Dragons of Siberia
Dragons of Siberia
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Book 7 of the Dashkova Memoirs
- Historical Fantasy
- Supernatural Steampunk
- Myths & Legends
Stranded in Siberia, Kat and Ben must navigate the snowy wastes to make it to Moscow so they can stop the god Veles from taking over their world. But surprises lurk in the north, one from her past days in Empress Catherine's court, and the other a creature out of legend. To survive, Kat needs to confront more than her past.
Intro Into Chapter One
Intro Into Chapter One
Siberia had long been the dumping ground for criminals, prisoners, and anyone that got in the way of the Russian Empire. I'd long heard stories of men freezing to death, or slicing their own throats when the food ran out. I was beginning to see the attraction.
Rowan Blade and I had been tramping through the snow-laden hills, making our way south, while Ben, Brassy, and Harvest stayed with the hut. I'd been complaining about the snow when a ridge had given way and dumped me halfway down a slope that ended at the edge of a cliff.
Rowan was trying to pull me back up with a long, skinny branch. It made for a terrible rope. I wasn't sure what kind of spruce it was, but I knew one thing, it oozed sap like a Cossack in a sweat lodge. The sticky substance turned my woolen gloves into magnets for pine needles, chips of bark, and frozen mud, all competing for space with the clumps of wet snow clinging like berries.
It wasn't made for climbing either. The tree branch crackled as I tried to haul myself up its length without the use of my right arm.
I'd been following Rowan. She was the second witch that I'd met after joining the Transcendent Society. Rowan worked for my enemy Veles, but had agreed to help me due to the sisterhood she said we shared. Not that I had much choice after Siobhan, the third witch of the hut, had tried to kill me and left me, Ben Franklin, and Brassy on the frozen taiga.
I didn't break my neck, or tumble off the edge of the cliff that lay a few meters beneath my current location. I'd used my magic to slow my slide, though I was lucky. In the tumbling and sliding, I could have very well given myself a boost of speed, shooting myself off the edge to crash into the tall pines below.
"Stop trying to climb it and just hold on. I'll pull you up," said Rowan, looking over the crown of the slope. Despite the days of travel, with a thick woolen cloak lined in ermine around her shoulders, hair perfectly coifed, and lips bloodred, she looked like she'd been lounging at court. Whenever she moved, the faint sound of bones rattling layered behind the background noises.
We'd almost made it to a ridge of rock that led to a pass between the hills. The valley stretched out below, thick patches of green surrounded by white. A hazy blue frozen lake lay at the center of the valley, its surface stripped of snow by the wind that whipped through the hills.
The gray clouds were thick with snow. A few flakes had fallen earlier, but otherwise the clouds seemed to be waiting for the most inopportune time to dump their load on us.
"I can make it," I said. "I don't want to accidentally drag you off the cliff with me. It would be a shame if after all these millennia you died from an idiot companion."
Rowan raised her dark eyebrows at the mention of millennia, which was her way of saying that length of time wasn't even close to the truth.
"You're not very good at letting people help you," said Rowan.
I ignored her comment and pulled myself along the branch. My right arm wasn't broken, but it hurt every time I put weight on it.
Rowan chuckled at me. "You're smearing sap everywhere. If you would hold on, I can get you up, and you don't have to injure yourself any longer or get any more sap on you."
"If you would let me use my magic, I could get up right away," I said, looking up at her.
"Better we save our strength. We don't know how much further it is to find a village, and you shouldn't rely on it when there's a more mundane solution," she said.
"You call this mundane?"
Rowan smiled, her generous lips creasing around the corners. "It's not good footing up here. You'd probably land and then slip back down over the cliff."
"You're positively enjoying this, aren't you?" I asked.
"Not really," she said. "We could have been done with this five minutes ago if you'd just let me pull you up. How in the world did Catherine put up with you?"
I opened my mouth to rebuke Rowan, but the comment had stung, which meant it was the truth. During our two weeks in the snow-encrusted boreal forest, heading in a southwesterly direction, we'd been telling stories about ourselves. I'd spoken at length about my time at the Russian court. I'd never once told Rowan about the many times Catherine had complained that I never let her help me, but the ageless witch had inferred enough from what I had said.
I was about to give a response when a terrible howl reached us from below in the valley. Though it had a resemblance to wolf song, it was as if the wolf had been kept in the cold for a thousand years and then cracked like ice. The halting, soul-cringing sound brought flat worry to Rowan's lips.
"What was that?" I asked in a hushed whisper.
Rowan didn't answer. In a way, she didn't have to. I saw the fear reflected in her gaze. For an immortal witch to be worried about the sound of broken wolves gave me pause.
A second howl, from a different location in the valley, snapped Rowan's head around. Her eyes rounded and her lips squeezed tighter.
"Clearly whatever that was could be a problem. I'll just use my magic and get this over with," I said tightly.
The hissing, "No!" nearly made me lose my grip. "No. Not now. Do not use your magic for any reason. Any. Don't even call it to your mind."
The severeness of the rebuke wounded me. Without taking her gaze off the valley, she whispered, "We're being hunted."
"By what?" I asked.
"The sajhingatti. They are spawn of Veles. Think of them as wolves of shadow that eat magic. Neither of us would survive their attentions," she said.
"Surely they couldn't harm you," I said.
"I might survive, but the hut is in terrible shape," she said, leaning over the edge. "Let's get you up. The longer you're on this slope, the more we tempt fate. So trust me and let me pull."
I gave her a reluctant nod. Rowan put her back into it and yanked on the long needle-covered branch. It took every bit of my self-control not to try to pull myself up, which probably saved me.
The branch was green and had split along its length. The piece I was holding onto ripped away like frayed rope, peeling until I'd slid another two meters down. The bough was now nearly twice its original length, only held together by a thin strip. My boots dangled off the edge, the yawing space beneath seeming to pull me down.
I opened my mouth to speak, when a broken howl rose from the forest at the base of the cliff. The nearness sent prickles across my back. The wolves of shadow had found us.