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Authors: Dina von Lowenkraft

Dragon Fire (2 page)

BOOK: Dragon Fire
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“I’d rather stay alive,” Dvara said. “But you can die honorably if you want.”

“Neither one of you will fight anyone,” Khotan said. “Remember that.”

Rakan bowed his head. There was no point arguing about it now. But Dvara lifted her chin defiantly. “Kraal was my father. I will avenge his death.”

Khotan growled and stepped towards Dvara, dwarfing her with his size. He held her gaze until she dropped her eyes. Rakan shook his head, wondering why Dvara always tried to challenge Khotan’s authority in an open confrontation that she was sure to lose. Khotan was the guardian of her rök, her dragon heart and the seat of her power, and she had no choice but to abide by his will.

Their mother, Yarlung, appeared without warning. “I will speak with Rakan’dzor.” She crossed her arms over her white gown that sparkled with flashes of turquoise. “Alone.”

She waited, immobile, until Khotan and Dvara bowed and dematerialized, shifting elsewhere. As soon as they were gone, her face relaxed and she turned to Rakan, her nearly blind eyes not quite finding his. “I always knew you would be the one to find her,” she purred. “You have the strength and the will of my bloodline. And the time has come for you to use it.” Yarlung tilted her face to the wind. “Kraal gifted me his poison before he died. Neutralized, of course.”

“But no one can neutralize dragon poison.”

“Kairök Kraal was a great Master. His death is a loss for us all.”

Rakan struck his chest with his fist. “Paaliaq will pay for his death with her own.”

“Yes. She will. And you will help me.” A faint smile played on her usually austere face. “I will mark you with his poison so that we can communicate when necessary.”

“Khotan and Dvara have a full link, isn’t that enough?”

“You don’t expect me to rely on secondhand information, do you?” snapped Yarlung. She paused and spoke more gently. “Or are you scared to carry Kraal’s poison?”

Rakan knelt down in front of Yarlung. “I will do whatever it takes to kill Paaliaq.” His voice cut through the arid cold of the Tibetan plateau.

Yarlung’s eyes flashed momentarily turquoise and Rakan stepped back as she morphed into her dragon form. She was a long, undulating water dragon and the scales around her head and down her throat glistened like wet opals. Without warning, a bluish-white fire crackled around him like an electric storm. His mother’s turquoise claws sank into his arms and pain sizzled through his flesh. The fire disappeared and Rakan collapsed to the ground, grinding his teeth to keep from screaming in agony.

He would not dishonor his family.

“No, you won’t,”
Yarlung said in his mind.

Rakan’s head jerked up in surprise.

“You have just become my most precious tool.”
Her voice hummed with pleasure.
“You will not fail me.”

As suddenly as the contact had come, it was gone. And so was his mother. Rakan didn’t like it. Not her disappearance. That was normal. Yarlung had always been abrupt. But he didn’t like hearing her in his mind. It was something only dragons who were joined under a Kairök, a Master Dragon, could do. Few dragons were able to survive the rush of power that happened when their röks awakened without the help of a Kairök. But Rakan had.

He gritted his teeth and stood up. If sharing a mind-link with Yarlung was necessary to kill Paaliaq, then he would learn to accept it.

He held his arms out to examine the dragons that had appeared where his mother’s claws had dug into his biceps. They were long, sinuous water dragons like Yarlung. But they were black, the color of purity, the color of Kraal. Rakan watched the miniature turquoise-eyed dragons dance on his arms until they penetrated under his skin. He felt a cold metallic shiver deep inside as they faded from view.

A rush of pride exploded in Rakan and he raised his arms to the frozen winter sky, the pain like a blood pact marking his words. “I will avenge your death, Kairök Kraal. Earth will become our new home and your Cairn will once again prosper.”

* * *

“You can drop me here.” Anna glared at her mother’s boyfriend who reminded her of his namesake: a wolf.

Ulf turned the car into Siri’s driveway and flashed his all too perfect smile. “Not unless you want me to carry you in. Your shoes aren’t practical for walking in the snow.”

Anna snorted. “You’re one to talk. You’re the one driving a sports car in the winter.” And she didn’t feel like having her teammates from the handball team see it.

Ulf threw his head back and laughed. “I only take it out for special occasions. Like New Year’s.” He leaned towards her. “Especially when I have the honor of accompanying a lovely lady.”

“You’re not accompanying me. You’re dropping me off.”

“Precisely.” He pulled up in front of the house that pulsed with music, revving his engine one last time. He jumped out of the car and got to her side just as she was opening her door. He offered her his arm. “And since I’m a gentleman, I’ll accompany you to the door.”

Anna ignored Ulf and struggled to get up while the dress she had decided to wear did its best to slide all the way up her thighs. Ulf moved to steady her as she wobbled in the high heels she wasn’t used to wearing but she pushed him away. Her shoes slipped on the icy snow and she grabbed the railing, wondering why she had decided to wear them.

“It would be easier if you’d accept my help.”

“I don’t need your help,” she said, walking up the stairs. When he followed anyway, she turned to face him. “Don’t you have anything better to do?”

“As a matter of fact… no,” said Ulf. He straightened his white silk scarf that didn’t need straightening. “Ingrid won’t be off work until eleven.”

The evening was cold and Anna regretted wearing a dress. “You’re not coming in.”

“We can stand out here, if that’s what you prefer,” said Ulf, looking up at the sky.

Randi opened the door. “Anna! Finally,” she squealed. She threw herself at Anna. “I didn’t know you were bringing someone.”

“I’m not,” Anna said. “He’s leaving. Now.”

Randi glanced at Ulf who was leaning elegantly against the railing in what could have passed for a golden boy fashion shot. “Is that your boyfriend?” Randi asked hanging onto Anna. She looked Ulf up and down. “Is that why you didn’t come earlier?”

“Let’s go in,” Anna said, trying to get Randi back in the house.

Ulf slid an arm around Randi’s waist. “Perhaps I can help.”

“Oh sure,” Randi said. She giggled as she leaned into Ulf. “You have a nice… car.”

“Leave her alone.” Anna pried Ulf’s wandering hands away from Randi who was happily wrapping her arms around Ulf’s neck. “Randi, knock it off.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Randi pushed away from Ulf. “He’s yours. I forgot.”

“I’ll take her,” said Siri, steadying Randi. “That way you guys can come in and take your coats off.”

“Ulf has a date,” Anna said. She blocked the door after Siri and Randi disappeared inside. “With my mom. Or have you forgotten?”

“Sweet little Anna.” Ulf reached out to touch her cheek with his leather gloved hand.

Anna slapped it away. “Get away from me.”

“You’re so adorable when you’re angry,” he said with a laugh. “Call me when you want me to come for you.”

Anna resisted the impulse to slam the door and closed it calmly instead. The living room was packed with people dancing. She rubbed her forehead and walked over to the dining room table that was laden with food and drinks instead. She’d never understand her mom’s taste in men.

Siri came and nudged her shoulder. “Where’s the guy you came with?”

“Gone,” she answered, rolling her eyes. “Finally.”

“He didn’t look your type,” Siri said with a shrug. “But you never know.”

“He’s not. He’s my
mom’s
boyfriend. And he’s a jerk.”

Siri’s hand hovered over the massacred chocolate cake. “That’s a mess.”

“Tell me about it.” Ulf was by far the worst of her mom’s recent boyfriends. He was a liar and a manipulator. But her mom never saw beyond a pretty face.

Siri dropped her voice. “Have you seen June? Is she coming?”

“No. She went away with her boyfriend and his family for the vacation.” Anna noticed Siri’s look of relief. “Why?” she asked sharply.

“I was worried that maybe she didn’t feel welcome. And I felt guilty. I mean… I’m really sorry about Fritjof.” Siri paused. “But I’m starting to wonder why I thought some of his ideas were good. I know you never liked him. But… I thought he was right. About June being different and the need to keep our race pure and all that.” Siri looked away. “I’m embarrassed I let myself believe any of it.”

“He was persuasive, I guess.” Anna tried not to rub it in, but she was happy that at least one friend was coming back around.

“Maybe. But I really am sorry.”

“Tell June after the break.” Anna put her glass up to Siri’s. “She’ll understand.”

“Why are you girls being so serious?” boomed Anna’s cousin, Red. He put an arm around each of them. “There’s music. You should be dancing. Or aren’t there any nice guys?”

“Anna never thinks there are any nice guys. But I see a few.” Siri raised her glass and headed across the room that had started to get crowded now that a slow song was playing.

“What are you doing here?” Anna playfully punched her cousin who was built like a rugby player. “You graduated last year. You’re not part of the team anymore.”

“We told the guys that we’d be back,” said Red, nodding to where his best friend, Haakon, was surrounded by half the boys’ team. “But we can’t stay – we promised the girls we’d go to a dinner party. And they’ll kill us if we’re late.” Red and Haakon had dominated the court with their size and skill for the past three years, but neither of their girlfriends played.

“I’m surprised they even let you out of their sight.” Anna waved a finger at her cousin who had the same ultra blond hair and pale blue eyes as she did. “I’ve hardly seen you at all this vacation.”

“I know. We’ve been busy. But I’m here now.” The music picked up again. “Dance?” He took her hand and then dropped it as if he had been stung. He grabbed her wrist and turned her palm up, revealing the star-shaped Firemark. “Who did this?” he growled, his face turning the telltale shade of red that had earned him his nickname.

Anna pulled her hand out of his and closed her fist. “No one.”

“A mark like that can’t just appear.”

“Why do you care what did it?”

“What do you mean
what
did it?” Red gripped her shoulders. “You were the one…?” Red’s voice trailed off, but his eyes bore into hers as if he was trying to peer into her mind.

Anna pulled back, breaking the contact. “What are you talking about?” She hadn’t said anything about what had happened on the hill and June had left town right after the vigil.

Red laughed, but Anna could still feel his anger like a tightly coiled snake. “Nothing,” he said. “Let’s dance.”

* * *

Dvara paced around the massive table that filled the stone hall of Khotan’s lair. “Why are we waiting? Paaliaq has had more than enough time to hide again.”

“That is for Kairök Yarlung to decide,” Khotan said, using Yarlung’s official title as the head of their Cairn. As Kraal’s mate, she had taken over after his death.

“She’s too busy with her political games to think about it.” Dvara snorted. “She’s never had time for us anyhow.”

Rakan looked up from the intricate wire sculpture he was making. “Maybe she just wants to make sure you won’t throw yourself at Paaliaq in a hotheaded rage.”

“I’m no fool.” Dvara leaned over the table towards her half-brother. “I won’t attack until I’m certain to win. But I will attack. Unlike some I know.”

Rakan stood, towering over her. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Sit,” Khotan said from his high-backed burgundy chair at the head of the table. “Both of you.” He waited until they complied. “The only reason you’re going instead of one of us is because Paaliaq won’t recognize you. Unfortunately, neither one of you is experienced enough to trap
Paaliaq on your own.” Khotan looked from one to the other. “You’ll have to work together. Remember that.”

“But why did she set off one of Rakan’s old triggers?” Dvara hit the table with her fist. “It makes no sense. Even a newborn whelp would have felt what it was before touching it.”

Khotan created a burgundy colored fireball that floated in front of him. “Either she isn’t Paaliaq, or she’s luring you into a trap.” The stone walls reflected the warm glow of the fireball. “This isn’t a game. And I wish we didn’t have to send you.” Khotan’s face went blank for a split second as it always did when he spoke mentally with another dragon. “Yarlung bids us come to Lhang-tso,” he said, standing up. “Now.” Khotan disappeared without a sound, the fireball still suspended in midair.

Dvara followed in her stepfather’s trail, leaving Rakan to arrive last on the silver shores of the intensely blue lake that was Kairök Yarlung’s home. They faced the lake in their dragon forms. Khotan, an air dragon, rose on his burgundy hind legs and bellowed their arrival.

The blue-white coils of Yarlung’s water dragon form undulated majestically in the center of the crescent shaped lake. Rakan had always felt a sense of awe in front of his mother’s abode. Something about its starkness, the pungent salty flavor of the wind that rolled off the lake, the beauty of the contrasting red hills that surrounded it in the thin air of its 4,500 meter high perch had always made him feel like he was in the presence of something profound. He smiled and rocked back onto his own hind legs, stretched his majestic coral wings and added his greetings to his father’s. Neither animal nor plant life ventured near the lake. They were refreshingly alone. And free.

BOOK: Dragon Fire
7.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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