Home > Tangled Truths (Death Before Dragons #3)(15)

Tangled Truths (Death Before Dragons #3)(15)
Author: Lindsay Buroker

As Amber rounded the corner to run back down to the trail—ugh, it would be better if she stayed in town, not that this dragon necessarily cared about witnesses or making a scene—Shaygor sprang off the rooftop. He flew after her.

I barely avoided being hit by a car as I charged across the street, invisible to everyone here, and sprinted after her. Sindari caught up and passed me.

Amber ran, glancing back and swearing as she spotted Shaygor barreling after her. She veered into the park and ducked behind a tree with a stout trunk.

Judging by Shaygor’s dive, he would go right through it.

No, he hurled magic at the tree before he reached it and blew the trunk off its roots. With reflexes that had come from her elven grandfather, Amber sprang to the side an instant before it would have smashed her. She rolled and ran toward another tree. Shaygor was almost on her. She wasn’t going to make it.

Lungs straining, legs burning, and my gaze locked on the dragon, I prayed I’d make it in time. I was close, so close, but he dove right for her, talons outstretched.

Sindari smashed into Amber a split second before Shaygor would have struck her. They tumbled to the ground, and Shaygor’s talons flexed around empty air as he flew past.

Instead of flying back up, he landed on the other side of the grassy park. Amber scrambled to her feet as Sindari placed himself in front of her. Shaygor spun and leaped into the air again, wings flapping as he arrowed toward them.

This time, I was close enough to do something. Focused on his prey—on my daughter—Shaygor didn’t sense me until the last instant. He flexed his talons, preparing to go through Sindari to get to Amber. But I darted in from the side. He was low enough to reach with Chopper, and I swiped at one of those outstretched legs, willing all of my anger—all the power Zav claimed I had—to funnel energy into the magical blade.

Chopper flared with blue light as it sank through Shaygor’s scales and into his flesh. My fantasy of the blade lopping off his foreleg completely did not materialize, but he screeched like a falcon. He jerked that limb away and landed ungracefully as he whirled toward me.

“Run!” I barked to Amber, who was gaping at us—I was close enough that she could see me through my charm’s magic. “Sindari, get her out of here.”

You presume to raise a weapon in the presence of a dragon! Shaygor boomed telepathically into my mind.

“Hell, yeah, I presume.”

Since he’d landed on the ground, I rushed toward him, aiming for a more vital target this time. His belly.

But now that he knew I was there, he prepared his magical defenses. Chopper’s blade struck an invisible shield as hard as a stone wall, and pain reverberated up my arms at the jolt of contact.

At least Amber was running out of the park and back toward the bike trail. Shaygor was focused on me.

He opened his great fanged maw, and I saw the fire coming before the first yellow flames curled out of his throat. I dove to the side, rolling behind a picnic table.

Unfortunately, he had no trouble moving his head to track me. A gout of dancing yellow and orange flames spewed after me and engulfed me.

The fire-protection charm I wore kept me from charring like a hot dog dropped into the coals of a grill, but barely. The wooden picnic table burst into flames.

I sprinted out of the fire and toward the main street, wanting to lead Shaygor in the opposite direction from Amber.

People were standing and gawking when I reached it. They might not be able to see the dragon, but they had seen a tree be destroyed and a fire spontaneously start.

“Get inside!” I yelled at them and spun, expecting Shaygor to give chase.

He watched me from behind the fire he’d started, studying me. He lifted his foreleg, blood visible where I’d cut into it, and looked at it. Then he gazed off to the west, put his limb down, and spread his wings.

You have a sword that can hurt dragons, he spoke into my mind.

Yes, I do.

And you presumed to use it on me. You have attacked a dragon and an inquisitor of the Dragon Justice Court. His words were as cool as ice. There will be repercussions.

You attacked my daughter, you pompous ass. She has nothing to do with any of this.

She would not be in danger if you were not cowering behind those stolen magical charms. How did you get them? Such things are not made on this world. I will bring up your thieving with the court, after I’ve pulled the truth from your mind.

Come on up here and try. I brandished Chopper, though as soon as I thought the words, I mentally kicked myself. As Sindari would point out, goading a dragon was foolish. But as long as he was focused on me, he couldn’t go after Amber.

Later, you will not be prepared with your stolen gewgaws, and I will have your thoughts. But for now, I have new research to do. Shaygor sprang into the air and flew south again, disappearing over the rooftops.

I stared after him, my mouth dangling open in surprise. Even though I’d cut him, it wasn’t as if it had been a grievous blow, and once he’d known I was there, he’d had no trouble keeping my blade from hitting him again.

I am down the hill with your daughter in a cement structure by the marina, Sindari informed me. She opted for this instead of running out in the open along the trail.

Probably a good idea.

I have revealed myself to her. I believe she sees me as a threat.

You are large and largely fanged. I’ll be right there. Shaygor left. I have no idea why. You don’t think he’s scared of Chopper, do you? I eyed my blade. The blue light had faded, but a few drops of blood remained. If I’d had a vial, I would have tried to collect them for Zoltan. Something valuable to trade with the next time I needed his services.

It’s possible. Sindari sounded skeptical. It’s also possible that Zav threatened him from wherever he is.

True. If Zav had spoken to me telepathically from Seattle, he would also be able to contact Shaygor. Had he somehow known the other dragon was attacking me?

I thought of how he’d known I’d helped the goblins in the forest outside of Duvall even though he hadn’t arrived until several minutes after they’d disappeared.

It’s also possible he wants to consider what may be a new revelation to him, Sindari added as I cleaned Chopper and sheathed the blade.

What revelation?

People were staring at me—the dragon’s attack must have knocked out my cloaking magic—and a fire engine was wheeling down the main road toward the park. A good time to leave. I trotted toward the marina.

That you have a weapon capable of piercing dragon scales.

He did fixate on that. An eerie chill licked at my spine. Do you think he’s considering the possibility that I could have killed Dob? He said he had to go off and do research.

What if he found witnesses from that night by the river? The werewolves I’d hired to be a distraction might have still been close enough to see me kill Dob. And some of the Pardus brothers’ shifter buddies could also have been in the area. And then there was Dimitri. He’d been there. But Shaygor couldn’t possibly know about Dimitri, could he?

I think, Sindari replied, taking long enough to mull over his response that I worried I’d been right, you need to come up with a way to convince the Dragon Justice Court to leave you alone.

How am I going to do that? Even if I could somehow kill Shaygor, I would only end up incurring more wrath from the rest of the dragons.

I don’t know.

11

The cement structure Sindari had mentioned was the bathroom facility for the campground. I walked in and found Sindari sitting calmly in front of the sinks. The sound of scared breathing came from the handicap stall in the back.

“Amber?”

There was a long pause before her uncertain voice said, “Yeah?”

The single word prompted a pang of emotion that almost had me trembling. Facing off against a dragon hadn’t made me shake, but coming face to face with my daughter after… shit, it had been almost ten years since I’d dared visit them in person. I wouldn’t have even recognized her voice if I hadn’t watched a few video diary entries she’d shared on her social-media page.

“It’s Val.” I meant to say more, but my words got stuck on my tongue.

“I know.”

I was half-surprised she did. Maybe Thad had a picture of me somewhere. As he’d pointed out, I hadn’t changed much.

“You can come out. The dragon is gone for now.”

“You can see it?”

“Yes.”

“My friend couldn’t. She thought I was nuts.”

“You’re not. You have one-quarter elven blood, which gives you some extra strength, agility, longevity, and most likely, the ability to sense magical items and magical beings.” I assumed her abilities were less than mine so I wasn’t sure what the world was like to her, but Nin and Dimitri could both work with magic, so I trusted I was right. I almost said that she could meet them and talk to them someday if she wanted, but nothing had changed. I couldn’t get her involved in my life. Today had only reinforced that. “You can come out,” was all I added.

“There’s a murderous tiger out there somewhere.”

“He’s actually in here, his tail in a puddle of soapy water and toilet paper stuck to his paw.”

Sindari gave me a dark look.

“He’s my friend,” I added. “He wasn’t trying to murder you. He knocked you out of the way so the dragon wouldn’t get you.”

Another pause as she digested that. “He’s huge.”

I am well and regally proportioned for a Zhinevarii tiger from the Tangled Tundra Nation on Del’noth, Sindari informed me.

I know.

You must educate her. Huge and murderous. Really, Val. I’m not an ogre.

I wondered if bribing a fourteen-year-old with ice cream so she would come out could work. Was the shop still open or had everything closed down while the fire truck put out the flames in the park? The shouts of people working on that mess drifted down the hill.

Finally, the stall lock slid aside, and Amber walked out, tall and lanky. Her long blonde hair had fallen out of the ponytail it had been in before the dragon showed up. She looked a lot like me except for the cute nose and freckles. I’d never had freckles, and I’d always thought of my nose as sharp, like my tongue.

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