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Her Elemental Dragons: Shake the Earth: Chapter 11

JASIN

Auric pointed one of his talons at a mountain in the distance and I nodded. We both tilted our wings slightly to adjust our course, and exhilaration took hold as the brisk wind rushed over my scales.

Being a dragon was incredible. I could fly for hours without growing tired, cross great distances faster than any horse, and was stronger than ever before. Even with Slade and Brin on my back, along with half of our supplies and equipment, I barely noticed the weight. And with fire burning in my lungs, along with my sharp talons and fangs, I could defend Kira better than I could before.

Auric and I flew closer to the snow-capped mountains, and the air around us grew colder. We knew from Cadock’s mark on the map that the Resistance base was somewhere on the edge of these mountains in a cave, and he’d instructed us to look for a rock in the shape of two breasts, but so far we hadn’t spotted them.

“There,” Brin said, from my back. Her arm stretched over my right wing and I followed it’s direction to the base of a mountain where two large, rounded boulders pointed at the sky. I didn’t see an entrance, but assumed it would become more obvious once we got closer.

Auric and I swooped down into a nearby forest and found a good spot to land, since showing up as dragons probably wouldn’t elicit a good reaction. Once on the ground, we hid anything we couldn’t carry and then began the trek to the mountain. None of us felt like talking much with the memory of Kira’s village still fresh in our minds, along with that dangerous encounter with the elementals. Kira thought she might be able to convince them to help us, but I wasn’t sure even she could reverse hundreds of years of conflict and turn it into an alliance.

When we reached the mountain range and stood beside the twin rocks, the way inside was no more clear. It wouldn’t be a very good secret base if the entrance was obvious, but I’d hoped for something more than this. If that bandit had betrayed us or led us astray, I was going to track him down and make him pay.

“I didn’t see an entrance while flying overhead,” Auric said.

I glared up at the mountain. “Cadock probably lied to us. I bet he has no idea where the Resistance base is.”

“He wouldn’t do that,” Kira said, as she pulled her cloak around her to fight off the chill. “It’s here. We just need to look for it.”

“I can find it.” Slade took a few steps forward and pressed his palm against the slope of the mountain. He closed his eyes and his face became calm, while we stood back and waited. He’d done this before and he’d always been able to find a cave, a lake, or whatever we were looking for with his magic. A useful trick indeed.

When he opened his eyes, he removed his hand and turned to us. “Follow me.”

We began to climb the steep side of the mountain, and I longed to have my wings so I could simply fly up it. It didn’t help that my steps were dragging and hesitant either. I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be going into the Resistance base, and had no desire to get there any faster, even if it was what Kira wanted.

When I’d been part of the Onyx Army I’d committed horrible acts against the Resistance in the name of duty. I’d helped slaughter entire villages thought to be harboring their members even though it had made me sick. Disobeying my orders had never been an option, no matter how much I’d secretly questioned my superiors. At the time, I’d tried to justify my actions because my brother had been killed by the Resistance, or by telling myself that the Dragons knew what had to be done to keep the world safe. Now I knew better. The guilt and regret tore at me with every step, and I’d do anything to go back and reverse the damage I’d caused and bring back the lives I’d cut short.

When we’d visited the Fire Realm we’d rescued a few prisoners from execution and escorted them to safety, but one of them had recognized me from my past crimes. She’d been terrified of me, and I couldn’t blame her for her reaction, even if it had made me feel like the worst human being in all the four Realms.

Now I was about to face those people again, and would be forced to look into their eyes knowing I’d once been their enemy and their executioner. I liked to think that I’d changed and that I could atone for my sins by stopping the other Dragons, but I wasn’t sure I could ever make up for my mistakes. All I could do was stand by Kira’s side and try to be a better man in the future.

Slade stopped about halfway up the mountainside and found a small crevice that was nearly impossible to see due to the shape of the rocks around it. “I think this is it.”

He slipped through the crack, and the rest of us had to follow one by one. A very defensible entrance since you could easily pick off people as they entered. I rested my hand on my sword in case there was trouble.

Through the crevice, the stone opened up to a wider cave and we spread out inside it. A large metal door stood in front of us and Kira approached it, paused for a moment, and then banged on it sharply three times.

After a brief wait, two heavily armed guards stepped out of the door, before it slammed shut behind them again. They pointed swords at us as one said, “State your business here.”

We all glanced at Kira, who stood at the front of our group. “We’re here to speak with the leader of the Resistance,” she said. “Parin.”

“There’s no Resistance here,” the female guard said. “You should turn around and head back wherever you came from.”

Kira stood tall and met the woman’s gaze, her voice stern. “We know that isn’t true, and we have information your people would definitely like to know about. We’re here to help you fight the Dragons.”

“And why should we believe you?” the male guard asked.

Kira’s jaw clenched and she raised her hands, likely about to use her magic to prove who she was. But then the door opened behind the guards and a dark-skinned woman with hair cropped close to her head stepped out. She was lithe and beautiful, with a fierce intensity in her eyes that made me think she was not to be underestimated. A large sword hung from her hip, along with a dagger on the other.

“Slade?” she asked, her voice almost breathless as she stared at him. “Is that really you?”

Slade’s jaw clenched and his brow furrowed. It was the most emotion I’d seen on his stony face in days. Maybe weeks. Whoever this woman was, he was not pleased to see her. “Hello, Faya.”

“Gods, it is you.” She pressed a hand to her chest, her brown eyes wide. “What are you doing here?”

“We need to speak with Parin,” Kira said, her voice hard. She wasn’t happy to see this woman either. Was this the girl Slade had loved and lost many years ago? That would explain a lot.

Faya blinked, and finally saw the rest of us standing there. “Of course. Come inside. I’ll take you to Parin.” She flashed Slade another questioning look. “And then we can catch up.”

The guards lowered their weapons and allowed us to pass. Faya led us through the metal door and we stepped into a massive, domed space that took my breath away. The cave stretched for such a great distance that I couldn’t see the end of it, while the dark gray stone slanted into a perfectly smooth ceiling high above us. Wooden and stone buildings filled the giant cave, laid out in a way so there were small roads running between them. More armed guards awaited us inside, while people walked about and gave us curious looks before continuing on to their destinations. Many of them were armed, but some looked like civilians. I even saw a small child running after a woman. This wasn’t just a base, this was an entire village. And none of them screamed or cried out at the sight of me—maybe my past would truly stay behind me this time.


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