Odessa’s hands trembled while I held them. She wouldn’t even look at me while she recalled the tale that led her here into my territory. The scars on her arms became more prominent to my dragon. He honed in with his intense eyes memorizing each purple scar that littered her frail body.
For six months, she endured more than I thought a human could. Humans were said to be frail, fragile, and weak. Odessa was more vulnerable than the ordinary human. Her body held enough meat on her bones to still produce the amount of blood that could be collected daily from her.
Vampires didn’t need much blood, yet they acted as if they did. They pretended that they could drain the life out of a person, but that was a farce. They would end up throwing up most of it if they even dared try. My dragon heaved in my chest, pounding against my heart to be let out. He was so much pain, and I couldn’t understand why. Odessa was a human we have found at the base of a tree; it didn’t’ matter that we felt drawn to her; our own eyes could see she was scared and bruised like we were so long ago.
Forty years ago. Forty years it had been since I had sustained my injuries while Odessa’s had been fresh. Scar tissue was to be thick to help bind the sinews of the skin to keep it from tearing again. Not Odessa’s skin. Was it a common trait among humans to not have skin as strong? My finger could easily pull the wounds apart without trying.
My dragon reverberated again, pounding my head with his own, beseeching to be released. I felt outraged for Odessa’s pain; she was nothing but an innocent fawn that went to a slaughterhouse. Her own mother getting rid of her as a piece of meat. My heart ached, my dragon fumed, feeling smoke escape my nostrils.
It was white smoke, not the typical dark you would see falling from my lips during a fight. Odessa’s eyes came up to meet mine, only to try and find comfort. She confessed she was nothing but a danger to me, that she would lead many vampires to my home. Our home.
My stubborn dragon came forth, pulling me under. Odessa’s eyes were full of fear as the growl escaped our mouth. It was a battle cry; we hurt for Odessa and wanted nothing more than to avenge each and every scar that was painted on her porcelain skin. Odessa stuttered, not sure what she said; our ears were flooded with rage that only a slow killing, spilling of blood could sate.
The Duke was a cold-hearted devil.
Ever since King Drago was put to death a year ago by the future King and Queen of the Moon Kingdom, Vamparia had been in an uproar. Their new queen leader was a hybrid, a cross of witches and vampires. It was unheard of, but the gods always had their reasons if she genuinely was a hybrid.
Now the dukes, dutchesses had caused a coup. Vampires, witches, and a few rogue dark fairies had taken upon themselves to try and race to the throne. There was even a rumor to capture shifter dragons to take their blood to create new unstoppable magic. Each Duke was racing for the new magic.
Odessa was caught between it all. The laws were broken to bring unsuspecting humans here so vampires could taste what they really craved. Vampires grew tired of animal blood, donations from other species; they wanted what they were created for. The sweet taste of humans.
My dragon brings me back to the present, trying to force shift into the cave. His fixation with Odessa, hell, my new obsession with her, made me unsteady. I had not lost control of my dragon in many moons, and here I was as a pubescent teen shifting in a cave that would not fit our body.
Odessa’s cries were heard within the cave, but I couldn’t go back. Running out, my pet ran behind me, thinking we were hunting. Odessa didn’t know what or who I really was. She knew of vampires; what would she feel about dragons? That we are nothing but demons like the rest of the world, she had come to know?
Stripping my leather vest, I jumped out of the cave in time. The black smoke trailed up my body, my hair sprouting into tiny feather-like tendrils while the scales exploded from my back. Fire breathed into the trees next to the cave. Sprites flew to the sky while my dragon shook his head in a fury.
“Calm yourself,” I spoke into my mind. “We will scare her.” My dragon didn’t want to stop; the heat of his heart warmed our body. We had much fire within our gut that needed to be extinguished before becoming too hot. Once too hot, our fire would burn us inside out. Stretching our wings, we took to the sky, leaving Razak behind. The small whimper was left to the ground while our body heaved itself upward.
Dragons often do not fly past the mountain, not wanting to bring attention to ourselves, but this time my dragon had plans that I couldn’t deny. Fire breathed out of our mouth. Flying into the fire, feeling the heat of our scales, they turned red. Many elves at the bottom of the mountain screamed my name, pointing, running to their homes. Ignoring them, we flew southward.
How much damage had this Duke done in the human world? Did he demand witches to bring humans as payment for something more? The question was, why? Why would he want so many humans and risk his own life? Bringing humans into Bergarian was outlawed thousands of years ago. Now that humans are paired by Selene, humans will slowly enter Bergarian. Only with fates leading them here.
If this is still the case, some guards stand at the only portal to Bergarian. How could the witches be bringing so many humans?
There must be a new way of bringing humans to our realm.
My wings flicked a few times, only to feel the humidity of the air. To the south, a storm was brewing that would head north by nightfall. Before then, I had to be home to make sure Odessa was fed, and her bandages changed. My dragon hummed, thinking of Odessa being home in our nest, wrapped in the furs that I had provided her.
A mate, how would a mate feel? My dragon sings in my chest when she is near, and it has only been a day. What would it have been like if I was granted a mate? Would it be so much worse of an emotion? I don’t think I could fathom the feeling my dragon and I could take if I was granted such a gift. Maybe Odessa could be a chosen mate if she would so have me.
I would prove to her that I could protect her and keep her safe from harm. That is if she would take me after my dragon displays anger.
My dragon growled, not liking the thought of her rejection.
Tiny drops of rain fell on my leathered wings as we grew closer to Vamapria. The Dukes and Duchesses lived just west of the palace; their homes glittered with majestic stones, gold, and ivory. However, this time, instead of eluding the light of their homes, the darkened kingdom held the smoke in the forest beyond the mansions.
A previous battle, maybe? The area was bare, just the stones that once housed a large bunker in the middle of the forest. The entire area was quiet, even in the mansions. No vampires came to look at the mysterious dragon flying by; no one even dared to look out of their home windows. The smell of metallic coin reaches my nose. There was indeed a battle here, causing many guards to fight rather than seek Odessa as she escaped.
With no vampires to be seen, I took my leave. Flying down, burning every house that belonged to a Duke or Dutches would only bring attention to the dragon shifter tribes worth wanting. If there was any Duke out, just walking into the night air trying to find prey, I would rip him to shreds on the spot.
My dragon was not sated even after our flight; he continued to growl and claw the air in frustration. The flight here did nothing but bring more questions instead of answering any. Odessa never gave a name of the Duke, not that she would know it. She was considered a blood bag and kept locked away. No information of where they were or who they were captured by would give a slave the feeling of helplessness.
There was one name. The vampire who dragged her to the Duke’s home. Master Enoch.
My dragon shifted, just twenty feet off the ground while I landed on my two feet. My cloth covered me just enough so I could walk into Vamparia. I would certainly get some looks if anyone dared to walk the cobbled stones, but I came here for one question to be answered. Once I received my answer, I would seek out the man called Enoch.
My bare feet walked into the main square. The stone was cold on my searing feet as I entered the center. A small child in rags was looking up and down the sidewalk. The child didn’t notice me approaching; his own uncovered feet slapped the stone loudly.
“Little child,” my dragon growled. I felt the pinch of my throat; no doubt this conversation would lead my throat to bleed internally. The child looked up in horror at the voice that was emitted from me.
“No harm,” we spoke. “Where, Master Enoch?” The child’s bravery or ignorance struck me as bizarre, but I was grateful. He shook at first, but his finger pointed down the street to a tavern. I nodded my head in thanks, wishing I could give him a coin that I did not have.
The tavern was lively, windows covered in cloth with holes. Peering inside, there was one man with decent clothing on his body. “And then the little bitch slit the Duke’s throat! He was furious!” My guess is that this man was Enoch, giving out such detailed information. “Let me tell you, he picked a good one. A fighter she is. I knew it the day I brought her in. She took my fangs like a champ. I didn’t numb nor heal the thing. On top of that, she was gorgeous, but the Duke swore off anyone to touch her. I couldn’t believe he lasted as long as he did!” Enoch chugged a glass of fermented blood. Dribbling down his chin, he wiped it clean with his now dirty sleeve.
My claws pierced my skin. He thought of touching my Odessa.
While I watched him head to the door, murmurs, jokes, and jabs were spoken between Enoch and the patrons. Slinking into the shadows, my dragon’s instincts took over. Even though we were a dragon, one of the strongest, we liked to have our fun. Since Enoch was the first to sink his fangs into my precious Odessa, he will be the first we kill.
Enoch pushed the door open with a groan. He was highly intoxicated by the way his breath hissed in the air. The rain began to dabble more onto his cloak while he tied it shut. “Humans, humans, can’t wait for a brandy with human blood. So much better,” he mumbled, stumbling off the sidewalk. A horse and carriage went by, causing him to look upon the black bridled horse and carriage. “Stupid Barron. Can’t even have his horse’s hooves trimmed,” he chucked to himself.
His steps were not straight as I followed. The clicking of his shoes grew louder while he traveled along. The rain picked up. Usually, that meant the scent would waver, but not with our nose. My tongue slithered out, using the reptile in me to sense my pray. He was oblivious, with no fear in his smell. Continuing to follow until the sun had set, he stopped at a side gate of a large mansion.
A Dukes’ mansion.
One side of my mouth curled. Enoch’s hand fumbled with the keys, cursing under his breath. Now drenched with the rain, my body edged forward, just behind the drunkard. I stood a good head taller than the bloodsucker; I would end this quickly, only because Odessa waited for us at home in a crying state.
My dragon growled, fangs dropped suddenly, flipping him over on his back against the iron bars. Blood red eyes stared back at me, clenching his keys to his chest.
“The Scarred Dragon,” he gasped. Finally, his senses kicked in; he smelled my dragon’s anger and saw my scared face. The only dragon to have scars as deep as mine.
My tongue slipped from my mouth, toying with the air, smelling his fear. Piece by piece, he wanted to rip from his body, but time was not on our side.
“Odessa,” I growled, putting our claws around the vampires’ neck. Enoch shook his head violently.
“She isn’t here, she escaped!”
“Duke. Name.” Clamping my claws tighter, Enoch’s black blood discolored my fingers.
“T-the Duke that lives here?” I didn’t nod; I waited for his answer. How dense could he be? “D-Duke Mortus, he lives here. Gods, please don’t kill me.” I growled, my fingers crushing his windpipe. His head lulled to the side, his lifeless red eyes turned black as the life left him. It wasn’t enough; he would stir back to life if I didn’t dispose of him properly.
Dragging him by his neck, I pulled him with me, tracking back into the forest. His feet dragged behind me, each shoe finally falling off his feet. The little boy I had seen earlier glanced back at me. Eyes glancing at the shoes that now lay near him. The boy smiled.
“Good riddance to him,” he whispered, grabbing Enoch’s shoes and going along his way. For a boy at such a young age to know what evils lay in this darkened territory means this kingdom was getting ready for a reckoning. The time for Vamparia to meet its judgment was near.