Zoantheria soared above the lizzie city of Xiatooq. It couldn’t have looked more alien in her eyes if it had been on another planet. Surrounded by great walls of copper-colored stone more than a hundred feet tall, the city faced the empty plain that surrounded its northern side, while its southern side climbed up the slope of a great mountain, higher and higher, built upon terraces carved into the rock. Xiatooq was filled with round structures, large and small, that tapered near the top so that they resembled giant hornets’ nests dotted with windows. The higher up the slope one traveled, the grander these structures were. The city was all the more impressive because this was not just any mountain. It was a massive volcano with an open caldera at the top, out of which belched a constant stream of black smoke and white steam. Occasionally, blobs of red lava were tossed up into the air.
The coral dragon was still musing on the strangeness of the sights below her, when something shot out of the city directly at her. She swerved, but the object, nothing more than a streak of blue, swerved with her. Then it hit her in the midsection. It was another dragon, a little more than half her size: one with shining scales of dazzling sapphire. The newcomer opened its mouth and sank its fangs into the base of Zoey’s neck, while it’s claws raked her belly.
Zoantheria rolled onto her back, using all four limbs to pry the beast from her. She folded her wings and dropped from the sky. For nearly thirty seconds, the two struggled, the coral dragon trying to pry the other from her body, and the sapphire dragon seemingly determined not to let go. At the last moment, Zoey threw out one wing, flipping them both over and they crashed into the stone street, the coral dragon on top.
Dazed from the same amount of force that had not so long ago killed a kronosaurus, the coral dragon staggered to her feet. The sapphire dragon lay unconscious on the ground. She grabbed it at the top of the neck, wondering whether to cast a spell or merely bite its head off. But she paused. The shining blue dragon was beautiful. A dozen spikes poked back from behind its face, but unlike any other dragon that Zoey had seen, including the one in the mirror, this one had no whiskers. Instead, a small horn grew from its chin, pointing downward.
Suddenly two solid blue eyes opened. The sapphire dragon sucked in a huge breath. Zoey squeezed her claw until the airflow was cut off.
“Would you like to belch that fire in some other direction?” she asked. “Or shall I simply wait to see if you pop, like a big balloon?”
“I submit,” came a small, breathless voice.
Zoey released her hold. The other dragon looked at her for a moment, and then turned and breathed a huge gout of flame into the sky away from her.
“You’ve won this time, ugly one.” The sapphire dragon’s voice was clear and bright, like a silver bell.
“Ugly? Explain yourself, you blue freak!”
“You were flying over our city—an intruder.”
“I was invited, you half-wit.”
“Invited by whom?”
The coral dragon just pointed up at the top of the volcano.
“He didn’t tell me.”
“Why would he tell you anything, foolish child? What are you anyway?”
“I am Xenarra, the Goddess of War.”
“Some goddess! Some war! I beat your ass.”
Zoantheria looked around. A vast see of lizzies surrounded the two dragons. They were different than lizzies elsewhere. They were larger, with bumpier and darker skin, and they wore animal skins as clothing. The lizzies watched the dragons, whom they worshipped as gods, in silence. Then she saw him, sitting on the edge of a roof, above a crowd of lizzies, a dragon, no bigger than a pony, with emerald green scales, as bright and shiny as those of the sapphire dragon.
“And you, whelp? What are you?”
“I am Urie,” he said, his voice sounding like a teenaged boy. “I am the God of Life.”
Zoey rolled her eyes. “All around me—idiots with delusions of grandeur.”