Category: Dragon Souls

The Witch of Nok

The Witch of Nok

This story is set in the Dragon Souls universe. Part of the Havesskadi 2021 Dragoniversary. Nok is a village at the borders of Danv, Sesgrond, Uvalhort, and Hriss. Many roads intersect here. Go here for the Patreon post.

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Stillness permeates over the garden and the cottage under the mid-morning sun. Spring is a fickle season in Nok. From the west come the warm winds of Uvalhort, tempered by their southern, Danvian, cooler counterparts. The plains stretching into Sesgrond draw them eastward, creating a constant breeze. But on days like today, the freezing air of the Ahrissal mountains descends from the north, threatening with the last vestiges of winter.

Nina kneels in between the rows of seedlings, checking for frostbite. As she waters them one by one, the memory of her mother flows to the forefront of her mind. In this very spot, she’d keep the ground warm, blanketing it with an invisible hand, protecting the plants.

Warily, Nina steals a glance toward the village. The cluster of houses and inns and stations sits behind the slope of the hills it stretches over. Their cottage has always been hidden from view, it’s how her mother liked it. “If people really need me, they’ll find me,” she used to say.

Nina’s not so sure. People have needed a witch around these parts for too long, yet their own prejudice has been the main impediment in Nok. Yes, gemstones are scarce, but it would be worth it to collectively pay a witch for good crops instead of facing starvation. With a sigh, she pulls her neck chain from under her shirt. Its locket holds a tiny amethyst shard, the last stone left from her mother. It would be enough to protect her garden, but Nina’s been saving it for emergencies.

She shakes her head at herself. Not only that, but finally using it would mean… would mean she’s chosen her path in life. There’s no turning back from magic. Touch it once, let it rush through you, and nothing else will compare. That’s what Nina’s mother taught her. Because Nina has the inclination to become a witch. She can see it.

Dragon magic.

The very magic her mother yielded.

Yet, Nok has never been grateful for her presence here. Now, Nina faces this crossroad of choices. Her father is an ordinary man. He’d learned a trade, worked as a carpenter most of his life. Nina could follow in his footsteps. Shaping wood is not that much different than shaping magic, although a much slower process.

Then again, Nina is reminded of their nearest neighbor, a young man saving whatever sliver of gemstone he can find for a transition ritual. He could use a witch that won’t make him pay an arm and a leg.

Working with magic requires dedication. But is it something Nina is ready for?

With another sigh, she hides the locket again, but before she can return to the seedlings, a shadow falls upon her. Curious, since no clouds have been gracing the sky. Nina looks up and almost chokes at the sight of great wings above.

She watches in awe as the black dragon lands on the road, and with less grace than she would’ve liked, she scrambles to her feet in time to see a rider climb down from the dragon’s back. The man—or whatever man-appearing creature this is—wears a hooded coat, with a bow peeking from his shoulder. Nina’s sure a quiver is there, too, out of sight.

So, so weird. Dragons aren’t known for letting others ride them. Perhaps it’s under a spell, in which case Nina should… do something. She’s not sure what, however.

Hurriedly, she approaches them and bows.

“Great dragon,” she greets them as per custom. “Our souls bask in your brilliance and our doors are open. We are grateful for this visitation.”

The rider laughs and Nina shoots him a glare.

Only—she can’t—

She can’t actually see his face. It’s there, she knows it’s there. A nose, eyes, mouth, but when she tries to bring them together, they slip away from awareness.

Magic, then. Nina allows her othersight forward.

Oh.

A gasp leaves her, unintended, but the veil of magic surrounding the two visitors is unmistakably draconian. Mesmerizing, like a river flowing around them, water upon which the sun shines to glitter into a myriad of rainbows parting and twinning and separating again.

The archer tilts his head, as if aware of being seen, but Nina wouldn’t look beyond the veil without permission.

“Nina!”

The shout brings the world back into focus, the voice raw and desperate. She turns.

“Papa?”

From the thicket of trees down the road, her father half-runs, stumbling. His clothes are torn, there’s dirt on his face and— Is that blood? Papa holds a hand over a row of gashes on his other arm.

He falls to the ground when he finally sees the dragon, eyes wide, mouth open, and Nina takes off toward him. The rider, however, reaches him first. He’s crouching next to Papa when Nina comes to a stop. Her hands are shaking, but she’s determined to see to her father’s injuries.

“Please, don’t be alarmed,” the rider says. “We won’t hurt you. My name is Ark, and that is Havesskadi. Can you stand?”

Nina can’t help glancing back at the dragon. Her fingers jerk toward the necklace under her shirt, but she forces them away. Havesskadi, the amethyst keeper, who her mother had always wanted to meet, is here.

She takes her father’s weight on the other side, as Ark asks, “What happened?”

“A wolf,” Papa wheezes, “attacked my cart, got the horse. It was alone, but it looked rabid. We have to send word into the village, or it will hurt someone.”

Ark exchanges a long look with Havesskadi—and Nina still can’t believe the frost dragon is standing right there. When the dragon nods once, he unhooks his bow.

“I’ll catch the wolf. Can you take him inside?”

Nina answers yes, though she’s not sure the full word came out of her mouth. Between the magic and the dragon and the wolf and Papa bleeding, it’s a lot to think about.

“We have a friend already in the village. Havesskadi will fly there, let him know what’s happening, and they’ll ask the healer to come.”

“No,” Papa says before Nina finds her voice. “We can’t afford the healer.”

“He’ll bring a poultice, then.”

“But—”

“It is decided,” Ark says.

He gives Nina a small smile, before disappearing in between the trees. Havesskadi flaps his wings, displacing some of the road dust, and he’s off, too.

Perhaps Nina’s been imagining them, she thinks as she settles Papa on the day bed in the front room. She busies herself with boiling water, and then with cleaning the worst of the dirt and blood off her father. Just as she’s about to search for something to treat the wounds, someone knocks at the door.

The person standing there is another magic-veiled creature that looks like a man. He holds out a jar.

“As promised,” he says.

“We can’t—” Nina begins, but he shakes his head.

“A gift.”

Something comes through the thick magic filling the space around them, something that tells Nina to accept without complaint. She does just that, and tends to Papa while this other stranger paces around the room, studying the various items lining their shelves. Most of them are full of herbs, from when Nina’s mother was still alive. But without gemstones, they’re useless.

“What is your name, jitrush?” he asks when Nina has finished washing her hands and Papa is asleep.

She freezes, for a moment, because that was what her mother used to call her. Very few know the word and even fewer can tell who it would suit.

“Nina,” she says. “Yours?”

The stranger watches her intently for a while. Finally, he answers, “You can call me Orsie.”

It feels like something important eludes her, but before Nina can say anything else, commotion from outside draws their attention.

Ark has returned with the wolf. The animal is large, its snouts smeared with blood and froth, lying on its side and panting.

“I’ve calmed it down, for now, but it’s sick,” Ark says and draws an arrow.

Nina watches with increasing dread as he nocks it, then points it at the wolf’s chest. The animal whines, a soft and catching sound that worms its way beneath Nina’s skin. Unfair.

“No!”

“It’s suffering.”

“Then why did you have to bring it all the way out here?” Nina hisses.

Ark shrugs a shoulder. “Either way, there’s nothing we can do for it.”

Nina shakes her head vehemently, because he’s wrong. He’s very, very wrong. She fumbles with the locket, her fingers tingling, fiery ice spreading through her veins.

The stone touches her palm and suddenly she knows. Nina can’t let it die, not without trying. Can’t let the magic go, not without trying to make life better for whoever needs it.

She’s decided.

The small gemstone vanishes from her fist as the magic is drawn from it to heal the wolf.

And then—

The world blooms into colors Nina didn’t even know existed.

The wolf licks her face, allowing itself to be hugged close. Nina’s heart pounds with a rhythm that echoes the trees, the ground and the sky, the wind beneath wings and the thrum of one—no, two anasketts. These ethereal gems carry the essence of a dragon’s magic, and two dragonsouls can only mean that there are two dragons here.

Orsie pets the wolf’s head before nudging it toward the trees. Nina remains kneeling, speechless.

“See,” he tells Ark. “A witch.”

They help her stand, and as she rises, the veil thins until gone, revealing otherworldly faces. Eyes too bright to be human—a pair in rubinous amber, the other in dark amethyst—stare back at her.

“You know my name, Nina,” Orsie says.

She nods, swallowing against the lump in her throat.

“You understand our nature must remain secret.”

She nods again. “I—yes, I do. But how—”

“Dragons,” Ark says, as if that explains everything.

Although, on second thought, it rather does. It takes a few deep gulps of air before she can even begin to order her racing mind, when curiosity finally gets her.

“Why are you here?”

Orsie gestures in a wide arc. “We were passing by when we smelled it. This place reeks of indecision, but more like a cry for assistance than a malicious spell. So we stopped to see if we can help.”

With a frown, Nina turns to the trees and back. “So the wolf was your doing?”

“Not at all! It was indeed a very sick animal. We would’ve taken it elsewhere for healing if you hadn’t done it. But it aided you.”

A shuddering breath leaves Nina and she picks up her empty locket. She doesn’t regret healing the wolf, but now the last gemstone is gone. More magic won’t be possible for her soon.

Cold fingers ending in very sharp claws wrap around her hand.

“Jitrush,” Orsie says. “Little witch. Show us to your winter cellar.”

***

It’s hours later when Nina is allowed to climb the rickety stairs down into the deep cellar. Between their dwindling preserves, the shelves are tucked to the brim with gemstones. Both raw and polished, the stones shine in violet, red, black and amber. Her breath catches and she covers her mouth with both hands.

“Why,” she whispers.

“We might be sending others your way,” Orsie says. “So better start practicing.”

Nina’s eyes fill and spill over her cheeks in hot trails.

“If you need more, I assume you know how to call for us.”

“Yes, yes. Thank you,” she says. Or she thinks she says, because she’s half choking.

Ark’s red-clawed hand grasps her shoulder. “You can refuse, you know. Give it all away.”

Nina wipes her face. The connections between dragons and their witches are delicate, her mother used to say. They are territorial, at times, and the magic of the stones leaves a mark on a witch. Havesskadi’s stones have impressed upon their cottage since before Nina was born. Now, this unimaginable treasure before her is an invitation. She sacrificed the last of her mother’s stones and now she’s getting a connection to Havesskadi himself.

“I want it,” she says.

“Good.” Orsie smiles, pleased.

Nina follows them outside. The setting sun bathes the garden in warm colors. The air itself is a little less frigid than in the morning, the seedlings safe in their rows, but even if the weather changes again, it’s fine. Nina has the resources to care for them properly.

“Goodbye, Nina.”

“Wait!” She clears her throat. “Would you like to join us for dinner? If you—if you have time, that is.”

“We would.”

“There’s someone who would’ve wanted to know you, so perhaps you’d be willing to hear of her. My mother. She was the witch of Nok. Before me.”

“Nothing would please me more,” Orsie says.

Nina breathes, free.

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Lost in Ynys

Lost in Ynys

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Lost in Ynys (by Ava Kelly and Minerva Cerridwen) is a crossover story with the world created by Minerva Cerridwen in The Dragon of Ynys, featuring Ark and Orsie from the world of Havesskadi.

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Lost in Ynys

by Ava Kelly and Minerva Cerridwen

Violet, knight of the village of Ynys, had just settled in his softest chair with the intriguing fantasy novel his librarian friend had recommended. It had dragons, a character described as asexual—a term he thought was quite useful to learn for himself—and a beautiful black cover with a purple gem on it that he thought Snap would have a thing or two to say about. He couldn’t wait to dive in, but as soon as he turned the first page, he was startled by a knock at the door. Grumbling, he got up, resolving to make it a very quick chat with whomever was there so he could return to his comfortable spot.

However, his interest was piqued immediately when he opened the door. He didn’t know this person, and he knew everyone, both in Ynys and the cave in the mountains. So either this was a merchant, or—

“I need your help.”

Tall and wide-shouldered, the stranger cast a shadow over Violet. One hand rested on the doorframe, the other poised to knock, pointy red nails at the end of long fingers. On second look, most of his clothes were red, too, and even his hair glinted a burnt amber.

“You are Sir Violet, aren’t you? The knight?” the visitor asked, urgency in his voice.

“Erm… Yes…” Violet straightened his back so he’d look a little taller, but he doubted the stranger was impressed. “How can I help you?”

“I lost something. Someone.”

Violet winced. Recent experience had taught him that searching for a missing person might lead to proper adventures and could invoke important changes in his life. He wasn’t sure he was ready for a repeat of all that.

He must have hidden his displeasure poorly, because the stranger rummaged through a pocket and shoved a large ruby under Violet’s nose.

“I can pay you, but you have to help me find my dragon!”

Violet stared at the gem. He’d never seen anything like it outside of Snap’s cave. “Your… your dragon? But Snap’s the only dragon around here. And he can’t be yours. He’s not anyone’s, even if we call him the dragon of Ynys. That just means he lives here…”

“Who’s Snap? I’m searching for Havesskadi, the frost dragon.”

“A frost dragon? Here?” Violet blinked incredulously. Sure, it was February, but Ynys hadn’t seen any serious frost in weeks. “Listen, I think we’d best go find Snap. He’ll be able to help you better than I can. And you can tell me everything on the way. Starting with your name, perhaps?”

“Oh. I’m Ark,” he said, straightening, and brushed some sand off his lapels.

Violet frowned, wondering how the sand had gotten there in the first place, considering that most dust around here had to be firmly stuck to the ground by the insistent drizzle of the past days.

He grabbed his coat and, after shuffling around each other awkwardly, they stepped out, with Ark following him down the path.

“We were on a walk through the woods when we found a cave hidden behind a boulder. And inside, there was a… peculiar rock. Shiny, but not like gems. Orsie—that’s him, Havesskadi— He touched it, even though I told him not to. ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ he asked, and then I woke up on the riverbank to the east. One moment we’re standing on the Baurin Shores, the next I’m in Ynys. Wherever Ynys is. And Orsie is gone.” Ark gestured around them. “Some people I met on the road sent me to you. Said you could find anything and anyone.”

“That’s very kind of them,” Violet said. “I must admit I’ve never heard of the Baurin Shores before. Not even from Lady Edelweiss.”

“They’re on the northern side of the Sal. I’ve never heard of Ynys either, but I haven’t traveled as much as Orsie. I must say, you carry fewer weapons than I’m used to seeing on a knight.”

“Oh no!” Violet patted his sides frantically. “I forgot my sword! Do you think we’ll be having a dangerous adventure before we find your dragon? Because then I should probably go back and get it…”

Ark gave him a look. “If you’re worried, I have my bow,” he said, throwing a thumb over his shoulder. “Not that I need it anymore, but I grew up with it. Practicing is peaceful. Nobody dares approach with chatter, the forest is quiet, and usually Orsie reads while I shoot. Or naps, but he won’t admit to dozing off.”

Violet smiled. “That sounds like a dragon, all right. Trying to convince you they’re a terrifying menace and then you look over and they’re drooling all over their gold.”

“Gold smells funny.” Ark wrinkled his nose. “Now, sleeping on a pile of sand, that’s the dream. All those grains, all yours and no one else’s, and so, so many.

“Right,” Violet said, feeling a little wrong-footed. He doubted Snap agreed with that view, and he definitely didn’t. “Anyway, it’s a relief not to have to bring that heavy sword… Hey, Ark, look!”

As they’d walked onto the square, Violet had spotted Snap sitting in front of the bakery. “Looks like we won’t have to walk all the way to the cave!” He pointed at the huge, black dragon.

“Orsie!” Ark yelled next to him, loud enough that Violet staggered to the side.

Snap lifted his head. And then lifted his other head. No, that wasn’t right, Violet thought, just as his friend split in two in front of his eyes. One half was still Snap, yellow-eyed and familiar, but the other’s eyes sparkled like purple gemstones, even under the overcast sky.

“Hello,” Snap’s deep voice greeted them. “Violet, meet Orsie. I’ve never met anyone like him!” He was clearly delighted by that fact.

Orsie, the second dragon, stopped chewing and blinked at them. “Ark?”

And then he was rushing at them, faster and faster until he was plastered against Ark. Violet barely had time to resign himself to the upcoming trample, except— The one hugging Ark next to him wasn’t a dragon anymore, or at least didn’t look like a dragon, with arms and legs and a human face.

“How did you get here?” the new Orsie asked. “I thought I was the only one pulled through.”

“Hold on,” Violet said, staring at Orsie, and then glancing at Snap. “Can you… Can you do that too?”

Snap chuckled. “No. I don’t think any dragons from our world can shift their shapes. We’re always dragons.”

With a huff and a growl, Ark glared at him. “We’re still dragons.”

Suddenly, a few things came into focus: the claws both visitors shared, their otherworldly eyes, the sharp fangs visible behind Orsie’s grin. Violet took a sensible step back.

“I… I didn’t realise you were…” he stammered to Ark. “I’m sorry.”

“Fascinating, aren’t they?” Snap asked as he ambled closer. “And so shiny!”

“Please forgive Ark’s grumpiness,” Orsie said. “Nice to meet you, Violet.”

For the second time in one day, a gem was offered to Violet. This one a raw amethyst, with white and purple intermingled inside the stone.

Snap leaned in. “If you’re not going to take that…”

“It’s beautiful,” Violet said, touching it with a fingertip. “I’ve been reading about these recently and I’m tempted, but… There’s no need to pay me. I barely did anything. It’s an honour to meet you both, really. And wonderful to see Snap actually getting along with other dragons.”

“Hey!” Snap protested.

“We like to give,” Ark said and held his ruby up to Snap, who picked it up between two claws gently.

Violet raised his eyebrows, because it seemed that the gemstone had grown since Ark had knocked on his door. He shook his head. Must be imagining things. “So, what were you doing here?”

“Well—” Orsie sighed and scratched the back of his head. He hadn’t stepped away from Ark, Violet noticed, their hands clasped between them. “Against dear one’s better judgement, I touched an artifact that should’ve been demagicked before handling. In my defense, it smelled like apples.”

Ark made a face and Orsie matched it.

“It’s been a while,” Orsie continued, “since I could stomach apples. Used to like them, but.” A deep breath.

“We’ve got great apples in Ynys,” Violet said. “Have you tried Juniper’s pie yet?”

Orsie’s face brightened. “Oh, yes! Snap was kind enough to share.”

“How did you two find each other?” Ark asked.

“Woke up in his cave,” Orsie said at the same time as Snap’s, “Fell on me while I was napping.”

“Snap has a book hoard, Ark, larger than your library.”

“Quite rude to fall on someone while they sleep.”

“He’s invited us to visit it, up in the mountains.”

“The dream I was having was quite excellent.”

In an attempt to follow their conversation, Violet looked from Orsie to Snap so fast he almost felt dizzy.

“How much pie did you have already?” Ark asked Orsie, peering closely at him.

“Our entire batch.” Juniper walked over to them with a full tray.

“Well, I helped,” Snap said proudly.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen you on a sugar high before,” Violet mused out loud.

“Perhaps I shouldn’t offer you any fresh biscuits, then?” Juniper asked Orsie. “They’re very crispy.”

“You have to try these, Ark,” Orsie said. “They crunch almost like rubies, the smaller ones at least. A wonderful experience.”

Crunch like rubies, Violet mouthed to himself, and turned to Snap in a silent plea for help.

“Don’t look at me,” Snap said, grinning. “I don’t eat gems!”

“What would be a better experience is going home,” Ark countered, but he accepted one of the biscuits Juniper held up. “How are we— Oh. These are— Oh.”

Juniper beamed while Orsie nodded in agreement.

“Are they?” Violet asked innocently. “I’d better try that for myself.”

Laughing, Juniper handed him a biscuit too, which he ate happily.

“If you don’t know how you got here,” Snap asked Ark, “how will you be able to find the way home?”

A loud rumble interrupted them. It came from above, and as they all looked up, a hole opened in mid-air. Not exactly high in the sky, but not close enough to reach, either. From the other side, sunshine spilled through, and a head popped over the edge. Violet shielded his eyes, squinting, but he couldn’t make out who it was. Probably more dragons.

“It’s good to be friends with witches. I knew I’d be found sooner rather than later. That rock also smelled quite strongly of doorways.” Orsie waved at his friend, squinting upwards. “It appears to be calling us back… and it’s rudely impatient about it. Hmm, I wonder if it’s sentient.” With a push, he grew back to his dragon shape, and took flight toward the portal.

“Oh,” Snap said. His scales gleamed purple in the otherworldly sunlight. “Do you think you’ll come back later to see the books?”

Ark looked between Snap and the person above, until the figure threw both arms up.

“You can come back to see the books in a few days. But right now you have to return so I can stabilize this magic!”

“That’s Tamara. She knows so many spells. Maybe you can meet her next time?” Ark smiled at the three on the ground. “Thank you for taking care of Orsie,” he told Snap, “and thank you for helping me find him,” to Violet, “and thank you for the pastries.” With that last bit, he produced another ruby for Juniper.

He took off just like Orsie, and turned into a dark red dragon, with amber streaks spanning his wings.

“Wait,” Orsie called after Ark. “Snap’s… so shiny. Can we steal him?”

To Violet’s dismay, Ark laughed, but he was immediately relieved to see him nudge Orsie upward.

“You can’t steal a whole dragon, dearest.”

“I could try,” drifted down in a mutter as they flew through the portal. Before it closed, though, Orsie twisted around and flapped his wings with a shouted, “Until next time!”

Violet waved and then accepted another biscuit from Juniper. “Well, that wasn’t so bad, as detective quests go.”

Snap sniffed and leaned in. “What’s that in your pocket?”

“What?” Violet frowned and slipped his hand into his coat pocket, his eyes widening as he felt something smooth and hard. “It’s… It’s a gem.” He took out the ruby Ark had shown him back at home. “But how did he—?”

A satisfied grin spread over Snap’s scaly face. “It appears that dragons everywhere share one important trait. We can be very sneaky when we want to.”

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Havesskadi

Havesskadi

Novel: High Fantasy, Adventure, Dragons, Shapeshifters, Slow Burn, Asexual, Panromantic, Ownvoices.

Relaunch date: February 24th, 2020 (Original release date: February 28th, 2018)

Havesskadi has won the Rainbow Award for Best Asexual Debut Book (2018-2019), second place in the Asexual – Contemporary, Fantasy and Paranormal Romance & Romantic Comedy (2018-2019) category, and second place in the Best Asexual Book (2018-2019) category.

The red dragon is hunting her own. Up in the icy peaks of the northern mountains, Orsie Havesskadi spends his days hiding from her, but eventually he is found and his dragon magic stolen. Cursed to wander the lands as a mortal unless he recovers his magic before twenty-four rising crescents have passed, Orsie embarks on an arduous journey. Spurred by the whispers in his mind, his quest takes him to a castle hidden deep in a forest.

Arkeva Flitz, a skilled garrison archer, discovers an abandoned castle in the woods. Trapped there, he spends his days with his two companions, one cruel, the other soothing. One day, a young man arrives at his gates, and soon they are confined by heavy snowfalls and in danger from what slumbers in the shadows of the castle.

Series: Dragon Souls

Publisher: NineStar Press

Original Publisher: LessThanThree Press (For the Hoard Collection)

Exclusive cover reveal at LGBTQ Reads.

Out now! NineStar Press | GoodReads | Universal Link | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Bookshop |