Read Melting the Ice Witch Online

Authors: Mell Eight

Tags: #fantasy, #M/M romance, #Dragon's Hoard

Melting the Ice Witch (9 page)

BOOK: Melting the Ice Witch
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Kam understood the sentiment. After spending most of his life destitute and unhappy, he had never expected to see a dragon, let alone speak with one. In the space of two days he had spoken with four dragons and a Prince, and was living happily with a witch. He wasn't sure what to expect anymore!

The tension around the central fire broke suddenly, when there was a thump and Jerney started spluttering. Kam looked over and saw clumps of melting snow dripping off Jerney's face.

Tori was giggling a few feet away where he was crouched down gathering another ball of snow.

"Oh, no, you won't!" Jerney laughed. He was quick to drop down and gather his own ball of snow, firing it off at Tori before Tori could finish. The snowball hit Tori directly in the face and melted almost immediately, leaving the baby dragon blinking water out of his sparkling golden eyes.

Tori grinned widely and flung the snowball he hadn't dropped, hitting Jerney in the chest, before taking off at a run, giggling wildly the entire time. Jerney just laughed and bent to gather more snow, before taking off after Tori.

"That is an interesting pair," Mae murmured softly as they heard Tori squeal happily behind one of the tents further away. "I like them," she added before mashing a handful of snow directly into Lor's shocked face. She lifted her heavy woolen skirts and took off at a jog, but Lor just wiped his face and grinned over at Kam while his magic compacted some snow behind him.

Kam, who had seen what Mae was doing while Lor was distracted with Tori, grinned back and shoved his own handful of snow up Lor's nose. He took off running with a laugh as well, Lor's enraged cry echoing behind.

The rest of the afternoon passed quite pleasantly, most of the Tribe participating in the impromptu snow fight. By the time Kam and Lor slid under their furs that night, much of the worry that had plagued the Tribe after the arrival of the older dragons had faded. In the morning they would begin preparations for the journey south, but at the moment all they wanted was to have some fun.

When Lor rolled over and took Kam's mouth with his, Kam smiled. Fun indeed.

*~*~*

"We're going to dig out this hill," Tori was explaining outside of the small barn. The large hill the barn and accompanying small house were tucked underneath had attracted Tori's attention. "And my hoard will go inside. Then they're going to build a school and attach the two. My hoard room is going to be nicer than Nyle's!"

The hill wasn't large enough to house a full-grown dragon. Kam knew that much even as he nodded along with Mae in response to Tori's exuberance. The little he had seen of White's dragon form and the sheer size of Nyle, only a few hundred years older than Tori, told Kam that the hill might suffice as a hoard room for a century. Any longer and Tori would be too large in dragon form.

Although, none of those worries might ever become an issue for Tori. Kam had learned a lot about Tori over the last few days, since the baby dragon never stopped talking. Apparently Tori had been born in human form and couldn't yet access his dragon shape. It was entirely possible that his dragon shape would be smaller, after being confined inside a human form for so long. Or it was equally as likely that Tori would prefer human shape since that was how he was born and since his favorite hoard piece, Jerney, was a human. According to Tori, Nyle had started staying in human form more often once he had Leon around.

Anyway, Tori seemed plenty pleased with his plans for the large hill. He was climbing to the lightly snowy hilltop, his small claws at the tips of his human fingers digging deeply into the near-frozen sod. So far south the snow and ice coating the ground was sparser. Kam could see cold-browned grass poking through the light layer of snow. It was much closer to what he remembered during winters in the city, although there was still enough snow that the sleds didn't get stuck.

"They're here!" Tori called, waving at someone on the other side of the hill. Lor straightened his back and Mae bit her lip once before hiding her nervousness away. Kam drifted behind Lor. He had just been a lowly peasant stuck living in the docks; he had no place speaking with Prince Bast, Captain of the Guard. Lor had brought Kam along anyway, citing his knowledge of human city customs as reason for Kam needing to be present during the negotiations as well.

Tori scrambled down the hill, sliding most of the way, and came to a stop next to Jerney. Soon after, the clopping of horses could be heard as six men on horseback rounded the hill. They dismounted and the one with the fewest patches on his uniform took the reins of all the horses and guided the animals to the side.

Nyle and Leon walked around the hill a few moments later. No doubt Nyle and Leon had flown and had landed far enough away that they didn't spook anyone. With all of the members of the negotiation party present, the three groups converged in the middle. The man leading the soldiers from the city spoke first. He had cropped black hair and brilliant blue eyes, but his face and body were military straight. Kam decided to stay behind Lor while the soldier spoke.

"I am Prince Bast, Captain of the Guard and the Royal Forces, and have been given full authority by his majesty, King Felix, to conduct these negotiations and make binding signatures on behalf of the humans. These men are all versed in this issue and may have information to share as well." He introduced the four men standing behind him, excluding the cadet unsaddling horses near where the sleds had been left. Kam couldn't read anything from the five men in front of him—none of them had animal characteristics—but one of the men standing directly behind Bast, whose name was Evan, gave off some sort of other characteristic that Kam couldn't place.

Lor stepped forward next and introduced his own party, comprised of himself, Kam, Mae, Hern, and Tomm.

The house was too small to hold all of them comfortably and the caretaker too old to be able to accommodate them, but after a few moments' scramble there were enough furs spread on the ground that no one had to get their bottoms wet.

Bast began speaking first, outlining the travesty that had nearly occurred in the city thanks to one witch with a vendetta and a total lack of safeguards against illegal magic usage—something that had apparently been an issue the King had been searching for a solution to since before his coronation. Kam was too young to remember the battle caused by the magi, but he knew enough that he could clarify any of Lor's questions about it later.

"So we need a school built that can gather all the witches together in one place for proper training and oversight protocols put in place for when they are in the city," he finished his explanation. "We chose this location based on the fact that while it is near and easily accessible to the city, it is also far enough away than any spell work that goes awry, as Jerney explained does tend to happen with young apprentices, will not impact the city negatively, either."

"Plus," Tori cut in, "the hill is big enough for a proper dragon hoard. I want to move out of the basement of the castle!"

"Yes, that too," Bast said with a touch too much agreement in his voice. Kam could guess that Tori was just as exuberant in the castle as he had been with the ice. From Bast's stiff demeanor it was easy enough to tell that Tori's personality grated on Bast's nerves a good bit. "With those aims in mind, we chose to head north into the grass hills instead of south into the plains."

Lor nodded thoughtfully, but it was Mae who spoke. "We can see many benefits to both our peoples from such an arrangement. Our chief concern is that our trade route to the human city remains unblocked."

Bast nodded as well. "Dragon Lord An'nanyle and Prince Leon have brought up your concerns to our council and King. I believe we have a solution that would work well for us all. There is a large market for exotic furs, one you are already aware of. If we opened up an official trading route we could expand that market. Additionally, there is a need for ice blocks from the north to be shipped regularly into the city. As you can see we have some trade agreements to work out, but I believe there is enough need from us both to make a mutually beneficial trade."

Mae sat back in her seat and nodded, but she glanced up at Lor and didn't speak again.

"We wish to remain autonomous," Lor finally spoke. "Your king is not our king."

Bast didn't look surprised at that demand. "That's understandable. I believe the precedent is to apply hoard law?" he asked, turning to Nyle for confirmation.

But Nyle was shaking his head in the negative. "That has been the stance taken with the werewolves and the maji, true, but they were not already part of a hoard. The White Dragon and the Eldest must come to an official decision first, but I believe that total autonomy and perhaps an official peace treaty signed by all sides would be better in this case. I can sign for the dragons, Leon for the wolves, you for the humans, Bast, and Evan can sign for the maji," he finished with a nod for the strange feeling human in Bast's group.

"That is certainly an option," Bast agreed, but before he could say more a giant shadow swooped over them, startling the sled dogs and the horses. Kam looked up and saw a flash of pale white high in the sky.

White had arrived as promised.

A second gigantic shadow flew overhead, also high in the sky, but the shocked and frozen reaction from both Nyle and Tori proved to Kam what he could already feel: age, immense age even older than White, and no small bit of anger. White was angry too, but the Eldest's rage flared stronger. Something intense had happened between them a very long time ago, because the feelings Kam was getting from the golden speck high in the sky were deep and personal.

Then the two shadows collided in midair.

Fire flared high above, countered swiftly by a jet of ice. Claws grabbed and missed, wings beating furiously to keep them aloft and out of harm's way.

"Are they fighting?" Tori asked, sounding horribly betrayed.

"It will be okay," Jerney soothed softly. "You fight with Bast all the time, but you still like him," he added, garnering a sharp look from Bast for the comment.

Tori nodded. "I just wish they would get to the making up stage already."

Kam could feel pain up above and knew that someone had scored a hit. It took the blood a few seconds to hit the ground, but when it did Nyle and Tori both moaned.

Toel came diving into their camp, panting for breath and too flustered to begin shifting forms. "They must be stopped!" he gasped. "If the Eldest dies society crumbles and if White dies so too do the ice wastes."

He was followed by a red dragon, who shifted form into a willowy female. She quickly joined Jerney in holding Tori still. "He's actually flying," she breathed. "It's been centuries since he left the ground."

"Have you ever wondered why?" Lor asked.

"I asked him once, when I was younger," the woman, who Kam guessed was most likely Tori's mother, replied. "He said he couldn't. A terrible wrong had been committed and until it could be solved he was staying earthbound. I pestered the Eldest about it a number of times, but that's all I ever learned."

"But why are they fighting, Mama-Gail?" Tori asked piteously. "They shouldn't be fighting."

"I don't know how to stop them, Tori," Gail replied sadly. "This argument of theirs is almost as old as Toel."

Kam could feel the worry and sadness in the dragons around him. He could feel the pain hidden deeply underneath fury high in the sky. Frightened sled dogs kept trying to climb into Kam's lap for comfort. The fight was clearly doing more harm than good, but neither gigantic battling dragon seemed willing to give in.

Kam could feel the pull of Tori's horrified emotions more strongly than the double rage above. He pulled Tori's emotions inside of himself, feeling the fear and sadness coalesce into one large mass inside. Kam drew Gail's sadness, Toel's frantic worry, and Nyle's pain. He spun all the emotions together until he could feel the tight ball of it resting harshly against his chest, like he was about to burst out crying.

The ball burst free when Kam almost sobbed for breath, still spinning tighter and tighter in the air in front of Kam. No one else seemed to notice, but Kam could feel it drawing on all the animals around, from the frightened dogs and horses, to Leon's panting as he fought to keep the wolf inside him at bay. It all whirled together.

It took half a thought from Kam to focus the gigantic ball of emotion directly at the two forms angrily tangled together high in the air and another thought to send the ball flying unerringly in their direction.

On the ground, the dragons gasped, closely followed by the humans, as superior eyesight indicated what was happening first. Both flying dragons had frozen in midair, their wings hanging helplessly and their tails curled in shock.

They were falling rapidly; picking up speed the closer they came to the ground. Kam could see the heat trails left after the dragons had passed and felt their shock as the morass of emotions ate into their fury until their pain at each other became clear.

The Eldest's golden wings unfurled first, snapping out with a whip of displaced air. Seconds later White's wings popped up, too. The combined wind sent Kam sprawling into Lor, who was barely able to catch his own balance before Kam sent them both falling to the ground.

Both dragons, the gold and the white, hovered just overhead. Kam was left in twilight dark below two dragons large enough to block out the sun almost entirely. They seemed to be staring at each other, but they were also probing the ball of emotions that was quickly dissipating into nothingness with Kam no longer powering it.

They seemed to come to some sort of nonverbal agreement, because suddenly they both flew a short distance away in opposite directions. They landed and shifted into human form and were walking back towards the camp when Kam and Lor finally untangled their limbs and found their feet.

White flipped his long, braided hair over one shoulder, keeping the strands away from an arm that was stained red from a large and deep scratch that marred it. He was panting for breath and shaking as he stopped next to Lor and Kam.

BOOK: Melting the Ice Witch
2.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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