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Authors: Dina von Lowenkraft

Dragon Fire (5 page)

BOOK: Dragon Fire
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“She could be a New Dragon,” Rakan said. Maybe he and Dvara weren’t the only dragons who had been born on Earth and not on the now defunct Red Planet.

Dvara snorted. “You know that Yarlung won’t let the other dragons breed on Earth until Paaliaq has been killed – unless they agree to give her their offspring. And no one accepted that.” Dvara paused. “Even if two dragons had managed to come to Earth to breed without Yarlung knowing it, they’d never have been able to hide their whelp for so long. Especially not when she radiates so much energy. Exactly the way Paaliaq is said to have done.”

“What about the human?” asked Rakan. More curious than he wanted to admit.

Dvara smiled. “Pretty looking thing, isn’t she? Her ultra blonde hair would contrast nicely with your dragon black.”

“It’s not for me that I’m asking,” Rakan said coldly.

“As you wish. But playing with her might be a good idea. Especially since she seems to be Jing Mei’s pet.”

“No.”

“Why not? She wouldn’t mind. I felt it rolling off of her.”

Rakan growled a warning. “I don’t play with humans. You know that.”

“But you want to with this one.”

Rakan realized he should have ignored her comment from the start. But he had taken her bait like a fool. He switched tactics. “How could she feel me run my mind over the school, even if it was heavy handed? She’s human.”

“Yes. She is.” Dvara looked thoughtful. “Or just appears to be?”

“She doesn’t have a rök. I would’ve seen it in her trail.”

“Maybe she’s… a variant.”

“What do you mean?” Rakan turned to look at his sister. “You think there are other kinds of humans that we’ve never come across?”

Dvara hesitated and then looked away. “No. Humans are all the same.”

“What if they weren’t,” Rakan said, getting excited. “She reacted to the ball as if she could feel it, without seeing it, just like we do—”

“—humans aren’t like us, Rakan,” interrupted Dvara. “None of them. Don’t forget that.” She stormed out of the living room and slammed her bedroom door.

Rakan stared at his sister’s door, more worried about their mission than he had been before. Dvara would never be able to control her rök if she couldn’t even control her emotions. And if she morphed when her rök was out of control there was no telling what would happen.

His thoughts turned back to Anna, and Rakan remembered something his father had once told him. He had said that pre-shapeshifting Beings of Matter had existed long ago on the Red Planet. They didn’t have a rök and couldn’t morph into dragons or shift to other places, but could still manipulate matter with their minds. Rakan had dismissed it as a legend, but if it wasn’t… could a human somehow develop those same skills?

* * *

Anna stood, irritated and cold, in the schoolyard. Her mother had worked the nightshift at the hospital, and Ulf had come home after his nightly ‘research.’ Although Anna didn’t really think Ulf was the kind of guy to attack her, she had still locked her door. And then, in the morning, she had gotten dressed and left the house without breakfast. Just in case he got up early.

But worse than that, she had actually run to school, hoping to see Pemba again. And now that she was here, and he wasn’t, she felt stupid. And hungry. She should have realized that he wouldn’t be running to school to see her. They hadn’t even spoken. Not even after handball when he had been waiting for his sister. She had just said goodbye to Dawa and continued walking.

Anna half-listened to the conversation that June and her classmate Kristin were having, but they were talking about a project they had to do together. Anna wandered away and joined Siri and Randi, hoping to get her mind off Pemba. But they were discussing what they should do for Lysa and it made her feel even worse. She hadn’t left her a message. Or sent a text. Anna groaned inwardly. Why had she wanted to come to school so badly?

Pemba and Dawa walked through the high metal gate and Anna caught her breath. He looked even more like a panther as he padded languidly across the schoolyard. Anna watched, captivated by his fluidity. She imagined him pouncing like a panther and smiled. As if he could feel her staring at him, Pemba turned, his eyes honing in on hers. Anna turned away abruptly, her cheeks flaming. She closed her eyes, shame filling her as she felt his presence pressing against her. She was an idiot. The only thing she had been hoping for, all through her sleepless night, was that she would see Pemba again and that he’d come talk to her. And then when he finally did show up and actually looked at her, she turned away.

* * *

Rakan lingered after the bell rang, placing a few touch-triggers in the schoolyard. He and Dvara had decided to start by planting simple detectors that any dragon would detect – and almost instinctively know how to neutralize – just to see if June would react at all. And even if he had been careful not to mention it to Dvara, he was more than a little curious to see if Anna would feel them. He tried to quell the eagerness he felt at the prospect. He had barely been able to control his reaction when Anna had turned her back to him that morning, like a female dragon inviting him to chase her.

When Rakan walked into the classroom, he was surprised to see June run her hands through her long black hair and re-adjust the sunglasses she wore to keep it back. Rakan frowned and walked over to his desk on the opposite side of the room. Only pre-adolescent whelps let their hair down in public. Rakan looked back at June and she smiled at him. She looked so open and welcoming. He looked away. She wasn’t how he had expected. She really seemed like a clueless puppy. With enormous untapped power just waiting to explode.

Rakan pretended to listen to the teacher, and then wadded up some paper. He took his time to manipulate its inner structure and turn each little ball into a crude touch-trigger – a trigger that would give off a small jolt of energy to any other dragon who touched it and send a signal back to the maker. He could feel June’s attention on him even though she was looking at the teacher. He ignored her and put them into his bag to place around the school as if he was doing it to bother his sister. He kept a few out that really were just wads of paper and aimed them at some of the guys he had identified as practical jokers while the teacher’s back was turned. A few of the girls scowled at him, but June smiled to herself and Rakan wondered how long she’d resist before playing with them.

* * *

Dawa whacked another ball in past June’s defense and Anna shook her head. She was sure June wasn’t trying to block them. Dawa had turned out to be a great player, probably better than any of the rest of them. Funny how wrong she had been about that. Dawa seemed so timid and self-effacing at school. And the old-fashioned way she wore her black hair in a huge bun at the nape of her neck reinforced that image. Coach Knudsen blew her whistle marking the end of practice and the other girls flocked around Dawa. But Anna went over to June who stayed in her goal, tossing the ball up and down.

“You okay?” Anna asked.

“Yeah, of course. Why?”

“I don’t know. You don’t seem to be trying to block Dawa.”

“She’s good.”

Anna gave June a look. “So are you.”

June broke the eye contact for a second. “You’re right. I’m not. To be honest, I don’t know what to think,” she said, tilting her head towards Dawa.

“I know what you mean,” Anna said with a sigh of relief. She could feel that June was telling the truth. “It reminds me of how the team got messed up by Lysa last semester.”

“She knows she was wrong now,” June said, defending her boyfriend’s sister.

Anna shrugged. Lysa had been a close friend until she had followed Fritjof’s racist preaching and manipulated the team against June. Even if June had gotten over it, Anna would never trust Lysa again. And Dawa’s aggressive playing reminded her of Lysa.

“It’ll be okay.” June put an arm around Anna’s shoulders and they followed the other girls into the locker room. “At least she’s a good player.”

* * *

“Why can’t you just get close enough to read her mind?” asked Dvara impatiently as they walked home from school later that week.

“We’ve been through this before. Humans are sentient beings. I’m not going to pretend I’m attracted to her just to get close enough physically to penetrate her mind without her consent.”

“But you are attracted to her. And even if you think humans are sentient when they can’t manipulate matter without their hands, they don’t know you’re reading their mind when you’re—”

“—I’ll never use a human like that,” Rakan said coldly. “It’s unethical.”

“Your principles are ridiculous,” Dvara said. “Humans are clueless. Why does doing something that they aren’t aware of bother you? She’ll never know.”

“But I will.”

“Then ask her if you can read her mind.”

“No.” Rakan glowered at his half-sister. All his attempts to be honest with humans had ended in disaster. And he had promised himself never to take that risk again. Better to leave the humans alone than to have to alter their minds or kill them in self-defense when they freaked out.

Dvara threw her arms up in frustration. “You drive me crazy. We need proof that Jing Mei is Paaliaq. We need to attack her before she’s had time to analyze our strengths and weaknesses. Don’t you understand that? We need to attack her now.”

“No we don’t,” Rakan said as they went into the Tibetan House. “Not if she isn’t Paaliaq.”

Dvara stopped abruptly on the first floor landing. “Who else can she be?”

“I don’t know yet.”

“Then read Anna’s mind. She’s sure to have seen something that Jing Mei did that will prove she’s Paaliaq. Humans always block out what they can’t understand.” Dvara yanked open the door to their rooms and froze.

Rakan nearly tripped over himself trying not to run into her.

“T’eng Sten,” Dvara said. “What are you doing here?”

“Ah,” came T’eng Sten’s rumbling voice from their living room, “the question is more why you are here. Alone and unprotected.” T’eng Sten sniffed the air. “When you are so desirable.”

“She’s not alone,” Rakan said, pushed forward by his sister’s fear and his own pent up frustration. “Or unprotected.” He lunged at T’eng Sten who was stretched out on their couch like a pasha, his spiked black hair and long sideburns a signature departure from all the other Old Dragons’ shaved heads. But he never made it that far. Another dragon in human form collided with him in midair in a flash of violet. They hit the table with a thundering crash, bits of wood splintering under them.

Rakan growled and lashed out at Kakivak, T’eng Sten’s male bodyguard. He should have remembered that a Kairök never travelled alone. Rakan stood up, flipping Kakivak over his back, but the other dragon twisted in the air and landed lightly on his feet with a smile before spinning into a flying roundhouse kick. Rakan ducked and blocked the follow-up punch, twisting his full weight into Kakivak’s gut with an uppercut.

Kakivak crumpled on his fist and Rakan took a step back, quickly hitting his chest with his right fist and holding up his left hand in the symbol of truce before Angalaan, T’eng Sten’s female bodyguard, jumped in. His fight wasn’t with them.

“Well, that was entertaining,” said T’eng Sten, clapping. “I see that Yarlung and Khotan have at least trained you to fight. Unfortunately, it would appear that they have neglected the rest of your upbringing. Your manners are appalling.”

“Why are you here?” growled Dvara from the doorway where she stood, her fists clenched.

“Greetings Kairök T’eng Sten,” Rakan said, gathering his wits and placing himself between Dvara and T’eng Sten. “Accept my apologies. I was surprised to see another dragon in our home. May I ask why you honor us with your presence?” Rakan didn’t bow as he should have done according to dragon Code. He faced T’eng Sten as if they were equals.

T’eng Sten jumped up from the couch as nimbly as a gymnast in spite of his massive build. His long indigo overcoat flowed around him like a cloak and his bare chest gleamed like armor underneath. It was another one of T’eng Sten’s new traditions. No male dragon from any of the other Cairns wore anything but the fluid black pants that were perfect for fighting. “You’d be an interesting addition to my Cairn,” he said, standing only inches away from Rakan who didn’t flinch, “if I hadn’t already placed my claim on your sister.” T’eng Sten went around Rakan and walked towards Dvara. “For obvious reasons.”

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

“Ah, but it does.” T’eng Sten fixed the broken table with a wave of his hand. “Ask your sister.”

“Dvara?” asked Rakan, wondering if there was something he didn’t know about. He had never liked T’eng Sten’s flamboyant disrespect for the traditional ways of the Red Planet but he could understand that Dvara might prefer him to any of the others. He was the youngest of the Kairöks. And one of the youngest dragons to have survived the destruction of the Red Planet after the war started by Paaliaq when she attacked Kraal.

“Greetings, Kairök T’eng Sten.” Dvara bowed her head, ignoring Rakan’s question. “We did not expect you. To what do we owe the honor of your visit?”

“You know why I’m here. You once promised me something that I can now claim.”

Dvara tilted her chin defiantly. “That promise was extracted from me.”

BOOK: Dragon Fire
10.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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