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From the Ashes (Black Harbour Dragons) by Jadyn Chase (1)

1

Maverick

Every time they got together it meant more work for me. Standing guard behind Bartholomew Victor was a position I’d worked hard to get, but that's not to say I enjoyed these little Pow Wows between the Heads of Clans.

"I say we stick to the way things have been running," Preston Cane spoke up. He always wore his greyish black hair slicked back. Those bright blue eyes did nothing but remind me of the sapphire belly of his dragon. When he got upset, they burned brightly. He liked to do things differently, but of course, he did; the Black Sapphires were at the top of the food chain. They called the shots and seeing as their official leader, Grady, was never around; those shots came from Preston Cane.

Finch, that conniving little weasel of a Scaler, sat quietly toying with his pet. The girl looked young and scared. There were several scars, claw marks across her face as if he’d been using her as a scratching post. I couldn’t stand him or his attitude toward Anthros. I never cared either way about them, but what I did care about were murmurings of an uprising. Scalers spent enough time hiding from the bags of flesh, and I refused to let that time come again.

“Maverick!” Bart yelled to me, snatching me out of my thoughts.

“Yeah?”

All their eyes shifted to me, as I wished I’d been paying attention to Bart instead of counting the scars on the pet’s face.

“Would you care to update us on your most recent findings? Preston doesn’t seem to believe that we need to increase the number of tours around Black Harbor. I say otherwise. Tell him why” Bart commanded.

I cleared my throat as I pulled out a hand-drawn map of the city and spread it out across the table. Pointing toward the docks, I told them, “There’s been a lot of commotion around the water these past few months. I can’t say exactly what’s going down, but the

rumors are the Anthros are…”

I paused, with my eyes darting down to Finch’s pet, I didn’t trust her. He smiled, letting his long black fingernail trace the side of her face before moving it under her chin. He tilted her head up and kissed her deeply. It made me sick watching him. However, when he backed away, he held her jaw between his thumb and index finger. That talon of a fingernail nestled against her bottom lip letting her mouth open just enough for me to see she had half a tongue.

“No worries,” Finch hissed, “She won’t be spreading any of your secrets.”

It sent a chill down my spine, and I’m sure my face didn’t hide it one bit.

Bart grimaced as well, “Finch, walk her out.”

“Fine,” he rolled his eyes. With a snap of his fingers and whirl of his finger in the air, the girl got up to her feet, grabbed her leash and left the room. She didn’t go far, but it was far enough for me to close the door behind her.

Picking up from where I left off, I pointed back to the map, "The Anthros are forming some alliance, and they're getting stronger by the day. We have to be vigilant. Our intel tells us there's a station near the docks that they're using to amass an arsenal. We want to strike and take that out before it gets out of hand. We can't let them get too strong."

“He’s right,” Bart concurred with a steady nod of his head, “We need to obliterate this threat!”

“Now wait just a minute!” Preston shouted, “To decimate a station? That isn't something we should do. They’ll start something if we do that. All you have right now are rumors and some increased activity. I think you should fall back until we get definitive proof-”

I cut him off, “You fools and your damn pets! That’s all you’re worried about. Who’s going to suck and fuck you off if we take them out! They will engage in battle, and you know whenever they get their hands on decent firepower, the results are catastrophic! We-”

“Get control over your boy,” Preston snarled to Bart.

Bart held his hand out to me as if to push me back. I moved his hand away, slamming my fists on the table and smoke billowing from my nostrils, “They will KILL US!”

“Check those flames, Son,” Bart whispered to me. I respected him enough to listen. After taking a few deep breaths, I backed down. Bart motioned toward the seat behind him. As a good soldier, I did as he silently instructed and sat down.

“I’m sad to see you are growing soft in your old age, Preston,” Bart sneered.

“I’m not soft,” he replied, “I’m simply concerned with the amount of bloodshed that will take place if we get into another battle with them. The city was in ruins and took us years to restore it to even this mediocrity we live in now. I don’t want to disrupt life as usual.”

“Neither do we,” Bart countered, “But I’m sure there are a few Anthros who do. Don’t do this, Preston. Between your son busting out of here, and the Black Sapphire’s affections for their pets, I’m beginning to think you’re forgetting what it means to be absolute when it comes to wielding the powers we possess. Letting them believe we care is dangerous! We need to follow my soldier’s suggestion and wipe out this threat before it becomes real!”

“I said no,” Preston said calmly. “No one moves on this until we know for sure what’s going on. We need to find out what they’re planning before we simply attack.”

“Fine,” Bart replied.

Finch just sat there with his fingers laced together watching the two heads go back and forth. When they shifted their gazes to him, he shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t care either way, so long as the Onyx Skulls get their pick of the spoils.”

“Of course you don’t care,” Bart huffed. “Okay gentleman, we’ll convene in a week?”

He looked at me to confirm. I nodded.

“Yeah, a week should be enough time to get the proof you’re looking for Preston,” Bart insisted.

“Fine,” Preston agreed. Without another word, he got up from his seat, headed toward the open courtyard outside of Bart’s dining area and took off into the sky. Finch wasn’t too far behind, as he tugged his pet toward the same open space. They took off a few minutes after Preston leaving Bart and me alone.

"They're going to get us all killed fawning all over them as if they mean anything more to us than pure sustenance," I snarled. I never acknowledged the pet aspect of the Anthro. I only saw them as options on the menu, living by Bart’s rule. He was adamant that they were good for the buffet and nothing more. Me personally? I enjoyed the flavor of deer and hunted outside of the city whenever possible. I had more freedom than most as his top commander.

“Relax, Maverick,” he told me, “I want you to take a team of six. You know who. Take that station out and make it seem like they did it to themselves. I’m in no mood to fight any Sapphires over this. You’re right. Whatever they’re planning needs to be squashed, and it needs to be done now.”

“Yes, Sir.”

I picked six of my best, and we moved in late that night. The docks were clear. The moon was high, but we didn’t go flying in, flames blazing. We needed this to be discreet. We needed this not to have any scent of Scarlet Wings on it.

It didn’t take long to sniff out the artillery under one of the abandoned warehouses down by the docks. At least, they were thought to be abandoned. Holding my fist in the air, I signaled for three to cover the perimeter while the rest of us headed inside.

“Okay, you two hit the southeast section. Plant a few duds along with live rounds. We want this to look like an accident; like they don’t know how to set their triggers. Okay?”

“Got it,” one of my men nodded. He and his counterpart moved off into the dark corner of the building. I sent the other two to take care of the north quadrants while I moved to

the southwest.

There was no way I could have known what was waiting for us … for me. As much as I hated to admit when I’m wrong, this night, I was wrong. We should have listened to Preston and got more intel. If we did, we would have uncovered that this warehouse was a setup.

When the lights lit up as bright as the sun, I heard the others open fire. Flames erupted around me, and just before I scaled, something pricked me in the back of the neck. All I could do was flex my muscles, but nothing happened. No scales. No fire. No wings.

Darkness fell over me and the bright lights faded. I closed my eyes, and they refused to open again.

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