow, but the following day. I'd like to see you at four a.m. sharp for a tour of the most important places to watch over."
Serenity seemed to be in a war with herself, eventually blurting out, "Four a.m.!? I don't think I've gotten up that early since... wait, when was the last time I got up that early?"
Esteria laughed. "I said the same thing when my father told me he'd show me around the kingdom. Trust me, it is the best possible time you can get to see everything."
"If you say so," Serenity offered a small smile, standing up and stretching her wings out. "I'll see you later, then."
Esteria nodded and began unfolding her still glowing yellow-tipped wings when Serenity spoke again.
"Esteria..." The Alpha looked back as Serenity glanced at her. "I just wanted to say thank you."
"For what?" Esteria smiled at Serenity's change in personality.
"Um... uh..." she seemed at a loss for words, it was apparent that the Fury didn't apologize often. She was saved when the noise of squeaking and furious fluttering interrupted her and Birdie appeared, flying down ungracefully from a crystal.
"Este! Este!" She chirped, falling at Esteria's feet and grinning sheepishly. "Hi!"
Esteria laughed a little. "Hey Bird. Did you hear everything from up there, you little sneak?"
Birdie giggled and leaped around Esteria's paws. "I heard everything, and you didn't even know I was there!" Serenity stood awkwardly off to the side, not sure how to handle little kids.
Esteria poked at Birdie playfully. "You're such a good little spy!" Esteria shared an amused glance with Serenity. "Now this is one example of a little thing you have to watch over, Serenity."
"Please help me," Serenity muttered, though her face was split in a smile for the first time in days.
"And that's why you should let me come with you! I'm a good spy, we can defeat the humans together!" Birdie said proudly, puffing out her chest.
Esteria's eyes widened. "Well, Bird, well," She tried to think of how to let the little dragon down lightly, and was relieved to see Nightfall walking towards the group.
"If you stay behind, you can uh... play with Auntie S!" Serenity almost cringed at what she was saying. "And... I can give you treats?" She looked at Esteria, mouthing help me.
Esteria laughed, and gestured towards Nightfall.
"Nightie!" Birdie squealed, running over to her brother and disregarding Esteria and Serenity completely.
As Birdie weaved in between Nightfall's legs, Esteria smiled at him. Her heart pitter-pattered as he jumped around with Birdie for a minute.
Suddenly, Esteria's ear-nubs perked up. A bad feeling rose from within her chest. Her expression went from admiring to worried. Immediately, she took off in the direction of the main cavern.
Serenity followed, unknowingly.
As Esteria arrived, she yelled as loud as her small voice could allow. "Everybody out! NOW!" The dragons within looked alarmed, and compiled as the ground began to tremble. Shards of broken crystal fell from the crevices they had been in, and a panic rose. Esteria zoomed into the cavern and lifted a small adolescent Terror into her arms and carried it out of the cavern, allowing it to scuttle away towards it's family.
Serenity glanced around, swallowing panic and trying to find any dragon that needed help.
Large rocks and crystals began falling from high up in the cavern, a large rock falling onto a Woolly Howl's wing. It screeched in pain, and esteria dove after it and struggled to move the boulder. Esteria grunted, and being focused missed Birdie darting into the cavern to squeal at the dragons that were slower moving.
"Faster! Faster!" She said, not entirely aware of why everyone was panicking. She dodged a falling rock with a hop, smiling. "Look at me! I'm a ninja-spy! Hi-ya!"
Serenity blasted a couple of rocks with plasma, cracking them into smaller shards to pave a way for a few stragglers. Surveying the area again, she spotted Esteria struggling to remove a rock from a Woolly Howl's wing. Without a second thought, she dive bombed straight towards them, adrenaline coursing through her veins.
"I'm here," Serenity gasped, settling down next to Esteria and shoving her body against the rock. At last, it moved. Esteria hurriedly lifted the injured dragon and struggled to carry it out of the cavern. She whistled for the Healer's Wings dragons to come and aid the injury before she dove back into the cavern, only to see Birdie playfully kicking at random falling rocks. Overhead, a large crystal was headed straight for Birdie. Esteria was too far, she wouldn't be able to make it to her in time. "BIRDIE!" She screamed.
"Este! Look! I'm a ninja-spy!" Birdie called, blissfully unaware of the danger.
"Birdie! NO!" The crystal was inches from her head now, and it was heavy enough it could crush Birdie the same way Asazin had been killed. Esteria sobbed as she flew faster towards Birdie, but there was no way she'd be able to save her. "Birdie!" She called at last. Grief and worry and terror were buzzing through her head, she couldn't lose Birdie too. She couldn't. The stress hit her right as the crystal knocked Birdie from the air. Esteria was at a loss for breath, and gasping for air, she passed out.
Lyra finished the last bite of her turkey-and-provolone sandwich, dusting the crumbs off her lap. She looked over at her 10-year-old sister, Katie, who still was only picking at the bread on the outside.
"C'mon Kitty, what's so wrong with sandwiches?" She asked, a sparkle in her eye as she used Katie's least favorite nickname.
"Everything! And don't call me Kitty!" She said, shoving the plate away from her. Lyra rolled her eyes.
"You were given two names at birth," Lyra began, the usual story explaining why Kitty would forever be Kitty.
Katie rolled her eyes, but Lyra continued.
"Your name on the certificate became Katie, and you were our little Kitty. Just like we'll never forget your name, we'll never forget Kitty."
Katie stuck out her tongue, and before Lyra could protest, threw away a perfectly good turkey sandwich.
Lyra glared at Katie, who ignored her and walked to her bedroom, most likely to read her new favorite book.
Chapter Three ~ Hide & Seek
Nightfall finished counting for Hide-and-Seek, turning around to see Esteria and Serenity gone. He shook off an odd feeling as he began looking for his mischievous little sister.
"Birdie," He said, peering behind a towering pink stalagmite. He smiled as he did so, expecting to see Birdie there, in her usual hiding spot.
The smile disappeared from his face as a great rumbling sound echoed through the corridors, and the ground itself shook beneath Nightfall's feet.
Nightfall took to the air as a stalactite fell from the cavern's ceiling, almost hitting him. "Birdie!" He called, looking around for his little sister. "Bird!"
His heart pounded as he flew through the corridors. The shaking grew stronger and he had to dodge many falling rocks. He coughed as he inhaled dust.
Nightfall dove through a last corridor to find himself hovering in the main cavern, which had pretty much fallen to pieces.
The once glowing crystals were strewn all over the ground, and more debris was falling. In the corner of his eye, he spotted a small black-and-white dragon flapping around wildly, kicking at random rocks as a flickering blue-green crystal broke out of the crevice above her.
Time seemed to slow as he watched, helplessly, as the crystal knocked Birdie from the air. Esteria was flying towards her, but the second Birdie was hit, Esteria's wings seemed to go limp and she plummeted towards a rocky death.
Serenity darted through the air, wings tucked in at her sides as the air whistled around her. She plucked Birdie out from beneath the falling crystal just before it hit the ground and shattered to pieces. That could have been Birdie... he thought.
Then his gaze flew back to Esteria, who was completely unconscious. Her body was falling towards the ground covered in sharp shards of crystal.
"Esteria!" He screamed. He dove at full speed, stretching out his legs to grab Esteria from the air. He held her tightly and followed Serenity, who held Birdie in her arms and was headed out of the main cavern. He flew after her as fast as he could with Esteria in his arms.
As he flew out of the cavern, he lay Esteria on the ground and pushed Serenity down, stretching out his wings to protect all three girls from the rock that flew through the air.
A deafening sound thundered through the cavernous corridors as the walls of the main cavern caved in. Everything turned to rubble as the entrance was sealed. Crystals and rocks flew through the air, and Nightfall cried out as a boulder landed directly on his unprotected tail.
He held strong, still protecting the girls until finally, the destruction ceased.
Carefully, he folded in his wings that bled from the sharp flying shards. He folded them at his sides, and Serenity looked at him, an astonished look on her face. "Thank you."
Nightfall barely heard her, as pain ran through his body. He tried to hide it, to remain strong. He smiled at her and nodded, unable to speak without letting out a cry of pain.
Serenity eyed him carefully, before hopping up and running to his tail, shoving the boulder off of it. He looked back at his tail, and it bled a little but seemed to be fine.
"We need to get you to the Healers," Serenity mumbled, her voice still shaky.
Nightfall moved his tail away from her, hiding his pained expression. "No, we need to get Esteria and Birdie medical attention first."
Nightfall's expression said case closed, and he immediately reached for Esteria, sliding her onto his back. He could feel the rise and fall of her chest. She's breathing, he thought, relieved. He walked to the Healers caves without giving Serenity the chance to argue.
Esteria's eyes fluttered open and she coughed, puffs of dust coming out of her snout. She sat up and tried to empty her lungs of the dust when she saw Nightfall walk in.
Her face grew hot as he came to sit next to her, and she coughed again just to hide her face from his.
His wing brushed against hers, and her heart did a little flip-flop. The place his wing was next to hers was comforting, and it sent a giddy feeling tingling throughout Esteria's body. She looked into his deep emerald green eyes, and he looked right back at her.
Those eyes... She smiled at him, and he smiled back. She could have spent forever staring at him, drowning in his stunningly gorgeous eyes...
"Just kiss already!" A high pitched voice ended the moment. Esteria stood and backed away from Nightfall as he glared daggers at Birdie.
"Oh, you little-" He began. Just at that moment, Serenity walked in.
"Esteria!" She said, interrupting Nightfall before he could attack Birdie. "You're awake!"
Nightfall gave his sister one last look that said we'll finish this later, before turning to Serenity.
"The medics say she passed out from the pressure, and none of her injuries are fatal." He said, looked happily at Esteria.
"Well I'd assume they're not fatal, big brother, because Este was just making smoochy faces at you and you totally missed a great opportunity to kiss her," Birdie snorted, looking smugly at Nightfall.
Esteria's eyes widened when Birdie's gaze came to her. "Birdie," She laughed. "Night and I are only friends." She said. She glanced at Nightfall, and she almost thought she saw a look of disappointment flash across his face as she spoke.
"I stan," Serenity put in with a look almost as sheepish as Birdie's, but their interaction was cut short by Tonic, the medic who had helped them.
"Hey, this is really cheesy and great, but we're gonna need to send Nightfall and Serenity out so you two," He pointed towards Birdie and Esteria. "Can have some rest time."
Esteria's heart sank a little as she watched Nightfall walk away, Serenity at his side.
"Bye Nightie, love you!" Birdie chirped, curling up on a stone while Tonic looked over her. Tonic's apprentice, Null, looked over Esteria.
"You're good to go, Miss Alpha," Null said, dusting his feet off.
Esteria thanked him and looked at Birdie as the medics left to allow the girls to get some rest.
"Goodnight, Este," Birdie said with a smile, tucking her tail close to herself.
"Goodnight, Bird." Esteria whispered, smiling at the young dragon as her breathing became steady. She's asleep, already.
Esteria turned over on her rocky bed, closing her eyes and preparing to drift off herself, when the sound of footsteps made her perk up.
"Sorry, didn't mean to wake you, Princess," A smooth voice whispered.
Esteria sat up, the voice startling her. "No, I wasn't asleep." She looked at the Tide Glider who'd just walked in. The word Princess confused her a bit, because he didn't say it like it was her title.
"Well, in that case," the Glider swiftly walked over to her, dropping a sweet-smelling flower down by her wings. "I brought this flower from the outside world, to thank you for saving all the dragons in the collapse. It must have been so hard for you, with losing your father just a day before."
Esteria was a little confused by the Tide Glider's tone of voice, but she shook the feeling off and picked up the flower. "Thank you." She said, a little oblivious to the Tide Glider's admiring gaze.
"Of course, anything for a Princess," He said, a warm smile spreading across his lips.
Esteria still didn't quite understand his speaking. Firstly, Esteria was Queen now, and he should know that. And the word didn't sound like he was calling her royalty, more like he was calling her a pet name? She blinked away the odd thoughts and looked him in the eye. Her heart thudded in her chest, but it wasn't like when she was with Nightfall. It was more like she was just nervous and uncomfortable.
"I think I need some sleep." Esteria said, the only thing she could think of to get him away so she could think.
"Alright, I'll leave you be, Esteria. But, if you ever need a Tide Glider such as myself, don't hesitate to ask for Eddy. Anyone will know who you're talking about," with a wink, the dragon left, folding his wings behind his back and leaving Esteria alone in the dark.
"Well, that was weird," Birdie chirped, looking at Esteria with wide, but twinkling, eyes.
Esteria laughed a little. "Yes, yes it was."
Chapter Four ~ Eddy vs Night
Esteria walked through the corridors with Birdie talking nonstop at her side. Esteria wasn't listening, though, as she was still confused from the previous night's events.
"-and so that's why! What do you think Este?" Birdie said in her high-pitched voice, turning her green eyes towards Esteria and waiting for an answer.
"Wh- huh? Oh! Uh, yeah, that's really cool Bird!" Esteria stuttered.
Birdie smiled happily and flapped her wings to hover in the air. "I wanna go see Nightie, bye Este!"
"Bye Bird." Este watched Birdie flutter away to the Shadows. She sighed in relief, glad for a moment to think. She sat down against a rocky wall.
What was Eddy doing yesterday? Her thought was almost immediately interrupted as Eddy the Tide Glider walked over to Esteria. Speak of the devil...
"There she is," He said, a smile spreading across his snout.
"Hey Eddy," Esteria said, a little nervous.
"I just wanted to drop by and see how things were going," The teal dragon said, walking close enough that Esteria could feel his breath. "It looks like you're up and running, though, that's great!"
Esteria smiled. "Yeah, I feel a lot better."
"Well, I brought you more flowers to add to your collection," Eddy pushed a couple of purple irises towards Esteria, flashing a pearly grin.
Esteria felt a little confused, but took the beautiful bouquet and sniffed it. "Thank you, Eddy."
Eddy bowed his head. "I have to leave now, but I'll be back, Princess," The Tide Glider stepped away gracefully, disappearing into the shadows.
Esteria took another sniff of the flowers, unable to shake the wary feeling in her chest as she walked the other way.
Nightfall stood and stretched his large wings when he heard Birdie fluttering towards him. "Morning Bird! You feeling OK?" He asked.
Birdie seemed giddy with excitement, and she ignored his question. "Nightie, you've got competition!" She chirped. "Your girl has someone else that's got his sights on her. And guess how I found out?" She continued before Nightfall could say anything. "I pretended to sleep while Esteria had a romantic conversation with Eddy the Tide Glider."
Nightfall's heart was thudding loud in his chest as his sister spoke. Esteria had been his best friend since they were little hatchlings, he'd always thought they'd end up together. Never had he imagined it would be so difficult.
But he should have guessed. Esteria was a Queen and a stunningly gorgeous one at that. He was just a nobody, that by mere luck had met the Princess as a hatchling.
Before he could reasonably tell himself that it was fine for Esteria to see other guys, he bounded off to find her.
When he finally caught a glimpse of Esteria, he found her sitting next to a Tide Glider, his wing wrapped around her. He had given her a small bouquet of purple flowers, and Esteria looked happy.
Nightfall panicked he wanted to run at Eddy, to smash him to pieces and sweep Esteria off her feet. But she was so happy. For now, Eddy. But I'll be back. He hissed to himself as he silently slipped away to give Esteria and Eddy their privacy.
"Nightfall," a gruff voice said, appearing from the shadows. Eddy's deep blue eyes gleamed with a warning, all kindness from them gone.
Nightfall turned to him. "What?" He hissed harshly, lips drawn over his teeth.
Eddy scowled. "I'll be succinct with you, you seem like a nice dragon, Nightfall. And I'd hate to see anything bad happen to you, that's why I'm warning you that Esteria's mine. If I see you so much as look at her... well, I hope you're smart enough to understand what I mean," he growled dangerously.
Nightfall stiffened. "I'll have you know that Esteria belongs to no one. Let alone some dirtbag Tide Glider who only seeks attention." He spat.
"Keep thinking that. She'll never pay attention to you," Eddy curled his lip, looking over Nightfall. "I'm surprised she's even your friend. I'd imagine an Alpha to have a better choice of friends, but she is only fifteen so I suppose all her hasty life choices aren't finished yet."
Nightfall narrowed his eyes. He felt the urge to kill Eddy right then and there, but Esteria would never forgive him.
"Like that one where she decided to talk to you?" Nightfall taunted, burning Eddy with words rather than fire.
Eddy snorted, turning away. "Just thought I'd warn you." he then stalked off leaving Nightfall alone.
Nightfall glared daggers at Eddy. I'd better warn Este... He thought.
As if reading his mind, Eddy called out one last thing before he slipped away. "She won't believe you."
That son of a sandworm, what does he know about Este? She will believe me, she trusts me. Nightfall thought bitterly before he faded into the shadows and left.
Chapter Five ~ Mine
Today was the day that Esteria was leaving to scout. Nightfall had to warn her about Eddy before it was too late. But how?
He heard her yawn from a few feet away. He peered out from behind a dimly glowing crystal to see her gleaming blue eyes wide open. She stretched her wings.
Nightfall took a deep breath and stepped over to her. "Este, I have to-" He began.
"Wow, Night. You're up early! That's not normal for you." She laughed and walked past him, her neatly folded wing brushing against his. He hurried to walk by her side.
"Esteria, I have to tell you something." He began.
She scanned the still-sleeping dragons to make sure no trouble was occuring, but nodded at Nightfall to signify she was listening.
"Esteria, Eddy isn't who you think he is. I mean- he's a Tide Glider, but he doesn't really like you, though it may seem that way."
Esteria perked up. "It seems like he likes me?" She asked.
"Yes, but, er, no! He just wants the throne, I think." He said.
Esteria's gaze turned to him. "Why would you be so rude about Eddy? What do you have against him?"
Nightfall hesitated, worried he'd say the wrong thing. "I just want to protect you from anything that he might try-"
"I don't need protection! I'm perfectly capable!" Esteria huffed and looked away.
"But Esteria, he doesn't deserve you! All he wants is attention, and he's using you."
"And how did you figure this out, Nightfall?"
"It's the way he acts, I mean yesterday he said-"
Esteria turned an accusing and harsh gaze to Nightfall, cutting him off. "Nightfall, I can be with whoever I like, I don't care what you think! You've misread him, he's nice, and sweet, and, and well I think I like him!" She said, a little too loud.
Nightfall looked horrified. "But Este, you have to believe me-"
"No." She hissed, before taking to the air and speeding away.
Nightfall sighed. Eddy was right.
At that moment, Eddy appeared from the shadow of a nearby crystal. "Don't try anything more with my Esteria, Nightfall. You've lost, and I've won. She belongs to me now."
Nightfall's pupils turned to slits and he hissed, readying a blast. "Esteria belongs to no one!" He shot at Eddy, who dodged him.
"Tsk tsk tsk, Nightfall. She's nothing but a naïve little girl who needs someone like myself to take over. Consider your job done, she'll be protected and kept away from any danger, by me."
"But you are the danger! I can sense it! You have no plans to keep her around, you're just going to hurt her!" He summoned another blast and shot it, missing again. Again, his mouth filled with a blue-ish green flame as he readied yet another.
This time as he shot it, Eddy didn't dodge. Instead he cried out, and just before it hit him, Esteria dove from high above and saved him, the blast hitting her tail.
"How dare you, Nightfall! You claim he's just after attention, but look at yourself!" She put her tail into a pool of water to cool it, and Eddy hurried to her to see if she'd been harmed.
"But I-" Nightfall began, but he stopped as Esteria's gaze filled with disappointment and anger.
"Just don't." She said. Then she motioned for Eddy to follow her as she took off. Nightfall didn't dare follow.
Esteria felt sad and angry at the same time as she flew away from Nightfall. He just tried to kill Eddy! He deserved what came to him, and more! She thought, trying to justify her actions. But part of her still ached to go back to him, to apologize, and finally confess her feelings for him.
The thought faded as Eddy nudged her. "You did the right thing, Princess."
Esteria smiled at him. "Thank you, Eddy. Did you, er, did you hear what I said about you when Night and I were talking?"
Eddy smiled. "I did. Did you really mean it?"
Esteria considered. "I-I think so."
Eddy had a triumphant look on his face. "Esteria, would you like to be with me?"
Esteria's flying faltered and she fell a few feet before steadying herself. She didn't exactly know how she felt, but the words he'd said made her feel something. Before she could convince herself otherwise, she answered. "Yes."
Eddy spun in the air and cheered. "Yes! Thank you, Esteria. What do you say, for now, we keep this to ourselves though."
Esteria cocked her head. "I-I guess..." She said. Eddy looked proud, so she smiled.
What just happened?
Lyra sat on the beach, running her fingers through the sand. Katie splashed in the shallow water nearby, picking up all the seashells she could find.
"Ly! Look at this one!" She held up a full white seashell with swirls of a tan-ish color.
"Cool!" Lyra called back.
Katie smiled proudly and returned to her search for good shells.
Lyra readjusted herself in her beach-seat, the heat beating down on her. It sure was hot for an Autumn day.
"Katie, maybe we should go back," Lyra said.
"Noooo! Not yet, please Lyra?"
"Fine, a few more minutes." Lyra picked up her book and opened it again to read onto the next chapter. Then we can go home. She told herself, anxious to return to the air-conditioning.
Chapter Six ~ Into the Wild Blue Yonder
Her heart thudded within her chest as she stood atop the Crystal, looking over her kingdom. Dusk was falling, and she felt she was ready to go... somewhat.
Esteria caught Eddy's eye from the audience, and he winked at her and gave her an encouraging smile. She smiled back and cleared her throat, then roared to get the attention of her subjects.
She put on a brave face and stood, wings outstretched slightly, to look regal and worthy for her people. "Today, I leave the Hidden World." She ignored the murmurs coming from the dragons. "As some may know, this sanctuary that has kept us safe for ages has become our biggest danger," She continued, circling the Crystal to face all of the gathered dragons.
"I will scout for safe islands for rest, and for food sources. Behind me, I have chosen two leaders to lead out two seperate groups from the Hidden World. They will address those in their group." She nodded at Serenity, signaling her to join her atop the Crystal. "While I'm gone, I am leaving Serenity of the Light Furies as your Queen and Alpha. You will treat her as you treat me, with respect." Serenity smiled nervously at Esteria.
"Alongside her, I am leaving Nigh-" Esteria faltered as the name began to be spoken. She caught Nightfalls eye, and he looked down, ashamed. I know he will do well. Get over it, this isn't about who you love, it is about caring for my Kingdom, and he can do that. She coughed a bit. "I am leaving Nightfall of the Night Lights as a leader of communications with me, and he will take over duties as Alpha once the last group is to leave the Hidden World."
She nodded at Nightfall, who flew up to the Crystal and sat beside Serenity. "Now before I leave, I must address this. If I don't return-" Saying this, again, she faltered, and coughed a little bit. "If I don't return, Serenity will become full-time Alpha and Queen, as long as her throne isn't challenged." To signify the end of her speech, Esteria completely unfurled her wings and roared, earning the roar of her kingdom in return. With that, she flew towards the Hidden World's exit.
As she came out the top, she nodded at the Changewing guards, who bowed slightly. Bhind her, Kaiyō the Deep Flame, her father's appointed General of the underwater hunting expeditions, dove to a rock on the edge of the Hidden World's borders that was half submerged in the salty ocean water.
Esteria dove down to hover before him. He tucked in his gargantuan navy-blue wings and bowed his head before speaking. "Your Majesty," He said.
Esteria smiled. "Kaiyō, while I'm gone, you will continue duties as General, yes?"
Kaiyō nodded. "As always, m'lady. Now you must go, you need to get all the distance you can before the sun rises."
Esteria nodded, and opened her wings to take to the sky. The sky! Esteria had been out of the Hidden World before and had always felt so free. The sky was endless, and the ocean below her was speckled with islands of all sizes. The sun still hovered above the horizon, meaning Esteria had a little bit of time to enjoy herself before she had to go.
Nightfall flew out of the Hidden World's exit and sat beside a large blue dragon on a rock. He watched Esteria twirl gracefully through the endless navy sky. Her scales shimmered just right below the setting sun, and the ocean shimmered pink and orange colors. Her wings were tucked by her sides as she spun upwards, before unfurling them to catch herself in the air. Her gorgeous laugh rang through the air.
Nightfall's wings began to spread when Eddy the Tide Glider zoomed through the air and wrapped his tail around Esteria's.
Loathing and anger pulsed through Nightfall's body. No, Esteria belongs with me! He wanted to yell. Eddy flew with Esteria, his wing overlapping hers.
Kaiyō, a Deep Flame and Nightfall's close friend, nudged him a bit. "You alright, Night?" He asked, swishing his tail in the water beneath the rock they sat on.
"No." Nightfall said through gritted teeth. His markings glowed green and smoke came from his nostrils. "Something is wrong with that Glider."
Kaiyō chuckled. "Night, you need to let her go. She's an Alpha, for Thor's sake. There are so many dragons that you could be with so easily, Este is just not the girl for you."
Nightfall's heart sank as Kaiyō's words hit him right in the heart "But, I've known her forever, I always thought we were meant to be..."
Kaiyō smiled. "Sometimes life lets us down, you just have to move on."
Nightfall smiled sarcastically. "Since when do you hand out love advice?"
Kaiyō rolled his eyes. "Since you need it."
Nightfall looked back up at Eddy and Esteria, who flew side by side. He growled at Eddy, then looked at Esteria. Este, I'll never stop thinking of you. Of us.
He gave a final huff of smoke in Eddy's direction and flew away.
Chapter Seven ~ Eavesdropping
"C'mon Day, follow me, and keep low," Birdie hissed through her teeth, motioning for the white dragon to follow her with her tail. She sadly couldn't fly up to the tall crystals and peer down on older dragons because her wings had decided to not work for some odd reason. She couldn't remember anything from the day before, except for totally rocking the ninja-spy job, that is. It was sort of a blur up until she woke up and chatted with Esteria. She'd just have to make do with the lower crystals and shadows that emanated from the cowering walls.
"You're pretty bright colored so you should stay closer to the walls when we go eavesdrop," she told Daybreak, her light fury-and partial woolly howl friend. Daybreak nodded excitedly, slunking next to the wall and almost melting into the shadows. Birdie followed her, squeaking when her wing bumped against the wall. Daybreak looked back at her and she shooed the dragon forward.
"Woah, Birdie, look!" Daybreak whispered. Birdie pushed her way next to Day and peered out of the shadows, squealing in delight when she saw Esteria and Serenity.
"Good job, partner! We've got a great vintage point now." Birdie said, jumping up and down excitedly.
"Do you mean vantage point?" Day asked, and Birdie's mouth formed an 'oh' shape. Day giggled and Birdie quickly joined in, both of them trying to shush each other so they could hear what the older furies were talking about.
"I'm going to head out for scouting later today," Esteria said, her voice a little wobbly. Birdie's ear nubs perked up.
"Did you hear that?" she hissed at Daybreak. The dragon nodded ecstatically, her green eyes sparkling with excitement. "It looks like we have a mission!"
Daybreak shoved her paw into Birdie's mouth, pointing towards the two older dragons, who were looking around the cavern. Birdie spat her friend's paw out, making gagging noises. Daybreak flung Birdie's spit all over, trying to get the dragon's slime out of the tufts of fur on her paws. They then sat next to each other, watching as Esteria and Serenity lowered their voices.
"Are you sure you're up to it? Yesterday was sort of crazy," Serenity told Esteria. Birdie grumbled about the light fury ruining their fun, but was happy to find Esteria felt the same way.
"I'm fine. I know my limits, it's not me who I'm worried about," Esteria said, then looked around. She leaned closer to Serenity, making Birdie and Daybreak have to strain their ears to hear what she said next. "Nightfall's been acting weird ever since the second cave collapse. Could you keep an eye on him while I'm gone?"
Daybreak shared a glance with Birdie. The two dragons communicated with their eyes and a few snorts, then without saying anything more, they returned to spying on Esteria and Serenity.
"Sure!" Serenity responded to Esteria's request. The two shared a goofy smile. Birdie and Daybreak both made disgusted noises, looking at each other.
"Do we look like that when we talk?" Daybreak hissed. Birdie snorted.
"I sure hope not!"
They held their breath, realizing their voices had carried into the cavern yet again. Serenity and Esteria were definitely confused.
"I think that's our cue," Birdie whispered.
"But we haven't learned when Esteria's gonna leave!" Day responded, her eyes growing wide when Esteria looked straight at the shadows they were hiding in. "Nevermind, let's scram."
The two young dragons scrambled away in a pile of squealing limbs, finally sorting their situation out. Daybreak went first, Birdie following quickly.
"Wait!" Birdie called after they were a few hallways away from the cave Serenity and Esteria were in. "Daybie, hold up!"
Daybreak turned around, her green eyes gleaming playfully. Birdie panted, catching up to her friend. "I just realized something."
"Yeah?" Day asked, then immediately said. "Oh, you finally came to understand just how amazing I am. I know, I know, it took you way too long."
The two burst into a fit of giggles, Birdie having to take a few snorts of air before continuing. "No, silly, I already know you're way too cool. We're like, the most amazing duo ever. Even Nightfall agrees! But what I wanted to say is that I don't think I can follow Esteria later today."
"What? Why?!" Daybreak asked, frowning. Birdie rolled her eyes.
"My wing is like, totally dead. And I'm pretty sure scouting includes a great deal of flying, no?"
Day made the saddest whine in the history of whines, taking a breath when her air ran out and whining some more. Birdie sniffed.
"I know, it's sad. The famous Daybird duo will become a solo expedition."
Daybreak's face lit up with a mischievous light. "Not on my watch, it won't! Trust me."
Birdie looked suspiciously at Day, then her face split with a grin. "Let's do this."
"YOU ARE SO HEAVY!" Daybreak panted, flapping her wings while Birdie clung on to her back for dear life.
"It's not my fault you dropped off a whole feast of bugs for me to eat, you know I can't resist the salty taste of cockroaches!" Birdie retorted, squealing when Daybreak dropped a few feet. The light fury and woolly howl hybrid landed on the floor, pushing Birdie off with a snort.
"You sure you can carry me all the way to wherever Este's going?" Birdie asked, tugging a few strands of Day's blue fur from her talons. Her friend puffed out her chest.
"I'm offended you think so little of my abilities." Day said, turning away.
"Sorry, Day!" Birdie chirped, getting a prolonged silent treatment from her friend. She groaned, the little dragon hated when people wouldn't respond.
"I really am sorry," She put on her pouty face, pulling out her puppy dog eyes. When Day wouldn't budge, she resorted to poking her friend's arm. "We're gonna be late for following Esteria, we need to go now!"
"Fine, but you owe me a fish as big as your head when we get back," Daybreak sniffed, bounding away. Birdie ran after her, excitement tingling every scale on her body. We're going on a mission! A top secret, spy-like one. We really are the greatest team.
Chapter Eight ~ A Star in the Night
The moonlight made Esteria's scales twinkle as if she was a part of the night sky, speckled with stars. Her wings began to ache, and as she approached a large grassy island she decided that she could take a short rest break.
Esteria folded her wings against her body, retracting her side-spines to dive. At the last possible second, she unfurled her large glittering wings to catch herself and land gracefully in the grass. She allowed the cool breeze to wash over her scales as little glowing fireflies fluttered around her. Peace and quiet, at last.
Not even a second later, a high-pitched scream came from behind her, and then a loud splash as something crashed into the salty ocean water below. Esteria prepared herself for an attack and flew towards the source of the noise to inspect.
"Birdie, Daybreak? What in the world are you doing here?" She asked, alarmed, as a dripping wet Light Howl scrambled onto the beach, panting and pulling Birdie after her.
"N-nothing." Daybreak panted, collapsing to the sand.
"Pfft, yeah, sure looks like 'nothing.'" Esteria said, reaching down and grabbing Birdie to see if she was still breathing.
"Este," Birdie croaked, peeking one eye open. "You have a dead bug on your nose."
Esteria laughed and set Birdie down, using her paw to wipe the firefly off her snout. "Thanks Bird."
The young girls smiled innocently.
"Ah ah, but I'm not letting you off that easy." Esteria's tone was firm. "What in Valhalla made you think you should do this?"
"It was Day's idea," Birdie quickly pointed at the Light howl.
"Hey!" Daybreak said, offended.
"Well it's true." Birdie stated, matter-of-factly. "I had nothing to do with it at all. In fact, I was the one trying to get you to stay back at the Hidden World, but noooo you just had to follow Esteria."
Esteria looked amused. "And why did you tag along, little stowaway?"
"W-well," Birdie stuttered, looking at Daybreak nervously. "I wanted to make sure she didn't hurt herself. I'm still capable of shooting fire blasts at things! Like whales, I can hit whales with fire, and Day here wouldn't be able to stop a whale from eating her without my help."
Birdie proudly demonstrated her fire 'blast' abilities by shooting out a small blue ember onto the sand.
Esteria nodded sarcastically. "Uh huh. Riiiiight." She then frowned as she surveyed their island surroundings. They were on the shore of a populated island, she could see street lamps and homes in the distance. Humans. Esteria shivered.
Asazin- 3 years earlier.
The island seemed calm and peaceful, the only sound coming from the tropical birds hiding among the trees. Asazin walked alongside his mate, Twila. Normally the King and Queen wouldn't both be out, in fear of dying without someone to maintain order within the kingdom.
But the Hidden World was running out of food, and Asazin and Twila were some of the best hunters among dragons.
It was night, and the darkness provided great cover for the royal couple as they walked around in search of possible prey.
The sound of fast footsteps came from nearby. Asazin turned to try and spot whatever had made the noise. It sounded relatively large, not quite dragon-size but not a rabbit.
"Stay here," Asazin instructed his mate. He walked away from her and looked behind a tree to find a human. The man's expression was filled with disgust, and he held a crossbow with a special kind of arrow- the tip was filled with some sort of black liquid.
Asazin jumped away from the human before he was shot. "Twila!" He roared, turning to see his mate collapsed to the ground. An arrow stuck out of her neck and cracks of white had spread through the nearby scales.
She was dead.
Esteria was staring off into space, looking at nothing in particular. Birdie knew this because she'd checked, and sure enough Esteria just seemed to be gazing at the sky.
Birdie flopped in the sand, tired from almost drowning and also from the persistent bugging she had been doing. "Day, how are we gonna get Esteria to stop staring into oblivion like she is a future-seer?" She asked.
Esteria heard the girls talking and snapped out of her daze.
"Oh my gosh! Day, you did it- Shrugging woke her up!" Birdie squealed, scrambling to her feet and bouncing around Daybreak. "We make the best team ever!"
Esteria laughed. "Sorry girls. So it's too late for me to take you back to the Hidden World, and you mischevious little stowaways will have to stay here for the night. Please try to stay hidden, OK?"
"What!?" Birdie exclaimed, outraged. "You're not taking us with you?"
Esteria hesitated before answering. She sighed. "Well, I really don't want to fly back just to get you home, nor do I want you flying home alone. But you definitely can't come with me." Another sigh. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, please just try and get some sleep."
"Okay. That makes sense," Birdie agreed quickly, turning in circles and laying down. "Day and I will get some hard earned sleep and then we'll wake up and find you all ready to do whatever you want to do."
Esteria rolled her eyes. "Alright. Now sleep. Please stay hidden, don't be, well, don't be Birdie for a minute, OK? I have to scout out this island."
"Mk," Birdie mumbled. "I won't be Birdie. I'll be... Siegfried, which means Daybreak is Roy."
"Why do I have to be Roy!? You're the one who can't even fly!" Daybreak huffed and Birdie cuffed her over the head.
Esteria laughed. "How do you even know about them?"
The two girls giggled mischievously, not answering the question.
Esteria began walking away. "Goodnight, girls. Sweet dreams."
"'Night Mommy!" Birdie called after Esteria giddily. Daybreak made a weird squeaking sound and looked at Bird with a disturbed expression. "It was just a joke," Birdie responded, standing up and stretching her legs.
"Let's go," Birdie hissed at Daybreak once Esteria had disappeared.
"What? But I thought-" Daybreak began.
"I just lied to her so we wouldn't get in trouble! I mean, sure she had a point with the whole nickname thing, I think my codename will be Siegfried, but that's not what we're worrying about. What we need to do is scout out the island too. And Esteria can't do anything about it if we get back here before she does and pretend to be asleep!" Birdie explained.
Daybreak nodded obediently. "But since I'M the oldest I get to be in charge." She said proudly walking after Esteria.
"What!? That's not fair! I'm only a few months younger! COME BACK!" Birdie scrambled after Daybreak, kicking up sand as she ran.
Chapter Nine ~ We Have Dragons
Esteria stood in the shadow of a tall tree, watching the human girl stare up at the stars. Esteria hated humans. She had to, of course. They were nothing but merciless killers.
But somehow, Esteria knew that she needed to go into that yard. The one that the girl sat in. A human yard. But why?
Esteria frowned. Waiting for this girl to walk away wasn't going to work. She thought that humans stayed indoors at night, but this one was stubborn! Just go inside, idiot human!
She plopped into the grass, deciding to sit and wait. Her mind immediately drifted to images of her and Eddy... then of her and Nightfall. Esteria felt something when she was near the black-and white dragon she'd loved her whole life. Loved? Did I love-love him? Or was he just... a friend? Who is he to me now?
Then there's Eddy, something about him felt different. Whether it was good different or bad different, she didn't know. But he loved her, right?
Esteria growled at herself. This is too hard. It shouldn't be this hard. It should just be like, LOOK! THERE HE IS! Then BOOM! You're together forever.
"Urgh!" She hissed aloud. Her mind instantly went back to the human, who had stood up and was scanning the yard. "Shoot." Esteria tried to inch back into the shadows to hide herself, but the girl had focused on her. She's seen me.
Esteria gave up on hiding and stood back up, pushing out her razor-sharp side spines and allowing her markings to glow a faint yellow. The girl walked towards her.
Esteria growled, and her pupils narrowed. She arched her back as the girl stepped closer. Again. What does this idiot think she's doing? Does she have any brains?
"Hello," The girl said kindly. "I'm Lyra. But I guess you know that."
Esteria shook her head. WHAT. THE. HECK. Are all humans this stupid? I'm DANGEROUS! RUN AWAY! OR I WILL SET YOU ON FIRE! Esteria snarled, and smoke rose from her nostrils. GO INSIDE AND GET HIGH ON SUGAR OR WHATEVER IT IS YOU HUMANS DO. OR I WILL KILL YOU!
Esteria wanted to kill this human. She should kill the human. But something told her not to. Why is this human so important? Why can't I just kill her to death?
"Girl, you need to calm down." Lyra said, placing her wimpy scale-less paw on her hip.
Esteria shot a small warning flame at Lyra's feet. The human jumped, then laughed slightly. She looked up at Esteria.
"Esteria is an awful pretty name, you know." Lyra said.
How the heck does this terror-brained human know my name?
"I thought for sure I had woken up. But apparently I'm still dreaming about dragons. Silly, isn't it?" Lyra said to herself more than Esteria.
Esteria huffed. I need to teach her a lesson, I suppose. She scooped the human onto her neck, retracting the spines there. Then she opened her wings, and took off.
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" Lyra screamed as she clutched the dragon's scales. This is real. I'm riding a dragon. This doesn't feel like a dream. What is happening? Her heart raced as the dragon thrashed through the air wildly. "Este, STOP!" She yelled as the dragon from her dreams flipped upside-down.
Esteria didn't stop. Instead, she shook her body and Lyra lost her grip, and fell. She screamed and flailed her arms in a wimpy attempt to stable herself, when another dragon, this one much smaller, came shooting upwards. She was pure white with light-blue fluff lining her back and chest. The small dragon was able to grab Lyra's ankles, and Lyra stopped too suddenly, sending blood rushing to her head.
"Ow," She muttered as the furry dragon dropped her to the ground. She scrambled to her feet, but the dizziness made her fall right back onto her behind. She looked at three dragons now, Esteria, the fluffy one, and a black-and white dragon with green eyes. Este seemed to be scolding them with her frustrated roars and growls. The other two just sat there, occasionally piping in with high-pitched chirps.
Well this is not something you see everyday. Lyra thought as she stared at the odd group. She got back to her feet, staying still for a moment until her vision cleared, then walked over to where her sketchbook had been before she'd seen Esteria. She picked it up and opened to a blank page, sliding her pencil out of the small holder on the side. She began sketching, outlining the silhouettes of the three dragons against the moonlight just like they had been minutes ago.
When Lyra looked up, she noticed that the dragons were no longer there. All three of them had disappeared into the night, without a trace.
Was it really only a dream?
Chapter Ten ~ Missing
Esteria flapped her wings again as she led Birdie and Daybreak back towards the Hidden World. Sure, she was wasting a day that she could be scouting, but she had to ensure the safety of these two little stowaways first.
"Estee," Birdie whined. "I'm tired."
"Well you wouldn't have to be flying at all if you'd just stayed home." Esteria said.
"But then that human girl would have died!" Daybreak put in.
Esteria didn't respond to that. She knew it was a good thing that the human was alive, but yet she still didn't understand why.
Suddenly, Birdie screamed. Esteria was so startled she nearly fell out of the air. "What's wrong?" She asked in a panic.
Birdie was scanning the sky, as if searching for something. "I-I saw something." She said.
Esteria looked around, seeing nothing. Probably just one of Birdie's imaginary monsters. She decided. The trio continued on, with Birdie close to Esteria.
Then she saw it, a flash of black against the night sky. A scream erupted from someone, who Esteria realized was herself. Another flash of color, of blood this time.
Then everything went black.
Daybreak's eyes fluttered open and she found herself in the healing cavern back in the Hidden World. A small Healing Rimscale tended to a cut on her leg. She scanned the cavern, and spotted Birdie on another rock bed nearby, where Null was helping her. But Esteria was nowhere to be seen.
Daybreak watched Nightfall, Birdie's older brother, walk into the cavern. "Daybie, you're awake!" He said cheerily.
"Where's Esteria?" Daybreak asked.
"Este? Was she with you?" Nightfall asked.
Daybreak nodded. "She was there when we were attacked, I saw her. Her blood is all over my fur."
Nightfall seemed to turn into a statue, he was so still. "Nightie?" Birdie chimed in from her bed.
Nightfall shook his head, snapping out of whatever daze he was in. "I think it's time." He said to Tonic, who was scolding Birdie for getting hurt again. "We're leaving today."
"Leaving?" Daybreak blurted. "Huh? What do you mean?"
Instead of filling her in, the grown-ups left the cavern oh-so-rudely leaving Birdie and herself alone.
Daybreak huffed. "Rude." She muttered.
Birdie smiled wickedly. "Let's follow them!"
Daybreak nodded, and got off her bed, ignoring the pain that shot through her body as she opened her wings. She glided out of the cavern, Birdie trotting below her, yelling angrily about how she still couldn't fly.
She settled down behind a small crystal near Serenity and Nightfall, who both looked extremely worried.
Birdie joined her, and as the two finally got comfortably seated, they listened in while the older dragons talked.
Chapter Eleven ~ Gone
Este can’t be gone. She just can’t. I need her. Nightfall shook his head, focusing his attention back to the issue at hand. He’d just told Serenity to gather the first group to leave, which he would lead out of the Hidden World.
They couldn’t wait any longer, especially not now, when Esteria was missing. He paced back and forth, his wings twitching with the desperate need to get out and search for her.
He could just see her, smiling at him, her stunning blue eyes glinting, her jet-black scales bringing everything around her to envy her beauty…
Stop it. She’s fine. He told himself. She has to be fine.
“This way!” Serenity’s voice called from down the corridor. She led a large number of dragons, hundreds of them, towards the exit. Nightfall leapt into the air, gliding to hover beside Serenity.
“So you want me to escort you out?” She asked.
“Yes,” Nightfall answered with a nod. “So that if anything happens you can report for backup.”
“Right,” Serenity nodded. Nightfall took the lead, beckoning for the group to follow him.
They erupted out of the Hidden World, taking to the sky. Nightfall smiled as he heard the hoots and hollers of the dragons that twirled through the open sky.
Nightfall scanned the sea, searching for any sign of Esteria. But it was completely still.
The ocean surface looked like glass, not even the slightest ripple disturbing it. The dragons in his group were flying in loops, skimming the water, but no matter what, the water remained unmoved.
Something was wrong. He could sense it, danger looming just before him.
“Stop!” He called to his group. The dragons obeyed, halting their celebration.
At that moment, a gargantuan black figure arose from the water. It was huge, with long black wings and white spines running along its back. It had a headdress of yellow-ish spikes along its head, like a nadder’s but much larger.
It roared, the sound monotone and almost robotic. Nightfall snarled. “Where’s Esteria?” He demanded.
The dragon didn’t respond, instead bowing its head. On its neck stood a tall girl with long, strawberry-blonde hair. She gave a charming smile, before shooting an arrow directly at Nightfall’s heart.
Esteria’s eyes fluttered open, and she found herself beat up and bloody, lying on a bed of leaves on the island she had landed on before.
Her front leg was wrapped in gauze, and tending to her other wounds was Lyra, the girl who had seen Esteria the previous night.
Lyra, the girl Esteria had tried to kill, was now saving her life.
Esteria leapt to her feet, ignoring the pain that shot through her body. Her pupils narrowed to slits in her blue eyes, and she felt something inside of her give a foreboding tug.
Something is seriously wrong. Esteria realized. This gut-wrenching feeling was bad, bad as the day that her father had died.
That’s it. Someone has died. She realized. She shook her head, trying to keep the name from entering her mind, but she couldn’t.
Nightfall… is dead.