Dragons of Fyre
136 pages
English

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Dragons of Fyre

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136 pages
English

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Description

After escaping from the temple of Fyre, Drakon returns to his home to find only two people and a yellow dragon. He and the Old One learn as much as they can about the land at present. The lord of Sea Cliff Tower has gathered the remaining dragons at his keep. On learning the High Peaks Tower’s red dragon is with egg they arrange her escape and rescue her eggs. Now they must find a way to defeat their enemy and return the dragons to the other towers. Arana, sold by the temple priestesses to the slavers is bought by the lord of High Tower and made a part of the family. Before they are able to adopt her the lord of Sea Cliff Tower invades and destroys the family, taking her and her friend prisoner. Drakon is sold. Arana because she can speak to the dragons is made a slave care-giver. She saves a green egg and raises the green dragon. After helping the High Peaks Tower’s red dragon escape she is in danger and must find a way to escape. Her attempt to ride the green dragon succeeds and she arrives injured and ill. Once she recovers she and Drakon attempt to find a way to rescue the other dragons of Fyre.

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Publié par
Date de parution 09 août 2015
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9781773620466
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0010€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

Exrait

Dragons ofFyre

Island of FyreBook 2

By JanetLane-Walters
 
Digital ISBNs
EPUB978-0-2286-0080-0
 
Kindle978-1-77145-387-5
Amazon Print978-0-2286-0081-7
 

 
Copyright 2015 by JanetLane Walters
Cover Art by MichelleLee
 
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rightsunder copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may bereproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, ortransmitted in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical,photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior writtenpermission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher ofthis book.
Dedication
 
To all the fantasywriters who have allowed me to spend hours and days in the worldsthey’ve created.
 
Chapter One
 
Drakon haltedhis horse at the end of the pass and stared at the collection ofhouses and the fields beyond. Last night he and his companion hadridden well past moonrise so they could reach the village thismorning. Fall had arrived. Reds, yellows, and oranges, blazedacross the hills.
Why had thisvillage remained untouched? Ten years ago, the lord of Sea Cliffhad attacked High Peaks and ravaged the villages closest to thetower. Of the three settlements sworn to High Peaks, only this oneremained. The answer had to be treachery. Drakon wondered if hewould learn the names of the traitors.
“You will not,”the Old One said. “They are dead.”
Drakontightened his hold on the reins. Every time the ancient yellowdragon spoke to him, he felt warmth and delight. Years ago, hisinability to speak to the dragons had doomed him to ten years as aslave.” I wish they were alive so I could see to their punishment.Their treason made me Lagon’s prisoner, and a thing to be sold tothe priestesses.”
“Better a slavethan living under the evil one’s control the way the heirs of theother towers do.”
A year hadpassed since Drakon’s escape from the temple of Fyre. Though he hadsworn to see the man dead, the lord of Sea Cliff Tower remainedalive. A need for vengeance invaded Drakon’s thoughts. His family,his near kin, and innocent villagers, had been slaughtered on thatdreadful day.
“Patience,” theOld One said.
“Behold thelush growth of the fields.” His companion drew his steed toDrakon’s side. “Look at the height and fullness of the fyrethorns.The harvest will be abundant.” He raked his fingers through hisgray-tinged brown hair.
Drakon shookhis head. “I see, but do we need all this for one dragon?”
Radlanshrugged. “Who are we to cry about good fortune? There are fewdragons in the land. From what I have heard there are five pair atSea Cliff, and none at the other three towers.”
Drakon’s jawclenched. His desire for revenge flared anew. If only there was away to defeat Lagon and free the High Peaks dragons.
“Have faith.There will be more dragons at our tower.”
Some ofDrakon’s tension ebbed. “First patience and now faith. I’ll try.Before I gain those virtues, there’s a harvest to be completed.” Heprodded the steed with his heels and the horse trotted down thetrail into the village.
As Drakondismounted, the headman bustled across the commons with a handextended in welcome. “My lord.”
Drakonstraightened. Would he ever become used to being named as the lordof High Peaks Tower. “Just Drakon. Am I in time to help with theharvest?”
The gray-hairedman nodded. “The men have started in the fields and the crew forthe fyrethorns has just assembled.”
Drakon pulledon a pair of heavy leather gloves, grabbed a sack and strode to therow of fyrethorn bushes. Radlan had been right about the size ofthe harvest. A wry smile crossed Drakon’s face. The increased yieldwas due to the seeds he’d brought from the temple, the only goodthing to come from his stay as a stud in the harras.
A half dozenyoung women and four young men joined him. Drakon glanced at hisfellow workers. One young woman flipped her glossy ebony hair overher shoulder. He swallowed. Her beauty made him wish for what wasimpossible.
Of the men,three were his age. The one with black hair was older. He glared atDrakon and drew the beauty away. Drakon frowned. Why did the mandislike him when they had never met?
He shrugged offthe stares of the others and moved along the hedgerow pullinghandfuls of the long, blood red thorns. As he removed them bunchesof crimson berries were exposed. The young women pulled theclusters and dropped them in baskets.
At day’s end,Drakon stared at the sacks of thorns and berries he helped carry tothe storeroom. A bountiful harvest, indeed. He walked to whereRadlan and the headman stood. “We’ll need more than two carts tocarry all the fyrethorn products to the tower.”
The older menlaughed. Radlan clasped Drakon’s shoulder. “We’ll take just oneload of thorns and berries. The other cart will carry grain andvegetables for the winter. Before the storms, we’ll return for therest and for flour ground from the grain.” Radlan led the way tothe harvest feast.
“Do you thinkthe other villages will be rebuilt?” Drakon asked.
Radlan nodded.“There’s talk of a division in a year or two. The people sworn toHigh Peaks Tower are still recovering from the invasion. Forgetyour questions and enjoy yourself.” The older man winked. “I’venoticed several of the young women watching you.”
Drakonstiffened. If they knew what had happened to him ten years ago,they would avoid him. He crammed those memories away. Radlan hadsuggested keeping the days he’d spent as a slave a secret. Drakonwished he could talk to someone about his treatment in the Templeof Fyre.
He glanced atthe gathered people. Though most of the older men and women worewhat they had for the harvest, some of the younger women hadchanged into bright colored skirts and blouses.
Aromas ofcooking meats rose from a pot where a steer had cooked all day.Other meats hung on hooks over the coals. Drakon lifted a largewooden trencher and took some of the steer and a chicken leg. Hisstomach rumbled as he moved to a long table where kettles of cookedvegetables, grains, and bowls of greens, and fruit, weredisplayed.
He grabbed amug of ale and looked for a place to sit. Beneath a large oak tree,he noticed a group of young people. One of them waved. “LordDrakon, come and eat with us. We’re glad you returned to thetower.”
As Drakonstarted toward the group the young woman he’d noticed earlierstepped in front of him. “Tiron, leave him alone. I’m claiminghim.”
Drakonswallowed. One side of her blouse had slid from her shoulder andnearly exposed her breast. Would she issue commands he would haveto obey? The sweet scent of her perfume brought memories of thepriestesses at the temple. He was torn between following her andjoining the larger group.
She touched hisarm. “Come with me. There is much I want from you.”
Her voice helda demanding tone that seemed familiar. He walked beside her.
“Lord Drakon,when will there be dragons at the tower?” someone called.
Drakon couldn’tspot who had shouted. “There is one in the cavern now. The Old Onesaid there soon would be more.”
“We heard youcouldn’t speak to them.”
“True in part.”Drakon smiled. “I do not need the tea when I speak to the OldOne.”
The young womantugged on Drakon’s arm. “Forget those fools. Come with me.” Shestepped closer. “Our kin ties are the most distant of any girl’s inthe village. I’m destined to be your wife.”
Drakon gulped abreath. Like a vise, uneasiness gripped his chest. Her cloyingperfume brought flashes from the past he struggled to forget. Shereeked of desire the way the priestesses had. “Just who areyou?”
“Bekla.”
She led him toa sheltered place in the grove of hardwoods on the outskirts of thevillage. The leaves rioted with colors from pale yellow to russet.Drakon halted and nearly spilled the ale when the young man who hadglared at him during the harvest appeared.
“Bejan, I’vebrought Drakon so you could speak to him about the dragons.”
“I have nothingto say to someone who was a slave.” Bejan turned and walkedaway.
How had heknown? Drakon had told no one. Had Radlan let the secret slip? Orhad Lagon spread the story of how he had sold Drakon?
“You’ll loseout on a chance to be a speaker, but I won’t.” Bekla sat on theground and arranged her skirts so one of her thighs was partlybared. “Drakon, come closer. Though he’s my brother, he’s aboor.”
Drakon sat on alog at arms distance from her. He gulped some ale and began to eat.“What do you want to know?”
She leanedforward and her blouse gaped to expose her full breasts. “I want tobe the wife of a dragon speaker. You are the only one at HighPeaks. I want to ride with you when the dragons rise to mate.”
Drakon put thetrencher on the ground. “The yellow does not mate. There are noreds or blues in the cavern.”
She edgedcloser and brushed her hand over his thigh. “A dragon rises here.”She licked her lower lip. “Come to my aunt’s house atmoonrise.”
His stomachclenched. She commanded just as the priestesses had. This timethere was a choice. He had escaped from the harras. He didn’t haveto obey her. Though he felt ill, he rose. “Don’t wait for me.” Ashe strode away he realized he had taken the first step towardfreedom from the conditioning. Never again would he be trapped by awoman’s demands. A dull headache began.
When he reachedthe commons, he looked for Radlan but didn’t see the older man.Drakon stopped and talked to several of the villagers. Though hesearched for Tiron and the other young people they seemed to havevanished. Finally, Drakon slipped into the headman’s house. He saton one of the beds in the guest room and rubbed his aching head. Atleast the pain wasn’t as acute as when he’d drunk the berry tea, orwhen the priestesses had used thorns as a punishment. Strains ofmusic and the buzz of voices filtered through the shutteredwindows. He had no desire to tale part in the merriment.
When Drakonwoke the sun had just risen. He broke his fast with food left fromthe feast and then joined the villagers in loading the wagons.After he and Radlan mounted their horses, they led the men whodrove the wagons up the slope to the trail leading to thetower.
During the twoday trip, Drakon’s thoughts drifted to his escape from thepriestesses. How fortunate he’d been to have been chosen as one ofthe studs to travel with the women who sought a rebellions acolyteand the stone seeker who had aided her escape. The man had provideda waterskin and torches to light the way through the dark passage.As Drakon had hurried along the tunnel, earthquakes caused rocks tofall. He had burst into the open moments before the tunnelcollapsed. What caused the quakes? Perhaps he would never know.
“You arefinally home.”
The voice ofthe Old One broke into Drakon’s reverie. “I am, and we have broughta cart full of thorns and berries and left as much, or more,behind.” He smiled. Each time he spoke with the yellow, pridefilled his chest. He wasn’t the misfit he’d been named by hisfather and brothers. Unlike them, he needed none of the berry teafor the speaker’s path to open.
“As was in theold days. When the carts are unloaded, come to the cavern.”
Drakon joinedthe men unloading the wagons. Once this chore was finished, Radlan,Sophronia’s husband helped prepare the Old One’s meal and wheeledthe barrow across the forecourt to the cavern.
As he enteredthe vast hollowed space, he wondered how the area had been made.Was it a natural phenomena, or had magic been employed?”
“Part of each.The wizard friend of the dragons aided their escape and carved themountain to make a refuge for them.”
The crystalpillars set about the cavern rose from floor to dome. The brightlight momentarily blinded Drakon. The colors reminded him of thefyrestones the priestesses had used in their rituals. Sidechambers, some dark, and one cold enough to store meat, lined theleft hand wall. Soft sand covered areas of the floor. Near thefeeding trough and the area around the warm pool was rock. A pairof streams, one hot and the other cold, united to flow over awaterfall. Beside the waterfall was a wide ledge. The water leftthe pool through a drainage hole on the far side.
Drakon put themeat, mixed with thorns and berries, into one of the stone troughs.He sat on the sand beside the Old One’s wallow.
The yellowdragon lowered his head so Drakon could scratch the leathery skinbetween his eyes. “Was the trip a pleasant one?”
Drakon wrappedhis arms around his bent knees. “The harvest was plentiful and thefood at the feast delicious.”
“I sense worryin your thoughts.”
“There was ayoung woman named Bekla. She tried to seduce me.” He closed hiseyes. “I can’t do what she wants. My memories of the temple are toostrong and she made me think of the priestesses.”
“Those memorieswill fade.”
“It’s been ayear and they’re still strong.”
“And longer wasneeded to set the conditioning.” The Old One moved to the troughand ate. “Go to your dinner. Sofona cooked all day preparing foryour homecoming. The men from the village will leave soon.”
Drakon pattedthe dragon’s side. “I’ll come tomorrow.” He left the cavern andwalked to the tower. Inside the large kitchen the men from thevillage lifted packs of food Sofona had prepared for theirjourney.
When they weregone, Sofona sank on a bench. A few strands of gray wove throughher brown hair. “I’m glad I don’t have to feed a large crew everyday. There’s a plate for you in the warming oven. Where have youbeen?”
“With the OldOne. He wanted to know about the harvest. I also took him afeeding.”
Sofona laughed.“I doubt he needed one. He went out this morning and returned witha wild boar. I took a ham and some of the meat for us. He devouredthe rest.”
Drakon ate abite of the pork and savored the flavor. He smiled fondly at theRadlan man and Sofona who had become his family.
 
* * *
 
Arana shieldedher eyes against the glare of the sun. Four blue dragons circled asingle combatant. She stared at the changing pattern of the battle.There could be but one ending. How could the lone dragon from HighPeaks Tower survive when he fought with no speaker? She closed hermind to the multiple voices she heard.
One of thecreatures dove. The embattled one turned and raked his claws alonghis opponent’s side. A second blue attempted to swoop from above.The besieged dragon whirled and caught the edge of the attacker’swing with his foreclaws and pulled free. The injured dragon joinedthe first in retreat.
Arana began tohope. She knew nothing of battle strategy. Though she could havespoken to the High Peaks blue she couldn’t distract him, for shehad no advice to give.
Her hopesplummeted. The remaining opposing pair dove toward the High Peaksblue. Though her favorite twisted, he was too slow to prevent thelargest of the others from clamping teeth-filled jaws on his neck.Arana’s scream was echoed by a piercing roar from the pens. Shewatched as the embattled dragon tumbled to the rocks. She ran tothe far side of the landing field. The blue’s broken body lay onthe rocks where Arana had witnessed the death of her fostermother.
Gone, shethought. Now all that remained of the High Peaks’ lineage was onered, and one green dragon. And her, but she was only a fosterchild.
Arana leanedagainst the wall and fought to stem her tears. The cool autumnbreeze carried the briny scent of the sea. In the distance she sawthe sails of an approaching ship. Did it carry traders or wizards?If the ship belonged to either group, Lagon would leave the towerto bargain with them. The wizards welcomed any chance to obtain thehide of a dragon.
She rubbed herarms. Since the battle had ended, her services would be needed bythe dragons and the speakers. She was the only one of the slaveswho had no fear of the huge beasts. Her ability to hear and speakto the creatures allowed her to move freely in the pens.
She was alsoone of the few slaves who knew the ingredients of the antidote forthe tea made from fyrethorn berries. Most of the men suffered fromheadaches after a speaking session. None of the four who hadcontrolled the battle were like her, for she spoke to the dragonswithout requiring the tea.
One afteranother, the blues landed. Hisses and pain-filled cries filled theair. Arana was torn between going to the beasts or the men. Akeening cry rose to a piercing shriek and vibrated through Arana’sbones. A red dragon emerged from the doorway to the pens. Arana ranacross the landing field dodging the hissing beasts to reach thesurviving red of High Peaks Tower.
A smaller greendragon scurried after the red. “Soothe her. She will not heedme.”
Arana blockedthe other voices and send words of comfort to the red. As thebeast’s cries softened, Arana stroked the leathery hide. Her mouthflew open. She sensed the presence of eggs. When had the pairmated? Somehow they had managed to slip free from the pens for amating flight.
“I hid them.”Verde’s voice held laughter. “I am of their lineage, and do notwant to be the last of the High Peaks dragons.”
Arana stood ontip-toe and stroked his neck. “When will she lay the eggs?” Shecouldn’t hide the fear rippling through her thoughts. Lagon, lordof Sea Cliff Tower would surely destroy the eggs before theyhatched.
“Soon.”
“How can wekeep Lagon from learning?”
“I will maskher so the evil one will not know.”
Though Aranahad no idea how she could hide two dragonets or care for them, thenews brought hips. “Return to your pen. The blues are settling. Imust deliver the potion to the men and tend to the wounds of thedragons.”
Arana crossedthe landing field and strode past the entrance to the tower. Sheopened the door of the stillroom. Unlike High Peaks, the tower herewas surrounded by a wall. Halls connected the various buildingsthat abutted the walls.
She filled abasket with linen, needles, and ointments, needed to care for thedragons. She took a flask of water and added herbs for theantidote. Arana carried both through the halls to the room wherethe speakers lay on padded lounges.
Arana pouredthe contents of the flask into a pot of hot tea. One of the slavesfilled cups and gave the liquid to the men. One by one, theyroused. Arana turned toward the door.
“Dragonslave.”
She stiffened,but turned to face the lord of Sea Cliff Tower. The man had takenaway the freedom she earned at High Peaks for her ability to speakto the dragons. When he had killed the lord and his sons, Lagon hadmade the women of that tower into slaves. She bowed her head tohide the hatred in her eyes. “What is your command, my lord?”
He lifted herchin. His ice blue eyes glittered with remnants of pain. “After youtreat the beasts, you will seek me.” A cruel smile curled his thinlips.
She nodded. “Ihear and will obey, my lord.”
He grasped herarm. “Soon you will do more.”
“As youcommand.” The words nearly choked her. She pushed the door open andentered the central hall. From there she left the tower and crossedthe landing field to the massive stone building that housed thedragons. The hisses and growls of the four blues reached her. Whereshould she begin?
“I will tellyou,” Verde said.
He directed herto the dragon with a long row of talon slashes along one flank. Shecleaned the ichor away and slathered a numbing ointment around theedge of the wound. When she finished the creature’s roars ceased.She daubed healing salve on the open areas and spread strips oflinen over the anointed places.
She left thefirst pen and entered a second and set about mending the tear onthe dragon’s wing. A finely woven cloth was placed beneath thetatters. By the time the wing healed, the stitches woulddisintegrate and the cloth would drop away.
Once the minorinjuries of the other dragons had been treated, Arana left thepens. “Verde, thank you.”
“When they arehurt they listen to me.” Verde sighed. “Maybe that’s why I was borngreen.”
“Could be. Asyou mature you will learn more.” Arana repacked the basket. Shewished Verde could persuade the blues to defy their speakers.
“Arana, no. Theevil one would kill the speakers and find new ones. Or, he coulddestroy the dragons and sell their pelts to the wizards. As long ashe lives I will not do this.”
“I know, but Iwish we could free them.” As she crossed the landing field andwalked toward the still room, a prickling moved along her spine.Her hands formed fists. She steeled herself to face Lagon.
“Arana.” Hishand clamped on her arm.
The basketthudded on the ground. “My lord.”
“How fare thebeasts?” He turned her to face him.
“The woundswill heal. Two will need several weeks of rest before they canfly.”
“The High Peaksblue was a mighty fighter. Does the red of that lineagegrieve?”
Arana nodded.“In the confusion after the flight she would have flown away, but Icalmed her.”
“Don’t dampenher spirits too greatly. I want her to rise to mate.” His gazedrilled her. “When she does, my blue will follow. With eggs of herget my dragon stock will improve.” He shoved Arana against thewall. “On that day you will drink the tea and fly with her.”
Arana bit herlower lip. She couldn’t let him see how her fear verged on the edgeof terror. “What if she won’t rise?” She couldn’t let Lagon knowthe red was with egg.
His thin lipscurved into a smile that held no hint of humor. “When you speak toher she will have no choice.” He scraped a fingernail along hercheek. “You are as ripe as the dragon. You will bear my son.” Heclamped his teeth on her lower lip.
She winced. Asullen anger built inside. She sought to hide her repugnance towardhim. He liked his women to cower and obey his commands. In the tenyears and one of her captivity here, she’d seen ten women orderedto his bed. She’d seen the bruises and witnessed the lashings aseach one failed to produce the son he desperately wanted.
He caught alock of her hair and wound it around his finger. “Hair the color offlames. Fire is what I demand from you.” He pressed his mouth overhers. His body touched hers and his phala remained flaccid. Onceagain she was spared a mauling.
Lagon laughed.“Soon.” He held one hand against her throat. “Let your fears growso I can feast on them when the dragons rise.” He released her.
Though reliefthreatened to bring her to her knees, she pressed against the wallfor support. She thought of her fellow slaves. Most feared him, butone or two lusted to be in his bed. She didn’t understand theirfascination. Though handsome, his icy blue eyes and thin lips spokeof his cruel nature.
The blue gem inhis ear was said to be a payment for the youth he’d sold to theslavers. The boy had been from High Peaks Tower. Had he been theyoungest son of the lord, the boy who had been her friend? Lagonhad announced Drakon’s death when the women from High Peaks hadreached Sea Cliff.
Her eyesclosed. Though she tried to form a picture of her friend, shefailed. For several years after her captivity, she had dreamed ofthe young man and of being rescued.
The sound ofboots against the stone floor announced Lagon’s departure. Aranareleased her held breath. She returned the basket to the stillroom, and then ran down the inner hall to the bathing room. Thereshe scrubbed away the odors of her labor and the stench of fear.She dressed. Instead of going to the rooms where the slaves werehoused she walked to the landing court. At the edge, she stared atthe sea. Waves crashed against the rocks. Far below servantsremoved the dragon’s hide.
The ship she’dseen earlier had docked at the wharf in the nearby village. Shenoted the green flag and knew the ship belonged to the wizards. Shebreathed a sigh of relief. Their arrival meant Lagon would leavethe tower once the hide had been scraped and the curing begun. Hewould eagerly negotiate a sale.
 
* * *
 
Verde scurriedalong the corridor past the pens holding the dragons. The HighPeaks red had fled from her pen and prepared for flight. “Not yet,”he commanded. “Return to your pen until after the sun sets.”
The dragonwhined, but followed his order. Verde’s chest puffed with pride andhe swallowed a roar. The sound would alert the servants and theywould discover his presence. He needed Arana’s help. He peered fromthe entrance to the pens and saw her standing at the wall.“Come.”
“What iswrong?”
“The High Peaksred has freed herself from her pen. I kept her from taking flight.She will go tonight. Could you bring her an extra feeding and putin thorns as well as berries?”
Arana ranacross the landing yard to his side. “If she escapes the eggs willbe lost.”
“If she laysthem here, Lagon will destroy them. She must go. If her eggs aredestroyed I will be the last of my lineage.” The thought causedgrief to fill his voice. “She wants to go to High Peaks.”
Arana strokedhis side. “Then we must pray she reaches her destination. There isa cavern there with warm sand and a pool for swimming. There musthave been animals that escaped when Lagon invaded for her to hunt.”She shuddered. “He will blame me.”
“Will he beatyou?”
“A punishment Iwill gladly bear. I’m sorry he didn’t sell me to the slavers whenhe sold some of the women from High Peaks. I think he might havesold the last son of the lord, too.”
“Does the sonstill live?”
“Who knows ifhe does, or where he is?” She squared her shoulders. “Let me bringmeat for the red.” For an instant she wished she could flee withthe dragon.
“We will find away for you to escape.”
 
* * *
Lagon smiled. Aslaver’s ship was in port. The wizards on board would pay well forthe dragon’s pelt, and they would wait in port until the skin wascured. He left the tower and walked down the path to the rocks. Onehalf of the blue pelt soaked in the brine. Though a red broughtmore coins, he had a use for the remaining High Peaks dragon. Heintended to bargain for another blue gem, and a string of red onesfor Arana.
When images ofher naked and bound to his bed arose, his phala throbbed. He drew adeep breath and fought to control the image. When he took her forthe first time she would be in the speakers’ hall after a matingflight. The heirs of the three other towers would witness the eventso no one could say the son she bore belonged to another man.
He barked alaugh. She disliked and feared him. He would possess her. Once shegave him a son, he would make her his wife. From the moment he’dseen her during the takeover at High Peaks he had desired her. Butshe had been a child. No longer.
“Come back.” Awoman’s shout interrupted his reverie.
He wheeled andsaw the only child of his loins running from her nurse. Herebony-colored hair had escaped its braid and flew in a dark cloudaround her face. The girl halted at his side. “Why did you kill thedragon?” Her dark eyes flashed with anger.
“For my ownreasons. You have no right to question me.”
“He was brave.I watched the battle from the tower heights. If he had fought one,or even two dragons, he would have won. Who was his speaker?”
“He hadnone.”
She put herhands on her hips. “You should have kept him. He was stronger andcannier than the Sea Cliff blue.”
Lagon’s handsclenched. How could she have a loyalty to High Peaks? She was hisdaughter, not the get of the long dead lord of that now desertedtower. He grated his teeth. That lord had taken the woman Lagonwanted. In the end, the Lord of High Peaks Tower was dead, andLagon had possessed the woman until she had ended her life afterLorana’s birth.
“Go to yourroom,” he commanded. The moment he was sure Arana was with child,Lorana would go to the slavers.
 
* * *
 
Several dayshad passed since he and Radlan returned from the village. Drakonclimbed the stairs past his room on the second level of the towerand continued until he reached the square area at the top. Hewalked around the wall surrounding the edge and halted at one ofthe corners. He rested his elbows on the cap stone and peered inthe direction of Sea Cliff Tower.
Though thedistance was too far to see the tower, he remembered every momentof the five day journey by horse. He’d been forced to ride withLagon. A gag effectively prevented speech. All during the trip,Lagon gloated over his victory. At the journey’s end Drakonremembered how berry tea had been forced down his throat. When theagony of the headache had ceased he’d been aboard a slaver’s ship.Drakon sucked in a breath of cold air. Would Lagon ever pay for thedeath and destruction he had wrought?
“Drakon,come.”
“Old One,what’s wrong?”
“Sheescapes.”
“Who?”
“The last redof High Peak’s lineage. Soon she will lay her eggs. Eggs weneed.”
Drakon startedto the door. “When will she arrive?”
“She will notmanage the distance. We must go to her.”
“What can I do?How far must I ride?” Drakon did not like the thought of leavingHigh Peaks.
“You will flywith me.”
“Men don’tfly.”
“In the past,men and women rode on the backs of reds and blues. This is what youwill need. A fur pad and long leather straps. Fur-lined sacks,stones to heat in a fire, and pieces of fur to cover them andcushion the eggs. Find the sleeping sacks. I will need an extrafeeding of meat and thorns. You must also carry a feeding in aleather sack.”
Drakonclattered down the steps. In the storeroom he gathered the suppliesthe yellow requested. He pulled on a heavy jacket and took a pairof gloves.
When he enteredthe kitchen, Sofona appeared in the doorway of the hall leading tothe quarters she shared with Radlan. “Is the Old One ill?”
“No. We go torescue a High Peaks red and her eggs.” He told her what the Old Onewanted.
“I’ll wakeRadlan. He’ll bring the feedings.”
“Make sure hepacks a second one and adds thorns to both. I must figure how tofasten these things to the Old One’s back.”
Sofona laughed.“You will fly like the men and women on the tapestry that once hungin the great hall.”
Drakon nodded.He had vague memories of the massive wall hanging. Hadn’t he seenand used that weaving after his return? Maybe the tapestry had beena different one. “I believe I will.” He carried his gatherings tothe cavern and placed them on the sand.
The Old Onesent pictures that Drakon followed, carefully placing the fur padover the ridges on the dragon’s back. Because the yellow’s spinalridges were narrower than the reds and blues there was no room fora saddle. He fastened the straps to the pad, ran one on either sideof the Old One’s neck and united them with the pair drawn over thedragon’s rear legs.
Radlan arrivedwith the feedings. While the yellow ate, Drakon added the rocks andfurs to the two enormous sacks and tied them to the riding pad. Assoon as the Old One had devoured the meal, Drakon climbed to thedragon’s back. He fastened himself to the pad. The yellow movedfrom the cavern, across the forecourt and stepped over the edge.The great wings unfurled.
Drakon’sstomach felt as though it had dropped to the ground. Just beforethey crashed into a stand of towering firs, the Old One caught anupdraft and they soared into the moonlit sky. With caution Drakonrelaxed his hold on the fur.
“Drakon, openyour speaker’s path and call the red.”
Drakon sent asilent call to the High Peaks dragon. The yellow’s voice joinedhis. “I do not know your name. I am the son of the dead lord ofHigh Peaks Tower. I want to help you.” Over and over he sent themessage.
“I am the OldOne, a yellow of High Peaks’ lineage. I want to help you. Call us.Lead us to you.”
“Who?” Thevoice carried undertones of pain, sadness, and fear. The emotionsvibrated through Drakon.
“Once I wascalled Jade. I am your controller. Where are you?”
“Gone from SeaCliff. Past the captive towers. I thought to reach the cavern, butI stayed too long. My mate is dead. The evil one set the otherblues on him. My eggs arrive soon.”
Drakon hearddespair in the dragon’s voice and sought to give her hope. “Youmust live. We need your eggs, or the lineage is ended.”
“We will takethe eggs to safety,” the Old One said.
“Will mydragonets be free from the evil one?”
“You have mypledge,” Drakon said. “They will fly and I will be their speaker. Iwas a slave. Now I am free. Your offspring will be cherished. Iwill rebuild High Peaks Tower and see those of Sea Cliff punishedfor what they have done.”
“Not thedragons,” she said. “Just the evil one. The dragons have nocontroller and their speakers must obey the evil one.” Her voicesounded louder. “I must land and wait for you. The eggs comesoon.”
Before long,Drakon saw a large dark shape on the ground. The moonlight revealedthe red’s resting place. The Old One spiraled down and landed nearthe laboring dragon.
“The eggs,” thered cried. “You have come in time. Care for them. High Peaks Towerwill grow strong with honorable speakers and dragons.”
Drakon quicklyuntied the straps and slid to the ground. He started a small fireto heat rocks to bury beneath the furs in the sacks. As he worked,he wondered what he could do to fulfill the red’s predictions. Howcould he rebuild the line of speakers? They were usually the sonsof the tower’s lord. Thoughts of being with a woman filled him withpanic. Memories of the conditioning by the priestesses of theTemple of Fyre bound him with iron bands.
“Not always thesons,” the Old One said. “Speakers can be found among the kin bothnear and far.”
“And in onesnot tied by blood,” the red said.
Were theyright? Drakon sat beside the grieving red and encouraged her. Thefirst egg arrived. He nearly protested when the Old One caught theblue egg in his talons and licked the shell.
“Pick it up.Breathe on it,” the yellow dragon said. “Then place the egg in oneof the sacks. There is no blue to perform the rite. Your breathmust do.”
When the redlaid the second egg, the Old One licked the shell and rolled theegg to the female dragon. Her tongue moved over the surface.
“Do not touchthis one with your skin,” the Old One cautioned.
The red beganto shake. “Speaker, my time has come. Name the dragonets and carefor them.”
“I will.”
“Old One, youmust teach them.”
“I will.”
“There is agreen of our lineage at Sea Cliff. He was hidden and cared for byArana, who can speak to all the dragons the way you can.”
Arana. Drakon’sthoughts drifted to his childhood in the tower. There had been agirl four years younger. His parents rescued her from the slavers.She earned her freedom because of her ability to care for thedragons. Could Arana the red spoke of be the same girl?
“The evil onehas made her a slave again,” the red said. “She helped meescape.”
A picture of ayoung woman entered Drakon’s thoughts. Her hair, the color offlames, told him the truth. She was his friend and playmate. “Whydid he enslave her? She was free.”
“There are nofree women at Sea Cliff. There are no free dragons, except thegreen. Verde is his name.” The red rose and unfurled her wings. Shelumbered forward.
Though she rosefrom the ground, Drakon knew she would never clear the trees. “OldOne, stop her.”
“She choosesdeath. Honor her choice and honor her. Open the feed sack. While Ieat, call the green.”

Chapter Two
 
 
Verde woke witha start. He peered through the grillwork set high on the wall ofhis pen. The full moon lit the sky.
“Green dragon.Verde.”
The voicesounded again. He looked around, but the dense shadows showed noone. “Who calls?” The voice was deeper than any of the dragons atSea Cliff. Besides, they never called his name. He only spoke tothem to prevent an accidental discovery of his presence, or whenArana needed to care for their injuries.
“I am the OldOne of High Peaks Tower.”
Verde rose fromhis crouch. “Did the red reach you?”
“She did. Hereggs are safe. There were two, a red and a blue. They will be takento the cavern.”
Verde sighed.He wished he could join them. “And the red?”
“Alas, shedied.”
“How will youcarry the eggs?” Verde could not imagine how the Old One could bearboth eggs in his talons and fly.
“My speakerwill help. Drakon is his name. He has charge of the eggs. He rideson my back and has secured the eggs in fur-lined sacks.”
The picturethat entered Verde’s thoughts excited him. He must think about thismethod of transportation and tell Arana. “Who will speak for thedragonets?”
“Drakon willspeak and ride the blue.”
When had heheard that name before? Verde scratched the sand that lined thefloor of his pen. After a few minutes of thought he remembered.Arana dreamed about a boy of that name. “My speaker has sleepvisions of a boy who rescues her from the evil one. He has thatname.”
“Perhaps he isthe same one. Bring her to the cavern. You must arrive before thewinter storms begin.”
“How? The evilone will not let her have a horse to ride. The cavern is too farfor her to walk.”
“Did you seethe pictures of how Drakon rode on my back?”
“Yes, but I donot know how to make such a thing.”
“This is whatyour speaker must do.” Pictures appeared. “On the day you leave,you will need a hearty meal of thorns and berries mixed with yourfood. If she can pack an extra feeding, that would be good. Hurry,for there is much I need to teach you.”
“Aboutwhat?”
“The duties ofa green dragon.”
This news madeVerde wish to depart at once, but Arana was locked in the slavequarters for the night. “We will come as soon as we can.”
 
* * *
 
The carts offyrethorn products from the four towers under the control of thelord of Sea Cliff rumbled into the forecourt. Arana joined theslaves and servants in unloading the wagons. She hoisted a sack ofthorns taking care not to prick herself on the barbs protrudingthrough the cloth. Though her tolerance for the poison hadincreased, she dreaded the onset of a headache not much lessintense than the one caused by the berry tea.
As she stood inthe line of workers she counted the sacks. This year’s harvest wasscant. She listened to the cart drivers and heard tales of stuntedbushes. What would happen to the dragons if the fyrethorn bushesfailed? Would the beasts die, or would they turn wild like they hadbeen before men tamed them?
When the lastof the sacks were stored, Arana joined the men who fed the dragons.They pushed barrows of beef and mutton across the landing field tothe pens. To each barrow, she added the allotment of thorns orberries. She pushed a small barrow into a dark corner. Thiscontained Verde’s feeding of meat she’d taken from the othercarts.
“Arana.”
She froze. Hadhe seen what she had done? Could she say the meat was for a specialfeeding for one of the recovering dragons? After drawing a deepbreath she turned. “My lord.” Her hands curled into fists. Angerchurned in her gut.
He grasped herwaist and pulled her against his chest. “Be prepared. The red fromHigh Peaks will be forced to rise soon. I’ve ordered specialfeedings.”
She stiffened.“Why tell me? Perhaps your current woman will give you the son youdesire so you can retain control of the tower.”
His laughterheld no trace of amusement. His eyes narrowed. “Haven’t you heard?My bed is empty and waiting for you to fill it. The wizards haveforetold a woman from High Peaks will give me a son. The othershave failed.” He ran his thumb over her lower lip.
The time hadcome for her to leave. She wasn’t sure how she could find a placeto hide from him. An escape would be better, but she knew so littleabout the land. Winter approached, and that was no time for travel.Perhaps Verde could come with her. He could fly ahead and findhiding places for them in case Lagon sent searchers. Sheshivered.
“Does my touchstir you?” His voice held an undertone of malice. He curled a lockof her hair around his finger. “Hair of fire above and below willsurely provide passion enough to exhaust me.” He seized her mouthin a rough kiss. His teeth nipped her lower lip.
When she gaspedhe shoved his tongue inside. Arana fought the panic curling in herthoughts. Acid rose in her throat. She was going to be ill.
Lagon releasedher so abruptly she fell against the wall. He raised her head withhis hand. “You’re afraid. I like fear. Once you ride the red as sheteases the Sea Cliff blue, your terror will become my passion.You’ll welcome my desire. My phala will fill you. My seed will takeroot.” He kissed her again, turned, and walked away.
Arana slid downthe wall and landed on the hard stone floor with a thud. “Verde,what can I do? He wants the High Peaks red to mate with his blue.She’s gone. He intends to bed me. Maybe I should leap from thetower onto the rocks. I’ll never be able to escape and evade theservants he’ll send after me.”
“Do not dothat.”
Arana heardhints of panic in the green’s voice. “Then what?”
“We can escape.I know a way.”
“Where will wego?”
“To High PeaksTower. The Old One is there. He has a speaker, and also theeggs.”
Aranastraightened. “Who is this Old One?”
“A dragon of mylineage. He says he has much to teach me. I want to go. I want youto come, too.”
Arana closedher eyes and searched her memories of High Peaks. She had been tenyears old when the men from Sea Cliff invaded. Ten years and oneago. Her brow wrinkled. There had been an elderly dragon who seldomflew except during a mating flight or a hunt. She had believed hewas killed during the invasion. The other dragons of the tower weredriven to Sea Cliff, and all but two had died.
“I recall avery old dragon that I thought Lagon killed. Once we left the towerI didn’t hear him speak.”
“He must haveblocked his presence, the way I did for the High Peaks red and blueduring their mating flight.”
“Makes sense.There would be little a single yellow dragon could do to preventwhat happened. After the speakers for the blues were killed, thedragons had been easily captured.” She sighed. “We must makeplans.”
“This is whatyou will need for your escape.” He sent pictures of a fur pad andleather straps. “When they are fastened to me, you will ride on myback and I will fly.”
“Let me findand bring the supplies to your pen.” Arana pushed to her feet andleft the pen. She ran to one of the storage buildings. There shefound a long leather pad and a roll of the same material to makethe straps. In another room, she took a sack of thorns and one ofberries. She loaded her spoils into a barrow and took large chunksof beef from the butchery. She wheeled them to Verde’s small pen.After retrieving what she had hidden earlier, she emptied thecontents into his feeding trough. Then she prepared the pad. “We’llleave as soon as the sky is dark.”
“Good,” Verdesaid.
As she hurriedto the slave quarters to pack her few belongings, she heard Lagonshouting orders. “What do you mean she has vanished? Find her atonce. Arana, I want you.”
She dare notdisobey him, or reveal her plans for flight. She followed the soundof his voice. He stood in the hall near the doors to the slavequarters. There was no way for her to pass him. She swallowed herfear. “My lord, I am here.” She failed to keep a quaver from hervoice.
He turned andgrasped her arm. “How long has she been gone?”
“Who, mylord?”
“The High Peaksred.”
Arana gulped abreath. “She wasn’t in her pen when I brought her morning feeding.I looked and couldn’t find her.”
He shook her.“Why didn’t you come and tell me? You know I had plans for thebeast.”
“I was afraid.”Her voice cracked. “I started for the tower to let you know, butthe wagons from the farms arrived. The steward ordered me to helpunload the thorns and berries.”
“You saw andspoke with me not that long ago, yet you said nothing, not evenwhen I mentioned my plans.” He ran a finger down her cheek. “Am Inot right?”
She nodded, butcouldn’t force herself to speak. Fear tumbled into terror and herknees buckled. She landed on the floor.
When she triedto rise Lagon put his hand on her head. “Stay where you are. Youare right to be afraid.”
“My lord, thered grieved for her mate. She tried to leave once before and Istopped her. She must have sought to join her mate in death.”
Lagon’slaughter made her quake. “That matters not. You should have come tome immediately. Your punishment would have been confinement to yourquarters. Now you have earned five lashes.”
She heard thewhip crack and felt the leather thong strike her back. Pain madeher body jerk. She bit her lower lip to hold in a scream. Fivetimes she felt the pain.
When the lastblow landed, Lagon spoke. “You are the promised mother of my heir.I was told me my heir would be born from a woman from High Peaks.Though I believed another would have that honor, I was mistaken. Inever would have invaded that tower if I had not been given apromise.”
“Who made sucha promise?” Though she should have remained silent she gave voiceto the question.
“The wizards ofFyre.”
Arana frowned.Why had they done such a thing?
With nowarning, the lash struck again. “You will remember all I have saidand you will be ready to do your duty.”
“Arana, I willcome and bite him.”
“Verde, no. Hewill kill you. Then I’ll be alone and can never escape. We will gotonight.” She didn’t tell the green she would receive anotherbeating for allowing him to live.
Lagon pulledher to her feet. He raised her chin and kissed her. “Do not thinkyour wounds will keep you from the speakers’ room. I am yourdestiny. For punishment, the other speakers will be present whenthe Sea Cliff pair rises. Tomorrow the special feedings will begin.In a few days she will be ready. The speakers will stand as witnesswhen I take my pleasure on your body.” He grabbed her hand andplaced it on the front of his breeches. “On that day my dragon willrise and take you.”
Arana frowned.He didn’t stir. She tried to speak, but daggers of pain stabbedalong her back. The agony was worse than the time she spilledboiling water on her foot.
“You’respeechless.” Lagon laughed. “You’ll scream when I breach you. Iwill roar like a dragon.” He strode away.
Arana sucked ina breath. She and Verde must leave tonight. She walked to the slavequarters. Each step jolted her body and sent agony along herskin.
One of thewomen waited in the common room. She pulled off Arana’s torn smockand spread a numbing paste on the slashes. “You displeased him. Youshould know better..”
“I know. Thankyou for the salve.” The pain ebbed. She retreated to her room.There she donned a clean smock. She wrapped her comb, and a knifeshe had stolen from the kitchen, in a shawl. She crept from thecubicle, slipped along the corridor and sped across the landingfield. Before entering the pens she made sure no one was about. Bythe time she reached Verde’s pen, her fear had returned. Tearsflowed down her cheeks.
“I still thinkI should bite him,” Verde said.
Arana strokedhis side. “Not now. We must make our plans to leave. If it everbecomes possible we will return and take care of him.” She sat onthe floor to work on the riding pad. Then she prepared a meal forVerde. The pain gradually returned but exhaustion carried her intoa restless sleep filled with visions of Lagon and of the lashingshe’d endured.
“Arana, wakeup.”
She rubbed hereyes. The motion brought a rush of pain. “Is it time?”
“Yes. The skyis dark and the moon low.”
“What should Ido?”
“Bring the padto the landing field. When we are there, you can fasten it, andyourself, on my back. This is how.” He sent her pictures. “Do youunderstand?”
“Yes.”
The greendragon lumbered past the other pens. Arana forced herself to carrythe pad and her belongings. She crept after him. Each step broughta jolt of pain. She wished someone could apply more of the numbingpaste. She dare not stop. She had to escape.
By the timethey reached the landing field, her eyes filled with tears. She bither lower lip to keep cries from escaping. Verde crouched while sheplaced the pad over his spinal ridges. He rose so she could tie thestraps under his body. When he crouched so she could mount, despitethe coolness of the night, perspiration covered her skin.
Once she wassecurely fastened, Verde moved to the edge of the field and steppedoff. He stroked his wings three times. Each stroke brought Arana ajolt of pain. Clouds covered the moon. They circled the tower andheaded for High Peaks.
As theycontinued onward, Arana felt chilled. Her body shook. She wonderedhow long the flight would take. Were they flying in the rightdirection? The absence of moonlight kept her from seeing the landbelow. Would seeing matter? She had never flown before.
She driftedinto a half-sleep. She felt hot, then cold, and finally hot again.Had the slave cleansed the wound? She couldn’t remember.
With a jerk,she roused. Clouds parted to reveal the moon. Arana peered at theground. Were they moving slower? The beat of the dragon’s wingsseemed less vigorous. “Verde, are you tired?”
“Some.”
“We could landso you can rest.”
“What if theevil one discovers you are missing? He will send the blues tosearch.”
“Maybe not. Hewould send servants on horseback. He does not know about you.”
“The dragonsdo. They might tell. I can stay aloft until we reach the cavern atHigh Peaks.”
“Don’t harmyourself.”
“When we reachthe cavern I will eat and sleep. Rest now. I will see you tosafety.”
Arana driftedto sleep. The sun rose and still the dragon flew onward. Arana wokeand felt him falter. She must do something to help him. They flewover a forest. There was no place to land. She couldn’t allow Verdeto kill himself because of the effort of flying with a burden onhis back.
She fumbledwith the straps that bound her to his back. Exquisite pain ran fromher back down her arms. The knots were too tight. She searched herbundle for the knife. The weapon slipped from her hand. She triedto grab it, screamed and slumped against the pad. There was no wayto relieve Verde of her extra weight. “If you grow too tired youmust land.”
“I can reachthe tower.”
 
* * *
 
Verde’s wingsached. He had flown through the night and into the next day. Hiswings felt as though fire burned where they connected to his body.The sky began to gray. He felt the weight of Arana sapping hisstamina. He had never flown this far before. His night excursionshad been around the tower, over the sea, and back. Sometimes hethought about fleeing, but that meant Arana would have been leftalone. He could not do such a thing.. She saved his life.
“Old One,” hecried. “My wings hurt. I am so tired.”
“You are almostto the cavern. Your voice sounds louder.”
“I must landsoon. Arana is heavy. She is ill. The evil one broke her. She ishot, and then cold. Her dreams frighten me. She moves restlessly,and I fear she will fall.”
“Open a pathfor me to her and I will calm her. Open your eyes and tell me whatyou see.”
“A bigmountain. More behind that one. A large block of gray stone.”
“Good. I willcome and guide you to the cavern. Why did the evil one harmArana?”
“He learned theHigh Peaks red was gone. He blamed Arana. She did not tell himwhere the red went.”
“Does he knowabout the eggs?”
“She did nottell him that either. After the beating she came to me. She madethe flying pad and gave me another feeding.” Verde stared at themountains. A yellow dragon appeared. “I see you. Why are youyellow?”
“Age has donethat. Soon you will reach the cavern. There will be food and restfor you, and someone to care for Arana.”
Verde felt arenewal of energy. The yellow flew beneath him. As the skycontinued to darken he saw the tall structure that resembled SeaCliff Tower. The Old One shot ahead and dove into a dark opening inthe mountain beyond the tower. Verde followed.
“Old One, nighthas come. The evil one will soon send the blues to search. Willthey come to High Peaks and find us.” He heard a deep chuckle.
“You are hiddenhere. The blues of the other towers do not know of this place. Allbut the evil one’s blue and red hatched after he invaded HighPeaks.”
Verde aimed forthe dark opening and landed. He was too tired to move completelyinto the cavern. He collapsed half on the stone and half on thesand. The glittering pillars made him think of a welcome home.
 
* * *
 
Drakon woke.The Old One’s call pulled him from a dream. Had something happenedto the eggs? Surely the time for the hatching hadn’t arrived. Therewas no speaker for the red egg. He scrambled for the clothes he’ddropped on the floor the night before. After dressing and jamminghis feet into his boots, he clattered down the stairs.
“Hurry.”
“What’s wrong?Are you ill?”
Radlan appearedin the doorway to the suite of rooms where he and Sofona lived.“It’s barely dawn. Where are you going?”
“To the cavern.The Old One woke me. I fear something dreadful has occurred.”
“She needsyou,” the Old One called. “Have a feeding with thorns and berriesbrought.”
Drakon relayedthe message to the older man.

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