Fleur gripped the rock, finding a foothold in the steep incline of the mountain. Heart racing, she pulled herself up the edge, using her leg muscles to stabilize herself. One false move would send her falling hundreds of feet below. Gritting her teeth, she climbed higher, eyes fixed on the summit. Only a few more feet. Or was it another hundred feet? It was hard to tell from her vantage point. She dug her nails into the dry earth, inching her way upward. Her hands reached a rocky ledge and she gripped onto it for dear life. Feet dangling, she used all the upper body strength she had to pull up her willowy frame. Rolling onto her back, she stared up at the grey sky with watering eyes.
“I made it,” she panted, taking a moment to catch her breath.
Rising to her feet, she glanced down at the river below. The jagged rocks of the ravine would have given her a bloody death had she fallen. Many people had lost their lives daring the same thing she just accomplished. Wiping the sweat from her forehead with a shirt sleeve, she turned to face the path ahead. The firedrake was known to live in a cave located in the middle of the forest. She took a deep breath before entering a maze of tall evergreens. The cold air energized her as she stepped briskly through the woods.
A plume of smoke rose high above the trees. Or was it mist? She hiked toward it, prepared to move quickly at any instant. Her hand gripped the hilt of her sword as she imagined the firedrake suddenly darting out of the shadows. The descriptions of him from the rare survivors who attempted to slay him were varied. Some said he was robust with intelligent yellow eyes and translucent wings as large as a ship’s sails. Others said that he was long and skinny, more like a snake, with no wings and emotionless black eyes. It didn’t matter in the end how the dragon was built. She was ready to deliver a fatal stab to his jugular. There was no room for even one second of hesitation.
“Isss sssomeone there?” hissed a low voice.
Fleur stopped in her tracks. The bushes rustled. She backed away, unsheathing her sword.
“Hello? Isss sssomeone here to visssit?”
The sounds of his voice made it feel like her blood was turning to ice. She shuddered, focusing on the direction it seemed to be coming from.
“It’sss rude to lurk on sssomeone’sss property without ssstating your businesss, girl!”
Her breath caught in her throat as the dragon’s head appeared out of the thick greenery. His chiseled face was black while his eyes were red and pupil-less. He extended his long neck out from the brush and grinned wide, showing long, sharp fangs. This was not the greeting she was expecting.