"Okay, let's go!"
For the want of something better to do, you decide to follow Heather. She certainly seems to know her way through the forest as she picks her way down paths you would have had difficulty finding. Suddenly there is a bright flash and you find yourself being addressed by another stranger.
"Who are you, and what do you want?"
Your guide sighs.
"Oh, don't be so boring, Beatrice, this is our guest and they've come to take a look at the pets we got here in Karmal Forest."
Beatrice eyes you suspiciously before her face breaks into a smile.
"I know. I'm just teasing. Go on, just don't take any of the pets! If you want one of your own, Heather'll tell you where they're from."
"Sure, sure," Heather says dismissively. She grabs your hand and pulls you down a heavily overgrown path. This is not as pleasant as it may appear as due to your relative speeds, every branch and bramble that Heather pushes aside (seemingly without feeling any thorns or pain) swings back just in time to hit you on the legs, which slows you down somewhat. Finally you manage to catch up to Heather who is sitting on a rock sunning herself, with what you at first think is a grey tabby cat-that is, until you notice the leathery wings folded against the strange creature's side-rubbing against her legs and purring loudly.
"At last!" your guide says. "I thought you weren't ever coming!" She bends down to stroke her feline companion. "Don't look like that, anyone would think you'd never seen one of these before!"
"I haven't," you reply.
"Oh, okay then. This little furry fiend," Heather says fondly, "is called Moondust. She's a female Moon Cat from DragonMoon Weyr."
"She's lovely," you say, reaching down to pet her. Moondust purrs even louder, spreads her wings and before you realise what's happened, you have a Moon Cat sitting on your head preening herself, the sight of which absolutely cracks Heather up.
"Don't worry," she manages finally, "Moondust's like that. She's really sweet but very mischievous as well! Right now, she's feeling a little bored as we don't yet have any other felines in to keep her company. Where'd I put that...Oh, here it is!" Heather grabs a toy mouse from somewhere behind the rock she's sitting on and throws it through the air. You lurch involuntarily as Moondust launches herself after it, then regain your balance and straighten up.
"If we go now, we can probably make it through the caves before Moondust notices we're gone," your guide whispers. "She does love chasing fire lizards, and most of 'em get a little riled, to put it mildly. Oh, and don't worry about what Beatrice said to you," Heather adds. "She's okay really-it's just she's very protective of her charges."
"Ah." You nod, trying to appear clever. "So Beatrice is some kind of gamekeeper?"
Heather just looks at you blankly and then suddenly seems to understand what you mean and shrieks with laughter.
"No," she gasps out as soon as she can speak, "that's just typical of someone from your world! No, Beatrice is a Guardian from Amanda's Castle. She's the Guardian of Cyberpets."
"Oh." Somewhat subdued, you sit down next to her to try to get your breath back. Suddenly you frown. "Hey, wait a minute, what do you mean 'someone from my world?!"
"Don't you know? You're in Wiztliow."
"Wiztliow?" You try to hold in your laughter. "Oh no, honey, we can't be. Wiztliow's where all the..."
"...all the SKAN were supposed to have disappeared to, yes, I know," Heather says impatiently.
You decide to try again.
"Heather, the SKAN were just fairy stories to frighten children-don't you know that? They never really existed."
Your guide turns to look around nervously. "Sssh, don't let anyone hear you say that! Most of 'em stick to their part of Wiztliow; this is a hidden island-but that's not to say that some of 'em can't make it here when they really want to."
You're starting to feel a little uneasy about this; this girl keeps talking about her 'dragon', she claims that this place is Wiztliow-which everybody knows doesn't really exist-and that members of a civilisation and culture long since forgotten (or at least, dramatised and fictionised until no truth is left) are living here and that there are other dragons around.
All in all, you're starting to doubt the sanity of this girl.
Heather glares at you.
"You think I'm nuts, don't you? Well, look at this!"
She closes her eyes and appears to be concentrating. Suddenly you gasp out loud as behind her a shape forms.
"There," she says, panting slightly. "You see?"
You stare at the brown dragon curled up in the shards of its egg.
"But-there was-nothing there!" you protest.
"Haha!" Heather says triumphantly. "I guess you believe me now, huh?"
"I..yes," you falter. "Where did you get it?"
"Oh, from our Weyr!"
"Are there...any more dragons?" you ask.
"Sure! C'mon, I'll show you!"
Thanks to Grapholina's Temple for providing the background!
Phew! I'm beat. Give me a break!