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Dragon Moon
Book 1
Dragoria: the Lost Dragon Realm
Coming 25th of January,

Chapter One

Samara’s fingers lost their grip on the bowstring as magic suddenly pulsed through her veins, catching her off guard. The arrowhead sliced through leaves and twigs as it disappeared into the thicket, lost in the fog instead of the marked target on the tree trunk. She was familiar with the pulse, for it was the call of the great sorceress, Callista, requiring all the apprentices to return to the lodge. Not knowing where to search for her lost arrow, she pulled from her magic source and practiced her latest skill—calling items to her. With her palm outstretched, she waited as the arrow shot back through the shrubs. The shaft landed directly across her palm, and she wrapped her fingers around it.

A knife whistled softly past Samara’s ear, slicing off strands of her pink hair before embedding in the tree trunk with a thud. Samara froze, her wide eyes fixated on the knife, before turning to the thrower. Though it was hard to see through the thick fog that had settled over their training ground, eventually, a shock of brilliant-blue hair appeared as the thrower approached, wearing a broad grin.

At the sight of his handsome face, Samara gasped. “Kaine, you nearly hit me.” She tossed her arrow back into the quiver on her back, sucked in a deep breath, and let the smell of the forest wash its calmness over her.

“I didn’t, though, did I?” Overconfident, as always, Kaine threaded the knife in his hand back into its holder behind his back and leaned past Samara to yank the wayward knife out of the tree trunk. His smugness washed away, replaced with a smidgen of remorse when he pulled back and took in Samara’s irritated expression. “Sorry. That wasn’t my intention. The fog is extremely thick. I didn’t realize you were there. I would’ve called one of the healers if I’d hit you.”

Samara crossed her arms, the leather of her fitted tunic groaning in protest. Kaine moved closer and clasped her upper arms gently as he looked deep into her eyes, concern marring their blueness.

Her heart melted slightly and her annoyance with it. Feeling uncomfortably sensitive within his grasp, she pulled away, taking in the surrounding area. “The fog is thick, and it accumulated quickly. Is this Mist’s doing?”

Kaine observed the fog, and a breeze pushed a strand of his hair over his handsome face. The blue color was shocking, as was the deep pink in her hair, but for the Sacred Flame coterie apprentices, the teachers, and the head sorceress, brightly colored hair was a symbol of importance, a level of their magic’s power, and an honored mark from the head of the coterie. Only magic bearers of great talent were bestowed with the initial marking from Callista. When Callista discovered the apprentices and teachers, she activated the color of their magic, and the color manifested in their hair. After the initial marking, the magic wielder was expected to upkeep the color as an expression of gratitude for being chosen by the sorceress.

Brushing the strand away from his eyes and briefly exposing his rounded human ear, Kaine winked at Samara. The move was tacky and overconfident, but Samara couldn’t help the fluttering of her heart. A smirk grew across his face as though he could hear her heartbeat, and he brushed her chin with his hand. Her cheeks heated, and his grin widened. Having lived twenty summers, he was the oldest apprentice of the coterie and only two years her senior.

She pulled away and looped her bow over her quiver, unsure whether Kaine liked her, or if he was playing with her. He was the heartthrob of the coterie and was liked by many of the witches. He seemed to enjoy the attention, which confused Samara more when trying to decipher his intentions.

Hooking a strand of loose hair over her semipointed ear, she asked, “Well, do you know or not?”

Her sudden abruptness seemed to pull him back to her question. “It wouldn’t surprise me if Mist created this fog.”

“Is she upset?” Samara asked. Mist’s real name was Kanara, but because of her ability to create fog and mist, the students had nicknamed her accordingly. The creation of fog was one of Mist’s magic gifts. It wasn’t elemental magic. Each student seemed to excel in creating magic others couldn’t. Sometimes the student’s gifts grew uncontrollable when their emotions were elevated.

“Didn’t you hear? Mist has found her familiar.”

Samara gaped at Kaine in shock. “What?” Although she was happy for Mist, she had only been at the academy for six months. “Where did she find it?”

“In the forest, of course.” He indicated the vast number of trees and the amount of vegetation surrounding them. “It’s usually where we find animals out here.”

She rolled her eyes. “I get that, but you and I have been here for a year, and we haven’t found our familiars yet.”

“Ouch! Way to make a guy feel good.” Kaine screwed up his face but still managed to look striking.

Somehow, Samara felt that he didn’t ever feel bad about himself, yet she replied, “I didn’t mean it as a way to put you down. After all, none of the other students have bonded with a familiar yet, and Mist has been at the lodge for less time than many of us.” She tugged at the back of her tunic, which rubbed against her neck, and huffed. “I feel like I’m not even close to finding mine.”

He smiled, showing off his perfectly straight teeth. “I was only joking. I’m sure I’ll find my familiar soon.” He stretched, accentuating his tall height.

Samara resisted the urge to roll her eyes. He was always so confident. Then she chided herself for feeling nervous around him. She didn’t want to be wooed like all the other females at the academy.

He placed a hand on her shoulder. “Come on. We’ve been called back to the institute. Didn’t you feel Callista’s call? I did, and I was deep in the forest.”

“Yeah. I felt it. I was about to return to the lodge when your knife just missed me.”

They made their way through the thick forest, finding it difficult to weave through the trees and foliage shrouded in fog. Eventually, they reached the dense clumps of pine trees that surrounded the building indicating it was near. Their boots crunched on the pine needles, releasing the smell of pine.

Samara loved that scent. Since she’d been invited to move to the coterie’s apprentice housing, it gave her a sense of belonging. She had been chosen to live and be trained by the realm’s most gifted magic wielders, and she hoped to live there for a long time, giving her a chance to learn the depths of her magic and serve under the head sorceress. Being chosen had improved her life and also her family’s. They’d been homeless and living as servants, but Callista had been taking care of them by providing them with a profitable farm. For as long as Samara stayed at the coterie, abiding by its rules, and served the kingdoms under Callista, her family could continue to manage the property. Callista had proved to be a caring and compassionate leader. It made it easier for Samara to want to learn and work under her. Each of the students’ families had benefited somehow when Callista selected them. What each family needed in return varied, whether it be prestige, wealth, food, or something else. Samara’s family had needed help to set them on a more stable path.

Kaine and Samara passed through several hundred feet of pine forest, the fog slowly clearing, before they reached an open plain with a large stone building only visible to the building’s occupants. The wild grass whipped around their ankles as they crossed the field before climbing the stone stairs. Bare deciduous trees wrapped around the staircase and over parts of the stone railing, adding to the effect of a lack of building to the unseeing eye.

The large wooden doors were ajar, waiting for the students to return. As soon as Samara stepped past the boundary, the doors closed behind her and locked. They must be the last students to return. Many of them spent their time indoors during their free time, when Samara decided to practice her archery. Even though they were there to learn magic, mastering a weapon was also important.

Samara glanced over her shoulder at the doors—only to be met with the piercing yellow eyes of a black jaguar.

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