SCALEBOUND WILL RELEASE SEPTEMBER 14TH!

FOURTH WING by Rebecca Yarros meets POWERLESS by Lauren Roberts, and LIGHTLARK by Alex Aster in this fairytale story of dragons, plagues, and curses.

Aurelia grew up knowing she was the result of the tattoo on her father's wrist. The engraved sign came from killing a dragon, which caused him to obtain one of the five curses. Aurelia was that curse. She was a Scaleborne, half-dragon, and half-mortal and had been hidden in a tower her entire life as she was wanted for her golden blood.

When diseased creatures spread plague and famine across the lands, she is the only one to save her kingdom. She is quested to search for the golden dragon relic that grants only one wish and can only be seen by the Scalekind. Being the only person who can see the egg, she goes on a journey to save her kingdom from the diseased creatures and the extinction of dragons, all while being hunted for her golden blood.

With dragons possessing elemental abilities and being able to transfer these gifts to their riders, Aurelia has to claim her ability with her connected dragon and train in time before the kingdom is immersed with plague by the Deathlies or before she is killed for her gilded blood.

CHAPTER 1: AURELIA

(Please note that this chapter is not finalized and will still go through more rounds of editing before published)

The chill of the hammer's handle seeped into my grasp as I carefully wrapped my fingers around it, hidden beneath the folds of my cloak. The large metal chains and cuffs were almost as big as my body. Only one link needed to be released to set him free.

Clank. 

Clank. 

Tremors reverberated from my body with every forceful stroke. Tiny lighted sparks lighted into the air from my efforts, but no dent was made in the thick metal used to keep him captive. I tried repeatedly, but there was a barrier on the chains.

Lifting my hands, swirls of fire erupted from them, blasting the metal.

Nothing budged. Even the flames did nothing to move the forged steel.

I should have known better. Of course, they would use my grandmother’s magic to stabilize him. To imprison him. At least she was the only sorcerer that I knew of. Especially with old magic being cast out.

Nonetheless, I kept trying. 

Clank. 

Clank.

Clank. 

Holding the iron hammer low, blisters tore through my skin as tears streamed down my face. 

“Zemoumai,” I apologized to him in Satas Lerma through the mental connection.

Fascinated and intrigued, I slid my hands up the fire-red scales of his body, tracing them up to his snout. The smell of imprisonment burned my senses.

“They put a spell on your chains,” I told him in his mind. 

His eyes, as large as my head, unveiled, revealing the golden irises. His form of emotion collected in them, glimmering with an ethereal warmth. His tears were like liquid sunlight but in the darkest way possible. 

He knew that there was nothing else I could do. “I understand. Save yourself,” he said in response. Anger filled my veins and my heart, shedding the respect and love I had for my grandmother. In defeat, I placed my head against his body, still moving my hands around his scales to provide as much comfort as possible. 

I’m sorry,” I said again, leaving for the tent holding the knights. I pulled my cloak’s hood up to not be seen. After years of hiding in the dark from what I was, I had learned to become invisible.

  There was only one more thing I could do. I could find the connection tethered to the magic, but I was running out of time. Just finding out about the trials this morning left me with only broken wishes and shattered opportunities to make a change.

Clicking the metal door behind me, hearing the distinct lock of it, an expanse of bright greenery came into view, the mountains towering in the distance. Beside the rows of tents held the stadium, the dark bricks of the arena clouded the scenery beyond the small grass field, displaying the line of citizens along the exterior, eager for the Trials by Fire. The anticipation was palpable as they waited to see which knights would slaughter the dragon to become heir to the king. The mere thought of it made me tremble.

A quiver raced down my backbone. Was it the thought of them killing the dragon? Or the thought that I couldn’t be heir myself? I brushed aside the unsettling thoughts, knowing I had to intervene.

Approaching the tent doors, a subtle tap grazed my shoulder, eliciting a startled jump. I turned around, finding Tobias. Not only my past lover, but the man who was trying to steal my rightful place on the throne. His power-hungry and controlling behavior was enough alone to bring our brief relationship to an end.

His dark blue hair shimmered from the sun. His obscure eyes seemed to peer into my soul as if he knew what I was up to. Embellished in a coat of mail, he kept his silver sword secured by his side, held by a lustrous blue sheath.

 “Aurelia, Aurelia,” he tsked. “Silly Aurelia. What do you think you are doing here?” I hid my sleeping potions tighter to my body to avoid being seen. The knights couldn’t fight if they were asleep. 

“Tobias. Fancy seeing you here.” I clenched my teeth. The urge to hiss at him overcame my body.

His hand grasped my waist, pulling me closer, my head tilting back to be as far away from him as possible. “Aurelia, a few of the knights here don’t know who you are,” he paused, smirking at me, “I guess I should say what you are,” he emphasized. I grimaced at how he talked about my secret like it was his to keep. Like it was something that he could threaten me with. 

Our past made his touch familiar, yet one that I despised. The audacity with which he thought he could touch me like we were back together mocked me, not wanting to be with him but wondering if I would be alone forever because of what I was.

“However,” he continued, leaning forward. “If I win. I will make sure that you marry me so that you can obtain your rightful place on the throne,” he whispered, his mouth uncomfortably close to my ears. A surge of disdain welled within me at the mere sight of Tobias, let alone the idea of marrying him. 

I didn’t want to move to give away that I was carrying four bottles of sleeping potions on me, making me stay in place right by his body. He would send me straight to my father, and then I couldn’t stay to watch the Trials by Fire. Not that I wanted to, but I had to know what would happen. 

“How thoughtful.” I wanted to spit through my teeth. The idea of threatening him pestered me. He wouldn’t last a day on the throne even if he won. And if he did, I would find a way to take it from him, prove to him and my father that the throne was mine.

He released me with a sigh and leaned over to kiss my hand as if gently holding me the whole time. The presence of his hands on my hips lingered, although he had let go. With a side smile pinned on his face, he sauntered off, leaving toward the line of people waiting to learn of the new heir.

The blood boiled in my body, the paleness of my face emitting. The unwanted interaction set my blood aflame, but I knew I was running out of time for the slight chance to save Laneux. I swiftly entered the tent, wanting so badly to escape the lingering touch of Tobias. 

It was disheartening to think he would be the best king out of all the options. He would actually have the confidence and ability to run the kingdom. But I couldn’t think of anyone stealing what was supposed to be mine. 

The tent was soiled and lazily draped up, looking like it would fall any second. Armor, weapons, clothing, and rags were cluttered along the interior and dangling from the ceiling, drooping low to the dirt ground. The tang of salt hung in the air, mingling with the unmistakable scent of sweat.

Bottles of alcohol were scattered across the lengthy white tables that surrounded the perimeter. The flasks full of cheap wine formulated a sour smell.

Making my way toward the heap of bottles, I was determined to get the job done. The table that held them was made of light wood and felt unsteady, the wood splintering on the sides, and the structure of it tilting.

I removed my cloak, revealing the sleeping potions that I had attached to my sides on a leather belt. The liquid in them bright and ethereal. They were my backup if I couldn’t help the dragon escape. I just hoped that the knights would be back here before they fought. 

Opening the dark vials I had brought, the slight pewter smoke lifted, making me choke. Small wisps of blue trickled through the air as I poured the liquid into the bottles of alcohol. I needed this to work. I wasn’t sure I would have time to find the tethered connection to the old magic used on Laneux, and this was my last chance to save him before the trials.

I quickly tapped the corks back in place once I was finished and hid the bottles under a pile of dirty clothes on the side of the tent. Hearing some noise outside, I quickly pulled my black hood back over my face to cover my light pink hair and golden eyes, exiting the tent without a second thought.

“Excuse me,” a bald knight said, passing me to go inside the tent. Others followed after, laughing and rambunctious. Most likely already drunk. They didn’t pay me attention as I slipped outside the door, my eyes on the floor.

After passing a few knights, heading towards the stadium, a hefty woman with strong shoulders and confidence raced after them.

“Wait, wait! We are about to start! Knights, get your armor fixed, and meet us in the arena. Quick!” Her thick accent scratched my ears. “Is that alcohol, I see?”

My heart thrummed, knowing that I would let Laneux down. “Let me get that. You better not drink any before your match. Good luck!” From the outskirts of the castle, I watched as a gust of wind rustled the tent flaps, revealing the lady inside. She gathered the bottles and then left the tent, making her way toward the line of the arena.

Well, there went that plan. 

I had other ideas, like replacing the knight's armor and weapons with weaker materials and outlining their chainmail with powders to make them drowsy as they fought. However, as much as I didn’t want the dragon to die, I also didn’t want the men to die either. 

I blamed my father for doing this to him. To them. To all of the dragons. It was symbolism. It had been done for centuries. Scales, it was the reason for what I became.

Whether I liked it or not, the trials were about to start. Thousands of watchers encircled the arena. Commoners from the surrounding villages were invited to come, and they did. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It used to be done more often, but with the dragons becoming extinct, they now only hosted the Trials by Fire on special occasions, like finding the new heir to the throne when your daughter could not run it. 

I wasn’t supposed to be out of my tower, so I hovered. I didn’t stay in one area for longer than a few minutes at a time to avoid being seen. Roaming, I had my hood up so as not to expose my identity. No one could know who I was. What I was

“Ladies and gentlemen!” my father spoke loudly throughout the arena, calling the attention of every last person. His throne was bejeweled in the center, his crown so bright you could see it in the furthest stands of the stadium. “Welcome to the Trials by Fire! Where we will find the strongest of our knights to become heir to the throne! As you may know, my daughter died when she was very young, leaving us heirless.” The lie that escaped his teeth made me flinch. However, it was a lie that ensnared and saved me at the same time. “We now stand together on this day to prepare ourselves for our future king! Hurrah!” 

I slid between a few drunken men who started to wail as they witnessed the large trap door lowering to the far side of the pit. The metal chains grated as it gradually ascended, displaying the empty void where Laneux was being held.

The crowd softened to a silence as the dragon’s steep footsteps pounded into the ground. A steady pace, exhilarating everyone’s heartbeats, waiting for his presence to be shown. His scales reflected the colors of the sun setting. Yellows, oranges and reds accompanying the sun as it disappeared behind the horizon. He knew that just like the sun, his end was near.

He was large, but the stadium was, in no comparison, grander. Those farthest up in their seats probably felt superior to Scalekind, watching Laneux as if he were a losing pawn in a chess game. Ready to be eliminated without a second thought.

Being over twenty feet tall, he had the opportunity to scorch those who sat in the first rows of the arena. The flames could easily flee his throat and scorch every person.

But he didn’t.

The king’s men, wearing matching violet uniforms and chainmail that sparkled from the sunlight, yanked on Laneux’s chains, forcing him to the middle of the arena. The crackle of the rubbing metal made me wince with each movement. The slight purple veil, noticeable only to me, was the mark of my grandmother’s magic, compelling him to his chains. 

Laneux’s head held low as if praying to the gatekeeper of Ezu to spare him from his slaughter. Small horns protruded through the top of his head, sticking out like sharp knives, immediate weapons for the combat he was forced upon.

I won’t go without a fight,” he told me in my mind, the golden irises peering into my own, matched with mine from the curse I was. My lip trembled as he bowed, his snout glowering toward the floor, knowing that he wanted peace, but humans were the ones to disrupt it. 

Do what you need to do, Laneux.” I knew his name by heart. We didn’t have to tell each other, but dragons could sense each other’s names. It was like their aura. It was as if their soul had already whispered it to us as we met. 

In a heartbeat, his sinewy claws coiled around the silver-blasted chains holding him captive. His claws drew nearer to his body, creating a forceful whip with the deadly metal, sending the king’s men to the outskirts of the arena.

A deep bellow infiltrated into the air. “Let the games begin!” my father called out, my body debilitated from the pride of his actions. The crowd matched his energy as they simultaneously shouted, “Hurrah!”

With the vitality of the audience, the knights erupted from lowered gates along the arena’s outskirts, believing they had a chance. As the knights ran toward Laneux, dirt polluted the air, creating a haze of fog. Different colors of vests speckled the bottom of the arena, signifying which villages of the kingdom each knight was from.

The crowd mirrored the knight’s enthusiasm as they sprinted to launch their attack. The first knight that reached Laneux bore a deep purple, his dark curly hair sticking up with friction as he slid from the gravel, escaping the dragon as his claws swung toward the knight’s body. The section of the crowd from Elenar resulted in cheers as their victor reached the dragon first.

Laneux’s fangs snarled as he thrashed his robust and scaly tail to collide with the knight, striking him into the concrete surrounding the arena. A sickening crack echoed as his body crumpled to the dirt.

Following the knight from Elenar was a knight sporting a glossy green vest. His blonde, shaggy hair fell over his shoulder as he held his sword up high. “For Glodendale!” he hollered, matching with the left part of the arena’s cheers.

Before his metallic sword could confront Laneux, the dragon whipped his chains solid and fast enough to sever the knight's head, making it roll on the ground. The crowd became repulsed at the grotesque scene, some unable to continue watching.

I hoped they realized how dangerous dragons were. How dangerous they were when you only attacked them. If they had left him alone, they would’ve been fine. 

Excitement erupted after the silence as knights wearing dark blue and orange took their swords and started to slice into Laneux’s legs. His claws penetrated the earth beneath him, howling in pain. Laneux’s eyes creased forward as he released a billow of flames, scorching the bodies until they were only a pile of blackened ash on the ground.

The dragon made his way across the stadium, still attached to the leash gripping his ankles. His wings instigated upward, the density of the wind flustering the audience. Bottles of alcohol started to rattle on the ground, as well as bags and articles of clothing being snatched into the air from the wind. 

Audience members cried out in panic, scrambling to protect their loved ones, witnessing the giant dragon take control of the stadium and watching him fly into the air. His wings continued to flap up and down, barely able to fit inside the stadium. 

I relocated from the row I was standing by to get to the other side of the arena, hoping to get closer to him. I could feel the anxiety brew within me. What was going to happen? 

Laneux wasn’t able to fly higher than a couple of feet. That was when I saw Tobias. His silver vest was sparkling, resembling the glow of the moon. I couldn’t miss him with his posture that looked so familiar. His proud shoulders, and stuck-up chin.

His footsteps collided on the ground as he advanced towards the dragon. His sword in his hand gleamed alongside his vest, signifying his representation of Leveland. Chinking sounds echoed in the air, his movements in slow motion as he traveled up the metal chains leading to Laneux’s body.

As Laneux flapped effortlessly a few feet off the ground, pulling the chain behind him, he flicked his foot, whipping the forged links upwards, sending Tobias soaring. His legs gliding, making their way skyward, the audience gasping in suspense. Tobias was catapulted higher than the dragon. His sword was fixed and elevated in the air. 

Tobias used this to his advantage. With his sword in hand, he raised it above his head with the tip pointing below. With the momentum of his fall, he plunged the sword deep into the back of Laneux’s ear. The glint of the sword disappeared, becoming covered with the golden shine of his blood.

Yelping, I covered my mouth before anyone would take notice of me. Taking in the environment, everyone was as shocked as I was. Tobias knew the spot. The spot that would immediately kill any dragon. 

There was a horrific roaring sound that I knew would keep me up at night. It shook the Earth beneath our feet and was the type of sound that you knew resulted in death. The roar continued to ring throughout the stadium, echoing painfully. 

Laneux’s wings stopped flapping, and his body fell to the earth with Tobias falling after him. The thud sent a wave of dust, coughs emitting from the audience. At this point, everyone was standing in their seats. Was Tobias of Leveland going to be the next king? Did he kill the dragon? Were they both dead? 

The silence was overbearing, my hand held to my heart. “Laneux. Laneux!” I called after him. However, I couldn’t feel his soul. I couldn’t feel his presence. I quickly wiped a tear from my cheek. He was dead. Tobias killed him. I hated Tobias for that, and I hated my father even more.

Tobias’ body lifted gently from the ground up. The smoke covered the arena so deeply that it was hard to see. He stood, and I couldn’t push aside the whispers that I heard throughout the crowd, “Is he alive?”, “I see movement! Did he kill the dragon?”, “Will he be our new king?” I wanted to go down there and kill Tobias myself. 

“Our winner is….” I heard my father cry out into the crowds. They were silent to hear the name of the victor. To know their future king. “Tobias Maxwell from Leveland!” A wave of exuberant cheers filled the stadium, rhythmic chants of Tobias’ name following after.

“Hurrah, hurrah,” resonated in various languages and accents, morphing into the sound of a unified kingdom rooting for their new heir. 

My heart absorbed pain with every beat. My father’s face was full of pleasure and pride for Tobias winning the trials. It took it personal, knowing that Tobias not only had lived with us for years, but was also my father’s favorite knight in the kingdom. I was sure he even favored Tobias in winning to be heir and wanted him instead of me.

Watching my father, I glanced at the tattoo on his right wrist. The tattoo that I despised. The curse that brought me here. The curse that caused my deepest pain and stole my birthright of being heir to the throne.