Abruptly, he stilled. With a last click, the rope of pearls collapsed onto the black folio, then slithered around it, binding it back to his left forearm. Inside me. How does he come to be here?
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Abruptly, he stilled. With a last click, the rope of pearls collapsed onto the black folio, then slithered around it, binding it back to his left forearm. Inside me. How does he come to be here? But I could not speak, silenced by an obvious truth. If Ido died, the only thing that stood between the bereft dragons and me was Dillon—a mind-sick apprentice as untrained as myself.
There was no chance he could hold back the beasts. We would both die, torn apart by their grief. I fought for air as if I was surfacing through oil. We had to get Ido out of the palace, alive. Yuso suddenly straightened, his dark eyes scanning the eerily quiet woodlands around us. We must move, now! I had seen its like before, on Ido and my master: the burn of ambition. He yanked back his hand.
No wonder Dillon was still so sick in mind and body; he did not have a chance between the book and the damage from the overdose of Sun Drug. Leave the book where it is. The boy comes with us.
Just keep him and the book safe. Keep him quiet. He staggered, striking out weakly at their steadying hands until I hooked him into the circle of my arms. His thin body stank of fevered nights and driven days.
I grabbed his fist as it arced toward his forehead. It was not going to be easy to keep him quiet—or alive. With one last look at the tree line, Yuso herded us forward.
A downrush of cold air from the heavens cut through the heat, chilling the sour sweat on my face and neck. The monsoon was coming. Yuso overtook us, joining Kygo a length or so ahead. He looked up at the heavy mass of roiling clouds. He and Yuso drew away from us, intent on mobilizing the others. Dela was only thirty or so lengths away, frantically waving us in.
Further back, Solly and Vida waited with the horses. Find Eona. But when? The elusive memory hardened into an image: the dragon battle at the fisher village.
Dillon screaming for me through the power of the Rat Dragon. Through Ido. I tugged Dillon into a sprint. A second gust of wind brought light pulsing across the dark clouds. Dillon screamed, dragging at my hand. I looked over my shoulder. He was bent, as if the gods pressed him to the ground.
Close behind us, Ryko and Tiron led Ju-Long in a tight hold between them, the horse blowing hard with fear. With grim effort, I pulled Dillon into a run beside me. They make him drink the black beast. All his power is draining away.
Just like he makes me hurt. Although his words were feverish, they still rang with truth. Dillon knew that Lord Ido was losing hold of the Rat Dragon. I shuddered, pushing my coursing fear into a final burst of speed.
We were almost there. Do you understand? We have to save him. The crack of knuckles against his skull made me wince. I stumbled after him, towed by his savage fury. Another blast of cold wind slammed into us, bringing the smell of sweet, wet grass. The piercing cricket song stopped, the sudden silence pounding in my ears. I looked up in time to see a claw of light rake the sky, then a booming shock surged over us.
A wide semicircle of soldiers had broken out of the woods, all carrying Ji, the hook-bladed pikes braced for attack. They were no more than one hundred lengths away and moving with wary speed.
I felt the gusty wind flex into the heavier muscle of the monsoon, its brutal strength knocking me back a step and stealing my breath. Before me, the grass flattened and the trees bowed in obeisance as the gale brought the first drumming drops of rain. A panic of starlings b urst out of the trees and spiraled upward, turning in a sharp arrow ahead of the wind.
I gasped as the sudden rush of cool water streamed against my hair and face, its weight stinging my skin and scalp. A few lengths away, Ryko pushed Ju-Long and Tiron onward, then turned and drew his swords. I thought I heard the young guard call me though the teeming water, but Dillon pulled my hand again.
He was back on his feet. My relief froze into realization; I was no longer holding Dillon. He was holding me. Even as I tried to wrench free, he caught my other hand and with brutal strength swung me around in a splashing circle, as though we were children again, playing Dragon Spin. I tripped, collapsing onto one knee in the pooling water. The wind was gone, the rain now falling in a seamless gray curtain as if the gods were emptying a pitcher over our heads.
It ran in rivulets down my face and the front of my gown, soaking the rough cloth into a dead weight. Which dragon? Such strength was not natural. I threw my weight backward in a bid to jerk free, but he held me locked in his game. Just above our wrists, the rope of white pearls loosened its stranglehold. The last two perfect gems lifted again, this time like a snake tasting the sodden air. The rest of the rope slithered around the edges of the book and settled a protective rank of pearls along each groove of exposed paper.
I strained against the shackle. Heat engulfed my arm and rolled through my body on a wave of thick nausea. Bitter power rose behind my eyes, whispering words that struck at my mind with acid.
Ancient words. The book was calling me, folding me into its secrets. It was a book of blood, of death, of chaos. It was the book of Gan Hua. Desperately, I pulled against the pearls; I did not want to follow Dillon into madness. Already, the words were searing their mark into me. If I did not stop it now, it would consume me. Perhaps Kinra could hold back this ancient power. I did not trust her influence, nor did I want to touch her treachery.
I still had her death plaque in my pocket, although I could not reach for it. Would its presence be enough? I sent out my plea: Kinra, please stop the folio from burning its madness into me. As if in answer, a force rose through my blood. An aching cold flowed across the acid words like frost, extinguishing the burn of the book.
Then the words and the chill were suddenly gone. But neither the pearls nor Dillon eased their brutal grip. I shook my head, trying to clear away the aftershock of the searing words. The second dragon; two spins in the game.
Sethon is already calling himself Dragon Emperor, even though there are still nine days of Rightful Claim left. But his other nephew, eighteen years old and true heir to the throne, had escaped. I had watched him ride away to safety with his Imperial Guard. Dela chewed on her lip. Ever cautious, he had not shared the information. Now the blood fever had taken his mind.
Eona: The Last Dragoneye
Dragoneyes are the human links to the twelve dragons of good fortune, who provide energy to the earth. However, circumstance does not favour Eon; he is a cripple and despised by the trainers and other candidates for the ceremony. They believe his disability embodies bad luck and try to distance themselves, all except a boy named Dillon who is also bullied for his small size. This feat is almost unheard of and they pray that the ascending dragon this cycle, who is the Keeper of Ambition, will be drawn by the enormous power demonstrated. However, Eon has a dark secret unbeknownst to all but himself and his master; he is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been living a lie in order for the chance to become a Dragoneye. It is forbidden for females to practice the Dragon Magic; this is due to common belief that the female eye, so practised in looking at itself, cannot see other things in life with true clarity. The choosing day comes all too quickly and the corrupted Rat Dragoneye, Lord Ido, has seized dominance over the council.