Dragon’s Rise – Part 1
Excitement built in the air, so thick that you could taste it. Some might say you could even eat it. Today was the day that everyone wanted to be here, to be a part of it all, and to celebrate. Today was the day that they welcomed new members into the clan. Everyone crowded into the Conclave for the ritual, and no one dared to miss it.
There was one person in the entire clan that didn’t want to be there. Her parents had left her there with the dragon clan they were a part of without any word or notice. Nia grew up within the clan, but she never felt like she was a part of it. She hadn’t yet reached the age of majority and would do so this week.
The only non-dragon shifter in a clan of chromatic dragons, Nia never felt at home. They rescued her as a baby and kept her because of her gifts. She didn’t possess the blood of a dragon running through her veins. She had something else.
Growing up, Nia had thought she was like the other children—that she was part of the clan. But, that had changed twenty years ago when she was but five years old. As one of the errant children, she often walked through places where she had no place being. Spying on meetings, sneaking into the rooms that held mysterious artifacts…. it was always getting her into trouble.
There is one building that is vital to the people, the Conclave. Too curious about what was inside. Having been too young to attend the Joinings that would often take place inside. She had no idea what the building would hold. So, of course, her curiosity caused her to push her way through and got her an introduction to someone that she would one day wish to forget.
As she had been sleep-walking, she had not been paying attention to what she was doing and bumped into someone. All it took was touch, and her gift manifested itself. The ability to see things that had yet come to pass, to know the future for a brief moment. It had been by pure coincidence that her body had run into the then Elder Master, Gabriel, and his new apprentice, Damien.
Being that she was five years old, Nia hadn’t learned the art of having a filter on what she discovered. In her childlike attitude, she blurted out what she had seen. The eminent death of Gabriel and the rise of Damien to power. The far-away look in her eye had been the only signal that she saw something other than what she should have been.
Even now, Nia was grateful that they hadn’t thought she was threatening their leader.
Instead, they had laughed it off and called security to come to take her back to her home. Nia had felt a niggling feeling that night that something would happen, and she had been right. Gabriel’s body was quickly discovered. He had been the leader of the dragons. Nia tried to explain what happened, but no one would believe the words a five-year-old would speak. This made way for Gabriel’s second-in-command to take the throne.
As of that night, Nia had come to be in the service of their new leader. In truth, Nia was unsure how she felt about Damien. He was nice to her, always buying her things and trying to show her what life would be like if she were his Queen. The only problem was that she did share his feelings. Nia had told him this, but Damien had just smiled, stared at her in a way that spoke that he would win this battle, and ignored her. Where most people avoided Nia, Damian sought to use her.
Yet, when it came to Nia, he was different. Damien was always nice to her but a little too formal for her tastes. He always bought her things, silks, satins, and the finest perfumes. It wasn’t that Nia didn’t appreciate it, she did, but she wanted to be an average girl. She did not doubt that he was trying to show her what her life would be like if she were the Elder Master’s Queen, of sorts.
What scared her about Damien was the way he looked at her. She was inexperienced with men and unsure exactly what his looks portrayed, but she didn’t like them. Dragons were notoriously possessive, but Nia wasn’t property. She didn’t appreciate the looks he gave her, but she liked the things he bought her. It was a hard line to balance.
The major fact was that she was coming of age during the week-long celebrations. She would be the prime target for all of them; especially their Elder Master. Nia was old enough to be chosen for a bride. It made her completely terrified of the Joining.
There were three types of Joinings.
The first was the wedding of those who loved each other and wanted to come together to the clan as a solid unit. Often the Elder Master would have to speak. A few drops of blood were spilled to recognize the bond between the two. Then they would consummate and be married.
The second type of Joining was one welcoming the newest of age members into the clan. They would swear their loyalty to the Elder Master and take his brand. All dragons in the clan were required to have the clan brand. It helped for identifying their bodies should something terrible happen.
The last type of Joining was the one she was afraid of. For the young women of age, they could be sold into indentured servitude for many years. As a slave, they could be anything from a sex slave to just a live-in maid. She could avoid it, but only if the Elder Master declared them off-limits from such events.
Nia was far more independent than most of the dragons liked, but so far, the Elder Master hadn’t seemed to mind. He just continued to drape her in jewels and the finest things he could, all the while gazing at her with that stare. There’s something off about him, but she cannot quite place it. She’d touched his arm or his hand many times, but his future was always a little clouded, as if he was actively working to block her from giving him the bad news.