Hazel is not the slave she appears to be. She is a queen and a natural-born Slayer of Beasts. But to regain her throne, Hazel must take down an evil king and depraved queen…and keep her secret from two newcomers: Korserath and Devorex. The twin brothers are gorgeous and tempting, and if Hazel isn’t careful, they’ll have her wrapped around their fingers.
Age Rating: 18+ (Self Harm, Sexual Abuse, Rape, Torture, Violence)
Dragon’s Leash by C. Swallow is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.
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I had a fascination with the sky and the clouds, perhaps because I hadn’t seen its sparseness and freedom for over three years.
Trapped in the Fahrenheit mine was my fate, possibly for the rest of my life.
Forget about ever being the Queen of the Apogee. To regain power over my home would mean the removal of an entire army—and I had no army to fight back.
I only had the power of the Sword Dancer, which I unfortunately had no idea how to harness or use.
Up until I was sixteen, I only learned dance. The fighting came after that, and I never had the opportunity to begin that training.
We were invaded when I was sixteen by Astro and Apostis. Three years later, I was nineteen, orphaned, my whole family slaughtered, completely annihilated…
All of them except me.
No one found my body after the invasion, and I knew Astro was aware I’d survived somewhere out of sight.
It was a dangerous existence, but I managed to change my appearance enough. Mostly by being starved—and occasionally beaten.
I slipped away into the crowds and joined the commoners. It’s so long ago, but I can remember every detail of the transition from queen to slave as if it were yesterday.
No, I didn’t have a king, but you didn’t need one in Apogee back when my family ruled. Females were the sole reigning monarch. It was in conjunction with our rare power, the Sword Dancer.
The miners, however, are my new beloved family. They all know who I am. They all protect me.
And we all hold our tongues to protect each other from the Slave Masters who drive us to work twelve-hour shifts in the mines, without pause, no food or water during.
The widest spaces in this hell were when the mines opened to older, ancient quarries, supported by nothing but…well, you could call it Luck.
That’s where I am now, The First Luck.
There are three lucky spaces in total—the safest places to be in the Fahrenheit. Every other area of the mine is unstable.
This Luck is closest to the surface, dripping poison from the Bloodstone hollowed out to give room for a party of ten. Still small, but definitely one of the most spacious areas in the Fahrenheit.
Five of us female slaves stand in a row, while Fell tells us the command.
“You’ve all been brought here for introductory duties. You will all help wash the new slaves upon their arrival.
“They have already been whipped until they’re red and had their nails trimmed, their heads shaved.”
Fell stops by me, dressed in crimson-red robes that highlight his rank, close to Astro as a favored enforcer of the New Rule: Obey Astro, the Maul King, or face nightmarish consequences.
“Have you prayed to Apostis today, Hazel?”
“Yes, sir,” I answer without emotion, only the correct words.
Fell, with his white hair and pale blue lips, is obsessed with me.
I used to worry it was because he suspected I was the missing queen…
Now, I think, as he reaches for my shoulder and my neck, placing his hand there, squeezing so tight it hurts, it’s another reason.
“Good.” He unhands me, almost needlessly shoving me back as he turns. I know he wishes I would fall, if only so then he could have an excuse to whip me.
Pirouette beside me rubs my back for a small second in comfort, and I shake her off.
She was my best friend—I didn’t want her to get punished because of me. She was already full of scars. All she lived for was to rebel and get hacked into with Fell’s generous torture.
She was covered in scars from head to toe. But still, all in the name of inspiring others. That’s how she justified it.
Pirouette leans over to me, however, hissing in my ear, ”Look up!”
I stare past her and then past Fell directing in the new slaves.
My heart lurches at what I see.
I almost…I almost feel hope for a second—for the strangest reason.
Six slaves arrive, wrists still shackled to their ankles. They are all whipped and red, all are bald…except for two with heads of hair.
How did two manage to avoid getting their hair removed?
Perhaps because the bleeding giant twins with hair the color of night looked as if they had just come off a battlefield, a bloody war.
I notice their skin is golden despite the red from their wounds, and I focus on that color. I was also once golden—now, I was pale and purple like a lotus flower.
My mother used to call me beautiful like a yellow rose.
I miss my mother.
I gulp and quickly turn off that useless thought.
The slaves are lined up in front of us, and I look away from all of them while Fell turns back to face us.
“Go.” Fell points each female off, choosing which girl goes with each man into a preparation room. “You, there—you, this one, Pirouette—move it. Hazel, come here for me, love.”
It was disgusting when he endeared me. It turned me off so much I never wanted to be endeared by anyone ever again. Truth.
I walk toward him, keeping my head down.
Fell snatches the back of my neck as he makes me stand in front of two. I know it’s them, the ones that almost made me feel hope with their stupid hair, but I still don’t look up.
“Hazel, are you listening?”
Fell liked to pretend I was slow, or I pretended, just so I had less attention. Anything I could do to avoid it.
I look up to Fell and nod, remaining expressionless as he tells me, with a cold look, “You’ll wash them, strip them down, clothe them in slave material, and take them to their new station.
“Find them a bed and a pick.” Fell sounds so civil. “These ones like to take advantage of women like you. Sometimes when you’re dead first.
“But as long as it happens out of sight, it’s out of all our minds. Enjoy yourselves with her.”
He has got to be kidding me. Fell actually thinks they’re going to rape me. In fact, he wants them to.
“Look at me, Hazel.”
Instead, I look down at my single bucket, half-full of dirty water with a used rag, wrung out a thousand times.
I could use neither as a weapon.
Perhaps with Fell’s wish of violence upon me from others…perhaps…perhaps this is truly my last day.
I feel a slap to my cheek—and it brings me back to the present.
It’s a slap I would have really felt three years ago.
Now, it was just another handshake.
To cope, I made myself enjoy this kind of punishment…until I actually did enjoy it.
I glance up to Fell, and he smiles warmly at my gentle smile. A true smile. As the pain warms my cheek.
Thank you for reminding me how I’m going to kill you one day. Nothing made me happier than that fantasy.
“Look at them.” Fell, staring at my curled, curious lips then my raging hazel eyes, is obsessed with my torture.
I finally turn my head from my abuser and look at the two criminals, the worst of the worst—at least by Fell’s retelling. These brothers, these twins, are not even looking at me.
One is staring right ahead at the guards. The other, closest to us, is staring at Fell.
“They have hair because they bit two of the barbers’ hands off and ate them. Feral men. They might eat you raw, although Astro and Apostis would have you cooked.
“Would you prefer to go meet the Maul King and offer to be his dinner? Love?”
“I am ready to wash the rapists, thank you.” I look straight at Fell without looking away, meaning to glare—but now I receive two other burning glares on my slight frame.
As they look at me.
My spine crawls.
“Well, don’t deny it,” Fell challenges the shackled men, who both seem to be irritated by something. “You two have a reputation to uphold, Devor—”
“Don’t say my name.” The one farther off to the side now sideways glares at Fell.
“Why? You should be thanking me. I’m allowing you to use this one however you want.” Fell winks and bites his cracked lower lip as he steps back.
“I’ll be keeping an ear out to hear it. You may find we have a lot more in common than you think.” Fell seems to admire the monsters. “You’re very welcome. Remember this favor I give you.”
Fell turns from them to lean over and pinch my nose and wiggle it, showing off how I can be used so easily like a toy. “Just in case it’s the last time.”
Fell leans over to kiss my cheek, but something inside me fucking snaps at that comment.
Perhaps Pirouette is a bad influence after all, but I turn into Fell and smash a hand between his legs, clawing into his balls. If this was the last time, I wouldn’t fucking miss this for the world.
While Fell is hissing spit through his teeth, I’ve managed to screw my second weak fist into his thick red collar, and I choke him as best as I can, even though it’s futile and meek and pathetic.
It’s all I can manage.
Fell spits in my eye and flats a hand over my face, shoving me back until I almost trip over the bucket.
I am able to twirl to regain my balance, and I pick up the rag and bucket at the same time.
I watch with narrowed eyes as Fell grabs the small baton at his hip. I’m sure he’ll beat me with it.
To my disturbing surprise, however, Fell composes himself and straightens his back.
“I don’t care. They’ll ravage you anyway. I always knew you were a slut for your own blood…”
My heart goes cold when Fell says that.
Did he know I had cut myself in the past…while I…while I pleasured myself?
I thought I had only ever done that in private, and he had been eavesdropping on me?
I need to get away from him.
“Let’s go.” I turn to the two monsters who I feel suddenly, in my heart, are not what Fell describes them to be. Fell must be lying. Just to scare me.
“Pussy. You’re already wet. Admit it—”
Fell can’t stop talking shit, but he does pause as the second brother leans over to Fell, whipped and bleeding but hair still perfectly glossy with power as he speaks to him.
“The only thing wet is your dripping, bleeding balls. You should get that checked.” This twin sounds like his voice grinds people’s meat to liquid mush. I kind of like it.
“Also, anything that makes her wet is our business now.”
“I don’t care. I just want her screaming,” Fell warns them—then finally, finally, he turns to depart.
As we’re left alone, aside from the guards watching on, I’m able to address the new prisoners with fucking hair. I can’t get over it.
I now ask them, “Is it true of your crimes?” I speak to the more communicative brother, as the other is staring off into space again. As if I don’t exist.
The twin looking at me leans over, bending over quite far to catch my voice and my ear.
“Is it true we still have hair?” he asks me cryptically.
“I see it,” I answer as neutrally as possible. “Will you make me scream as Fell said?”
I wait for a reassuring no. One word to reaffirm Fell is a liar and an intimidator and a manipulator.
My prisoner leans up, seemingly deep in thought. But he doesn’t answer.
“Move,” the more violent one speaks, now looking right at me.
I’m too scared to look at him.
I turn to move, to take them to the last washing chamber. I lead the way, and they follow closely while my mind reels.
What the fuck was I going to do if they both took me against my will?
Why even wonder? You couldn’t do a thing.
What? I’m hearing things. I’m… I’m hear—
I turn around in my walk to glance at both twins. The nicer one is staring at me with intent.
Did you just read my m—?
My name is Koresrath, not nicer one.
Oh, he thinks this is very funny. A slight smile for me. He is also definitely speaking in my head.
The other? I dare ask it.
My twin is not interested in you.
Well, why would I care about that? And also, did that mean Korserath was interested in me?
Of course I am.
I almost jerk with his intrusion again.
Please get out of my head, I beg Korserath politely but also aggressively. I don’t know, he’s making me weirdly nervous, a sharp spike of heat in my gut.
I didn’t know if I was anticipating pain or what—
“Lotus flower?” A question from Korserath related to much further before. Fuck. No, he read my mind then too? Which means he might have heard I was a q—
Don’t think it, don’t think it, don’t think it, don’t think it!
Queen, queen, queen. Shit.
I skip quickly into the last washroom of black, dripping rocks.
A small, nothing space with no privacy, only one bench and an ominous sucking noise of air through the cracks in the rocks, leading to the volcano and the magma somewhere above.
I drop the bucket.
I turn around.
Korserath stands against one wall, his brother against the other. Relaxed. Okay.
They watch each other. Korserath is smirking at his twin who is still seemingly bored and unimpressed.
Then I hear things while looking at them. Things I shouldn’t be hearing.
This virgin is deluded and thinks she’s a queen, Devorex. How are you not amused? It’s Korserath to his brother, speaking a joke so fine to him. He is entirely amused and nothing more.
Serath, you’re the one fucking deluded if you think I’ll obey that fucker’s order to rape her.
Rex, I wasn’t going to fuck her, just torture her mind a bit for some—
They both abruptly look at me.
I just intruded in on both their minds.
And I don’t think either knew.
I lean down and wet the rag.
I lean up and squeeze it, twisting it tight.
“Tell us about the Fahrenheit,” Devorex finally addresses me, and I think his name out loud quite clearly, which gets me almost cut down with his next dagger of a question.
“How the fuck do you know my name?”
I look down.
If I stayed here any longer, they would start to know more. If I thought too much more.
No. I had to get out.
This was going from strange to downright risky.
I need to act now.
So I act.
I walk right up to Devorex, and I punch him in the face.
Mind you, it doesn’t do anything except cause complete lack of breath from either brother. Not even a head swings, but thankfully, I don’t get a fist through my face.
What I did does what I wanted it to do.
I walk past them.
“The night calls,” I whisper, mimicking a crazy person I knew well in the Bunks. “The night will win.” I keep walking off, suddenly screaming at the top of my lungs for good measure.
Nothing like acting weird to throw predators off the scent.
Especially ones in my head every time they looked at me.
I can’t think about it too much longer.
I get out.
I leave the rest to whoever bothers to clean up after me.
I didn’t know who the fuck Korserath and Devorex were, but they weren’t from around here.
They would be easy to avoid—so that is my only goal now.
Stay the fuck away from them.
Luckily, my maneuver today is all I need to survive another year in isolation.
I’m correct in my assumptions as the mines are ten thousand strong, and it’s hard to run into everyone and easy to avoid certain shafts.
Eventually, though, fate would catch up—and I would meet them again.
One year from now. They will be the key to escaping the Fahrenheit. The only problem will be the payment.
The price of freedom would cost my soul.
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One year later…
It was the end of our mining shift, and Pirouette emptied mine-made liquor into everyone’s cup. Including mine.
Although I grew up to know it was against my way, today, I give in.
Because it’s my birthday. I’m twenty—the age I would have made it to the official ascension as the real Queen of the Apogee.
Everyone is drunk deep within the new shaft.
The most dangerous and unstable part of the Fahrenheit was the new tunnels. It was the only place we could get marginal privacy from the guards.
The chances of the new shafts caving in were…ha, one in four? So it also made it exciting to risk it!
Would we risk death to celebrate?
I wish we had the choice to say.
I’m used to this reality of having nothing under my control.
The party of twenty have dozed off to sleep, our party space being the narrow way.
I’m resting next to Pirouette and her boyfriend when I hear a scream.
“NO!” No! No…no…!
The boom of the yell echoes back toward me, of an animal who cries deep—hurt?
I shake Pirouette, but she’s asleep with her head buried in her boyfriend’s neck. Wiley is also fast asleep—and no one else heard the scream.
I check over the heads, and the party are all asleep from deep exhaustion.
I lie back into the rock, prepared to ignore the scream, when my nostrils suddenly flare.
And I stand immediately.
To go in search of that smell.
What the hell was this?
I can smell something that would taste like night or an ancient luxury wine. It’s like a warning, but not a threat. No—a signal.
I breathe in deeply until I taste iron on my tongue.
I sniff the air again as I move.
Why did it smell so alluring when it was clearly dangerous?
Perhaps my first sip of liquor had gone straight to my head. Could you get drunk after one sip? Pirouette and Wiley had laughed, as did the rest of the party, but I didn’t drink any more than that.
I reach the end of the new shaft, which isn’t far, and I hear a sharp inhale down one of the older dead rock shafts; dead ends with no value in the gray flat rock.
I wait where I am at the crossroads to see if I hear the jiggle of a guard’s belt anywhere nearby.
Total silence down this far in the Fahrenheit, so I decide it’s safe to investigate.
I walk down the narrow, dead shaft until it widens, and I find the felled man.
I recognize him quicker than he recognizes me, as the shocked giant pulls back to gaze at my intrusion in confusion and I stand back to observe his predicament.
The giant is sitting back in a corner, forearm stuck between a rock that squeezed shut in a crack within the shaft.
That was stupid of him. The rocks moved a lot down here.
I note that Korserath is not a slave anymore as I take my time observing him from afar.
No—after a year, this man is wearing black leather pants, and my gaze focuses on that.
In contrast, I’m wearing a blackened white skirt and a band of black cloth for my breasts, which were small anyway. I was tall, however. And while his hair is black, mine is white.
Korserath doesn’t scare me. He’s stuck, so I glower and gloat a little with my eyes.
A stuck man was yours to do as you wished with.
To steal from.
And I see something I want.
Not the pants.
At his belt.
A black, otherworldly sword, medium length, but with a thick blade.
Korserath isn’t saying a word; he’s just watching me without breathing like some kind of man turned to stone.
His strange behavior doesn’t alert any warning bells in my mind. After all, he’s very, very stuck.
But he also smells really good—and that smell is coming from his mouth and his body.
I lean forward and take a step closer, whispering to him, “Does the night feel heavy upon your hand?” I mock because I can.
I am the night. Korserath doesn’t grace me with words aloud.
He touches my mind.
It doesn’t matter if he can read my thoughts though.
Since he’s stuck.
I lean down at his ankles, a little greedy, as his legs stick out.
I feel the leather he wears, and my fingers tremble with its soft touch.
I breathe so shakily I almost come.
I hadn’t felt something so soft and royal like leather in four years! And it’s real!
I then focus on the sword at his hip, sheathed in. I almost drool with how close the weapon is.
“Come get it.” Korserath’s deep, grating voice challenges me without so much as a smile.
I’m not stupid. He can read my mind, but I can learn.
And I’m too tempted by his lips, cut hard despite the full blush of blood, the fact he’s a handsome, dangerous man—and he’s stuck too.
And that smell. From his mouth. The night.
If I could taste that dark fire…
I reach for his arm and distract him with my touch there as I boldly sit on his thighs and look into his eyes. We’re inches apart.
His other hand is laid to the right, free, but no man could kill me with one hand while I had two.
Korserath smiles a little down at me, and I get closer to his face, a half-breath from his mouth as I look up into his eyes.
The closer I get I see the black is really a dark red, but the smell from his mouth… I breathe it in directly now.
“Mmm,” I moan a little uncontrollably. It was a like a nightmare coated in lust.
I keep my eyes closed as I kiss Korserath, now too tempted by it all. This dangerous man, so utterly stuck for me. Almost like a gift.
It’s my birthday, I tell him quietly as I reach up my hands and press them against the sides of his neck, feeling his steady pulse. His heart beats so slowly.
Korserath doesn’t exactly kiss me back, and I wish he’d give me something more.
I’m almost losing myself in a trance when I remember to roll to the side and pounce up while I still have my wits.
I lose myself willingly to the dancing moves I’ll never forget.
I’ve twirled onto one hand while the other snatches the sword handle, and then I land upright.
Too easy for this trained body of mine.
I’m holding his stolen, dark, glimmering sword now, and his hand is not close enough to grab my ankle. He tries to snatch it, and I kick his hand back with my pointed toes.
I ignore him as I walk backward holding the perfectly weighted sword.
I’ve got what I wanted.
And I’m in love. With this beautiful thing.
I practice a few dance moves in the shaft, slicing the blade up and around me as I spin down and back up straight, holding it above my head, and then lowering it slowly to the trapped man.
Korserath is no longer calm.
Even though he’s stuck there in his corner, I see how tense every muscle has become.
The giant criminal is completely confused by how I managed to steal from him.
I am better trained than him in grace. Than any man ever could be.
I smile as he struggles to pull his arm out again, but he faces me as I step closer.
“You just need to spit on it,” I advise him as I lean in to spit on his arm. “You’ll live.” Just a little poorer.
Now, I leave. I walk past, I strut off, entranced with the sword in my possession.
I would hide it immediately.
Leaving Korserath behind.
I’ve just made it out of the shaft when I hear that grating, deep animal killer inside my head.
I’m almost swallowed up by the anger in those words as he mocks me with deep-rooted sarcasm. I think that will be all it is.
Until Korserath adds, You want freedom?
Then leave with me right now.
Even if it was true, that he had a way out of here—ha, as if I’d trust a convicted rapist I just stole from.
No, I respond. No way.
I’ll burn a hole through your chest and burn your heart while I steal your mind when I get my hands on you again, butterfly.
It’s a drawl that doesn’t sound like an empty threat.
“Burn alone,” I speak over my shoulder. With your twin, wherever he is. I remember that you’re both criminals. Choosing the mine can’t be the worst option. I’ll live.
There is nothing worse than a pissed-off Devorex, sweetheart. You stole from me.
He speaks of himself? His mind—full of himself. Except…
You’re Korserath, I correct him.
He laughs aloud, and it echoes to my ears from up the dead shaft.
I’m Korserath? HA! And you’re safe.
He can’t stop laughing, so deeply amused.
I just stole.
From the more violent, crazy one.
That was Devorex. I don’t like that one. I had only ever fantasized about the other one.
I kissed the one I punched in the face. And now I also stole from him.
I run back to the shaft beds, creating as much distance between us as humanely possible. I could lose him before he found me.
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