The Roc lifted her five feet and two inches frame with ease. As he manhandled her toward the safety railing which lined the gantry beneath the Dragonship’s hundred-and-fifty-foot hydrogen balloon, Lia saw the unmistakable profile of Ha’athior Island’s double volcanic cone abaft their starboard beam. Ahead and several miles below lay a tiny side-volcano, nestled against its parent like a Dragon hatchling taking comfort against an enormous mother’s flank. After that? Crimson-tinged Cloudlands lapped unbroken from the Islands to the horizon’s skirts, a deathly carpet clothed in immeasurable, brooding majesty.
Strange. She had always wanted to experience Dragon flight.
The touch of cool metal against her back provoked a sudden, final outpouring of strength. Reaching behind her, Hualiama caught her long braid in her fingertips.
“Any birthday wishes, little Lia?” chuckled Captain Ra’aba.
“Rot in–” she inhaled sharply, choking on blood “–a Cloudlands hell.” Reaching up, Lia jabbed her three-inch long, razor-sharp hairpin into his windpipe, several inches below his left jawbone.
He wheezed, “You …”
As Ra’aba recoiled, the flailing of his arms tumbled her over the edge. Lia screamed endlessly as she fell through the ruddy beams of a perfect Fra’aniorian suns-set.
Marc is the bestselling author of 12 fantasy novels. Aranya and The Pygmy Dragon are full of dragons, battles and romance, and are set in a unique island-world above the toxic cloudlands. He's also the author of a bestselling African historical fantasy series set in ancient Ethiopia.
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