Ryland is close to the end of his apprenticeship with Henry to be an apothecary. Once qualified, he sees the job as a way to be free and independent of his father. Jabez is a cold and aloof man that Ryland cannot bring himself to like.
When his will is thwarted, Jabez takes his revenge, and Ryland is saved from a brutal beating by his Luck Dragon, and his best friend Ballard.
Not only does Ryland want to break his mother free of his father’s hold, but also long-suppressed memories. To do so, he and his friends return to Ryland’s family home in Wales. Finally he’s able to break the spell that’s kept him and his soulmate Shiloh apart.
But they still need to face Jabez, and something darker and infinitely more evil, if they are to remain together.
A week later and Ryland was now in residence above the shop along the hallway from Henry, and he’d fitted out the attic to be a mix of bed and sitting room for Ballard. To his surprise, Ballard had initially been reluctant to move, offering reasons to remain in their own digs, but now he seemed more settled.
Ryland became lost in his thoughts as he strode back to the apothecary. His last patient was housebound, too infirm to leave her bed to collect her script. He would normally have sent Ballard, but hoped that the walk would clear his own head. He still believed his father responsible for the attack on the shop. But thankfully, Henry seemed none the worse for his ordeal.
“Well, well, look who it is.” A coarse voice broke into Ryland’s reverie, and he cursed himself soundly for not paying more attention to his surroundings. “We’ve been told to make sure you know not to interfere again.”
The same three men from the attack on the shop now blocked his way out of the alley he always used as a short cut. He had two options, to turn and run and hope to outpace them to get back onto the main street, or to use the element of surprise.
For all I know, they may have knives, and I can’t outrun one thrown at my back, not with them so close.
Then the men were moving, and Ryland galvanised into action. Depressing one button on his umbrella, the ribs and canvass flew off, hitting one of the men in the face. He pressed the second.
“Adam! Alert!” The automaton’s alarm would be enough. At least that was Ryland’s hope as the other two man charged him.
At first, Ryland was able to fend them off, his fencing lessons finally good for something practical. But the third man attacking made it impossible for Ryland to keep defending himself and he took a heavy blow to his shoulder, and another to his kidneys.
Staggering forward, he was barely able to fend off a blow that still managed to connect with his skull. He dropped to his knees, dazed by the glancing blow, knowing it was only a matter of time. Warmth suddenly bloomed in his chest before a hard kick to his ribs sent him spinning to land on his back.
He stared up as his attackers advanced on him, their cudgels raised, their faces cruel and twisted with hate. Then they stopped, expressions of fear and horror reflected on their faces. Too dizzy to move, Ryland could only watch as red smoke erupted from his chest, coalescing into a small creature that hovered above him.
“Luck dragon,” Ryland whispered.
The beast was small, but it still breathed steam. A scream pierced the air as it caught the nearest attacker full in the face. He staggered away, cudgel forgotten as he covered his face with his hands.
One of the others swung his weapon at it, but missed. This time the dragon blew smoke and the man reeled away, coughing and choking. The third was out of his vision and Ryland tried to stand ready to defend himself.
The world faded in and out of focus as soon as he moved. The last things he remembered were the dragon, shrinking and curling on his chest, making soft puffing sounds, as Ballard appeared, yelling his name. Then his world went black.