What do you do when you can't stop yourself from becoming something you hate?
Tarial is changing. She knows what she'll become and she despises it. Half human, half dragon, duty demands she make use of the magic of her heritage.
But when an unexpected guest enters her life, everything she knows will be challenged.
Will his unique view alter her perspective? Can she hide the evidence of her ancestry, find love, and live a normal life? After a lifetime of denial, can she truly cage her dragon? Find out in Dragon Revealed.
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EXCERPT -- Chapter 1
“Esther! Esther, come here!” Tarial stomped down the hall toward her servant’s chamber. She mumbled multiple swears under her breath as she descended the stairs to the level below. She tightened the scarf around her head, adjusted the veil covering her nose and mouth, and pounded on the wooden door to Esther’s room. “Esther! You’d better not be sleeping.”
Much to her growing irritation, there was no answer. She turned the knob and pushed the heavy door open. A gust of wind greeted her upon entry, forcing its way under her veil and rustling the fabric against her skin. Her eyes narrowed while she scanned the entry. “Did you leave the window open?” Silence hung in the air, mocking her, adding to her frustration. She marched into the bedroom, ready to snatch the covers off the lazy wench and throttle her. Maybe even scare her with a display of her magic.
But Esther wasn’t there. Her bed was made. A folded piece of paper lay on her pillow with a single word written across the surface. Nathaniel.
Tarial picked up the light brown note, unfolded it, and started reading.
I’m trusting you to tell my family what happened. I can’t take it anymore. How are we supposed to serve that monster? What if we catch what she has? What if we turn into a thing like her? I can’t go home, she’d probably do something evil to everyone I love. You know how cold and cruel she is. I won’t live like this.
Please tell my parents I loved them. I’d rather die than spend another moment in this place, touching the things she’s touched, breathing her tainted air.
I’ve saved some gold. It’s under the pillow. Get out while you can.
Tarial crumpled the paper in her hands and took a deep breath. The breeze blowing through the rooms made sense now. She didn’t need to go to the billowing curtains. Esther’s actions were clear to see. This is how you chose to die?
She pulled up her sleeve, revealing three small patches of shimmering golden scales on her forearm. She turned her arm, only to find a new patch of scales emerging just below the bend of her elbow. Damn it all. Why won’t they stop growing? She teased the thumbnail of her opposite hand under one of the metallic growths, ready to rip out the disgusting symbol of her heritage from her flesh, but she didn’t. Not here.
She hated the scales, hated the way people reacted to her because of them. She wasn’t like anyone on the massive island of Furlwen. She was half dragon, and fully ostracized. She’d learned early on in life to hide the things that made her stand out. She wore pants, long-sleeved tops, and head coverings no matter the weather. It did nothing to change the reactions of those around her, but it stopped the evil stares at least.
Her dragon nature endowed her with magical abilities, distancing her even further from the people of the land. For as long as she could remember, she had been hated, avoided, and almost stoned on multiple occasions. Her father had done all he could to protect her. He’d taken many beatings, had been thrown out of their village, and had lost all they owned. No one understood. They never tried. As much as she wanted to fit in, to go unnoticed, it wasn’t meant to be. She was different. Other. All she’d known were fear and hate. But he’d showed her love, treated her like a precious treasure.
When the king’s advisor had heard of her, he’d found them and offered a place to stay, food, and safety if she’d serve as his living weapon. She’d refused. But when her father had become ill, she’d reconsidered.
No one in the king’s court had wanted to go near her, so he ordered a tower to be built just for the two of them, complete with servants to see to their needs. When the advisor came with an assignment, she carried it out, keeping her father’s health in mind. Most of her work was about scaring a potential enemy or sending a warning. No one in Furlwen possessed magic, so the sight of any of her powers was enough to make most fall in line. If that didn’t work, she used her spells against her targets until they relented or died. Then it was back to the tower.
The servants barely spoke to her, never looked her in the eye, and they were quick to scurry away like mice after she gave them any command. And then there were the servants like Esther. She hadn’t been the first to kill herself. She probably wouldn’t be the last either.
Another breeze pushed through the fabric of her veil, and she rolled her eyes. “A window, Esther? Really?” She stalked across the room and yanked the window closed. She didn’t look outside, didn’t need to see the scene. She’d seen it all before. They hate me that much? Familiarity didn’t breed understanding or acceptance. She’d never say it out loud, but the moisture creeping into her eyes spoke volumes.
She wiped her face with her sleeve, sucked in a deep breath, and tromped to the palace. As she walked, servants, nobles, and even a few squires hurried out of her path. Some of them whispered to others, some gasped, some even dashed into rooms and closed the door behind them. She ignored their behavior, but it stung to be so reviled. She bit back the shaky breath of exasperation that wanted to break free and instead steeled herself. “Show no weakness. Don’t give them anything else to exploit.” Only the King’s guards stood unmoving when she approached the entrance to the throne room.
“I need to see Brishen.”
The guards nodded, opened the doors for her, and followed her into the large hall. King Audric wasn’t inside, but his advisor, Brishen, was.
“Tarial, what brings you here?” His smile didn’t reach his listless eyes. He leered at her, ogling her chest and wiping dribble from his chin.
She curled her top lip beneath her veil, the sight of him making the contents of her stomach churn. He was a short, greasy, smelly blob of a man. Without fail, her gaze rested on the large mole on his bulbous nose. She counted the long dark hairs protruding from it. How could he have more hair in and on his nose than growing from his head? What little hair he did have was frosted with age.
Everything about Brishen’s face was out of proportion. Beneath his large nose rested the thinnest lips she’d ever seen. His eyes were dark and dull, and his lids drooped at the outside corners like a Bassett hound’s. His pale skin was almost translucent and showed the network of vessels below. His pallor, the loose sag of his shiny, unwashed flesh, and the various flecks of age spots made her want to backtrack several feet.
She stopped staring at the dark fiber dangling between his double chins and held her head high. “I need a new maidservant. Preferably one who won’t throw herself out of a window.”
“Another one?” He lifted his sparse eyebrows and sucked his teeth. What remained of them anyway. Several of his discolored ivories were missing, creating a sound that was close to a whistle every time he spoke. “Very well, I’ll have a new one sent to you tomorrow.”
She nodded and turned, ready to head for the door.
“Yes?” She didn’t turn around. She knew what was coming. Breath smelling of wet dog and excrement drifted past her nose. Soon, it would blow hot and horrid against the back of her neck as he walked up behind her.
“Have you thought over my offer? You don’t have many options you know.” He rested a meaty, clammy hand on her hip and breathed between her shoulder blades. A musky, cheesy aroma wafted around him, as if he tucked spoiled food into his robes. Her eyes watered as she took a deliberate step forward.
“My answer is still no.”
“Take some more time to ponder it. I have influence, I can make your life more comfortable.” His encroaching footsteps beat a slow cadence against the stone floor.
She stepped forward again to avoid him.
“I know you’re not contagious. I’m not afraid to touch you.”
He never gave up. His ancient hands and fat fingers trembled whenever he looked at her, all the while making her want to jump in the nearest lake to wash away the filth of being in his presence. “Right.” She walked toward the door, thanking the spirits he’d stopped following. The idea of him touching her body or leering at her with his cold eyes while thinking his dark thoughts, brought her breakfast to the back of her throat. She swallowed hard and tried not to double over.
“How is your father responding to those special medicinal teas I sent for him?”
“Just fine, thank you.” You bastard! Stop trying to use my father as a way to get me to warm your bed.
“That’s good to hear. Those remedies are made from rare leaves. It would be a shame if we couldn’t get more.” He paused. Was he staring at her as she walked away? Or was he cleaning the drool from his face with those pudgy fingers of his?
“Think carefully, Tarial.”
Oh, she’d thought about this many times before, only in her scenario, she used her magic to freeze him solid. At least it would get rid of the smell. He’d probably smell the same rotting as he does walking.
* * * *
The next morning found Tarial seated next to her father at breakfast. Warm rays of the sun splashed down onto their dishes as they talked. She always took her meals in either her room or his. On this day, they were in her room.
“I’m supposed to get a new servant today.” She pushed a piece of bread around the outside of her bowl, her thoughts far away.
“Tarial…” He extended the last syllable and rested his spoon on the table.
“I know, Father. It’s not my fault. Ignorance and fear make people do things without thinking.” He meant well, but that didn’t take the sting out of her reality. People would rather die than be near her, and she’d rather die than be close to the one person interested in her.
“Do you want to leave this place?” He hooked a finger under her chin and turned her to face him.
“No. It’s better for us to stay here. It’s safer.” She tried to smile, but she was unsuccessful. Almost like her muscles had forgotten how to form the expression.
Her father trailed a hand across her bare cheek, the gesture infusing her with affection, as she closed her eyes. She never had to cover herself when she was with him. Today she wore a simple dress like any other normal woman in Furlwen.
But she wasn’t normal.
His fingertips rubbed the scales on the apple of her cheek, and she pushed his hand away. When she met his gaze he was staring at her.
“You have some new ones.” He smiled as if he were proud.
“A few.” The sight of her scales filled her with self loathing. How many times had she pulled at them? Torn them off and left her flesh bleeding and raw? They only grew back, defiant, ever present, always there to remind her she was something other than what she should be. Why couldn't the natural hue of her olive-brown skin overcome these wretched invasions?
“They’re beautiful. I imagine your mother would—”
“Don’t talk about her.” She stood from the table and walked into her bedroom, pulling on a thick robe.
Her father followed her inside, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Tarial, your mother was a—”
“She was a dragon. I know she told you, and I know you didn’t care what she was. I care, Father. She cursed me and left us here. I don’t care how beautiful you thought she was, or how much you loved her. I hate her for this!”
I’m a romance author who writes in multiple genres. A lover of languages, anime, martial arts, video games, nature, and music, I am inspired by everything from the profound to the mundane.
Whether it’s crafting a new realm, an alien planet, a new species, or an alternate reality, you can always count on twists and turns in my tales. Love can be irrational, undeniable, blissful, erotic, and sometimes frustrating, but it’s also universal, binding hearts across cultures and time. Step into one of my worlds and stay awhile.