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Her Elemental Dragons: Ride the Wave: Chapter 5

AURIC

Our cart pulled up to the black gates of Soulspire and I shifted in my seat, tugging my wide-brimmed hat low over my face. We’d bought the cart at a farm a few hours away, along with clothes that would help us blend in and look like merchants, plus some apples and oranges to complete our disguise. The farmer had been delighted with our money and I was thankful my father had provided us so much gold for our journey before we’d left the Air Realm. It was almost all gone now, but it had served us well while it lasted.

We hadn’t seen Doran since his large blue form had flown over us toward the palace. We could only pray he was getting Kira out and fulfilling his side of the bargain, instead of leading us into a trap. I had a feeling he would be true to his word, even if the others disagreed with me. Or maybe I just wanted to believe Doran was on our side because if he wasn’t, we would have a much harder time rescuing Kira.

We’d spent the last few days flying toward Soulspire, which was located in the center of the continent where the four Realms met, and Doran had told us his plan when we’d stopped to rest last night.

“The Spirit Festival starts tomorrow, and it’s the biggest celebration of the year in Soulspire,” he’d said. “The Black Dragon herself always makes a speech in the afternoon and the revelers will fill the streets, wearing masks and celebrating being alive. It can get a bit wild, if you know what I mean. It’s the perfect time to rescue Kira.”

“And how exactly will we do that?” Slade asked. We all sat around a clearing as we finished our meal, and despite having traveled with Doran for days, everyone kept an eye on him. None of us trusted him yet.

“You won’t,” Doran said. “I will.”

“That doesn’t work for us,” Jasin growled. He disliked the man more than any of us, although I wasn’t sure if it was a natural fire and water opposites thing or if it was related to his issues with his own parents. Jasin’s father had betrayed us, and I didn’t blame him for suspecting Kira’s father would do the same.

Doran gave a casual shrug. “Too bad. I’m the only one who can walk into the palace where Kira is being held without a problem. Any one of you would be stopped by the hundreds of guards and killed or captured before you came anywhere near her. Assuming you could even find her once inside.” He shook his head. “No, I will free Kira and lead her out of the palace through the sewers. You’ll meet me there and escape with her.”

“Why do you need us at all then?” Jasin asked.

“I can get Kira out of the palace while the other Dragons are busy with the Festival, but they’d notice if I flew off with her. I need it to look like she was rescued by her mates to maintain my cover.”

Jasin’s eyes narrowed, and I held out a hand to stop him from replying. I cleared my throat. “How will we get into the city undetected? You can fly into Soulspire, but we cannot.”

Doran ran a hand over his beard. “Many people will be traveling to the city for the festival, especially merchants and performers. If you look convincing enough, they’ll let you in without a problem. Trust me, no one will be looking for you. They’ll be celebrating life in every way they can.” Doran smirked. “Let’s just say a lot of babies are born in Soulspire nine months from now.”

We hammered out the rest of the details as we ate. None of us liked that Doran would be getting Kira out alone, but we couldn’t think of a good way to get into the palace ourselves.

Sneaking into the capital proved to be easy though. It had been my idea to buy the cart and pretend to be farmers selling our wares, and as the gates opened and the guards gestured for us to enter, our disguise seemed to be working. Slade snapped the reins and our horses pulled us forward into the city.

I’d been to Soulspire twice before. Once as a young child, which I barely remembered, and a second time when I was older, perhaps about twelve. My father had taken me and my brother Garet with him while he attended to some business with Isen. All I remembered was the gleaming black palace looming over me and the claustrophobic feel of being surrounded by Onyx Army soldiers watching our every move.

Both of those things still existed today, except the city had been transformed from the somber, imposing one of my memories to a chaotic, festive, and colorful splendor. Banners and flags hung from every building, splashing the black architecture with a rainbow of colors. Every street was crowded with people in their finest clothes, wearing intricate masks that covered much of their faces, except their lips—which many used quite generously on each other. Most of the masks resembled animals, while others were decorated with flowers and leaves, all to honor the Spirit Goddess.

As we continued through the city, the crowd made it difficult to maneuver the cart toward the location of the sewer entrance. Alcohol and food flowed freely, music burst out of packed taverns and cafes, and people danced and threw confetti in the streets. Others were sharing kisses or locked in intimate embraces, their hands wandering under skirts and inside trousers, and I could see what Doran meant by it getting a little wild today.

A longing for Kira tugged at my soul, but when I reached for her through our bond, I still found nothing. I hadn’t realized how vital feeling her in the back of my mind had become, but now it was as if a piece of myself was missing. I couldn’t sense Jasin or Slade either, not without Kira acting as the bridge between us, but at least they were here beside me.

“I think this is it.” Slade stopped the cart outside some stone steps that led down to an arched metal door. A guard stood in front of the sewer entrance, wearing the scaled black armor and winged helmet of the Onyx Army.

I nodded. “It matches the description Doran gave us.”

Jasin quickly knocked out the guard and dragged him through the door, which Slade opened with his magic. Once the guard was tied up, we left him there and continued forward. Jasin created a ball of flame to illuminate the dark tunnel that surrounded us, made of black stone with low domed ceilings that our heads nearly reached. A terrible smell lingered in the air, and we walked through ankle-deep water and Gods only knew what else. The tunnels were old and in some sections the water was deeper, leaving us no choice but to wade through it. I cringed to think of what my clothes would smell like when we got out of the place.

“Where’s Reven when we need him?” Jasin muttered, as we dipped into a waist-high patch of murky water.

Slade pressed his hand against a slimy wall and closed his eyes, using his magic to spread his senses through the earth. “This tunnel leads up to the palace. How far are we supposed to go to meet them?”

“I’m not sure,” I said. “I suppose we should keep walking until we see them.”

Jasin snorted. “If they’re even coming.”

I opened my mouth to reply when I spotted something up ahead. Tiny pinpricks of dim light that looked a lot like a pair of eyes. I immediately reached for my two long knives, which had been a gift from my father.

Jasin made his fire flare brighter, casting light across the tunnel and illuminating six shadowy figures with long claws. They seemed to be made of darkness itself, their bodies disappearing into the gloom where their feet should be, except for those sickly yellow glowing eyes.

“Shades!” I called out, as I reached for my magic and sheathed my blades. Shades were once thought to be myth, but we’d fought them before at the Air Temple and now knew they worked for the Black Dragon. Shades could drain the life of anyone they touched and were immune to most weapons, but magic could hurt them. The Black Dragon must have left them here to stop anyone from entering the palace this way, though it seemed dangerous to have so many in the middle of the capital. Maybe she kept them here in case she ever needed to unleash them across Soulspire.

We all stepped forward and prepared to attack, gathering our magic around us. I tapped into the unseen currents of air that floated around us at all times and sensed the quick breathing of my companions. The air here was damp and polluted with foul smells and toxins, but it still served me.

I slammed the shades with a huge blast of wind, knocking them all into the wall of the tunnel. Slade caused the stone there to grab hold of the shades, imprisoning them while they let out spine-tingling shrieks, and then Jasin incinerated them one by one.

“That was a lot easier than I remember it being at the Air Temple,” Jasin said, as the shades turned to smoke.

I grinned. “We’ve had a lot more practice using our magic and working as a team.”

“Wait,” Slade said, holding out his arm to stop us from moving forward.

Dozens of glowing eyes lit up the tunnel ahead of us, blocking our path. I counted at least twenty pairs before giving up, and more seemed to fill the tunnel every second. I swallowed hard and prepared to fight them, while Slade and Jasin did the same. If we were going to get Kira out safely, we’d have to defeat them all.


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