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Ezekiel looked shocked and wanted to ask questions, but was pushed aside by a large taloned finger. The dragon’s head leaned in close to me, and whispered a language I’d never heard before, but completely understood.

“Coi claxic vi single sotsca ekess duulo jacion,” the dragon whispered. It takes a single kiss to free him.

“No! Hazel! What did he say to you?” Ezekiel fought with the dragon feebly. The dragon had pinned him to the floor with one large paw.

“It’ll all be okay, Zeke, I’ll fix everything,” I said to him. I slowly walked towards where Raziel still knelt. He had not moved nor spoke since he told the dragon who I was. I had never kissed a man before. Raziel’s face was covered in coarse stubble. He had shaved once or twice with a small dagger from his boot. His eyes were open but they weren’t seeing. I knelt in front of him, not sure exactly what to do. I’d seen Galienne kiss Raziel passionately and I was reminded of the jealousy I had felt.

“Hazel!” Ezekiel was shouting my name, but I ignored him. For the first time I reached up and touched Raziel’s face. My finger trailed down the scar that disappeared into his collar. I touched his hair, it was long and silky between my fingers. I heard the dragon whisper something, but the words weren’t for me, they were for Ezekiel. I heard Ezekiel start to yell obscenities at the dragon.

I leaned in and kissed Raziel, almost chastely, shyly, cowardly. Then suddenly I was embraced by him. His strong arms had encircled me, he brought me up to him, and his mouth was smothering mine, his lips hot and hungry. My stomach was full of butterflies, my knees were weak and trembling. This was everything I had imagined a first kiss to be as his tongue explored my mouth and I could only cling to him. A power surged within him, and poured out of his mouth into mine like breath. I sucked it in, the more that transferred from him to me, my vision began to dim, and before it went totally black I saw his black eyes return to their vibrant green and he became aware once more.


I know she’s out there. Raziel thought to himself. He gazed at the horizon where the two had disappeared. The big leathery wings had carried her away from him. He had always had hope that she was still alive. Gretchen had been kidnapped, only their mother’s body had been found. The small toddler had vanished, and here she was, a grown woman, under the utter control of Litjatan. He would find that damn dragon, and he’d force him to give him back his Gretchen. He would save her from the abomination that the dragon had turned her into.

Raziel didn’t want to think about it, but he also couldn’t take him mind’s eye from it. He kept hearing the dragon’s voice in his head. Raziel had been in and out of a daze ever since he’d been bitten by the spider. He’d succumbed to the daze completely when Hazel’s eyes had burned with hatred, how his presence seemed to disgust her. Raziel wasn’t sure when it had happened, before the spider bite, after the spider bite, but he’d fallen in love with Hazel. He had gone willingly to the mindlessness to rid himself of the pain that he had felt when she had hated him.

The kiss woke him up, her kiss, Hazel’s lips on his, sucking, drawing, inexperienced. When he’d seen the cracks appear on her face, the ones like those on his arm and chest before his mind had gone empty, he’d tried to pull away from her. She was healing him with her kiss, freeing him, but at her expense. She had fallen away from him, and he’d caught her, held her in his arms once more. He tried to kiss her, to draw the corruption back into himself. Suddenly there was an explosion between them and he was knocked away. Hazel’s body contorted, he could hear her bones snapping. She was screaming as if tortured.

“Hazel!” He shouted her name, tried to run to help her, but a huge taloned paw slammed him to the ground.

“She has saved you, she has made me promise not to harm you,” the dragon spoke as Hazel’s shrieks became roars, scales appeared on her skin, she was growing, her clothing ripped from her body. Hazel was becoming a dragon.

“Hazel…” Raziel said weakly. He’d never felt so helpless in his life and he never wanted to feel this way again.

“Before we leave I will give you this gift of knowledge,” the gray dragon began, looking down at Raziel, almost like a lion about to snack on a mouse. “The one you call Hazel, the one you called Gretchen, and Franae, my mate, are one and the same.”

“What?” Raziel asked in shock. He had not really suspected that Hazel and Gretchen were the same woman, but he had looked at Hazel and had been so reminded of his Gretchen that it broke his already wounded heart.

Hazel now a full dragon, her scales a myriad of colors, as if a rainbow rippled on her scales as she moved, walked to Hammael. She inhaled deeply, and then exhaled a plume of fire upon him.

“Father!” Ezekiel shouted as he swore she was burning him to ash. Her fire was white hot, tinged with blue. When she stopped breathing on him, the bars were melted and Hammael looked alive and well as ever.

“Do not follow us,” the dragon growled at Raziel and lifted his paws from where he’d held the men to the floor.

“Father!” Ezekiel ran to Hammael, threw his arms around him, but as the dragons lumbered from cave and took flight, Raziel chased after them, calling Hazel’s name.