Mechanical Dragons, Book 5
Even when you win, you can lose.
A vision of a woman in a cell...
... but is it the past, present, or future?
The air dragon, Jedseah, finds herself in a strange land with a woman who looks remarkably like her maker, Khaly. She will soon discover her original assessment of this woman was very wrong.
How will Jedseah explain her vision to the others?
Khaly weary from the years of war, seeks refuge in her childhood home in peacetime. But peace she cannot have. Not in her home or the world.
The mystery woman’s intentions have become clear...
... She’s making monsters out of human remains.
Why would she create such abominations? And whose remains did she use? Can they find the mystery woman in time?
Reunion is the fifth installment of Mechanical Dragons Fantasy Series. In this story, our hearts go out to Khaly as she makes the most difficult decision of her life. It’s filled with excitement, comradery, chills and thrills, but you will also reach for the tissues!
OTHER BOOKS IN THE MECHANICAL DRAGONS SERIES
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Ten months of peace wasn’t enough time to heal from four years of war. Khaly and Chaith had only been back in Nylm Hills for three months. Jahallah had left for Aelborne with Thennick, and Bancroft had decided to remain on his home continent of Feesia. Both were helping in the efforts to rebuild and clean up the damage caused by the sisters and Chahara in their fight for power. A council consisting of members both Elemental and Plebeian from each continent was quickly formed, and Khaly got in touch with as many members of the Men of the Realm who were left. The two groups were working together to find and round up the remaining Guild soldiers still wreaking havoc.
Khaly stood in front of her childhood home, now burned to the ground with nothing left but the stone fireplace and chimney. She glanced at the surrounding houses, not one was left standing. Even in death the sisters, Tysa and Kyseeah, managed to continue their tyranny from the grave, leaving a wake of darkness and destruction. The remaining enemy forces burned down many villages before they could be rounded up, a last-ditch effort from the remnants of Chahara’s war—now known as the Dragons War. Nylm took the brunt of it, but being a small continent not many lived here. The homes had been closely built, so one house fire could devastate an entire area.
They hadn’t stopped there. By the end of the war it was well-known the Underground was stationed in the mountains of Nylm Hills. So the surrounding forest was set ablaze as well, in the hope of smoking out the people who had stayed behind: children and the elderly.
Khaly absently rubbed her large belly as she remembered happier times, like when her parents were still alive. Orantheio and Brutara sat by her side, vigilant, while Sumora scouted the area. Years of being on the run and staying hidden had created habits that were difficult to break. Neshula, the smallest of the dragons, was curled up in Khaly’s fur-lined hood, and as Khaly looked to the sky she spotted Jedseah flying over what was left of the treetops.
The sun was now in mid-sky, and Khaly needed to start back up the mountain. She was seven months along in her pregnancy and every day found it harder to move about. Coming to Kjoyleer had been a bad idea, and Chaith wouldn’t be happy about her having done so. But she had needed to see the town for herself. She had needed to know how bad it really was.
As she started down the road she let out a long, low whistle, letting Sumora know they were leaving. Two distant clicks echoed through the graveyard of burned dwellings. Brutara ran several paces ahead of Khaly then stopped, facing to their right. Orantheio squawked, and when Khaly looked down he stamped his feet.
Khaly laughed. “Okay, go on then.” The two dragons took off down a side street like two children excited for playtime. Neshula poked her head out of Khaly’s hood and trilled. “You can go, too, if you like.” Neshula gave Khaly a sidelong glance and trilled again before burying herself back into the thick fur-lined hood. Khaly smiled to herself.
Four years of war had felt like decades, and she would often forget her dragons were only that young too. Although Jedseah, being the youngest, was less than a year old. Sumora, her firstborn, was only a few months older than Orantheio, but both were four years of age. Neshula was three, but she too had seemed to age beyond her years of existence. Brutara was two, and many times he acted as such.
Khaly often thought of the dragons the sisters used in the war. She wondered if her dragons would grow to that size as well. But those dragons had been centuries old, had they grown while they slept? Did Athenamal’s ancestor only have small creatures as well? As Khaly understood it, he hadn’t created his dragons from building them but carved them from mud and stone.
Athenamal had given them his ancestor’s journal, which spoke of his dragons’ creation but only briefly. Jahallah had taken the other journals to Aelborne to continue deciphering their history.
Once the journals were translated, Jahallah would work with the school system to add them into the teachings. They hoped that never again would this type of war happen, and that this was the solution. Khaly made a mental note to send the question in her next correspondence to Jahallah: Would her dragons grow to be bigger than a man?
She trudged up the mountain, using small trees to keep her balance. In the distance she could hear the dragons running through the woods, squawking, clicking, and chirruping at each other. She couldn’t hear Brutara but knew he was out there with them. The sun was all but set by the time they reached the mouth of the cavern. Khaly turned to whistle for the dragons but they seemed to have been keeping tabs on her and were standing right behind. Brutara and Sumora had caught their evening meal.
"Looks like they got a good haul.” Chaith’s voice came from just inside the opening.
It startled Khaly, causing her to jump. “How long have you been standing there?”
“The moment I found out you went down to Kjoyleer.”
“So most the day then.” Khaly pursed her lips. He treated her like a child, always had, and she was getting tired of it.
He scolded her, his hands on his hips. “Yes. Why did you go down there? You read the reports, it’s nothing but ash.”
“I needed to see for myself.” Khaly started inside, pushing past him. Chaith and the dragons followed.
“Do you feel better after seeing it?” His tone was one of annoyance, almost sarcastic.
Khaly eyed him before saying, “No, not really. But at least I know for absolute certainty.”
“You thought you were being lied to?” His eyebrows rose to the ceiling.
Khaly entered their living quarters. It was the same one they had shared the year before with Jahallah and Bancroft. Khaly took the dragons’ catch and dropped it on their kitchen counter. Chaith immediately started cleaning and skinning the bobos.
“I think we need to rebuild.” Khaly removed her layers before sitting at the kitchen table while Chaith prepared their evening meal. The dragons took their places around the fire in the living space.
“I wish you would have told me you were going down to the village. It’s dangerous.” He chopped at the six-legged, rabbit-like creatures.
“No, it’s not,” Khaly said with a scowl.
“You’re pregnant. What if something—”
“I swear, Chaith, if you finish that sentence with anything other than ‘I knew you could handle yourself and didn’t need help from me’ I will have Orantheio set you on fire.”
Chaith put down his knife and placed his hands on the counter, glaring at her. Khaly was tired. She was tired of being pregnant, she was tired of being treated like she could break into a thousand pieces at any minute, and she was tired of the expectations from Chaith. From the moment he had found out about her pregnancy he began coddling her. She hated it. She wanted a family and loved the idea of being a mother, but she was starting to feel trapped and the baby hadn’t even arrived.
“With the colder months coming we won’t be able to rebuild this season anyway.” Chaith returned to the bobo he was sectioning.
“I know,” Khaly said. “But we need to start planning for it. The community here needs to start preparing. We won’t have a lot of time to rebuild because the warmer months are so short, but if we have a plan it will go much smoother.”
Chaith threw several chopped vegetables into a pot and seasoned half of one bobo. “Talk to the council.”
“I don’t want to live in a cave for the rest of my life, and I don’t want to raise our children in one.”
“I’m not disagreeing. You’ll need to talk to the council about it.” Chaith took the bobos to their firepit and put them on the cooking stone. After wiping his hands on a towel he ran his palm down Jedseah’s long neck as he walked by. She was curled up on one of the chairs, soaking in the extra warmth from the fire. Neshula was cozied up next to her, belly in the air.
Chaith sat across from Khaly, and she watched him as he stared at Sumora. The water dragon sat at the front door, as if on guard or waiting for something. “What is it?” Khaly asked after several minutes.
“Why does she do that?” He nodded his head toward Sumora.
“For three months now she has sat at that door, barely moving.”
Khaly let out a heavy sigh. “She’s waiting. They all are.”
“For what?” He sat back in his chair.
“Jahallah and Bancroft. We’ve never been apart like this. They’re waiting for them to come back.”
Chaith pulled his eyes from the dragon. “But they understand everything. I know they do. I’ve spent years with them, fought with them side by side.”
“Yeah, so?” Khaly shrugged.
“You told them why the others aren’t here. They know the war is over.”
“Doesn’t make them miss the others any less. The five of us were together for the longest: myself, Orantheio, Sumora, Bancroft, and Jahallah. We were a family, a highly dysfunctional family, but we were all we had. For four years we were together, and whenever we were apart something always went wrong. Whether someone got injured or captured or was tortured, being separated meant something was wrong.” Khaly shifted and stood up. A tiny squawk came from under the table as she moved her foot and Orantheio’s sleep was disturbed. She bent down and picked up her firstborn. Sumora let her body dangle freely as Khaly carried her over to the couch. She sat down and laid Sumora over her big belly. Sumora closed her eyes and made a purr-like sound.
Orantheio joined them and put his chin on Khaly’s thigh. A moment later Brutara jumped off the bed and walked over to the couch. Jedseah chirruped from her seat and Neshula snored quietly. Khaly looked up at Chaith from across the room. “I miss them just as much. I wish we had never separated. I worry every day with Chahara still out there. In reality, Chaith, it’s only been ten months since the war ended. Sure, what’s left of the Underground and the new council have been searching for her, but they haven’t found her yet. That worries me and I wish we were all together. I know the dragons feel the same way.”
Sumora lifted her head and clicked several times in Chaith’s direction before putting her head back down.
“Maybe staying in Nylm Hills isn’t such a great idea.” Khaly ran her hand down Sumora’s back. “What if we moved to Feesia? Or Aelborne? Closer to Bancroft or Jahallah. The dragons would be able to hunt, and play outside.”
Chaith stood and sat in a chair across from Khaly. He shook his head before speaking. “I want our child to learn the Nylm ways first. I want them to spend their early years here.”
“But you’re not even from here,” Khaly said. “It’s not like you have a connection to this place.”
“You do.” Chaith leaned back and crossed his ankle over his knee.
Khaly loved her home continent, but it wasn’t the same without her parents and most of the people she had grown up with were either scattered around the world or had died during the war. Nylm really wasn’t home to her anymore. Nowhere was. It had taken five months of being separated from the other two to realize they were her home.
“I understand,” she said, not wanting to argue.
Khaly decided to read some of the newest bits of translated journal notes while Chaith finished dinner.
A voice was heard from the other side of their curtain door. “Knock, knock. Anyone home?”
Khaly smiled wide and Chaith visibly sighed, rolling his eyes. Khaly shot him a glare as the curtain pulled back. “Pickles,” Khaly greeted from the couch, Sumora still draped over her.
“Hey, Hams. I saw you come in and thought I would drop by. You have time for some reports from the Men of the Realm?”
“We’re about to have dinner,” Chaith said from the kitchen. He was unmistakably annoyed.
“Chaith,” Khaly said.
“Oh, dinner sounds great. I’d love to join you.”
“It wasn’t an invitation.” Khaly could see Chaith had his fists balled up tight.
“Sure sounded like one,” Finn said with a wink at Khaly.
Khaly moved Sumora off her belly and put the notes she was reading aside. She held her hands out to Finn and he helped her off the couch.
“Wow, you sure have gotten bigger since my last visit.”
Khaly pursed her lips at his comment, but quickly smiled and shook her head as she passed her childhood friend to sit at the table. “Why are you back so soon? I spoke to your mother a couple days ago and she didn’t mention you were coming home.”
Finn followed Khaly and sat next to her at the table. Khaly heard Chaith clear his throat before retrieving the bobos from the cooking stone. On his way back he scowled at Finn and Khaly gave him a stern look.
“I wanted to surprise her for her birthday,” Finn said, ignoring the exchange. Either he hadn’t seen it or he didn’t care, but Khaly knew it was the latter. “Plus I have some news about the Realm.”
“Good news, I hope.” Khaly took the plate Chaith handed her, and he dropped Finn’s in front of him with a clank. “Chaith,” Khaly said with a sigh. The two had hated each other from the moment they had met in person, several months back. Khaly and Finn had grown up together, and knew each other as well as they knew themselves. Khaly suspected that was part of Chaith’s issue.
“I’ve tracked down about ten men, but only six are willing to stay in the Realm.”
“Six?” Khaly and Chaith said together.
“What about the other four?” Khaly asked. “The Realm is needed. There are Dragon Elementals out there and they need to be watched, trained.”
“I know, Hams, but the war has killed many of the Realm, along with their charges. And some of the men fear what Dragon Elementals can do. It was all just rumor and conjecture when your mother recruited us. She never truly knew what a Dragon Elemental was capable of.” Finn shoved some gravy-soaked bread into his mouth. “I’ll keep looking, of course. I know there are more men out there, but most have returned to their homes and what’s left of their families.”
Chaith scolded Finn. “Next time use the messenger that was assigned to you to pass along such information.”
“First of all,” Finn said, “I don’t take my orders from you. You don’t run the Realm, Khaly does. You’re not even in the Realm anymore. Secondly, Nylm is my home too, and if I want to return every month I will certainly do that. Third, Khaly and I have known each other a lot longer than you have been around. I’ll visit her as much as I damn well please.”
“Guys,” Khaly said.
“I’m her husband, and if I don’t want some guy hanging around her—”
Finn got to his feet and squared off with Chaith. Taking notice, the dragons looked up from their meals. “If Hettie had any idea of the kind of predatory monster you were, she would never have left Khaly in your charge.”
“Predatory monster?” Khaly got to her feet and stepped between the men. “Okay, Pickles, that’s enough. Both of you.”
“He beat you senseless, Hams, and yet here you are.” He gestured to her stomach. “Pregnant with his baby.”
“A lot of time has passed, Pickles. He’s made up for the misunderstanding of our first meeting.”
“You’re not welcome here,” Chaith shouted.
Finn was about to open his mouth in rebuttal but Khaly beat him to it. “Finn is my top man in the Realm, and my oldest and dearest friend. He will always be welcome in my home, Chaith. The two of you are just going to have to figure out how to get along.” She put her hand on Finn’s chest, pulling his eyes down to her. “I need you to go now. Thank you for the information, and wish your mother a happy birthday for me. I will see you later. I need to get some rest.”
Finn stared into her eyes for a long moment. He then put his hand over hers, an intimate gesture between the two, and Khaly could feel butterflies in the pit of her stomach. “If ever you need me—”
“Get out!” Chaith yelled and Khaly sighed.
Finn tightened his jaw as he glared at Chaith, but when he brought his eyes back to Khaly they softened and he nodded. “Until next time,” he said in a half whisper, kissing her forehead.
Khaly heard Chaith growl from behind, and when Finn left their living quarters Chaith said, “I hate that guy.”
“I know.” Khaly sighed. “I’m going to bed.”