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Liang wakes up and discovers breaking the curse had separated him far from the others. The bad news is another dragon has captured him, the good news is he found his mate.
Proteus couldn’t believe he found his mate. Unfortunately circumstances make it impossible for him to go with Liang and it breaks his heart when his mate goes on without him.
Aden has been struggling to keep everyone safe. With the evil against him mounting and the number of people he needs to protect increasing, will he be able to live up to his destiny and become the leader the dragons need or will evil triumph against him?
Liang snapped awake gasping for air.
He could breathe. He took a few more lungfuls, pleased when he successfully collected the oxygen and pushed it back out again. The scent of seawater filled his nose, tantalizing him with a fragrance he’d been longing to smell again. Freedom. For so long he’d ticked off the hours, minutes, seconds of time as he’d remained motionless, a stone statue with no ability to move or twitch, but with a mind seconds from snapping.
But now he was alive. Gloriously alive. Something had broken the curse and set him free. A few memories rattled around in his head, vague recollections of falling from the ceiling with every muscle screaming from centuries of inactivity. His cold, frozen exterior had transformed back to a living, pulsing being. An unpleasant, excruciating event he hoped to never experience again. Still, he’d rather feel searing pain than remain locked in stone forever. The next time he saw a sorcerer Liang would rip out his throat first and ask questions later.
Liang blinked several times trying to clear his vision. The familiar press of lashes against his cheeks triggered tears of relief, of joy, of such a mixed bag of emotions he couldn’t pin down the emotional source. He palmed his eyes, trying to clear them. He had to see his surrounding to best judge where he’d ended up. The complete absence of sound unnerved him. Where were the crowds of people or at least his dragon friends?
Lifting his hands away, he took a moment to examine his new location. This was no theater. No seats, or lights, or even a stage existed here. He had thought he’d wake up beside his companions. He hadn’t expected to be underwater or in a cage. The combination of the two unnerved him. Gripping the bars, he winced at their cold solidity.
Where am I?
The cage sat inside a room free of water. A large transparent dome covered the area, but allowed a view of the ocean beyond, like a pseudo Atlantis, but not as nice. A colorful reef surrounded him with all the brilliance of a warm, tropical ocean. Beautiful. Unfortunately its heat didn’t extend into Liang’s prison.
Someone powerful had carved out a spot in the water, but the presence of cages didn’t inspire confidence in Liang’s captor being a friend.
He watched fish float outside the dome and yearned to share their freedom. The liquid wall didn’t have the smooth surface of a proper spell, but a wavy texture as if the entire thing could come crashing down with any disruption. Liang didn’t let that possibility worry him. He’d survive the dome collapse. Water dragons couldn’t drown.
His deep contemplation shattered at he spotted a sea creature floating in a large aquarium on the other side of the dome. The tank rose almost to the ceiling with a rolling stepladder set to one side, a strange sight in the middle of the sea. Why did his captor need an aquarium in a place surrounded by water? This situation only became stranger the more details he noticed from his underwater prison.
Motion drew his eyes again and he returned his focus to the small captive. As far as he could tell the entire tank was devoted to the one beast. About a foot tall, leafy appendages covered the creature that moved like a seahorse, but resembled a plant-like dragon.
“What are you? You aren’t a seahorse.” Liang mused. He’d heard of fantastical sea creatures, but had seen few in reality. As a water dragon he had an affinity for the liquid, but he’d spent most of his life as a warrior out of his homeland waters. Maybe that’s why he’d fallen for a trap in the middle of the desert, he’d become so used to going without.
“Enjoying the view, traitor?” A cold voice asked.
Lost in contemplation of the aquarium Liang hadn’t noticed the new arrival until he spoke. Turning around he spotted a tall man with dragon eyes and a wide tattoo covering one half of his chest. The man’s markings appeared to move as he walked. Might be a curse, but Liang couldn’t tell from his spot in the cage. He transformed into his human shape to speak. His scales transformed into black pants and a white shirt similar to the clothes he’d seen men wearing in the theater. Only a small gasp of surprise left him at the ease he switched from dragon to human after centuries trapped in his beast form.
“Who are you?” Liang needed more information to battle this newcomer. He’d been a fine strategist and right hand to his leader Zhou until the day they’d both underestimated their enemy. Still, there was no way he would remain passive and let this stranger control his life. He’d just spent centuries as a statue, he wasn’t about to spent any more time as a captive if he could avoid it. The trick would be to get this man to set him free.
The dragon shifter sneered. “As if you don’t know! I’m one of the many you turned your back on by defying your rightful leader. I’m going to fix everything now though. Once the emperor has you back in his hold he’ll make me one of his commanders. He promised a reward for anyone who turned one of you in, and that is going to be mine.” A feral light glowed in the shifter’s eyes.