Authors: Jodie B Cooper
Tags: #dragons, #adventure, #short story, #love story, #destiny
The wind changed and he breathed a sigh of relief as he scented all of the missing teens.
Katie, her lifeMate, and several others stepped through the screen of limbs on the far side of the tiny glen.
“What are you kids doing here?” Harry demanded.
Alex took that moment to step into the clearing, glaring at the younger dragon. He had hoped to capture an important member of the Khr'Vurr, not a low-level grunt like Harry.
“I believe the true question is what are you doing here, Harry?” Alex demanded as he stepped through the shelter of trees.
The teens appeared relieved to see him. Several smiled at him. Clarisse, the screaming shrew, was not one of them.
He wasted no time before bringing his gift of aura sight into play. A person’s aura spoke louder than words. He blinked, dropping a thin film across the retinas of his eyes. The auras of each person bloomed into vivid color.
Dark green with swirls of black and ribbons of red flowed around Harry and Clarisse. Both auras tasted like treachery, jealousy and hatred. It wasn’t always easy to decipher a person’s soul by their aura, but it helped to know the type of people he faced.
For several minutes, he questioned Harry and Clarisse.
Harry began spilling his guts, providing names and details about the Khr'Vurr. The blond dragon acted desperate to make a deal with Alex, but he hadn’t provided any concrete evidence or even said anything Alex hadn’t already heard.
Then Harry mentioned his purpose for being in the middle of the forest at midnight. “How about a portal Clara changed to exit into the Dhark Empire’s worst prison?”
Every muscle in Alex froze. For the first time in twenty years, a flicker of true hope flared in him. The TèVarrn Prison was impenetrable, one of the few places he hadn’t looked in his search for Lizzie. Not daring to breathe, for fear Harry was jerking his chain, Alex grilled him on the details.
Several hours later, Sarah silently watched Nick pace across a small clearing. The moon’s pale beams highlighted his stormy path.
Guardian Alexander had left them nearly twenty minutes earlier. She was a little concerned. He should’ve found the portal by then. Not that she cared about Alexander’s success, but he was her only link to the dragon council. She needed him for that reason alone.
Crickets chirped amid hundreds of buzzing morags. An occasional belch could be heard as a morag stopped rubbing its grooved wings together and called for its mate.
A tingle of power touched Sarah, burning through the night as a portal opened. No one else felt the surge of power. She took a firm hold on her training, forcing herself not to glance toward the portal, which lay several hundred yards away hidden behind hundreds of trees and a hill to boot.
Sarah mentally called Alexander.
Alexander hissed. His normally firm voice sounded harsh with emotion.
Sarah gritted her teeth. After appearing in Alexander’s tower, she understood the guardian much better. The man’s very soul demanded he cross the threshold of no return. The portal was the chance of a lifetime, a single chance to search an untouchable prison.
He wasn’t going for glory. The dragon was entering one of the most dangerous prisons on the thin hope he might find his missing mate. Without a doubt, he knew he had a very slim chance of escaping TèVarrn alive.
Grief welled-up inside her. Nick would never do for her, what Alexander was doing for his missing mate.
Honor be damned, the guardian needed help.
“You’ll never reach her without help,”
Sarah said softly.
The scream of a hunting olitiau sounded in the distance. Soon another sounded and then another until the night filled with screaming meat eaters. The cries sounded down wind, moving farther away.
Sarah breathed a sigh of relief she hadn’t known she held. There was little chance of the olitiau finding the teenager’s temporary resting spot. She didn’t relish fighting the giant bats. For the most part, olitiau ate rodents, keeping most valleys clear of skrivetts and other undesirable pests. The huge bats also had big claws and a nasty set of teeth.
“Was that an offer?”
Alexander asked. He sounded like a grouchy bear woken too soon from hibernation.
He knew she couldn’t help without revealing who she was. Sarah ground her teeth together. He hadn’t asked. She was the idiot who opened her big mouth. She weighed her choices and found she disliked the answer.
“I don’t have all night. Once opened, I’m sure the portal sets off an alert somewhere.”
“Lizzie is my mate. If you’ll help me find her, I’ll do everything in my power to help you.”
“Obviously you can open and shut portals. That is the information I require,”
Sarah stated. Refusing to budge until her desperate need to protect Trellick Valley received the answer she searched for.
Alexander hissed in her head.
“The Dragon Council holds that knowledge.”
He hurried before she could interrupt him.
“Most of the portals in Dragon Valley can be opened or shut by a high-level guardian if they know the mental key. The olitiau portal normally opens on the edge of a forest five hundred miles away.”
“Then how did you shut the portal that opened earlier today? You certainly knew how to keep those synth worms out of your home,”
Sarah said, narrowing her eyes as she continued her line of thought.
“I doubt if you even knew of that portal’s existence.”
“Pure dumb luck,”
Alexander said quickly.
“The portal was somehow linked into Dragon Valley’s security net. When the councilors created the net, they must have pulled unsecured portals inside the net by accident. Since I have access to most portals within the security net, I was able to close that one. It’s like having a master key that works for shutting certain portals. It all depends on the security net and the protective locks around a specific portal.”
Sarah silently cursed him. Blast it! She needed that information.
“Teach me how to create that kind of security net.”
“I don’t know how,”
he said, snarling in her brain.
“Are you going to help me or not?”
Alex cautiously watched the Olitiau Portal, the portal that supposedly by-passed the tight security around TèVarrn. Looking through the portal’s archway, he could see the other end. The portal opened into an empty room.
The doorway into the prison was a miracle all on its own. No one had ever successfully planned a prison break out of the most secure prison in the Dhark Empire. And if he didn’t hurry, his chance at success would slip through his fingers.
Tired of waiting for Lady Sarah’s answer, he cursed.
This was the best opportunity he’d ever have at getting into TèVarrn prison, possibly his last chance at ever rescuing his beloved mate.
Having Chi’Kehra at his side would increase his chance of success by several thousand odds, but he refused to wait any longer. Once the portal opened, it was bound to set off an internal alert somewhere within the prison system.
The depth and width of the prison wasn’t accurately known. What little information came out of TèVarrn was mixed with superstition and fear. Some of the more reliable stories said the mass of underground tunnels and caverns was several miles long and went deeper than any known man-made cave system, on Sídhí or Earth.
He’d wasted enough time. Clicking his teeth together in frustration, he stalked toward the portal, refusing to debate how much he needed Sarah’s help.
He could have called on the guardians for backup, but Harry’s sneered words pounded through his head. If his own partner, Clara, was a member of the Khr'Vurr then he didn’t know who to trust.
If it were only his life on the line, he could call half-a-dozen different guardians. The simple fact remained. It wasn’t his life he was worried about.
He would never jeopardize his Lizzie’s life. He’d walk through the pits of hell to save his mate. Simply seeing her one more time would be an answer to prayer.
Taking a deep breath, he steadied his racing heart and stepped across the portal’s threshold. He felt a moment of disorientation. An instant later, he understood why.
Silver laced the entire room. Each bar, painted brown, blended with the wall. The presence of so much silver deadened every one of his Sídhí abilities.
He looked around the tiny room that had a single door, no windows and no portal.
The portal had been one way, a hidden snare. There was no turning around. Anger burned in his chest as his eyes traveled around the perfect trap, a trap he so willingly walked into. An angry growl rumbled deep in his chest, furious that his single chance to reach Lizzie was slipping through his fingers.
He curled his hand into a fist. Fury pulsed through him, but his burning emotion had no outlet. The small room lay empty of anyone.
To his left stood a door, more silver bars covered the small square. A sasquatch snarled at him, flashing long yellow teeth. The creature screamed a dual tone challenge.
“Oh, shut-up,” a menacing voice said immediately behind him. He barely distinguished the words over the continued shriek of the dirty haired sasquatch.
Startled, Alex whirled at the softly spoken words. It was very rare to find anyone that had the ability to sneak up on him, a two thousand year old dragon. For him to find that person in enemy territory was not comforting.
Sword in hand, he crouched ready to confront his opponent.
He blinked. Once. Twice. A twitch moved his lips.
“Lady Sarah,” he said in formal greeting to the dangerous, young woman who followed him through the portal, “my honor to you and your family.”
“Blast your honor to hell and back,” Sarah said frostily, staring icy bullets at his head. “If we are captured, I’ll rip off your head before I risk you telling the Dhark Lords my secrets.”
Alex sobered, nodding his head in agreement. “Actually, I agree with that.” If the Dhark Lords found out whom Sarah was, that she was actually the first Chi’Kehra in four thousand years, they would stop at nothing to either kill her or force her to do their dirty work.
The thought was terrifying. It was the last Chi’Kehra who created the second dimensional bubbles that secretly lay across the face of the Earth.
She tilted her head as if surprised at his words.
The sasquatch was joined by two more of its kin. The racket increased, making speech simply impossible.
Alex watched Sarah frown slightly. He hesitated to say anything. The teen had an odd glint in her eyes. One that Alex didn’t know if he wanted anything to do with or not. He feared that she was going crazy. It wasn’t unknown for older Sídhí to go insane if they didn’t find and bond with their destined mate, the one person who completed their very soul.
Sarah wasn’t very old, but she wasn’t what most people called normal, not with her body being flooded with enough synth crystal to power every known Sídhí valley and Earth for a few decades.
Sarah stalked toward the door, and a slender crystal sword appeared in her hand. The sword guard extended, swirling around her hand, continuing upward around her wrist in an elegant, yet impenetrable wrist guard of delicate-appearing beads. The three-foot sword looked like it would shatter if it encountered a softly padded pillow. That was not happening, not in a million years, because when it came to synth crystal, appearances were very deceiving.
Before he had a chance to understand, she slashed downward, cutting through the steel clasp that connected the armor-platted door to the cave wall. The door burst open, spilling a large sasquatch onto the floor. Another sasquatch jumped over the first, lunging toward Sarah.
She danced backward, swinging her slender blade as she went. Before Alex had time to blink in surprise, the attacking sasquatch lost an arm. The sword flashed. Blood spewed everywhere. The creature didn’t have time to scream in pain as its head thudded across the stone floor.
Alex lurched forward, killing the second hairy creature.
He turned, but Sarah had killed the third and was walking through the doorway.
He shook his head in disbelief over Sarah’s calm features. Well, he was the one who asked for her help.
Twenty minutes later, his hope of finding Lizzie began crumbling into despair. The prison system was a massive warren of tunnels going everywhere and nowhere. They had already hit three dead ends, four traps and a break room for the normal guards. Three vampires and two elves lay dead.
Still, he found no sign of Lizzie or any other prisoner.
Harry, his informant, had lied.
A small sound froze them in place.
A tense moment in time passed.
A muffled moan sounded to their immediate left. He turned and stared at the blank gray wall, a wall carved from solid stone. He touched the wall, seeking a seam. There wasn’t one. The rocky surface was cold. Bits of dirt crumbled at his touch.
“Wait,” Sarah hissed, motioning for him to back up.
He didn’t waste any time. The girl was as impetuous as a wild khatt. Normally, her spontaneous actions wouldn’t matter, but deep in the bowels of TèVarrn, every move made a difference whether they succeeded or not. He couldn’t even port to safety. The entire wretched system of caves had silver bars embedded throughout.
Sarah lifted her sword. The razor-sharp edge flashed outward, hitting the wall. Not surprisingly, the synth blade slid through the rock like slicing a cake. In liquid form or solid, synth crystal was the most powerful energy source in the known world. A synth blade could slice through anything.
She chuckled. The soft sound was not reassuring.
“The wall is a mirage,” Sarah stated.
Alex struggled to contain his growing desperation.
Unwillingly, he watched in fascination as she lowered and raised her sword, swirling it within the depths of the fake wall. A few moments later, she snorted. “It must be fairy made and a master fairy at that. I can’t break through it.”