Dragon Bound(5)

By: Thea Harrison


Humans in different cultures also had many words for him. Ryu, they called him. Wyvern. Naga. To the Aztecs he was the winged serpent Quetzalcoatl whom they called God.

Dragos.





When he discovered the theft, Dragos Cuelebre exploded into the sky with long thrusts from a wingspan approaching that of an eight-seater Cessna jet.

Modern life had gotten complicated. His usual habit was to focus Power on averting aircraft when he flew or, simpler yet, just file a flight plan with the local air traffic control. With his outrageous wealth and position as one of the eldest and most powerful of the Wyr, life scrambled to arrange itself to his liking.

He wasn’t so polite this time. This was more a get-the-fuck-out-of-my-way kind of flight. He was blinded with rage, violent with incredulity. Lava flowed through ancient veins and his lungs worked like bellows. As he approached the zenith of his climb, his long head snapped back and forth, and he roared again. The sound ripped the air as his razor claws mauled an imaginary foe.

All of his claws except for those on one front foot held a tiny scrap of something fragile and, to be frank, inconceivable. This tiny scrap was as ludicrous and as nonsensical to him as a hot fudge sundae topping an ostrich’s head. The cherry on the hot fudge sundae was the elusive whiff of scent that clung to the scrap. It teased his senses into a frenzy as it reminded him of something so long ago that he couldn’t quite remember what it was—

His mind went white-hot and slipped from its mooring in time. Existing in his wrath he flew until he came to himself and began to think again.

Then Rune said in his head, My lord? Are you well?

Dragos cocked his head, for the first time coming aware that his First flew behind him at a discreet distance. It was a measure of his rage that he hadn’t noticed. Any other time Dragos was aware of everything that happened within his vicinity.

Dragos noted that Rune’s telepathic voice was as calm and neutral as the other male’s physical voice would have been had he spoken the words aloud.

There were many reasons why Dragos had made Rune his First in his Court. Those reasons were why Rune had thrived in his service for so long. The other male was seasoned, mature and dominant enough to hold authority in a sometimes unruly Wyr society. He was intelligent with a capacity for cunning and violence that came close to Dragos’s own.

Most of all, Rune had a gift for diplomacy that Dragos had never achieved. That talent made the younger male useful when treating with the other Elder Courts. It also helped him to navigate rocky weather when Dragos was in a rage.

Dragos’s jaw clenched and he ground massive teeth shaped for maximum carnage. After a moment, he answered, I am well.

How may I be of service? his First asked.

His mind threatened to seize again in sheer incredulity of what he had found. He snarled, There has been a theft.

A pause. Rune asked, My lord?

For once his First’s legendary coolness had been shaken. It gave him a grim sense of satisfaction. A THIEF, Rune. He bit at each word. A THIEF has broken into my hoard and taken something of mine.

Rune took several moments to absorb his words. Dragos let him have the time.

The crime was impossible. It had never happened, not in all the millennia of his existence. Yet it had happened now. First someone had somehow found his hoard, which was an incredible feat in itself. An elaborate fake setup complete with state-of-the-art security was located below the basement levels of Cuelebre Tower, but no one knew the location of Dragos’s actual hoard except himself.

His actual hoard was protected by powerful cloaking and aversion spells older than the pharaoh tombs of Egypt and as subtle as tasteless poison on the tongue. But after locating his secret lair, the thief had managed to slip past all of Dragos’s physical and magical locks, like a knife slicing through butter. Even worse, the thief managed to slip out again the same way.

The only warning Dragos had received was a nagging unease that had plagued him all afternoon. His unease had increased to the point where he couldn’t settle down until he went to check on his property.

He had known his lair had been infiltrated as soon as he had set foot near the hidden entrance to the underground cavern. Still, he couldn’t believe it, even after he had torn inside to discover the indisputable evidence of the theft, along with something else that trumped all other inconceivability.

He looked down at his clenched right foot. He wheeled in an abrupt motion to set a return path to the city. Rune followed and settled smoothly into place behind him, his rear right wingman.

You are to locate this thief. Do everything possible, Dragos said. Everything, you understand. Use all magical and non-magical means. Nothing else exists for you. No other tasks, no other diversions. Pass all of your current duties on to Aryal or Grym.

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