very wary of King Petran and alert to his every move for he was a dangerous man. His excuse for his visit, to collect unpaid rent for the land they had borrowed, was as feeble as her excuse of praying for the Gods a few moments ago. No, the mighty King Petran was famous for his cunning plots and royal mistresses. Talia had no business becoming one of his many preys.
Shoving aside the thoughts of her encounter with the Vampire King, she took the secret note from her pocket and lifted it above the lit candle. The small flame quickly consumed the delicate parchment erasing any signs of its existence, but its contents remained forefront in her mind. She needed to find an excuse to leave the castle. She only hoped the vampire’s unexpected interest in her was just a result of his physical need for blood. As soon as she found him a good servant to break his fast, she hoped he’d return his attention to her father, and leave her alone.
Kalaur stretched his wings and let the wind sway his body downwards. He circled the village, ensuring they all saw what was coming, and then landed effortlessly in the middle of the empty square. Balaur, his brother and captain of his army, followed suit. The other dragons stood on the outskirts of the community as did Kalaur’s most important weapon, Vrajitor, the magician —his very own Leonardo Da Vinci.
A few curious dracos stepped out of their homes and shops, covering their eyes against the setting sun, only to see their community towered over by five dragons. He, the black dragon, was the most imposing one.
“You know why we’re here,” he stated imperially at the villagers. The bitter odor of fear was carried on the wind. Good , he thought, these bloody traitors should be scared. They had no idea how much in the killing mood he was today.
“I give you land to harvest, I give you protection, and what do you give me in return?” he asked. “Betrayal!”
A mother grabbed her son and hurried inside her house, followed by a shop owner who rushed to lock his door behind him. What a bunch of fools. They truly believed those pitiful concrete walls would protect them from Kalaur’s rage.
“Did you think I wouldn’t know you are harboring a fugitive?” He carried on. “I know you are hiding Ivan Milek in this place.”
The remaining villagers exchanged worried looks amid gasps.
“Ivan Milek is a coward who likes stirring up wrong ideas in the minds of other cowardly fools. And you have been protecting him, giving him shelter and food. My food. But if you prove your loyalty to me now, I may spare you from my wrath.” Kalaur paused and let his words echo in the late afternoon mist. “Give me Ivan Milek now. Tell me where he is hiding.”
Silence was the only response he got.
But he was not in the mood for foreplay, so he searched around for an easy target, his lizard-like eyes burning for blood.
There it was—the market, which had been going strong before his arrival. A few dozen buyers stood between the precariously built tents. Wooden tents . Kalaur smiled then without warning, he released a fire blast on the area, burning everything in and around it.
Mothers scurried away trying to protect their young. Stall owners rushed to the well to get water in a feeble attempt to save their goods. Kalaur didn’t stop, breathing more fire on the surrounding houses and shops. All of it burned like twigs in summer. He knew that only fear would drive loyalty, because when you fear for your life you do everything in your power to save yourself. Unfortunately, draconians could not be killed by the very element which gave them strength, so an extra incentive was in order.
Kalaur glared at Balaur. “What in Hiad are you waiting for?” His useless brother blinked at him as if he had no idea what he was talking about. “Don’t simply stand there, you moron, go and do your duty!”
At Kalaur’s command, Balaur finally signaled two of his dragons to