The ocean breeze calls Miriam and her band of friends to a new adventure as they arrive at Cayden’s summer home along a bright blue bay. Unfortunately, the only thing peaceful is the waters as news of marauders reaches them. They become the news when the pirates arrive at the shores of the calm bay. They bring with them a powerful weapon against dragons that leaves more than one hero a victim of its potent attack.
A diplomatic envoy is gathered, and Miriam won’t be left behind. Their mission takes them to an island far out in the ocean where she makes a new friend, and a new enemy. As they navigate the tense politics of the island she hears tales of an ancient god of water, one who may be able to tell her about her past, and where her future lies.
I lifted my chin in the air and closed my eyes. The sweet smell of salt air hit my nostrils and tingled my senses. I wrinkled my nose and let out a soft sneeze.
“Find peace,” Xander spoke up.
I glanced to my left where my dragon lord rode beside me. Behind us was a short caravan of guards and Captain Spiros. The scenery around us was one of green beauty. Well-spaced trees cooled us with their branches and soft tufts of grass eased the trot of our horses as we traveled along a flat, wide trail. Sunlight lit up patches of the forest, and here and there hung thick vines. A few birds sat in the branches and sang their cooing songs to us.
I arched an eyebrow at Xander. “I might be able to find peace here, but these bugs have got to go.” I winced and slapped my neck. A miss.
He smiled. “It is an old phrase that blesses you and keeps the demons from inhabiting the space just vacated by your sneeze.”
My eyes widened. "Ooh, right.
Like saying 'gesundheit.'"
It was his turn to give me a blank expression. “I do not know that phrase. Is it from a different language than your own?”
I nodded. “Yeah, it’s German.”
“And that is not your own?” he wondered.
I shook my head. “No. I speak English.” I paused and furrowed my brow. “Now that I think of it, everyone in this world seems to speak my language.”
Xander nodded. “Yes. The Portal has granted us constant communication to your world. Where the sus have lacked in their transference of culture, the Maidens have provided.”
“What do the Maidens have to do with language?” I asked him.
Spiros eased up along my right side. “The Maidens, though captured like slaves, have always been held in high esteem by the nobility. They in turn have mimicked the Maidens’ language, and that was then passed down to the people.”
“Huh. Language is a funny thing,” I commented. A sharp pain in my neck made me wince and slap the spot. A soft ‘splat’ noise told me I was successful. I drew my hand away and stuck out my tongue when I saw the sticky substance of bug goop on my palm. I wiped the muck on my jeans and glanced at Xander. “You know what’s not funny is all these bugs. Are we almost out of this sweltering jungle?”
Xander stood on his stirrups and looked ahead of us without stopping. A small smile curled onto his lips. “I believe your wish has been granted.”
I mimicked his movements and watched our destination come into view. The trees parted and opened into a long field that stretched for five miles. In those miles was tall, wheat-like grass that waved in the salty breeze. Small stones houses with thatched roof dotted the landscape, and low stone walls bordered the road and divided the grass-rich plains into small squares. Sheep, cows, horses, and a few other beasts I didn’t recognize roamed among the stone walls chewing on the wealth of grass. Little country lanes connected the houses, and on either side of their picturesque dirt paths were tall, elegantly cut trees.
At the end of the five miles the greenery was slowly transformed into beach. Pockets of white sand mixed with the grass until there was pockets of beach grass mixed with the sand. Beyond the white lay a vast expanse of blue-green water that twinkled in the dimming daylight.
I took in the view and found myself breathless. “Wow. . .” I murmured.
Xander smiled. “Cayden will be pleased with your response.”
I plopped back down onto my saddle and returned my attention to Xander. “Can all dragon lords afford to have a home on the beach like Cayden?”
“Our ancient lines do denote a certain amount of wealth, but some of us were more fortunate with the lands we inherited,” he admitted as he swept his eyes over the scenery. “Cayden was fortunate to inherit the southeastern coast with its wealth of beaches and farmland.”
A teasing smile slipped onto my lips. “So you’re saying you don’t have one?”
Xander pursed his lips and shifted in his saddle. “Not at the present, no.”
I grinned and looked ahead. “So when are Cayden and Stephanie supposed to meet us here?”
“Lord Cayden will be here in a day or two. He was delayed with certain problems along the coast south of here,” Spiros told me.
Xander glanced at his captain. “Have you heard what comprised these problems?”
Spiros nodded. “I have heard that a crude tribe of humans have been raiding the coastline. They take the animals from the fields and drive them onto their ships.”
Xander raised an eyebrow. “But they do not take the wheat from the granaries?”
Spiros shook his head. “No.”
My dragon lord pursed his lips. “That is very unusual.”
“Why is it unusual?” I spoke up. “Maybe they don’t like grains.”
“Grains are easier to take away, particularly on ships, and grains are more difficult to grow on the islands they inhabit,” he pointed out.
I tightened my grip on the reins and looked ahead. “Well, I’m not going to let a couple of raids spoil my vacation.”
I kicked my heels against the sides of my horse and spurred the steed into a fast gallop. The wind whipped at my long hair as the others in our group hurried after me. The nose on Xander’s horse matched mine and exceeded it.
I grinned and ducked low in the saddle. “I’m not going to let you win that easily.”
A quick kick and my horse leapt into an all-out sprint. The world flew by in hues of green and blue. The hooves of my stead pounded the hard grass in quick beats. I laughed as the horse’s mane brushed against my face.
Xander came up beside me and we burst into the field area together. We came up to one of the thatched cottages. A short wall surrounded the yard, and a small gate led from the yard onto the road. The gate swung open and a small boy with short wings on his back rushed into the road.
My eyes widened. I drew back and yanked on the reins. The horse whinnied and slid to a stop a few feet short of the boy. I didn’t. Motion propelled me over the horn of the saddle and onto the road between the boy and my horse. I landed hard on my rear and winced as a sharp pain ran up my spine.
Xander stopped before I did and leapt down. He rushed over and knelt beside me. “Are you unhurt?”
I sat up and nodded. “Everything but my pride.” I glanced over at the boy. He couldn’t have been more than five and stared at us with wide eyes. “You should watch where you’re going, kid.”
“Colin? Colin, where are you?” a female voice cried out. A woman flew from the house and saw us on the other side of the wall. Her face turned ashen and she picked up her dress before she rushed over to us. “What’s happened? Where’s my-” She reached the gate and her eyes fell on the little boy. Her eyebrows crashed down. She put her hands on her hips and glared down at the young lad. “Colin, what in the world have you done now?”
His wings quivered as he shook his head. “Nothing, Mother, I swear it! I was only going out into the road to see what was all the commotion-”
“And you ran right out without looking again, didn’t you?” she scolded him.
“It’s all right,” I spoke up as Xander helped me to my feet. I smiled at mother and son. “I shouldn’t have been riding that fast, anyway.”
The woman swept her eyes over our little caravan. Her attention stopped on the cloaks worn by the guards, and the symbol of Xander’s house that peeked out from the clothing. She clasped her hands in front of herself and bowed her head. “I am truly sorry, Your Lordship. He’s a naughty child who-”
“It’s quite all right,” Xander assured her. He knelt down in front of the lad who turned to face him. “How old are you?”
The lad perked up and stood as tall as his three-foot height would allow him. “I’ll be six come this harvest.”
Xander smiled and reached into his cloak. He drew out a small wooden whistle. “Then here is an early present for you.”
The boy’s face lit up as he took the gift. “Really? All for me?”
“Only if you promise to whistle before you run out into the road,” Xander told him.
Colin nodded. “I will! I promise!”
“Then it is yours.”
Xander handed Colin the little toy. The boy put the mouth of the whistle to his lips and blew. Its shrill call echoed over the road and yard. He lifted his head and grinned at Xander. “I bet I can get the whole of the beach to hear this! Especially from the cliffs!”
“What do you say to the kind lord?” his mother scolded him.
Colin bowed his head. “Thank you so much!” He ran off down the road.
“Don’t go off to the beach! We’ll go there tomorrow!” his mother called after him.
Xander stood and looked to the woman. “He is a fine boy.”
His mother watched him and shook her head as a small smile danced across her lips. “Yes, and so much like his father.” She returned her attention to us and bowed her head. “I do apologize for the trouble, Your Lordship, and thank you very much for the gift.”
Xander shook his head. “There was no trouble, and I can procure more of whistles.”
“But it was still very good of you to do that for my little boy,” she persisted.
“My Lord, there is still a ways for us to travel,” Spiros spoke up.
The woman gasped and stepped back into her yard. “I beg your pardon, My Lord. I won’t keep you any longer.” She bowed one last time before she hurried into the house.
Xander turned away from the scene and climbed into his saddle. “Where did you get the whistle?” I asked him as I mounted my steed.
He grabbed his reins and turned his horse toward the beach. “I crafted it.”
I stared at him as he trotted past me. “You crafted it? Like you made it?”
Spiros came up beside me and there was a teasing smile on his lips. “Our Lord is quite the whittler, though he denies it. So great was his love of carving that his father once suggested he be apprenticed to a carpenter.”
Xander stopped his horse and looked over his shoulder at us. “Will you talk all day there or may we continue on?”
Spiros grinned and bowed his head. “Whatever you say, My Lord Whittler.” I snorted as we trotted down the road to our nice, long, relaxing vacation.
If only it had turned out that way.