The Pyr gathered at Erik’s lair for the eclipse.
Erik’s lair was in a warehouse that had been partly converted to lofts. It was large and industrial and in a lousy part of town. Rafferty wondered who would see the high council of dragons on the roof of the building and what they would make of the scene. The idea made him smile.
As usual, Rafferty was hopeful that, this time, the firestorm would be his. He was older and he had waited longer, though even his legendary patience was thinning. The Great Wyvern had a plan for each of them: Rafferty believed that with all his heart.
So, he would wait his turn as well as he could.
The company stood on the roof, watching the moon slip into the earth’s shadow. It took on the hue of blood, casting the earth in surreal light.
“Quickly,” Erik said with more than his usual impatience. “The full eclipse will last less than half an hour this time.” Rafferty understood Erik’s concern: this was the third of the full eclipses, three in a row before the final battle between Pyr and Slayer. After this eclipse, the die would be cast and the battle for ascendancy over the planet’s fate would begin in earnest.
Rafferty wasn’t sure how that would manifest precisely, but he wasn’t looking forward to it. He knew enough about old prophecies to respect them, even when they were ominous and enigmatic.
Especially when they were ominous and enigmatic.
Once on the roof, the Pyr shifted shape in unison. At this eclipse, they were joined by the two most recent human mates, both of whom were pregnant. Quinn, the Smith, was scaled in sapphire and steel in dragon form; his mate Sara, the Seer, stood petite and fair at his side. Donovan, the Warrior, took his lapis lazuli and gold dragon form; while his tall and dark-haired mate Alex, the Wizard, looked on with pride.
There were two strong partnerships made at this vortex of change.
This would be the third, if the Pyr could make it work.
Rafferty intended to do what he could to help.
Erik turned to an onyx and pewter dragon, while Rafferty became an opal and gold dragon. Sloane had brought Delaney and kept him between himself and Niall, although Rafferty suspected that it was Delaney who was most worried about what might happen.
After all, the spark in Delaney’s eyes was much brighter. Rafferty believed that Sloane’s treatment was working and that the darkness inflicted upon Delaney was steadily diminishing.
Sloane changed form, his tourmaline scales shading from green to purple and back again, each one edged in gold. Niall, meanwhile, became a dragon of amethyst and platinum, glittering in the light. Delaney changed to an emerald and copper dragon. Nikolas of Thebes, new to this ceremony, shifted to a dragon of anthracite and iron, then quietly observed. Unlike the other Pyr and Slayers, Nikolas had no scent by which his presence could be discerned, but his presence was formidable.
Erik murmured the ancient blessing once they were all in dragon form. Rafferty watched Erik spin the Dragon’s Egg, saw the moon’s light touch the round dark stone. Gold lines appeared upon its surface almost immediately, prompting a startled gasp from both Alex and Nikolas who had never seen its abilities before. Rafferty watched hungrily as the gold lines triangulated a location.
Would this be his chance? The Dragon’s Egg glistened as Erik leaned closer to read its portent.
“London,” a woman’s voice said from behind them all. Rafferty pivoted to find the Wyvern lounging against the fire escape, still in her human form.
He doubted that he was the only one surprised to find her there. Sophie was wearing a white skirt that floated around her ankles. Her long blonde hair was loose and flowed down her back. She looked as much like a graceful swan - one made of glass or moonlight - as she did in dragon form.
How did she keep herself from shifting shape under the eclipse’s light?
She smiled as she regarded them, smiled so knowingly that Rafferty wondered whether she had heard his thoughts.
She strode closer and crouched down beside the Dragon’s Egg. “Why don’t we ask it to tell us something we don’t know?” It wasn’t like her to be so direct and Rafferty was concerned. If Sophie felt urgency, matters were worse than he had believed.
“I do not have your skill, especially as you choose not to share it,” Erik said in old-speak. His irritation was clear.
“Listen,” Sophie bade him in old-speak, the single word resonating in Rafferty’s chest. She murmured a chant. It was short and wordless, either a string of sounds or a language forgotten. It sounded old to Rafferty. Potent.
She repeated it and Erik echoed the sound. She nodded approval and beckoned to him. Erik leaned over the Dragon’s Egg at her urging and the two of them chanted in unison, Erik’s voice gaining strength as he learned the chant.
Then Sophie blew on the dark globe of stone. The golden lines disappeared immediately, like ripples blown from the sand, and a woman’s face came into view. She could have been swimming to the surface of a lake, her hair streaming back and her eyes closed.
Then she opened her eyes and looked directly at Erik. Even from his position, Rafferty could see that her eyes were a glorious blue. The hair that flowed around her face was wavy and chestnut brown. Her hair billowed, as if she was under water and it moved with the current.
Erik recoiled in shock. “Louisa!”
“Yes,” the woman murmured, as if remembering something she had half-forgotten. “Yes, I was called that, once.”
Erik stared at the Dragon’s Egg.
“This time, my name is Eileen Grosvenor,” the woman said, her words clearly enunciated. She raised a hand and, moving as if he couldn’t do otherwise, Erik extended a talon toward her. When there was only a handspan between them, a spark leapt from the water to Erik’s claw.
Erik swore and took a step back. The woman smiled so brilliantly that the Dragon’s Egg was lit from within. Then she took a deep breath, closed her eyes and sank out of sight. Her hair flowed around and over her, then the ends disappeared with a flick. She might have been a mermaid or a siren.
Erik gave a cry and seized the Dragon’s Egg just as the eclipse ended. The stone turned black again, reverting to the smooth orb of obsidian stone it usually was, but a crackle of sparks lurked beneath Erik’s talons.
“How can this be?” he demanded of the Wyvern.
Sophie straightened and smiled as the Pyr shifted back to human form around her. She gave Delaney a hard look, then nodded once at Sloane. “You are half-done,” she said. “Do not falter without banishing the shadow completely.”
By the time Sloane had nodded agreement, Sophie had turned and walked to the lip of the roof. She lifted her arms over her head, laughed as the wind teased her skirts, and leapt.
Rafferty was the first to reach the edge. Even having guessed what he would see, he was still surprised.
Below them a white dragon soared, long white plumes streaming behind her. She glinted in the changing light, reflecting and refracting the hue cast by the moon, like a dragon carved of crystal. She ascended and turned a tight curve over the roof, leaving the Pyr staring after her with awe.
She flew straight up into the dark sky, heading directly for the moon, then abruptly disappeared. The sky was clear and there was nowhere for her to be hidden. She simply had vanished, as suddenly as she had appeared.
“I hate when she does that,” Donovan muttered. Rafferty didn’t agree, not this time. No matter how often he saw her, Rafferty found that Sophie’s appearance gladdened his heart. He realized what a gift it was to have her among them. He felt as if there was a greater force on their side, on the side of right, and he was touched by her beauty, as well.
There could only be a single Wyvern, but in his many centuries, he had never known a Wyvern to be as actively engaged with the Pyr as Sophie was.
Rafferty found Nikolas beside him, the other Pyr’s dark eyes wide with astonishment. “She is real, then,” he whispered. “I thought that I dreamed her presence before.”
“She didn’t stay long enough to be introduced. Her name is Sophie,” Rafferty said. “She is the Wyvern, a prophetess who has skills far beyond our own.”
“I know who she is,” Nikolas murmured, avidly seeking some sign of her presence.
“Her prophecies only count if you understand them,” Quinn noted and Sara smiled.
Nikolas’s wonder was undiminished. “If we do not understand, then we are not worthy of the prophecy,” he said stiffly. “Praise be to the Great Wyvern that such beauty exists.” He put his hand over his heart and bowed his head in an attitude of prayer.
Erik was still staring into the Dragon’s Egg, his features pale. “Louisa,” he whispered, raising his gaze to meet Rafferty’s. “It can’t be true.”
Rafferty knew that it was, no matter how Erik might wish for it to be otherwise. He didn’t remember all of Erik’s history, but suspected that his firestorm hadn’t been a success.
How lucky Erik was to have a second chance!
It was fitting, though, that the leader of the Pyr be proven before their greatest challenge. All the same, Rafferty knew that Erik might need his help.
“Stay with me in my lair in London,” he invited. “We’ll find your firestorm together.”
He was relieved when Erik, ever independent, nodded agreement.
The first firestorm had ended badly, then. Rafferty hoped with all his heart Erik and his mate could conquer their past.
excerpt ©2008 Claire Delacroix, Inc.