Home > The Dragons of Nova (Loom Saga #2)

The Dragons of Nova (Loom Saga #2)
Author: Elise Kova

1. Arianna


   It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Cvareh piloting the glider, it was that she valued her life a lot more than a superfluous notion like trust.

   His hands, the color of the blue-gray sky that stretched above them, clutched the handles of the vessel with less than inspiring certainty. They shook as though they held birds or writhing snakes, not gold. His magic flowed through the metal and into the glider beneath them, filling the air, giving lift and speed, before discharging out behind the glider’s bat-like wings as a full prism’s worth of color.

   Arianna clutched his waist, pushing her own magic under her heels, rooting herself to the glider in a battle against gravity. The contraption was not built for two and she had to manage her magic carefully to avoid interrupting the flow of his—a fate that would send them spiraling back earthward toward a near-certain death from the fall. His magic was fluctuating at best; the man had clearly never been taught how to pilot a glider and didn’t even understand the basics of how magic was channeled through the gold to give it lift.

   It would be easy for her to assume control. He was powerful, but she would have no reservations and a firm understanding of how the glider functioned.

   Arianna grit her teeth and kept her magic wound tightly around her feet. She let him struggle silently. Piloting a glider was something that, as far as Loom was concerned, only a Dragon could do. Even a strong Chimera couldn’t sustain the magic required to give it stable lift for very long. Which meant that there was no way Arianna should be able to.

   She could, however. She could pilot it more gracefully than the Dragon she was pressed against and the fact made her dangerous. It was a secret so great it would make her both revered and hunted should it ever be discovered. So Arianna kept her mouth shut. She remained the Chimera, the White Wraith, and nothing more.

   Her eyes drifted down behind them at the diminishing earth. Loom spread out beneath her, smaller and smaller until the tallest trees in the forest looked like toothpicks, and the coastline was nothing more than the teeth of a cog she could fit in the palm of her hand. Down there, was the Alchemists’ guild hall, reduced to nothing more than a speck, and in it was Florence.

   Her dearest friend, her ward, her Florence, had set out to change the world. The girl had challenged Ari to do the same and dream again as she once had. But the birth of dreams stained reality. Dreams charted courses beyond the line of possibility that the present drew. They turned that forbidden threshold into an invitation, one that offered no absolution to those who boldly ventured into its alluring unknown.

   Arianna knew this all too well.

   She had dreamed. She had carved her infamy from the impossible. The dreams had wrapped reality in a sweet illusion that had turned sour with betrayal. If she dreamed again, she would no longer dream for the world. She would not risk leaving another mark on such a scale. She would merely be a player in other’s dreams—like Florence’s.

   When the girl awoke this dawn, Arianna hoped she would understand. There wasn’t room for goodbyes between women of action. It would be wasted words. If Florence wanted to assume the post of a visionary, she had to weigh the importance of deeds before the importance of words, not just from Arianna, but from the whole world.

   “Brace yourself!” Cvareh shouted over the gusty currents.

   The winds howled with greater ferocity the closer they got to the thick clouds that perpetually engulfed Loom. Ari grabbed her elbows at Cvareh’s sides, locking muscle against muscle as she pressed into the taller man. The closer they were to each other, the less possibility for drag or for a rogue gust to get between them and knock her off.

   His magic washed over her in pulses that increased in frequency until they were a sustained force across the entire glider, including her. Surviving through the clouds required a hefty amount of protection—a corona. This was the second barrier that prevented a Chimera from piloting a glider. Built into the handles Cvareh gripped were golden channels designed to funnel magic into a protective shield. Even if a Chimera could manage lift, it wouldn’t be enough to sustain a suitable corona that would protect against the wind.

   Light sparked across them, shining like scales, as the wind battered the magical force-field. Ari’s refined goggles were whitewashed from the magic and clouds, her ears nearly deaf from the roaring wind that echoed through the magical barrier—a paper-thin separation between them and certain death.

   But she never closed her eyes.

   She remained alert, poised to take over should Cvareh falter. She would not die this day and certainly not due to someone else’s incompetence. Arianna waited, her breaths shallowed with nerves, until they broke through the line that separated the world she knew below, and the world of Dragons in the skies above.

   Magic snapped audibly as they crossed the threshold between worlds. Ari blinked into unfiltered sunlight for the very first time.

   Her eyes had no trouble adjusting. They had been cut from a Dragon and implanted in her sockets. Her irises closed to thin slits and adapted instantly. But her mind rejected the blinding light. It was a struggle to process, like a ribbon of magnesium exposed to flame.

   How could anything be so bright?

   The sunlight illuminated every nook and cranny of the world that floated before her. It defied all logic, hovering in the empty air in violation of every scientific law that formed the load-bearing walls of the structure of her life. Nova, the homeland of the Dragons. She was loath to admit it, but the sketches in books hadn’t done it justice.

   Diamond-shaped islands drifted like icebergs through tides of wind. Inverted towers and honeycombed living quarters had been carved into the shade of their underbellies. Sunbeams winked through the hollow spaces where gardens thrived and waterfalls fell into the nothingness below, spilling a seemingly infinite amount of liquid into the void as if it were tithing for an unknown god.

   Smaller masses floated around the larger ones, like islands to continents. The glider rose higher and higher, giving Arianna her first glimpse of the tops. The land was as colorful as its people: purple mountains offset against emerald trees, gold splattered atop grasses as if the sun itself had been poured out. Every building was painted and adorned on all possible surfaces. Not one had escaped the artist’s brush or sculptor’s touch. Every. Single. One.

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