Might of the Dragon – Jessica Drake

Life has a funny way of tricking you into thinking it’s changed, when in reality things are exactly the same as they always were. When I first became a dragon rider, when I laid hands on Lessie’s egg and brought her into the world, I thought my life had been turned upside down. Before Lessie, I’d been a treasure hunter, former thief, and antique shop owner trying to get out from underneath Salcombe’s shadow to stand on my own two feet. After Lessie, I became a rider, beholden to the state of Elantia, and yet freer in some ways than I’d ever been. For the first time, I’d felt a sense of home. I’d had a roof over my head, friends that I could count on, and the best companion in the world—a dragon I could conquer the skies with. And yet, just a few short months later, I was back where I started. Perhaps not at the Treasure Trove authenticating objects, or out in the field looking for new artifacts, but I was back all the same. Under Salcombe’s thumb again, in a foreign country, with no friends or dragon to help me escape his machinations. And, as in the old times, we were on a hunt. “You know,” I said, a little annoyed as the carriage bumped and jostled along the road. We were on our way to a garden party hosted by the governor of Puilin, Traggar’s capital city and the home of the royal family. “My treasure sense works on objects of value, not people. I don’t see why you have to drag me to this garden party.” Salcombe merely arched an eyebrow at me.

“And leave you home alone, so you can rummage through the house and figure out how to escape? I don’t think so. I’ve trained you to use your eyes and ears, Zara, not only your treasure sense. You’ll keep them both finely tuned as we socialize with the other partygoers, and together we will ferret out Lord Fanuel’s location.” I scowled. As if I’d be alone in the house, I grumbled to myself. Salcombe had several bodyguards, including the oaf Trolbos who sat next to me in the carriage and took up far too much room on the bench. His menacing presence was never welcome, but the added insult of his huge thigh pressed up against my silken skirts made it even worse. He, or one of the others, was always posted in my quarters, barely giving me any room to breathe. I smoothed down my skirts, wishing I had trousers to wear underneath. But Salcombe hadn’t ordered anything so practical—these skirts and stays were meant to be trappings that would slow me down, another obstacle to slipping out the window in the middle of the night or making a break for it when we went out in public, like to this stupid party.

The carriage rolled to a halt outside a gate, and I let out a silent sigh of relief as the door opened, providing me an escape from Trolbos. Taking the waiting footman’s hand, I stepped out into the night and took in a deep breath of fresh air. It was a bit chilly, and I tugged the wrap my maid had given me a bit tighter around my shoulders as I waited for Salcombe to disembark. “Come, darling,” Salcombe said, taking my arm in his. He looked every bit the dashing Warosian nobleman, the magic fan he’d surreptitiously bought from my shop smoothing the lines away from his normally haggard face, adding sparkle to his eyes, and darkening his thinning silver hair to thick, chocolate brown. Briefly, I wondered if this was what Salcombe had looked like as a younger man. He was already old when I’d first come to him, a starving kid who’d tried to put food in her belly by stealing from the rich, and he’d taken me in to groom me as his own personal thief, treasure hunter, and occasional spy. Had he been so cynical and mercenary even in his youth? Or had something happened to make him this way? Arm in arm, we approached the gate, appearing every inch the rich nobles from Warosia here in Traggar to indulge Salcombe’s passion for history and relics. Salcombe produced an invitation from his waistcoat pocket and handed it to the guard, who looked it over with a keen eye. “Lord and Lady Trentiano,” he said, stepping aside so we could pass.

“Welcome to Callentry Garden.” We walked through the gates together, past the high walls that surrounded the garden, and I felt no small amount of satisfaction that Trolbos was forced to remain behind with the carriage. Garden might have been a bit of a misnomer—several acres of land sprawled before us, the flora rigorously landscaped with clusters of flowering bushes and trees, arbors and benches, and flower beds boasting all manner of colorful blossoms. At least three hundred guests were present, their jewel-toned gowns and suits gleaming in the light from strategically placed gas lamps as they flirted and gossiped. Servers milled about, passing through the crowd with trays of wine and finger food, while chefs worked tirelessly to feed the guests at stations set up near long buffet tables. My treasure sense immediately lit up at the sight of all that wealth, and the sound of conversation was instantly drowned out by a cacophony of chimes. Deliberately, I turned down the volume—the women here dripped with jewelry, and it would only distract me from our mission. Not that I particularly wanted to succeed. As Salcombe and I immersed ourselves in the crowd, mingling with the other nobles and socialites, we discreetly scanned the crowd, looking for Lord Jamison Fanuel. Fanuel was a famous, yet elusive, Traggaran mage, and Salcombe was convinced that he was descended from one of the five mages who had subdued Zakyiar, the fearsome dragon god who had nearly destroyed our world with his horde of dragons.

Unable to be killed by mortal means, the only way to vanquish the dragon god had been to take his heart and split it into five pieces. Those pieces had been carefully hidden by the mages, who had changed their family names multiple times and disappeared from history so no one might find those pieces and resurrect the World Eater from his shadowy grave. Unfortunately, Salcombe had managed to get his hands on one of those five pieces, and the dragon god now had his claws in him. My old mentor was obsessed, driven by madness and a hunger for power, and would do whatever it took to get his hands on the remaining pieces. Including forcing his foster daughter to help him by threatening her dragon’s life, I thought bitterly. Because if Salcombe killed me, Lessie would also die. And while I was willing to risk my own life, hers was another matter entirely. She was still a baby, only a few months old, and I hated the idea of her life being snuffed out after waiting so long for the right rider to hatch for. Her egg had been laid nearly three hundred years ago, and after two centuries of lying dormant, Tavarian’s ancestors had deemed the egg a dud and locked it up in the family vault. The same vault I’d broken into, looking for Tavarian’s piece of the dragon god’s heart and finding Lessie instead.

I still didn’t understand why Lessie had chosen me out of the hundreds of dragon riders that had been paraded before her in the past. But she was mine, and I hers, and I would do whatever it took to protect her. My heart ached fiercely at our separation—it had been over a week since I’d sent her back across the Traggaran channel and to the safety of Elantia—and I had to put her out of my mind before someone noticed my plummeting mood. Much as I hated it, I was here to play the part of Salcombe’s wife, and I couldn’t afford to slip up. An hour into the party, my feet ached in the stupid heeled shoes Salcombe had forced me to wear—all the harder to run in—and we’d still seen no sign of Lord Fanuel. I was about to try convincing Salcombe to leave when he fell into discussion with a trio of older scholars who seemed to be somewhat acquainted with the man we sought. Unfortunately for Salcombe, the men seemed more interested in me than him, ignoring his efforts to steer the conversation. “Go amuse yourself elsewhere,” he finally muttered in my ear when one of them turned to snag drinks from a passing server. “I am getting nowhere with you around—these men clearly prefer the sight of your bosom to scholarly discussion.” I had to stifle a smirk at the disgust in Salcombe’s voice—he despised men who allowed their carnal urges to cloud their judgment.

“Are you sure?” I whispered back. “I could probably use my charms to convince them to tell us anything you wanted.” I batted my lashes at him for effect. But Salcombe narrowed his eyes at me. “Get going,” he hissed. “I will not allow you to derail my efforts.” Dammit. As usual, Salcombe saw right through me. “Excuse me, gentlemen,” I said with a sweet smile. “It has been lovely talking to you, but I must seek out a friend who has been waiting for me.

” I slipped away before the men could protest, drifting through the crowd. The moment I was away from Salcombe, worries crowded in on my mind again. It had been over a week since Lessie and I had last spoken, and though I could sense her through the bond, I couldn’t communicate with her now. Had she gone back to the military camp, as I’d told her to? She’d still been injured when I’d forced her to leave, and I hated the idea of her hiding out somewhere alone, away from help. I wish I could get out of here, I thought sourly as I looked around. I didn’t belong with these nobles strutting around in the gardens, showing off their finery like preening peacocks as they tittered and gossiped with one another. I would slash my watered silk gown to ribbons if I could trade it for a pair of leathers and boots. Salcombe had even taken my spelled boots—ferreted away while I was in the bath—so I couldn’t sneak about the house unheard. He was taking no chances, and since he was still in possession of my hair, which he could use to track me with a spell he’d purchased from a mage, I wouldn’t get very far if I tried to run. But even if I were to leave this place, what would I do? I’d been certain Lord Tavarian, my dragon rider sponsor and Elantia’s unofficial ambassador, would be at this party, since every bigwig in the area had been invited.

But I’d been scanning the crowd since I’d arrived and hadn’t seen any sign of him. Could King Zoltar have imprisoned him after all? I wished there was someone I could ask, but I didn’t dare draw any suspicion to myself. I’d already narrowly escaped a hanging once because the Traggarans had thought I was an Elantian spy—there was no reason to tempt fate again. Suddenly tired of the crowds, I snatched a flute of champagne from a passing server, then retreated to a stone bench beneath a star blossom-laden tree. The heady scent of the spicy-sweet flowers surrounded me like a fragrant blanket, and I let out a silent sigh of relief when no one sat down next to me. After days of being watched by either Salcombe or one of his henchmen, it was nice to finally have a moment alone, and the hedges and bushes strategically placed around the tree certainly provided a sense of seclusion. Unfortunately, I was only alone for a brief moment before a man sat down next to me. Annoyed, I twisted around to tell him to buzz off—in the politest tone possible—but the words froze in my throat. “My lady.” Lord Tavarian, looking as handsome and mysterious as ever in a suit of midnight blue, inclined his head.

His silver eyes gleamed in the lamplight as he looked down at me—even seated he towered over me by at least a foot, and I wasn’t a short woman. “I saw you sitting here, all on your own, and couldn’t help but think it was a shame that such a lovely woman should be looking so lonesome at an event like this. Would you tell me your name?” Aware that there were eyes on us—the hedge didn’t completely obscure the bench—I gave him a flirtatious smile and offered my hand. “Lady Zara Trentiano,” I said with a coy smile, as if my heart wasn’t pounding a mile a minute in my chest. “Wife of Lord Trentiano. And you are…?” Tavarian’s eyes flickered at the mention of my “husband,” and I wondered if he knew I was here with Salcombe. How long had he been at the party? Had he been watching me from some shadowed corner? “Lord Varrick Tavarian, at your service.” He lifted my hand to his mouth, and a shiver rippled through me as he brushed his warm lips against my skin. For a moment, I wondered what it would be like if we really were two strangers at a garden party indulging in a bit of flirtation. Would Tavarian tug me behind the hedges for a scandalous kiss? Or more? When I’d first met him, I couldn’t have fathomed him to be the kind of man who would engage in a clandestine activity like that, especially in public, but sitting here now, with his lips on my skin, it was all too easy to imagine.

But when he lifted his head again, the look in his eyes destroyed all thoughts of intimacy. They were not the eyes of a man who wanted to sweep a woman into his arms and make her forget about everything but the way he made her feel. They were the eyes of a man who was furious. “I thought it was a mistake when I saw you enter the party on that man’s arm,” Tavarian said in a low voice. “Is that Salcombe, in disguise? And what are you doing here with him?” “Yes,” I hissed, annoyed now at his reaction. “It’s a long story, but Lessie and I ended up in a storm that left us stranded here on the island. She was too injured to fly back with both of us, so I sent her on her way before a group of idiot villagers killed us both, and made my way to the capital to look for you. But before I could find you, I was arrested as an Elantian spy. I would have been executed if Salcombe hadn’t whisked me out of the prison.” “And now he has you posing as his wife,” Tavarian said softly.

The spark of anger had disappeared, leaving behind the smooth, expressionless mask he usually presented to the world. Tavarian turned his gaze to the garden, spotting Salcombe, who was still in deep discussion with the men I’d left him with. “What is he doing here with you?” he asked. “Surely he didn’t bring you to this party for fun.” “He is looking for a mage by the name of Fanuel,” I told him. “He seems convinced that Fanuel knows where one of the pieces of the dragon god’s heart is. I need to get away from him before he can force me to locate it for him. Can you help?” Tavarian sighed. “I wish I could, but I am as much a prisoner as you.” I struggled to hide my frown.

“Just what is that supposed to mean?” He was here, dressed in fancy clothes and enjoying the same fancy food and company as everyone else. “Do you have thuggish bodyguards shadowing your every move as well?” “‘Bodyguard’ is not the word for it,” Tavarian said, his tone grim. “King Zoltar does not trust me in the slightest. He has refused to receive me even though I have been here for weeks, and I am constantly watched by strategically placed counterespionage agents he thinks I do not notice. Yesterday, I narrowly avoided an assassination attempt.” “What?” I barely managed to stop myself from shouting the word. “How?” “A servant tried to slip poison into my soup,” he said dryly. “Luckily, I have a discreet spell that I use to test my food whenever I travel abroad, and I was able to detect it. The constable was called, but since I am out of favor with the local government, the worst I could do to the girl was fire her.” “That’s terrifying,” I said, thinking back to the servants in Salcombe’s hired townhouse.

They were locals, too. Were any of them plants, sent by the king, or someone from his court, to spy on us? I wondered if Salcombe had thought of the possibility and taken appropriate precautions. “It is,” Tavarian agreed. “And there will be more attempts, I am certain. The military authorities and the weapons manufacturers they work with are the ones after me, not the king himself. They feel they must prevent me from speaking with him at all costs, as they do not want me averting either the war or the alliance. The way things are going right now, it does not look like the king plans on changing his mind about the impending war. The only reason that war has not been declared already is because Zoltar does not care for the Zallabarian ambassador. He is a bit on the stuffy side and rather conservative, while the king is blatantly hedonistic, so Zoltar takes great pleasure in making him wait. But it is only a matter of days before he formally pledges his troops to Zallabar, and if that happens, I will either be imprisoned or exiled.

” “Shit.” Tavarian arched a brow. “That’s not a very ladylike thing to say.” Remembering myself, I pasted another coy smile on my lips, picking up the flirtatious act once more. “Jokes, at a time like this?” I said lightly. He smiled, just a little. “I find that a bit of levity helps in situations like this. I have been through worse, Zara. I am far more concerned about you. If push comes to shove, and I am forced to leave, I will try my best to take you with me.

But as much as it pains me to say it, under the current circumstances you may actually be safer with Salcombe. Several innocent countrymen suspected of being Elantian spies have already been hanged, including a bookshop owner who was an old friend of mine.” His eyes deepened with sorrow. “He emigrated from Elantia nearly twenty years ago to marry a Traggaran woman he’d fallen in love with, and left a large family behind. If someone like him, with deep roots in the community, can be executed, then I could easily be next.” My stomach plummeted as an image of Tavarian dangling from the gallows, his face bloated and bluish-purple in death, burst into my mind. But before I could say anything, he rose. “We have tarried too long,” he murmured, and my chest tightened as I noticed Salcombe now staring in our direction. “Stay safe, Zara.” And with that, he disappeared, leaving me with the solitude I’d desperately craved, yet no longer wanted.

.

PDF | Download

Buy me a coffee (;

Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

PDF Kitap İndir | Pdf Libros Gratis

Forum.Pictures © 2018 | Descargar Libros Gratis | Kitap İndir |
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x