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His city was burning. Winged dragonmen descended from above. And a crimson shadow dominated the sky, headed this way.

Everyone knew the stories. The legends. The ancient lord of fire made flesh. Death on crimson wings. Mawganar.

As his wife cut down one of the dragonmen, it exploded into a cloud of rust. She coughed, backing towards him until she brushed against him. She looked over her shoulder, and her eyes went wide.

“You need to get out of here,” Myer said.

“So what?” Selendriel said, her face cross. “So you can fight that thing alone?”

“We don’t both need to die here,” Myer said. “Find the kids. Keep them…”

“Safe?” Selendriel said. “I can’t… I can’t just leave y—”

Myer silenced her with a final kiss.

“We always knew you’d outlive me,” Myer said.

Before Selendriel could say another word, he bolted off with a blast of wind.

Leaving her with tears in her eyes.

♦ ♦ ♦

“You are impressive for a man, Desert King,” the ancient wyrm boomed.

Each breath was a struggle. Blood ran over his eye. But he held his ground, Levana and Allefye still in hand.

“The best is yet to come,” Myer said.

Mawganar’s head snaked forward, and Myer slid under the massive jaws. The dragon twisted and its enormous claw dug into the stonework as the King of the Desert hurtled past.

The bladedancer ran up the dragon’s hind leg and became a living storm of blades. His swords flashed, slicing through its weathered scales, carving through its flesh, drawing dragon’s blood, as Myer raced along the serpent’s spine and up its neck.

Before Mawganar could blink, Myer drew his blades across the dragon’s eye, splitting its scales and slashing through the pale, yellow orb and its black slit pupil.

The dragon roared and thrashed about, wracked the palace walls. Dust billowed up in clouds with a shower of clay and glass. Mawganar whipped its head around, breathing arcs of fire.

Myer rolled under the flames, came to his feet. Smirked.

“Father!”

Across the courtyard. Behind the dragon. A sword in each hand. His daughter.

“Lana!” Myer shouted. “Run!”

Mawganar paused and raised its head. Turning towards the new arrival.

♦ ♦ ♦

The dragon towered over her. The palace. Everything. It didn’t seem real.

Mawganar reared its head towards her. One eye a ruined mess, the other fixed firmly on her.

“Lana! Run!”

But she couldn’t leave him to die. Wouldn’t leave him to die. She steadied her sword and her heart.

May Souladil guide my bla—

A rush of wind knocked her off her feet.

A shadow blotted out the sky, fell upon her. A dark maw opened and rushed to meet her.

And she saw a light at the end of it.

She grunted. The world was a spinning blur. She heard something. The snap of jaws. The clink of metal. But she wasn’t dead.

She struggled to her feet. Her father’s blades rested on the stonework before streaks of blood. Behind them, his hands—ending halfway down the forearm.

She looked up as the ancient dragon swallowed something.

Someone.

A chill spread in her, from her gut to her toes, her fingertips. Her face—numb.

“Father?” she whispered.

Blood dripped from the dragon’s jaws. Crimson droplets spattered at her feet.

She couldn’t move. Couldn’t think. Couldn’t help but stare at the ancient dragon, its maw gaping wide to devour her.

But something gripped her arm. And the world twisted away.

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