Size: 5.00 x 8.00 in
Fate and a dragon unite two men in a battle for love, magic, the march of time, and holiday joy.
In a time of tall-masted ships and hand-made lives, a Guardian and a sailor find true love and their fates in each other. But romance, and a future together must wait, for duty calls. In a battle against dragons, can they seize victory in time to rescue the magic of Darknight and deliver holiday joy to a world that can no longer find its own way?
All Reo Faramund plans for the evening is to take his son Pariso to the Festival of Lights in Sailor’s Cove, their home when they’re not out to sea on the tall-masted merchant ship, Mighty Hawk. Then, in less than a blink, the festival, the town, and the life he knows all vanish. When they find themselves high on a wintry mountain, Reo fears for their lives until an extraordinary stranger comes out of the night to offer help.
First Guardian Jael Kohlinor patrols high up on Mount Lucia’s flank, his sole purpose to make sure no Flatlanders find out about Lucia, a tiny country hidden in a fold of time where a dragon named Nicholas presides over a bloom of dragon eggs that yields gems and riches every Darknight solstice. Without the Darknight cache, Nicholas can’t deliver holiday wonders across time, and time itself will suffer the consequences. When Jael finds Reo and Pariso shocked and shivering in the winter cold on the night before Darknight, he contemplates wiping their memories and getting them off the mountain, which is what the need for secrecy dictates. But invisible bonds pull Jael toward Reo like fate, and defying all rules he takes the strangers in out of the cold.
Unknown to anyone on Mount Lucia, strange and greedy dragons are already winging toward Lucia with plans to steal Nicholas’s wealth. Jael and Reo might have a future, a family, a fated love, but only if they can first save Darknight.
- 1 To Be Read list
Publisher: Independently Published
Tropes: Fated Mates, Found Family, Interspecies Adoption, Reluctant Hero
Word Count: 37,000
Setting: Mountain hidden in a fold of time
Languages Available: English
Two days before Winter’s Darknight Solstice
In a land hidden in a fold of time…
High on Mount Lucia’s northeastern flank, Nicholas stretched his tired, ancient, dragon wings to the heavens and breathed deep, refreshing himself with the crisp purity of the starlit night. With dragonsight, he watched in his mind’s eye as the young Guardian, Jael made his patrol rounds along the upper perimeter of the mountain. He was good at his job, but Nick wasn’t sure he was happy spending night after night circling the mountain looking for threats that never developed.READ MORE
Funny thing was, he didn’t have to do the patrols at all. He wasn’t just a Guardian; he was First Guardian—in charge of the whole agency. He’d told Nicholas that he included himself in the patrol roster because he wanted all those in his command to see him taking on his share of the hardest work. Nick thought that was the half-truth Jael told himself. Patrol duty occupied Jael’s time and kept him away from home, where he felt deeply the absence of a mate. He had loneliness written all over him.
That was all as it should be, though. Jael’s discontent meant he was ready for the events that very soon would change his life, events set in motion a long time ago—at least as humans measure time. Nicholas knew about this, because he was the one who’d done the setting in motion, and he would be the one to tip the magical scales toward change this very night.
After a time, he released the sight, sighing as he sank into human form to sit beside his beloved Ani. Why she preferred this limited form to the glory of the dragon, he’d never understand. But he loved her, so he spent plenty of time with two legs, no wings, and the soft, vulnerable hide of humankind. After centuries that couldn’t be counted, he was rather used to it, and it had grown comfortable.
Ani put her wrinkled but strong hand on his knee, and he enfolded her in a protective, but equally wrinkled arm.
She nudged him. “You’re thinking about that pair of fated mates, again.”
“Yes. The ship is ready, and she needs a captain. Time for our sailor, Reo, to come home, and meet Jael.”
“And he’ll bring the little dragon.” Ani’s eyes twinkled. “It was a very dragonish thing you did, those decades ago, Nick. I think it’ll work out perfect.”
Nicholas allowed himself a self-congratulatory smile, hoping it wouldn’t prove premature. But then his spirits fell as he recalled the other event on his mind.
“Ani…” he hedged. “I’m not sure whether, perhaps, you already know, but… well, we’ve had another breach.”
“On no! The Pale?”
“Afraid so. And it couldn’t happen at a less auspicious time.”
Jael Kohinor made his way along the icy path that circled the mountain’s flank, weaving above and below the tree line.
Doing his job. Like every day.
He didn’t know why this job belonged to him. Oh, yes, he’d heard the long string of explanations about how the badge of the First—after wending its way through all the families on the mountain—had come down to his family, specifically to him and his baby brother, along with an old woman who was, by some trick of time, his first cousin, though he called her “Aunt.”
She was too old, his brother too young. The job was his alone.
Honestly, until about ten minutes ago, he’d wondered why the job existed—or even the Guardian Agency as a whole. Nothing ever happened, no threats or invasions. Nobody ever came this far up the mountain. How could they? If the ring of ice and plunging, often frozen, waterfalls that circumscribed the mountain about five hundred feet below the tree line hadn’t made the rock cliffs completely impassable, the addition of various spells and unpleasant—though not deadly—booby traps finished the blockade nicely.
And then there was the question of time. As Nicholas explained, Mount Lucia—along with a few other scattered realms—lay hidden inside it. The only people who might even be tempted to investigate Lucia would be the Flatlanders, the people who lived in the vast spread of lands and seas surrounding the mountain. Their lands existed in a warped, slowed loop of time anchored by Lucia’s heavy stillness in the same way water eddied around a large rock in a slow-moving river. Time hadn’t stopped for them like it had on the mountain, but it didn’t move in step with the wider world, which had sprinted far ahead and forgotten them entirely.
In slowed time, the closest Flatlanders could see the mountain, but usually they didn’t. Because of magic perhaps, or maybe by choice. As far as the Flatlanders believed, no good ever came from Mount Lucia. They saw and remembered only the Shines, and that phenomena terrified them.
So, as Jael saw it, more to the point than how someone could get up the mountain, was the question of why they would. And it was for the best. Fear was a great repellant.
Nobody ever climbs Mount Lucia.
But Nicholas had a saying: “You just never know.” And Nicholas was a wise old dragon.
Hence the Guardian patrol.
All of that was in the back of Jael’s mind at the moment, but in the forefront was… a distraction. A surprising, mysterious, and oh so dangerously interesting distraction.
A man and a boy sat huddled together on the ground, maybe fifty feet away, uphill from the path. All kinds of things went through Jael’s mind when he saw them, some of them even related to his job. For instance, he asked himself the questions a Guardian should ask in such circumstances: How did they get here? What is their purpose? Are there more of them? But he also had to ask himself whether he was willing to do whatever was necessary to keep them from discovering the truth about the Shine at midwinter, if he couldn’t coax them back down the mountain.
Because, although it’s true all of the Lucians’ traps and spells were designed to be nonfatal, one hard truth remained. If necessary to keep the mountain’s secret, obliviation—not murder but cruel just the same—was the Guardian’s job.
The answer to whether or not Jael was willing to do that—in any case but especially this one—might have been no, which would be a bad, bad thing as far as Nicholas and the Lucian people were concerned.
Still. He put that question on the back burner.
Other questions—not related at all to the sacred duties of the Ancient Guardianship—popped into his mind front and center, huge and bright as Nicholas’s Darknight Cache. Was their tiny fire enough to keep them warm? What have they eaten? Is the child crying? Has there ever been a man so… intriguing?
When the man turned toward him, Jael saw his face, and he couldn’t look away. His heart sped a little faster, warm excitement flooded through him, and he wanted to giggle—which would have been totally inappropriate. It wasn’t so much the stranger’s beauty, though his features—somewhat shadowed, but visible in the moonlight—were well put together. He simply seemed… exceptional.COLLAPSE
5.0 out of 5 stars A different spin on Christmas magic
Reviewed in the United States on January 3, 2021
I enjoy a good story about Christmas magic. This story definitely delivered there. We get to here about different species and times in space.
Free to read with Kindle Unlimited!
Holiday related, romantic fantasy
Also on Amazon NL, JP, BR, MX, IN