Dragon's Slave - Book cover

Dragon's Slave

C. Swallow

Chapter 2


Haven is a beautiful town, full of small but intricately designed buildings. The streets are wide, the shops are big, and the houses are close together.

We have established the center of the city as our main base.

But we slaves are unaccompanied.

Axel lies in a doctor’s ward after being attacked by a mugger. Without any other healers, Axel is at the mercy of the human doctors, who say he has a severe concussion and needs to stay the night.

This means our large group of Requiem slaves is getting an extra taste of freedom all of a sudden.

Going back to the mountains alone is just as likely to anger our dragon masters as if we stay unaccompanied. So, we decide to stay the night in Haven.

One night of freedom! I am beside myself with joy...and only a little anxiety. Hael will be too busy to notice my absence, I imagine... At least, that is what I keep telling myself.

“This way, Maddie.”

Darshan and Darren have, to my great misfortune, taken a liking to each other, and are fast becoming friends.

“We need to find a room for the night, don’t we?” I ask.

They both grab a hold of my elbows and drag me into a bar filled with people, booming music, and the stench of alcohol.

“We could do that, dear Madeline.” Darren smirks at me as they pull me deeper into the crowd of peasants. “Or we could stay up all night and have some fun.”

“Don’t you have enough fun with Adara?” I ask pointedly.

Darren just laughs and guides me onto a bar seat while Darshan orders wine for the three of us.

“Of course, I have fun, I always do.”

Darren lets me go once I’m seated between them. He waves an arm about, pointing at all the mayhem as people dance, fight, and sing.

“But when do we ever get to go back to our roots and have fun with drunk-as-all-hell humans?”

“He knows what he is talking about, Maddie,” Darshan says as he hands me some wine.

My face contorts in disgust as I push it away from me. I’m not keen on getting drunk.

Darren grabs my cup and holds it alongside his own. “More for me then.”

Darren and Darshan clink their drinks together and toast to a night of pure freedom.

I ignore their banter and look around the room.

Not everyone here is necessarily human.

I try not to get myself too worried and focus on the band, who finishes a song and then moves aside for the next performer.

Just offstage, there is a small queue of people warming up their vocal cords or tuning their instruments.

“Freedom…,” I mutter to myself, watching how everyone is doing as they please, with no rules and no masters lording over them. Not in here.

Memories of when I was younger come to me; of days living in blissful naivety and ignorance.

“All right, boys.” I swivel around to face Darren and Darshan and clap them both on the shoulders, interrupting their man-talk. “What are we doing sitting down here? Let’s dance!”

“Now that’s the spirit!” Darren grins from ear to ear, and we all leap up. They’ve already finished their drinks.

We head to the dance floor, and as we laugh and dance to the music, more of the Requiem slaves come in and join us, escaping the cool air outside.

Soon, we are all celebrating our one night of freedom.

We don’t even have to worry about the supplies we gathered earlier in the day. They are stored in a local inn with a couple of slaves guarding them.

Although, when I say guarding, I mean taking the opportunity to sleep in soft beds for once.

As appealing as that sounds, the rest of us want to make the most of our opportunity to do whatever we like, so we dance and dance the night away.

A couple of hours later, an older man sways on to the stage, barely holding onto the piece of paper he struggles to read.

“All right, ladies and gents! It’s time to announce the m-most talented musician!

“We’ve got two favorites: The Old Copper Band, and Jerry with his fiddle. Let me remind you, folks, that the winner gets twenty gold pieces!”

“Oi!” Darshan elbows me before putting his hand on my cheek—his way of meeting me eye to eye. “You didn’t tell me there was a singing competition.”

“I didn’t know. I got here when you did. Why does it matter anyway?” I ask, losing my smile and already guessing where he is going with this.

“You need to sing!” he scolds, lightly slapping my cheek with his hand.

I grab his hand tightly and glare at him.

“Darren!” he calls out.

I look over my shoulder and see Darren behind me, nodding at Darshan.

“Already on it. Come here, slave girl.” Darren wraps his arms around my waist and carries me to the stage where the old man is still rambling on about the contest.

“Wait, wait! We have one more contestant!” Darren yells, wobbling a bit.

I think he’s going to drop me, but he manages to reach the edge of the stage just in time. I’m glad I haven’t been drinking myself or I’d probably fall over the side.

“One more contestant hasn’t sung!” Darren calls out before stepping back, then spreads out his arms and hands to do a mock bow.

“Sorry, darlin’, the competition is over,” the old man says.

Darshan feels his way back to the stage. “I guarantee she’s the best singer you’ve ever heard. If she loses, I’ll give you twenty gold pieces myself.”

“All right, all right!” he booms. “We have one more contestant!”

He hurries off to the side, and everyone is either glaring at me for interrupting the results or whispering excitedly to one another.

The man drags Darshan off with him, no doubt so he can hold him to his word.

Bloody Darshan. No pressure to win now, right?

I glance at Darren and see him wink, then I take a moment to compose myself while I think of something to sing.

This night is about freedom, so a song soon comes to mind, and I roll with it.

My nerves make me a little shaky, so I close my eyes. From the moment I open my mouth and sing, I keep my eyes shut, far too terrified to look at everyone watching me.

“Trick me today, be a fool with me across the town’s gateway.

“Choose me today, follow me far across the hard-trodden narrow way.

“Fall with me today, run side by side with me across the forest’s narrow way…

“Love with me now and bend, take me all the way across the sunken waterway.

“Die with me at the end, and we will cross death’s door, never frightened while we say:

“Trick me, choose me, fall with me, love me, die with me.

“I will be by your side until the very day you slip away.

“When I come to the end, I can’t lie.”

The silence is bothering me. Was I that terrible?

It is not until I open my eyes, raise my chin, and let out a few shaky breaths that everyone erupts into an applause so loud, it hurts my ears.

A feeling of elation flows through me, and a smile slowly spreads across my face.

Before I know it, the old man is shoving a bag of twenty gold pieces into my hand, while Darshan high-fives Darren.

“You can get off the stage now, sweetheart,” one of the members of The Old Copper Band says with angry sarcasm.

I realize I’m rooted to the spot, in awe of what has just happened. “Oh,” is all I manage to say as everyone continues to cheer and whistle.

Yes, I will remember this. Nothing can spoil this moment. Not the band and their sarcastic comment. Not even…Hael.

Just as I think of his name, a flash of emerald green hair catches my attention.

I squint to peer through the dancing people. I catch my breath as I see that all-too-familiar face by the entrance of the bar. He’s leaning against the door frame, watching me.

I know him.

Everyone knows him.

There’s no mistaking him. If the emerald green hair isn’t enough of a giveaway, Hael is taller than anyone else I’ve ever seen.

His eyes never leave my face, even as I step down from the stage, clutching my gold coins.

Very slowly at first, but gaining momentum, people start to hush as everyone starts to recognize who has entered the bar.

A couple of other dragons, also in human form, walk through the crowd. Hael stretches to his full height, then stalks his way forward.

A terrified silence has quietened the whole bar.

“W-welcome,” the old man from the stage says as he slips behind the bar, clasping his hands together nervously, “D-Dragon L-Lord H-H-Hael.”

“Don’t be so shy,” Hael says as a slow, lethal grin spreads across his lips. “I’m only here to fetch my runaway slaves.”

As he focuses his gaze on Darren, Darshan, and me, everyone else seems to filter away from us, making way for Hael to come closer. Even Darren has to look up at Hael as he approaches.

“We were given approval to stay the night,” Darren says. I’m impressed at how he sticks up for us. “Our leader is sick and could not lead us back—”

“It’s not you that I’m worried about. Adara will deal with you.” Hael focuses on me and Darshan. “You two, however…” He eyes us both disapprovingly. “Trying out the taste of freedom, are we?”

I am too terrified to say anything. I presume Darshan is, too, as he stays silent beside me.

“Darshan, the blind one, is with me,” Darren adds, grabbing Darshan to his side. “I convinced him to come along. Madeline is all yours.”

I glare at Darren. I cannot believe he has betrayed me so quickly and I see an evil glint in his eye.

“I thought you were better trained, little mouse.” Hael steps around and behind me.

I stand stock-still, embarrassed that everyone is watching. I feel my cheeks warm when he takes both my wrists behind my back and I hear and feel the distinctive snap of iron.

Now that I’m restrained with iron cuffs, he snatches the money I just won from my hands.

“What? That’s mine!” I snap, forgetting who I’m speaking to. I spin abruptly to face him—and instantly regret it.

“Last time I checked, you were mine, which means anything that belongs to you belongs to me.” Hael jingles the bag of coins in front of me. “Turn around and start walking, Madeline.”

The way he says my name sends shivers down my spine, but I quickly turn and walk out of the bar, keen to get out from under everyone’s gaze.

Once I’m outside, Hael grabs me by the elbow and spins me to face him. He uses his other hand to grab my chin.

“I was going to give you a gift for your birthday today,” he says quietly. “I thought I had trained you to perfection. My best servants have looked after you all these years.”

I think of my brother; doing so always gives me strength. “I am not yours. You stole me from my home. I will never be yours,” I hiss.

The corner of Hael’s mouth twitches with anger, and I can see in his eyes that he is shocked at my defiant response.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” I ask as his eyes readily search mine with intense concentration.

“Because, little mouse, I am thinking of all the ways I can break you.”

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