Monday, January 25, 2021

Dragon Blood Tour and Giveaway

 


Dragon Blood
Draco Sang Trilogy Book 1
by Mary Beesley
Genre: YA Fantasy


Cal, a hungry sixteen-year-old sick of mining the sand, wants to fit in and make his ma proud, but instead, his violent tendencies bring shame. And the truth. He’s the son of a Draco Sang. Carriers of the Dragon’s blood, the Draco Sang transform into half human half beast as they mature into adults. And if Cal can't control the dark impulses of his dragon blood, he'll grow into a man-beast—and he'll be hunted.

Ferth, son of a Draco Sang chief and last of his class to grow claws, needs to prove his worth to his father, or he'll be sent to the slave house. Hiding his human heart, he joins the army headed south to conquer the fertile human lands.

Neither brother feels they belong. Cal is human, fighting against becoming a beastly Draco Sang, while Ferth is struggling to push back his humanity and transform into a worthy Draco warrior.

Before ever meeting in open battle, Ferth is sent to kill Cal. But when he learns they are brothers, he must decide which loyalty is stronger, blood or country. And whether to finally give in to his humanity.



CHAPTER ONE 


CAL


Cal needed to kill something. He needed to eat.

He prowled the desert as if he were king of the

sand—a far cry from the truth. His sweaty palm tightened on

his hunting knife, his prized possession. Steps quiet, he

neared the Sahana River. No animals, no tracks, no life. The

dead bank glistened in the heat, taunting him. He glowered

back.

Cal followed the curves north to where a jumble of rocks

crossed the river, making it more secluded than the open

banks. Water splashed ahead. He crouched behind a boulder,

stomach clenching in the hope that he’d found prey. His

tongue rasped over chapped lips.

Peeking through the slabs, Cal spied a girl digging for

fiddlers. He swallowed his spit and ground his teeth. She

would have scared any larger prey far away. Unhappy fingers

twitched on his knife.

The girl was young, maybe nine or ten. She knelt in the

languid water, twisting her hands into the riverbed. With a

grunt of pain, she yanked her arm free. A palm-sized

creature with a thorny shell and squiggly barbed legs clung

to the flesh of her thumb. Teeth-tight, she levered a knife

between the shells and pried them open, revealing one bite

of meat.

Cal had zero skill at catching fiddlers. It took patience.

Lots of patience.

She tossed the prickly brown shell onto the sand and held

up a glossy muscle tinged pink with her blood. Instead of

putting the morsel in her mouth, as Cal would have done,

she set the meat in a basket on the far riverbank. The inside

of the wicker shone with the gleam of dozens of fiddlers.

Cal stared; saliva coated his tongue. There were enough

for a real dinner. Enough to satisfy the ache in his belly.

Enough to take some home to his ma.

He swallowed. He needed to get across the river and

within arm’s reach of that basket.

He jerked behind the rock, squelching the thought of

stealing. Cal wasn’t a thief. He focused on a black bug

burrowing in the sand—all crunch and goo, no meat. Images

of fiddlers sprang back to his mind. Stealing was wrong. And

yet, his hunger was wrong too.

He craned his neck, peeking over the boulder. The girl

yanked another fiddler from the earth. It dangled in her

fingers, taunting him. He should join her in the hunt, dig for

his own fiddlers. He’d managed to catch a few before, but

tonight, the thought of doing the tedious work repulsed him.

His whole body hummed with impatience. He rolled to the

balls of his feet as hunger took control.

He buried the tip of his hunting knife in the sand by his

feet. His long tunic and leather sandals landed next to it.

Wearing only his shorts, he stalked toward the water. Her

back was to him, her focus on her work. He should turn

around. Leave her alone. Stealing was severely punished by

the Elders. He’d promised Ma he wouldn’t get into more

trouble. He told himself to stop, but the meal beckoned.

Darkness rose in his breast, forcing him forward. As silent as

a breeze, he waded across the slow water. His calloused palm

shot forward and dug into the basket. Raw fiddlers squished

in his grip.

The girl turned, her eyes wide. He was sixteen, much

bigger and stronger than she. She shrank back as her focus

flicked from his full fist to his bare chest to his hard-set jaw.

He told himself to give back her fiddlers, that this was

wrong, but his body had come untethered from his mind. An

invisible force seemed to control him as he brought the

fiddlers to his mouth, but before the tenderness passed his

lips, a rough palm gripped his shoulder and yanked him

back.

Cal whirled. Fiddlers flew and disappeared under the

brown surface of the water. “No!”

“What do you think you’re doing?” The deep voice was

hard.

Rage replaced Cal’s hunger as he stared at the ripples in

the water. A good meal, gone.

Hands on hips, a large man glared down at Cal. “I

recognize you, Callidon Mirrason. It’s not the first time

you’ve broken the pact. Wait until the Elders hear about you

stealing from my daughter.”

Dread curled in Cal’s belly. Not another tribunal. He

refused to stand before the Elders again and be told how he

was a disgrace. How he was cursed.

Apologize and promise restitution, that’s what he needed

to do, but the words wouldn’t come. The violent force

growing within him seemed to flex and crackle to life. Cal’s

fingers curled tight.

“I don’t think even your ma can convince them you aren’t

cursed now.”

Cal swung for the man’s nose, but he ducked as if he’d

been expecting it. He threw out a punch, slamming his fist

into Cal’s stomach. Cal stumbled and fell, crashing into the

river. The girl’s scream pierced the water as her father’s foot

pinned Cal to the muddy bottom. Rocks sliced his back. Hot

panic swirled through his chest as he fought the urge to

inhale. He shifted left, and the foot shoved harder. His back

barked in pain. His lungs howled for breath, but his mind

sharpened and calmed.

Water distorted the man’s voice as he yelled down at Cal

under the surface. “Are you done fighting?”

Cal was just getting started. Gripping a small rock, he

rammed it into a hairy calf. The water slowed the thrust, but

he twisted it into the muscles. Red swirls inked the murk.

The foot recoiled, and Cal wrenched free. He plowed to the

surface. Panting and dripping, Cal spun to face his foe. He

adjusted his grip on the stone and raked wet hair out of his

eyes. Anger throbbed, commanding him to strike.

“Stop!” the girl cried.

Cal’s nerves hummed in anticipation. Initiating violence

as he had done was forbidden in Siccum. For sixteen years,

he’d tried to keep his head down, eating porridge and mining

the burning sand for precious little gold to live by. Cal had

been a servant of the greater good, weak and obedient. Not

anymore, said a voice in his mind. A menacing growl issued

from his belly.

The man swung, his fist aiming for Cal’s face. Cal ducked.

Following through with the rock, he smashed the man’s

elbow. The crack reverberated through Cal’s wrist. The man

staggered back. Blood dripped down his forearm, which

dangled awkwardly at his side.

The painful angle of the arm, or perhaps the girl’s

symphony of screams, jarred Cal out of his one-track rage.

The bloodthirsty filter fell from his eyes. He blinked, and the

scene refocused. He saw the cowering girl and the bleeding

man. A father protecting his daughter. One of the families

from his village who su􀅷ered through the same searing

Siccum summers as he did.

The urge that had driven him to cruelty abandoned him,

leaving him hollow and ashamed. The rock slipped from his

fingers and buried itself in the slow current.

“I’m sorry.” Even his voice had lost its strength. What

had he done?

He clambered up the rocks and snatched his belongings

without pause. He ran north, away from his village. When

sand burned his feet and sun scorched the scratches on his

back, he put on his tunic and sandals. He trudged through

barren desert, failing to find any prey, his mind preoccupied

with the failures of the day. He knew stealing was wrong.

And attacking that man was worse. How could he face Ma

and Grandpapi now, especially after he’d lashed out at them

at dinner? Loneliness and shame twisted like a knife. Bile

rose in his throat, but his stomach had nothing to expel.

He returned to the river, abandoned of all but discarded

fiddler shells. He stripped and slid under the water. Regret

rolled over him. Scrubbing at his limbs, he tried to wash his

wrongs away. But as he plodded home, they clung to him, as

painfully as his shirt stuck to the cuts on his back.

Like a beacon far across the sand, the lights of Siccum

called. As the night settled in, the heat of the day lifted. A

breeze ran cool fingers through his wet hair. Come summer,

he wouldn’t have any relief. He seemed to struggle with the

festering heat more than others.

He slunk around the north wall and entered the city gate

near his two-bedroom home. Hunger gnawed. If only he’d

been a second faster and gotten the fiddlers into his mouth …

He entered his small yard and locked the gate behind him,

securing it against night predators. In front of the house, his

ma and her father, Grandpapi, sat on rocking chairs in the

sand. Unlit torches dotted the circular wall protecting their

home. The family hen clucked and pecked at Cal’s toes.

“Cal, you’re home.” Relief softened Ma’s voice.

Grandpapi scowled in disappointed silence. Cal knelt

before Ma’s chair, forcing his knees to bend and his head to

bow.

“I’m sorry about before. I’m sorry I said your dinner

wasn’t good enough. I’m sorry I spit on the table. I don’t

know what came over me.” That was the truth. And Cal knew

he’d better get control of his new impulses fast. People

already thought him cursed. The curse of Prince Nogard, the

Black Dragon, was a myth meant to scare people into

submission. Despite the stories, naughty children did not

grow into monsters. “I lost my temper. I’m grateful to have

food, any food. Please, forgive me.”

Night shaded Ma’s expression, but he felt tenderness in

her fingers when she lifted his chin. “I’m sorry we don’t

have more. I know how you go hungry.”

“No,” he lied. “You feed me well.” It wasn’t her fault

porridge no longer satisfied. It wasn’t her fault greed had

possessed him like a crazed beast.

“Shh. Just a minute.” Her thin robes, smelling of citrus

and sage, rustled against his face as she stood. She slipped

into the house and returned a moment later with a ceramic

bowl. “It’s cold now.”

He took it with thanks, hunger snapping within him.

“She wouldn’t let me eat it,” Grandpapi said. Starlight

reflected o􀅷 white hair.

Cal wolfed down his meager porridge. “I’m sorry,

Grandpapi. I acted terribly at dinner.”

“You did.” Grandpapi’s tone cut like shards.

If only that were the only thing he had to confess. He

sucked in a long breath and forced the next words out.

“Something happened down at the river.”

Ma and Grandpapi tensed as if expecting a blow.

“A girl was digging for fiddlers.” Cal gulped. “And I sort

of tried to take them.” He stared at the flecks of gray sand to

avoid their disappointed faces. “I didn’t see her father at

first.”

Insects hissed and fluttered across the silence.

Head down, he whispered, “I attacked him when he

stopped me from eating the fiddlers I’d taken.” His voice

cracked. “I hurt him. Badly.” He roughly swiped at watery

eyes as he waited for a response that didn’t come. “I will be

summoned to tribunal. Again.” His previous o􀅷enses had

been petty things, nothing like this. What would his

punishment be? Working the giretorbie pits was the worst.

The smell unbearable.

Eyes glittering with fear, Ma reached up and wrapped thin

arms around his shoulders. “Everyone makes mistakes.” Her

voice lacked conviction.

He straightened his spine. “I’m going to apologize. Maybe

I can talk them out of telling the Elders.”

Grandpapi’s raspy voice was hard. “Tomorrow you can

see if that does any good. But it’s time to put this day to bed.

You must rise better. Your heart must be stronger than your

flesh. Do not give in to dark desires.” Grandpapi stretched

out a wrinkled hand, and Cal lifted him easily from his seat.

“Too strong for your own good,” Grandpapi mumbled as

the boy helped him into the house.

Cal brought the rocking chairs inside. They would need

them for breakfast.

“I’m sorry,” Cal said, wishing he could erase the hurt

he’d caused his family. Wishing he could start the day over

and end up the conqueror instead of the accused.

“Good night, my love.” Ma’s voice was kind, but her eyes

betrayed deep sadness. She looked so tired.

With regret wedging between his ribs, Cal slipped out the

door and sucked in the cooling air. The curious hen waddled

over to his feet.

“I don’t have food for you,” Cal said. “You’re supposed to

have food for me. You look plump enough for a good meal.”

He plucked the bird o􀅷 the ground. Tying the rope around

the hen’s neck, while trying not to think about breaking it,

he tethered her to the far wall. His family depended on the

daily egg, and he had no right to kill his mother’s hen. Last

year he’d saved his spending money for months, foregoing

food and a new tunic to buy that bird for Ma. That was a long

time ago. A di􀅷erent Cal. A good one.

Cal flung out his thin rug and spread it on the flat sand.

As he lay on his back and looked at the bright stars, hungry

jaws snapped in his gut. Sleep. Tomorrow there would be

porridge. He wrapped his arms around his belly, trying to

squeeze out the sharp demands. It failed. Rolling to his feet,

he paced, debating the fate of the chicken.

Near the house he heard their whispers.

The window rug was pulled back to let in the night air.

The hush of Ma and Grandpapi’s voices drifted through. Cal

crouched below the window.

“Can’t prevent it,” Grandpapi said.

Ma’s sigh was heavy with despair. “It’s happening so

quickly. I’m scared.”

Cal’s ears strained as his mind scrambled over the words.

“It’s time to go north,” Grandpapi said quietly.

Go north? Cal had begged to leave Siccum for years. He

looked forward to the caravan’s rare appearances, not just

for the treats and trading, but to ask the travelers’ questions

about the wider world. Each time he built hope they could

travel north with the caravan; each time Ma flatly refused.

“We can’t do this on our own anymore,” Grandpapi said.

“It’s time to find the Lion.”

The hairs on Cal’s arms rose at the weight of the

whispered word, Lion. He risked a peek over the window sill.

His family huddled at the table.

“Oh, Papi, I’d hoped we could have escaped it. Fifteen

years in this forsaken sandpit and still …” her voice

dissolved.

She hated it here too? The realization rocked Cal. She’d

always been so cheerful. Annoyingly peppy. Fake.

Ma’s head drooped in her hands as she sobbed. Her loose

hair blanketed her arm, the golden hue so di􀅷erent from

Cal’s dark brown. A trait he assumed he inherited from his

father. He knew so little of the man.

Grandpapi’s withered fingers rubbed Ma’s back with

tenderness. “Don’t despair for things you can’t control. You

did your best, my dear. But the boy is changing. His father’s

poisonous blood is ripening.” Unfamiliar rancor hardened

Grandpapi’s voice.

Cal reeled, falling back on his heels. They were talking

about him. His fingernails dug into the clay wall, anchoring

him. The rare times Ma spoke of his father, she painted him

a hero. A hardworking fisherman who died in the silver

waters of the Scorpion Sea, aptly named for the sting in its

waves. She lied.

Outrage spread through his skeleton. “I’m poisoned?”

Cal’s sharp accusation blasted across the room.

Ma and Grandpapi jerked their heads. Ma scrubbed at the

salty streaks down her cheeks. “Cal. Honey. I thought you

were asleep.”

Cal vaulted through the window. Ma recoiled. His temper

cooled at her fright. He perched on his chair and rested his

clasped hands gently on the table. Slow breath. “What are we

escaping? What’s happening too fast? What about my

father’s blood? You talk like the Elders—like I’m cursed.”

Ma cowered like the rats Cal trapped in his snares. He

counted in his head to keep from lashing out with

impatience. One. Two. Answer me. Three. Four.

Ma swallowed. “Your father did some terrible things.”

Grandpapi didn’t refute it. He speared Cal with distrustful

eyes.

Cal’s jaw dropped. “You lied to me.”

“Yes.” Ma held his gaze, no longer quailing. “He’s dead.”

Her voice was cold. Remorseless.

“You’re glad.” His world shifted. He sucked in a dizzy

breath.

Ma ignored the comment. “And so, I painted a new

picture of him. I remade him into the honorable man I

wanted you to become.”

And he’d failed. He couldn’t hold Ma’s stare. Or answer

for the things he’d done. He’d caused her tears and pain.

And his father had been a bad man.

Apparently brown hair and broad shoulders weren’t the

only things he’d inherited from the stranger. And Ma and

Grandpapi hated him for it.

Cal stood. They didn’t move. “I’m sorry. I’ll do better.”

No reassuring replies. No words of encouragement.

He shu􀅺ed away. Forsaken silence followed him out the

door. He crawled onto his mat. Questions bombarded. Who

was his father really? What bad things had he done? Cal

wanted the truth.

For hours he lay sleepless, searching the starry sky. No

answers appeared there. When the moon slipped behind a

lonely wisp of cloud, he rose and crept into the quiet house.

As if he were a shadow, he stalked into Ma’s bedroom. She

kept her personal things in a tin box at the bottom of her

trunk. He hesitated. He’d never dared invade her privacy

before. It was wrong.

But, she’d disrespected him first. She lied to him. He

undid the latch. She rolled over in her sleep. He shifted some

cloth and lifted out a small box. Creeping from the room, he

also stole one of their precious candles before drifting

outside. Sitting on his mat, he opened the box. An amber ring

glinted in the low light. How much food could this have

bought them? Pushing that unhappy thought aside, he took

out a stack of papers. He skimmed dozens of letters from his

aunt Elssa. Nothing of interest he didn’t already know.

Cousins in Mitera. Gossip about strangers.

At the bottom was a sti􀅷er piece of parchment. Block

letters blazed across the page. He held the candle flame

closer. The bottom of the note and the signature were gone,

but he gobbled up the remaining words.

DEAREST MIRA,

I’LL BEG YOU FOR THE LAST TIME. PLEASE COME HOME. I MISS

YOU DESPERATELY. YOU’VE PROVED YOU WILL SACRIFICE

EVERYTHING TO PROTECT YOUR SON. BUT YOU CAN’T PREVENT

HIM FROM GROWING INTO A DRACO SANG. IT WILL HAPPEN—

EVEN IN SICCUM.

Cal rubbed his eyes. He squinted as he re-read the

shocking words. What in the great skies?

YOU CAN’T PRETEND AWAY OR OUTRUN THE DRAGON’S BLOOD,

MIRA—I KNOW THIS. PLEASE FACE THE FACTS. PLEASE LET ME

HELP YOU. I CAN HELP HIM.

I FAILED TO PROTECT YOU ONCE. I CAN NEVER FORGIVE MYSELF

FOR YOUR SUFFERING. I WILL NOT LET HARM COME TO YOU

AGAIN. NO ONE WILL HURT YOU. I SWEAR IT ON EIO. COME

HOME. WE WILL PROTECT YOU. I’VE DEVOTED—

The paper was torn at the end of the line. Cal wheezed out

the breath he’d been holding.

I am Draco Sang.

Ma had taught him a little about the Draco Sang. Warlike,

primitive, and vile, they constantly fought amongst

themselves, the weak becoming slaves to the powerful. Ma

had said their leader, Queen Mavras, had risen to power

fourteen years ago by killing the king, her brother.

Apparently, that was a common tradition in their land. The

Draco Sang lived in Skotar, the country just north of his

kingdom of Elysium. The raging Rugit River separated their

worlds.

The Draco Sang were the enemy.




Mary Beesley believes humans are born to create, and promotes creativity in all its beautiful forms. She's learning calligraphy and watercolor. She loves exploring our magnificent planet and finding all the best places to eat around the world. But nothing beats coming home and sharing a pot of slow-simmered minestrone and homemade sourdough with friends and family. If she's not in her writing chair, you'll probably find her hiking in the Utah mountains with her husband and four children.




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