Her Dragon's Heart (Dragon Guard Series Book 8)(9)

By: Julia Mills

The night came when they were to run. Joanie told Melanie to go to After-Dinner Meditation just as always, but instead of returning to their room at its conclusion, she was to meet her mother in the basement and together they would slip away using the underground tunnels.

Everything went as planned for a while. They were running hand-in-hand, following the dim light of the flashlight Joanie had appropriated from the guard’s shack when the sound of chanting came from the shadows ahead of them. Within seconds, the low drone of many voices filled the chamber.

“Run, Meli Rose, run,” her mother shouted.

She tried, but the dirt beneath her feet had become like quicksand. The harder she pushed, the slower she ran until she fell to her knees sobbing. Somewhere amid all the chanting, running, and fear, Melanie lost contact with Joanie. Trying to stand but only getting as far as her knees, the child swiped at the tears that continued to flow while frantically searching the dark for her mother.

Firm but gentle hands lifted her in the air. Melanie threw back her head and was rewarded with a loud crunch and low moan that could only mean she’d made contact with her jailer’s nose. Unfortunately, his grip tightened instead of loosened. It was then she began to kick and flail about. Her efforts were rewarded when the heel of the climbing boots her mother had demanded she wear made contact with his crotch.

Her captor howled like a wounded dog and dropped her on the ground. Melanie sprinted into the darkness, praying to whoever was listening that she be reunited with her mom. Instead, she was scooped up and immediately bound and gagged before being carried right back to the man she never wanted to see again.

“Tsk, tsk, tsk, Meli Rose. Where exactly did you think you could go that I can’t find you?”

She opened her mouth to tell him to go to hell, even though she was sure her mom would wash her mouth out with soap, when the scrape of the large door at the rear of the room drew her attention. In walked six of her grandfather’s guard carrying Joanie atop their shoulders. She was trussed up like a calf at a rodeo and seemed to be under the influence of a Paralyzing Spell. Her eyes were wide but unseeing, her mouth open in a silent scream, and her body stiff as a board.

“Mom!” Melanie called over and over until her screams were little more than a whisper, but Joanie never so much as moved. Dried tears stained her cheeks, though she hadn’t realized she was crying.

Sarah Beth, one of her mother’s best friends, knelt before her and pulled Melanie into her embrace, rocking and assuring her everything would be okay. The older woman whispered for only her to hear. “Please calm yourself, child. Don’t make matters worse for you or your mother. Do your best to be strong and pray Joanie can get herself out of this mess.”

One look at her grandfather told her the kind witch was right. Summoning a strength much older than her years, Melanie stopped crying, stood, and waited like the good little Dorcha she was supposed to be while everything in her was shouting that she unleash her power on everyone in sight. Her magic was all she had left. It was the one secret she’d been able to keep, even from her mom.

Melanie Rose Whelan was more naturally magical than anyone in their coven had been for over a thousand years. It wasn’t something she’d wished for or even knew she possessed until the eve of her tenth birthday. On that night she was visited by the Goddess Anu, the keeper of magic. The goddess explained that Melanie’s father, who died when she was a baby, had given his life in an attempt to bring light to the Dorcha. It was now her job to continue his quest. Anu went on to explain that Cleland, Melanie’s grandfather and the Draoi, was quickly perfecting his ability to call and control demons. She warned that if he were allowed to continue, no one would be safe. The world as they knew it would cease to exist. Her parting words were something Melanie had worked hard for years to forget.

“You possess the power, Melanie Rose Whelan. You and you alone can stop him. One day you will be called upon. Do not let us down.”

Movement brought Melanie back to the present, just in time to hear the captor she referred to as Putz Two say, “Why can’t we just leave her here? Send the others after her? The Grand Draoi will never know, and if anything happens to her, it’ll be on them.”