I turned and waved and then found myself in an empty conference room. But it was set up for dignitaries and here I was in jeans and a t-shirt. Oh well, I thought. I took a seat on the side of the large conference room table while I waited for others to arrive.
The door opened to the conference room and a small black man came into the room. I could see the small dragon shadow behind him and stood up. He smiled. “Sit, Mr. Sétanta. I’m only making preparations for The Council.”
“Do you need help?” I asked.
He shook his head. “No sir, security and all that. We trust you are as unarmed as you come?”
I grinned. “Yes, sir. My only weapon is my ability.”
“As is ours. We appreciate it.”
I laughed, “Except some of you can apparently control Magnus, and others of you can just eat us whole. So it’s perfectly acceptable.”
The black man smiled. His dark brown eyes light with humor I thanked the heavens for a sense of humor. “Yes, you are right. Perhaps we should inform you that there is not a representative here from the Council that has The Dragon’s ability. Only the oldest of us could tame the beasts inside of you.”
“Do you mean that others here wouldn’t be a challenge?” I asked.
“Yes, Mr. Sétanta. The leader of your Venatori will not risk meeting with any of the older dragons.”
“Nox, please. Are any in New York, the oldest of you?” I asked.
“Of course… Nox.” He gave me a wary glance before continuing. “Reginald Pittman is always in New York. Why do you ask?”
I smiled. “Why isn’t he joining us then?”
“Your leader will not permit him on your property.”
“I’d like to meet him. Can that be arranged?” I asked.
“Of course, sir. I can have him here with the others if it is to your liking.” He stated.
“Why would you do that for me?”
He only smiled and pulled his phone from his breast coat wallet. “Alexandra. Mr. Pittman’s presence has been requested at Apex Unlimited.” He paused while he listened to the other end. I could have listened, but I didn’t, there was no need and I didn’t care.
“Yes, Alexandra. The area is secure and there is no danger. The Venatori have agreed we are not in danger, nor are they.” I could hear a frantic voice on the other side. He interrupted. “I assure Mr. Pittman that Mr. Green will not follow through with his threats. It is in his best interests to allow this meeting.”
A few more moments of silence from my black friend and he hung up the phone. “Mr. Pittman will join us with the rest of the contingent. Would you like to add a person to the parlay?”
“I didn’t know we were parlaying. I think we are good.” I stood up and offered my hand to the man. “What should I call you?”
“My name is Marcus, sir.” He took my hand and there was a strange feeling of power struck between us. I don’t think I’d ever been this close to a dragon who wasn’t trying to kill me before. Which wasn’t necessarily true, my Nanny had been a dragon, but she was just a faded memory of a baby.
Marcus smiled at me. “Is there anything I can get you?”
“No. You are our guest, are you not? Shouldn’t I be asking you that?”
Marcus laughed. “Perhaps. But sit. I will have water delivered and maybe some refreshments. I think everyone else is about to arrive, anyway.” He tapped the security comms in his ear.
I nodded. “I’m underdressed aren’t I?”
Marcus laughed again. “Sir, you are dressed exactly how everyone expects you to be.”
“I don’t know if that’s a compliment or an insult.” I sat down and waited.
Marcus moved to the door and stopped with a grin. “It is merely a statement of fact, sir. No one expects anything of you.”
I sighed. “Now that is an insult.”
Marcus frowned. “It wasn’t meant as such, sir. Please excuse me while I finish my rounds before the others arrive.”
I nodded and turned back towards the table wondering what had just happened. Why would anyone counter Mark Green’s words over mine? I knew why I’d made the request, a lot of it had to do with Sage’s last instructions. And to prove to myself I would not let myself be controlled again like that.
I was pulled out of my revelry when the large double doors opened to the conference room. Dae’lin and Gary entered with Mark Green. Walker, my father and Emilio followed them in and took up a post at the end of the wall while the other two sat down. Dae’lin smiled when she saw me. “Sit down, Nox.”
I wanted to stick my tongue out at her but I didn’t. Walker chuckled to himself against the wall. My father and Emilio gave him a sideways glance, and he clamped his mouth shut.
Mark Green took up his station at the head of the table in front of the three standing Venatori. Dae’lin and Gary to each side. Dae’lin sat next to me for which I was grateful.
Our leader was a balding man in his late 60s who was the oldest living Cesari. He had made his name helping Asher Eriksen run Apex Unlimited. But his pattern was weak. He was NC5 but I could feel it was barely on the cusp of it. I let my senses flow. I saw the patterns around Dae’lin fluctuate with her ability. Fire, Air, Earth, Water oscillated in and out of her like they were fighting to take control, but fire was brightest. She had been a fire-starter. But everyone in her family was, her control was scant, but she had controlled it early and hadn’t undergone the same lessons I had.
The Dragon Council contingent was three men and one woman. I recognized Marcus, but he was the weakest of the bunch. He was first and lead the way to their side of the table. The woman was next. Marcus pulled the chair out for the woman with the ruby red hair. Her dragon shadow was ruby colored. I could almost make out the individual scales on her. I smiled as she sat down next to me.
Across from me, a man with blue eyes sat down. His suit matched his eyes, and the dragon shadow behind him was the same color. I felt power dripping from him. But he was not holding back. None of them were as far as I could tell.
A man with graying wispy hair followed them in. His skin was touched with golden hues that were not normal. I smiled and stood as he took his seat. “Mr. Pittman, it’s an honor to meet you.” I gave him a slight bow before retaking my seat.
The golden man chuckled. “You can tell who I am by just looking at me?”
I smiled. “You radiate power. The dragon shadow is larger than the others here. And you are the only one who’s shields are tightly locked down. I can’t see the color of your dragon, but I can guess you are a Golden Dragon. Exquisite and extremely rare, hunted by humans and other races a like for their precious scales, almost to the point of extinction.”
“You know a lot about dragons for one so young.” Mr. Pittman said.
“I take pride in knowing everything I can about the creatures I’m charged with bringing in.”
“An interesting phrasing. Most of your kind just kill.”
I laughed. “You must not have heard of me then.”
“Oh, Mr. Sétanta. I have heard of you. Ilesha speaks highly of the boy she was asked to raise.”
“You know my nanny from when I was a baby?” I asked.
“You think it odd, that your nanny was a dragon? For a Venatori human mother?”
“I was five when I last saw her. I didn’t think beyond that.”
The old dragon smiled, and it was not a human smile, sharp pointed teeth shown through. His own protections must be weakening. He waved his hand and the double doors opened and Dr. Margo Silverman walked through my door. Mr. Pittman spoke from the end of his table. “Nox. I would like to like to introduce you to Ilesha.”
I wasn’t the only one staring at my therapist. But it was only Kai who gasped with the knowledge he’d been sleeping with a dragon. The shield around Margo evaporated and the surrounding shadow opened into a golden dragon half the size of Mr. Pittman’s. I turned to look at him and saw the familial resemblance. “Your daughter? Is she really a therapist?”
“I am, Nox. It’s been a struggle to keep the fact from you for so long. You grow in power every day. Your schedule with me is something even I need to rely on. Shielding that tightly costs me.” Margo said. She knelt down next to me and looked up at me. “I am still the same person.”
I asked, “Why lie to me?”
Mr. Pittman answered. “The dragons felt your presence come into the world in Boulder. That was when Ilesha went to your mother and offered her services as a Nanny. We sense any dragon born into the world – your young Drake here in the building – we knew of his birth.”
I stood up but Margo’s hand on my knee stayed me. “Drake will not be harmed. It is your will.”
“I’m not a dragon.”
Margo smiled. “No, Nox. You are Cesari. The dragon’s feel your kind like our own. Dragons born with human blood.”
“I am still not a dragon.”
Mark Green sighed. “All Magnus are of dragon’s blood, Nox. You know this. You have reminded us of this fact frequently. Every dragon you bring in. Every vampire and every were. Every creature has a history and a life. You remind us everyday we shouldn’t just kill first when the laws are broken.”
I sneered, “Yet we still do it.”
Mark nodded. “We are not so easily changed.”
I rolled my eyes and turned to the Dragon Council. “One of your own tried to take down humanity’s economic and power infrastructure. He’s dead now.”
Mr. Pittman nodded. “We are aware of the passing of The Dragon. The power loss is surmountable. It is my understanding he called you.”
“He made me his puppet, yes.”
Margo’s hand squeezed my knee, but I didn’t turn to look at her. I wasn’t sure I trusted her now. All the lies that I’d been told in my life and she kept a big one. I would deal with it later. Right now there were other things my plate.
“And you broke his control?” He smiled. “I’m highly impressed. Few could do that.”
“Why are you watching me?” I asked.
“We watch all dragons born to humans.”
“You kill them all.” I said.
He frowned. “That is an old tradition. We like to think ourselves a little more civilized than your kind, but sadly yes, that is usually the case.”
“So why is Drake still alive then if you knew about him?”
“There is a method to the tradition. Each child born must be killed in succession. For the past 23 years, half dragon and Cesari have been allowed to survive.”
“You’ve been killing Cesari?” I asked.
Margo frowned. “As much as the Venatori infiltrate the world, everyone else infiltrates the Venatori. The answer is yes, Nox. There are dragons among the nurses who watch for babies of the dragon.”
“So why did you let me live?” I asked her. “You weren’t sent to be my nurse maid were you?”
She shook her head. “No, Nox I wasn’t.”
“So why am I alive?” I looked at her. “Why didn’t you kill me as baby?”
Mr. Pittman spoke, “She…”
“No, sir.” I looked at him. “I want to hear it from her mouth.” I turned back to my therapist, “I want to hear Margo tell me why she didn’t kill me.”
She stood up and backed away from me. Her face was ashen. Her usual bright green eyes were lost in the clouds of memory dulling them completely. “When I found you, there were two of you. A girl and a boy. The first was easily smothered in her slumbers. Air sucked from her lungs – painless. The second child, felt the loss of his sibling and protected himself. I could not get to him. I tried everything. That was when I went to your mother and asked to be her nanny. When she handed you to me, I couldn’t do it anymore. And I’m glad I didn’t.”
I stared blankly in front of me as she told the story of my birth or rather the death of my sister. Margo whispered, “Nox. I think of that day and I regret it every moment.”
I held up my hand with one finger to silence her and her sentence cut short. I stood up and looked at Mr. Pittman. “Will you retaliate against what I did to The Dragon?” I felt my power flair with the question.
He shook his head. “No, young one. Even by Dragon law, he overstepped his bounds.”
“And Drake?” I asked.
“He is in the right hands.” Mr Pittman said. “No one will harm him.”
“And as long as I live no half dragons can die?”
The man nodded. “That is correct.”
“I’m done here.” I walked out of the conference room but Margo grabbed my arm. She said something, but I gave her a level gaze and her hand dropped from my arm and she looked to the ground.
The Last Phoenix (in order)