Zanaikeyros - Son of Dragons (Pantheon of Dragons #1)

Zanaikeyros - Son of Dragons (Pantheon of Dragons #1)

Tessa Dawn

Chapter One

Deep inside the Sapphire Lair, concealed in the Dragons Domain, Zane Saphyrius leaned back against the plush leather cushions of the soft copper sofa, placed his feet up on the sturdy coffee table, and stared at his anxious housemate, waiting for Axe to speak. “Well, Axeviathon?”

Axe snarled beneath his breath. “Don’t use my consecrated name.”

Zane, whose given name was Zanaikeyros, snickered conspiratorially. “Understood. What did Valen have to say when he called?”

Axe cocked an eyebrow. “He said Lord Ethyron finally lost his patience with Caleb.”

Zane blew out an anxious breath. “And?”

“And he had him brought to the temple last night…for punishment.”

“Really,” Zane spat, his voice thick with disgust. His spine stiffened, and his feet hit the floor as he leaned forward in his seat. “What kind of punishment?”

Axe just frowned and shook his head.

“Axeviathon, what kind?”

“Spiked lashes. Fifty, I think.”

Zane brought a clenched fist to his mouth, released his fangs, and sank them deep into his fingers, imagining the wicked, jagged lash and how much skin Caleb must have lost before the male passed out. If he passed out. As Zane’s temper flared, he fought to rein it in before his fire sparked and he burned his hand. “What for?” he growled.

Axe paced to a nearby window, stared out at the picturesque landscape—a cascading cliff-side waterfall, flowing out of a towering set of jagged rocks—and popped his neck to relieve some tension. “He got distracted on a mission.” He pressed his palm against the glass and then absently cleared some dust from the windowsill with his forefinger.

“Pagans?” Zane asked, inquiring about the assignment.

“Nah,” Axe replied. “Humans.”

Zane shook his head in antipathy. “The Society?”

“Yep.” Axe turned around to face his roommate. “The kid Caleb was supposed to protect, the one who got mixed up in a gang? He died before Caleb could dispatch his rival enemies.”

“Damn,” Zane whispered, as the picture grew increasingly clear: Among the human population, there were several secret societies that still worshipped the primordial dragons of old. The fellowship typically consisted of ordinary humans living ordinary lives, many of them being inconspicuous members of the community who just happened to be involved with a cult. Some were harmless; some were not. And occasionally, one or more of these followers would pray to the dragon lords, petitioning them for favor, asking for anything from prosperity to protection—from justice to vengeance. On even rarer occasions, one of the dragon lords would feel benevolent enough to respond, and despite the fact that humans weren’t really their thing, the lords would get intimately involved.

Lord Ethyron, Keeper of the Emerald Lair, had a larger ego than most, so he was fairly susceptible to praise…and to prayers.

He tended to either lavishly reward or harshly punish the human interlopers from time to time. And, of course, that meant sending a mercenary to do his bidding, sending a member of the Dragyr to get down and dirty with the humans.

In this case, he had sent his servant Calebrios—Caleb—to provide protection for a two-bit gangster: As far as Zane understood it, the youngest son of a middle-class family had gotten mixed up with drugs and joined a local gang, and one night, while he was high as a kite, he had sexually assaulted the girlfriend of a rival gang member. Needless to say, the rival gang had put a price on his head, and they were gunning for him, pretty hard. Having heard about it through the grapevine, the kid’s father had made an offering of incense and precious oils to Lord Ethyron, beseeching the dragon lord to intercede on his son’s behalf—to keep the boy alive. And for whatever reason, Lord Ethyron had been inclined to grant the favor. Although Zane didn’t know all the details, he imagined Lord Ethyron had instructed Caleb to either extinguish the family’s enemies or scrub their minds free of the incident—make the hit go away.

And, apparently, Caleb had screwed up.

He hadn’t acted swiftly or definitively enough since, according to Axe, the kid was dead.

Zane rolled his eyes.

It was absurd for Lord Ethyron to get involved in mortal affairs to begin with, especially at such a petty and distinctly human level, something Lord Cytarius or Lord Topenzi, the most noble of their kind, would never—ever—do. Each lord had his own preferences and values, and some were more honorable than others, but Lord Ethyron ruled the house of Emerald, Caleb’s house, and Caleb should have known better.

He should have known his master’s temperament by now.

He should have known the cost of disobedience.

He should have handled the gangsters right away.

Still, the very idea of having one’s flesh peeled from one’s bones—from the back, buttocks, and thighs—made Zane sick to his stomach.

“How is he?” he finally asked, bringing his thoughts back to the subject at hand. “Caleb, that is?”

Axe frowned and shook his head.

“That bad?” Zane said.

Axe leaned back against the window frame and crossed his arms over his chest. “Guess it could’ve been worse. Lord Ethyron could’ve had Caleb’s amulet removed.”

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