Guardian of the Mist Dragon

Title: Guardian of the Mist Dragon
Series: Fire Dragons of Grieghern #4
Published by: Amber Jantine
Release Date: Coming Soon!
Contributors: Amber Jantine
Genre:

The Great Dragon, the devoted companion of the Emperor, has been murdered. Left behind was a single offspring: her egg. The Emperor sends a message to his most trusted old soldier, asking him to take the egg out of their lands for safekeeping. But Guan Tao is not the man he used to be. Taking on this mission for the emperor would be a death sentence, leaving his daughters and toddler son unprotected in the world.

His eldest daughter, Lin, refuses to let her father risk his life for the sake of the family's honor. Stealing his armor and his horse, she disguises herself as a man and takes on the mission in her father's place. Leaving her country, she finds herself in a strange land, with strange dragons. But trouble has followed her...

Dirkan Grieghern is searching for an escaped prisoner when he stumbles upon a most extraordinary scene: a group of mercenaries surrounding a single soldier. His first instinct is to leave the humans to settle the business among themselves, but when he realizes that the soldier is a female--and wounded--his instincts demand that he protect her.

Lin is grateful for the dragon's interference, but is startled when he soon shifts into the most handsome man she has ever seen. Weak and wounded, she allows him to take her, along with the dragon's egg, back to her home. But as she recovers, other emotions and attractions soon flare to life between them.

Dirkan is intrigued by the beautiful and exotic young female. Though he desires her, however, he knows he cannot act upon his attraction. Not when he is meant for an arranged marriage with a female of his own kind. But Lin's courage and beauty draw him in ways that no other female ever has.

Neither Dirkan nor Lin can resist the fires of passion between them. But when the time comes for her to return to her land, will he chose her? Or will he break her heart by continuing to live the way his parents have always expected?

The Guardian of the Mist Dragon is a sexy paranormal romance inspired by the legend of Mulan.

“The Great Dragon has been murdered.”

“Murdered?” Lin echoed, though the word was nearly enough to take her breath away. The Great Dragon was the Emperor’s closest companion. His protector. The oldest living being out of a race of benevolent creatures who brought the spring mists. Many were worshipped as gods and it was said that the Emperor was one of their descendants. A mix of human and something much more. “Who would dare do such a thing?”

“I do not know.”

“And the Emperor?”

“Fortunately, the dragon has offspring, so he shall have a companion again soon. The single egg must be retrieved and guarded until it hatches. His Majesty thinks it would be best for it to be taken out of our lands for a time, as there are many who would hunt and try to destroy it while it is at its most vulnerable.”

If she’d been breathless before, now her heart felt like it would leap from her chest. Making her legs weak, but she had pride of her own and refused to show it. “Is... is the Emperor asking you to be the dragon’s guardian?”

“Yes. Who else would he trust at a time like this?” Her father’s voice shook and he wheezed and coughed.

“Trust or not, you are in no condition to be traveling at all, much less”

“Lin! Would you have me defy our emperor?”

She bit her lip, knowing that there was no good answer she could give. The only way Father could avoid taking on the task was if he had a son to send in his place. Lin was the oldest of three girls and their only brother Han was barely more than a toddler.

But maybe... “I could go.”

“They would kill you. You know no woman can be allowed to bear weapons.”

“Then why did you train me, Father? I can fight as well as any man. You’ve said so yourself!”

“I taught you and your sisters those things so that you could defend our home and your mother while I was away at war. This is something else entirely.”

“I don’t see the difference.”

Father sighed and the pain in his expression was enough to make her bite her tongue. For now. “No, Lin. I need you to take care of things here. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Father.” She hastily excused herself before he could see that she was starting to cry.

There was no way that this ‘request’ from the Emperor would be anything but a death sentence. And losing Father would be a disaster. They would lose what protection he provided them in society. Though they had been struggling to keep up respectable appearances, she wasn’t so sure that anyone had actually been fooled.

It would explain why she and her closest sister had never received a marriage offer from anyone, even though they were both of age to be wed.

Lin’s lips twisted into a grimace. Of course, she had to admit some guilt in that. She’d not liked any of the men who had shown even the slightest interest in her, so had deliberately shown them her more... ‘unfeminine’ characteristics.

Perhaps she should regret those actions now, but she did not. She had made peace with her personal fate a long time ago. Assuming that she would remain in her family home forever a spinster running the household until her brother came of age and married.

Then, she would be able to retire from the position gracefully and turn her attention to helping raise her nieces and nephews.

It would not be the sort of life her parents would have wanted for her, but in the end, she knew they would have ultimately wanted her to be happy.

And she had seen no man with whom she could be happy.

Now, things were uncertain for them all. Han would no doubt be taken in by a soldier’s family, probably one who had served under Father. Lin knew he still kept in touch with many of them and considered them friends. Even though they were not relations, they would see that the son of Guan Tao would become a soldier too.

She and her sisters were a different matter.

With no family and their standing in society gone, they would either have to become servants... or worse. No one would want the burden of a woman who could not be married off to the benefit of either gaining status or a dowry.

Lin shuddered, recalling some particularly vicious gossip she’d overheard just the other day, aimed at her two youngest sisters in particular. The twins were barely fourteen, but quite womanly and undoubtedly the loveliest among them all. Some bitter old women had been speculating on how much Father might sell them for.

To the brothel. The same place they would likely end up if their father died on this mission for the Emperor.

No.

She wouldn’t let that happen.

The servants were coaxing Father into taking a meal. He sounded very weak, yet argued that he could not spare the time. Not when the Emperor’s safety was at stake.

As it truly was. His Excellency had soldiers to protect him, that was true, but he had always relied more on the sheer intimidation that his familiar, the Great Dragon, had always inspired in potential enemies. No one had truly dared to oppose the ruler as long as he had the magical beast by his side.

But without it?

There could be chaos. Or worse, open rebellion.

Quietly, Lin slipped into her father’s room and retrieved the Emperor’s scroll. Scanned it quickly to make sure she understood all of the details. The complex characters had been written with a shaky hand, meaning that it had likely come from the brush of the Emperor himself rather than a scribe. The monarch was aging too. He and Father had done their first military training together as young boys.

And now time was catching up with both of them.

Or was it the loss of his companion and familiar that had made the Emperor weaker?

No way to know. Though Father was considered a trustworthy soldier and subject, the family’s fall from wealth had mostly banished them from daily interactions with the imperial court. Gossip did not normally reach so far into the countryside and if the Emperor was indeed ill in any way, it was not yet common knowledge.

The servants, eunuchs mostly, who made up his inner circle would have ensured the secrecy of that. With or without direct orders from their master.

The last egg was being held at the Northern Monastery of the Mist. The scroll itself would confirm that the bearer was arriving at the secluded location under the Emperor’s direct orders.

She couldn’t imagine that the monks would be willing to turn over a rare dragon egg to anyone without that sort of assurance.

Lin heard her sister Jian join the servants in trying to coax Father into taking more than just his medication before setting out. She slipped into the room where the arms were kept. The old army gear was continually maintained in fighting condition, and had been laid out in preparation for her father’s departure.

She quickly undressed, stripping down to her short under-robe. Then she pulled on the leather padding and the lacquered breastplate. It was made of many tiny scales to protect the wearer from crossbow fire while still allowing for the maneuverability needed to fight with a sword. Lin reached for the blade in question next. Tested the edge.

It had been sharpened recently.

She held it in one hand easily, its weight a familiar thing. Almost like an old friend. With her free hand, she undid the complex knot that held her hair against the top of her head. Bunching the strands together in her fingers, she sliced through them at a level just above her shoulders. It was ragged and uneven and she’d scratched the side of her neck in the process but with her father’s helmet strapped on, no one would notice the tiny wound.

Or so she hoped.

If anyone knew she was a woman, she faced more than death. It would mean dishonor for her whole family.

But that was the risk she had to take.

“I knew you would chose this.” Her sister, Jian appeared in the doorway.

“Father isn’t strong enough to make the journey. You know that.”

“I know.” Belatedly, she noticed that her sister was holding out a cloth bundle. “I packed you some food to take on the road. And I had the servants place a light sleeping potion in Father’s tea. He’s snoring now and won’t notice your departure.”

Lin took the offering. “Forgive me. I should not have snapped at you.”

Jian made a dismissive wave. “You are under pressure now. No need to apologize.”

“But I want to.” She hesitated a moment, then drew her younger sibling into a quick, hard embrace. “You will look after things while I’m gone?”

“Of course.” They both glanced at the spears lining the wall, next to the place where their father’s armor had been stored. “Perhaps you should take one of those instead, rather than the sword.”

She was more familiar with the spear. It was a weapon normally used by women to defend the home. Which was precisely why she could not take it. “People might regard me with suspicion, if I did.”

“True.” There was a sound, a low wail. From their younger brother. He wasn’t old enough to know all the bad things about the world, but still had nightmares from time to time. He would start with these small cries, building up to a shrieking cry that would likely wake everyone in the house. Even those under the power of a sleeping potion. “I must go to him. Good journey, sister.”

“Thank you.” Lin hurried outside the house and found Father’s steed saddled with more than the ordinary gear. The servants had put on the armored plates too. They would slow the animal down only slightly. He was relatively young and had never seen actual battle, having been acquired and trained by Lin’s father only two years before.

Had it really been only two years since her father had been healthy. He’d come back from his last campaign wounded, of course, but those sorts of injuries normally did not affect a man in this way.

She mounted smoothly, tucking the bundle that Jian had given her onto the back of the saddle. Talking one last look at her family home, she turned the animal toward the gates. Once outside them, she kicked it into a gallop, heading off into the unknown...


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