Will they succeed against their competition,
or will the dragons of the Wild Hunt be too wild to tame?
Of Wings and Shadows
Of Cinder and Bone #5.5
by Kyoko M.
Genre: Science Fiction, Contemporary Fantasy
In a modern-day world teeming with marauding dragons, there is only one solution: The Wild Hunt.
The United States government has decided to hold a tournament called The Wild Hunt to determine who will be responsible for the capture of wild dragons by the Knight Division. The four challengers Noah Wilson, Charlie Howard, Su Jin Han, and Beowulf have to catch five deadly dragons alive if they want to win the tournament and become the new Knight Division dragon hunters. Their journey will take them through the mountains of South Carolina, the seas of Key West, the caverns of Ruby Falls, the Redwood forest, and finally, the murky bayous of Louisiana. Will they succeed against their competition, or will the dragons of the Wild Hunt be too wild to tame?
Of Wings and Shadows is the sixth book in the Of Cinder and Bone series. It takes place in medias res of Book Five, Of Claws and Inferno. It follows Of Cinder and Bone, Of Blood and Ashes, Of Dawn and Embers, and Of Fury and Fangs.
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Once Noah reached the nearby hiking trail, he could tell the dragon was definitely present; he heard not a peep from the local wildlife, which had likely fallen silent so as not to draw attention to themselves. He slid the rifle around to his hands as he finished cresting the hill and then knelt, peering through the scope to get a good look at the creature.
The midnight dragon had climbed over the black iron fence and stretched out on the rock face on its side. The sunshine made it look like a long, eerie shadow or an oil spill. Its enormous wings were folded along its spiny back and he could see its tail tapping on the rock every so often. Its cerulean eyes were closed for the moment and its nostrils twitched occasionally. He couldn’t really determine if it was completely asleep or not, so he’d have to hope for the best.
The fence around the enclosure made it hard to get a good vantage point to make the shot without alerting the dragon to his presence. Their altitude also meant he’d have to contend with the wind since he was several yards out. He decided to stay within the nearby tree line in the hopes it would provide cover and lay on his belly, setting up the rifle’s tripod to help him steady the shot. For the next few minutes, he simply observed the dragon through the scope. As he did, he could hear something other than the wind whistling through the trees: a light chirping noise that he realized was indeed coming from the dragon. If he hadn’t been in an environment where the other animals had gone silent, he never would’ve noticed it was producing the sound, not the many birds around it.
A red-breasted nuthatch flitted down from a nearby tree and landed on the rock to catch a worm it spotted directly in front of the dragon. The dragon’s nostrils twitched, then its forked tongue flicked out once, twice. The bird picked up the worm and turned to fly away. The midnight dragon snapped it up in its jaws as fast as a striking cobra, swallowing the bird whole. Noah blew out a breath, wincing. “Poor little guy.”
The dragon then stood and stretched its wings, exposing the dark membrane in between the appendages. Noah exhaled, concentrated, and took the shot.
The syringe bounced off one of the rungs of the iron fence.
The midnight dragon heard the noise and turned its horned head, its brilliant blue eyes locking onto Noah immediately.
“Ah, hell,” he muttered.
The dragon roared and spread its wings, leaping into the air and heading right for him.
Noah jumped to his feet, slung the rifle around his back, and booked it.
He ran into the thicket since the trees and shrubs would become obstacles for the gigantic creature, but he knew it had the advantage stalking him from above.
“I’ve got good news and bad news,” Noah panted out. “The good news is I found the dragon. The bad news is I missed the shot and now it wants to tear a chunk outta my hide.”
“Can you get to cover?” Yusuke asked.
“Depends on what you consider cover.” A shadow swept over him and he ducked on instinct. The midnight dragon’s sharp talons missed him by mere inches as it attempted to swoop down and grab him. It twisted through the air and then landed on a sturdy branch, crouching there like a sinister gargoyle as he changed directions to continue evading it.
“The flashlight’s gonna be your best bet,” Yusuke said. “If you can find a shady spot, use that to blind it.”
“Roger that.” Noah heard the swish of the dragon’s wings overhead again and skidded over the crest of the next hill. He’d underestimated how steep it would be; it pitched him down at a sharp angle. He bounced off a couple of tree trunks before landing at the bottom in a sore heap, groaning as he pushed up onto his forearms. The suit had protected him, as did the helmet, but bruises were bruises and they hurt all the same.
Noah heaved onto his back and tried to peer up into the trees to see where the dragon had gone after his admittedly clumsy fall, but it wasn’t in the immediate vicinity. His vision swirled for a few seconds, but he didn’t have much time to stay disoriented; he checked the dragon tracker to see the dragon was circling the area, trying to spot him. He realized his black armor may have made it slightly harder for the reptile to see him beneath all the of the trees’ shade.
And that gave him an idea.
“Noah, are you alright?” Yusuke asked.
“No,” he admitted as he rubbed his aching ribs. “But that don’t matter for now.”
Noah hauled himself to his feet and stumbled forward, thinking back on the terrain he’d passed on his way here. He made his way towards a bridge that had been built over one of the streams and then collapsed beneath it, taking a moment to catch his breath. One thing he and Mateo had been doing since he’d started hunting dragons was learning about their physiology. This particular breed of dragon had pit organs like a snake, which meant with him standing in a relatively cold environment—the stream and in the shadows beneath the bridge—the midnight dragon would likely catch onto his body heat rather quickly.
And sure enough, the midnight dragon landed in the stream with a loud and foreboding splash.
Noah swallowed hard as the winged reptile shook itself and then menaced towards him, its head lowered, its lips pulling away from its many sharp, venomous fangs. He unhooked the high-powered flashlight from the side of his utility belt and crept backwards underneath the bridge until he was no longer in any light. The dragon stalked him, its legs bunching as it prepared to dive towards him and take a bite.
Just as it lunged, Noah flipped on the light and shined it directly into the dragon’s eyes.
The midnight dragon shrieked and recoiled, shaking its head violently. Noah grabbed for the rifle, but the dragon then turned and slammed its thick tail into his chest. He tumbled head over foot a few feet away, winded. His already bruised ribs practically screamed as he struggled onto his knees, trying to force the air back in his lungs.
The dragon clearly couldn’t see very well, but it got its second wind and roared, preparing to strike in his general vicinity. Noah grabbed a pair of bolas and flung them at the dragon as it soared through the air towards him. The bolas wrapped around the top half of the dragon’s wings and it landed face-first in the stream a few feet away. He then leapt onto it, straddling the base of its neck, and grabbed one of the tethers, tying its mouth shut. The dragon threw its weight to one side, attempting to roll over and crush him, but he shoved a booted foot against the ground to keep them upright.
Using all his body weight, Noah slammed the creature to the ground and jutted a knee in the base of its neck so it couldn’t rise. He fumbled for the smaller handheld tranquilizer gun on his belt and shot a dose into the dragon’s swanlike neck.
Mercifully, the dragon’s movements became sluggish, then it collapsed on its side at long last, out like a light.
Noah slumped onto his backside beside the unconscious dragon and let out a tired chuckle. “Don’t try this at home, kids.”
Then he heaved onto his knees and began tying up the dragon’s limbs. “Okamura, we’re in business. It’s all trussed up and ready to go.”
“Excellent work, Mr. Wilson. Glad to know you’re still in one piece.”
Noah snorted. “Like David after defeating Goliath, my friend. One down, four to go.”
Kyoko M is a USA Today bestselling author, a fangirl, and an avid book reader. She has written the Amazon bestselling Black Parade urban fantasy series as well as the Of Cinder and Bone science-fiction dragon hunting series. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Lit degree from the University of Georgia, which gave her every valid excuse to devour book after book with a concentration in Greek mythology and Christian mythology. When not working feverishly on a manuscript (or two), she can be found buried under her Dashboard on Tumblr, or chatting with fellow nerds on Twitter, or curled up with a good Harry Dresden novel on a warm Georgia night. Like any author, she wants nothing more than to contribute something great to the best profession in the world, no matter how small.