Authors: Kristian Alva
Tags: #fantasy, #epic fantasy
“But why you?” Mugla asked in confusion. “Is it some kind of personal vendetta?”
“She wants revenge. She has a grudge against me—there’s a history of bad blood between us. The Vardmiters were just caught in the middle of it.” In a humorless voice, Tallin added, “I’ll call Duskeye to pick me up. If anything, I know that my leaving will draw Skera-Kina away from this place. There’s nothing here that she wants or needs. With your permission, I’ll take the sword, too. If she knows it’s here, she may attack again in order to recapture it.”
“All right.” She nodded. “But let’s worry about the sword later; leave it here with me. For now, go up to my chambers and lie down for a while. I’m in better shape than you right now, so I’ll watch the gates while you rest.” Tallin opened his mouth to protest, but a quick, hard look from the old woman stopped him. “Go clean yourself up and go to bed—that isn’t advice, that’s an order.”
He didn’t have the energy to argue. After getting directions from her, Tallin walked up to Mugla’s chambers and said a healing spell to repair his arm and broken ribs. I'll just lie down for a moment, he thought, but as soon as he put his head down, he was asleep.
Down at the front gate, Utan was now gathering men to help clean up debris. Mugla sat nearby, watching tiredly as the men worked to clear the loose rock and rubble that lay everywhere. Utan and his guards reinforced the surrounding walls with mixed concrete. It would be dry by the next day.
Mugla tried to stay awake, but by the time the sun rose the next morning she had dozed off in her seat. She woke with a start when she heard someone screaming nearby. A curious boy had drawn the enchanted sword from its scabbard, screaming as it seared his flesh. The blade clattered to the ground. Crossing the room, she grabbed the boy’s hand. His palm was covered in welts. The boy was hurt and trying desperately not to cry.
Mugla frowned; the sword’s hilt had scorched the child’s palm badly.
she said, and the skin healed.
“You've been a naughty boy,” she said, cuffing his ear. “Don’t touch things that don’t belong to you! Now go.” The frightened boy ran off in the opposite direction.
Mugla picked up the sword and examined it carefully in the light of the flickering torches. She had forgotten about the enchantment she had set upon the sword.
—her breath caught in her throat as the realization hit her. Since she was the sword’s maker, only she could brandish the sword and command its full potential. She was the only one… or someone who carries her bloodline. Tallin and Skera-Kina touched the blade without ill effects. That could only mean one thing—that
Skera-Kina was related to her by blood.
Mugla staggered against the wall. How is this possible?
’ve got to find out for sure—and nobody can know about this until I do!
She said a silent prayer of thanks that her nephew hadn
’t woken up yet. Then she slid the sword back into its sheath and hurried away from the gates.
Mugla pushed the hair out of Tallin
’s face and shook his shoulder gently, hoping that he did not have any other injuries.
“Tallin, wake up.” He groaned and turned over.
“How long did I sleep?” he muttered, wincing as he felt the pain from his nearly-healed ribs. Tallin placed his fingers to his forehead and rubbed.
“Long enough. Let me look at those bruises.” He didn’t argue as she pulled off his tunic. She rubbed her hands together, then placed them one at a time on Tallin’s ribcage and right arm. The skin was still bright purple in many places. “That looks like it hurts.”
“I’m fine. The bones are set, but it will take a few days for them to heal completely. I didn’t want to waste all my energy on a healing spell, especially under the circumstances.”
Mugla nodded, with concerned eyes. “I understand.” They both knew that healing spells took a lot of energy.
“I contacted Duskeye before I fell asleep. He’s on his way here to pick me up.” While he could communicate with Duskeye easily over great distances, he still felt exhausted. He had barely managed to send a message to his dragon before he fell asleep.
Mugla patted Tallin’s cheek and reached for her sweater. “I’ll make us some breakfast,” she said, sliding to her feet. “I’m lucky enough to get fresh eggs once in a while.” She scooped up a brown egg and cracked it into a pan. She cooked the egg until it sizzled, and then slid it between two slices of bread. She brought him the sandwich on a plate along with a mug of tea. “Here, eat this. You’ll feel better.”
Tallin accepted the food gratefully. While he ate, he examined the sword and saw faint writing on the hilt. The scabbard was red and inlaid with striking gold symbols—even the sheath was beautifully warded with spells. “This is a peerless weapon. I had no idea that you knew how to craft weaponry.” He turned the sword over in his hands. “The workmanship is superb—only a handful of smiths could create something so fine.”
Mugla shrugged. “It’s been over a hundred years since I crafted a weapon. In my old age, I lost the desire to make objects that help men kill each other.” She said it without conceit—the one thing she was sure of was her own ability. “I’ll give you permission to take this sword when you leave, but only if I can come with you.”
Tallin paused for a moment, surprised by the request. “You don't understand—it’s too dangerous.”
“I’m coming with you.” Before he could raise another objection, she held up her hand to stop him. “Rest assured that I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself; I wouldn't have invited myself along had I the slightest doubt. Now, what’s our itinerary?”
Tallin saw it was useless to argue with her. “I’m going back to the Elder Willow. Duskeye has been searching for wild she-dragons. I need to check his progress, and I’m going to ask Chua for a foretelling. I need to know what Bolrakei and Druknor are planning to do. I should have done it weeks ago.”
“Chua, that old soothsayer,” she chuckled. “Is he still as blind as a bat?”
“Yes… Chua and Starclaw remain sightless.”
“The elves could do something about that, you know—they can cast regeneration spells. It’s a shame they’re so stuck-up and self-centered. Those elves won’t lift a finger to help mortal folk unless there’s something in it for them.” She went on, musingly, “But who knows? I happen to remember that Queen Xiiltharra owes me a boon. Maybe I can trick a favor out of those toffee-nosed snobs.”
Tallin looked at her wonderingly. “That’s all we can hope for.”
Duskeye arrived at Highport two days later. He was quiet and somber. When Tallin pressed him for information about the females, Duskeye brushed his questions aside, reluctant to divulge anything more than vague details.
Tallin decided to let the matter rest until they returned to the Elder Willow. After warding the front gate with various spells, Tallin and Mugla left Highport conspicuously, in the middle of the afternoon, riding Duskeye into the sky.
They rode the dragon through the night. Mugla slept in the saddle, snoring softly while Tallin embraced her fragile frame. They landed briefly to rest and eat, and they were off again, proceeding south. They flew over hills and plains, following the path of the river and passing close to the land when it was warm.
Finally they arrived. Chua was waiting for them at the edge of the wood, meditating as usual. Starclaw lay quietly nearby. Pinda and Marron were still there, and they greeted Tallin warmly.
Mugla went up to Chua and embraced him. “How are you doing, you old scoundrel?”
Chua grinned. “Just who are you to be calling me a scoundrel, you old spindle-shanks!” They laughed together as though it was a joyful reunion.
Tallin felt a moment’s discomfort; he found himself surprised by their familiarity. He hadn’t realized that Mugla and Chua knew each other so well, but evidently their friendship was deeper than he had thought.
A few minutes later, Tallin went over to Duskeye to speak with him. “This is the first time we’ve had an opportunity to speak privately.” Duskeye stared straight ahead. Tallin paused. “I’m sorry to ask this, but I must know. Did you find any females?”
he replied slowly. "
I found Shesha."
He did not elaborate.
Tallin studied the dragon
’s face with an unnerving intensity. “Did you… mate with her?”
Duskeye grimaced. "
I cannot speak of this."
It was clear he was deeply uncomfortable with the subject.
… if you come with me, I have something to show you. We won't be long."
Tallin was puzzled, but he followed along. He glanced over his shoulder at Chua and Mugla
—they were babbling and laughing like old chums. “All right,” he agreed. “Let’s go.”
They flew off in the direction of the sunset and arrived shortly at a deep ravine. Inside the ravine, there was a craggy outcropping of rock, surrounded by whitewater. A solitary cave, invisible from a distance, was at the top of the outcropping. A wall of brush obscured the entrance, which was hidden from view unless you were standing right beside it.
whispered Duskeye. He craned his blue neck and peeked inside. "
Shesha has left the cave. Go ahead."
As if in a dream, Tallin gingerly stepped inside. He waited for a moment while his eyes adjusted to the darkness. At first glance, the cave appeared empty. But then, he noticed bones littering the cave floor, but they were not dragon bones
—they were the bones of some recently killed animal. Then, his breath caught in his throat as he saw a gleam in a darkened corner.
A feeling of feverish optimism seized him, and his eyes grew wide. Tallin kneeled down, staring in silent astonishment.
There, in the darkest corner, was a dragon’s nest. With breathless surprise he counted ten brightly-colored eggs—eight carnelian, one onyx, and one sapphire—the first dragon eggs that he had seen in years.
Tallin stood up slowly and stumbled out of the cave in shock. He looked up at Duskeye with wonder in his eyes. “You did it,” said Tallin, his voice choked with emotion. “You did it.”
Duskeye raised his chin proudly and nodded. Against all odds, he had succeeded. Tallin looked at his partner, hope flaring in his eyes. “We must protect these hatchlings, Duskeye—no matter what the cost.”
The saga continues in the next book:
Rise of the Blood Masters:
Book Five of the Dragon Stones Saga (Chronicles of Tallin)
Kristian Alva was born into a family of writers and teachers. She worked as a staff writer and a ghostwriter before publishing her own manuscripts. She now writes young adult and middle-grade fantasy full-time.
She currently lives in California with her husband and sons. When she
’s not writing, she enjoys reading all genres, especially epic fantasy. Find out more about the author at her official website: