Authors: Cindy Lynn Speer
Copyright ©2008 by Cindy Lynn Speer
First published in 2008, 2008
ZUMAYA OTHERWORLDS AUSTIN TX
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons or events is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. Except for use in review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means now known or hereafter invented, is prohibited without the written permission of the author or publisher.
Zumaya Otherworlds is the speculative fiction imprint of Zumaya Publications LLC of Austin, Texas. Look for us online.
Speer, Cindy Lynn, 1974—
Blue moon / by Cindy Lynn Speer.
ISBN 978-1-934135-72-3 (trade pbk. : alk. paper)
1. Magic—Fiction. I. Title.
On the other side of the world—not the other side of the globe, but the other side of existence—a dragon took flight. He was silver and brown, and seemed to meld with the mist that wreathed the steep, sharp crags. The mountain he circled was one of strange myths, so tall that no man or elf or four-footed beast had ever climbed it, so hard no dwarf had ever dug its depths. Some thought God lived at the peak, some considered it the domicile of husband sun and wife moon, and some believed it a barren wasteland where no life could ever survive.
The dragons knew the truth. Only they had breath enough and will enough to reach the highest of peaks. And this dragon was testing his breath and strength and will; his magnificent wings, with membranes so fine and clear they seemed like a net meant to capture the stars, strove hard, cleaving the wind, pushing just a little bit farther. He was tiring, and even he, a prince of the northern frost dragons, felt the cold like an ache in his bones.
Heaving forward, he broke free of the last of the clouds, his scales glittering like snow in the pale moonlight. The summit still seemed far away, but he continued, straining, for he had no choice.
When he finally made the top, he didn't stop, flying almost vertically until he had no more breath and darkness dotted the corners of his vision. He dived, let gravity take him, folding his wings back against his body. Closer to death than he had ever been, he did not see this as the end. This was a dive of faith, and he concentrated instead on another place only seen in dragon dreams. Soil and rock rushed up to meet him, but he kept his eyes open. He was close enough, in those last seconds, to see the fine cracks in the parched earth.
Then he was tumbling through absolute blackness. First came emptiness as his magic was ripped away; then pain as his bones began to shift. He concentrated, reminding himself where he was going, who he was.
He came out of darkness and into twilight, fetching up against a tree. He pushed himself up, trying to focus on the land around him. His bones shifted again, and the prince of dragons threw back his head and screamed as wings withered, as scales transmuted into cloth. His coming was like a flare in the night for those who knew how to watch, a ripple across minds and hearts. They knew he had crossed through, but they did not know who or what he was, what his presence meant to them.
The Flying Dutchman
, a group of elves looked to their captain. The captain's wife pulled out her charts.
"It's only the first sign,” she whispered, “But the blue moon is coming."
The captain looked at his crew of refugees. “I swear to you now what I swore to you then. No one will force us back."
Grim silence greeted him, broken only by slap of waves against the hull and the creaking of wood.
In the cave beneath the ruins of her parents’ castle, Nimue of the Lake stirred. Her pale-green eyes opened sleepily, but there was no quickening of magic in her soul. She sighed and rolled over, back into dreams.
In a one-bedroom apartment, Sabin felt the stirring in the atmosphere but couldn't interpret its meaning. He shrugged and looked at his wife, shook the car keys. She winced at the sound but continued scrubbing dishes and pretending not to cry.
"Dry your hands, baby,” he said. “It's time to take a ride."
Others heard the cry. Some trembled, some nodded and began to make plans.
"The blue moon is coming,” they whispered, in fear and anticipation.
The dragon finished his transformation. Reaching up, he touched the dragon pin on his shirt, and it comforted him, reminding him that, no matter what strange feelings this new body gave him, he was Tor'Vanith of the Frost-Sea. He let go of it reluctantly and sighed, then took a look at what he could see of himself.
His clothes had automatically reverted to humans wore in his own land—brown leather boots and pants dyed just a little lighter in color than his scales, and a gray shirt in serviceable linen. He made a tall, lanky human, paler-skinned than he would have thought. He had no idea what the people of this world would wear, but with the luck that usually befell him, fashions would be wildly different.
"Probably stick out like gold among silver,” he croaked, to see what his voice was like. Frowning, he decided to use it as little as possible. His English would not be as hopelessly archaic as some of his fellow dragons’ would have been, but it wouldn't be common, either.
His legs and feet protested as he stood, unused to their new form. He leaned against the tree, trying to figure out the best way to breathe, through nose or mouth, hating his weakness—his father would not be daunted by such a little thing as a change in form. His father was powerful and fearsome, and his only son and heir wanted to prove himself with a desperation that was strong for a male of the dragonkind.
He looked around at the trees, and noticed that his eyes were not as sharp, that the air did not tell tales to him as it once had. Carefully, he called on the little bit of magic still inside him, knowing he had to conserve it, and drew a square in the air. He dotted the center and whispered his name—
—then an arrow to stand for where he was facing. He focused, like calling to like, magic calling to magic.
To his left another dot appeared, shimmering white, and a smaller, fainter dot next to it. The brighter dot was his destination.
He paused to pick up a stick from the ground, and took a moment to peel off some of the fungus and bark. It was mostly dry, only rotten on one end, and had been lying long enough that it was no longer green. It would conduct his magic well enough, he thought, reassured that no matter how dead to magic this world was, he would always have the lightning in his bones. Nothing could take that away.
He set off to the left, using the stick to probe the weeds. There were things hidden in them he could not put a name to, but he knew what they were made of. He saw a few glass jars with labels so faded he wouldn't have been able to read them even if he knew the language. There was a red thing of metal on one side of the path that did not sing when he reached with his mind to touch it.
Something else did, though, and he dug until he found a small disc of copper. When he touched it with his mind it sang to him, dully, of time and dirt and corrosion. There were no pockets in his clothes, so he let it slide down inside his boot. Most dragons loved gold, loved the songs it sang when they touched it with their minds. Some dragons even loved silver.
But he had a special place in his heart for copper, no matter how impure. There were some pieces in his lair at home, pure beaten copper vessels and trinkets that, when left out in the warmth of the sun, would chant to him of quiet, gentle things.
Closing his eyes briefly, he decided he was about as ready as he would ever be and continued on his way to the white dot that meant another magic user was in the area.
He strode along, spreading his senses out as far as they would go, trying to pick up any clues or hints about his prey. He did not think he was expected, but he did not want to walk into a trap. Bird calls were rare, the silence broken by an occasional unidentified roar. He reached out to steady himself as he stepped over a low gray railing and felt the crunch of stone beneath his boots.
A road wended before him; horseless wagons and carriages sped along at impossible speeds. They stank and roared, causing Tor'Vanith to frown. These people had had centuries of technology, and yet their modes of transport were still rather primitive and annoying to the senses. He mentally shrugged and ran across the road, then climbed the smooth stone barrier. He crouched there, waiting for a clear spot in the traffic. He had to admit that, speed-wise, they were a vast improvement on the cart and horse, which was mostly what the humans used where he came from.
Taking a deep breath he jumped down, running across the remainder of the road and into the woods on the other side.
Finally, he came to a small clearing. He hid within weeds and examined the area. There was a rutted cart path on which a four-wheeled enclosed vehicle sat. The cottage it was parked in front of was painted a now-peeling light green. Weeds grew up around it; and the windows were shattered, the white wooden frames broken in places. The roof appeared caved in at the back, but he wasn't sure.
He looked at it for a long time, trying to decide the best thing to do. The map said a strong magical force was in that house—but if there was, wouldn't the place at least look habitable? He could not imagine a human tolerating a leaky roof or the wind whistling through at night.
He stood and pushed aside the weeds, circling to the back of the house. The porch had fallen in, and with it a small portion of the roof. The back door was blocked by rotten wood. He returned to the front, walking with silence and care, and opened the door, wincing as it creaked, then looked inside, waiting for his eyes to adjust.
The sound of voices reached him, coming from below, in the cellar. The old boards of the floor would creak, he thought, so he carefully lowered himself, distributing his weight. The boards would still creak, but as long as it didn't sound like footsteps, as long as he could make it seem like random house-shifting, he'd probably be alright.
Crossing the room like a serpent, he felt the filth and mold ingraining on his flesh. He was grateful that, aside from the dirt and some leaves and twigs, the room was empty, and he wouldn't have to navigate around furniture. A trail of clean wood marked his path and it bothered him, but he didn't know a better way.
Creeping into the cooking area, he saw cupboard doors hanging open, the wood stinking with rot. The water damage was bad, and it had warped the door leading to the cellar stairs so that it was impossible to close. He stood and, placing his foot on the nail heads along the edges of the treads and his life in the strength of the hand rail, he carefully made his way down.
He put as much weight on the rail as he dared on it, hoping he wouldn't make much noise. He regretted now carrying the staff, as he would have liked both hands free, but he would not let it go.
The cellar was divided into two rooms. The floor was dirt, and broken and forgotten furniture was pushed against the wall. The door to the next room hung open, and he crouched in the shadows, depending on the dark to hide him. The light in the basement was even more fitful than above, provided by narrow windows close to the ceiling.
On the other side of the door a tall wooden cabinet hid him from view, and he was able to observe the situation. His adversary was there, and he was not alone. One of the Terfa—the tree people, his skin wrinkled and covered with bark—stood beside him, their attention on the naked human female bound to the table in front of them.
Tor'Vanith winced in pity, for he could feel her fear radiating out like a cold north wind.
Three lanterns brightened the room slightly, allowing him to see the contents of the rough work table to their left. A jar of magic sat on it, glowing a weak green. Objects glittered in the dull gleam—a knife, pliers, a chipped cup, some stones.