The Emerald Dragon (The Lost Ancients Book 3)

BOOK: The Emerald Dragon (The Lost Ancients Book 3)
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BOOKS BY MARIE ANDREAS

 

 

The Lost Ancients

 

Book One: The Glass Gargoyle

Book Two: The Obsidian Chimera

Book Three: The Emerald Dragon

Book Four: The Sapphire Manticore

 

 

The Asarlaí Wars

 

Book One: Warrior Wench

 

 

 

 

DEDICATION

 

To my family and friends, you have all made me who I am. Although, that does mean the faeries are your fault as well.

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

I swore as I folded up the paper tracings of the sarcophagus pieces and put them back in my coat pocket. I’d been studying them for two hours this morning—and almost three months prior to that—and I still wasn’t any closer to figuring the damn things out. Alric and I had been finding sections of a huge sarcophagus around town. I had a feeling they were from the one I’d accidentally found in the abandoned aqueducts under the city. Accidentally in that I found it by crashing inside of it and almost drowning when it filled with water.

The pieces we’d been finding in the last few months were made of some oddly strong gold-copper mix, all cut into five-inch-by-five-inch squares. Trying to translate them was starting to eat away at my brain. I didn’t know if they tied into our growing collection of tiny archaic weapons of mass destruction, but I knew they tied into something.

Right now they were giving me a massive headache.

Annoying documents secured, I sat back in my chair and watched the less than powerful citizens of Beccia stroll by, wondering when things had gone so wrong. Oh, it was a lovely day, nice and cool with a bit of sun warming the edges. And the Beccian populace was no more annoying than usual. However, instead of being inside my favorite pub, I was relegated to sitting outside of it in a cute little area called The Shimmering Dewdrop Café. Sipping tea and eating dainty little sandwiches just didn’t have the same sense of comfort that a nice mug of ale did.

The Shimmering Dewdrop was an established pub—one of the best—it should not have a cute café attached to it. I was sure the existence of this café was a sign of the wrongness that had invaded my life and continued to wreak havoc on a daily basis.

No sooner was that thought in my head, than the center of the havoc, Alric, sauntered into view. He’d taken off again for a few weeks right after our near death experience in the mine, supposedly to do research and meet with his people about the Ancients’ final weapon. He’d come back a few days ago and was working on translating scrolls to find the other missing pieces of the weapon. He was also trying to convince a bunch of stubborn rich people here in Beccia that he needed to get back into what was left of the mine.

So far, neither was working for him. And he hadn’t found out anything more from his time of roaming the countryside or from checking in with his mysterious clan.

Normally, I’d say Alric wasn’t hard to look at. Even when he drove me crazy and I wanted to kill him, I would admit he was good looking. Tall and lean with enough muscle to make things interesting. His black hair caught the sun as if it wasn’t naturally the white blond of an elven lord. His magic had come back completely at this point, so he had no problem glamouring away his elven lord tattoos and stunning beauty.

I’d started to fall for him when he first showed up in my life. Not too long before he gave me one of the most passionate kisses I’d ever had and vanished. Literally. After he’d come back, I’d been determined to keep a safe emotional distance. Up until a near death moment had both of us admitting far more than a passing interest in each other. The relationship hadn’t gotten very far with his most recent bout of taking off, and I fell back into a wait and see cautious mode. My dating life had been catastrophic to say the least the last few months, and with Alric seeming to be a flight risk, I wasn’t sure I was up to taking another chance. I studiously ignored the way my heart beat faster when he came near.

“I think we have finally convinced the High Council that they need to drop the magic shields they have around the mine, and that we need to go into it. Harlan and his committee persuaded at least five of the members that it would bring them a hell of a lot of gold coins down the line.” Alric flung himself in the chair across from me, ignoring the swoons from a group of women sitting a few tables down.

We’d been trying to get back into the collapsed mine, where my unlamented, and hopefully very late, ex-boyfriend, Glorinal, was dead and buried. More importantly, where the tiny second potential bauble of destruction, the obsidian chimera, was buried. Part of me wanted to leave both of them where they were and be done with the whole thing.

That nice little dream had lived for about a week before treasure hunters and relic thieves started arriving in town and asking questions. Alric pointed out that the obsidian chimera was assuredly intact and waiting for some idiot to find it. And that it was much better if the idiots who found it were us.

That was the same time the High Council of Ten formed. The rich and powerfuls answer to Harlan’s Committee of Concerned Citizens of Beccia. They pulled in one of their heavy magic users to blockade the entire area around the mine with a spell until they could figure out how to best benefit from the situation.

I had no patience for political maneuvering so I let Alric and Harlan do all the heavy lifting on that end. I went back to digging in the ruins with my patroness Qianru.

“Harlan thinks he can get at least two of the others over on his side and with enough pressure those will bully the three hardcore holdouts.” Alric snagged and finished off the second to last sandwich and started looking at the last one. I glared at him. They weren’t substantial, and my magic training made me eat like a dockworker.

He sighed at the almost empty plate and then waved down the cute little waitress. Out in the café, they had cute little waitresses; in the pub, they had trolls and half-giant barmaids.

I liked the pub better.

“You’d think they’d be at least a little bit grateful to us.” I said. “We did stop Jovan and Glorinal. They’d kidnapped some rich people too.” Jovan and Glorinal had taken almost one-third of the city of Beccia hostage to make Alric and me give them the obsidian chimera. When we did that, they decided to keep the people, and us, for snacks for the long journey to wherever their home hellhole was. Necromancy took a lot of death to work.

I ignored the twitch that hit Alric’s left eye at almost every mention of Glorinal. Alric rarely found himself bested—but both Jovan and Glorinal had done that. Jovan, an ancient elf from before the time of the Breaking, had easily rampaged through Alric’s will and psyche. If Glorinal hadn’t stabbed Jovan through the heart in a brutal coup for power, Alric would probably be Jovan’s docile lap kitten now. The fight against Glorinal hadn’t been as clear-cut; had Alric been at full magic power at the time, then maybe he could have won. But he wasn’t. Had the mine we were in not collapsed due to a few too many pot shots of serious magic striking its walls, I had a feeling Glorinal would have won.

Alric didn’t talk about his past much, but it was clear that losing was a foreign concept to him. And losing to another elf definitely didn’t sit well with him.

“Your eye is going to stick like that.” I grabbed the last sandwich and wolfed it down. I’d been practicing my on-again, off-again magic this morning and I needed something more than some fancy little sandwiches. I found myself missing the huge meals Foxy used to foist on me. Maybe if I asked him nicely I could get a decent lunch out of him.

“My eye is fine.”

However, I noticed he’d reached up to stop the twitching. Before he could try and defend his physiological tic, the tiny waitress came back, curtsied, and placed a platter of sandwiches almost as big as she was on our table. She also refilled my tea, brought him a cup, and blushed when Alric flashed a grin.

I narrowed my eyes. “Your glamour is slipping.”

He swallowed a sandwich in a single bite and washed it down with tea. “What are you talking about?’

“Your glamour.” I filched a pair of sandwiches and pulled them to my empty plate. “Either you’re losing control of it, or you are deliberately letting it slip. For your own gain.”

His bright green eyes, looking a little less bright than they did naturally, but still impressive, widened in feigned innocence. “Why would I do that?” He waved his hand to indicate the passing people in front of us. “They’re not too riled up about an elf in their midst, as long as I don’t remind them of it. But I have a feeling they’d feel different about who I really am.”

I looked down to my plate, but my two stolen sandwiches were gone. I stole two more. “No, you wouldn’t let it drop completely, but let it weaken a bit? To get extra sandwiches perhaps?”

His laugh was something I hadn’t heard very often. We hadn’t been doing things that led to laughter. It was nice to hear though. “You mean like trying to help you out by finagling a few extra sandwiches so you wouldn’t get a magic backlash headache? What an evil man I am.”

His relaxed smile reminded me why he was dangerous for me. Even without trying, and against my better judgement, I found myself pulled back in. There was no doubt of the attraction between us. I just wasn’t sure I would survive the outcome.

I didn’t respond to either his comment, or the thoughts going on in my head, but did take another bite of the ill-gotten sandwich.

Alric ducked as Bunky the chimera dove at his head. Too bad. Alric had been getting faster and Bunky hadn’t gotten a good hit in days. Bunky liked Alric, but had taken to my faeries’ habit of slamming into my head in greeting. Of course, a four-inch faery hit with a lot less impact than a chimera construct the size of a flying cat. No one knew much about the chimeras, aside from the fact that some long dead master mage created them. Almost no one knew they existed until a group of them burst out of the ground at my patroness’ dig site. She had been looking for them, but even she really knew nothing about them.

Bunky swung back up into the air giving his latest war cry—he didn’t know words but mimicked any animal he could find. The goat he was doing now was fitting. Like all of the chimeras we’d seen, Bunky was a round, all-black flyer. Each chimera had different attributes however, and Bunky’s was having a goat-like set of legs, improbably tiny wings, and his very goat-like head. The other chimeras had vanished after the fight with Glorinal and Jovan. Fortunately, so had the surviving sceanra anam—the other creatures who had come out of the ground when the chimeras appeared. Whereas the chimeras seemed mostly harmless, except for having the good taste to go after Glorinal before we knew what he was, the sceanra anam were vicious flying snake-like creatures with an unholy amount of teeth. No one had reported seeing either type of flyer, except for Bunky, in the last three weeks.

Bunky hadn’t shown any interest in leaving town, and seemed to think he was simply a giant, all black faery. I didn’t have proof, but I figured he also helped the faeries with their illegal cat racing. Yesterday afternoon, I’d caught him herding a pair of cats out toward the old barns. When Alric and I went out there and looked a few weeks ago, the racing track they’d had up before was gone, but I knew those hooligans were still racing somewhere.

Finally tired of dive-bombing Alric, Bunky flew off toward the ruins. Some of the remaining wild faeries stayed out there, just past the old ruins. They avoided most everyone. Only their queen appeared from time to time to meet with my own faeries and the ones who had come to live in the city. Those meetings were usually short and terse and ended up with the city faeries all in the pub getting drunk faster than previously thought possible. It had happened enough that Foxy made a special drawer for them to sleep it off behind the bar.

Bunky seemed to be undisturbed by whatever was going on between the two groups and went back and forth regularly.

Another pile of sandwiches appeared as if by magic and I noticed with a start that we’d polished off all the others. This magic user business was going to cost me a fortune in food.

Since the cave-in at the mine, Alric, Covey, and even Harlan, had decided once and for all that my days as a magic sink were over and somehow I had become a magic user. That I wasn’t sure I
wanted
to be a magic user, and that whatever magic I did have seemed to go from massive bursts to nothing, without warning, didn’t stop them.

“Once you’re finished, we need another magic lesson.” Alric said. “Without dragon bane.”

That was an issue and an ongoing argument between us. For some reason whisky, also known as dragon bane, had an unusual effect on me. Which was putting it mildly. If I drank it, I became aggressive in all senses of the word and scared the hell out of Alric. If it touched my skin, I became a killing machine and that scared the hell out of me.

I would love to stop using dragon bane, but without it, magic was painful. Literally. I could do a few things but it felt like an army of fire ants ripping my skull apart. However, Foxy, the barkeeper and owner of the Shimmering Dewdrop, had a hard time keeping me supplied with the stuff. It seemed that his usual sources either weren’t responding or were out of it. Not to mention the smell made me so violently sick at this point, that Alric started slapping an anti-nausea spell on me each day before our practice.

Therefore, it was horrible smell, potential nausea, dwindling and increasingly expensive supplies—or millions of bugs burning their way through my skull.

My friends wondered why I wasn’t excited about my newfound magic.

“Is this a good idea?” I dropped my voice when it appeared the couple at the neighboring table were leaning a bit more in our direction. “We’re not even sure where my skills came from.” One thing we all agreed on: like my previous magic-sink status, it would probably be a good idea to keep my new magical status as secret as possible.

Alric scowled and let that scowl drift, along with a raised eyebrow, toward the couple listening in. They quickly righted themselves and became engrossed in their own tiny sandwiches. “Covey can say what she will, but for good or bad, those skills have become yours. You are far more dangerous to others and yourself if you don’t know what you’re doing.

BOOK: The Emerald Dragon (The Lost Ancients Book 3)
2.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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