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by Jennie Andrus
Description: On a mission to destroy all the dragons in Rhalan, Lexanii learns that things aren't what they seem and that the only way to save the kingdom is to join the forces with her long time enemies. Lexanii spent ten years preparing to destroy the beasts that killed her best friend, Argon, the man she loved and hoped to marry. She knows more about dragons than anyone in the Kingdom, including how to kill them. When a dragon carries her off, she expects to become its lunch, but instead she finds herself face to face with Argon who is alive and well and looking damn good. Commander of a secret army of dragon shifters, Argon and his troops await a war that was foretold hundred of years ago. With her personal mission no longer relevant, can Lexanii take on a new task and become one of the creatures she's long sought to destroy?
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2006
eBookwise Release Date: January 2011
4 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [132 KB]
Reading time: 81-114 min.
Lexanii awoke covered in sweat. Her hands trembled, her heart raced, and her throat felt raw and abused. Just a dream, she reminded herself and slowly forced her lungs to fill with the cool mountain air that chilled her sweat-dampened body.
Goddess, she was cold. She should have known it would be colder this far north. The thin summer blanket she'd brought did little to keep out the damp fall chill here in this part of the kingdom where it seemed the sun never shone. She'd opted to buy more rations for this leg of her trip instead of a heavier blanket and now she wasn't sure she'd made the best choice.
Her stomach rumbled and she judged it early enough to break camp. Between the cold and the dreams, she wasn't going to sleep so she might as well get up and get something to eat. With a low groan, she crawled out from the oiled canvas she'd draped over a frame of willow branches and stretched, popping the stiff muscles in her back. After five years, she should be used to sleeping on the ground; then again, this was probably the rockiest ground she'd ever had to make camp on.
"It could be worse," she mused, dragging her large pack out of the tent and sitting on a nearby boulder to rummage through it. Her shoulder cramped and, cursing, she shifted the heavy pack to relieve the strain. No, take that back, short of having to sleep in a nest of dragons, it couldn't get much worse.
Her supplies were running low. The canvas sack held only a few days worth of food now, and she was nowhere near a village. She'd come to expect a certain amount of creative license among the mapmakers she'd met so far, but this time it appeared as though the cartographer in question had greatly reduced the distance between the mountain villages, probably so he could fit more of them on the paper and thus charge more money for the product.
She hoped the man was choking on his extra silvers.
Lexanii drew a stale biscuit from the sack and nibbled it. The biscuit tasted like saw dust, and since there was a fifty-fifty chance that saw dust was indeed one of the key ingredients, Lexanii wasn't surprised. She choked it down, took a swig of water and, with a sigh, decided there wasn't much point in sticking around any longer. The next village was at least a week away, in good weather. The sooner she was out of this rocky, barren landscape the better.
It took only a minute to dismantle the tent and stow it in the little sack she'd made for it. As always, she went about her morning chores with one eye on the skies. After so many years, it had become a habit--hopefully a habit that would save her life.
No miserable bastard dragon would catch her unawares.
For five years, she'd traveled the length and width of the kingdom gathering dragon lore. The five years before that she'd trained hard in the Royal Stealth Corps, all with one purpose in mind.
She was going to kill dragons.
Of course, everyone thought she was crazy. Dragons were myth--be careful or the dragons will get you. How many mothers used those words to keep their children from wandering too far from home? Not because they believed dragons would really carry off their children, but to keep them from getting into more mundane dangers. Dragons didn't exist.
"I'll show them," she vowed. It had become something of a mantra, one she had to repeat to herself often these days when hunger, cold, and loneliness threatened to crush her spirit. Some nights when she was huddled under her blanket, alone in the darkness, she wondered if she wasn't a little crazy after all.
She banished the thoughts, willed them to disappear like the fogbanks vanishing in the early morning sun.
With her walking stick gripped firmly in her right hand, she stepped through the fading mists, leaning heavily on the staff with each step. Thank the Goddess she'd found such a stout stick to ease the burden of this heavy pack.
Herbs, potions, and weapons made the canvas sack heavy, but it was the large journal that created most of the weight. Five years of knowledge and lore she'd collected on her wanderings filled the pages of the book. When she found the dragons, and she would, she'd use every scrap of knowledge in that book to ensure that dragons receded back to where they belonged--fodder for stories meant to frighten children.
And then, she could absolve her guilt and put her memories of Argon to rest.
Her body warmed quickly under the weight of her pack. The baggy pants she wore were thick and heavy with hidden pockets full of herbs and weapons. Poor fitting boots rubbed against her heel with each step and she prayed that soon this task would be complete.
She was getting closer to her goal. She could feel it, could practically smell the same metallic bite in the air she remembered from that ill-fated picnic.
The mountains loomed in the distance, like jagged teeth on the horizon. Every scrap of information she'd gathered seemed to indicate that the dragons came from the Borri Mountains. Every step brought her closer to fulfilling a promise to the boy she'd loved, a silent promise he hadn't heard because he'd been flying away in the clutches of a dragon.
Ten years she'd worked to get to this point. Years of training, years of study, years of loneliness. She wouldn't fail now. She couldn't.
This miserable landscape offered few hiding places and next to no cover. Her usual dodge and dart method would be of little use here. Without trees to use as cover, she felt exposed and vulnerable. She kept one eye on the sky, her free hand on a small cloth pouch hidden in one of her pockets.
Her skin tingled unpleasantly, like icy fingers had grazed her spine.
Someone was watching her.