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Dragon Heart
Book 2
Dragoria: the Lost Dragon Realm
Coming 6
th of June, 2023

Chapter One

Early-morning light streamed through the windows edging one side of the stone room, casting thick shadows on the ceiling from the wooden rafters. Every part of Samara’s body shook. No matter how much she tried, she couldn’t calm her nerves. Not only had they discovered a great secret of the Sacred Flame coterie, but when they had gotten up that morning, Callista’s magic had called the apprentices to the meeting hall. The head sorceress’s early return was a surprise. She had also brought two intimidating men with her. Their brightly colored hair marked them as members of the Sacred Flame coterie. 


Gray sat on Samara’s shoulder. The owl’s protests over being forced to stay with her were rare lately. He was closer to becoming trained as a loyal friend, but to be sure, she had spelled him to stay. He had been playing the part of a familiar well and often didn’t need Ulrieg’s coaxing to stay on her shoulder. To ensure that no one accidentally ran into Ulrieg, he turned invisible and lurked in vacant spaces or hung from the rafters. 


The apprentices sat in rows, while Devi, Zofia, Artemise, and Eliphas stood against the walls, their familiars close by. All eyes turned to Callista and the two strange men standing at the front. 


Trying to conceal her trembling, Samara sat at the back of the room next to Rehan, one of the younger apprentices. He was only three years younger than Samara, although his thin frame hadn’t filled out, making him look much younger. His orange hair had grown straggly, covering his rounded ears and hanging over his green eyes. 


Samara whispered, “Who are they?”


He shrugged. “I don’t know. They were here when we arrived.” When he looked at Samara’s pretend familiar, he smiled broadly and pushed the strands of hair out of his face, exposing more of his pale, freckly skin. “I hope I get a familiar like yours. That would be a dream come true.”


Samara gave him a small smile and wondered if he would feel the same way when he found out her real familiar was a dragon.


Her legs crossed and covered with her long leaf-patterned gown, Callista sat at the front of the room. The enchanted throne-shaped chair made from intertwined branches framed the sorceress with a display of fresh flowers lining the chair’s back. The floral display differed daily. Her lilac hair reached her upper arms and was pulled back at the sides and top, revealing her pointed elven ears. An elegant golden diadem laced across her forehead and dipped toward her nose. Her striking blue eyes scanned the room, only softening when they landed on Mystique, her black jaguar, who was sauntering her way down the aisle to be by Callista’s side. 


Mist marched past Samara, her crow, Okak, perched on her shoulder. She had been proud to be the first of the current apprentices to receive her familiar. The stocky swordswoman made her way through the small aisle and sat next to Kaine in the front row. Ginger, his fox, was curled up at his feet. 


Kaine peered over his shoulder at Samara, a questioning expression on his face. He indicated the seat Mist had just sat in, and guilt washed over Samara. The seat must have been meant for Samara, but in her nervousness and distraction from the discovery made the previous night, she had opted for the closest one to the door. She mouthed, “Sorry.”


Samara didn’t know if the visitors had come before, much less recently, but they definitely hadn’t been publicly announced to the apprentices since Samara had started there. 


Kaine turned back to the front and draped his arm around the top of Mist’s chair. On the other side, Luna’s long golden hair draped over the back of her wooden chair, and Kaine circled his other arm around her shoulders. Samara didn’t know if he was trying to make her jealous. Even so, her stomach always stirred every time he showed other females affection. Mist and Luna shifted closer to him, almost pressing against him, making the feeling worse. Samara and Kaine’s relationship was new and not yet common knowledge, leading many of the female apprentices to think he was still available.


Peadar, sitting behind Luna, wore a distraught expression on his face as he watched her snuggle closer to Kaine, which made her emotions feel slightly more justified. She wasn’t the only one who didn’t like Kaine’s and Luna’s getting too cozy. Though Samara couldn’t see her clearly, she was confident that the beautiful elf was wearing a plunging neckline to show off her bountiful breasts. 


Stop staring at your foxy love interest. He’s honestly not that special. He’s alluring because he’s the bad boy you wouldn’t bring home to your parents. If you acted like him around the other males, you’d have as many, if not more, falling all over you, but you’ve got better character than that. Ulrieg’s chiding pulled Samara’s attention back into the room. I don’t know why you’re worried about his interests when the real threat is standing at the front of the room. 


Samara’s eyes narrowed. Oh, I haven’t forgotten about our real threat. Trust me. Besides, Kaine is probably just tormenting me because I didn’t sit next to him.


Huh! Probably. He loves to be the center of attention, that one. I still think that quiet one would be a better love interest. He’s loyal and wouldn’t play with your heart like Pretty Boy. 


At Ulrieg’s words, Samara surveyed the room, taking in the students and spotting Paxton at the front, discreetly tucked in the left-hand corner. Jojo sat on his hand, and Paxton’s other hand was cupped protectively above him, far enough away so he wouldn’t burn the frog’s skin.


Samara liked frogs, but she was glad her familiar wasn’t one she would have to protect from all the other familiars. Although after what she and Ulrieg discovered the previous night, her familiar could be in danger and also dangerous to her in many ways. She swallowed and focused on the two sorcerers and the head sorceress at the front of the room. 


Satisfied that all the apprentices were in the hall, Callista raised her hands, drawing everyone’s attention to her. “As you can see, we have two honored guests. These two sorcerers are the top commanders of the coterie and serve to protect the kingdoms. On my left, we have Vexx Shadowend, the commander and protector of Clialarion, the elven realm, who is based at the Specter Region.”


The sorcerer on the left looked to be in his forties. A long dark-brown cloak draped over his tall, thin form, and when he pulled his hood back, it exposed short, spiky hair the color of blood. Surprisingly, since he patrolled the elven border, he was human. The expression in the sorcerer’s dark-brown eyes was chilling as he surveyed the room. Something shifted under the sorcerer’s cloak at the neck, and the thin, pointy head of a yellow snake slid out and circled Vexx’s shoulders, showing off its muscular body. 


Now, there’s a slithery creature if I’ve ever seen one. No surprise there.


Out of habit, Samara was tempted to chastise Ulrieg for being negative and critical, but after what they’d seen, he could be right. Eyeing the three-foot yellow snake, she cringed. She didn’t like snakes. 


Callista continued, “On my other side is Kellam Mallor, the commander and protector of Slosiaran, the human realm, who is based in the Nebula Yonder.”


Pointy elven ears poked out of his deep-orange hair when he pulled back the hood of his cloak. He looked young, but being an elf, he was probably at least a hundred summers or older. With a face set in disapproval, he didn’t appear approachable, even less so when a monkey baring his long fangs circled the front of his long brown cloak. The monkey stood on his hind paws and was approximately two feet tall. He scratched his long golden fur then sat next to his sorcerer. 


That one there is screaming that he wants to kill. Look at the kind of people your so-called incredible sorceress is surrounding herself with. 


They don’t look friendly, I admit. But that still doesn’t make Callista guilty of hurting your cousin. Samara clasped the hem of her tunic, her knuckles turning white. Maybe the two figures we saw last night were these men.


Ulrieg answered her with a grunt. 
He probably thought she was standing up for Callista again, but she didn’t like accusing someone, especially someone who had looked after her family, when they hadn’t been proven guilty. If the two sorcerers had come, then any past apprentices could return and harm the dragon. The coterie’s building wouldn’t be hidden from them, as they were current coterie members. 


The sorcerers stood with their hands behind their backs, scowling as they surveyed the students. Samara struggled to keep an open mind. As for keeping her nerves in check, that had failed a long time ago.


Callista clasped her hands in front of her and paced the front of the room between the apprentices and the two strangers. “On my recent trip to the borders, I informed Vexx and Kellam about the coterie’s senior apprentices and how they had bonded with their familiars. This piqued their interest, and they insisted on returning with me to meet you.” The head sorceress gazed at the two men, and they reinforced her words with nods. “These commanders worked hard to prove their strength and worth for their roles, and they take pride in testing the apprentices who have bonded with their familiars.” Her gaze landed on the four older apprentices who’d recently bonded with their familiars then veered to Peadar and Luna. 


Confusion washed over Samara until she peered past Kaine, barely catching a glimpse of a furry white snout and the long, pointed ears of a rabbit peering over Luna’s shoulder. Then she looked at Peadar, who was sitting not far behind Luna. Resting at his feet was a raccoon. 


Callista’s voice pulled her attention back to the front. “It was a lovely surprise to return and find two other students had found their familiars. I’m pleased to announce that Peadar and Luna bonded with their familiars last night, and even though their bond is new, their strength will also be tested with the others’.” She adjusted her diadem. “Kanara, Paxton, Samara, Kaine, plus Peadar and Luna, come to the front, and bring your familiars.”

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