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The Dragon’s Mage

Dragon Mage - 1

by

Kelly Lucille

To Norma Rice for gleefully buying my first book,

…and because she’ll get such a kick out of this.

'All our efforts must tend towards the light.'

Antonio Machado

Chapter 1

Morgan was in the meadow laughing when she felt it.  Her eight-year-old brother with the same dark hair and grass green eyes was buried under two of his sisters.  The girls shared the eyes, but had their mother’s fiery red gold hair that flashed in the sun.  Currently they were rolling about like puppies and shrieking in fright as Morgan pretended to be a great hernbeast after them.  In the middle of tickling Clare to hysterics, she stopped, a strange awareness creeping up.  Something was coming.

“Danger.”  She said quickly.  Her siblings, from the youngest at eight summers to the oldest at nineteen, all froze and looked to her.

“Up.  Quietly.”  She said, “Quietly.  Melly can you sense anything?”  She was whispering now and all of them were staying low to the grasses and heading for the tree line.

 “Nothing.”  Melisande whispered, Melly for short.  She was five years younger than Morgan and six inches shorter at five feet two inches.  She had always been the calm center of the family.  She moved with the rest of them, keeping her head down even as she expanded her senses.  “I don’t sense any danger.”

“Something isn't right.”

As slow as they were moving they made small progress but should attract no attention.  It wasn’t enough.  She extended her own senses and felt nothing except a prevailing feeling of wrongness.  Something was out there, and coming closer.

“Clare, you and Rhune, change and head for the hide hole.  Small but not helpless.  I don’t want a repeat of the badger incident.”

“What about you and Melly?  I don’t want to leave you here.”

“Rhune is your responsibility.  Go Clare.  We’ll be right behind you.”

Clare looked from her sisters to her baby brother and stiffened her back.  She was only 16 years old and resembled a long limbed colt with her slender form and long legs.  She was young and unfinished still but, like Melly, life had somehow made her more.  She turned to her brother who was leaning against her side.

“Foxes, Rhune.”  She said overly bright.  “Stay with me?  We’re going to run for the big oak.”

Rhune nodded solemnly.  His little face serious for one so young.  Clare looked one more time at her sisters before she dissolved into a chilly mist and in her place stood a red fox.  Rhune followed, and they took off at a run, silent red flashes through the tall grasses.

“Are you sure Morgan?  I still feel nothing.”

“I know Melly, that’s what worries me.”  She looked around as she pushed her sister before her.  “It’s getting closer.”

In the past, it had always been Melisande who felt trouble coming first.  She dreamed of their adoptive parent’s betrayal, and when they ran, she felt the right paths to take them away from danger.  They had come into the wilderness when Rhune was so small he had to be carried, and Melly a thirteen year old at the time had heard the wind and headed the call of the earth.  It was no small gift.  Nor was the ability that Clare and Rhune had to become any animal they saw.  That too had saved their lives on too many occasions for Morgan to believe it the curse the villagers feared.

“Someone is coming, and I think they’re coming for me.  I want you to take the long way back to the others.  I’ll make a mist for you to hide in.”

“What about you?”

“I’ll follow soon.  Promise me you will see the others to safety.  Listen to the wind Melly, and you’ll do fine.”  The sky darkened and the perpetual spring they had been enjoying disappeared as clouds obscured the sun.

“We should stay together.”

“No.  I need you safe.  Please, Melly.  I feel strange, hunted.  Something is taking shape here.  A path I must take.  If I'm right, you must protect the others.  You’re the only one who can hear the wind.”

“Morgan.”  Her voice was beseeching, but Morgan ignored it, closing her eyes and setting her will free.  The mist rose, and like a massive fog it covered and concealed everything so that the sisters could no longer see even each other in the thick of it.

“Go to Clare, Melly, now.”

Melly went, ignoring the tears falling from her eyes.  Quiet as possible she walked out of the glen they had created with their magic.  It had been spring here for them as long as they needed it.  Surrounded by white coated winter on all sides, no one should have been able to survive.  Between them, they had kept their own small patch of sunshine and Morgan had made the flowers grow.  The majestic oak had offered shelter.  They had been happy here.  Now danger had found them.

Morgan expanded her senses and felt Melly slipping into the forest to safety.  She breathed a sigh of relief, turning to look all around her she tried again to capture the essence of what was stalking her.  Whatever it was, her blood seemed to be trying to rise up and warn her.  ‘Run.  Flee.’  It was all she could do to stand perfectly still and listen for the sound that would direct her flight away from the oily danger.

 Through the mist a dark figure rose nearly on top of her, she backed up quickly her hand coming up, the wind roaring as she stumbled back and to the ground.  Her wrist was caught by a hard-calloused hand, and she was pulled off the ground struggling against the arms that came around her.  The mist cleared away, and the wind died.  She knew that black livery with the dog emblem, knew too, ones with cold dead eyes that stared with evil satisfaction.  Only one kind of creature could touch her and make her power disappear.  It was a creature right out of her nightmares.

She screamed, hearing again the cries of her mother and father as the fires burned around them.

“I’ve been looking for you.”  He kissed her, and she tasted ash.  She tried to struggle, call her power, but nothing happened.  Then she felt it.  A pulling, as if he was trying to eat her soul.  She tried to scream again, the pain excruciating, but he ate that too.

* * *

The creak and moan of the prison wagon was loud in the early morning quiet.  Even at rest, it groaned like an old man each time someone rolled over or breathed hard.  Morgan had been left with her now grubby shift and a chain for her ankle.  The leering guard made it clear that anything else she wanted would have to be paid for, and the way his eyes went over her, Morgan had a pretty clear idea what form of payment he preferred.

The shift was little enough against the harsh weather, though luckily she still had enough magic huddled inside her that she barely noticed.  At first, she hoped this meant she hadn't been utterly cut off from her magic; but as many times as she tried to pull her power, she only managed to give herself head pains.

Changes in weather never affected her as it did others.  She didn’t get cold or hot as a rule, but the boy/man clinging to her was shaking so bad she was surprised the cart was holding together.  She had realized within seconds what he was, and could only surmise, given the lack of precautions that the guards had no idea what they had.  She held him as close throughout the night and waited for her chance.

The guard, a big beefy man that smelled like old sweat, was a little too interested in watching her to give them the small moment they needed.  She waited for him to fall asleep or go relieve himself.  If he would just look

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