Rise of the Valiant - Morgan Rice

CHAPTER ONE

Kyra walked slowly through the carnage, snow crunching beneath her boots, taking in the devastation the dragon had left behind. She was speechless. Thousands of the Lord’s Men, the most feared men in Escalon, lay dead before her, wiped out in an instant. Charred bodies lay smoking all around her, the snow melted beneath them, their faces contorted in agony. Skeletons, twisted in unnatural positions, still clutched their weapons in bony fingers. A few corpses stood in place, their frames somehow staying vertical, still looking up at the sky as if wondering what had killed them.

Kyra stopped beside one, examining it with wonder. She reached out and touched it, her finger grazing its rib cage, and she watched in amazement as it crumbled and fell, clattering to the ground in a heap of bones, its sword falling harmlessly by its side.

Kyra heard a screech high overhead and she craned her neck to see Theos, circling high above, breathing flame as if still unsatisfied. She could feel what he was feeling, feel the rage burning in his veins, his desire to destroy all of Pandesia—indeed, the entire world—if he could. It was a primal rage, a rage which knew no bounds.

The sound of boots in the snow snapped her out of it, and Kyra looked back to see her father’s men, dozens of them, walking through, taking in the destruction, eyes wide in shock. These battle-hardened men had clearly never seen a sight like this; even her father, standing nearby, joined by Anvin, Arthfael and Vidar, seemed frazzled. It was like walking through a dream.

Kyra noticed these brave warriors turn from searching the skies to looking at her, a sense of wonder in their eyes. It was as if she were the one who had done all of this, as if she were the dragon herself. After all, only she had been able to summon it. She looked away, feeling uncomfortable; she could not tell if they looked at her as if a warrior or a freak. Perhaps they did not know themselves.

Kyra thought back to her prayer on the Winter Moon, her wish to know if she were special, if her powers were real. After today, after this battle, she could have no doubts. She had willed that dragon to come. She had felt it herself. How, she did not know. But she knew now, definitively, that she was different. And she could not help but wonder if that also meant the other prophecies about her were true. Was she then truly destined to become a great warrior? A great ruler? Greater even than her father? Would she truly lead nations into battle? Would the fate of Escalon truly hang upon her shoulders?

Kyra did not see how it could be possible. Maybe Theos had come for his own reasons; maybe his damage here had nothing to do with her. After all, the Pandesians had injured him—hadn’t they?

Kyra no longer felt sure of anything. All she knew was that, in this moment, feeling the strength of the dragon burning in her veins, walking this battlefield, seeing their greatest foe dead, she felt that all things were possible. She knew she was no longer a fifteen-year-old girl hoping for approval in other men’s eyes; she was no longer a plaything for the Lord Governor—for any man—to do with as he wished; she was no longer the property of other men, to be married off, abused, tortured. She was her own person now. A warrior among men—and one to be feared.

Kyra walked through the sea of bodies until finally the corpses stopped and