A hidden power. An alliance between ancient enemies…
No one told Seira she was engaged to a dragon. That was why she fell for the lies of an imposter and nearly lost her life. Though unsure how she broke the sorcerer’s spell, doing so gained her the loyalty of a band of dread-trolls. The ancient enemies of the dragon she is meant to marry.
Of course, the dragon isn’t exactly what he first appears to be either. Rergyn shifts into the most handsome man that she’s ever seen. His touch sets her body on fire, but she is not about to trust him, especially when she learns he has a few secrets of his own.
Seira will need both her dragon husband and the strength of the dread-trolls behind her if she’s to secure her inheritance against those who would take it for themselves.
And a little magic might help too…
Hidden Magic was previously published as part of the Fire Dragons of Grieghern series by Amber Jantine. It has been revised and edited from the earlier version.
Keep running. Do not stop. Do not look back.
Seira stumbled and cursed. Too busy worrying about what was behind her, she failed to watch where she was going. She wavered and flailed her arms, struggling for balance.
She could not stop.
If she stopped, they would catch her.
If she fell, they would destroy her.
Their baying grew louder. She had been told they were the dread-trolls, but at the moment they sounded like a pack of hunting dogs.
And she was their prey.
They were a bit shorter than men, but more powerfully built. Each wielded an axe with a blade as tall as she was. Their faces would be almost human too, except for being contorted into perpetual scowls and the green-gray tint to their skin. Massive fangs rose out from their lower jaws.
“Surrender, Seira. You cannot win.”
The sound of her former suitor’s voice hardened her resolve. Her stepmother told her he was the prince promised to her since her birth, through an arrangement created by her late father. He had come to court her and prepare for their upcoming marriage. Flattered her with his constant attention, taking an interest in even the smallest of her concerns.
And she thought she might be falling in love.
But it was a lie. She should have realized from the start that it was too good to be true. That his appearance, alone and unattended, contradicted the identity he claimed for himself.
Nor had his manner of dress ever been suitable for a ‘prince.’ Seira tried to make excuses for it as being merely the difference between the ways of her country and his.
She wanted to believe in him. Desperately.
Only a conversation overheard as they prepared to set out today had given her the first hint of the truth. With nothing left to hide, admitted his intentions and confessed to his deception as he started his attack.
Aleks was a sorcerer and a commoner from the western mountains. Not a foreigner at all. He was also her stepmother’s secret lover and now he intended to eliminate the one thing that prevented Queen Regina from taking the throne of Traolor for herself: Seira.
There was a chill in the air. Winter started almost half a moon ago, but fallen leaves still covered much of the forest floor. Without a covering of snow, they crunched under her feet as she fled. a noisy announcement of her position. She darted into a thicket of thorn-bushes, biting back the urge to cry out as the sharp spikes—some larger than her fingers—ripped at her clothing and flesh.
The dread-trolls did not hesitate. They appeared unaffected by the thorns. Either their flesh was too thick to be pierced or they were too focused on their prey—too locked on her—to be deterred.
It turned out to be the wrong path for more than one reason. The bushes gave way, and the ground dropped off into a high embankment. Seira barely managed to stop. Her toes touched the edge and once again she flailed wildly, trying to halt her momentum before it carried her over.
Once steady, she looked down. Far below, sharp rocks jutted out from a shallow river.
Another horrible death avoided.
But would it be a worse fate than to be taken by her enemies? It would be quicker to die on the rocks as long as she hit them correctly. She was certain of that.
There had long been other rumors about her stepmother, claiming she possessed a voracious appetite for torture. When Seira tried to speak with Regina about it, her stepmother assured her it was nothing more than slander. A way for others to destroy their relationship and cause chaos in the land before Seira came of age and took the throne.
What a fool she had been. It comforted her to remember that her father had been equally fooled by his second wife. For he would have arranged things in his will differently if he’d known her true nature.
He left the throne and the crown to his only child, as everyone always assumed he would, but named Queen Regina as both Seira’s personal guardian and regent to the throne.
Both roles should have ended a month ago, when Seira came of age. Her stepmother had suggested that a delay would not be amiss. That it would be better if her coronation did not take place until after her marriage, so her husband could receive his crown at the same time.
That seemed like a reasonable proposal. But it had been nothing more than a way for Regina to gain time to put her more lethal plans into motion.
Seira looked down at the rocks again, then at the dread-trolls that closed in all around her. There was only one guaranteed way out of this: to jump.
She heard the laughter of her former suitor again. He assumed she would take the coward’s way out. To take her own life would disgrace her family. Her father.
She turned to face the trolls. She had no weapons. Only her hands. But she would not go down without a fight.
Let her blood be on her enemies’ hands, so everyone will know who to blame…
Terror still surged through her, making her blood run cold. Now that the beasts were closer, she saw the exact length and sharpness of their tusks. A single bite would slice her in two.
She raised her hands. “Don’t come any closer.”
A faint glimmer appeared around her fingers when she spoke the words. Much like what she’d seen when Aleksandr first called the trolls to him. With magic.
But there was no gift for sorcery in her family, as far as she knew.
The imposter charged out of the trees. Aleksander reined in his horse, steadying the skittish animal as he raised his hands in a similar gesture. “What are you idiots doing? Take her!”
The light around his hands surrounded them and they lurched forward. He controlled them through enchantment alone. They likely did not even have any real loyalty to him. Might not even be conscious of what they were doing.
Their expressions were blank, yet the otherwise dark pupils glowed with the same blue sparkle that surrounded Alek’s hands.
The reasoning behind their actions made little difference to her.
The same energy raced through her again and she kept her palms facing her enemies. “You will not do this.”
Lightning flashed. Blue lightning. So close that it blinded her for several moments.
Or that’s what she assumed it was, at first. But there was no thunder.
Or was there?
Then she realized that the rolling, pounding sound came from the ground. Not the sky.
Aleks’ horse. The animal wheeled about and bolted through the woods. Aleks clung to his mount’s neck, half-falling out of the saddle.
The dread-trolls blinked several times. The largest of the beasts looked at her with a grimace that could almost be called a smile. He gestured to the others around him and they dropped to their knees before her.
“Thank you for freeing us, oh Great One,” their leader said. “We are forever in your debt.”
She was half-tempted to tell them she had done nothing, as she wasn’t certain exactly what happened. But then she remembered her stepmother, and how the older woman would not end her quest to see Seira dead. She looked at the dread-trolls once more. Even if only half the reputation of their kind held true, the seven of them might have the strength to defeat almost any army her stepmother dared to send her way. “I need your help,” she said, choosing her words with care. If she had indeed enchanted them somehow, she did not wish to do so again. She had no desire to steal their free will. Not in this or anything else. “And your protection…”