The firedrop from the pommel of Tambre’s sword flew a good
stride and a half and hissed into the Melimilak River.
on physical form sank. Ripples reproached Tambre from three different locations
on the surface. Oh firmament above, had it skipped?
her sovereign had not yet assigned her a ward. She fled when startled.
be having to manifest underwater. She looked past the shimmering silver mist of
her involuntary dispersal to where Ovryn stood, half-concealed in the shrubbery
along the island’s shoreline. His shoulders shook with silent laughter while
the echoes of his triumphant, inarticulate cry raced across the water.
touchstone, and with his burden extended in a way that suggested she was getting
better at projecting, returned to the rocky shore. He held the glowing firedrop out between his
thumb and index finger, and she reached for
it, materializing one hand that cupped the rounded bottom of the stone and
another that gripped the sword hilt that flowed upward as soon as her essence
touched the physical anchor.
as its needle-thin gold inclusions blazed and flames licked the edge of the
forming blade. As she continued to manifest, she focused on sheathing the sword
so she would not have to meet Ovryn’s eyes. She had trusted foolishly, and she
was not sure with whom she was madder.
apex of one of her folded wings. “Beloved, are you—?”
an Interraphym was truly capable of, but right now, she hated him just as
the western shore. Good choice. Her mate had more experience in the human lands
than she did. He just might be able to avoid her until she calmed down.
allow, and she touched down on the shore right behind him. Ovryn had retained
his neutral form—visually similar to a human—but had modified his wings to
resemble a cloak. Tambre compressed her being into that shape as well, rather
than a grizzly or a snow lion—something with good speed and nice, sharp claws.
she took to adjust to being fully mired in time and trapped in one shape, Ovryn
ran. His usual good sense must have fled in the other direction, because he
grinned and called over his shoulder, “Catch me if you can!”
late to choose the snow lion form. She settled for a human growl and sprinted
passed. Slow down. Rest. All is coming to
had not sown more carefully.
of life flaring from a field mouse nest. He gained another pace when he
fluttered his wings to avoid trampling an oak sapling that would shelter a
human couple’s picnic in four generations. However, when he glanced over his
shoulder and flashed her an expression of unbridled delight, she put her head
down and found a new level of speed.
the ground, she figured any bruises he took were only justice. Break a promise
to her, would he? Insufferable male.
could see the mirth still dancing in his eyes. “Oh, beloved, you should have
seen the look on your face.” He paused to giggle—giggle—like a human child. “You haven’t looked like that in—”
and I promised to never forgive you if you did it again?”
mistakes, but why, oh why, had He made females’ memories so much better than
He snorted and made suspiciously laughter-like noises again. “Could not help
to his gut, but he knew as well as she did when an act of the will was
involved. If his prank had been inevitable, she would have foreseen him jumping
out at her like sunrise on the day after the feast of Ceadamhain. If she could
not help retaliating, he would be poised to block the punch she wanted to
Tambre leaned close to her mate’s pointed ear. “You, my love, had better watch your
sword-wielder’s chest. Lightning fast, she struck, digging her fingers into his
sides. She tickled until his eyes streamed tears and he managed to throw her
off and gain his feet. She lunged again for his ribs, but he caught her hands
and drew her close.
mollified, she danced around the tender plants unfurling their roots where
Ovryn’s tears had fallen. The Interraphym’s tearbushes would be fully-grown
shrubs by nightfall, silver with cascades of blue flowers and a fragrance so
sweet humans called them heaven’s incense.
ago was also the site where Ovryn had sworn never to startle her on purpose
again. She still tended those bushes, drawn by their beauty and fragrance, even
though they reminded her she had once shed tears.
physical display. Of course, he was Bonded. Resembling a human did not bother him. He was still smiling and trying to
batted her eyelashes at him.
“Why are they being so foolish? I thought last night was warning enough.”
Tambre, unBonded and unable to manipulate time to the same extent, dropped her
corporeality entirely, letting Ovryn tuck her touchstone with his into the
timepocket he formed.
unsurprised to find herself in a hallway of the human castle. She and Ovryn
remained outside of time, undetectable to the two humans sneaking through the
passage, but she manifested form enough to nod to the Interraphym Guardian
there before them.
approached, Ashentar paid her no more attention than Ovryn had since he noticed
his charge was in danger. The two Guardians focused entirely on the young
couple, projecting a warning that filled the hall.
slowing and her hand reaching for the arm of the male who would be her mate.
Tambre sought the human term.
the couple scurrying, wide-eyed, through the door. Ovryn and Ashentar followed
them, but Tambre’s curiosity led her down the hall to the source of the
and watched the door close. “No, no, no. Back to the gardens, you young
toward the door, but then he stopped and shook his head. “Not my place.”
making a bad decision.”
being Marked. “It’s their decision to make,” he said.
grating of stone against stone. She hoped he never learned that time was now
hurtling toward a moment when Kahja, Ovryn’s charge, would not be getting a say
in the decision.
the two humans had entered. Kahja and Rhalyn leaned against the back of the
door, shoulders brushing, sheepish grins a hand’s breadth apart. Rhalyn bent
forward to kiss his mate-to-be, and she turned her body to his, running her
fingers along his jaw line before breaking the kiss.
grouped around the hearth. “I was thinking it might be best if we just talk
tonight. I finished reading The Ballad of
Lucinda and Demitre this morning. Why didn’t you tell me it was so good?”
followed Ovryn’s and Ashentar’s glares across the room.
on its forelegs and larger claws on its hind legs, the dragon had eyes and
teeth that evoked the idea of a feline predator, but the scales and sinuous
corporeal existence, the humans would see her as mirror-bright,
copper-plated—almost bronze—with dark hypnotic eyes. She glanced back at the
couple. At least the male would.
Kahja’s pleasant features tightened into unusual seriousness.
her hands. “We shouldn’t put ourselves into such temptation again.”
shouldn’t tease me with kisses that leave me wanting more.”
was supposed to be a compliment.” The apologetic kiss he breathed against her
palm turned into a series of nibbling kisses that trailed up her arm. “I love
lips moved in a soundless, desperate invocation—or perhaps argument—but neither
as if savoring some scent.
delicate artist’s fists against the shoulder of the man she loved, the man she trusted, as he carried her toward his
bed. She still hadn’t considered the possibility that he wouldn’t be able to
stop, as he assured her they would.
inside the human castle. Tambre closed her eyes and reached for the anger she’d
felt toward her mate, but it was gone. There were worse betrayals of trust than
the one you love forgetting a promise not to startle you again.
her touchstone to be recalled to its source, her being to be brought before the
point that contained infinity and the moment that confined eternity. She opened
her eyes and met the compassionate gaze of T’leyasune.
her cheeks. “My little one.” He leaned his forehead against hers, his silver
antlers towering above them like a fortress.
interfering to a greater extent earlier. Or at least trying to.
mate’s charge with him often enough to predict when the human would be foolish.
close. “Trust. The victory is won.”
Guardianship to a charge?”
straightened and gestured south, down the cataract that fell from the
promontory on which they stood, along the winding course of the river, toward
the human capital.
allowed her to fall out of time entirely, into the tapestry held within his
her eyes adjusted and could pick out the moment of time in which the humans
were ensconced and the dragon and Interraphym embedded.
mild-looking being, the stag could sound surprisingly fierce himself.
them, Tambre could…watch…the Tapestry occur. A second dragon skimmed through
time and joined the first. Others pressed close to observe but did not
interfere. There was a moment in which Ovryn and Ashentar held the dragons back
with their swords, and the human male was free to choose.
obedience to Love.
winced over the crooked, tangled paths that nevertheless managed to fit into
the overwhelmingly beautiful Tapestry.
took in the Great Battle dripping onto the stone and sliding into the river.
cherish and protect. She held out her hand.
drew it back, leaving a scroll that dissolved into her being. It tingled
through her like a smile that required her entire self. She was Guardian.
as wolves. You can influence the pack near her grandparents’ cabin to accept
her. She will need their help.”
unkind of you to threaten to never forgive Ovryn as it was of him to forget his
gathered her will. “It is done.”
take a while to catch up.
off justice.” He laughed again. “But do not be too hard on him. Love mercy. Besides, you enjoyed playing as much
as he did.”
curl up despite herself. Until she remembered where Ovryn was, and what was
happening there. She sighed. “Does she forgive him?”
Tapestry. “The victory is won.”
fell, sliding down the rock and washing away with the water to renew the land
in which humans still invited dragons into their midst.
day of Hunger Moon, Year of Fulfillment (Y.F.) 463
and dropped belly-first into the snow. The body, clearly visible against the
backdrop of burned buildings, the amount of blood, and the massive tracks told
her everything she needed to know.
gleamed whitely against the dark smoke and paler clouds.
undyed wool of her cloak. A wet bowstring would not matter against a dragon,
but anything that made her movement more obvious might.
Sprint or slink? She pulled her hood up and crawled toward concealment, ears
straining for the shifting branches that would announce she’d been spotted.
Twenty paces. Ten.
neighbors’ home startled her up into a desperate run. Three paces. Two.
papery bark from the trunk with her sleeve as she turned to face the sky above
dragons used fire as their first weapon and time as their second. The body was
waited for him.
kindness in the last five-and-a-half years lay dead upon the churned-up snow?
Who had survived and was now fighting the temptation to emerge from hiding and
reclaim the body?
sheltered vantage point closer to the remains. Her earlier glimpse of blood and
broken flesh slapped her resolve and slowed her steps, but she squared her
shoulders and crept on.
crawled to the top to peer down at the destruction. Smoke rose in fitful spurts
as flames licked along the wood of what remained of the Eastbrooks’ home.
Swaths of bare, blackened ground wound between the smoldering ruins of the
silo, smokehouse, and shearing shed. Near the body, four impressions, sunk
deeply in the mud, evinced where the dragon had launched itself into the sky.
and her grandparents’ manor….
by the clash of early spring days and frigid late winter nights. She took a
approached the tree line, dragging…something…behind him or her with a rope.
Kahja and her sister. He or she was tall…. But only one of her neighbors was
to you. She eyed the expanse of forest between them. Manageable. Wouldn’t
take more than a few moments.
snow plopped to the forest floor. A shadow skimmed across the ground under the
dark, glimmering shape that sliced through the lingering smoke. Kahja followed
the dragon’s progress into the sky as its outstretched wings banked steeply,
allowing it to ride the wind currents in an upward spiral.
wooden contraption, his back to the creature.
copper-scaled beast to blurred motion and a vague iridescent threat against the
clouds. At the height of its ascension, it hovered. The dragon’s powerful wings
beat once. Twice. Then, wings tucked and neck extended, it dove.
dragon long enough for the two of them to dart back into the woods….
her knees as she landed. The impact drove a thousand icy needles into her feet.
“Leland!” Shockingly cold air shredded down her throat as she sprinted toward
him. “Leland, run!”
like a homemade, one-person-operable ballista. How in the world…?
too. Eyes focused on Leland, it spread its talons, closing in on its prey.
upward. Kahja leapt. An outraged roar vibrated across her skin as she knocked
Leland to the ground. The dragon struck the earth where Leland had stood,
sending snow and clods of cold, heavy mud to pelt Kahja’s back. A chorus of
snaps and crackles shattered the air behind her, and she turned to watch the
dragon tumble end-over-end into the distance.
he made no effort to rise, she checked him for injuries. “Get up, Leland.”
into the snow, and his tear-reddened eyes returned to the sky. “Dead.”
his shoulder. She no longer needed to ask about his parents.
willpower not to rush home to check on him.
strides away. Leland offered her a hand-up, but she waved him off. Like a
general with an army at his back, the teenager picked up a second spear and
followed the path the dragon had scythed into the forest.
refused to obey.
High, thy god, to the test.
to the snow. The Most High would have taken care of Jeyti if she died. The Most
High protected the innocent.
her mental defenses into place, but it was too late. The emberling, the
unquenchable presence in her blood, pounced. She tried to smother it with
scripture, but insatiable, implacable, it demanded fuel, striving to wrest
control of her mind.
emberling was not picky. No one could maintain perfect vigilance forever, and
the parasite surely expected that one day it would overwhelm her barriers
completely and have access to everything.
She fed it one more moment of her past, stomped firmly
on its attempts to follow that thread back to the tangle behind her shields,
and rose to follow Leland. She had to make sure he knew better than to let an
emberling infect him.