About Healing Fire
Author: Sean Michael
Word Count: 41400
Page Count (pdf): 154
Date Published: February 15, 2017
Publisher: Sean Michael
Series name and number: n/a
What will it take for a dragon prince to defy his father and fly on his own?
Prince Jules, the least favorite of the Dragon King’s children, lives simply, banished to his rooms and the amazing adventures found in his books. He has never left the palace or shifted into his dragon form…he’s never done anything.
Dragon shifter Lem is assigned to Jules as the prince’s new bodyguard, and is determined to keep Jules safe from the Graithen, who killed the prince’s previous guardian. Lem grows to hate how the King hides Jules away, and longs to show him how to fly. His love for Jules also grows but it is forbidden, like so much in Jules’ life.
When the Graithen attack again, though, everything changes.
This book is a reprint. The publisher has changed.
Jules wandered into the common room of his little set of quarters. “Oh, Mabon. Mabon, this was the best book. Would you like to hear about it? There were ghosts and demons and a pirate ship.”
“Of course, Prince J.” It was the closest he’d gotten Mabon to come to dropping the formality between them.
He settled in Mabon’s lap without worry, opening the book to show the illustrations. Mabon had been with him since birth. It was natural as anything to cuddle in, let the huge old warrior surround him.
Mabon asked him the occasional question, only seeming to get hung up over the pirates not being the villains of the story. “But pirates are bad, my prince.”
“Not these. These are… Well, they are a bit naughty, but they’re not bad.”
Mabon shook his head, big body shifting beneath Jules. “Pirates are bad. That is what a pirate is.”
“Are dragons bad?” He privately thought his older brother, Wil, was bad. Wil pinched and teased and hit.
“Of course not, my prince. Most dragons are good.”
“But some are bad?”
“I have heard of it, yes.” Mabon lowered his voice. “There are rumors of a ruler from the eastern edges…” Mabon didn’t say more, and Jules knew it was to avoid blasphemy.
“Well, then, some pirates must be good.” Jules reached up, stroked Mabon’s cheeks. “And if they are not, you will protect me.”
“Of course I will! Nothing will harm you, my prince. Not ever. And I will not believe in good pirates.”
“All right, Mabon. As long as you believe in good me, it’s fine.”
“Unless you tell me that you’re not good.” Mabon shook his head. “No, even then I would believe you are good.”
“I love you, too, Mabon.”
Mabon grunted, the bodyguard too aware of his place to risk offending anyone to admit to such a thing.
Jules knew it was true, though. Mabon was utterly devoted to him. His best friend as well as his bodyguard, and the only one who came even close to understanding him. Jules snuggled right in, hummed happily.
“Your father wishes you to attend the banquet tonight,” Mabon told him.
“No. The others will go.” He didn’t like to leave his quarters. After spending two hundred years here, they were the only place he knew well.
“I know.” Jules could handle that. And Mabon would make sure it wasn’t more than that.
“You are stubborn, my prince.”
“No one wants me there, not really. Father simply wants my obedience.” And, while he didn’t mind, the longer he remained hidden away, the harder it was to leave the familiar rooms.
“I’m going to lose my edge,” Mabon teased. “It’s easy to protect you here.”
“You would never. You’re the most perfect defender in the history of time.”
Mabon sat a little straighter, and Jules could feel the pride pouring off of him at the words.
Jules was the luckiest dragon ever. Ever. Now if he could just find a way to keep anything from changing, he’d be golden.
Lem moved through the morning exercises, giving respect to the rising sun and working his way through the warrior poses. He could feel his muscles rippling, warming beneath the early rays of light. He had another twenty poses to do before he had to report to the training salle.
What a lovely, perfect, utterly boring morning.
He’d been following the same routine for years. Decades. Even the simulations of dangerous situations had lost their luster. Still, it was his duty to serve, to protect, to be ready.
The horn finally blew. He grabbed his vest and jogged to the main square to meet his teacher. The huge dragon landed in the center of the salle, massive and gorgeous, shimmering as he shifted to his human form.
Master Ansalle was the oldest dragon Lem knew. Wise and strong. Lem hoped to be half the dragon Ansalle was one day. He bowed deeply, and his master responded, a wave of warmth surrounding him.
“Are you ready for today’s training, Lem?”
He nodded. “Yes, Master. I will meet any demand.”
“You always do, Lem. Always.”
It made him proud to have Ansalle say so. It made the loneliness of his training more bearable.
An unfamiliar sound filled the air, buzzing and sharp, like a swarm of bees. Lem was immediately on alert, moving to protect Ansalle, searching for the source of the sound. His heart beat a rapid tattoo.
Ansalle rumbled softly, the sound half curiosity, half worry.
“Back to the armory, Master.” Lem searched the sky, still not seeing the source of the noise.
“This is not a good thing, lad. Sound the alarm. Something is wrong.”
“Once you are safe, Master.”