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     High in the Black Stone Mountains of northern Vestaria, where ice and snow covered the bare cliffs of sheer rock year-round, was a deep cave in which a dragon slept for a thousand years. Outside, the cold gray of winter was fading into the cool rebirth of spring and bright sunshine glistened on the snow-covered rocks. Frigid air kept the snow and ice from melting, but the warm rays of the sun gave a soothing feel to the mountain tops.
     Deep in the cave, Diamonsteneez stirred and opened a green eye for the first time since he had crawled in hundreds of years ago. Hunger for food and power gnawed at him. Is that what woke me, he pondered. Or could it just be time to wake? Scales across his back were stiff and stretching helped them move freely after being set for so many years. He unfolded his wings and spread them to their full twelve-foot length, tightening then easing his muscles to bring the wings back against his sides. They closed tight against him and blended with the gray-green scales covering his body. Standing extended his legs to their full length and flexing the muscles helped work out his slumber. As he arched his back, his long sharp claws curled into the soft dirt and then opened, tossing small streams of pebbles across the cavern floor. A puff of smoke followed by a small burst of flame seared the cave ceiling, causing the great dragon to sneeze. He shook his massive head, snorting and rubbing his snout with a foreclaw. His lips pulled back, revealing long dagger-like teeth as his tongue slid out to moisten dry lips. He blinked, clearing tears from his sneeze. “Ah, awake again,” reverberated off the cavern walls.
     What has changed while I slept? He wondered. Could there be food near, I am so hungry I could eat a herd. With keen eyes that penetrated the darkness of the cave, he looked around. The cavern was large, stretching three hundred feet front to back and two hundred feet wide. The walls were sheer rock that curved up to an arched ceiling covered with stalactites pointing down like threatening spears. At the far end of the room was the entrance to a tunnel that led out of the cave, and dim light from outside filtered into the cavern. Diamonsteneez eyed the small tunnel, thinking back to the time he entered and slowly remembering that it was the way out to the world beyond. The way to food and a kingdom waiting for his power to command, control, and possess it.
     It’s good to be awake, he thought as he stepped to the exit tunnel. Now to find food and a kingdom to rule. Yes, it’s good to be awake. He flapped his wings, curled them tight to his body, and stepped into the tunnel heading to the great outdoors and new adventures.
     Diamonsteneez spread his wings and pushed off from the high ledge into the air. He pressed down with his powerful wings, lifting himself higher into the frigid air. The warm rays of the sun felt good against his back and wing tops as he circled up over the tops of the mountains. The higher he rose the more he could see and to the east stood a castle on a hill above a small town. Orchards and fields of plants surrounded the town and as well as grazing fields filled with cattle. Food and a kingdom, just what I need!
     He soared east dropping into the foothills yet still high above the forest where his sight was uninterrupted. Gradually signs of the kingdom appeared roads cutting through the forest, wisps of smoke from cabins, then fields of crops, and pastures with cattle. Hunger gnawed at his belly, but he had to be careful, so before helping himself to a satisfying meal he circled to get a view of the kingdom. Oh, yes, a fine home it will make. But first a tasty meal.
     He dropped toward the pasture where cattle grazed, not caring if the lone herdsman saw him, for he would soon be part of the first meal. It did not take long to satisfy his hunger and when all was gone from the pasture he rose into the air and headed for the foothills to the west where he could rest and plan how to possess the kingdom.

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