The Path in the Shadow, Book 1 of the Enchanter's Cycle

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Epilogue

Tengusraczaria set down in the mountains far north of the tower.

Yokai… Though she once considered him a pawn, her heart ached from his loss; his damnable human sentimentality had rubbed off on her, it seemed, just a little too late.

The Dragon gripped a pine tree, grimacing as she tore it free and carried it into a wide canyon with an overhang spacious enough to offer shade and comfort. Curling her body into a manageable position and ignoring the increasing pain in her stomach, she released a puff of superheated plasma onto the tree, igniting it. Digging a trench around it with her claw, she enjoyed the warmth of the fire while she lay down to rest.

Tengusraczaria had escaped the Dread Hammer, escaped the mortals…but to what end? What purpose did she have now?

The pain intensified, escalating from the minor ache she’d suffered for several hours, and the Dragon hissed in discomfort. She was sick; that much was clear. Perhaps she needed to hunt, but she was too tired, too weak from her ordeal. It would have to wait until dawn.

She drifted into an uneasy slumber, her heavy eyelids sealing away the light of the fire. The heat soothed her, and carried her to more pleasant places. Moonshadow, so distant and inviting, but she could not return. Not yet. She had a purpose, though she did not now know what it was…

Tengusraczaria woke, the passage of time uncertain, with her guts on fire, the cramps becoming unbearable. She rolled over in a desperate attempt to relieve the building pressure, and the look of herself told the Dragon all she needed to know.

How…?

Her pain moved further down, and Tengusraczaria roared, suffering a series of painful contractions. It felt as if all of her organs were being pushed out through her body!

Her leg kicked involuntarily, stamping out the fire and returning the world around her to darkness.

Yokai? She thought to herself, What other devilry did you enact upon me?!

Her irises expanded, and her night vision became more prominent as the Dragon screamed her pain and anger into the sky, rocking the very mountain with her pains of labor.

The egg crowned, too quickly for a normal laying, and slid out onto the floor. It was…the proper color and coated with thick chitin, but far too small. She hadn’t once lain with a male; what was happening?

The thick shell cracked, and a fit of terror struck her, thinking she’d somehow damaged the precious hatchling, mottled though it would undoubtedly be!

Something pushed against the inside of the shell, and even in her state, the Dragon pressed her nose against the egg, prodding the hatchling on.

The shell split, creating one separate plate at the top for the hatchling to push out, and it toppled, revealing a hand. A human hand!

“Yokai!” Tengusraczaria cried, trying to force herself around to better appraise what she was seeing. The labor had worn her…sapped her strength, and she could do nothing but lean against the wall of the canyon for a better vantage.

A second hand pushed free, then a head, not bald as she understood mammal hatchlings were, but topped with a wild brown mane.

It was Yokai. He rose from the shell, covered in fluid, and collapsed beside it, his muscles atrophied. It took all her strength to remain upright. He opened his eyes, no longer their peculiar yellow color but dark purple ringed with black, like hers…

“You came back!” Tengusraczaria mewled, sliding back down into a prone position, her muscles no longer obeying her. Yokai smiled, serrated fangs for canines, and she noticed that his hands and feet were painted black, melding into a peculiar series of magickal runes all throughout his body, “I knew I was all but doomed…but I thought of a way to avoid death. Rebirth seemed like a viable prospect. I just had to use the energy of the tower defenses, and not my own, and thus, had to improvise.”

Tengusraczaria smiled, weak, as he walked over and sat beside her, enveloped in her body. She cradled him with her wings, and succumbed to fatigue. Her dreams returned to her, and she saw in her contented state such wondrous visions of the future…

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