The Shadow of Tiamat THE DRAGON‘S BLOOD CHRONICLES BOOK I Chapters 1 – 3 excerpt Sean T Poindexter Copyright © 2009 Sean T Poindexter All rights reserved
And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.
1 ―Are you human?‖ Meg was impressed with how confident she sounded asking such a ridiculous question. ―No.‖ Garrett didn‘t seem shaken by the question—or she by the answer. His mood seemed to lighten a bit. She thought maybe he was amused by her. ―So I‘m not crazy?‖ She looked away, not sure whether she should be relieved. ―I don‘t think you‘re crazy.‖ Was that a joke? Whatever it was, it pulled her back to him. ―I‘ve just been doing some research.‖ She rolled her eyes at how silly that sounded. ―I‘ve been reading—‖ ―On the Internet?‖ ―Yes, the Internet.‖ She rolled her eyes again. ―About vampires. It started making sense.‖ ―That I was a vampire?‖ Now he looked surprised. ―Yeah.‖ Garrett was stunning. It made it hard for her to stay focused when he was this close to her. ―I am not a vampire.‖ The way he said vampire was comforting: no hint of mockery. He still seemed like he was biting his lip to stifle a laugh. ―Vampires are real, though? I mean about the things I‘ve been reading. Are they accurate or just written by loons?‖ ―I don‘t know if everything you‘ve read on the Internet is accurate.‖ Garrett leaned back on the couch they shared. ―But you‘re right: vampires are real.‖ Meg shook her head. ―But you‘re not one?‖ ―No.‖ She slid against the cushion with a deep sigh. The leather creaked—her body barely made a dent in the supple padding. Garrett
always seemed heavier than he looked. The way the black leather sank under him made her envy the couch. Meg started picturing him naked as he relaxed, imagining his long body covered with warm, perfect skin stretched over lean muscles. She had to look away to stop. He was still watching her, like his warm brown eyes found her inescapable. ―I appreciate you not being a dick about this!‖ She was trying to work up the self-control needed to look at him. ―But I prepared this whole thing to explain why I thought you might be a vampire, and for my own sanity I‘d like to justify my suspicions.‖ ―You don‘t have to justify anything to me, Megan.‖ He used her full name. He always did. She suspected he always would. ―I feel like I do.‖ She held her hand up flat, like she was pressing against a wall. ―I know you are being totally cool about this but I can‘t always tell if you are really that nice or just good at making it seem like you are that nice.‖ He shook his head. ―I don‘t understand you.‖ It was a deeper statement than she guessed he meant. ―You‘re rich.‖ Meg gestured around the massive room to the expensive furniture. ―Really rich and you don‘t work. And I read that vampires live a long time so they sometimes have a lot of money.‖ She looked at him again. His facial expression hadn‘t changed. He was still looking at her the way he always did: fascinated, but with a passive grin. ―That would also explain why you‘re so…‖ ―So…yes, what?‖ he prodded when she didn‘t continue. She enjoyed the look on his face: wide eyes and parted lips. It was the first time she‘d ever seen him that confused. ―Astounding!‖ she answered. He crooked an eyebrow. She had to look away now; it was just far too hot when he did that. ―Like how smart and good looking and healthy and strong you are! ‗Astounding‘ is the only word I could put to it. Just calling you handsome wouldn‘t really get at it, because it all seems to be part of one big thing. The way you talk, the way you look at me—the way you look
at everyone, at everything…it just seems too disconnected from the world, like you‘re looking at it from the outside, ―At first I figured it was because you‘re so, you know…rich. And since I‘ve never been around a really, really rich person before, I thought maybe you just act differently.‖ ―Does it bother you?‖ ―Sometimes, maybe…but not really.‖ ―But it makes you suspicious about what I am.‖ ―It isn‘t only that. There‘s the wreck.‖ ―What about the wreck?‖ ―You shouldn‘t have survived! I crushed you! You should be dead and I should be in jail!‖ Meg almost cried. ―I‘ve never gotten over that.‖ They sat near one another in silence until he touched her shoulder. She eased around to look at him, biting her lip and brushing a tear from her eye. He leaned forward and took her hand. ―I am far too fond of you to keep hiding the truth.‖ ―Kay…but you‘re not a vampire?‖ ―No, I am not a vampire.‖ She imagined him losing patience, but he didn‘t sound like he was. She sighed, preparing. ―I‘m a dragon.‖
2 Meg was right about the wreck. It should have killed Garrett. He should be dead. Not just a little dead, either: the kind of dead that required dental records and ended in a closed casket ceremony. He should be dead, and she should be in jail. If Garrett had been anything less than what he was, that was exactly how things would have gone. Life was just one staggering accident after another for her. The wreck happened in the middle of the afternoon—the worst time of the day to be doing anything as far as Meg was concerned. Adding the rain, overcast sky, and the chilly, October wind, things would have been bad enough. Even if she hadn‘t already been having the most abysmal day, her mood would still have been sour. People all over the country liked to say, ―If you don‘t like the weather, stick around for a day!‖ about whatever region they called home. The only place in North America where this axiom was accurate was Southwest Missouri. Yesterday, Meg wore a skirt and a sleeveless top. Today, she wore a jacket. That was just how it went here, even in October. Meg worked in what could be described as one of the least enjoyable jobs in the world: Child Protective Services, or CPS. People often called her a social worker, but that wasn‘t accurate. She didn‘t have a master of social work degree, so she couldn‘t legally call herself a social worker. However, it wasn‘t illegal for others to call her that, so when she got tired of correcting people she just stopped trying. Today was an exception. She‘d dealt with a particularly uncomfortable situation and been face to face with a very intimidating member of a small town police department. Though Meg‘s office was located in Joplin, she went to a small town to the south in neighboring Newton County called Scottish. Though Joplin was small by city standards—about fifty thousand people, give or take—it was a sprawling metropolis compared to the back-woods burg where she had the misfortune of spending most of her afternoon. In general, Meg found the police to be very helpful to her job. They had a bad reputation for obstinacy among most of the people she
worked with, but she never had trouble getting them to cooperate. Of course, she‘d only been doing this for a year—this was her first job out of college. The hotline was routine: head lice. It wasn‘t that every time a child got head lice the school district called in a hotline, but when a child had chronic head lice it turned into an issue for the State. Hotlines were assigned based on a rotation, and Meg‘s number was up. She hated head lice hotlines. Every time she read the hotline narrative she would dig into her blondish-brown hair and scratch her scalp. She was told this reaction was a typical, and it never went away no matter how long she did the job. Meg decided to wait until after lunch—comprised of a sandwich and a can of generic diet cola. After that, the Scottish head lice. The rain stopped halfway through her trip, but the sun had yet to escape the curtain of dull gray clouds. Meg used her own vehicle: a faded red Ford Tempo she‘d been driving since high school. The State cars were all signed out when she left. At least her Tempo had a CDplayer so she could listen to Tori Amos on the way—though it barely made up for the uncomfortable seats and the electric locks not working. She found the house with the aid of a map printed from the Internet. These were invaluable tools in her job, and the floor of her car was littered with discarded and crumpled maps to clients‘ houses. She never wrote the names of the clients on them, so she wasn‘t worried about a breach of confidentiality. And no one ever rode in her car, anyway. Towns had dispositions, this one was malaise. The buildings looked deserted, though people had to be living in them. The home she was visiting fit in well with the rest. It was old, with a heavy wooden door anchored to the top of three cracked stone steps. The walls were composed of peeling red siding, several portions of which were stained by mud and mildew. What had once been a yard was now more of a mud pit. Brown water was pooled in the deep ravines created by the tires of a large truck—likely the one parked by the side of the house. Meg had to dance like a drunken ballerina to avoid stepping in the mud.
She was met at the door by a young girl with platinum hair. It was one thirty in the afternoon, but the girl in the report had been sent home from school so she expected to find her at the house. ―Elizabeth?‖ Meg smiled. The little girl stood half-way into the narrow opening. She nodded. ―Hi, I‘m Meg!‖ She held up a plastic ID badge. ―Is your mother home?‖ The little girl shook her head. Meg glanced into the house. She couldn‘t see much in the haze of dim light pressing through dirty curtains. She made out the faint sounds of television. ―Your father?‖ The girl shook her head again. ―Just Mike.‖ ―Mike. Who‘s Mike?‖ ―Mom‘s boyfriend. He works at night so he‘s here in the day.‖ ―Can I talk to Mike? Is he awake?‖ She nodded, opening the door all the way and running back into the house. ―Mike!‖ she shrieked louder than Meg was expecting, it hurt her ears. She stepped in prepared for the worst. She didn‘t get to observe how things looked until she closed the door and allowed her eyes to adjust to the light. To her relief, the house was actually relatively tidy. There were some dirty clothes lying around and some dishes piled up in the sink (she could see the kitchen from where she stood, the house was very small) but it wasn‘t anywhere near the worst she‘d seen. Meg had developed a new threshold for messy in the year she‘d been doing this. The little girl came running down a set of stairs into the kitchen. Meg was unaware that the house had a second floor, or that the girl had gone there until she came back. She ran past Meg, and heavy footsteps came after. A pair of socked feet hit the linoleum kitchen floor just as Elizabeth leapt knees first onto the couch. Mike looked much as she pictured him the minute Elizabeth uttered his name: a big guy in a white, nicotine stained t-shirt. He had long, disheveled hair and ashy whiskers that created an aura around a mouth full of crooked, yellowing teeth. He wore boxer shorts and carried an ash tray in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other.
He looked annoyed at first, but his expression changed when he saw Meg. This wasn‘t an unusual reaction from the men she met in this job, but all the same it made her uncomfortable when he looked at her. Instinct pressed her knees together. ―Yeah?‖ Mike was not quite rude, but abrupt and to the point. She could hear the television playing an obnoxious Indian casino ad in the background—it came from upstairs. ―I‘m with CPS.‖ She didn‘t offer her hand. He didn‘t seem to notice the discourtesy, instead crossing in front of her to flop down on the couch next to the girl. ―Okay.‖ Mike tapped ashes off the end of his cigarette and nodded. ―Is this about the head lice?‖ ―Yeah, we get a call whenever it happens more than once or twice.‖ Mike coughed and took a drag from his cigarette. He sat near the only permanent source of light in the room: a thin curtain in front of a dirty window. It was in this light that she could tell that he wasn‘t as old as she‘d first thought. He might have been in his mid-to-late twenties, maybe just a few years older than her. ―I understand,‖ he said, ―we‘re taking care of it.‖ They spent a few minutes discussing lice removal strategies, after which Mike gave her a tour around the house. Elizabeth‘s bed sheets were stripped, and there were two plastic trash bags in the corner of the room. Mike told her they contained all of Elizabeth‘s toys and clothes. Mike had a number of theories on why Elizabeth kept getting head lice, but he insisted that neither he nor the girl‘s mother had ever been afflicted. He surmised that she must be getting them from school-the school theorized the exact opposite. As expected, this was turning out to be pretty mundane. It would require a little bit of paperwork, a check-up in a month, and then a conference with her supervisor followed by an expeditious closing. Mike turned out to be an okay guy, despite his constant smoking. She found out Mike worked at the same factory as Elizabeth‘s mother Sally, just a different shift. It must have been hard for them. Though she wasn‘t comfortable in Mike‘s presence, she was thankful that he didn‘t give her any more creepy looks.
The kitchen was the last room she investigated. It was the best lit since there were no curtains in the window. She discovered two things while there: the first was that it was well stocked with food, and the second was a pair of tiny white pocks on Elizabeth‘s delicate skin. Meg saw them as the child walked by when the light hit her just right. Meg stopped her and ran her fingers over Elizabeth‘s thin neck until she reached the marks. ―What are those?‖ she asked, squinting and trying not to sound accusatory. It didn‘t look like any form of abuse she was familiar with, so she didn‘t suspect that. For her part, Elizabeth shrugged and remained silent. Mike let out a confused grunt and leaned forward, replacing Meg‘s hand with his own and feeling the tiny round marks with his fingertips. ―Don‘t know.‖ He squinted in the faint light to examine them closer. ―Honey, what happened there?‖ Elizabeth shrugged again. ―Bug bites, maybe?‖ Mike asked with a few gentle pokes at the marks. ―Do they hurt, sweetie?‖ ―No,‖ she answered, squirming slightly at his prodding. Mike seemed to notice and stopped. Meg flipped a light switch. Three bulbs in an old fixture above the kitchen table came to life, and Mike reacted by putting his arm over his eyes. When he did, she noticed two more things: Elizabeth recoiled from the bright light as well, and Mike had identical marks at the base of his neck. ―You‘ve got them, too.‖ He reached back with his free hand and felt around on his neck. His hand passed over the spot several times as he rubbed. Meg gestured for him to stop. She drew closer, mouth breathing to avoid his bouquet of armpit sweat and cheap cigarettes. She didn‘t get close enough to touch him, but she was able to see the marks were the same size, same distance apart, and (probably) the same age. ―Whatever it is bit me, too, I reckon!‖ He laughed. ―Guess I‘ll check Sally when she gets home tonight, if I see her.‖ Meg nodded. ―Maybe you do have lice after all.‖ She drew back without thinking about it. Mike scratched his scalp.
Meg left a few minutes later, after some warm goodbyes from both Mike and Elizabeth. She wasn‘t looking forward to doing a follow-up here in a month, but she wasn‘t dreading it either. Elizabeth was a very sweet girl, the kind Meg liked to see. She imagined her supervisor Max would want her to contact the mother before re-visiting the home. She made a mental note to do that before their conference. Maybe it would impress him. At the very least, it would save her work later. Meg didn‘t notice the police car down the street. She saw it, she just didn‘t make note of it. Not until later, on her way out of town (when she realized the car was following her) did she remember seeing the same police car down the street from Elizabeth‘s house. The police lights activated when she was within sight of the back of the city limit sign. Meg pulled over and waited. She knew she wasn‘t speeding, and her license and insurance were up to date so she wasn‘t worried. She surmised the officer just wanted to know what a State worker was doing at that house today, until she remembered that she hadn‘t driven a State car. No State plates. Now she began to get worried. It wasn‘t just any officer who came to her window, but the chief of police himself. It said so on his uniform. He was a large, powerful looking man. Meg was only a two inches over five feet so most men towered over her; and even the thinnest of them were heftier. Nevertheless, it was rare that she found herself intimidated by the physical presence of a man, even when alone with them. This man was an exception. She found it impossible to make eye contact, and it wasn‘t just the cliché dark sunglasses with gold rims. She did manage to read his nameplate, ―A. MacDuvall.‖ ―Nice,‖ she thought, ―the police chief of Scottish is named MacDuvall.‖ She wondered what the A stood for. Angus, perhaps… MacDuvall leaned against the roof of her car and looked in. She sucked in her lips and looked straight ahead. ―You with the State?‖ It was less of a question and more him pointing out that he already knew.
―Yes.‖ She tried to look up, but instead turned her head. She wasn‘t able to get a full look at his face, but he looked to be a middleaged man in good shape. It didn‘t strike her as odd at all that he was wearing sunglasses on an overcast day—not at the time, anyway. She would regard it as quite significant later. ―I was pretty sure I explained to you CPS people that any time one of you wants to come down here to let my department know.‖ He leaned back from the car and took a long gander at the highway. A large truck zoomed by, its bed lined with slats and boards and filled with scraps of salvage. It let out a rumble followed by a groaning roar as it passed, leaving behind the stink of diesel exhaust. Meg coughed as MacDuvall turned back to look at her. ―I was…uh…I was unaware of that, sir.‖ That time she was able to look at him. When the dark glassy lenses covering his eyes met hers, she looked away again. She realized how tightly she was gripping the steering wheel when her knuckles looked ready to burst. ―Probably should talk to your boss about that.‖ He rubbed his mouth. ―It still ol‘ Max Hollingsworth?‖ he asked, placing both hands on the door of her car. They were thick and meaty, with tufts of red hair on the back. They covered the slit, like he would hold the window down if she tried to roll it up. ―It‘s Max,‖ she said, relaxing her grip and letting her hands slide to the bottom of the wheel. She couldn‘t imagine anyone calling him old. ―I‘d imagine he might have told you, but you forgot or something.‖ He chuckled like a turkey. ―No biggie. Just let me know next time, okay?‖ He tried to sound friendly…maybe. Instead, he just sounded irritated and condescending. ―We don‘t usually involve law enforcement unless we suspect a dangerous situation.‖ She noticed that he was very close to her. How did he get so close? Why was he so close? ―I didn‘t really have any reason to call you.‖ She knew he was mad because his fingers tightened on the door. He took a deep breath. Meg didn‘t care that she‘d pissed him off. She didn‘t care one damn bit. He was just a dick looking to assert authority over everyone he met. She was mad now, too. Mad because he was
almost touching her. Mad because she knew he thought she was intimidated by him, when he was actually just pissing her off. That was a lie. She was intimidated a little. Or, a lot. Scaring what he thought was just a little girl from the city must have given him a hard-on. She‘d never been treated this way by a cop. It felt familiar, though. ―When a social worker comes in—‖ ―I‘m not a social worker,‖ she corrected, forcing herself to look at him, to take in his fat face and stringy red hair pressed down under a wide-rimmed police hat. That was her assertion of power in this: he didn‘t know what her fucking job was called and she was going to correct him. Take that! ―When people from your office come into my town, I want to have an officer with you. I don‘t want any social—State workers getting hurt. And how are you gonna know if there is a dangerous situation before you even show up?‖ Meg closed her eyes and looked away. Was it possible he was just being protective and she was being a bitch? She concluded that was likely, but refused to believe it. ―You can go on back to Joplin.‖ He pulled back and patted the top of the car. He almost didn‘t sound angry anymore. She wondered if he still had an erection. ―Thank you.‖ Meg left as fast as she could. She was as far away as the city limit sign before looking in the rear view mirror. He was still standing in the road, watching her leave. She didn‘t feel comfortable until she was around a bend and well out of his sight. The ride home made it worse. Meg was so tense she couldn‘t even listen to her CD. She didn‘t realize she was crying until her vision got foggy and she felt her nose run. She wiped away a dribble, shaking her head and growling. The worst was yet to come. She caught up with the scrap truck. It wasn‘t going as fast as it had seemed before. Meg had to slow down to less than fifteen miles under the limit. Not only that, but the sides of the behemoth blocked all view
of the road past it, and the roar of its primitive motor drowned out the sounds of any oncoming cars. Meg screamed and pounded the steering wheel with her palm, shouting fuck over and over again and rounding it out with a well placed God-dammit. She tried to pass twice, pulling over just enough to see if something was coming, only to be confronted with another car zipping down the highway. On the third attempt, she saw nothing. She assumed that meant nothing was there, but in retrospect she would realize it was because of the bend in the road ahead, along with the thick grove of trees. Anything oncoming was obscured. That was probably why there were two solid yellow lines dividing the lanes of the highway, lines she didn‘t notice both before and during her slide into the left lane. That was when she hit a motorcycle. One second she saw a shaded figure on a dark black and chrome blur; the next, she felt impact—the windshield became a mess of cobweb cracks. Meg didn‘t remember it at the time, but later she would recall the outline of a rider rolling into the windshield and over the back of her car. She hit the brakes by instinct, which caused her to careen out of control and slam into some trees. Bruises on her forehead, cheek, arms and breasts would paint the picture of what happened to her during the wreck in a rainbow of sickly hues. At the moment, all she could process was the sound. One second, there was so much of it…then, silence. When she hit the bike, her whole body slammed forward into the wheel. The seatbelt restricted her movement but also tore into her flesh, leaving a thick bruise over her left breast and under her right. One of her hands was caught between her chest and the wheel, which led to another bruise on her ribs and one on her wrist. Her head hit the steering wheel when she put on the breaks, though not very hard since the belt had held her in place. That accounted for the crescent shaped mark on her forehead. Since this car was made during the administration of the first President Bush, she had no airbags. They wouldn‘t have assisted much with the second event, as the car then slid onto the grass and slammed into a row of trees. The impact threw Meg‘s head into the driver‘s side
window just as the trunk of one of the trees shattered it, resulting in another bruise on her forehead, one on her cheek, and a nasty one on her shoulder. It also caused a few pieces of broken glass to embed in her face—though not so deep that an EMT wasn‘t able to withdraw them with sterile tweezers later. Meg remained conscious; though, not quite aware. Dazed, she clicked off the belt and slid to the seat next to her, resting her head on her hands. She had no idea how much time passed before someone came to the window and tried to open the door. It was locked. It was a man: dark haired, young, and in a black jacket wearing leather gloves. She could tell they were leather by the sound they made when he tapped the window. Meg looked up at him and he gestured to the lock. She shook her head. The electric locks didn‘t work; she mumbled something to that effect then tried to lift her arm to pull it. Too weak, she let her arm fall. She glanced around, blank—but grinned when she saw there was a sizable portion of a tree in her car. Then the passenger door was gone. It made a brief metallic squeal—like an animal being wrested to death by a twist of the neck— then a vibrant crash as it landed. Meg was surprised at how far away the door sounded when it hit the ground; and how long it seemed to take before it got there. In fact, she was already in the stranger‘s arms and halfway across the highway before it ran out of air and met pavement. ―This is nice,‖ Meg thought. She hadn‘t been carried like this since prom night. That didn‘t seem so long ago now. The stranger let her down in the grass on the other side of the road. It was wet, but more important it was soft; softer than a glass window being shattered by a tree, anyway. Her rescuer stretched out her legs with ease and elevated her feet on something; she didn‘t see what. He took off his gloves and brushing hair out of her face; his touch relaxed her. Then she remembered the motorcycle, and that she‘d just killed someone. ―There‘s a guy,‖ she said, breathless and weak, ―a guy back there on a motorcycle. You need to check on him.‖ ―I‘m fine.‖ His voice was deep and reassuring, but she worried he didn‘t understand.
―Not you.‖ She sounded pathetic. ―The guy I hit!‖ Weak, she turned her head and looked for a body. ―Poor guy,‖ she thought. He was just some happy country road motorist minding his own business before a bitch in a Tempo entered his life. She saw nothing—except the door of her car a good thirty feet away. ―I‘m fine.‖ He turned her head back to him by her chin. ―How are you fine?‖ she muttered. ―There‘s no way it‘s him!‖ she thought, ―There is no possible way he is just up and walking around like this!‖ ―How are you not…like, dead or crippled?‖ He patted the object under her feet. ―Helmet.‖ He grinned. He‘d elevated her feet with the crushed remains of his motorcycle helmet. His James Dean-style biker jacket was torn in shreds down his the back and over his arms. His pant legs were ripped too, but his skin looked healthy and unscathed. That was when she realized how handsome he was. Stunning, more like it: with burnt auburn eyes, a strong jaw and smooth, shallow cheeks. His brown hair had a darker black undertone than hers—which was more like honey blonde. It was funny to her that she‘d be thinking about hair at a time like this, but she found it comforting to consider the trivial after such an ordeal. It hadn‘t quite sunk into her psyche that she‘d almost killed someone—almost killed herself. Things still didn‘t seem real. ―Are you an angel?‖ she asked, one of the few coherent thoughts running through her brain. She was embarrassed when she replayed the events hours later in a hospital bed, but at the time it seemed like a perfectly reasonable question. Her savior took off his torn leather jacket and crumpled it up. ―Would you find me boastful if I told you it wasn‘t the first time I‘d been asked that?‖ His shoulders were broad and his arms long and powerful. No wonder he was able to carry her easily. ―What?‖ she asked as he put the crumpled leather under her head. She took in the smell of his coat and relished having his hands near her face again.
―I‘m not an angel.‖ She made a noise of understanding and started to close her eyes. He patted her and the cheek and took her hand. ―Don‘t close your eyes. You may have had a concussion.‖ ―This,‖ she thought, ―from the guy who just took a Ford Tempo to the face…‖ ―I‘m sorry about your motorcycle.‖ She bit her lip and furrowed her brow. It hurt her face to do that. On the road she saw a tangled mess of black steel, leather and chrome. She smelled engine coolant in the air—sweet and sickening—as it mixed with spilled gasoline and oil. Meg felt tears building as her throat tightened. When she looked back up at him, he smiled. ―I have others,‖ he replied, looking out at the wreckage. The smile diminished a bit. ―Though, that one was my favorite.‖ Meg sighed, taking in the entirety of it. Pain welled up inside, like her guts and heart were part of a wet rag being twisted tight from the bottom up. ―That would be guilt,‖ she thought. Guilt, regret, and the realization that she could have destroyed so much with one careless moment of stupidity. It felt like a star collapsed in her chest. She began to cry. ―I‘m so sorry,‖ she said through tears. ―I am so, so sorry!‖ He looked down at her with those big brown eyes and smiled again. She‘d never quite seen a smile like his: small, but expressive. She imagined that he wasn‘t even aware of how sexy it was. ―Everything will be fine.‖ He brushed tears off her cheek—she loved that! ―What‘s your name?‖ ―I‘m going to jail,‖ she whimpered, wanting to pull away from him in shame but lacking the strength. ―My name is Megan and I‘m going to jail!‖ ―No, Megan. You will not go to jail.‖ She heard sirens. A short time later she saw an ambulance followed by two police cars. Both of the police cars were from the County, neither of them from Scottish. That was a relief. She couldn‘t bear the thought of having that animal police chief anywhere near her at a time like this. He might have been listening to all this on his scanner, chuckling to himself. She put those thoughts out of her head.
―What‘s your last name, Megan?‖ he asked. It wasn‘t until he started to pull away from her to stand that she realized he‘d been cradling her head in his hand. She wanted him back. ―Crunk.‖ ―Megan Crunk,‖ he repeated. Her surname always came off as some kind of guttural sound rather than a name, but he made it sound elegant. ―Megan, I‘ll send someone to the hospital to arrange for the damages you‘ve suffered today,‖ he explained as EMTs began to surround her. She didn‘t have time to think about how they got here. He must have called them before coming to rescue her. More time had passed than she thought. ―Who are you?‖ ―I‘m Garrett, and you don‘t have anything to worry about.‖ He patted her on the wrist. Meg believed him. One of the EMTs, a handsome young man with hair cut like a Marine, asked if she was in any pain. She was, a little bit, so she nodded. That was when she realized her neck hurt. Not a lot, but enough to discourage her from doing that again. Memories of her entire body being tossed around in the car came rushing back. The EMT injected something from a syringe into the IV bag they‘d affixed to her arm. It didn‘t take long for her to drift into slumber.
3 Three stood in silence in the East African desert: two men and a woman. The night was black under the moonless sky, but they saw clearer than any human eyes could have on the brightest day. The female broke the silence, ―Do you think she will come?‖ Yomiko stood a few inches from Yor, the only other Asian there. His silence implied impatience. He was her brother and she expected his support. ―She will come,‖ said the bald man standing several meters away. He continued gazing at the horizon. His accent was English, maybe Australian. Whatever it was, Yomiko despised the way he talked…not the accent, the words. He spoke like a human. It was disgusting. ―Do you think she will suspect?‖ the female asked, turning her back to Yor. Though she could see only the side of his face, the curl of his cheek showed the bald man was smiling. ―Of course she will suspect.‖ Her brother placed his hand on her shoulder. She shook him off. Her bound hair flipped against his wrist as he withdrew. ―She is one of us, love.‖ The bald man‘s scalp was decorated with sharp, angular runes. They seemed to have been carved in with a knife and filled with black and red ink. He glanced over his broad shoulder at her. ―She would be a fool not to.‖ ―But she will come, Xyus?‖ She fixed his eyes with her gaze and tilted her head. He reacted to the mention of his name by turning back to the horizon. ―She will come.‖ And she did. The cool desert breeze carried her scent to their nostrils. All three raised their heads and took it in, like instinct. A few seconds later, Morrígu came into view. She was massive, but graceful. Her powerful wings turned the gentle desert air into a torrent. The three on the ground stood resolute, despite the powerful dust storm erupting around them.
Yomiko couldn‘t help but admire her. She was captivated by the layers of emerald scales, many of them glossy enough to catch sparkles from the faint starlight. Some interlocking and other overlapping, they armored her muscular form like a work of reptilian art. Yomiko found her spectacular; a breathtaking example of their kind. It reminded her why many of their ancestors were worshipped. In her long life, Morrígu had probably been worshipped as well. She transformed into her human shape in midair. The creature that was over eighty meters long with a wingspan of nearly twice that reduced to a naked woman. She fell to the ground feet first with a light thud, bending her knees with the impact. As she stood, Yomiko saw Morrígu‘s female form was no less astounding than her draconic one—at least by paltry human standards. She was voluptuous, with full breasts, a slender waist, and curving hips. A mane of sultry red hair fell over her strong, feminine shoulders down to the middle of her back. Her eyes were piercing green; no less so than the emerald scales that had covered her form just seconds ago. Yomiko looked at her two male companions. Many of her kind had a taste for human women. If her brother or Xyus were among them, they must have found her irresistible. Without taking her gaze away from Xyus, Morrígu gestured to the others with a nod. ―Who are they?‖ Her voice was strong and proud, full of a confidence Yomiko envied. The accent was Irish, but poised and refined. ―They are to be trusted,‖ Xyus replied, not taking his eyes off of her. ―That is not what I asked!‖ She placed her hands on her wide hips. Xyus introduced them. It was only after they had been named that the red haired dragon glanced to them and sniffed the air. She did it twice, once for each of them. ―Twins?‖ she said, with no small amount of intrigue. She regarded Yor before Yomiko, but seemed to spend a bit more time on the female. This interested her, but seemed to concern Yor. Her brother stepped forward and placed a hand on his sister‘s back and another on her belly. ―Meredith Morrígu.‖ Xyus glanced over his shoulder at the twins. They nodded in reverence. Morrígu returned attention to her host.
―Xyus, I presume you have called me here at the behest of your master—‖ ―I have no master!‖ he interrupted, taking a brisk step forward and lowering his jaw. His gaze fixed her nude form in umbrage. It was a level of contempt Yomiko had never observed between two of her kind. ―Your ally,‖ Morrígu corrected, making it more than obvious that she did not approve of the finer term. Nonetheless, it seemed to abate Xyus; for the moment. ―I have.‖ ―Then I will tell you what I told the last ally he sent to me.‖ ―You have no need to tell me,‖ he explained, crossing his hands. ―You may tell him yourself!‖ Yomiko noticed an immediate change in Morrígu. Almost like an animal, she went from refined and elegant to feral and poised. The men tensed up in kind, initiating an instinctual reaction in Yomiko to do the same. After sniffing the air, Morrígu relaxed but kept up her guard. ―Fraise is not here,‖ she declared, unhidden scorn in her tone. ―Not yet.‖ Xyus mocked her with a chuckle. Yomiko looked to her brother. She expected to see confusion, but instead saw only wide-eyed curiosity. She knew Morrígu was smart enough to know there was no need to take to the air. Fraise was large enough that his scent would be noticeable from over a hundred kilometers away. He was nowhere near. If he hoped to arrive before Morrígu had a change to escape on wing he would need to be much closer. The air rippled. At first Yomiko thought it was the wind, until she realized that it wasn‘t just the air moving in waves, but the ground and sky as well. The ripples intensified, like someone had cast a rock into a placid lake. Morrígu‘s eyes narrowed and her jaw tightened. Yomiko wondered if this was what dragons looked like when they felt fear. She‘d seen it in humans, but they were so accustomed to fear that expressing it came naturally. For a dragon, even in human form, fear was an infrequent sensation. The intensity was overwhelming.
At the moment, Yomiko shared the rare emotion with her—but not with her brother or Xyus. The former looked around in amazement; the latter raised his eyes to the East in expectation. The ripples pulled away from them and focused into a single pane of the night sky. From this surface, like a fish breaking from water, emerged three more men. Two of them were in the fore, one with dark brown skin and the other with a smooth, pale complexion. Yomiko didn‘t know them, but she knew they were dragons by their scent. The third emerged as the ripples ceased. The sight of him caused Yomiko and Yor to gasp, and Xyus to beam with adoration. ―You said they were to be trusted!‖ Morrígu roared, throwing a finger towards the twins. Yomiko saw the betrayal in Morrígu‘s eyes, but she dared not show any sympathy towards an enemy in the presence of Xyus‘ ally. ―They are to be trusted,‖ the third male said, stepping between his two escorts. His strong face, wrinkled with age, curled into a cold and sinister smile. ―Just not by you.‖ As Morrígu turned her attention away from the twins, Yomiko gazed with wide eyes at the new arrival. She had no doubt who this was, for she knew of no dragon on the earth so ancient that his human form would bear the profound marks of human aging: a head of thinning white hair, wrinkled skin, and glossless, faded eyes. They were features she‘d never seen in the human guise of one of her kind. ―Veles Fraise!‖ Morrígu snarled—giving name to the beast. ―Darling,‖ he replied, shaking his head. His voice was smooth but discomforting, like a chilling winter wind. ―I have not been called Veles in over nine hundred years.‖ ―You have come here to murder me.‖ Her voice sharpened. ―Oh, Morrígu!‖ The most ancient among them spoke in earnest. ―Beautiful, beautiful Morrígu! I have come only to implore you to reconsider your compassion for these pathetic creatures.‖ His accent was unlike anything Yomiko had ever heard. Dragons adopted the manner of speaking of whatever humans they live near or among to help fit in. This was something different, something that harkened to an ancient dialect long lost to the world‘s memory.
―You think I have compassion for them?‖ she spat, almost trembling with rage. ―Loathsome talking apes! The mere sight of them repulses me! I feel disgusted hiding in the shape of them!‖ She gestured to her body, causing her firm, ample breasts to shake as she motioned like tearing off her skin. ―Then why not join me?‖ Fraise was calm. ―Rid our world of these pests? This was always our plan, beloved—‖ ―This is not what we planned!‖ Morrígu shook her head. ―This…had you come to me two hundred, maybe a hundred years ago, I may have cooperated. But now, it is different. The apes are more powerful. They have weapons that can kill even us. What you seek to do will bring exposure and death to our kind. Nothing more!‖ ―So it‘s not compassion,‖ Xyus injected, smiling like he would laugh aloud once he completed his thought, ―but cowardice, then?‖ Morrígu roared and turned fast, fixing Xyus with a murderous stare. Her emerald eyes were alive with hate and disgust. ―You speak to me of cowardice!‖ she roared. ―You, who dare not face me without the protective presence of your master!‖ She placed special emphasis on that last word, driving home that she was through with politics and courtesy. It did not seem to bother Xyus as much th is time as before; though he tensed his hands and set his boots to the ground. Silence. Even the creatures of the desert ceased making noise. Yomiko noted that the lowest things on this world could sense what was coming next, and were wise to be as far from it as possible. ―So you‘ve come to kill me.‖ Morrígu regained some semblance of composure and turned to face Fraise. ―My precious friend, I am forbidden by honor to subject you to a fight I know you cannot win—and bound by my affection for you to give you a fair chance.‖ He sounded quite sure of himself, but Morrígu did not appear to disagree. ―But if you will not cooperate, I cannot allow you to leave.‖ She nodded, accepting what was next. ―I am here only to see to it you do not flee,‖ he continued, stepping away from his escort.
Xyus‘ eyes were wide and his teeth bared, seething constrained excitement at what was coming. Yomiko was surprised to see the same look on her brother‘s face. ―Would you have expected me to flee?‖ Morrígu was polite, like she were still talking to a friend. Yomiko didn‘t imagine she was someone accustomed to retreat. ―Simply a precaution, my dear,‖ he explained, continuing to walk away. ―Though I trust in the capabilities of my younger allies…‖ He gestured to the assembly—they surrounded her like a pack of beasts. ―You are far swifter in flight than any dragon I know.‖ ―Any dragon,‖ she added, ―but you.‖ Fraise nodded once, smiling. ―Goodbye, Morrígu,‖ he concluded, now several hundred meters away. Morrígu dipped her head in reverence to her old friend. Then she was a dragon again. Her change was so abrupt that the gust made Yomiko's hair flutter. Before she could take in the magnificence of her emerald plated form, the great dragon cast a powerful backhand blow against Xyus‘ human body, hurling him into the air and off into the desert. Thousands of meters away, he landed with a faint crash. That would keep him out of the fight for a minute or so. She appreciated that Morrígu was smart enough to recognize the strongest among them and remove him from the battle long enough to thin out the rest. Yomiko wanted no part of this fight, but took to her nature nonetheless. Her clothes ripped to threads and strips as she lengthened into her serpentine form. Yomiko‘s body was leaner than Morrígu‘s, and her scales were yellow and red. She had no horns, and her legs were set further back on her body. Her tail was less defined, like her entire body was part of it. She reared up on her powerful hind legs and took flight, carrying herself away from the battle. Morrígu was more than twice the size of any of them. Her neck and head alone were as long as Yomiko or her brother, and almost as thick. Yor‘s form was identical to Yomiko‘s, except for the dangling scales around his chin that resembled a human‘s beard and two short horns.
The other two dragons were more like Morrígu. One of them was covered with shimmering silver and white scales, the other black with a grayish white belly and neck. Both had horns, though the silver one had bony ridges that ran the length of his spine and ended in a set of sharp spikes at the tip of his tail. As Morrígu occupied herself slapping Yor in the face with her claws, the silver dragon whipped his tail about and drove the spikes into Morrígu‘s back. Though roaring in anguish and pain, Morrígu didn‘t slow. Black dragon‘s blood gushed from the wound and splattered on the sand with a hiss. Morrígu responded with her own tail, lacking the spikes but as muscular as any Yomiko had ever seen. The heavy end of it crashed into the silver dragon‘s knee, and a powerful crack of bone sent her adversary to the ground. Morrígu swatted Yor again, this time ripping scales from flesh and drawing more blood. It erupted in a geyser, spraying across Morrígu‘s breast as she twisted her neck about and opened her mighty jaws. Yomiko knew what was coming next. Morrígu‘s breath attack was a burst of sound so powerful and violent that it tore the air. It radiated out from her throat in a cone, blasting chunks of flesh and bits of scale from the bodies of the two dragons. While the smaller black dragon took the brunt of the damage, he was quick enough to avoid the full force of the blast. Most of it impacted into the ground and caused a crater to appear, as if the earth had been depressed by a massive foot. Her brother took some damage to his hind leg, a wound that would cripple him for days—if he survived. The effect left Yomiko deaf for a few seconds. The smaller dragon scampered back, trailing blood from the tear in his belly and leg. The silver dragon, still face down on the ground, began to rise, using the three legs that still worked. Morrígu would have none of that. She brought her own leg up and stomped down on the smaller silver dragon, crushing several of the bony plates along his spine. Morrígu‘s eyes widened when the spines pierced her foot, causing a shower of blood to coat the smaller dragon. The pain wasn‘t enough to stop her from crushing his spine. The weaker dragon roared in pain,
his forked tongue lashing around in anguish as he realized that he could no longer use any part of his body below the wound. Yor leapt to the air, sinking his teeth into Morrígu‘s sinuous neck. She twisted her head about, but was unable to bring it low enough to bite back. As Yor brought the rest of his body up in an attempt to coil around Morrígu, she brought her front legs to bear and grabbed him around the chest. Her claws dug into his scales, tearing through them like tree bark. Streaks of black blood poured down his yellow and red body. Yomiko thought she heard her brother squeal as the emerald dragon‘s muscles flexed. She pulled his jaws from her neck. Much to Yomiko‘s surprise, blood erupted from the wound Yor had left. His teeth left black grooves in the interlocking green scales of her neck. She hurled Yor over a hundred meters away. He landed with a crack and lay motionless for a few seconds before stirring. He was too hurt to stand. Yomiko turned her attention back to Morrígu. The wound left by the silver dragon was deeper than Yomiko thought. It had torn a fissure through Morrígu‘s lungs, and each breath the mighty dragon took caused blood to trickle down her scales. If there was pain, it did not show. The silver dragon paid a great price for striking so mighty a blow. With a roar of triumph, Morrígu brought her wounded foot down upon the smaller dragons face, crushing his skull with a chilling crack. The silver dragon twitched once before twisting up on itself to become a motionless pile of flesh. Yomiko‘s jaw fell open. It was the first time she saw a dragon die. With a blur of motion and a burst of flame, Xyus was back in the fight. His natural form was a squat beast with a long horn on his nose and a short neck ribbed with bony armored plates. His scales were dull red, like dried animal blood, except for his belly and the underside of his short neck which were rust colored. His wings were short but powerful. He was likely not as skilled a flyer as other dragons, but his body had other advantages. Xyus looked built for battle, and he seemed to relish the opportunity. He wasted no time unleashing a cone of scorching flame from his throat. It poured forth like water on Morrígu. She howled in pain and
fell to all fours then shielded herself with one of her wings. The flames coursed along the surface of the wing and blackened the skin beneath. By the time Morrígu recovered from the searing blast, her wing was nothing more than a limp frame of blackened bone. Yomiko winced at the sight of it, and knew this meant Morrígu had resigned to die here tonight. No dragon would ever sacrifice a wing in such a way unless they thought there was no escape. She sought only to cause as much damage to her enemies as possible before they overwhelmed her. She released another burst of her own breath weapon, amazing Yomiko that she‘d been able to regenerate it so fast. The sound was weaker this time, and appeared focused into a beam. It struck Xyus in the face, but his thick armor absorbed most of the impact. He whimpered and staggered back; stunned, but not killed. She managed to take him out of the fight again, though not for long. Not to be caught unprepared, Yor flew back into the fight and tried once again to clamp down on Morrígu‘s neck. She and her brother had a breath weapon: searing flame like Xyus. It wasn‘t as powerful though, so Yor appeared to be foregoing its use. Morrígu caught Yor in air and slammed him to the ground. The earth cracked at the impact, leaving another deep fissure in the desert floor. Again she brought him up and down, crushing his body under repeated blows, until he fell limp against the sand, trembling in pain. Yomiko hadn‘t reckoned her brother could be killed here tonight. He needed help. She scanned the desert for the black and gray dragon, and found him huddled near Fraise, nursing his wounds. He must have been more injured that she thought, or just a coward. Yomiko looked back to her brother. He turned his head to meet her eyes. Morrígu positioned herself over him, limping and leaving a trail of sizzling black blood on the ground at her feet. The fight was over for Morrígu. Xyus would soon come out of his delirium and rip her to pieces. Even if she managed to defeat Xyus, she would succumb from her wounds within an hour. The inevitability of it weighed on Yomiko. She knew Morrígu had no reason let Yor live. The emerald dragoness had nothing left to lose, and all that remained was to end the life of another of her aggressors. Yomiko hissed with anger at
Yor for getting her involved in this ambush, but was overwhelmed by the fear of losing him. She leapt on Morrígu and caught the older dragoness off guard. Yomiko was impressed by the sheer power coursing through the muscles of the emerald dragoness. She sunk her teeth into the same wound Yor had inflicted seconds ago. Her jaws, equal in strength to her brother‘s, crushed the weakened flesh in their embrace. She found the bloodied grooves he‘d carved into the Morrígu‘s neck and matched them with her own sharp teeth. Bones more powerful than steel bent and snapped in her mouth, and Morrígu released a hoarse roar as blood bubbled through her lips. Black dragon‘s blood sizzled from the wound, pouring down Yomiko‘s throat and chin. It tasted like iron and ashes. Morrígu attempted to grapple Yomiko, but was too weak. The slender red and yellow dragon wrapped her body around the larger one‘s neck and constricted. Morrígu let out a gasp—then a hiss—accompanied by bubbles of blood. She resolved to a gurgle as fluid pooled in her throat and lungs. Morrígu fell to her knees then flopped on her belly. The light in her eyes faded as she took her last look at the world: the reality where she‘d spent over seven thousand years. Yomiko saw no traces of sorrow in the mighty dragon‘s eyes. She would die an honorable death after doing great harm to her aggressors. Nevertheless, the younger dragoness felt sorrow for her, and at the passing of this magnificent creature from the world. Yomiko released her grip and lowered her lips to the fallen dragon‘s ear. ―I‘m sorry,‖ she whispered, in the language of dragons. They were rare words for their kind. Morrígu died. ―Well done,‖ Xyus said, acknowledging Yomiko‘s victory. With a brisk shake of his head, he cast drops of blood and small bits of scale to the sand. He didn‘t appear fully recovered, but he was able to act again. Yomiko didn‘t respond. She uncoiled from Morrígu‘s neck and crawled to her brother‘s side. He regarded her with a weak moan, attempting to raise his head but collapsing to the dirt in failure. Yomiko
wrapped her body around his, supporting him as she cradled his head in her arms. Yor‘s blood trickled from his wounds. It mixed with the blood left on Yomiko‘s scales. Blood from the dragon she‘d just helped murder. ―Luckier than some.‖ Xyus regarded the slain silver dragon. The body was already undergoing the rapid deterioration their kind underwent when they died. When the tie between a dragon‘s physical form and their energy was severed, their physical bodies were consumed. Within an hour, all that would remain of the two dead dragons would be piles of gray dust. Yomiko had never seen it occur, and found the process chilling to watch. She turned away from the sight, giving Yor her full attention. He was still awake, albeit barely. Xyus growled. Yomiko looked up to see Fraise had returned, still in human form. The other dragon walked with a pathetic limp a few meters behind. He regarded Xyus‘ hostility with a hiss, baring his teeth and letting his forked tongue unroll. He was still bleeding and the flesh of his belly was torn and exposed. It would take him months to regenerate those scales, and there would probably be a scar. One of his hind legs was all but unusable. ―Quiet,‖ Fraise muttered, speaking English. Both dragons obeyed, though they regarded one another with challenging glares. The ancient one walked to Morrígu‘s body and regarded her with limp, weary eyes. His fingers ran over the emerald scales that had already lost their luster and turned to a swampy green. He whispered into the dead dragon‘s ear something in a language that Yomiko did not know. A rarity. He looked to the fallen silver dragon then lifted his human eyes to the sky. ―To the Shadow of Tiamat.‖ Fraise looked at the stars. The other dragons repeated it in their language. Even Xyus—whom Yomiko would never have suspected of being a respecter of tradition—muttered along while nodding in reverence to the stars. ―Find her hoard,‖ the ancient one ordered, turning his attention to Xyus, ―it is not far. Follow the scent from here.‖ ―Why not send the whelp?‖ Xyus referred to the smaller dragon, still fixed in his gaze.
―Vritra is too wounded to fly.‖ ―I am not!‖ he muttered, provoking another growl from Xyus at this challenge of the ancient one‘s word. ―Enough!‖ Fraise snapped. Again, both obeyed. ―You will go,‖ he commanded. Xyus nodded with respect. ―The others will come with me.‖ He looked to Yomiko and her injured brother. ―You both performed valiantly.‖ Yomiko lowered her head in reverence. Fraise approached and stood below Yomiko. She lowered her head as he looked into her eyes. It was a testament to his confidence that he would stand so close to another dragon in natural form while in his weaker human body. ―Something troubles you about what has happened here tonight?‖ His voice was cool. Yomiko found it soothing. ―I am saddened,‖ she said, nodding towards the fallen. ―I thought her…magnificent!‖ Fraise smiled. ―She was, but that is not all.‖ He touched her face, brushing the red scales with his fingers. Yomiko felt her mind clouding, like she was falling asleep. ―I was not told she would be killed,‖ she said, no longer capable of holding back what she thought. Her eyes widened in realization: she was being compelled against her will to speak! ―I do not think it was right, and I am ashamed of my role in it.‖ She felt her brother‘s body tense against hers. Fraise removed his hand from her face and his influence from her mind. Rather than wrath, she was greeted with a smile. ―You are a noble creature,‖ he explained with a gentle nod. ―I would have much less affection for you if you did not feel shame at what you were called upon to do here this night.‖ Almost as in contrast, he turned to regard Xyus. ―You linger?‖ Xyus grunted—then turned and took flight. He cast one last glare of contempt at Vritra before disappearing into the night sky. ―You will need to take your human forms,‖ Fraise explained as he walked away from the twins. ―This will not work on your natural bodies.‖
He meant the spell; the same one heâ€˜d used to make his impressive entry. It was uncommon to encounter a dragon that used sorcery. It took many centuries to master spells powerful enough to even make it worth the dragonâ€˜s while, since their natural abilities often granted them far more power than they could ever need. For a dragon as ancient as Fraise, centuries of study would not be as great a sacrifice of time. Vritra took human form and fell to his knees. The injuries of his dragon body carried over, revealing a dreadful open wound that ran the length of his dark, naked form from chest to knee. Yomiko felt sorry for him, and regretting her suspicion of cowardice. His injuries were such that had he not fled, his body would be fading to dust along with those of their fallen kin. For a moment, she thought he may succumb anyway, but he arose and shuffled across the desert after the ancient one. She looked to her brother. He nodded to indicate that he felt well enough to resume his human form. She allowed him to shift first, and then followed. Though Yomiko was smaller than her brother as a human, she was just as strong and held up his light human body with little effort. Yor refused to allow her to carry his entire weight, supporting part of his body with weakened legs. The incantation complete, Fraise waved his hand and summoned forth another rippling vortex. Through the glassy surface could be seen the interior of a castle foyer. With their naked human bodies pressed together, the twins followed Fraise and Vritra through to the other side.
Afterword I hope you have enjoyed this short excerpt of my work! Please share this with as many people as possible, free of charge and with my blessing. Pass it around, email it, print it out and leave it in public for people to find (though please do not liter!) and tell everyone you know what you thought of it. I always love hearing from people who have read my work! I can be reached for comments and questions at the following: My Official Website Facebook, Sean T Poindexter My blog: subscribe for updates Twitter, @SeanPoindexter email: firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you again for taking the time to read this excerpt from my first novel! If you enjoyed it, please spread the word! YOU are my most valuable marketing ally! Whether you share my work with one friend or a thousand, your support is immeasurable. From the bottom of my heart, thank you! Praise Tiamat! Sean T. Poindexter