by Alianne Donnelly
Dragonblood Book Two
The Imarah tribe is dying. The gods have abandoned them; demons feast on their souls in the night, and when morning dawns, murderous raiders pick off those still left alive. As the prince of his people, Tir is determined to break the curse. But when the enemy he imagines in Wilderheim turns out to be the last chance for his tribe’s survival, everything changes. Princess Liadan is shameless, reckless, dangerous, and unpredictable. She is the spawn of their enemy—Imarah will never accept her. They may not have another choice, if they want to live.
Difficult trials lie ahead for Tir and Liadan—of mind, body, and soul. But the worst is one they never expected: a trial of the heart. A bond between them can only lead to tragedy the likes of which they are both determined to avoid, but it seems the merciless desert has other plans. One thing alone is certain: When demons fly, the world will burn…
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Content/Theme(s): Dragons, Demons, Magic, Norse mythology, Persian mythology, Multicultural, Interracial, Paranormal
Release Date: September 3, 2016
Excerpt & More
When at last the fire died down, the witch beheld the creature she’d summoned. It was tall and thin with wide shoulders and gangly limbs, its long, black hair plaited back into a thick rope that reached the sands and coiled around its feet. Or rather, where its feet ought to have been. It wore shadows as clothes, and every time the breeze blew, the creature briefly turned to smoke, as if it would dissipate in the wind.
“No one,” the creature said. “How dare you summon me, no one?”
“I…” She could not find her voice. The creature’s red eyes glowed, following her every move, staring straight through her, into her, and the witch hugged herself for fear of having her soul ripped out of her chest.
The djinn laughed; a terrible sound in the night. “No one wishes to be someone. To be seen and feared.”
“N-no. I wish—”
“I know what you wish. I can taste your soul, no one.” It licked its lips with a long, pointed tongue, and hummed. “It is as bitter as firedust. You wish to see your mistress avenged. But where to begin? With her father who gave her away? Or her mother who gave her such a miserable life?” It floated closer, touching the blackened circle of its prison. “Would you like to see the man who took that miserable life, no one?”
The creature held out its bony hand and, with a harsh command, summoned a blaze into its palm. The flame swirled like a mad thing, twisting and stretching every which way to escape, but the djinn’s magic held it in place. “Look upon the face of your enemy. See how happy he is.”
The witch looked, gasping at the sight.
There, the castle in the North. There, the fair-haired king sat on the bed, gazing down at a pair of swaddled babies. He looked up at the woman who’d given birth to them and smiled at her with such love, the witch felt tears slide down her wrinkled cheeks. She shook with hate. That love should have been Mari’s. Those children should have been hers.
“What will we name them?” the king asked.
“My daughter’s name is Liadan,” the woman said. “Your son waits for you to name him.”
The king peered down at the child, and at length said, “Fal. His name is Fal.”
The woman smiled. “Liadan and Fal.”
Suddenly, a dark-haired man was there. “They are too much human,” he said.
The king and his woman looked at each other, and a grave understanding passed between them. “They are only just born,” the woman said, her eyes pleading.
“Yes,” the dark-haired one said.
The witch gasped. “What demon is this?”
“He is a dragon,” the djinn answered. “He has lived long before your gods birthed your tribe. The king is his grandson, and he is mighty with dragonblood coursing in his veins. Do you think he will be so easy to defeat?”
“Yes,” the witch answered at once. “Because you will strike at him where he is most vulnerable.”
“Ahh,” the djinn breathed. “Wrath. Sweeter than a newborn’s blood.”
“I want you to strike them down.”
“A dangerous task, and not without a price.”
“I will pay it,” the witch said.
“You do not wish to know what I will demand of you?”
She couldn’t hear what else the Northerners said, but she did see the dark-haired one bring forth two small cups. When the king and his woman nodded, clutching each other’s hand, the man gave one cup to each, and they, in turn, each fed a child from the cup.
“Now, creature—strike now!”
The djinn crushed the flame between his palms, and it exploded outward, knocking the witch down. From the ground, she looked up into the smoke left behind at what the djinn had wrought. The children screamed, one of them bursting into flames. Their parents and the dragon rushed to save them, but the witch knew it was too late.
Shaking, she touched a hand to her heart, then to her lips, and finally to her forehead. “For you, my sweet Mari. I do this for you.”
“You did this for yourself.” Hard hands curled around her arms, yanked her up off the ground. “And now, I take my reward.”
The witch screamed, struggled in vain against the djinn’s hold. No, not a djinn; a true fire spirit would never have been able to leave its circle prison. In a rush of wind, the creature’s face wavered, changed into something grotesque and terrible. Its eyes slanted crooked, its nose flattened into almost nothing, and its mouth stretched halfway around its head, opening on several rows of sharp teeth.
A daeva—a demon!
The witch screamed again, her own mouth forced open wide as the daeva forced noxious smoke down her throat. It became a living thing inside her, stretching her, pushing her aside to make room for itself. It hurt in unimaginable ways as the daeva cast her out.
Then the pain was gone, and she opened her eyes. She saw everything, the entire night, in every direction at once. She focused down on her body and saw it rise up from the sands. It looked back at her, its black eyes turned to red as the daeva smiled from her own face.
“Do not fear, no one,” it said with her voice. “You may be nothing now, but a deal is a deal. I will give you the vengeance you so desired. The Imarah will pay for what they’d done, just as you wished. You simply won’t be around to see it.”
“What do we do?” a weeping woman whispered, turning the witch’s attention back to the dissipating smoke of the daeva’s spell.
“I will take the girl,” the dragon said.
“No!” the king cried.
“Be easy, Saeran. She cannot remain here. It is too dangerous. I will keep her safe, and you have only to think of her to be there with her. You must trust me. She is a Dragonblood, more powerful than any one of us, and until she can control it, she will need to be in a place where her fire will harm no one.”
“And my son?”
A sigh. “He is a creature of water, not fire. I cannot help him.”
“Then I will,” the woman said fiercely.
Only when the witch heard the power in the woman’s voice did she realize what she’d done. No human woman had a voice like that, one that could command the earth and heavens to move to her tune. I have failed. I never stood a chance. And she’d paid a terrible price for the attempt.
It was the last thought she had before the northern wind scattered her across the desert sky.
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