The Dragon Wakes
Long ago, the Kingdom of Estala was a place of dragons and sorcerers. Those with magical powers were more than human, they were Menti. But now Menti sorcery is outlawed by the capricious king, and those who wield it are hunted down by the fanatical Order of Insight to be made into slaves, or worse, executed.
Two young heroes find themselves unwillingly thrown into the centre of these uncertain times. Prince Luca, King Davead's second son, has always been the sickliest of the royal children, but in a shocking turn of events, Luca finds himself at the heart of a magical power so great it may consume him forever. If he fails to control those powers, he could be put to death by his own father. Reva Avalon grew up believing she would marry her childhood friend, Prince Luca. But after she is orphaned in the Menti uprising, the King of Estala sells her to his most feared general instead. Young and frightened, but still strong-willed, Reva must survive a harsh new life away from the palace.
And in the realm rebellion looms, as do the return of the mighty dragon shifters. Some long for the return of the dragons... others fear it will be the end of the world as it is known.
Release date: December 5, 2016
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Print pages: 298
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
The Dragon Wakes
Reva wanted to win. If she won the race, Prince Luca would have to give her his honeyed figs at supper. If he won, he got to kiss her.
She skipped up the marble steps, almost tripping over her gown. The sound of her footsteps bounced along the vast walls of the castle, and the tapestries rippled as she sprinted up the hallway. The cool sea air drifted in through the opened windows, bringing the scents of the city of Reyalon. Fish, salt, and sweat. Ale, dung, and spice. Though Reva ran fast, she still thought of the bustling markets outside and wondered whether it would be more fun out there than in the keep.
Luca could never catch her. He was not swift of foot like she was, and he was not strong, either. She smiled, thinking of him panting as he hurried behind her. But then the smile faded and she slowed her pace, remembering Luca’s fever from a mere few days ago. She had visited him on his sickbed and pressed a damp linen cloth to his sweaty forehead.
“Lady Avalon.” The guard—the youngest of the guards with a dark beard and named Rodrigo—nodded to her as she hurried up the steps towards the large, panelled doors.
Reva turned back and her loose hair caught her eyes. Impatiently, she pulled it away with her fingers. All the other ladies in the court of Nesra’s Keep constantly told her that her hair was beautiful, but it was a mere annoyance for Reva. Straight and dark, it constantly shed onto the rugs and her bed furs. She wanted to cut it short, but her lady-in-waiting would never let her. She said the king would disapprove. Why would he care about her hair? She supposed it was because she was betrothed to his son, Luca. He wanted her to look a certain way for his son. That irked Reva. It made her want to steal a dirk from the guards and lop it all off herself.
Luca came tumbling around the corner and all thoughts of her annoying hair went away. She jumped up and down, clapping her hands.
“Why, my prince, you have lost!” She could not help the note of triumph in her voice.
“I fear that I have.” Luca smiled amiably. There was not a member of court who disliked Prince Luca. The third of King Davead’s five children was gentle-natured and handsome, if somewhat sickly. Reva would not admit it to anyone, not even under duress, but she enjoyed gazing into Luca’s hazel-green eyes. She thought his light brown hair and olive-tinged skin was pleasant to look at. But mostly she enjoyed racing Prince Luca and winning by a mile. He made it up to the door with a hint of mischief glinting in his eyes. “And would my betrothed offer me a consolation kiss?”
Reva winked. “Nice try, my prince.”
Luca glanced at the guard to his right. “It was worth a go, was it not?”
“I would say so, Your Highness.” Rodrigo grinned at Luca.
Reva rolled her eyes. “Come. We are late for your father’s court. Though we will talk of those honeyed figs later.”
“And my consolation kiss.”
Reva let her hair cover her face to cover the flush working its way up her neck. At thirteen, Reva was all too aware that her wedding to Luca could come at any time. King Davead was of an opinion that the two could wait a while longer. He had no desire to rush the matter while Luca’s older brother, Matias, was about to wed a noble girl from Irrinthia. As the younger brother and second in line to the throne, Luca was allowed more flexibility than Matias. But still, sometimes the reality of her impending wedding to Luca hit her with full force and sent butterflies to flutter around her stomach.
The guards wrenched open the doors and Reva walked into the throne room with Luca by her side. As soon as the lords and ladies of the court turned to stare at them, Reva felt aware of the sheen of sweat on her forehead, and how her hair was sticking slightly to it. There was a desire to check the underarms of her red gown for stains. Instead, she clamped her arms down tight and tried to kick the hem of her dress with each step in the manner she had been taught was proper for a lady.
The members of court sat in pews on either side of the long aisle facing the throne. Reva bowed low to her king while trying not to make eye contact. Despite the king’s recent kindness, she still found him an intimidating presence. As for the rest of the lords and ladies, they avoided her eyes. Since her family had been killed in the most recent Menti rebellion, they either treated her with pity or suspicion. Reva was not fully aware of the circumstances of their death. She knew that the Menti had overrun Avalon Towers while she hid in a pile of furs in her bedroom. A king’s soldier had found her a day later, shivering and babbling like a baby. She remembered none of it, and she was glad for that small mercy. But since that event, she was something to be stared at, whispered about, and pitied constantly. It was Luca who talked freely, and who dared to be sharp with her when she was salty. It had been a year since she had lost her family, and now the soldiers who helped win against the Menti were here to reap their rewards from the king. Reva tried not to think of her family as she took her place beside Luca. Thinking about them made her heart hurt.
Reva was relieved to see that they were not the last ones late to court. A few people were still filtering into the balcony of the hall. Reva had to crane her neck to see all the way up to the top of the ceiling, where frescos depicting how King Mithrin had claimed the throne a hundred years ago stretched from corner to corner, as well as illustrations of the Enlightened God and the Brothers and Sisters who worshipped Him. King Davead turned his head to glare at the latecomers. His golden crown hit the sunlight filtering in from the large stained glass windows set around the room. Bright squares of light danced on the dark mosaic floor. The rubies in his crown shone like teardrops of blood. Next to her, she was aware of Luca straightening his doublet and standing with a rigid spine. The doublet was a deep green embroidered with gold thread. The colours complemented his eyes.
The court began. King Davead appointed three new knights and one new Lord. Brave men stepped forward to claim their rewards. King Davead decreed years ago that Menti should be exiled or executed for using their powers. They were unnatural, he said. Their magic was evil. All Menti should be stopped. Reva had never thought about whether being a Menti was evil. She supposed that if the king said it was, then it must be. She was a loyal servant to the king, and soon to be his daughter-in-law.
“Bring forth General Unna,” the king commanded.
A large man stepped forward. He stood a head taller than almost every man in court. His armour was a dull grey, not as intricate as some of the other soldiers’ garb, yet moulded perfectly to his bulky form. He carried a long sword at his waist, with his hand resting on the hilt. His forehead was large, leading down to close-knit, bushy eyebrows that hid the small eyes beneath. Yet when Reva felt his gaze rest on her face, the hairs stood up on the back of her neck. Her own gaze fell to her feet, and she was glad when he turned his attention to the king.
“You fought bravely, General Unna. You led my forces to victory and contributed to saving the city of Reyalon when the Menti crossed the Sea of Kings. Eyewitnesses say you slew fire wielders and skin shifters.”
The great man nodded his misshapen head. “Aye. It is true, Your Majesty. Though the landslide on the cliffs south of Reyalon helped a deal.”
“Nevertheless, you showed cunning, bravery, and skill. Those will be rewarded. You will be granted a Lordship, the empty seat in Lantha, and a wife of your choosing.”
Reva noticed Lord Coren give his daughter Maeve a little shove forward. But General Unna did not linger long on the slightly plump Maeve. His eyes barely glanced over the court before they rested back on Reva, who felt the blood drain from her face, and the sensation of insects crawling up her arms.
“Your Majesty, I would request the Lady Reva Avalon as my bride.”
There was the ripple of a murmur throughout the court. Next to her, Reva felt Luca step forward.
“Father,” he began.
The king raised his hand. “General Unna, Reva Avalon is betrothed to my son and has been for almost a year. There are a number of eligible ladies in court.”
“Your Majesty offered me a wife of my choosing. I wish you no disrespect, my king, but there are many other fine young ladies for your son. I have gazed upon Lady Reva and her face has moved me. If you were to grant me this wish, I would be forever indebted to you.”
“Father, you cannot—”
“Hush, child,” King Davead commanded.
As King Davead sat in contemplation, Reva stared down at her fingers, watching as they trembled. She dared not turn to look at Luca. She could not. The tears were so close. She thought of her mother and father. She thought of how happy they were. Her mother and father had been the same age as each other, and not much older than she was now when they were married. Though their marriage had been arranged, they had loved each other until the last. She had thought she would have that with Luca. She had already begun to let her heart love him. And now it was about to be ripped away from her. She could not look at General Unna either. He was old. Forty at least. He was a beast of a man. She could not.
“Very well, General Unna,” King Davead said with a sigh. “There is another I can betroth my son to. You may leave with Lady Reva today if you wish, though she will no doubt want help from her handmaids.”
“Father.” Luca hurried towards the dais, but his father’s guards drew their swords. Luca stopped before the king. “You cannot do this. Reva and I are in love. We…” He turned back to Reva. She finally found her prince. She raised her eyes to him. A sob escaped her throat before she could stop it.
“Your Majesty,” she said in a quiet voice. “Your son speaks truly. We are fond… we have found…”
“Enough.” The king raised his hand. “You are young enough for folly, but old enough to know better. Reva, you are thirteen now and of marriageable age. You will go with General Unna to Lantha, where you will be an obedient wife to a brave man. Luca, my son, by now you are aware of the sacrifices that a prince must make for the good of the realm. You will accept this as my final decision, or you will leave court right now.”
“I will not!” Luca’s voice shook with rage.
But the king nodded towards his guards and two bulky men in shining armour stepped forward to drag Luca away from the room. Reva watched him kick and flail as the guards dragged him away. She wanted to speak up, to shout that this was injustice. But what could her words do? She was not the king. She was nothing with no one apart from Luca, and even his words meant nothing. Her breath caught in her chest. Is this the last time I will ever see him? A firm hand cupped her elbow and led her away from the court. On the way out, no one looked at her, not with pity or sadness, not at all. Her mouth opened and closed uselessly. Her feet dragged along the floor, but General Unna guided her away. The guards closed the doors behind them, and Reva was alone with her new betrothed.
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...