Through The Flames

 

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Prologue

The days before dragons were much more peaceful and without constant fear. Skyscrapers reached into the clouds, everyone hurried about in their busy lives, and mankind moved along in leaps and bounds.

But mankind became too curious experimenting with genetic mutation.

It started with the cloning of livestock for mass production to keep up with the overwhelming demand of the severely overpopulated Earth, then moving on to experimenting on various animals; enhancing and tweaking different aspects of their physical or mental attributes, cross-breeding to create intelligent, deadly creatures for reasons that are beyond comprehension.

Science then progressed to improving the capacity and response of the human brain, trying to better the human race. This then fuelled the research of integrating animal traits and features into human genetic material.

The more Geneticists modified the bio-genetics of different species, the more they strived to do something thought to be impossible. One Geneticist, Dr. Miles Holst, endeavoured to create a completely new species and the first dragon was born.

This became humanity's downfall.

 

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Chapter One

Syra sighed, sitting up in the creaky wooden bed that her Grandfather had built with his bare hands many years before. She had been awake for roughly an hour staring at the rough, slate stones that made up the vaulted ceiling of her room, even though dawn was only just now beginning to light the horizon a dusky gold.

Hastily she dressed and pulled on her leather boots made soft from years of use. She silently moved through the quaint cabin nestled in the woodlands that her and her Father called home, removing her ornately carved bow and quiver from the hook by the door carefully so as to not rouse the hulking man who still slumbered in front of the embers of the dying fire, where he had succumbed to sleep in the late hours of the night.

Once Syra had cleared the threshold of the door and was certain her Father hadn't awoken she burst into a sprint, hoping that it was early enough that no one would catch a glimpse of her darting into the woods unaccompanied.

She didn't dare stop until her legs gave out from under her and each breath of the frosty morning air burned its way out of her lungs and had spots dancing across her vision as she tried to quiet her racing heart.

The woods were a dangerous place, out in the wild where predators stalked their prey, like a cat waiting for the most opportune moment to strike. Out in the woods, Syra knew that she could become the hunted just as easily as she could be the hunter.

Syra's amber eyes closed as she focused; the transition used to be painful, but through rigorous training and practice, the sensation that was once like a thousand needles had become like an irritating tingle as her eyes morphed into those of an eagle. Her eyes remained the same rich amber hue but for the telltale light golden band that hugged the inner iris' marking her for her enhanced sight.

Her eyes snapped open, raking over every diminutive feature and committing it to memory. Everything around her was sharper, clearer and more vivid than what her human eyes could process. Her enhanced vision gifting her the coveted ability to distinguish the minuscule veins of a leaf as it gently cascaded to the ground over two hundred metres from where she stood.

Syra revelled in the innate freedom she felt at being completely alone, away from the pressure and the watchful eyes of her Father.

Jarrod Knight, Chief of the village. It was a title that he'd inherited from his Father who had been the very first Chief of the village they called home, and he was intent on upholding the legacy that his Father had built.

The story of how the struggling village elected a stranger as their leader was one that the village elders loved retelling to the younger generations.

The people of the village had shown mercy and compassion on a night many years ago; when a man covered in ash and soot holding his terrified son, sought refuge after fleeing from a dragon that had burnt their home to the ground; destroying everything in its path. The villagers took pity on the man that had lost his home and his wife to the tyranny of the ruthless dragons. They welcomed Harrison and his son Jarrod into their midst with open arms, tending to their burns and giving them shelter.

Once Harrison's wounds had mended enough, he sought out to repay the villagers for their kindness; repairing leaky roofs, teaching them how to grow their own fruits and vegetables so that they didn't have to forage daily, building sturdy structures that would stand up against the harsh weather, teaching the men how to hunt and make weapons, and most importantly, training the able bodied men into warriors to ward off raiders and dragons so that the village would be safe.

Within a year the entire village had been changed for the better, they were sustainable and no longer looked malnourished. The village prospered and they named Harrison Chief. They looked to him for guidance and he devoted his entire life after that fateful night to the people who had aided him when he'd needed it most.

It was the legacy of her family, one that she wouldn't follow the footsteps of no matter how desperately Syra wanted to prove that she was worthy of the title of Chief. Her destiny had been prophesied the day she was born, a fate that entwined with the fate of the human race. If she failed humanity would cease to exist. The usual feeling of bitter helplessness smothered her as she pondered the destiny that she didn't want; the one that everyone told her she must fulfil. How was she supposed to end the reign of the dragons when she had yet to even glimpse a dragon, let alone kill one. 

Pushing the tormenting thoughts from her mind, Syra honed in on the slight rustling of a bush in the distance that signalled her prey was nearby. 

Calix watched her from a distance as she lined up her prey that was too far away for him to discern. He had gone to Chief Jarrod's house earlier than he normally would in the hopes that Jarrod might be awake and willing to train with him. Calix had tossed and turned for most of the night, finally giving up on sleep shortly before sunrise.

Jarrod had become like a Father to him after the death of his own Father when he was only a child; Jarrod had taken him under his wing and declared him the future Chief.  As he reached the door his enhanced sense of smell registered Syra's scent and he followed its trail into the woods.

Sighing heavily, he couldn't decide if she was stupid or insane, she was aware what kind of dangers lurked in these woods, never mind the wrath she'd face if her Father caught her sneaking into the woods alone at dawn. This wasn't the first time that Calix had watched over her as she hunted alone in the woods and he grimaced as he thought --not for the first time-- that Jarrod would kill him if he ever found out.

Brushing his dark hair aside from where it fell in front of his eyes he continued scanning the area for threats as she released the arrow, it sailed through the air for an almost impossible distance. He knew it hit its mark from the triumphant smile that lit Syra's face and the little victory dance that followed. Calix rolled his eyes and wondered for the hundredth time how the fate of the human race rested in the hands of a seventeen year old girl.

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Chapter Two

Syra was panting heavily as she dived to the right, her opponents fist missing her jaw by inches, she nimbly tucked herself into a ball so that she didn't land face first in the hard-packed dirt, instead she rolled in one swift movement until her legs were under her again and she was standing to the side of the man that was currently sparring with her.

Her agility was second to none. As the man spun in her direction to attack again she knocked him off balance with a powerful kick to the chest. He stumbled back a few steps and she saw an opening to take him down. She darted over to him as he tried to regain his balance and with a few quick moves his legs gave out from underneath him and Syra had him pinned face first into the dirt.

She rose and extended her hand out to help her fellow warrior to his feet where he towered over her. He gave her a slight smile and a nod then walked away without saying a word, dusting off the red dirt that covered the entire front of his body.

"Who's next" Syra asked her Father as she approached him.

"No one" Jarrod stated, earning a confused look from his daughter. "I want you to work with Calix on your sword skills"

Syra groaned openly in a way that only she could get away with. She hated swords, they were heavy and awkward --in her mind-- she much preferred her bow or a pair of hunting knives but she was more repulsed by the thought of having to train with Calix.

Calix was the son that Jarrod never had. Calix was chosen at a young age to be the successor to Jarrod, next in line to be Chief. Syra had developed a feeling of bitterness towards him over the years for taking what should have been hers. There was only one person in the village that could best her in a round of hand to hand combat --besides her Father-- and that was Calix, not to mention his superior sword fighting skills.

It infuriated her to no ends that Calix seemed to be better than her at almost everything. The only thing that she was better than him at was archery and she wished it irritated him that she was better than him in that aspect.

Jarrod raised a brow at her and she knew instantly that she had crossed a line. He was easy-going when they were at home, but it didn't bode well when she mocked his authority in front of his warriors like she had just done. Swallowing the retort that was on her lips she wiped all traces of distain from her face.

"Yes Sir" Syra relinquished, bowing her head slightly towards her Father in a sign of respect before stalking off to the weapons rack.

Wooden swords were for children, which they no longer were. If you wanted to learn the art of sword fighting you had to be prepared to lose a limb or two, so she chose her usual dark steel short sword and headed towards the edge of the woods where she knew Calix would be waiting for her. It was his favourite place to train. He said it was because if he ever got into an actual fight it wouldn't be in a training ring, so it was best to learn how to get the environment to work to his advantage. She couldn't fault him for his logic.

Syra once brought up the idea of working with some of her other training partners in the woods for that very reason. Jarrod had squashed the idea immediately saying it would be reckless and that the training ground would work sufficiently in allowing her to hone her skills. Jarrod believed that only himself or Calix were fit to protect her in the woods.

She seethed at the thought of needing a babysitter. She didn’t need a knight in shining armour or a bodyguard. She was perfectly capable of kicking anyone’s ass. If only her Father knew of her dawn hunting trips, but she knew what kind of wrath she’d face if he did find out so she’d gritted her teeth and followed his orders as always.

Calix sat on a moss covered boulder with his bare back towards her, sharpening his sword. The cords of muscle beneath his tan skin rippling as he moved the stone over the blade.

A twig snapped under Syra's boot, alerting Calix to her presence. He was instantly on his feet, sword raised and ready; fully prepared for a wild animal to come charging towards him. Once he realised there was no threat he lowered his weapon and regarded her coolly with slate grey eyes.

He was easily the most attractive guy in the entire village. All the eligible females fawned over him and watched him intently whenever he was near. His broad chest, powerful legs and muscled arms marked him as a well trained warrior --one of the most skilled in the village. His black hair that just skimmed his shoulders was forever falling into those stormy grey eyes, paired with full lips that were quick to smile was enough to make any girl weak-kneed.

Whenever they trained, Calix's facial expressions would alternate between cold and distant, irritated, and something Syra thought might be smugness. She couldn't blame him for not turning his winning smile on for her when her disdain for his company was something she'd never bothered to hide.

"Let's get this over with" Syra sighed loudly as she approached.

"Today might be the day you best me, Little Bird" Calix retorted with mock encouragement.

Syra's exhaled in a hiss at the use of the nickname he'd given her as children, at a time when they'd been young and innocent, before the rivalry between them had developed. Calix had dubbed her Little Bird when she first discovered her eagle sight and it had stuck with her ever since.

"Call me Little Bird again Hound and I might peck your eyes out" She said sweetly, though her smile was malevolent as she used the slur for people with his ability.

She lunged at him then, her sword slashing through the air to strike his unmarred chest, but his sword was there in time to block her attempt; as she knew it would be. They locked in a deadly dance, though neither of them would intentionally harm the other.

After what felt like an eternity of parrying, Syra used her superior speed and --much to his surprise-- disarmed Calix. His faithful sword clattered to the ground as she went in for the killing blow. Before she could make the strike, he feinted towards his sword that lay at her feet making Syra change the angle of her attack to a downward slash. Calix predicted her move and quickly dodged out of the way leaving him open to seize control of her wrist before she could comprehend his intentions.

Syra swore colourfully as surprise caused her to lose her grip on her weapon and Calix ripped it from her, throwing it several feet. They stood there staring at each other, Calix's hand still firmly wrapped around her wrist.

Triumph glinted in Calix's grey eyes and the corner of his lips pulled back into a smirk. His vice-like grip on her wrist loosened slightly and she freed herself from him.

"You've improved greatly" He started seriously "But you didn't beat me today, Little Bird"

She wanted to wipe the smirk off his face but knew that wasn't going to help the feelings of irritation and humiliation that swirled within her at being beaten by him once again, so she simply turned and stalked back to the village.

She was supposed to report back to her Father at the training ground; instead she threw open the door to her house and angrily removed her bow from its hook, seeking sanctuary among the only friends she had; the trees.

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Chapter Three

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Chapter Four

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Chapter Five

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Chapter Six

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Chapter Seven

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Chapter Eight

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Chapter Nine

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Chapter Ten

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Chapter Eleven

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Chapter Twelve

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Chapter Thirteen

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Chapter Fourteen

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Chapter Fifteen

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