I had a handle on things, then the dragons showed up.
On the average day, I juggle the human and magical worlds with a reasonable amount of skill. Based on the dude exhaling sparks in front of me, today isn’t most days.
I’m Cleopatra O’Keefe, a one jigger juggernaut holding the line between the worlds while slinging drinks and using a symbiont book to help me parse these human, magical, and omnipotent miscreants. I’m just one woman, people. Reality much?
Dragon-human hookups are impossible, but Sparky is as real as I am. Poseidon and his ratty red speedo are MIA, and the incoming info all points to the dragons. My question is, are dragons the bad guys or are Olympians pulling my chain? Their track record kinda sucks.
The Speedo is down. Crud. Day 6,935 of the weirdest job on the planet.
Here’s an excerpt!
Apollo drained his drink and waggled a finger at me for number three. Awesome. I lifted the cask, filled his goblet, and shot Clep a quick glance. A single negative shake and I got busy tucking away the mead before turning to refill Glenna and Chelsea. Two furrows between Chelsea’s red eyebrows sent my stomach in a flip.
“What? I know that look.”
Behind me, the door opened, sulfur’s scent washing into The Boogey in a wave of doom.
Holy crap. Oh sh*t, oh sh*t, oh sh*t.
Ballard and I, after reading enough witch-based dragon lore to scare the living crap out of us, yanked a plan in place. In between the gore and gloom, one book spoke of honor in the Thundra, what a group of dragons call themselves, and a code of behavior.
One term, venterim, was what I’m staking my life on today. In the magical world, when different races respect one another, en venterim, they stand in a truce. Only in the act of disrespect would the battle commence. This saved tons of bloodshed, and dragons, in their law, also observed the practice. Ballard found information that as the oldest shifting race, the original dragon’s lore, instinct may be a better word, was baked into the blood. It was all I had. Time to jump bare-assed into next.
“Good evening, citizen of magic. Please join us. Could I get you a drink?”
Apollo’s eyes watched my face.
The man stumbled, hiccuped, and a shower of sparks shot from his nose.
“That’s new,” he muttered. “Got any beer? It’s f*cking hot in here.”
“Ice cold,” I pushed one across as Chelsea wagged a finger and the glass frosted.
“I’m Patra. Welcome to The Boogey.”
A nod, followed by a red glow flushing his cheeks, and he downed the beer in a single chug.
“Yeah. Name’s Drago. Wanna find a chick, calls herself the Keeper. The f*ck? It’s like she’s decided she’s president or something. Wonder where that came from, you know. Why her?”
Chelsea opened her mouth, but I saw Glenna’s elbow jab into her out of the corner of my eye. Alrighty then. On me.
“The Keeper didn’t choose the job.” I pushed another magically iced beer across the bar. “Keepers are chosen.”
To my relief, the mess in front of me was returning to a normal skin color. Maybe this venterim thing was working.
“The Vapors. They choose the Keeper and have since the beginning of the record.”
“How do I meet them?”
“They are an ancient race. They are everywhere, but they don’t have bodies.”
“Yeah? F*cking convenient to become the boss of the world because of a damn mist. Sounds like bull to me.”
Drago’s skin lit from within, a faint reddish glow that deepened.
“I hear you. It’s been a crazy few months.” I sucked in air. My guest resembled a fire pit with legs. “But we’re glad you are here and welcome you with respect.”
The red mitigated a smidge.
“OK, so if I want to meet the Keeper, I come here?”
Sh*t. If I don’t identify myself, it’s disrespectful. If I do, Flambe’ Boy might decide to fight, and Hades knows I’m not ready for a showdown.
Oh, well, so much for strategic thinking, Clep. Welcome to the seat of my pants party.
“You’ve been talking to the Keeper. That’s me, and it’s why I’m happy you’re here. We accept every race, including emerging ones, to the Triune.”
Heat warming my cheeks, I leaned closer.
“I’m not in charge of the Triune, Drago, just responsible for helping it come together with equity for every partner. Not the same thing.”
He sat for a moment as the witches rested their arms on the bar, ready.
“Seems like a missed opportunity to me, Blondie. Why not grab what’s there if you’re powerful enough to take it?”
He was radiating a continual pulse of red, and I retreated a couple of steps, holding his gaze.
“Because that dishonors centuries of Keepers. I’m not the first, but the latest in a long line.”
His nod of agreement dissolved into a frenzied shake. Fire raced from his throat, along his arms, and across his trunk, forming a blaze on top of his gonads.
That’s going to get his attention when he comes to.
Quaking, his head tipped back and a roar like nothing I’d ever witnessed shook The Boogey. Apollo looked up, sipped his mead, and glanced at Clep.
Drago shrunk inward as I hit the floorboards. A blast of fire exploded in every direction, including The Boogey’s roof; Drago blew straight through the gaping, fiery hole in the ceiling. The gods drank, impervious, and Chelsea and Glenna cast protective bubbles around themselves, making frantic casts to extinguish the inferno. As soon as a path to the front door cleared, I ran out, jumped on my emergency ladder and slid/fell onto the sand.
A cindered Drago lay on the beach, crispy and moaning.
“Do you need medical attention, Drago? Help is near.”
His eyes, hazel when he arrived at The Boogey, opened, glinting a frightening yellow.
Changed, he’s transformed. Dear gods.
“I don’t think anyone can fix me, Blondie, but I could sure use a snack.”
Clep shimmered onto the beach and knelt, taking stock. “Your impetus is upon you; it’s time to seek help from our magical world.”
“You’re a shifter, and impetus is the rise of your symbiont to equal status within your body.”
“Who the hell are you?” Drago’s anger shook his body, and he blasted fire at Clep’s face as I ducked, fingers snatching sand, scuttling sideways like the world’s dorkiest crab.
Clep laid a finger on Drago’s crispy chest, pushing as he screamed.
“I’m a god.” Clep’s mild tone covered the shrieks. “Don’t f*ck with me.”
Snag Speedo Down, live on Apple, Amazon and others, or order a paperback copy via B4R and I’ll sign it for you. 😉