The Warrior King (Inferno Rising #3) - Abigail Owen

Prologue

Samael Veles considered himself to be a solid judge of character, but he still wasn’t a hundred percent confident about what his king had gotten them into. Supporting the uprising against the High King of dragon shifters was a dangerous gambit.

Suicidal, even.

But his king, Gorgon Ejderha, had been leader of the Black Clan for longer than any king of the other five dragon shifter clans—white, blue, green, red, or gold. He hadn’t remained in power that long by acting stupidly or rashly. Which was why Samael hadn’t argued with the orders that put him where he was now—standing in the throne room of Gold Clan’s mountain, backing the man who’d come to claim that throne.

Brand Astarot had mated a phoenix. A fucking phoenix.

Phoenixes were a prize sought by every creature. Particularly dragon shifters, whose right to rule as High King over all the clans was dictated by who mated a phoenix.

Kasia Amon’s appearance, after no phoenix had been seen in over five hundred years, had rocked the dragon shifter world and given Samael’s own king hope where none had existed before.

A plague had infected the dragon shifter kingdoms since the last phoenix had died, and that sickness had a name.

Pytheios. The Rotting King of the Red Dragon Clan.

With no phoenix, Pytheios had named himself the de facto High King. He’d put kings loyal to him on every other throne, Gorgon holding his seat through sheer luck and masterful political maneuvering. With Pytheios in power, the world had grown darker every day—fewer mates found for their people, more dragons going rogue, and more of their clans falling into poverty.

Except a second phoenix had been revealed. Skylar Amon, Kasia’s sister, was now mated to Ladon Ormarr, the King of the Blue Clan.

One phoenix was something to celebrated, if she was real. But two… Impossible for a creature so rare, only one had ever been known to be born each generation. They could be lies, a show, a trick to turn the tide of the uprising against Pytheios.

But Gorgon supported this alliance, and Samael, Captain of the King’s Guard, was here as Gorgon’s representative, backing Brand’s play.

He just wasn’t happy about it.

The old men sitting on the dais, the Curia Regis council for the previous—and recently slain—gold king, didn’t seem too impressed by Brand’s claim to the throne so far.

Samael checked the corners, checked the doors. Getting into this mountain had been too easy. They should have been stopped. At the very least, Brock Hagan should be here. As the son of the previous king, he would be the man with the most legitimate counterclaim to the throne.

Suddenly, Brand’s body wavered as though they were all witnessing a mirage in the middle of a castle, a sign the man was shifting.

Samael planted his feet while trying to appear at ease, waiting for what came next. There wasn’t space here for a gold dragon in full form, but they’d already discussed this demonstration, so he made no move to give the gold rogue room.

Brand brought forward his wings only. The men on the dais went slack jawed, and even Samael had to admit to being impressed by Brand’s display of control.

Brand stared down the old men and spoke. “I state this for all the gold dragons within range to hear…”

Dragon shifters communicated telepathically when in dragon form. Brand was doing that now, communicating to every shifter near him.

“My name is Braneck Astarot Dagrun. Son and only living heir of King Fafnir. Slayer of the false king Uther. And the man whose mark you bear on your hands. I am the rightful King of the Gold Clan of dragon shifters, and I will take my throne.” Brand pointed to the empty gilded chair on a raised dais behind where the men of the Curia Regis sat.

Interesting that he didn’t list his phoenix mate as a credential for that claim. Why not? Because he wanted the throne on his own merit? Or because she wasn’t truly a phoenix?

Samael’s mind spun with dark possibilities.

Do your duty.

He had orders—support and protect the new gold king. Samael did a quick sweep of the room, listening outside the doors for the running of feet, soldiers to come to the aid of the viceroys still seated on the dais.

Quickly, Brand introduced all representatives of his allies in the room—including Samael as Gorgon’s man. The Blue and Black Clans stood together, and the Gold Clan would stand with them. “They are here as proof of the support I bring with me,” Brand said.

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