[Title is NOT concrete yet]

Fire reached up into the darkening sky, it was early morning and once more the relentless Witch had found her. At first she had easily evaded the Witch, dodging her by avoiding roads and villages, now however she had grown tired of chasing them and destroyed everything she could think of in hopes of taking her with it.

She had set up camp that night, like every night, in the deep woods of the countryside. An area where even map makers dared not explore. It was a thick and wild tangle of undergrowth and strange creatures. For this reason she had sought shelter there, and it had kept her hidden from the world for three years until now.

The girl woke with a start as her nightmare ended, as usual, with her almost death. She blinked her eyes, it was far too bright and the dying campfire was hardly responsible. The sky was bright orange and the tips of flame could been seen above the black silhouette of trees.

Panic seized Cat and she swatted the sleeping boy next to her. There was a somewhat unintelligent response then silence. She sighed and slapped him on the back of the head. "Wake up!"

He opened one brown eye and looked at her, annoyance etched on his face. "Yes?"

She stood and brushed off her pants and glared at him. "Just thought you'd like to know our home is on fire!" He blinked obviously not expecting that. She shook her head and gathered up what few possessions they had and stowed them in her bag. "Well get up already!"

Baird leapt to his feet and rolled up the matted blankets they used as a bed. Cat handed him the bag and started to run off towards the fire. He grumbled, always the pack horse, and followed.

Cat stopped about ten yards from the burning wood and frowned. She reached out with her animal senses trying to find any trapped or hurt creatures in the fire only to find silence. The normal chatter of animals that she was used to hearing was strangely absent.

She shifted back and forth from one foot to the other in thought, the nearest village was on the other side of the fire, and they hadn't explored far enough in any other direction to find any other sort of settlement. There was no way to tell how far the fire reached from where they were.

She flexed her hands, she could use her power like she used to and possibly save them.. She shuddered as memories tore through her. The last time she had used her power to change her shape she had almost lost control of her human side and lost herself. Once she had been a hero, she had saved lives, she had been destined to do something great.. Until one time she slipped up, and ever since then she had tried to disappear.

Until a month ago she had lived a lonely, tormented life deep in the uncharted forests of Rakmarvar. Baird, her first friend in this world, had found her and at first tried to convince her to live in the real world again. He quickly gave up his plan after seeing her terrified response. She rarely spoke and hardly did anything human aside from keeping clean and cooking her food, it would probably take time to overcome three years of solitude. He decided he wouldn't be able to convince her to return for a while and settled for living with her in the wilderness now.

Now Baird ran up behind her, "Well? Now what?"

Cat bit her lip and pushed back the painful memories and focused. She needed to save Baird. First the old burn returned. At first she recoiled, it was like going back to the most addictive drug after being clean for years, but slowly she allowed it to fill her. Cat smirked, she might not have shape-changed in a while but she still knew how to. It came back to her in a rush, and in an instant she was blinded by the pure desires of being a dragon. Cat shook her head, she had been so caught up in the familiar feelings, the comfort even, that she hadn't noticed the change at all. She glanced at Baird with her huge amber eyes and watched his grow wide and round with shock. That was twice she had managed to surprise him today.

There was an intense desire to kill him, to eat him, to fling him into the air and roast him with a shot of flame from her throat, but there was also the small human voice shouting at her from the back of her mind. Screaming at her to grab him and fly, to fly like the bloody wind and then to change back. A low growl rumbled from her stomach at the thought, but the voice won out. She carefully extended one paw to him, trying her best to avoid looking menacing.

Baird looked unsure at first but fear of the ever growing wall of fire behind the massive white dragon convinced him. He climbed on and wrapped his arms around one of Cat's talons and closed his eyes.

The fire had been terrible. It had spread farther then the eye could see, destroyed countless acres of farmland and several remote villages.

The King and his advisors had been huddled in the map room for hours adding up the damages and lost lives. Six years ago when the Witch of Shadows, her self acclaimed title, had come to power and united dark magic uses from around the world she had rampaged and destroyed several of the neighboring countries and a part of the King's own. She had seemed unstoppable, and there had been no hope of overcoming her. Even those who believed the prophecy of old, the tale that three beings of power were guardians of Illiatica, were starting to loose hope.

Then there had been a spark, a very small one but a spark non-the-less, that had brought a glimmer of hope to the realm. She was an ex-thief from a city called Thardale, and her name was Cat. She had a rare power over animals, even the power to become one of them herself. She had put a stop to serval attempts the Witch had made on the city, and was a known hero. Many believed her to be one of the three.

This, however, infuriated the Witch and soon she made the girl her primary target. Soon the Witch gained the upper hand, and Cat was less successful in stopping her. Not much is known as to exactly what happened but Cat vanished entirely. The Witch's army had sustained far too many losses to keep up the raids and search and eventually there was a short period of peace in the kingdom. In this time they had tried to rebuild, and any attempts to find the location of the Witch's stronghold turned up empty.

The prince shook his head, he knew what she was looking for. The King was at a loss as to what he should tell his kingdom. That the menace they had failed to destroy six years ago was back? Any of the suggested things that his advisors brought him would only send his kingdom into panic. Prince Michael ran his through his dark hair a sighed, it was literally beyond his power to stop any of this.

The first thing she noticed was that it was pleasantly warm and there was no wind. Cat opened one blue eye cautiously then the other and looked around. She was in a small room on a cot next to a small fire. There were furs draped on the floors and walls to keep out the cold, and the smell of meat cooking was coming from the other room. She sat up quickly, realizing how starving she was, and regretted it as pain lanced through her entire body. Cat pulled back the furs she was under and surveyed her body. There were gashes along her arms and legs, some of which were bandaged, and almost every inch of her was bruised. She guessed some of her ribs were cracked, but they would heal.

She ran a hand through her matted blond hair and put on the clothes laid out for her on the foot of the cot. The door was open a crack, curiously she peeked through and saw a comfortable looking living room and kitchen. She spied a pot hanging over the fire which was the source of the delightful smell. Hunger got the better of caution and she quietly trotted over to the pot and lifted the lid.

"About time you got up."

Cat jumped and dropped the lid on the floor with a clatter, but it was only Baird. She picked it up gingerly and replaced it back on the pot.

"You were out for a day or so, not as long as you're probably thinking," he said when she blankly stared at him. "Oh and if you're wondering exactly what happened you flew us over the fire and then after some not so necessary aerial stunts we crash landed just outside this village. They're friendly and were very willing to help us out. This is one of their guest houses." Baird said getting two bowls off a shelf and getting himself some stew out of the pot. "Want some?"

Cat nodded, "You're not hurt?" He shook his head and gave her a bowl of stew.

Baird tipped his bowl back and poured the stew into the bottomless pit formally known as his stomach and sat at the table. "Nope I'm perfectly fine. We do need to get out of here soon though." Cat drew her eyebrows together. "Well eventually she'll figure out that didn't kill you, and she'll start to look around nearby. Right?" Cat nodded and sat cross-legged on the floor to eat. An awkward silence ensued.

"They said they'd give us horses," he said finally when she was done. "Since you don't look like you're in the kind of shape to try the dragon thing again." She shot him a glare. "Just saying.."

"Don't tempt me."

"Okay, not tempting," Baird said with his hands up in mock defeat.

Cat stood up and went over to the door where several cloaks were hanging, and pulled one out. She put it on and drew the hood before noticing that Baird hadn't moved. "Well?"

"Are you joking? It's the middle of the night," he made a move to snatch the cloak from her.

She dodged him and glared, "You really think she'll just wait until morning? Maybe once the sun is nice and high in the sky, hm?" She tapped her foot in impatience ignoring the pain, she was not looking forward to riding a horse.

Baird shrugged and lead her out the door to where the horses were kept in a small paddock. They all raced over to the gate and stared at the two strangers with an intense interest. In Cat's head she could feel notes of concern and confusion in the horses' minds. She tried to project a calm feeling to them, and they backed away enough for Baird to open the gate and bring two out. One was a gentle looking mare with soft eyes and a light brown coat that reminded her somewhat of a what a kind old grandma would be like. The second was more of a bratty boy. She made a face and went over to the warmblood and pulled his face level with her's.

A moment later the tension left, and a silent agreement was made. "I want this one," she said.

Baird raised an eyebrow and was about to say something when he shut his mouth. "Yes, mother nature." He left her with the horses and went to small shed where he emerged with well worn leather tack. Against her will he readied both horses and helped her mount before mounting himself.

"You'd better not plan on babying me this entire trip," she said with a note of warning in her voice. "Where are we going exactly?" she asked a bit less sure.

He knew she was asking mostly because she wanted to avoid people in general. "Um. Well I think we should head to the capital." Her face fell. "You're the only one who could even make that bitch flinch so they're going to need your help if she decides to try taking over the world again." He could tell she was fighting the urge to turn tail and kick off in the other direction, back towards the forest that had been her home and hidden her for years.

Alas, reason won out and she sighed in defeat. "If we must."

"We must," Baird said with a grin and kicked the mare into a canter. The warmblood followed without so much as a twitch from Cat. "Cheater..." he muttered, she snickered and raced off ahead of him leaving him to match her speed.

Merry Christmas FP. I'm terrible at starting stories, so sorry if it's awful. I'm planning on writing this and there might be sequels and all that jazz, but mostly I want to write a story that takes place before this one. I seriously can't remember that word...o.o; Anyways, if you liked it there's tons to look forward to.