Read Dragon Fire Online

Authors: Dina von Lowenkraft

Dragon Fire (9 page)

BOOK: Dragon Fire
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Rakan melted back into the forest and waited until a car drove up about an hour later. He recognized one of the trails that was often in Anna’s apartment. It was a man, probably in his mid-twenties, and more than a little drunk. Rakan let his mind follow the man up and into the apartment. Rakan felt Anna wake up, tense. He growled. He’d kill the man if he touched her. But the man just stumbled into another room and passed out.

Rakan waited until Anna fell back asleep, but even then he couldn’t shift home. He lay back in the snow and watched the moon follow its arc in the sky. His family had entrusted him with a mission and getting distracted by Anna wasn’t part of it. Worse, it made him vulnerable. And careless. He hadn’t checked even once while they were at the restaurant to see where Jing Mei was. And now he couldn’t feel her anywhere.

She had disappeared.

Chapter 6
The Void-Trails

O
N MONDAY MORNING, RAKAN PACED BACK
and forth. The strange void-feeling trails had intensified on Sunday, not long after June had reappeared. Since then, she had been crooning with pleasure at being reunited with her mate. And yet he still hadn’t felt the other dragon come back. Or figured out how June could have shifted somewhere else Saturday night without leaving a trail. All he had found was a trace of emptiness. As if she, too, could erase her trail at will. Which would mean she wasn’t a puppy. And she might be Paaliaq.

“Stop pacing,” Dvara said from the couch. “We need to see how he reacts to our trails and triggers at school first.”

“If he can erase his trails, he can avoid our triggers.”

Dvara smiled. “Yours, yes. But I made some that can only be triggered when they’re together. And when they’re together, I don’t think they’re looking for triggers.”

Rakan stood still. “You’re a genius. But I still think we should go.” He could feel June’s throbbing energy at school. And she was projecting as loudly as a thunderstorm that she was with her mate. And yet, Rakan couldn’t pick up any trace of another dragon’s energy.

“You’re useless when you’re in puppy love. Jump her and get over it. We probably won’t stay here much longer anyway, now that the other dragon is back.” Dvara stood. “Alright, let’s go.”

Rakan ignored her comments about Anna and took off down the stairs until he realized that Dvara had shifted to school. The upper hallways always remained empty until the bell rang. He cursed and followed her trail to the third floor corridor, surprised to see her sprawled on the floor. And to find himself face-to-face with two identical men.

Every cell in Rakan’s body braced for combat. They were the source of the void-feeling trails, but they weren’t dragons. They didn’t have a rök. Or a smell. They were dressed in the fluid black pants that all male dragons wore and their heads were shaved like Old Dragons even though they had the lean build of a younger dragon. Their chests and arms were covered in runic like tattoos that made the hair on Rakan’s neck bristle. As did their identical purple eyes. “What are you?” Rakan mind-touched his sister, relieved to find she was only stunned. “Why did you attack Dvara?”

“Quiet,” said one of the men, silencing Rakan with a unidirectional sound wave that knocked him to the floor. “Verje will ask the questions.”

Immobilized by the high pitched whine in his left ear, Rakan watched as Verje cupped his hands. Two spheres of white light emanated from his palms. They grew as they moved forward. Dvara struggled to her feet and lurched to the side, but the light surrounded her anyway. Rakan stood slowly, still dizzy, and reached out with his mind-touch to analyze the sphere as it circled him, but all he felt was the chill of emptiness. He reached out farther and hit a thin layer of void that his mind couldn’t pass through. He slid his mind-touch along the void. It surrounded them both. He tried to shift out of it, but couldn’t. They were trapped. Rakan growled. “What do you want with us?”

“The rules are simple,” said the one called Verje. “If you answer the truth, or at least what you believe to be the truth, nothing will happen. If you answer in any other way, the pressure of the sphere will increase. Which should prove to be rather unpleasant. Sverd tends to be heavy handed.”

As Verje spoke, thousands of scintillating points filled their spheres. Rakan tried to touch them with his mind to determine what kind of particles they were, but couldn’t. They were unlike anything he had ever come across. He quickly rescanned the sphere. If their spheres were surrounded by a thin layer of void, how could new particles have entered? Matter can’t travel through void. Neither can sound. Yet he could hear Verje. There had to be a passage he could exploit. If he could find it.

“Why should we answer you?” Dvara moved as if to attack, but instead fell to her knees with a gasp of pain.

“We have no quarrel with you.” As Rakan spoke, a weight squeezed his chest like a huge pair of hands on a child’s toy. His knees wobbled. The pressure made it nearly impossible to breathe.

“As I said,” repeated Verje in a detached voice that matched his expressionless face. “Say anything other than a truthful answer to my questions and Sverd will increase the pressure around you. A truthful answer will decrease the pressure, thus allowing you to control your own level of comfort. We will begin.”

“Go to hell,” Dvara said. She dropped to the floor with a groan.

“Why are you here?” Verje asked, unmoved by Dvara’s pain.

“That’s none of your business,” Rakan said. The sphere of pressure lightened. Rakan looked around, surprised. It had been a truthful answer but he hadn’t expected the pressure to lift. He hadn’t given them any information. Released from pain, his mind cleared. He’d only have seconds to figure out what kind of shield he needed to build before the increased pressure from the next answer would incapacitate him again. Rakan’s mind sharpened and he entered the emotionless state of combat.

Verje nodded. “Do you seek someone?”

“Don’t answer.” Dvara twitched in pain on the floor.

Rakan scanned the sphere again, trying to tame some of the wildly spinning particles into a shield, but he couldn’t manipulate them. They were more like flashing specks of light than anything else. “No more than we already have elsewhere,” answered Rakan slowly, watching to see how the pressure of the sphere was being increased since the particles weren’t actually closing in on him or getting denser. The pressure hesitated – his answer had been a partial truth. Finally, the pressure increased slightly.

“And is this someone a threat to you?” asked Verje.

The pressure had increased proportionately to the increased charge of the particles. To stop it, he’d need to make an electromagnetic shield. Except that he couldn’t access any matter outside of their spheres. He hesitated, knowing that it was risky to use matter from his own being, but he couldn’t see any other possibility. He wasn’t wearing any metal. He meshed as much of his own trace elements into a continuous conductive layer as he thought he could manage. “No,” answered Rakan, hoping that the microscopic shield he had been able to create would be enough to turn his skin into an ideal hollow conductor. As if he himself had become a Faraday cage. The weight throbbed around his chest, but nothing more. It worked. For now.

“Are your intentions honorable?” continued Verje, narrowing his eyes.

“Yes.” The particles of light faded and Rakan relaxed. But he didn’t drop his shield, even though the strain of maintaining it was draining him.

“Have you found the one you are looking for?”

“It’s none of your business,” snarled Dvara from the floor. She groaned as the pressure in her sphere increased. “If you have a problem with us then at least face us honorably.”

Rakan bit back his desire to lash out at them. He needed to keep his shield from their notice. And maintain it as long as possible.

“We seek only to know your intentions in coming here unbidden,” Verje said.

“We didn’t even know you were here.” Dvara’s voice was so distorted by pain that her words sounded more like a growl than anything else.

Verje raised his eyebrows. “The rules are simple and yet you continually go against them. Why?”

“Because this is no way to fight.” Dvara jumped to her feet when the pressure in her sphere of light lifted.

Sverd laughed. His voice was just a fraction deeper than Verje’s. “No, it isn’t, little fireball. But we aren’t here to fight. Although I wouldn’t mind going a few rounds.”

Dvara threw herself at Sverd and hit the barrier of void. She jerked back as if burnt.

Verje turned to Rakan. “I ask again, have you found the one you are looking for?”

“No.” Rakan forced himself to maintain the eye contact even though Verje’s eyes repulsed him. They were swirling orbs of dark purple light. With no pupils.

Verje looked at Rakan for a long time without saying anything.

Rakan stood his ground, trying not to let his indescribable aversion for both of the void-trails show. Everything about them was wrong.

“Then it would behoove you to look elsewhere,” said Verje. “You are not welcome here.”

The spheres lifted in a flash of purple and they were alone. Sverd and Verje had shifted elsewhere.

“They’re not dragons,” Rakan said after a long silence.

“They’re bastards,” Dvara said, spitting on the ground.

* * *

Anna couldn’t relax. Pemba hadn’t arrived yet and everyone else she usually hung out with was busy. June was wrapped around Erling, now that he was back. And her other friends were huddled around his sister, Lysa. Anna grumbled to herself.

She had only realized on Sunday that she didn’t have Pemba’s phone number or know where he lived. All she had was the drawing she had put in her room. The bell rang and he still hadn’t come, but she couldn’t bring herself to go in. She lingered in the empty schoolyard until she realized she couldn’t just wait there for him to show up. She walked up the stairs and stuffed the things she wouldn’t need in her locker. She was late.

“I thought I’d missed you,” Pemba said, appearing next to her.

“Pemba.” Anna threw her arms around him impulsively. He didn’t respond. She pulled back.

“Meet me for lunch?” he asked.

“Okay.” She watched as he walked down the hall. Something was bothering him – she had felt it when she hugged him – but she didn’t know what.

* * *

At lunchtime, Rakan walked slowly down the stairs. He stopped when he felt Dvara running up. He’d rather talk to her alone. Even if none of the humans would understand if they spoke in Draagsil, Jing Mei would. Out of the second floor window Rakan saw a shimmering mass of Jing Mei’s blue. He stopped to look. She was wrapped around a tall medium-built guy with blond dreadlocks pulled back in a ponytail. Jing Mei’s energy was flashing sporadically as she crooned over him. She was claiming him as her mate, but he didn’t appear to be a dragon. Rakan let his mind-touch move forward. But the guy’s energy was so controlled that Rakan couldn’t get any reading on him at all. Maybe he was a dragon who had transformed his hair blond. And was hiding his rök. Rakan snorted. A rök couldn’t be hidden. The guy was another void-trail. Which didn’t make sense either. Jing Mei wouldn’t be mating with him if he wasn’t a dragon. Would she?

Dvara joined him at the window. “Weird, isn’t it?” she asked in Draagsil.

Rakan glanced at his half-sister and saw a second haze of bright blue energy out of the corner of his eye. His attention snapped back out the window. “Did you see that?”

“What?”

“His energy,” Rakan said with an involuntary shudder. “It’s the same color as hers.”

Rakan felt Dvara focus her dragon vision on June and her boyfriend. “I don’t see energy, I feel it. But his eyes are the same color as June’s.”

“Which is impossible,” Rakan said. “Unless he isn’t a dragon.”

“No. They’ve just altered their appearance. Like those two creeps this morning.” She pointed to the other side of the schoolyard. “There’s one more. Her name is Lysa. She’s in Anna’s class. Apparently she plays handball too.”

Rakan looked at the fourth void-trail. She felt younger than the others. She was standing in the middle of a group of girls, her blonde hair flowing down her back. “She doesn’t look so bad,” he said, eying her yellow-green shroud of energy. He could see it best when he looked slightly away from her. It reminded him of spring leaves.

Dvara snorted. “I don’t know. All the girls feel sorry for her because her boyfriend was killed in some freak accident in December. But given what we saw this morning, I doubt it was an accident.”

“What are they?”

“Repulsive, twisted creeps who don’t have any sense of honor.”

“Yes, I know that. But they aren’t dragons. They don’t have a rök. And they’re too powerful to be humans.”

Dvara shrugged. “It’s as you said before. They’ve learned how to hide their trails.”

“No,” Rakan said, shaking his head. “They aren’t hiding them. They just don’t have trails like we do. It’s as if they aren’t even made of matter.”

“Maybe they hide their trails by making negative projections of themselves. Which would also explain why they’re blond.”

“No.”

“You drive me crazy, Rakan. Look at them. They aren’t human,” insisted Dvara. “What else can they be?”

BOOK: Dragon Fire
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