Title: Serpentine Tongue
Author: Kayden McLeod
Genre: Fantasy Menage (Dragon shifters, fae)
Publisher: New Dawning
Release: January 2013 in the second annual Threesomed Anthology, and later released as a single title
Life is full of choices. Siobhan thought she’d never see another Sidhe. Until a blue dragon the size of a small mountain falls into her life, wounded and ailing. When the beast turns into a man, Siobhan has a choice: heal him at the cost of exposing her greatest secret, or let him die. Fallon and Dearg thought they’d spend their lives as Seelie Knights, but treachery of the heart brings a reviled fate crashing upon them. They’ve become the first dragon shifters in fae existence, and they have to trust Siobhan in order to survive. Now, she has to choose: Fallon, Dearg…or both?
Fallon pumped his legs, racing across the meadow under a halo of arrows poised for his back. The Seelie Queen’s archers claimed to be the strongest, fastest, the best.
He was stronger, faster.
The Queen had no one to blame but herself. She cursed him for his “serpentine tongue,” or so she’d once referred to the organ dominating his mouth. Once, she’d used the term as an endearment. Now, she cursed him. Once upon a time, when they’d met in what he’d mistaken for love, turned out to be lust. Lust for power, greed and good, hard sex. No more.
Her loss, his gain. The truth had come out. For the better, anyway. Next time they’d meet, he’d kill her. He possessed no other choice. His serpentine tongue had spoken the words proclaiming her impending death. Failure to keep his promise was to be foresworn from court, if not killed for being an oathbreaker by powers much greater than he.
The first mattered little to him. The second, well, he wasn’t so sure.
The Queen’s Knights, his brothers in arms, wove through the archers on their winged steeds, some of them attempting to ensure the latter option.
“Fallon, halt!” Garbhan, Captain of the Queen’s Knights, barreled ahead of the others. He cried his plea over the thunderous legion of hooves. “If you stop this flight, I could speak to Druantia about a pardon.”
Fallon tossed his blue-black hair over one bare shoulder. He sneered. “Do not make promises you cannot keep. You might be fucking her royal highness, but she will not forgive this.”
Garbhan growled something lost to the wind. No matter. Fallon was disinterested in empty promises.
His lungs burned, his thighs screamed, tossing the shredded material of his breeches that hung precariously over his hips. He’d never cross the meadow, into the lush undergrowth of the forest. They’d catch him on their magickal steeds long before.
One way out for the likes of him.
He swallowed the bile that rose in his throat. He hated his enforced ability, but he’d have to use his other form. He jackknifed in mid-leap, snarling at the horses. Garbhan’s reared, kicking out his front legs. Fallon dodged the sharp slashes aimed for his chest.
“Where is Dearg?” Garbhan spat on the ground, as if to rid himself of the distaste of Fallon’s best friend. Nervously, he glanced at archers, who fell back while their Captain conversed. “At least let us bring him back, and I will allow you a full day’s head start.”
Fallon struggled to calm himself. The shift tearing through his body took far longer than it had last time, wasting precious seconds. “I do not know where he went after we left the castle. We went our separate ways.” Too close to a lie. The truth, they’d been forced apart.
Maghnus, always an overzealous guard, dropped from his Pegasus. “Silver tongued beast, tell the Captain of the Queen’s Knights where your friend ran with his tail between his legs.”
“I cannot tell you what I do not know,” Fallon wheezed through the burning fury inside his belly that knew no end. Oh, for Goddess’ sake! Why would the change not come upon him?
Maghnus swung his sword, slicing through Fallon’s ribs. His flesh split, a ripe melon under the blistering sun. He threw his head back and roared, the noise gaining volume and momentum, bleeding into a bellow that shook the trees ringing the meadow.
His eyes burned as his face elongated. His back arched, cracked. Size tripled, then that quadrupled. He towered above them, half man, half beast as the minute changes reformed his body. At last, it was done.
His snout billowed steam. The Knights fell back, not knowing the secret of his form. Let them think he could blow fire.
“A dragon!” An archer squealed.
The Queen’s secret, for good or bad, had come to light. Fallon startled that the rumors had not yet filled every ear at the Seelie court. For he had been cursed in front of all the nobility. Gossipers and liars, the lot of them.
Garbhan cut the air with his sword, toward Maghnus. He showed not a care. Unlike the others, the Captain knew Fallon kept his wits, even as a dragon. “Have not a fear! This cretin had angered him.”
Fallon hesitated to kill his fellow Knights. They’d grown and trained together, fought for one another. The archers mattered not to him.
“That is a Sidhe no longer!” Maghnus stumbled back, as Fallon rose on his muscled hind legs. “This is what the Queen has done to him?”
“You were there, Maghnus.”
“He did not do this at court!”
Fallon spread his wings across the meadow. His long, thick neck curled over Maghnus, cutting him off from his peers. One crystalline triple iris complete with slit pupil caught the Knight’s.
He didn’t bother to perform a communication charm. His face said it all.
Cut me again, dullard. I shall bite your head clean from your shoulders.
The Knight shuddered, his sword falling to the ground. He’d wet himself, the reek pungent to his oversensitive sense of smell. Inside, Fallon wondered how he’d ever stomached the wretch. His death would be a mercy to his brothers. A true Knight hath no fear of any man or beast.
Blood gushed between them, running down Fallon’s metallic green chest. The shift had ripped open the wound, enlarged the serrated edges. Not the first time he’d been wounded in battle. Not the last either. He’d see this to be true.
Fallon whipped his barbed tail, colliding with Maghnus’ side, tearing through his armor. Maghnus tumbled through the air into three horses, including his own. Fallon uttered a shattering roar, a gust of steam. The warriors scrambled, screaming “fire.”
How little they knew. Not even the Captain understood. Fallon was a water dragon. Ice, to the fire that was Dearg.
He leapt, and damned near fell back to the ground. Perhaps, his wounds surpassed his previous assessment. His limbs deadened, the bone structure of his wings threatened not to keep him airborne for longer than a minute or two. That’s all he needed.
The knights made no move to follow him, as they calmed their steeds.
Arrows flew, tiny sticks to a beast such as him. The beast barely felt them enter his hide.
The man was altogether a different story.