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Prologue

In Terra mankind was at harmony. They were at peace with all creatures. No harm or
peril consisted in their living, but tranquility did not consist within themselves. A young man
named Dolosus, a soldier, thought that man needed a king, and he should be the one to rule.
He was clever, and used craftiness to slur the people to believe that there should be a
king. However, there were a few who knew how sly Dolosus could be, and warned him to
suppress his dexterity or he should be banished.
Dolosus, however, had a special gift. He was a smooth conversationalist, and he knew it.
Insidiously, Dolosus sulked through the people whispering words that seduced them into
believing his own. As his tongue moved over his sneer the people fell into an oblivious
enchantment. Every syllable he spoke was a spell. More and more villagers became entrapped
with Dolosus’s crafty influence.
One day a great man, stronger than the others, confronted Dolosus. He broke the effect on
the people by telling them what foul lies Dolosus had been whispering in their ears. Then he
banished him to the outskirts of the country.
Dolosus wandered many days in the great wilderness of Terra until he came to the
Nigrum Mountains of the Borras. There he stumbled upon a cavern that led deep into the pits of
the mountains. In the darkest places of the rock he found astonishing, dark creatures that had
been hidden in the buried hollows. Witches, warlocks, dark sorcery, demons, and malevolent
creatures of black magic. They were told from an ancient prophecy that they would not succeed
in a war against man unless led by one who betrayed mankind. Dolosus reveled in this
opportunity to strike against man, and became king among all the dark creatures. He was
betrothed as the Demon King, and the great creatures each shared a piece of their magic to create
him into a black sorcerer greater beyond any man.
War rained upon Terra. The dark creatures destroyed everything in their path. Dolosus
was so engaged, and thrilled by his new powers that he didn’t hesitate to take pity. The hope of
men was falling, and only a bare amount of men were left to stand and fight. Dolosus was
delighted in their demise.
Then from the great Lapis Mountains of Orientis came fire beasts. They however were
friendly kin to man. For centuries, they had hidden in their mountain waiting for the time where
they would be most desperately needed. They were dragons. Burning dark creatures, and
scorching the vile demons, Dolosus became entranced with their abilities. He began to talk to
one, trying to seduce it over to his side. Dragons, however, are much wiser. The beast blew a
pillar of fire onto Dolosus, but that did not halt him. Instead Dolosus and the rest of his army fled
back to their mountains where the dragons cast down their great fire on the wall of stone causing
all openings to close.
Mankind then understood that their peace was over. To form a more established country
mankind was split into seven kingdoms. Parsimonia was created to handle all wealth and trade
over the kingdoms. Faber consisted of craftsman and builders. Studium was made of those who
were highly intelligent and could create medicines, and write books consisting of science and
history. Imperium were of those who were loyal, and honorable to all those in Terra. They
created laws that had to be approved throughout all kingdoms. Agricultura comprised of farming,
fishing, and hunting. Congregantis were gatherers who mined for resources. Then there was
Militarius which consisted of the strongest, bravest of men. They were the army of Terra.
Ironically, each kingdom had a king.
Stories, myths, and legends were told of the war. Great rumors spread throughout the
land, and have still been dispersing. They speak of the expiry of mankind. When the hearts of
man turn against another that is when the dark creatures shall gain their most strength. They
embrace betrayal, viciousness, slaughtering, and acts of wickedness. When the once loyal hearts
of man turn as black as coal that is when Terra will be poisoned by the wrath of the Demon
King. Forever death will rain on the lands.
Chapter 1

I sit with my fingers twitching in my lap. Smoothing out my overused dress I take a
shaky breath. Then I look down at the hem of my dress where there are permanent mud stains,
and try focusing on the brown on brown.
Mater grabs a hold of my nervous hands, and gives a warming smile. Her smiles are
always relaxing.
Pater puts his arm around my shoulder and gives it a reassuring squeeze as I settle back
on the hard bench in the schoolhouse.
I look around at the families sitting on the rows of ancient benches that line the main hall
of the schoolhouse, and the pointed arched windows that let in the natural light in the filthy,
somber room. Then I turn my attention to the front at the blackened podium where my favorite
professor announces our vitae.
He calls, “Natus.”
A young man stands up in the crowd next to his family, holding his mater’s hand. He is
strong with brilliant blue eyes.
My professor eyes him across the room, and then looks down at his piece of parchment.
Looking up he says simply, “Guard.”
The boy sighs a relief and sits back down next to his mater who gives him a kiss on the
cheek as she cries with joy.
Schola ends when you are eighteen. You take an accuplacer to determine what vitae you
have for the rest of your life. Here in the village of Lanista of Militarius there are only certain
vitaes you can attain. For males, the best vitae would be a guard, letting you enter the higher
village Curatoria, then a Dragon Trainer like my pater, then a teacher. The worst vitae is
becoming a peasant in Famuli, lowering down a village and hardly ever seeing your family.
Also, becoming a man servant where you taken from your family, never to see them again, and
recruited to the higher villages to serve until death. No love. No family. No happiness. For
females, it is similar, becoming a guard, a teacher, a seamstress, a Famuli peasant, or a maid
servant. Becoming a Dragon Trainer has been thought of as indecent for a female.
Different vitaes are given in different villages. In Duellum, the highest village, you can become a
soldier or a Dragon Descender. There, you never have to be afraid from being taken from your
home.
“Crystal,” my professor calls.
My dear friend, Crystal, stands. She is beautiful with luscious locks of black, and
mesmerizing blue eyes. Her brown peasant dress is in better condition than mine, probably
because while she likes to stay indoors I like to walk through the woods.
Our eyes reach each other briefly, and I can feel her tension. Her pater, a man with
growing gray hair, reaches for her hand as her beautiful mater reaches for her other.
I feel anxious for my friend, and my throat tightens as I anticipate what role she will play
in Militarius.
She sticks her chin out stubbornly as Professor leans down closer to the piece of
parchment, and squints his eyes. The pause is agonizing, and dreadfully painful.
He looks, straightens his robe, and purely says, “Seamstress.”
Crystal lets out a shaky breath as she sits back down. Her tight expression relaxes into a
smile. She will make a great seamstress, especially since her mater is one.
“Charoite,” he sounds.
A young girl with long, red hair stands. Her face is pale, and emotionless. She seems
almost ill.
The room goes still as Professor looks down at the parchment. His tender expression
looks upward upon the girl. He seems unable to say anything. The whole hall listens for the vitae
given to the girl, and chokes on the anticipation.
He gulps before barely muttering, “Maid servant.”
She cries into the air, a scream that echoes off the wood walls. Covering her mouth from
her sobs she sinks back down next to her parentibus. She falls against her mater who rubs her
back as she too cries. Her pater next to her sits motionless, staring straight ahead as if he can’t
believe that in only a few days he’ll never see his daughter again.
I feel my heart jump as her cry echoes through my mind. Watching the girl shutter and
shake at the thought makes my mouth dry, and suddenly I can’t breathe. I start to hyperventilate,
and feel dizzy. My eyes water and I imagine myself being stripped from my parentibus, and
domus, my home.
Mater strokes the back of my hand as we stare at the girl. Her once loving smile has
disappeared, and now her expression is tight with concern. She looks like she is about to cry. My
pater squeezes my shoulder again as he clenches his jaw and watches the scene with the girl and
her parentibus. Obviously both Mater and Pater are as much afraid as I am.
I look ahead while trying to keep my breathing even. I could not handle being taken away
from Mater and Pater. How would they take it? How would I take it? I listen to the stillness in
the room, and tremble at the only noise…a girl’s cry.
No matter my fear, however, in the back of my mind I have no true desire for any of the
vitaes. Not one of them causes me joy. Not one seems…enticing. All of them are for the benefit
of the king, not for me…Nevertheless, there is one that allures my senses. That makes me want
to jump, or scream. There is one that I would do anything for…becoming a Dragon Descender.
I walk in the woods to see them train past the canopy of trees. They jump, and soar between each
beast. They fly at heights unimaginable, and at speeds that I can barely watch. Watching the
Descenders shout with exhilaration, and triumph makes my senses come alive. They are all so
strong, confident, powerful, vigorous, dexterous…The names describing them, however, aren’t
as toxic as what they do…or ride. Dragons are the most perilous creature I’ve ever known. Their
breath is a scorching fire. Their teeth are sharpened swords. Their claws are tipped knives. Their
eyes are soulless orbs that shatter a man’s heart. They are the weapon every man, beast, and
creature will ever fear. Their wings, however, show an exotic way of resembling their abilities.
They have the unstoppable capacity to reach the heavens. They are the guardians of the sky. Ever
since I was a little girl all I’ve wanted to be was a Dragon Descender. Not for the names, or the
applause, but for me. I want to fly as dragons do. I want to leave the ground, and feel free. I want
to touch the clouds, and escape the entrapment of Militarius. No more peasant to the king, but a
queen amongst myself. I want to be…
“Sapphire.”
My eyes dart up to the podium, and clumsily I get to my feet. I stare at my professor with
uncertainty. I feel…nothing. I want to feel anxious, and afraid but instead I feel ghostly still. I
can’t tell if even my heart is beating.
Professor’s lips curl a little as a reads the parchment. He’s trying to hide a smile. Looking
up I can see his brown eyes twinkle. “Teacher.”
Breathing heavily, I fall back against the bench as my parentibus hug me, and kiss my
cheeks.
I have received one of the greatest vitaes a female can in Lanista. I should feel overjoyed,
content, and hopeful for my life. Evidently, I feel distraught, disassembled, and disappointed. My
heart has always yearned for dragons, and now knowing there is no way I can become one I feel
hopeless.

After all the vitaes are given the families head outside to the main gathering place of
Lanista which is plainly called Gathering or Congregatione. It is a circular, cobblestone
courtyard with the Schola and other homes surrounding the edges. It is the only place in Lanista
where you don’t have to walk in dirt or mud. Behind the homes are large, green trees whose
trunks are so wide that no one can wrap their arms around them. In the center of the uneven
Congregatione is a small well which is the only place to get pure water unless you want to find a
stream in the woods.
I look around at the wood plank homes, or the small log homes that can barely stand. We
are no builders, and when the king insists we create our own domus we struggle. Some homes
are concaving in on themselves, or sinking into the almost-always wet soil.
The people start moving around talking to others. My parentibus walk off to talk to some
of our neighbors, giving me a reassuring smile.
Suddenly a bright face with gleaming blue eyes stands in front of me. “Gratulationes
Sapphire!”
Quickly I’m sucked into a hug until I’m released from its grasp. Blinking my eyes, I take
a step back.
“Becoming a teacher is one of the best vitaes!” Crystal exclaims wildly. “I’m so happy
for you.”
“Gratias tibi,” I say smiling. “And I’m sure you’ll make a great seamstress.”
“Not as great as your mater.”
I look over at my mater and her usual shy smile as my pater confidently does all the
conversing.
“Well done Sapphire!” Leo comes up behind Crystal.
Leo is Crystal’s older, and very handsome, brother. He claimed his vitae two years ago as
a guard, which he manages well with his overly sized biceps. He has rough blonde hair, a
chiseled chin, and shocking blue eyes. While Crystal’s eyes are a swooning, mesmerizing blue,
Leo’s are a blindness to the eye.
He is very social, and well known throughout Lanista. However, he takes no time to
notice any women in any villages as they faint over him. He seems only intent on his vitae.
He wears his guard uniform which is a dark, leather tunic over a dark pair of leggings that
are tucked into strong, black boots. Iron cuffs surround his wrists up to his forearms, and a heavy
sword is tightened around his waist with a black belt.
He smiles at me, and a few feet away girls watch him, “You’ll be a wonderful teacher.”
I smile timidly. “Gratias tibi Leo.”
My distant, cold behavior catches Crystal’s attention. “Sapphire…what’s wrong? Why
are you not joyful?”
Perhaps because I do not want to be a teacher. I look back up at the Schola, and realize
my Professor hasn’t come out yet. Small thoughts start taking up the space in my mind. I turn
around, and take a step towards the building nearly forgetting Crystal and Leo are standing
behind.
With my eyes locked on the ancient Schola I say over my shoulder, “I need to talk to my
Professor. Tell my parentibus I will only be a moment.”
Gripping my dress, I begin walking back to the Schola imagining Crystal and Leo’s
expression to be of startelement, and intense apprehension. I walk up the wooden stairs that
sound like they might break after each step, and then back into the main hall. Silence captures
the empty space with the cool sun still shining through the open windows to show sprinkles of
dust coated in the air. Strongly, I walk down the main hall and into the small hall at the end of
the building that releases into compacted classrooms.
I reach the door of my Professor that is overused, has a crack in it, and commonly sticks.
Pushing on it I’m able to open the door, and stumble clumsily in. I look around at the
rows of benches, the tip-pointed arched windows on one wall, and the other gloomy
surroundings of the room. My eyes reach the front of the room where on a small split-level is the
unbalanced desk of the teacher that can only be fixed by putting a book under one of the legs.
Behind it is the dark chalkboard that has been used so many times that the pigments of white
cling to the black space within it. Next to it is a bookcase full of dust coated, lifeless books that
are used for the class.
I stare up at my Professor who has his back turned to me, and is filling a pack.
Puzzlement fills my mind as I quizzically take a step forward on the stained, trite wooden
flooring while hearing the moans underneath my feet.
The sound of my footsteps stops my Professor from filling his pack, and turning around
to me.
“Professor?” I ask looking up at him.
“Sapphire,” he says a bit surprised. “what are you doing here? Should you not be out
rejoicing?”
I walk up to the front of the classroom, and stand next to his desk. My eyes filter down to
the pack that has been filled heavily to the top. “What are you doing?”
He smiles his usual toothy grin. “I believe I questioned you first.”
Remembering why I came here, I straighten my posture. “I’m here to discuss my vitae.”
His twinkling eyes dull as I say the words. Shaking his head, he goes back to rummaging
through his pack again.
“No Sapphire,” he says plainly.
“Professor I-’’
“I know what you want Sapphire. You have been telling me ever since you were young,
but what you desire is impossible.”
I shuffle on my feet. “If I could retake the accuplacer-’’
“There are no retakes.”
Becoming anxious I press further. “I know the most about dragons than anyone else in
my class…You said it yourself…I was the highest pupil in Dragon and Defense History. I know
everything…My pater is the best Dragon Trainer in Militarius. I know dragons Professor. If I
could just-’’
“Sapphire,” he raises a hand. “I know what you want…Please don’t misunderstand me
for denying you this because you think I believe you are incapable of dragons…But Sapphire,
you are from Lanista not Duellum. Even if you passed the accuplacer as a Dragon Descender it
wouldn’t be possible because of your inferior birth.”
I look down shamefully. My inferior birth. Everyone now has a mark that claims who
they are. Mine provides the capability of nothing more than being a peasant girl.
Putting a hand on my shoulder my Professor’s eyes turn a shade darker with remorse.
“I’m sorry Sapphire.”
Finishing his pack, he begins to leave me beside his desk. I stand tracing a crack in the
wood as tears start to form.
Still, having a small amount of hope left I inquire quietly, “Could I have passed as a
Dragon Descender?”
Turning around to me he gently smiles. “You were the brightest out of all my
pupils…Always so intellectual…You excelled greatly on all categories of the accuplacer…”
Becoming well, I smile at him softly. The tense muscles start to relax as I understand I
had the ability to become a Dragon Descender. My mind feels at ease and at peace knowing I
was intelligent enough to become one of the greatest warriors on Terra.
“All except one…,” his smile falters. “You would need this most of all to become a
Dragon Descender…You failed at strength.”
The once good vibe I had dissipated, and I stand struck silent. Professor notices my
complete distraught expression, and attempts to take a step forward. Before he’s able to take two
steps towards my direction, I turn away from him and face the other way letting the feeling sink
in.
I hear his footsteps trace back to the door, and before he leaves I say barely audible,
“Where are you going Professor?”
“I’m leaving.”
Those two words causes my senses to revolt back to life. I spin around to him as he holds
the door open staring at me with weary eyes. Leaving! He cannot be leaving. Professor is my
friend. He is my favorite teacher because he always believed in me. He was always there for me,
and now he won’t be. I need him now more than ever.
“What do you mean leaving?” I ask starting to walk towards him.
“I am being sent to Studium…They called for me there.”
“Why?” I am now close enough to him I can see dark shadows under his eyes.
He smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “Some things must be left unspoken.”
“But no one leaves Militarius, especially Lanista. Only the king, and Dragon Descenders
have ever traveled beyond our borders…Why are you leaving?”
He looks down shamefully. “The king has ordered me away.”
“Was there a purpose?”
“A wise man asks questions, and a foolish man never gives the answers.”
This was my Professor’s favorite saying. It means we should always ask questions when
we don’t understand, but always give the answers if we know them. That way we can learn, and
others can learn from us. I understand my Professor must have asked questions, but the king
must have kept all the answers.
“I believe…,” he continues. “He did not like what I was teaching.”
“I do not understand.”
“I was giving my pupils too much hope. I gave them the belief that they could do
something that they could not…You especially Sapphire. I was always telling you you could
succeed in anything you have passion for. That was my mistake…I gave too much courage and
faith to my pupils that they started to believe it.”
My eyes water. It was true. He was always telling me that no one, not even a King, could
steal away my heart. He was always telling me that I could be anyone I wanted to be. He was
always telling me the best me was the best within myself, and that I should explore every
obstacle and find it.
“So, he’s forcing you to leave?” I couldn’t look at him because I already know the
answer.
“Do not cry over me Sapphire,” he says sincerely then pulls me into a hug.
Embracing him, I can feel his thin stature and the coldness inside of him from his despair.
Boldly, I lay my head against his chest and weep aloud. Professor is like another father to me.
Even though I’m not going to be taken away from my parentibus it feels like one of my
parentibus is being taken away from me.
“What will you become in Studium?” I sniffle then lift my head to see his face.
It is tear-stained, and his eyes are an exhausting dark brown like he hasn’t had a good
night’s sleep for days.
“Not a teacher, that is for certain, but I do not know.”
I wipe my face, “I wish you would not go.”
“I wish that too,” he says with his eyes twinkling in a familiar gleam. It seems like those
smalls words have made his departure a little more bearable.
“Who will teach me?”
Even though schooling is done there is still training for my vitae. It is, of course, in a
separate area of the Schola, and the Professor differs from the vitae you are given. Since I was
chosen to be a teacher then Professor should be the one training me, not someone else, or at least
I didn’t think it would be anyone else.
“Someone will replace me.”
I look back up at him and feel the urge to cry again. “Not for me.”
He places a hand on my shoulder. “Even though you are small and weak Sapphire you
are the strongest person I know…I cannot further advice you in your desires, but I will say that
the will of your heart is greater than any price a vitae can pay you…Just remember though with
every resolution there is a ramification to follow.”
Even now, when leaving everything behind because of his deeds he is still telling me to
pursue in my dreams. However, the last part gives it more meaning. Every action has a
consequence, and I’m certain he above all knows that.
“Thank you Professor, and I’m going to miss you.”
He squeezes my shoulder gently in reassurance, and then exits the room without another
word. The stillness of the environment cascades over me, and I can’t help but notice how
unsettling the room is now that Professor is gone.
I walk over to a mirror on the wall beside the door. It is the only décor in the classroom,
and it has always given the place an eerie feeling. It is plainly square with a piece of it missing in
the bottom left corner. Dark stains splotch the areas of the mirror, and there are parts that are so
blurry that reflections look like smudged ghosts instead of people. However, Professor always
kept it up and made every pupil look into it every morning to remind ourselves who we are, what
we are doing here, and who we want to become.
I stare into the mirror. I know I am weak. I am slighter shorter than most girls, and my
stature is thin and petite. My face is pale, as it always is, with tear stains running down my
cheeks. The frame around my face consists of my thick wavy locks of pale blonde that are nearly
white, something I attained from my pater. I reach up and touch a strand, then follow its length
all the way to mid waist while twisting my fingers over the wavy texture. My figure in the mirror
is odd with the blurs slurred into the reflection. The one clear point of my reflection are my eyes.
Pater and Mater named me Sapphire for my eyes. However, they thought it genius to name me
this for a unique reason. My eyes are not blue, but the rare color of a cognac sapphire. They are a
light honey sort of color, but with a more natural tone to them. Pater and Mater said that my avia
has the exact same eyes as I, and wanted her neptem to be named Sapphire after her cognac
sapphire necklace that my avus gave her. Unfortunately, before she died the necklace was taken
from her by the order of the king.
Staring at myself I realize how vulnerable I am. I have always known that I’m not fast or
powerful, but focusing on myself I capture the concept of my belittling title. Truly, I am nothing
more than the king’s subject. Try all my might, like Professor advised, I will never accomplish
my goal. I am too small, too delicate, too…pure. Dragon Descenders must be much harder inside
than on skin, and be prepared for death at any moment. I know I do not have the strength to face
death…All I ever wanted to do was ride a Dragon.
My eyes fill with tears again as I stare at my pathetic form in the mirror. Then I
remember the purpose of the mirror, and shift my decision to one of confidence. I will become
who I want to be. I will not become one of the king’s servants. I will not become a prisoner
bound by our grotesque laws. I will become the better me. I will become the best of who I am. I
will become Sapphire…A peasant girl to others, but in my own eyes a princess.

“Sapphire,” mater comes up beside me. “Where have you been?”


“Talking with Professor,” I say bashfully under Mater’s worried gaze.
“Oh…I assume he is well?”
I don’t want to bare my mater with the news. “Very well.”
“We are to have a celebration,” my pater says as he strongly strides towards us. “Today, a
feast for the success of all our children’s vitaes. Tomorrow, a festivity for Coal and then the day
after that…Your first day in training.”
Every year after the pupils are positioned their vitaes the village gives a celebration. All
the villagers spare a little nummus, and put together a feast. It is not a grand feast, though it is
better than most suppers families conjure. We barely have enough to feed Lanista, and most of
the food isn’t properly handled.
Coal, is a seven-year-old boy who will be turning eight. Lanista is a very strong, family
oriented parish and we celebrate all joyful holidays together, and birthdays. It is another banquet
of food that the villagers willing give to make the dreary milieu of our home just a little bit
brighter.
“We are very proud of you Sapphire,” Mater says with one of her usual tender smiles.
“Gratias tibi Mater.”
“Well,” Pater says placing an arm around Mater. “Let us begin the feast.”

The food is set upon long wooden tables the people drag out of their homes. The meal
consists of ham, two loaves of bread, some corn, cabbage, and milk. People move throughout the
tables laughing and conversing with each other as the light from the sun starts to darken. Soon
torches, and candles are light with some bonfires off to the sides from the Congregatione.
The night grows dark, and everyone merrily moves about drinking and chuckling with
laughter. The people from Lanista are very close, and are never frightened to speak to one
another. They move about greeting one another from table to table.
Also, in the center of the Congregatione music plays. From a few small instruments the
music echoes up into the smoky air. Everyone dances, and most people stand around clapping
their hands to the rhythm while watching Pater and I dance. Pater, in a way, is like a king in
Lanista. He has always helped people, and knows every single person by heart. People have
always looked up to him. One amazing thing about Pater is that he is a stunning dancer, one of
the most skilled in Militarius…even in Terra. A circle always develops around him based on two
things, when he talks, and when he dances. He taught me when I was very young how to dance,
and now he and I always dance together. He used to dance with Mater, but one day Mater was
collecting water from a stream, tripped, and fell down an incline. Her ankle was heavily swollen,
and she has never recovered since. Now, she sits in the back watching us with a smile and claps
along with the rest of the assembly.
I don’t know how fast my feet are moving, but I laugh giddily as Pater spins me around.
The music of the violin, tambourine, drums, and other instruments get faster and faster with
every step. I spin dizzily and the music continues with a more rapid speed than just a few
seconds ago. My feet move across the stone floor with adroit vigor, and the senses within me
cause me to move fast and follow the footsteps of Pater. We move through the crowd as people
applaud, and appraise us with our talents. It feels as if the music has entered my soul, and is now
controlling my every movement. I can’t feel, and yet I move about with the most life.
Abruptly, the music stops bringing the dance to an end. Pater holds my hands, and released a
breath from weariness. I laugh at his expression and turn to see the composers rubbing their
hands from exhaustion. The others around us cheer and laugh while patting our backs from the
entertainment. Some hold up their drinks and give a puerile toast followed by an uproarious
cheer.
Pater links his arm through mine and leads me back to the table where Mater is sitting.
When she sees us she applauds with glee. I bend over giving her a hug before taking my seat
beside her.
“Well, I am in the need of another drink,” Pater breathes. “Would you like another
Sapphire?”
“Yes, Pater.”
He turns away, walking through the crowd again who separates like a rock split open to
let him pass. Mater turns to me and gives me another joyful smile.
“Oh, you are so talented my precious daughter,” she says sliding a loose hair behind me
ear.
I look down and trace a crack in the wood. “If only you were able to dance with us.”
“Though my feet do not move my heart does. It is always touching to see you and Pater
dance together.”
I shake my head. “I know you say that, but I also know that if the king had sent aid you
would be up dancing with Pater at this moment.”
Mater’s hazel eyes gently twitch over to something. I follow her gaze to a couple of
guards who have been walking the area to make sure nothing unexpected happens, or in more
depth to make sure nothing unacceptable happens.
“Leo will not banish us Mater.”
“Leo is not the only one, is he not?” Mater says harshly. “You must watch your tongue
Sapphire.”
Mater’s stern gaze makes me falter in my judgment. Dancing has always been an
enjoyment for me. It allows me to escape the mind of Militarius, but whenever I return I must
warn myself against the true things that live in our vindictive kingdom.
Shamefully I look down. “Paenitet me Mater.”
Releasing tension, Mater carefully grasps my face, and kisses my forehead. “I love you
Sapphire…I only want you to be vigilant.”
“I love you Mater.”
Pushing my hair away from my face she sighs, “You were once in a dream, dancing in a
great hall while attired in a dress made of fine material…Astonishingly gifted you are
Sapphire…Does dancing enlighten you?”
“When young, I used to watch you and Pater dance. It was never tedious…I love it
profoundly…I must have attained that ardor from my Mater.”
She laughs as she gazes upon Pater who is coming back to the table with two wooden
cups in each hand. As she stares upon him I realize how truly, deeply, unbinding in love my
Mater is with Pater. Her eyes rest upon him as more than just man, but her own personal warrior-
angel.
“Mater?” I ask turning to her again.
“Hmm,” she hums while still staring after him.
“In the dream…who was I dancing with?”
Her attention jolts back to me. “At first I believed it was Pater, but then something
changed…It was a different man.”
I press further. “What was his appearance?”
“I do not know,” she shakes her head guiltily. “You were a pure, perfect image. He, on
the other hand, was only a blur…However, the way you gazed upon him made me believe he
was your betrothed.”
I blush under the statement, and fidget with my figures. “The hall, what did it look like?”
“It was wide with grand staircases on both ends. Pillars holding up the large domed roof.
Beautiful chandeliers with twinkling firelight. Then one wall was a large opening with finely
threaded curtains pulled back to the pillars. The opening lead out to a gasping courtyard, the
most gorgeous garden I’ve ever seen…and so great it was. The whole hall was made from a
creamy, golden marble. The stars from the sky sprinkled upon the floor, and the glittering fire
made your eyes shine even brighter…Oh, it was breathtaking.”
How could Mater see all that, but not the man? I assess the information, and frown.
There is no possibility of me dancing in a great hall like that. Not while I’m a peasant girl.
“Were there any others?”
“No,” Mater breathes. Then she looks upon me, and gives an expression that I don’t
understand. “It was just the two of you.”
Before I can ask another question, Pater is handing me the cup. I gaze into the cup of
milk, and barely see my silhouette in the creamy white liquid. I can only envision. Mater, was I
clothed in white?

As the night begins to cool families with younger children make their way home. Others,
who can outlast the night, still stay awake. However, the extravagant celebration before has
quieted down to just a gathering.
I walk past a familiar man who is playing the rebec for a group of people surrounding.
Smiling, I stand and listen for a while until I hear an intriguing conversation happening nearby.
Walking away, I stand a few feet behind a small group of people talking.
“What a feast this was,” one man with a dark shaded beard says. I recognize him as the
poultry man.
“Aye, it was,” Talc approves by raising his cup. He is a fellow laborer with my Pater.
“It could have been better,” another man with curly hair remarks.
“What do you propose?” A young woman asks while linking her arm through his.
Obviously, they are betrothed.
“Why the king of course!”
All of them start shushing each other while cautiously looking about to see if any guards
have noticed. I look around also with fright at the guards who have wandered off to the edge of
the forest. They are barely visible through the dark night. All of them stand in a huddle
discussing something that they deem extremely important.
“Turbedo,” the woman whispers while putting a hand on his arm. “You must be cautious
of what you say.”
Turbedo. The name fit him well. He seemed like he was always fuming over something,
and ready to flip a table.
“He owes us, love,” he says more gently. “His son attended Schola here. Then because he
is the king’s son he gets the special privilege to become a Dragon Descender. After attaining his
vitae what does he do next? I was expecting a feast from the king in honor of his gratitude, but
instead they have a royal celebration up at the palace while we starve.”
Talc sighs, “Life is not always impartial Turbedo.”
“The boy was a menace!” Turbedo hisses. “There were times where he almost started
forest fires! He was always mocking us! And what could we do about it? Nothing, because he
was the king’s son! He was ruthless, and believe me his accuplacer did not pass for a Dragon
Descender! He was tough, but smart he was not! After all the time dealing with him I thought the
king would give us something in return! Instead he turned his back as he always does, and had a
grand celebration with a dozen roasted boars to feast upon!”
The dark bearded man sighs heavily as if he had heard all this before, “Do not think you
are the only one with opinions about the king and his son. However, we must remember who
raised the boy. At least the mater was caring enough that she wanted our future king to
understand the poorer level of society in his kingdom.”
Turbedo huffs, and folds his arms. “He is not my king.”
“You must show him some sympathy Turbedo,” the woman says tenderly. “It was a few
months ago that the queen died.”
“And yet they still hold the greatest amount of food to feed all of Terra while all we attain
are a few single swines…Barely enough to keep us alive.”
The woman sighs and begins to nod, “He is ruthless…and extremely reckless. That boy
would break any regulations to get what he desires. He is so…misleading, and mistrusting. He
could slither his way through all properties, and still be appraised by the king.”
“Let us not forget,” Turbedo snarly points. “irrevocably immature.”
“Please, don’t-’’
My eyes start to travel up the mountain, level by level until I can see a glowing light up at
the top. The palace. Small thoughts start emerging inside my brain as the conversation continues.
“He’s just a boy-’’
“Just a boy! He better be much more than that. He will be our king in less than four
years.”
“We must hush ourselves Turbedo. We can no longer speak about this.”
“He is rash, and unsuitable for a king…I hear he gives midnight parties up at the palace.
He breaks all the rules. Stubborn, spoiled, selfish…”
Breaks all the rules…Irrevocably immature…Reckless…Rash…The small pieces start to
join together. Tough he is, but smart he is not…
The ideas, and thoughts start traveling through my mind. All of it starts to come together.
All of it starts making sense. However, fear and shame circulate through me. This is wrong. On
the other hand, I can feel hope and want to embrace it for as long as possible. I know what I want
to become, and maybe this prince can help.
I stare up at the glowing fire. Midnight parties…Then suddenly a noise breaks my
concentration. A small whimpering comes a few feet away in a house. I can’t see anyone, but I
know who it is. Those who retrieved the worst of vitaes did not celebrate with us tonight. The
cries come from an off-balanced house with old rags for curtains that hang depressingly over the
holes called windows. The small home is dark and silent, but I can still hear the tiny sniffles from
Charoite. I can hear her despair, but more than that I can feel it. Every inch of her is sucked into
some sort of black pit of hatred, shame, confusion, desperation, sadness, and fear. Her heart
clings to her family and home, and yet she knows that by the day after tomorrow she will never
see them again.
Her cries enter my heart, and I yearn to knock at her door and comfort her. However, my
compassion for her will never be enough. The exact thought of being taken away from home,
from my parentibus, causes enough pain in my chest that I can’t fathom what it would be like if
it were real. My heart cries as it always does every year when one of our Lanista family members
are taken away from us.
My eyes start to water as I look back up at the glowing firelight. I wonder to myself if
longings could ever equal love. I wonder if desires could ever equal devotion. I wonder if hopes
could ever equal home. My heart is torn. I want to make Mater and Pater happy, and safe.
However, how could I live a life happily if I’m not living it fully? How could I smile when there
is nothing to smile at? How could I be content with myself when I know I haven’t done my all? I
would be an empty shell if I stay in Lanista, but if I leave…
The tears silently roll down my cheeks as the darkness from the sky falls upon my
shoulders. I feel like I’m being weighed down, and am surprised that I haven’t dropped to the
ground. A part of me wants to take a step forward while another part of me wants to take a step
back.
I start to remember who I am. Ever since I was little a Dragon Descender is all I’ve ever
wanted to be. I’m so passionate about dragons. I want to ride, and feel the thrill of soaring the
skies. I am no girl who wants to stay put, and follow the king’s rule. I want break free from the
Militarius bonds, and explore new creatures and landmarks. All I’ve ever wanted was to see a
dragon and ride it. If it was only once I would do it. I would do it to know that I have a home,
that I have a family, and that I have more than the king. I have more to ride a dragon. I have
more to run in the woods. I have more to slay my own adversaries. I have more to dream.
I, Sapphire, have more than the king. He may have jewels, stones, substances, linens, and
special privileges but I have a home, a family, and a heart with so many others holding mine up.
They love me more than the king that they would encourage me to fight for my dreams. They
would never doubt me, or mock me, or shame me. They would bring me to the heights that even
the dragons cannot reach. They have already brought me so far. They are the precious jewels in
my castle.
Reaching up, I wipe my eyes and stare up again at the mountain. My one fearful, hopeful
expression has turned into one of true determination. I will not falter against my decision. I know
who I want to be, now I just have to run with it. Ever since I was a child a Dragon Descender is
all I’ve ever wanted to be. Now, I am determined to be one.
Well, prince…I stare at the smoky residue in the sky. Then look up at the stars as they
give a soft glow across the black canvas. With my eyes tracing I connect some stars together to
create the image of a dragon. There is one final guest to make your acquaintance.