Lady Celestria eagerly travels with her aunt and cousin to participate in festivities at King's Keep. Decades ago, her father had met her mother in the courtyards. He took one look at her mother's face, sank to his knees, and declared his undying love. Celestria believes this is where she will find true love also.
In the forest, less than a day's ride away from the keep, they are attacked by bandits. Celestria fights alongside the guards. Outnumbered and disarmed, she faces her death bravely.
Then a warrior dressed all in gray, breathing smoke and fire, enters the fray. Celestria knows he is the one, the man she is destined to love. He doesn't know he's her future husband, however, and he is riding toward her, his sword raised.
Dragon Lord's Destiny
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Copyright ©2013 Cynthia Sax
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“I was to find my one true love today at the King’s Keep,” Lady Celestria muttered, swinging her long thin sword with the little strength she had left. “Instead I will be killed by a ragtag gang of bandits, leaving my aunt and cousin to fend for themselves.”
Sunrays streamed through the trees, creating patches of warmth and light. The air smelled of pine, decaying leaves, and death, the green moss under her booted feet absorbing moisture. Soon it would absorb her blood.
She dodged a blow, her small size and speed making her more difficult to kill. Four of the six warriors her uncle had sent to guard their carriage hadn’t been as lucky; their bodies lay hacked to pieces in a forest less than a day’s ride from their destination.
One warrior remained standing to her left and another stood to her right. The carriage containing her aunt, her cousin, and their servant girl blocked the bandits from attacking from the rear. “All you need to do is to protect your front,” she told herself. “Remember what your brothers taught you.” She blocked a blade and twisted it out of the bandit’s dirty fingers.
He fell back and another bandit took his place. There were so many of them, and she was so tired, her arms and shoulders aching. “Warriors do not complain,” she recited.
She credited the grueling training her seven brothers had subjected her to for her survival thus far. “And I am a warrior.” She ducked, and a sword cut the air above her.
When her mother died during Celestria’s fifth summer, her distraught father had raised her no differently than he’d raised her male siblings.
“He must have known I would need these skills.” She talked to herself, accustomed to being a rare female in a keep of silent men. “As he knew upon seeing my mother, he would love her.”
She’d wanted that kind of love for herself and that was the only reason she’d agreed to join her more genteel aunt and cousin on the trip to King’s Keep. Her father had met her mother at court. Celestria had hoped to duplicate that good fortune.
She had been a fool. As her aunt had pointed out, she was not her mother. She hadn’t her dowry, her fair face, her accomplishments or her luck.
Sir Godwin, the battle-weary warrior to her right, sucked in his breath -- a bandit’s blade had pierced his shoulder. When he fell, she would die.
Celestria’s movements grew sluggish, the blades slicing closer and closer to her. Her uncle’s aging warrior staggered, unable to dodge the bandit’s blows.
“Fight, good knight,” she urged. They would die with weapons in their hands.
She sliced through the air with her sword. The greasy-haired bandit caught her blade with his. The impact jarred it from her numb fingers. The weapon flew into the air and landed far out of her reach. Sir Godwin fell face forward into the moss.
Celestria sank to her knees, too exhausted to stand. She lifted her chin, determined to face her adversary and die as a warrior.
The bandit grinned, displaying a gap where his teeth should have been. He raised his sword and --
His body shuddered, his eyes widened, and he fell, an axe lodged between his shoulder blades.
“What magic is this?” Celestria released a breath she didn’t even know she was holding. “Who has saved me?”
A deafening roar rose above the sound of the battle, chilling her to the bone. She turned her head toward the sound, ducking a bandit’s blade. A massive warrior rode his gray horse toward them, swinging his sword left and right, decapitating their attackers as though it were a sport.
He was dressed all in gray, his chest plate consisting of dragon scales. The armor wasn’t needed. He killed the bandits before they could touch him.
The warrior dismounted from his stallion with an inhuman ease, and he ran toward her, his movements both graceful and terrifying. He was coming for her. Celestria felt that truth in her soul, saw her destiny in his countenance.
He wasn’t handsome -- his too-broad face crisscrossed with scars, his black hair overly long and shaggy -- but he was striking, his eyes the color of newly crafted armor. As she ducked and dodged attacks, unarmed and exhausted, she couldn’t pull her gaze away from him. She’d never seen a warrior with his speed, his strength, his skill.