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The Midnight Prophecy

By Kittyluvver

- will be updated regularly.

The Midnight Prophecy (Main Page)

The Midnight Prophecy (Part 2)

Summary

The kingdoms of Pyrrhia rise and fall, but news arrives of the Midnight Prophecy, delivered by Aria the Seer in the throne room of the Sky Palace, foretelling that a dragon who sacrifces the blood of a Seer, an Iceborn, a Fireborn, a Blood-Egg MudWing, a SeaWing of the royal house, and a SandWing with golden scales will reign over all of Pyrrhia. 

Aria the Seer must now battle against deadly foes and destiny itself as she struggles to undo her own terrible prophecy, and save the dragons and all of Pyrrhia from a dark fate. But will she succeed? Or is she, along with six others, already marked for death?


Midnight falls across these lands

From the eastern sea to the western sands

There is one who will great power wield

As the fate of six others is surely sealed


The first is one whose path is dark as night

Yet her eyes shine with wisdom’s light

Love and kindness vanquish fear

In your darkest hour, seek the Seer


The second is one who does not doubt'

Rage and sorrow she lives without

She cannot be touched by flame or fire

Blood-Egg born, she will never tire


The third one’s scales shine golden-bright

As she charges forth to join the fight'

She will always see the battle won

As only then may her work be done


The fourth one hails from the plains of sand

Her faithless names feared throughout the land

From the life that she once knew, she is torn

So seek the one who is venom-born


The fifth one, from her past tries to run

A fire-born fighter, she rivals the sun

But on a long and winding path she will start

For behind fiery scales lies the gentlest heart 


The sixth is one whom nightmares chase

In the world, he has not yet found his place

He was born in the ocean’s ebb and flood

Go seek the SeaWing of royal blood


The destinies of six must be fulfilled

And on Jade Mountain their blood be spilled

The one who succeeds is with power blest

As six more souls seek their final rest

The kingdoms of Pyrrhia rise and fall

But the dragon who succeeds will rule them all

The slayer of six reigns over these lands

From the eastern sea to the western sands.

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Character List

Aria

Amber

Lioness

Autumn Gold

Ripple

- will be updated with more chapters

Chapter 1: Into the Night

The night was cloudless and filled with glimmering stars, while the full moon shone soft and pale through the sparse branches of a forest clearing. A warm breeze filled the air, circling amongst the treetops and plucking at the wing membranes of the two young dragons standing still as stone in the pooled shadow beneath a tall oak.

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One was a tall, skinny female who looked like a RainWing, scales glistening inky blank in the darkness. Only her luminous violet eyes were visible, wide and alert.

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The other was a smaller MudWing female, younger than her companion. Her form was the color of dark chocolate in the moonlight, and her eyes gleamed gold in the reflected light of the moon.

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“There’s no one here,” whispered Amber, the young MudWing.

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“Shh!” Aria, the hybrid NightWing and RainWing, shushed quickly. Her eyes flashed watchfully in the darkness. “Stay still.”

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Nothing moved for a few more minutes. Crickets chirped amongst the tall grasses. On the other side of the clearing, they could hear the soft, musical tinkling of a small forest stream. All was still.

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Then Amber broke the silence again. “Aria, it’s okay. They’re gone.”

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“We can’t know for sure,” Aria replied, though she relaxed her rigid pose. “So be careful.”

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Merely minutes before, the five travellers, walking blind in the darkness, had stumbled headlong into an entire encampment of SkyWing soldiers, who had been very pleasantly surprised to find a few lost dragonets suddenly in their midst. In the ensuing chaos Aria and Amber had been separated from Lioness, Autumn Gold, and Ripple, and had been chased by a group of SkyWing foot soldiers for at least a mile. Finally the two had managed to find a hiding spot under the trees, and watched as the SkyWing troops flew right overhead and past them.

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Aria took a moment to thank the Three Moons that SkyWings did not have very good night vision, and that she and Amber had dark scales that helped to camouflage them in the night. She shuddered to think how easy a target Lioness would have made, with her bright golden scales. Or Ripple, with his flashing SeaWing stripes like homing beacons.

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Now Aria stood up, rustling the folds of her wings to dislodge bits of leaf litter. “We’ll have to go back for the other three,” she told Amber.

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“Of course,” Amber replied. For once, in accordance to the seriousness of their situation, the normally sassy MudWing did not follow up with “Duh!” 

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Stealthily, the two got up, stretching cramped limbs that were aching from being locked in one position for too long.

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“We can’t fly back,” Aria decided. “Too risky.”

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“Why not?” Amber complained. “Walking is so slow.”

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“The SkyWings are better fliers that we are,” Aria reasoned. “If we get caught up in the air, we’re as good as dead. On the ground we can at least duck for cover the moment we see them coming.”

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Amber obeyed, though she grumbled a little. 

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They lapsed into silence as they began a long hike through the forest, retracing their flight path away from the SkyWing campsite. Aria was on edge, her eyes intent on scanning the dark forest ahead for the first sign of trouble. She flinched at every rustle of leaves and every snapped twig that broke the silence as they walked.

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“Lioness?” Amber whispered into the night, not daring to speak up any louder for fear of alerting their pursuers. “Autumn? Ripple?”

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“We’re here!” Aria joined in, calling out softly. “Can anyone hear us?”

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They walked on through the forest, calling out occasionally, keeping their voices soft. After a little while even Aria’s taut nerves began to relax. There was no response, not from friend nor foe. As far as they could tell, the forest was completely empty.

.

An hour passed. Then two. After finally coming down from the adrenaline rush of the chase and escape, Aria was beginning to feel sleepy. The night was warm, and so very quiet.

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“It’s no use,” Amber finally stopped walking, her tail drooping into the dirt. “We’re never going to find them in this darkness.”

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“We have to find them!” Aria kept a brave face for the sake of the younger dragonet, but she too was beginning to have doubts. She could hardly see a single dragon-length in front of herself. In this soupy darkness the only way they would find the others was if they banged right into them, like they had with the SkyWing guards.

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“Maybe I can climb a tree,” Aria suggested, trying to sound optimistic. “See if I can get a better view.”

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Amber looked at her doubtfully. “You want to climb a tree?” The idea was completely alien to a MudWing like Amber.

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“I am part RainWing, after all,” Aria nudged her with a wingtip. “You stay here.”

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Aria chose a particularly large, sturdy oak tree for her ascent. She grasped the trunk between her forelegs and began to pull herself into its branches.

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It was harder than she had thought, she realized once she reached the bottommost branches of the oak. Her tail was nowhere near as flexible or prehensile as a true RainWing’s, and it was of no help as she struggled to get a grip on the smooth bark. Aria had gotten so used to flying about that her legs and forepaws were not as strong as they could have been, and climbing was a struggle. A few times she nearly slipped and fell, but always managed to dig her claws in at the last second and hold on.

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At last she reached a point where the branches were too thin to support her weight, and she had to stop. Brushing aside a curtain of leaves and twigs with a paw, Aria looked out over the treetops and into the sky.

It was a lovely night. The sky was filled with gleaming stars, and from her lofty perch she could see out over the forest and the surrounding hills. It was a spectacular view, but Aria hardly paid any attention to the scenery. She was busy scanning the surrounding woods for any sign of other dragons, either her missing friends or SkyWing soldiers.

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A soft orange glow in the woods about a mile to their east caught her attention, and she narrowed her eyes to get a better look. She couldn’t see very well from such a distance, and once again she wished for the sharp eyes of a SwiftWing or SandWing.

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The glow appeared to be the soft light of a campfire in a forest clearing. Aria squinted to see closer, and saw the individual shapes of SkyWing dragons moving about in front of and around the flames. 

A vision. She had almost no warning.

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She saw a palace burning, tongues of flame shooting from its windows. The air rang with a dragonet’s scream of fear and pain.

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Aria gasped as she suddenly returned to reality like a SeaWing resurfacing after a dive. In her moment of distraction her grasp on the tree trunk had started to slip, and she quickly seized the branch in a vise grip.

But it was futile, as just as suddenly the world went dark again and she found herself ensnared in yet another vision.

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She saw two dragons facing each other in battle stances, a stretch of open sand between them. She could hear the roar of an angry crowd chanting “Kill! Kill! Kill!”

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She saw a dragonet crying for its mother as angry, threatening black shadows danced across the cave wall over its head.

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She saw six dragons standing in a circle at the summit of a green mountain. All of them were looking at a point somewhere above Aria, and each wore an expression of the utmost fear and terror.

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She saw a large dragon standing in a cave, towering over a nest bearing a single pale egg. As she watched in horror, the dragon reared up onto his hind legs and, in a single violent motion, smashed the egg to shards with absurd ease.

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“Stop!” she shouted. “No more!”

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Aria awakened with a jolt. She was back in the tree, under the night sky. And she had come to just in time to hear the branch she was on snapping under her weight.

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And then she was falling.

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Branches and twigs whipped past her, striking her wings and inflicting a dozen painful cuts and scrapes. She heard the sound of wood snapping and the wind rushing past her, and she struggled to open her wings.

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Then she struck the ground, and white-hot pain flared through all of her limbs as every last bit of wind was driven from her lungs.

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“Aria!” she heard Amber cry out. “Are you okay?”

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“I…” she wheezed, struggling back to her feet. Her vision swam again, but this time with pain and not with the onset of another vision. Her ribs throbbed in unison. “I think so.”

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“Good.”

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Another voice cut through the haze of Aria’s mind, a male voice, and for a fraction of a second she thought it might be Autumn, or Ripple. Then she flinched back in surprise as a spearpoint was pressed against her throat.

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Five SkyWing soldiers emerged from the trees. Two had Amber pinned to the ground, and the other three advanced on Aria. 

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“Because you’re coming with us.”

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Chapter 2: Cold Steel

“What kind of RainWing falls out of a tree?”

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Aria kept her head down and trudged on, taking small steps in a futile effort to slow the group down. If she had a little time, she could figure out a plan to escape. But as it was, the SkyWing behind her kept pricking her with his spear when he felt that she wasn’t walking fast enough.

.

Worse yet, he seemed to enjoy taunting her.

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“Come on,” he laughed, giving her another prod with the butt end of his spear. “I thought you RainWing chickens were supposed to be good at climbing.”

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Aria wished that she could turn around and explain to him that she was only part RainWing and part NightWing. Better yet, she wished that she could turn around and break his spear in half right over his head.

A brave dragon like Lioness would have tried without hesitation, but Aria didn’t have a death wish. It was five on two, and she didn’t like her odds even with Amber by her side. If she made one false move, the SkyWings’ spears would turn her into a pincushion faster than she could say “Three Moons.”

.

“At least these two have the sense to come along nice and quiet-like,” drawled the SkyWing in the lead. “Not like the SwiftWing, the SeaWing, and the SandWing.”

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“Yeah,” grumbled one of their captors. “That monster of a SandWing took the last few inches of my tail. Bit it clean off,” he complained. Aria looked a little closer and saw that he had a bandage over the stump of his tail.

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“Oh yeah, she was a nasty piece of work,” said the SkyWing behind Aria, giving her another poke for no apparent reason other than to be cruel. Aria decided at that moment that she really hated him. “It took, what, three blows to the head before she went to sleep?” he continued. “I’ve never seen a dragon need more than one.”

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The first SkyWing chuckled grimly. “I hope she ends up in the arena. She’ll give Queen Ruby a few good fights for sure.”

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Hope flared through Aria at the news of her friends, only to be quickly replaced by dull disappointment. She had hoped that, even though she and Amber had been caught, Lioness, Autumn, and Ripple had managed to evade capture. Now it appeared that all five of them had been taken, and Lioness had put up a good fight. Aria felt herself warming with pride as she heard of the damage her aggressive SandWing friend had inflicted on the SkyWings.

.

Ah, well. At least the five of them would be reunited, though she had hoped that it would be under different circumstances.

.

She kept her head down and continued to shuffle forwards, chains clinking, though she kept her ears pricked in hopes of hearing more. However the talk soon turned to wild boar and breakfast tomorrow morning, and Aria stopped paying attention. They walked on for about a mile, and just when Aria’s feet began to feel sore they reached the SkyWing encampment.

.

A great bonfire, whose light Aria had seen from the treetop, blazed in the middle of a forest clearing ringed with a number of small tents. Around a dozen SkyWing soldiers sat around the fire, laughing and bantering noisily. Aria caught a whiff of… was that roast pork? Her stomach growled hungrily, reminding her that she hadn’t eaten since that morning.

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To her shame the SkyWing behind her had heard her stomach rumbling, and he now gave her yet another painful jab with his spear. “Sorry, little RainWing,” he smirked. “You’ll have to go to bed hungry tonight. Maybe if you’re good, we’ll throw you some scraps tomorrow morning. That is, if the vicious SandWing doesn’t murder you before morning.”

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He gestured towards the other side of the clearing, where Aria saw three dark shapes tethered to a tree. Aria recognized Autumn Gold’s pale form, Ripple’s glowing stripes, and Lioness’s golden scales.

.

“Aw, curse the Moons,” Autumn moaned. “It’s Aria and Amber.”

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The five SkyWings escorted the two of them up to the other prisoners, where, in addition to the chains on their feet, they forced Aria into a metal collar with a chain that was padlocked around the trunk of the tree. 

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“You know, we thought that you two had really escaped,” said Ripple once the guards had secured Aria and Amber and left to rejoin the group at the campfire. “We thought that you might be cooking up with some brilliant plan to get the rest of us out.” He rolled his eyes. “Too much to hope for, obviously.”

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Aria ignored Ripple’s sarcasm, as she had gotten used to it over the months they had spent as a group. It was just Ripple’s rather biting way of saying hello.

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She noticed Lioness’s bulky figure sprawled out on the ground a little ways away. All of the prisoners wore cuffs, clips, and a collar, but Lioness wore three sets of leg cuffs, four wing clips, and two collars and chains. Evidently the SkyWings were taking no chances with her somehow getting free.

.

“What’s wrong with her?” Aria asked. At first Lioness looked to be merely asleep, but upon closer inspection Aria saw a large lump on the SandWing’s forehead, causing her eye to swell almost shut. Her scales were also marked by quite a number of bloody cuts and gashes that might have been inflicted by claws and spears.

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“Knocked out,” said Ripple casually. “She had a real good go at the SkyWing soldiers when they first caught up to us. Took a few inches off a soldier’s tail, would you believe it? After that no one really wanted to come near her alone, but finally they got us surrounded and gave her a good couple of bashes with a club. She’s been out ever since.”

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“Is she alright?” Aria asked with some concern. In the scant light of the moons it looked like Lioness was lying dead on the ground.

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“Of course,” Ripple waved a webbed claw. “It would take more than a gang of SkyWing buffoons to take our Lioness out of commission. No, just wait ’til morning and she’ll be right as rain.” He chuckled. “I’d really hate to be a SkyWing once she finally wakes up.”

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Knowing Lioness’s vengeful nature, Aria was inclined to agree with him.

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Meanwhile Autumn Gold had gone to Amber and was briskly checking the young MudWing for injuries. Finding nothing, he soon turned his attention to Aria.

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“Now, what happened?” he asked, eyes opening wide in surprise. “Cuts, lacerations, bruised ribs, possibly a concussion. What exactly did those horrible SkyWings do to you?”

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“It wasn’t the SkyWings,” she muttered, blushing a little.

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“Aria fell out of a tree,” Amber reported, giggling gleefully at the sight of Aria’s embarrassment.

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“Really?” Ripple guffawed. “You’re part RainWing, right? Shouldn’t you be good at climbing?”

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Aria shot icy glares at Ripple and Amber until the two of them got the hint and quieted down. What kind of fool friends did she have? Here they were, chained in the middle of an enemy campsite, and all Ripple and Amber did was laugh at her misfortune.

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Thankfully Autumn Gold all but ignored the two. “You should be fine,” he told Aria. “I’d be able to do more for you if we weren’t chained up. But take it easy for the next few days. No sense in making a concussion worse.”

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As they had been talking the SkyWings around the bonfire were quieting down and beginning to settle in for the night. The fire had died down to mere embers, and Aria could hear hearty snores emanating from some of the tents ringing the fire. The last remains of a pig’s carcass was spitted overthe flames, and Aria felt her stomach growl again.

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“Now would probably be a good time to talk about escape,” she whispered, ignoring her own hunger pangs. “Autumn, can you pick the locks? Or use SwiftWing telekinesis to break the chains?”

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“Already tried both,” Autumn replied gloomily. “But these locks have magically enchanted by an animus dragon or someone. They can’t be opened without the proper key. And my telekinesis is nowhere near strong enough to break through solid steel.”

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Aria looked around, desperately searching for other options. “Well, our chains are wrapped around this tree,” she pointed out. “Maybe if we could cut through the trunk, we could get free.”

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“No good,” said Ripple. “It would take us hours to saw through a solid oak trunk with our teeth and claws, and we’d probably be caught. Plus, a fifty foot-tall oak tree has to fall somewhere, right? If we cut through its trunk it’d just flatten us and the SkyWings.”

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Aria ground her teeth in frustration. “Well, do any of you have any better ideas?”

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She cast her eyes up into the sky, and in that moment, saw something quite unusual.

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There was a RainWing in the treetops high above them, watching them with luminous eyes. The instant the other dragon realized that Aria had spotted her, the colors of her hide changed abruptly and she melted back into the night so quickly that Aria rubbed her eyes, believing that they were playing tricks on her.

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Had she really seen a RainWing? Or had it just been wishful thinking? She’d had no more than a glimpse before it had vanished.

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“Aria?” Amber was tapping her shoulder. “What is it? Did you just have another vision?”

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“No.” Aria looked back into the empty trees where the RainWing had once stood. “At least, I don’t think so. This was real."

Chapter 3: Fight and Flight

When Aria woke the following morning, she was on her back staring at the canopy of trees. And, for the briefest moment, she could have sworn that she saw the subtle outline of a RainWing in the branches directly above her, its colors shifting to blend in with the tree foliage.

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Then she blinked, and it vanished once more.

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However, Aria wasn’t given much of a chance to ponder it, as a SkyWing guard was bringing them their breakfast.

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“Wake up, pretty dragonets,” he laughed, throwing down a bowl of stale scraps in front of each of them. Aria bent down to sniff hers and gagged in disgust.

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SkyWing cuisine is not exactly known for its quality, but this was beyond revolting. Either the SkyWing cook in the camp was really quite awful, or the SkyWings had just thrown the prisoners the worst bits of bone and gristle just to be cruel.

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After her experiences the previous night, Aria was inclined to believe the latter.

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Still, food was food, no matter what shape or form it came in. And she needed to stay strong, if she was going to make an escape attempt later. Aria wrinkled her nose and took a tentative mouthful.

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No sooner had she swallowed than her stomach rebelled, and the mouthful came right back up again. Aria spent the next few minutes retching emptily into the bushes at the side of the forest clearing, while the SkyWing guard chuckled with amusement at her plight. 

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After Aria’s fine example, neither Ripple, Amber, nor Autumn were particularly inclined to enjoy their own breakfasts. However, their suffering would not last for long.

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Lioness was still curled up on the ground in the same position she had been in last night, and in all appearances was still knocked out. The SkyWing guard bent over her to give her a jab with his spear.

It turned out to be the last thing he would ever do.

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Lioness’s eyes flashed open. In the next moment she lunged forwards, and in one smooth motion had wrapped her chains around the hapless guard’s throat. With a roar, she pulled the chains tight and threw him into the ground. Aria winced as she heard the crackle of breaking bone as the SkyWing guard’s neck shattered. He fell to the ground, limp as a corpse.

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The camp flew into an uproar as a dozen outraged SkyWing guards charged Lioness, trampling past Aria, Amber, Ripple, and Autumn without a thought. There was a brief melee during which Lioness struggled and lashed out desperately in the midst of a knot of SkyWing soldiers, but she was badly outnumbered. In the end the SkyWings had Lioness was trussed up like a turkey; her mouth gagged, and her limbs bound to her sides. She lay on the ground, utterly unable to move, and glared balefully at the SkyWings.

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“Ah well,” Ripple grinned and stretched out a forepaw to pat Lioness on the forehead. “Too bad. You had a good run, but I have to say that we all saw this coming.” He gestured at the ropes binding her. 

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Lioness bared her teeth at him, a snarl escaping through the thick gag in her mouth.

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“Too much trouble to keep, that one,” complained one guard, standing back at a safe distance. “Don’t you think it would be better to kill her now and save us a lot of effort in the long run?”

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“Naw,” said another. “We’ll save her for the arena. She’s got some spirit that Queen Ruby would love to see crushed.”

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The two SkyWing guards shared a laugh.

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“All the same,” continued the first. “The sooner we get these five to the SkyWing Palace, the sooner I’ll rest easy.”

.

***

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The journey to the Sky Palace took three days.

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The soldiers removed Aria’s wing clips and allowed her to fly, though the iron chain attached to her collar was always tied to another SkyWing guard. Escape was impossible, or she’d have to drag a kicking, struggling SkyWing with her.

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On the other claw the soldiers were taking absolutely no chances with Lioness. There had been some debate amongst the SkyWing leaders about how to safely transport her; after what happened to the last guard, they weren’t about to let her out of her clips and ties. Eventually they decided to simply leave her roped up as she was and carry her bodily between two SkyWings, like a flopping fish in a large net.

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Aria couldn’t help but feel envious of Lioness. With their large wings and aerodynamic builds, the SkyWings were much faster, stronger fliers than her and the rest of her friends. As the hours stretched on it grew more and more difficult to keep up with them, and Aria sometimes felt as if she was being dragged through the air by the chain connecting her with a SkyWing.

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At least Lioness didn’t have to do any actual flying, she thought bitterly.

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On the evening of the third day they finally reached the Sky Palace, and Aria’s visions started again.

Aria gazed at the high marble walls of the palace, and it was all she could do to prevent her jaw from falling open. Never before had she seen such grandeur, such luxury. The walls of the palace were coated in gold, like the hides of a thousand SandWings, glimmering blindingly bright in the sunlight. The palace perched on the highest summit of a mountain, above the clouds, so that above there was nothing but azure blue sky.

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The visions came with no warning.

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She saw a palace burning, tongues of flame shooting from its windows. The air rang with a dragonet’s scream of fear and pain.

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She saw a dragon carcass in chains, dangling in midair from the palace’s turrets.

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She saw a dark tunnel stretching before her, lining with damp black stone. Far, far ahead, she saw a glimmer of daylight shining white and cold like a distant star.

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“Hey!”

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Aria awakened with a start. The wind whipped past her, and with a gasp of fear she suddenly realized that she was dangling in midair, attached by her collar to a SkyWing guard high above her, who was struggling to keep aloft.

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If she hadn’t been chained, she would have fallen to certain death in the rocks below the palace gates. Aria suppressed a shudder of fear as she opened her wings and struggled to gain altitude.

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“What’s the big idea?” grunted the SkyWing she was attached to once she had rejoined the group. “You suddenly forget how to fly?”

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Aria ducked her head and didn’t answer, as she sensed that any reply would simply make him angrier.

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The group of soldiers and the prisoners flew on, directly over the Sky Palace, and landed in a small courtyard off to one side of the palace. Aria noticed that the courtyard seemed equipped to hold prisoners, as there were several lengths of rope and iron chain hooked to the bleak walls. And… was that a crimson bloodstain halfway up the wall?

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Aria looked away, feeling a little queasy.

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A SkyWing came up to intercept them, and one glance told Aria that he was no ordinary soldier. He wore a gold chest plate studded with rubies, and carried a long spear strapped to his back. His claws were reinforced with brutal iron spikes and his skin was dappled and crosscut by a multitude of shining scars.

.

“What is this?” he asked. “Captain, report.”

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“Five prisoners for the arena, Commander Blackhawk, sir,” the captain of the soldiers responded, saluting smartly. “We’re bringing them to Queen Ruby.”

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“Prisoners, eh?” Blackhawk looked the five of them over, like cattle lined up for slaughter in the marketplace. His cool gaze slid over Amber and Ripple, lingering over Lioness trussed up in her ropes. “Did the SandWing give you trouble?”

.

“Yes, sir,” the captain admitted. “She’s crazy. She killed Scratch, and bit off part of Sonic’s tail. We tied her up to stop her from trying to take a bite out of any of us.”

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Lioness grunted in agreement through her gag.

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Blackhawk only nodded in reply. His gaze traveled farther down the line of prisoners, settling on Autumn Gold. “A SwiftWing,” he mused aloud. “We don’t see many of your kind down in the arena. It’ll be interesting to see how long you last.”

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To his credit, Autumn Gold met the commander’s calculating gaze with a bold stare, and didn’t back down until the SkyWing looked away first.

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“And what do we have here?” he mused, coming to Aria standing at the end of the line. “A RainWing? No… hardly that. You must be a hybrid.” His eyes were brilliantly blue, and as cold as the winter frost. Under his gaze, Aria wished that she looked braver and stronger than she really was. “Tell me, what are you?”

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Aria lifted her chin and hoped that her voice would not fail her. “Your enemy.”

.

His blue eyes widened in surprise, then he began to chuckle. “How refreshing,” he smiled. “A prisoner with some spirit. Most dragons who come here just beg for their lives.” He turned away, and Aria felt a sudden sense of relief. 

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“Take them to Ruby,” he instructed the SkyWing guards over his shoulder as he stalked away. “A SeaWing, a MudWing, a mad SandWing, a SwiftWing, and a hybrid. The Queen will want to meet them in person.”

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The guard captain saluted and signaled for the group to head down a large iron-barred gate leading deeper into the palace. Aria and the others were hauled on by their collars and chains, while Lioness was dragged along on her back. They passed several other SkyWings coming out of the passage, but none of them looked twice at the ragged group. Apparently prisoners from other tribes were a common sight in the Sky Palace.

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It was as they entered the throne room when Aria gasped in pain and clutched her chest.

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Chapter 4: The Midnight Prophecy

Queen Ruby was seated at the top of a golden throne, a heap of gems scattered by her feet. Gold, silver, diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, all littered the ground, dazzlingly bright in the sunlight. The marble hall of the throne room was lined with great crimson tapestries, dark as if they had been dipped in dragon blood. Each was delicately embroidered with horrific scenes of SkyWing conquest; scavengers, animals, and dragons of other tribes fleeing before the might of the SkyWing army. Underneath the tapestries, the throne room was lined by dozens of SkyWing guards standing shoulder-to-shoulder against the walls.

.

But Aria was in no position to appreciate the splendor of her surroundings as she and her fellow prisoners were dragged across the polished marble floor and deposited in a heap before the queen’s throne. Pain blossomed across her chest, pain so sudden and so intense that she wondered if she had been stabbed. She panted and gasped for breath, clutching at her chest. Her vision flickered, as her body threatened to go unconscious.

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What is wrong with me?

.

Ruby herself wore a vest of gold chain mail studded with crimson gems, and the corners of her eyes glittered with tiny rubies and diamonds inlaid in her scales. But she was not alone in the throne room. To her right, coiled in a jewel-encrusted chair was a regal SeaWing female draped in magnificent pearls and sapphires. It was clear, even to Aria’s pain-hazed mind, that she could only be Queen Coral of the SeaWings.

.

“Prisoners for the arena, Your Majesties,” the guard captain announced, bowing to Ruby and Coral in turn.

“Well, well, well,” hissed Queen Ruby. “Look at what we have here.” With a calculating eye, she singled out Amber as the youngest and smallest among them.

.

“You.” She pointed at Amber, and immediately two guards flanked her and dragged her forwards until she was directly under Queen Ruby’s throne dais. Amber struggled gamely, but the SkyWings were twice her size and forced her down into a bow.

.

“So, little MudWing dragonet,” Ruby mocked. “Tell me, how did you get yourself into so much trouble?”

.

“I won’t tell you anything!” Amber spat fearlessly, but her tail was trembling behind Ruby’s scorching glare.

.

But Aria was hardly watching the scene unfolding before her eyes, as blackness gathered at the edges of her vision. She felt lightheaded and dizzy. She stumbled over the chains binding her legs, momentarily falling to the ground.

.

“Get up!” snarled a SkyWing guard. She felt a sharp spear prod her in the small of the back. The pain was nothing compared to the pain growing inside her.

.

“Aria! Aria!” Amber’s voice sounded very far away, even though Aria knew that her MudWing friend was chained right beside her. “What’s wrong with her? Someone, please help!”

.

The SkyWing guards ignored her, dragging Aria to her feet. Aria obeyed limply, and managed a few more steps.

.

“Take your filthy paws off my friend!” She saw the golden blur that was Lioness in the corner of her eyes. The SandWing lunged at the guard who had jabbed Aria with his spear, lashing out with her stinger tail. But Lioness, no matter how fine a warrior she might be, was still wrapped in rope and hopelessly outmatched. The SkyWing guards lining the walls of the rooms lowered their spears and charged her, and Lioness’s golden shape disappeared underneath a melee of SkyWings.

.

Aria could only watch helplessly. She had fallen back to her knees and was gasping for breath.

.

This was no ordinary prophetic vision. Something was very, very wrong with her. 

.

It was almost as if something was inside her, something that had been sleeping before but had now awoken and was struggling to find its way out into the world.

.

Pain wracked her body. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t walk. A pressing need filled her, the need to speak. Words gathered on her tongue, their pressure building painfully until she could bear it no longer.

.

It was agony, and yet she stood up, ignoring the chains on her legs and wings, and opened her mouth. 

.

Words came forth, words of such power that they seared her throat as they passed out into the world. She did not know what she was saying, but yet she could not stop.

.

And what she said filled her with horror.

.

.

Midnight falls across these lands

From the eastern sea to the western sands

There is one who will great power wield

As the fate of six others is surely sealed

.

The first is one whose path is dark as night

Yet her eyes shine with wisdom’s light

Love and kindness vanquish fear

In your darkest hour, seek the Seer

.

The second is one who does not doubt

Rage and sorrow she lives without

She cannot be touched by flame or fire

Blood-Egg born, she will never tire

.

The third one’s scales shine golden-bright

As she charges forth to join the fight

She will always see the battle won

As only then may her work be done

.

The fourth one hails from the land of ice

For her freedom comes at the highest price

From the life that she once knew, she is torn

So seek the one who is ice-born

.

The fifth one, from her past tries to run

A fire-born fighter, she rivals the sun

But on a long and winding path she will start

For behind fiery scales lies the gentlest heart 

.

The sixth is one whom nightmares chase

In the world, he has not yet found his place

He was born in the ocean’s ebb and flood

Go seek the SeaWing of royal blood

.

The destinies of six must be fulfilled

And on Jade Mountain their blood be spilled

The one who succeeds is with power blest

As six more souls seek their final rest

.

The kingdoms of Pyrrhia rise and fall

But the dragon who succeeds will rule them all

The slayer of six reigns over these lands

From the eastern sea to the western sands.

.

.

Silence filled the throne room.

.

Aria’s mouth and throat flared with fiery pain; she felt like she had been burned by the raw power of the prophecy she had spoken. She dragged in a ragged gasp of air and fell back, chains clinking on the smooth marble floor.

.

For a long while no one spoke. The SkyWing guards had loosened their holds on Aria and the prisoners out of sheer shock. Queen Ruby stood still as stone on her throne, transfixing the prisoners with a calculating stare. Queen Coral’s gaze was no less cold.

.

And Aria was painfully aware that her prophecy had sentenced six dragons to death.

.

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Follow the story as it continues in The Midnight Prophecy (Part 2)!

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