Feel the Burn Page 92

Rhiannon’s entire body tensed. “Who are they?” she asked, pointing a damning finger at the three outsiders.

“They are three Riders who have come to follow me into battle so that they may have an honorable death.”

“You have suicidal Riders hanging around you now?”

“There is no honor in suicide!”

“Again, you are talking to me, giant woman! And I thought Bercelak said we forced the giants underground!”

“Mother,” Morfyd admonished.

“Can we all just be calm?” Dagmar finally asked.

“You don’t understand—”

“Rhiannon, I understand that your three oldest grand offspring are no longer children. They’re adults and they’re part of the game now.” Dagmar walked over to her niece, stared up at her. She was a little taller than Annwyl. But not by much. “I’m sure Talwyn is doing what’s best for the family.”

“And if this doesn’t work?” Morfyd asked, her voice quiet.

“Then we’ll have a bigger fight than we were planning on.” Annwyl gestured back toward the house. “So if you don’t mind . . . my daughter and I have work to do.”

With Annwyl effectively ending the conversation, all Rhiannon could do was snarl before stomping off, Morfyd and Talaith following behind her.

Dagmar looked over at the three Riders. “Could you please excuse us?”

“No,” Nika replied.

Dagmar’s dogs, glaring at the Riders, began to growl even though Dagmar hadn’t said a word.

“Get something to eat,” Annwyl ordered, and without question, the Riders did as she bade.

“When you go off to battle, they will be going with you, yes?” Dagmar asked, nearly pleaded.

Annwyl laughed. “I promise.”

“One of them,” Talwyn whispered, “took down a male elk with her bare hands. I thought she was hungry . . . but she was just playing with it. The way I like to play with your dogs.”

Dagmar looked up at her friend. “Annwyl—”

“I know.”

The friends gazed at each other for a long moment until Dagmar finally asked, “What exactly are you thinking?”

Annwyl glanced at Talwyn and her daughter nodded. “I’m thinking . . . we can’t wait around for Salebiri to come to us. Not anymore.”

“I think you’re right. I’ve been working with Brastias. Quietly. No need to make everyone panic.”

Annwyl smirked—knowing that neither was speaking of the common people but their own kin—and reached out, grasping Dagmar’s forearm. “You do understand I can’t do this without you. Knowing you’re keeping my people safe here.”

Dagmar swallowed, shocked by the admission. “I’ll make sure everything is ready when you are.” She cleared her throat. “What about Rhiannon?”

“Let her focus on this Eyes of . . . whatever. Work with Bercelak and Celyn. They’ll make sure their troops are ready.”

“All right.”

“And we’re okay?”

“As long as you stop taking baths in the freezing-cold lake water . . . I’m sure we’ll be just fine.”

Annwyl stomped her foot. “I knew that bothered you!”

Chapter Twenty-Five

“The thing to remember,” Aidan told them as they neared his childhood home on horseback a few hours before sunset, “is that they are horrible, reprehensible, detestable beings and should be treated carefully. Like poisonous snakes.”

Kachka frowned. “We still speak of the dwarves?”

“No,” he replied. “My family. The dwarves are a whole other issue.”

“You talk about your family that way, handsome dragon?” Zoya asked.

“Well, they’re not like, let’s say, Brannie’s family. Are the Cadwaladrs rude and abrupt with no social etiquette whatsoever? Absolutely. But they are also direct and honest, to the point of absurdity. My kin? They smile and embrace you as one of their own while they stick a dagger in your back and steal the gold from your fangs. Never forget that, any of you, no matter how much they may smile. In fact, the more they smile, the farther you should move away from them. If they all start laughing as if they’re having the best time? Find the nearest exit and run for your lives.”

“I am just adoring this plan,” Gaius grumbled.

“I have no plan,” Kachka reminded him, enjoying the way he glared at her.

“I am keenly aware of that, and I have to admit, it greatly disappoints me.”

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