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Dragon Essence: A Prequel to the Dark Age Trilogy by [Niamh Murphy]

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Dragon Essence: A Prequel to the Dark Age Trilogy Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 17 ratings

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Length: 68 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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From the Inside Flap

Chapter One: WILD ONE 
Andra grabbed the mage's arm, turning her back. "I'll not let you do this!"
But Olwen shook her grip loose. "There's nothing you can do to prevent me," she spat.
Olwen turned and ran down the uneven path through the dimly lit forest. The waning moon was high but little light emanated from the shining crescent, and the forest was dark and silent but for the wind rustling the late summer leaves.
Andra paced at the edge of the wood, watching the mage disappear, her red dress and long curls of dark hair vanishing into the trees. Olwen was right, there was little Andra could do to stop her, but she had to try. She reached for the hilt of her sword, a nervous habit, and was shocked to realise she was thinking of using it. She would do anything to prevent a battle, but would she go so far as to use a blade?
Andra took a deep breath.
She could just let Olwen go. Let her find the nest and desecrate it... while she returned to barracks. The mage would perform her magic ritual and Andra would pretend she had known nothing. Olwen could obtain the power she so craved, and no one would ever know of the loyal Captain's betrayal. But if it all went wrong... could she live with herself?
Her decision was made.
She drew her sword and took off at a run after Olwen. The mage was fast, but she was faster.
As a huntress she had tracked through this forest many a night: she knew every crevice, every path, and every tree root. Even in the dark, the memory of each twist and turn was enough to guide her, and she was quick to gain on the mage.
There was a flash of red cloth through the trees. Andra turned down a track and leapt over a fallen tree. Her movements were swift and quiet.
Another flash of red. It was gone in an instant but Andra hurried after it, her breath heavy in her chest.
Olwen was just ahead. She was unsure of her path and was using her magic to light the way. She was bright as a beacon in the woods. An easy target.
Andra took a side path and darted up a steep slope. She overtook the woman running on the path below then leapt down, landing squarely in front of her and blocking the way.
Olwen let out a cry of surprise. She stumbled to a halt but recovered instantly.
"I warned you, Andra. Do not stand in my way!" She raised her hand and the cloth of her sleeve fell back, revealing the dark lines of power tattooed on her forearm. The ball of blue mage-light pulsated as it swirled in her open fist before turning into a raging green orb casting eerie shadows on her features.
"I'll not let you raid that nest." Andra raised her sword.
Olwen's dark blue eyes widened in surprise. "Do you intend to strike me down, Captain?"
"I'll do whatever I have to." Andra stood firmly in the mage's path but a knot of fear was twisting her stomach. Staying loyal to the Druid people meant betraying Olwen, and, apart from anything else, Olwen could kill her in an instant.
Andra wanted to start the night again. Everything had been so different just a few hours ago: when she finished her guard shift she had been so excited to see her lover. They had agreed to meet at sunset and Olwen had promised that everything would be different after tonight. That everything would change. Andra had believed this would be the night they ran away together, the night they were finally free of their obligations. She should have known that Olwen would have a different plan.
Olwen laughed. "You know I can snap that sword in two with a mere thought."
Andra shook her head and lowered the blade. "Please," she said, holding out her hand, "I cannot bear the thought of losing you." She took Olwen's free hand in her own and Olwen dropped her magic. The light went out and they held one another in the dark. "I love you," Andra whispered.
The forest was quiet all around them. Andra could feel her lover's heartbeat against her own and the warmth of Olwen's breath against the skin of her neck. She closed her eyes, sinking into their embrace. There was no one else in the world at that moment. Nothing mattered except holding each other. She wanted to stay that way forever. Her grip tightened. "I beg you, please don't try this new magic of yours."
"I've told you, I must." Olwen pulled away and looked up at her in the dark.
"Can we not run? Go somewhere we won't be found--"
"There's no such place." Olwen shook her head. "The only language the wizards speak is power and they will not leave us alone until I am more powerful than all of them."
"Does it have to be a dragon's egg? Is there nothing else?"
"Nothing so potent."
Andra sighed and turned away. "But what if this ritual fails? If it's never been done before then how can you know the danger?" They were talking in circles, as they had done all night, repeating the same arguments over and over, yet she was compelled to make them again. She wanted to force Olwen to see things the way she did. "Is it really worth risking your life for?"
Olwen took Andra's hand and moved close. "The wizards will always keep us apart... They'll take me, Andra, imprison me on some wind-bitten solitary skerry. Isolated, no way of drawing power. No way of seeing you. I'd rather die."
"Buy what if Myrddym is already there? Lying in wait?"
"I have no doubt that she is."
"But you cannot face her alone."
"I will have Gilde."
"Gilde? She's nought but a shamana, what good is she?"
"You underestimate me." Olwen threw Andra's hand down and stepped away angrily.
"And you underestimate Myrddym! She is more powerful than anyone."
"She's a mad old hag." Olwen spun around, staring hard at Andra. She opened her fist and the magic tickled the hairs on Andra's neck as it glowed, making eerie shadows dance on the trees. "She will not stand in my way, Andra." Olwen raised her hand: the light was blinding, forcing Andra to raise her arm to cover her eyes. "No one will!"
"No," Andra cried, raising her sword uselessly against the light. "Don't!" She swung madly, blindly.
"There is no other way."
The light flashed, swallowing everything and leaving only a bright whiteness. Andra screamed as the white filled her senses. Her muscles stiffened. She couldn't move and couldn't see. The forest was gone and all she could hear, feel, smell and taste was the brightness of the light.
As quickly as it had come, it was gone.
Her body collapsed to the ground and she barely had time to register the woman she loved running off into the woods, before the darkness swallowed her. Then she knew nothing at all.

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Chris Wynter
5.0 out of 5 stars I wasn't expecting much...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 21, 2019
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