Authors: Kelly Lucille
FIRE THE BLOOD
Dragon Mage Book III
By Kelly Lucille
Cover Art by
Copyright © 2014
She was in the garden
From his hidden vantage
point perched on one of many high turrets of Forsaken Mountain, Braedon watched
Lady Asha move through the flowers. It was yet another wonder of Dracon that
Eben Kinkaid’s fortress of stone sported things like hot spring grottoes and
flower gardens that should not grow on rock ledges but did, flowering and
spreading over hard rock so that it felt as if you were deep in a woodland
glade and not on the unforgiving rock peak of a dragon's castle.
He had been here weeks
now, watching over his sister and waiting as the dragons dealt with their
internal power squabbles and the search for Lord Graedon. Unpalatable politics
aside, the longer he was here the more he appreciated the stunning beauty and
power of the land around him, much as he was fast learning to appreciate the
lady he watched for the same reasons. Both she and the land had a wildness to
them he could appreciate, and like the land, he had a feeling Lady Asha could
turn just as deadly to the unwary.
Beautiful she might be
with eyes of lapis lazuli, skin like shimmering pearls, and that bronze dragon
glow to her long braid that caught the light and drew the eye from any
distance, but there was fire under that deceptively soft skin and strength in
her long limbs and lithe figure. Next to the other dragons, she may have been
a fragile swan amidst lumbering beasts, but he was a huntsman of the forest and
a fire mage. He knew a predator when he saw one, even when she wore a yellow
dress and smelled like lavender.
With hardly a sound, she
flitted through the profusion of blooms. The tinkle of the water beckoned her
to dip her fingers in, and she did, every time. Each time, she would smile
when she felt the cool tickle on her palm, then raise her fingers to her curved
lips and taste the drops clinging to her skin. After watching her do it the
first time, he had waited for her to leave then taken the walk down to the
garden himself. He had dipped his own hand in and felt the swirling eddies
against his hardened palm. He felt the magic race along his skin and then
brought his hand to his mouth as she had done, and tasted the sweet magic in
the water himself. It was another form of energy, the magic of nature. To a
mage raised away from Dracon where such things had long disappeared from the
earth, it felt a bit like coming home. A surge of light fluttered through him,
and he felt a connection to the world around him that he had been missing. As
he watched her sip happily from her fingers before continuing her silent vigil
through the garden, he knew what the water tasted like and why she smiled.
What he did not know was why her dragon eyes glowed mage green while she did
it, but he was going to find out.
"Braedon, are you up
there?" Riva's voice was barely above a whisper, but he heard her
exasperation anyway. "Must you always skulk about like a thief? What
will Lady Morgan think?"
Braedon sighed, took one
last look at Lady Asha in the far garden, and flipped over the roof’s edge and
unto the deck beside his sister. Riva gasped and jumped back out of his way.
Her shiny black hair flying around her, she huffed out a breath at his
Her long legs encased in
trousers were still a strange sight to his eyes. All their lives he had never
seen her in anything but skirts. "You know Lady Morgan has offered you
new clothes; you do not have to continue to wear those borrowed pants."
Riva rolled her
expressive eyes that were the exact same shade of topaz as his. "These
the new clothes that I asked for. I like the pants."
She turned to pick a burlap
bag up off the floor, her legs and womanly backside showcased in her new
style. Braedon grimaced and raised a brow. His words were possibly more
belligerent then they should have been. "Since when?"
Riva raised her stubborn
chin even as she turned and slapped the bag into his chest. At very nearly the
same height, he had a good view of the angry glint in her eyes. "Since
the day I caught fire wearing skirts that went up like kindling."
He was still absorbing
that hit to his heart when she stomped out. Her words drifted behind her, and
they had a bite to them she reserved just for him. "Those are the clothes
I asked Lady Morgan to supply for
," she called back. "You
are starting to smell like the game you hunt. For all our sakes, find a hot
spring, and show the rest of us some mercy by bathing in it."
Braedon watched his
sister leave. Even when she was stomping about, she did it gracefully. Then
he bent his neck and sniffed. The smell of ash from the bonfire he had jumped
into to save Riva still clung to his leathers like a stain. Grudgingly, he had
to admit she might have a point. He had been hunting when he heard word of a
mage at the mercy of dragons and had moved to investigate. Finding Lady
Melisande, not a prisoner but a wind talked dragons mate had led to riding on
the back of a dragon to save his sister from the bonfire and mob. Since then
he had never left hunt mode, and the niceties of polite society had been the
last thing on his mind. He had been too intent on seeing to the protection of
the sister he had neglected and, he had to admit, doing a thorough study on the
enigma that was Lady Asha. He had washed up nightly in the basin of water
supplied him, but he had not washed or changed his clothes in all that time.
He thought about the reported sensitivity of a dragon’s nose and looked to the
balcony and the now empty garden behind. Then he turned and headed out; he
knew of two hot springs in Forsaken. He headed for the closest one.
Lady Asha wandered the
garden until she felt the chill return as the huntsman's eyes finally left
her. It had been weeks, but he still watched her a great deal of the time. He
was not the only one, but he was the most frequent. He was also the only one
she did not mind so much, him and his topaz eyes that burned with an inner
fire. At least when Braedon, huntsman and fire mage, watched her, she was warm
for a short time. It was almost worth the continued postponement of her
objective. Asha sighed as she ran her hands through the trickling brook one
more time. She was going to miss a great many things about Dracon, when she
had never expected to miss any.
The wind shifted just
then, bringing a cold northern breeze that heralded the onslaught of winter
approaching; she could practically taste the frost on her tongue. She shivered
and wrapped her arms around herself, hoping to stave off the cold. A cloud
obscured the sun overhead, and Asha looked up, thinking she would have to go in
soon; she missed the sunlight already. She had been so long without it that
any time she received was precious to her. The look of dark shadows in the
garden where sunshine had been moments ago made her hesitate. With a final
shiver, she turned from the sweet smelling garden and chirping brook and headed
back into Forsaken. Her times of idleness and rest were over. Change was
coming, but she could not yet say whether it would be for good or bad. Asha
knew in her bones that tonight she would dream dragon vision and finally
receive the answers she sought. She could only hope it led to Seatown's hot
sandy beaches and open skies. Maybe she could finally find the warmth she was
missing far away from Dracon and the horror that had been Isolation Mountain.
Even as she thought it,
Asha shivered again. She wrapped her arms even more tightly around herself. A
whisper of a voice within her argued that they should just leave now while they
still had the open sky. Instead, Asha buckled down, knowing from experience
that attempting such an escape without a plan would lead to disaster for her
and everyone she cared about. She shuddered as a wave of heat rolled through
her and then the cold settled back into her aching joints and fingers. She
clutched her fists and turned her wrists in a circular motion as she walked to
relieve the feeling. Not thinking anything of it as she moved through the
castle. Unlike the black dungeon of Isolation where she had been raised, this
one shimmered with light refracted from the veins of gold and gems embedded in
the walls. She did not trust the beauty of the place because she had seen
halls in her childhood home on a few occasions that were just as beautiful and
hid the ugly black stain that slithered beneath the surface of the earth. She
supposed she could leave the gardens and the luxurious halls behind and venture
below to the darker areas to see what was hidden in this one, but she could not
bring herself to do it for fear she would be trapped there, as she had been in
Isolation Mountain as a child.
"Are you well, Lady
Asha?" She heard the voice before she saw the man. General of the dragon
knights and Warrior of the Light, Solan Fire-Eater was a daunting sight at any
time. He was a good foot and a few inches taller than her 5'8" height and
had silver eyes and hair so black it absorbed light. His one soft spot was his
lush lips, which rarely smiled unless his mate, Lady Melisande, was in the
room. The rest of the time, he was all sharp angles and hard as the obsidian
his dragon resembled when he transformed. He was also the only dragon, save
one, that she knew Lord Graedon feared.
"I am well, thank
you, Lord Fire-Eater." She moved to keep going past where he stood, but
he stepped forward, and she froze.
She watched his forehead
furrow and his eyes flash and flow like quicksilver. "No one here will
bring you any harm, lady. I merely wanted to ask you some questions I have
been putting off while you recover." He looked at her clutched hands,
watching the way she rubbed them together to fight the cold. Asha stilled the
betraying motions and dropped her hands to her sides. His eyes returned to her
face. Taking in her stubborn jaw and mulish mouth, he continued without
inflection: "About your father, and where he might be hiding."
Asha snorted in a most
unladylike fashion. "Is that what you want to know?" She shook her
head. "Believe me, General, if I could serve you
head," she practically spat the words. "On a platter, extra crispy,
I would do so with joy. But I am the last person he would divulge secrets
to." She stopped abruptly and narrowed her eyes in thought as something
occurred to her. She met the general’s intent stare with a less hostility as
she considered the thought. This time her voice was hesitant; she was unsure
of the information she was giving, "I did vision him once in one of the
sacred spaces deep in a mountain. He had tainted it somehow,” she shuddered as
the memory returned to her. "Everything that should have been clean there
was contaminated in death, and I could feel the warped power soaking the
ground." She clutched a hand to her throat as she recalled the suffocating
blackness of that place. She shuddered and turned back to the clean flow of
silver in the General’s mercurial eyes. The patience their calmed her, and she
pulled in a breath, reminding herself that she was no longer trapped. "It
was an evil place, more so because I could feel it had once contained all
"Were there any
landmarks, identifying formations, or anything to distinguish it from a
thousand other such places?"
She looked deeper into
the memory with effort, but it was all oily blackness and decay. "There
were bones: dragon bones of great power." She blinked and focused once
again. "If we had such places, I would say it was a dragon burial
Eben Kinkaid stepped out
of the shadows, making Asha whirl to keep both men in her sights. Taller even
than the General, he towered over her with iridescent shimmers in his black
hair and eyes of antique gold. He was the oldest living dragon and the only
other being Lord Graedon feared: the Dragon Executioner. She shuddered as the
power he contained brushed like a heavy gauntlet across her senses.
Even his voice seemed to
betray his great age, low and rough. "There were such places once. We
sealed them ions ago, but Lord Graedon has powers over the earth and dabbles in
unholy rights. It is possible he has found a way to access them again."
He moved his all-seeing eyes to the General, and they hardened. Asha hoped most
fervently that Eben Kinkaid never beheld her with such a look in his eyes.
The General growled.
"If he has desecrated the sacred temples..."
"Then he will have
more power than we assumed, and he will have gathered it from the bones of our
sacred dead." She could feel his power swell as Kinkaid fought against a
rage that nearly buckled her knees. She gasped as she wobbled; mustering
everything she had to stand under such a weight. A second later, it was gone,
and the relief of it nearly tumbled her over anyway. A warm hand held her
upright as she settled. "My apologies, Lady Asha. I would hope to have
more control of my emotions after so many years to practice."
Trying to slow her heart
back to normal, Asha gently extracted her arm from the frighteningly powerful
dragon’s grip. Shaking from head to toe, she valiantly tried to hide it,
brushing his apology away with a shaky hand. "Think nothing of it, Lord
Kinkaid." She bowed her head his way then blindly did the same towards
General Solan Fire-Eater. Turning and exiting at a pace only slightly slower
than the embarrassing sprint she had in mind, she had almost reached the corner
when the General called her name.
With no choice, she turned and valiantly raised her chin to meet that molting
silver gaze. "I thank you for your assistance in this. I know it cannot
be an easy thing when it is family perpetrating such crimes.”