Rise of the Dragons Kings and Sorcerers Book 1 Chapter 1

Rise of the Dragons (Kings and Sorcerers, #1) by Morgan Rice

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Rise of the Dragons Kings and Sorcerers Book 1 Chapter 1

Kyra stood atop the grassy knoll, the frozen ground hard beneath her boots, snow falling around her, and
tried to ignore the biting cold as she raised her bow and focused on her target. She narrowed her eyes, shutting
out the rest of the world—a gale of wind, the sound of a distant crow—and forced herself to see only the skinny
birch tree, far-off, stark-white, standing out amidst the landscape of purple pine trees. At forty yards, this was
just the sort of shot her brothers couldn’t make, that even her father’s men couldn’t make—and that made her all
the more determined—she being the youngest of the bunch, and the only girl amongst them.
Kyra had never fit in. A part of her wanted to, of course, wanted to do what was expected of her and spend
time with the other girls, as was her place, attending to domestic affairs; but deep down, it was not who she
was. She was her father’s daughter, had a warrior’s spirit, like he, and she would not be contained to the stone
walls of their stronghold, would not succumb to a life beside a hearth. She was a better shot than these
men—indeed, she could already outshoot her father’s finest archers—and she would do whatever she had to to
prove to them all—most of all, her father—that she deserved to be taken seriously. Her father loved her, she
knew, but he refused to see her for who she was.
Kyra did her best training far from the fort, out here on the plains of Volis, alone—which suited her well, since
she, the only girl in a fort of warriors, had learned to be alone. She had taken to retreating here every day, her
favorite spot, high atop the plateau overlooking the fort’s rambling stone walls, where she could find good trees,
skinny trees hard to hit. The thwack of her arrows had become an ever-present sound echoing over the village;
not a tree up here had been spared from her arrows, their trunks scarred, some trees already leaning.
Most of her father’s archers, Kyra knew, took aim at the mice that covered the plains; when she had first
started, she had tried that herself, and had found she could kill them quite easily. But that had sickened her. She
was fearless, but sensitive, too, and killing a living thing with no purpose displeased her. She had vowed then
that she would never take aim at a living thing again—unless it were dangerous, or attacking her, like the
Wolfbats that emerged at night and flew too close to her father’s fort. She had no qualms about dropping them,
especially after her younger brother, Aidan, suffered a Wolfbat bite that left him ill for half a moon. Besides, they
were the fastest moving creatures out there, and she knew that if she could hit one, especially at night, then she
could hit anything. She had once spent an entire night by a full moon firing away from her father’s tower, and
had run out eagerly at sunrise, thrilled to see scores of Wolfbats littering the ground, her arrows still in them,
villagers crowding around and looking with amazed faces.
Kyra forced herself to focus. She played through the shot in her mind’s eye, seeing herself raising her bow,
pulling it back quickly to her chin and releasing without hesitation. The real shooting, she knew, happened
before the shot. She had witnessed too many archers her age, on their fourteenth year, draw their strings and
waver—and she knew then that their shots were lost. She took a deep breath, raised her bow, and in one
decisive motion, pulled back and released. She did not even need to look to know she had hit the tree.
A moment later she heard its thwack—but she had already turned away, already looking for another target,
one further off.
Kyra heard a whining at her feet and she looked down at Leo, her wolf, walking beside her as he always did,
rubbing against her leg. A full-grown wolf, nearly up to her waist, Leo was as protective of Kyra as Kyra was of
him, the two of them an inseparable sight in her father’s fort. Kyra could not go anywhere without Leo hurrying
to catch up. And all that time he clung to her side—unless a squirrel or rabbit crossed his path, in which case he
could disappear for hours.
“I didn’t forget you, boy,” Kyra said, reaching into her pocket and handing Leo the leftover bone from the
day’s feast. Leo snatched it, trotting happily beside her.
As Kyra walked, her breath emerging in mist before her, she draped her bow over her shoulder and breathed
into her hands, raw and cold. She crossed the wide, flat plateau and looked out. From this vantage point she
could see the entire countryside, the rolling hills of Volis, usually green but now blanketed in snow, the province
of her father’s stronghold, nestled in the northeastern corner of the kingdom of Escalon. From up here Kyra had
a bird’s-eye view of all the goings-on in her father’s fort, the comings and goings of the village folk and warriors,
another reason she liked it up here. She liked to study the ancient, stone contours of her father’s fort, the
shapes of its battlements and towers stretching impressively through the hills, seeming to sprawl forever. Volis
was the tallest structure in the countryside, some of its buildings rising four stories and framed by impressive
layers of battlements. It was completed by a circular tower on its far side, a chapel for the folk, but for her, a
place to climb and look out at the countryside and be alone. The stone complex was ringed by a moat, spanned
by a wide main road and an arched stone bridge; this, in turn, was ringed by layers of impressive outer
embankments, hills, ditches, walls—a place befitting one of the King’s most important warriors—her father.
Though Volis, the final stronghold before The Flames, was several days’ ride from Andros, Escalon’s capital,
it was still home to many of the former King’s famed warriors. It had also become a beacon, a place that had
become home to the hundreds of villagers and farmers that lived in or near its walls, under its protection.
Kyra looked down at the dozens of small clay cottages nestled in the hills on the outskirts of the fort, smoke
rising from chimneys, farmers hurrying to and fro as they prepared for winter, and for the night’s festival. The
fact that villagers felt safe enough to live outside the main walls, Kyra knew, was a sign of great respect for her
father’s might, and a sight unseen elsewhere in Escalon. After all, they were a mere horn sounding away from
protection, from the instant rallying of all her father’s men.
Kyra looked down at the drawbridge, always packed with throngs of people—farmers, cobblers, butchers,
blacksmiths, along with, of course, warriors—all rushing from fort to countryside and back again. For within the
fort’s walls was not only a place to live and train, but also an endless array of cobblestone courtyards which had
become a gathering place for merchants. Every day their stalls were lined up, people selling their wares,
bartering, showing off the day’s hunt or catch, or some exotic cloth or spice or candy traded from across the
sea. The courtyards of the fort were always filled with some exotic smell, be it of a strange tea, or a cooking
stew; she could get lost in them for hours. And just beyond the walls, in the distance, her heart quickened to see
the circular training ground for her father’s men, Fighter’s Gate, and the low stone wall surrounding it, and she
watched with excitement as his men charged in neat lines with their horses, trying to lance targets—shields
hanging from trees. She ached to train with them.
Kyra suddenly heard a voice cry out, one as familiar to her as her own, coming from the direction of the
gatehouse, and she turned, immediately on alert. There was a commotion in the crowd, and she watched as
through the bustle, spilling out of the throng and out onto the main road, there emerged her younger brother,
Aidan, led by her two older brothers, Brandon and Braxton. Kyra tensed, on guard. She could tell from the
sound of distress in her baby brother’s voice that their older brothers were up to no good.
Kyra’s eyes narrowed as she watched her older brothers, feeling a familiar anger rise up within her and
unconsciously tightening her grip on her bow. There came Aidan, marched between them, each taller by a foot,
each grabbing his arm and dragging him unwillingly away from the fort and into the countryside. Aidan, a small,
thin, sensitive boy, barely ten, looked extra vulnerable sandwiched between his two brothers, overgrown brutes
of seventeen and eighteen. They all had similar features and coloring, with their strong jaws, proud chins, dark
brown eyes, and wavy brown hair—though Brandon and Braxton wore theirs cropped short, while Aidan’s still
fell, unruly, past his eyes. They all looked alike—and none like her, with her light blonde hair and light gray eyes.
Dressed in her woven tights, woolen tunic, and cloak, Kyra was tall and thin, too pale, she was told, with a broad
forehead and a small nose, blessed with striking features that had led more than one man to look twice.
Especially now that she was turning fifteen, she noticed the looks increasing.
It made her uncomfortable. She did not like calling attention to herself, and she did not view herself as
beautiful. She cared nothing for looks—only for training, for valor, for honor. She would rather have resembled
her father, as her brothers did, the man she admired and loved more than anyone in the world, than have her
dainty features. She always checked the mirror for something of himself in her eyes, yet no matter how hard she
looked, she could not find it.
“I said, get off of me!” Aidan shouted, his voice carrying all the way up here.
At her baby brother’s call of distress, a boy who Kyra loved more than anyone in the world, she stood ramrod
straight, like a lion watching its cub. Leo, too, stiffened, the hair rising on his back. With their mother long gone,
Kyra felt obliged to watch over Aidan, to make up for the mother he never had.
Brandon and Braxton dragged him roughly down the road, away from the fort, on the lone country road
toward the distant wood, and she saw them trying to get him to wield a spear, one too big for him. Aidan had
become a too-easy target for them to pick on; Brandon and Braxton were bullies. They were strong and
somewhat brave, but they had more bravado than real skills, and they always seemed to get into trouble they
could not quite get out of themselves. It was maddening.
Kyra realized what was happening: Brandon and Braxton were dragging Aidan with them on one of their
hunts. She spotted the sacks of wine in their hands and knew they’d been drinking, and she fumed. It was not
enough that they were going to kill some senseless animal, but now they were dragging their younger brother
along with them, despite his protests.
Kyra’s instincts kicked in and she leapt into action, running downhill to confront them, Leo running by her
side.
“You’re old enough now,” Brandon said to Aidan.
“It’s past time you became a man,” Braxton said.
Bounding down the grass hills she knew by heart, it did not take Kyra long to catch up to them. She ran out
onto the road and stopped before them, blocking their path, breathing hard, Leo beside her, and her brothers all
stopped short, looking back, stunned.
Aidan’s face, she could see, fell in relief.
“Are you lost?” Braxton mocked.
“You’re blocking our way,” Brandon said. “Go back to your arrows and your sticks.”
The two of them laughed derisively, but she frowned, undeterred, as Leo, beside her, snarled.
“Get that beast away from us,” Braxton said, trying to sound brave but fear apparent in his voice as he
tightened his grip on his spear.
“And where do you think you’re taking Aidan?” she asked, dead serious, looking back at them without
flinching.
They paused, their faces slowly hardening.
“We’re taking him wherever we please,” Brandon said.
“He’s going on a hunt to learn to become a man,” Braxton said, emphasizing that last word as a dig to her.
But she would not give in.
“He’s too young,” she replied firmly.
Brandon scowled.
“Says who?” he asked.
“Says me.”
“And are you his mother?” Braxton asked.
Kyra flushed, filled with anger, wishing their mother was here now more than ever.
“As much as you are his father,” she replied.
They all stood there in the tense silence, and Kyra looked to Aidan, who looked back with scared eyes.
“Aidan,” she asked him, “is this something you wish to do?”
Aidan looked down at the ground, ashamed. He stood there, silent, avoiding her glance, and Kyra knew he
was afraid to speak out, to provoke the disapproval of his older brothers.
“Well, there you have it,” Brandon said. “He doesn’t object.”
Kyra stood there, burning with frustration, wanting Aidan to speak up but unable to force him.
“It is unwise for you to bring him on your hunt,” she said. “A storm brews. It will be dark soon. The wood is
filled with danger. If you want to teach him to hunt, take him when he’s older, on another day.”
They scowled back, annoyed.
“And what do you know of hunting?” Braxton asked. “What have you hunted beside those trees of yours?”
“Any of them bite you lately?” Brandon added.
They both laughed, and Kyra burned, debating what to do. Without Aidan speaking up, there wasn’t much
she could do.
“You worry too much, sister,” Brandon finally said. “Nothing will happen to Aidan on our watch. We want to
toughen him up a bit—not kill him. Do you really imagine you’re the only one who cares for him?”
“Besides, Father is watching,” Braxton said. “Do you want to disappoint him?”
Kyra immediately looked up over their shoulders, and high up, in the tower, she spotted her father standing
at the arched, open-aired window, watching. She felt supreme disappointment in him for not stopping this.
They tried to brush past, but Kyra stood there, doggedly blocking their way. They looked as if they might
shove her, but Leo stepped between them, snarling, and they thought better of it.
“Aidan, it’s not too late,” she said to him. “You don’t have to do this. Do you wish to return to the fort with
me?”
She examined him and could see his eyes tearing, but she could also see his torment. A long silence
passed, with nothing to break it up but the howling wind and the quickening snow.
Finally, he squirmed.
“I want to hunt,” he muttered half-heartedly.
Her brothers suddenly brushed past her, bumping her shoulder, dragging Aidan, and as they hurried down
the road, Kyra turned and watched, a sickening feeling in her stomach.
She turned back to the fort and looked up at the tower, but her father was already gone.
Kyra watched as her three brothers faded from view, into the brewing storm, toward the Wood of Thorns,
and she felt a pit in her stomach. She thought of snatching Aidan and bringing him back—but she did not want
to shame him.
She knew she should let it go—but she could not. Something within her would not allow her to. She sensed
danger, especially on the eve of the Winter Moon. She did not trust her elder brothers; they would not harm
Aidan, she knew, but they were reckless, and too rough. Worst of all, they were overconfident in their skills. It
was a bad combination.
Kyra could stand it no longer. If her father wouldn’t act, then she would. She was old enough now—she did
not need to answer to anyone but herself.
Kyra burst into a jog, running down the lone country path, Leo by her side, and heading right for the Wood of
Thorns.

Check:  Rise of the Dragons Kings and Sorcerers Book 1 Chapter 2

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