I will be publishing Unbroken, the final story in the Rune Witch Mysteries soon, and at the same time, I’ll publish Exile. This story features, Trystan, my favourite dragon-man from the Rune Witch series, and even has a guest appearance by Summer and Thomas.
Here’s Chapter One:
I’m not one for dramatics, but my mind raced towards full out panic, and my emotions darted between joy and blazing fury when a dragon landed in the field adjacent to my house.
Her scales gleamed in the sunlight, reflecting a brilliant shade of silver that matched the steely look in her eyes. Her wings stretched like those of a bat. She shook a head crowned with a neck frill and six large spikes, sending a great chuff of air through her nostrils.
Eighty years! Eighty years since I’d last laid eyes another dragon.
I flicked off the incessant beeping of the proximity alarm and watched the monitor as Megan changed into human form and dressed.
I remembered every fibre of her being, her perfect face, the intoxicating scent of her skin.
Rose-tinted memories surfaced forefront in my mind. I scowled and pushed them aside. So much had changed. I had Maybe, just maybe, Megan had too.
I slapped my face to bring me back to reality and moved from the screen to the large sash window. Who knew, maybe it was just a dream. Although, nightmare may be a more appropriate term.
Sure enough, there she stood, flesh and blood. Untouched by time, as though stepping from a memory. Megan trudged through the grass towards my house, framed by a backdrop of sandstone hills shrouded in grass and heather. The cool touch of the wind blew a few strands of long chocolate-brown hair around her face. The rest hung in a loose braid over one shoulder, contrasting against the whiteness of her shirt. Her hair, face, and clothes; even the jacket hooked around her waist, and the stonewash jeans looked familiar. Only the change in style depicted the passage of time.
I listened at the front door for her footsteps. They crunched on the gravel, leading closer and closer.
I opened the door before she had time to knock.
“It’s good to see you, Trystan,” she said, while I remained silent.
I faced her, arms crossed, as she looked me up and down. Her gaze lingered on my abdomen before flickering lower. Heat soared in her eyes.
Damn it! She always had a way of making me feel like a piece of meat. I cleared my throat.
“What do you want?” Wariness crept into my voice. I shivered and told myself the blame rested on the chill mountain air.
“It’s been a long time,” she said, flashing her eyes at me while stating the obvious. “Can’t an old friend stop by for a visit?”
I toyed with the idea of playing all nicey-nicey, inviting her in for a little chat, a catch up on old times. On the other hand, I possessed a temptation to gouge my eyes out with a spoon. Either option would be just as painful.
I stared at her. She smiled back.
I clenched my teeth and tried to push down my building resentment. Her presence made me feel things long buried. “I’ll ask again. What do you want?”
“Fine.” Megan heaved and over dramatic sigh and pursed her lips. “You take the fun out of everything. The Glain Neidr is missing.”
I scoffed, shook my head, and shut the door in her face before moving to the kitchen. To occupy my hands, I gathered the cloth, wiped down the counter, and moved my morning dishes to the sink. What I wanted, was to punch a hole in the wall.
I didn’t need this crap. Not now. Not when I’d found a modicum of happiness.
I’d been exiled from my clan a human lifetime ago. They’d had decades to reach out to me, pay me a visit, and mend broken bridges. Typical that only a catastrophic event like the disappearance of the serpent’s egg would bring another dragon to my door. Least of all, Megan.
The Glain Neidr, the serpent’s egg. Not much to look at. A simple rock with a hole in the middle. Powerful things were often deceptive in appearance.
The serpent’s egg cured illness and protected against evil. Most damaging to dragon-kind, gazing through the middle of the stone granted the power to see through disguises. Whoever possessed the serpent’s egg possessed the power to look to the skies and see dragons in flight. Their glamour no longer afforded them the protection of secrecy. A human might walk down the street and gaze upon the beasts of myth and legend. With human numbers so great, and dragons so few, dangers plagued such exposure. At least, that’s what the clan believed. Me? Not so much.
I cursed as Megan entered the kitchen behind me. A locked door proved about as useful in keeping Megan out chasing tequila with vinegar.
“Do you suspect I have it?” I asked, unable to keep the scorn from my voice.
Silence greeted my question.
I threw the cloth in the sink. Echoes of the last time I’d seen her circled my mind, standing in the dragon court while others dictated my fate. Dragon-kind had stayed hidden for millennia, always lurking in the background, never taking an interest in human affairs. When Roman globalisation looked set to take over the world, and they’d built the great fortress of Isca Augusta at Caerleon, the Silure Dragons had known their way of life would change. We no longer ruled their small patch of Wales. Almost two thousand years ago we’d retreated from human affairs. To me, our self-imposed isolation needed to end. I’d sat through the First World War forbidden to aid the land of my birth. I lived on the side-lines, watched humans die by the millions, knowing we had the power to help… believing it our duty help. When the Second World War started, my mind burned with the horrors I’d witnessed not thirty years before. I determined to no longer stand idly by and let the world descend into chaos. I wanted to help. Many disagreed with this desire, including Alwyn, the leader of the Silure Dragons, and Megan, who sided with her father. The idea of associating with lesser beings disgusted her and made her a vocal opponent against the worth of human life. Born after our time of separation, she’d spent her whole life cut off from the human world. She’d never experienced the joy and compassion to be found in their friendship.
I turned, and for the first time saw a glimmer of conflict on Megan’s face. “You do suspect I have it,” I said. “After all this time, why would I risk exposing the clan?”
“A human lifetime is not that long to a dragon,” she said.
Megan rubbed the back of her neck, and, after a moment, looked awkwardly around the room. She seemed smaller, more unsure than when I’d last seen her.
“Look,” she said after an uneasy minute of silence. “I suspected. Who wouldn’t?”
“But no longer?”
“No.” She took a deep breath as though stealing herself for a hard task. “I need your help to find whoever took the egg and return it.”
I snorted, attempting to suppress an incredulous laugh. A hard task indeed. Everyone needed help once in a while. Sometimes it’s easy to ask, but then there are the other times; the times when you’d rather rip each nail clean off your fingers one by one. From the look in her eyes, Megan experienced something of that feeling now. As leader of the tribal guardians, she commanded others. Asking for help didn’t come naturally.
She moved towards me. I backed away putting the kitchen island between us. I didn’t want her any closer. She’d burned me once. Even I knew better than to touch a hot stove twice.
“I hardly think there’s anything you need from me,” I said.
“Evidence points to human involvement. Your knowledge of their methods and technology can help.”
“I live alone in the middle of nowhere, what makes you think I can solve your case?”
Megan stared at me — giving me a look that confirmed she knew far more of my existence than made me comfortable. She tilted her head and smiled. “I know you can help. The only question is, will you?”
When I’d left the tribe, I knew exactly what I’d wanted to do: save as many lives as possible. Help my country defeat Hitler. I saw it as an obligation to aid humanity. At the time, I’d wanted dragon-kind to come out of hiding. The tribal leader had other ideas. I’d been ordered to stand down, keep out of human wars and troubles. Their problems were not our problems. I needed to abide by tribal rules or leave. I left. It had been the right thing to do. But I’d never given away their secret. My secret.
I’d joined the rapidly expanding security service, MI5. Since then, not wanting to give away my seeming immortality, I’d gone private, helping those in need. Just as I had eighty years ago, I believed that if you could help, you should. I’d based my whole moral code on this principle.
“Are you going to help us or not?” Megan straightened her back and crossed her arm in front of her chest.
I didn’t bother to answer. Fire blazed through my veins as I ran through the options in my head. I craved the rush of adrenaline offered by a case. Damn it! More than that, I lacked the temperament to sit by and let dragon-kind be exposed. Even if I thought it in the best interests of dragons and humans alike, other factors needed to be considered, other supernaturals whose secret lives hung in the balance.
“When was it taken?” I asked.
A slight tension left Megan’s body as she turned to me and smiled. “Five days ago. The security cameras went out at 02:12.”
“The night of the full moon,” I noted, shaking off my surprise that the dragons had invested in cameras. The one night a month when no-one would be at the Silure mansion. “It means they’ve been watching the house, know your routine.”
Megan reached into her jeans pocket and pulled out a flash drive. “I figured as much and searched through the footage of previous nights to see if anything came up.”
I took the drive and moved to my study. Megan followed.
“Anything else taken?” I asked while waiting for my PC to boot.
“Only the stone, and some jewels. Everything else remained untouched.”
I started. My synapse fired trying to make sense of what I’d heard. “Just jewels and the stone, nothing else? That seem strange to you?”
“Of course, it does. The whole situation is a mess.” I watched as her temple twitched, a familiar tell for the anger simmering inside. “My father thinks it a coincidence, that they must have been disturbed, or took the stone by accident.”
Megan sucked in a burst of air. “I think the jewels were taken as a cover for the theft of the stone.”
“Any particular reason?”
“Whoever broke in went directly to the storage room. They knew where to go.”
I nodded, Megan may be a lot of things: stubborn, superior, dismissive, but she’s also thorough, and when it came to protecting the clan, her instincts were usually on point.
“What else did you find?” I asked.
“A van, acting suspiciously. It drove past the mansion daily for around three months.”
“Could it have been someone going to and from work?”
Megan rolled her eyes at the question. An all too familiar gesture that made me regret my decision to help.
“The van would slow down as it passed,” she said.
“Do you think I’d be here if I had more to work on?”
I laughed. Desperate times certainly did call for desperate measures.
“There was this” Megan reached into her pocket for the second time.
I took the sealed polythene bag from her hand and looked at the hair inside. Human. Blonde. Around three inches long. Not much to look at, but something to work with.
“I found it inside the storage room,” Megan said.
I pocketed the hair before turning and sifting through the abridged CCTV footage on Megan’s flash drive. Suspicious indeed, the van circled the estate three or four times a day, and each time slowed to around five miles per hour. Given the frequency of the visits, I wondered why they hadn’t been spotted prior to the robbery. They’d been scoping the place, it didn’t take a genius to figure it out, and it wouldn’t take a genius to note the property vacated every full moon.
Megan eyed the room, assessing my computer equipment, books, and documents, while I berated myself for giving her further access to my home. With her presence grating more and more on my nerves, I accessed the DVLA database through a back door I’d installed while working the case of a missing person. The van’s plate flagged as stolen, so I moved to the PNC.
“What is that?” Megan asked.
“The Police National Computer. Here,” — I pointed to a date on the screen — “reported stolen four months ago, and found in a ditch Tuesday.”
“The day after the break-in,” Megan said. “Great. Where do we go from here?”
“I need a list of all the items taken.”
“Now, if that’s all you have, call me tomorrow and see what I’ve turned up.”
From the scowl on her face, I saw Megan had other ideas. Ideas or not, the thought of working with her had me jumping on my toes, and beads of sweat trickling down my back. She liked to give orders not take them. If I thought for a second she’d work well with others, I’d have no problem bringing her along, but she’d disrespect the humans I needed to work with, people I called friends.
“Not a chance,” I said. “You leave everything with me and go home.”
“You work for me.” She scowled, unaccustomed to being dismissed.
“No. I don’t. I’m a free agent. You ceased being my commanding officer a long time ago.” I sighed, not in the mood to spend hours debating the terms of my investigation. “Look,” I said. “I’m working this alone or not at all.”
I shut my PC down and crossed my arms in defiance, unwilling to give an inch. Megan’s gaze bored into mine, her head tilted as though assessing how far she could push me.
I stood firm and met her gaze with an intensity of my own.
“Fine,” she said after a moment. “I need to make a call first.”
“You do that.” I motioned to the house phone, but she shook her head and pulled a mobile from her pocket. “Always good to get daddy’s approval.”
Low blow it might be. One she may or may not have deserved, but I hated working for the clan. I’d taken the case, but more to protect other supernaturals than the Silure Dragons. Hell, if they’d had half a brain and invested in human technology, they wouldn’t need my help. It’s one thing to shut yourself away from human contact, but quite another not to take advantage of the progress they’d made.
Exile is not available yet, but you can meet Trystan in the Rune Witch Mysteries. He joins us in Book Three and Four. Book One is available for FREE on Amazon now!