Well, I guess this is something I will continue normally. Now, if I can just finish it...

Have fun, and I hope this is a satisfactory chappie. I just finished it here at my relatives' house in Canada.


1-Dragonflight

Oregon did indeed have a law decreeing that a helmet must be worn when flying—most states did. In fact, most countries did. But the law was not what made Diana Lane decide to wear a helmet. No, she wore one to keep the roaring wind out of her ears. It also helped keep her long light brown hair out of her face. She also wore ski goggles to keep her brown eyes safe from the wind and any other objects in it.

She rode on the dragon's shoulders, just in front of its great wings. As soon as she was fourteen, old enough to legally fly (though not too much, too high nor too long), she had gotten a custom-made saddle as blankets were not enough to ease her aching legs. It was a light saddle as a dragon such as this could not withstand much more weight than that of a fit human. Besides, with anything else, Diana's legs ached after too long. This saddle allowed her to ride for hours without getting sore. She had not yet had a chance to ride for hours, though. Usually she flew to school, or north to Portland. Diana's longest flight session had barely been about an hour when she was flying for fun. The black dragon was an agile thing; he had pulled of barrel rolls and loops and corkscrews and dives. Diana's saddle strap and strong legs had successfully kept her on his back.

It was the beginning of August, and there was an entire month left before school began once again. Diana sighed. Summer vacation was too long, even if there were plenty of things to do, because at some point she got bored of those things. Even the thrill of flight got old after too long. She'd been doing it for at least a year. That wasn't to say she found it particularly boring, though. Right now she was going to Portland for the Saturday Market, a sprawling weekend market of stands and tents filled with bowls, glasswork, jewelry, clothing, even the less conventional things such as longbows and decorative knives. Diana and the dragon were soaring over the Willamette River, searching the waterfront for the market. She had brought her allowance and babysitting money from the past two months, which she had been saving for this very purpose.

They landed in a clear patch of grass. Diana dismounted and put her flying gear in her backpack. While she went shopping, Caelum would be given the freedom to fly around and do whatever he felt like. Diana had put a pager-like device in the saddle, and she could call it with her cell phone to alert the dragon when he would be needed. Then he would fly back and pick her up.

She hugged the black dragon around the neck. "Have fun, Caelum," she said, and stepped back as he leaped from the ground with a great flap of his wings. As he had no forearms—dragons only had four limbs, whether both sets were legs, feet, or one of each, as he did—Caelum had great, powerful hindlimbs and four-fingered wings with dark gray membrane and a claw-like thumb on the front. His wings were long and relatively narrow. He had perhaps a sixteen-foot wingspan, longer if anything.

Soon the dragon was airborne and Diana was happily making her way among the stalls of the Saturday Market.

Despite how much she wished to have a thousand dollars to spend on everything, she only had fifty. She ended up spending it on a black tee with small stitched dragon patterns around the collar and sleeves, twin necklaces of blue beads and silver rings, one each for her and for Caelum, and a silver hair twist to wrap around a thin tress of hair. It came with three charms of her choice, so she chose a feather, a crescent moon, and since they were out of dragon charms, a gryphon.

As far as anyone knew, gryphons were still mythical. Besides, it was impossible for any creature in this world to have an anatomy like that—six limbs, and on top of that gryphons were like a blend of two completely different animals, bird and cat. Not that anyone cared. Even the biologists were waiting for the day they saw one. So far every other creature discovered had pertained to the laws of nature—four-limbed dragons not quite big enough for their flight to be impossible, unicorns small with no unnatural body parts, phoenixes that were large, scarlet, exotic, fire-loving and long-living, though they did not actually burst into flame at death. Instead their mates found or made a fire and cremated the dead. Kirin looked like unicorns but larger, with an antler-like horn instead of the spire-like kind, and with rich fur, usually white, gray-brown, or black, and sometimes stained green by the grasses they rolled and played and slept in.

There were also feyhounds, which were like a cross between German shepherds and golden retrievers in build, and silver or gold in color. The main difference between them and dogs was that the hounds were much more serene and had a pair of gray-brown branching horns sweeping out from behind their eyes and just above their long, tapering ears. Why they had been named feyhounds, no one knew, but they were popular pets all the same. Diana used to own one, a golden creature named Patticus by her young brother in his effort to say 'Pegasus', but a few years ago he died.

From her backpack, Diana pulled out her cell phone, dialing a number. Several miles away, Caelum heard the familiar ring and took flight, saying goodbye to his friends. In a few minutes, he'd landed in the field before her and Diana ran toward him, already dressed in her flying gear.

"Hey, Cae," she greeted. Caelum nodded, a small, quick movement, as was his way to greet others. "I got you a gift." Caelum grinned slightly, a human act he had adapted that involved pulling back his lips somewhat and showing off his front teeth. He purred. Diana pulled the glittering necklaces out of her pocket and clipped the longer one around the dragon's neck. He nuzzled her in thanks as Diana put her own necklace on. "You're welcome," she said as she mounted him. "And thank you, too."

Caelum launched himself into the air, and Diana could feel the air shifting violently around her as the black dragon's great wings flapped. Diana longed to take the goggles off to feel the wind on her face, but then it would just get in her eyes and annoy her. She would have liked to take her helmet off as well and let her hair stream out behind her, but then it would just get tangled. And she would get in big trouble if she were caught. Instead, she left her gear on and tried to think of something to make their trip more exciting.

Suddenly, as if reading her mind, Caelum performed a barrel roll. Diana, completely unprepared, was saved only by her seatbelt-harness that came on all saddles. She laughed. The dragon was known for pulling off sudden aerial stunts, so she was used to it. For the most part. Diana took some deep breaths to calm her pounding heart and the flow of adrenaline running to it.

Looking around her, she saw a familiar dark golden dragon in the distance. Diana nudged Caelum's right side and said, "That way." The dragon understood and swerved in the direction she had gestured towards. He saw the other dragon and recognized her, but Diana said her name, Aura, anyway. Happily, Caelum lifted himself higher into the air and swooped down to Aura's side. He growled to her a greeting, and she purred back.

"Hello Kira," Diana yelled to the rider—it was hard to hear with the helmets and dragons' flapping wings. "Hey, Aura," she added when the golden dragon made a shunning gesture. Aura glanced at Kira and grinned.

Diana had known Kira since fourth grade, and their friendship was as strong as any friendship could be. Kira was not quite two months older than Diana, except on leap years. Diana's birthday was April 29, and Kira's birthday was February 29. When it was not a leap year, Kira celebrated her birthday on the first of March. She liked March more than February. "Fewer hearts and more birds," she had explained. Kira had a great love for birds and knew the scientific names of almost every bird in the region.

Kira looked over at Diana and called back as the wind flicked and fingered her loose black hair, which with her white goggle straps and brown riding suit reminded Diana of a chickadee. Kira pulled her cell phone out and shouted, "Call me!" Then she pointed at a building below, crying a farewell, and signaling to Aura to turn and head down. Diana called a farewell in return and set back in the direction of her home.

In a few minutes, they landed. Diana dismounted and allowed Caelum free roam. If she didn't call beforehand, he'd return at night to sleep.

She slipped inside the house and called out, "I'm home!"

"Hello, Diana," her mother answered from the living room. "Come here, they're showing a report on a new creature they discovered."

Ever since the first dragons had been found, scientists and even ordinary people had been finding more and more new species of a currently known animal or even new species entirely. There were usually periods of half a year to a year between each find. Diana took off her gear, put it in the closet by the door, and dashed to the living room.

Her mother rewound the television clip to the beginning of the segment. A short scene showed footage of the newest species. It looked to Diana to be a cross between a panther and a wolf with a whiplash tail, five or six fine neck spines and long canines like those of a sabre-tooth tiger. With a quiet gasp Diana watched and, as much as she loved them, she hoped they didn't try to sell them as pets. The reporter said it was simply called a 'Sabre-Tooth Dogcat'. The temporary Latin name was felupus ingentidontis, the former word being a mix of 'felis' and 'lupis', Diana assumed, and the latter meaning 'large-tooth'. She figured that scientists would eventually find a better name for the creature though she wanted them to keep 'ingentidontis'. She loved it. It had a nice ring to it.

"That is awesome," she remarked, shifting on the couch. "Thanks for showing me. Now, I met Kira on our flight and told her I'd call her, so I'm going to do that."

"Okay," her mother replied. "When you're done I'd like to see what you got at the Saturday Market!"

"Alright." Diana made for the stairs and ran up to her room, grabbing the portable phone on the way. She opened the door to her bedroom, walked in, closed the door, and flopped down onto her bed. She dialed Kira's cell phone number and waited for her to answer.

The phone stopped ringing and was replaced by a single "Hello?" from Kira.

"Hey, there, it's me," Diana greeted.

"Oh. Hey, Me. How're you doin'?" Kira asked sarcastically. Even after living here in Oregon for so long, some of her old Texan accent showed through when she spoke. Kira had moved up from Texas about six years ago when her parents had decided they were tired of worrying about the thunderstorms and tornadoes. Kira had been downtrodden for months afterward, and she still missed the storms and risks. In her opinion, Oregon was too safe. "I was hoping you'd call me a bit later, I'm shopping right now, but… eh, what the heck."

Diana smiled. "Well. Not only was I wondering if we could get together, but I also bear some interesting news."

"Ooh. Do tell."

Diana began to tell Kira about the new creature that had been discovered, and had great fun letting the words felupus ingentidontis spill off her tongue until Kira asked her to stop. When Diana had finished, Kira replied by simply saying "awesome" and then commencing to tell a story of her own. Apparently some dragons were catching crows and their young for prey, and the crows were learning to recognize dragons as their enemies. So, on their way home one day, Kira and (mainly) Aura had been mobbed by a murder of crows. Kira, who loved crows, was beginning to lose that love. But, she figured, she wouldn't expect any other behavior from them. In short, it was a warning for Diana to relay to Caelum.

Eventually the two began to talk about getting together to hang out, but Kira sadly admitted that she was already booked for the rest of the day. She was going to catch a movie with her family in an hour and then would be going to dinner.

The two friends said goodbye and hung up. Diana frowned and fingered her necklace. She would have to find something else to do. Maybe she and Caelum could go up the woods together? Just up the street an entrance to a forest in the heart of suburbia stood tall and dark, the drooping firs and cedars giving the place an ominous feel. Urban myth claimed the woods were cursed or haunted. Whenever anyone told the legend to Diana she dismissed it with a casual "Pshaw." She had been in there plenty of times, and with everyone else as afraid of it as they were she pretty much had the whole place to herself.

The forest covered quite a large area and could take no less than half an hour to cross completely. Toward the middle, Diana had discovered a fort, a stream with hazelnut trees bordering its boundaries on one side, a fence on the other. The entrance to the fort was marked by two wooden fence-gates flanking a thick board that crossed the stream. Where the gates had come from, Diana had no idea. Upon finding the fort almost exactly two years ago, in the middle of the summer, she fell in love with it and still loved it just as much. On many occasions she'd taken a light folding chair and a book, sitting among the trees and reading.

Diana glanced at the clock—four twenty-three. There was plenty of time before dinner. She asked her mother if a trip to the forest was okay, calling Caelum when they approved before going to change into better woods-trekking clothes. Slipping on her tennis shoes, she went out the door and waited for the black dragon to arrive. After several minutes he still hadn't arrived, so she went to search for him. She found him in his den in the garage, gazing at her with an amused expression. Diana smiled. "Come on, we're going to the woods." Caelum flared his ears, hauled himself up, and walked alongside her partway to the forest. Eventually he got tired of walking and took off into the air, meeting her at the entrance trail. Together, the companions strode into the familiar forest hoping, as they usually did, to find something unfamiliar. Usually their discovery was a new secluded segment of the woodland, a new nest of some sort of bird or dragon, or new climbing trees.

If they had only been able to guess what kind of thing they would discover today.