The forest floor started to shake. Elven scouts clutched the trees, feeling tremors traveling up the trunks, turning to report to their superiors. Guardians of the forest roused from their perches and began scouting throughout the trees, trying to find the source of all the noise caused by what sounded like a small army. They searched a wide expanse of forest as small twigs and leaves brushed and clung to them on their shoulders and backs, until they spied dark metallic figures on the ground between the trunks. They climbed down, seeing the bright swirls, runes, and geometric patterns carved into them. It appeared the Titans approached, and the Guardians knew they had nothing to fear from them, the constructs were trusted protectors.
The elves slid down the trees, going so fast that they seemed to drop effortlessly. They caught themselves on the bark, breaking their fall feet before hitting the ground. Dark cloaks billowed around, then floated back down to perfectly camouflage them with the forest. As the Titans drew closer to the elves, they slowed to a stop and one turned and faced where an elder elf stood against a tree listening to a few scouts, blending into the brown bark.
Sanche stepped forward from amongst his scouts, pulling his hood down. His hair was the color of leaves dead on the ground, a soft brownish white, and his skin was as pale as the moonlight. “Greetings, Titans, an honor to help you. What is it the elves may do to serve you today? The Guardians are at your service.”
The Titans stood there not answering, not moving. To the head elf, it seemed as if they were absorbing the feel of the atmosphere, doing as he and the other Guardians would do to find anything out of place around them. Unusual behavior for a titan, but then again, this was only his fifth time meeting one. Still something felt off. The Titans were usually responsive and courteous.
Finally the constructs silently moved, but not towards the elves. They turned and stared at each other, right where the eyes would be if they carried any meat inside their suits of armor. Sanche had never told anyone, but knowing those suits were empty always made him uneasy. He knew the Titans were responsible for saving his race from the orc incursion during the Greatmothers’ March, but he could never shake the nervous feeling they gave him.
Finally, the Titans turned towards the elves. One of them seemed to act normally, jovial and helpful. “Hello, elf friend! How are you on this wonderfully lovely night? Aren’t we blessed to have the moon shining her beautiful face upon us all?”
The elder elf wondered what had transpired between the Titans, but figured it was something he didn’t want to know. “Excellent, my fine shiny friend. It’s always an honor to have the Titans in Elvenhom.” Sanche replied, a smile on his face, “I ask you again though, how can we help you?”
“We need to speak with your council and Wise. Gendry has sent us on urgent business.”
“No problem.” Sanche replied. Turning to one of the other elves he said, “Have we any messenger birds left? We’ll need one sent to Amon. Tell him we have run into some Titans, and they’d like to see him and the council, tell them the Titanbringer wishes it.”
The young elf acknowledged his orders and took off through the forest, heading for their main camp.
“You don’t mind if we travel with you, do you?” Sanche asked, motioning his other elves to stay put.
“Not at all, comrade. Though we planned to travel throughout the night. If you wish to travel with us, I must insist that you allow us to carry you. We wouldn’t want you to fall behind.” The Titan stretched out his arms, reaching to lift Sanche onto his shoulders.
Sanche grimaced and jumped back, “You give us insult!” He pointed to his scouts, “These men were trained by Tyrosh herself! We are dragon trained!”
The Titan bowed, pulling off his helm and flashing Sanche his empty innards. “No offense was meant, my friend” Sanche shuddered at the sight, “and I humbly ask for your forgiveness. It’s just, I know you can’t keep up with us.”
Sanche smirked at the empty suit. “We’ll take that as a challenge!” He said, signaling his squad to form up.
“Have it your way.” The Titan said, starting to move. “We won’t slow down for you, so keep up.”
Sanche signaled his troops and they took off after the Titans.
Bright light assaulted Lovonian’s eyes. The sun shone through the archway that led outside. His mother stood next to the curtains she had just thrown wide, luxuriating in the sunlight that flooded through the open windows.
“Honestly, Love, how can you still be lazing about in bed at this hour?” She asked shaking her head slightly, “I know dragons can be a bit lazy when they’re young, but I figured your father’s wild gryphon-like nature would have manifested in your character by now.”
Lov swung his legs out of the bed and walked to his armoire, pulling the door open. He looked at himself in the mirror on the back of the door and admired what he saw. He shone brightly where the sun glinted off of the scales that comprised his outer skin. He had no hair on his entire body, and his bright blue eyes, spattered with green particles, seemed to shine with their own inner light.
His scales were the dark, blackish-blue gray of storm clouds that form in massive thunderstorms. Tightly interlocking, they felt more like armor over his real skin than actual skin. He ran his hands against the natural fall of the scales and felt their sandpaper like quality as he considered what to wear on this day. Today was his sixteenth birthday, and he was looking forward to a hunt with his father and uncle.
He looked forward to this hunt every year, it was their time to go out and be wild like their ancestors had been. Usually they would only go for a day or two as Lov’s father was the Wise of Elvenhom. He spoke for the common people on the council and held the most sway as to what laws were passed and how best to expend the elven magic and other resources to maintain their beautiful city.
But this year, they were to be gone for two whole weeks! Father had worked hard to clear his schedule for this annual trip, and Lov hoped that this year he’d get his own bow.
“Are you done admiring yourself in the mirror there, Lov?” His mother asked teasingly. Being a dragon herself, she perfectly understood the irresistible urge to admire oneself.
“Sorry, Mother.” He replied as he pulled out a forest green leather tunic and some brown leggings. “You know I lose my head every year on this day. I build it up and build it up until I can’t sleep from excitement! Only to crash the day of from exhaustion and sheer pent-up energy!”
His mother smiled at him, “I know that, Lov. Why do you think I tried to get you to go play with your friends? But you didn’t want to.” She admonished him, shaking a finger.
“I know, Mom. It’s just I haven’t had fun playing with those guys since I knocked out Circo.” Lov reached down and began to lace his boots. They were a gift from his grandfather on his mother’s side. The note that came with them said they were waterproof and enchanted so he would never outgrow them. As he slid them on, he felt the boots adjust to fit his feet perfectly. He decided to test them out, so he ran and stopped on the hard polished floors of his room. His mother laughed when he fell face first to the floor. Lov sat up, a serious expression on his face. “I wish I could go back and change it, Mom but I can’t. And now, its like they’re afraid of me. I didn’t mean to hurt him.”
His mother sat on the floor next to him. “It’s okay, Lovonian. They’re still your friends. It’s just that, like you do, they need to learn about your strength. And you’re just going to have to exercise more caution when you play with the other children. You may be the smallest, but you have dragon blood, and that itself makes you much, much stronger.”
“I know I’m going to have to learn to control my strength, but I don’t think it will ever be safe for me to play so rough a sport with them again.” Lov seemed to shrink in upon himself.
His mother reached over and gathered him into her arms. “I know, Sweetie, I know. You’ll just have to learn to live with it the same way I did.” She pulled away from him and looked her son in the eyes. “Come on, let’s go find your father and uncle. This is just the sort of thing they started this trip for.” She helped Lov to his feet and they went in search together.
Lov strode to the edge of the path he and his mother walked upon and leaned on the railing. The young half-dragon looked down towards the ground. The streets below seemed to flow across the city, as if a river made of earth passed through the trees. Lov could almost see the ground moving, running like water, here a rapid, there a smooth ford. The trees themselves seemed to spring out of the ground, reaching and stretching their pine needled branches as if to touch the sky. Sometimes, Lov would place his hands upon a tree’s bark and feel it’s want to float on high like a cloud in the sky. He could tell the trees were jealous of the clouds’ free floating ways.
And truth to tell, he could hardly blame them. Everything in the elven capital was guided from seed to root and from seedling to tree. Even the path he and his mother walked upon was formed of the trunk of the tree.
In truth, he knew how they felt. All he needed to do was see his old guard, a Titan he named Reggie. Reggie had been around Lov since the moment of his birth. One of the old Titans, Reggie looked like a pile of scrap plate that had been thrown together and stood on display. The helm was an old bucket helm, narrow slits serving for the eyes. On it was a bright white shining rune that made Reggie seem like he had a mustache. The breastplate was polished silver with golden vines inlaid up and down the sides. On the torso and limbs, wavy lines burned brightly to form intricate patterns in the shapes of squares, circles, and triangles. The arms were of a set, copper and green with oxidation. The legs were a highly glossed polished black. But even Reggie was not in control of himself. Being a titan, he was a servant to the Titanbringer, the spiritual leader of the free people of Heart.
Still, Lov supposed it could always be worse. Other elven children were guided to their life calling, but his parents believed one needed freedom to grow into one’s potential self. That was one reason Lov wished he and his parents lived in the city of Heart, near the Titanbringer, where things were less rigid and not so formal.
His mother stepped up beside him, leaning on the railing. “A penny for your thoughts?” she asked, turning her head towards him.
“Truth to tell, Mother I was wondering why we don’t live in Heart.” Lov turned to look her in the eyes. “I know you and Father claim responsibility to the people, but couldn’t most of his duties be handled just as easily there as here?”
His mother smiled at him, “Of course we could do that, but I don’t think you realize just what all you would have to give up for us to live there.”
“What do you mean?” Lov asked, thinking of all the things he wouldn’t mind giving up in his life.
“For starters, the trees.” She started, seeing Lov’s eyes spark. She knew he loved life and all growing things.
“What about them?”
“Well, the only trees in Heart are the fruit trees in the groves, and those planted upon the temple complex. You thought the elvish trees were sad.”
He jerked back, shocked that his mother knew he talked to the trees. “Don’t look so astonished,” she teased him. “Remember, I too am a dragon. You are just beginning to learn the extent of your magical gifts.”
Lov felt a chill pass across his neck, sending a shiver down his spine. “Feels cold up here, Mother, let’s go see if we can find Father and Uncle Nord.”