Authors: Amber Kell
Tags: #Adult, #GLBT, #Gay, #Erotic Romance
When everyone is against you, you must fulfill your destiny.
Liang wakes up and discovers breaking the curse had separated him far from the others. The bad news is another dragon has captured him, the good news is he found his mate.
Proteus couldn’t believe he found his mate. Unfortunately circumstances make it impossible for him to go with Liang and it breaks his heart when his mate goes on without him.
Aden has been struggling to keep everyone safe. With the evil against him mounting and the number of people he needs to protect increasing, will he be able to live up to his destiny and become the leader the dragons need or will evil triumph against him?
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Destiny of Dragons
Copyright © 2014 Amber Kell
Cover art by Carmen Waters
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
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Destiny of Dragons
Dragons of Seattle 2
For Paula Atwell, Jean Reads and Robin Calfee Snodgrass for your help naming the sea dragons. Without you they’d be sadly swimming about nameless.
Liang snapped awake gasping for air.
He could breathe. He took a few more lungfuls, pleased when he successfully collected the oxygen and pushed it back out again. The scent of seawater filled his nose, tantalizing him with a fragrance he’d been lo
nging to smell again. Freedom. For so long he’d ticked off the hours, minutes, seconds of time as he’d remained motionless, a stone statue with no ability to move or twitch, but with a mind seconds from snapping.
But now he was alive. Gloriously alive. Something had broken the curse and set him free. A few memories rattled around in his head, vague recollections of falling from the ceiling with every muscle screaming from centuries of inactivity. His cold, frozen exterior had transformed back to a living, pulsing being. An unpleasant, excruciating event he hoped to never experience again. Still, he’d rather feel searing pain than remain locked in stone forever. The next time he saw a sorcerer Liang would rip out his throat first and ask questions later.
Liang blinked several times trying to clear his vision. The familiar press of lashes against his cheeks triggered tears of relief, of joy, of such a mixed bag of emotions he couldn’t pin down the emotional source. He palmed his eyes, trying to clear them. He had to see his surrounding to best judge where he’d ended up. The complete absence of sound unnerved him. Where were the crowds of people or at least his dragon friends?
Lifting his hands away, he took a moment to examine his new location. This was no theater. No seats, or lights, or even a stage existed here. He had thought he’d wake up beside his companions. He hadn’t expected to be underwater or in a cage. The combination of the two unnerved him. Gripping the bars, he winced at their cold solidity.
Where am I?
The cage sat inside a room free of water. A large transparent dome covered the area, but allowed a view of the ocean beyond, like a pseudo Atlantis, but not as nice. A colorful reef surrounded him with all the brilliance of a warm, tropical ocean. Beautiful. Unfortunately its heat didn’t extend into Liang’s prison.
Someone powerful had carved out a spot in the water, but the presence of cages didn’t inspire confidence in Liang’s captor being a friend.
He watched fish float outside the dome and yearned to share their freedom. The liquid wall didn’t have the smooth surface of a proper spell, but a wavy texture as if the entire thing could come crashing down with any disruption. Liang didn’t let that possibility worry him. He’d survive the dome collapse. Water dragons couldn’t drown.
His deep contemplation shattered at he spotted a sea creature floating in a large aquarium on the other side of the dome. The tank rose almost to the ceiling with a rolling stepladder set to one side, a strange sight in the middle of the sea. Why did his captor need an aquarium in a place surrounded by water? This situation only became stranger the more details he noticed from his underwater prison.
Motion drew his eyes again and he returned his focus to the small captive. As far as he could tell the entire tank was devoted to the one beast. About a foot tall, leafy appendages covered the creature that moved like a seahorse, but resembled a plant-like dragon.
“What are you? You aren’t a seahorse.” Liang mused. He’d heard of fantastical sea creatures, but had seen few in reality. As a water dragon he had an affinity for the liquid, but he’d spent most of his life as a warrior out of his homeland waters. Maybe that’s why he’d fallen for a trap in the middle of the desert, he’d become so used to going without.
“Enjoying the view, traitor?” A cold voice asked.
Lost in contemplation of the aquarium Liang hadn’t noticed the new arrival until he spoke. Turning around he spotted a tall man with dragon eyes and a wide tattoo covering one half of his chest. The man’s markings appeared to move as he walked. Might be a curse, but Liang couldn’t tell from his spot in the cage. He transformed into his human shape to speak. His scales transformed into black pants and a white shirt similar to the clothes he’d seen men wearing in the theater. Only a small gasp of surprise left him at the ease he switched from dragon to human after centuries trapped in his beast form.
“Who are you?” Liang needed more information to battle this newcomer. He’d been a fine strategist and right hand to his leader Zhou until the day they’d both underestimated their enemy. Still, there was no way he would remain passive and let this stranger control his life. He’d just spent centuries as a statue, he wasn’t about to spent any more time as a captive if he could avoid it. The trick would be to get this man to set him free.
The dragon shifter sneered. “As if you don’t know! I’m one of the many you turned your back on by defying your rightful leader. I’m going to fix everything now though. Once the emperor has you back in his hold he’ll make me one of his commanders. He promised a reward for anyone who turned one of you in, and that is going to be mine.” A feral light glowed in the shifter’s eyes.
“If you think this emperor is going to keep his word you’re crazier than he is.” Even as he spoke, Liang knew the other shifter wouldn’t change his mind. Madness didn’t take well to reason.
“You and your brethren turned the emperor against us! He told us of your treasonous ways. If you’d just followed his teachings you wouldn’t have caused his hatred of our kind. You’re the reason he has tried to destroy all water dragons.”
“Huangdi is still alive?” Liang’s stomach sank. He’d dared to hope the emperor might have died during their imprisonment. Now that last dream had shattered like all the rest. Maybe the emperor had found the secret to eternal life after all. Since he’d been researching dragon blood by slaughtering dragons, Liang hoped more than a handful had escaped the emperor’s grasp. He closed his eyes to center himself. Clearing his mind he pulled at his inner strength, the same resolve that kept him from insanity while his conscious self lurked in a stone-crafted cage. Determined to live, Liang opened his eyes.
“He is the leader of dragons, why wouldn’t he still be alive?”
“Because he’s not a dragon and should’ve died years ago. He stays alive by killing dragons. I figured he’d be out of dragons by now.” Liang sighed. Things were worse than he thought. After spending centuries in stone he was freed only to fight the same damn man again.
“He warned us you’d try to corrupt us with your lies. I’m one of the faithful and he’ll recognize that when I bring you in.”
Liang couldn’t fight against a fanatic, at least not with reason. The other dragon shifter wasn’t any bigger than Liang, he could probably take him in a fair fight. Liang just had to catch him unprepared. He’d rather be frozen in stone than a slave to Huangdi. There was no compassion in the emperor’s madness.
“I hope you understand what you’re doing.” Liang refused to argue any longer. He’d save his energy for other things.
“I know more than you, foolish one.”
“I hope you enjoy being a puppet.” He didn’t mean the words to sound as vicious as they did, but all these years later he still had memories of Huangdi’s ensorcelled followers. Their empty eyes haunted him in his dreams. Under the sadistic emperor’s control innocent men and woman had slaughtered their own kin only to be freed from the emperor’s influence long enough to realize the horror of their actions. Many had killed themselves in their sorrow.
At least Liang had never fallen that far under the emperor’s power. His leader Zhou had kept them safe up until the minute they’d been cursed. Even after, Liang had never lost faith in the older dragon. During their long entombment only Zhou’s bravery and calm demeanor prevented the dragons’ descent into madness. The Chinese phoenix had gone insane, but the dragons had clung to their wits because Zhou had refused to allow their minds to fracture.
“You are trying to change my mind so I’ll set you free. You will be let go when I can hand you over to the emperor for my prize.” The satisfied smile on the man’s face made Liang want to slash him with his dragon claws.
“You have no idea of the emperor’s plans. You don’t think the emperor will take the opportunity to capture you, too? You will become one of his mindless minions. Isn’t that why you hide here at the bottom of the ocean, to stay out of his way?”
“I am Bingwen, King of the Coral Sea, he wouldn’t dare try to take away my kingdom.”
Liang examined the dome with pretend interest. “It’s not much of a kingdom and I doubt he’s worried about the ruler of the small Coral Sea. Good luck with that though.”
Bingwen narrowed his eyes at Liang. “You’re trying to get me to free you, but I’m not that foolish. The emperor will send for you tomorrow. Enjoy your last few hours of life.”
“He’ll kill you, too, or did he leave that part out of your negotiation when you were bartering with your fellow dragons’ lives?” He didn’t bother to try to keep the bitterness out of his voice. “Nothing stops him from getting what he wants. Only me and my dragon friends held him back all this time,
why he wants us dead. We’re the only ones who’ve stood against him.”
None of the five of them had ever been brainwashed. Their minds had always been free of the emperor’s persuasion no matter how hard he tried. By creating a combined mental link, they’d kept him out. Granted the emperor trapped them for years, but at least they hadn’t given in.
Now Liang had to escape and find his friends. Once he got free of this cage he’d hunt down Zhou and rejoin his clan. He had no worries about finding Zhou, if Liang concentrated hard enough he should sense his location.
Bingwen narrowed his eyes at Liang as if he’d committed a horrible crime by telling the truth. “You just want to take my kingdom. He warned us you would try to steal our power.”
Liang didn’t know what to say. Bingwen had been misinformed, but nothing Liang said would sway his decision. “The emperor has been draining dragons of blood and magic for longer than I’ve been alive, but if you’d rather believe his lies than the truth there is nothing I can do.”
“You can’t be trusted,” Bingwen argued.
The dragon sought power and position, two things Liang had never wanted. He’d fought beside his clan brothers for the future of dragon kind against a mad emperor. If Huangdi was now considered the better choice he didn’t want to meet the other options for leadership.
“You are a rather small king without any people.” No one else had entered the dome and there weren’t any signs of occupants either.
“My people left. They said I was heading down the wrong path. They didn’t understand the emperor’s genius.”
“Or maybe they understood too well.” The king was obviously not the brightest dragon in the Coral Sea. His subjects must’ve seen which way the sea was flowing and had gotten out. Smart people.