Prologue

The pain Stoella Northdrake felt while flying her newborn child into the unknown was evident from the crystal tears falling from her eyes onto the ground far below. She struggled to remind herself that she must be more gentle, for humans were not as resilient as dragons. One wrong move with her talons, and she could... No, she could not think about that. Not now. She needed to focus on getting her child to safety.

Once every twenty years, a dragon could become mortal for a day. They could walk among the humans undetected, so long as they kept their distance from the Slayers. Today was that day.

As Stoella felt the change begin, she flew lower and lower. She placed her small daughter into a hollow tree momentarily, already feeling the guilt from letting go of her in so cold a time. The snow was enough to make the dragon shiver.

The little girl abruptly began to cry. "Shhh, my little one," she said soothingly, blowing warm air onto her child. The crying immediately ceased. "That is my girl." She smiled, showing her snowy white fangs. Most humans would find that intimidating. But not this one. For she was Dragonborn.

The change overtook Stoella. She felt her scales melt away, melding into soft, delicate skin. The cold hit her like a wall. She grunted as the searing, somewhat familiar, pain of changing form occurred. She blinked. Then took a timid step forward.

She stumbled.

A day to get used to these blasted chicken legs, she thought. The familiar feeling of her crimson velvet dress and brown cloak comforted and warmed her. She still, after one-hundred fifty years, had no idea how her scales transformed into such lovely attire. But she was not about to complain.

"I am coming, my dearest little one," she said, retrieving her daughter from the hollow. "Let us get you somewhere safe."

Stoella pulled her daughter beneath her cloak, keeping her as warm as possible. She pulled up her own hood and began telling the tale that all dragons told their hatchlings as she struggled against the wind. "'With scales so fine and wings so majestic, the Dragon comes. He bears scales of gold, and eyes of fire, the mighty Dragon comes.'" She stumbled again on her temporary legs and protectively pulled the child closer. "'And fine was the snowy Dragon; the blue-eyed savior, who came to meet him. Her breath was as hot as Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, her strength beyond that of Goliath's.'" Stoella stopped reciting the prophecy tale upon seeing an approaching village. She began singing softly instead, hoping to not attract much attention.

"'In a village by the castle an old peddler sings, "Glad tidings to you, from the King of all Kings. Your hardships are fierce, but the days still go by; little child, little child, now do not cry."'" Stoella's gaze rested on a little house on the far edge of the village, where a little girl sat on the steps. The girl was scratching on a small slab of stone with a piece of charcoal.

Stoella ducked behind a barrel and watched the girl.

"Willow," called a voice from inside the house. A young woman poked her head out. "Willow, dinner will be ready in five minutes. Come in and wash up."

"Yes, Mother," Willow responded, not taking her eyes off of what she was doing.

The dragon-turned-temporary-human watched the human girl with interest. Then the girl, Willow, abruptly looked up to face her. "Lady Ma'am," she said. "Do you need help?" Stoella was so shocked by this, she could not speak. How had this girl known she was there? Stoella dumbly nodded.

Willow walked over to her and took in a deep breath through the nose. "You smell like Dragons."

Stoella chuckled nervously. The girl seemed perfectly calm. "How would you know what a dragon smells like, Child?"

"Father says they smell like fire." She timidly said, "Why do you have a human baby if you're a dragon?"

Once again, the Queen of the Dragons was stunned by this simple human child.

"Do you need us to take care of the baby?" she asked. "Mother and Father will. Mother can't have children. They adopted me. Mother and Father were going to adopt another baby soon, but they wouldn't have to if you want us to take care of yours."

Stoella was amazed by this young girl. "I do need someone to take care of her," she said. "But I am afraid that people would hurt her if they knew about me."

"I won't tell Mother and Father that a dragon gave her to me," she promised. "I promise Mother, Father, and I will take good care of her." She lowered her voice. "Or else you can eat me."

This caused Stoella to laugh. "No, Willow, I would not eat you. Even if you broke your promise." It seemed that by saying this, a huge burden had been discretely taken off of Willow's shoulders.

She handed Willow her bundle. "Please take good care of her..."

"What is her name?" the girl asked, snuggling the dragon's daughter closer.

"Caidove," Stoella decided. "Tell your mother and father her name is Caidove Northdrake."