Nessa sat quietly opposite her father. Her father wore a hard expression. In the past days he had grown increasingly angrier. Nessa wasn’t sure if he was worried about Callen or if he was angry that she’d deserted. The voice of one of her father’s men, Farhan, snapped her back to reality.
“We need to destroy the king! Without him his forces will fall apart!” Farhan said, gesturing wildly with his hands.
“No, Farhan.” Another of her father’s men, Reynold, said. “The king is already done for. The princess is the one keeping things together now.”
“If we take about thirty dragons we could conquer destroy the castle and kill the royal family and conquer Summerhaven!” Farhan exclaimed.
“There would be no point in conquering people that would only rebel against us later. And as long as the rebels Durazno and Naranja are still out there, there won’t be much of a chance of ending this. Each of them has single-handedly killed at least twenty dragons.” Grabus said.
“Send five dragons, as a warning. Kill ten people, capture ten more. Send the royals a warning.” Reynold said. “Let Nessa mount the attack. She’s growing in fame, give the royalty another person to fear.”
“Which dragons?” Grabus asked thoughtfully.
“Nessa’s dragon Ember. Gris and his rider. Umber. Oro. Wallan.” Reynold listed.
“Why Umber?” Grabus questioned.
“As of lately, Umber is rider less, making him the least valuable. This attack will be close to the castle, Umber is capable, but expendable.” Reynold said.
“Good.” Grabus said, clearly pleased. “We attack tomorrow. Get a good night’s sleep, Nessa. Reynold, tell Gris, Oro, and Wallan’s riders that they will be part of the attack.”
Nessa exited the tent and went to find Ember. Ember was curled with Umber in the part of the field that wasn’t cluttered with tents. They raised their heads as she approached.
“We fly into battle tomorrow.” She told them, leaving out the part about Umber being expendable.
Ember snorted, and Umber laid his head back down. “What?” Nessa asked defensively.
“You’re not worried about Callen at all?” Ember growled. “She’s your sister! You should have at least tried to follow her! Callen’s never lived on her own before. She might be dead by now!”
“Callen deserted, Ember.” Nessa said.
“Callen survived.” Ember corrected. “Callen’s free now, but possibly dead.”
“It was her choice!” Nessa said. “She didn’t want me anywhere near her, anyway!”
“Maybe you shouldn’t have given her a choice about that! Our mother didn’t give us a choice about going with the Dragonfriends, but we’re still alive, she probably isn’t.” Ember hissed.
“Look, I’m sorry, okay?” Nessa said. “But Callen’s gone. There’s no chance of finding her now.”
Nessa went to bed with a hollow feeling in the pit of her stomach.
She woke the next morning to a dawn as red as the blood that would paint the streets of Summerhaven. She silently saddled and mounted Ember. Then they flew with the other five dragons and three riders towards the capitol.