Home > Dark Lycan (Drak #24)

Dark Lycan (Drak #24)
Author: Christine Feehan

Dark Lycan (Drak #24)

1

Mist drifted through the trees. The moon, not quite full, was a yellow halo, dull and yet glaring. Around the moon a red ring gave off an ominous glow. A dangerous time, this cycle of the moon, especially when the mist came in thick and heavy, covering the ground a foot or so high, winding in and out of the trees as if alive. The mist muffled sound, dulled the senses, giving advantages to the shadowy figures that preyed upon the unwary.

Tatijana of the Dragonseekers woke beneath the earth with layers of dark, rich healing loam surrounding her. Vital nutrients, rich in minerals, cushioned her body. She lay for a long time, panicked, listening to her own heart beating, feeling too light, too trapped, too exposed. And hot. So hot. Above her, she sensed the guardians. Watching over her, they said, and it was probably true, but she’d been a prisoner for so long—she’d been born into captivity—and she trusted no one other than her sister, Branislava. Bronnie lay sleeping peacefully, very close to her, her only comfort.

Her heartbeat grew louder until it was thunder in her ears. She couldn’t stand being trapped beneath the earth. She had to get out, to find freedom. To feel free. What was that like? She knew nothing of the world. She’d lived underground her entire life, deep in the ice caves, never seeing or speaking to anyone other than those who tortured and tried to terrorize her. She knew no other life, but that had changed—or had it?

Had Bronnie and she exchanged one cold, frightening prison for a silken cage? If so, their wardens had made a huge mistake putting them in the ground to recover. She hardly knew what it was like to be in her real form. She’d spent centuries in dragon form and dragons could move through earth fairly easily.

Bronnie, she whispered into her sister’s mind. I know you need your sleep. I will continue to explore our new world and come back at dawn with new information.

Branislava stirred in her mind as if she might protest as she had each time Tatijana told her she was going.

I need to do this.

I will come with you, Bronnie answered, her voice far away, even though she was in Tatijana’s mind.

Tatijana knew Branislava would force herself to awaken, although she wasn’t truly healed inside, where they both needed it. They’d done everything together—been through the worst together. They’d never actually been apart, even when encased in ice, when they could only stare at one another. They still had telepathic communication.

Not this time, Bronnie, I need to do this for me. She whispered the words as she did on the occasions she awakened to explore their new world. She always gave Bronnie reassurance that she would be careful.

No one would ever imprison either of them again. Every rising she made that simple vow. She was growing stronger with each passing night. Power ran through her body and with it, confidence. She was determined they would stand on their own and be beholden to no one.

Tatijana didn’t know how to tell her sister she didn’t want to live under the rules of another. They were Carpathian. Dragonseeker. That meant something to the prince of the Carpathians and to all the others. The males were lining up in the hopes of claiming either Bronnie, or her. She could not live under the rule of another. She just couldn’t do it. She didn’t want anyone telling her what to do ever again, even if it was for her own good. She rose when she wanted and explored her new world on her own terms.

Tatijana made up her mind that she would find her own way, learn her own way, make her own mistakes. Bronnie was always the voice of reason. She protected Tatijana from her impulsive nature, but no more. As much as she loved Branislava, this was something Tatijana needed.

She sent her sister love and warmth and the promise she would return at dawn. Shapeshifting into the appearance of a blue dragon was easy—she’d been in the form for centuries and the structure and shape felt more familiar than her own body.

She burrowed deeper, going into the earth rather than rising where her guardians would see her. She’d already dug a tunnel, and she moved quickly through the packed soil. She’d chosen to exit several kilometers away from her resting place in order to ensure Branislava’s safety and to make certain the guardians would have no idea she’d risen early. The blue dragon moved through the tunnel like a mole, digging when necessary, packing any dirt that had collapsed as she hurried steadily toward her goal.

Tatijana emerged in a deep forest. She was very careful to scan the earth above her before the blue dragon poked her wedge-shaped head out of the hidden entrance. She surfaced in the midst of a thick gray fog. Trees appeared as giant misshapen scarecrows with outstretched arms, swaying slightly, just enough to give them the appearance of monsters.

Tatijana had known real monsters and the dense forest of trees veiled in gray didn’t alarm her in the least. Freedom was amazing. Her eyes were terribly sensitive, but other than that, the world felt as if it was hers and with the fog covering the ground, her eyes didn’t even burn.

She shifted to her physical form, donning modern clothing, a pair of soft cotton pants that allowed her freedom of movement. She’d chosen a blouse she’d seen on a woman in the village a couple of nights earlier. She’d followed the woman, studying her style of clothing so she could reproduce it at will. Everything seemed strange to her, but that was part of the excitement of discovery. She wanted tactile learning, not just pulling information from another’s mind.

She made her way through the forest, enjoying the way the fog wrapped around her legs and made her feel as if she was walking through clouds. She remembered at the last moment to add shoes, something that was still very uncomfortable for her. She felt as if the shoes weighed her down and felt very foreign on her body.

The wind rushed through the trees, kicking up leaves and swirling mist around tree trunks. The mist began to rise from the floor as she walked toward the only light at the forest’s edge that she could see. Music poured from the building, singing to her, beckoning, but this time she knew she wasn’t going just to hear those beautiful notes. She normally chose a different location every night to glean more information to share with her sister.

This place called to her every rising now. The feeling was so strong it was nearly a compulsion. She had resisted for a few days, but she couldn’t stop herself another night. She drew closer to the building. The windows were lit with that same yellow glow, two eyes staring at her through the thick mist. A chill went down her spine, but she kept walking toward it.

 

The Wild Boar Tavern sat on the very edge of the forest, surrounded on three sides by heavy brush, trees, and plenty of cover for anyone needing to hide quickly. Providing shelter and camaraderie as well as easy exits should the law happen to venture near, the tavern offered regulars comfort by the fire, warm food and plenty to drink. The crowd was rough, no place for the timid, and even the law generally avoided the place. No one asked questions and everyone was careful not to officially notice anything.

Fenris Dalka came to the tavern nearly every night, so why did he feel such a fool sitting at the bar, slowly nursing a beer, pretending to drink it like he often did? He huffed out his breath and kept his gaze forward, using the mirror to keep an eye on the door. From his vantage point, he could see every corner of the tavern as well as the door. He’d scoped out the perfect place to sit some time ago and now, if he came in and someone was sitting there, he just stood over them, staring, until they got up and vacated his seat.

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