Wednesday, 8 August 2018

#FreePreview - Destined for the Dragon By AJ Ryder

Destined for the DragonBy AJ Ryder

FREE Preview!

1

Standing upon the ramparts of his castle, high up within the mountain range of Braisg’s Cradle, Jaspyr y Draig gazed out into the distance. His periwinkle eyes easily pierced through the growing darkness and heavy mist as cold gusts of wind whipped his long, raven-black hair every which way. This was hardly the first time he had gazed out from the ramparts with longing in his eyes, and a deep ache in his heart that was gripped with rising fear.

And Jaspyr was afraid.

A storm was coming. Jaspyr could smell it in the air, and he could already see that it was going to be a tempest most furious indeed. But, it was not the coming storm that gripped Jaspyr’s heart in the talons of fear. He cared nothing about the rain.

What did rain matter in the face of his loneliness?

What did a storm matter in the face of the fate that awaited him if he did not find a mate?

In the eighteen years since he had come of age, Jaspyr had waited, and waited, and waited for his mate. In his youth, he had believed in the folly that the woman destined for him would simply fall into his lap. He had waited to find her, and he had waited for her to find him. When waiting had done him no good, Jaspyr began searching for his destined mate in every village of his massive fief. He had even visited the elven clans in the hopes of finding his destined mate among the immortal denizens of the forests. For eighteen years, Jaspyr had waited and searched for the woman destined to love and be loved by him for all eternity, and for eighteen years, Jaspyr’s search had resulted in nothing.

What if he never found his mate? At the age of thirty-six, he was now a mere sixty-four years away from losing his humanity entirely. To anyone else, sixty-four years was a long period of time, but to the immortal men of the y Draig clan, all the years from their eighteenth birthday to their hundredth were like sands falling through the hourglass. Each year served to remind them of just what was at stake for every year they did not find their mate.

It was a fact known only to the y Draig clan, but if the males failed to find their fated mates by their hundredth year, then they would lose their humanity entirely and revert fully into their dragon forms without any hope of changing back into humans. Those who had failed to find a mate, would then spend the rest of their existence completely and utterly alone, counting down the days until their sorrow and loneliness would turn into the rage that would send them on a murderous rampage that would only end when the other men in the clan put him out of his misery. Some would have the presence of mind to beseech Draigwych, the Great Dragon, early on in their permanent transformation to call them home to his side and thereby relieve them of their pain, but most would allow their anger and bitterness to overtake them. Enraged that they had been cheated of their eternal happiness, they were only too eager to take a few of their brethren down with them while wreaking havoc upon the innocent.

Dryden, Jaspyr’s own father, had almost been one of the unlucky ones. At ninety-one years of age, Dryden had been so very close to losing himself before finally finding Jocelyn, the woman who would both assure that his humanity remained intact, as well as assure his legacy by bringing Jaspyr into the world. Jaspyr remembered only too well seeing the sorrow in his now departed father’s eyes when he recounted the tale to him as a boy. Jaspyr had been determined to not suffer the same fate.

His personal vow became even more dear to him after his father’s untimely death, for Jaspyr was now the last of his father’s line. At the age of fifteen, Jaspyr had inherited his father’s land, wealth, as well as the position of High Dragon within the clan, and he became desperate to find a mate, even at that young age. His mother had forbidden Jaspyr from searching at so young an age, however, and so Jaspyr had been forced to wait until his eighteenth year. Every year since then, Jaspyr had become more desperate, for as High Dragon, he was only too aware of the predicament faced by his people.

Where there had once been many of their kind, the numbers of the y Draig clan had since dwindled drastically over the centuries, because it was much harder for them to find their mates than elves, dwarves, merfolk, or even wolf-shifters. Everything hinged upon finding women with two very specific requirements.

Firstly, the women chosen needed to have magic in their blood. Whether the magic was dormant or active mattered not. All that mattered was that the magic was there for the mate’s protection during copulation. The y Draig men were more passionate than most, and their seed was molten. It was only through their innate magic that their mates were protected from being burned from within during lovemaking.

Secondly, the women chosen needed to be virgins. Even while in their human forms, the men of the y Draig clan did not like sharing. It was simply their nature. They never shared their women with anyone, and they guarded them most vehemently. Only virgins would do for them, because it meant that they were untouched by all others save for them--unshared by anyone. The y Draig men guarded their treasure hoards most fiercely, and to them, their mates were the greatest treasure of all. It was actually why the members of the y Draig clan were so solitary. While they shared a bond of complete and utterly fidelity with their mates, the y Draig men were nevertheless unable to shake their possessive nature, even among their own kind. The only men they truly trusted around their mates, save for their own male offspring, were other mated males; and even then, that trust was begrudgingly given.

This, of course, only added to the loneliness of those who were without a mate. Parents and siblings could only provide so much comfort when one’s heart and very soul were incomplete. It was a loneliness with which Jaspyr was painfully familiar, and it weighed upon him more and more with every passing day.

He was so tired of being alone!

Pressing a hand to his aching heart, Jaspyr sighed heavily before steeling himself against the despair he knew would come. It always came. There was no hiding from it...not for long. It attacked in tandem with his loneliness when Jaspyr was at his most vulnerable, and it always left him with feelings of longing and dread.

Jaspyr longed for what his mother and father once had. He longed for the eternal love, devotion, and companionship that only a mate could provide. He longed to share everything he had with the woman who was destined to love him for all eternity, and he longed for the laughter of children...hischildren filling the cold, empty halls of his castle.

And Jaspyr dreaded the idea that he would never have any of those things.

Scowling and turning his back on the scene before him just as a loud clap of thunder rumbled through the now black clouds, Jaspyr was illuminated by a bright fork of lightning that streaked across the sky. But he was not afraid. He had no reason to be afraid.

Lightning could not harm him.

Jaspyr did not mind the rain either, especially now, since it suited his morose and dismal mood. All he wanted was someone to love. All he wanted was someone with whom he could share both his immortal life as well as his massive trove of treasure. Was that too much to ask?

Where was she?

Why hadn’t they found each other?

Did she even exist yet?

Draigwych help him if he had to wait until nearly his hundredth year before finally finding the woman for whom he was destined. The thought of being in the same predicament as his late father was enough to turn Jaspyr’s melancholy into unbridled frustration and his tall figure began trembling with rage as the winds picked up and whipped his long, dark hair almost violently as Jaspyr threw his head back with a wordless roar.

Lightning rapidly forked across the sky, and the wind reached gale-force by the time Jasypr angrily stalked into the nearest tower and started down the winding staircase. He seethed even as his periwinkle eyes watered with tears that he stubbornly blinked away. He could hardly have his mother see him crying should they happen to pass each other on the stairwell or in one of the castle’s many corridors.

It would do no good for his mother to see him cry.

Jocelyn would be crushed upon seeing her only child beside himself with self-pity, and Jaspyr refused to add to his mother’s sorrow. The poor woman had been through enough already with Dryden’s untimely death, and Jaspyr knew only too well how much his father’s demise had pained his mother. Even now, twenty-one years since Dryden had been taken from them, Jocelyn still missed and mourned him because she had not allowed herself to grieve at the time of his death. Not really.

How could she?

Jaspyr had been but a boy of fifteen when he had been thrust into the position of High Dragon. He had needed her, and so, Jocelyn had soldiered on despite her grief, and all for the sake of her child. Jaspyr had never forgotten that, and he knew that if his mother saw him despairing his lack of a mate, that it would only add to her heartache.

Jaspyr simply could not allow that.

As his mother had taken great pains to hide her obvious grief from him so she could better help him find his footing as High Dragon, so too would Jaspyr hide his melancholy from her. It was the least he could do for his mother’s selflessness. Besides, there was only one place in which Jaspyr truly allowed himself to sulk and wallow in his own self-pity. Jaspyr would simply go there and get it all out of his system before joining his mother for dinner later.

As he continued ever downward, Jaspyr did not stop until he had reached the very bowels of the castle. Upon reaching the bottom of the long, winding staircase, he turned to the left and stormed down the dark corridor. Only a few sconces kept the hall from being pitch black, and they were there solely for the benefit of Jaspyr’s mother. Jaspyr had no problem whatsoever seeing in the dark. The darkness did not continue, however, in the room at the end of the hall, and as Jaspyr stepped into the massive, underground cavern, the eternal flames of the sconces situated about the room made every gemstone and piece of gold glitter and gleam.

Jaspyr took a deep breath and closed his eyes as he inhaled the cold, metallic scent of his riches, and he felt the beginnings of calm slowly creep into his soul.

This was his hoard.

There were mountains, upon mountains, upon mountains of gold and priceless jewels in the cavernous space, and it had all been accumulated and collected over the many, many generations of his family line. As it once belonged to his predecessors and their mates, it now all belonged to Jaspyr. If he ever found a mate, it would belong to her too.

If he ever found a mate.

Why could things not be simple, like it was for the members of the y Blaidd clan? Word had been circulating through the two clans that Dresdyn, the Thane of the y Blaidd clan, had found his mate four months before. Not only had Dresdyn...the man who was so infamously known for never wanting to find his mate in the first place, not only had he found his mate, but they were now a mere five months away from welcoming their first child into the world.

How was that fair?

Why could things not be so simple for Jaspyr’s own clan?

Jaspyr growled upon feeling his calm waver before finally leaving him, and he continued to growl all the while he stripped himself naked. His periwinkle eyes shifted to gold and became more reptilian in appearance with every step he took deeper into the cavern.

Horns slowly sprouted from his forehead, and talons emerged from his fingers and toes as wings emerged from his back. A tail soon followed and swished back and forth in agitation as Jaspyr’s body grew larger and larger only to then erupt in periwinkle scales before finally shifting into the form of an enormous dragon.

Stomping through the cavern, Jaspyr snarled and hissed while giving an angry swish of his long, thick tail which crashed into a mountain of gold and sent the coins, goblets, and trinkets flying every which way. Growling and grumbling deep in his chest as he grouched his way deeper into the massive cavern before giving another angry swish of his tail that cut through two heavy piles of treasure before sending the riches flying and scattering about the space.

The destruction placated Jaspyr somewhat, for he then resigned himself to simply lying upon a mound of gold and jewels with a heavy huff. As a boy, he had delighted in the amassed fortune. The way the pieces glimmered and glittered in the light of the torches had pleased him to no end, and he would often spend hours in his dragon form simply burrowing and tunneling under the gold and gems. It had been his favorite game to play with his father. Jaspyr would burrow and lie in wait either for his father to find him, or to get the proverbial drop on his father. Once, it could be said that this room was Jaspyr’s favorite in the castle. But now, all he saw were piles upon piles of glittering wealth...and no one with whom to share them.

Jaspyr huffed heavily again, and his tail sank deeper and deeper into the pile of treasure as it swished back and forth in lingering agitation, and he slowly allowed his eyes to drift closed. As the storm continued to rage on in the outside world, a storm of equal measure raged on within Jaspyr; and, everything he felt at that moment, all the despair, anger, and frustration all culminated into one, single thought. 

Where is she?
Stay Tuned for Chapter 2 - Coming August 10th
Full Novel Releases August 15th!