Whispers of Dragons (Taming Beasts 2) [Prologue-Chapter 1] PREVIEW
Prologue: Frozen Fire
Before the story of the Ice Mages and Kari and Ori and their war, there was Kari and Ori’s beginning, which most don’t desire to tell.
Born in between the lands of fire and ice were two brothers, one bearing fire and the other, ice. Kari and Ori were the names they chose where Kari meant ice and Ori meant fire, as spoken in the Dragonish tongue.
At first glance, they looked nothing alike, one with hair of snow, blindingly white, and the other with locks of darkness, just like the cinders of what he burned.
The world was once empty, void of any Dragons but them, just two brothers who loved each other and decided they were of the same blood.
Together they grew up, ate what they could find, and explored the empty lands until suddenly, just like that, a woman appeared before them, born of the hottest elements of the boiling lands.
Having never seen a woman, they stared, shocked, at the waves of dark hair falling to her back. Her body was different from theirs, with lumps on her chest, a thin waist, curved hips, and nothing below her waist.
Ori instantly felt his heart beat for the woman, so he offered his hand to the one with eyes just like him. And she took it, feeling drawn to him just as he was to her.
Unlike them, she never chose a name, so Ori gave her one, calling her Ri.
Ori then became close to her, more than he was with Kari. They even found vines and wrapped them around their wrists, showing they’d always be one.
Kari felt a little envious of their companionship. For some time, he left them, going back to the Ice lands.
While traveling, he found one just like Ri, but this one was sealed within the ice, with hair of snow just like him, eyes and lashes frozen shut, and lips blue.
Fascinated and longing for the same companionship Ori had found, he shifted to a Dragon and dragged the block of ice to the Fire Lands, where he watched the ice melt over time, hoping he too had found the one to wrap vines around his wrist with.
In the meantime, he returned home to his brother and Ri just to find her belly swollen and both living in a nest built of stone. So much had changed in the months he had disappeared.
In confusion and shock, Kari assumed Ri was dying, having never seen a midsection so distended, but Ori made his brother touch her belly. Underneath his palm, Kari felt a shimmer of movement.
Ori then explained to Kari about the act of lovemaking and how they were able to create more life within her.
Excitement brewed in the Ice Dragon, so he traveled back to where he’d left the woman embedded in ice. Instead of a frozen block, he found a beautiful woman, completely different from Ri. Fair hair, much like his. Skin pale and glistening from the melted water. Eyes brilliant blue. Long white lashes. Unlike Ori’s woman, her face was gentler, and the mounds on her chest were larger.
As Ori had done with Ri, he too offered his hand to the helpless woman still sitting, hoping she would take it, just like Ri did, but she didn't.
The woman just stared at him with wide eyes, confusion gracing her features.
Kari frowned and withdrew the hand-in-offering. He then sat there beside her, trying to get close, but to no avail.
She was different indeed.
Despite the woman seemingly not drawn to him, he named her, the word unique and cast from his lips so pleasantly.
It took hours of convincing, but she eventually followed Kari, going deep within the Fire Lands, despite how her body naturally protested against the elements.
If he did it, so could she. Or so Kari had thought.
The Ice Dragon yearned to show her off to his blood brother, but he was selfish in his ways, not even looking once behind him to check up on her.
On their arrival, they saw Ri holding a small Dragon within her arms, and at her side was Ori, whose dark claws were gently caressing the tender cheek of this tiny being.
Kari smiled, wanting one day for the woman beside him to deliver a small dragon, but when he turned to look at her expression, he noticed she wasn't focusing on the baby at all but on Ori. She was helplessly fascinated by the Dragon who bore fire.
Ori soon noticed the woman at Kari's side, his hand drawing away from the baby's cheek, and the first thing he did to greet the new woman was touch her long white hair.
Jealousy brewed within Kari secretly. Later that night, he claimed the maiden’s innocence, and when she screamed, his hand swallowed them all...
An aggravated voice calls out suddenly, and the storyteller’s words halt. His eyes move away from the large crowd to the back, where the King of Oria, Orval, stood tall, and beside him, his Queen Vrai. Snow falls gently around the couple, snowflakes that came from the Ice Lands or what is known as Yulor presently.
"How so, my King…?" the storyteller asks as he blows smoke out from his lips, his hand with the pipe resting on his lap.
Royalty...in a Theka village? The old man thinks tiredly, his words not finding a voice. They are unable to blend in with the crowd.
"This entire story is. First, fucking bullshit is the beginning. Ori and Kari were born in a castle by a Queen," growls the King. "And Kari was the one betrayed by humans."
The old man chuckles. "Well, I am a storyteller for a reason, my King."
How foolish of him… How does he think the castle was built, and how did the Queen get there, to begin with? It is the elements that birthed them Dragons. The storyteller muses to himself.
"Yes, but you can keep your shit tales to yourself and stop spreading lies about the Great Dragon Kari like that. You're lucky. In the capital, you would have been hanged by now. We're leaving." He tries to drag his Queen with him, but she digs her heels into the ground.
“I want to stay,” she whispers, her eyes of white rolling toward the King. “I want to hear the end.”
“Suit yourself. I will be nearby. Out of earshot of this shit story,” he reiterates as he departs, leaving the crowd behind but not moving too far from his wife.
So, the King is close to his Queen. The storyteller notes the fact, then clears his throat and continues with his story.
“After the loss of Rai’s innocence, the sun drew further away from the Fire Lands, and days became darker, signaling their winter had come.
Tied around the ice maiden’s wrist was the same vine Ori and Ri had, but unlike theirs, she had frozen hers, hating her now-husband Kari.
During the darkest days, she watched Oris and Ri’s baby grow bigger day by day, and she always lingered near the fire maiden, trying her best to stay away from Kari. She never spoke of his force or violence, uttering not a single word but keeping it all to herself.
Rai was quiet, secretly yearning for closeness with Ri’s husband, Ori. And despite Ori’s own love for his wife, his eyes kept drifting to the ice maiden, who was not meant for him but for his brother.
The two, despite all odds, grew close. At first, a friendship, then a romance bore between them, something that Ori had not felt for his wife or Rai for Kari.
They laid together many times, despite ice and fire not destined to entwine but meant to stay far apart, even the lands designing them that way.
On one of the many nights they spent together, Rai took soot from a bowl and drew on Ori’s face and body, labeling him a true leader, unlike Kari, and declaring that he would one day rule the lands.
Ori’s heart grew warm at her words, and he laid a kiss on her cold lips. But unbeknownst to them, Kari had been watching all this through a crack in the stone.
Filled with betrayal and wrath, he waited until his brother left to join Ri and their baby, then he stepped into the stone building Ori had built for Rai, now realizing the reason.
As Rai started dressing, Kari snuck up on her, grasping her from behind and slamming her against the stone, thereby confronting his wife about what he had just seen.
She had nothing to say to Kari, so she froze up. When she spoke no words to him, he grew outraged, plunging his fingers into her eyes and ripping them out.
She screamed and cried and fell to the ground, holding the empty orbs where her pale eyes had once been, blood spilling along with tears.
In his palm, Kari held her eyes, which had stared at Ori’s naked body one too many times. So, he froze them and shattered them against the ground.
Without vision, Rai was helpless. She tried to crawl away, to escape this torture, but she always had trouble shifting into a Dragon, unlike the others.
She had not gotten far from Kari when he grabbed her by the hair and dragged her outside her home. Her empty sockets streamed blood, soaking the clothes that she had dressed in and the ground she was wrenched upon.
He brought her to one of many cliffs of the land we now know as Oria and whispered the last words into her ear before shoving her hard.
"I tried to love you."
Rai fell back, plunging off the rockface, out of control. And her life ended short when she crashed onto the earth below, becoming nothing but a mashed pile of flesh and bones. A stain on the pristine surface.
Tears fell from Kari's eyes, turning to ice for the first time, and a coldness began instilling in his heart from that moment on. All he had was his blood brother.
Ori was devastated over her disappearance, and after days of searching for Rai, he found her remains at the bottom of the cliff. He cried and bellowed more than his own brother.
His wife Ri, never saying anything about the affair, didn't shed one tear over her friend's death. The only thing she did was console her husband.
Kari then left the Fire Lands, using his wife's death as an excuse, and he traveled far into the ice and snow, looking for a woman to replace what he’d destroyed but never finding anyone close.
Many ages passed, and Ori and his wife bore many children, a growing population of Dragons. In the memory of Rai’s words, he did not mark himself with tattoos, but he did for his children and only the strongest at that.
He was no leader without her.
From there on, they continued to build their civilization, but Ori never forgot Rai’s death. In the place she had died, he built the chambers of remembrance, a place where all royals are now laid to rest in Viss. Somewhere deep in the vault, hidden from all eyes, lies her body.
It wasn't until at least a thousand years had passed when Kari and Ori met again after her death, and with it came the discovery of humans. From there, you know the story of Kari's demise.
Did he deserve his death depends on whether you believe in my tale?"
The storyteller finishes his story, and his eyes linger on the Mage Queen instead of any other, while the crowd rumbles in a debate about whether it is true or false or if Kari deserved his fate dealt by the humans.
She, after hearing the silence of his voice, walks carefully back to the King, and as they speak, the King continuously frowns, disliking the story the old man had narrated.
The storyteller smirks slightly as the crowd tosses coins into his jar, but his eyes linger on the Royals, his eyes never straying.
How similar they were to Ori and Rai in the tale.
He wonders what the Queen herself thought. Her blindness made it hard to decipher what she was exactly thinking.
King Orval and Queen Vrai—he wished them a better life than that of their ancestors.
Chapter I: Half-Blooded Orc
It is cold here, just as I remember Yulor to be, though this is not my home country. This is still Oria, but I believe we are close to where Orval once snatched me as a Dragon and whisked me away to the fiery depths of the capital. It makes me think so much. If anyone else is in my position, surely they will yearn to go back home, but there is nothing I desire because everything I wished for while imprisoned in the tower is here.
So much has changed since then…
We walk together, and I am happy to be by his side, enjoying his attention, his warmth, and the tenor of his voice. Before it was not so much, but I am learning. His words and actions are cruel, but there is so much more to him than what he reveals. There is a heart he keeps so well hidden.
The snow crunches underneath our boots, and if I am too slow, the King lingers in wait for me, turning it into a slushy mess due to his magic. I find it rather cute, but I will never dare to speak the words out loud. He is sweet in many other ways. Too shy and proud to say he is cold, but I have not failed to notice his jackets are thicker, the material warmer, lined and trimmed with fur, all sensed from the subtle touches of our arms.
I embrace the nippy winds and the chilled air I inhale, yet I think how Yulor must suffer greatly this year, as winter is not yet near. Summer it is in Oria, yet at her borders, snow is continuously falling from the skies. Early this morning, it began, and it only grows stronger. Just like the storm, the storyteller's tale persists in my head, playing on a loop about Kari being evil and killing the first female Ice Dragon because her heart longed for Ori and his reciprocated.
Maybe he deserved to be slaughtered…
"Do you not think his story holds any truth?” I ask the King as we walk side by side, curious to know his thoughts.
"No," he says in response. "Not a word."
"Well… it's an interesting tale, right?"
"A hideous one. You have to be a gullible fool to believe any word a coin beggar speaks," he hisses out. "We spoke about this earlier, Mage. Why drag it on?"
"I want to hear your thoughts. I think it to be rather romantic when Rai drew on Ori's face, thus creating the reason why you Dragon men bear such markings on your face and body, a remembrance of his true love," I remark, going to reach up to touch his face, but he abruptly stops me, snatching my wrist.
"If you touch me here, it will make me seem weak," he hisses softly, tossing my arm back to my side. "Be careful with your actions. We're King and Queen, not regular husband and wife."
We are in a Theka village. Who is watching and judging us?
But I guess rumors spread quickly in this land. It reminds me of the time when he said he didn't want to appear weak by wearing a flower crown. I guess in some ways he would have appeared so, but I think if he had worn it, his people would have seen him to be more than a cold tyrant.
He walks in front of me, throwing orders around, "We have more traveling ahead. Hurry up and fill yourself with food instead of garbage tales, then we will depart to the Duke’s castle.”
"I'm not hungry yet," I murmur, not feeling the need to eat anything other than a simple craving for meat later...maybe. I'm not entirely sure what I want.
"You will eat, my Queen. I will not have a sickly child as my heir. Viggo told me three proper meals a day, and we have only been having two. And have you been taking those things he gave you? Vitamins?"
"I don't want to get sick. And, of course, I have," I assure him, worrying about how bad the nausea sometimes gets after I eat.
Perhaps because it was a child of fire magic. Aldis must have been this sickly too, only to be dealt with such a horrible fate afterward.
"Haven't you passed that stage?" he asks.
"From what the women have told me, yes…" I mutter. "But they also said it varies for everyone. Sometimes I still feel nauseous."
Maybe Dragon women and Mage women are different in this aspect. I know we are completely different when it comes to monthly blood and heats, so why not pregnancies?
"Well, you're eating, and if you get nauseous, you get nauseous. It's not good for the baby to skip meals."
Does the King truly know anything about pregnancy instead of what Viggo may have told him? I doubt it. He knew how to pleasure women, yes, but when it came to anything beyond that, I think he knows very little. His lack of experience has him fretting and guessing.
"Then I will eat." I sigh deeply.
If the child is sickly, he will certainly blame me for skipping meals, and this way, he can't.
"What do you want to eat? All the food around here is cheap or disgusting. The only thing I can tolerate is the bread." He grabs my upper arm and pulls me to a place where the smell of different foods grows stronger.
"I am fine with anything." The cold air reminds me of the times when I ate nothing but moldy bread and soup and warns me that I shouldn't be fussy. "But meat sounds appetizing."
"Meat, huh…? Then we will get you meat. That's a good sign you're going to have a boy."
"A boy…? It's only a craving."
"It's been said that if you eat a lot of meat, it is a boy, and if it's a girl, you eat a lot of pastries and bread."
"If that's the case, you should be happy. A boy—a prince—is what is wanted as your firstborn heir, is it not?"
"Yes, it is. Rhys and the council will be pleased if the child is indeed a boy. A good omen."
He doesn't seem to be genuinely happy about the child inside me being a boy, but he didn't want a child to begin with. So how can he be happy about either gender?
Will he even be like a father when he or she is born? Or will he ignore and only treat the child as someone who will take his place, no better than an apprentice? It concerns me. No one has taught him how to be a father, but the same could be said about me. I knew my mother for only a brief amount of time.
He drags me over to one of the vendors on the side of the street, and like always, the person with very little to no magic is awkward to see us. She stutters, "My King… My Queen… What can I do for you?"
"Get me whatever the meat on the stick is called," the King orders for me.
"Yes. Mirromice skewer," the woman replies quietly.
"Mirromice…as in the rodent?" He sounds disgusted and appalled by this. "Is that really what you are selling?”
"Yes." The woman’s voice cracks again. She is certainly afraid of him.
"Disgusting! You certainly will not be eating this. You will get some disease even if it's charred," he says to me. "We can find something else."
Before the King can turn down her offer completely and leave, there is a voice booming behind us. "Might I say, they're delicious. Rodent or not. They have plenty of meat, along with grease and spice on them to match anything a King or a Queen has ever tasted. It is the same with raven hearts coated in chocolate. Delicacies around here. You two should try them."
I turn slightly, and the man with a loud voice shoves in between me and the King, which makes the King growl, "Orc…"
I am a bit surprised by the stranger's brash decision to come between us like this when others have been so hesitant even to approach us in the village. In the capital too, there are none who behave like him. Shockingly more, he places one of his hands on my shoulder, and I feel a chill run down my spine. His hands...they're ice cold.
Looking up, all I can perceive is a large mass of magic hovering over me, and it is just like his stature—tall, huge, and thunderous. He even looms over the King, who I, so far, believed to be tall. He has done well to ignore the King's comment about his species, but his silence in this matter, I do not think, is from respect or fear.
He has ice magic, but that is impossible. He is an Orc…maybe a halfling then?
A Mage and an Orc… It is a little hard to imagine the coupling, but I assume such things have happened, and somehow, he has landed himself in a Theka village in Oria.
"I will have ten of the Mirrormice, little miss." He hums a little too cheerfully about his decision to purchase an overabundance of food. "Oh, you only have thirteen? Let me just get them off your hands, buy them all."
I start to remember Ava and Catherine's discussion about Orcs, especially their appetite, with Ava saying they were disgusting people while Catherine informed me that she used to date one in the past. This Orc, at least, isn't smelly, as I imagined. Actually rather clean.
"Get your disgusting hand off me, or I will burn it," the King snaps after seconds pass, his temper showing itself.
"Oops…my bad." The Orc chuckles lackadaisically, and I assume he lifts his hand off his shoulder but not mine. "I forget Kings are always so...what's the word for it...touchy. Get it? Because you don't like to be touched?"
I then hear coins clattering against the wooden table as the woman murmurs reluctantly, "Here is your food."
She wants no part in our discussions.
"Thank you. Always a pleasure doing business with you, little miss. When you're done tending to others for the day, I have some needs for you to take care of as well. Feel free to meet me by the red house. That's where all the young ones go to hook up," the Orc reveals.
Flirting? Is he actually flirting with her? Here, in front of the King and me? He lacks manners, not that I care, but I’m sure the King’s temper has only grown worse.
The red house... I wonder if that is something equivalent to a whore house around here.
"Oh—" is all the shop vendor says, unsure what more to utter at his blatant flirting and his attempt to treat her like a whore. If I were her, I would have been offended.
"And this is for you, my Queen. A gift from me to you, as obviously your King does not feed you well." Something warm pushes against my lips. If the King wasn't already mad, he is now, his magic flaring and spiking at the Orc’s audacity. I grow immediately concerned about how this situation will play out.
I grab what is shoved against my mouth, the taste of salt and spice delicious on my lower lip as my tongue flicks out, getting the flavor.
This is exactly what I want.
My fingers wrap around the stick, and I'm unsure if I should say thank you or not. If I do, I’ll surely enrage the King further.
"Just because other women do not want you, it does not mean that you should go for my blind wife right before my eyes, the one who cannot see all your ugliness and whom you think will be dumb enough to fall for your odd words and gifts," he hisses out a warning as he moves back to my side and throws the Orc's hand off my shoulder.
Did he really think I would fall for a man because he gave me food and spoke a few words…? How insulting of the King. The two of them are dreadfully awful.
The Orc retains his happy-go-lucky mood and speaks with his mouth full of food, his magic leaning toward Orval. "Oh, you're mistaken, little King. My interest does not lie in such skinny and small-waisted women. I was only being respectful. Women are a gift, soft and lovely with their sounds and their curves."
I can only imagine that talking so close, without chewing, would have caused spit and unchewed food to fly onto the King's face.
Is that his intention? To pick a fight with the King?
The King's Dragon starts to wake up when it has been so sleepy and peaceful in all our travels. I watch it bare its fangs toward the large mass of ice magic. Its red eyes burn in the darkness, and the air around it sizzles with a flash of heat. Nostrils flare and jaws part to reveal eager teeth seeking to mutilate.
"I only tolerate you beastly Orcs because you cook well, and I have placed some of your people to work in the capital, but I do not welcome anything or anyone from the Ice Lands, half or not. Disgusting and vile you are. I will have you hanged in this very Theka village for daring to disrespect me to this degree," the King yells, his ire getting him fired up.
Fire blazes out around his Dragon as it wakes up some more, and his magic targets the Orc, but ice magic counters it, much to my surprise.
The Orc knows how to use his magic then. He backs away, still chewing and eating his food. "Ooo...scary. I thought all Kings were all bark and no bite," he mocks him further, ice falling and exploding against the ground. Just as powerful as mine or one of the royals from Yulor.
Could he perhaps be a part of the royal family like me…? A bastard?
"So, is your wife not welcomed, either? Disgusting and vile, huh? I see how it is. I guess he does treat you poorly, but I’d assumed so earlier too. How could something like him be with a little Ice Mage like you? I mean, look at the bruise on your forehead."
Bruise? Oh, that still hasn't healed?
"Shut your fucking mouth, you beast," the King shouts as he steps forward in anger, unsheathing his sword, ready to go in for the Orc’s blood. I grab his arm, apparently never learning from my past mistakes, but this time no burns come from it, his magic automatically dispersing upon my touch.
Did he do that on his own, I wonder…?
"Whoa, Whoa!" The Orc exclaims loudly, but his tone never changes, even in the face of the King's complete seriousness. "Didn't mean to be disrespectful to you, little man or well, King. I'm just stating the obvious. Take care now. Sorry about the spit. I just get over-excited about…you know…food, and I forget my manners." He begins to laugh, but his magic fades away, and so does his voice as I hold on to the King's arm tightly.
"Why did you stop me from teaching the Orc a lesson? I would have had him burned alive and used his charred corpse as a decoration in the village, giving this place some overly due sunshine," the King growls, wrenching his arm away from me.
"People are already afraid of you...your own people," I murmur. "Do you want to make it worse by murdering someone over such a simple dispute or disrespect?"
Not to mention, the Orc has Ice Magic like my own, and the King has not yet completely healed from my own ice, which did enough damage to him. He may try to hide it, but I know he has been favoring one arm over the other.
The King just clicks his tongue and doesn't respond to me, just walks forward. "We're going now. Enjoy your wonderful disease-riddled food given by some gross Orc who spat on me."
Jealousy…? Is that what I'm hearing in his voice? I don't think I’ve ever heard the King like this.
I follow his magic and take a bite of what is considered garbage in the King's eyes. Much to my surprise, it is good, like the Orc told us.
I chew and swallow, the flavor like nothing I’ve ever had before at the castle. I grab onto the King, trying to lighten the mood and push it to his mouth. "Try it."
"No, it looks disgusting, and I don't want anything he has given you, Mage," he grumbles, forcing my hand away. "Now stop pushing it to my lips, or I will burn it to cinders, and you will have nothing."
He likes threatening to burn people and things, it seems. Not to mention hanging people.
"Just take a bite, and I will leave you alone. I'm embarrassing you, aren't I?" I whisper delicately, still holding my hand out somewhere by his face, despite his shoves, knowing he hates being made a spectacle in the public’s eye.
He growls at me and hisses one last time as he grabs my hand to bring the food to his mouth. "I do not respond well to idle threats. But heed my warning, I will return the favor of embarrassing you, and it will be much worse than making you taste food you do not wish to try."
I hear him rip a piece of meat from the stick, and I bring my arm back down to my level, not forcing him to try some more. I ask, "Well?"
He scoffs after he swallows. "Just like I told you about the storyteller. It is awful and revolting. This is not good food."
I want to laugh, as I know that when the King does not like something, he spits it out almost immediately. He does such things frequently at the castle, but here he swallows it, which means he enjoys the food. Never has he attempted to pretend. He cares not if others see him spitting food out.
"Ok, and I look forward to your revenge," I say in a teasing manner as I continue to eat.
I follow his magic back to the carriage.
I like his teasing… This is new.
I hear him chuckle but not loudly, "Oh, I'm sure you will, Mage. I almost guarantee it."
TO BE CONTINUED IN WHISPERS OF DRAGONS (TAMING BEASTS 2)
DECEMBER 23, 2022