Read Blood Charged (Dragon Blood, Book 3) Online
Authors: Lindsay Buroker
Tags: #General Fiction
(Dragon Blood, Book 3)
by Lindsay Buroker
Copyright © 2014, Lindsay Buroker
elcome back, good reader, for the third adventure in the series. This novel brings back Ridge, Sardelle, Tolemek, and Cas (oh, and let’s not forget Jaxi, who
has something to say). I hope you’ll enjoy taking a new journey with everyone.
Once again, I would like to thank the behind-the-scenes people who helped me get
ready to publish: my beta readers, Cindy Wilkinson and Sarah Engelke, my editor, Shelley Holloway, and the cover art designers at Deranged Doctor Design.
ardelle was being followed.
She hadn’t seen her pursuer yet, but her sorceress’s senses told her a woman was back there, skulking through the slushy alleys of Pinoth. Her senses also told her the woman was armed. The large hunting knife hanging from her belt shouldn’t prove too much of a threat, but the six-shooter nestled in her palm? If prepared, Sardelle could shield herself from bullets, but doing so in the middle of the magic-fearing Iskandian capital with dozens of witnesses around… even if she wasn’t physically harmed, she would be in trouble.
Sardelle quickened her step.
You should have brought me with you
, Jaxi, her sentient soulblade, spoke into her mind.
As I’ve pointed out several times, women wandering around with swords are an oddity in this age.
For the first couple of weeks she had been in the city, Sardelle had worn Jaxi beneath her cloak, in part because she hadn’t wanted to risk losing her after working so hard to retrieve her from that mine, and in part because she hadn’t realized how much fashions had changed during the three hundred years she had slept in that mage stasis chamber. Soldiers still carried swords as part of their uniform, but firearms were the norm, and women who worried about defending themselves on the streets preferred pistols they could slip into their handbags. Thanks to her relationship with the most famous pilot in the city, if not in all of Iskandia, there were already enough rumors floating around about her. She didn’t need to draw extra attention by not fitting in with the locals. Fortunately, without the soulblade, she looked no different than any other Iskandian woman, dark hair, pale skin, a few freckles across the nose…
And the ability to flambé hordes of enemy soldiers with a wave of your hand
Yes, and I’m quite fabulous at them.
After a pause, Jaxi added,
Your shadow has taken to the rooftops to keep up with you without being noticed. Her finger is tight on that trigger too.
You could hop onto the roof, pin her down, cut off her air for a while so she knows you’re serious, then demand to know why she’s following you.
Unless you’re suggesting I impose upon her physically to do all those things, I would be confirming something she can only suspect at this point.
Physical imposition is perfectly acceptable, but from the way she’s hopping from rooftop to rooftop, she may be more than your match in that area.
Sardelle thought about pointing out that she had hopped a few rooftops in her day, but Jaxi was fully aware of her abilities… and weaknesses.
You tripped and skinned your knee the last time you hopped a log.
Thanks for the reminder.
Sardelle turned down a side street, hoping her spy would be slowed down by having to cross the wide boulevard before skimming up to another rooftop. A sudden hope kindled.
She’s not Cofah, is she?
Pale skin. She looks like a native.
Sardelle sighed. She would have worried less if a spy from the empire verified her secrets. Nobody here would listen to a Cofah woman’s accusations against her.
A steam wagon mounted with large guns trundled down the street, clattering and clanking across timeworn cobblestones. The cargo area in the back was covered. On impulse, Sardelle jumped onto the back and clung to a bar at the corner.
Very nice. You didn’t even skin a knee.
Ignoring Jaxi, Sardelle watched over her shoulder, hoping she would spot her follower stuck up on a rooftop and quickly falling behind. The woman didn’t show herself.
The steam wagon belched stinky black smoke into the air, and the bumps and shudders from driving on the cobblestones made Sardelle’s teeth clatter together, but it moved along at a faster speed than she could walk. They cruised past shoppers, workers, and bicycle messengers braving the slushy streets and fearlessly weaving past steam vehicles, horses, and donkeys pulling carts. The miles-long harbor came into view, a mixture of fishing vessels, freighters, and warships on maneuvers out in the water. Sardelle’s gaze drifted to the butte towering at the south end. From the ground, she couldn’t see much of the airbase, but she had been up there enough times to imagine the runways and its hangars full of mechanical dragon fliers. The sky over the sea was clear, the wind stiller than usual. Maybe the pilots would have practice maneuvers scheduled for the day.
Isn’t your doting lover going to a meeting this morning?
Ah, that was right. Ridge wouldn’t be out there, even if the fliers did take to the sky. Not unless an alarm sounded, and his whole squadron was called to duty.
Your spy is falling behind, but still following. She may know where you’re going.
Unfortunately, that was a possibility. This was Sardelle’s third day heading to the public archives building for research. Maybe another visitor had noticed her there yesterday and thought her suspicious, or maybe the woman who worked at the assistance desk had reported to someone about Sardelle’s unflagging interest in the place—judging by the dust smothering the shelves, very few had even passing interest in the archives building.
I’m not going to turn around and go back to Ridge’s cottage to weep quietly over my lost friends, family, and life while waiting for him to come home for the night.
Sardelle had done enough of that during her first weeks in town. True, she had been working on those communications devices for Ridge’s squadron more often than she had been mourning—sulking, Jaxi had called it—so it hadn’t been wasted time, but she was eager to make headway on the mission she had given herself: to track down her kin, however many generations removed, and search for other Iskandians with dragon blood. Then she would teach those who were willing how to use their powers. It would be the mission of a lifetime, and finding those people wouldn’t be easy, not when anyone with inexplicable talents learned to hide them early on. The archives building was the only place in town that might tell her if her brother or any of her cousins had survived the purging of the Referatu and had children who had kept the line alive through the centuries. She particularly wanted to find her brother’s descendants, to make sure they were well. He had teased and tormented her relentlessly all through childhood, and she had rarely visited him in adulthood, but now that it was too late… a lump of regret formed in her throat whenever she thought about it.
I wasn’t suggesting you abandon your quest or fill your days with knitting scarves like the old woman next door, but you could come home to get me, so you’d be better able to defend yourself.
I can defend myself fine on my own.
I never would have chosen to bond with you if I’d known you would leave me under the bed for days on end with nothing for company but dust balls.
I’m quite positive there are no dust balls under Ridge’s bed.
The wagon turned off the main street. When a bicycle wobbled into its path, forcing it to slow down, Sardelle hopped off.
Besides, a couple of days of inaction should be nothing after three hundred years of being cooped up inside a mountain. It’s scarcely been three weeks since you had that big adventure with Tolemek.
You mean the big adventure where he used me as a lamp, because I can glow nicely?
You also incinerated a deadly weapon that was seconds away from killing thousands of people.
Something Sardelle wished Jaxi had figured out she could do
Sardelle had promised to help rescue Tolemek’s sister from some sanitarium an ocean and thousands of miles away and to teach her how to use magic.
Fussy, fussy. I thought you
I do, but it would be more feasible to look for them here.
Maybe it was selfish, but Sardelle was more interested in teaching her own people than someone who came from the continent that had been trying to conquer Iskandia for centuries. Nor was she positive Tolemek’s sister, reputedly disturbed in the mind, would be teachable.
She hiked up her skirt and walked up a side street full of melting snow and steaming horse piles, glad her fur-lined boots kept
of the road decor away from her legs. Her destination, a drab gray three-story building looming at the next intersection, had the architectural allure of a doorstop. The usual woman was sitting behind the desk, reading a book and scowling at people who left puddles of water on the threshold floor. She also had the allure of a doorstop.
“You again?” the archivist asked when Sardelle walked in, then glanced toward the door, as if she expected someone else to come in behind her. Interesting.
“Yes, I believe this will be my last day of research.” Sardelle signed her name in the register at the desk, using the same made-up surname she had been using since waking up in this new era, Sordenta. Only two people had signed in after her yesterday, and she was the first visitor today.
“You going to be looking in the red books again?”
Sardelle paused, the pen still on the page. “Pardon?”
“I have to report that, you know.”
Sardelle thought back to the previous two days. She had looked into archive books with red bindings, but she hadn’t thought anything of the colors. Others were black, blue, and green, seemingly arranged on the shelves at random.
“I didn’t know. What does the red signify?” she asked, though a feeling of unease settled about her shoulders like a cold, wet cloak.
The clerk’s eyes narrowed to slits. “Ancestral lines with witch blood.”
It took her a moment to do so, but Sardelle hooked two fingers before her chest in a warding-off gesture, having learned this was the appropriate sign one should make when magic or witches were discussed. “I had no idea.”
She had been aware of the clerk ambling around the building from time to time, pretending to dust and to arrange books, but she hadn’t realized the woman had been spying on Sardelle’s research material. Or that a genealogy book could be so condemning, to the one reading it
the ones listed in it. Were the descendants of known sorcerers from centuries past monitored to this day? Or were they simply listed in these archives in case the names came to the attention of the law? The archivist would have known, but Sardelle dared not ask her further questions on the matter.
The woman was still squinting suspiciously. “No? Most people who come here are looking for information on their ancestors. But some are also hoping to contact descendants of witches for nefarious reasons.”
“I was simply researching lines I found mentioned in historical texts that are related to the Referatu,” Sardelle said, “because there’s been a renewed military interest in the artifacts from that culture.”
“You don’t look military.” The woman frowned at her dress.
Maybe you should have brought a sword.
“I don’t believe the military is interested in witches, either,” the archivist added.
“Not the magic users specifically, but some of the artifacts that civilization once left behind.” Technically true. The Referatu light fixtures were now powering Iskandian fliers, not that anyone had seemed to know that’s what the power sources had originally been.
“People’s names are listed here, not artifacts.”
“I understand that, but I may gather a few leads here.” Why was she explaining herself to this woman when she had such a poor history of lying convincingly? “Unless you intend to stop me from doing so, I shall continue to do my research.” Sardelle raised an eyebrow, almost hoping the woman would pester her further and give her a reason to deliver an unseemly rash.