War Bride (Drakoryan Brides Book 3)

By: Ava Sinclair
A Reverse Harem Dragon Fantasy



Prologue





I am darkness. I am rage.

They say I have no name, but I do. Only my kind know it.

Soon, my enemies will know it too, and will speak it with quavering voices as they kneel before me.

I am Seadus, King of the ShadowFell, and I will have my victory. I will have my vengeance.

In the time before time, it was the ShadowFell who gave others of our kind their first taste of fear. Dragons think themselves invincible until faced with the only thing that can best them—a stronger dragon. There used to be clans of them on this side of the world. One by one, we drove them all away.

Only man and beast remained. For the ShadowFell, mankind served a minor purpose. Just as Night Bears do not kill the bees that produce the honey they crave, neither did we kill the humans who produced the cattle and sheep we occasionally took. The humans would try to defend their flocks, shooting clumsy spears in our direction, but their weapons were no more effective against dragons than bee stings against bears.

Then a new race arose, created by the God and Goddess of the Wyld. Drakoryans. Half man, half dragon.

It was those meddlesome hybrids that saw a broader use for the humans. In need of both meat to feed their dragon side and grain to feed their human side, they brought the humans under their protection and rule.

This was not to be borne. Only we were allowed to rule, and thus began the first war between the ShadowFell and the Drakoryan.

I, Seadus, who had never known defeat, finally tasted it and found it bitter.

There have been three wars with the Drakoryan. Each has ended with our defeat. Our enemy battles not with dragon strength alone, but with the tactics of man.

A dragon can hem another dragon into a crevasse. But a dragon that shifts into a human can land and disappear into the mountains. A dragon commands other dragons alone, but a dragon who turns into a man can command an army of men with weaponry designed by those who know a dragon’s vulnerability.

After our first defeat, the God of Deep Places sent his emissary with an offer of aid so offensive that I drove him away with fire.

I am proud. My kind is proud.

But he came again after the last defeat, taunting us in our sleep. Without help from the God of Deep Places, the next defeat would be our last. There was a path to victory for the ShadowFell, he whispered, not just of the Drakoryan Empire, but of the whole of the magical realm above. The God of the Deep Places promised us more than glory. He promised us dominance and limitless power.

Did we not realize, he asked, that the Drakoryan rely on humans for more than just cattle and grain? They used human females to perpetuate their numbers. Then he repeated the offer I’d found so offensive.

Victory for the ShadowFell would mean becoming man-dragons ourselves. The she-dragon — the mother of us all who produces without a mate— would no longer produce the great dragons of old. Dark magic would change her offspring into smaller, quicker dragons. Dragon soldiers that we would command come time of war.

As we awoke, we would begin raiding the villages ruled by the Drakoryans. We would take the maidens.

And when all the soldiers were hatched from the Mother Eggs, the God of Deep Places said we would take the Mystic Mountain and plunder its magic to transform into dragon men with an army of mindless dragon soldiers. We would defeat the empire, kill the Drakoryans, and put the humans under our rule to grow our food and serve in our armies.

We would be dragon lords, commanding armies of dragons and men. We would be invincible.

Ultimate power. Ultimate rule. Ultimate vengeance.

After ages of defeat, the promise of victory was too tempting to ignore.

When we began to wake again, one by one, the whispered promise of the God of Deep Places was fresh in our minds. We began the first of our raids on the outer villages, refining our plans.

We’d planned to attack the rest of the villages at once, ready to fight the defending Drakoryans if we had to. But on the night of the final raid, we found the villages empty. The Drakoryans did not stand in defense of the villages. They had evacuated them to the stronghold of the Drakoryan Empire.

Our fury was great. We burned all the village cottages in our rage. We roared our displeasure at the God of Deep Places. But he only laughed. The Drakoryans had played into our hands, he said. We would use fire to turn the villagers they protected against them.





Chapter 1





ISLA



When I was a little girl, a man of our village lost his lower leg to a Night Bear. His misfortune became a macabre fascination for me and my friends. We would gather around, querying him about the attack, cringing as he described the bear’s teeth tearing through flesh and bone. The bear was as big as a tree, he said, perhaps bigger. His account both terrified and enthralled us, but even more interesting than the bear’s savagery was the injury itself.

“Does it hurt?” we’d ask, marveling at the scars that remained where the village healer had sewn the skin together over the bony stump. Some adults would have boxed our ears for such rudeness, but the crippled man was kind, and bore our questions with humor.

Of course, it had hurt, he said, and while it no longer did, he’d discovered there was something worse than physical pain. Sometimes, he told us, he would wake and forget he did not have a leg. He fancied he could still feel it. His knee would ache, even though there was no knee. His foot would itch, even though there was no foot. The sensations were so convincing that he would rise from bed only to fall to the floor, his stump throbbing with hurt.

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