The dragon landed and roared out a plume of blue fire. The bright aqua scales glinted in the late night, but silence was her only greeter: Silence and death. The thick smell of decay met her and she snorted. At first she’d allowed herself to hope, but now she was losing that hope. Was Damitri actually dead? Had the Elves really completed their mission? She hoped to the Dragon Lord Flame they had. Damitri Damien Davenport was not one to be forgotten, but hopefully he was one to be killed.
She jerked at the approaching shadow. The smell that wafted her nostrils was one of death, blood, and the faint underlying current of forest. An Elf was running her way; his pointed ears twitching in apprehension.
“Lady Samantha,” knelt the Elf as he came to her. He was covered head to toe in a mixture of blood; black of the Dark Elves and demons, green of the dragons, blue of the Fair Elves, and red of the Riders. But even under all that, his features showed forth: a strong jaw, pointed ears, a hooked nose, black hair and a pair of blazing green eyes to match his forest scent.
“Calisto, please give me good news.” The aqua dragon spoke, ignoring her title that she loathed more than Davenport.
“The Recluse has been killed.” The Elf answered. She snarled at Davenport’s nickname he’d picked up as a pirate and revolutionist.
“One wounded, the other escaped.” She bit her tongue to keep from toasting the Elf where he stood.
“You left one alive?!!!” She roared instead, advancing on the trembling Elf. “How dare you! Two is bad enough, but do you know what one will do without their twin?! Tell me Calisto, which one did you, incompetent tree-huggers, capture?”
“We captured Willow.” His voice crack at the end, but Samantha was too relieved to care. She sat back on her haunches and raised her head to the heavens before speaking to the Elf again.
“Well, at least you aren’t as stupid as your ears, seeing as you’ve caught the worst one. Felix will be easy to find; he never leaves his sister’s side and will come back for her. We’d best be prepared for him.”
“Y-yes, Lady Samantha.” He bowed low.
“Drop, the ‘Lady,’ Elf, I’m a beast, the same as you. Has Queen Hays been warned?”
“Not as of yet, I was about to send a message when you landed.”
“Don’t bother, I’ll deliver the news, I have other things to discuss with Her Majesty myself. Now, be off.”
Calisto bowed again with a quivering; “Yes, La – ah – Samantha,” and then scurried off.
Now, thought the aqua dragon, to find Queen Hays.
Samantha brought her parchment wings up high above her head and with a mighty shove, launched into the air. She twisted around halfway into the atmosphere and glided over the trees; watching some of the Fair Elves trudge through thick underbrush to their camps, while others finished off the rest of the Dark Elves and demons; capturing the willing and killing the others. The Elves would canopy themselves in the trees unlike the Riders’ camping out on the plain. Camp fires roared in randomly spotted places, but Samantha just flowed over them and their smoke tails. Fog rolled in and curled around her wings as she flew over the tree line and into the plains where the Riders had set up their camp and picket battle-wall.
Hundreds of white tarp tents dotted the plain; dragons and fires were just as common. Colors blurred together as Samantha flew over. Riders dressed in armor to match their dragons, and flags waved in the wind. Two brands; The Black Dragon of Myth and The Peace Dragon of Folklore, were cast in the sky like proud banners. There was nothing to be proud of; they were both killers, and neither of them cared. Justice was just a word to be thrown around.
The largest tent stood in the middle of the camp; surrounded by fierce guards in black and Riders of brighter colors; musicians played close by as many danced and gave shouts of joy and congratulations into the crowd. Queen Hays stood amongst some Riders near the large bonfire, a dark sentry shadowing her moves. The Queen had fought and it showed in the precipitation on her brow, the blood caked to her armor, and the sluggish movements of her body; she was tired, and Samantha knew the news she brought would not offer any relief.
“Ah…Sam, so kind of you to come,” Queen Hays called, as Samantha landed. “I’m afraid you missed the battle; we’ve won: Damitri has been put to rest in the flames of his own dragon. And now,” she spread her arms wide, smiling almost sadly at the crowd, “we can rest easy too, or at least easier than our enemy did.” The crowd chuckled at her, but there was no humor in the air.
The queen’s black dragon, Ransom landed beside Samantha and nodded his head in greetings. Some of his scales were missing around his neck and dried, green blood caked around wounds too deep to heal without magic. The normal laughing light in his violet eyes was gone; replaced with despair and agony. He was in great pain.
“Samantha,” he greeted, but said nothing more as he sat outside the queen’s large tent. A Witch set to work on his wounds; floating blue lights dashed in, out, and around his body as she worked on him. The queen looked ready to faint. Her bond with Ransom was not strong enough for her to feel his agony, but she did have a friendship with the dragon, and that was enough to make anyone sick.
Samantha considered her old friend for a long while. She wore black and red armor that covered her tall frame in perfect shape and form, and a black cape fell off her shoulders; brushing the ground at her heels. Her tired but, almost smiling violet eyes inlaid with gold sparked with a wariness that preceded her years and reflected the fire light like a mirror, her black hair was windswept from the braid failing to contain it, but the sadness of her smile made Samantha pause. Her friend was tired and in pain, but she was sad too. Damitri Damien Davenport was an enemy she had been dealing with for far too long; from the day he was born, really. Even if Queen Hays wouldn’t say it aloud, Samantha knew the boy had always shown rebellion and that this death was just in his fate.
“I’m afraid that I don’t bring good news, milady.” Samantha boomed, bowing her head in response.
The crowd fell quiet, the musicians froze in their playing, and dancers tripped over one another; even the fire shallowed its hissing and crackling. The campsite was still. And Ransom’s knowing eyes were following her, unnerving her thoughts.
The guarding shadow beside the queen whispered something into her ear, and the queen nodded. “Come, Sam,” Queen Hays said, nodding toward her large tent. “I will listen to this news. Everyone else, return to your business and do not wait for me.”
For a mere moment nothing happened, and then the fiddler picked up his fiddle and the dance started again.
Samantha waited until the queen had entered her tent before closing her eyes and concentrating in her mind’s eye on a blue and blonde haired, creamy blue eyed and thin bodied girl. When she opened her eyes a second later, the queen’s guarding shadow, who had the name of Coven Chwastek, was placing a black satin cloak about her naked body. Samantha took the warmth and covering with a grateful smile and followed Coven into the tent; ignoring the watching black dragon outside.
Now, out of her dragon skin, Samantha felt vulnerable and uneasy. A Shifter was always careful when shedding their skins. It wasn’t something that was easy to do and it brought an awareness that made many Shifters fearful of their lives. She felt the drawn eyes of men and the jealous looks of women. She knew she was pretty; she also knew that it was a curse she had to bear. Cat Shifters had their elegant grace; Samantha the dragon had her beautiful looks.
Queen Hays sat at the table in her tent; the huge mahogany table that was covered in maps and pieces of paper printed in a foreign language that Samantha guessed was the Ancient Tongue; but barely anyone used it in this day and age, and she was among the ones that couldn’t read the dialect.
“Now, Sam, what is this grave news?” The queen nearly smiled. “Please make it quick, I leave in an hour to meet my new grandchildren.” There was nothing genuine about her smile. It was one of someone wanting to be anywhere but there. There was no humor.
“Your majesty,” Samantha started, watching the queen carefully and bowing her head. “I wish the news I have for you wasn’t so urgent; especially with the prophecy so close to being fulfilled, or I would have left you to savor this victory in peace.”
“Peace, Sam?” The queen raised a hand, silencing the Shifter and completely ignoring the prophecy comment. “There has never been peace, and there never will be. Now, what is it you have to say?”
“Davenport’s wife has escaped; she has fled to the Ourea Mountains, and I now believe she might have one of her husband’s dragons with her.”
“There is not much Felix can do,” the queen interjected. “He is just a Fire Spreader and a small one at that, not a fighter. We captured the real threat; Willow, and she will be transported in the morning to Dragon Island; there I will keep an eye on her. And Darcy? She’s still the weak thing he married five years ago. If anything he cared more about her than she did him.”
Watch your tongue, Samantha reminded herself as her thoughts drifted to words of almost treachery. “I know better than to doubt your word, milady, but I do fear that Lady Darcy is capable of more than you think. I’ve watched men leave their fields and families with just a simple command from her; Women have killed their children and husbands under her tongue. She has more power than you, or the Counsel, believes. And I’m sorry if I have overstepped my boundaries in arguing with you, but I think it is in your best interests to send a party out to apprehend her.”
The queen considered Samantha for a long minute before she turned her head toward the figure in the shadows of the room. “Coven, what do you think?”
Samantha’s breath caught. Coven knew all she’d said was true, they’d spent more than twenty small missions together, and many times they’d witnessed the destruction of Darcy Smith Davenport’s silver tongue and quick hands.
Coven was staring at her and thinking hard, Samantha could feel it. The Werewolf was a silent one, but her thoughts and mind were quick and her movements even faster. Coven could defeat a legion all by herself before she broke a sweat, and yet she protected the queen whenever she went to war, or the king whenever he left home.
“I believe Samantha speaks true,” Coven finally said. Her voice was strong and carried thickly through the tent. She still sat in the shadows, but her silver rimmed eyes could be seen in the dim candle light. “I also believe she should head up the search, if you agree, milady. She will be able to cross the Ourea Mountains better than anyone.”
“So, you think that Darcy is someone to worry about?” The queen asked.
“Yes,” Coven didn’t hesitate. Samantha was in awe. The queen had become harsh in the years that her son, Damitri, had brought havoc to her kingdom, and her closest friends had felt the sharp edge of the knife, while her enemies got the point. But still, while Samantha watched her words and even her thoughts, Coven spoke what she meant and never beat around the bush. The Werewolf wasn’t afraid of the queen. Perhaps being a princess herself helped, but Samantha doubted royal breeding had strengthened her no-filter words and actions.
“Hmm…” the queen watched them both with dark eyes. “If you, Sam, will head the search, then you may chase down Darcy, but I can’t ask anyone to accompany you. I promised one war and a lifetime of freedom, not more work and no pay.”
“I understand, milady.” Samantha answered. “I have some men under me that won’t mind a bit more work.”
The queen gave a weak smile. “You may leave when ready.”
“Thank you, milady.” Samantha bowed and glancing once more at Coven, left the tent to retire in a tree somewhere, in the morning she would hunt the one person that could destroy everything Queen Hays had worked so hard for.
Darcy was never found. Samantha hunted for days, weeks, months, and when a year went by, she returned to Dragon Island empty handed.