Queen of the dragons, p.1
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       Queen of the Dragons, p.1

           K.N. Lee
 
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Queen of the Dragons


  Queen of the Dragons

  Dragon-Born Book Three

  K.N. Lee

  Patchwork Press

  Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Epilogue

  An Exclusive Excerpt from Truth & Glory

  About the Author

  Also by K.N. Lee

  More Great Reads by K.N. LEE

  Copyright © 2017 by K.N. Lee

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

  Created with Vellum

  For my Fans

  Chapter 1

  The gods were not on his side on this day. White cords of lightning stretched across the darkening sky as Rickard fought the gusty winds of the Wastelands in a feeble attempt to catch up to the Red Dragon. A roar emerged from his gut and out of his mouth, sending flames into the air. Full of anguish and pain, it seemed to rumble the ground below. Still, it was to no avail.

  The Red Dragon had Rowen, and he was too fast, too strong, and more powerful than any Dragon Rickard had ever fought.

  As Rickard watched her be swept away by the Red Dragon, his mind raced. Defeated, Rickard hovered in the air and tried to follow them with his eyes as they vanished into the gray storm clouds.

  No.

  Rowen slipped from his fingers. Nothing about this day was good. Not one bit.

  The pain that burned in his chest was nearly debilitating. There was no way he could chase after them—not with the injury he’d suffered at the Dragon’s sharp red talon. So, helpless, and with frustration overwhelming every emotion, he was forced to let her be taken.

  The prophecy never said it would happen like this. There were too many factors he didn’t account for. Perhaps all would be well—maybe this was as it should be.

  He could only hope. He wasn’t one to leave his fate in the hands of anyone but his own.

  Then, he remembered something—perhaps the only thing that could help him save her.

  The map.

  He flew to the dusty burnt-orange dirt that spread across the entire valley of the Wastelands. With arms wings outstretched, he shifted back into his human form and despite the gash at his side, landed with grace.

  He spat blood onto the ground and wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve. The once stunning mermaid looked more like a beggar woman as her dark skin had dried out to a texture similar to parchment. She and the young human man stood near his dear old foe. A foe who never even knew they were in a race for the same treasure.

  “Captain Elian Westin,” Rickard said, crossing the distance between the two. Blond hair and bright gray eyes. He was Rowen’s father all right. They even shared the same complexion, which was fairer than any Dragon in Withrae.

  He would have never believed that the two were bound by blood if Nimah hadn’t told him. He still grappled with that fact and had yet to make sense of it. The pirate was connected to this prophecy somehow. He just couldn’t figure out how exactly.

  Not yet.

  The mermaid lifted her sword to him, rushing forward with a feral growl and fire in her fierce green eyes. He shot her a glare, and pushed her aside with one arm. She stumbled backward and landed on her bottom. The young man glanced down at her, held his hands up in surrender, and stepped away.

  Smart lad.

  Rickard stood a few inches taller than Elian, and with one hand, and the strength of his Dragon blood and that of his ancestors, he lifted the older man by his collar and narrowed his eyes. What he saw within those gray eyes that mimicked the sky before a storm was shocking, almost enough to make him lower the pirate back to the ground and leave him be.

  There was such pain and torment in his eyes. Not just physical. Something deeper was buried in the human man’s heart. Not only did he look older since the last time he’d seen him, but Elian was weaker.

  Visibly so.

  There was desperation in his eyes, and Rickard had not expected to see such a thing from the famed pirate. Everyone had heard the tales of Elian being a soul stealer. Perhaps that explained it. The man simply needed more souls.

  Something told him otherwise.

  Rickard searched Elian’s pockets. “The map. Where is it? Hand it over.”

  “And, who are you supposed to be?” Elian asked, lifting a thin blond eyebrow.

  Oh, you’ll find out soon enough.

  “Who I am is of no concern to you. Give me the map, or I break your neck.”

  “Without any knowledge of who you are, how can I just pass along something so powerful?”

  Annoyed, and losing his patience, Rickard exhaled to calm the rage that bubbled within his gut. “I need to save the girl, you old fool.”

  The cackling laugh that erupted from Elian’s throat did more than annoy the prince. He tightened his grip and brought Elian’s face closer.

  “The girl? What’s she to you?” Elian asked with a laugh. “She’s mine. My blood and my prize for saving her from death. Besides. The map is gone. Burned.”

  Burned? Chances of the day getting any better were slim.

  “She may be your daughter,” Rickard said, tossing Elian a few feet away. “But, she does not belong to you.”

  Elian crashed into the dirt and came to his knees, ready to fight.

  Rickard shook his head. Sorcerer or not, the mighty pirate Captain Westin was no match for a Dragon of his strength and lineage. He looked over his shoulder to the older woman and her son as they cowered away from the two of them.

  “Feyda, come,” he said.

  She’d removed the ropes that had bound her hands together and came to her feet. Her son, Perdan did the same. Eyeing Elian as they approached, they dusted themselves off.

  “Thank the gods. You’ve come for us, Prince Rickard,” Feyda said, bowing before him.

  “What took you so long?” Perdan asked, stretching his back.

  Rickard couldn’t resist stealing a glance at Elian’s awestruck face. A small grin came to his lips as he turned his attention back to the woman before him. She looked as though she’d suffered at Elian’s hand and the terrain of the Wastelands. He hadn’t a chance to get a good look at Rowen, but he hoped she hadn’t been harmed.

  “Tell me everything you’ve learned about the girl and her magic.”

  Chapter 2

  I am a Dragon. A real Dragon.

  Those words resounded in Rowen’s head as she flew through the clouds. The landscape below was stunning. Dark orange terrain with rocky golden and silver mountains jutting high into the sky.

  Gusts of wind blew at Rowen and propelled her faster through the sky. Exhilaration filled her veins, and she closed her eyes for a moment to enjoy the fresh scent of the cool air, and its feel on her face and under her wings.

  Still, she was left with uncertainty. When she opened her eyes, she caught a glimpse of the Red Dragon. He chased her, and as she watched him keep pace with her, she wondered if he was friend or foe. At least she was also a Dragon and stood a better chance at defending herself in this form.

  But, wh
y was she here? Her memory struggled to put faded pieces together. The animalistic part of her brain threatened to take over, and erase all memories. She couldn’t let that happen.

  She had to be stronger—to fight the force that tried to control her.

  The Red Dragon gained speed and flew beside her, and a vivid image of it picking her up from the ground returned.

  Then, there was the word beloved that came from his lips. What did he mean by that?

  Rowen now remembered. That one word made her lose control and shift into a dragon again.

  Now, how to change back?

  First, she needed to find somewhere to land. Or, she could run. But, who would teach her about this new form? Mother! Broken images of her mother came back to her. Yes, she was beautiful. She remembered that much. And, she loved Rowen. She was one of the only people Rowen knew she could trust.

  If only she knew how to get home to Harrow. But wait—the Duke would surely turn her in. She shuddered as a full memory began to form.

  Dragons hunted her. She’d escaped death.

  Twice.

  The Red Dragon spoke to her. Mind to mind. His voice was jarring, and suppressed all of her thoughts. It seeped into every crevice of her mind. So much so that she feared he could read all of her thoughts, not just when she needed to speak directly to him.

  “Enough of this. We need to talk.”

  “Who are you?”

  “You don’t remember? Do you?” The Red Dragon asked. “Come, land over here. You’ll be able to think much better in your human form. The Dragon magic is too strong for you right now. You need to practice.”

  “Just let me fly,” Rowen said, going higher. “I’ve wanted to fly my entire life. I can’t believe this is real.”

  “What do you mean? You’ve never flown before?”

  She turned to him and gave a nod. If only he knew how emotional the sensation of being free to fly in the air was for her. She’d spent countless hours trying to to shift into her Dragon form, to no avail. After years of trying, she’d given up and forgotten her dream to be a true Dragon.

  Her dream had come true. She could manipulate fire. She could fly. Now, she wondered what else she could do.

  “We can fly later,” he said.

  Before she could protest, he corralled her forward, and then down toward the mountain top. He was stronger, bigger, and determined to bend her to his will.

  Defenseless, he pushed her down with the force and weight of his massive foot. Before she could control what was happening, she shifted back into her human form. Now, the difference in size was unfathomable. The Red Dragon towered above her, as tall as the trees that stood outside her manor back in Harrow.

  Exposed, and fragile, she looked up into his large eyes and swallowed back her fear.

  “Don’t eat me,” she squealed as he licked the blood from her cheek where Siddhe had stabbed her.

  He snorted, a puff of smoke coming from his nostrils. “Eat you?” As he leaned down to sniff her, she closed her eyes.

  Shifting Dragons weren’t known for eating humans, but if the Red Dragon was the ancient kind, that was another story. Legends told of the occasional human meal.

  Her body tensed at the cold touch of his nose on her face. She never imagined she’d get eaten by a Dragon. By the size of him, she’d be little more than a snack.

  She gasped as he withdrew and lifted her with a single talon before his face.

  He peered at her, and she held her breath.

  This was it. Her heart thumped in her chest. She’d faced death far too many times, yet it didn’t get easier.

  The silence that passed between them was unbearable. Then, he dropped her back to the dirt and stones.

  “Not beloved,” he whispered. “Who then?”

  Rowen looked up at him, relieved. Maybe she wouldn’t be eaten today. “That’s right,” she said. “I’m sorry, but I’m not this beloved you speak of.”

  “Who then?” The Red Dragon asked, raising his voice. The pebbles and stones on the ground rose and the ground shook.

  Rowen opened her mouth to answer him. It snapped shut, and she frowned. Her mind had grown blank. Her throat tightened with dread.

  “I can’t remember.”

  Chapter 3

  Prince Rickard?

  “I knew there was something odd going on here,” Siddhe whispered.

  Elian held up a hand to silence her as his mind put all of the pieces together.

  They know each other.

  Elian’s jaw tightened as he watched Feyda approach Rickard and address him as Prince. He should have known that the sorceress before him hadn’t encountered Rowen coincidentally. In his experience, coincidences didn’t exist. With the new crown prince of Withrae in the way, he had to rethink his strategy.

  “How much were you able to teach Rowen before Elian and his cronies arrived?” Rickard asked.

  “So, you’ve been meddling this entire time, haven’t you?” Elian asked. He glared at the young Dragon. “Your highness.”

  Rickard grinned. “I told you. You know nothing.”

  “I know that my map and my daughter have nothing to do with you.”

  “That’ll be enough put of you. Elian,” Feyda said. “Sit down.”

  Elian titled his head and narrowed his eyes at her. “Make me, old woman.”

  She put her hands on her hips. “Now, no one wants to see me get violent. Least of all, you. We’ve been here before. Don’t forget it.”

  “I should have killed you when I had the chance,” Elian said, seething with anger. Her soul would do very nicely with his collection.

  “Perhaps,” Feyda said, clasping her hands before her. “But, you didn’t. Your mistake.”

  Siddhe tugged at his sleeve. Her voice came in a soft whisper. “We need to get out of here.”

  Elian knew she was right. But, his desire to hear the answer to Rickard’s question was stronger than his desire to escape.

  “She’s a fast learner,” Feyda told Rickard. “She learned how to manipulate fire faster than a second year sorcery novice. In just days, Rickard. Days.”

  Rubbing his chin, a brief sense of relief seemed to wash over Rickard’s face. That intrigued Elian. Why was he involved at all?

  “Good,” Rickard said. “So, she may be able to defend herself if the need presents itself?”

  Feyda pursed her lips and her brows rose. “She can do more than that. I guarantee you, that girl is more powerful than all of us combined. She just needs to trust in the magic that flows within.”

  “Interesting,” Rickard said. “How powerful, exactly?”

  A ghost of a smile came to Feyda’s lips as Elian watched her look to the sky.

  “The girl can summon Dragon’s fire in her human form. That’s how powerful she is. And, I sense much more there that has not yet been revealed.”

  That made Elian stand up straight. Eyes widened, he followed Feyda’s gaze to the sky. How did he make such a powerful young woman? Did she truly inherit both his sorcery and the power of her mother’s Dragon line?

  “But, she cannot shift? Correct?” Rickard asked.

  Feyda nodded. “As far as I know, if a Dragon hasn’t shifted by puberty, it won’t happen at all.”

  Rickard turned to Elian. “Now, old man. What do you want with the Red Dragon? What makes you so desparate to chase such a prophecy?”

  “Prophecy?” Elian asked, shaking his head. He wondered just how much the prince knew.

  “Don’t pretend as though you don’t know about the power of the Red Dragon. Why else would you search for it your entire life?” Rickard asked. “Nimah’s told me all about you.”

  Elian’s eye twitched.

  Nimah.

  Why was she involved?

  Perdan stepped forward. “That’s easy,” he said, drawing everyone’s attention. “I can answer that one, your highness. Elian wants to swallow the Red Dragon’s power and become the most powerful wizard to ever live.”

  Elia
n glared at Perdan. “What do you know, besides the taste of a man’s lips? Adults are talking here, little boy.”

  Perdan’s cheeks grew bright red, but he kept his mouth pursed and stood closer to his mother.

  “Why else would you want the Red Dragon’s power?” Feyda asked, putting her arm around her son’s shoulders. “I think Perdan is on the right path here.”

  Shrugging, Elian remained silent. Why reveal to them that it was not power he desired?

  It was time—and as the pain in his chest started to spread, it was clear that he was running out of it.

  “Well, that simply will not do,” Rickard said, clearly agitated for some reason. “Tie them up, and head back to Kabrick. Wait for me there.”

  “As you wish, Prince Rickard,” Feyda said, as Perdan walked over to do as they were told. “What are you going to do?”

  Elian watched Rickard look to the sky and followed his gaze.

  “I’m going to go and find Rowen.”

  Chapter 4

  Why can’t I remember anything?

  Rowen rubbed her temples as she sat below the Red Dragon. He towered over her, awaiting a reply to his question. The silence was broken by more lightning and thunder. The smell of rain distracted her. Though she could feel them there, hiding, dormant, her memories would not come forth.

  “I—” she stammered. “I can’t remember.”

  “You’re just a child,” he said with a sigh. He shook his head. “Very well,” he said. “We can figure it out later. Come inside.”

  Rowen came to her feet and wrung her hands together. The ground shook as he started toward the mouth of a large cavern. He wanted her to follow, and what choice did she have?

  The sky seemed to open, and large droplets of cold rain fell in heavy sheets. She sprang to her bare feet and ran behind him. Soaked and shivering, she held her arms close to her chest and looked for a place to rest. She stopped abruptly once shielded by the roof of the cave.

 
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