Light My Fire

Page 6

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At Haldane's words, the warrior woman exploded, nearly getting away from the dragon who held her. I knew he was strong even in his human body, but gods. This woman. Her strength was . . . terrifying.
"I will kill everyone here!" the warrior bellowed, shaking me to my very soul. "I will bring the walls of your temple down and pick my teeth with your bones!"
I cannot lie. I was so terrified, I couldn't move. I couldn't scream. Although I quickly realized it wouldn't have helped. None of my sisters was going to step in, and Elder Sister Elisa-the strongest amongst us-was out for the day.
Gods, I felt so very alone.
The dragon pulled the warrior woman farther back into the room and turned her to face him. He said something to her, but I could not hear it. But whatever he said seemed to calm her. For the moment.
Then he closed his eyes and I knew that he was using his mind to talk to someone. But I was not powerful enough-or brave enough-to find out who that might be. It only took a few seconds; then he opened his eyes and said, "We have to go."
"Go?" the warrior woman asked.
"Aye. Trust me."
Calmer now, the warrior woman nodded and faced them. I tried to shrink as far back into the wall as I could, praying she wouldn't even see me.
She didn't. Her gaze was focused solely on Elder Sister Haldane. The warrior woman walked toward her and had just passed when Elder Haldane rolled her eyes and made the softest sound. As if she'd clicked her tongue against her teeth. I always heard a louder version of that when I did something to disappoint her. But this time, it was so faint, I didn't think anyone could hear it.
But the warrior woman did hear it and her fist slammed into the side of Elder Sister Haldane's face with such speed and force that I could only gasp. The Elder Sister went down hard, landing on the floor so that her nose was broken in the process. Just as her cheek and jaw were shattered by that big fist.
Then, making her own sound of disappointment with her tongue against her teeth, the warrior woman sauntered out. The dragon began to follow, but briefly stopped to nod at me and mutter, "Sorry about that."
I just nodded back. What else could I do? Except wait until it was safe and then spend the next hour with my fellow sisters trying to wake up Elder Sister Haldane. . . .
Chapter Three
Annwyl the Bloody, queen of Southland territories, rode into Baron Pyrs's courtyard, stopping in front of the big stone steps that led into the castle where the meeting was to take place.
"Are you sure you should be doing this?" her general commander, Brastias, gently asked.
Annwyl patted her horse's neck. "I'm going to meet Baron Pyrs, not get into a pit fight."
"Are we really sure about that?"
Annwyl gritted her teeth, her lip curling. She knew what Brastias was really saying to her. "Do you really think that you, of all people in the universe, can handle this without removing someone's head? You? Really?"
It was a tone that Annwyl had been hearing for quite a long time. A very long time. In years, she was nearly . . . ? Gods. Fifty? Maybe more. She'd lost track. Not because she'd become so doddering that it had all been lost in her head, but because she'd stop caring. When she looked in the mirror, she still saw a woman of less than thirty winters. Not because she was blind to her aging, but because of a gift from Rhiannon the White. A gift that would-should she not die in battle or from an assassin's blade to the back-allow her to age much more slowly than other humans, the way dragons do. So that she and her black dragon mate, Fearghus, could grow old together.
Although Fearghus often suggested that Annwyl "played with death far too much" to keep him company for another six or seven hundred years.
But what did Fearghus expect her to do? She was queen of the Southlands. A title that Annwyl did not take lightly. Her people meant far too much to her, which was why, for the last few years, Annwyl had been trying so hard not to be as . . . what was the word her battle lord often used? Oh, yes. Ridiculous! Dangerously ridiculous. Stupidly ridiculous.
It was no secret Annwyl had a bit of a temper. During war times, when she was busy protecting her children, Annwyl knew she could be a tad . . . touchy. But her battle lord and steward, Dagmar Reinholdt, Beast of the Northlands, had made a very good point. If she were to continue to protect her children-now off in different regions of the world, learning important skills so that one day they'd be ready to lead in Annwyl's stead-she would have to learn to be a "proper" royal.
A "proper" queen.
Not some screaming, mad noble bent on destroying everyone and everything that even looked at her wrong. But a nice, normal noble that people didn't automatically fear and despise.
A change Annwyl was finding hard to make, not because she didn't want to, but because so many didn't seem to believe in her. Even her own general commander.
Yet, instead of snapping at Brastias that he should "fuck off " before she slapped him off his horse, she took a breath, waited ten seconds, and calmly replied, "I can handle it."
Brastias shrugged. "All right."
No. She didn't hear a lot of faith in that reply. Not a lot of faith at all. But she wouldn't slap him off his horse, no matter how much she truly wanted to.
And gods . . . did she want to.
"You lot wait here," she ordered him and her personal guard.

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