Balanced on the Blade's Edge (Dragon Blood, Book 1)

By: Lindsay Buroker


As a writer, sometimes you have a thousand things (or at least five) that you should be working on, but you get an idea for something new and just have to run with it. I wrote this story quickly, because I knew I had other series to get back to, but it also came out quickly of its own volition. I enjoyed these characters and this new world, and I hope you will too. Before you jump in, I would like to thank Cindy Wilkinson, Pam Tkachuk, and Sarah Engelke for reading an early version and for offering feedback. I would also like to thank my editor, Shelley Holloway, for working this one in on short notice. Thank you, too, good reader, for picking up a new novel and giving it a try. I hope you enjoy the adventure.

Part I

Chapter 1

Colonel Ridge Zirkander had walked the hall to General Ort’s office so many times he suspected his boots were responsible for the threadbare state of the drab gray carpet runner. The two privates standing guard on either side of the door were too well trained to exchange knowing smirks, but that didn’t mean gossip of this meeting wouldn’t be all over the citadel by noon. It wouldn’t be the first time. Fortunately, uniforms only held awards and not demerits.

“Morning, gents.” Ridge stopped before the door. He eyed the privates’ rifles—they had the new lever-action repeating models—but neither man looked like he had been given orders to keep visitors out. Too bad. “How’s the general’s mood today?”

“Tense, sir.”

“That applies to most days, doesn’t it?” He didn’t expect an answer—privates weren’t encouraged to chat about officers after all, at least not where said officers might overhear—but the younger one grinned and responded.

“A week ago last Thursday, it elevated to agitated, sir.”

“Glad I was in the air that day then.” Ridge thumped the fellow on the shoulder and reached for the doorknob.

The private’s grin widened. “We heard about the battle cruiser, sir. That was marvelous. I wish I could have seen it.”

“Taking down the supply ship was more of a victory for us, but I suppose that didn’t come with the added excitement of being shot at by cannons.”

“I’d love to hear about it, sir.” The private’s eyes gleamed with hope.

“Might be at Rutty’s later,” Ridge said, “if the general doesn’t send me down to the kitchen to chop vegetables with the recruits.”

He walked in without knocking. Mounds of paperwork were heaped on General Ort’s desk, but the man was gazing out the window overlooking the harbor, his weathered hands clasped behind his back. Merchant, fishing, and military vessels sailed to and from the docks, but, as always, Ridge’s eye was drawn to the dragon fliers lined up on the butte on the southern end. Their sleek bronze hulls, propellers, and guns gleamed under the morning sun, beckoning him to return. His squadron was out there, overseeing maintenance and repairs, and waiting for him to bring them news. He hoped this ego-trouncing session would also include the delivery of new orders.

When the general didn’t turn around right away, Ridge flopped into a plush leather chair in front of the desk, flinging his leg over the armrest.

“Morning, General. I got your message. What can I do for you this fine day?” Ridge nodded toward the blue sky above the harbor, a sky clear of enemy airships as well as clouds.

Ort turned, his customary scowl deepening as he waved at Ridge’s dangling boot. “No, no, have a seat. I insist.”

“Thank you, General. These chairs do lend themselves to lounging in comfort.” Ridge patted the soft leather. “If anyone ever succeeds in foisting an office on me, I hope it’ll be furnished just as finely.”

“Seven gods, Ridge. Every time you see me, I wonder anew how you got so many bars on your collar.”

“It’s a mystery to me as well, sir.”

Ort pushed a hand through his short gray hair, sat down, and pulled out a folder. Ridge’s folder, though he had to have it memorized by now, all of its three inches of thickness. “You’re forty years old, Colonel. Are you ever going to grow up?”

“I’ve been told it’s more likely I’ll be shot down first.”

Ort folded his hands across the folder without opening it. “Tell me what happened.”

“In regard to what, sir?” Ridge asked. He knew perfectly well, but he had long ago learned not to volunteer information that might incriminate him.

“You don’t know?” Ort’s ever-present scowl deepened until the corners of his mouth were in danger of falling off his chin.

“Well, my squad’s been on the ground four days. Could be a lot of things.”

“According to my report, you broke Diplomat Serenson’s nose, bruised his ribs, and threatened to rip off his penis. Any of that sound familiar?”

“Oh,” Ridge said, nodding. “Yes, it does. Although, I believe it was his flesh pole I threatened to rip off. There were ladies present, and some find anatomically correct terms too blunt for polite company.”

The general’s jaw ground back and forth several times before he managed a response. “Explain.”