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Sunday, June 22, 2014

First Chapter Tease: Dragon's Rival

It's time! Time to reveal the first chapter to my next book, Dragon's Rival.

Warning, reading this chapter will give spoilers for the first two books, Dragon's Curse and Dragon's Debt. If you have yet to read either of those books, stop RIGHT HERE and click the links below. You can then purchase the first two books on Amazon and read my series in the correct order. You  can thank me later.

Dragon's Curse (The Dragon and the Scholar) (Volume 1)


Also, this is not my final draft. My next step is to order a physical proof and to use it to triple check for errors and changes I want to make to polish up the text, so little things may change in this chapter before I release book 3 in August. 

But . . . I do not plan to make any major changes, so read this and look for Dragon's Rival to be available August 4th, 2014. 





Chapter One
Ewan and the Sky

Ewan darted through the clouds, parting the fog like a curtain, the air brisk and cold against his slate gray scales. His blood pounded hot through his heart and the veins in his wings. Thrilled with his speed, he let forth a primal roar before diving towards the earth. Below him lay a turquoise blue mountain lake, pristine and calm until his body slammed into it, sending a six foot swell across the surface. The resulting splash echoed about the mountains for miles.
Ewan submerged. His talons scraped the muddy bottom of the lake, spooking fish and stirring sediment. Pushing off from the bottom with his trunk-like forelegs, he shot from the water. Droplets misted about him. He inhaled deeply then exhaled a cloud of steam before spinning into the sky once more.
This is freedom. This is joy. This is all I need, he repeated to himself for the thousandth time since abandoning his friends and family in Westshire. After nearly three months, he was starting to believe it.
Ewan had headed deep into the wild mountains where humans were scarce and dragons still had a foothold. In the six years that he'd been a dragon, he'd rarely conversed with others of his kind. When he did it was only for a quick exchange of news before they went their separate ways. He would learn if there were hunting parties in the immediate vicinity or, sometimes just as dangerous, a female in heat.
At twenty-seven, Ewan was still considered juvenile, too young to mate. He often wondered if, when the time was ripe, would he actually find the idea of mating with another wyrm appealing? Dragons had lifespans averaging three hundred years after all, and if he had inherited that longevity along with the form, then who knew what the decades would do to his thinking. In time, he might forget any part of him had ever been human. He hoped so.
His morning exercise complete, Ewan thought of food. He hadn’t eaten all week. He wasn't starving, but he'd seen no signs of humans or other dragons in the area for at least a month. It would be good to bolster his energy reserves while he was still the top predator. He had noticed a herd of elk the day before. A good meal followed by a catnap would keep him busy until at least the afternoon. Though what to do with the rest of the day eluded him.
He hated to admit it, but he was already bored with the so-called freedoms of his current life. The ennui had set in quicker than expected. Based on his pre-Shannon existence, he had hoped to acclimate and even enjoy the solitude. Instead he longed for one of their often one-sided conversations. It was an absurd weakness. Whenever he caught himself thinking of her, he would boil over with rage and take to the skies.
He glided over the lake towards the meadow, where thirty head of elk stood. The largest of the cows stood about a fourth of Ewan's own size, making them the perfect feast. The sentry caught sight of him and let out a warning cry. It made little difference. The cows closest to the treeline stampeded for cover, but he already had his sights on one drinking at the water’s edge.
He dove, talons sinking into the great, kicking beast. His mighty grasp snapped its spine. Not wanting to draw scavengers to his lair, he took his kill to a small island. He gorged himself, crunching down bones and fur along with the meat, before cleansing himself in the lake and soaring back towards the sheltered overhang he had chosen for his home.
The crag was not quite a cave. The pool lapping against the rock had carved it during winter floods. Now at the end of summer, the waterfall was no more than a trickle and the basin empty, save for a stagnant puddle. The shade and the mossy rocks provided a comfortable shelter for sleeping, which was all he required.
The large meal heavy in his belly, he gave into the lethargy and slipped into a pleasant, dreamless sleep.
When he opened his eyes, the sun sat low in the sky. He stretched and inhaled deeply. Something strange wafted in the air: a human smell. He stood and ventured out into the sunlight, still sluggish but ready to flee should the need arise. The scent definitely hadn't been there earlier.
There were few reasons for humans to stray into this area. Outlaws often took shelter here, and with these he had a live and let live policy. Then there was the occasional hunter after furs, a trophy, or food to feed a family . . . but on the rarest of occasions, they came specifically for dragons.
In the inhabited lands with Shannon as his ambassador, Ewan could talk his way out of a fight, explaining his former humanity and that his brother, Edmond, was king of Regone. Out here, however, he most likely wouldn't have a chance to declare his identity before the hunters forced him to defend himself.
After all, he had been a young man once, before a jealous sorceress had engineered otherwise, and fully understood a knight errant’s desire to prove himself against a great wyrm. Still, he would kill if he had to. He was ever ready for a fight, but there was no reason to take unnecessary risks.
Ewan propelled himself into the air and circled about the valley. The source of the smell had to be fairly close, but a quick scan showed no signs of them. He glided back home. A single man, hunter or not, was no true threat to him.
When his feet touched the ground outside his shelter an even heavier scent of man tainted his nostrils. He looked about and prepared to defend himself, strengthening his position by putting his back to the cliff. His foot hit a taut wire which snapped with a whistle, and a massive net grazed his scales, catching on his wings like a spider web. He flapped to disentangle himself.  
He snorted and charged towards the woods once more, nostrils smoking and eyes ablaze. The man gave a shriek of terror and fled into the underbrush. Ewan shot after him. The trap had been clumsy and ill thought out, but Ewan needed to be certain the hunter was chased off or killed if he wanted to sleep soundly that night.
Ahead, the man tripped and lay petrified in the middle of a clearing. Ewan crashed forward, reaching for the man with open jaws, only to have a second net come swooping down from the treetops and flatten him to the earth. This trap was stronger than the first. It held Ewan close to the ground with taut ropes, and he cursed himself. Just out of Ewan’s grasp, the man sprang to his feet and roared with triumphant laughter.
I got you, beast!”
Those were his last words, for the enraged dragon let forth a wall of flame that sent the man shrieking to his maker.
Ewan strained against his bonds. What he first identified as rope, on closer inspection, appeared to be cable of twisted, metal wires, and while he could get his teeth about it, a quick test proved that biting through it would be impossible. He tried to wriggle out, undulating his spine, thrashing his tail and neck, but the net held. He snarled in frustration.
Even the biggest predator in the forest would be easy prey in this situation. With no one to free him, he was sure to be dispatched by the first trophy hunter to discover him.
After several minutes of strenuous effort, he lay still. There had to be a way out of this. He would not die this way: trapped and helpless. He traced the cables and discovered one end sunk into a tree with a large dart or spike. If he could set that tree ablaze, it would weaken enough for him to dislodge the stake. Unfortunately destroying the hunter had used up his stores of inner flame. He let forth a trial snort. All smoke. He needed to rest and wait. In an hour or so he would turn that tree into a cinder with a single sneeze.
A shadow fell over him. His heart went cold, and his fan-shaped ears sank against his head. He glanced up, praying he had been mistaken and it was only a large bird or a cloud over the sun. The hovering presence, however, was another dragon, at least twice as large as Ewan. While still high above him, he could feel it watching.
First a human had gotten the drop on him and now another dragon? He could’ve sworn the area was safe when he settled there. How had he been so careless?
The dragon circled overhead before landing. He was an impressive beast, brick red and battle scarred with one horn shattered. He cocked his head to the side and gazed inquisitively at the trapped dragon. Ewan stared back, trying not to glower or cower, as his flight or fight instinct pushed him simultaneously in both directions.
Dragons only fought other dragons in disputes over mates or territory. Had he accidentally encroached on its lands? The very thought that something could kill him put his survival instinct into overload. This was one of the few times that, as a dragon, he could remember being genuinely frightened.
The red dragon laughed a throaty, mocking laugh.
Really? A net? You let yourself get caught in a net like a carp. I expected more from you.” The dragon lumbered forward and gave the tree holding the cable a great push with his horns. It gave way like a matchstick, and the cables eased off Ewan's back.
He extricated himself and flapped his wings. “Thank you. I would’ve gotten free in a few minutes.”
I imagine you would’ve.” The older dragon eyed the pile of charred bones that had once been the hunter. “You are lucky the fool you roasted wasn’t smart enough to bring a partner. If he had, all it would’ve taken was a spear between your beady little eyes.”
Well, he didn’t.” Ewan changed the subject. “I wasn’t aware there were any dragons nearby. If I have wandered into your territory, I can move on. I only planned to camp here a week or two.”
Nay, this is not my land, nor do I believe any of our fellows have claim to it. I came here specifically to seek you out, Man-Dragon, and it looks as though I got here just in time. We should find somewhere safe to talk. This hunter appears to have been alone, but more may be coming. It is best not to linger.”
The strange dragon took to the air. Ewan followed him to a nearby hilltop.
My name is Kelsyn, though I am also known as the Red Ancient. I am a member of the Dragon Council and adviser to Queen Harviss.”
Ewan was aware of this congress of dragons, a small group of elder wyrms, led by the eldest, their Queen. They rarely interfered with the daily affairs of other dragons. However, if someone threatened the species as a whole, they would call council and plan retaliation.
The Queen has kept an ear to your activities since it became known you were at one point human. Some urged her to do away with you long ago, considering you a threat, but she was loathe to pursue the death of one of her subjects, no matter what his origin. Still, she wondered if perhaps you might be useful in some way, a liaison between our race and the race to which you formerly belonged.”
I am hardly a diplomat,” Ewan said.
Aye, and we rarely would have need of such a thing, so up until recently we have only been observing. But then we heard about the bounty offered for the head of a smallish gray dragon.”
Ewan nearly choked. He blinked a few times. “Bounty? On me?”
There have been reports of dragon hunters invading our lands but taking no trophies. It was easy enough to discern that they were targeting a particular wyrm. Once that was determined–well, we have our sources among humans even without the aid of an ‘ambassador’ such as yourself. An interrogated hunter named you as the mark.” Kelsyn stretched out his neck and flapped his wings lazily. “You have no idea who would want you dead, then?”
Ewan shook his head.
Well, men and dragons have the same knack for gathering enemies, and you are both.” Kelsyn shrugged his great shoulders. “So, Man-Dragon, someone wants you dead. What will you do?”
Ewan frowned. “Without knowing who or why, it is hard to say the best course of action. Also, my name isn't Man-Dragon. It is Ewan.”
Hardly a fitting name for a dragon,” Kelsyn said.
My parents weren’t thinking of a dragon when they christened me.”
Well, you are a dragon now. It scarcely matters what your parents thought of you when you were a whelp,” Kelsyn said. “I have an offer for you. As I said, our Queen has some interest in you, and I can grant you her protection. Come to the Council. Join our numbers in an official capacity. We can keep you safe. No hunters will dare come to the Queen’s doorstep.”
Ewan shook his head. “I have other responsibilities. I can care for myself.”
By other responsibilities you mean your human entanglements?” Kelsyn scoffed. “No wonder you have gotten yourself into trouble, young one. You can’t live in two worlds. You may be unwilling to cut the ties to your old life, but you do not belong there. Attempting to remain human while physically a dragon can only end in disaster.”
I am grateful for the offer, but I will be fine,” Ewan continued. “Now that I know to be on the lookout for trouble, I should be able to stay ahead of it.”
Well, if that is your choice, I won’t lose any sleep over it.” Kelsyn propelled himself into the air. He hovered over Ewan’s head for a moment. “If you reconsider, you can find us. As of now, your safety is no longer my concern.”
And with that Kelsyn was gone. Ewan shook out his wings. Whatever his next step, he needed to find a new camp. The issue of them pursuing him at all, however, was what truly troubled him.
As a dragon, he had been hunted before. It was a hazard that came with the scales, but there was no reason for him to be singled out. Perhaps his brother, Edmond, would know what was going on.
Ewan would lie low for a few days to see if any more hunters poked their heads out of the bramble. If nothing developed, he would return to Regone and ask Edmond if he had heard anything about a bounty. Perhaps Shannon would be there.
He allowed himself to wonder, for a moment, what she had been up to in his absence. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to see her again or if it would only make the situation worse, but he couldn’t avoid her forever. It was time to go home.

4 comments:

  1. Sounds like an exciting book! Good luck with it! Found you at Weekends Are Fun Blog Hop and now following on Bloglovin'. :)

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  2. This is a really interesting piece!

    I'm just stopping by to say hi from the Rock the Book chicks-- Kate, Nicola, and Leti. We found you via the Book Review Diva's Blog Hop. You have been followed. :)

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to read it.

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