The Dragon's Slave/C4 Chapter 4
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The Dragon's Slave/C4 Chapter 4
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C4 Chapter 4

Clean and sterile white stone surrounded her. Granted, it had a pleasant, smooth quality about it, the square bricks shone with a brightness that belied the fact that she was in a windowless room. A heavy, wide bed sat in the precise center of the far wall, the posts of which were the only luxurious items in the chamber. Carved with more dragons, it reminded her of the curtain hooks from the carriage. She explored the posts earlier, brushing her fingers over each smooth wing and scaled chest within reach.

Did Firestriker have something to do with the great beasts? She knew that dragons protected the city. From what? Well, that was something she didn’t know.

It might have been hours, or days, since the carriage stopped. Firestriker had hopped out, jostling her awake, then told the burly, armored men outside to see to her confinement. In her dazed state, she glimpsed a massive stone courtyard, and the guard rushed her to this room. Just like that.

She tried to keep the frustration from her mind, for she wished to think with clarity. To find a solution to her conundrum. She tried not to be confused and angry, and, if she were honest with herself, a little disappointed…not that she wanted his attentions, not really. She sighed and rubbed her forehead. It would have been easier to remain at peace if he had left her in a room with a window, preferably one that opened. And some rope. All those stairs they climbed meant she was up a fair distance relative to the ground.

Since then, she checked every smooth white brick and every cranny between them. One bit moved in the corner next to the door, but a hole the size of her pinky would not allow her to escape.

She sat on the bed, defeated. Forced again to await an opportunity. Unoccupied by escape, her thoughts drifted back to Firestriker, and his odd behavior. Despite ridding himself of her when they reached...what had he called the place? The Amber Aerie. Though he ordered her confined and hadn’t seen her since, she did not mistake his look at the choosing house. Or the erection he sported in the carriage. He would consummate.

Her body reacted to the thought with a viciousness that surprised her. For a bedroom slave, consummation was a fact of life. Something that would guarantee the master’s happiness and discourage poor treatment. She understood such things, though in all her plans, she hoped to avoid it. But never had the thought of consummation been...interesting. Never had she imagined the stroking of strong fingers, or the erection that bulged beneath the black cloth of a fit master. Would it be hot? The heat that emanated from Firestriker was the most unusual thing she had encountered. She wondered if the burning would be pleasant, or otherwise, against her naked skin.

A jostle of the door pulled her from her thoughts. She twitched at the intrusion and then chastised herself. What was she doing mooning over the thing that stood between her and her freedom? If she wanted an opportunity she would have to keep her thoughts in order, especially to evade such a master. She perked up, alert, determined to be open to any opportunity.

But it was not Firestriker who entered. Instead, a guard stood in the doorway. He wore a vest of heavy looking leather, bound with tight straps and supported by broad shoulders. Thick arms bursting with muscle stuck out from the arm holes.

How did these men grow so huge? It looked like this one might run through the forests, tackling venison with his bare hands...and eating it, too. His shoulder length hair hung shaggy and thick, a strange mixture of tawny brown and gray. Wide, intelligent eyes studiously avoided looking toward her.

“Come, you have been summoned,” he said. His voice rumbled, smooth and smokey. Something about it reminded her of the shadows in the wild woods.

She rose from her position. The crimson silk was wrinkled and marred from the dusty carriage ride. Gayriel smoothed it with nervous fingers. She could recall several long lectures about perfection of appearance at all times, but what was she to do?

Firestriker had forsaken the rest of her clothes, and no one offered her anything new. She brushed at the dress a few times and stepped forward.

Before she reached the door, the guard strode forth. He turned right along the corridor outside the room.

She calculated; to the left, thirty yards down, sat a long set of stairs. And then more corridors and more stairs. The path they had traveled to reach the chamber.

If she wished, she could probably find her way back to the massive courtyard the carriage had halted in, but that had been teaming with armored men. With muscles chasing her down, she wouldn't make it three steps.

Speaking of the guard, he stopped a distance away. He did not turn, but his head cocked, as though listening, and he tensed.

She reassessed. She wouldn’t make it one entire step before he tackled her.

Instead, she adjusted her skirts, like that had been the issue all along, and hurried to fall into step behind him, the picture of an eager slave with no wayward thoughts of betrayal.

She counted as they passed six more doors, constructed of heavy wood and solid, iron fastenings. After the doors, another set of stairs loomed. There were five rooms on the other side of her confinement. Twelve in all. Perhaps there were slaves in each? Surely all these burly men needed women to relieve their needs.

She was pulled from her musing before she reached the pale stone landing. The stairs there split, continuing both downward and up, but her attention caught on the architecture. On the other side of the corridor, the stairs were unimaginative and closed in. These were beautifully carved and open to another vast courtyard. From where she stood, she spotted a variety of fruit trees and flowers, all potted and well-tended. The echoing notes of a fountain carried upward to her ears.

The guard began downward, on a path that led to a covered walkway which traveled along the courtyard. Above her, a second walkway stretched from the stairs, joining her building to the next one over.

All around, white-stoned walls rose. Some with colorful windows, or decorative metalwork. Which suggested bright rooms with access to sunshine and fresh air. And above everything towered an outer protective wall, or that’s what she assumed. The silhouettes of more guards patrolled the top of it. And that confirmed her conclusion that it contained the outer limits of the aerie.

This place was massive, it would take a lifetime to learn. The buildings formed more of a fortress than the palace she had first assumed.

She withheld a groan. Of all the places fate could send her. A fortress. The hope she had held within for so long threatened to flutter out. It seemed circumstances kept stacking against her.

She stepped down the stairs, a light breeze scented with the smell of water and warm forest floor rose to meet her. What was beyond the wall? Certainly not the city, for she heard none of its clatter. No gongs or voices, no vendors crying out their wares desperate for a chance at a sale.

She did hear the sounds of nature, and the incessant clash of metal against metal. Voices too, and grunts of effort.

She passed through a pattern of shadows as she descended and looked up. Arches hovered above the staircase, beautiful in structure. She reached the bottom landing and stood beneath the shade of the walkway above before she saw them.

Her mind—and everything else—stuttered to a halt. Two men stood in the courtyard, black swords raised above their heads. Well, there were actually many men, lined up in an audience at the far end of the open space, but the ones at the center overshadowed everything else.

Ridged muscle defined their naked torsos. One deeply tanned, with black designs swirling across his chest. Chocolate locks fell wild about his shoulders. He stood, holding his fierce position, amber eyes flashed.

Amber, just like Firestriker.

Opposed to him was a paler man with golden locks bound tight at his nape, broader even than the first. She could make out drips of sweat collecting between the muscles on his shoulders.

But what drew her attention wasn’t that display. What drew her attention was the wide spread of leathery wings protruding from their backs.


A golden set for the blond man, and a darker, mottled green and brown for the other.

Her jaw fell, and she stood staring. She just couldn’t wrap her mind around what she was seeing. The darker...she struggled for a word. He was most definitely male, but was he a man? The darker one spotted her, his amber eyes flashed, and a grin quirked the corner of his lips. His expression must have given her away, for the blond man turned, too, cocking his head to the side. His eyes shone amber, as well. They lit up and a cocky smile spread slowly, lighting his handsome features with a pleasant warmth. He winked.

Six Gods have mercy.

“Come,” the guard returned. He still did not look in her eyes, but he seemed displeased at her delay. Or perhaps he thought she looked foolish standing and staring with her mouth open. Mortification tugged at her mind. She snapped her mouth closed and ignored the scene before her. A difficult feat since it seemed she was now the entertaining aspect of the courtyard.

“Tharissa is waiting,” the guard grunted. He gestured and then led her onward.

Libre Baskerville
Gentium Book Basic
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