Thanks to Emma and her new friends, Edmond is freed from his curse, but there remains two other dragon lords trapped inside their realms. Together the pair set off on a journey to free one of them, the dragon lord Balmore, ruler of the rocky land of the Pitted Mountains.
Trouble comes early as they travel across the stony hills to the southwest. Great is their surprise when they discover not a desolate realm, but a thriving community. The people have been lured to the capital of the realm by the promise of great riches. Unfortunately, danger lurks beneath the pact, and beneath the earth. The extensive mining has operation awakened an old secret, one which threatens more than just their livelihoods, but their very lives.
To make matters even more complicated, Emma’s unique aura attracts the attention of more than just her handsome companion. She soon learns that dragons aren’t the only ones lured in by her sensual scent, and her new suitors have some mischievous plans for her.
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
I stood in the grand entrance hall of the castle of Kinrick and gaped at its wondrous new beauty, hidden away beneath a century of dust and neglect. Gone were the cobwebs, dust, and stains of ancient mold. In their places were pristine walls, shimmering tapestries, and floors so shining that I could have eaten off of it.
I wrinkled my nose. “Maybe not that clean. . .” I murmured as footsteps approached my position.
Edmond joined me, and his soft smile spoke volumes as he, too, admired the view. “It would seem a century of rest has granted her fingers a new strength.”
I snorted and cast a mischievous look up at him. “You think she’ll even be on the roof fixing the missing shingles?”
He grinned. “I wouldn’t mention it to her.”
“She’s gone and done it now!” a voice shouted, and our stony wisp friend Niks hopped through the doorway that led into the deeper depths of the castle.
I lifted an eyebrow as our strange companion leapt on top of the large dining table. “Done what?”
“She’s gone and made Tinia mad!”
Both Edmond and I blinked at our small friend, and it was Edmond who first found his voice. “How has she done that?”
“She took away all his favorite cobwebs, and then she threw some trash into the pit and he ate it and now his stomach is upset!”
I smiled. “At least it’s not Elinor herself who’s making his stomach upset.”
Edmond, too, looked amused. “Hopefully Tinia will learn from Elinor’s minor infraction against his domain.”
“Hopefully it will keep him from having any more kids. . .” I murmured.
At that moment the cleaner herself appeared through the same doorway, and in her hands she grasped a tray full of delicious food. “Would anyone be interested in an early dinner?”
I lifted an eyebrow as she set the platter on the table close beside Niks. “Why early?”
“We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow,” Edmond told me as he drew out a chair for me. “Without the feathers my kingdom is rather more difficult to traverse, not to say anything about Balmore’s lands.”
I took my seat and he took up the chair at the head of the table. “How far is it to Balmore’s capital?”
A half day’s journey across my lands, and another day’s journey across his own,” he revealed as Elinor dished out the wonderfully smelling food onto plates in front of us. “That is providing the roads are of any use after such a long time.”
I noticed that Elinor’s deft hands fumbled with a piece of meat before she caught herself and resumed her work. I caught Elinor’s eye and smiled at her. “You’ve done a wonderful job on the castle. It looks like new.”
She managed a small smile of her own. “Thank you, Miss Emma-”
“Just Emma,” I lightly scolded her.
She bowed her head. “Thank you, Emma. I’m glad to be of some help.”
Edmond chuckled. “‘Some help’ doesn’t begin to describe the transformation that has come over the castle. You have done wonders to this old keep.”
She cast a slightly scolding look at him and wagged a fork at her lord. “There was a great deal left to the years while I was asleep, My Lord. I am surprised you allowed such deep rot to enter this fair place.”
He leaned back and clasped his hands together as his smile played across his lips. “After such a long absence I will gladly take one of your scoldings, my dear Elinor. I should even be tempted to neglect more of the castle to hear your words.”
She put her hands on her hip and frowned at him. “I doubt much of the castle needs any further ‘help’ from you, My Lord.”
Edmond threw back his head and laughed. “That is the Elinor I missed so much! Always feisty and never afraid to tell me the truth!”
Her irritation softened and she smiled at him. “I am glad to see your humor has not been lost on you, My Lord. Being alone for such a long time must have been very difficult.”
He gathered himself and nodded. “It was, but-” He picked up his fork with a bit of food and took in the nourishment with a smile, “-the wait was worth just a taste of your famous roast beef.”
She chuckled before she bowed her head to him. “Thank you, My Lord.”
He nodded at me. “Edmond, if you will follow Emma’s lead. Besides, there’s very few ears to hear your ‘transgression.’ I hope more will soon come and then you may resume the habit, if you wish.”
Elinor inclined her head again. “As you wish, Edmond. In the meantime, shall I begin packing your bags?”
He nodded. “That would be for the best. I have never known anyone as organized as you are with trips.”
Her face brightened. “Thank you, My-” A playful look of warning stopped her. “Thank you, Edmond. I’m glad I can be of some service on your journey to the other domains.”
Niks bounced up and down atop the table. “Don’t forget to pack me!”
Edmond shook his head. “You will not be joining us.”
The wisp lost the spring in his step and dropped with a hard thump onto the wood surface. “But why not?”
Edmond picked him up and lifted him a foot above the table. “Fly.”
Niks wormed around in Edmond’s grasp. “You know I can’t do that right now!”
Edmond set him back on the table. “That is exactly why you will remain here. The only use you would have on our adventure would be as a weapon to throw at a wild animal.”
Niks resumed his hopping. “I don’t mind doing that!”
“You’d make a better weapon for Elinor,” I spoke up as I gave a sly wink at our server.
She smiled and set a hand on top of Niks’ head. Or as near to one as he had. “I would be grateful for your protection.”
Niks wiggled beneath her gentle touch. “I-I suppose I could stick around here. I mean, I am a protector of the realm, right?”
Elinor nodded. “Of course, and I could use some assistance in cleaning the castle. The stables are particularly bleak.”
Niks leaned to one side. “How can I help with that?”
Her eyes twinkled with mischief. “You might roll over the bugs that have infested the stalls and crush them.”
The small stone bounced up and down. “A game of tag! I can do that!”
Elinor scooped up the eager wisp into her palms. “But first you will help me fold the clothes into the bags. If you will excuse us.” She inclined her head to Edmond and me, and hurried off to begin her chore.
Edmond pushed away his empty plate and leaned back in his chair. He twined his fingers together and set his hands in his lap as he smiled at the clean room about us. “I find myself reluctant to leave.”
I studied the room myself and nodded. “Yeah. It’s really nice now, isn’t it? She even cleaned the fireplace.”
He cast his eyes at the warm fire that crackled in the pristine hearth. “She has always worked miracles.”
“Well, I’ll help her with the miracle of packing enough food for us to last my stomach,” I announced as I stood. A glance at Edmond made me step over to him where I set a hand on his arm. He looked up and I smiled down at him. “You’re not alone anymore.”
He set a hand atop mine and nodded. “I will forever be grateful for that.”
I slipped away and upstairs where I found Elinor and Niks deep in conversation.
“No, no, the other shirt,” Niks insisted as he hopped up and down on the bed where the two backpacks were wide open. “The one with the stripes!”
Elinor stood before the dresser and turned to him with her arms full of clothes and a frown on her lips. “Stripes are for spring. Solids are for traveling.”
It wasn’t exactly a deep conversation.
I cleared my throat and caught their attentions. “Mind if I help?” A look from both of them answered my question, and I gave the pair a nervous smile. “Maybe I’ll just sit on the bed and watch.”
I plopped myself down near Niks, and the small stone bounced onto my lap. “You think you can convince Edmond to let me go.”
I shook my head. “No chance.”
“Will you be wanting this, Emma?” Elinor spoke up.
I looked up to find her holding the stone given to me by the strange little creatures in Bayloff’s hideout. The stone had lost its green shine, but the smooth surface still glistened in the strong light.
She dropped the stone in my palm and I studied the enigmatic rock. There was a strange, gentle warmth in the rock that made me smile, and I tossed the stone into the bag. “I’ll take it. Maybe I’ll need a night light.”
How right I was to be, as I soon found out.