Read Dragonfire: Freedom in Flames (Secrets of the Makai Book 3) Online

Authors: Toni Kerr

Tags: #Young Adult, #Urban Fantasy, #Coming of Age, #fantasy, #shapeshifter, #dragon, #Magic

Dragonfire: Freedom in Flames (Secrets of the Makai Book 3)

BOOK: Dragonfire: Freedom in Flames (Secrets of the Makai Book 3)
3.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

DRAGONFIRE

Copyright © 2015 by Toni Kerr

 

This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead,

is entirely coincidental.

 

All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.

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 or reviews.

 

Published by Featherfoot Teen

2015 - First Edition

ISBN-13: 978-1514695975

ISBN-10: 1514695979

 

Summary (Book 3 in the Secrets of the Makai series): An uprising in the realm of dragon spirits forces the ghostly ancestors to make a choice: join the rebellion and support Tristan in freeing the Faerie races, or support the council in their desire to keep a centuries-old contract from falling apart. The stakes are high for either choice and Tristan must decide for himself, which of the races will be sacrificed for the greater good.

 

Author can be contacted at: [email protected]

 

 

For my friends and family,

who inspire me every day,

and for the amazing readers who

continue to make this series so magical.

 

 

1

NO SAFE HAVEN

TRISTAN UNTANGLED HIMSELF
from the cocoon of white linens, waking with a cold sheen of sweat from the same nightmare that repeated itself every time he fell asleep. In his dream, millions of dragon scales, the size of snow sleds, piled in each hand. The jumbled towers extended beyond the clouds and swayed unevenly in opposite directions. Somehow, he knew if he lost control of either tower, the entire world would be destroyed.

Temporarily free of the burden, he rubbed his injured shoulder and sat up against the wall. It wasn’t so much the balancing of scales that would be his undoing, but the sheer strength and will to carry such a load in the first place. Worse, there was no evidence the world would be destroyed; it was something he felt deep in his gut.

What would happen if he just...gave in and let the scales fall where they may?

Stupid dream
, he told himself, trailing his fingertips along the wall beside his bed.

The rich tones of oiled wood were slightly off and the texture seemed to be missing the handcrafted charm he’d grown accustomed to. In fact, taking in the rest of the log cabin, everything lacked depth—a sure sign this wasn’t his real home, but an illusion created to make himself feel more at ease in this underground prison.

How was he supposed to ground himself in reality when everything around him was an illusion? A rush of new and old fears flooded his thoughts. Panic overrode every aching muscle. He tore through the folds of fabric, madly searching for the wooden staff Samara had given him. If he lost contact with the staff in his sleep and dreamed something terrible…would uncontrolled power lash out in real life without conscious effort?

He finally found the staff and unwrapped it from the bed covers, then clutched it against his heaving chest. He was driving himself crazy with questions no one could answer.

“Molajah?” Tristan called, his voice breaking the profound silence. He scanned every shadowed corner of the cabin for signs of the guardian spirit, and finally rolled to the side of the bed, using the staff to keep himself from pitching forward as he got to his feet.

“I need to talk to you.” He’d been trying to reach the man for the past week, every chance he got, repeating the same plea. His fingers thrummed with something like electricity, as did his toes when he tried to stand. “Molajah?”

Why wouldn’t the man answer? The sense of abandonment felt eerily familiar.

“I did everything you wanted.” Tristan rested his head against the gnarled wood and closed his eyes, drowning in a wave of dizzying noise. Something had to give, or he really would go insane.

Wasn’t it Molajah who told him to collect all the stones in the first place? And how was he supposed to contain all the power he’d gained by touching them? Surely the council didn’t expect him to know how to deal with it, did they?

“You promised the falcon would be freed,” Tristan continued, eyeing the front door.

Maybe the falcon was already free, waiting above ground. If only he hadn’t agreed to this odd form of captivity, he could go out and search. With freedom to fly wherever he wanted.

Tristan shuddered at the thought, squelching the desire so fast, it might not have existed at all.

Besides, this prison was for everyone’s best interest—deep underground where he couldn’t hurt anyone, and where Samara, a being much stronger than himself, could possibly control his powers for him.

But what if the location itself prevented communication with Molajah?

He shuffled toward the door, his firm grip slipping on the staff with each step. His left shoulder burned and his knees were turning to jelly. The log walls seemed to close around him, compressing his lungs. And then they were a transparent gray.

Five people glowed orange around a pit of white flames. Easy prey for the monster within.

It was happening all over again.

Tristan shut his eyes in a vain attempt to stop the shift. His pulse raced, making him more lightheaded than he already was.

There were more people to worry about this time. Part of him wanted to warn his friends to leave before it was too late, another wanted to make a run for the exit without looking back—to race up the spiral stairs and get to the real outside before his sheer size might keep him imprisoned underground for the rest of his immortal life. Yet another part of him rumbled with a desperate need for food. “Stop it!” Why did his brain have to go in so many directions?

He could never survive in a cage made to look like wilderness by some sort of possessing spirit.

“Samara?” Tristan whispered, pounding his forehead against the closed door.

“Yes, Tristan?”

His flesh prickled in the suffocating air, hot and icy at the same time. His teeth chattered. He dropped to his knees and slumped against the wall beneath the window. If he changed into a dragon now, his cabin would be demolished and he’d probably swallow the first thing that moved. “Get them out.”

“Close your eyes.” Samara’s soft voice wrapped around him like a warm breeze on a winter’s day. “Breathe.”

“You don’t understand. They have to go.” Tristan squeezed his eyes shut and curled into a ball, clinging to the staff. Soon, he wouldn’t remember who his friends were. He wouldn’t remember the gems, the map, Molajah, or Donovan. His falcon. What would Molajah’s council do then? Was there another dragon being groomed to take his place?

“Molajah!” he shouted through clenched teeth, though it sounded like a desperate cry even to his own ears. His head spun. The air seemed to solidify around him.

“Just take a small breath.” She made it sound so easy. “You can hold off the change. You need strength, food, and water.”

Tristan retreated into the darkest corner of his mind, ignoring the tornado of foreign power building beneath his skin, a power never meant to be his.

A faint draft feathered over his side as the front door opened. His eyelids fluttered open for a brief moment. Donovan stood above him. Tristan didn’t move; didn’t try to pretend he hadn’t fallen, or that there was a good reason for being on the floor, or for his imprisonment.

It was a wonder the man was willing to be in the same room. “Come on,” Donovan said after an awkward silence. “Back to bed.”

Raw energy ripped through Tristan’s veins. The second the man’s fingertips came within an inch, a blinding bolt of lightning arced to close the distance. Donovan flew backward, slamming against the woodstove before tumbling to the side. He rolled to a stop on his back, sprawled on the floor.

Tristan tried to speak, but not a single sound of horror escaped his lips.

Donovan stared at the ceiling with wide, unblinking eyes. His feet twitched.

Two figures rushed through the door; Landon and Victor.

Tristan tried to warn them to get away while they still could, but his lips wouldn’t move. His gaze stayed riveted on Donovan’s face. The man was stunned for sure, but his lips were moving, whispering instructions he couldn’t quite hear. Landon and Victor lifted Donovan to his feet.

Tristan tried to force an apology, clenching his fingers tighter around the staff as some unknown power pulsed through him. He deserved to be stuck in this hole, this prison. Even with his eyes closed, he sensed every motion in and out of the cabin. Victor supported Donovan as they hobbled down the front steps of his cabin, while Landon grabbed a blanket from the bed and approached him.

Tristan held his breath, pulling the power that swirled the hairs on his skin deep into his bones. “Get out.”

“We know you won’t hurt anyone on purpose, Tristan. It’s going to be okay.”

“That’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever said.” He wanted to scream. “This will never be okay and it doesn’t matter if you think I’d do it on purpose or not. No one will ever be safe around me.”

A blanket fall over him like a comforting hand; the warmth of it easing the tension in his body, the weight of it like a protective barrier between himself and the world.

“We’ll figure it out. If you talk to Molajah, or get any ideas, we’ll be right outside.”

Right outside wasn’t far enough.

 

2

DEFINING REALITY

OIL LAMPS ALONG THE LOG
the log walls filled the cabin with a golden warmth; the only indication of passing time. The curtains were drawn closed and Tristan lay exactly where he’d fallen. Hopefully people would stay away from now on.

He unclenched his fingers from the staff long enough to pull the soggy locks of hair from his face. Three plates of food sat on the floor in front of him, all within easy reach. One held a variety of thickly sliced meat, another contained a pyramid of dinner rolls. The third had an assortment of colorful, bite-sized fruits and vegetables.

Flesh or foliage. What did dragons eat? Tristan grimaced at the thought of dinosaurs ripping through the bellies of defenseless animals.
Stupid, Stupid
.
I am not a dinosaur.

Did he look like one of the dragons drawn in the murals at the dragon slayers’ museum? Bulbous around the gut with itty-bitty wings and pudgy feet? At least he knew what his claws looked like, with Landon laying blood-soaked in the palm of his hand. He shut down the memory as quickly as it had risen.

The human world was no place for a dragon.

But
if
he could escape, would he have enough instinct to keep himself hidden? Forever? Or would he be tracked down and slaughtered as quickly as his ancestors…. Jacques, Molajah, Nicodemus, and, well, pretty much every dragon that ever lived before him.

He reached for the plate of fruit and vegetables, vowing to never eat meat so long as he could willingly choose, then paused at the eerie whispers of excitement.

No one was in the cabin that he could see, nor did he sense anyone nearby. His gaze landed back on the plate of fruits and vegetables as a sinking sensation settled in the pit of his empty stomach. He shut his eyes and reached for a dinner roll instead.

Tristan got to his knees with the staff in one hand and a second roll in the other. Keeping the blanket wrapped tight around his shoulders, he stepped out onto the porch and studied the fake forest, relieved to confirm there no signs of human life. Above the canopy of trees, a sea of twinkling stars scattered across the night sky. Given time, maybe he could forget this was an underground cave and be content to stay forever.

“Samara?” Tristan leaned against a porch post with his good shoulder.

“I am here.”

“Are they really gone?”

“For a time. I told them you would come out on your own if they weren’t hovering like a swarm of insects.”

“Thanks.” Tristan used the staff to hobble down the two steps to the soft ground. The surrounding forest didn’t match his original yard, but at least he could pretend to be outside. “Can I ask a favor?”

“Of course, Tristan.”

“Can you...I mean, I know you’re not exactly a person, but....” Tristan paused, needing to catch his breath after just a few steps. Surely he could walk farther than that, but his legs could barely support his weight. He used the staff to ease himself down to his knees.

“You are making considerable progress,” Samara said. “You should feel proud.”

Five steps didn’t feel like progress, but he didn’t argue, resting his forehead against the staff. “How long will they be gone?”

“Perhaps an hour. Their routines have been altering and I can no longer make accurate predictions.”

“What are they doing?”

“I am not privy to what goes on beyond these walls.”

Tristan nodded and pulled himself back to his feet. No sense in napping if he’d likely get caught—they’d probably try moving him. Who knows what would happen then, if they touched him in his sleep.

But for some reason, his depression lifted and he wanted to get back on track. Or at least try. His stomach growled with hunger, drawing his attention back to the uneaten food waiting in his cabin.

“What did you wish to ask?”

Tristan turned away from his front door and searched the surroundings for the source of the disembodied voice. “I was just wondering...can you make an image of yourself?” Hopefully it wasn’t an offensive request, but she made people for combat training all the time. “Of what you looked like before you became this room…if you could walk with me.”

Samara remained silent.

“If you would want to.” Tristan wiped beads of sweat from his forehead and trudged on, hoping a forest path would reveal itself.

Samara seemed to be considering a response, though she didn’t always respond when spoken to.

“Also, if I turn into a dragon, could you get rid of these trees? They’re sharp and painful when they break.” Tristan tilted his gaze upward, taking in the streaks of misty clouds drifting over a quarter moon. The scent in the air would fool him as well, with the distinct impression of an ocean nearby. “And take away the sky and all the outdoor smells.” Everywhere he looked—nothing but illusion. “I’ll just break my neck trying to fly away.”

Tristan picked a tree to aim for, then focused on the soft ground at his feet.

Staff, step step. The cadence repeated.

Deep breaths didn’t keep his body from shivering, though he couldn’t say he felt cold with the blanket still wrapped around him. The sky was beginning to lighten into dawn.

He paused longer between each set of steps, debating how much weight the blanket added. When he glanced up wearily to eye the tree, he spotted a woman standing stiffly.

She wore a long gray dress that pooled at her feet. The skirt had overlapping layers, one a creamy white and the other a faded, floral design. Her hands were visible along her sides, though the angled length of her sleeves nearly touched the ground. Light chestnut hair swooped upward in braids, disappearing into a loose knot at the back of her head. Wispy tendrils caught in the breeze.

Tristan blinked in surprise, awestruck by the woman. “Samara?”

The woman’s chin rose a notch. “I do not recall what I look like specifically, but I do have memories of my mother in a gown like this, and my father once told me I resembled her.” She reached up with delicate fingers and gently touched her pale cheeks. She looked to be in her mid thirties, maybe late twenties.

Tristan blinked a few more times, shut his mouth, then shook his head. “I just—you look so real. Everything does. I mean, you’re really good at this.”

Her lips twitched into a smile as she gathered a handful of fabric in each hand, lifting her many skirts so she could walk without tripping. “The times have changed, so has the world.”

Tristan took a step back as she approached. “But if you’re real, what if I zap you somehow by accident? How do you know if it’s safe to walk with me?” His heart rate surged and he suddenly couldn’t catch his breath. He spun to get back to the safety of his cabin, as if the logs could somehow make a shield between him and everything he valued.

She appeared before him in a sudden flash, grasping his shoulders and giving him a firm shake. “You can’t hurt me, Tristan. Even if you were to try.”

He tried to pull the power back, but it was too late. Pale blue streaks of sparking energy webbed around her wrists, encircling her bare arms like lace gloves. Every hair on his skin stood on end, but Samara did not pull away.

“Take a breath, Tristan.”

The temperature dropped to something near freezing. Samara vanished, as did the royal blue and silver darkness of night, leaving a flat, black and white version of a well-lit forest.

He could still see his log cabin—with a pale sense of yellow warmth wavering through the open front door. A single trail of footprints led straight to him, glowing with a slight yellow tint on the ground. “It’s happening. How do I stop it?”

“Look at me.” Samara gripped his shoulders, though he still couldn’t see anything resembling a person in front of him. And then she was there, like a porcelain doll without any sense of life or heat. Just like the trees. He wasn’t sure if he should be relieved to be the only living thing at risk in an underground cavern, or desperately lonely in an abstract world that made no logical sense. “Close your eyes, Tristan. Calm your breathing.”

Tristan shut his eyes, trying not to hyperventilate. Her arms wrapped around him, drawing him into her. He resisted in sheer terror. She had to be crazy for hugging him. Unrestrained power pulsed through his body.

“Do not fear for my safety. I cannot be harmed so easily. If so, I would have been dead centuries ago.”

Maybe she could handle the power, but what if he shifted into a dragon? Tristan tried to pull away again but the woman held firm. And as the horrible scenario played out in his head, he realized he wouldn’t crush her—she’d simply stop occupying the space in her current form. Simple.

With one less concern fueling his panic, Tristan focused on accepting the truth. This would kill him, or it wouldn’t. Either way was out of his control. “I’ll want a cave with enough room to close off an entrance.”

“I understand.”

The colors returned to the world she’d created. The sky was still lightening to a faint purple with the approach of dawn. Tears came to his eyes. Tears of relief, tears of shame. Samara smiled sympathetically, completely unaffected by all the things that worried him so much.

“I didn’t ask for any of this to happen. I can’t be a dragon.” He found himself clinging to her, grateful to have a friend he couldn’t kill, even if she was just an illusion. “I’ll never be able to keep this much power contained.”

“Well, the last one is easy enough to handle.”

“How?” Every muscle buzzed with tension, yet he could barely stand. “How do I cope with this?”

Samara released her hold and took a step back. “When you find yourself in abundance, share with those in need.”

“But, there’s no one in need here. You’re not saying you need more power, are you?”

“No. My power is limited only by my ability to concentrate. You can simply let it go if you wish. Use the staff if it serves you.”

Tristan studied the swirls of aged wood in the staff Samara had made for him.

“Use it to channel your power elsewhere.”

Tristan gripped the staff with both hands. Before he could ask what to do next, Samara vanished in a swirl of mist.

“Wait!”

Behind him, he sensed the door to the spiral staircase opening and made a feeble attempt to run to his cabin. Three people entered the cavern, and before he could gain any sort of forward momentum, Landon and Victor were beside him, with Donovan warning them to stay back. “Room, daylight.”

Tristan shielded his eyes from the sudden brightness saturating the area. At least it made for a good excuse to not look at anyone. “You shouldn’t be here—it isn’t safe.”

A tiny pixie with bright blue hair and iridescent wings fluttered from Landon’s long hair. The tips of her wings had grown more spindly since he’d seen her last, and they seemed less transparent.

“No, Pink!” Landon shouted, reaching to catch her but not daring to step forward.

Pink somersaulted through his outstretched fingers and landed gracefully on the top end of the staff.

“Fly away, Pink,” Tristan begged. The condition of her wings was the least of his worries. “Please!”

“I know what’s wrong with you,” she sang with a childlike glee. “Landon wouldn’t let me in before, to see for myself, but I can be a sneaky spark. I remember once upon a time, my brother and I were traveling to a high castle in the Isle of Floras to celebrate the first royal son—”

“Pink.” Tristan glanced at Donovan, unsure if anyone was catching on to how odd Pink’s story was. Her entire existence was nothing more than a living rendition of his overpowered imagination. “How can you remember something like that?”

“I remember a few things.” She crossed tiny arms over her chest. “Such as my mother—” Pink combed her fingers through her long blue hair with a distant sadness in her bright eyes. “She hated it when I got pollen in my hair. And honey. And tree pitch. And then there was the time we tried to store maple sap—”

“How can you have any memories at all?” Tristan could barely breathe, holding back the explosion of power threatening to burst from his fingertips. “I made you. You have no history.”

Pink shrugged.

Tristan took a step back. His arms ached and his head spun. Somehow the staff had fallen from his grip. “Get out—” He dropped to his knees and clutched the sides of his head.

Pink shook her tiny finger and added a raspy tone to her bell-like voice, dropping it several octaves. “‘You’re an earthquake waiting to happen. Go outside and move a mountain!’ That’s what our warrior told us when we’d been inside for too long.”

“I
can’t
go outside,” Tristan said, struck by the intense brightness glowing from his fingertips.

“We should go now.” Pink darted to the base of Landon’s neck, where she slipped into hiding just above the band holding his hair back. “My brother did this once. Mother said, ‘Out the window next time!’ and then we moved to a new tree.”

Tristan pressed his forehead against the cool ground and dug his fingers into the soil. He could see Landon, Victor, and Donovan retreating to what they must have considered a safe distance. At least they weren’t thermal blobs of color. That had to be a plus.

BOOK: Dragonfire: Freedom in Flames (Secrets of the Makai Book 3)
3.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Wrong Number by Rachelle Christensen
Kisses on a Postcard by Terence Frisby
Because You're Mine by Lisa Kleypas
Golden State by Stephanie Kegan
The Trail of 98 by Service, Robert W
Twice in a Lifetime by Marta Perry
The Dogs of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne
Just Claire by Jean Ann Williams