Authors: Bianca D'Arc
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
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Wings of Change
Copyright © 2007 by Bianca D’Arc
Cover by Anne Cain
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
First Samhain Publishing, Ltd. electronic publication: September 2007
Wings of Change
To my family for their unfailing support of my writing dream. Many thanks to the
good friends I’ve made through this dragon world I’ve been privileged to write about for
the past few years, especially Megan, Jennifer and Serena for their untiring support and
assistance. Thanks also to Angela James for selecting this story, and Summer Devon and
Marie Harte, my co-conspirators in the anthology.
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Lucia was more than a little intimidated by the towering castle doorway. Beyond the imposing portal lay the Lair that housed the king’s own knights and dragons. It was audacious of her to even walk up to the heavily carved door, but she was on a mission. A life hung in the balance.
Gathering her courage, she lifted the heavy metal knocker. The ornate striker, cast in the shape of a dragon’s sinuous body, made an echoing boom as it descended on the plate. It also made her jump, but she scolded herself to be calm. She had to make someone within the castle listen to her.
“What can I do for you, little lady?” A gnarled veteran with a kind smile answered her summons.
She cleared the frog in her throat before speaking. “I need to speak with Sir Kaden.”
“Sorry, lass. He’s been closeted with the king and council these two days past. The whole castle’s in an uproar since the young prince has gone missing.”
She should have expected the response. Prince William’s disappearance was the talk of the entire city. Her spirits sank, but she refused to give up so easily.
“Perchance, could I talk to Lady Linea?”
“Linea?” The man seemed surprised as he opened the door a bit wider. “Now why would a little thing like you wish to speak with a dragon?”
dragon?” A deep, masculine voice sounded from behind the old man. Lucia looked up, over the old veteran’s shoulder to meet the startling ocean blue gaze of what must certainly be a knight of the realm. The door opened wider and the knight stepped to the side of the guard, looking her up and down. Lucia cringed, knowing what a pitiful sight she made in her rough work clothes, but they were all she had. What she wouldn’t give for just one of the many silk gowns she had once owned. But that life was over.
“Please, sir, I know it’s a bad time, but I must speak with Lady Linea. A dragon’s life is at stake.”
“Of which dragon do you speak?”
Lucia was torn. She’d already said more than she should have. “I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone, but he asked me to say goodbye—” her voice cracked with emotion before she got herself back under control, “—to Linea and Kaden.”
“Kaden?” the knight asked quickly. “Sweet Mother, are you talking about Reynor?”
Tears threatening, she nodded, biting her lip. The knight swung the imposing door open wide and took her arm, pulling her into the castle. He led her down a wide hall and Lucia caught sight of other dragons moving here and there. If she’d been in a better frame of mind, she would have loved this glimpse into the Castle Lair, but as things stood, she was too worried about Reynor to notice much. The knight stopped in a small alcove that had seats, but she was too agitated to sit. “Can you tell me what this is about?”
“I’m sorry, milord, but I must speak to Lady Linea. I promised Sir Reynor.”
“I’ll take you to Linea, but I don’t understand why.”
Could he really be that blind, she wondered? “They are in love, sir. Linea is his mate.”
The knight looked shocked for a moment before a smile dawned over his face. “I had no idea.”
“But—” She hesitated as he began walking again, pacing his long strides to allow for her shorter steps.
“Speak freely, mistress. I promise I don’t bite.” His devilish smile spoke otherwise.
“Well, I thought you were Linea’s knight. Did I misunderstand?”
“No, you heard correctly. I’m Marcus, Linea’s partner.”
“Then how could you not know about—”
He grinned down at her as they turned a corner. “About her and Reynor? Actually, it’s pretty simple. The dragons were waiting to tell us until Kaden or I found a mate. Until then, no matter how much they might love one another, they are forbidden to join.”
Marcus liked the way the petite maid’s eyes widened. She really was the cutest little thing. A full foot shorter than him, she would fit snugly under his chin, should they ever embrace. He liked that idea. Perhaps more than he should on such short acquaintance. 6
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But her words had him worried…and elated at the same time. He was worried about Reynor, but ecstatic to know Linea and Rey were a pair. It gave him some idea who he’d be sharing his mate with when they finally did find her. This cute little wench might even be up for the challenge, though the Mother of All knew, few women were cut out to be mated to a set of knights.
“Because of the way dragon mating affects the knights involved, it is imperative the knights already have a wife of their own before the dragon side of the partnership can be allowed to consummate their union.” Marcus gave her the bare bones of the explanation, enjoying the surprise on her lovely face. She had delicate features that spoke of foreign lands. She was intriguing, to say the least.
“Here we are.” He opened the large door to the suite he shared with Linea, unsurprised to find the dragon basking in the oval pit of heated sand she loved. Her glistening, pale green scales winked at them in the dim light as just her head craned forward to greet them.
The girl made a deep bow, though her eyes never left those of the dragon. It was a mark of respect and good breeding that surprised him.
“Lady Linea,” she said in a strong voice, “it is an honor to meet you. I am Lucia de Alagarithia, last of my line, lately of the Jinn. I bring grave news from Sir Reynor.”
“What’s happened to Rey?”
The dragon’s voice rumbled through Marcus’s mind, as it always did, comforting and beautiful. He watched the girl carefully to see whether or not she really could hear Linea. It was a rare person indeed who could hear a dragon’s silent voice.
“You know already he was injured some time ago. The injury has not healed well and he’s been spending a great deal of time at the tavern where I live and work as a serving girl.”
Marcus was struck by the exchange. It appeared she really could hear dragons. His curiosity rose another notch.
“We’ve become friendly,” she continued. “I noticed a dimness in his eyes yesterday, and badgered him until he would let me look at his wound. Lady,” she paused, stepping closer to the dragon than Marcus had ever seen any stranger dare, “infection has set in and it rages beyond my meager skills. He needs a true healer or I’m afraid…” The girl choked up, her emotion clear. “I’m afraid he’ll die.” Her whispered words dropped into the silence of the room as she paused. “He made me promise not to tell anyone, but I can’t sit by and do nothing. He also made me promise if the worst happened, I would tell
you and Sir Kaden goodbye. I came here today to speak to Sir Kaden, but they said he’s busy, so I thought perhaps you could do something.”
Linea leapt out of her wallow, shaking sand off as she went, clearly agitated. Marcus sensed fear in her like he’d never known before. She was afraid for her mate.
“I must see him! We must help him!”
“We will, my love.” Marcus stroked one large hand down her neck, trying to calm her. “But let’s bring help as well. Can you get a message to King Roland? Kaden needs to know about this, though how Reynor could have hidden the seriousness of his injury from Kaden is beyond me.”
“He feels guilty. He wouldn’t even talk to me for the past few days,”
Linea said, anger, frustration and despair in her tone.
Marcus nodded. “They both feel guilty. And it’s completely misplaced.” He turned back to the pretty girl. “Lucia, you did the right thing in coming here. Come, let’s round up the others and be on our way. A stubborn dragon, and an even more stubborn knight, await.”
Kaden sat with the council, once again stewing over the tragic events of the past few days. The king’s youngest brother, Prince William, had been kidnapped. Two young dragons had taken off after him, but no word had been heard from any of them since. Others had been dispatched, but the trail disappeared, and now all the Lairs were on the lookout for sign of the prince and those who’d followed him. Kaden tried to concentrate on the discussion of efforts to find the young prince, but he couldn’t help but think of his own problems and Rey’s grievous injury. If he’d been a little faster, a little more nimble, Reynor would have never been hurt. Now, because of his failure, his dragon partner might never fly again. It was the worst fate one could imagine for a dragon. And it was all his fault. No wonder Rey didn’t want to see him or even talk to him. Kaden didn’t blame him, but he’d never felt so alone in all his life. Without the constant presence of the dragon in his mind, he felt more isolated than ever and his world was without color.
“Kaden!” King Roland shouted his name and Kaden came back to the meeting with a start.
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“Yes, my liege.”
“Linea tells me Reynor is near death. How could you let this happen?”
“What?” Kaden jumped up from his seat, confused and alarmed.
“A tavern girl from Castleton just came to see Linea, telling her Rey was close to death. You’d better go see what this is about. My wife will go with you. She’s tried to contact Rey and he’s rebuffing her.”
“Sweet Mother! This is all my fault. He didn’t want me around, but I thought it was because he blamed me.”
At that moment, the queen swept into the room. She was wearing leathers more suited to a knight than a lady, but this queen wasn’t your typical noblewoman. “I’m ready to go when you are, Kaden. Tor is waiting in the courtyard.”
“Kaden, you and Reynor have serious issues to work out. Don’t come back until this is settled.” King Roland’s expression was unforgiving and Kaden felt the weight of his burdens increase.
“Yes, my liege. I’m sorry.” He headed for the doorway to join the waiting queen.
“I’m sorry for all of this.”
He and the queen headed down the halls at a fast pace. Urgency was required, but if anyone could save Rey, it was Queen Alania. She was a strong dragon healer with a true gift.
“Thank you, milady, for helping Rey.”
“You boys have got to start communicating better, Kaden,” the queen admonished him. “I can guess what happened. Rey blames himself for his injury while you thought he blamed you.”
“I blame myself, milady.”
She scoffed. “As I said. Each of you taking blame that should not exist. All dragons get hurt from time to time. It’s a fact of our existence. The enemy—if anyone—deserves the blame for this injury, though both of you deserve to be whipped for letting it go this far. The first thing you need to do, once we get Rey back on his feet, is to clear the air between you. Is that understood?”