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    Now in an epic single volume - THE DRAGONLADY TRILOGY + two bonus stories!


    I never thought of myself as much of a fighter. The many scars twining over my body prove that more eloquently – or perhaps I should say brutally – than any descriptions I might give. I was always meek and submissive, giving in to every rough handling, every bruise, every groping hand, and every laceration. I never argued when others tried to protect me. I didn’t argue when I grew too old to hide behind them.

    I didn’t protest when they took my parents and slowly cut off every finger, every toe, every piece they could…

    Their screams remained buried inside me, silenced by a soul-deep shock that only slowly, turns later, began to peel away. I didn’t know how to fight back, nor had I ever tried to lead anyone. Even as that carefree, silly child I vaguely recall from before the Takeover, I’d always followed others around – my friends, my mother, my sisters, the servants. I didn’t like making decisions. Doing something, anything, always seemed to be just enough.

    When the draonds came on their deadly gavus, fueling their deadforce powers on our blood and pain, I just ran to where I was told. When I was found by a few servants, I followed them blindly. When they stripped me and covered my small body in rough linen, when they quickly cut off all of my hair and rubbed dirt into my hands, I stood and said nothing. I didn’t even cry. I was a shell, a form that gave them hope, or at least a reason to believe that they were resisting our new Overlords.

    But turns passed, and as I grew, nothing changed. I stayed blank and the smell of dried blood became commonplace. When my faithful friends grew too weak to stand in front and take the lash for me, when the constant abuse had worn them down, I gently pushed them aside. I welcomed the pain, the blood, the weakness, and the raw sound of my voice. It was the only thing that ever proved to me that I was still alive.

    No, I was never one to even try and pretend to be strong. I was always one of the first ones to start crying out, to beg for mercy, to scream myself voiceless at the uncaring sky. The servants used to think that I was just soft from my early years of pampering. I always whimpered. I always cried. I never fought back in any way. My old maids and stewards eventually began to despise my unrelenting weakness.

    I didn’t care. At least they had something to cling to.

    But I… I had lost everyone.

    It’s no wonder, really, I forgot most of who I was.

    I suppose giving in so completely to my captivity is the biggest excuse I will ever give myself for letting everything go on so long without caring, for being so afraid and tired, for merely going through the motions. I played a role, and in the turns that wore on, I’d simply wiped aside the memories of all the sacrifices my people had made to keep me safe. I gave in to despair. I let myself slide into nothing, pushing away the memories and helplessness that I was ashamed to carry inside me.

    Not the most worthy excuse. Not anything to prove other critics wrong. If anything, I encourage such accusations. I had given up. I failed them.

    I failed.

    Yet, in all that I have learned since, in all the gifts I have been granted, I have never had the power to turn back time. All I can do is continue forward and hope my future deeds will continue to atone for all those turns spent floating and lost. Afraid… never fighting.

    Because when I finally did wake up… everything changed.

    And I have learned to fight since then.