By: Layla Heart
Six prophesied lovers fighting for their survival, one night to pull it all off.
While Rune and Finn are on their way to the fae kingdom to help undo the elixir that prevents dragons from shifting, Litha, Phoenix, Bane, Kit and their guests have to flee the cottage they’ve been staying at. It’s only as they reach the academy that they realise how close to being caught by the fae army they were.
But the campus isn’t much safer, the main group of the fae army is only days away, so they have to do everything they can to try and stop the fae king from getting to the forest on the campus ground. Prevent him from using the ancient magical source for his destructive plans.
This is the biggest battle they’ve had to fight yet, and they can’t afford to lose. But how can a group of teens and some random rebel armies win against a well-trained fae army? And how will they stop the fae king?
Lughnasadh Elite Academy
30 October 2019
Pages: 122 pages
Available in the Netherlands/Belgium:
As part of a collection
If you don’t want to buy through any of the international stores, this story is also available in the Netherlands and Belgium as part of Fated Encounter (Lughnasadh Elite Academy Collection 3). This features the next three novellas and a holiday short story of the series and is available in ebook or paperback.
The darkness around us is almost suffocating and it’s hard to see very far around us, every sound muffled and distorted by the forest. About an hour ago, some people joined us, a couple of fae and some dragons and wolves, they’re not walking with us, but they’re nearby, I can hear and sense them. The sensations radiating off them are… Something is going on and I’m not sure I want to know what it is exactly, because it’s not good.
Right before they joined us, I felt panic spike in Litha, Kit, Bane and Phoenix as they scrambled around, their brains turning to chaos. I itched to grab my phone, check on them, but I can’t turn it on here. If I use my phone, we can be tracked, and we don’t want to be found.
I stop as their panic spikes again, fear coursing through them. After the first spike, I felt that they went back to the campus, but this time they’re already on campus. It almost feels like they’re suddenly more focused, more determined. I just hope they’re not getting themselves in trouble before we’re back because I can’t protect them from here.
The need to know what’s going on with them grows, but I force myself to keep following Topaz. I have my own task to fulfil before we can go back. We have our own business here. They’ll be fine, I hope.
Topaz holds his hand up and Finn and I immediately stop. I glance around, trying not to move, but I don’t see anything special going on. At least, it’s not like there are new people around or something, we’re just in the middle of the forest somewhere.
“We’re about to step over the border.” Topaz’ voice is low and I blink. I thought we’d already passed it, it feels like we’ve walked long enough for it.
There’s a ‘fizz’ of magic and a young woman appears a couple of trees over. With her there, I can see the slight shimmer of the border in front of us, between us. If Topaz hadn’t stopped us, I would have walked straight through it. Why didn’t I notice it was there?
“How are we going to pass? They’ll know if we step through that.” Finn glances around and I feel his doubt.
“Magic, that’s why Sophia is waiting for us here.” He takes a step forward and I watch as the girl does the same, raising her hands. It’s almost like she’s literally lifting the barrier up from the ground, and Topaz reaches for the bottom edge of it, something shining in his hand. Around where Topaz is holding the border, it’s more visible, the lower edge of it shimmering slightly green.
I glance at Finn. I guess this is how the rebels pass the border unnoticed. But someone has to know about this, right? How are they able to keep doing it without being caught?
“You can pass now.” Topaz motions for us and I crawl under the barrier.
Once I stand on fae ground, things start to feel different, the lands stretching out in front of me pulsing with ancient magic, dragon magic. This same sensation floods me every time I walk on the ground of the old dragon kingdom, even though it’s been overtaken by the fae for a long time, the dragon magic isn’t gone, just hidden.
“How did you learn to do this?” Finn is close behind me, I feel him touch my back for a moment as he steps past me towards the girl.
“Not every dragon family lost their knowledge when your family invaded their territory.” Sophia is closer now, and frowns at Finn, then she looks at Topaz, her eyes sad. “You felt it too?”
He nods, and for the first time, I see worry pass over his features. “Yeah.”
“Feel what?” I glance between them.
“Fae soldiers passed the border into werewolf lands, not too far away from here. It happened a while ago, maybe an hour or so.” Topaz turns to me. “It’s why the others came closer to us, protecting us, keep an eye out for danger.” Then he looks at Sophia. “You got us transportation?”
She nods. “Half an hour walk, we didn’t dare to get closer once we saw the news. And that was good too, I don’t want to pull any attention to us.”
“The news?” I step closer to Sophia and her eyes go wide as she nods.
She glances at Topaz, but then motions for us to follow her. “Let’s start walking first. Cover as much ground as possible. I’ll tell you once we’re further from the border. Don’t want to chance anything.” Again with that not trusting that others won’t be trying to listen in on us, but now we’ve been with Topaz for a while longer, I can understand it better. They’re rebels, all of them, anything they say can be overheard and get them in a lot of trouble.
I feel how Finn is getting frustrated with their evasive answers, so I put my hand on his shoulder. We’re not here to make trouble, we just have to follow their directions for now. They know this area, we don’t. Even if I hate it too, this being dependent on them.
The sun is peeking over the roofs of the small town we’re approaching and even though it’s beautiful, I can’t appreciate it, not now. Fucking hell. Sophia just finished talking about how the soldiers have been at the cottage, and they’re very close to the campus too.
I’m still fuming, too angry to think straight. I can’t believe we just left the others to be and went off on our own, not leaving them with enough protection. I can’t believe we weren’t there when they needed us. And we still can’t send them a message or anything. I want to reach out to Litha and Kit and the others, but it’s still not safe. Fuck.
Next to me, Finn’s eyes are dark with fury too, but he seems to be better at hiding it from the others. Or maybe they’re just more scared of me than of him because my skin keeps flickering grey from my dragon… Probably the second one…
“We’re almost there.” Sophia glances back at me. “We’re going to stop at the edge of town. This town doesn’t tend to have any soldier protection, there are no valuables here, and it’s too far from important towns and cities to get much attention. At the edge of the town, someone will be waiting for us and help us reach the first homes.”
I nod, holding the bag with bottles closer. All three of us have a full bag, but I still worry it’s not enough. Of course, it won’t be enough, not to help everyone I want to help. I want all dragons to be free, but we can only help a select few this time, as soon as this is all over, I’ll come back and help more people.
The car stops and Topaz gets out, opening the door on my side. “I know I don’t have to warn you, but the people here, they’re… in different stages of shifting. They can look…” He pulls a face.
I nod, putting my hand on his shoulder as I climb out. “I know. I’ve been here before.” Not here specifically, too far north, but I’ve been in similar areas. Towns like this exist all over the old dragon lands.
Behind me, Finn grumbles, and even though I can’t hear him, I know it’s something about me putting myself in danger when I shouldn’t and him disliking it. But we’ve had that argument before, so I’m not going to start this time.
Suddenly, from the corner of my eyes, I see the heads of three curious little kids appear from behind a low wall a little while over. Their eyes big as they stare at me and Topaz, filling with fear as they catch sight of Finn. Then they come closer, staying close to the wall, but I can now see them better.
The tallest one, a boy, has dark red skin, enhanced by the morning light, his dragon skin visible even in his human form. The middle one, a girl, has a misshapen head, somewhere between a dragon’s head and a human head, her nose and mouth especially are more dragon-shaped while her jaw and eyes are more human-shaped. And the last one, the littlest one, another boy, who is probably not even old enough to have reached primary school, has claws instead of hands and his feet are also not exactly human, the toes way too large and sharp.
My heart hurts as I look at them. They’re never fully human and never fully dragon, closed off from their true dragon form and at the same time always misshapen like this, reminded of their place in this society, their ‘impurity’ according to the fae. The kids are wearing torn clothes, dirty and full of holes.
This area used to be known for their beautiful fields with flowers and their amazing art. Now it’s poor, very poor, and the fae aren’t doing anything about it.
“Hello.” I keep my voice low as I slowly walk over to them, going down on one knee, my wounded leg stiff from walking too much and then sitting still for hours, but I don’t want to scare them off by towering over them. “Do you live around here?”
The boy, turning his chin up at me, nods curtly. “Yes. And who are you?”
Should I just tell them? But as my dragon stirs inside me, taking notice of these three kids, I know that I can’t hide who I am from them, I shouldn’t. “I’m Rune, the dragon crown prince. My friends and I are here to help you. Where are your parents?”
Sophia appears next to me. “They’re orphans. This area has been…” She pulls a face as she reaches out to the smallest boy, who seems to trust her as he lets her take him in her arms. “Lots of healthy adults have been taken from this area, their children left behind to fend for themselves.”
Inside, my dragon roars at this injustice, how dare anyone split parents and kids up, but outwardly, I just nod, keeping my emotions from my face as to not scare the kids. Then I slowly reach into my bag and take a small cup and one of the bottles from it. “Who would like to become a real dragon?” I smile the best I can and the girl smiles back at me. She seems to be pretty easy-going, but with the way Sophia walks around here, and how easy it was to reach it, I suspect that they’re used to dragon rebels coming here.
“We can? Mummy said that we can’t anymore.” She’s still smiling, even though she’s looking a little more doubtful at me now. “She said that since the fae came, we can’t become real dragons anymore.”
I grin back at her, trying to look upbeat and not as heartbroken as I feel at her words. “I’d show you myself, but I’m kind of trying to keep me being here a secret.” I put my finger to my lips, then I wink. “And I’m a big dragon. Big, big dragon. So people would immediately see me.”
The eldest boy looks like he’s still doubting me, but when he glances at Sophia, and she nods at him, he seems to trust me more. “How?”
“If you take a sip from this serum, it will fix whatever is stopping you from shifting and you’ll be able to become a dragon, a full dragon, whenever you want to.” I pour some of the liquid into the cup, holding it out to them.
The boy looks at it doubtfully and raises an eyebrow, which, you know, with the whole not trusting random strangers, is a good thing, but the girl reaches out, much more excited. She takes the cup and then puts it to her lips, pouring a big gulp into her mouth. Drinking with a mouth which is mostly dragon-shaped is kind of hard. Then she thrusts the cup at the bigger boy and steps back, blinking a couple of times. After a couple of seconds, she falls to her knees, letting out strange sounds. The boy wants to rush to her side, but I stop him. If her dragon is confused, she may hurt him.
“Wait a moment,” I urge. This will be her first transformation, and that’s going to be complicated, especially since she’s not used to it.
The girl’s body starts to shimmer, shift, change, flickering between her human form and her dragon form, but the dragon form becomes stronger by the moment, slowly gaining control. Her skin turns almost black and I have no idea what her element is, it’s too unclear. After one last flicker, she unfolds large black wings, raising her head, and her eyes are a deep blue. A water dragon, that’s rare, that’s very rare. With both fire and water dragon children, I understand why the fae took their parents… The girl stumbles forward a few steps, before letting out a happy squeak as she barges for me, butting her head against my shoulder, pushing in close.
I reach out to her, rubbing my hand over her neck, over her head, letting her know how happy I am to see her like this.
Next to me, the boy takes a big gulp from the cup too, probably not wanting to be left out of the loop, and I smile, glad that they were so easy to help.
But this is the easy part, trying to convince some of the adults will be harder. And these are just three kids, just a fraction of the three-hundred people we’re planning on helping this morning…