The Rowan

(Thanks to NamesFromGraves for the beautiful cover, your hard work is always loved :) )
Before the Falling, there were Dragons.

Dragons who's breath could set a forest ablaze, who's wings could cause hurricanes, who's claws made canyons in the rocky earth, who's scales shone like glass and who's bones were made of gemstones. Fearsome guardians of all elements.

There were no humans who could tame such beasts. Not until The Rowan.

The Kingdom of Tiber was a harsh place, where magic was outlawed, and even the Dragons were on the verge of extinction. But in the middle of hide, the last pair of Dragons find a human baby, cold and alone, left to die with their strange appearance.

As the child grows under their care, a war begins brewing, something ancient stiring beneath the surface, and a prophecy to be fuffilled by The Six Branches, a band of six adventurers who must give up their lives to go and complete training to save their kingdom from destruction.

But they sent the wrong six.


1. The First Old Moon

The wailing was distant, faint, and the voice that caused such a pained sound sounded tired, exhausted, like it had been repeating itself for a long time.

Wyrim perked his ears, listening intently as he padded along the twists and ragged edges that led to sheer cliffs in the mountain face. He had followed the sound for some time now, only able to reach the place upon foot, as his bulky and muscular body, wings tightly tucked against his bellowing chest, small wisps of smoke rising from his nostrils as he took great lungfuls of the thin mountain air.

The noise had almost ceased, forcing Wyrim forwards with more urgency in his heavy footing. He wanted to know what the sound was coming from, an injured goat kid perhaps? But this altitude was too high even for them, they knew better than to climb this far up the mountain face lest they be carried off by Wyrim or his partner, Dracia.

He stopped, sniffing the air cautiously, his pupils narrowing as a growl built in his throat. Humans had been here. They never ventured this far from their settlements, but no good came from humans encroaching upon Dragon territory, they usually fancied their chances at finding a golden hoard or earning fame by slaying one of the few remaining, even if they had at least two offspring when they died, the Dragons would soon be gone forever, especially if the Sanctuary disappeared.

A cave ahead, where the scent was strongest, the rumble within Wyrim's chest causing the ground to shake and small pebbles dislogding themselves and falling down the face of the mountain. Any human with half a sense would be able to feel the shaking, even if they could not hear the almost deafening growl tearing itself between the ancient Dragon's teeth. Peering inside, Wyrim inhaled deeply, ready to breath fire inside the small space.

Then he heard it. A small and weak cry.

Looking to the back of the crevice, a small bundle seemed to squirm, fighting against the cloth constraints. Carefully, Wyrim reached in one hooked claw, which in itself, would have speared the thing inside without him noticing it until he picked his teeth later.

The cloth was white, and roughly woven, although soiled by the dirt within the cave. Delicately, he cut it, the tip of his claw steady and sharper than the blades that even the Night-Feeders forged. Peering inside, he recoiled, for the thing inside was still alive, but very weak.

A human infant.

Though looking about, he saw no signs of the off-spring's carers, there was not even a trace of an old fire inside the nook, causing his brow to furrow, scales catching the weak sunlight. Peering at the infant again, he noted it's strange colour, curiously pale, with weak eyes that seemed to be unable to focus, the colour of rowan berries, though they seemed to lack the ability to see. Wisps of fine hair on it's near bald skull, whiter than it's skin, if that was even possible. Wyrim could not tell if it was male or female, as humans defined themselves, for Dragons held no gender, they only prefered certain pro-nouns. Though, Wyrim could definiately say that it was rather skinny, the bones clearly visible under the soft skin.

The eyes of child finally seemed to focus, finding themselves staring into the golden orbs of Wyrim. It began to make a new noise, something that sounded like a gurgle, but something within Wyrim's memory told him that it was a human laugh. This little child was not afraid it seemed.

It was then that Wyrim decied that his stoney heart had cracked, and shown it's soft underbelly. Dragon's do not produce offspring during their living life, but lately, he recalled that Dracia had been feeling as if she should have children, whether it was nearing her time or not, Wyrim knew not, but he had hopes that perhaps, she could accept this child.

Picking it up in one paw, the infant seemed lost, but he dared not squeeze tightly, for it felt so fragile within his claws, even though he feared it would fall out somehow, for he was not used to handling such tiny things.

Facing the edge of the cliff, and raising his pale red wings to the cloudy sky, he lept forwards, the wind rushing past his snout and causing a faint whistle in his ears before he forced his wings down, sending his great weight soaring into the sky, above the cloud bank, where he would not be seen by anything below.

The infact began to cry again, still weak. Wyrim glided for a moment, concerned that perhaps the movement of his great wings had caused injury, but his eyes widened as he reminded himself that this tiny being had no thick scales to protect it from what Wyrim had been informed was cold air that resided above the clouds. He flew faster, eager to return to his partner, but not increasingly concerned that this child might freeze before he had a chance to warm it.

Luckily, he had not flown far that day, and soon, he began the slow and lazy glide into the mouth of the cavern that he called Sanctuary. Marked only by the rowan tree that grew on the edge of the cliff. Landing was awkward, as Wyrim found with one paw clenched close to his chest, when he could not use all his claws to dig into the rocky ground. Peering inside, his eyes adjusted to the darkness inside with a blink, pupils expanding until they seemed to take up almost all his golden eyes.

Dracia lay near the back, the warmest part of the cavern as the bitterness of winter still crept into the mouth of the cave. Approaching slowly, Wyrim was cautious, she looked almost too still and peaceful, as if death gripped her in it's awful slumber. Though as he came closer, she opened one lazy eye, a perfect sky blue and her throat rumbled in greeting.

Death has not taken me yet. She grumbled, rising onto her forelocks to raise her head to nuzzle her partner. Wyrim chuckled, an odd sound to the human ear, the only comparison was that of a deep bark that shook the walls of the cave and seemed to echo.

No, but I have a gift. Wyrim bowed, his head low to the floor and leaning on his forelocks, back still in the air. Opening his paw, he expected to see a frozen corpse in his palm, but instead, the infant blinked blearily, water streaming from it's face and some of it's skin taking on a ruddy pink colour. Looking about to what must have been almost pure darkness to it's human eyes. Dracia peered curiously at it, eyes narrowed in a cat-like fashion, full of comtempt.

A human...

Not just any human, Wyrim defending with a growl, setting himself down, licking the child with his forked tongue, hoping that it would take on some of the warmth that he held. This one had been left in a cave upon a nearby mountain, I think perhaps it's carers left it to die.

I have never seen a human of this colouring, I admit. Dracia purred, taking a closer look at the squirming infant, who reached out it's skinny fleshy arms towards her, holding onto her nostrils, causing Dracia to bark with laughter. The child pausing in almost awed silence before attempting to repeat the sound with it's weakened vocal chords, suprising both Dragons.

If we are to keep it, we should name it.

Something special, something that no other creature walking this ground has. Wyrim grinned, his pointed teeth gleaming sinisterly in the light, although, it seemed not to phase the child still, it was more focused on looking into Dracia's eyes, seemingly enchanted by them.

Julij, meaning couragous individual. Looking at each other, the Dragons knew that it was a perfect fit, the little one having cried for help until it arrived in the form of a dragon, and even then, not looking away as the beasts loomed over it.

Julij squealed, as if understanding the significance of the exchange between the two dragons. It's red eyes lighting up although it would become apparent they were weaker than either dragon had expected. A human amongst Dragons.

Outside, with neither parties aware, the rowan tree began to leaf, a single bud splitting open to reveal the rich green inside. The Sanctuary had taken in it's newest addition.

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