Prologue

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My father was a war hero, once.

You wouldn't know it, not the way we live now, but it's true. Cuthbert Pendragon, Captain of the Fifth Aviation Wing of the Royal Flying Corps--my father--saved the king's life in the second Great War. Without the Fifth Aviation Wing, there would be no nation of Blackthorne. Blackthorne would be a mere speck in the vast Heron Empire, subject to the whims of a foreign tyrant in a capitol thousands of miles away.

Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't have been better if the Heronites won.

The airmen of the Fifth Aviation Wing were the most fearsome fliers in the sky, back then. They flew on strong, leathery wings and breathed fire that could raze entire villages. Nothing could penetrate their scaly armor.

It was a very different time, when my father went to war. We dragons took to the skies whenever it pleased us, soaring through the clouds and over unchartered territory. Magic flowed through our veins like a never-ending river, and the elements bent to do our bidding.

Not every dragon was a soldier like my father. We were healers and artists and inventors. We could bring humans back from the brink of death, and we created masterpieces beyond human imagination.

For centuries, we'd lived among mankind, as equal citizens of Blackthorne. And in that time we learned to emulate them, taking human shapes and speaking their language. When we wore our adopted forms, we were indistinguishable from our neighbors.

And yet we remained dragons, underneath our soft skin and gentle faces. Our true form was and will always be dragon. Even now, when our true forms are forbidden to us.

My mother tells me we were wealthy, once, in those early days following the war, although I can't remember. The first Monday of every month, like clockwork, my father received a large stipend from the king's treasury. He sacrificed a limb to keep Blackthorne safe, and though he'd never fly again, he was assured he and his family would always live comfortably.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Perhaps our human neighbors always hated us. We were stronger and faster and more powerful, and we owned the skies above them. Perhaps it was jealousy that led to hatred. But they needed us to win their wars and cure their ailments, so they pretended to tolerate us. For a time, that is.

I was three years old when Blackthorne's humans first figured out how to extract rhodium. A rare, silvery metal with a melting point higher than the temperature of a dragon's fire, rhodium soaked up magic like a sponge and then released it harmlessly. We dragons were right to fear it.

I was five years old when I was marked. Blackthorne's king—not the man my father saved, but his son—wanted to know who among his people were human and who were dragon.

Anyone who looks at me now knows exactly what I am. There's no hiding when you're marked, not when you bear your mark so publicly. The careful scar curves around my left cheek, as red and angry as the day it was cut into me.

I was seven years old when I received my collar. An emissary from the king came into our home and collared first my father, then my mother, then me. Forged from rhodium, the collars wrapped around our necks like a short, thick necklace, sealed forever closed.

We weren't allowed to remove our collars—couldn't even if we wanted to. It wasn't fair that dragons had magic when humans did not, and our rhodium collars just leveled the playing field. That was all this was, we were promised. Never mind that stretching our wings and flying the skies were as necessary to us as breathing. We'd been condemned to a half-life, a life without our dragon form or our magic.

When I was thirteen, the king's men stormed our house, looted everything of worth, and evicted us. King's orders, they claimed. It was for our own good, they told us. It would be best if we lived among our own kind, in a remote, but sanctioned part of the kingdom. Our home would go to a nice human family who deserved it.

Three days ago, three years to the date after we moved to the countryside, they took my father from me. They called my father, the war hero, a criminal. He was an insurgent, they said, a danger to the fabric of our society. They arrested my father, handcuffing his one arm and dragging him away in their armored car. There would be no trial.

I haven't seen my father in three days, nor do I have any idea where they took him. But, I swear on all the gods above and below, I will find him and bring him back.

I am my father's daughter, after all, and I am dragon.

A/N: This story just popped into my head, so I wrote it down...tbd if I will continue it. Experimenting with writing from first person, but need to focus on Uriel!

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