UNEDITED CHAPTER ONE
DRAGON'S BLOOD- Story of the Brethren 2
a romantic fantasy
COMING END OF SUMMER
(Maybe earlier :-)
A rare echo of thunder drummed across a hazy Arizona night. The threat of rain and the lateness of the hour insured privacy. At the place known as Window Rock, directly beneath the arch of the natural circular stone monument, two men, one older one younger, watched and waited. The older one had long white hair pulled away from a high forehead into a tight braid, hanging down the center of his back. The pathways on his deeply lined face told the story he’d lived life long and rough, the broadness of his features highlighted his Native American heritage.
The older man crouched within the Window, pulled out the sheathed ceremonial knife at his hip and handed it to the younger man. He was of medium height and wore a cap pulled low over his head his face remained shadowed, but when he reached for the knife, lightning reflected off its surface showing the man’s dark colored skin.
The Native American man held out his hands, palms up and the other man sliced them both open. Turning around, the older man laid his blood covered palms upon one side of the stone interior. He sang in his native tongue, voice low the tone guttural. Where his hands touched the rock, instead of smearing it red, the surface began to glow, muted at first then into a radiant white. The younger man narrowed his eyes when the glow blazed highlighting his features. Isaiah Turner stood silent sentinel, stroking the bloodied ceremonial knife in his hand against the other side of the rock. His long wait was almost over. After twelve years of careful planning, searching, everything was in place—almost. They needed one more crucial piece. He nodded at the old Indian he’d been sent to find and stayed with for the last dozen years, learned from. Readying everything for this day. The old man was dying and this would be his last act, best his death help their master accomplish his goals.
The seismic boom ricocheted through the night and jerked Darryl Jenkins from a deep sleep. His wife beside him bolted upright, her blond micro-braids swinging as she looked toward the window in their room facing east, toward Window Rock. The direction of the sound. The echo of danger vibrated within their dragons, causing them to growl. The explosion disturbed the lines of magicks running through the very core of Earth. Any one with a drop of brethren blood would have felt it to varying degrees. The stronger in power the greater the effect. For Darryl and his truemate, it was the equivalent of a thousand bells ringing in their heads.
Darryl turned and took his wife into his arms. Holding onto each other, they combined their powers and stopped the effect of the disruption, lesser brethren might have headaches for days from the after shock of such pain. But Darryl was a First. One of the first seven brethren awakened by their leader, Draakar, the Dark Dragon Lord, over a dozen years ago. Darryl carried strong magicks in his veins, as did his truemate.
Darryl had been born on Earth, a descendant of Earth born brethren. His mate however, was born on Akgon, their native realm, a place not of this Earth. Still, they both came from strong brethren blood.
The reason for the boom chilled Darryl to the marrow of his soul. It was why he’d been placed here, in this area. He was the strongest brethren in the country. Other than the Dark Lord’s son, Talon, there were not many brethren stronger in power on Earth than Darryl. His sole task, because of his great strength, was the guarding of the portal at Window Rock in Arizona. The arch was a gateway to another world, another realm. One neither brethren nor human, something no human should know of but obviously perhaps a handful did. It didn’t matter, Darryl and the other brethren wanted no one crossing over from the other side. So Darryl kept watch.
Years ago, he’d helped his Lord seal all the portals on Earth in order to trap a renegade brethren, known simply as the betrayer, for his crimes against brethren and humanity. His name stripped from their history. A silver dragon bent on proclaiming himself Lord of all brethren and human alike, by any means necessary. The seals were meant to keep him from returning to Earth and wracking his havoc. Darryl feared the explosion could mean the betrayer had made an attempt to break the seal. Or worse. He succeeded.
“Was that what I think?” his wife asked, fear in her voice.
“I’m not sure.” Darryl could not lie to this woman even if he wanted to. She was his truemate, with access to the deepest reaches of his soul. The one woman born just for him, capable of drawing forth all of his magicks. Darryl was brethren who could harness magick when Draakar first awakened him, but even more powerful since he mated a year ago. He followed up his initial answer with the truth, a truth that would only take her brethren senses another moment to discover for herself. “Whatever is going on, it’s coming from the portal. Come on, we’ve got to go.”
* * *
At about the same time Darryl and his truemate backed the car out of their driveway and headed in the direction of the Window to investigate the disturbance, someone else prepared to rush to his aid. Talon, Earth’s guardian and Draakar’s son, along with Robert, one of his father’s Firsts assigned to watch over Talon, stepped on the Akgon private jet in Ireland to get to Darryl’s side. Even over thousands of miles, Talon’s powers were strong and he was linked to all of the Firsts remaining on Earth. Though an ocean and thousands of miles separated them, Talon called upon the powers of the Stones. The source of the portal to Akgon. He sent telepathically to Darryl. We’re on our way. An attempt has been made to breach the portal, so far the seal is holding.
Unfortunately, Talon and Robert, even though both were golden dragons, couldn’t take dragon form and fly there, or teleport over such a great distance. That would task powers they may later need. However, they could boost the speed of the plane they traveled on and move it from one location to another, with the help of the powers of Mother Earth, in minutes.
Darryl’s response to Talon, his Lord’s son could only be one thing. Jenna and I are already on our way to the portal. We will make sure it holds.
Soon enough, Darryl stopped the Jeep as close to the Window as they could get, got out of the car then quickly climbed to the top of the hill the arch sat upon. The entire area lay covered in the darkness of night, deserted, and after the soul shattering noise earlier, suddenly eerily silent. None of the night sounds that should be present were. Not even the brush of the wind.
Darryl’s dragon within remained uneasy. As Darryl and Jenna cautiously approached, he expanded his senses and scanned the area. He felt his mate beside him do the same. I don’t see or sense anyone. He sent to her mind, but something is still very wrong.
The unnatural bright silver light glowing from the center of the Window seemed even brighter against the otherwise black background. Darryl could feel the power continue to build from the other side pushing against the entrance to Earth. So far it held. They could clearly hear thunder now, echoing from its center. The air drifted ripe with the scent of an electric charge, but nothing could be seen except the light. When they got nearer they noticed a shadow move on one side of the stone arch. Yet neither could sense anyone or anything, as though the power generating from the portal dulled some of their senses.
Lightning gathered overhead suddenly striking the empty space dead center within the Window, causing the structure to shine even more so for a moment it looked like daylight. Darryl released his wife’s hand and reached into his jacket, pulling out the Beretta semi-auto he carried. He could command great amounts of powerful magicks, but sometimes something else simpler was called for. Stay behind me.
They raised their body shields and he angled their climb so they approached the Window from the other end of the movement they had seen. As they drew closer to its base, Darryl could feel the intensity of the steadily building power emanating from it. Like being as close to fire as you could get without feeling the burn, but the flush seemed bad enough. This was as close as he wanted them to get to the glow. And still they were only about ten feet away from it.
Slowly, he made his way until he stood at the edge of the Window, being careful not to touch it as he rounded the corner, gun in hand. He quickly spied around the corner and saw nothing. As brightly as the center glowed it did not extend much beyond the Window to penetrate the dark and provide any light, nor could he see through the portal to the other side. Even with his dragon senses Darryl had a hard time seeing in the unnatural night surrounding them. And it was unnatural. Great power created this kind of dull darkness. The sense of danger hit him as he turned around to check on his wife. The sight behind him caused his blood to turn to liquid fire.
His dragon roared and his magicks reared to kill the man who held the gun pressed to his mate’s temple. Taking in several things at once, he noted her shield seemed to be down as was his. He’d heard her warning too late. For both of them. Trap!
After traveling on the winds of Earth magicks, Talon stepped off the plane at a private runway in Arizona onto the tarmac and came to an abrupt halt. Every nerve ending stilled. Robert, beside him, fell to his knees. They were both unprepared for the pain. Talon balled his palms into fists, threw back his head, and roared into the starlight night. Two of their own had just fallen, their powers forcefully leached from them. The wrench of life force so harsh everyone connected to Darryl and Jenna felt it in their core, along with the energy shift. The unthinkable happened. With their deaths, the portal had been breached.
Talon wasted no more time. Grabbing Robert’s shoulder, he teleported them to the base of Window Rock, knowing such use of his magicks would place a drain on his powers. He did not care. It was already too late.
They stood before the Window, normal in appearance now except for the crack at the top of the stone structure. Crumbled a few feet apart on the cold hard ground lay the empty shells of Darryl and Jenna. From the look of them, neither had a drop of blood left in their bodies. The skin was shriveled against their bones and their naturally dark brown complexions now looked like they were dusted in a gray powder.
“Oh God!” Robert cried. “What happened?”
“The betrayer has found a way to drain magicks,” Talon hissed in anger. “He’s free. And he had help.”
“But how could this happen?”
Talon looked at the bodies. Darryl’s throat had been cut as well as his wrist. The same was done with his mate. “Someone used the magicks of their brethren blood to open the gate. Whoever did it knew how to open the gate from this side. They forced the seal open from the other side, weakening the portal and used the blood of a powerful brethren to break the seal here in order to open the gate from this side. The portal was attacked from both sides.”
“What,” Robert said looking over at Talon.
“They had to have known only Draakar, myself, or one of his Firsts could open the gate, and none of us would have done so willingly. Darryl’s power helped close the gate, so the power of his blood could be used to open it, and the blood of others was also used, his mate for one. Someone on this side is helping the betrayer.”
“Bloody hell!” Robert cried. “We have to find him, lad and whoever the hell helped him. Should we go back to the Stones and contact your father?”
Talon didn’t immediately answer, sensed the body of the dead human not far. He walked in the direction of where he thought it would be. “There.” Robert had been following him. He pointed at the lone car that sat out there by itself well away from any parking spots.
They approached the car and saw the man behind the wheel. Talon used his senses to scan the man and the car.
“He’s dead,” Robert said. “Do you think he had anything to do with getting the portal open?”
“Yes. Look at his hands his clothes.” There were splotches of blood there, although Talon could tell the man had a heart attack. Whether from natural causes or not he couldn’t tell. They’d get no further information from him.
They made their way back to the bodies of their brethren leaving the man for the police or someone else to find. “You go return to Akgon, Robert, get word to Draakar. Tell him what’s happened. I’m going to try to track the betrayer. I have his scent, though it seems changed somehow, and he isn’t the only thing that came through the gate. There’s a signature of magicks I do not recognize. He brought something else across with him, and he’s been changed somehow by the powers from another realm. Tell my father.”
“I don’t think me leaving is such a good idea. I should stay with you.”
Talon turned to look at Robert. In the last few years Robert had come to be like a brother to him. In fact, people thought he was Robert’s younger cousin, he looked like he was in his mid to late twenties. It wasn’t so far fetched since they shared the same fair haired blond coloring. The truth was Talon would continue to look like this for the next thousand years. Robert, still virile and handsome, was in his early thirties, and in fact the younger of the two. Talon held some four hundred years over Robert.
“No Robert. I need you to return to Ireland and contact my father. For now I will hunt alone. Draakar left me in charge of protecting Earth. I’ll call you or the others if I have need.”
Talon knew Robert still sometimes thought of him as a boy.
Not so young Lord,Robert sent.
“I didn’t realize I broadcasted that.”
“You didn’t. I’ve watched you grow and become stronger everyday, as have I. I can just read you better than most. Your word is law here, and I obey.” He bowed his head. “What about Darryl and his wife?”
Talon had already summoned the brethren driver who had been waiting for them at the airport to pick them up at the Window instead. He turned when he saw the headlights coming toward them.
“I’ll notify Darryl’s parents. They’ll want to bury their son. Jenna was of Akgon, so I suspect Draakar will send her parents across. I’m sure they’ll also want to bury their daughter.” A soft growl emerged from Talon’s chest, his fingers curling into fists. He had to take a deep breath to control the anger simmering just below his skin. His dragon roaring within for revenge, needing to release flame but nowhere to go—yet. “I will take care of the bodies so they appear more natural and it looks as though they fell while climbing, something everyone around here knows they liked to do.”
“That should satisfy the authorities,” Robert agreed. “What about funeral arrangements?”
“I will leave it to the parents where they want them buried.”
The car stopped before them and Robert got in, but paused and looked at Talon, his leader on Earth. “Are you sure Talon? I could at least take care of Darryl and Jenna for you before I go.”
Talon understood Robert’s concerns, and smiled bleakly, it was his duty to protect Earth, and Robert’s to protect Talon. “Thank you Robert, but I got this. I was supposed to protect them.”
“This is not your fault, Talon.”
“I know that, believe me. And I intend to catch the bastard whose fault it is.”
Talon shut the door and stood there for a moment watching the car drive off. He had seen the Jeep, the only other car in the parking area and knew it belonged to Darryl. He turned to walk back up to the arch and do what in his arrogance he never thought he would have to do. See to the bodies of his fallen brethren.
He bent over Jenna first, fighting back the grief and fury as he gazed upon her broken body. The fire within gone for all time and waved his hand over her. A golden glow started at the center of his palms then grew outward until it encased Jenna’s body. When her body stopped glowing, no blood appeared around her neck nor was there a mark. Instead, her neck appeared at an odd angle, like she broke it during a fall. Next bruises and scratches appeared on her arms, head and legs to give support to a fall. Taking a deep breath, he turned to Darryl.
They’d become close over the last decade. Both traveling back and forth and in constant touch because of the business at first, then because they’d become friends. Hell, he’d been best man at Darryl and Jenna’s wedding, he’d even introduced them. As he’d taken care of Jenna, he did the same thing for his friend. One by one he picked up the bodies and gently laid them together in the back of the car.
Talon drove to a place where they loved to hike, where he’d hiked with the couple a few times, and placed their bodies where they would be easily found. At least he didn’t have to change their clothes, they were already dressed like they’d been hiking. He just created a backpack with the kinds of things Darryl usually carried with him, and the small pouch Jenna carried with water bottles on the sides. The water from the busted bottle drained into the Earth.
The sun had been up for awhile now and he hadn’t noticed until he caught the glint of it off Jenna’s bracelet. Once everything was in place, the stage set, Talon took out his cell phone and placed his call to the authorities. He could not bring himself to leave them alone, so he stayed with them until the ambulance arrived.
Even using mind control and making sure one of the park police who showed up was of brethren blood, it still took a couple of hours before Talon could leave the morgue where they had taken Darryl and Jenna. He’d called Darryl’s parents earlier, they were going to fly in later that afternoon from Baltimore, and he also checked in with Robert.
“Where you able to contact Jenna’s family,” Talon asked.
“Yes, with help from the Stones of power. I got through to Akgon. They’re with me right now, we’re already on the way to the plane we’ll be there soon,” Robert said.
“Are they listening in?”
“No. I have the glass closed between us in the limo and shielding this conversation.”
Talon took a deep breath and found the air in the corridor of the morgue stifling. He’d have to face Jenna’s family first. Given the speed at which they could get the brethren jet to travel, they would be at the morgue before Darryl’s folks.
“I’m sorry, Laddie,” Robert continued. “I still don’t think you should be doing this by yourself.”
“I have to.”
“Valour said he’s not able to reach Draakar.” Valour was one of the oldest brethren, and Draakar’s chief advisor. “He and Lady Maya are visiting another realm and may be hard to track down but after we spoke Valour himself left to go find them.”
“So I’m on my own.” Talon inhaled sharply.
“No. You’re not. We are all in this together.” In mid-sentence Robert stopped speaking. He and Talon felt a spike, like the prick of a needle along the blood link. “What the hell was that?” Robert asked.
“It’s the betrayer. He’s killed another brethren. He’s hunting awakened.”
“Bloody hell! Is he near?”
“No. But I have to find him. He’s getting stronger with each kill, somehow he’s draining magicks. I’ve changed my mind. I’ll return to Ireland after all. I will need the power of the Stones and Mother Earth to help.”
“But I thought you had his scent and could track him?” Robert asked.
“I did, but as I go further away from the portal at the Window I have a harder time sensing his location. And now it seems to be coming from everywhere. Like he’s put his scent all over Mother Earth.”
“But how is that possible? Is it possible?”
“No, it’s not. Or not supposed to be. These are not powers he had before. Something’s alien about it, perhaps it’s powers from where ever he’s been all this time, but deaths led the way of his coming and I can’t see that changing anytime soon. I suspect all I have to do is follow the bodies. I’ll return to the castle after I meet with Jenna’s folks. Then I hunt.”
“Not without me and shouldn’t we wait for your father?”
“I don’t think we’re going to have that kind of time. Can’t you feel it? The sense of urgency in your dragon.”
“Yes, yes I can. But, what about the funeral arrangements?”
“I don’t need to be here for that, and it will take a few days. I hope to be done with this once and for all by then. I have to find the betrayer as soon as possible. He knows how to siphon brethren power and boost his own, hopefully, it’s only temporary as it is for my father when he links with us. But this may simply mean the betrayer is going to kill again—soon.”
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