NZ Forest Native Birds
Excerpt from The Dragons of Lazaronia by fantasy author Laraine Anne Barker

Chapter 20
Moonlight and Roses

Albinon soon cut their greetings short. “It’s time to leave,” he insisted, gesturing towards the two full-size dragons, now waiting for Mark and Esmé to mount. “We have a celebration to organisethe biggest one in the history of our land. And after that will come two more, a wedding and a coronation.”

     Mark groaned. All he really wanted was to sleep for at least a week.

     But this luxury was still some time away. And if Mark hoped to sleep on the journey back to Castle Lazarone he was in for a disappointment. Except that watching the incredibly huge pod of orcas cavorting beneath them as they flew was anything but disappointing. And seeing his unicorn friends become acquainted with their hitherto unknown kin was even more gratifying. However, once he reached Castle Lazarone sleeping for days was virtually what he did, while impromptu celebrations went on around him. For the whole land soon heard of the ordeals undergone by the One Marked By Willowordeals that they already knew had nearly killed himand allowed him all the time he needed to recover.

     Once he was ready to face the world again he didn’t get what was then his biggest heart’s desiresome time alone with Esméuntil, during a ball to officially celebrate the forthcoming wedding, they somehow managed to creep out for a few minutes into the garden. It was a warm night and they were both a little heated from dancing.

     “Let’s sit down by the fountain,” Esmé suggested.

     Hand in hand they strolled along an arched tunnel of white climbing roses, whose delicate perfume seemed to fill every inch of the moon-lit garden. At the end of the long archway stood the fountain, in an arbour of more climbing roses where a white seat glimmered invitingly. Memory stirred in Mark.

     “Well, here’s your moonlight and roses,” he said, referring to the last time he remembered being alone with Esmé.

     Esmé giggled shyly as he pulled her into his arms. She would no doubt lose this rather charming quality when they’d been married a while, he mused ruefully as she nestled her head against his shoulder.

     “I’m afraid life isn’t going to be all moonlight and roses,” she murmured into his ear. “Aside from leading the land back to prosperity, there’s the job of bringing up Iggie.”

     Mark winced. “Can’t somebody else adopt him?”

     “He’s my cousin, remember. As Queen of Lazaronia it’s my duty to bring him up.”

     “But we’ll have our own children. What if he tries to corrupt them? What if he succeeds?”

     Esmé sighed. “Without a powerful restraining influence he could become another wizard Ignarius, which would be an even greater threat. I’m the only one with enough of the necessary power to be the right sort of mother to him. But there is good in himmainly his empathy with animals. Without that weakness (for that’s how his mother saw it) he would have done her bidding and she would have won. Lazaronia would now be ruled by the Hydralon.”

     Mark shuddered. “What about the Hydralon’s cursethat Iggie will become King of Lazaronia? Remember he carries the Hydralon’s genes.” The mere thought made him shudder again.

     He felt Esmé tense slightly. “That’s not possible. Our first-born will rule Lazaronia. Albinon has foreseen it.”

     So she’d been worried enough about it to consult the Chief Piksenlord! But at least Albinon knew better than to reassure her with a lie.

     However, when he voiced this thought Esmé admitted reluctantly, “But that was all he could tell me. He says he’s tried, but the plane of foretelling is blank and silent. He claims that’s a good sign, though, for only when the land is in peril has any of its inhabitants been able to foresee the future. He also agreed that raising Iggie in the royal household is the only way to channel his loyalty and powers in the right direction.”

     Mark sighed in a mixture of relief and contentment. “Then that’s settled. Now let’s make the most of the moonlight and roses.”

     Stifling an involuntary giggle, Esmé raised her face to his.

     From the centre of the fountain, where water splashed onto his upraised hands before cascading to the pond below, the smile of the statue of the infant god Seraphino seemed to grow even smugger.

T H E     E N D

© L A Barker Enterprises
All rights reserved

Well, this is the first draft of the final scenes of The Chronicles of Lazaronia, so I can’t promise that it won’t change. I had planned for it to be a bit more lighthearted than this, but somehow the characters took over the scene—probably because Esmé is no ordinary young bride-to-be and is well aware that raising Iggie is going to be a marathon task.

And, speaking of Iggie, if reader feedback is anything to go by, you’d like to know if he ever does become King of Lazaronia. Sorry, I can’t guarantee that you’ll ever find out, because that’s another story. But if I manage to find out myself be sure I’ll let you know.

To send your comments or questions, please Email me.

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