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Darkbeam part i, p.24
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       Darkbeam Part I, p.24

           Adrienne Woods
 
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  I shrugged. Pretend not to care: that was the new motto. She was merely dragon spawn.

  “So what?” Arianna asked. “We have to train her?” She sounded confused.

  “Yes, with enchantments, princess, as professor Deisenberg told me you are advanced in your class.”

  She straightened, smiling. She would freeze when push came to shove.

  “As for you, Lucian,” Master Longwei said, “Art of War. Teach her to be a warrior.”

  I didn’t like the way he said warrior. It was like he was speaking code, telling Lucian to train her to claim the Rubicon.

  “Cheng, bring her up to date with Paegeia’s history.”

  I squinted. Enchantments, Art of War, History. He was trying to get everyone else to put two and two together about who the spawn was.

  “Blake,” he said.

  “No,” I spoke without thinking.

  Master Longwei’s eyes twitched and his mouth opened partially. “I don’t think you have a say in this one.”

  “I’m not going to teach her to speak Latin. Teaching a mere human, less than that, dragon spawn, how to speak Latin is impossible. You know it.”

  “Try,” he said. “That’s all I’m asking.”

  “You are wasting our time. The Viden is right. You should listen to her.”

  Shut the fuck up. You idiot.

  I took a deep breath instead and gave him a not-impressed, couldn’t-care-less look.

  “I see about wasting your time, Mr. Leaf.” He rose and glided toward me. “And what would you do if I thought I was wasting my time, let’s say, with you?” He looked me straight in the eyes, invading my personal space.

  “Fine. I’ll try,” I mumbled.

  “Good.” He sounded like himself again. “That’s all I wanted to hear.” He went to sit back down and handed us each a piece of paper. We had a fucking schedule now. “You may go.”

  I was out first. I crumpled up the piece of paper after seeing something like Thursday in the library.

  Lucian mumbled something about me needing to take things seriously, but I didn’t stop to listen.

  I couldn’t believe that I was going to teach the spawn how to communicate with the beast.

  That weekend I used the Fire-Cain that I’d hidden from Master Longwei. Constance wasn’t here and Julia was hardly a dragon.

  It would knock me out until next Sunday. Then maybe I wouldn’t have to teach the little shit a thing.

  The entire weekend I was out of it. I had no idea what the hell was going on around me.

  I snapped out of it on Monday. I don’t know how it happened. A dose like that usually kicked me out for a week.

  I was either getting very strong and dark, or the spawn had something to do with it. Something that was unexplainable to everyone except professor coo-coo with her fascination for bonds and whatnot.

  The next few days zoomed by. The more I wanted to go and get more Fire-Cain and just skip Thursday altogether, the harder fate started to push. It was as if she was already starting to count off the days until my claiming.

  I wasn’t anybody’s lamb or property. I was the Rubicon, not some pathetic little girl’s lapdog.

  I ran into George. I actually stopped and gawked at him and Rebecca Johnson walking hand-in-hand, all giddy, laughing at each other’s jokes.

  When the hell did this happen? I knew she’d claimed him, but when had this happened?

  They were talking about a saddle being made. I was speechless. He’d become her lapdog. He’d sworn he would never belong to her. He hated her, for crying out loud.

  The Dent wasn’t real. A tidal wave of incoherent emotion rushed through me. It wasn’t real. It was merely a spell. A spell that forced us to love and protect them. Enslaved us.

  I was seeing the proof with my own two eyes.

  George Mills had hated every inch of Rebecca Johnson and now? Now they were talking about what color hair their children would have.

  The Dent was not real. It was a treachery of the highest magnitude. And I was the only one who knew the truth.

  By the time Thursday rolled around, I wasn’t myself at all. To be honest, I hadn’t been myself since the spawn made her appearance, and I needed to change that. I need to carry on the way I always had, without feeling. I didn’t even know what this feeling was. All I knew was I’d never felt anything like this before and I couldn’t explain it, but I DID NOT LIKE IT!

  And now I was sitting like an idiot in the library of all places, waiting for her to arrive.

  I wouldn’t have come. But Lucian had begged me. I hated when he begged. I closed my eyes reliving that afternoon yesterday

  “Pleeeease, she needs your help, Blake.”

  “You have no idea what you’re asking of me, Lucian.”

  “No, I do,” he said. “I know that, deep down inside, you are still there. You still care. My friend is still in there. And I will never give up on you. Please, just help her. Maybe—who knows?—it might be good for you to help someone else for a change.”

  I relented. He was so hopeful. I wasn’t, but I hated to disappoint him.

  I felt it before I saw her. The tightening of my skin, the cold finger rushing up my spine, my skin crawling. My stomach lurching. I didn’t know how the hell I was going to get through this. I took a deep breath, cleared my head, and tried to calm my stomach.

  She finally entered the library and looked around like an idiot. She shuffled toward me. She didn’t even walk with confidence. What the hell was the universe thinking, pairing this witless, meek creature with the mighty Rubicon? Eons later, she reached my table.

  Nothing. She said nothing. Just stared.

  I wielded a shield around us, one she didn’t even seem to notice.

  “Io, Elena,” I greeted her. A basic Latin greeting.

  She at least snapped out of her staring—but went straight to frowning.

  “I told Master Longwei that this is a mistake,” I said in Latin, fast too. “But he really thinks I can teach you Latin. Honestly, I don’t want to teach you anything. I want you to fail. You don’t belong here, no matter what the universe…” Easy, Blake. You are not the only dragon in the library. Though my insides were snarling, but my words came out as if I were merely bored.

  “You have nothing to say in reply?” I mocked her. “I think it’s time for me to …”

  She shook her head with vigor. “What?”

  “Yeah,” I said, still in Latin. “I’m wasting my time. Good day, Elena.” I nodded my farewell, glad that this was over.

  “Blake, please!” she cried.

  An invisible force made me stop. I tried to take another step forward but I couldn’t. What was this?

  “I really need your help. I don’t want to fail.”

  I tried to move, but nothing. I couldn’t panic, not here. Plenty of amused onlookers were watching us.

  This was the Dent, this fucked-up bond. ALREADY?

  “Please,” she begged again.

  A growl left my mouth. She hadn’t even claimed me yet and part of me was already yielding to her. The beast didn’t like it one bit. He was roaring in my head. She was an insignificant little spawn but she had this strange hold on me.

  Calm down, Blake. Calm down. Hide it. I took a deep breath and struggled to calm down. One thing was clear: I was going to teach her Latin whether I wanted to or not. “Fine, but if you cry, I’m done.”

  Latin. Let’s see how hard I can push. If dragons and magic hadn’t broken her, maybe Latin would.

  The lesson was harder for me than it was for her apparently. By some miracle, she didn’t cry.

  The minute my hour was up, I was gone. I mumbled something about not being late next Thursday. I had to get away from her. My stomach could only handle so much. I threw up the minute I reached the bathroom down the hall.

  When I left my stall, a couple of guys looked at me funny. “I must have eaten a sick deer or something,” I grumbled. They chuckled, leaving it there.

 
I found Lucian on the bed. His eyebrows rose as I fell on the couch and switched on the TV. I felt better.

  “See, that wasn’t so hard, now was it?” Lucian cajoled.

  “She’s not getting anything. Her pronunciation is atrocious. I’m wasting my time.”

  Lucian chuckled. “Nobody is perfect in Latin, Blake. Well, except you. Give her time. She’s picking the other things up quite quickly. I would love to see her claim a dragon one day.” His gaze was steady on me.

  “What?” I glared.

  He smiled. “Nothing.”

  Lucian knew. He’d always known. I had to change that somehow.

  On Friday, Lucian didn’t leave. He was sulking. If she wasn’t who I thought she was, I would probably sleep with her just to piss him off, but I couldn’t. Who knew what fucked-up shit the Dent would do?

  Tabitha stayed with us and Lucian was somewhere else.

  It was weird how I didn’t like that. A part of me hated the fact that he’d gone after the spawn. That she was with him.

  She wasn’t his.

  I didn’t want her, but she wasn’t his.

  It was probably a dragon thing. It was upsetting that she made me feel like this.

  The redhead popped in my mind. The last time I’d dreamt about her, she’d been bawling because I didn’t love her. Why had she been a redhead in the dream?

  I used. Tabitha used too and we screwed each other’s brains out the rest of the weekend.

  Sunday, late afternoon, Lucian got in. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he remarked when he saw Tabitha’s naked form sprawled across my bed. He stared at me.

  “Leave if you don’t like it.”

  “I’m not going anywhere, Blake.” He rolled his eyes. “I live here, remember?”

  I didn’t care if he disapproved. Sex was what I needed and lately the beast didn’t really worry who I got it from. Irene, Tabitha... just as long as it wasn’t the spawn.

  Just then a siren rang out. It was ear-splitting—and unprecedented.

  “What is it?” Lucian shouted over the alarm.

  Paegeia was in danger.

  I slapped Tabitha on the ass. She woke up. The fear on her face as she registered the strange siren was real. It was a Snow Dragon thing. She dressed frantically as Lucian left.

  I had to admit, the siren was making my scales vibrate too. For some reason, I didn’t want to be in this room. I wanted to be somewhere else.

  Lucian would find her.

  Why did I keep having these unwelcome thoughts? I didn’t want to be claimed, but… what? So confusing. “Hurry up,” I growled.

  “I’m coming.” She pulled on her shoes and we headed out into the hall.

  Outside, we followed the flow of students down the stairs to the auditorium. Everyone was abuzz with speculation—“What’s going on? What does this mean? Did someone die? Has there been a disaster?”

  I pursed my lips and said nothing, yanking Tabitha along in my wake.

  Once inside the auditorium, I searched for her. I found Lucian and she was right next to him. My scales eased up marginally.

  I didn’t tune in to their conversation. I didn’t want to hear her fears. I couldn’t. I shouldn’t worry. Why did I worry? This was freaking me out.

  My eyes found Irene’s. She squinted. I looked away. She couldn’t put two and two together now. I couldn’t survive without her. And she might abandon me if she suspected I had a Dent with the spawn. I took a deep, uneasy breath. When I looked at Irene again, she was speaking to Sir Edward.

  They had no idea why the sirens were going off.

  I had to keep myself sitting on the chair to stop myself from running up to her.

  Fuck.

  I hated this. I hated feeling this way. This was seriously fucked up. All I could think was that Lucian wasn’t protecting her well enough.

  Stop it, Blake.

  Maybe it was a Dent thing.

  It sure as hell wasn’t me.

  “The King of Lion sword has been stolen.” Master Longwei’s voice echoed over a microphone.

  “What?” Tabitha whispered in shock next to me.

  The King of Lion sword. My mind spun out of control. It didn’t matter what the theories were, the fact that the legendary sword was gone was a problem. If Goran ever made it out of Etan, that sword was the only weapon that could defeat him.

  How? Was he behind this?

  I didn’t give a crap about Elena now.

  I only wanted to get that sword back, but I had no fucking idea how.

  “Did you hear that?” Tabitha sounded petrified.

  “Calm down.” Irritation sharpened my voice. I hated the way Snow Dragons acted in times of need. Damn cowards.

  Everyone was talking at once, an anxious cloud of chatter. I couldn’t make out what they were all saying, but it boiled down to the same concerns I had: That sword was critical to Paegeia’s survival.

  “Silence!” Master Longwei’s voice roared. “There is no reason to panic yet. Members of the Royal Council are searching for it as we speak. However, we must keep guard for any sign of danger. Dragonia will be one of the first places they attack in the event of war.”

  You sure about that, old man? The thought flew through my mind. I was the Rubicon; I had the Pink Kiss. They were going to see their asses with this one.

  “We will have watch groups in place first thing tomorrow morning,” Master Longwei said. He rattled off names. I was obviously among them.

  Why, why, why, does he always call on me? Dumb question. Because I was the Rubicon.

  Everyone got up at his dismissal. My eyes caught on Elena and Lucian kissing.

  “I’ll tell you what I know, okay?” he said to her and she nodded.

  I looked away. I walked through the back door after Brian took Tabitha and led her out the same way as the rest of the student body. I found Cheng, Lionel, James, and Lucian in Master Longwei’s office.

  Cheng’s eyes rested on mine. He was a Crown-Tail and thought too much for his own stupid good. He could easily ferret out my secret.

  What if she figured it out? She’d been learning history with Cheng. But no. She wouldn’t. She wasn’t brave enough to even consider claiming a dragon, not to mention me.

  “We have to guard the school until the sword is found. I meant it when I said they will come to the school first. Eliminating you, Blake, is one of the first things they will do.”

  “Or try recruiting him,” Lionel interjected.

  I gaped at him. So did Lucian and Master Longwei.

  “What I’m saying is, it’s not like he’s been peaches and cream this year.”

  I scowled. “I’m still here, aren’t I?”

  Lionel shook his head somewhat sadly.

  I swear some of these Dragonians think they’re the shit.

  Master Longwei carried on. School would be cancelled for the next few weeks until the Council and the king’s guards found the King of Lion sword. King Helmut and King Caleb had both sent out search parties to accompany the Council.

  My stomach knotted. I hadn’t felt this much unease in such a long time.

  Irene’s name was mentioned and I froze. “She’s what?” I asked. Be cool, Blake.

  “Irene is in charge of putting the watch groups together, Blake.”

  “What groups?”

  “Everyone is being paired up for watch duty.”

  I started to chuckle. “Even me?”

  “If danger comes, you can shift and do what it is you do, while your team member can alert the rest of us to the attack.”

  The way he put it didn’t sound as insulting as I originally took it. “Okay, fine,” I said grudgingly.

  Please, don’t let it be someone pathetic.

  I couldn’t visit Irene that night; Eddie and Greg were with her for hours. My mind went there: a threesome. She wouldn’t. They wouldn’t. Stop it, Blake, Irene isn’t stupid. Well, that wasn’t entirely true, either. She’d got mixed up with my shit, hadn’t she?

&n
bsp; The next morning, all the watch assignments were hung out on the wall. Hung magically overnight by the faculty.

  Everyone was still asleep.

  I went to the wall outside the cafeteria and found our names. There were five groups. The group leaders were Lucian, Lionel, James, Cheng, and myself. Then individual pairings were listed within each group.

  Sammy was in Lionel’s group. She was paired with Lucian’s friend, Dean.

  Brian was paired with Brittainy. I remembered the joke Tabitha had cracked in the beginning goody-two-shoes Britt being able to lead me down a good path. Such a long time ago.

  Tabitha was paired with Lucian.

  George was paired with Becky.

  I froze. No, no, no, no. I found my group and looked at who was with me. The spawn.

  My eyes skimmed the names. No one was paired with the same species. All of the teams were Dragon and Dragonian. I knew what this was.

  Irene had seen it. Maybe not crystal clear. But something about danger, this level of danger, unleashed her power. She had seen something.

  Irene had paired all the dragons with their riders, whether they were already claimed or not.

  I didn’t like it one bit.

  Sammy was going to be Dean’s dragon. My father would just love that.

  Lucian was a snow wielder and one day he would claim Tabitha. That thought should’ve infuriated me, but it didn’t.

  I wouldn’t be alive anymore when that happened. Rubicons didn’t reach advanced age. I wasn’t going to roll over and get claimed. I’d rather die a dragon intact than one tamed. Especially by that weakling.

  I stalked away before people started to wake up and I had to encounter any vapid discussion of the pairings.

  The knowledge that she was going to guard the front gate with me for more than eight hours was already making me uncomfortable.

  How was I going to hide this secret? It was who she was, what she represented. It was making me feel trapped, full of loathing.

  The mere thought of her made my stomach roil. She would never be enough. If Lucian couldn’t tame me, she wouldn’t be able to either. She wasn’t enough.

  I ended up in Irene’s tower again. She was ill at ease, a ball of nervous energy. “What if something happens and they catch you here?”

 
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