It's time to meet the Dragonlords.
excerpt from SKY: THE FLIGHT ABOVE, BOOK II of the DRAGONLORD TRILOGY
Fire burned in me. It was the fire of anguish, and yearning, and revenge.
It was the ashes of a dream lost to the wind.
In the first years following her death, I spent myself endlessly battling the enchantment that kept the Ubicanan locked in the mountains near the human settlements. But the working that kept them in also kept me out, and out of exhaustion, I finally admitted defeat. I knew he was there, somewhere. My lost son. Buried in one of those villages and holdings where the humans lived. I just had to reach him.
But when I determined I physically could not get closer, I started taking humans. Some I killed painfully, burning limbs off one at a time. Some I forced to go searching for me, holding a family as ransom. Not that it mattered. I killed them all in the end.
All except the females.
Those I took to the mountain.
His mountain, once. My brother’s. Now mine. A mountain that, under my rule, screamed once more. Except this time, the screams spoke only one language: human.
It was fitting.
All humans deserved to suffer and die. They were weak, short-lived, powerless. A stain upon the land that worked against the natural laws of the elements. Every death was one less blot that darkened my world.
None of it brought her back.
Yet I didn’t care. She was gone, and it became too late to save my son. The time of his change came and passed.
All I had left was my pain.
And if I was going to suffer, so would all of them.
We would all burn together.
In a distant chamber nearly open to the sky, a dragon hunched on the sand. It groaned and whimpered, staring into the puddles that had formed from a recent rainfall.
Words whispered from between torn lips, senseless babble that worked to keep his sanity at bay.
“It burns… it burns you see… my skin unwhole… ripped apart… must dive deep… where are you, snow? Oh my child… dear child… flames bursting from my mouth… blood frothing, boiling, tearing the world apart… blood… always blood… cursed blood… darkness comes!” the dragon suddenly screamed. “I can’t see… no light… we’re nothing… nothing…”
His voice fell again, turning into empty whispers that scraped against the sand and died. He whimpered and moaned and lashed his tail feebly against his bonds.
Measured footsteps interrupted the steady cycle of cries and moans. Slowly, a figure came into view. It was immense, three times the size of the dragon huddled into the sand. Its wings pressed close as it came to a standstill, amethyst eyes observing the forlorn figure staring into the water.
“I know what it is you see.”
Ice-colored eyes looked up unerringly and found the other’s gaze. “Do you, Aldornaevar? Then why aren’t you weeping?”
Aldornaevar shook his long neck. “I must work to preserve what I can.”
“That is the path you took, then.”
Aldornaevar answered slowly, mournfully, a mixture of fear and awe in his voice. “I could not have chosen as you did. The sacrifice was too great.”
“And yet if I hadn’t, there would be no warning. And no chance at all.”
“But… your own brother. The way you… do you not understand what you’ve turned him into?”
“A pariah, like myself.”
“And eater of human flesh! He is lost in his revenge.”
“It was the only way to make him strong enough.”
“For the war to come.”
“He was already strong.”
“Not to do what needs to be done.”
“And what is that?”
There was no answer.
“Wrethrian, what was it?”
In response, Wrethrian pointed to the pool in front of him. “His son. He is the key.”
“The missing one? He’s dead by now.”
“No one knows, but he can’t have survived this long.”
Wrethrian smiled eerily. “Can’t he?”
Aldornaevar took a deep breath and changed tactics. “You had no right to make any choices for Rothsarien.”
Wrethrian reared up suddenly. “I had every right!” he snarled. “If I hadn’t taken action, my dear little brother would never have become what he needed to. And his son would have never learned to endure the pain of existence.”
Aldornaevar remained still, unmoved by the display.
“And what will that achieve?”
“It’s the only way for him to master fire.”
“His son is dead. He was never changed. His frail human flesh would never have survived all these years.”
Wrethrian hissed with sly humor. “Oh, wouldn’t it?”
“I still don’t understand-”
“You have looked into the future and seen only the fire, Aldornaevar. Only the endless fire, destroying our world. We cannot fight fire with fire. And air would only fan the flames. We need a master of water. A dragon with equal power over fire and water. It is the only way.”
“But he is not a dragon, nor will he likely ever have the chance to become one.”
Wrethrian sank down, exhausted by the constant barrage of visions he fought to retain the shreds of his mind.
“Ah, elder, I tried. I tried to do my part. If I could’ve mated with the sythren instead, we would have a dragon that was master of all elements.”
“This boy will not master stone, then?” Aldornaevar asked.
“There is already a master of stone, yes?” Wrethrian smiled. “When the time comes, I will do my part.”
“I’m afraid you’ll never leave here again,” the old dragon responded quietly. “Your time draws short.”
Wrethrian hissed again with mad humor. “You see only what you want.”
“Then what should I see?”
“I do see it.”
“Then why haven’t you started preparing?”
“Tell them! Fire is coming. It will turn us all to ash if we cannot stop them.”
But Wrethrian shrank in on himself again, seemingly lost once again to the images beckoning from the water.”
“Wrethrian? Tell me. Who are they?”
But Wrethrian only began humming to himself.
Exasperated, Aldornaevar straightened and stared at the smaller dragon for a few moments. Pity crossed his face, followed by fear. He had lived a long time. He knew Wrethrian saw war, knew he spoke truth. The problem was it was a truth filtered through the eyes of a dragon driven insane by an element he hadn’t truly mastered.
The bigger question, though, was how much more did Wrethrian see than him? And how much of it was real?
Troubled, Aldornaevar turned away. A whisper caught his attention just before he strode off.
“Fire… in the blood… fire in the eyes… fire in the words…”
Fire in the blood…
Suddenly, he knew.
And he feared the time to prepare had already passed.
CHAPTER ONE: FEVER IN THE BLOOD
I am dying.
I have known this my whole life. She who once called herself my mother will not admit it, and my father only looks away when I try to speak of it, drunk on his fears of the past.
But what, exactly, is it they know?
I just passed my twentieth year. It amazed me that I yet lived. Each day the fever worsened, but somehow I fought it off and continued to breathe.
It was always so.
As a babe, my mother said I was prone to fits. I would scream at the strangest noises or sensations, and it took me a long time to learn how to talk. She said when I was but weeks old, she feared I wouldn’t survive, for I labored to breathe. My body flushed hot that at times she almost felt uncomfortable holding me.
But hold me she did, until the fever abated and my fear calmed. Then I would act like any other babe in our holding. Only a little thinner, a little warmer. But still, a child.
I was late to learn to walk. Nearly two. My legs were weak and thin, and I preferred to pull myself forward on my arms. My parents spent hours working with me, pulling me up, moving my legs, forcing me to use them. I screamed in protest, afraid. But my father was relentless. One day I would be a man, but I must begin by mastering walking.
When I finally did take my first tottering steps, my mother sent a prayer of thankfulness to the gods. Bad enough I was so thin, or always fighting fevers. But if I was going to be my father’s heir, I at least needed to be able to walk.
Running quickly followed, and before long, I was just as adept at playing and climbing as all the other kids. And just like all of them, I wanted to be a warrior.
There was only one other problem: my speech.
When I was little, they put down my awkward pronunciation to my age. But by five, I was still speaking in the thick accent of a baby. I understood everyone around me, but my tongue fought against me. Language, like walking, became a huge struggle. This time, it was my mother who spent hours teaching me. She was patient, but also wary. She often watched me with wide eyes. She didn’t understand me, couldn’t understand why I was so different.
Slowly, month after month, my speech improved. By the time I was eight, there was little difference in how I spoke – a hesitation here, a dip there, a stumble once in a while. But even those eventually smoothed out. I was, at long last, nearly normal. Sure, I was thin, but I’d managed to finally fit in. I was just another boy training to fight.
Except I really wasn’t.