Amid the turmoil of war, an outcast will rise to save the one his heart yearns for.
Within a vampire village a young male is reduced to nothing more than bloody entertainment. Feared for his terrifying visions and hated for his difference in appearance, Kassiel has been forced to fight in the arena from a young age. Now half-starved and with no hope of freedom or a life beyond the fights, he waits for the mercy of death.
On the cusp of death, he's thrown from the village. Kassiel is saved by a dragon shifter who takes him back to the caves of his leader.
Fierce, loyal, governed by the rules of his god, Mali'x hunts for followers who will help in the fight for the future of all immortals. When he stumbles upon the young vampire, starved and clinging to life, Mali'x is horrified by the cruelty of the villagers. The torture and abuse Kassiel suffered sets Mali'x's teeth on edge, and he swears justice will be served. In the eyes of this outcast vampire, Mali'x sees himself in the not so distant past.
What Mali'x doesn't know is that in Kassiel he will find not only a powerful ally, but perhaps the other half of his soul. However, dark magic conspires to keep them apart. Kassiel will have to face his greatest fears and find a way to save not only himself but his lover.
Content Warning: male/male sex, strong language, and violence
Mali'x folded his wings in against his body, free falling toward the villagers. The wind howled around his head, his scales rippling with the speed. Seconds before he plowed a hole in Drekenian soil, he spread his wings, extending his feet, claws flashing in the light. He ignored the familiar jolt of his feet hitting the ground. A cloud of dust and debris rose up, swirling around him.
The four vampire males hissed at him, reaching for weapons. One, a tall, robust male with red hair, shoved the sickly one at him and backed away. "You do not belong here." He sneered. "Carrion eater, you dare to appear before me."
"Filthy scavenger. Take him and be done with it." A second snarled at him.
Mali'x tilted his head, his eyes narrowed as he studied them. Around him the vegetation trembled, trees bent in the wind of his wings, the pebbles on the ground skittered across as he shifted, taking his human form. He towered over the men; they barely came up to his chin. The stench of their fear—bitter and pungent—filled his head. He caught the acrid smell of hatred and studied the group. Wrinkling his nose when he inhaled a very familiar scent, he raised a hand to cover his nose. The stench of waste filled his nostrils, hurting his sensitive sense of smell.
"Vampires, how disgraceful. You treat your own as refuse?" Mali'x said.
"He is not of us. Now take him and go. A free meal for a carrion eater." The redhead growled.
"Brave words for a male who has pissed himself," Mali'x barked. "Indeed, such cowards."
"We hold no love for him or you, lizard."
How pathetic, they can't see beyond their own eyes. Mali'x reach the leader in two strides. He grabbed him by the throat, lifting him off his feet with ease. "So eager to incite violence. Why are you not on the front lines?"
"Get your paws off me, filthy reptile."
"Ah, you throw out insults so easily, but are you strong enough to follow through?" Mali'x chortled. "I think not, if the way you've soiled your pants like a babe is any indication. Your insults do nothing but irritate me."
"You dare to assume to tell me what to do?"
"I do not consider it a challenge, vampire. You are hardly my equal. Now, you will answer my question."
The crowd tittered, voices raising in a tangled mess of sounds. Mali'x watched the females and young shrink back. As the crowd's anger grew, the smell of burnt amber filled the air around the group. The men bared their teeth, hissing in challenge, though he didn't believe it was genuine. He ground his teeth; sparks flew, and smoke swirled around him when he exhaled. The females took the young and scattered, falling over themselves to get back to the safety of the city walls.
"We've no interest in fighting in Hema's war." The leader sneered.
"Yeah, the rewards will be twice as sweet when it is done."
"Rewards?" Mali'x demanded.
"Yes, yes." The smallest of the four scurried to the front. "There will be more food, more women, more…more. We will never have to live without."
"Greedy vampire, you sicken me." Mali'x tossed aside the leader and faced the one who spoke. "You do not seem to have done without. You have shelter, you are healthy and fat. There is a female who smells of you and milk, so she is with child. Compared to the one you throw away, you seem to have all you want."
"He is not of us. He is of the southern clan. An abomination to all who breathe."
Mali'x growled, grabbing the man and pulling him closer to him, his claws digging into the coward's throat. "When the war is done, and victory has been claimed, your kind will not be here. You will fight, or you will perish. Death will walk among you, of that you can be assured. You, who would turn your back on a brother, will never have what you truly want."
"Take our offering and be gone. We would not spare words on the likes of him or you."
Mali'x knelt to collect the young man. He hefted him into his arms, a snarl forming at how light he was. He could feel the heat of infection, the sharp protrusions of bones. Beneath the scarred exterior, a brilliant soul flickered, the light dimmed with cruelty, its wordless pleas raking across instincts long since contained. Memory not yet made teased at his heart; this man was important to his future.