Treoir Dragon Chronicles of the Belador World #1 – Dianna Love

What the hell are ya doin’, Fadil? Daegan roared telepathically as he flew hard in dragon form toward the battle his father’s men fought. On the far side a cerulean sky stretched from horizon to horizon. Fadil’s brown dragon flapped his wings just as fast, head down and not a sound in reply. Fadil had heard him. Fadil! Call of your men! Daegan shouted again mind-to-mind. The brown dragon lifted his head at that, but the eyes coming into view did not belong to a friend. Wild hate seared those dragon eyes. Fadil, I do not want to kill ya! Daegan had to stop this. He didn’t want to kill someone who had been the brother he never had since the age of ten, but neither would he allow anyone to harm his father’s warriors. His men, who would march into battle on Daegan’s word alone. Protected by Fadil, a new wave of King Anasch’s warriors topped the hill to the south. The distinctive earth-dragon standard snapped in the rising wind as they marched toward the village. Daegan’s powerful dragon, Ruadh, made a wide arc then descended, blasting a fiery path to cut off the approaching contingent. Smoke rose from most of the dwellings, many still on fire, in a village on the outer edge of his father’s land. Hundreds of warriors battled below and blood soaked the ground.

A troll fighting for King Anasch flew through the air, knocked off his feet by King Gruffyn’s Belador soldiers using their kinetic powers. The Belador Maistir, Seamus, protected a group of villagers as the enemy of human soldiers and supernatural beings, including jackal-headed human forms, surrounded them. Belador cheers thundered when they realized Ruadh had come to their aid. Peace had reigned the entire twenty-nine years Daegan had lived. He’d been tasked with holding that peace because of possessing the most powerful dragon known of in this land. No one wanted war with King Gruffyn’s fierce warriors and fire dragon. Why would Fadil and his king? Daegan’s Beladors had done nothing to incur this attack and deserved to go home to their loved ones. They’d been sent here to secure this small village on his father’s land. But King Anasch had declared war by attacking those under King Gruffyn’s protection. Under Daegan’s protection.

All these years of peace. Watch your back, Daegan! Seamus shouted mind-to-mind. He grabbed a village child clinging to his leg and tossed the young one over his shoulder. Ruadh had already started banking hard to the right, bringing into view the threat closing in from the south. Daegan spoke to his dragon. Do not kill Fadil. Give me a chance to stop this. He is not your friend to attack you. He should care more for his life, Ruadh replied, then flapped his huge wings hard, catching air to lift toward the heavens. Daegan and Ruadh fought as one, but his dragon would destroy anyone who attacked them.

Fadil’s dragon had not slowed even to help his men. Go high, Ruadh! Daegan ordered. No better place to battle another dragon than high above the ground to protect those below. The brown beast with the eyes of an enemy and wings tipped in black did not rise to meet him. Instead, Fadil’s dragon swooped low, flying barely above treetop level, approaching the battle. The ground visibly rocked back and forth in his wake. Massive chunks of stone and earth exploded high into the air as he arrowed toward vulnerable humans as well as Beladors. Daegan yelled, Dive, Ruadh. His dragon flipped and shot down fast as a giant spear. Ruadh spewed a fiery ball at the brown dragon.

Fadil’s dragon rolled to the right to escape, but the ball slapped his tail, sending him flipping. His dragon hit the ground, bounced, and shoved off, flying straight up with wings struggling to lift his giant body into the air. That blast of fire had singed the brown dragon’s tail. It also stopped Fadil’s dragon from pounding the Beladors, the villagers, and Fadil’s own army with boulders and burying all of them under piles of dirt. Daegan’s dragon curved his body up, lurching away from the ground. Ruadh watched for anything unexpected, but the earth dragon continued to ascend with each draft of air caught beneath his wings. Before Fadil’s dragon reached them, Daegan called telepathically, desperate to get through to a man who had been friend until now. Are ya crazy, Fadil? Why are your men attackin’ mine? What has happened to ya? A sick thought entered Daegan’s mind. Something he could not accept in his heart, but he had to ask. The truth, Fadil.

Are ya the one startin’ a Dragani War? Still, he received no answer. Instead, the earth dragon angled around and flew at him with furious speed. Fadil’s beast weighed a third more than Daegan’s. He couldn’t kill Ruadh, but he could crush bones that would take too long to heal with a battle raging. Ruadh whipped his long body around quickly, twisting at the last moment to rake the earth dragon’s back with a blast of fire. Brown scales heated to the color of glowing embers, then cooled, leaving a black scorch behind. Fury collided with Daegan’s desire to not kill this ally. His friend. Ruadh had fought along with Fadil’s dragon to save King Anasch’s castle when a high king of the north lands had thought to claim it with twice as large an army as Fadil’s forces. But that army had been no match for one dragon, much less two.

No match for men who fought to protect each other’s backs as if they’d been born brothers of the same womb. Ruadh dodged and rolled until they had no choice but to fight. Daegan’s red dragon rammed into Fadil’s. The sudden jarring felt as if they’d flown into the side of a castle. The dragons tangled up, spinning as they fell with their wings tucked in. Claws ripped at each other. Daegan’s dragon couldn’t torch his opponent face to face, not this close. An earth dragon would suck that fire inside and send it back as a blast of glowing lava rocks. The earth dragon’s jaws clamped around Ruadh’s throat, gashing the thick skin. Ruadh’s claws ripped into the brown dragon’s chest over and over until blood poured from a deep gash.

Ruadh could defeat Fadil’s beast at this point, but Daegan could not kill the man who had bled alongside Daegan in one battle after another. He’d as soon gut himself. But if Daegan did not give the order to finish the earth dragon, Ruadh would wear down from battling the heavier beast and risk crushed bones if they hit the ground. If Ruadh could not fly until healing, Belador lives would be at risk. Daegan told Ruadh, We must take away the advantage of being in the air and drive this fight to the ground. Ruadh countered, Earth is his strength. Only if we allow him to use it. Opening his jaws to blast a fierce roar, Ruadh pushed off and broke away from the heavy brown dragon to fly up, up, up, then … Daegan shouted, Seamus! Move everyone out of the way. Our dragons are falling to the ground. Save our Beladors and the villagers.

King Anasch’s army is Fadil’s problem. Aye, sir. When Ruadh broke free of the clouds, he flipped around and dove straight down. Fadil’s dragon had been slowly ascending and could not maneuver fast enough to avoid the unexpected attack. Crashing into the brown beast, Ruadh roared and his claws dug deep while he kept Fadil’s dragon wrapped inside giant red wings. Not prepared for this kind of attack from above, Fadil’s dragon wings collapsed in. Daegan kept alert as Ruadh tumbled over and over joined as one with the brown dragon, falling as swiftly as a boulder shoved off a cliff. Fadil’s dragon kept swinging his huge jaws around as far as his head would turn, snapping desperately at Ruadh’s neck. Daegan’s dragon spewed a small blast of fire to stop the vicious jaws from succeeding. Ruadh struggled to hold as the heavy dragon twisted to break free.

Both bodies vibrated with power and strain. A hundred feet from the ground, Daegan told Ruadh, Free him now! His red dragon’s wings flared. Ruadh shoved off hard. That move sent the earth dragon hurtling faster toward the ground, still out of control. Ruadh’s muscles bulged under the strain of flapping fast enough to avoid following Fadil’s beast to the ground and suffering a vicious hit. He arched his long back, rising until he could bank to the right and glide for a moment to breathe. Fadil’s dragon crashed into the ground and bounced. He rolled over and over until stopping in a cloud of dirt and plowed-up grass with wings spread and head down. Beladors had raced away from the colossal giants falling to earth. Seamus shouted, Daegan! The Beladors stand to assist you.

Daegan ordered, Do not touch the dragon. Aye, sir. In a deep voice rough from spewing fire, his dragon pointed out, Enemy is weak. Easy to kill. Pain lanced Daegan’s heart. He argued, Fadil is not my enemy! I would give even an enemy a chance for last words. Ruadh puffed out a cloud of black smoke that ended in an angry snarl. Daegan’s dragon slowed until he lifted his head and lowered his rear legs to land smoothly in spite of the painful injuries Fadil’s beast had inflicted. But the red dragon feared by all possessed faster healing powers than Fadil’s and would never show a weakness. Daegan remained in dragon form as Ruadh stood above the downed earth dragon.

Slashes and scorch marks crisscrossed the brown body and wings, but Fadil would live. For now. After a long moment, the earth dragon rumbled out a furious sound and lifted his head. He pushed his body up until he and Ruadh were almost eye level. That one may weigh more, but Ruadh stood taller, especially with his head held high. Fadil’s dragon arched his neck, drawing his head back as if to hit Ruadh with a blast of lava rocks. Speaking out loud in Ruadh’s booming voice, Daegan warned, “Do not dare, Fadil. I have shown the only mercy you will see this day if you attack my dragon again.” The brown dragon closed his jaws and brought his head forward. Hate seared the reptilian eyes.

Daegan asked, “Why would your army attack a defenseless village and our Beladors? Our men have shown great restraint with their powers. They have fought your men on equal ground, but kill even one of mine and you will have no army.” Fadil’s dragon eyes narrowed into black slits. When he spoke, his dragon normally had a much smoother voice than Ruadh’s. Not this time. Fadil’s dragon bellowed, “Murderer! Ya attacked my father’s kingdom while I was away. Ya burned my cousin to death in front of his mother. Ya savaged our villages. I do not fear ya, red dragon!” If Daegan had been in human form, his jaw would have dropped. His dragon boomed, “I did no such thing.

I have attacked no one since the last time we fought together against an enemy. What evidence do ya hold to accuse me?” The merciless eyes of an adversary glared back as Fadil replied, “A red dragon attacked, shooting fire from above. There is no other dragon of such color but yours. There is no other dragon spewing fire but yours. My da watched the massacre from the castle, too far away for his guards to save the innocent servants, livestock, and children. Innocent children.” “No. I swear on my honor that was not me,” Daegan’s dragon shouted. His head and heart could not accept this. Not from Fadil.

Not the only friend Daegan had growing up. “Your king grows feeble and it is said you want to rule all. Ya were my friend once, but no more. Do not ever fly near my land again. If ya do, I will be prepared to kill your dragon next time. Even a demigod can die.” “Let me talk to your father, Fadil, so that we will know what happened.” “You question my father’s words? Our people died under your dragon’s fire. That’s what I know.” Daegan struggled to accept any of this.

Hurt clogged his throat, but Ruadh had no problem delivering his words. “We can war. We can kill. We can blood each other, but that will not change that I did not attack your people. If you leave now and call your army back, I will allow you to live. If your army continues to attack, my Beladors and I will leave them for you to bury. If you attack my dragon again, he will burn yours and eat the ashes.” “One day, you will not be all powerful, Daegan,” Fadil warned in his dragon voice, shaking with anger. “When that day comes, you will know the pain of watching those you love die when you cannot save them.” With that, the brown dragon took several steps and pushed off with fast flaps to lift all that weight.

How could he lose Fadil this way? Why are ya doing this to me, Fadil? Ya know me. I thought I knew ya. White hot rage shook him. Fadil! Don’t do this! For a moment, Daegan wished for another dragon like his to drag to Fadil’s castle, but his father had made it clear there would be no more dragons, or additional children, from his blood line after Daegan. His two older sisters possessed dragon blood, but would not birth a dragon unless they bound themselves to one. The ice dragon clan had attempted an arranged marriage between Daegan and Brynhild, a dragon shifter who had been but a child of sixteen years at the time. Many women took a mate at that age. Daegan had not been ready for a mate, much less with a female whose body had yet to develop past a child’s. Could King Eógan’s ice dragons be behind this? Surely not. Months after refusing to take Brynhild to mate, the oldest male ice dragon, Herrick, had joined Daegan to defeat the highland chieftain who had attacked Daegan’s clan.

No dragon family had ever warred over a failed bride pact. Brynhild remained free to choose another, one better suited to her. Besides, the ice dragons were neither red in color nor at war with King Gruffyn, nor could they spew fire. What dragon had Fadil’s king seen, though? Seamus came running up. “Sire, King Gruffyn’s personal guard called to me. He feared distracting ya while your dragon battled. Your da asks for you immediately.” His father’s personal Belador guard had earned that high position by being a powerful warrior and one of the strongest at relaying communications mind to mind. Daegan’s dragon lowered his head to meet Seamus’s gaze and spoke out loud. “Secure the village and care for our wounded, then return to the castle.

Fadil’s army retreats. But if I find his second contingent pushin’ on this way, I will deal with them myself.” “Aye, sire. Are we at war with King Anasch?” “We are at war with no one. I refuse to subject our people to a war I did not start.” Nodding, his Maistir backed away then turned to issue orders. Ruadh lifted off and flew hard for the castle in Meath. Ruadh slowed only for Daegan to confirm Fadil’s second line of warriors did indeed retreat. Perhaps Fadil still possessed some sense. All the death and destruction after so many years of peace ripped Daegan’s heart.

Of all the ways this conflict could have ended, he never thought to lose someone so dear as Fadil. As King Gruffyn’s castle came into view, Ruadh slowed to drop low, gliding until he opened his wings and landed in a wide patch of ground all knew to avoid crossing. Emerald grass shin-high covered most of the ground inside the curtain wall with ivy growing at a lazy pace. His king had chosen an excellent location high atop a rise in Meath, which sat along the eastern coast in the middle of the island and stretched a hundred leagues from north to south. In two long Ruadh steps, Daegan called up his power, quickly shifting into his human form. A wool cloak with thick fur at the neck fell open as he strode, allowing cool air to reach him through the linen shirt over wool wrapping his legs. Fur and hardened-leather boots encased his feet. He found the battle helmet adorned with two horns a comforting weight on his head. He strode with purpose and anger, quickly passing through the arched walkway which led to the chapel if he continued straight. His father would often go there to call out telepathically to Daegan.

That he had not done so this time added to Daegan’s concern. Hunting his father’s guard, he shouted mind to mind. Where is my father, Manus? He is abed, sire. What? ’Tis hardly midday. Where are ya? Worry slithered through Daegan. He’d never known his father to take to his bed except when injured in battle. I am with my king, sire. He fell ill while you were away. I brought the healers immediately. I sent for you when the king’s condition became grave.

Without another word, Daegan teleported to his father’s bedchamber and rushed to his side. He grimaced at the pungent odor of sickness slithering through the room. It had an odd taint Daegan had not smelled before. A burnt lime odor. His father’s face had lost the flush of health he’d had only two days ago before Daegan’s dragon had flown west to Connaught. A battle had broken out among their Beladors and what Daegan believed to be a rogue pack of soldiers carrying no standard, but whom had once been loyal to the ice dragons. Another dragon clan he considered allies. He believed not in coincidence. Concern clawed his neck as more arrows pointed at the ice dragons. After today, he would have to figure out just what allies he had.

In light of today’s fight with Fadil, Daegan sincerely hoped the ice dragons were willing to speak before attacking. Dropping to his knee next to the king’s bed, Daegan grasped his father’s over-heated hand. “I’m here, Da. What ails you?” The king’s face normally projected a robust vitality. When he spoke, his voice would boom with a power and authority that all knew to heed. Every child of the king had inherited supernatural energy from his dragon blood, but Daegan had received so much more from his father and the mother he’d never met. Today, the skin on his da’s cheeks held a gray hue. His da rasped, “The healers do not know what ails me. I recall walking among the gardens this morning when I came upon a lovely red flower new to me. I bent down to sniff it and woke up here.

” Daegan tucked that information away for when he had time to do a thorough investigation of all who had come in contact with the king.

.

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