Darkheart’s Curse

by Reese Powell, age 12
Darkheart’s Curse Reese likes singing and writing, and her favorite animal is a fox.

“Rain quivered with excitement as she crouched atop the Leaf Rock, watching as CoralLeaf, their leader, sauntered with her head held high towards her sister (Rosy), Weaver, Blazing, and herself. Blazing was letting out little peeps of anticipation, awarding a venomous hiss from Weaver.”

Guide To The World of The Prides

  1. Ceremonies A very common ceremony is a Dragoning ceremony, in which a fledgling becomes a dragon. It gives this new dragon a new name (if they wish) and they receive bursts. Another ceremony is a Fledgling ceremony, in which a hatchling gets a teacher and officially becomes a fledgling.
  2. Chores and Status: Fledglings are in training to become dragons, so they get a good share of all the dirty work, like cleaning out bedding and washing underneath the elder’s wings. They also are in charge of the runaway hatchlings. Dragons are in charge of teaching the fledglings. They also must hunt and fetch water soaked in leaves, lichen, moss, or rotting wood. Elders are, well, elders. They are very old dragons that deserve respect. They spend all day napping in the sun or telling stories from their adventures as a young dragon.
  3. Leaders get their names based on their Pride. Ex: Coraltail of LeafPride- CoralLeaf, LeafPride’s leader.

 

Prologue

Rain quivered with excitement as she crouched atop the Leaf Rock, watching as CoralLeaf, their leader, sauntered with her head held high towards her sister (Rosy), Weaver, Blazing, and herself. Blazing was letting out little peeps of anticipation, awarding a venomous hiss from Weaver.

Don’t mess us up!” Rosy whispered angrily. “We’ve got to look good in front of our Pride leader!”

“Shush!” Rain whispered as she looked out over the entire of LeafPride, feeling twice as jittery as before.

“Shush yourself!”

“EVERYONE SHUT UP! SHE’S COMING!” Weaver whisper-screamed.

All of the fledglings on the rock tried to look as innocent as they could possibly muster, hastily smiling at their leader.

CoralLeaf smiled knowingly at them, and they all relaxed. Maybe CoralLeaf wasn’t the scary, ruthless leader everyone portrayed the pride leaders as.

“It is time to announce the Dragoning ceremony for these fledglings. They have learned the ways of the pride and deserve to be accepted as full dragons.” CoralLeaf announced in her deep, booming voice that made you want to turn and listen.

In a Dragoning ceremony, fledglings received their new name and bursts. Bursts were circles surrounded by little circles, spreading out like bursts. They can be red (firebursts), brown (earthbursts), pink (rosybursts), black (nightbursts), etc.

I hope that I get rose-goldbursts, Rain thought excitedly as the others received their bursts and new name.

“Now, Rain, step forward…”

Rain nearly threw up. This was the scariest, and best, moment of her life.

“Do you wish to alter your name?”

Rain thought hard about this. It took her about ten seconds, but then she responded, her voice wavering, “Yes, CoralLeaf.”

Rain’s claws scratched at the rock in anticipation.

“Rainfeather, welcome to the Pride.” CoralLeaf touched her muzzle to Rainfeather’s, and rose-goldbursts appeared all over her light blue body.

Rainfeather caught her mother, Quiet Rain’s, eye, and it glistened with tears as she screamed with all her might, “RAINFEATHER! RAINFEATHER!”

Rainfeather felt as if she might cry a bit, too. She was a dragon now. She could eat, sleep, hunt, and guard as she wished, take a mate (although she surely wasn’t ready for that), and be respected by all of the hatchlings and fledglings. Of course, Rainfeather was going to use this power to the full extent of helping her Pride. LeafPride would be proud of her one day.

 

Chapter 1

“DARKSCALES!” CoralLeaf called from the Leaf Rock. “Where is he?” she asked Rainfeather, who was seated at the base of the rock.

“I have no idea,” she answered truthfully. “But I think he’s up to no good. Why haven’t you thrown him out of LeafPride yet?”

“Because he’s a useful asset,” she snapped. “He has been into the depths of the forest. We need him, Rainfeather! He can help us claim the land there. Great SunPride, for once, think with your brain and not your heart!”

This was a harsh blow to Rainfeather, who was a trusted and experienced dragon to CoralLeaf.

“I’m sorry, CoralLeaf. I’ll try harder.”

“No, no, it is I who should be sorry. It’s just so harsh these days. I feel like I don’t even know who my Pride are anymore… the traitors, the loyal ones… oh, Rainfeather!” CoralLeaf ran down the rock and cried into Rainfeather’s shoulder. T

he leader’s normally bright blue and red scales turned into depressing shades of purple and gray. The cold tears running down Rainfeather’s scales were a shock, so she jerked suddenly. This just made CoralLeaf cry harder, so Rainfeather tried to comfort her. As you will soon see, this is not her strong suit.

“I know, CoralLeaf, I know… everything you’re saying is true…” More tears. “But we’ll get over it… CoralLeaf, snap out of it!” She tried a harsher tone. “Do you think StrongStorm of StormPride and WindSnow of SnowPride are acting like this? Shape up! Become a leader, CoralLeaf!”

CoralLeaf gave one last sniff, then sighed.

“Thank you. Now, I will take your advice and talk to Darkscales. If your allegations are true, if he is raising an army using forbidden magic, then I will remove him from the Pride. If not, he’s still on cleaning duty. He misbehaves enough as it is.”

She suddenly saw Darkscales walking across a strip of grass, caught his eye, and beckoned him to her den with a flick of her tail. Rainfeather, however, decided to go on an evening flight. Just herself and the jagged peaks cutting into the horizon. She needed time to think.

On the flight, Rainfeather gave herself time to think about what had happened within the first moon of being a full dragon. She had been given a fledgling to train. Her name was Willow, and she had been a very good pupil until she had gotten the sickness, Cloverfever, which had made her very tired and unable to train. When she was cured by the Sorcerer Rock, she was inspired to start training for being a Sorceress.

Rainfeather’s father, River, had just been promoted to second-in-line, while Splash, River’s brother, had just been demoted to a regular dragon from second-in-line, so a lot of fights were breaking out between her kin.

In addition to both of these problems was Darkheart.

Many of the female dragons in the Pride fell for him. He was sleek, with a fit, wiry black body with night bursts. Suuuuuuuuuper handsome.

Also suuuuuuuuuuuper evil!

There is a special kind of magic called dark magic. It was forbidden by Leaf, Storm, and Snow, the ancient founders of the Prides. Rainfeather once caught Darkheart using it, and Rainfeather suspected that he was using it to raise an army (You would be sure, too, if you slept next to him in the dragon den! He talks in his sleep!)

Rainfeather sighed and tears welled in her eyes. Nothing was right with the world. Suddenly, she heard a noise and jumped.

“Rainfeather?”

“Blazingwings!”

The fiery dragon appeared beside her, and she swooped down to a nearby rocky cliff so that they could talk.

“What do you want, Blazingwings?” Rainfeather asked cautiously.

Blazingwings looked nervous, his claws scraping on the rock.

“Rainfeather…” Blazingwings took a deep breath, then let it out. “This is going to sound awkward, because we’ve been friends for years, but…” he cleared his throat.

Rainfeather began to sweat. I’ve liked Blazingwings for a long time now… is he going to ask what I think he’s going to ask?

“Rainfeather, will you be my — ” Blazingwings was interrupted by a violent screaming.

“HELP!!! DARKSCALES IS ATTACKING! DARKSCALES IS ATTA — ” The shrill scream was cut off by a sickening crack as the screamer’s neck was snapped horrifyingly. By a dragon.

“Blazingwings! We have to help them!”

Rainfeather and Blazingwings took off toward the clearing in which they lived.

“Rainfeather, if we get through this, will you be my mate?”

“What’s more important now are our Pridemates! Remove all that lovey-dovey stuff from your head and replace it with rage! Our friends are being slaughtered!” Rainfeather cried as she dove into battle.

Rainfeather came face-to-face with Nightmoon, a respected dragon that was a moon older than her. He leaped on Rainfeather and started to attack. She twisted around, and although it exposed her belly, she managed to get in a few good scrapes at his soft underside, watching as purple dragon blood welled up at his wounds.

“Why are you attacking me?” Rainfeather demanded as she slipped away from his grasp.

“I am Darkheart’s dragon now, not puny little CoralLeaf’s!” Nightmoon snarled, swiping at Rainfeather with his newly sharpened claws.

“Who is Darkheart?” Rainfeather dodged his swipe, then rolled over and tripped him.

“You might know him as Darkscales? But of course, that’s his dragon name, a name to be scorned. I am Nightheart now!”

He attempted to swipe at her face, but she caught his claw midair in her teeth and yanked it to the ground, pulling him down with it. Then, quick as a snake, Rainfeather placed a paw on his neck to cut off his air supply.

“Tell me where your loyalty lies,” she snarled. “Featherstripe raised you. We fed you, trained you, kept you safe just so you could grow up to abandon your Pride and become wicked?”

“I- I’m sorry,” he faltered. “Take… paw… off… neck… so… I… can… explain…”

Rainfeather released her paw off his neck but sat on him so he couldn’t make an escape. In the heat of the battle, she didn’t notice that Blazingwings was fighting off Splash, and that CoralLeaf was finishing up with a deadly bite to Storm’s neck, who had nearly killed her.

“Darkheart promised us fame and power, so we went into his den to talk. But then he hypnotized us, so we were his army, and we had to do whatever he said. Now I know the antidote!” he exclaimed. “The antidote is to be reminded of your family. I feel as if a cloud has lifted from my brain.”

Rainfeather leaped off of him.

“Come on, then! Let’s fight!”

They began a session of back-to-back, fending off Darkheart’s soldiers.

“Take that — and that — Lilystream?”

“I FIGHT FOR DARKHEART NOW!”

The usually kind pale-pink dragon cried. Now, you could see the enraged fire burning in her eyes.

Rainfeather broke the back to back formation and leaped on Lilystream, screaming, “REMEMBER YOUR MOTHER, FEATHERSTRIPE! REMEMBER YOUR BROTHER, NIGHTMOON!”

Uncertainty flickered for a moment in Lilystream’s eyes. “Don’t you mean Nightheart?”

“NO! Your brother made the right decision and joined us. He’s Nightmoon.” Rainfeather growled angrily.

They writhed on the ground for a little while, Lilystream tried to resist the antidote, which made her have the urge to shake the spell off. Suddenly, she gave in to the spell.

“Fine. FINE! I’m on your side now.” She looked a bit embarrassed to have given up, as if she had proven that she wasn’t strong enough a million times over to defeat her greatest foe, but Rainfeather leaped off of her and surveyed the area.

There were bodies of dragons littered across the hollow, some injured, some even dead. Darkheart stood in the midst of them all, smiling triumphantly.

“Be careful, LeafPride.” He snorted, then let out a bout of cackles that made you want to run for the hills. “I’ve raised my army. Now, if you’re with me, follow.” He strutted out of the hollow, followed by Weaver (Which broke Rainfeather’s heart), Reedtail, Tall, Bounce, Fin, Winter, Streak, and many of Rainfeather’s family.

Russetflame, Rainfeather’s favorite sister, was leaving, and so was Rainfeather’s oldest brother, Sunscales, and Splash, her uncle. And what hurt most of all…

Her mother was leaving.

Quiet Rain had gone to join them.

Rainfeather ran up to her and looked into her eyes.

“Are you really leaving?” She murmured so quietly, so softly, that she nearly mouthed it.

Quiet Rain nodded and did the tiniest nuzzle to Rainfeather’s neck.

“I will always love you. It’s not my fault that you haven’t seen the sense in leaving, but you are still my daughter and my favorite,” she added softly, so Russetflame couldn’t hear. “Goodbye.”

“No, Mother! Please! You have to stay!” Rainfeather had never felt so helpless and… alone. Mother was the only dragon I could turn to with a problem, and now she’s joining my greatest enemy! She thought helplessly.

“I’ve got to go.”

“MOTHERRRRRRRRR!!! Hurry up! Stop wasting your time on that lowdown piece of plankton. Is she harassing you? I have no idea who she is.”

Rainfeather gasped in shock when she saw who that voice belonged to. It was Russetflame, her favorite sister!

“I am not a piece of plankton! I am your sister!” Rainfeather was surprised at the rage that burned inside of her. “Your pirate sidekick! Your best friend! And now you’re betraying all of us! What you’re doing is absolutely despicable!” Rainfeather gave her a quick slice with her claws on the back of her ear, then stalked away.

Rainfeather peered behind her and saw Russetflame fuming from the public humiliation, but she flew after Darkheart.

Soon, all of Darkheart’s army had left, and LeafPride was left with a puny pack of sniveling Dragons.

Darkheart had wreaked havoc on LeafPride.

 

Chapter 2

“Okay, is everyone ready? Head count, head count! Two, four, six, eight, ten. Great, we’re all here!”

River was counting heads for the journey that the dragons would take to defeat Darkheart. Rainfeather, River, Rosytail, Nightmoon, Featherstripe, Dawn, Dusk, Lusa, Luna, and Blazingwings were coming on the journey to defeat Darkheart.

Over the past moon, Blazingwings and Rainfeather had, yes, become mates. Rainfeather was excited to go on their first mission together.

“Are you guys ready? Everyone packed?” River was the leader for the mission, so he was taking his role very seriously.

“Stop being such a bossypants!” Rosytail exclaimed impatiently. “Yes! We’re ready! We are not helpless hatchlings!”

Rainfeather butted her side.

“You will respect our father! He’s earned the right to be bossy. He’s our second-in-line!”

Rosytail muttered something under her breath, but she set off after the others without another word.

Along the way, they picked up some healing plants in case someone got hurt. That was a good move. Dusk got thirteen scrapes! He also hit his head on a rock and was knocked unconscious — a rough start to a heroic journey.

When he came to, everyone crowded around him.

“I’m fine, I’m fine!” he insisted. He stood up. “Lusa! Luna! Stop pestering me!”

“We are your sorceresses, and we will not stop. If you are seriously hurt, then it’s important that we help.” Luna attempted to explain, but Dusk kept on fighting her.

Finally, Luna gave in. “Let’s keep on going,” she muttered wearily.

They were going on this journey to find Darkheart’s whereabouts. Find him, and then defeat him. LeafPride was suffering greatly due to the lost Pride members, so the elders had held a council and decided that if Darkheart was dead, the curse would be lifted, and everyone who was hypnotized would come home.

Suddenly, Rainfeather felt a jolt of pain in her belly and cried out.

“Lusa! Luna! What is wrong with my mate?” Blazingwings demanded.

“It’s just a bellyache,” Rainfeather moaned. “No need to check me.”

The sorceresses in training rushed over to feel her belly to see if anything was wrong.

“Yep, just a regular old bellyache,” Luna conceded. “Here, eat a bit of this.” She handed Rainfeather a bundle of bitter-smelling herbs. “They’ll help!”

After she managed to keep that bitter stuff down, she leaped to her paws. “Let’s go!”

They trekked on for the entire day, and they did not stop until the sun disappeared from the horizon.

“We’d better go to sleep now,” said River. “There’s no point in continuing on in the darkness.”

***

Suddenly, Rainfeather awoke to what felt like a poke from a hatchling’s claw. It poked, and poked, and poked again.

“Mmmpphhhhhhhhhh!” Rainfeather moaned exasperatedly and rolled over.

Right onto a hatchling.

It was the most bloodcurdling screech Rainfeather ever heard. She jumped up.

“Are you okay?”

In the early morning light, she could make out an orange and purple hatchling crossing her stubby arms and glaring at her.

“MOMMY! That was not nice!” the little dragon yelped.

Mommy?” Rainfeather asked. “I am not your mother!”

“Yes, you are! I hatched last night, while you were asleep! And my sister is here, too!”

A little green, purple, and blue dragon appeared beside her sister. Rainfeather was awestruck. Children? Surely she wasn’t ready!

“What are our names, Mama?”

Rainfeather was very surprised that no one else had woken up from all of the racket.

“Uh…” She thought fast.

The second dragon had watery colors, so she could be named Misty. The other was harder. Maybe she could be named Aurora. It was her grandmother’s name.

“You are Aurora,” she said, pointing to Aurora, “And you are Misty.”

“And you are Rainfeather,” said Misty.

Wait. Rainfeather had never told Misty that.

“How do you know?”

“You dreamt so last night.”

“You can hear my dreams?”

The little dragon thought for a moment, then replied, “Yes. I think so.”

 

 

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