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Authors: Dina von Lowenkraft

Dragon Fire (3 page)

BOOK: Dragon Fire
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Dvara, a compact fire dragon with only the shortest of wings, dug her claws into the ground. She raised her jewel-like vermillion head and joined her voice to the others’.

Yarlung approached the edge of the lake and morphed into her human form. She signaled for them to do the same. Flashes of turquoise glinted off her metallic white dress. Rakan knelt next to his father and Dvara, his right fist on the center of his chest where his rök pounded in excitement.

“Rise. It is time,” Yarlung said, her voice snapping like thunder. “If the dragon who set off Rakan’s trigger is Paaliaq, I will savor her death.” Yarlung paused and then spoke again, more quietly. “If not, I will bind her to me by taking her rök whether she wills it or not. But I believe she is Paaliaq. Too many things confirm it. Including the presence of a male dragon who can only be her mate, Haakaramanoth.”

The wind howled across the lake.

“From what our scouts have been able to gather these past three weeks,” Khotan said, “she has created the illusion of being an untrained whelp and goes by the name Jing Mei. But don’t be fooled by her innocent appearance.”

Yarlung’s nostrils flared. “If she even begins to suspect who you are, she’ll kill you. Pretend you’re untrained. Take your time and get close to her. But not too close. Only one member of her Cairn is left and she will want to possess you both. Starting with Rakan’dzor. She has always preferred males.”

“But the Code forbids blood relatives to have the same Kairök,” Rakan said.

Yarlung snorted. “Paaliaq has no honor. Never forget that.” She turned to Khotan. “Give Dvara back her rök. Paaliaq will be suspicious if she doesn’t have it.”

“But the risk…” stammered Khotan.

“Is of no consequence. Do it. Now. And then bind her to you as Kraal taught you.”

“No,” said Khotan. “It’s too dangerous.”

“Have you become so frail that you can no longer master even that?”

Khotan bowed his head. “May your will be done,” he said, saying the traditional formula of submission to a Kairök. But Rakan could feel his father’s anger.

Dvara tilted her chin and gave Rakan a look of triumph. She had wanted her rök back ever since Yarlung had declared that he would keep his and remain independent. But learning to control his rök had been harder than he had let on. Starting with when he had morphed for the first time not knowing which of the three dragon forms he would take. But even after he knew he was an air dragon, his rök’s wild power had nearly overwhelmed him. It wasn’t until Khotan had taught him to control his emotions that he could morph without fear of involuntarily killing himself or his family.

Khotan walked over to Dvara, his fluid black pants snapping in the wind. They stood still, facing each other as equals even though Khotan loomed over Dvara’s delicate figure. Khotan began a low chant in Draagsil, the ancient language of the dragon race. He lifted his arms to the sky, his bare chest glistening like armor. Energy crackled and began to circle him. It spun faster and faster until Khotan was nothing more than a shimmering mirage in front of Dvara. A faint drum-like beat began, steadily increasing in tempo as it grew louder. Suddenly, the wind died and the beating stopped. A mass of pure vermillion energy licked Khotan’s hands like the flames of a fire. The energy condensed in a flash of vermillion light, leaving a bright red stone in Khotan’s palm. Dvara’s dragon heart.

Khotan held the egg-shaped rök to the sky before releasing it to hover above Dvara’s head. It glittered like a crown jewel. “My will has been done. You are now your own master. May your will be one with your rök.”

A red flame moved up Dvara’s gown, circling her body until it reached her rök. The rök ignited in a ball of wild energy. It spun around her in an uncontrolled frenzy. It was going to kill her. Rakan sprang forward, desperate to catch Dvara’s rök before it was too late, but Khotan stopped him. “No. Their reunion can’t be interfered with. It must run its course. For better or for worse.”

The rök lurched. Rakan stood ready to intervene if things got worse. Whether he was supposed to or not, he wouldn’t stand by and watch her die. A brilliant flash of intense vermillion encompassed Dvara, knocking her to the ground.

Yarlung snorted in contempt. “Tend to her.”

Khotan knelt next to Dvara and touched a hand to her forehead, healing her with his energy. She latched onto Khotan, her red eyes echoing the wildness of her rök.

“Come,” Khotan said, helping her to stand. “Do you accept of your own free will that I mark you with Kraal’s neutralized poison and bind you to me in a partial link?”

“I do.”

“And do you understand the consequences of this act?”

Yarlung growled her impatience, but Dvara didn’t take her eyes from Khotan’s.

“I do,” Dvara said solemnly.

“What consequences?”
thought Rakan, glancing at his mother. But she ignored him.

Khotan morphed and sank his claws into Dvara’s bare arms. Rakan watched, horrified, as Dvara writhed by the edge of the lake in a mixture of rapture and agony. A black winged air dragon with burgundy eyes danced on each arm before fading under her skin.

“Go now,” Yarlung said, her words lingering for just a moment after she disappeared.

“Rakan…”

“Yes, Father?”

“If you need to contact us, send a message through Dvara.”

Rakan nodded, confused. Didn’t his father know that Yarlung had marked him too?

Khotan disappeared. It was time.

Chapter 2
Back to School

A
NNA SAT IN THE KITCHEN WINDOW
rubbing the star on her palm. It was a perfect morning. The mountains across the fjord gleamed in the moonlight and the snow reflected the peaceful radiance of the never setting moon. Plus, Ulf hadn’t come back after going out last night. It was the kind of morning Anna wished she had had more of over the vacation.

“Why are you sitting in the dark?” Ingrid flipped on the light that bounced off the window, turning it into a black mirror that blocked the view of the outdoors.

“Because I didn’t think you’d be getting up.” Anna scowled. The bright kitchen suddenly felt like a cage that was closing in on her.

“And you can’t turn the lights on without me?”

“I just—”

“—like to see outside,” her mother finished for her. “Just like your father.”

Anna looked at her mom, surprised. The subject of her father was taboo.

“I’m glad you’re up early,” continued Ingrid. “I think we need to have a little chat.”

Anna braced herself. Having a ‘little chat’ had never been a good thing.

“I think I’m finally ready to have a real relationship with someone again.” Ingrid twisted her wedding band around her finger. “I gave Ulf keys to the apartment last night.”

Anna glared at her mom. She was lying. The spare pair had been missing for at least a week.

“I know it might seem a bit fast to you,” Ingrid said, misinterpreting Anna’s silence. “But it really is different with Ulf.” Ingrid waited for a response, but none came. “He suggested we keep both apartments for now, to give you some time to adjust. He said that it might be hard for you to accept him since he’s so much younger than me. He really wants you to feel comfortable with this. He even suggested that maybe you could spend some time together – he loves being outdoors as much as you do. And I don’t. Not since your father…”

“…died,” said Anna, finishing the sentence her mother never could.

“Didn’t come home,” snapped Ingrid.

Anna shrugged and looked back out the window, even though she couldn’t see anything. “Whatever.” Her father hadn’t come home from his solo expedition to the North Pole ten years ago. And her mother still couldn’t face the facts. About that or anything else.

Ingrid took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, honey. I didn’t mean to react that way. What I’m trying to say is that maybe you and Ulf could go skiing one afternoon.”

“No.”

“Can’t you give him a chance? It means a lot to me.”

Anna glowered at her mother’s reflection.

Ingrid sighed. “Ulf said you’d probably refuse and I shouldn’t worry about it. He says it’s normal for a seventeen-year-old to be jealous of her mother’s boyfriend, especially when he’s young enough that he could’ve been yours. But I didn’t think you were like that.”

“Mom. Believe me, I’m not jealous. I just don’t like him. He’s a total jerk.”

Ingrid’s pale skin flushed bright red. “There isn’t a more honest or hard working man than Ulf. In spite of being only twenty-six, he’s a brilliant cultural anthropologist. And part of his work is observing how people interact in nightclubs.”

“Yes, I know. He keeps telling us that.”

Ingrid blinked. “So what’s the problem?”

“He’s a liar and his idea of research is running around,” Anna said, unable to control her anger any longer. “He doesn’t even care about you.”

“Is that what this is all about? You’re worried he doesn’t love me? I know I’ve had a lot of men in and out of my life since… in the past ten years… but this time it’s different. You’ll see. It’ll be okay.” Her mother came and gave her a hug. “I love you, too, honey.”

Even though it was early, Anna got up and pulled on her outdoor clothes. With a little luck, her mother’s new toy boy wouldn’t last any longer than any of the others anyway. And her mom wouldn’t be hurt, yet again.

The arctic air nipped Anna’s cheeks. She stopped on the slope to look up, expecting to see the bright green Northern Lights. But they weren’t there. And yet she had felt something. The star on her palm throbbed and Anna closed her eyes. She felt the power of the mountains that jutted up around the island town. If only she could somehow slip into them and away from the city that was just beginning to wake up.

* * *

Rakan sank onto the couch of the rooms that Khotan had arranged for them at the Tibetan House in Tromso, run by one of the few Tibetan nuns in Northern Norway. They were enrolled at the local high school under their Tibetan names: Dawa and Pemba Ngari. Rakan snorted. At least Dawa sounded like Dvara. But Pemba didn’t even come close to his name and he hated it. It made him sound like a puppy. He closed his eyes for a moment. The shift from Tibet to the arctic town where Jing Mei had set off his trigger had been complicated. He had followed Dvara through the deeper rock that she preferred, being a fire dragon, instead of shifting through the surface layer that was easier for him as an air dragon. He had wanted to make sure she would be okay. It was her first time shifting on her own and he knew how tricky it could be.

Slowly, his breathing became more regular and he opened his senses to what was going on around him. Dvara, whose special skill was in triggers, was checking for detecting devices that the local dragons could have planted. And he could feel the nun, Ani-la, meditating in the room below.

Rakan focused on the multi-colored prayer flags that hung in the windows. His specialty was tracking and the bits of cloth were the easiest source from which to identify the scent of everyone who had been in the apartment in the past six months. He ran through them quickly, but there had only been humans. He mentally catalogued them in case he came across one again. Humans were no threat in and of themselves, but they were easy to manipulate and Paaliaq and Haakaramanoth would probably use them to set traps or gather information. Dragons considered humans as nothing more than animals. Or worse, as targets to practice on. But Rakan didn’t agree. Humans were too similar to dragons in their humanoid form.

Dvara finished her scan and turned to Rakan. “No alarms or other triggering devices. The house is as sparse and clean as it looks. Any interesting trails?”

Rakan shook his head. “Only humans for as far back as I can trace.”

“They weren’t expecting us,” Dvara said. “Although they know we’re here now, since we didn’t even try to hide our arrival.” Dvara opened the doors to the two small bedrooms. The only decorations were a couple of hanging scrolls. “We should put up a shield. But it can’t be too sophisticated or our cover of being untrained will be blown.”

“Go ahead.” Neither one of them was a shielder. “I trust your judgment.” And he still needed to scan the trails outside.

“Thanks,
Pemba
.”

Rakan let it slide and looked out the window at the street below. It was covered with trails. He let his mind roam, following the different trails as they meandered across town. He caught a trace of Jing Mei and the thrill of the hunt hit him. He reached out with his rök and connected with Dvara. Although they couldn’t have a true link and mind-speak, the blood bond of having the same mother, even though they had different fathers, meant they could have a partial link. It was limited to impressions and emotions, but since they had been trained together, they usually knew what the other would have said. It was an invaluable tool for tracking and hunting together.

“Ready to play?” He snatched his sister’s bright red scarf, the one touch of color in her otherwise all-black outfit.

“Idiot.” She mentally maneuvered the scarf out of Rakan’s hands.

Rakan smiled. He could feel her excitement even if she didn’t want to show it.

“We’ll go see Ani-la later,” she said. She narrowed her eyes. “This is our hunt. We decide what needs to be done. Okay?”

BOOK: Dragon Fire
3.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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