The Dragonprince’s Heir by Aaron Pogue
The king brought seven regiments of the Guard to the gates of the Tower of Drakes. He brought every man in the legendary corps of the Green Eagles. He brought four wizards, six noblemen, and a servant for every stone in the fortress’s legendary walls.
I perched in the battlements near the great north gate and watched them creep across the summer-seared soil of my father’s domain until all I could see for miles and miles was a tide of tired men.
“They’re not very impressive,” I told the empty air. “Too slow. Too clumsy.” I strained my eyes across the vast plains beyond the army, toward the land where the great kingdom of man had once stood. I sighed. “I’d trade them all for a handful of Father’s dragonriders.”
A shadow fell across me. “You may still have a chance.” The voice was dark as midnight, cruel and cold, and it matched the skin of the hand that knotted in my shirt and hauled me sharply off the battlement. I fell to the walkway behind and bruised a hand catching myself. My knee cracked hard against the seamless stone, too, but I ignored the pain and threw myself to my feet. I would not cower before Caleb.
Caleb. Tall and dark and terrible. He loomed over me. Despite the summer heat he wore his uniformâ€”cotton, steel, and silkâ€”and his fine crimson tabard showed the Tower all in black, a dragon rampant on its crown. He wore the dull bronze ring my mother had given him, and the sword my father had crafted from elemental earth. He looked prepared to entertain a king.
Instead he glared down at me. “Where are you supposed to be?”
I tried to meet his gaze. “I go where I please.”
One corner of his mouth turned down in a frown. I nearly flinched. He flicked his eyes toward the army beyond the wall. “You have your orders.”
“I am not one of your knights, Caleb. I do not follow your orders.”
“Nor do they, it would appear. Where is Toman?”
Toman. I almost cursed. I had no wish to see him disciplined. I’d thought for sure it would be Jen’s turn to watch over me.
I glanced past the stones at the approaching army. “He spotted something among the king’s men,” I lied. “Thought it would be worth reporting. He’s likely looking for you even now.”
“And he didn’t take you with him?”
I squared my shoulders. “I am not a fragile trinket, Caleb. I can be trusted on my own for half an hour.”
“You are your mother’s son,” he growled.
“And proud of it!”
“Hm. Yet you defy her plain requests?”
“I don’t!” I sounded like a child, even to my own ears. It made me angry. “She told me to keep out of sight. Do you suspect the king can see this far?”
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