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Immortal Dragons: The First Four: Prequel + Books 1-3
 



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Immortal Dragons: The First Four: Prequel + Books 1-3


  Immortal Dragons

  Prequel + Books 1-3

  Ophelia Bell

  Thank you for buying this book! If you enjoy it and would like to learn more about Ophelia Bell’s dragon world, simply subscribe to the mailing list. Once you subscribe, you will be entitled to receive the first installment of two exclusive free stories: “RED” and “WHITE.” These are just the first of many steamy dragon stories Ophelia plans to release for free, exclusively to her mailing list!

  Immortal Dragons

  Prequel

  DRAGON BETRAYED

  Ophelia Bell

  Trigger Warnings

  Beloved readers, this book is a little beyond the ones I’ve written so far. Like many writers, I like to stretch my boundaries, and this is one of those books. Hopefully it won’t be something you can’t read, but you need to be warned that there are some extreme kinks present later on in the book.

  The sex itself is as steamy as always (I think steamier, in some scenes), but there are details you should be prepared for. These include rough bondage and edge play, including erotic asphyxiation (breath play) and blood play taken to the extreme. Every scene is 100% consensual.

  It’s one thing for an immortal dragon who literally can’t die to try these things—Belah is at least old enough and experienced enough to know her limits and to test them. She can’t die. If she could, she’d be a lot more choosy about her kinks, but then this would be a very different story.

  Please always do your research and learn your limits before attempting new things, and always, always make sure you are with a skilled partner who respects those limits, too.

  Be safe, sane, and consensual.

  -Ophelia

  Chapter One

  Nile Delta, About 3,300 Years Ago

  Belah the Queen. Belah the Empress. Belah the Goddess.

  Belah had a slew of other titles, but none fit the role she filled now. She strode through the muddy battleground of the Nile Delta, pondering all her titles, resigned to the fact that one was also Belah, Priestess to Dying Men.

  Mud squished through the toes of her sandals and she left the shoes behind, irritated more by her impeded progress than the mud clinging to her feet. The war she’d orchestrated had been a success. She’d conquered an entire kingdom with only a breath. One word uttered and thousands had died, securing her place as Empress of yet another land filled with more human subjects.

  She didn’t need to be out here, in the wake of one of the most impressive victories she’d overseen, and she had overseen thousands in the past several centuries. Her commanders had already come to her to report their success, along with a list of casualties, and her proxy would see that the dead were given honorable funerals and their families taken care of.

  All but one of her commanders had reported to her. The man who had secured this victory, whose troops had been the vanguard, had been too gravely wounded to attend her in person. His healer didn’t think he’d live through the night, and his last wish was to lay eyes on his Queen, his Goddess, before he died.

  Belah had watched the battle unfold from the skies. Her presence in her true form—that of a huge, blue dragon—was seen as a good omen by the soldiers and often turned the tides. The enemy would see her flying over and cower in fear, often surrendering entirely. This particular enemy, however, was led by a young upstart of a dragon who had to be put in his place.

  She and her siblings had to fight to maintain order in the world. The more their descendants bred, the more they fought, and the more entitled they became, each of them believing they were worthy of having a bigger share of the plentiful treasures available.

  Human followers were the greatest treasures in all the world, besides a dragon’s own offspring. Belah had more than she needed, but she wasn’t about to let a power-hungry youngster encroach on her territory. She would have to have a talk with Gavra and tell him to keep his progeny in line. What was it about the Red dragons in his line that were such troublemakers?

  The mood around her was subdued as she made her way through the encampment, cloaked in drab robes with no retinue to give away her status. Morale was positive, but exhaustion and grief still prevailed. They had lost many, but nowhere near the amount their opponent had sacrificed. That didn’t diminish the value of the men who had died or the cause they’d died for. They believed they’d fought for the glory of their Empress, and were proud enough of that cause, but glory wasn’t Belah’s end game. Keeping the ever-growing population of dragons in line was the purpose for every battle she fought. This one had been hard-won, and she wondered yet again whether the outcome was worth it.

  When she reached the wounded commander’s tent, she paused. From beneath her hooded cloak, she met the eyes of the pair of guards posted at the entrance. They recognized her instantly, and without a word, they bowed at the waist and pulled the flaps aside for her to enter.

  The interior was dim and stuffy and smelled of acrid medicinal balms, blood, and smoke. A linen-robed figure bent over a narrow cot, unwinding bloody bandages from an unconscious shape.

  “Meri, I have come. How is he?”

  The young healer only shook her head, her back rising and falling with a heavy sigh.

  “See for yourself, mistress. This wound is mortal, yet he clings to this world. When he is conscious, he only has breath to beg for you.” She cast a fleeting, accusatory glance over her shoulder at Belah, then lowered her gaze to her task again.

  Belah caught a brief impression of the thoughts that bubbled under the surface of Meri’s mind. Her physician was loyal and deferential, but not without her opinions. At the moment, she assumed Belah and her commander had a far more intimate connection than they did.

  “We’ve never been lovers, Meri. I need to know my commanders are following my orders for the right reasons. Nikhil is the best of them. In spite of being new to his rank, he’s ruthless and adept at breaking through an enemy’s defenses. But I assure you, if I inspired him somehow, it was his spirit and not his cock that was the recipient of that inspiration.”

  Meri made a noncommittal noise that Belah might have read as insubordination if she hadn’t known the woman for her entire life.

  Meri wasn’t that far off the mark where Belah’s effect on her subjects was concerned. Even though Belah had a dedicated harem, a night with her was often considered one of the highest honors she could bestow on a subject who had pleased her. And she was nothing if not generous.

  Meri discarded the soiled bandages and moved to pour clean water into a bowl from a ewer on a small table by the bed. When she moved, Belah stepped closer to inspect the soldier’s wound. A deep gash stretched across the right side of his abdomen, just under his ribcage. It had been neatly stitched, but the flesh around was proud and red, warning of infection. The skin around it was clean, but the rest of him was still covered in dried blood and dirt. Other, smaller lacerations covered the areas that would have been bare in battle. This cut must have been from an incredibly sharp spear. Glancing around, she saw his discarded armor, the blood-soaked rent through the side confirming her thought.

  She pulled a small stool close and sat by his side, pushing back her hood. Reaching for the bowl of water, she said to Meri, “Were the internal wounds as grave as this looks?”

  “Very grave. I repaired what I could, but the trauma is more than most men would survive. His channels still may not be clear. I prayed to Sekhmet to ease his pain, at the very least. If a fever sets in tonight, he is unlikely to see daybreak.”

  Belah nodded. Meri was m
ore than capable, but the man’s survival would likely require more than the divine intervention Meri had prayed for. Sekhmet was capable of healing him, but Belah knew her sister was too far away to hear that prayer. Sekhmet had as many names as Belah did in this age. In her own land, she was known as the Great Sky Goddess. In Belah’s kingdom, she was Sekhmet. In their siblings’ kingdoms, she had other names entirely. To Belah herself, her sister’s name was Numa. None of those identities could answer Meri’s prayers today. Belah, in her guise as Isis, would have to answer them herself.

  The other woman watched her expectantly. In a low voice, she said, “I also prayed to you because it comforted him. You answer more prayers than any of the other gods and aren’t afraid to sully yourself to do it.” Meri regarded Belah’s muddy hem and her dirty feet peeking out beneath.

  “If a walk through a muddy camp will save the man who ensured the safety of my people, I would do it a million times. Whether or not I can answer anyone’s prayers now will remain to be seen. Will you go fetch more hot water, please?”

  Meri retrieved the empty ewer and left the tent with a grim set to her mouth.

  Alone with the soldier, Belah took a breath and exhaled a lungful of magic smoke. The blue-white cloud swirled around Nikhil’s torso, spreading out and settling onto his skin. It shimmered in the lantern light inside the tent, seeping into his pores, some of it trickling into his nostrils with his shallow intake of breath. Belah closed her eyes, letting her mind reach out for the magic, using it to sense the gravity of his injuries. She couldn’t heal him with her magic, at least not physically. Without sharing a sexual bond with him, her abilities were limited to healing of the spiritual or mental variety. Two of her brothers and one sister could heal just about any physical damage with their breath, but they weren’t available, so she would do what she could.

  The first thing she did was dull the man’s pain as she mentally explored his internal damage. Meri wasn’t wrong—he’d experienced serious trauma, but the physician had done an excellent job piecing him back together.

  There wasn’t much else to do but make sure he was comfortable until he could heal—or die. Belah dipped a cloth into the bowl of cool water and pressed it to his fevered brow, then began to clean the dirt from his body. The remnants of her breath seeped into the wound and would at least prevent any kind of infection until the tissues managed to knit back together.

  Nikhil was a strong, well-built man, youthful but battered from starting life as a soldier as young as he could. She had watched him from birth, and had been involved in his life peripherally for even longer. His mother was the widowed wife of one of the former commanders of the armies who fought to protect her kingdom. She had been young and newly pregnant when her husband was killed while defending Belah’s subjects during a raid.

  Belah had called on her brother, Ked, for a favor. Nikhil’s pregnant mother was beautiful and bereft to the point that Belah worried for the unborn baby’s health. Belah’s brother, ever the secretive dragon, opted to visit the woman in the dead of night and seduce her while she slept, make love to her, and leave her unborn child with a blessing that would ensure he thrived and might ultimately rise to be the mate of one of their kind. It was an uncommon gift among dragons, but one Belah felt compelled to facilitate, considering the value of the commander she had lost. Soldiers died all the time, but skilled commanders were not easy to come by. If the child grew up to be even half as capable as his father, it would be worth it.

  Afterward, the woman claimed her pregnancy was the product of a union with a god. Belah knew better, but didn’t disavow the woman of her fantasy. In her kingdom, they knew Belah’s brother as Osiris. In his own land far to the East, they called him Svarog.

  Nikhil’s troops believed his mother’s story about his origin and followed him like he was a demi-god. Judging by the scars he carried, he’d survived a lot during his time as a soldier. It wouldn’t serve the fantasy for him to die now.

  The strong chest beneath the damp cloth she held rose more sharply than before and fell, a ragged breath escaping Nikhil’s throat.

  Belah glanced at his face, raising an eyebrow when she saw his dark eyes flutter open. He blinked a few times, barely able to focus.

  “‘Iilahatan,” he said, struggling to rise up on his elbows and immediately gasping when his abdomen rippled with agony. He fell back again with a groan.

  She wrung out the cloth, pretending to ignore the name he’d given her. He’d just called her “goddess” in his own language, and the very utterance of the word left her jittery in spite of being accustomed to that level of deference. Something about hearing it from this man affected her strongly. She clutched the cloth, working to still her shaking fist before raising it up to wipe across his sweat-drenched brow.

  “Not goddess, just Belah. You earned the right to my true name today. You called for me and I came.”

  Nikhil lay back, his eyes wide and staring. “Are you real?”

  Belah reached out and gripped his hand where it lay on the blanket beside him. She squeezed and leaned closer, letting a bit of her breath seep out when she spoke, along with the calming magic that accompanied it.

  “I am very real, Nikhil. You’ve spoken to me at the palace when you and the other commanders reported in.”

  “You should lead the armies yourself,” he said. “You are smarter than all of us combined.”

  “A good empress knows how to command from the throne. If I displayed too much of my own power to my enemies, they would all be trying to kill me. I give you the power, and you execute the orders. You were the one who showed your greatness today, Nikhil. I had nothing to do with it.”

  He answered slowly, his voice strained. “You gave me the idea. My injury was calculated to make the enemy think our army lost their commander. I fell, but stayed conscious as long as I could to command them to victory. The enemy was too cocksure, and our armies too skilled. We routed them.”

  Belah picked up the pot of honey and began dabbing the sweet, sticky ointment gently on his wound. Nikhil winced once but bore the pain. “You risked your life for the cause,” she admonished.

  “I risked my life for you,” he said gruffly. With more strength and speed than she could’ve expected, he reached out and gripped her wrist tightly and held it.

  “I live my life at your pleasure, ‘Iilahatan. Every lie I tell is for you.” His fingers dug in even tighter, to the point of pain.

  She’d believed all along that she was immune to the touch of a Blessed human, but when his hand wrapped around her wrist, the pleasure of that simple contact made her entire body grow still.

  It wasn’t a simple touch, though. His fingertips dug painfully into the tender flesh on the inside of her wrist, while the warmth of his palm sunk into the back. Lightning seemed to charge through his hand and up her arm.

  All she could do was stare down at his fist gripped around her wrist, dumbfounded. As quickly as he’d grabbed her, he released her and his hand fell to the bed.

  Belah forced herself to regain her composure. Never in her life had another person ever made a threatening move toward her. Yet Nikhil’s adoration was plain, and his touch… while rough, it had been exhilarating to feel her power seep away from the contact.

  More than exhilarating, it had been a relief to feel—if even for a split second—that he might overpower her. Not that he could have in his state.

  “I am sorry,” he said. “I’ve displeased you.”

  “No, you didn’t,” she said. Her mind reeled at the tilting sensation she felt. Power was her element and had always been. That a single, desperate touch could make her feel something wholly new and amazing left her confused and scrambling to regain her senses.

  His own innate power was what she’d felt in his touch, even as desperate as he’d been to make his point. He had power over so many. So much power that his soldiers would willingly die und
er his command. They loved him enough to carry out his orders even while he lay near death after inviting a fatal wound himself.

  Belah fumbled with the damp cloth and was grateful when Meri returned with more hot water. She returned the basin to her physician.

  “Make arrangements for him to be brought to the temple tonight. He’s well enough to travel. You should stay to see to the other wounded. I can take care of Nikhil when he is with me.”

  When Belah left the tent, she glanced down at her wrist, her mind spinning at the sight of the four dark, finger-shaped bruises he’d left on her skin.

  After a few steps, someone launched himself bodily at her, beseeching her to heal him. Mud splattered up her cloak and she stared down blankly at the man babbling at her feet, not even registering his words. Without thinking, she blew out a breath to calm him.

  As he stood, smiling and thanking her, the other observers cheered.

  Within a moment, guards surrounded her, one of them pushing her hood over her head.

  “You should have let us know you were ready to leave, mistress.”

  Belah clenched her eyes shut. She should have been less of an idiot, but Nikhil’s touch had done something to her.

  Her guards urged her forward and she went, succumbing to their disciplined instructions. Their orders were to keep her safe.

  She had very little control over her life outside the temple. Everyone bowed at her feet when she walked by, if they knew it was her.

  Nikhil would have bowed as well, if he’d been physically able to. But his touch made her want to bow to him. Goddess or not, she’d loved the force of that touch. All she could picture in her mind now was what he might have done to her if he’d had more strength to follow through. Would he have had her bowing at his feet instead?

  His feet. Even his feet had been beautiful after she’d cleaned them. Every inch of him was perfect. His body a finely honed weapon that had seen its share of battles. Even though he was still relatively young, the scars he carried mapped the journey he’d chosen. If he survived this wound he would return to that path, even though he was fated for something much greater.

 
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