Authors: Scarlett Grove
Dragon Princes Of Endor
Copyright © 2015 by Scarlett Grove
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
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 fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Table Of Contents
My shrink told me it would take time. The best thing for me to do is get back into the swing of things, but she was wrong. I couldn't hack it. I couldn't make it work.
I bring my camera to my eye and look through the lens. White-capped mountains jut skyward in the distance, and I let out a breath as I click the shutter button. Below, a carpet of red Indian Paintbrush covers the lush meadow.
My golden retriever, Clancy, barks and prances off into the flowery field. Red: the color of blood. I press my eyes together and try to forget the screams and the sounds of bombs that burst my eardrums. If I could forget. If I could only forget.
I whistle for Clancy, and he comes bounding back like a vision of happiness and lost love. I scratch his ears, grateful for his ever-present loyalty. It's something I desperately need in my life now.
Deciding to take a diversion from the trail, I follow Clancy into the red-dotted field, clicking close-ups of wild flowers along the way. My first love was always nature photography, before I changed my focus to photojournalism. Everyone always told me to be practical. No one can make a living as an artist. I finally realized it is better to be broke than broken.
I move on toward the clumps of blue bonnets and buttercups, and I kneel to take in the view of the flowers below the towering mountain. I increase my depth of field to get the entire scene in focus.
I've been traveling in my old RV for the last four months, all across the country, from upstate New York, to New Mexico's painted deserts, and now to Glacier National park in Montana. I've amassed thousands of photographs, which I lovingly sort and process before I upload them online to sell as prints. For the most part, I'm still living on my savings.
Clancy barks in the distance, and I follow him into a stand of pine trees. The air is cooler under the shade of the forest. I breathe in the fragrant astringent scent of pine as needles break under my feet.
Clancy runs off through the dense underbrush, and I follow. I seem to follow my dog a lot these days. So far, he's never led me astray. I wish I could say the same thing for others I've followed in my life.
My dog stands at the entrance of a dark crack in the jagged rock face of the mountain. I peer around the edge of the crack and see that it's a cavern that leads deep into the mountain.
Looking around the entrance to the cave, I see the faint markings of what I imagine must be ancient Native American cave paintings. Focusing on them, I click away on my camera.
The markings are a combination of spirals and what looks like serpents with wings.
I don't know much about the local Native American culture, but I've never seen anything like these markings before. I tell myself to look them up on the internet once I get back to the RV.
Clancy bounds off into the cave, barking like a maniac. "Clancy," I yell after him, but he doesn't listen. Damn dog. I knew I should have paid for those obedience lessons before I brought him on this trip. Clancy's been there for me through some rough times. I think he's perfect as he is, even if he's not always that obedient.
I follow my dog into the darkness of the cave, pulling out my cell phone to light the way. There are more markings on the walls. They become more intricate the deeper I go into the cave. I wonder if anyone else has ever found this cave. This part of the park might be remote, but it isn't
remote. It’s Montana, not Antarctica. Still, I can't help feeling like I'm the first person to lay eyes on these symbols for thousands of years.
I can hear Clancy's barking echoing through the cave as the walls begin to narrow around me. Dust falls from the ceiling and dread begins to swirl up my chest, gripping my heart and lungs in its iron claws. I call for Clancy again, but he isn't listening. His bark becomes more frantic. He's scared and so am I. I shout his name and tell him to “come right now,” but he just continues to bark in a yelping, high-pitched yowl.
I hurry after him, afraid of what I will find. It's probably a grizzly bear or something that will kill us both and put me out of my misery. My heart flaps against my rib cage and blackness threatens to overtake my vision. "Clancy!" I bark at him. Finally, I catch up with him and find him barking at two dark figures at the end of the cave. I can see my flashlight shine off the glossy rocks. The figures are over six feet tall and covered in shadow. I can't for the life of me figure out what they are.
"Come on boy," I say, gently, afraid they will pounce on us at any moment. My dog is going crazy, like a complete idiot, but the figures only sway as if blown by the wind. I reach out, grab Clancy’s collar, and yank him back, tugging him away from the creatures.
"Wait,” says a hissing voice.
"What?" I blink into the darkness; my flashlight is bouncing around the cave as I try to get my unruly dog under control.
"Dani Storm. Come with us."
Before I have a chance to even register how weird it is that the figures spoke
somehow know my name, I feel hands gripping my arms and pulling me toward the back of the cave. I scream and try to get away. A flood of memories overtakes me as I screech and fight for my life.
My heart is beating me to death inside my chest, and I can barely breathe. I think I'll pass out at any moment, and the blood rushing to my extremities is making me lose my sight. I'm nearly blind with panic and rage as the powerful figures yank me toward the stone wall of the cave.
A flash of light opens up in the center of the wall and begins to radiate outward, creating an enormous circle that waves from the center as if it's liquid. The figures pull me toward it. I'm still fighting like a madwoman. Somewhere in the back of my brain, I insist that I'm either dreaming or hallucinating.
I dig my heels into the gravel and fight with every ounce of strength I can muster. I hear Clancy growling and barking at my assailants, yipping and biting at their legs as they try to force me into the light.
"No!" I scream. "Let me go!"
"Dani Storm. You must come with us. The fate of our world hangs in the balance."
I'm caught off guard just long enough for them to get the upper hand and yank me into the light. As my body goes through the shimmering watery substance, I feel like I'm drowning. I can't breathe. I’m falling. I scream but no sound comes out. I'm lost in a sea of the wavering light as I fall and fall and fall. There seems to be no end.
I hear voices echo and Clancy barking. Where am I? What were those things? Am I alive or dead? Awake or dreaming? I fall onto a hard floor. It hurts my butt. I can't see straight, but I feel a tongue lick my face.
Clancy. Thank God.
I blink, trying to register my surroundings, but my eyes won't focus. The world tilts and whirls around me. I can vaguely make out black-clad figures, towering over me like mountains. There is a smaller figure, but it’s a blur too.
"You let the dog through," one of them says.
"The dog was biting my leg when you yanked her into the portal. I had to come, or it would have shut on me. But I'm sure you would have liked that," another voice says.
"What matters is that you made it back, my lords. I'm sure the lady will be pleased that her animal has made the journey safely. Is that not so, my lady?"
I see a face come into focus. It looks like a garden gnome, pointed hat and all. I assume it's talking to me, but I can't be sure. This must be a dream. There is no way that just happened. Maybe I'm having a flashback. My shrink said they might keep happening for the rest of my life. But a flashback to what? I was never kidnapped by two grizzly bears and a gnome during the war.
Finally, my sight stops spinning, and I can focus on what’s in front of me. I'm sitting in a heap on a stone floor. There are lattice-covered windows that let in bright sunlight. The black-clad figures are still shadowed by large hoods that obscure their faces. They seem as tall as the pine trees from the forest I was just in. What are they, basketball players? Usually basketball players aren't quite so broad. This must be a dream. The gnome strokes his long white beard and puts his face right up to mine.
"Lady? Are you well?" he asks me.
"What the hell just happened? Where am I?"
"You are in the Castle Warren. My castle," one of the massive figures grumbles.
"We could have just as easily done it in my castle," the other counters.
"But the wizard serves me, so we did it at my castle," the first barks.
"Only because your father stole him from my father," the second barks back.
"Princes, please. Let us not argue over such trifles. I am loyal to you, Prince Trav, but I serve the realm. I am loyal to us all."
The towering figures grumble in agreement, and I feel hands gripping me and pulling me up to my feet. "She's small," the one named Trav says.
"If you don't like her, I will be happy to take her by default," the other says.
"Not a chance Conyac. You Blackwells are always trying to win by default. No honor."
"The Warrens always cheat," Conyac states, pushing back his hood. I can see his face for the first time as I tilt my head to look up at him. The guy is at least seven feet tall with shoulders as broad as a doorway. He's got shoulder length black wavy hair and glowing blue eyes that are lined with thick black markings. His square jaw is dusted with black stubble, and he holds the hilt of a longsword in a scabbard at his hip. Though his height and striking good looks are incredible, they are far from his most stunning features. When he speaks, I can see his canine teeth are elongated, and through the mane of black hair, I can see pointed ears.
I gulp, stunned by his appearance.
This is a dream,
I tell myself again. That calms me a bit. Maybe it will be a good dream. This guy is ticking off most of my boxes in the looks department if he didn't look like some kind of gigantic elf with glowing blue eyes and burnished tan skin.
"Warrens don't cheat, Prince Conyac," Trav says, pushing back his hood. "We just play harder than a Blackwell can even imagine."
Trav is just as tall and broad as Conyac, but his dark blond hair is cropped short, and his face is clean-shaven. His jaw is even more masculine than Conyac's, and his glowing green eyes seem harder than the black haired prince’s. He has markings across his forehead, over the bridge of his nose, and over his cheeks. He seems like a super soldier from some video game. Standing between them I feel my panties dampen and my heart gallop.
If this is a dream, I might as well enjoy it.
"What is going on here?" I ask, trying to bring some semblance of normalcy to my weird ass dream.
"Dani Storm," Trav says.
"Yeah," I interject.
"Dani Storm. You must choose. Which prince do you want to mate? Choose now so we can be done with this," he commands.
"What? Wait a minute. What are you talking about?"
"Just like a Warren," Conyac chides. "No finesse. You'll scare the poor girl half to death."
"Too late. You did that when you pulled me through that light pool thing. By the way, I don't appreciate being kidnapped. I'm not choosing anything. I'd like to go home now, please."
"Impossible," Trav says. "Now choose."
Clancy, who's been cowering against my leg, licks my hand. The feeling of his wet tongue on my hand registers something in my brain, and I'm not quite sure what it is.
I can actually feel his slobber on my fingers.
I'm not dreaming...Freak out in five, four, three, two, one.
I let out a long moan and collapse toward the floor. I brace myself for impact but strong arms are under me, catching me. I look up and see Trav's face, impassive and slightly angry, as he carries me across the room.
"Where are you taking her?" I hear Conyac ask as I seem to lapse in and out of consciousness.
"I'm taking her to her chambers so she can rest. The tiny little creature is ill. Can't you tell?"
"Of course I can tell. You are the one who overwhelmed her."
My mind is a whirl as I'm carried through what looks like a stone walled hallway. It looks medieval and is lined with paintings of men and woman with glowing eyes. I can hear Clancy's nails clicking on the polished floor as I'm transported through the strange fortress.
We come to a doorway, and it slides open before everyone files through. Trav deposits me on a bed. I can't seem to get enough air in my lugs. I'm gasping as I look from one strange man to the other. The garden gnome is there with a glowing stick that he waves over my body.
"She's having a panic attack," the gnome says. "Let's give her some room. She'll be fine. No more talk of choosing until she's had some rest."
"Can't you do something to help her?" Conyac asks.
"I will, my lord. But I would ask that both of you leave her chambers and give her some room."
"Fine. Just make sure she's ready soon," Trav says as he walks toward the door. "I want this over and done with."
Conyac grunts and follows the green-eyed prince out of the room. The gnome begins fussing with his glowing stick as he kneels beside me on the bed. I'm gasping like a drowning woman, but slowly I feel I can get enough air into my lungs.
"Where am I?" I ask, breathlessly.