The Dragons of Paragon (The Treasure of Paragon Book 8)- Paperback
The Dragons of Paragon (The Treasure of Paragon Book 8)- Paperback
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A clash of kingdoms. A war of hearts. A final chance.
A clash of kingdoms.
Colin’s dragon has its jeweled heart set on Leena, but she’s a distraction he doesn’t need. The stars have aligned, and it’s time for the Defenders of the Goddess to take back the throne of Paragon or be crushed under the evil empress’s heel. Colin, along with his siblings, is at the center of it all, so why can’t he stop his dragon’s obsession?
A war of hearts.
Elf scribe Leena made a vow to the goddess and her people—and she doesn’t intend to break it. Still, there’s only so much temptation any woman can bear. War threatens Rogos. As much as Leena would like to avoid her feelings for Colin, she’s key to helping him and the resistance defend her land against Paragon.
A final chance.
As the world unravels around them, Colin and Leena must come to terms with what’s truly important. How far will Colin go in his quest for the kingdom? And can Leena resist the comfort of his embrace in what could be their final days?
Year of the Goddess: ͵βιθ, Capricorn 2nd
I, Leena of Niven, scribe of the Order of the Sacred Pools, continue to document the events unfolding on the island of Aeaea as the Defenders of the Goddess make strides in the effort to liberate Paragon from Empress Eleanor and end her tyrannical expanse of power in Ouros. In recent weeks, Dianthe of Everfield and Sylas of Paragon successfully obtained the five orbs left behind by Medea for those prophesied to challenge the empress.
As detailed in the scroll of Daluk, each orb held a fragment of a key to the hiding place of the golden grimoire, a book of spells foretold to carry the secret to Eleanor’s undoing. It is widely believed that the book holds the magic of the gods themselves within its pages, and anyone strong enough to wield it will be powerful enough to reign over all of Ouros.
Last night, Charlie, the daughter of Gabriel and Raven, passed her hand through each of the enchanted orbs and obtained the fragments sealed inside. All five had already proven impervious to the goddess’s tears, dragon fire, and all manner of blade and claw. The fact that the child was able to retrieve each of the objects effortlessly proves Medea’s magic is as relevant to the cause today as it was during her time as queen of Darnuith.
Once the key was assembled, it proved to be an elven crypt key, which means the golden grimoire is likely hidden somewhere in Rogos in an elf’s tomb. Daluk’s writings are intentionally vague. The location of the crypt and the code to set the key remain a mystery. As Daluk has passed on to the eternal forest, the scribe’s scrolls are the only clues to the grimoire’s whereabouts.
There is another message hidden by enchantment beneath Daluk’s writings, and it is my belief that the palimpsest holds the answers to obtaining the grimoire. However, no elf or witch magic—not even that of the three sisters—has been able to break the spell concealing it. Worse, before her death, Aborella claimed the only way to read the message was by focusing the three sisters’ magic using the tanglewood tree, which was unfortunately destroyed by fire in the earthly realm centuries ago.
Unless another solution presents itself soon, the Defenders of the Goddess will find themselves in the position of having to move forward without the grimoire. The circumstances couldn’t be more dire as, just days ago, Everfield fell to Paragon. The Obsidian Guard now occupies what was once the Empyrean Wood and therefore controls trade routes between Nochtbend and the rest of Ouros.
Colin, leader of the resistance, trains daily with his brother warriors, readying for war, but with Eleanor’s ever-increasing magic and army of immortal dragons, the resistance will need far more help if they are to have any hope of defeating Paragon.
* * *
“They’re fun to watch, aren’t they?” Dianthe asked, interrupting Leena’s writing.
Leena stopped her scrawl, the metalwork quill she used poised over the parchment. The finely crafted writing implement looked like a feather but was far more sophisticated. Enchanted to never run out of ink, it was the hallmark of her position as a scribe, as was the enchanted parchment she used that never ran out of room to write. “I’m documenting what’s happening here. Even with the aid of the holiest of sacred pools, no scribe can see Aeaea. I’m the only one who can record these events for the sacred library.”
Dianthe sat beside her, her wings fluttering as she balanced on the boulder and crossed her legs. The fairy’s long, lithe limbs were not unlike an elf’s, but she moved with a supernatural grace Leena had always admired.
“You know, you can both appreciate the view and write about it,” she said, flashing Leena an impish smile.
Leena raised her eyes, and they instantly locked on Colin. Although he was only one of several shirtless masses of muscle performing exercises on the beach, he might as well be moving through his routine alone for how much she noticed the others. Maybe it was his size; he had at least a hundred pounds on his twin, Dianthe’s mate Sylas, and was as large, if not larger, than Gabriel. Golden skin glinted with sweat, his muscles bunching and rippling with his movement.
Colin pivoted, shouting instructions to the other dragons. They all paired up and started to spar. Sylas and Colin exchanged punches and blocks faster than her eye could follow. Their almost identical garnet rings flashed in the sunlight as their heavily muscled forearms connected again and again.
The dragons always trained with their wings out. Colin’s were leathery and dark red, almost black, with a lethal-looking hooked talon at each apex. He wielded those massive claws like the weapons they were, hooking into the talons in Sylas’s lighter-colored wings to hold him in place before landing a strike into his brother’s side.
Everything about Colin designated him as their leader, from the way he carried himself to the confident gleam in his gray eyes that always reminded her of burnished steel. And then there was his arm. Wavelike furrows ran from wrist to neck. She’d watched him snatch the purple orb from the bottom of a sacred pool at superspeed with that arm. It was incredibly brave and equally stupid. The goddess’s tears had burned away his flesh, and he’d fallen on the sand, writhing in agony. She’d tended his wounds following that ordeal. Although he’d healed, the skin of his arm—his right foreleg in dragon form—was permanently scarred.
Those scars were a symbol of his limitless bravery. A sign of his unreasonable ability to endure pain.
Yes, any opponent should fear what that arm represented. It was proof that Colin would be the last to give in and he’d never give up. Even if the resistance never found the grimoire, Eleanor would be a fool to underestimate him.
“Blink, Leena,” Dianthe said. “Breathe.”
She started, her head snapping around to look at the fairy. “I, uh…” Had she lost herself staring at Colin again? Her cheeks blazed.
Dianthe’s teasing expression softened, and she placed a hand on her arm. “Please don’t be embarrassed. It’s the rare woman who can claim immunity to a dragon’s charms. I’ve been married to Sylas for decades, and it still makes me feel like a flower in the sun every time he looks in my direction.”
Leena licked her lips. Maybe it was normal what she was feeling, even though she was a scribe. She pressed her hand into her stomach. “When I look at Colin, it feels as if I’ve jumped off a high place.”
Dianthe’s brows edged toward each other, her dark skin wrinkling between her eyes. “Just Colin? Or all the dragons?”
Leena’s face was hot again, and she scratched behind her ear. “Just Colin. It must be because I know him best. I’m sure that is common for females.”
The fairy brushed a hand over one of her arms as if dusting away something that wasn’t there. “That depends. Can I ask you a personal question, female-to-female?”
Leena nodded. Desperate to do something with her nervous energy, she returned her quill to its box and began rolling the scroll carefully in her lap.
“Do you have much experience with males?”
She chewed her lip, then twitched a nervous smile. “No. Of course not. I’m a scribe.”
“Not even from before you became a scribe?” Dianthe’s voice was soft and supportive, without a trace of judgment.
Leena felt she could tell the fairy anything and she’d keep it in the strictest confidence. So she told the truth. “I grew up in the temple, so there is no before.”
Dianthe tensed beside her, only for a fraction of a second, and then she uncrossed her legs and hugged her knees. “Is that common among your kind?”
“No.” Leena smiled. Now they were in territory she didn’t care to talk about, no matter how much she knew she could trust Dianthe. Her brow furrowed. “I had special circumstances.” She made her answer curt enough that she was sure her friend wouldn’t push it.
A long silence stretched between them, punctuated only by the grunts of the warriors practicing in front of them. Leena slid her scroll and the box with her quill into her satchel. She should go back to her tent.
“It’s just…” Dianthe nudged her arm before she could climb off the stone. “…I wonder why that’s allowed. I mean, your special situation.”
“Hmm?” Leena didn’t understand what she was getting at.
Dianthe folded her arms across her middle. “Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always had a deep respect for scribes and the sacrifice all of you make for your beliefs. I wonder, though, how one can give something up before they even know what it is they’re giving up. Aren’t there… things you’re curious about?” Her eyes darted to Colin but didn’t linger.
All at once, Leena’s skin tightened. She’d been too obvious in her observation of Colin. Dianthe could see right through her to that strange thing he produced in her. Her heart thumped in her chest. “I… It would be inappropriate.”
Dianthe sighed. “Of course. It’s against the rules.”
“Not strictly,” Leena admitted. “The Quanling—our superior as female scribes—takes a vow of celibacy, but scribes such as I only take an oath to devote our lives to recording the history of Ouros. That oath is incompatible with marriage, mating, or children as those things would distract us from our calling, but… technically… other things are not prohibited as long as they don’t pull us away from our work.”
The fairy’s smile widened, one corner of her red lips twitching with amusement Leena wasn’t sure she followed. “Do some scribes often indulge in these other things?”
Leena scoffed. “Honestly, no. None of us would have the opportunity. We rarely leave the temple or encounter anyone outside the order. Even among our kind, males and females live their lives in separate wings of the temple. We rarely cross paths.”
“Hmm.” Dianthe drummed her fingers on her knee. “So you are in a unique position then to… broaden your horizons.”
The innuendo landed in the pit of Leena’s stomach, and her eyes flicked up to Colin of their own accord, her heart pounding harder at the mere idea of experimentation with the golden mountain of shimmering muscle who at that very moment was throwing Sylas to the sand. “Until I become Quanling,” she said absently.
“Is that something you want to do?”
Leena took a deep breath and turned back toward Dianthe. “It’s all I’ve ever worked for. If all goes well, I’ll replace my Quanling, Marjory, next year when she retires.”
“In a year! But you’re so young!”
Leena wasn’t sure why Dianthe seemed horrified by the idea, but her smile had flipped at her admission. “I started in the order at a young age. I meet all the requirements.”
Wings fluttering, Dianthe turned her face toward the sun and closed her eyes, seeming to absorb the heat. “Well then, if you have any curiosity about… other things… I guess now would be your chance to get it out of your system.”
Palms sweaty, Leena checked that Dianthe’s eyes were closed before taking another lingering look at Colin. A thought she’d long suppressed wormed its way to the surface of her mind. Was she attracted to him? Did she want to experiment with the things she would one day swear to leave behind? She shook her head. The very thought was folly.
Absolutely this was the right time to leave, to slip back to her tent before things became even more confusing. She pushed off the rock and looped her satchel over her head so that the strap fell across her body, adjusting it on her shoulder. But before she could exchange parting words with Dianthe, the three sisters strode onto the beach.
The three women were a formidable sight. Raven, with her long black hair and striking blue eyes, exuded raw power, even with baby Charlie in her arms. Avery, who had almost identical features as Raven but a curvier build, was never without her sword, and Leena had witnessed her brandish that iron better than any man. Clarissa with her platinum hair and dark roots always struck her as the most unpredictable. The woman was friendly, though occasionally irreverent, and wielded her power in the most unexpected way, through song. Together, the three commanded attention. Immediately, the dragons stopped practicing and looked their way.
In Raven’s arms, Charlie, who seemed to have grown an inch overnight, pointed to Gabriel and squealed, “Da, Da, Da!” Avery and Clarissa hung back a few steps behind their sister. Strange. It looked almost as if they were dreading what was about to happen.
Raven raised her chin. “Everyone, if you’ll gather around, we have some news.”
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