The Adamantine Palace

Free The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas

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Authors: Stephen Deas
Tags: Fantasy
have to do is skirt Drotan's Top, which is hardly a difficult thing to do. But which one of them did this?
    She dismissed Valgar at once, since there was no way he'd be able to hide a white dragon without either her or Almiri finding out about it. Hyram then? She'd mistrusted him enough that she hadn't brought the white to the Adamantine Palace. The old Hyram, he might have done something like this...
    But...
    She shook her head, trying not to think of the broken and pathetic thing that had masqueraded as Speaker of the Realms. Maybe not Hyram. This new Queen Zafir? Audacious, perhaps, to start a war within days of gaining your crown, but she wouldn't be the first. Or Valmeyan, the King of the Crags?
    She paced back and forth. Valmeyan. Yes. Easy to hurl the blame at a reclusive king who hadn't left his mountain strongholds for more than twenty years and showed no interest in the affairs of the other realms. Not so easy to prove, though, and not so easy to exact retribution against a king who has more dragons than any other two of us put together. Shezira snorted. She didn't even know where Valmeyan's eyrie was. One rumour said far to the south, close to the sea and King Tyan's realm. Another rumour said it was much closer, near the source of the Fury River, only a day from Drotan's Top. Other rumours said other things. She would have to find out.
    'Mother!'
    Shezira shook herself back to the present. Jaslyn was standing rigid in front of her, looking as angry as ever.
    'Jaslyn.'
    'You called Silence down. What do you want, mother?'
    Shezira glared. 'Go back to the eyrie,' she snapped. 'Go now, and do not stop until you get there. Tell them that Orcus is dead, and most likely Titan and Thorn as well. Do not tell them anything else. Then bring every hunting dragon I have back with you. Jehal can take his pick as a wedding gift, and I do not care which one it is or who it belongs to. The rest I will send back here and they will scour these mountains. We will need another alchemist as well, and supplies to keep a dozen dragons and their riders out here in the wilds for as long as it takes.'
    Jaslyn shook her head. 'Send your knight-marshal. I shall stay here until all our dragons are found.'
    'You will not! I am your queen, daughter, and you will not forget it! You will do as I say now, and when you return from Outwatch, you will fly with me to watch your sister wed! You will have no part of this search.'
    They stared at each other, mother and daughter, anger burning the air between them. Finally Jaslyn cast her eyes to the ground. 'If you find who did this to Orcus, I want them to burn,' she hissed. '1 want to see them burn.'
    Shezira nodded. 'At last something on which we agree. Obey my command and I'll grant you that wish.'
    Jaslyn marched back to her mount, and Shezira watched her go. You got all that was worthwhile out of Antros but without his stupidity. Such a pity you insist on spending all your time with dragons. You could have made someone a good queen. You could have had my throne when I take Hyram's ring. You'd do better than Almiri will.
    She sighed and clenched her fists. All around, her riders were about the business of setting up a camp. At other times she liked these nights with the stars over her head, with no maids waiting on her hand and foot. Not tonight, though. Tonight her dragon-knights would circle grimly overhead while she slept -- if she slept -- on watch for a mysterious enemy who would, likely as not, never appear.
    The sun set and Shezira retired to her tent. She tossed and turned and snatched a few meagre hours of fitful rest. When she rose, she almost sent them all back to Drotan's Top. Staying out here, so exposed, was dangerous. It's what Antros would have done, though. Perhaps that was why she stayed. She didn't know.
    They found Thorn two days later, riderless but unharmed. The day after that they found Titan. The white, though, had vanished, and by the time Jaslyn returned with a dozen more

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