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Under the moons’ pale luminescence and beneath the crushing weight of his own disappointment, Caffax wandered the long stony plateau where the dragons waited in their ranks for the dawn, and for the great battle that would decide this war. Here was the brink of history. The Three-Cornered War had prevailed for generations, a gruesome wasteful stalemate; but tomorrow the dragons would fly in such numbers against the Kekkelati Empire of the east that the deadlock would break. One side or the other would be left victorious.
But Caffax would not be a part of that awesome bloody mayhem, even though he was a dragonmaster, even though he had brought his family’s salt dragon from his home village of Uebimmo’s Point to the designated staging area in the easternmost reaches of the Realm of Vahcray. This crucial battle would have to be waged without him.
Caffax had committed an…indiscretion. But what was, to him, far more damning was that he and the brawny Vahcray supply clerk had been caught at it.
His eyes trailed along the rows of tethered, resting dragons, and his heart swelled with sorrow. Here were the finest mounts he’d ever seen: sinuous spiral dragons, plump water dragons from the Sapphire Sea, ink dragons nearly invisible in the moons-lit nighttime, tusked and ferocious pike dragons, the huge purple shell-backed rock dragons, and dozens of other varieties. Truly, there were dragons here he knew only as rumor, breeds which came from the Kingdom of Mavvan. The Realm of Vahcray and the Kingdom of Mavvan, longtime enemies, were boldly joining forces to vanquish their mutual adversary, the Kekkelati Empire.
Caffax approached his salt dragon and raised a hand. The white-whiskered face lowered and brushed his palm with a huge warm nostril. The creature knew him the way all such beasts did: by his blood.
The large, dignified beast to whom he had been blood-bonded since his thirteenth year was also anticipating tomorrow’s historic battle. Caffax was certain of this, though he and the dragon didn’t communicate verbally. The mare had a large troop saddle buckled to her back. Caffax would have delivered soldiers eastward, either archers trained to fire while in flight or infantry he would have dropped at a designated site.
Now, tragically, that wouldn’t happen. He stroked the salt dragon’s throat, where he felt her heavy pulse beneath the scales. The mare would be confused when, as the dawn arose, he steered her westward, back toward Uebimmo’s Point and the terrible explanations he would have to make to his family.
All his life he had wanted to do his part to bring an end to the relentless Three-Cornered War, which had taken the lives of men and women from his village as well as throughout the Realm. With the thump of the mare’s hot blood beneath his hand, Caffax hung his head and let the first hiccupping sobs jerk his narrow chest.
Then he heard the cry for help, and the cruel laughter that followed. His feet fell hard on the ground as he started toward the disturbance. Ahead he saw torchlight and shapes moving against it.
“What goes on there?” he called out, surprised by the strength in his voice.
He came up to a trio of guards, and one individual who was not a sentry. He saw the sneers on the faces of the guards, and he recognized that look of frolicsome cruelty. The three were terrorizing the fourth person on the scene, laughing and shoving. Caffax remembered occasions like this from his own childhood, when he had been the object of sport, the outcast, the strange boy who didn’t take a proper interest in girls.
The guards stopped what they were doing, for the moment. A torch flickered in the hand of one of the sentries. Caffax was still wearing his dragonmaster livery. He had meant to go to battle in this finery. Perhaps, though, the costume still had a use. These guards might mistake him for an officer.
Copyright © 2012 by Mitzi Szereto.
The battle for flesh is far more heated than the battle for power in Mitzi Szereto’s Thrones of Desire, a compilation of fourteen sizzling tales set in mystical places ruled by sorcery, secrets and sensual desire. In “Of High Renown” an ailing knight delirious with fever dishonors the young beauty nursing him back to health—much to her delight! In “In the Kingdom of Roz” a brawny dragon hunter kidnaps a princess on her wedding day and teaches her the meaning of wedded bliss. But if she chooses him she can never return home…. And a man of stone is set free after witnessing a slave girl administering to her mistress in “Flesh and Stone”, a tale that ends, like all the others in this scintillating collection, sexily ever after.
Hardcover Book : 256 pages
Item #: 13-616175
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.25 x 0.6inches
Product Weight: 11.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)