The Dragon's Rogue/C2 Chapter 1 -Three Weeks Later
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The Dragon's Rogue/C2 Chapter 1 -Three Weeks Later
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C2 Chapter 1 -Three Weeks Later

Lisrith of the Onyx pack, or Lis as she preferred, shuffled hurriedly along the rutted dirt trail, a well-worn path that circled the outskirts of the Onyx pack's encampment.

Her nerves jangled like the loud gongs of a temple. It was difficult not to feel like each step announced her presence, her intent, if anyone were to look hard enough. How was it that guilt for ones actions could appear before the actions were taken?

To her left lay smooth stretches of flattened grass, spotted with the odd tangle of shrubbery. In several places, the stumps of the forest trees jutted upward from the landscape like the sharp teeth of a giant. It was sad to see them as remnants of what they once were, but they had been cut for the good of the pack. To her right, canvas structures fluttered in the evening breeze, a veritable city of them. Simple constructs, they were nearly perfectly square, with four walls and slanted canvas roofs. Nothing short of practical, and identical with one another. Cords of twisted material kept the canvas from flying off in the wind, but that was their only decoration.

Someone among the tents called a greeting, startling a twitch out of her. Which is not suspicious at all. She rolled her eyes and kept going, her head down, ignoring the words, as she usually would, in the hope that they would assume she simply had not heard.

She wobbled a little with an unexpected undulation in the dirt, the growing darkness hiding her footing from her. The pitted clay jug she carried sloshed, and she worried, for a moment, it might spill its contents. She readjusted herself, propping the jug on one hip and securing her satchel to a better position on her other side.

The tents in this part of the encampment dwindled, long shadows finding space between them. Here, on the very edge of the camp, lay the tent that was her goal. She eyed it as she approached, her anticipation rising. Light poured from the places where the seams of material didn't quite match up. The growing wind battered and flapped the canvas, covering the light every so often, making it appear like the tent was winking at her…as if it knew her secret intent.

Absently, she stroked the vessel hooked beneath her arm. The clay was cold from the moisture within, seeping into her side, even through the simple layer of brown cloth that hugged her waist.

Her lip twisted downward. Why mother always bemoaned the rough brown clothing, she didn't know. It was hardly the pique of fashion, but it was readily available. It was also hardy, rarely did it show any stains from the grease or lantern oil Lis worked with, and she had heard the hunters of the pack comment that it was much easier to camouflage in. And, given her pack's tenuous

position, that was a good thing.

Only four months had passed since her people were chased from the Onyx Aerie, the home of the Dragon Lords, and nothing good had come from the arrangement. For either race. Plus, she had left all her equipment as they fled, and she missed it.

Blasted arrogant dragons, always and only thinking of themselves. Her people had been reduced to a much lower state than they deserved—the Lords feeling that they were above such lesser races—long before the disaster at the Aerie. And now she needed one.

The thoughts were pressing forward emotions that Lis would rather leave tamped down, especially when dealing with the enemy.

The canvas door moved easily beneath the pressure of her hand, a shock of white against the deep brown of the material. So much for camouflage. She stood out in the forest like the moon against the black sky. One couldn't get much paler, but who was she to complain about what nature had given her?

“Lisrith, no one is allowed in the captive's tent,” Thornic protested when she stepped inside. He was a younger Shifter, though older than herself. He wore his hair shorn close to his head, the pale blond of it creating shocking little stumps against his dark skin. Serious brown eyes studied her, looking at her directly, challenging. She noticed the pull of his thin lips as they stretched downward, an expression she seemed to cause a lot. But she ignored both his glower and his words.

Despite the falling dusk in the camp, the tent's interior was well lit, and she noted, with pride, several of her specially designed lanterns hung along the tent's supports, burning brightly. The mixture of distilled Ephac sap and oil from the fleshy Yester vines was one of her greatest discoveries. Fuel that not only lasted longer, but burned brighter than the other oils commonly in use. And the ingredients were readily available in the forest, though distilling was difficult without her equipment.

She scowled at the second memory of the past that had invaded in such a short time.

“I am sorry, Lis, Alpha's rules,” Thornic explained, obviously thinking that her expression was for him.

No matter, it was time to act anyway. And if no one else would, then the responsibility fell to Lis. 'I am coming for you, Adda,' she promised silently.

“I am here by order of the Alpha,” she lied. “I have made an adjustment to the formula that keeps him at rest; this one is stronger, it should stop the instances that he tries to wake.”

Even without looking directly at him, Lis could see the relief cross his face. Keeping the Dragon Lord unconscious had been necessary, at first. His condition dictated that he would die should he move and thrash as he had when her people found him bound and bleeding in the forest.

She did not understand how he came to be in such a position. And she didn't particularly care. Alpha had asked for a sedative and it was easy enough to provide one. What she didn't expect was the frequency with which the Lord fought the tincture. Certainly, those set to watch him didn't appreciate it, either. Keeping the Lord unconscious long after he had healed was likely going to cause some problems when he awoke, and no one wanted to be the first creature that he saw.

Her people debated constantly the risk of keeping him asleep yet another day versus the possibility of his release. The pack was comfortable here in this tiny camp in the forest. Should he betray their position, they would be in danger. And then they would have to move. Again.

So he was kept in deep slumber while the Alpha deliberated with those he trusted, circling the same issue like a wolf on a wounded stag, nothing ever coming from the impasse.

Until now. She patted the clay vials that filled the satchel at her side. She could wait no longer for the debate, she needed this Dragon Lord.

“And while I was on my way to deliver the serum, Shaylise asked me to bring you a fresh drink,” Lis pinched her lips together, pretending irritation at such a request. And it would have irritated her, had Shaylise asked. She hated to be pulled from her work, especially when such important events occurred. When her sister was missing.

“Oh, well, in that case, I thank you, Lis,” Thornic breathed. He took the ladle eagerly, unsuspectingly, and drank deeply.

Then she waited. He had finished swallowing, at least, when the moonblossom kicked in. His eyes crossed a little, the muscles that controlled them fighting against the effects.

“You are in so....much....troub...,” he said, as he sank to the ground.

Trouble? Definitely. Who would ever suspect Lis? Her lack of interest in the trivialities that most of the pack liked to focus on did not make her deaf. She knew what the other Shifters thought of her. It was just that, for the most part, she didn't care. Adda had always been the social one, the lovable one. And without her, it felt as though a piece of Lis was missing. She missed Adda and the pleasant wall she created between her and the rest of the pack, protecting her from them while accepting Lis completely, just as she was.

Lis wanted her back. And if the Alpha would not take action, even if his reasons were fear of drawing attention and losing more lives, then she would.

When she was certain that Thornic slept deeply, she approached the cot where the covered figure lay.

So far, she had only heard stories about the injured Dragon Lord. How he was found and speculation that he had something to do with the disturbance at the Onyx Aerie a month ago. Things she cared little about. In fact, at first, she had scoffed at the scouts for not leaving him where they found him. But, instead, they had felt pity for the man and carried him away before the Quatori could find him. She supposed it was the common enemy that spurred their compassion. Dragons could not see or sense the Quatori and Shifters didn't have the strength to do them any real damage. Apart, they were all at an impasse. Still, to bring the Lord here was foolishness. And now the pack struggled with the dilemma of what to do with the Dragon Lord now that he was healed.

Not all enemies were obvious enemies.

Libre Baskerville
Gentium Book Basic
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