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Chapter One

The sky was pitch black, peeking through the thick canopy of the trees overhead. The horses that pulled the open top wagons (which bore the thirty some of us) gleamed in the moonlight, their black coats nearly blending in with the darkness of the forest.

I remember that during this trip I was smashed between two boys, both my age yet bigger than me. But that wasn’t surprising. Everyone else in the cart was larger than me. I was really small and thin, with fiery red hair that always seemed to have a life of its own. Now it hangs fairly straight, thankfully. My father used to say I was the prettiest little devil in the land. Of course, the last time I ever saw my father was when I was ten, so I don’t know what he would think of me now. Nor do I really care, for that matter. He and my mother died in the second wave of the attack. I recently visited my old home, only to find a empty, burnt out shell where it once was. I found their graves off in a grassy bit of shade. I know I should have felt sadness over final proof of their death, but my heart was cold.

But I am sure that I make no sense to you. I will try my hardest to stay on topic, and not confuse you with my mind's wanderings.

As I said, it was a remarkably dark night. The boys at my sides were trying hard as heck not to smash me between them whenever the cart jerked or bounced, which was quite often. Their efforts not to crush me were in vain however, and I think my width must have compacted several inches from the force with which they connected. They apologized once every six seconds about it as well, which was even more annoying than the bludgeoning of my shoulders. Their “sorrys", the horses' hoof beats, the occasional whisper, and the calls of the coachmen were the only sounds that broke through the crisp, cool night air. It was early spring, and I remember being shocked that the trees all had their leaves back already. This wasn’t much of a usual occurrence in Lyssnahei, so I had good reason for my shock. Where I came from, a village near the south-western part of Lyssnahei called Lida, the trees would always stay bare until mid May. I was due to be much more shocked, however, when we arrived at our destination. I didn’t realize that we were headed for such a unique place.

We had been in the cart for over five hours when we were finally told that we were nearly there. All the little children, including myself, craned their necks to see the sight that was to greet them. The trees around the path suddenly parted, and opened up to a grassy cliffside. Far down below the cliff we stood on, the ocean’s waters crashed and foamed upon the rocks and sides of the cliff walls. The cliff was sort of shaped like a half moon. The path we traveled led all the way around it to where the tip of the shape was - directly across from us. In the middle of the crescent we could all make out the twinkling lights from a village, which sparkled in the darkness much like the stars above. But the most impressive thing was located on the very edge of the opposite end of the crescent. There, seeming as though it was watching over the twinkling lights of the village was an enormous castle. I stared at it, mesmerized. There were lights on in every window of the towering place, making it give off a magical glow. In my head, I was picturing a fabulous king and queen living in there. I made up my mind then and there that I HAD to get a closer look at that castle.

Imagine my surprise when the boy on my right, named Sean and very tall, informed me that the giant castle was actually where we were headed. I couldn’t believe it. That was where I would be living?

The carts pulled around the cliff’s bend, moving closer and closer to the castle. After about five minutes the road veered off in the direction of the village. Apparently we would have to go through there first. Small houses were on the outskirts and as we rode past the occupants came out to watch us, smiling and waving. We entered the town square to find all of the lights were on in all of the many little shops. I stood up in the cart, trying to take in every detail. There was a wool shop with an elderly woman in front of it, a meat shop with a young looking black man in front of it waving madly, a sweet shop with another elderly lady in front of it who was giving a bag of sweets to the cart drivers to hand out to us, a bakery with a plump, cheerful looking man in front of it, and many more little stores. The people from the houses were following after the carts now as well, ruffling our hair and shouting various things. The blonde haired boy next to me, Brenden, stood up on the seat and hopped up and down causing me to fall over on Sean, who caught me with a laugh.

“Anyone ever tell ya yer the size of a leprechaun?” he teased gently. I decided right there that I liked Sean. Everyone always felt the need to comment on my size, but the comment was always accompanied with a point and/or a laugh. Sean didn't do either. He just gave me a quick hug and helped me back onto the seat. Quite a unique thing for a five year old to do. He also kept an arm around me so that Brenden couldn’t further dislodge me from my seat with his bouncing. A few seconds later, Brenden plopped down into his seat again and, with an apologetic look, handed me a little loaf of bread.

“The man with the bread was handin’ it out and stuff, so I got ya one for me knockin’ you aboot a bit.” he said. His accent was very heavy, and I had to concentrate hard to understand him. When I finally got it, I said thanks and then split the bread three ways for me, Sean, and Brenden. We ate it in companionable silence. After finishing the bread, Brenden, Sean and I had wandered around for a little bit, getting a closer look into the shops and meeting the baker who had given Brenden the bread. His name was Mr. Geann, and he told me he liked my hair. After we left, I endured much teasing from my new friends.

“Oh Eire, I just a-DORE yer hair darrrling! It’s gorg’es!” Brenden exclaimed. Sean grasped my head in his hands, rolling it about so he could look at my hair flopping all over.

“Yes, I’d say it’s quite lovely.” he said in a refined British accent. Once again, another unique thing for a five year old to do. Brenden jumped at me right then.

“I wonder if she’s got a gorg’es smile too! Let’s see, aeh?” he proclaimed as he gently tickled my sides through my thin cotton dress. With a squeal I jerked away from his wiggling fingers and took off back towards the cart, with Brenden and Sean in tow. I jumped in the cart and they pounced on me, but were promptly told off by the cart driver, who said that they should leave me alone. With a grin and a final tickle from both of them they resumed their seats. I cautiously took mine, and was given a reassuring hug from each. When the carts started moving again we were very late, but I was happier than I had been since the beginning of the trip. Two new friends already. It was so easy to make friends back when I was five years old. The utter simplicity of being able to trust almost everyone, and not worry about the consequences. Can’t do that now of course. Right stupid of you if you do that...

Drifting again. I really must work on that. As I was saying, I was happily squashed again in between my two new friends for another ten minutes before we finally arrived at our destination. As we rode through the front gates, I found that the castle was even more impressive up close. There were six foot tall fire rods lining the black path up to the massive oak doors, which seemed to be almost bursting from the glow of light and warmth that was apparent within. The stone lined windows filtered the yellow light into the cool night air, making it all the more cheerful. Beyond the castle I could just make out structures that appeared to be stables - big ones. Near the stables were large mounds that seemed to be man made hills with doors embedded into them, torches flickering outside all of the twenty of them. My attention (and posture) was knocked off balance by Brenden, who elbowed me.

“Hey! Look to the right! Look to the right!” he whispered excitedly. I looked but only managed to see the back of Sean’s head, as he was trying to see what the source of Brenden’s excitement was as well. I leaned way over the side and managed to see that the right edge of the castle seemed to actually go right up to the side of the cliff, precariously slanted a bit over the drop. Sean shuddered at this.

“Looks like it’s gonna topple, don’ it?” he asked.

“It won’t.”

We all looked to see a girl with straight, shoulder length brown hair and big brown eyes staring at us.

“Why the ‘ell not?” Brenden demanded indignantly. The girl tossed her hair over her shoulder, which was a rather dumb move as it just fell back to it’s previous position because it was being too short to stay. She glared at a few strands of it for a moment before turning her attention back to us.

“It’s been like that for years. It’s really well built, and the only way it’ll topple is if the whole cliff goes down too.” she said, with a voice that did not allow for arguing. Sean nodded slowly, turning towards Brenden.

“C’mon Brenden, I don’ think anyone would let this place topple. That wouldn’t be good for the trainin’,” he told him. I was just about to ask Sean what he meant when he said the bit about training, but was rather rudely interrupted by the carts jerking to a stop and causing nearly everyone to fall on top of one another. The cart drivers started yelling things back and forth, tying their horses up to the fire rods. Silly thing to do, probably would have caused the whole place to flame up if the horses weren’t so well behaved...

After he was done giving the horse a chance to be a pyromaniac, the head of our cart came and started bustling us out. I was handed my little bag by Sean, and the three of us hurried over to the steps with the other kids from the other carts. Behind me I felt a tug on my hair. I turned to see the girl with the brown hair behind me. She wasn’t much taller than me, which was something to say. I must have been about the height of Sean’s upper arm and Brenden’s shoulder. The girl gave me a smile.

“Erm, I don’t know anyone. Can I stay by you?” she asked timidly. I nodded eagerly.

“Of course!” I proclaimed, elbowing Brenden when he groaned at overhearing. The girl grinned.

“Thank you! My name’s Kelley, what’s yours?” she asked me.

“Eire. This is Brenden, and that’s Sean.” I introduced. Sean gave her a little grin, and Brenden gave her a little scowl. He was still sore that she denied him the exciting possibility of the castle one day tipping right into the ocean. She gave him a scowl right back though, and for some reason that seemed to brighten his disposition towards her. After that none of us spoke, we just looked up at the stone wonder in front of us. Brenden was the first to break our contemplation.

“It’s a ‘uge one, ain’t it?” he asked. We nodded our assent. At that moment, a bright beam of light burst through the darkness as the oak doors were thrown open. The light washed over the thirty children (including the four of us) and appeared to fall on anything else within a twenty mile radius. From out of the blinding light, a figure appeared. I couldn’t make out his face, but he wasn’t very tall for a man (if it wasa man). He was possibly about five foot five at the most. Finally, the doors behind him shut and we could all get a good look at him. He had close cut white hair and a clean shaven face that was nearly as pale as his hair. He was slightly chubby, and was wearing a bright purple robe ensemble, tied around the waist with a day glow orange rope. He had an extremely goofy grin on his face, a large, rounded nose, and he kept slapping his hands together, rocking back on his heels, and then repeating the process. I exchanged glances with Brenden, Sean, and Kelley. Brenden sniggered, then yelped when both Kelley and I gave him a punch to the shoulder.

I looked back at the man before us, and for the first time I noticed his eyes. His eyes were the deepest, truest purple that I had ever seen, then and since. He caught my eye and winked, causing his eyes to sparkle like purple stars. He turned to the group of five year olds assembled before him. With a big smile, he spread his arms wide.

“Hello young ones!” he bellowed happily, his gruff voice filtering through the night air. All eyes turned to him as he continued. “Welcome to your new home, Dragan Slana! Or, as you people who don’t speak our native language would say, Dragon Rock.”

Several young children in the crowd gasped, though I didn’t know why. Kelley nudged me, and when I looked at her she pointed at Sean. I gave him a glance to find him staring at the old man in front of us with a large grin on his face. I looked back at Kelley and shrugged. The man continued with his speech, oblivious to the mixture of confusion and amazement of the children before him.

“I, my young friends, am the head of Dragan Carraig. My name as you should address me and shall address me by is Ceannaire Buchannan. You, my dear children, will be trained here. You shall become DragonSpirits.”

Chapter Two