Sally W., Goodreads
Release Date: December 2, 2021
After giving her favorite hen a few bites of an overripe tomato, Eliana took off her scarf and sweater to use as a pillow as she lay down in the grass by the stream. The mist was gone and the morning sun warmed her face. Every now and then, a chicken came by to check for another treat in her hands, but they were such a part of her everyday life that she hardly noticed.
A slight breeze shifted the branches of the massive oak trees that grew just beyond the stream. The musical rippling of water dancing over rocks in the creek soothed her, and she closed her eyes, drifting somewhere between awake and dreaming about building an Eliana-sized boat to take her wherever the water flowed.
Until she heard a sound that stood apart from the usual morning symphony. Different. A rustling. A stirring. She opened her eyes and pushed herself up on one elbow to look across the stream. Again, she heard the sound—it was coming from the forest—much louder than that of a squirrel. Maybe a deer? No, it wouldn’t make that much noise unless wounded.
Eliana scrambled to her feet, grabbed her sweater and scarf, and clutched them to her chest. No wild cat had been seen in the forests around Morganshire in years. The activities of humans kept them far from the village itself and even the outlying private lands. Even so, she looked for the telltale tawny form now, though she felt certain that a wild cat wouldn't be so loud. She noticed their rooster Henry the Fifth standing stock-still behind her. He stared into the forest which now seemed too close. The dense summer canopy of the trees allowed only a diffuse light to drift to the forest floor, and shadows swayed, forming shapes that shifted with the breeze.
Eliana realized then that Henry had herded his flock back into the coop. He stood in the open doorway of the wooden structure, still staring at the place from where the sound had come. Eliana scanned the dark green world under the trees for the glowing eyes of a wild cat crazy enough to come within a hundred feet of humans.
But wait. There.
A flash of vivid turquoise lit by a mere sliver of light descending through the trees, gone so fast Eliana was sure she imagined it. But then a flicker of emerald green, so bright that nothing in nature could have produced it unless the King’s jewels had mysteriously gone for a stroll in the woods behind her yard. Certainly no forest creature sported such amazing colors.
Eliana’s sweater and scarf fell to the ground as she took one step forward, and then another. Even if the trappers did see strange blue lights in the forest one night, they wouldn’t be dangerous, would they? Just a little closer and she would stop. In all her twelve years, the forest had never frightened her; why should it now? Her parents worried too much sometimes…
Eliana took another step. The rustling had stopped, but there, just beyond the tree line, she could see glints of turquoise and that amazing emerald green. She barely felt the chill of the stream as she waded through and up onto the wildflowers growing on the slender strip of land outlining the forest. Over the murmur of the stream, she heard her brothers pushing their way through the back door. Before the screeching of the door stopped, Eliana ran the last few yards to the first oak trees, stepped into the cool dimness of the forest, and found herself staring into the large, blue-green eyes of a dragon.
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