In a war of gods and tyrants, the will of the dragonrider must never falter. Captured and tortured by the brutal tyrant, Argonox, Reigh’s worst fears have now been realized. Argonox has successfully twisted his mysterious dark power for a truly evil purpose—reanimating the long-deceased legendary dragonrider, Beckah Derrick, and her monstrous king drake. But Argonox’s cruelty won’t end there, and Reigh fears the worst is yet to come. Rescue is unlikely as the Tibrans prepare to make their final strike, poised to break Maldobar’s ranks of proud dragonriders once and for all. With many of its cities already captured by the Tibran Empire, all hope now rests with Jaevid, Princess Jenna, Phillip, and their mismatched band of dragonrider allies to lead the last stand and save their kingdom. Even in such frightful times, Jaevid may find he still has a few old friends ready to take up their weapons and stand at his side again. But facing down Beckah is perhaps the one thing that might break Jaevid’s resolve. Can he really strike down the woman he used to love in order to save the kingdom? One final battle will decide the fate of our heroes. Can the strength dragonrider prevail once again? Or will the Tibran Empire become Maldobar’s new legacy?
About the Author
Nicole Conway is a former freelance graphic artist for promotional companies and is now a full-time writer. She enjoys hiking, camping, shopping, cooking, and spending time with her family and friends. She is the author of the Dragonrider Chronicles and the Dragonrider Legacy series. She lives in Valdosta, Georgia.
Read an Excerpt
There's a fine line between heroic and insanity — so fine it barely exists. Based on my experience, whether or not you succeeded in your mission was usually what determined which side of that line you wound up on. You succeed, and you're a hero. You fail, and you were a fool for even trying.
I was in dangerously deep "insane" territory.
Granted, this wasn't exactly a new problem for me. I couldn't even blame Jaevid. I'd been winding up in these kinds of life and death situations long before I ever roused him from his divine slumber. The only difference now was — thanks to his explanations about my powers and Noh giving me an impromptu tour through the horrifying secrets of my past — I had more of an understanding of just how screwed I actually was.
It was astronomic, by the way, even by my usual standard of reckless stupidity.
Storming a highly fortified tower crawling with hundreds of furious Tibran soldiers? Idiotic. Splitting up with Jaevid to do this on my own? Insane. Trying to rescue Aubren from this mess and getting us both out alive? Impossible. Thinking I could actually pull this off by myself? Hah! Let's just say, somewhere beyond the Vale, Kiran was probably rolling his eyes. If I did die this time, I was willing to bet good coin he would greet me with a smack to the face and a long lecture — which was something that made a smile tug at my lips.
Gods, I missed him.
Collapsed in the middle of the freight elevator of Northwatch tower, I listened to the ominous symphony of battle all around as the wooden platform made its slow descent. The metal mechanics and gears groaned. Iron chains rattled. The wooden frame creaked. All of it nearly drowned out the distant shouts of the Tibran soldiers, who were now thoroughly aware of our presence in the fortress. The call to arms was blaring in the night. They'd be waiting for me at the bottom of this elevator, ready to cut me down as soon as I showed my face.
But that didn't mean I wasn't going to make them work for it.
Besides, somewhere in this abyss, Aubren was waiting for a rescue. We'd gotten lucky and gained the help of a gray elf kid named Aedan, who'd been secretly slipping information to the scouts in Luntharda under the alias Lamb. Thanks to him, Jaevid and I had been able to get inside Northwatch tower easily enough. Well, considering what we were up against, anyway. We'd sprung my older sister, Jenna, from her cell, but that's where things started going off track.
Apparently, Duke Phillip Derrick been captured at Barrowton, too, which was not something we'd planned for. He was somewhere in this tower, probably praying for his own miracle, and we couldn't leave him here to die. So, I made the hard choice. I sent Jaevid, Aedan, and Jenna away to find him while I stayed behind to find Aubren.
It had sounded good at the time. Good enough to convince Jaevid, anyway. There was just one small problem ... I'd used a lot of my power just getting us into the tunnels, so we could access the tower. Now I was clinging to consciousness, fighting the swirling spots in my vision while I tried to figure out what to do. Somehow, I had to pull myself together. I wouldn't fail Aubren, even if that meant he was the only one who got to walk away. He was my brother. I would save him.
I stumbled and staggered as I got to my feet, my head swimming and my vision still spotting. Jaevid hadn't been exaggerating when he said that valestepping would drain me. This, I imagined, must be how an insect felt after a little kid shook it up in a jar. I was on the brink of losing it, clinging to consciousness and control.
My mind raced, scraping together a plan. I had to keep it small, make my hits count, and string out my last bit of strength until I could reach Aubren.
Then I'd unleash pandemonium — otherwise known as Noh. I'd go down, and I'd take as many of these Tibran thugs with me as possible to carve a clear path so Aubren could escape. It would work. It had to.
As the elevator clattered and shook toward the bottom of the shaft, I took in a deep breath. My lungs burned. My body screamed in pain, like someone was splitting my head open, as I called more power to my command. I could feel it rising — a deep chill that quivered through every part of me — as though I were being slowly immersed in freezing water.
Darkness gathered around my open hands, swirling and taking the shape of two long scimitars. I closed my fists around the hilts, gritting my teeth and opening my eyes as the elevator came to a shuddering halt.
There wasn't time to count them, but at first glance, I figured there were about thirty angry Tibran soldiers standing between the hall to the left and me. That was where our new ally, Aedan, had advised me Aubren was being held in the solitary confinement cells. Right. Time to get to work.
A Tibran commander shoved his way to the front of the ranks, shouting the order for the archers to open fire. The twang of a dozen bowstrings filled the air with iron-tipped arrows all aimed straight at me.
I dropped into a crouch, gritting my teeth against the sharp pain in my throbbing brain as my blades flickered in my hands, their jagged tips leaving lingering trails of streaking black smoke that hung like dark ribbons in the air. I spun, dancing through maneuvers and feeling the hum of every arrow as though it were a part of myself. Two to the right. One dead center. Six more straight for my head. I cut them out of the air, bringing my blades down in perfect synchronization as my pulse roared in my ears.
My body hummed with dark energy. My nerves blazed. Every movement, every second, brought me closer to the edge.
But there was no stopping now.
"Noh," I whispered. Just the mention of his name sent another wave of chills through my body. "I'm going to need some backup."
"At your command, master." His voice hissed in my mind an instant before I saw him materialize next to me, taking his favorite shape as a black, shadowy canine with tall pointed ears, eyes like red bog fires, and a wide, toothy maw. "Let us teach them what becomes of those who stand in the way of the Harbinger."
His smile was as wicked as it was disturbing, and the sight of him made the front ranks of the Tibran soldiers hesitate. Some of them stopped dead in their tracks, their eyes wide as though considering an immediate retreat.
"Don't get scared now." My mouth twisted into a menacing grin that probably looked a lot like Noh's. "We're just getting started."
* * *
It was a mad sprint. I had minutes left, maybe less. I couldn't feel my feet as I ran, hurtling headlong down the narrow corridors and torch-lit halls of the tower's solitary confinement cellblock. Every step sent a surge of fresh agony up my spine. My vision swerved in and out of focus, sometimes dimming until I couldn't see at all.
"Aubren!" I wheezed and gasped, barely able to croak out his name. "Aubren, you better answer me!"
I blitzed past cell after cell, the shouts of prisoners calling to me with haunting, desperate voices through the tiny barred windows on the doors. Sometimes I caught a glimpse of their eyes catching in the dim light, or their fingers reaching out desperately.
I couldn't stop. I couldn't save them all.
"Noh, find him!" I rasped.
His voice whispered in my brain. "Of course, master. Right this way." He materialized like a phantom, trotting along ahead of me, and then vanishing. He appeared again, further down the corridor, taking a sharp right.
The sudden strain of his pull on my power again made both my legs go numb. I fell, barely catching myself before my face cracked off the cold stone floor. My head swam as I lay listening to my own ragged breaths and the sound of Tibran soldiers in hot pursuit. They weren't far behind me.
I set my jaw and willed my legs to work, dragging them into place when they tingled and threatened to buckle again.
"They are coming."
I looked up into Noh's flickering red eyes, burning like hot coals in the dark. "Thanks. I had no idea."
"We must hurry."
"On it," I growled as I heaved myself up again. "How far is he?"
Noh's shaped blurred, the edges of his gaunt, canine body wavering like flame. "Not very. But his life is waning. He may not be able to flee on his own."
"Great." I leaned against the wall of the corridor for a moment and stamped my feet, trying to bring some feeling back to my calves. "Any more good news?"
"The dragonriders have come. I feel their presence. They are descending upon the roof."
"Evacuating?" I guessed. I had no doubt that bringing the dragons here was Jaevid's doing. His divine power allowed him to communicate with any animal with his thoughts, so his plan of calling in an aerial rescue to get all of us clear of the tower was our best option.
Noh's pointed snout dipped in a nod. "They'll soon be clear of the tower."
"Well that's no good. Who's going to stand in captivated horror and awe when we raze it to the ground?" I pushed away from the wall and started limping forward again.
Noh's laughter crackled in my head. "The thousands of Tibran soldiers encamped outside, perhaps?"
I smirked. "Good enough for me." At the very least, maybe they'd give it a second thought before they challenged the force of Maldobar again.
The further I ran through the labyrinthine halls of the tower's lowest levels, the less frequent the torches lighting the hallways became. It was nearly total darkness now, and all I could see of Noh were his glowing eyes lighting my path in the gloom. Behind us, the sound of the soldiers grew louder and louder. They were gaining on us.
"H-how much further is — ?"
"Here!" Noh stopped so suddenly, I nearly limped right past him.
I approached the solid iron door of a cell. It was on the opposite side of the hall than all the others. I could only guess it was an extra special, deluxe solitary suite especially for royal guests. Yeah, right.
"Aubren," I shouted and beat my fist on the door. "It's Reigh. Can you hear me?"
"You better not be dead in there! So help me, I will drag your soul back through the Vale if I have to."
My body burned with a surge of adrenaline and panic. How bad off was he? Would he be able to get out of here, even if I carved a path for him?
Bringing the door down with my power wasn't the problem — it was what came after. I'd be a breath away from losing it, or dying, or collapsing. None of those were good, especially if Aubren couldn't walk out by himself.
This called for a change of plan.
Help. I needed help.
Whirling around, I went to the cell door directly across the hall and banged on it. "Anyone home in there?"
A pair of shimmering, vivid eyes appeared in the tiny window. They stared at me, wild, desperate, and strange. They had rings of golden yellow around the outside of the irises that faded gradually into an electric shade of green. I'd never seen anything like them.
"Who are you?" a feminine voice asked. It was a soft, breathy sort of voice twanged with an accent I didn't recognize. Was she from outside Maldobar and Luntharda?
"Someone who can get you out of here. But only if you do something for me in exchange."
I waited, staring in silence as those strange eyes studied me for a moment. Something about them gave me a swirling, nauseating feeling in the pit of my stomach. Or maybe that was Noh sucking away more of my soul. Who could tell? It was hard to concentrate on anything when I was nodding in and out of consciousness.
"Okay," the voice answered at last. "What do you want me to do?"
"I'm going to open the doors to your cell and the one across from you. The man inside there is extremely important. You have to help him get out of this tower — even if that means leaving me behind. I will make a path for you, so the soldiers don't follow. But he must survive. Understand?"
"But where will we go? There must be Tibrans everywhere."
She had a point. "I'll send you as far away from here as I can. Head north, toward the jungle of Luntharda. Once you get there, climb the first tree you can and wait. Gray elf scouts will find you — they're running frequent patrols and will probably be watching you long before you even reach the jungle. They'll take you somewhere safe."
"They won't try to kill me?"
I shook my head. "Any enemy of the Tibrans is a friend of theirs. Just tell them Reigh sent you. You'll be fine."
"Very well, Reigh," she answered faintly. "I will do what I can."
That would have to do.
"Step back from the door," I commanded as I hobbled to the middle of the hall.
"Master, the Tibran soldiers will be here in minutes," Noh warned.
It didn't matter. I only needed one to get this done.
Widening my stance, I set my jaw and spread my arms, a hand aimed at both doors on either side of me. One quick burst. That's all I needed. The mere touch of my power would turn the iron to brittle heaps of rust and ash — the same way I'd freed Jenna from her cell — then Aubren would be free. I could get him out of here. Then I could die knowing I'd at least saved my family.
Jaevid would just have to find a way to save the rest of the kingdom without me.
I squeezed my eyes shut, pressing my will out into both of my hands. The pull was instant, like someone had snatched me under the surface of that freezing water so suddenly I didn't even have time to scream or take a breath. The temperature dropped as the shadows swelled and filled the air with whispering voices. Then again, those might have been just in my head. I couldn't tell. And as my vision tunneled, my lungs constricting like someone with icy cold hands was squeezing the air out of them, it didn't matter.
I was out before I even hit the ground.CHAPTER 2
The sound of Kiran's voice jolted me awake. I blinked, squinting up into the brilliant rays of sunlight breaking through the vast green canopy overhead. I breathed in deeply, filling my lungs with the sweet, humid air that smelled of moist soil and wild jungle flowers.
Home — I was home.
"Reigh, you're all right." Kiran's face appeared over me, drawn into a look of pasty concern. He seemed ... younger, somehow. It didn't make any sense. "Just lie still," he said in the calm, deep tone he used whenever he was dealing with a frantic patient. His hands shook as he started poking at me, searching my chest and arms for signs of broken bones. "Can you feel this?"
I bobbed my head.
He let out a shaking breath of relief.
I wanted to ask what happened. How could I possibly be back home? Was this some strange manifestation of the Vale? Or was this the paradise that awaited me after death?
"Your leg is going to feel strange. It will hurt. But you have to sit up for me, all right?" Kiran's expression faltered, flickering between panic and relief. With one hand under my back and the other supporting my neck, he helped me sit up.
That's when I realized ... I was smaller. Too small. Something wasn't right. It was as though my body had shrunk. Glancing down at my leg, which was lying limply on the ground, I realized why he was so upset. I had a compound fracture. The bone was sticking through the skin of my shin, pearly white against all the blood.
The sight made my body flush and my pulse launch into overdrive. But I didn't feel it. It didn't hurt at all. How was that possible?
"You fell a long way. Your leg is broken. I can fix it, but right now we have to get you back home," he said as he slid his arms under my body and lifted me easily off the jungle floor. "Does anything else hurt? Your neck? Your back?"
"N-no, Kiran." My voice came out small and childish, muffled by sobs.
Suddenly, I remembered. This wasn't paradise or some kind of trick of the Vale. It was a memory. I'd fallen out of a tree when I was little, broken my leg, and once again dodged an early death. After lying helpless on the jungle floor for hours, Kiran had finally found me.
The instant I recalled that distant memory, the world around me seemed to get clearer. I could hear the calls of the birds and feel the coolness of my tears against my flushed cheeks. The familiar scent of medicinal herbs — Kiran's smell — was so close, it brought all my pain, grief, and shame exploding to the surface. I wanted to scream, to put my arms around him, to apologize.
But I couldn't. I couldn't say anything.
"I was so worried, Reigh. You know better than to go off climbing on your own. You're not ready yet." Kiran started in on a lecture even with his face still blanched with worry as he jogged past trees heavily laden with moss and flowering vines. "What if a tigrex had found you first? Or what if you had broken your back? You keep pushing yourself too far and someday you might break what I cannot fix."
"I just wanted to see it again," I whimpered against his shoulder.
"The lapiloque's tree. I thought I could get to the top."
Kiran blinked in surprise. "Why didn't you just ask me to take you?"
"You were busy with the scouts. You said you would take me climbing again. You promised. But you never did. You went to train them instead."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Legend"
Copyright © 2019 Nicole Conway.
Excerpted by permission of Month9Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part One: Reigh,
Part Two: Jenna,
Part Three: Reigh,
Part Four: Jenna,
Part Five: Reigh,
Part Six: Jenna,
Part Seven: Reigh,
About the Author,