RED AT NIGHT (Dragons of Tarakona #3)
by Jody Wallace
Release Date: May 2018
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Buy Link: Coming Soon! Probably May 1, 2018.
Alliah Red has one last duty before she can be truly free of the wizard who enchained her. She must guide the dragons in her master’s stable to the world of Earth. She’s the one who killed him, making them vulnerable to other wizards. Worse wizards. She just didn’t count on Leopold Crystal, the mysterious dragon from the dungeon, tangling her simple mission into a dangerous snarl.
Leo doesn’t trust the proud woman who barges into his cell claiming she killed their master, but he does believe that the pack of greedy wizards on their tails will stop at nothing to possess them. When Alliah leads him through a gateway to another dimension, his entire belief system—about himself, about magic, even about Alliah—threatens to crumble.
Placed in the unexpected position of guiding their companions in a world none of them understand, Alliah and Leo grow close in a way dragons in Tarakona aren’t allowed to be. But the wizards continue to clamor at the gates, endangering the town that is their refuge. Though Leo vowed he would never let his magic be taken by a wizard, can he learn to trust Alliah and her friends in time to protect them from those who would enslave them forever?
Tropes: This enemies to lovers romance also contains elements of the alpha male trope, the alpha female trope, a kidnapping, and the protector trope.
Note: This book is part of the Magic, New Mexico Kindle World. It stands alone but is preceded by SILVER BOUND and SILVER UNLEASHED by me and DB Sieders (who wrote RED IN THE MORNING too). The order of this subset of stories is:
“Just leave him behind. He’s not worth it.”
The elderly woman shoving money and trinkets into a rucksack paused long enough to spit the recommendation at Alliah like a fireball. It splashed across her conscience, burning even as it cleansed the dead wood. The dragon in the dungeon was contrary, inclined to violence, and very difficult to access, considering they had no idea where Torren kept the keys.
Torren, their master, dead by Alliah’s hand.
Now they were free—if they could run fast enough and far enough to escape what was to come.
Alliah fingered the spot on her neck where the pixies on Earth had removed her thrall crystal. The other dragons were preparing to flee, and Maurene, crafty and practical, had headed straight for Torren’s office to ransack it.
“Maurene, he’s a dragon,” Alliah said. Their dead master, Torren, had always thought she had some gift of persuasion. In truth, her only skill had been in persuading Torren, distracting him, from taking out his anger or petulance or whatever sour mood struck himr on the other dragons.
With one exception, and that exception had never settled easily in her gut. “He’s one of us. He deserves a chance at a real life.”
Her plan was to escort the rest of Torren’s dragons through the Earth portal and have the pixies remove their crystals, as well—the tiny, evil pellets of magic that bound Tarakona’s dragonkind in the service of wizards. Unfortunately the pixies refused to go to Tarakona or she’d have brought them with her.
But the escape window was limited. The wizards in the vicinity would soon realize Torren was deceased, and they would descend on his dragons like locusts on grain.
“You aren’t thinking straight, child.” Maurene was one of the oldest dragons Alliah had ever met. No one knew how many wizards she’d served in her time. “We need you. You’re our guardian. Don’t think we don’t realize what you’ve always done for us.”
Alliah didn’t let her surprise show on her face. She hadn’t realized anyone besides Katia had noticed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You have to lead us to this land without wizards. We have no way to find it without you.” Maurene’s grey hair stuck at random angles from her head, when she was normally so careful of her appearance.
Torren had insisted upon cleanliness, and complete obedience, in his dragons. Because of the thrall crystals, he’d gotten it from all but one them.
“I can’t leave him. He could starve to death down there. Nobody will be left to take him food and water. The humans surely won’t.” Most dragons succumbed to the thrall crystals. What their wizard commanded, they provided, though it couldn’t change their hearts. A very few, however, managed to resist. Gave their wizards no end of trouble. The dragon in the dungeon was one of those. Torren had gotten him at a bargain price and had been too stubborn to give up on the chance at his own crystal dragon. Thought he could coax him, tame him, the way he had the rest of them.
Pretending to treat them well, giving them cossets and praise, as if they were animals instead of just as sentient as he was. Yet at the slightest hint of resistance, he punished them without remorse. She’d done everything she could to shoulder that burden. None of them had deserved it, but the others deserved it even less than she did.
While she had no regrets that she’d killed Torren, she did regret the taste he’d left in her mouth after she’d flown his body back to the manor house to prove to the dragons he was dead.
Maurene stuffed a handful of papers into her rucksack and rubbed the small of her back. “He won’t starve. The other wizards will figure a way to get to him before that happens. But none of that will matter if they catch us.”
“The other wizards will probably put him down,” Alliah argued, realizing the truth of it even as she said it. Crystal dragons were rare, but that might not protect their uncivil companion any longer. “Other wizards don’t have Torren’s delusions of grandeur. They aren’t trying to take over the world. Many just want to earn a living.”
“You’re going to sacrifice all of us to break into a dungeon and rescue a man who’s going to attack you the minute you unchain him?” Maurene asked, aghast.
“He can try to attack me, but I’m a red,” Alliah reminded her. She was trained in war, in all types of combat. She knew how to command herself, and others, as much as Torren had allowed it. The dragon in the dungeon might be big, but he was a crystal. They knew nothing of fighting.
Maurene gave her a sour grimace. “That applies when you’re in dragon form, not on two legs. Try using that sword of yours to fend off a lightning bolt.”
“He can’t cast lightning. He’s a dragon.” Only wizards could cast spells, using the magic they siphoned from dragons. Dragons themselves could shift into dragons and, well, back into bipeds. They had the power of change and the power of flight—and no power to resist the thrall crystals that ruined their lives.
“Humph.” Maurene finished ransacking Torren’s office and cinched her rucksack. “You might as well sell us to the wizards yourself at this rate. You know the humans from the kitchen are going to run and tell everyone they find. You shouldn’t have brought the body.”
“I didn’t think you would believe me otherwise.” And they wouldn’t have, hence the very logical decision to bring the body. Their thrall crystals would feel no different with Torren dead. “I feared you’d assume it was another of Torren’s loyalty games.”
Maurene stomped to the last place in the office she hadn’t searched, a wardrobe, and slammed it open. Looking over her shoulder, she said, “What’s done is done. Forget that fool in the dungeon. Lead us out of here. Right after I find that purple cloak our dear departed master wore when he was feeling like a ponce. The gold buttons on that ugly thing can feed us for weeks.”
When a wizard without apprentices died unexpectedly, it was often a free-for-all. A wizard could hijack an unsecured thrall crystal in a dragon much more easily and cheaply than purchasing a dragon straight up. While Alliah would be protected, having shed her crystal, the others wouldn’t.
Including the dragon in the dungeon.
What was she thinking, volunteering to fetch Torren’s dragons while Katia guarded the portal? Their master had used her and her friend Katia, also a red, as bludgeons, not strategists. He’d never realized she and Katia distracted him from hurting the others. Alliah had always dreamed she was capable of more. She had bided her time, counting every single second of her enslavement, until she had the opportunity to rid herself of her master.
Alliah, a realist, just wanted to safeguard her companions in the stable. The dragon in the dungeon was one of them. Was she up to this task after a life of captivity? What could she achieve now that no wizard was around to tell her what to do? What could any of them achieve?
Small things. Stupid things. Great things. But things they chose for themselves. And that was exactly why she couldn’t leave the dragon in the dungeon to his fate.
(c) jody wallace 2018