Seventeen-year-old Kathren (Krag), named after a legendary fire-breathing dragon, is torn between the desire to see the world and responsibility of caring for her twelve-year-old sister, Reni. Her knack of going invisible entangles her in a mad rescue adventure to rescue her foster father’s spoiled seventeen-year-old daughter, soon to be crowned queen.
I stared at the mage, caught between the urge to slap the condescending expression from her face and the conviction she was right. “You change my motivation every day.”
“You change your mood every day. I’m just trying to keep pace with you.” She waved Andry farther from me. “Your turn to watch and listen today. Our young mage here is going to work very hard. We’re trying a new method today. Maybe, if we’re lucky, it’ll catch in that stubborn mind of hers and take hold.” When I remained impassive, Brana smiled a very cool smile, correctly reading the nasty names I called her in my head. “Go invisible first since you do that without thinking. All right, stay out of sight. There. Now do what I tell you.” While I clamped a firm hold on the urge to rip her heart from her chest and feed it to her hawk sister for the evening meal, Brana locked her eyes on mine. “Pay attention. You’re drifting in and out.”
I started to protest, but a swift glance at my flickering legs proved her right.
“Better. Now tell me how you go invisible.”
“I don’t know. I’ve always just done it.”
“No conscious steps?”
Still invisible, I thought about it. “No. Only that I calm myself so I can focus, and then, I don’t know, I just do it.”
“That’s what I thought.” Brana leaned forward, tucking her legs beneath her. “Now come back in sight. There.” Her eyes held a challenge, and I felt my entire soul respond. “Do the exact same thing with shielding. No more infantile piles of dragon scales. Imagine the wall in place, protecting you, and transparent.”
I tried to do what the mage suggested, but too many steps intervened.
“You’re taking too long.”
I bit back my angry words.
“I said, young mage, you’re taking too long.” Brana caught me off guard, shoving me back against the chair I’d been using for support, shattering my focus. “Try it again.”
I glared at her in growing fury.
“Just do it, and stop whining like a toothless infant.”
Straining, I tried by sheer force to think myself shielded. Brana shoved me back again, harder, slamming my injured shoulder against the wood chair. My breathing was heavy, and sweat drenched my short-cropped hair.
“Stop acting like a brat and just do as you’re told.”
“Brana…” Andry reached in front of the mage.
“Don’t interfere,” Brana snapped at Andry. “Our young mage wants to be a heroine and rescue her poor sister, who’s probably dead.”
“Shut up!” In a heartbeat, carried by rage and grief, I shielded and went invisible without thought or hesitation, driven by the need to unleash my fury and fear. More by instinct than magic, Brana braced her body as I lunged for her throat, holding my invisible arms locked tight against my straining body, away from her neck.
“Easy, girl.” While I continued to struggle futilely against her hold, weakening from all the attempts I’d made to shield, Brana held me firm. “You didn’t believe in yourself. If I didn’t provoke that fierce temper of yours, you’d go on taking your sweet time, not trusting your abilities. We’ve run out of time to save that sister of yours, don’t you see?” As I released both shielding and magic, she let me go, acknowledging the bitter resentment in my eyes. “I don’t care much that you hate me. I got what I wanted. You’ve done far better than I’d hoped; only needing to believe in yourself.” With a smooth gesture to Andry, she handed me into my friend’s arms. “See that she rests.”
I slumped in exhaustion against Andry, who said not a word for a long, long time. Then, “You’re a lot like her, you know.”
Sitting up, I stared at my friend, appalled.
“I didn’t mean it with ill intent.”
Laughing, I leaned back against the chair. “I know. It’s just that she said the same thing the night before we came here.”
“Do you hate her?”
“No, of course not.” I shook my head, baffled and weary. “I want to strangle her almost every single moment, but no, I don’t hate her. She’s difficult to deal with sometimes. And other times” —I shrugged—”I just don’t understand her.” When Andry’s expression had gone a bit peculiar, I snarled, “Go on. Get it over with.”
“It’s nothing.” Andry tried to hide a small smile that kept escaping. “Really, Krag, it’s not important. It’s just—” The smile became a broad grin. “It’s just that what you described is precisely how I feel about you sometimes.”