Her Dragon's Heart (Dragon Guard Series Book 8)(8)

By: Julia Mills

Best laid plans...

The sound of boots striking concrete echoed through her prison. Stopping cold, Melanie hurried to hide her escape plans. Doing her best impression of a ragdoll, she let her body go completely limp and played opossum. The footsteps grew closer, louder, more pronounced until she realized that what she’d thought to be one person was actually two and that the second man had a slight hesitation every second step. She hoped it meant he had a limp, not because she wished ill on anyone but because maybe she could use it to her advantage.

Doing her best to control her breathing and praying the approaching goons wouldn’t be able to hear the pounding of her heart, Melanie took one last deep breath, exhaled...and prayed. Metal scratched against concrete, followed by a slam, and then the rattle of a heavy chain. Tumblers of a lock opening completed the scary sonata. Six footsteps later, rough hands grabbed her upper arms, jerking her into a semi-standing position. It took all her concentration and control not to flinch or cry out as pain radiated throughout her arms and shoulders.

Her efforts were rewarded when a low gravelly voice said, “I think you put too much power in your Stunning Spell. It’s been almost two days. She should be awake by now. The Draoi is gonna be pissed. His orders were explicit, she was not to be harmed in any way,” chastised Putz number one.

“Not my fault she’s weak. I didn’t even go full strength. I can’t believe he has us dragging this useless null around the countryside. There’s no way she can be the one of legend.” Putz number two grumped.

“Shut the hell up!” Putz one growled. “Do you want the Draoi to hear you? The last guy that questioned him ended up as a pile of goo.”

Melanie pushed back the bile that had risen at the memory her captor’s words revived. She remembered looking on as one of her grandfather’s most trusted advisors spoke out against the old wizard’s plan du jour. The Draoi had simply raised an eyebrow and the once vital man she’d affectionately called Uncle Jacob for all of her life became a bubbling pea-green puddle of goop. The throne room was completely silent, not one sound from the Dorcha in attendance. She wondered for a moment if anyone was breathing.

Never one to let a chance for drama be wasted, the man that had once upon a time set her upon his shoulders and pretended to be a great stallion began to clap. A slow, staccato slapping of hands that echoed through the round stone room, continually growing in intensity until Melanie, no more than eleven years old at the time, wanted to cower in the corner, covering her ears.

Worse than the applause was the malevolent smile that darkened his face and the gleam of pure evil within his onyx eyes. He stood with all the pomp and circumstance of a true king and strode as if leading a parade to the wet patch that had once been a man. Reaching the edge, he stopped and stared. The bubbling of the goo continued as if chastising the wizard for its existence.

The Grand Draoi turned to the crowd, raised his arms over his head, and proclaimed, “Let those that agree with our fallen comrade speak now without fear of recrimination. I am, after all, a benevolent ruler.”

Seconds ticked by, it felt as if all the air had been sucked from the room. Melanie squeezed her mother’s hand and prayed to be anywhere but there. It seemed like hours had passed when her grandfather finally spoke. His words were something the little girl didn’t understood until many years later.

“We each have a role to play. The Dorcha has not survived for millennia upon millennia without true commitment from each member to follow the path they have been given. Together, we will rule the Earth. Let us all spend the evening in quiet reflection, rededicating ourselves to our one true mission.”

Then the lunatic walked through the puddle of Jacob, humming a show tune as he made his way out of the room, acting like it was all in a day’s work. That was the night Melanie’s mother had planned their escape.

For weeks after, Joanie Whelan hid money, clothes, and supplies in a hidey hole under the floorboard in their closet. She had a contact outside the coven, who Melanie only knew as Smith. When they escaped, he would be waiting on the other side of the woods to transport them as far away from the Dorcha as possible.