Excerpt from: “The Trial of Sa’riya” The prelude to the series.
They floated in the void of space, immune to the cold: three luminous balls of energy; one white, two silver — thirty-million miles from the exploding sun. The motion of the explosion was frozen, but they could still feel the heat.
“And we’re supposed to do what?” Zi’anna asked.
“We have to space ourselves at one-hundred-twenty degrees around it.” Jemma moved twenty-million miles away, to one side of the sun, examining the angles. “I’ve done the math a thousand times.”
“And how is that going to help?” Sa’riya asked.
“The explosion: we can create a shield that will contain it—it will save the rest of the Galaxy.”
“Why are you doing this? Why not find another Galaxy?” Zi’anna asked.
“I’m quite fond of this one,” Jemma said. “I have friends here. Will you help me or not?”
“We’ll help you.” Sa’riya moved away at the speed of thought, positioning herself at one-hundred and twenty degrees from Jemma on the far side of the sun. Zi’anna followed, ending up at two-hundred and forty. Jemma remained where she was.
“Let it go.” Sa’riya thought at her.
Jemma released the time-anchor.
The fire from the blast spread through space in all directions, small planets exploded, and gaseous clouds erupted in flame.
They pulled the Orphic energies together between them, creating a triangle of power surrounding the sun. For a few moments, it appeared it might work, but then Zi’anna, who was two one-thousandths of a degree out of position, burst into flames.
“NO!” Sa’riya screamed.
Zi’anna burned like a dying star for thirteen seconds and winked out of existence, the sound of her scream echoed through the universe and rang in Sa’riya’s mind. The negative energy released snapped back into Sa’riya: a massive ball of silver light—it hit her in the chest, and she shined like ten-thousand suns.
She saw Jemma, suspended in space, and looked at where Zi’anna should be. Her eyes filled with tears.
The backlash of power she absorbed opened her mind and made her aware: she instantly understood how the multiverse worked, all of it: she understood things on a sub-atomic scale. She could no longer simply use magic—she was magic and much more.
She looked toward Jemma. The flame-wall would consume her in three seconds.
For two-point-ninety-six seconds, she did nothing… and then…
Sa’riya stopped everything: the explosion, the rotation of the planets, time itself.
She hung suspended in the silence of space, alone with her thoughts. She wouldn’t allow anything to move forward. The multiverse hung in limbo: every single universe, every branch of possibility—every facet of existence. She looked at the heavens around her, thinking how beautiful it all was, and how deadly it could be.
“What is your greatest weakness?”
The voice was in her head; she ignored it.
“Stop ignoring me. What is your greatest weakness?”
“I don’t understand what you mean,” Sa’riya said.
“You lost your sister, but what is your greatest weakness?”
“That I’m alone…”
“No. You’re never truly alone.”
“I don’t understand what you want.”
“Do I have to spell it out?”
“I guess you’ll have to.”
“Fine; your greatest weakness is that you don’t understand your power…”
“Who are you?”
“Some call me Yin, but I have other names.”
“Yin? That’s impossible… there are no Gods.”
“Did I say I was a god?”
“No, but Yin is supposed to be a principle, not a being…”
“Ok, have you ever been wrong before?”
“Of course I have.”
“Well, consider this one of those times.”
“You still haven’t explained what you want from me…”
“I thought it was obvious—I’m trying to teach you something.”
“That I don’t understand my power?”
“And how does that help me?”
“Once you know the right question to ask, the answer will be obvious…”
Dalo sprinted toward the corner where Kat disappeared. The sewer tunnels were pitch-black, but the Nano-suit goggles bathed the brick in an eerie greenish glow: it was like moonlight, but ten-times brighter. Sewage-pipes protruded from both walls. He tried hard not to think about the viscous ooze that flowed from them: a wet, smelly liquid that seeped down and ran into one of two deep channels cut into the floor.
She’s so fast…
Katreena was barely five feet tall, but what she lacked in height she made up for in speed and skill, and attitude.
“You’re so slow…” the comm, built into the Nano-suit hood crackled, “they’re getting away. I thought these suits made you faster?”
“No, just stronger.” Dalo turned the corner and found her: she was standing at a fork in the tunnel, her head bouncing back and forth between the two choices. He stopped next to her and touched the control button on his right eyepiece—the orange heads-up-display popped across his view, and the thermal sensors activated. On the floor of the left tunnel, he could see three glowing-red sets of footprints leading away. He turned to tell her, and fire burned into his eyes— two searing beams of red-orange light.
“Aaagh!” He clawed at the goggles, unsnapping them from the hood. He didn’t fall entirely to his knees, but he was bent severely at the waist.
“Eustas warned you about those sensors and looking at my eyes,” Kat said, the fire in her pupils flaring.
Dalo wanted to sit down but then remembered where he was and reconsidered. He rubbed his eyes, trying to make the stabbing pain go away; when he opened them, all he saw was flame. “You could’ve turned your head.”
“Why should I turn my head?” she asked.
“Because you’re the one that can see in the dark!” Dalo snapped.
Kat laughed. “It’s not my fault that Draggon eyes are superior to human eyes. You’re the Chieftain of the Na’Geena—I’d think you’d be smart enough not to look at me with the sensors on; an orangus could remember that.”
“Right—blind me, then insult my intelligence: classic Kat.” The fire was fading, his vision returning to the inky blackness it should’ve been. He pulled the goggles back on and snapped them in place. “I feel sorry for the Draggons if Darkonus dies.”
“Because you’ll be their Queen…” Dalo turned and started up the left tunnel.
They followed the three sets of prints for half an hour. Dalo insisted she stay behind him; she didn’t like it and told him so, several times, complaining that even an orangus could move faster.
In the weeks since the Draggons first attacked Erador Prime, breaking the eighty-year truce with the humans, he and Katreena formed a weird bond. The fact of who they are could’ve made them arch-enemies: the Na’Geena Chieftain and the Draggon Princess, but they shared the love of the same woman—his mother, Delia. They’d forged a grudging tolerance for each other at first, but it morphed into something closer to respect on both sides.
“Wait…” Dalo crouched and grabbed her forearm to stop her. “Do you hear that?”
He flicked the button, turning the thermal sensors off, and concentrated on the sounds. An occasional splash punctuated the continuous drip-drip-drip of the waste-flow from the pipes; each sound echoed down the tunnel.
In the distance, a metallic scratching noise grated: it was slow and steady, evenly paced. It bounced off the walls like the liquid sewer-symphony and became distorted. His imagination worked to match the sound to an image in his mind, but he came up empty. “What do you think that is?” he whispered.
Kat leaned close and put her lips next to his ear. “It’s the sound of Draggon steel on a whetstone.” She pushed in front of him, drawing her daggers, The Twin Fangs, from the sheath at the base of her neck.
He grabbed her elbow and stopped her; she spun around and glared at him. Thank the gods he’d shut the sensors off: the flame in her eyes lit the tunnel twenty-feet behind him. “Eustas wanted us to follow them, not attack them.”
“We’ve found what we wanted: we know how they’re getting inside. I don’t see the point in following them anymore…” Her face was hard, the corners of her mouth drawn into a grimace of hate.
After Darkonus killed Delia, Kat launched herself on a murderous rampage against her kind, intent on balancing the life she’d lost to her father’s betrayal, with hundreds that he cared for, and she had an excellent start. She had the highest personal body-count of dead Draggons since the war started—more than her uncle, Karal, and Dalo saw him take on three Draggons at once and not break a sweat.
He wasn’t sure if Draggons did sweat, now that he thought about it. “I don’t want you to get lost in this, Kat.”
“Lost in the sewers?”
“Lost in revenge.”
She shook her head and yanked her arm free. “Revenge will be this blade,” she held the right Fang up, “shoved into my father’s chest while I watch the fire in his eyes burn out. Are you with me, Chieftain? Or is all the big talk about the Na’Geena words to frighten children?”
“Eustas is gonna kill us.” Dalo shook his head.
“We’ll say they attacked us.” She turned toward the sound and crept away. “Which is what will happen, if we can get a little closer…”
He sighed and followed.
Eustas Callus keyed the controls of the jump-ship to accept Cord’s biometrics.
Cord placed his palm on the scan-plate; the screen turned a lime-green color and flashed three times.
“One more.” Eustas handed him an earpiece, and Cord inserted it. “Say your full name, title first.”
“King Cord Bennett Aristan…”
“Bennett?” Eustas raised one eyebrow and grinned.
“It’s an old family name,” Cord looked like he’d swallowed something sour, “all the men in my family share it. I hate it.”
“Well, it’s very Regal, your Majesty…” Eustas winked and slapped him on the shoulder. “Remember now—this is my ship—please don’t break it…”
“You have my word.” Cord grabbed the hand Eustas thrust toward him and shook it. “If something happens to it, though, would you like to trade for a nice bigger ship?”
Eustas eyes narrowed. “No, I want this one back—no scratches in the paint…”
“You got it, General.” Cord followed him out the hatch to where Sammi was waiting. “It’s my home-moon, and I’m the King, what could go wrong?”
Eustas turned to watch them loading their gear aboard the ship. They each had a tactical bag, and on top were strapped the new Nano-suits he’d given them moments before. “I wish I had time to teach you how to use those suits.”
“There’s a tutorial built into the operating system, isn’t there?” Cord asked.
“Yes, but it’s hard to follow, took me forever,” Eustas said.
Cord grinned. “Well, like I said, what could go wrong? We’ll be gone for three days: long enough to assemble my army and get to the portal. There’s enough energy left in our power-cell to open it from our end. What about the power-cell plans that Alisha brought back from Caralon?”
“My chief scientist, Carolus, says there’s an element required that doesn’t exist on Erador or any of the moons.” Eustas pulled his pipe and smoke from his breast pocket. “If he can’t find a substitute, we’ll never get the Draggon-guns working. We need your help, Cord; you’ve seen what these Draggons are capable of.”
“Yes… I have…” Thoughts of blood and violence flashed through Cord’s memory…
Twenty-five minutes before the attack…
“The city-shield, it’s not active!” Garrian turned to Eustas. “We need to get it working.”
“There’s a problem with that…” Eustas ushered them all into his office through the huge glass doors that led out to the balcony. “As I said, there are Draggons inside the city, and I think they’ve secured the gate-room controls for the shield.”
“How did that happen?” Arriana asked, her typical sneer was absent, replaced by fear.
“That’s still uncertain,” Eustas said, “but I have a man that can get us into the gate-room to turn the shield on.”
“Is this going to be an easy thing…” Zevo slid one sword from his back and inspected the edge, “or should I send a letter home?”
“Look,” Eustas said, “if I’m right, there are at least four Draggons inside that control room.”
“What?” Garrian stared at his father. “How would you know that? How would they get in?”
Eustas put his hands behind his back and paced the floor in front of his desk. “We’ve been watching them for a while.”
“Who?” Garrian asked.
“The Draggons…” Eustas looked at him and shook his head.
“No, I mean, who’s been watching them?”
Eustas understood. “The Vir’Con.”
“And you didn’t tell me?”
“So much has been going on… there hasn’t been time,” Eustas said.
Cord watched them arguing and saw it going nowhere. “How fast does a Draggon fly?”
They all turned toward him and stared, perplexed by the odd question.
He searched their faces and repeated, “How fast does a Draggon fly?”
Kat nodded agreement. “Yeah, we have at least twenty minutes before they get here from Krasus Cauldron. We should hurry.”
“Are you Ok, Cord?” Sammi shook his shoulder.
He turned and walked into the ship, pulling her with him. “Yeah, I’m Ok, just concerned about everyone. Thanks for coming back to Haylon with me. You didn’t have to.”
“I want to." She smiled at him and brushed the blond hair away from his face. “You’re all by yourself, so am I—it made sense that we go together.”
Sammi was beautiful: one of the ten most beautiful women Cord ever met. At the moment, he couldn’t recall what number she was amongst the ten, but it was very high.
At least eight, probably higher, and I like her…
Cord smiled and tossed his bag against the rear bulkhead. “Well, let’s see if we can make this thing go…”
Eustas walked away from the ship, headed toward the Senate building. He took the road through the market district—rocks and rubble and burned-out buildings were the only things left. Workers loaded broken bits of brick into cargo-rollers; he nodded as he passed.
They took the bodies away weeks ago, but he could still picture them in his mind; he could still smell the bittersweet aroma of burning flesh…
Eighteen minutes before the attack…
They ran across the square, headed for the control tower, Kat was at least twenty yards ahead of them, Zevo on her tail. She was yanking on the door when they caught up, screaming Draggon obscenities that none but Karal understood.
“Step aside.” Karal grabbed the handle and braced his foot against the wall—the flames in his eyes lit the surface of the door—it groaned a metal death-sigh as he ripped it from the hinges and tossed it away.
They flowed up the stairs, Garrian in the lead. The security door that blocked their access to the control tower was three feet thick and solid Duranium. Garrian turned to Karal, but the Draggon shook his head and shrugged.
“I have a man inside, step back… but be ready.” Eustas put his hand on the scan-plate.
Garrian looked at him. “Isn’t it supposed to open?”
Eustas stepped back and shook his head. “He’s probably dead already…”
Alisha leaned forward and put her hands on the door. The metal around her palms glowed white-hot; the door clicked and slid open. Three Draggons in human form were waiting on the other side, and one more across the room holding a dagger against Rance Hilliard’s throat.
She focused on the most immediate threat. She shoved the Draggon holding Rance away in her thoughts—in reality, it flew twenty feet across the room and hit the slanted-glass window of the observation tower. She held it there with her mind, imagining a giant hand driving it against the glass, unable to move. She considered shoving it through, to die on the concrete below—it would be so easy…
Karal slid Strife and Discord from their sheaths; it took the length of one heartbeat. He pushed Alisha back as the closest Draggon lunged toward her. Garrian caught her and pulled her to him.
Karal ducked under the blow of the first Draggon and shoved a dagger into his heart. He rolled to his right and came up beneath the second and stuck a blade into his right thigh, which took him off his feet. The Draggon fell, screaming in pain. The third Draggon was slow, and Discord sank into his chest from twelve feet away, propelled by the force of Karal’s throw. The beast staggered back, clutching the dagger and slid down a control console to the floor, the fire in his eyes fading.
Kat clapped eagerly and slapped Karal on the shoulder. “That was good, Uncle…”
“Thank you.” He winked and yanked Discord from the dead Draggon’s chest; the formless void-wraith inside the pommel-crystal was restless, yearning for more.
“But, you left one alive…” She drew a Fang from her sheath and slit the throat of the screaming Draggon. The sound changed from a shriek, to wet gurgling death. She wiped the blood from her blade on his cape. The only noise left in the room was from the Draggon Alisha pressed against the window.
“Are you choking him?” Dalo shook her, watching her face. The Draggon was struggling to breathe, his hands at his throat and legs thrashing against the glass.
“You don’t think I should?” Her eyes were cold.
He looked into the chilly depths but could find no bottom. It was unsettling. “I’m not sure how you can…”.
“What do you mean?” she asked, her face a mask.
He pointed at the choking beast. “Draggons are resistant to magic.”
“This one isn’t.” She grinned, an odd twinkle in her eyes.
“Let him go so that we can question him…” Dalo said.
She looked at him, but he didn’t recognize her: something significant had changed. A chill ran down his spine.
“Fine, play with your Draggon…” She walked away, heading down the stairs. The Draggon slid from the glass and took a huge breath as it hit the floor, falling on hands and knees, gasping and choking.
Dalo watched Alisha go, a distant look on his face.
“What is it?” Eustas saw the concern.
“I’m not sure… but I’m going to find out.”
Garrian disconnected the stasis-pod from the clamps holding it to the wall. He punched three buttons on the control panel, and the mechanical hoist lifted the pod.
Zevo pushed the transport cart beneath it, making sure the pins lined up with the holes. “Ok, that’s good, let it down.”
The pod descended with a metallic whirrr and a clunk as the metal surfaces met. Garrian punched one last button, transferring the pod’s power-source from his ship, Vengeance, to the battery in the cart.
He looked through the glass face of the pod at the body of his mother-in-law. Delia looked peaceful. If not for the blood staining the front of her robe, and the twin dagger-wounds in her chest, he might’ve thought she was asleep.
“Everything looks Ok…” Zevo checked the readouts, “but these batteries only last about thirty minutes, so we better move.”
They maneuvered the cart out of the ship and down the ramp, with a minimum of bumps, bruises, and scraped knuckles.
Arriana was waiting for them on the landing pad, accompanied by four Adepts in white robes. They’d backed a roller up to the ship, with a ramp. It took all seven of them to push the stasis-pod up the steep incline, but they managed.
“Ok,” Arriana grabbed both of their hands, “we can take her from here.”
“Why did we need to bring her to Cirrus?” Zevo asked.
“Because something could happen to your ship, but Draggons can’t fly through the vacuum of space. She’ll be safe here until you can get Darkonus’ daggers.”
“What about the Trans-pods,” Garrian asked, “couldn’t they use those?”
“We’ve adjusted the transducers to screen-out Draggon DNA. It was Eustas’ idea—a good one, I admit...” The sour look on her face didn’t escape them.
Garrian nodded and grunted satisfaction. “I would still be vigilant. As long as The Prophet and the Draggons are aligned, they’re going to want Delia dead.”
“As far as they know, she is dead,” Arriana said.
“Let’s keep their knowledge limited to that,” Garrian nodded. “We already have Draggon spies in Erador Prime—it’s not a huge stretch to think you might have the same problem here. They’ve had eighty-years to plan this.”
Garrian and Zevo watched the roller drive away toward the city, and ultimately the Cirrian School of Orphic Mysteries. The yellow sun peeked above the horizon as they took their seats and prepared the ship for launch. They each had a series of switches to flick and buttons to punch.
Zevo finished first. The planetary-drive rumbled to life, and he glanced at Garrian. “How do you think Dalo and Kat are doing, tracking down their entry-point?”
“I hate to guess,” he said, “but even if they find it, I still think there are Draggons inside the city that we don’t know about.”
“Because of what the one in the tower said?” Zevo asked.
Seven minutes before the attack…
Garrian watched Karal haul the breathless Draggon from the floor and lift him off his feet.
“Darkonus is getting tricky:” Karal said, “he’s never used subterfuge before. What was your plan here, to gain control of the shield?”
The Draggon spit in Karal’s face.
Karal tightened the one-handed grip on his throat and wiped it off. “You will tell me. Save yourself some pain.”
“You’ll kill me anyway; what do I have to gain?” he gasped, teeth clenched.
“Kill you?” Karal grinned and turned to Dalo. “I’ve got something far more painful in mind.”
Dalo nodded and drew Bloodrender—he held it out in front of him, away from the others, and looked at Katreena. Kat shifted into Draggon-form and huffed: a deep breath, followed by a stream of Draggon-fire that lit the blade and made it burn.
Karal spun the Draggon around, so his back was toward them. Dalo ran the tip of the flaming sword down it, starting at his neck and ending at his waist. He did it slowly, to maximize the pain. The leather armor split and burned away with a sizzle, along with the flesh. The sound of the Draggon’s scream echoed from the slanted glass walls of the tower.
“You have a lot of skin left,” Karal shook him by the throat, “and that sword will burn for a while…”
“Ok!” The Draggon’s face twisted in agony. “Yes, we were supposed to secure this room to prevent them from raising the shield.”
“And how are you able to disguise yourselves?” Karal pulled his face closer, examining his sky-blue eyes. “How did you mask your eyes?”
“A glamor, cast upon us by The Prophet.”
“So, she is behind this…” Eustas nodded, “I figured as much.”
“Uh,” Garrian was staring out the window, “I think we’re out of time…”
They all turned.
A black cloud of Draggons descended upon the city. The haze roiled and churned, fire spewing from it as Draggons targeted buildings and people caught in the open. The buildings caught fire and burned—the people did too: flaming bodies running everywhere, human torches spreading Draggon-flame.
They couldn’t hear much inside the tower, it was like watching a holo-vid with the sound turned down, but Garrian imagined the noise of the carnage in his head: the frightened screams; the roar of flame and flap of wings. Hundreds of souls left vulnerable died where they stood. They set a significant portion of the city ablaze and buildings burned to ashes.
The Draggons that landed inside the city continued to wreak havoc: most continued to burn things, but some took pleasure in the slaughter, ripping people apart with claws and blades. The blood flowed, loosed by violence, and driven by hate until the streets ran red.
Eustas spun toward Lieutenant Rance Hilliard. “Where’s Major Talek?”
“They killed him.” Rance shook his head, pointing toward a door across the room. “His body is in there.”
“Did you get the code from him?” Eustas asked, grabbing his arm.
Rance pulled a scrap of paper from his breast pocket. “I think so,” he unfolded it, “it’s a combination of birth-dates: his, his wife’s, his kid’s… but I don’t know if they’re in the right order…”
“Well, you didn’t give me much time.”
Eustas ran to the door and palmed the scan-plate, it slid aside with a soft whoosh, revealing the body of Major Talek. Eustas slid Foulwarder from its sheath and pointed at Rance. “Pick up his arm.”
He swung down hard, severing the Major’s right hand above the wrist, grabbed it, and ran to the control console, a crimson line of bloody drops trailing behind him. He motioned for Rance to follow.
Eustas placed the severed limb on the scan-plate and looked at the note that Rance held up—there were four sets of numbers. He entered them the way Rance wrote them down.
The scan-plate flashed red three times.
“Which one is his?” Eustas asked.
“The first one.” Rance held his finger on it.
“And his wife’s?”
“The third, I think…” Rance understood, he wanted them in sequence, first to last, oldest to youngest. He pulled a stylus from his pocket and wrote a number from one to four next to each set. “I think that’s right.”
Eustas punched the sequence of numbers in, and the scan-plate flashed green.
The city-shield was only ten years old: a piece of technology they’d gleaned from the abandoned alien ship. They’d tested it twice: the first time by firing a plasma cannon at it—in a direction that wouldn’t damage anything if it didn’t work. It was a success: the shield absorbed the bolt, a shimmering blue dome above the city.
The second test was more ambitious and designed to determine if magic could pierce it. Five elder Adepts focused their energies at the shield for three days in a combined assault. They tried fire, water, air, and earth magic—nothing got through.
Eustas slapped a large red button in the center of the console. A red light mounted on top of the panel revolved, and a siren screamed wahhh-wahhh-wahhh from somewhere outside.
The swarm of Draggons caught up in their murderous rampage, paid no attention, believing they held the upper hand.
The shield built at the edges, the emitters on each wall-tower forming a grid that encompassed the city. The shimmering curtain of energy formed a dome, and caught within the spread of power were hundreds of Draggons; they burst into bright white explosions of fire, like the flash at the end of a plasma pistol. Thin trails of smoke drifting into the air, blown away by the breeze.
Karal still held the Draggon infiltrator by the throat, the thin flaming wound down his back smoldering. He spun him around and pushed him toward the window so he could watch the other Draggons die as the shield formed. “How’s your plan going now?”
The look on his face was defiant: like someone at the end of their rope, holding on by a thread—dreading the fall, but having one last thing to say. “This isn’t the end: we’ve only begun. It’s the first battle in a war you can’t win.”
“Seems we’re doing good so far…” Zevo laughed.
Garrian was still staring out the window in horror at the desolation when he saw Alisha walk out of the tower door below.
Three minutes after the attack…
The Draggons that landed inside the wall escaped death-by-the-shield, having not been flying through it when it activated; they rampaged about in different parts of the city.
Alisha walked into the merchant-district square. The buildings on both sides of the street were ablaze; smoldering bodies lay everywhere. The smoke was choking, and it made her angry, it burned her eyes. There was a Draggon to her left, an enormous beast, and it saw her. It turned toward her and charged across the square, the yellow eyes glowing brighter, anticipating an easy kill.
She wasn’t afraid—she was numb: like when she killed Zaril. She remembered the Redfruit on the table in the dwindling forest, remembered the feeling when she’d destroyed it, remembered how good it felt—and she glowed. The Draggon was almost on top of her when the silver fire devoured her, and she gave in to Yang. That feeling of unbridled rage churned through her and consumed her mind, setting every nerve and sense on edge.
The Draggon lunged for her, and she held her hand up—it froze in mid-air, the murderous look on its face suspended in time.
She walked around it, curiously examining it from all sides, and then she eliminated it: she erased it from existence with a thought. It disappeared—sent to wherever things go that don’t exist anymore. She nodded, satisfied with the result, and then she thought about all the other Draggons left in the city, and she made them go away. An enormous silver-white pulse exploded from her, moving outward like a wave on water, from a pebble of tremendous power dropped into a pond of hate—every Draggon it hit vanished in a flash.
Alisha took a deep breath and smiled. She walked up the road toward home, the silver flames slowly fading as she went.
Garrian and Dalo glanced at each other with wide eyes and watched her go from the tower.
The Draggons gathered around a portable plasma-lamp. It sat on the floor beneath a metal grate leading to the surface. The luminescent glow lit the sewer walls and cast shadows about. There were three of them. The one sharpening his daggers looked at the other two and sighed. “Sit down. Why are you so nervous?”
“They’re late. They should’ve brought our orders by now…”
“They’ve been late every time.”
“That doesn’t make me feel better.”
“Hey… are you waiting for something?” Kat yanked the Nano-suit hood from her head and tossed it aside, shutting off the suit’s stealth mode and releasing the short blond hair trapped beneath. She stepped toward them.
They looked down the tunnel and saw her with the Twin Fangs in her hands, and her eyes burned like the yellow sun at first light.
“Wait, Princess!” The leader held his palms forward. “What did we do to offend you?”
“You follow my father, and he owes me a life, which makes you responsible for it too…” She inched forward, each step bringing her closer to striking distance.
“But, we’re supposed to… he’s the King.” The leader took one step back.
“That’s because you can’t think for yourselves,” she said.
“I don’t understand…”
“No, and you never will...” She threw one dagger at the leader. The blade punctured his throat and knocked him back against the wall, blood gushing from his mouth. She rolled forward and came back to her feet, yanking the dagger from his throat as he fell.
She spun around and drew the other blade across the neck of the second Draggon. Blood sprayed the wall beside them and coated the floor. The floor got slick, and she slipped. Off-balance and out of reach, she couldn’t get to the third Draggon. He smiled and pulled his daggers from their sheath and stepped toward her.
She was helpless, lying on her back in a pool of black Draggon-blood.
Dalo swung Bloodrender; the blade severed the third Draggon’s head—it bounced off the wall and hit the stone floor of the tunnel with a dull thud. Rolling into a corner, it stopped, the lifeless eyes staring at them.
“This doesn’t mean I owe you…” she said.
Dalo laughed and grabbed her hand, pulling her from the floor. “Yes, it does…”