• The streets were busier than usual. Jahn noticed this as he re-entered Raan. He wished he still had his badge. The RDDF was respected enough that people would give an officer some space to maneuver in. But Jahn wasn't a part of the force anymore, and the respect that came with it was gone.
    Of course the streets are crowded, Jahn thought. There are only two days left for registration!
    He tried to run, but the large numbers of people barred his way. The boy had to settle for a quick walk. He still made it in time before the booth closed. There was a woman handling the sign-ups at the moment, and she looked none too happy.
    "Late sign-ups!" she shouted in frustration. "I'm working as fast as I can!"
    Jahn joined the end of the line and waited almost patiently. He found himself tapping his foot and leaning back and forth in common gestures of impatience. Thankfully, the line moved quickly. He reached the front of the line, took the paperwork, and began to fill it out.
    However, his concentration was broken by a sudden agonized scream that came from behind. A red-haired boy that had just finished his registration was kneeling on the ground, clutching his left hand. A few people were gathering around the boy, coming to his aid. There were questions such as, 'Are you okay?' and 'What happened?'
    The boy, still clutching his hand, stood up. He shook his head violently and stuttered out, "I-I'll be fine." He darted out of sight through the crowds, and everyone returned to their business.

    Thomas removed his ring and ran his hand under cold water. He saw a severe burn healing itself where the ring had been.
    "What the hell was that for?" he demanded from the ring. No answer was supplied. "Inferno, if you need to tell me something, just say it instead of trying to burn my hand off!"
    Thomas thought back to the booth. All those people. The white-hot pain on his hand. His scream.
    "I don't like people trying to help me," he muttered. "I've been through enough to be able to take care of myself." The ring burned bright again. Flames licked outward and swirled around the circle of gold. It was a sight both beautiful and terrifying. Not even a flinch came from Thomas.
    "That's a neat trick," a voice said from the fire. "Your burn is gone." Thomas felt his hand. He didn't need to do so to know that his finger was completely healed.
    "Where did you learn that one?" the voice said. It was a deep, baritone voice, almost melodic all its own. The flames cleared, revealing the owner of the voice. A dragon.
    His back scales were almost white, with just a hint of yellow in them. When the light reflected off of them, the dragon seemed almost golden himself. On his chest, the scales were a deep red, almost the color of blood. The dragon stood just over seven feet in height. Obviously, he would be an intimidating creature. This was Inferno.
    "The Eight," the dragon said. "One of the Eight was there. I could feel it." The boy's face showed no change. This statement meant nothing to him.
    "The book, you've read it?" Inferno inquired. "It explains everything."
    "Couldn't." Thomas stated blankly. "In another language."
    Inferno's eyes flashed with anger and impatience.
    "You know, Nathaniel," the dragon said, "for a writer, you don't read nearly enough."
    This time, Thomas's eyes flashed. "How did you. . ."
    Inferno held up an I.D. card. "If you don't want people to know information like that," Inferno declared, "you probably shouldn't leave your stuff just lying around."
    The boy shook. Despite his fiery nature, Inferno could be quite cold. He held up another I.D.
    "So, who are you really?" the dragon asked. "Are you Thomas Black, or are you Nathaniel?"