Home > Determine the Future

Determine the Future
Author: Sarah Noffke

 

 


Chapter One

 

 

The angry dragon’s murderous roar shook the cracked desert ground under the rider’s boots. Nathaniel Ace pulled back the whip and shot it forward at the two fighting dragons, making them separate. His green dragon Bolt cocked his head to the side and shot him a warning look. Surprisingly, it was Coal, the smaller black dragon that shrank away with a deep laceration down the side of her neck.

“Save some for the real fight,” Nathaniel Ace advised as he pulled the long whip back and pinned Bolt with a threatening expression as if tempting the dragon to lunge at him again. The last time, Nathaniel had nearly lost a hand after he slammed his fist into the dragon’s face and Bolt tried to bite it clean off. However, the not-yet full-grown dragon backed down when challenged, which had been a risk, but how else was Nathaniel going to exert dominance over him? It took risks, ones that he hoped would pay off.

Bolt opened his mouth, no doubt about to shoot fire straight at Nathaniel—yet again. The man held up the whip in his hand and narrowed his eyes at his dragon. “I’d think long and hard about that if you don’t want to endure the pit again.”

The green dragon’s eyes slid in the direction of the large covered hole the others had dug into the desert floor. The magically enhanced netting over it sealed misbehaving dragons in and put them in long bouts of isolation. Getting the dragons in the pit was the actual chore, but nothing a little collective magic from the other riders couldn’t fix.

Keeping the dragons in there was easy as long as one could endure the constant noise of their complaints. Bolt had lungs to impress, but thankfully his screams of protest were all he could manage in the hole. Otherwise the dragon, whose element was lightning, would probably have tried to electrocute everyone in the camp—yet again. And Bolt wondered why Nathaniel had to resort to such modes of punishment. If only he would learn to behave and bow to his master as the other dragons did with their riders.

Finally, Bolt spun after a lengthy standoff. The dragon’s long spiked tail nearly whipped Nathaniel in the head, but he ducked in time. His gaze was seething when he rose back to his full height, but he decided to let that bold act of rebellion go. It was about choosing his battles with Bolt. Otherwise, they’d always be at odds.

“You should look at your dragon’s wound,” Nathaniel told Tanner as he approached, then pointed at Coal, who had scampered as far from Bolt as she could manage while still staying in the camp.

Tanner approached from his tent while pulling up his pants as he strode over as if he’d just put them on. The truth was that the smaller rider had stolen the designer jeans off a guy who was much taller than him, roughly Nathaniel’s height.

Tanner Sage nodded, but the look in his eyes contradicted the reaction. “I’ll let her calm down a little first.”

“Yeah, whatever,” Nathaniel replied. His red hair reflected the bright sunlight overhead, and his freckles were worse since their stint in the desert. He wasn’t faring well out in this terrain. Neither was Tanner, but only because he was still learning to toughen up. As one of the youngest and shortest of the new generation of dragonriders, he got picked on a lot, but he kept getting back up. That was probably why the boss had elected him into the third-ranking leadership position. Nathaniel was the boss’s second in command.

“They’re fighting a lot more lately,” Tanner observed while indicating the other half-dozen demon dragons around the camp that were in different levels of skirmishes. Some simply growled at each other. Others threw warning assaults with their claws. More chased each other through the air.

“They’re demon dragons,” Nathaniel argued. “It’s what they do. They fight. They aren’t pansies like the Dragon Elite who dance around and create peaceful solutions to stupid mortal problems.”

Tanner slid his hands into his too-big jeans pockets and shrugged. “Yeah, I guess. It seems they’re more agitated lately.” His words came on the heels of a roar from one of the dragons fighting for dominance that echoed across the camp. The top three ranks were set, but the other positions were still up for grabs. The dragons knew it and were busy determining a pecking order.

“It’s this damn heat,” Nathaniel complained and slid his long-fingered hand over his forehead to flick away sweat. “It isn’t natural for us, even the dragons that can stand it.”

“Maybe that’s why the Dragon Elite live in the north,” Tanner reasoned, then shook out his short brown hair. Sand flew from it. “I heard their place is in Scotland.”

“Scotland would be too cold for me,” Nathaniel muttered bitterly. The way Tanner or anyone else knew that information was because that’s where these dragons had hatched before escaping the Gullington. They couldn’t go back because they weren’t part of the Dragon Elite anymore, but they also hadn’t wanted to be. However, what the dragons had learned during their time at the Gullington had been invaluable. Now they and their demon dragonriders were that much closer to achieving the boss’s plan.

“A desert is a rotten place too though,” Tanner complained.

Nathaniel couldn’t argue with that. “We’re going to find a new place for the camp. Then we can really take over.”

Tanner laughed but gave the other man a look of uncertainty. “Yeah, I’m looking forward to being on the beach. Surfing and hot chicks in bikinis.”

“There won’t be any chicks once we clear the land,” Nathaniel shot back. “Only demon dragons and us in our new territory. That’s the way the boss is setting it up.”

Tanner managed a grin, but the younger man was obviously intimidated by the second in command. “Yeah, it’s a good plan. I think it will work. Then imagine how much we’ll rule.”

Nathaniel shook his head. “I’m going to rule. The boss will definitely rule, but unless you get a different pair of pants, then no one will take you seriously.”

“I like these jeans,” Tanner complained and glanced down at the stone-washed pants that were rolled up three times at the ankles.

“Yeah, they’re all right, but next time take them off a guy your size,” Nathaniel advised, then popped up the collar of the shirt he’d taken from the mortal’s house they raided the day before. He looked forward to the day when he didn’t have to do his own thieving. Once everything was in place, that would be the way. First, they had to secure a new home base, and that would involve a little more strong-arming…well, a lot more.

Once the elves had all been pushed out of their land though, it would all be worth the effort.

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

“Hiker, would you please pass the jam?” Ainsley pointed at the other side of the dining table in the Castle’s hall.

He nodded while still chewing his toast with crumbs in his beard, then picked up the bowl of strawberry preserves and handed it over.

“Here you are.” Hiker kept his chin low as his eyes briefly whisked up to meet Ainsley’s, and a thousand seemingly hidden emotions fleeted to the surface.

She blushed and took the bowl. “Why, thank you.”

“Dearest Wilder,” Evan began in a stuffy voice. “Will you please do me the favor of passing me the beans? I will be forever grateful to you and endlessly in your debt.”

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