When Lyra McCauley learns residents of Dragonspeir’s Alliance are suffering with a deadly plague, she doesn’t heed the warnings of her fiancé, wizard Cullen Drake, to remain safe in her human world. After all, she’s the present Scribe—one of five strong women in her ancestry who possessed unique magic, each destined to protect the Alliance against the evil Black Dragon of the Dark Realm. With Cullen dependent upon Alliance power to maintain his immortality, the stakes are doubled for Lyra.
She leaves her college teaching and puts herself at risk for the community afflicted by black magic. To find a cure, she and Cullen travel into the vile, lawless underworld of Terza to strike a bargain with an expert. Their efforts further enrage the Black Dragon, vowing to decimate the Alliance and avenge the murder of his heir.
Lyra must secure the three lost volumes of the Book of Dragonspeir. Written by the three earliest Scribes, each book contains energy. Possession of the entire set will enable overthrow of the Dark Realm. Following clues into dangerous lands, Lyra and Cullen seek those volumes. His assistants, Kenzo the tiger owl and Noba the pseudodragon, prove invaluable aids. Only if they succeed, will the Alliance be safe and Lyra reach closer to the immortality she needs to live a life with Cullen.
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Lyra almost deleted the email marked urgent, suspecting some virus that might take control of her computer, but stopped when she realized the sender was her lover—a 220-year-old wizard, who rarely used a computer. She couldn’t open the message fast enough.
Alliance mortals and lower magicals are taking violently ill. I’m leaving the bookstore for a while to offer aid. DO NOT come to Dragonspeir. Stay safe in your world.
She stared at the screen, twisting a strand of her long hair. Leaning forward, she gripped the armrests of the chair. Her breath caught when she noticed how the dragon’s sapphire eyes on her new bloodswear ring sparked from the energy of her concern. His message left her undecided, reading between the lines and weighing the choices.
Those affected—mortals and lower magicals—seemed to place her in the risk group, obviously Cullen’s concern. However, those mortals were all born in Dragonspeir, while she originally came from Tampa. Lower magicals did include members of both worlds. But as the current Scribe, Lyra possessed inherited power at least as great as high-order wizards. She just didn’t fully grasp how to command her magic yet.
She did want to help. Since her parents and dear Aunt Jean died, the Guardians, wizards, dragons, and other residents of the Alliance were her only family. Lyra’s unique powers might be useful, especially since they now lacked an alchemist.
Eburscon disappeared after he attempted to steal her scribal aura, and she’d heard no reports of him since, so he was presumed dead by many. According to Cullen, no one wanted him back. However, living without a person capable of creating remedies for a plague or widespread illness had left many residents uneasy. Some talked about trying to persuade Tarom, the Dark Realm’s alchemist, to switch his allegiance. Two centuries ago, he served the Imperial Dragon, leaving only when he couldn’t tolerate working under Eburscon any longer.
Despite ranking as the top wizard, the Imperial Sorcerer in the Alliance High Council, Cullen lacked alchemical skills. Even though untrained, Lyra possessed a keen intuitive sense in the craft. She could help him. Aries guided the fire in her scribal powers and also fueled her impatience.
Lyra checked and secured Aunt Jean’s cottage since the last gasps of late winter storms in the upper peninsula of Michigan could be brutal.
Dashing off a few emails to her college students in Florida, she gave them feedback on their independent study in the Fantasy Lit course. She was glad her leave from on-campus teaching responsibilities continued until the next fall term.
Lyra saved and printed the chronicle draft of her bloodswear quest, completed at the end of last year. It was mid-March, and she’d almost finished the written account, storing magic in her words that would empower the Alliance—her role as a Scribe. The hard copy she stuffed into a commuter bag to work on later with the Imperial Dragon and the other three Guardians. She needed to sort through their research details that had helped her kill the heir to the Black Dragon. Additional supplies could be conjured from memory.
Outside, the dock in the backyard looked weather-beaten but sound. Waves from Lake Huron lapped at its old boards. In the flower bed, the first spring perennials peeked through the packed ground and would require plenty of care soon. Lyra hoped to be back in time to maintain what her aunt had loved so much. Crocuses stood bravely against the melting snowpack—a reminder.
As she turned from the garden, a large black butterfly flitted around her head. It was the same type that had spied on her before and been in her aunt’s room when she was killed—purple spots like eyes on its wings. Suspecting it was a transformed magical from Dragonspeir’s Dark Realm, Lyra swatted at the insect. Thinking that someone watched her leave caused a chill to run down her spine.
Finally shooing it to the nearby bushes, she lifted her head high, put her bag inside her silver Subaru sport wagon, and drove straight to Drake’s Bookstore.
After parking in back, she twisted her dragon ring to unlock the back door of Cullen’s shop, no longer needing the magical skeleton key. “Sheridan, I’m using your portal,” she called out.
From his cage on the showroom counter, the cicada chirped, “I already knew it was you, sweetheart. Nice perfume.”
Lyra shook her head. Darned bug never stopped flirting.
“By the way, Sire Drake told me to not let you pass. Something about an illness in the Alliance. Don’t make me use my magic on you.”
“I’m going anyway,” she replied as she prepared herself in the storage room.
“Like I knew you would,” he snapped.
She gave her ring another twist and stated, “Pateo porta!” In response, two metal bookcases moved apart. Between them lay the connector to Dragonspeir. She stepped across. The familiar tingling sensation now felt invigorating, when last summer it had frightened her. Her jeans, t-shirt, and jacket transformed into a full-skirted gown of light blue cotton under a navy cloak.
It was her first time back since being publically honored for completing her bloodswear quest and sorcery studies. She’d have to wait to find out if her new abilities could alter the clothing she acquired at the portal.
Lifting one side of the long garments, Lyra ran the short distance along the wooded trail to the location of the old, sentry tree, Gatekeeper Cranewort. Reminding her of the shape of grand live oaks in Florida, his branches spread wide and high, taller than any nearby. His large, flat leathery leaves were turned to collect the warm morning rays.
“Hello, Cranewort,” she called ahead. “I don’t mean to disturb your sunbathing, but I need to pass to the Imperial Dragon’s lair, or to the Meadow—whichever place I can help most with those who are sick.”
“Not sunbathing, child, merely enhancing my immune functioning to bolster my health after the harsh winter. Sire Drake instructed me to not permit your passage. He and all of us fear you will fall ill.” He lifted extensions of his roots into a spiky barricade, one of his gate-keeping defenses.
“Perhaps I can help,” she maintained, hands on her hips.
“It looks to be a horrible disease—elevated fever, chills, vomiting blood. Some are dying. Please stay here, Adalyra.”
“I’m not like any from Dragonspeir. I won’t get it.” Lyra hoped what she said was true but couldn’t turn her back on thousands who were ill.
“Well…you most certainly are unique.” He folded his leaves and tipped his trunk forward to look at her directly. “The Alliance relies on your special scribal abilities to battle the Dark Realm. Losing you to illness would risk too much. Be wise and stay back.” He smoothed down his bark and held out a twigged hand to her.
She stepped beyond his touch. “The entire Alliance is my family, and I need to help them.”
The gnarled tree let out a sigh and lowered his roots. “Very well. You have your own mind, and it is one of a leader. That is your inheritance from the four female Scribes in your family. But, I expect you to use every caution available. Sire Drake is in the Meadow. Stay with him.”
“I promise.” Lyra hurried toward the crossroads, which connected dozens of trails. There she selected the short path leading to the Meadow.
Pluch trees lined the trail. Their weeping branches, active with new sap, swept after Lyra in attempt to caress her golden hair, now grown almost to her waist. Flower buds on the bell flowers peaked out. The air held gentle notes of fragrant jasmine from the vine’s first purple flowers. She took a deep breath as she sped down the familiar walk. She had missed Dragonspeir.
Along the way, Lyra thought about her action, entering the land without permission. Although she recently passed sorcery training for all crafts except powerthrowing, Lyra only elevated her immortal status. In Dragonspeir, they used the term afflation—having received divine impartment of knowledge and strength to endure more physical hardship than a non-magical. Until gaining enough afflation to become fully immortal, she needed to be invited by the Imperial Dragon to be his guest in Dragonspeir.
As a new Alliance sorceress, the Imperial Dragon decided when he needed her. Lyra clearly broke his established protocol. But she often bent Alliance customs to suit her needs while working for the greater good. So far, she had only raised eyebrows, and no one troubled her. She hoped this time would be the same, but entering a plague-ridden land against orders was a bit different than wearing jeans or hugging dragons.
About the Author:
Marsha A. Moore is a writer of fantasy romance. The magic of art and nature spark life into her writing. Her creativity also spills into watercolor painting and drawing. After a move from Toledo to Tampa in 2008, she’s happily transforming into a Floridian, in love with the outdoors. Crazy about cycling, she usually passes the 1,000 mile mark yearly. She is learning kayaking and already addicted. She’s been a yoga enthusiast for over a decade and that spiritual quest helps her explore the mystical side of fantasy. She never has enough days spent at the beach, usually scribbling away at new stories with toes wiggling in the sand. Every day at the beach is magical!