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Authors: Morgan Rice

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Rise of the Dragons

BOOK: Rise of the Dragons
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R I S E
   
O F   T H E   
D
R A G O N S

 

 

 

(KINGS AND SORCERERS—BOOK 1)

 

 

 

 

 

MORGAN RICE

 

Morgan Rice

 

Morgan
Rice is the #1 bestselling and USA Today bestselling author of the epic fantasy
series THE SORCERER’S RING, comprising seventeen books; of the #1 bestselling
series THE VAMPIRE JOURNALS, comprising eleven books (and counting); of the #1
bestselling series THE SURVIVAL TRILOGY, a post-apocalyptic thriller comprising
two books (and counting); and of the new epic fantasy series KINGS AND
SORCERERS. Morgan’s books are available in audio and print editions, and
translations are available in over 25 languages.

TURNED
(Book #1 in the
Vampire Journals),
ARENA ONE
(Book #1 of the
Survival Trilogy), and
A QUEST OF
HEROES
(Book #1 in the Sorcerer’s Ring) are each available as a free download on
Amazon!

Morgan
loves to hear from you, so please feel free to visit
www.morganricebooks.com
to join the
email list, receive a free book, receive free giveaways, download the free app,
get the latest exclusive news, connect on Facebook and Twitter, and stay in
touch!

Select Acclaim
for Morgan Rice

 

“A
spirited fantasy that weaves elements of mystery and intrigue into its story
line.
A Quest of Heroes
is all about the making of courage and about
realizing a life purpose that leads to growth, maturity, and excellence….For
those seeking meaty fantasy adventures, the protagonists, devices, and action
provide a vigorous set of encounters that focus well on Thor's evolution from a
dreamy child to a young adult facing impossible odds for survival….Only the
beginning of what promises to be an epic young adult series.”

--Midwest
Book Review
(D.
Donovan, eBook Reviewer)

 

“THE
SORCERER’S RING has all the ingredients for an instant success: plots,
counterplots, mystery, valiant knights, and blossoming relationships replete
with broken hearts, deception and betrayal. It will keep you entertained for
hours, and will satisfy all ages. Recommended for the permanent library of all
fantasy readers.”

--
Books
and Movie Reviews
, Roberto Mattos

 

“Rice’s
entertaining epic fantasy [THE SORCERER’S RING] includes classic traits of the
genre—a strong setting, highly inspired by ancient Scotland and its history,
and a good sense of court intrigue.”


Kirkus
Reviews
“I loved how Morgan Rice built Thor’s character
and the world in which he lived. The landscape and the creatures that roamed it
were very well described…I enjoyed [the plot]. It was short and sweet….There
were just the right amount of minor characters, so I didn’t get confused. There
were adventures and harrowing moments, but the action depicted wasn’t overly
grotesque. The book would be perfect for a teen reader… The beginnings of something
remarkable are there…”
--San Francisco Book Review
“In this action-packed first book in the epic fantasy Sorcerer's Ring
series (which is currently 14 books strong), Rice introduces readers to
14-year-old Thorgrin "Thor" McLeod, whose dream is to join the Silver
Legion, the elite knights who serve the king…. Rice's writing is solid and the
premise intriguing.”
--Publishers Weekly

 

“[A
QUEST OF HEROES] is a quick and easy read. The ends of chapters make it so that
you have to read what happens next and you don’t want to put it down. There are
some typos in the book and some names are messed up, but this does not distract
from the overall story. The end of the book made me want to get the next book
immediately and that is what I did. All nine of the Sorcerer’s Ring series can
currently be purchased on the Kindle store and A Quest of Heroes is currently
free to get you started! If you are looking for a something quick and fun to
read while on vacation this book will do nicely.”

--FantasyOnline.net

Books by Morgan Rice

 

KINGS AND SORCERERS

RISE OF THE DRAGONS (Book #1)

 

THE SORCERER’S RING
A
QUEST OF HEROES (Book #1)
A MARCH OF KINGS (Book #2)

A FATE OF DRAGONS (Book #3)

A CRY OF HONOR (Book #4)

A VOW OF GLORY (Book #5)
A CHARGE OF VALOR (Book #6)
A RITE OF SWORDS (Book #7)

A GRANT OF ARMS (Book #8)
A SKY OF SPELLS (Book #9)

A SEA OF SHIELDS (Book #10)
A REIGN OF STEEL (Book #11)
A LAND OF FIRE (Book #12)
A RULE OF QUEENS (Book #13)
AN OATH OF BROTHERS (Book #14)
A DREAM OF MORTALS (Book #15)

A JOUST OF KNIGHTS (Book #16)
THE GIFT OF BATTLE (Book #17)

 

THE SURVIVAL TRILOGY
ARENA ONE: SLAVERSUNNERS (Book #1)
ARENA TWO (Book #2)

 

THE VAMPIRE JOURNALS

TURNED (Book #1)

LOVED (Book #2)
BETRAYED (Book #3)

DESTINED (Book #4)

DESIRED (Book #5)
BETROTHED (Book #6)

VOWED (Book #7)

FOUND (Book #8)

RESURRECTED (Book #9)
CRAVED (Book #10)
FATED (Book #11)

 

Listen
to THE SORCERER’S RING series in
audio book format!

 

Now
available on:

Amazon

Audible

iTunes

Copyright
© 2014 by Morgan Rice

All
rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no
part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any
form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the
prior permission of the author.

This
ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be
re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book
with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If
you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for
your use only, then please return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for
respecting the hard work of this author.

This
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places,
events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are
used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is
entirely coincidental.

Jacket
image Copyright Photosani, used under license from Shutterstock.com.

“Men at some time are masters of their fates:

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,

But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

 

--William Shakespeare

Julius Caesar

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

Kyra stood atop the grassy knoll, the
frozen ground hard beneath her boots, snow falling around her, and tried to
ignore the biting cold as she raised her bow and focused on her target. She
narrowed her eyes, shutting out the rest of the world—a gale of wind, the sound
of a distant crow—and forced herself to see only the skinny birch tree,
far-off, stark-white, standing out amidst the landscape of purple pine trees.
At forty yards, this was just the sort of shot her brothers couldn’t make, that
even her father’s men couldn’t make—and that made her all the more
determined—she being the youngest of the bunch, and the only girl amongst them.

Kyra had never fit in. A part of her
wanted to, of course, wanted to do what was expected of her and spend time with
the other girls, as was her place, attending to domestic affairs; but deep down,
it was not who she was. She was her father’s daughter, had a warrior’s spirit,
like he, and she would not be contained to the stone walls of their stronghold,
would not succumb to a life beside a hearth. She was a better shot than these
men—indeed, she could already outshoot her father’s finest archers—and she
would do whatever she had to to prove to them all—most of all, her father—that
she deserved to be taken seriously. Her father loved her, she knew, but he
refused to see her for who she was.

Kyra did her best training far from the
fort, out here on the plains of Volis, alone—which suited her well, since she,
the only girl in a fort of warriors, had learned to be alone. She had taken to
retreating here every day, her favorite spot, high atop the plateau overlooking
the fort’s rambling stone walls, where she could find good trees, skinny trees
hard to hit. The thwack of her arrows had become an ever-present sound echoing
over the village; not a tree up here had been spared from her arrows, their trunks
scarred, some trees already leaning.

Most of her father’s archers, Kyra knew,
took aim at the mice that covered the plains; when she had first started, she
had tried that herself, and had found she could kill them quite easily. But
that had sickened her. She was fearless, but sensitive, too, and killing a
living thing with no purpose displeased her. She had vowed then that she would
never take aim at a living thing again—unless it were dangerous, or attacking
her, like the Wolfbats that emerged at night and flew too close to her father’s
fort. She had no qualms about dropping them, especially after her younger
brother, Aidan, suffered a Wolfbat bite that left him ill for half a moon.
Besides, they were the fastest moving creatures out there, and she knew that if
she could hit one, especially at night, then she could hit anything. She had
once spent an entire night by a full moon firing away from her father’s tower,
and had run out eagerly at sunrise, thrilled to see scores of Wolfbats
littering the ground, her arrows still in them, villagers crowding around and
looking with amazed faces.

Kyra forced herself to focus. She played
through the shot in her mind’s eye, seeing herself raising her bow, pulling it
back quickly to her chin and releasing without hesitation. The real shooting,
she knew, happened before the shot. She had witnessed too many archers her age,
on their fourteenth year, draw their strings and waver—and she knew then that
their shots were lost. She took a deep breath, raised her bow, and in one
decisive motion, pulled back and released. She did not even need to look to
know she had hit the tree.

A moment later she heard its thwack—but
she had already turned away, already looking for another target, one further
off.

Kyra heard a whining at her feet and she
looked down at Leo, her wolf, walking beside her as he always did, rubbing
against her leg. A full-grown wolf, nearly up to her waist, Leo was as
protective of Kyra as Kyra was of him, the two of them an inseparable sight in
her father’s fort. Kyra could not go anywhere without Leo hurrying to catch up.
And all that time he clung to her side—unless a squirrel or rabbit crossed his
path, in which case he could disappear for hours.

“I didn’t forget you, boy,” Kyra said,
reaching into her pocket and handing Leo the leftover bone from the day’s
feast. Leo snatched it, trotting happily beside her.

As Kyra walked, her breath emerging in
mist before her, she draped her bow over her shoulder and breathed into her
hands, raw and cold. She crossed the wide, flat plateau and looked out. From
this vantage point she could see the entire countryside, the rolling hills of
Volis, usually green but now blanketed in snow, the province of her father’s
stronghold, nestled in the northeastern corner of the kingdom of Escalon. From
up here Kyra had a bird’s-eye view of all the goings-on in her father’s fort,
the comings and goings of the village folk and warriors, another reason she
liked it up here. She liked to study the ancient, stone contours of her
father’s fort, the shapes of its battlements and towers stretching impressively
through the hills, seeming to sprawl forever. Volis was the tallest structure
in the countryside, some of its buildings rising four stories and framed by
impressive layers of battlements. It was completed by a circular tower on its
far side, a chapel for the folk, but for her, a place to climb and look out at
the countryside and be alone. The stone complex was ringed by a moat, spanned
by a wide main road and an arched stone bridge; this, in turn, was ringed by
layers of impressive outer embankments, hills, ditches, walls—a place befitting
one of the King’s most important warriors—her father.

Though Volis, the final stronghold
before The Flames, was several days’ ride from Andros, Escalon’s capital, it
was still home to many of the former King’s famed warriors. It had also become
a beacon, a place that had become home to the hundreds of villagers and farmers
that lived in or near its walls, under its protection.

Kyra looked down at the dozens of small
clay cottages nestled in the hills on the outskirts of the fort, smoke rising
from chimneys, farmers hurrying to and fro as they prepared for winter, and for
the night’s festival. The fact that villagers felt safe enough to live outside
the main walls, Kyra knew, was a sign of great respect for her father’s might,
and a sight unseen elsewhere in Escalon. After all, they were a mere horn
sounding away from protection, from the instant rallying of all her father’s
men.

Kyra looked down at the drawbridge,
always packed with throngs of people—farmers, cobblers, butchers, blacksmiths,
along with, of course, warriors—all rushing from fort to countryside and back
again. For within the fort’s walls was not only a place to live and train, but
also an endless array of cobblestone courtyards which had become a gathering
place for merchants. Every day their stalls were lined up, people selling their
wares, bartering, showing off the day’s hunt or catch, or some exotic cloth or
spice or candy traded from across the sea. The courtyards of the fort were
always filled with some exotic smell, be it of a strange tea, or a cooking
stew; she could get lost in them for hours. And just beyond the walls, in the
distance, her heart quickened to see the circular training ground for her
father’s men, Fighter’s Gate, and the low stone wall surrounding it, and she
watched with excitement as his men charged in neat lines with their horses,
trying to lance targets—shields hanging from trees. She ached to train with
them.

Kyra suddenly heard a voice cry out, one
as familiar to her as her own, coming from the direction of the gatehouse, and
she turned, immediately on alert. There was a commotion in the crowd, and she
watched as through the bustle, spilling out of the throng and out onto the main
road, there emerged her younger brother, Aidan, led by her two older brothers,
Brandon and Braxton. Kyra tensed, on guard. She could tell from the sound of
distress in her baby brother’s voice that their older brothers were up to no
good.

Kyra’s eyes narrowed as she watched her
older brothers, feeling a familiar anger rise up within her and unconsciously
tightening her grip on her bow. There came Aidan, marched between them, each
taller by a foot, each grabbing his arm and dragging him unwillingly away from
the fort and into the countryside. Aidan, a small, thin, sensitive boy, barely
ten, looked extra vulnerable sandwiched between his two brothers, overgrown
brutes of seventeen and eighteen. They all had similar features and coloring,
with their strong jaws, proud chins, dark brown eyes, and wavy brown
hair—though Brandon and Braxton wore theirs cropped short, while Aidan’s still
fell, unruly, past his eyes. They all looked alike—and none like her, with her
light blonde hair and light gray eyes. Dressed in her woven tights, woolen
tunic, and cloak, Kyra was tall and thin, too pale, she was told, with a broad
forehead and a small nose, blessed with striking features that had led more
than one man to look twice. Especially now that she was turning fifteen, she
noticed the looks increasing.

It made her uncomfortable. She did not
like calling attention to herself, and she did not view herself as beautiful.
She cared nothing for looks—only for training, for valor, for honor. She would
rather have resembled her father, as her brothers did, the man she admired and
loved more than anyone in the world, than have her dainty features. She always
checked the mirror for something of himself in her eyes, yet no matter how hard
she looked, she could not find it.

“I said, get
off
of me!” Aidan
shouted, his voice carrying all the way up here.

At her baby brother’s call of distress,
a boy who Kyra loved more than anyone in the world, she stood ramrod straight,
like a lion watching its cub. Leo, too, stiffened, the hair rising on his back.
With their mother long gone, Kyra felt obliged to watch over Aidan, to make up
for the mother he never had.

Brandon and Braxton dragged him roughly
down the road, away from the fort, on the lone country road toward the distant
wood, and she saw them trying to get him to wield a spear, one too big for him.
Aidan had become a too-easy target for them to pick on; Brandon and Braxton
were bullies. They were strong and somewhat brave, but they had more bravado
than real skills, and they always seemed to get into trouble they could not
quite get out of themselves. It was maddening.

Kyra realized what was happening:
Brandon and Braxton were dragging Aidan with them on one of their hunts. She
spotted the sacks of wine in their hands and knew they’d been drinking, and she
fumed. It was not enough that they were going to kill some senseless animal,
but now they were dragging their younger brother along with them, despite his
protests.

Kyra’s instincts kicked in and she leapt
into action, running downhill to confront them, Leo running by her side.

“You’re old enough now,” Brandon said to
Aidan.

“It’s past time you became a man,”
Braxton said.

Bounding down the grass hills she knew
by heart, it did not take Kyra long to catch up to them. She ran out onto the
road and stopped before them, blocking their path, breathing hard, Leo beside
her, and her brothers all stopped short, looking back, stunned.

Aidan’s face, she could see, fell in
relief.

“Are you lost?” Braxton mocked.

“You’re blocking our way,” Brandon said.
“Go back to your arrows and your sticks.”

The two of them laughed derisively, but
she frowned, undeterred, as Leo, beside her, snarled.

“Get that beast away from us,” Braxton
said, trying to sound brave but fear apparent in his voice as he tightened his
grip on his spear.

“And where do you think you’re taking
Aidan?” she asked, dead serious, looking back at them without flinching.

They paused, their faces slowly
hardening.

“We’re taking him wherever we please,”
Brandon said.

“He’s going on a hunt to learn to become
a
man
,” Braxton said, emphasizing that last word as a dig to her.

But she would not give in.

“He’s too young,” she replied firmly.

Brandon scowled.

“Says who?” he asked.

“Says me.”

“And are you his mother?” Braxton asked.

Kyra flushed, filled with anger, wishing
their mother was here now more than ever.

“As much as you are his father,” she
replied.

They all stood there in the tense
silence, and Kyra looked to Aidan, who looked back with scared eyes.

“Aidan,” she asked him, “is this something
you wish to do?”

Aidan looked down at the ground,
ashamed. He stood there, silent, avoiding her glance, and Kyra knew he was
afraid to speak out, to provoke the disapproval of his older brothers.

“Well, there you have it,” Brandon said.
“He doesn’t object.”

Kyra stood there, burning with
frustration, wanting Aidan to speak up but unable to force him.

“It is unwise for you to bring him on
your hunt,” she said. “A storm brews. It will be dark soon. The wood is filled
with danger. If you want to teach him to hunt, take him when he’s older, on
another day.”

They scowled back, annoyed.

“And what do you know of hunting?”
Braxton asked. “What have you hunted beside those trees of yours?”

“Any of them bite you lately?” Brandon
added.

BOOK: Rise of the Dragons
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