Kiss of Danger (The Dragon Legion Novellas) (12 page)

BOOK: Kiss of Danger (The Dragon Legion Novellas)
5.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“Will we fly?” Lysander demanded with enthusiasm, but Katina saw the weariness in Alexander’s expression.

“Your father has just fought a battle and nearly died in defending you,” she chided gently. “We can walk while he recovers his strength.”

Lysander nodded agreement to this, his excitement at being in his father’s presence clear.

“Don’t ask too many questions just yet,” Katina said. “Let your father catch his breath.”

“Yes, Mama.”

“You should take Pelias’ armor and his cloak,” she told Alexander. “Your clothing is too strange, and it would be best if we drew less attention.”

Alexander frowned as he considered the older man. “I can’t leave him here, not like this.”

That hadn’t been Katina’s intention. “Of course not. How do you honor the dead of your kind?”

Alexander glanced up in surprise. “Pelias was not
Pyr
.”

“Then how did he breathe dragonsmoke? And why did he glimmer blue just before he died, exactly as you do before you change shape?”

Alexander stared at his old mentor, clearly shaken by the idea. “He always insisted otherwise,” he said. “He always said he simply watched for the signs, but you’re right. He couldn’t have done that otherwise.”

“Didn’t you ever see him as a dragon?” Lysander asked and Alexander shook his head.

“Nor did he ever see me as one. He always encouraged discretion, but I didn’t realize how much he showed himself.” Alexander frowned, then turned to Lysander. “When the power comes to you, you must learn to manage it. They will teach you how at Delphi, but you must treat it as a secret. You must not show many people or tell them of it.”

“Because I will know my fellow
Pyr
by their scent.”

Alexander nodded and took the boy’s hand. “Come here and draw deeply of this scent. That yellow dragon was a
Slayer
, the most evil of our kind. Learn the smell of them, that you might be warned of their presence.”

Lysander did as he was instructed, closing his eyes and breathing deeply. The sight of Alexander teaching his son, something Katina feared she would never see, brought tears to her eyes. She bent to remove Pelias’ helmet and his greaves, blinking back her tears.

“You’re upset,” Alexander said suddenly from beside her. His hand was warm on her elbow and there was a lump in her throat when she met his gaze. Lysander was still breathing and memorizing the
Slayer
’s scent.

“I liked Pelias, though I didn’t know him well.”

“That’s not all of it.”

She forced a smile. “You’re so good with Lysander. I’m just glad to see you together.”

“I’m sure he had no lack in your care.”

“I sometimes lose patience with all his questions.”

“I shouldn’t have left you to raise him alone.”

She eyed him, hearing what he didn’t say.

Alexander frowned and stepped away, once again putting an invisible barrier between them. “We expose our dead to the four elements, so that their bodies can’t be violated,” he said to Lysander, his tone practical.

Katina remembered that the
Pyr
were the defenders of the four elements.

“There is air and earth here,” Lysander said.

“And there will be fire,” Alexander said quietly. “I think you won’t want to watch.”

The boy’s eyes widened in understanding for an instant. “But what about water?”
 

Alexander winced. He surveyed the arid land that spread in all directions from the rocky hill where they stood. He tipped his head back to consider the sky, which was devoid of clouds.
 

Katina finally understood why she had been granted the gift she had.

It was time for her to share her secret with Alexander.

“I will give you water,” she said with quiet confidence. Alexander turned to her with open surprise but she smiled. “You’re not the only one with a secret, husband,” she said, then lifted her hands to the sky.

 

* * *

 

Alexander was incredulous.

He watched as Katina lifted her hands over her head and closed her eyes. She was as graceful and elegant as ever, but to his amazement, her figure began to ripple. He thought his eyes deceived him, but the rippling grew more emphatic. She was murmuring some chant that sounded like the dancing of a brook over stones and with every passing moment, her figure looked more fluid.

More silvery.

More ethereal.

Her hair seemed to flow around her body like a dark river, one that ran far past her hips. As he watched, her form became disguised by a column of water, a pillar that bubbled at its top and stretched toward the sky. Or had she become the water? Alexander couldn’t tell, but he saw the water pooling on the ground where Katina’s feet had been and starting to run over the dry soil. He heard the distant rumble of thunder and watched dark clouds conjure themselves from the clear sky. They rolled closer with remarkable speed, converging from every direction in a way that wasn’t natural at all. The storm clouds collided overhead, tumbling into each other where the pillar of water reached into the sky.

There was a crack of lightning and the first drops of rain fell.

Alexander quickly bent to strip Pelias of his armor and set it aside. He lifted Theo gently and nestled him in Pelias’ red cloak, the signature garment of the Spartans. He would take care of Drake’s son with as much care as his own, and was glad that the boy just seemed weakened. Alexander indicated that Lysander should stay with Theo, then summoned the change.

He was well aware of his son watching him closely, of his wife making it possible for him to do right by his mentor, and his heart filled to bursting with the gifts he had been given. He ached with the loss of Pelias, but already he came to respect that man’s choice. He understood it, because he would have made the same one. He was honored by it, because he’d never expected it. He was glad his son had witnessed this powerful lesson. Meanwhile, the change rolled through Alexander’s body, firing through every muscle and tendon, making him feel powerful and invincible.

This was the gift of Pelias. Just moments ago, he’d been at death’s door, and now he was healed. He tipped back his head and uttered a prayer of gratitude. As he turned the first breath of his dragonfire on the fallen warrior, Alexander admitted that he would be proud to pass from this world in the same way.

Alexander would never forget this legacy.

And he would serve Pelias’ memory with honor for all his days.

 

* * *

 

Lysander was enthralled with his new adventure. It had been exciting enough to leave Cetos’ house to go with Pelias for the
agoge
, but even better to learn that he was
Pyr
himself. He was fascinated by his father’s powers.

He was surprised by his mother’s abilities, too, but becoming a pillar of water and even attracting rain wasn’t nearly as interesting as turning into a dragon at will. Lysander hadn’t had the chance to choose, but he would have chosen the very power that he hoped he’d get.

And now, he’d have a new friend, too. Theo looked very ill, but Lysander knew that the other boy would get better and would be his best friend in the world. They’d grow up and be
Pyr
warriors together, fighting back-to-back like their fathers, defending the four elements and the earth. He wanted to know everything about being
Pyr
, the sooner the better. He was going to be the best
Pyr
ever. He’d make his father proud and kill evil
Slayers
wherever he went.

Lysander used his keen senses to keep watch while his father honored Pelias. He tried to smell for evil
Slayers
. He stood in the rain and guarded Pelias’ armor, watching his father and staying close to Theo.

When his father was done, the rain stopped. His father shifted to human form and knelt with his head bowed. The wind stirred and the ashes of Lysander were blown away, even as his mother stepped past Lysander and put her hand on his father’s shoulder.

His father reached up and gripped her hand, as if he were relying upon her. Lysander watched, knowing he’d never seen Cetos and his mother like this. His two parents stood as if they were one. Was that because they both could change shape? Lysander decided that when he had a wife, he and she would stand together like this sometimes. It was like
Pyr
warriors fighting back-to-back, in a way.

“I never knew,” his father said softly.

His mother almost smiled. “I think you can imagine why I didn’t tell you.”

His father glanced up. “And the stories that were told about you?”

His mother nodded, then turned to look north. She had the look she got when she was going to decide what would happen next. “At least four days walk to Delphi from here, I’d say.” She picked up Pelias’ bag and checked the food and water within it. Then she handed it to Lysander. “Will you carry our supplies?”

Lysander was glad to have a job.

His father smiled at him. He changed his clothing, putting on the hoplite armor as if he did as much every day, then flung Pelias’ red cloak over his shoulders. He picked up Theo and held the limp boy against his side. Theo sighed and settled against him, as if glad to be there. Lysander’s father nodded at him, then offered one hand to his mother. “Maybe tomorrow, I’ll have the strength to give you all a ride.”

A dragon flight! Lysander had always wished his real father had been around, and now he knew that having his father back was just the beginning of the greatest adventure he could imagine. He carried the pack and tried to remember his mother’s instruction to not ask too many questions. It might just kill him to keep silent, but he’d try.

He decided to consider it a lesson in discipline.

That’s what Pelias would have said.

 

* * *

 

Katina knew that Lysander’s curiosity could barely be contained. She watched their son and knew he was bursting with questions. He might even try Alexander’s patience.

They walked down the hill as the sun rose, and reached a good road by the dawn. Alexander didn’t want to stop, so Katina gave them each some of the bread and water in Pelias’ pack. Their pace slowed a bit as they walked and ate. Theo stirred and took a little water. He was sleepy, as if he’d survived an ordeal, and Katina suspected he had.

“They’ll help him at Delphi,” Alexander insisted, and she believed him.

Katina offered more bread to Alexander. He might have declined but she urged it upon him. “You’re the one healing from a battle. Don’t fight me.”

“She’s like that when she decides,” Lysander informed him solemnly. “You should just take it.”

Alexander smothered a smile, his eyes twinkling as he glanced at Katina. “And do you always just do as you’re told?”

“Mostly.” Lysander admitted with a flush.

Alexander laughed, then sobered. “When you train, you’ll have to do better than that. You must always obey, for the safety of your fellows can rely upon it.”

Lysander nodded solemnly.

Katina found herself watching Alexander. He walked with an easy grace, eating slowly and surveying the surrounding hills. She had no doubt he was using his keen senses to ensure their safety and she doubted he’d sleep before they reached Delphi.

She wanted him more than ever before. She wanted to kiss him, to run her hands over his chest to ensure that he was truly healed. She wanted to make love with him over and over again, to reassure herself that they had survived that encounter. She was aware of the heat in his gaze when he glanced at her, and it made her thoughts turn in a very earthy direction.

She couldn’t remember when they had ever done it just once.

On the other hand, she felt shy after revealing her secret to him. She’d never shown anyone what she could do without experiencing unpleasant repercussions. She both wanted to know what Alexander thought and was afraid to hear it.

“Why Delphi, Papa?” Lysander asked when his curiosity overwhelmed him. Katina was impressed that he’d contained himself as long as he had.

“Can’t you guess?”

Lysander shook his head, and Katina couldn’t help but notice the sidelong glance he cast at his father. She saw the adoration in their son’s eyes and was gladdened by it.

“Then let’s figure it out,” Alexander said. He didn’t speak down to Lysander but addressed him as he spoke to all adults. “Whose shrine is at Delphi?”

“Apollo’s.”

“Do you know the story of Apollo’s link to Delphi?” Alexander spoke as if it were a story not known by many. Lysander shook his head. “Then let me tell you.”

Katina was surprised. She had never known Alexander to be talkative, and she certainly had never heard him tell a story. He was trying to be a good father and the realization warmed her heart.

They walked for a few moments while Alexander chose his words. “In the beginning, there was only Chaos, and not a soul in the universe. First to form in this realm was Gaia, or mother earth. She is the root and origin of all we know and most sacred of all divine beings. Next born was Eros, the god of love and desire, and when he touched Gaia, she felt the yearning for a husband.” Katina couldn’t look at Alexander when he said that, because she was feeling a similar yearning. “She created Uranos who lies over her as the sky envelopes the earth: his cloak is of black velvet and adorned with stars. Gaia also created the mountains and the seas. From her union with Uranos were born the twelve Titans.”

BOOK: Kiss of Danger (The Dragon Legion Novellas)
5.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Highwayman's Daughter by Henriette Gyland
Demons and Lovers by Cheyenne McCray
Glenn Meade by The Sands of Sakkara (html)
Captiva Captive by Scott, Talyn
Highland Rogue by Deborah Hale
Jane Austen by Jenkins, Elizabeth
What Lies Within by Karen Ball