I survived Orientation at Crystal Wing Academy–barely–and now it’s time to learn how to control my power.
After destroying a power-sucking slake before he killed my friends, I’m feeling stronger and more confident than ever.
Donovan and I are together, I’m pulling in more threads than before, and I have new abilities I’m excited to master… So, I might be flunking Magical Creatures & How to Tame Them. Not everything comes easy, right?
When I stumble over a dead girl–one of eight Outlings at the Academy–and she’s marked with an O and a #7, it’s clear someone’s copycatting the Outling murders that took place one-hundred years ago.
With the clock ticking down and more Outlings turning up dead, I’ll soon be next. Last time, every Outling at the Academy was murdered.
But the killer is about to learn this Outling wizard won’t go down without a fight.
The third and final book in the series will be released late this year or early next year.
Two Weeks Later
My last class of the day, and I was about to plunge to my death.
Why had I decided to sign up for the class, Magical Creatures & How to Tame Them?
Oh, yeah, the dragon I’d met in the forest. Might be nice to learn ways to communicate with him. Although, dragons weren’t on the syllabus.
Unfortunately, I was barely passing my class, which didn’t speak well for my ability to cozy up to the dragon.
First test? Ride the aldakor. A.K.A., a giant wolf. Sort of a wolf if you ignored the huge curly horns on their heads and their long, spiky tail. Other than that, they would fit in with mythical giant wolves with their four clawed paws and lush black fur. And canines too close to that of a Siberian tiger. The better to eat wizards with, my dear.
Really needed to ditch the fairytales.
“Riding aldakors is an Academy tradition,” Professor Trarion had said on our first day of class. “The original six used aldakors for transportation instead of flitting, an elemental magic they learned later.” Frankly, I’d rather wear myself out with a flit than wrangle one of these beasts. But I also needed to pass this test.
“Okay, here they come,” Professor Trarion shouted. She tugged her dark blue teacher’s tunic down over her snug leggings. Ten students around me did the same with their Academy-emblazoned riding outfits. Sheepishly, I did, as well.
Only a few kids had signed up for this class. Everyone else had wisely chosen the other First Year course offered for this period. Magical Foods: From Exquisite Cuisine to Poison. Just think, I could’ve been discovering ways to poison Alys instead of swan diving across the backs of aldakors. I meant, riding aldakors, something I’d yet to master.
“As the herd passes beneath us,” our teacher said. “Crouch and spring, and think ride to activate your elemental magic.”
Drea, another outling in my class who lived on my floor at Earth Coven, send me a wan smile. After fainting at the sight of the three-headed Cerberus, one would think she’d avoid anything to do with beasts. During our first class, she’d confided to me that her skapti involved working with animals. Magical Creatures was her Academy major.
I’d yet to pick a major. Throwing fire and feeding power into another person seemed to be my only skaptis. And I wasn’t sure what purpose they’d serve in my future. Could someone major in tossing fireballs?
“Here they come,” a guy squealed. “Get ready!”
Hard to miss them since their grunts and bellows echoed around us.
We stood on a platform on the edge of the for-now, not-forbidden northern forest. A well-used trail stretched below and on either side of us, snaking down from the mountains. Behind us, the copper rooftops of the Academy gleamed in the fading sunlight.
Each day at dusk, herds of aldakors streamed en masse to the upper pasture to graze. No clue how I’d missed them while slinking around campus during orientation. These beasties were huge.
Their hooves thundered on the ground. Dust rose into the air, thick enough to make the girl standing next to me cough.
My heart flailed in my chest, and my belly already cringed from the upcoming impact with the trail.
Two weeks into this three-times-a-week class, and I only had two more opportunities after today to pass this test. Failure meant I couldn’t advance to the next creature.
Which might not be a bad thing, after all.
“You can do it, Fleur,” Drea said, hip-checking me with a smile. “I know you can.” Only certainty came through in her voice.
The other students unanimously scowled.
“Better do it this time.” This ‘support’ came from Vik, Ashton’s younger brother, a guy who had kept with his family’s tradition of being equally unpleasant to outlings.
I couldn’t blame him for feeling irritated. None of them would advance to the next lesson until all of us had ridden an aldakor. I was the one holding everyone else back. Well, unless I flunked out. Then they’d move on without me.
One week until add-drop period ended. Should I quit now? Surely, they could squeeze me into Poisons.
“Lean forward, sight, and spring,” Professor Trarion said in a lilting voice. An elf—and a sister to Professor Alean—she stood two feet taller than me and had long, bright purple dreadlocks. Was she worried about imps making off with her hair overnight?
She patted my shoulder, doling out encouragement.
I needed it. The beasts plunged nearer, the lead animal huffing as it bounded around a corner in the trail, leaped over a rock, and approached us.
“Ready…Set…” the Professor said as the animals grunted and snorted beneath us in a stream of black fur and gnashing horns, rushing toward the pasture. “Now!”
Around me, students leaped gracefully off the platform, landing solidly on aldakors. Their fingers wove into the creature’s dense manes as they swung their legs up and across the animals’ backs. From past experience, I knew they’d ride the aldakor all the way to the pasture, after which they’d hop onto the ground, give the aldakor a decent grooming in exchange for the ride, then meet up to congratulate each other on mastering this skill.
While I’d troop down the trail behind the last aldakor and stand in the shadows, feeling useless.
“Do it,” one of the other students yelled over his shoulder as the beast he rode galloped away. “Come on, Fleur!”
I jumped as the last, straggling aldakor bellowed and thrashed its hooves on the ground beneath me.
Smack. My belly hit the creature. Nice backbone, there, buddy. Nearly cut off my wind. My fingers scrambled through fur, latching on. I was going to do it this time!
My legs bounced on the aldakor’s hips as I struggled to drag one up and across the animal’s back.
Something hit my right foot—a bush or tree—and my leg scissored out. Silky mane slipped through my fingers.
I tumbled backward off the aldakor, who kicked and I swore burst into beastie laughter. He kept going, his golden hooves winking in the sunlight.
With a teeth-jarring impact, my butt hit the trail. The squishy trail.
“Aw, shit,” I said, grimacing.
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Release Celebration Giveaway
To celebrate the release of DRAGONSWORN by Marty Mayberry, we’re giving away a dragon figurine to one lucky winner!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open internationally. One winner will receive a dragon figurine. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Marty Mayberry. Giveaway ends 11/30/2019 @ 11:59pm EST. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
About Marty Mayberry
MARTY MAYBERRY writes young adult fiction and infuses it with suspense, romance, and a touch of humor. When she’s not dreaming up ways to mess with her character’s lives, she works as an RN/Clinical Documentation Specialist. She lives in New England with her husband, three children, three geriatric cats, and a spunky Yorkie pup who keeps her on her toes.
Marty is a member of YARWA and a PAN member of RWA, as well a four-year PitchWars mentor.