Authors: Bianca D'Arc
Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Erotica, #Fiction, #General, #Dragons
Lana tried to do what he said, shocking herself almost to the point of falling out of the sky when a small belch of flame shot past her claws.
Immediately, she began beating her wings again. This body felt awkward, to say the least, but she was getting the hang of things. Having spent so much time with Tor helped, though she had a whole new appreciation for the things he’d learned all on his own now that she was doing them herself.
Good. Just don’t forget to fly!
Wil cheered her on as they neared the battle line. Tor was on the ground now, flaming and flaring his wings, keeping the soldiers off Roland.
Keep your belly to them and do your best
to shield your joints where the scales meet. A lucky shot between the
scales could bring you down all too easily and then Roland will kill me for
Wil’s attempt at humor made her realize just how risky this entire maneuver was, but without their help, Roland would die. The enemy was deliberately keeping the knights and dragons away from Roland, and though they were trying desperately to fight through, the enemy was all too clever.
She had no more time to think as they swooped over the enemy soldiers. Wil flamed as he went. Tor had not thought to do so, relying on his speed and flying skills to get him through. Wil's flames took a few of the soldiers by surprise before the rest brought up their shields. The shields helped protect them from the worst of the fire, but they also 154
prevented the soldiers from firing any more bolts at the racing streaks of the black dragons.
Now, Lana! Now! Flame now!
Wil’s urgent voice broke through to her and she breathed as he’d told her to do, amazed when the fire leapt out of her newly formed jaw to the ground and soldiers below. She heard a man scream as she burned him but she couldn’t spare him much sympathy. These men were trying to kill her! Worse, they were trying to kill Roland and Tor. She would do anything to protect them. Anything.
A few more harrowing moments and they were through the army, dropping through Tor’s flame to Roland’s side. Wil took up a position back to back with Tor and taught the younger dragon how to lay down a wall of flame encircling the two blacks in the middle.
Lana fell out of the sky with little grace, nearly landing right on Roland as she fell, but she caught herself just in time. Without even thinking, she transformed to human and laid her healing hands on Roland’s severe injuries. He was so close to death!
Calling on all the ancient power within her, she closed his wounds, sealing the deadly gashes from the inside out. The power came from them both, feeding upon each other, strengthening her ability to heal without tiring her. Never before had she done so extensive a healing without falling unconscious, but this time, she felt enervated. Roland opened his eyes, blinking at her.
Lana? How did you get here?
“Not now, my love.” She kissed him gently but urgently on the cheek.
“Can you fly?”
I think so.
He shook himself as he stood, appearing more than a bit disoriented. He'd been close to death only moments before having taken a bone-crushing fall from the sky.
Lana stood also, gasping as she saw the woman who walked with impunity, right through the dragons’ flames to peer at her.
It was Loralie, the North Witch. Lana stood in front of Roland, facing the other woman down.
“Stay back, witch. You cannot have him.”
Loralie smiled coyly and walked closer. “Be at ease, little one. I’m here for my own reasons.” She held Lana’s gaze. “To help. To keep Salomar from using me any further in this battle.”
“I don’t believe you.”
The witch shrugged. “Believe me or not, I’m glad to see you and the dragonet are doing well.” The woman calmly took a blade from her waist, and though Lana started, she made no move to come closer to any of them. No, the witch turned the blade on herself, slicing her clothing in three long gashes, also slicing into the pale skin beneath. When she was done, the wounds looked almost exactly like the marks made by a dragon’s slashing talons. The witch threw the blade to her and Lana caught it reflexively.
“A gift. Take it with you or he’ll know what I’ve done. Go, little one.
Take them and go. Please.”
It was the plea in her voice that got Lana moving. For whatever reason, the witch was letting them go. If it were some kind of trick, she would kill the woman outright, but for now, she would trust…a little.
Clutching the witch’s blade carefully between her fingers, Lana stood back and called on the fire she had only just found awakened within her and sought the change.
The black mist enveloped her and it was much less painful this time.
No, this time, it was wondrous. She felt herself change in the blink of an eye, and a moment later, she stood next to Roland, smaller than he, but just as dragonish.
Yes, my love.
She stumbled a bit on her new legs, touching noses with him for a swift moment.
We’ll talk about it when we get back. Can
you fly now?
Roland breathed deeply, turning to help the younger dragons with their circle of flame so they could clear a path for their launch. Lana watched the witch carefully, but the woman was smiling.
“So you’ve discovered your birthright. Congratulations, Alania. You’ve done better than I ever expected.”
As if you care for my welfare.
Lana thought at the witch, knowing the other woman could probably pick up on dragonish speech.
“I have always kept an eye on you, Lana. When you were stolen, I chose to follow you rather than your sister. I knew you would be the one for him.” Her eyes moved to the black dragon at her back. Roland.
Do you know where Riki is?
The witch smiled as she lay down on the ground at an odd angle, as if wounded. “Your sister is in the east, serving the mad king. I protected her from him as best I could, but I wasn’t able to do much. The Prince of Spies will find her. I have foreseen it.”
Time to go.
Roland was still clearly dazed and his eyes had trouble focusing.
Lana looked down one last time at the witch.
I feel like I should thank
you, but I don’t understand why. You tried so many times to hurt Tor and
“You may understand in time. For now, let us part as enemies. It’s safer that way for all concerned.”
At Roland’s direction, Tor took off first with Wil right behind, then it was Lana’s turn and Roland took up the rear by only a few seconds.
Within moments, the four were winging their way back to their side of the battle. They flamed a path back to the lead pair, Tilden and Rue, with Hal and Jures on their backs.
Sire! Thank the Mother! We’ve been blocked at every angle. They came
prepared to take you down.
Rest easy, Hal. I see that now. That was Salomar’s deeper game. Not
your fault. Regroup and go after the machines. They’re made of wood
under the hide shielding. Concentrated flame should torch them.
Aye, we’ll torch the lot of them.
Hal had murder in his eyes as he and the dragon peeled away, Jures following close behind to carry out the king’s orders.
Roland, you need to rest.
His sparkling green eyes turned on her.
How in the world did
I have no idea. I saw you go down,
she hiccupped and smoke came out of her dragonish mouth, startling her so much she faltered before picking up the rhythm of her wings again,
and Tor took off after you
without me. I had to get to you. And it just happened.
You should’ve seen it, Rol!
Wil’s voice was eager in their minds as he dropped back beside them now that they were out of danger.
great her first time out. A natural.
Tor raced ahead for the cliff top, roaring for her as he landed.
Lana! Lana! Where are you?
Lana was still incredibly awkward when she tried to land, but Roland coached her, landing first and catching her hurtling body with his larger one when she would have overshot her landing. Tor was pacing up and down now, looking for her.
I’m here, Tor,
she finally answered him. She had no idea how he would take this new change. She stood on her shaky dragon legs and 158
walked over to the large baby dragon she had raised. He was so much bigger than she was, even now.
Tor’s voice was hesitant.
Yes, baby. It’s me.
Lana found it harder to change back now that the stress of the moment was gone. She had to make her way back down to the Lair in dragon form. Roland stayed on one side, Tor frolicking along on the other, each helping her maneuver her awkward dragon body toward a private suite with a large, heated sand pit.
Tor jumped in first, rolling around and polishing his gleaming scales while the warm sand soothed his tired muscles.
Ready to join him? I can assure you, there’s nothing better than warm
sand on your scales after a hard flight.
Come on, Lana!
Tor called, showering sand everywhere. Wil jumped in next to the dragonet and splashed sand at him playfully. A little game ensued, Tor giggling smokily as he played with Wil in dragon form.
You’re a dragon now, my love. You’ll enjoy this. I promise.
Trust me, Lana.
With a firm shove of his foreleg, he pushed her over the edge of the pit and into the warm sand. She tumbled a bit, flustered by the sudden movement and more awkward than ever on her new limbs, but the warmth of the sand penetrated her new thickly-scaled skin.
Oh, this feels really wonderful.
Roland chuckled as he joined her, smoke rising through the air to the vented, domed roof of the suite. He tucked his wings back behind him and grappled her in close to his larger dragon body with strong forelegs.
What did I tell you? Now let’s play.
She didn’t get to ask anything further as he rolled with her into the warm sand, twining his sinuous neck with hers. She would have screamed, but it came out more like a trumpeting call from her dragon mouth. She accidentally let out some flame, too, but his dragon hide was impervious to it, thank the Mother. She had a hard time controlling her body in this form, but she was learning as she went.
Roland pinned her beneath his massive body, aligning them in this new form just as easily as he did when they were human. Sand showered over them and she heard dragonish snorts of laughter from the two younger males who were using their wingtips to shovel warm sand over them both.
Roland looked into her eyes, his wings sheltering her as she lay beneath him. Her own wings were tucked up uncomfortably behind her and she shifted to try to ease them. Roland let up immediately.
Stretch your wings, my love. Rub them in the warm, healing sand.
Oh, that feels good.
Lana stretched beneath him, getting just a bit more comfortable in her new body, but she was more than ready to be human again.
Roland, why can’t I change back? It was easy before. Why
is it so difficult this time?
The more you think about changing, the harder it becomes. The first
times you changed, you were probably too preoccupied with what was
going on around you to worry about shifting. You just did it, right?
She nodded her head, still smaller than him, but she felt herself to be huge compared to her human form. It was ungainly and hard to deal with, especially on land.
So you think I’m over-thinking it?
I’d say that’s a definite possibility. Hence, the sand bath. Nothing
relaxes a dragon better than a good roll in a warm wallow. I think once
you’re relaxed, the shift will happen of its own volition.
I hope you’re right.
Roland moved away, allowing her room as Tor’s curious head bobbed between them.
Isn’t this great, Lana? You’re a dragon too. We can play tag in the sky
now, once you learn to fly better.
Lana stretched her wings out and around the dragonet, hugging all of him for once in his life. He’s always been so much bigger than her. He still was, but at least for now, while he was still a baby, she could get her wings around him.
You’ll have to teach me all about being a dragon, Tor.
Roland will help. He’s teaching me new stuff all the time.
Tor snuggled in close to her, burrowing into her embrace.
I’m so happy here, Lana, but
why didn’t you ever change before?
I didn’t know I could.
That’s all right. I always knew you were a dragon inside.
She thought back on all the times Tor had said as much and wondered. Somehow he had recognized the dragon in her, even when she had no idea of her origins. Tor snuggled close a few moments longer, then wiggled free to play with Wil on the other side of the huge wallow.
Roland lay next to her, apparently content in the warm sand.
You ready to try that shift now?
Lana sighed heavily, startled by the smoke rising out of her mouth.
Ready as I’ll ever be, I guess.
Roland reached out with just the tip of his long tail, trailing it lightly down her side as he talked her gently through the change. It took her long minutes to relax to the point where his voice in her mind lulled her.
Following his lead, she shifted back to her human form, shocked when she found herself entirely naked.
She squeaked and tried to cover herself. Luckily Wil was off on the other side of the room, playing with Tor and couldn’t see her predicament.
“What happened to my clothes?”
Roland laughed softly and shrugged out of his leather tunic, dropping it over her shoulders. Luckily, his big shirt hung well past her hips, almost like a dress.
“The dragon magic allows our clothing to come with us—or leave us—
in the change. You have to think of the clothes on you while you change and they’ll be there when you come back. I can’t explain it any better than that. It’ll take practice, but you’ll get there in time.” He stroked her hair as they lay back in the warm, enveloping sand. “I can hardly believe the Mother has blessed me so, to give me the perfect mate.”
She snorted self-consciously. “I’m far from perfect.”
He kissed her so gently, the look in his darkening eyes melting her heart.
“You’re perfect for me, my love.” His hand stroked down her side to settle at her waist while he leaned over her on their warm bed of sand. “I knew before that I was a lucky, blessed man, but now…” His hand slid over her arm to grasp her fingers, squeezing tight as he held her gaze.
“Now that you’ve found the dragon within you, you are my perfect match www.samhainpublishing.com 163
in every possible way. Think of the possibilities, Lana. We can soar to the stars now. Together.”
Her breath caught at the image the popped into her mind. From his?
She wasn’t sure, but she saw two black dragons twined around each other as they shot toward the sun.
“A mating flight?” Her voice was breathless with the idea. Breathless and hot.
His smile was sexy and low. “There hasn’t been a royal mating flight in centuries. We’ll be the first in all that time so perfectly matched that we can make love in both forms. I’ve heard it’s amazing.”
“And dangerous! We could plummet to the ground if we don’t break apart in time.”
He chuckled and kissed her nose. “I’ll trust you to keep us on track, little one. Besides, that’s part of the thrill. Ecstasy in freefall. My dragon side tells me there’s nothing to compare it with in human terms.”
She found herself stroking his strong shoulders, thinking through the tantalizing possibilities.
“I’d have to fly better than I do right now.”
“I’ll practice with you every day.” He brought her little hand to his lips and kissed her palm, the light in his eyes dancing with excitement and joy. She felt herself responding to his eagerness.
“I’d like that.”
The battle ended with the Northern army in full retreat. Once the witch took herself out of the battle—for whatever reason she’d done that—the dragons were better able to maneuver. Somehow her magic had kept them blocked. They all reported the strange phenomenon as they 164
returned, confused by the magic used against them. The only dragons who hadn’t felt Loralie’s influence were the three blacks and Tor. They’d flown right through the field that was off limits to the others, as if nothing blocked their path.
And perhaps nothing did.
Whether it was their own magic, being slightly different from that of the other dragons, or some trick of the North Witch, neither the blacks nor the Ice Dragon felt the effects of her spell. It was clear to all that Roland had been the target of the entire attack, and the Witch was instrumental in all that had occurred—for good and ill.
Loralie’s odd actions were the topic of much conjecture among the king, his family and his advisors for days after the battle, but none could fathom exactly what the woman had up her sleeve. Whether she was truly an enemy or a hidden ally remained to be seen.
Loralie’s dagger was also the topic of much conversation. After flying back to the Lair, Lana gave the knife to Roland and he passed it on to a knight named Branden who had a flair for history and knowledge of edged weapons. Branden said at first glance the dagger was a rare piece indeed, but he would consult with experts to learn what he could of its origins and report back. Lana was just glad to have the thing out of her sight. She didn’t want to think about Loralie anymore. At least not right now.
Lana used her healing skills to patch up the injured dragons, only extending the legend she seemed to be building, giving of her own energy to heal the dragons of the Northern Lair. The dragons talked among themselves about her, the gorgeous and loving baby Ice Dragon who was her son, her amazing healing gift, and the fact that a mysterious third black dragon had been spotted from afar during the heat of the battle.
No one knew for certain just where that third black dragon had come from, racing in to save the king, flying in odd fits and starts. The dragons and knights spent their idle time trying to account for the various princes. Some suggested it might have been Prince Nico. Only he would have the nerve to dart in, save the day, then leave without a trace. It was just the sort of practical joke he would enjoy. But others said not.
Roland was physically well after the severe beating he’d taken during the battle, thanks to Lana’s healing skills, but he took her advice and stayed on at the Northern Lair to both rest up and to receive scouting reports about the remainder of Salomar’s army. He didn’t think they’d heard the last of Salomar, and until that situation was resolved, he would keep a close eye on the northern border.
Each day Roland and Lana took a short trip to a quiet area where she practiced shifting and flying. She left the Lair on Tor’s back, flying with Tor and Roland as they taught her how to be a dragon, then shifting back to arrive back in the Lair in human form with none the wiser.
“You know, they’re going to find out sooner or later. Jures tells me they’re all scratching their heads trying to figure out who that third black dragon was.” Roland stroked her arm as they walked back to the suite they were using while they stayed at the Northern Lair. Tor had stayed outside to play with some of the younger dragons while the sun was high.
“I fly so badly.” Her voice sounded so dejected, it touched his heart.
“I’m embarrassed for them to see me until I can at least walk in dragon form without tripping over my tail.”
“That’s not true, sweetling. You’re getting better every day.” He put his arm around her as they stepped into the suite. “And the real proof is in what you did in battle. Having never flown before, you followed Tor’s 166
path—a feat for any dragon—and saved my life. No one will mind that you’re still a little unsteady on your talons. Believe me.”
They entered the open archway only to find two startled black dragons there before them. It was the older set of twins, Trey and Collin, who must have only just arrived from the deep south. In a swirl of black mist, they transformed to two tall, muscular, leather-clad warriors with identical stunning green eyes and dark blonde hair.
“Ah, the mystery is solved.” Trey said with a friendly grin as he reached to grip his brother’s hand in greeting. The other twin followed suit, both turning to look over the woman at Roland’s side with interest flashing in their eyes. “The Lair is in an uproar trying to figure out who swooped in to save the day, Rol. We only just got here and they’ve already questioned us both, separately and together.”
Roland hugged Lana close to his side. He felt her discomfort in the tightening of her shoulders, but she was a brave woman. She wouldn’t let them see her nerves.
“This is Lana, my intended bride, and yes, she can shift.”
Trey whistled between his teeth while Collin watched her quietly, clearly stunned.
“The first female black dragon in centuries.” Awe resonated through Collin’s deep voice as he looked down at Lana. “And she’ll be your queen?” His eyes moved to Roland, admiration in their depths.
“Congratulations to you both.”
“Welcome to the family, sister.”
Trey smiled broadly and took her hand, tugging her out of Roland’s embrace. With a devilish twinkle, he hugged her close, loosing her only to pass her off to Collin for a similar embrace. Lana smiled and laughed at the familiar way his mischievous brothers handled her, and Roland’s heart filled with joy at how well she fit in with his family. She would be www.samhainpublishing.com 167