Aailaine hummed to herself as she carefully harvested the fresh vegetables and marked them with her tags, her mood lifted as she worked. The harvest was good for both human and dwarf plots and Aailaine was filled with relief. Whenever one race had a better harvest than the other, the Tolsan would become a sight of political turmoil, with the races crying foul against the other. It was usually left to the Covern to then ignore the plot markings and distribute the harvest equally, so that no one got more than the other. Although it was still early into the fall, the slightest indication of an uneven harvest could cause turmoil beneath the quiet mountains.
Finished with her current plot, Aailaine lifted the heavy baskets and turned to make her way to the next plot marked on her map, eager to be done with her work. However, sitting on the path was a large white akhby, its glittering scales giving off a blinding light. Its horns were curved forward, ready to spear anything that got too close and its body was long and curled on top of each layer, hiding its limbs. Its eyes were a deep grey and as it watched her, its clubbed tail twitched like a cat ready to pounce. It seemed to study her for a moment before speaking, its voice rumbling through Aailaine’s mind like a mountain stream.
‘Hello, little one.’ The voice was unmistakably female, and a small bit of Aailaine’s fear left her. She tried her best to relax her muscles and mind, preparing herself to flee if needed. She knew she couldn’t get back into the mountain, as the dragon blocked that path, but she knew at least one plot was below hers, and she would take her chances with jumping to that plot. Aailaine’s heart jumped again when the dragon resumed speaking. ‘It seems my sudden appearance has unsettled you. Rest assured, I mean you no harm.’
“I do not mean to offend, but please forgive me if I do not believe you.” Aailaine spoke loudly, although the rushed beating of her heart disagreed with her confident tone. The dragon laughed, the sound echoing through her entire being. Although it was no physical attack, the mental push caused Aailaine to take a step back and almost drop her baskets.
‘You fear me so greatly. I suppose it is understood, though. I am quite intimidating in this form.’ As she spoke, the dragon began to undergo a metamorphosis. Her giant form shrunk as her claws receded into hands and her tail slid back into her body. Aailaine’s eyes grew wider and wider as the majestic beast transformed into a woman, her silver hair flowing down past her waist. Her smaller wings folded into a long tunic and she stretched her arms, as if inspecting them.
She looked up and began to take a step toward Aailaine, who quickly stepped back. However, Aailaine failed to notice the edge of the grass and slipped on the smooth stone, teetering off the edge and the baskets falling from her. She closed her eyes, preparing herself to land as she began to fall back off the cliff, when she felt a scaled hand grab her arm and yank her back up. Aailaine then found herself very close to the giant dragon woman. The woman, after pulling Aailaine up, took a few steps back.
“It seems you still are afraid of me, even though I look like this.” The woman gave Aailaine a strange look, before sighing and taking a few more steps back. The woman turned her gaze to the sky, watching the clouds roll by for a moment. “It can’t be helped, I suppose. I do wonder, how long have you lived here, little one?”
“I have lived here for seventeen cycles.” Aailaine answered, gathering herself mentally before standing. Whatever this woman was, she had just saved her from falling, so if nothing else, Aailaine felt that had earned the being her attention.
“And is that your age?”
“No. I have twenty-one cycles.”
“Ah, time passes too quickly in these mountains. It seems like it was only yesterday…” The woman spoke softly, bringing her eye back down to Aailaine. “You’ve grown to be so beautiful.”
“Um…thank you.” Aailaine’s eyes drifted to the edge of the cliff as she spoke, worrying for the condition of the food she had harvested. The woman followed Aailaine’s gaze and she giggled softly.
“Remember this life, Aailaine.” Aailaine snapped her gaze back to the woman. “Don’t forget these precious cycles. I will return shortly to visit again.”
“Wha-” Aailaine started to speak when a voice rang up the side of mountain.
“Aye, Aailaine, Or kodad uab?” Aailaine knelt on the edge of the cliff, glancing down at the dwarf below, who called up to her. “Aailaine!”
“Rea kodad uab, Jozzick! I slipped and almost fell. Is the food alright?” Aailaine waved down to grab the dwarf’s attention, who sighed deeply, obviously relieved.
“Oiihead, the food is a little bruised but fine.” He smiled up at her, motioning inside the mountain. “If you’re alright, I’ll wait for you inside.”
“Nao Fei!” Aailaine shouted down as Jozzick waved just as a large gust started up behind her.
“Ika heia!” The dwarf’s voice rang up behind her as Aailaine turned to face the dragon woman again, but the path was empty. Another large gust blew through the plot and Aailaine looked up to see a white shape disappear over the mountain’s peak. The dragon’s clubbed tail waved as it disappeared over the peak and Aailaine thought she noticed a dark shape follow it.
“What just happened…?” Aailaine whispered to herself, her eyes glued to peak the dragon disappeared over. “That dragon… it knew my name. Maybe…”
“Aailaine!” Jozzick’s voice brought Aailaine out of her thoughts and she shook her head to clear it. As she made her way into the mountain to meet up with Jozzick, she began to wonder what the appearance of the woman meant.
 Are you alright?
 I am fine.
 No problem