Chapter 1 - The Dress Shop

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Great Keep, Kastali Dun

Most of us grow up dreaming of magical worlds, wishing we might escape and leave our old lives behind for something better. Few if any get the chance. Perhaps that is what makes our heroine so special, but do not be deceived, for no life is ever easy, even if you leave one for another. Our heroine Claire learned this the hard way, and circumstances for her were bound to get harder, but she wouldn't realize this for some time. Until that time, she was determined to make the most of the new life she had been given...

Claire and Reyr walked through the sunny streets of Kastali Dun's Market District early one afternoon. As she made her way through the city, she spared no consideration for the difficulties to come. Her mind was too consumed with excitement and possibility. This was her first time venturing beyond the confining walls of the capital's keep.

Coming upon what she sought, she stopped in front of a multi-story building with tall, many pained windows. Her eager eyes fell upon a welcome sight: The windows displayed elegantly dressed mannequins sporting Kastali Dun's latest fashions. The gowns were made with silks and lace, bright colors, delicate embroidery, and beading. One particular dress caught her attention, though it was more simply made than the others. She gazed upon a khaki colored silk gown with blue embroidery and white lace; its bodice was cut low, with a blunt, square neckline.

She glanced upwards. A little wooden sign hung above the entrance. It read, Rosanne's Finery, in gold lettering, and beneath it, the finest gowns in Dragonwall.

"Is this the place?" she asked, turning to Reyr.

He smiled. "It is. No better place in Dragonwall."

Giddiness stole over her. Claire had never been to an old-fashioned dress shop before. She came from Battle Ground, Indiana, a place where nothing interesting ever happened, except for the time a dragon fell from the sky. That dragon turned out to be a Drengr—a dragon blessed with humanity—and his name was Cyrus. Cyrus's appearance triggered a rapid chain of events that brought her through a magical portal known as the Gate, and into the world of Dragonwall. Not long after that, she was placed face to face with King Talon, a most frustrating and difficult Drengr. It was a lot to digest in a few short months, and none of it had been easy.

She couldn't help the slow smile that spread across her features, spurred on by the prospect of new clothes. The servant attire she was forced to wear during her servitude was the worst sort of clothing—itchy, ill fitting, and ugly. After everything she had been through, this seemed like a step in the correct direction.

Reyr pulled the door open and a small chime tinkled within. "Be with you in a moment!" a velvety voice called. They stepped over the threshold into semi-darkness. She blinked several times as her eyes adjusted to the indoor light. Then she turned her attention to the woman in the back corner.

Madame Rosanne was a squat, older lady with red hair pinned back into a bun. Currently she was occupied, fussing over the hem of a patron's tunic. The man on the pedestal gave them respectful nods.

Turning away, Claire allowed her gaze to traverse the shop. It consisted of one large room filled with all sorts of excitement. Colorful bolts of fabric lined the walls in columns. There were rows upon rows of these reels, tightly assembled like books on the shelves in a library. She gawked at them, nearly swooning over some of the embroidery patterns boasting delicate flowers and vines.

After her initial awe receded, she ventured deeper into the shop, inhaling the scent of citrus incense along the way. Reyr trailed after her, keeping his distance as she explored. There were two mirror set-ups with platforms for tailoring. The rest of the large room was cluttered with well-dressed mannequins, shelves of fashionable items like bows and hats, and various small tables, whose surfaces held numerous leather-bound sketchbooks. The exposed drawings in one of these books immediately caught her attention. She went to it and lifted the tome into her arms.

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