A fate of dragons, p.1
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       A Fate of Dragons, p.1
 

         Part #3 of The Sorcerer's Ring series by Morgan Rice  
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A Fate of Dragons


  A F E A S T O F D R A G O N S

  (Book #3 in the Sorcerer’s Ring)

  Morgan Rice

  About Morgan Rice

  Morgan Rice is the #1 Bestselling author of THE VAMPIRE JOURNALS, a young adult series comprising eight books, which has been translated into six languages.

  Morgan is also author of the #1 Bestselling THE VAMPIRE LEGACY, a young adult series comprising two books and counting.

  Morgan is also author of the #1 Bestselling ARENA ONE and ARENA TWO, the first two books in THE SURVIVAL TRILOGY, a post-apocalyptic action thriller set in the future.

  Morgan is also author of the #1 Bestselling epic fantasy series THE SORCERER’S RING, comprising three books and counting.

  Morgan loves to hear from you, so please feel free to visit www.morganricebooks.com to stay in touch.

  Select Acclaim for Morgan Rice

  “Rice does a great job of pulling you into the story from the beginning, utilizing a great descriptive quality that transcends the mere painting of the setting….Nicely written and an extremely fast read.”

  --Black Lagoon Reviews (regarding Turned)

  “An ideal story for young readers. Morgan Rice did a good job spinning an interesting twist…Refreshing and unique, has the classic elements found in many Young Adult paranormal stories. The series focuses around one girl…one extraordinary girl!...Easy to read but extremely fast-paced....Recommended for anyone who likes to read soft paranormal romances. Rated PG.”

  --The Romance Reviews (regarding Turned)

  “Grabbed my attention from the beginning and did not let go….This story is an amazing adventure that is fast paced and action packed from the very beginning. There is not a dull moment to be found.”

  --Paranormal Romance Guild {regarding Turned}

  “Jam packed with action, romance, adventure, and suspense. Get your hands on this one and fall in love all over again.”

  --vampirebooksite.com (regarding Turned)

  “A great plot, and this especially was the kind of book you will have trouble putting down at night. The ending was a cliffhanger that was so spectacular that you will immediately want to buy the next book, just to see what happens.”

  --The Dallas Examiner {regarding Loved}

  “A book to rival TWILIGHT and VAMPIRE DIARIES, and one that will have you wanting to keep reading until the very last page! If you are into adventure, love and vampires this book is the one for you!”

  --Vampirebooksite.com {regarding Turned}

  “Morgan Rice proves herself again to be an extremely talented storyteller….This would appeal to a wide range of audiences, including younger fans of the vampire/fantasy genre. It ended with an unexpected cliffhanger that leaves you shocked.”

  --The Romance Reviews {regarding Loved}

  Books by Morgan Rice

  THE SORCERER’S RING

  A QUEST OF HEROES (Book #1 in the Sorcerer’s Ring)

  A MARCH OF KINGS (Book #2 in the Sorcerer’s Ring)

  A FEAST OF DRAGONS (Book #3 in the Sorcerer’s Ring)

  THE SURVIVAL TRILOGY

  ARENA ONE: SLAVERSUNNERS (Book #1 of the Survival Trilogy)

  ARENA TWO (Book #2 of the Survival Trilogy)

  THE VAMPIRE JOURNALS

  TURNED (Book #1 in the Vampire Journals)

  LOVED (Book #2 in the Vampire Journals)

  BETRAYED (Book #3 in the Vampire Journals)

  DESTINED (Book #4 in the Vampire Journals)

  DESIRED (Book #5 in the Vampire Journals)

  BETROTHED (Book #6 in the Vampire Journals)

  VOWED (Book #7 in the Vampire Journals)

  FOUND (Book #8 in the Vampire Journals)

  THE VAMPIRE LEGACY

  RESURRECTED (Book #1 of the Vampire Legacy)

  CRAVED (Book #2 of the Vampire Legacy)

  Copyright © 2013 by Morgan Rice

  All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior permission of the author.

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  “Come not between the dragon and his wrath.”

  —William Shakespeare

  King Lear

  CHAPTER ONE

  King McCloud charged down the slope, racing across the Highlands, into the MacGil’s side of the Ring, hundreds of his men behind him, hanging on for dear life as his horse galloped down the mountain. He reached back, raised his whip, and brought it down hard on the horse’s hide: his horse didn’t need prodding, but he liked to whip it anyway. He enjoyed inflicting pain on animals.

  McCloud nearly salivated as he took in the sight before him: an idyllic MacGil village, its men out in the fields, unarmed, its women home, tending linens on strings, barely dressed in the summer clime. House doors were open; chickens roamed freely; cauldrons already boiling with dinner. He thought of the damage he would do, the loot he would garner, the women he would ruin—and his smile broadened. He could almost taste the blood he was about to shed.

  They charged and charged, their horses rumbling like thunder, spilling over the countryside, and finally, someone took notice: it was the village guard, a pathetic excuse for a soldier, a teenage boy, holding a spear, who stood and turned at the sound of their approach. McCloud got a good look at the white of his eyes, saw the fear and panic in his face; in this sleepy outpost, this boy had probably never seen battle in his life. He was woefully unprepared.

  McCloud wasted no time: he wanted the first kill, as he always had in battle. His men knew enough to give it to him. He wanted it so bad he could taste it.

  McCloud whipped his horse again, until it shrieked, and gained speed, heading out farther in front of the others. He raised his ancestor’s spear, a heavy thing of iron, leaned back, and hurled it.

  As always, his aim was true: the boy had barely finished turning when the spear met his back, sailing right through it and pinning him to a tree with a whooshing noise. Blood gushed from his back, and it was enough to make McCloud’s day.

  McCloud let out a short cry of joy as they all continued charging, across the choice land of the MacGils, through yellow cornstalks swaying in the wind, up to his horse’s thighs, and towards the village gate. It was almost too beautiful a day, too beautiful a picture, for the devastation that they were about to enact.

  They charged through the unprotected gate of the village, this place dumb enough to be situated on the outskirts of the Ring, so close to the Highlands. They should have known better, McCloud thought with scorn, as he swung an axe and chopped down the wooden sign announcing the place. He would rename it soon enough.

  His men entered the place, and all around him screams erupted of women, of children, of old men, of whomever happened to be home in this godforsaken place. There were probably a hundred unlucky souls, and McCloud was determined to make each one of them pay. He raised his axe high overhead as he focused on one woman in particular, running with her back to him, trying for dear life to make it back to the safety of her home. It was not meant to be.

  McC
loud’s axe hit her in the back of her calf, as he had wanted, and she went down with a shriek. He hadn’t wanted to kill her: only to maim her. After all, he wanted her alive for the pleasure he would have with her afterwards. He had chosen her well: a woman with long, untamed blond hair and narrow hips, hardly over eighteen. She would be his. And when he was done with her, perhaps he would kill her then. Or perhaps not; perhaps he would keep her as his slave.

  He screamed in delight as he rode up next to her and jumped off his horse in mid-stride, landing on top of her and tackling her to the ground. He rolled with her on the dirt, feeling the impact of the road, and smiled as he relished what it felt like to be alive.

  Finally, life had meaning again.

  CHAPTER TWO

  Kendrick stood in the eye of the storm, in the Hall of Arms, flanked by dozens of his brothers, all hardened members of the Silver, and looked calmly back at Darloc, the commander of the royal guard sent on an unfortunate mission. What had Darloc been thinking? Did he really think he could march into the Hall of Arms and try to arrest Kendrick, the most loved of the royal family, in front of all his brothers in arms? Did he really think the others would stand by and allow it?

  He had vastly underestimated The Silver’s loyalty to Kendrick. Even if Darloc had arrived with legitimate charges for his arrest—and these certainly were not—Kendrick doubted very much that his brothers would allow him to be carted away. They were loyal for life, and loyal to the death. That was the creed of The Silver. He would have reacted the same way if any of his brethren were threatened. After all, they had all trained together, fought together, for all their lives.

  Kendrick could feel the tension that hung in the thick silence, as The Silver held their weapons drawn at the mere dozen royal guards, who shifted where they stood, looking more uncomfortable by the moment. They must have known it would be a massacre if any of them tried for their swords—and wisely, none did. They all stood there and awaited the order of their commander, Darloc.

  Darloc swallowed, looking very nervous. He realized his cause was hopeless.

  “It seems you have not come with enough men,” Kendrick responded calmly, smiling. “A dozen of the King’s Guard against a hundred of The Silver. Yours is a lost cause.”

  Darloc flushed, looking very pale. He cleared his throat.

  “My liege, we all serve the same kingdom. I do not wish to fight you. You are correct: this is a fight we could not win. If you command us, we will leave this place and return to the King.

  But you know that Gareth would just send more men for you. Different men. And you know where this will all lead. You might kill them all—but do you really want the blood of your fellow brothers on your hands? Do you really want to spark a civil war? For you, your men would risk their lives, kill anyone. But is that fair to them?”

  Kendrick stared back, thinking it all through. Darloc had a point. He did not want any of his men hurt solely on his account. He felt an overwhelming desire to protect them from any bloodshed, no matter what that meant for him. And however awful his brother Gareth was, and however bad a ruler, he did not want a civil war—at least, not on his account. There were other ways; direct confrontation, he had learned, was most often the least effective.

  Kendrick reached over and slowly lowered his friend Atme’s sword. He turned and faced the other Silver. He was overwhelmed with gratitude to them for coming to his defense.

  “My fellow Silver,” he announced. “I am humbled by your defense, and I assure you it is not in vain. As you all know me, I had nothing to do with the death of my father, our former king. And when I find his true killer, whom I suspect I have already found from the nature of these orders, I shall be the first to have vengeance. I stand falsely accused. That said, I do not wish to be the impetus for a civil war. So please, lower your arms. I will allow them to take me peacefully. For one member of the Ring should never fight another. If justice lives, then the truth will come out—and I will be returned to you promptly.”

  The group of Silver slowly, reluctantly, lowered their arms as Kendrick turned back to Darloc. Kendrick stepped forward and walked with Darloc for the door, the King’s Guard surrounding him. Kendrick walked proudly, in the center, erect. Darloc did not try to shackle him—perhaps out of respect, or out of fear, or because Darloc knew he was innocent. Kendrick would lead himself to his new prison. But he would not give in so easily. Somehow he would clear his name, get himself freed from the dungeon—and kill his father’s murderer. Even if it was his own brother.

  CHAPTER THREE

  Gwendolyn stood in the bowels of the castle, her brother Godfrey beside her, and stared back at Steffen as he stood there, shifting, twisting his hands. He was an odd character—not just because he was deformed, his back twisted and hunched, but also because he seemed to be filled with a nervous energy. His eyes never stopped shifting, and his hands clasped each other as if he were wracked with guilt. He rocked in place as he stood, shifting from foot to foot, and hummed to himself in a deep voice. All these years of being down here, Gwen figured, all these years of isolation had clearly forged him into an odd character.

  Gwen waited in anticipation for him to finally open up, to reveal what had happened to her father. But as seconds turned into minutes, as the sweat increased on Steffen’s brow, as he rocked ever more dramatically, nothing came. There continued to be just a thick, heavy silence, punctuated only by his humming noises.

  Gwen was beginning to sweat herself down here, the roaring fires from the pits too close on this summer day. She wanted to be finished with this, to leave this place—and never return here again. She scrutinized Steffen, trying to decipher his expression, to figure out what ran through his mind. He had promised to tell them something, but now he had fallen silent. As she examined him, it appeared he was having second thoughts. Clearly, he was afraid; he had something to hide.

  Finally, Steffen cleared his throat.

  “Something fell down the chute that night, I admit it,” he began, not making eye contact, looking somewhere on the floor, “but I’m not sure what it was. It was metal. We took the chamber pot out that night, and I heard something land in the river. Something different. So,” he said, clearing his throat several times as he wrung his hands, “you see, whatever it is, it washed away, in the tides.”

  “Are you certain?” Godfrey demanded.

  Steffen nodded vigorously.

  Gwen and Godfrey exchanged a look.

  “Did you get a look at it, at least?” Godfrey pressed.

  Steffen shook his head.

  “But you made mention of a dagger. How did you know it was a dagger if you did not see it?” Gwen asked. She felt certain that he was lying; she just did not know why.

  Steffen cleared his throat.

  “I said so because I just assumed it was a dagger,” he responded. “It was small and metal. What else could it be?”

  “But did you check the bottom of the pot?” Godfrey asked. “After you dumped it? Maybe it is still in the pot, at the bottom.”

  Steffen shook his head.

  “I checked the bottom,” he said. “I always do. There was nothing. Empty. Whatever it was, it was washed away. I saw it float away.”

  “If it was metal, how did it float?” Gwen asked.

  Steffen cleared his throat, then shrugged.

  “The river is mysterious,” he answered. “Tides are strong.”

  Gwen exchanged a skeptical look with Godfrey, and she could tell from his expression that he did not believe Steffen, either.

  Gwen was growing increasingly impatient. Now, she was also baffled. It had seemed just moments before that Steffen was going to tell them everything, as he had promised. But it seemed as if he had suddenly changed his mind.

  Gwen took a step closer to him and scowled, sensing that this man had something to hide. She put on her toughest face, and as she did, she felt the strength of her father pouring through her. She was determined to discover whatever it was he knew—especially if
it would help her find her father’s killer.

  “You are lying,” she said, her voice steely cold, the strength in it surprising even her. “Do you know what the punishment is for lying to a member of the royal family?”

  Steffen wrung his hands and nearly bounced in place, glancing up at her for a moment, then quickly looking away.

  “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m sorry. Please, I have nothing more.”

  “You asked us before if you would be spared from jail if you told us what you knew,” she said. “But you have told us nothing. Why would you ask that question if you had nothing to tell us?”

  Steffen licked his lips, looking down at the floor.

  “I… I…um,” he started and stopped. He cleared his throat. “I was worried…that I would get in trouble for not reporting that an object came down the chute. That is all. I am sorry. I do not know what it was. It’s gone.”

  Gwen narrowed her eyes, staring at him, trying to get to the bottom of this strange character.

  “What happened to your master, exactly?” she asked, not letting him off the hook. “We are told he went missing. And that you had something to do with it.”

  Steffen shook his head again and again.

  “He left,” Steffen answered. “That is all I know. I’m sorry. I know nothing that can help you.”

  Suddenly there came a loud swooshing noise from across the room, and they all turned to see waste come flying down the chute, and land with a splat in the huge chamber pot. Steffen turned and ran across the room, hurrying over to the pot. He stood beside it, watching as it filled with waste from the upper chambers.

 
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