Reign of Ash (Black Harbour Dragons), страница 1
Reign of Ash
Black Harbour Dragons
Copyright © 2018 by Jadyn Chase
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Created with Vellum
Jadyn’s Exclusive Club
If you would like to be part of Jadyn’s exclusive readers club and stay caught up with her latest releases, news, and contests sign up to the link below. You will also receive a FREE copy of The Phoenix Dragons.
More from Jadyn
Sapphire Embers Preview
Obsidian Embers Preview
Black Harbor had been my home for longer than I could remember. The city was decimated long ago after we, the Scalers, decided to stop hiding in the shadows. My kind, we paved our war path in flames and ashes, until every last Anthro was driven underground. Bags of flesh without a scale, wing, or flame to be seen. I’d always wondered why we were afraid of them to begin with. Their weapons were useless against our united front, and now we reigned supreme.
The scent of soot and fire continuously burned through the air. Every city bared the scent, the aura, the rubble and ruin of what was once a vibrant place for all of us. But we weren’t free to be ourselves. I’ll take the ruins any day than have to hide my wings. Honestly? I preferred to keep my scales and wings to myself. I’d been using the motorcycle gifted to me by a Scarlet Wing. The wind whipped around my face. It was a better feeling than taking flight.
Its thunderous motor blazed over the ash paved streets. Rubble glistened with scorched rock that burned into molten glass pebbles mixed in with cement crumbs and scattered debris. Abandoned buildings had toppled ages ago. Many stood half erect letting vegetation and vines overrun their remains. Two Towers stood erect amidst the desolate city. The floors from the ground up to the 15th were all empty, windowless, blacked out from smoke, fire, and ash. My brethren, the Black Sapphires, occupied those towers where we wielded control over Black Harbor.
Being a Black Sapphire Dragon, Scaler, whatever we’re called these days… had its advantages. One of them being this right here; the ability to ride through the city undisturbed, without the need to chase or hunt food. We kept plenty in stock at the Towers, and we weren’t the ones being hunted.
Wildlife was scarce, and if smaller animals weren’t available, an Anthro would tie most over. They weren’t a favorite of my particular palate. Perhaps it’s just that I didn’t like to eat things that looked like me. Granted my appearance shifted, but still, I spent most of my time in my Anthros form. I didn’t want to look into the eyes of someone that could have had wings when they were alive. It gave me the chills just thinking about it.
Suddenly, like a cool breeze on a hot night, her scent cut through the air. The only one who held my attention in her favor. Sweet and tender, I didn’t want to taste her in a way to devour her flesh. I only wanted to see if she was as sweet as she smelled. Her scent always found me. No matter where I was in the city, I could just about pinpoint her exact location at all times. This time, however, she was in trouble. But what else was new?
Her soft, muffled, panting breaths chased the subtle steps of her running feet. I couldn’t be sure why she was running, I just knew she needed me. It wasn’t until I got closer, leaning into the turn on my bike, I saw who she was running from … The Onyx Skulls.
Their breed of Scalers managed to find a way to keep their wings while in their Anthros form. Those black metallic wings glistened in the light but draped over their human bodies like leather trench coats. If any of them scaled, they’d open up while releasing their more reptilian nature. The Onyx colored, cracked, scales wrapped around their eyes and down their snouts, while the rest of their bodies filled out with matte black scales. Thankfully enough, it was only two of them and one of them I knew personally.
It was a rare thing to see Finch Skinner out in the rubble. The leader of the Onyx Skulls rarely did his own dirty work, but here he was trying to make a meal out of my ward. She didn’t know she belonged to me, but she was certainly about to find out.
“What are you doing over here, Skinner?” I called out. The girl cowered in fear as smoke billowed from Skinner’s nostrils.
His black tar coated fingernails were at least an inch long as he waved them in front of his face while bowing to me, “Excuse me, Your Highness. We’re simply out here gathering succulence for our dinner tonight. But I saw this delightful morsel and couldn’t help but want to add her to my playpen.”
The sliver of drool in his mouth as he spoke of it made me sick. I shook my head, “She’s off limits, Skinner.”
“Oh no,” he sucked his teeth and clutched his chest, “You know the rules. No mark, no limits. Now if you have a problem with that …”
He was going to give me trouble and if I only fought his lackie then I’d leave her open and vulnerable. I parked the bike and shut it off. Cracking my neck as I got off the hog, I barely let my other foot set on the ground before I took off at full speed. Leaping through the air, my greyish blue scales erupted all over my body. Charcoal grey wings sprouted from my back while hints of my royal blue underbelly reflected off of several pieces of broken glass littering the floor.
I grabbed both Skinner and his crony taking flight into the sky, letting my fiery beast out of my Anthros shell. Skinner didn’t take this lying down as he broke free of my grasp, opening his wings and spinning into his dragon. He was considerably smaller than me, but those damn talons were sharper than any blade I’d ever felt. But, my flames were hotter.
He attacked me while his worker scaled and did his best to hold his own. He was no match for me. One swat from my tail sent him scurrying away. It’s a rare thing for Black Sapphires to be traveling alone. I’m sure it’s the reason he didn’t want to hang around thinking I had reinforcements coming. Skinner, on the other hand, loved a good fight. Setting himself up to charge me, he roared into the early afternoon sky.
I braced myself as the brunt of him hitting me mid-air knocked the wind out of me. I couldn’t believe a puny little thing like him packed such a punch. He didn’t throw me off for long as I spun around, flipping him off of me. The clean swipe of his talons through my skin irritated me as it burned while the cold air sliced through the wound. I locked my teeth around his throat and tossed him against the side of a building. He wanted to charge back at me, but I saw the defeat in his eyes. He couldn’t survive another hit like that.
Instead of attacking me again, he climbed the side of the building until he reached its makeshift rooftop. There were only two or three floors still intact as he found his way toward a guarded space. Skinner dropped to his knees while his Scaler faded into his Anthros form. Those wings remained just as they were, wrapping around him once again. It was like a cool wind blew forcing him to pull his jacket a little tighter. They engulfed him but couldn’t mask the bloodied lip and injured arm. He must have hit the side of the building hard. That’s what he got for challeng
“You know you can’t just go around taking whatever you believe is yours,” he shouted to me.
Landing on another rooftop, I scaled back, shouting to him, “I can do whatever I want. I’ve never interfered with you guys, but her? She’s off limits.”
“You’re going to have to do much more than that to keep her off the menu,” he sneered, “The first thing you should do is get her a decent leash. You can’t claim something you can’t find, or that doesn’t stay put.”
With that, he took off into the building. My eyes scanned the area below looking for her in the spot I’d left her. She was gone. Even worse? So was my bike.
After making my way back to the street, I couldn’t help but inhale deeply. Her scent never took long to hit me, but in the heat of the battle, the only scent I could focus on was that of Finch and the stench of his filthy scales seeping out of the open wound on my arm. I had to take care of this first.
Want to know the costs of doing battle with an Onyx Skull? Their cuts and bites didn’t heal as fast as others I’ve had. Normally I could watch my wound close up without a second thought, but these were different. So I headed toward the only person I knew could help me.
The docks of Black Harbor were abandoned like the rest of the city and off-limits to most. You had to know where you were going; who you were looking for. Even as a Black Sapphire, I only came down here in the daytime.
With every single inch of me ready for war, I walked around an abandoned building and headed toward the only dock standing. The waves were dark with hues of blue and green. I wouldn’t dare set foot or talon in it. The first post holding the dock in place held a ladder that stretched down to the river bed. Low tide kept it visible, and in a few hours, if I wasn’t out of here, I’d be swimming out.
Under the dock, the darkness made it feel later in the day. A steel door, obviously out of place, stood a few feet in front of me. Without saying a single word it opened up, and one of the most beautiful creatures I’d ever seen welcomed me inside.
“Morning Aya,” I grinned.
With grey coils spilling from her head down to the floor, her eyes flecked with sparkles of emerald green in a sea of light blue. The soft brown trails of freckles wrapped around her eyes, down to her neck, and presumably around the rest of her body like a swirling tornado. The honey complexion buried under them glistened as the lights of her dwelling kissed the peaks and valleys of her silhouette. A sheer silk gown clung to her slender frame revealing just enough but hiding everything all at the same time. She was the only Scaler I knew with gills. If it weren’t for those three tiny slits on both sides of her neck, I’d imagine she’d be someone’s pet as an Anthros. But make no mistake, Aya wasn’t weak. She couldn’t be held by anyone or anything. She was special, and it’s why I went to see her.
“Come, come boy,” she waved me into her kitchen area. The smell was a mixture of flesh and cinnamon. You weren’t allowed to ask questions. You were only allowed to greet her, speak when spoken to, pay, and then leave. She turned on a light before yanking my arm out into it. She groaned, “Them Onyx Skulls are nasty little things aren’t they?”
“Yeah,” I grimaced as she dragged her fingernail through the cut. I watched her drop a bit of my blood into a vial. It shimmered an all too familiar shade of gold, but those Scalers were supposedly extinct or very rare. “Is that Golden Imperial-”
She cut me off, “No, no, no.”
I forgot the rules.
She pulled a few drops from the vial, poured it into the gash, and massaged the flesh together. The last time I came to get fixed up, she used a salve and some stitches. The wound was healed in a few hours. This? This was different.
It burned for a few seconds, but then like I’d never ran into Finch, the slash was gone. Flexing my fist, opening my hand and closing it tight, I turned my arm in the light, there was nothing. Not even a scar.
“Two,” she grunted. Aya, with all of her beauty, spoke very little, if at all. I handed her two of my royal blue scales. Every so often Scalers would shed, molt, whatever... and for someone like Aya, those scales were useful. I don’t ask her what they’re used for. It’s not like she’d tell me anyway.
Just as I began to leave, a shift in the air swept through her cavern under the docks. Aya and I both looked to the door. The tide was coming in. It was most definitely time for me to go. Bidding her farewell, I left her dwelling. I climbed the last rung of the ladder in time to see the water wash onto the shore beneath me. Relief overwhelmed me; grateful I didn’t have to deal with the murky waves.
I couldn’t recall the last time I’d been so happy to have my feet on dry ground, I headed back toward the scene of the battle. I wanted to find her. I needed to find her … she had my bike.
The streets of Black Harbor were empty, and the skies were clear. The afternoon sun left a bright haze across the city that I’d thought was lost long ago.
Taking a deep breath, I darted out from behind a huge block of cement to chase after the rabbit I’d just seen. At least ... I thought it was a rabbit. Being human no longer meant being at the top of the food chain. The Scalers now held that title. And what did they eat? EVERYTHING!
So when something furry scurried out in front of you, you nabbed it. There was no other way. It’s an eat or be eaten kind of time, and I chose to do the eating.
Some Anthros thought the best solution was to become a pet. Then there was no need to hunt or scavenge.
I’ve heard the stories. I could never… yuck. Who would want to be used, defiled, relegated to wearing the leash of a Scaler?
The pets did enjoy the luxuries of living in the Towers with their electricity, running water, and overabundant supply of food. But you’d have to survive being the property of a Black Sapphire. The ones who were disappointing often landed with a resilient splat on the ground … some fifteen stories or so below the occupied floors. Scattered remains left for the hungry. My stomach growled loudly reminding me that I was one of them … one of the hungry; not looking for scattered remains. Back to the hunt.
I swore the rabbit ducked into a pipe. Dropping down on all fours, these light brown eyes of mine did nothing for my sight. I couldn’t help but squint, clenching my teeth along with every other muscle in my body to reach inside the dark space. It had to be trapped in there. The other side was pushed against a steel beam leaving nowhere else for the critter to go.
“Now that is a position I love to see all of my pets in,” a voice leered from behind me.
Snatching my hand out, I took off running. It didn’t take me long to break into full speed, but I knew it would only delay the inevitable. Leave it to me to simply think about pets and their cushy existence, only to have a Scaler land a couple feet away from me. I couldn’t hear him anymore. The sound of my own breathing, my feet scraping and skidding across the ground echoed around the barren buildings. I couldn’t keep this up for long, so I ducked behind a wall, crouching to get closer to the ground.
“That was sweet,” the same voice chuckled, “Are you done now?”
I turned around to see a familiar face. He always lurked around the underground hideaways collecting Anthros like … well like pets. His wings wrapped around him like a coat. It made my skin crawl. Those long black fingernails twirled in a circle before pointing to me and then motioning for me to come closer. I stayed exactly where I was, desperately scanning my surroundings for the nearest exit.
The Scaler’s pale complexion contrasted against his wardrobe like a ying-yang symbol. His strands of blonde hair were almost the same shade as his skin. His dark purple eyes grew wide as they took in the length of me. I slowly rose to my feet and began backing away from him until I hit the wall.
“Easy, Scrumptious,” he laughed, “I won’t bite… unless that’s what you’re into.”
“I don’t want any trouble,” I c
I’d seen him every once in a while; caught a glimpse of those brilliant blue eyes. Those eyes swallowed my entire soul as if I’d dove into the bay off of those Black Harbor docks. But he was one of them. He was a Scaler, and I wanted nothing to do with any of it. I just wanted to live my life. I wanted to hunt my rabbit and finally taste a piece of fresh meat. I wanted to get the hell out of here.
Bold Blue Eyes was riding a black motorcycle, trimmed in chrome with a motor that revved louder than I’d heard any of them roar. His jeans hung off his body just right, and that shirt he wore didn’t do much to disguise how ripped his muscles were. A healthy body like that told me all I needed to know.
Anthros, the men, they struggled to eat and didn’t look like him in the slightest. Most of them weighed less than I did, unless they were pets of course. That other one? Dressed in black? Who preyed on anything without scales? He was skinny like most men I knew. However, even with his slender frame, I knew not to test him. I could feel the strength as he motioned toward me. I could see it in the way he defied Blue Eyes, but he wasn’t one to be disregarded.
Watching him scale from that rugged, handsome hunk of flesh into a ravenous beast of scales and wings did something to me I never thought it would … it impressed me. He sped from his bike to the one appearing to hide behind Skinner, grabbing him and forcing him into the air. Skinner took off into the sky as well. Curiosity certainly made me wonder how Bold Blue Eyes would handle the two of them, but that was the least of my concerns.