Renegade (Dragon's Watch 2)|
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Copyright ©2006, 2014 Shelby Morgen
An Authorized Excerpt
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A screech broke the oppressive stillness that always hung over a battlefield after the last blade had fallen. Esterion looked up, toward the sound, to see the sun disappear, blotted out by huge wings, large enough to span a city block.
Were there any blocks left. Or cities, for that matter.
The sun winked on again, then off, as he circled, spiraling down toward them. She stared, unable to help herself. Sure, he was showing off, but who wouldn't. He was truly magnificent.
Esterion felt Omellain's troubled gaze on her, willing her to her mother's side, as if Omellain meant to hide her. Esterion bristled in rebellion. She was no innocent child, to be protected. The string of bodies surrounding the keep should prove that. She'd killed because she had to, to protect the civilians here at the keep, not because she expected any glory or recognition, yet surely she'd proven herself. She was a woman, grown, not a fledgling any more. Her mother had no reason -- or right -- to hide her whenever another of their kind came around. Especially a magnificent Blue like this one. She would not go into hiding! She would not. She wanted -- needed -- to meet him. The pull was strong, too strong to ignore.
The force of the emotion struck her with its unfamiliarity, the compelling urge to shift, to fly up to meet the circling Blue, nearly overwhelming her. Gone was the battle weary soldier who'd seen more than her share of the slaughter. Esterion stretched, reaching for the Blue, needing him to know she was here. He was the one. She was sure of it. Could feel his call with every fiber of her being. She stretched, twisted, attempting to spread her wings to the air, to transform. The Human was too small. Too frail. Too… fragile. She wanted, needed to shift. Needed to meet him Dragon to Dragon.
Esterion! No, my child. Not this one. Not him! He is not for you. Please, come to me. Come here. Now!
Mine, she repeated, knowing any Dragon in the area would be able to read the simple thought. Mine!
Cormamin lindua ele lle, a deep, melodic voice answered, echoing in her head.
Nae saian luume, Cerulean.
English! Esterion demanded.
Greetings, Lady Omellain, Mistress Esterion. Hail and well met.
Had this gorgeous Blue been one of Mother's pets? No! He couldn't be. He was hers! It was meant to be. She could feel it!
Fear not, M'Lady. 'Tis but a courtesy I pay your Lady Mother. I feel your claim on me as surely as you must feel my claim on you.
"I don't know what you're talking about." Esterion ground her teeth in suppressed anger. She was a female, born to rule. No one laid claim to her.
I do. I claim you, M'Lady.
A hush fell over the gathering of battle weary soldiers as the Blue swooped straight at them, pulling up at the last instant to glide in feet first. The air whooshed about them, sending her hair flying in all directions like a red firestorm as the giant Blue landed gracefully before them. As if she did not even exist, the Blue made a formal bow, or as much of one as a Dragon could make, before her mother. "Amin naa tualle, Lady Omellain, High Queen of the exiles of Tir na nÓg. Elen sila lumenn omentilmo. I, Cerulean, come before you this day to claim the hand of your daughter, the Lady Esterion, as my mate."
What was he saying? Was any of it in English?
Esterion wanted to rage, or to laugh, as she was sure Mother would, but instead Omellain pulled on her dignity as another woman might have a house coat, becoming in an instant who this stranger claimed she was. The trappings of the mere mortal fell away, and she stood tall and regal, her essence so blinding soldiers dropped to their knees around them and held up a hand to shield their eyes, all the while peering around their fingers to behold her magnificent beauty.
Esterion refused to be awed by her mother's shimmering opulence. "Mate?" she demanded. "Do you not think it would be wise to consult with me on such a matter first?"
"Such is not our way." The Blue raised one scaled eye ridge in Mother's general direction. "Have you not taught her the old ways?"
Taught her… he dared to question her? Her? Again the urge to shift, to show him who and what she was, nearly overwhelmed her. Never had she wanted, needed, so desperately to shift. Still, she failed miserably. She pushed at it, trying with all her might, knowing she was turning as red as her hair. Embarrassment washed over her in a wave, followed quickly by anger. Damn the Blue to the nine hells for forcing her hand.
"You have my permission to court my Lady Daughter, Cerulean, but she's of her own mind. It will be up to you to win her heart," Mother advised.
"I am not ancient enough to know the old ways. I am Esterion, Ranger of the New Order, from here and now, and I have fought my way through a dozen Kobolds this day to stay here and now. I certainly don't intend to give myself over to some total stranger as his mate because he says it's our way. Go fuck yourself, you arrogant prick."
Cerulean tilted his head back and laughed, the sounds so deep it felt like a small quake shaking the foundations of the crumbling old institution's thick stone walls. "I'd rather fuck you," he assured her. With that, he swept her against his chest with a flick of his giant wing. Wrapping his small front arms around her, he jumped into the air.
"Put me down!" she shrieked. "Put me down this instant you -- you -- fossil!"
He chuckled. As you wish, M'Lady.
Esterion shrieked again as the ground -- which had somehow gotten much farther away than she'd realized -- came rushing back toward her at an alarming speed.
One beat. Two. Cerulean watched his mate-to-be falling, expecting her to unfurl her wings at any moment. Nothing. Shit. He dove at a crazy, reckless angle, swooping down under her to catch her unceremoniously by the waistband of her leather breeches. "Naa dolle lost?" he hissed. "Ascarer! Why didn't you shift?"
"Who's Ascarer? And how the hell was I supposed to know you were going to drop me? What the hell were you trying to prove, besides the fact that you're an egotistical asshole?"
For a moment he contemplated releasing the woman from his tightly furled claws. But no. He'd searched for this one for decades now. Longer. He would not let her go, not even to teach her a well deserved lesson. "Lle quena i'lambe tel' Eldalie? "
Her lack of a response was answer enough -- she didn't speak their language. How could that be? "Ascarer is you, M'Lady. And unless you have some death wish, I suggest you answer my question. Why did you not fly?"
Silence. This was going well. Cerulean headed for a familiar spot -- a small, grassy flat close to the summit of a nearby mountain where he often camped. Setting down as gently as he could with a writhing woman in his claws, he gave her room to spread her wings and take off safely, if that was her intent. Instead she scrambled away as soon as he released her, nearly backing over the edge of the precipice in her determination to put fighting distance between them. Fortunately she'd not had time to grab up her war axe, but still, the dagger she drew could well have been lethal to a mortal.
She threatened him? With a weapon like that? Damn she was feisty. He grinned, careful not to set the grass on fire. "So. It appears we are at an impasse. You already know I will not allow you to come to harm, even at your own request. On the other hand, we have a problem. Apparently you can't fly."
"You dare to insult me? I am Esterion, the daughter of Omellain and Pajja, Patriarch of House Élanadhache of the Tuatha Dé Danann!"
He grinned again at the picture she made. Tall, broad shouldered, honed to fighting constitution, long red hair blazing about her, whipped by the wind and her fine, fiery temper. She'd be a challenge, for sure. But he'd not have it any other way. What man -- or Dragon -- wanted a mate who was not his equal?
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