The following is chapter four of The Dragon Protector.  (Need to start at the beginning?  Click here to go to chapter one.)

“What?”  Javan’s words punched Micah in the gut and made the room spin.  Of course Omri would make sure Micah had succeeded in killing Javan.  Then he would make sure Micah was as dead as everyone thought he was.  That also meant that everyone who had seen Micah alive during his brief trip home would also soon be dead. The part that didn’t make sense was that a Destroyer existed and that Omri was working with someone from another Bloodline.

“New plan,” Micah said, his anger rising.  He needed his father to know he no longer controlled him or the people of Keckrick.  He also wanted to ensure Keckrick remained safe once Omri got all the flowers they provided.  “We strand the soldiers here by blowing up the portal here in Nahat and the one in Tulkar so that Keckrick is no longer connected to Zandador.”

“That’s ludicrous,” Vince said.  “Why would we do that?  That would be an act of war, and the people of Keckrick can’t defend themselves against Omri’s dragons.”

“He can’t send his dragons if the portals are no longer operational, and he won’t risk sending his dragons on land through the desert to attack Keckrick.  It’s too dangerous.  He may send his army because he won’t care how many of them die on the trip, but Keckrick can fight off people a lot easier than they can fight dragons.”

“You do make some valid points, but I’ve known you too long to trust anything you say.”  Vince drew his sword and stuck the tip of it right under Micah’s chin.  “How do we know you’re not pretending to be Javan’s friend so you can betray him when the time is convenient for you?”

“I could ask you the same question.”  Micah fought the urge to defend himself by reaching up to grab the sword that rested in a sheath across his back.  Instead, he took a deep breath and calmly carried on the conversation.  “You’ve always demonstrated complete loyalty to my father as his top scalologist, and some of the uses you devised for dragon scales surpassed even my father’s cruel imagination.  I’m inclined to believe you’re going to report everything you witnessed here today to Omri.”

“He wouldn’t do that,” Javan said, stepping between them and forcing Vince to lower his sword.  “He’s my great-grandfather, and he’s committed to seeing a Collector win the throne.”

Micah studied Vince, then Javan.  The two did have an uncanny resemblance to one another.  “You’re telling me my father has had a spy from the Collector Bloodline working for him for centuries and never knew it?”

“He was aware of my heritage,” Vince said.  “That’s why he kept me close, only I wasn’t a spy.  I was truly devoted to him and wanted to use my talents as a scalologist to serve in his army.  Until about eight months ago, anyway.”

Now Micah was curious.  “What changed eight months ago?”

Vince shook him off.  “That would take too long to explain, and my soldiers will get suspicious if I don’t return soon.  You’re the one I’m concerned about.  I have never known you to be on any side except your own.”

“This time he’s on mine,” Javan said.  “I trust him as much as I trust you, and I think we need to listen to him about the portals.”

“Wrong,” Taliya said, stepping out of the shadows.  “Destroying the portals isn’t necessary.  All we need to do is handicap them, make it impossible for any other portal to link to them unless and until we want to use them.”

“Handicap them?”  Micah let his skepticism at such a wimpy idea drown his every word.  “That is absurd.  Destroying them is the best, safest option.”

“It’s not very strategic,” Taliya said, fighting back.  “What if Javan does win the throne and gains control of Zandador?  If we destroy the portals, Keckrick will be cut off from Zandador and the rest of the Great Rift forever.  It’s too final.  I won’t allow it.”

“You won’t ‘allow’ it?”  Why did this girl think she had any kind of power?

“I won’t either,” Vince said.  “The feisty little lady is right.  We can easily handicap the portal with an electrified scale taken off a Dawn Stalker older than seven.  It will send a charge through the portal that makes the portal inoperable as long as the scale is in the slot.  The hard part is taking the scale off the dragon.”

“I’ve taken a scale from Varjiek before,” Javan said.  “I know he’ll comply.”

“No!”  Taliya and Vince shouted in unison, then Taliya explained.  “The Zandadorian portals only work when you put seven-year Dawn scales in the slots.  If you put any scale other than a Dawn scale in one of the slots, it shuts the portal down for good.  That’s the reason we no longer have access to Xyies, the northernmost region of the Great Rift.”

Micah took a mental note of this new information.  Perhaps he could get a scale from Mertzer and shut down the portal with a Dusk scale before Javan could return with a scale from Kisa.

“Okay, then,” Javan said.  “I’ll get scales from Kisa, and we’ll use them to make the Keckrick portals unusable.  Vince, we need you on the inside, though, so you’ll need to return to Zandador alone while the portal still works.”

“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me how you plan to go about collecting your final two dragons,” Vince said.  “The fate of Zandador is in your hands, and I need to know that you know what you are doing as a Collector to ensure you win the Battle of the Throne.”

Micah forgot about his plot to break the portal permanently and waited for the show.  He wasn’t sure how Vince would react to Javan’s crazy plan, but he was sure it would be entertaining.

 

The story continues with Javan’s Grand Plan.