Dragon Bloode: Covet
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Once a mighty race of winged gods, they’re reduced to three. No longer do they resemble the scaled flying marvels of their ancestry, but the humans who interbred with their forefathers. The Bloode is thin and dying.
Mishka Williams’s dark fantasy debut is nothing short of spellbinding. Dive into a realm rich with magic, Dragons, and lust. Set against a gothic backdrop in the world of Alperin, Williams takes you to the Draak Empire. Rife with division between the Emperor and his Dragon generals, the empire faces enemies on all fronts. From the Fae, the Elves, and from within.
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The following are excerpts, selected at random, from Dragon Bloode: Covet and are copyrighted materials. They are in no particular order.
Lady Bovick scanned the crowd for Arik and settled on his towering form, next to Dragon Furne, walking through. No guards were needed to clear the way for the dragons costumed in their ceremonial armor with fierce masks of great wyrms. The guards parted to allow them through the barrier and again Camilla couldn’t place which suit of armor held Arik. In identical armor and similar height, she didn’t know which suit contained the man she longed for. She was ashamed; with so much time spent thinking of him she could not pick him out at close proximity. She forgot how intimidating a dragon’s presence could be. The fierce mask of the armor paired with spikes set in strategic places along the upper shoulders and down the spine of the back elongated downward into a makeshift tail.
The dragons stood before the seated Emperor.
An urge to unsheathe the blade to slay the man on the throne rose with Arik’s blood pressure. His heart pounded and sweat poured down his temples as he planned Jehan’s murder. He would cut off the Emperor’s head and grab Camilla. If necessary he would sleep her with a spell and use the dragon gate to put them a great distance from the capital. Rae would not stop him.
“Our mighty lord,” Raerik began the centuries old dedication without him. “We dedicate unto thee this sword of Emperor, the first ruler of our realm. Take this instrument of justice and solidarity with a heavy heart, for it was carved from the very bones of the great wyrm. As descendants of his mighty majesty, we humbly offer his blade and our Bloode.”
Dragon Furne’s voice drew Camilla to the present from her darkened future and she turned in her seat to watch as Arik handed the blade to her future husband. The dragons did not kneel, as was custom. When the ancients made such dedications and prayers it was as equals to the Emperor.
At dusk, Rana, shivering from the insufferable cold and dampness left by the Swamps of Sednas, found her destination.
Flights away, carved into the Sednas Mountains creating the border between the land of the dragon and fae, was Terek Keep. Joy warmed Rana’s body long enough for her to quicken her pace through the frigid mud. She kept dry through most of her journey in the swamp, but as she grew closer to the marker on her primitive map, it was impossible to keep to the stone roads built up for travel. She was determined to enjoy a warm fire under a roof of sorts by nightfall.
As she approached the ancient structure her heart sank at its dilapidated condition. What was once an architectural wonder, carved out of the mountain and plated with polished onyx, had long since fallen apart. The main hall was caved in and walls remained standing upright in most parts of the structure. Her dark blue eyes scanned the compound. Outbuildings still stood behind the decayed remains of a once mighty stone wall. The keep resembled piles of discarded rock rather than a masterpiece of engineering.
On more than one occasion, in the quiet nights lying next to Onin’s warm body, Rana pictured the keep in its glory. The onyx shining and floors covered with crimson colored carpets threaded with gold details. Her Gran told her more than once those carpets were white and the duke dyed them with the blood of his enemies. The witch reveled in the thought of such a foreboding structure being her own residence and center of power. When most little girls dreamt of dolls and marriage, Rana fantasized the throne of Terek Keep beneath her rump.
Arik removed his own helm and handed it to Captain Ehren. He stepped up onto the ramp carved from the rock and scanned the area. The general rubbed his smooth jaw. He passed the settlement many times throughout his life serving the Emperor. It was known as Matilda’s Mire, a small village and stop for passersby. Its heyday was during Duke Terek’s reign over the swamps. It served as one of few havens for traffic traveling between the keep and capital. Though the population dwindled after the fall of the duke, the village was still populated by dozens of families. Small huts circled round the two story inn at the heart of the village and their economy.
“This is dark magic.” Raerik interrupted Arik’s thoughts. “Can’t you see it?”
Dragon Vierthaler blinked, straining to see what his companion did. A thin layer of blue dust covered the solid rock beneath their feet. Arik narrowed his eyes in concentration.
“Death magic,” he whispered.
Raerik nodded, the heart beneath his armor thudded. As a child, he would read the horror of Duke Terek’s magic in the keep along the border of the swamp. His father would never dismiss them as mere tales and warned Rae against the dangers of black magic. The dragon wiped the sweat from his brow and glanced to his friend. Arik crouched and focused on the ground, his eyes searching. He ran his fingers along the smooth stone. The blue film clung to his glove.
Rae snatched Arik’s arm. “Don’t touch it.”
Lord Vierthaler stood and nodded. Dragon Furne’s onyx eyes followed Arik’s gaze to the west. The dark mountains of Sednas were black jagged teeth against the brilliant sunset. Nestled within its protective embrace was Terek Keep.
Arik’s gloved fingers drummed the hilt of the bastard sword hanging from his hip. “There is no trail.”
Rae shook his head.
“But,” he continued. “I’ve an idea of where to start our investigation.”
“We must report to Qasi before taking action.”
Arik sneered. “Of course. Gods know we can’t breathe without his majesty’s permission.”
Furne frowned. “And what of the private?”
“Say what you want, I care not.”
Raerik glanced sideways to Arik before stepping down into the muck. He breathed outward, preparing to break the bad news to the poor soldier who lost his family.
The rays of Shamash rising washed the thick outer walls of the library in orange.
Daan, situated just north of Bandvala, was still asleep and its residents slumbered. The staff of the library remained through the night seeing to the dragon’s requests. Raerik sat at a table hidden between the floor to ceiling stacks, books towering on each side of him. His heavy eyes scanned the pages of an ancient tome, watching for any mention of lust or Abhilaasa. A staff member snored in the chair across from him.
Rae closed the book and laid it on the desk. He rubbed his eyes and jaw. He looked over the spines of the tomes stacked beside him. Each and every one he read through. Each and every one disappointed him and left more questions than answers. His dark eyes glanced to the slumbering man in front of him whose mouth hung open and arms slacked. The dragon rose from his chair and ran a hand through his mane of red hair. He paced.
He couldn’t read the entire library, it was too massive. Eight stories of books spanning a square flight was impossible to conquer in the short time Arik had. No one else could be trusted. Arik wouldn’t be able to hide his illness forever.
Rae struck the pile of books on the desk, knocking them to the ground. The librarian jumped and yelped. His wide eyes rested on Rae.
The man nodded and scurried into the stacks, disappearing.
Rae breathed deep, tears welling in his eyes. He gripped his hair and collapsed to the white marble floor. His fist struck the chair beside him. The wood split under the force, pieces flying. The dragon smoothed his hand down his face and looked to the books scattered on the floor.
His mind scrambled for names of fae and elven spies, wondering if any could get their hands on an answer for Arik. He shook his head. Such a secret couldn’t be trusted with anyone. The fae and elves would seize the opportunity to attack. Already Parliament was implementing plans for defense in the event one of the dragons fell. The Draak Empire was weak in its current state. News of Arik’s impending death would worsen things and make him an active target. While Rae had no qualms leaving the empire to its well deserved fate, Arik would remain and fight until his last breath to keep it safe. Rae found it more difficult with each passing day to endure the actions of Parliament and a populace that turned the other cheek so long as their own bellies were full and whistles wet. He lost his sense of duty and love for the Draak one day, week, and law at a time. Raerik did as told because Arik expected it of him. The love he bared for Arik, and Malik before his death, kept him in his gilded prison. He couldn’t imagine life without Arik, and didn’t want to.
Dragon Furne resisted temptation to save his Bloode brother’s life. He didn’t want to endanger the only person he cared for in the world. The Abhilaasa was slow—assassins were not. They would both have to endure.
Rae rested his face in his hand.
Casmine blinked with heavy lids as her maid cinched the waist of her bodice.
The princess sucked in her breath and glared at the young woman busy with her task.
“Must it be so tight?” Casmine glanced out to the afternoon sunlight on her open balcony. She whipped around to her maid. “Wait, is Dragon Furne here?”
The maid shook her head.
Yawning, Casmine remained still as her servants finished putting her together.
Zelera woke her daughter from a nap and told her to come dressed in her best, but the princess knew dignitaries were expected. Her mother disappeared to see to her own glamorous attire and left Casmine to her own devices.
The maid sat Casmine down at the vanity, brushing and pulling back segments of her deep blue hair to pin up with sapphire jewels to compliment her dress and eyes. She yawned again and slumped back, crossing her arms. The maid refrained from grumbling in irritation and adjusted with her mistress. Another applied charcoal to Casmine’s eyebrows and around her eyes to emphasize them.
Put together, Casmine left her rooms and walked alone through the massive palace halls. She was in no hurry to sit and listen to the droll of dignitaries kissing her father’s rump nor to their incessant questions of her marriage. Each year they came and poked and prodded at her, pretending to be interested in anything besides the rumors circling her lack of husband. Casmine smiled. For the first time she found herself content with her engagement to Raerik Furne. She would dangle it before the diplomats like a carrot.
Her step lightened and Casmine entered the main foyer of the castle filled to the brim with diplomats, nobles, and guards. A small man with a booming voice announced each dignitary upon their entrance. Heat washed over the princess and she reconsidered enduring her mother’s wrath in exchange for a cool dip in the ocean.