The dragon of the Pitted Mountains has been vanquished and all that remains to set things right is to venture to Lochanna, the Empire of Swamps. There awaits Sullivan, the final dragon of the three and the last, and first, to be cursed.
Emma and Edmond’s journey to the swamps is not without its own adventure, however, as they find themselves in a mess of trouble along the long route they decide to travel. Their path takes them through several small towns and villages, and at each one they find themselves confronting mistakes of the past brought on by the century-old curse.
Things are made worse when they discover that something lurks in the shadows of the magic-laden land. A creature stalks the enchanted creatures and is suspected of stealing magical items from the humans. That thing sets its sights on the pair, and they find that their new foe is actually an old enemy, one that has no intention of letting them reach their destination.
I hate mornings.
The bright sun. The cold air. All of it wrapped around me like a wet blanket as I slid out of bed and shuffled over to the dresser. I slipped into my clothes, though giving the intruding sunlight an obligatory glare, and shambled out of the room.
Coffee. Need coffee.
I paused in the corridor with its stone floor and walls, and the archaic unlit torches that hung from them, and a groan escaped me. Sometimes it sucked being stuck in the middle ages.
“I should invent coffee. . .” I mumbled as I shuffled down the hall and the stairs.
I found the foyer a little more inviting. A large fire burned in the hearth and the table was set for two. Elinor stood beside the hearth stoking the flames with some fresh logs.
She looked up at my coming and offered me a bright smile. “Good morning, Emma.”
“‘Morning. . .” I mumbled as I took a seat beside the empty head of the table.
Elinor moved over to me and poured me a cup of her warm brew. “I hope you slept well.”
“Like a log,” I replied as I picked up the mug and took a sip. The heat warmed me, but my thirst for dark brew was unsatisfied.
Elinor’s smile widened. “You have the most unusual sayings, but when one thinks about them they are so appropriate.”
I snorted and set the mug on the table, cradled in both my hands for its warmth. “They were thought up by people a lot smarter than me.”
She wagged a wizened old finger at me. “You have your own wit about you. You did save My Lord from his brother with your bravery and thought.”
I thought back to that episode and stared down at my hands. “Yeah. I just wish I could figure out how to use this power instead of just getting lucky.”
Elinor set a hand on my shoulder. “I’m sure you will. In the meantime, would you like your breakfast served?”
I cast a curious look at the empty chair beside me. “Where’s Edmond?”
She shook her head. “Unfortunately, I haven’t seen him. He must have risen early. Perhaps he is checking on his brother. But if you will excuse me, I can see you’re rather chilled. I’ll fetch some warm food.” And with that she whisked herself into the kitchen.
Without her company my mind slipped back into its dullard state. That is, until I was jolted out of my sluggish mood by the sudden slam of a door. It was Edmond coming out of the entrance to the labyrinthine basement. He had a look of annoyance and fury on his face.
He marched a few yards into the foyer and swept his eyes over the high open-rafter ceiling. “Niks! Niks!”
A moment later the little ball of light floated out of the wall behind the fireplace. “You rang, My Lord?”
Edmond balled his hands into fists at his sides and he nearly quivered with rage. “Where is it?”
Niks floated about his head, though well out of his reach. “Where is what, My Lord?”
Edmond’s words came out in a growl. “Where is he?”
Niks ghosted over to the table where I sat, and Edmond stomped after him. “I haven’t the faintest idea to what you refer, My Lord. If this is some kind of game then I do want to play-hey!”
Edmond swiped his clawed hand across Niks’ body. The wisp was cut into ribbons, but quickly reformed himself and zipped out of reach about our heads. “That wasn’t very nice!”
I stood and set a hand on Edmond’s arm. “Before you cut him into fine bits, could you tell me what’s going on?”
At my touch some of his rage was soothed, but he still glared at our bright, mischievous friend. “Balmore’s egg has gone missing from its place in the basement.”
Niks floated back and let out a gasp. “And you suspect me of doing that?”
I snorted as I directed Edmond into his chair. “Who else?”
Niks flitted about our heads as I resumed my seat. “I’m insulted! I’m outraged! I’m-”
“Guilty,” I finished for him as I leaned my elbows on the table and lap my chin my clasped hands. “So where is it?”
A laugh escaped Niks as he danced above us. “Alright, you have me! I stole the egg, but I bet you can’t guess where it is!”
“Breakfast, My Lord,” Elinor announced as she swept into the dining room with a tray full of food.
She set the platter on the table in front of us and lifted the lid of one plate to reveal a veritable mountain of omelettes. A look of horror spread across both Edmond and my faces, and we whipped our heads to the wisp.
Niks zipped back a few feet. “No, not there! Sheesh! You two act like I’d murder an innocent egg!”
“So where is it?” I mused as I helped myself to the feast.
Niks floated to and fro. “I’m not telling! You have to find it!”
“Then you killed him?” I teased as I took a mouthful of food.
“I did not!”
“Then prove it!”
“Fine, I will!” Niks flew over to the pile of fireplace and hovered over the mantel. “He’s in the fire.”
I spit out my food and the color drained from my face. I would have leapt to my feet, but Edmond grasped my hand and offered me a small smile as he pulled me back into my chair. “We’ll leave him there.”
My jaw hit the table. “But he’s on fire!”
He shook his head. “We’re dragons. Even though his main element is earth he can’t be burned, even in his current form. The heat will actually be beneficial to him.”
A little bit of my tension slipped away and I removed my hand from his to pick up my fork. “Is anything normal about you guys?”
He flashed me a mischievous grin. “We are still men.”
I snorted and resumed my eating. “My aching bones are reminded of that nightly.”
Niks floated over to us and landed near the platter. “You fleshy creatures are so strange!”
I lifted an eyebrow. “So how do wisps do it?”
Niks laughed. “We don’t do it at all! Wisps are born from the mists of sorrow that are created by your tears!”
My face drooped. “That’s not very cheerful.”
The wisp pranced across the tabletop. “Maybe not, but it gives life to us! That’s a cheerful thought!”
I snorted. “Now that’s a matter of opinion.”
“Speaking of opinion,” Edmond mused as he stood with his plate unused and offered me his hand. “There’s something I would like to discuss with you.”
I lifted an eyebrow, but set my fork down and accepted his hand. He drew me out of my chair and up the stairs. Rather than toward the bedroom as I expected, he led me to the far end of the hall which led out onto the parapet. The high wall looked out over the vast forest kingdom, still uninhabited but just waiting for humans to return.
Edmond stopped us beside one of the lower walls and set his hands on the stone and his sights on the woodlands. “It has been a long while since I stood up here. The view grew to be too painful to bear.”
“Is that when you stopped flying around, too?” I wondered.
He nodded. “Yes, though I am pleased to say my wings have improved greatly. I may need them in the coming days.”
My heart skipped a beat. “Why?”
He didn’t look away from the view as he pursed his lips. “The road to Sullivan’s domain was never hospitable, and after a century of neglect it could be incredibly dangerous.”
I leaned my side against his and lay my head against his shoulder. “You know I’m not letting you leave me behind.”
A sigh escaped him. “Even if I desired that outcome, I don’t believe I could resist the temptation.”
I snorted. “I can’t really be that nice smelling, can I?”
“You did lure the king of the fae to attempt to cheat on his wife.”
“He was sick at the time.”
He looped an arm around my waist and lay his head atop mine. “Sick or not, you do attract trouble.”
I rolled my eyes up to him. “I guess that means we should cancel each other out. You’re just as much trouble as I am.”
Edmond chuckled and pressed our lips together in a long, gentle kiss. I was sorry for it to end as he drew away. “We’ll have to see how much trouble we can find on this trip.”
“So when we do leave?”