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Authors: Emily Drake

The Dragon Guard

BOOK: The Dragon Guard
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Table of Contents
 
A deep rumble filled the air.
Bailey started as if the ground jolted under her, her arms flailing wildly. Jason and Trent stared as her body . . . and the rock she sat on . . . began to lift from the ground. She shrieked and grabbed for a piece of it that jutted up sharply next to her and hung on for dear life to the sun-warmed . . . no, hot! rock.
“My ear!” a thunderous voice complained, and the rock tossed about, and then sent Bailey tumbling head over heels in a somersault to the ground, her mouth wide open in a soundless cry. The scoop-shaped granite wavered a bit, morphing into the triangular shaped head of a lizard. A very large lizard.
“A . . . a . . . dragon!” Bailey got out. She scrambled backward, stopped only by Trent's stunned and frozen body.
Jason stood, one hand still out in gesture, the great lantern eye of the dragon now fixing on him. “Don't move,” he said. “Really. Just . . . don't move.”
ALSO BY EMILY DRAKE
The Magickers
The Curse of Arkady
The Dragon Guard
The Gate of Bones
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Copyright © 2003 by Rhondi Vilott Salsitz.
 
All Rights Reserved.
 
 
DAW Book Collectors No. 1224.
 
DAW Books are distributed by Penguin Group (USA).
 
 
All characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.
 
 
The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal, and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.
 
 
 
 
First paperback printing, June 2004
DAW TRADEMARK REGISTERED U.S. PAT. OFF. AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES —MARCA REGISTRADA HECHO EN U.S.A.
S.A.
eISBN : 978-1-101-16706-9

http://us.penguingroup.com

Dedicated to my lovely family
both the carrot and the stick
for my success.
BEGINNING
A
TALL figure swathed in black stepped out of a corner door, his lean weight barely causing the floorboards to sound. He moved with the agility of a fighter, a ninja, and he knew it. The great room had been an old dance studio once, this cavernlike room with high windows covered in metal mesh, and creaking wooden floor. Mirrors, their silver backing tarnished in blackened streaks along the edges, lined one entire wall, with a barre fastened below them. He took a moment or two to stretch, only the top half of his face revealed by the ninja veil. His dark clothing moved freely with his agile form. The only color on his form at all came from the clear, prismatic crystal pendant hanging about his neck. After a moment or two of stretches, he reached up and tucked the pendant inside his clothing.
“Ready,” he said flatly. He moved into a defensive stance, alert, weight balanced slightly forward on his feet, hands in readiness. The room dropped into silence. He stood in anticipation.
Nothing happened. He tilted his head impatiently. “I am waiting.”
A breathless voice answered him from beyond the glass wall. “Just a moment, Jonnard. A difficulty—” The speaker broke off with a pant and a curse, then all fell silent.
“I said, ready! Do you expect me to wait all morning?” His voice broke harshly, impatiently, through the air. He tilted his head, listening for further action.
More curses followed, punctuated by a sharp yelp of pain. Then, mirrored doors shimmered as they moved inward, and then . . . something . . . came through them.
It looked as if it could be his twin, but it moved . . . wrong. More fluidly, as if it had more joints than he did. It glided toward him, at the ready. The eyes revealed above the ninja wrapping over the face were flat, and filled with hunger.
“No weapons,” Jonnard said firmly, “but those of your body.” As if what he faced would heed rules of combat. He moved into a stance, and smiled, with an inward breath.
It was the only moment of stillness he had. The Leucator attacked, in a swirl of black and pale hands and face, and the two met in a flurry of hands, feet, arms, and legs, punch, parry, kick, block, attack, and retreat, then attack again. The floor accompanied them in muted thunder as Jonnard fought for his very life.
Then, slowly, the attacker began to give. It made little noise other than a hissing and its own quickened breathing. Jonnard made noise enough for both of them. A triumphant “Hah!” when a blow hit hard, a grunt when the other hit him, a curse when a spinning kick missed.
Their shoes squeaked on the varnished floor when they touched, yet many of their movements seemed almost airborne. Thuds of flesh against flesh drove each back and forth. Yet slowly but surely Jonnard began to drive the Leucator back, back from the center of the huge practice area, toward the corner it had emerged from. His ribs hurt. His hands smarted from the lightning-fast boxing blows of the other, but he knew what his foe would do. It was like watching himself fight, the mirrors eerily reflecting four of him.
Exactly like watching himself, for the Leucator was himself, duplicated and thirsting to find him and rejoin him. It was a creation of Magick, meant to be a tireless Hunter and Seeker. It would not cease or stop its Hunt till rejoined with its Soulmate, although no one in his right mind would allow such a joining. It was a corrupt thing, and its very presence prickled the hair at the back of his neck. Even he, who would do much to achieve his goals, thought of the Leucator as sheer evil. But it knew what he knew, in many ways, and made the perfect opponent to practice against.
Jonnard smiled thinly as they met again in another flurry of moves. Hand to shoulder, other hand to rib, leg, spin, kick, balance, jab, punch, spin again, push away. He could scarcely see the moves, but they lay inside, in the memory of his muscles and his training, and if the Leucator was fast, he must be faster!
The thing caught him with a stunning blow to his temple. Jonnard fell back, his eyes swimming with unshed tears from the sting of it, his ears ringing. He shook his head, trying to clear his senses. The Leucator advanced on him, blows pummeling fast and furious, and Jonnard twisted away, his breath caught in his throat for a moment, as he realized his danger.
It would bring him near to death and then claim him, “reuniting” their selves. Then he would be gone forever, absorbed into the fiber of this corrupted being. He played a deadly game . . . and he was losing!
Jonnard touched the crystal he wore inside his shirt. It warmed, even through the fabric, steadying him. He danced back a step, out of range, and breathed carefully, balancing himself. The ringing in his ear disappeared and he rubbed at his eye, clearing it. The Leucator would not land another such blow! Jonnard inhaled deeply, then stepped forward and back into the attack.
He beat the creature into the corner, slowly, step by step, until suddenly it slipped and went down with an exhausted sound. Jonnard shook out his crystal, cupping it briefly, calling it to fiery life. A singular beam sizzled from it, his own personal light saber, and he sliced off the Leucator's head.
The thing curled into hissing black smoke, sucking inward, until it disappeared.
Jonnard grinned in triumph.
The mirrored doors opened and Antoine Brennard stepped forth, frowning. “Another one dead? These are expensive, my son.”
“But worth it for training. I need two. I demand two.” Jonnard quelled the crystal sword and once again held an ordinary pendant in his hand. “Jason Adrian will not stand against me. I promise that!”
BOOK: The Dragon Guard
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