Category: NaNo 2009


Epilogue

There’s No Rush for the Year to Pass

Seranil smiled as he watched his daughter and mate at the hatching. Braitha was at least as excited as Kina was. The pair giggled together like sisters at the thought of helping to raise the new little ones. The both squealed with joy as the first egg tore down one side and a squalling baby tumbled out into the soft nest.

“Hello, little brother,” Braitha said. She flapped her ear wings at the hatchling and giggled when its ear wings flapped back at her. “Papa, do you think he knows me?” she asked.

“Of course,” Seranil said as he settled on the edge of the nest. “You’ve visited them every day for the past month and chattered at them incessantly. How could they not recognize that voice?”

She giggled and clapped her hands as a second hatchling broke free of its egg. The little chick squalled and fisted her hands in the soft nesting material. Kina chuckled and picked her up, instantly quieting her cries.

The last egg rocked and rocked but the little dragen inside couldn’t seem to make even the smallest hole in the thick skin of the egg. Seranil shook his head and gently poked a small tear on one side. The family watched with joy as the tear grew big enough to reveal the hatchling inside.

The little one cooed and held out her arms to Seranil immediately. “Hello, little one,” he greeted her, lifting her free of the torn egg. “Are you happy to be out in the great wide world?”

“It would seem she is?” Kina said, snuggling the hatchling she held.

“I’m glad they’re all out and about. Soon we can play together all day. Right, Papa?” Braitha said as she bounced to her feet. “We can fly and explore the caverns, and – ”

“Let them fledge before you talk about flying with them, darling,” Seranil said. He bumped Kina with his forehead and murmured, “They’re so beautiful.”

“I’m so glad that everything is turned out so well,” Kina said softly. “Elder Toram is settling so nicely. Elder Synaera has decided that being out among other dragens isn’t so bad. She’s such a sweet dam.”

“Elder Teliya is settling in quite nicely too,” Seranil said. “A whole new generation of elders and young ones that will be able to live in a peaceful world… something I never thought we’d see.”

“I’m glad we can,” Kina murmured as she leaned on his shoulder. Seranil nodded but didn’t speak. For the first time in decades, he felt at peace.

Putting on the Mask of Destiny

After he stepped back from the summoning stone, Seranil paused. Should he tell Kina everything? Should he tell her anything at all? He thought about the eggs in the nest. They would hatch any day. His actions had put his family in harm’s way. That decided him, there was no way he could conceal this from his mate.

He turned and walked up the pathway toward his family’s den. He didn’t seem to have the energy to fly, though it would have been quicker. He sighed softly as he approached their den. This wouldn’t be easy. Kina would be asleep, snuggled close to their eggs. He closed his eyes as he reached the threshold of their den. She would probably hate him now. He’d basically sanctioned the murder of her father.

He could argue that he wanted Zarentil to scare Yanosan. He could say that he was shocked and revolted by the other dragen’s actions; by the way he’d taken the older dragen’s life. However, the fact remained. Kina’s father was dead and Seranil was, at least in part, to blame for that fact. Now their young were endangered because of his actions. Kina had every right to hate him. She had every right to take another mate if she so desired.

This Weakness and Brokenness

“Can we all stop bickering and get to business?” Myro said, standing and slamming the table with the flats of his hands. His tail coiled around the chair he’d been sitting on, knocking it sideways. “We have Denair waiting in the corridor to talk to us about the spell that we still have to perform to fix the seal on the gate to the demon world. What is the big deal about naming Zarentil’s half brother as his heir. He didn’t have any children – not that we’d want anyone who’s part demon as an elder – again.”

“That’s probably right, but traditionally the elder chooses his or her own heir. This is outside the norm by a great degree,” Elder Bricen said.

“But – But Elder Bricen, we don’t want Zarentil’s chose heir, regardless of the fact that he didn’t get a chance to choose one,” Myro retorted.

Elder Jesin bit back a laugh and shook his head. “What objections do you have to naming Toram as Zarentil’s heir?”

“He’s not – not…” Bricen paused and started over. “He’s only Zarentil’s half-brother. He’s not even the son of the previous elder.”

“You realize that he’s not related to Zarentil at all,” Elder Taurin said. “Zarentil’s mother was a demon. The person his father put out as his mother hardly had anything to do with him. Toram, however, was raised by the former elder. It could be argued that he is the actual chosen heir of Zarentil’s father because – as we now suspect – Zarentil forced his father to name him heir and then Zarentil killed him.”

“I just wish we had proof – more than Toram’s word. He… obviously would have a perfectly good reason to defame his brother,” Elder Bricen said.

“We don’t need a reason to dislike Zarentil,” Myro snapped. “He gave all the reasons we’d need all by himself. Besides that whole – family thing – any reason why we can’t just have him as the new elder?”

“Perhaps,” Eldest said in agreement. “Toram, does your clan approve of you being elder?”

“They do, Eldest,” Toram said in a voice that hardly carried even in the quiet council chamber.

Chapter Twenty-seven Excerpt

It’s Time to Say Goodbye to This Casual Everyday Life

Synaera flew alone toward Jesin’s Grayrain Mountains. Mage Denair was waiting for her at the Softwind Caves. It felt strange to be out and about. She rarely left her own home caverns and today she had gone to the convocation in the Goldtor Mountains, the meeting in the Stoneburst Cliffs and now was flying yet again. To be traveling so much was almost frightening.

She was relieved, however, not to be involved in any of the battles that this night would see. She knew that there would be battles, just as she’d known that Paesha would die and that Gynro was in danger. As the thought crossed her mind, there was a sense of calm. The warning that Seranil had given had been enough to avert the danger to her trusted friend. If he’d been forthright with them at the beginning, Paesha might still live.

She shook the thought away. Especially for someone with her gifts it was always best to look forward. Looking into the past never helped. There was nothing they could do to change things.

Chapter Twenty-six Excerpt

I’ll be Waiting for You, if You Still Believe in Love

Pitching his voice so that it carried throughout the cavern he announced, “This night we are faced with an attack by marauding demons led by the traitorous Elder Zarentil of the Fire Dragens. Several other elders are on their way to give aid but we must hold them off until that help arrives. Zarentil seeks my life because I know of his falsehood.”

He glanced around the warriors and mages that had assembled before him. “I know that we can hold them off. Not only because our numbers are greater but also because we are defending our homeland and the lives of our young. Zarentil may be able to call upon reinforcements but he will not take this cavern while an ice dragen warrior or mage still lives.”

This proclamation was met with general shouts and thumping of tails. “I will fight with you, my people,” he added. “My mate will stay to guard the elderly and little ones.”

“To my last breath if necessary,” Saira proclaimed. Again there were shouts and loud tail thumps. Saira flew into the cavern, followed closely by Ryden.

Myro sighed in relief and turned to look out into the night, awaiting the arrival of the demons. He didn’t have long to wait. Just as a few of the younger warriors were beginning to fidget, the demons appeared on the horizon.

“Mages ready the ice shields,” Myro called. The demons wouldn’t be much bothered by the ice barriers but they would certainly give Zarentil pause. “Warriors, stand at ready.”

The shields flowed up from the mountain side just as the demons came close enough to stand out in more detail than dots with wings. Though the demons flew on, the effects on Zarentil were immediate. He lost momentum and spiraled down to the ground. Myro smiled tightly but didn’t gloat. They hadn’t won yet.

Chapter Twenty-five Excerpt

Strength Will Endure the Deception of Pain

Most elders had spare nests in rooms adjacent to their offices; to sleep in if they worked late into the night so they wouldn’t disturb their mates or so they didn’t have to travel far late at night. Elder Seranil was no exception. This night, after Elder Zarentil had finished with him, Seranil lay trembling in his reserve nest.

“You won’t get in my way, will you?” Zarentil whispered as he stood.

“No,” Seranil managed after a moment. “I… see now. I can’t – I can’t fight you.” He bit back a sob and tensed when the other elder loomed close.

“No tears, now,” Zarentil hissed. “Little Kina will wonder what’s got you so upset and we wouldn’t want any… unnecessary explanations. Would we, Seranil?”

“No,” Seranil whispered. He closed his eyes and tried to force himself toward a calm he did not feel. He heard Zarentil dressing in a whisper of fabric. The door to his office opened and closed and he sensed the other dragen leave his den, then the caverns altogether. He was planning on killing Elder Myro.

Though, he trembled at the thought of what Zarentil would do if he learned of the deception, Seranil got up and dressed quickly. Zarentil had mentioned nearly catching Elder Myro on his way home from the meeting. He’d mentioned trying to use the spell that would make him lay eggs – both to feed the ravenous demons and to kill him in a most horrible manner. He wouldn’t have made it far under the backlash of such a spell. Since the youngest elder hadn’t shown up in any of the Brightstone Mountains caverns, chances were good that he’d ended up in one of the Stoneburst Cliffs caverns.

Seranil crept into the communication’s room and set his hands around the summoning stone. Small bits of dust and dirt danced around the bright gem and it flared to life. “Tinkling Caves, Apprentice Maraphil speaking, how can I help you?” a tired looking dam said.

“It’s vitally important for me to speak to Elder Taurin. Can you tell him that Elder Seranil requests an audience, please?” he said, striving to keep the tremor from his voice. He didn’t want to incite a panic. He knew he must remain calm.

You’d Better Begin the Prayer to Play

“The sub-elders that you’ve got working with us now, you mean? What of it?” Seranil asked, he started to relax but something odd made him ask, “Who saw you? What were you planning to do with him? What are you planning on doing now?”

“Full of questions tonight, aren’t you?” Zarentil said in a cool voice. “Little Elder Myro saw me with my subordinates – not the sub-elders. Those… folks see you as their leader. I’m referring, of course, to the reason why it’s so easy to make it look like demons attacked those who’ve… gotten in my way.”

“You have demons working for you?” Seranil asked in shock. “How did you manage that?”

“They’ve been working for me for quite some time, Seranil,” he replied. There was just a hint of gloating in his voice. “I taught you their language, remember? I showed you how to contact them… how to get into their realm.”

Seranil’s eyes widened as a thought struck him. He stumbled back and looked up at Zarentil with new fear in his eyes. “The demons united… under you? You’re their leader? But – but how?”

Zarentil shrugged and untied his robe. Seranil watched in a mixture of horror and fascination as the fabric fell loose. A small tail – unlike any dragen would ever possess flicked free of the fabric. “It’s all very simple, Seranil. I’m half demon myself and they respond to those stronger than themselves. The combination of the two magics makes me quite formidable, even compared with a much larger demon.”

Seranil swallowed several times before he found his voice. “You – you played me!” he managed finally.

Zarentil’s eyes narrowed in a sly smile. “Like a harp,” he confirmed.

Seranil sunk into the chair he’d so recently vacated. “You… my family… my wife… my children. My son… you promised to help me get him back. That’s why I’ve done… all of this. Where’s my son?”

Zarentil chuckled softly and shook his head. “Poor naïve Seranil,” he murmured. “He died years ago. He was a good lay, nice and tight; but just a little too… spirited.”

“You bastard!” Seranil shouted. He launched himself at the larger dragen but was easily caught. To his utter shock, Zarentil swiftly removed his clothes until he was a naked as the fire dragen. “Let me go,” he protested as Zarentil pushed him up against the wall. He gasped and struggled as a hand caressed his backside.

“Seranil,” Zarentil crooned. “I’d like to keep working with you. I’d love to let you keep your new family… and that sweet little girl from your first mate. If you become an obstacle, that won’t be possible, no matter how much I’d like it. Demons are telepathic and I can call down my hordes in a moment. Or you can behave yourself and become the figurehead leader of the dragens, understand?”

Seranil knew he was shaking but there was no way to still the tremors. His breath came in short pants. He had been such a fool. His mind went back to that day, almost twenty years ago when Zarentil had come to him. He’d said he wanted to give comfort and commiserate; now Seranil saw that the half-demon had seen him as the perfect pawn. “Alright, you win. Please don’t… don’t hurt my family. I couldn’t bear losing them – not again.”

“Shall I answer your other questions?” Zarentil whispered into his ear. He was alarmingly close. His hand hadn’t moved from Seranil’s backside. It was, in fact, circling ever closer to certain sensitive areas. “I was planning on doing to him similar to what I plan on doing to you now. You won’t lay eggs of course. Using the spell on you would kill you and you’re to valuable a pawn for that, even now. Since he knows more than he should, I’ll give him the same choice I’m giving you. You can do as I wish and live or you can fight me and die. What’s it to be, Seranil?”

“Please… I won’t fight you but please don’t – don’t…” Seranil trailed off as Zarentil caught his hips firmly. “No, no, please. No!” the smaller dragen screamed under Zarentil as the larger dragen began his assault in earnest.

Chapter Twenty-three Excerpt

Behind a Forced Smile, I Harbor a Grown Shadow

Myro woke slowly to the sound of several dragens talking at once. Then one voice over-rode them all. “Hush, friends. Elder Myro has been through a great deal. More than anything he needs rest.” The voice was a familiar one. It hadn’t been that long ago since he’d heard it. He let it draw him back to consciousness.

“Where am I?” he said blearily. He forced his eyes open but his head felt like it was stuffed with cotton and he was having trouble getting his eyes to focus. He’d heard Elder Jesin, but he didn’t really recognize anyone else.

“You’re in the Starburst Cliffs,” an older sire said from close by. “I’m Elder Taurin. You saw me at the convocation but we didn’t speak to one another. How are you feeling?”

Myro closed his eyes, trying to shake the cobwebs loose from his mind, then opened them again and sighed when things stayed just as unfocused. “I’m still a little woozy,” he admitted. “The fire dragen elder… I should know his name…”

“Zarentil,” Elder Jesin supplied. “You said he attacked you. What happened exactly?”

“I got overheated and landed in a stream – or the meadow that surrounded one, rather.” He closed his eyes, giving up on forcing his eyes to focus. The thought that something might be seriously wrong with them flitted through his mind but he pushed it away. Now was not a good time to let his more hypochondriacally driven tendencies run away with him. “I splashed water on my face but it didn’t help that much, so I decided to take a short dip – wait for the sun to go down a bit and the heat of the day to lessen. I was just starting to relax when I heard a familiar voice. I looked up and saw that it was the fire – Elder Zarentil and he had a horde of demons with him. He was quite calm about the whole thing too. Then he told me to relax and began chanting in some strange guttural language. He was just about to grab my shoulder and… I suppose assault me, so I flew.”

“You found your way here and away from them and then collapsed,” a sea dragen dam said. She seemed familiar as Myro opened his eyes to look at her. His vision was starting to clear as well, much to his relief.

The Promise That Could Not be Kept is Burnt Deep into my Chest

Maraphil clambered over the rocks and strange wild plants following the small tingle of magic that she could sense. It was like a beacon in the darkness of the demon’s world. Perhaps it was the way home. She couldn’t be sure, but it seemed like it was dragon magic. She hadn’t felt dragen magic in so long. Since that day long ago when she’d been taken by the demons.

A part of her wondered what her family thought. It had been so long since she’d seen any of them. Most of all she worried for her brother and sister. They had been little more than hatchlings when she’d been taken. She wondered what had become of them. Had they been separated when she hadn’t returned to take care of them? Had someone taken them both? Were they hurt that she had broken her promise to take care of them?

Tears filled her eyes as she clambered over another stone. She could bear almost anything as long as her siblings still loved her. As long as she had not finally escaped only to find that something had happened to them or they thought she’d deserted them. She thought back to that day all those years ago. The family had lived in a small cave, far from most of the larger cavern complexes. The nearest other family was almost half a mile away. When their parents had died from a fever that swept through the area, her siblings had looked to her as the oldest to take care of everything.

“I’m going out to gather some berries,” she said to her brother. “Stay close to the house and don’t open the door to anyone you don’t know. Let Befamy sleep; she’s tired.”

“Are we going to be alright, Mara?” he asked softly. “Without Mam and Pop, I mean.”

“I’ll take good care of you and Befamy, I promise,” she said. “Be good. I love you.”

He nodded and waved goodbye as she flew away toward the berry patch. She would pick enough berries to make tarts for them and some to sell at the market. Her father had always said her berry tarts were the best. They should be able to fetch a few pennies each. The money would be used to buy milk and meat for their meals, fabric for their clothing and books to learn from.

Maraphil planned out the whole thing as she flew to the thicket where the berries always grew the fattest. She landed and began to fill her bucket with the sweet fruits. She might even be able to make jams to sell. Those would fetch an even better price.

With her mind on earning money for the family, she didn’t notice that she wasn’t alone until it was too late. Strong hands caught her around the waist. She dropped the half-full bucket.

Shine on This Life That is Burning Out

Elder Paesha Brightling sat in her office amid the bright colored pillows that made a small nest for her to rest in when she’d finished with her work for the day. The hour was late so she figured that she’d catch up on a bit of sleep while she waited for her appointed meeting. It seemed like mere moments had passed when the bell over the door signaled his arrival.

“Hello,” she greeted warmly. “Thanks for coming to see me. I suppose that I should get right to the point of why I asked you to come. I was wondering what business you had with my sub-elder. He’s been acting a little off lately and – ” she broke off as strong hands caught her and pushed her down into the pillows. “Let go,” she protested. “No, stop…”

The protests continued, growing ever weaker as the attack progressed. Soon they ceased altogether, though Elder Paesha still breathed, if only faintly.

**
Teliya frowned as she realized that the lights were still on in her mother’s office. It was possible that the meeting she’d been in last night had run long into the night and into the next day. Teliya didn’t know whom her mother had been meeting with but it was clan business. She hesitated for a moment before she pushed the door open. “Mother? Are you still up or are you up already?” she asked.

The scene that greeted her was like something out of a nightmare. The office had been ransacked. Pillows and files were strewn all over the floor. Small shreds of clothing littered the floor as well. Her mother lay, naked and bleeding, amid the ruins of her day-nest. “Mother!” Teliya shouted. She turned back to the corridor to yell, “Someone get a healer!” Then she ran to her dam’s side.

She was still breathing if only just. The nature of the attack was obvious from the injuries. “Please, please be alright. Please don’t die.”

To Leave Behind all the Suffering You’ve Brought to Me is so Sweet

His eyes closed as he relaxed. He would continue on his journey soon enough. The cool stream was the perfect place to wait for the heat of the day to abate.

“Well, well,” a smooth voice said.

Myro looked up, covering his nakedness and blushing. He saw a familiar figure standing above him, surrounded by demons. “I know you…” he said, trailing off as words failed him. It was the fire dragen elder. He didn’t seem bothered by the demons surrounding him. Quite the contrary, they seemed almost deferential to him.

“Relax, young Elder Myro,” the older dragen said. He began chanting in a strange and guttural language as he circled the edge of the stream to catch Myro on the shoulders.

“No way!” Myro shouted. He bit the hand on his shoulder and flew straight up into the air. After he crossed the tree line, he shot horizontally as fast as he could. If there was one thing that ice dragens could do, for all their small size compared to their fellows it was fly fast.

He felt very strange as he flew, almost dizzy, but he didn’t care. He focused on one thing: getting away from his attackers. Ahead of him, he spotted a sentinel standing on an overlook. He shot through the doorway and didn’t stop until he saw someone he knew. As it turned out, it was Elder Jesin.

“Elder Myro?” he said in shock. He had caught Myro’s shoulders and now they stood staring at one another.

“I… got overheated and… I found a stream and I was able to cool off and then there were these demons and… the elder – the elder of the fire dragens was there and he started chanting and – and I flew. I’m shaking an awful lot,” Myro said as he wound down.

“Retala!” Elder Jesin shouted over his shoulder. Then his vision began to gray around the edges. “Hang on, Elder Myro,” he said as if from a great distance. Then darkness swooped in and he collapsed into the larger dragen’s arms.

Lost in a Dream from Which I Can’t Awaken

Kyaira tied her hair up into its usual pigtails and then settled her dress over the crisp white blouse she’d chosen for the day. She had about enough time to glance at the clock before she raced out the door. Martel was a bit of a stickler for time and wouldn’t let her forget it all morning if she was even one minute late.

She only slowed her pace as she entered the main building of the keep. “Morning,” she called to her partner.

“You’re almost late,” Martel said. His voice was taut with emotion but Kyaira chalked that up to his high-strung personality as she poured herself a cup of tea and settled into her usual seat at the communications table.

“But I’m not late,” she pointed out. Not really expecting an affirmative answer, she asked, “So, any change in the gate?”

“Yes,” Martel said. He stepped over to her side as she stared at him, open-mouthed. She took the printouts that he held out and shook her head in shock. “As you can plainly see, the energy level in and around the gate has been fluctuating all night and it’s only gotten worse.”

“When did it start? Everything was fine when we left last night,” Kyaira said. Her tea forgotten, she stood and walked over to the view screen that showed the gate itself – or rather the location of the gate since when dormant the gate was invisible. She was relieved to find that nothing could be seen on the monitor.

“Late last night, during Nico and Cheila’s watch. It got worse all night until now. Needless to say, Tifferin and Aeriella are probably awake.” Martel frowned and shook his head. “We’ll have to risk sending a probe through. You do that. I’ll wake the others and tell them. They might have to move in a hurry if this goes south.”

Kyaira nodded and walked over to the summoning stone. It normally functioned as a long-range communications device but it could also be used to send energy over a distance. Since a probe was nothing more than a bundle of energy, the summoning stone could be used to send one into the gate. However the very act of sending such energy could draw the demons the probe was meant to sense out.

Martel frowned and shook his head. He could sense Kyaira’s hesitance, her reluctance. “It’s our job,” he said shortly before he left the room.

Kyaira nodded and focused a small amount of light energy into the summoning stone. The device glowed briefly and then a soft beeping sound behind her told her that the probe was through the gate.

She looked up at a previously darkened screen to see an image of a black sky streaked with red. The rocky landscape was crawling with demons of every imaginable description. It was like a scene from her worst nightmares. Crocodillians, blood pumpkins, tentacle masses all vied for access to the small opening that led to their world.

Then the scene was blocked by a scaly hand as it closed around the probe. “Have we been noticed?” Nicolau’s voice called from the doorway.

“I think so,” Kyaira said, a tremor in her voice.

“I’ll set up the distress beacon,” Tifferin said softly. “You guys get going. Move quickly as far away from the gate as you can. The beacon will let everyone know that an incursion is inevitable and that we’ll need help. It’s best if we don’t try and confront them though.”

“What about you?” Nicolau asked in a voice that hardly carried, even in the still room.

“Go,” Tifferin repeated. “I’ll catch up.”

**
And May Tomorrow be Wonderful Too

When he woke, he was in a cavern. It was strangely well lit; not at all as dark as the caverns he was used to. His wing felt strangely stiff. He couldn’t get it to move at all but the pain in his abdomen was completely gone.

“Tifferin?” a familiar voice called hesitantly.

He opened his eyes to find Kyaira seated on a window ledge in front of him. “Hey,” he greeted in a tired voice. “Did everyone get away safely?”

“Besides you, yes,” she replied. “The elders are going to hold a convocation, I guess. They need to discuss what the next steps will be. It’s still not certain if this was an isolated incident or if the seal has failed completely now. Nico and Cheila are supposed to go back to the keep with a team of warriors to see if they can figure that out.”

“It seemed very opportunistic,” he said softly. “They didn’t seem to know what they should be doing.”

“The warriors that fought them said they seemed to be just the lower ranking demons,” Martel said from the doorway. He came in and leaned against the wall near Kyaira as he continued, “If that’s the case, then we might still be alright for a while. They just followed the probe to where it originated from and attacked there to feed on the energy.”

“Good to see that you’re finally awake,” a new voice said. “My name is Dien and I’m the healer who is assigned to your case, Master Tifferin. Shall I tell you my assessment of your injuries now or would you prefer to wait until we’re alone?”

He was, as most healers Tifferin had met were, a water dragen. His fin ears were a soft red-brown color that complemented his hair and eyes well. He wore, as most of his people did, only a simple wrap that was bound at the waist.

“You can speak freely in front of my friends,” Tifferin said. He settled back in the nest to listen.

“Your left wing is broken in three places,” Dien said seriously. “At present that’s the most complicated injury. I am, however, hopeful that it will heal completely. That will take time, of course. To keep the bones stable during the healing process, I have immobilized the wing itself, which you most likely noticed. It’s best if you don’t try to move it until it has healed more completely. If the break does not heal correctly, we may have to amputate. But I am hopeful.”

Tifferin nodded and glanced at his wing. The healer had obviously used magic to immobilize it since there was nothing to be seen covering the wing.

Chapter Seventeen Excerpt

What Comes After a War is One Game

Seranil settled back watching the warriors train. Even they didn’t know what he was planning, though they were an integral part of the plan. If the plan was to succeed, he couldn’t afford to be as lax as some of the elders were being in the training of their mages and warriors. The others knew that “some day” the seal would fail and the demons would some through. Seranil knew that it would begin failing soon; most likely that very season. He wondered if Zarentil realized that the time was so close as well.

They had gained two more cohorts. The sub-elders of both the storm and water clans had joined them in their mission. Zarentil had sent a message that he was leaning on the sub-elder of the lightning clan to get on board as well. The sub-elders would be his elite guard in Seranil’s vision of the future. He smiled, thinking about all the dragen clans united under one leader, himself.

He’d seen it during the first demon war, and even before, when he had been a fledgling dragen training under his father to take the reins of leadership. The demons had always made incursions into the dragen territory. Small bands of demons had raided outlying caverns and dens, stealing nestlings, killing and raping their hapless victims. It had always been seen as an internal security problem, best dealt with by the individual elders of each clan.

Then the demons had united under a single leader and the attacks had become more organized. Instead of occasional raids, there were almost constant attacks. Death and kidnapping became a commonplace problem. Still, the eldest had not taken the reins, as he should have. Instead he had called a convocation and let the individual elders dither about what they should do. No one told anyone to do anything. Everything was left up to the individual to decide.

Seranil had ground his teeth in frustration as meeting after meeting, the elders had worried more about their own individual clans instead of the whole of dragen-kind. They were safe enough. They rarely had to deal with loss directly. Oh, Jesin and Shyrala had lost a son and Nemone had lost a daughter. The current ice dragen elder and sub-elder had both lost their parents. None had suffered the losses that he had because of the simple refusal of the others to get together on the same page. He’d lost his parents, his mate and all his children in one fell swoop simply because there was no single leader to decide how to distribute the troops during the conflict

He’d set a plan into motion that day. With the help of Zarentil, he’d sabotaged the sealing spell. If he hadn’t, his son would have been locked away in the demon realm. He’d gone back there many times hoping the demons would tell him where they had his son. He desperately needed to believe that Braitha hadn’t been the only survivor of the attack. He’d given much to the demons; more than he probably should have, in the hopes that they would return his son.

Now though, he had occasional doubts. Kina had eggs warming in the nest, as Areah had twenty years ago. What if the demons raided again? He shook the thought away. The plan would work; it must.

Monica Ferris

an author with many hats

A Land of Curiosity

From the files of Shynian Intelligence

Heather's Fancies

tales from the enchanted gardens and shadow hollow

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