The rescue of Brenn’s pride sets off an angry tirade from Cewrick that results in curses that almost cripple the Crimson Realm and all of Ierilia.
With the help of Ciara, Brenn leads his crew through the bowels of the planet and the forbidden forest to unlock the secret of defeating Cewrick. But will his defeat end the reign of terror on their world?
Brenn paced back and forth. How could he possibly rest after the events of the night? What had started out as a night of victory and discovery had quickly turned into one of disaster and havoc. Cewrick had vented his rage at losing his captives across the whole planet. Brenn’s family and pride were safe, but at what cost? Even though Ciara had dispelled the wind funnels and their destruction, there was nothing she could do about the stone curse. So many innocents had turned to statues in a matter of minutes. If Cewrick unleashed the renegade Toubosians on the villages west of the Inar Ridge, they would have no defense against the ships and could suffer the same fate as Xynnar.
He stopped his pacing on the verandah of his rooms. Gazing over the courtyard, he caught a glimpse of his beautiful dragon as she slept in his orchard beneath the umbrella of his giant wraggia trees, their branches heavy and laden with ripe, lush fruit. He frowned, his brow creasing with worry for her. The night had taken its toll on Ciara. After flying to every corner of their planet to stop the black wind funnels, she had returned to Brenn’s estate and tried every possible spell she could muster to halt the stone curse, but her magick had weakened. He could feel how weary she was, how helpless she felt against Cewrick. She rested now, too exhausted to fight the sleep that overtook her.
He hated that she fought alone. Dissipating the wind funnels had exposed her to more and more people. He knew word would travel to Cewrick about the jewel dragon protecting the Ierilians and he would realize it was Ciara, the sorceress that had escaped his clutches. He would know she was no longer bound to the Clyss, and the sorcerer would spare no effort in his attempts to find her so he could bespell her again and try to capture her for her much-coveted soul shard.
After the suns came up, the stone curse had stopped, but Brenn was sure Cewrick was brewing up more plans of revenge.
He was about to go and bathe when he spotted a swarm darkening the rays of the suns. Shading his eyes, he saw dozens of black dragons and urcals in the sky heading for the city. A bath was not important right now. An announcement needed to be made to the citizens of Cront to remain inside their homes. The dragons and birds could not pluck them from inside their dwellings. He quickly hailed Admiral Zhala on his communicator.
“Admiral, I apologize for contacting you this early, but a swarm of black dragons and urcals is approaching the city. A global warning needs to be issued as I’m sure this is happening in all our major cities on Ierilia.”
“By the gods, I see them,” the admiral uttered. “Leave it with me, Brenn. I just hope it is not too late for some. I’ll send my fleet to annihilate them.”
“No. You can’t do that,” Brenn warned him.
“I can’t? What is—”
“Those black dragons, or many of them, were once jewel dragons, Ciara’s parents among them. They have lost their humanity, but when the curse is lifted, they will return to their natural state. We cannot kill them. The urcals, yes. But they are flying together as one flock,” Brenn explained.
“By the gods! What are we to do?”
“Stay inside. If they can’t grab people to bring to Cewrick, they will surely give up.”
“This is frustrating. We have the power to kill them all. But after what you told me, I won’t attack. I have no wish to destroy jewel dragons.”
“We also need to issue a warning for people not to touch the stone statues. They could break. Imagine when the curse is lifted, and people are missing arms or legs, or worse, if broken in half or missing their heads.”
“Yes. We need to dispatch teams across the planet to transport the statues to safe holding areas. I fear it will prove quite an impossible task unless our people can all pitch in. There are far too many villages and outlying farms that suffered the curse.” The admiral paused for a moment. “Let me get in touch with our media offices to get word out about the dragons and urcals and a message to the population to take great care in handling the statues. I’ll be in contact.”
Brenn feared for Ciara. As long as she remained sleeping, the black dragons and urcals could not see her from above. But what if she woke up and ventured into the courtyard?
After a quick wash and dressing, he opened his door to find Laro and Ivran about to knock, as well as Tomas standing behind them.
“Have you seen the black dragons, Brenn?” Laro asked.
Brenn was relieved to see Laro had returned from picking up Tomas. “It is good to see you are safe, my friend,” Brenn said as he embraced Laro. “Yes, and the urcals. I have already been in contact with the admiral.”
“What else is Cewrick going to hit us with in his wrath?” Ivran asked.
“I worry about Ciara. She is sleeping in my orchard, so she can’t be seen from above, but what if she wakes? Cewrick knows by now that she is free from the Clyss.”
“Can’t she hide elsewhere? The Tideless Abyss, her natural habitat?” Laro asked.
“I don’t know. Once the danger has dissipated, I will talk to her. Just help me pray to Taella, the goddess of tranquility, that Ciara sleeps for some time. I must warn my staff not to venture outside.” Brenn quickly headed for the kitchens and hoped he wasn’t too late as he could hear the flapping of wings above his house.