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Taken By the Dragon King



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Previous: Chapter 18

Chapter 19

I froze and my eyes widened as the sudden agony spread through my body. A gasp escaped my lips as my legs buckled beneath me and I fell onto my knees, catching myself with my hands. I’d had attacks of the heart before, but nothing like this. This felt like my heart was pumping pain into every crevice of my being down to my soul.

“Diana!” Pennae shouted as she knelt beside me and grasped my arms. “What’s wrong?”

I clutched a hand over my chest and shook my head. Tears streamed down my cheeks. “I. . .I don’t know.”

Miss Smith bent down in front of me and studied me for a moment before she pursed her lips. “The union of hearts.”

Pennae whipped her eyes up to our companion. “What does that mean?”

“All mates to the dragon king have weak hearts in their world, but by finding the king and being brought over to our world their heart is made whole. Whole, that is, because the piece of their heart that is ‘missing’ comes from the dragon king himself,” she explained as she set a hand on my shoulder. “Because of that union, whenever one is in pain, the other feels their torment.”

Pennae’s eyes revealed her anguish as she looked back at me. “Can’t we do anything to stop this?”

“We need to find where His Highness is and stop what’s happening to him.”

Even as she spoke I felt the tremors of pain fade. I took in a deep, gasping breath as relief washed over me. Relief, and fear. I whipped my face up to Smith as a chilling thought entered my mind. “It. . .it stopped. What does that mean?”

She pursed her lips. “It means His Highness is no longer in pain.”

My pained heart skipped a beat. “But he’s not dead, is he?”

She shook her head. “No.”

“You’re sure of that?”

Smith looked over her should and glared at Ethan. “You may not care about the kingdom, but what about two lives? If something happens to His Highness then she dies, too.”

A mix of emotions crossed Ethan’s face before he sighed and stood. “Alright, what was it you needed?”

I lifted my head and smiled at him. “Thank you.”

He shrugged and shook his head. “Don’t thank me yet. I’m not even sure I have what you’re looking for.”

“Your sketches from earlier today when the museum was robbed,” Mia told him as she swept her eyes over the cluttered room. “We’re trying to identify the two thieves. They may have come in together or separately, and we’re not even sure when they came in but it had to have been before the eight o’clock tour.”

Ethan furrowed his brow as he strode over to his folder which I’d seen at his side earlier that day. He rummaged through the stacks of papers before he came back with two sheets which he held out to his sister. “These might be the ones.”

Mia took the paper and studied them a moment before she looked up at him. “Why these ones?”

He nodded at them. “Because they came in separately, but they left together. I thought that was strange.”

Mia lifted an eyebrow. “And you’re sure of this?”

He nodded. “Yeah. I have a couple of sketches of other people between them who passed me before the woman walked past.”

Pennae blinked at him. “Woman?”

He shrugged. “One of them was a woman, the other a heavyset man with the smell of the sea on him.” He tapped one of the papers Mia held. “He also had that tattoo on his wrist, though he tried to hide it. I noticed he pulled on his sleeve a few times walking along the courtyard toward the museum.”

Pennae and I crowded around behind Miss Smith, and sure enough there was a hint of a tattoo on the man’s hand. Mia squinted at the drawing. “Is that. . .a seagull?”

Ethan cracked a smile. “I think it is, which means he’s probably a fan of The Gull.”

I lifted an eyebrow. “Who’s the gull?”

He shook his head. “Not a person, a place. The seediest bar on the ‘wharf.’”

Pennae frowned. “But Amnisis’ port is some ten miles away.”

A wry smile spread across Ethan’s lips. “A short distance for a seaman accustomed to thousands of miles, and The Gull caters to those water walkers bold enough to venture this far inland.”

Mia crossed her arms over her chest and frowned at him. “Is your information reliable?”

He spread his arms wide and grinned. “You’re looking at one of their finest patrons. They have some of the best rum in the city.”

Mia pursed her lips, but said nothing as she turned to Pennae and me. Her attention focused mostly on me. “Are you feeling well enough to travel?”

I nodded. “I’m fine, and I’ll feel even better when we find Luca.”

“Then let’s go.” She strode toward the door.

Ethan’s loud clearing of his throat made us all pause and turn to him. “Do any of you gentile ladies happen to know where The Gull is?”

Pennae and I shrugged, and Mia sighed. “No.”

He strutted to the door and opened it for us with a sweep of an arm. “Then allow me to be your guide.”

Mia crossed her arms and lifted an eyebrow. “Aren’t you too drunk to even know at what you’re throwing a bottle?”

Ethan gestured to the wall beside the door. We followed his direction and my eyes widened as I beheld a trough. The long, short metal bin was filled with every color of bottle imaginable. There were purples, pinks, browns, blues, and even a magenta. They were broken, but together they shone like a trapped rainbow.

He slipped over to the trough and picked up one of the pieces of colored glass. “I use these pieces in my art. Nothing is quite as cheap as cheap rum.” He flicked the glass back into the bin and grinned at us. “Now shall we?”

“And quickly,” I added.

Ethan led us out of the house and down the street. Mia followed behind him, and Pennae and I trailed behind them. I couldn’t help but notice that she gawked at the scenery almost as much as I did, so I leaned close to her and lowered my voice.

“Have you been in Amnisis very long?”

She winced and shook her head. “No. I arrived from my village only two weeks ago.”

“With plans to open a shop?”

Her eyes lit up as she nodded. “Oh yes! I have so many designs in my head, and being here inspires even more! And there are so many people to sell to!”

“So where’s your village?”

She pointed to our left. “To the north near the top of the Altum Peaks. My flock has been there for more generations than we have feathers.”

I lifted an eyebrow. “Do you guys often leave?”

She shook her head. “No, but I want to make a name for myself, and Amnisis is the closest kingdom. I’ve heard all my life about the grand city, but I never imagined it would be this big.”

I swept my eyes over the endless array of streets and nodded. “I know how you feel. I come from a small town, too.”

Pennae leaned back and studied me. “What is your home like? Are there many of my people?”

I laughed and shook my head. “There aren’t any of you, but there’s not that many people to begin with.”

She wrinkled her sharp nose. “What a pity. We avius are among the best designers in the world.”

I looked her up and down. “Why’s that?”

She puffed up a little. “Our fashion sense is keen because our sharp eyes recognize more colors than any other species, and our feathers-” She stretched out one feathered hand, “-allow us to feel the texture of cloth and know what material was used in its making.”

I lifted my eyebrows. “Wow. All that with just your feathers?”

She smiled and nodded. “Yep.”

“If you two would quicken your pace,” Mia reminded us from where she stood waiting with Ethan at the next intersection. “His Highness no doubt needs our assistance in getting himself out of this latest predicament.”

Pennae and I scurried up to them, and something in her words caught my attention. “So does he often get into this kind of trouble?”

Mia sighed as we continued onward. “Unfortunately, yes.”

“Everyone knows about the dragon king and his adventures,” Pennae spoke up as she bobbed her head. “He’s one of the few monarchs in the world who’s willing to go out and deal with the dirty stuff on his own.”

Mia stared ahead of us and pursed her lips. “I only hope he hasn’t found himself in trouble too deep to come out of.”

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