The Iron Den

For generations the Dragon Tree has been passed down Alaina's family line, and it has finally reached her. The Dragon Tree taps into the memory of it's owner, and gives them their greatest fear along with their greatest dream. But what if your greatest dream is love? What if your greatest fear is the downfall of your city? She could stop it. Because she is different. She is Srren.

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2. Chapter One

Alaina stood on the edge of the path – which was packed with crowds of Nenyryn that were gathering for the Thenle. She hadn't realized how many Nenyryn the Lord had employed over the last year. A gust of bitter wind tousled Alaina’s fair hair. She pulled her jacket tighter around her angular body, but she knew that it was no use against the cold. In the distance Alaina could see the mist that curled around the tree trunks, being whipped around by yet another biting gale of wind. The end of the summer months had only just come, and already the cold could chill one to the bone. But of course, being this far north, there was nothing more to expect. Alaina thrust her hands into her pockets, and started to follow the crowds of Nenyryn towards the large white tent in the field. 

The cheerful chatter of the Nenyryn bounced off the walls of the Manor and then echoed through the field overhead. Alaina looked towards the gardens, clumps of Nenyryn were still working hard to pick the vegetables, but most of them were walking towards the tent. Alaina could see a few humans among the crowd of Nenyryn, a lot of the humans wore their beige hiking boots to be spotted within large crowds. To Alaina, the Nenyryn all looked the same. The girls had their onyx hair tied back with a white ribbon to symbolize purity of the heart. The boys wore the same light brown - stained with juices from the fruit - shirts. 

Alaina approached a steep bank that the Nenyryn were starting to climb – not very successfully. She placed her feet in deep rabbit holes and hauled herself up to the top of the bank. A group of Nenyryn girls had just made it to the top, Alaina could hear them panting with the effort that it had taken them. Ahead of Alaina was the big white tent, where is Duane? She thought as she started to jog over to the tent. She moved her mind to the thought of the position that she would be given, but her mind kept forcing her back to the question. Where is Duane? Alaina hastily pushed the thought aside and kept jogging. 

The sound of the wind rushed through her ears as she jogged at a steady pace. Her feet pounded on the ground as she heard the Nenyryn starting to run. It didn't matter that they were running, but she liked to be ahead of them. A Nenyryn boy went running past her in a frenzy to be the first one to the tent, the Nenyryn liked to play games like that. A girl quickly caught up behind him and pushed him backwards so that she was now taking the lead. The boy caught her wrist and used it to swing himself forward, lunging towards the tent. The girl giggled as the boy slammed into the tent, he threw his arms above his head in victory. 

Alaina slowed down as she neared the tent, behind her she could hear laughter coming from some of the humans. A man dressed in red robes was stood at the entrance of the tent, welcoming in the Nenyryn and the humans. He looked slightly Nenyryn himself, with colorless skin and pale green eyes. Alaina walked over to the man, and saw that his red robe had golden symbols embroidered into the collar.

“Please, go on in,” he smiled and gestured to the entrance. Alaina stepped past him and walked into the tent. Glass chandeliers somehow hung low on the roof of the tent. The inside walls were the same crimson as the man that had welcomed Alaina in, and they too were embroidered with symbols. In the center of the tent was a large wooden table, where mixed groups of Nenyryn and humans sat on plastic chairs speaking to each other  Alaina shifted her gaze to the end of the tent, where the Lord was sat. Two servants were stood either side of him, muttering in low voices. He too wore robes, but his were a light orchid colour, the colour of his eyes. There had been rumors spread by some of the Nenyryn that he was a Srren, they were commonly known for their plum like eyes. He had those Nenyryn killed. 

Alaina searched the table for Duane, and finally found him sat next to a Nenyryn girl who was flirtatiously flicking her hair over her shoulder. Alaina sighed and went to the empty seat next to him.

“Where have you been?” asked Duane as she took her seat next to him. 

“Alone.”

The time passed quickly, Alaina had watched Duane flirt with the Nenyryn girl beside him. More and more Nenyryn had filled up the empty seats, a Nenyryn boy had sat next to Alaina, and another one opposite her. Duane turned away from the girl and smirked at Alaina.

“There are more Credulous in here than the human population of Inthithen,” he grinned. Alaina clasped her hand over her mouth to stop a laugh escaping from her lips. Alaina turned her attention to the Lord, who rose from his chair and slowly drifted to the end of the long table.

“People,” he said, “I think you already know why you are here today, but for those of you who don’t, this is why,” he carried on, “today is the day that you will be given your positions, some of you will be Gardeners, others will be Gatherers, it really makes no difference.” He caught the eye of one of his servants, and he scurried off. Alaina sat in silence, and a few minutes later, the servant came back with a small piece of paper.

“I will read your names in alphabetical order according to your first name,” the Lord explained, fiddling with the ring on his right hand. Alaina looked at Duane and gave him a warm smile. 

“Adam Wright,” a human name, thought Alaina as a human boy stood up a few seats down from her, “you have been put into the position of Gardener,” Adam sat down again and placed his head on the table. 

“Adriane Heartson,” another human name. One of the human girls closest to the Lord stood up, her long brown hair cascaded down her shoulders, “you have been put into the position of Gatherer,” she smiled with relief of getting a good position and took her seat. The next few names passed in a blur, all of them Nenyryn, and all of them ashamed of themselves. 

“Alaina Iskysha,” Alaina stood up. She clenched her hands into fists to stop them from trembling, and lifted her head so that she could see the Lord. The Lord’s hands tightened around the piece of paper as he spoke, “you have been put into the position of Gatherer,” Alaina sighed, but she didn't know if it was out of fear of relief. Duane stared at her as she perched on the edge of her seat, gripping it firmly so that the uncomfortable plastic dug into her hands. 

***

The Thenle finished about forty minutes later, and for the whole time Alaina had been on the edge of her seat. Duane had been put into the position of Watcher. When they were dismissed, Alaina strode out of the tent and back into the field. The breeze felt nice on her face after being crammed into the small tent for an hour or so. She waited at the entrance of the tent for Duane, and he emerged after waving goodbye to the Nenyryn girl that he had been flirting with. Alaina gave him a cold glare. 

"What?" he chuckled.

“Your way too good for her,” said Alaina, “you deserve someone better.”

“Like who?”

“Well the positions are mostly dependent on personality and skills, right? So maybe the Lord thinks that you have a bold personality, and wild Gatherer skills,” he waved his hands in front of him as he said the word wild. Alaina snorted with laughter.

“I don’t think that you should have been positioned as a Watcher,” she told Duane as they started to head back towards the Manor. 

“And why is that?”

“Because you would fall asleep whilst on duty and the Ythra would come and eat you,” she emphasized the word Ythra. 

“I would not!” Duane protested. Alaina cocked an eyebrow at him. Suddenly, Alaina felt a heavy hand on her shoulder, she spun around to find Craig and Lionel walking behind them.

“You okay short stuff?” Craig laughed and patted her on the shoulder. He flicked a strand of orange hair away from his eyes. 

“I heard you got positioned as a Gatherer,” said Lionel as Craig went over to join Duane.

“Yeah, what about you?” asked Alaina.

“Oh me? I got positioned as a Watcher.”

“Lucky you, you’ll get to spend nights with Duane,” Alaina nudged Lionel with her shoulder playfully.

“Yep, lucky me,” Lionel said sarcastically.

“What did Craig get positioned as?” questioned Alaina.

“A Gardner, he’s not really talking about it much. I don’t blame him, it’s not the best position, however Gatherer is,” he replied.  

“Don’t start, I would rather plant carrots all day than have to trek out at midnight to hunt animals, trying not to get my throat ripped out by a clan of Ythra...” her voice trailed off. Lionel looked over at Craig, who was running towards the steep bank.

“I should go and catch up with him...make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid,” said Lionel. He waved goodbye and raced after Craig, cursing as he went.

“Have a nice chat with Craig?” Alaina asked Duane.

“Ugh, don’t get me started.” Alaina laughed, although he was being serious. 

“Okay, so I’ll tell you,” said Duane, even though Alaina never asked him to, “he said that him and a few other people are having a celebration party tonight and he wanted to know if we want to go.”

“Why not?” asked Alaina.

“Well you know what Craig can be like when he is drunk...”

“Oh well, if he wants to ruin his life then I am quite happy for him to go forth with his plans,” Alaina smiled.

“Your really going?”

“Yeah, it will be fun,” Alaina didn’t believe her own words, but they spilled out of her mouth before she had the chance to stop them. 

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