Rhalis pushed the servants’ door slightly and peeked through. A sea of dresses, dyed in rich colors, swayed to the joyous melodies. On the far wall stood the table where the false lord and his family feasted. The skull of a dragon adorned the wall above them. A broken horn revealed it as Skreelil; the dragon whose broods he’d helped guard.
The dragon’s bones should’ve been buried, not set on display. The false lord had no right to claim what belonged to the dragons and their guardians.
He slunk to a corner where the light from the hearth could not reach. He lifted a silver tray before his visage and watched as it shifted into another servant’s face. If he succeeded, the others would forgive shapestealing. If he failed…
Give me strength to slay the false lord of the North. Show me mercy should I fail.
A twinge ran along his skin; the god he now prayed to knew no mercy. The Goddess of Earth had failed them; perhaps another deity would heed his prayers.
“Forgive me, Dona,” his throat clenched as the goddess’ name passed his lips, “for I have forsaken your ways. The North needs to be freed of the human lord.”
He carried the tray to one of the cooks who loaded the first course atop it, then joined the procession of servants.
The sea of gowns parted before them. Eyes devoured the dishes they held, blind to the bearers. His fingers twitched.
Magic flowed to his fingertips, beginning to sharpen them into claws. He bowed as he set the tray before the lord.
A hand pinned his down.
Cold eyes met his, beneath a thin mouth frowned. Tendrils of the false lord’s spell fastened to his magic, stopping the change.
“Take off your mask, shifter.”
He turned his face away as the bone and skin shifted into his true visage. Dark feathers slid over his hands, fingers hardened into black claws. He heard the guests gasp at the sight of his raven heritage.
“I am Rhalis, a warrior of the White Maws, protector of the white dragons’ nesting grounds.” His mouth moved despite his will, urged by the false lord’s magic.
Rough hands pulled him away from the table, to the center of the hall. Murmuring filled the hall. Rhalis caught the words ‘assassin’ and ‘war’ as they were flung across the room.
“The shifters need to be warned against such actions.” A glint of joy sparked in the human’s eyes. “Thrall, tell me, what fate do you fear?”
The taste of bile rose to Rhalis’ throat as his lips formed the words:
“To be changed into one of the demon kind. To be turned against my tribe.”
He nodded to the guards. “You have chosen your punishment.”