Author’s Note: I am sorry I wasn’t able to finish editing the entire end of the book. I only finished one chapter, and unfortunately, I have a little family drama going on that means even that wasn’t done to my best ability. At least it was written before everything went down, so I’m able to publish it today. I apologize if it is too rough and raw. I didn’t want to miss my deadline, and I wanted you guys to have something.
I just wanted to note that there is a scene in this book that is happening concurrent with the climax of The Child of the Dragon Gods, so if it seems like I don’t spend enough time on describing it, there is a reason. I don’t want to be too spoilery for that book. Morbidon only had a peripheral role in that book, and you will see that role in this chapter.
As always, feel free to give comments or critiques. Any feedback is appreciated! I love hearing from you guys. Thank you so much for supporting me by taking your time to read these chapters. You’ve made this a really worthwhile experience!
Green vines lovingly clung to the mellow cream-colored marble that capped the exterior stone of Vivacel’s First Temple. At the elaborately carved double-doors, guards clad in gleaming silver armor stood at attention.
The several mile long, stone staircase that made up the temple’s approach hadn’t been any challenge to Morbidon as it switched back and forth up the side of Mount Vitality, though he’d passed many a pilgrim who’d been forced to take a knee on the stone steps carved into the mountainside because they weren’t able to make the climb in one go. For them, there were small bowers overhung by lilac vines or webs of morning glories, offset into the rock, where other pilgrims and the priestesses maintained a supply of food, water, and healing salves to aid the pilgrims in their climb.
Morbidon had no need for these things, but he was irritated that he’d had to make the climb at all. Vivacel had warded her temple against his magic, so he hadn’t been able to simply appear inside her domain. Even now, her wards pushed back against his soul as he forged on towards the temple entrance. He felt the calming, constraining influence of her power, slipping around his soul like bindings. He wasn’t thrilled with it, but since Vivacel had refused to respond to his summons through the familial link they shared, he had to see her in person.
Despite her reluctance to respond to him, the doors of her temple opened at his approach, welcoming him in the way she used to. The guards were clearly unnerved by him, even though he had changed his appearance so that he was garbed in a simple gray robe with a cowl to conceal most of his features. They were her elite guard, and were not easily fooled. They must have realized that he was no ordinary pilgrim coming to her temple.
Within the suffocating vital interior of his sister’s temple, where plant-life flourished in such abundance that it was not clear whether the temple was a building of stone or of living plants, worshippers made their pleas to the healer priests and priestesses of Vivacel, who moved through the verdant nave like white-clad ghosts—far more silent and serene than any of Morbidon’s spirits.
Morbidon sought out the sanctuary for the statue of his sister that stood at the center of this place of worship. That statue was her strongest link to this world, though Vivacel did not have a separate kingdom like he did. She instead chose to live her life among the mortals, leaving them unaware of her true nature, which meant that she must be summoned by her priestesses unless she felt the need to meddle on her own.
Perhaps one of her priestesses had already summoned her upon seeing him approach, because they, like the guards, would not have been fooled by his disguise. By the time he reached the nave, Vivacel’s statue was a marble figure no longer. Now, the woman herself stood before him, her body flesh and blood, her eyes—so much like his own—flashing at him in anger.
“What is the meaning of this unwelcome visit, brother?” she demanded in a clipped tone.
Her anger sparked his own, but the healing, calming magic of her temple immediately quenched the flames of his soul, leaving him frustrated at his weakness in the presence of so many of her worshippers. It had been a risk to approach Vivacel in her own domain, but despite the terrible suspicions he had about her possible betrayal, he hadn’t truly believed she would harm him. “I came here to ask you some questions, Vivacel.”
She lifted her chin. “I did not come to your aid when you nearly killed your bride because I could not.”
This startled him. “What do you mean, you couldn’t help me? You know how to quench the heat of my flames! Your magic is doing it even now.”
She shook her head. “Within my temple, my sphere of power is great, but you would have had to bring her to me, and any use of your magic to transport her could have caused your soul’s flames to burn even brighter, consuming her before she even made it here. You should know by now, brother, that my magic is much weaker in your realm.”
“Then why didn’t you tell me this before?” He stepped closer to her, pointing an accusing finger at her. “Why let me believe that you weren’t helping Febe just to punish me.”
Her glowing face dimmed, and he felt the weight of her sadness on his soul. “Why did you assume that I would ever do such a thing to wound you, Morby? Why do you forget how much I love you?”
Had he been wrong in what he’d felt when Vivacel had left him struggling to save Febe’s soul on his own? He’d thought she’d been punishing him. That her anger and petty revenge were what he’d detected in the tiny bond that had remained between them—a bond neither of them could ever break even if they wanted to, and Morbidon had wanted to on more than one occasion. Yet, now she denied it, and her act was convincing. Convincing enough that he had doubt. “Did you send the shades to terrorize my bride while she was with Marcos?”
A brief flicker of guilt revealed the truth before Vivacel was able to conceal it. Her calm, melancholy expression didn’t change, but Morbidon felt it through their bond.
His rage returned. “You did try to harm Febe!” He struggled to free his power from Vivacel’s influence, but to no avail. Her wards continued to suppress the fire of his soul.
She shook her head, her hands up as if to stop a physical attack, which Morbidon had not even considered, despite his rage. “No! I would never have hurt Febe. I do not like to take life, brother. You should know that better than anyone! I truly believed she would be happier with a mortal like herself, living in the world above and not forever trapped in the Underworld. My trick was only to make that happen, and free you both from this marriage I don’t believe will make either of you happy.”
She reached a hand to touch his cheek, but he jerked it away before her fingers could make contact with his skin. Her lips tightened, and her eyes flashed, but her voice was soft, soothing, attempting for a persuasive tone. “Please believe me when I say that I never wanted to hurt either of you. I truly believe that she won’t make you happy, Morby. She will never love you the way you deserve to be loved. She won’t appreciate how blessed she is to have your devotion.”
“Your jealousy is inappropriate, Vivacel,” Morbidon bit out between clenched teeth. “She is my soul mate! The woman I have searched for, for eons! And you, my own sister, conspired to steal her away from me. Do not pretend your motives were altruistic. You have no concern for either me or Febe.”
She shook her head, looking devastated by his harsh words, though the bond between them revealed that much of that was an act. She was far calmer than her expression let on, which made Morbidon suspicious that her remorse was an act, like so many Vivacel played. He sometimes mourned the loving, caring girl she’d once been. This new creature she’d become after growing into her power was far harder, more cynical, and manipulative. “I didn’t mean to hurt you, Morby. I swear that is something I never wanted to do. You must believe me!”
He felt sick just being in her presence. Sick at heart. Sick to his very soul, which her magic now cradled, quenched, keeping his flame from sparking to reveal his anger and grief. “I cannot break the bond between us, Vivacel—the bond forged in the womb of our mother. But I can turn my back on you forever. You will never be welcome in my kingdom again. From this day forward, the rivalry between us is all that shall ever be.”
True distress finally trickled through the narrow bond between them from Vivacel as she rushed to him, grabbing for his arm with both of her trembling hands. “No! Morby, please, wait! Let me make this up to you! Give me a chance to earn your forgiveness! Do not just shut me out like this!”
He shrugged off her grasp, but froze as a trickling chill passed through him, causing him to shiver. It was not coming from the bond with his sister. In fact, it felt almost as if it came from the very blood in his body. He glanced over at Vivacel to see that her eyes had shifted from silver to charcoal gray. “What’s happening, Vivi?” Just like that, they were children again, afraid of the strange powers that lived within them and having no one but each other to turn to.
“It’s father!” her whispered words were harsh, and her voice broke on the last word.
He shook his head. “That’s impossible! Father is trapped in the Void!” Yet, now that she’d identified that terrible chill creeping over him, he realized that she was correct. There was nothing else that could possibly affect him so deeply. There was nothing that could seem to almost take hold of the very blood that rushed through his veins. His divine blood, shared by his sister, and the monster who had spawned them on his unwilling mother.
“He’s here,” she cried, her voice taking on a hysterical note.
Fury burned through Morbidon, but it remained suppressed by his sister’s power, which only seemed to grow stronger now that her father, their father, was somehow coming into this realm. “If that’s true, then we must destroy him, before he destroys everything we care about.”
Her eyes wide, she stared at him as if he were a stranger. “How do we destroy him? How can anyone possibly stop Solendar? He is the first divine dragon! We don’t have that kind of power!”
She was correct, of course. Trying to fight Solendar would undoubtedly lead to their own destruction. Yet, neither of them could afford to sit back and let him come into this world, because the only thing Solendar wanted was to wipe out anything the Creator had made. He was the antithesis of creation, where he had once been the instrument of it. He’d become this way because of the love of a mortal woman. The crazy part of it was that Morbidon could finally understand what had driven his father to become the monster he was. The Creator had taken away the one thing Solendar had truly cherished, and Solendar was determined to return the favor.
If someone had taken Febe from me…. He stared at his sister’s face, once so dear to him. He’d been ready to completely sever his ties to her for eternity because she’d tried to do just that, and she hadn’t even planned to kill Febe, as the Creator had taken the life of Solendar’s lover. But I would never have become a monster. In that, I am not like my father! And now, we will stop him! Whatever it takes!
He took his sister’s hand in his, noting that her fingers were like ice as the light within her dimmed. Closing his eyes, he focused on the bond between them. A bond like a tiny thread that they’d both worked to shrink to almost nothing. There was another bond within him now, a precious bond that he couldn’t bear to think of breaking, but he would have to lock that bond down to protect Febe from what was happening. If his father somehow succeeded in possessing him, then he would have access to Febe through that same bond. Morbidon shuddered to think of what Solendar would do to her.
He was able to isolate his bond to Febe until it was protected and shielded from his own distress by the most powerful of his spirit wards. Hopefully, those were strong enough that even Solendar could not break them. Unfortunately, now that she was behind those wards, Morbidon couldn’t feel her anymore. The trickle of emotions that had come through even the minor shields he’d built between them before to give them privacy had completely stopped. He had no idea what she was feeling or thinking now, but he couldn’t afford to check. Not until Solendar was defeated.
The bond between himself and his sister burst wide open, expanding as he poured all of his power into it. Suddenly, they were linked again as they had not been since they first left their homeworld and joined Cindara, the second divine dragon—Solendar’s spurned soulmate.
Solendar had stolen the human form of his child, the one child he and Cindara had created together. That child, the child of the dragon gods, was the most powerful dragon in creation, and Solendar now had access to that power. He was using it to his advantage, despite still being trapped in human form.
“Come to Daddy,” Solendar shouted mockingly as Morbidon, Vivacel, and Solendar’s other children, Terroc, Zephrona, and Aquea, hovered in the air above the town of Centinel where he’d been summoned through a portal of bone. The sky was filled with dragons—the entire pantheon of the Allgods. But Morbidon’s focus was on the form of what looked to be a fragile human below him, standing within the temple staring at the hole that Terroc had torn through the roof of the building.
Solendar’s dark soul seemed to leak out of the body that contained it as he marshalled the power within that same body in preparation to defeat his children.
Together, we will defeat him, Morbidon and his sister said in unison, acting as one mind in two bodies now as they had not done since they were children. Their power coalesced, built upon itself, amplified by their shared bond—by a unity no other paired dragons could match, a unity of blood born in the womb. With a cry of rage that came from both of their draconic throats, they unleashed a spiritual blast aimed directly at the dark soul languishing within the body of the child of the dragon gods.
Solendar staggered from the psychic lash, and Morbidon and Vivacel took advantage of what would only be a momentary weakness to dive on him in an attempt to shred the mortal body of the one he possessed.
But that body was too fast, too agile, and they were trapped in their dragon forms, leaving Morbidon and Vivacel at a sudden disadvantage within the confines of the temple. As they fought for space, their wings battering at each other, their link snapped, unable to hold up after the strain of their attack on Solendar.
The first dragon didn’t give them an opportunity to shift back into human form or even recover from the brutal breakage of their spiritual bond. He marshalled all the power within the body he possessed and fired it at Morbidon and Vivacel in the form of energy swords, which lashed at their bodies even as it pushed them backwards into the sky.
They couldn’t get their wings to work as the agonizing pain of their wounds caused their blood to spray down onto the town splayed out below. With a cry of despair, Vivacel plummeted to the earth, and Morbidon followed soon after.