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Authors: Crymsyn Hart

Dragonkin (2 page)

BOOK: Dragonkin
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“No. You
will
live. Take my fire and what’s left of my power.”

Kestrel shook her head
. “How can you do that? You need it. No human can contain dragon fire. It’s never been done before.”

He nuzzled her.
“It’s been done before. I don’t know when, but I’ve inherited memories from my line. I think that might be part of the reason I’ve felt different than the other dragons. Remember in all of this, I love you. If you ever need anything, go back to the beginning and seek out the mountain. Oh, Kes, my little bird, if we could, I would’ve chosen you for a mate.”

Before she could respond, a surge of energy pushed along their union. The burst was so hot and bright it set her entire being ablaze. A volcano eruption consumed her soul. It stung worse than the dragon fire had when it grazed her. It hurt more than any magical training she had ever endured. Through it all, she was bathed in Castigan’s love. A scream left her lips. Kestrel rooted herself into the crook of the dragon’s front paw. The flames raced along her veins and nerves, remolding everything inside of her, remolding everything that she was. She clawed at his scales and drowned in the fire. By the time the agony stopped, Kestrel barely knew her dragon was gone. She huddled against his cooling flesh, trying to stop the burning.

 

Chapter Two

 

Kestrel stared at the stacks of spell books before her. All of them had to be catalogued. Everything before her was busywork. She’d been doing it for ten years now, going through three-quarters of the library in that time. After recopying the older works into smaller volumes, she needed a break. She breathed in deeply and glanced up at the others in the massive library.

All were students or spellcasters like her.
I haven’t been like them in five centuries. They’re bonded to dragons.
A lump of emotion burned in her throat every time she thought about Castigan. His image was never far from her mind. His golden scales flashing in the sunlight and the warmth he always brought her. The last time they flew together. How the thrill had never left her until they were ambushed.

I never should’ve asked him to take that flight. Everyone on the council blames me. The war has been over now for four centuries. They hailed me as a hero for helping stop it before Cas died. Then they cast me aside. They can’t get rid of me because they might need me again to fight another war. All I want is to join Castigan. He wanted me to live, but how do you live when part of your soul is gone?

She turned toward the open window. Outside the shadows of dragons darkened the Athenaeum courtyard. They were probably running magical drills or teaching the few apprentices who wandered the halls or the instructors who kept up their skills.
You never know when a war will break out again, and we need to be on our guard. We’re not getting new students every day.

Kestrel thought about how many pupils they saw in ten years. Maybe two or three. It took fifty years for a dragon to mature, and then who knew when it would pick a spellcaster to bond with? Spellcasters didn’t crop up every day. One or two were born in a generation across all the land. Fewer and fewer students came to them every year.

The library held thousands of years of knowledge that had been around since the time when the dragons first bonded with the spellcasters. It contained maps of the whole dominion, from when the five territories weren’t even formed yet, to the most recent showing the once no-man’s-land that had been incorporated into the Athenaeum. A secondary college had been set up to teach the more advanced magics. The Athenaeum had constant contact with the other establishment. She rose and walked to the window. Dragons flew by and circled the aerie.

To be able to fly the skies once more would be heaven. To be able to bond with a dragon again, but none will even come near me. The council forbids me to go near dragons. There has to be someone, somewhere who can overrule the council. Maybe I can go to the source.

Something Castigan said went through her mind. He had said to go back to the beginning and look toward the mountains.
Why didn’t I think of that long ago? Now might be the time the gods are giving me a second chance.

Kestrel wove through the library, ignoring the stares of the others around her. The loathing came off them in waves. Most of her colleagues knew something of her sad tale or thought they knew the details. After she was coherent, she had told the council exactly what transpired. Once Castigan had extinguished, she was left with a huge hole in her soul. It took her six months to function again. It took her another six to access her magic. That was disastrous. The gifts of his dragon fire and whatever was left of his power made her the single most powerful spellcaster the Athenaeum ever had. The only reason she relearned what she had been taught was because her dragon had wanted her to live. She had only done it for him. Other spellcasters had attempted to befriend her. A couple had even tried to win her heart, but after a few of tussles in the sheets, they left her bed. No person filled the abyss in her heart. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t connect with anyone on an intimate level.

Kestrel stopped at the section they had for maps.
It’s been right in front of my nose for centuries. I’ve never even considered
it.
She pulled out the newest map she could find and rolled it along the table. Five territories surrounded the Athenaeum. Mountains encircled them on all sides on the outer edges of the dominion. In between them were the lush lands they lived in. Beyond the western mountain range was a vast wasteland that nomads traveled to the sea. Two great and perilous rivers split the dominions into quarters. Both rivers started in the high Northern Mountains where the peaks were snowcapped and the dragons originated from.
That’s where I have to go.
The highest peak had a dragon head drawn on it. There were no roads to the mountain.
If the oldest dragons still exist, then I have to plead my case. Maybe they can tell me exactly what Cas did to me. Spellcasters can channel dragon fire for a few minutes, but we can’t hold the power. Oh, Cas, what gift did you give me?

She rolled the map up and tucked it under her arm. The couple dozen spellcasters were all staring at her. Kestrel met their gazes, but didn’t care what they thought. The only one who had authority over her was the council. As she wove through the halls, her pulse pounded in her ears. Council chambers were directly before her. The doors were open, which meant they were not in session. She gazed around the large room. The long, curved tabled where the five members of the council sat was pristine. The high-backed seats behind it were empty. Nearly hidden away in the corner was another open door. She walked over and knocked.

“Come in.”

She drew in a deep breath and walked inside. A fire crackled in the fireplace. The council was replaced every twenty-five years to keep things fresh. Each was chosen by the lords of the other territories and sent to the Athenaeum. Simeon had been there for a year as council leader. They had only spoken once before and not up close. It had been a custom for her to go before the council and introduce herself so they would know who she was.

“Simeon, do you have a moment?”

He turned slowly. His black hair was cut close to his head. His heavy brows scrunched above his blue eyes. When he laid his gaze on her, his expression darkened. Simeon tried to keep his face straight, but the frown started at his eyes and turned down the corners of his mouth. The look elongated his face. His black robes swished as he laid the scroll on his desk. A thick gold band on his right hand glinted in the firelight.

“Kestrel, what brings you to my office? Aren’t you supposed to be in the library categorizing? I think that was the task the last council gave you.”

She gritted her teeth. “Yes, it was. I’ve been cataloguing the library for years now.”

“Is there a problem? Did you come upon some material that needs my attention?”

“No. Nothing like that.”

“Then what is it you want? I’m busy.”

“I’m here to request a leave.” Her heart thundered against her rib cage. Her nerves made her light-headed.
You would think I was a novice confronting my dragon for the first time.

He ran his hand over a pile of books. “Why would you want to leave? Where would you go? You have no dragon. None of the other territories will take you in. Besides, you’re our most powerful spellcaster. What would we do without you?” The sarcasm dripped off his words. A slight sneer turned up his lips, causing a dimple in his chin.

“You don’t need me here. We’re not at war. All of the territories have been peaceful for years. We search and delve into learning. I’m tired of being stuck in the library. The only reason the council keeps me under their nose is because you don’t know what else to do with me. A special decree keeps me from approaching another dragon. Why don’t you let me go?”

Simeon clutched one of the books. She had hit a nerve. His face flushed. A small vein pulsated in his forehead. “From what I’ve read, it wasn’t the council’s decision. This came all the way from the king of the dragons. Once the decision was made, it was transmitted to all of the dragons, even the hatchlings. Unless you plan on going all the way to Blaze Mountain, it’s best if you stay here.”

She stuck her chin out.
If the dragon king did make the decision, then I have to go to him.
“Fine. I’ll go.”

“Do what you wish. The library will be here when you get back. If you get back. If you get close to the peak, the other dragons won’t let you get near the king. You’ll probably become someone’s dinner. But I wish you luck.” He dismissed her with a wave of his hand.

Kestrel gritted her teeth.
How can he say that to me?
The heat inside of her rose. It tingled along her arms and fingers. Her temper flared and ignited the fire over her robes. She didn’t know why it didn’t burn her clothes. Flames danced over her fingers before she flung them at the stones of the hearth. The rocks charred. The flash spread out along the walls and dissipated. They were spelled against dragon fire. A blast of heat rebounded against her. Closing her eyes, she pulled back her anger, and the power receded.

“Better now?” He raised a dark eyebrow at the display.

“I don’t need you to mock me. I’m nothing more than a piece of furniture to the council. I still hear the murmurs behind my back. All of you think I was reckless. Now I’ve become a pariah. Do you know how that feels? I endure every day with an open wound in my soul.”

Simeon slammed down the book he was looking at. “Why do you think we all stay away from you? We look at you and see a freak. It’s easier for all of us to turn a cold shoulder. Assigning you to the library was the only useful task the council could agree on for you. So if you feel you must go, then go. None of us has the power to keep you here. This is the only home you’ve ever had. Wherever you go, you’ll never be welcome. Good luck on your trek. You have our leave.” He returned to the column of books by his desk.

Kestrel left and let his words sink in. It didn’t matter what he said. She would find a way to the Northern Mountains and the dragon king.

 

Chapter Three

 

She stared at the map on her bed. If she were to ride, the journey would take her three months or longer. After that, there was no telling how she would get to Blaze Mountain.
There are no discernable roads to the mountain. The best way to get there is to fly. Which means I need a dragon.
The one person she could think to ask was Dathan. They hadn’t spoken since Castigan had died. What she remembered of their last conversation, they had gotten into a screaming match. They ran into one another in the halls now and again, but they never spoke.
He won’t want to see me, but he still owes me for saving his ass during the wars. It’s the least he can do.

The wind caught a few strands of her hair while she peered out her window. Her view consisted of the massive aerie that had been built ages ago by the first spellcasters. It rose above the Athenaeum, a mini-mountain, and the hill it was built into was honeycombed with caves where the dragons resided.

Castigan had enjoyed staying deep underground, where it was hot. She never liked his small cave due to the heat, but she spent time with him wherever he was. Kestrel wrapped her arms around herself.
He’s not coming back. I’m always going to be alone. This journey is probably a waste of time. I have to try. I can’t keep rotting in the library. Dathan’s going to take me whether he likes it or not.

Kestrel walked out of her room and headed toward the aerie. The last time she had set foot in it was to gather her belongings from Castigan’s cave. As far as she knew, no one else had occupied it since. She walked through the heavy iron gates and made her way up the path that wound along the side of the aerie until she got to a side entrance. The heat of the place hit her immediately. Small windows dotted the walls and ceiling to let in the air. The musky scent of the dragons filled her nose. The ground rumbled underneath her from the dragons moving about. She grabbed the wall to steady herself. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the dimmer light. Once they did, she walked up to the upper levels where Dathan and his dragon roosted. The wooden door was partially open into Pena’s nook. She watched them through the crack. Dathan’s back was toward her. His copper hair was cropped short. Wide shoulders showed his solid frame.

His dragon, Pena, slept curled up in the corner. Small tendrils of smoke trailed from her nostrils. He stood by her side and petted her emerald scales. A pang of jealousy shot through her. The door creaked on its hinges when she opened it.

Dathan turned.

“By the dragon’s tail, what are
you
doing in here? I thought you were banned from the aerie.”

She gave him a small smile. “Not from the aerie itself. The dragons want nothing to do with me, so I stay away.”

“So what are you doing here when you have no dragon?”

“I need to ask you a favor.”

BOOK: Dragonkin
12.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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