Friday, November 16, 2012

second plot line from NaNoWriMo

This is very seperate from last weeks installment, but it is still the same story. Two very seperate plot lines that merge at about the halfway point of the book.

The elven garments of brown and green motley fit Fara snug from jawline, to wrist, to ankle, and every hands-breadth of her in between. At first, it had felt more constricting and revealing of her figure than even her presentation dress, but she could move through the thick, wet forest of Thurvan without snagging. Soft, doe-skin boots and gloves completed her wilderness attire.

Her companions were dressed the same and they each carried a bow and a quiver of arrows, all of elven crafting, while she bore only her father’s blue leather satchel. It had originally carried his godstone that later became Sakke Vrang, and now it carried their food and supplies, her hoop, and any other extra gear she could think to bring.

The elven master huntsman, Dederon, led the way. He had been their trainer in wilderness lore for the past few weeks of their preparation. His gift of stealth was truly uncanny as the undergrowth made not a sound at his step and heavy leaves laden with moisture from the almost constant rain did not drip upon him. Micah had some luck staying dry, but his broad shoulders invariably brushed vines and branches where Dederon’s slender form wove between all obstacles.

Fara however, was thoroughly drenched, every stumble or misstep led to a downpour of steamy water dumped from shaken leaves, and the noise of her passing was like a blind bear bumbling through a bristle thicket.

“Definitely a blind bear with a limp,” whispered Taldaan from behind her with a snide lilt to his voice.

Her auburn hair, plastered to her back, and high neckline of the elven garb hid the red that crept up to her ears at each of his comments.

Since the evening of her presentation their easy friendship had disappeared, replaced by her silence and Taldaan’s stinging commentary. Now it filled her head, when she should be focusing on the strange and marvelous life within this forest of every shade of green.

During their time training under Dederon, her mother’s work on her tower had redoubled. At the insistence of her father, wilderness training had filled her days. Studying Thurvan’s surface through her map, seeking signs of the life that Hethal had assured her existed among its dense forests and high peaked mountains, filled much of any other time that remained her own.

When she could, her mother had her filling rooms and chambers within the tower with space. The initial light chamber, built to house two of the godstone glyphs, remained unchanged, but another, far larger chamber was under construction to house the remaining two glyphs. All with a purpose, neither her mother nor Hethal, ever at her side now, would explain.

A raised hand form Dederon halted them and silenced any other commentary from Taldaan.  The elf lowered his hand slowly and they crouched low.

Fara checked her balance to insure she would not fall into any brush then sent out her sight. She advanced her awareness through the dense greenery until the forest opened up into a large shade-dappled clearing.

A white horse-like creature, tall and slender of leg, stood motionless as a statue staring back in their direction. The being’s enormous eyes were ice-blue and shined with intelligence and femininity. She tossed her head with a start, throwing sparkling droplets of water from the great mass of her flowing white mane. From her forehead grew a single spiral horn, straight as a sword and the length of Fara’s arm. She lashed a long, serpentine tail in her uneasiness that bore a tuft of white hair at its tip.

Fara gave a slow nod to her companions, confirming that they had again found the creature they sought. It had been an elusive quarry, leaving barely any spore in the brush and tangle of the forest for Dederon to follow, and three times now Fara had found her with her sight and then mysteriously lost her when they had drawn near. Nothing had ever been able to hide from her sight before, but somehow this creature could; when she fled, she vanished, leaving no trace.

Now they dare not even whisper to one another, lest the creature take flight again. If Micah could only see the bright-eyed mare, he would be able to transport to her with the hoop wide open and drop it over her. They had formed a plan after the last disappearance of the creature and now Fara chose to enact it.

She reached into the extended space of her satchel and used her sight to find the shrunken hoop. She passed it to Micah just as the warm rain began to fall again.

Now Dederon continued silently forward, using every aspect of his gift of stealth. To Fara’s eyes, he appeared to fall into the dapple of shadows and vanish. She followed him with her sight as he closed on the clearing ahead like a mist drifting between the twisting trees and fern-like growths.

Fara extended her awareness until she could see the white mare again, now with her head lowered and grazing among the lush green brush, dotted with red and indigo flowers.

Micah stretched out the hoop and waited. When she saw the dim image of Dederon at the edge of the clearing, Fara tapped his broad back.

Micah vanished with a soft pop of sound as air snapped into the space where he had crouched. Fara saw him reappear in the same instant beside Dederon. The mare’s head snapped up and she whirled about like a dancer at the sudden whisper of sound his transportation had created. Fara marveled at how her tail and mane flowing with her movement despite the sodden rain.

The mare’s nostrils flared and her ears laid back into her shock of white main as she detected Micah’s presence. Her horn dipped down and she froze, body tensed and ready to flee or fight. Fara barely breathed as Micah stood in a smooth motion, hoop held up before him, showing himself to the mare.

Having seen her, he would now be able to transport himself to her if she fled and if she charged him, she would pass through the hoop into the storage room until Micah released her on Vorallon. This was Fara’s plan and it had worked so far, but now she felt only dread with the mare’s long horn lowered like a lance toward Micah’s breast.

Micah stretched the hoop even wider before him until it was at the limit of his reach.

“Be calm, girl,” he crooned the words to the mare in a voice that would have made Fara melt if he had but said them to her. “I am here to help you, take you someplace safe.”

He took a slow step forward into the clearing while the mare stood tensed and motionless.

Taldaan whispered, startling her from the scene she was witnessing with her sight. “What is happening?”

“Micah is approaching her,” she breathed, hoping the patter of rainfall would mask their whispers from the mare.

“How do you know it’s a ‘her’?”

Despite Taldaan’s low whisper, she could hear the smirk in his voice.  Fara turned to him with a retort on her lips when there sounded a sharp crack in the underbrush. Either Dederon had moved and trod on a twig or there was another creature in the heavy woods nearby.

Fara froze as the mare leaped with a start, her lance-like horn plunging toward Micah. Half of the horn thrust through the hoop, vanishing into a storage room on the other side of the galaxy instead of transfixing Micah through the heart. The mare braked with all four hooves before the tip of her nose could pass the threshold and yanked her head up and back.  Her horn struck the rim of the hoop with a ringing clang to rip it from Micah’s grip and toss it across the clearing.

More rustles of movement sounded from the steaming forest surrounding them, but Fara’s focus was entirely on what transpired in the clearing ahead.

“No!” She cried as the mare lowered her horn toward Micah again and lunged forward like a master swordsman.

At her cry, the underbrush erupted all around her and Taldaan. She glimpsed dozens of small, man-like forms springing at her, even as she saw Micah vanish to appear the next instant astride the mare.

The mare gave a scream that sounded almost human, piercing deep into the woods. Then the mare, and Micah along with her, vanished in a flash of white light.

“Lady’s tangled web!” Taldaan cursed as unkind hands gripped them both, forcing Fara to release her sight and struggled against the sudden threat clutching at her. Several held her arms while she kicked out with her feet, aiming for the yellow-eyed faces of the additional creatures trying to grab her with their large, black-nailed hands. They looked like sickly, knobby men with mottled skin the color of old bruises. None of them came up past the level of her waist, but their bodies were powerful and sturdy.

The ones she kicked hissed at her, showing pointed teeth and black tongues. They did not strike back with their crude bronze-tipped spears and cudgels instead they seemed bent on only capturing them.

Taldaan struggled in their grip for only a moment before he stood and flung them away. He tossed them bodily while his lips twisted in a cold grin. They struck trees with sickening crunches or screamed as his hands closed with crushing strength on the bones of their arms. He was unleashing his gift of strength, making himself stronger than an ogre—an incongruous amount of power coming from his tall and gangly body.

“Taldaan, no!” Fara shouted. “You are killing them!”

“What do you think they mean to do to us?” He retorted as another mass of the hideous little men jumped for his legs to tackle him to the ground and swarm over him.

One of them raised a cudgel up high over his head. She tried to scream a warning, but a big hand clamped over her mouth. The club came down and Taldaan fell limp, a trickle of blood running down his forehead.

Her eyes rolled wide in her head. What had happened to Micah? Where was Dederon? She tried to use her sight to seek them out but her captors yanked her about roughly, tying her hands and feet with sturdy rope. She writhed against her bonds as they replaced the hand over her mouth with a filthy cloth rag tied about her head. One raised a cudgel up with a gesture toward her head and she ceased her struggles.

Several of the men lifted her to their boney shoulders while two others argued in gibbers and squawks over her blue leather satchel. They were a brutal people who did nothing for their fallen and those left injured by Taldaan. The fight over her satchel eventually came to viscous blows and clamping teeth, she had to look away. Then she could see no more as the repulsive men carried her into the brush.

Fara fought down panic and just focused on blowing air in and out through her nose. The many layers of green canopy passed overhead, brilliantly decorated with flowers and colorful birds. They carried her face up and every drop of rain to drip down seemed to strike her in one eye or the other. When she grew calm enough, she closed her eyes against the water and reached out with her sight.

She sighed with relief to find Taldaan carried just ahead of her, wrapped round and round with rope, like a bug ready for a spider’s feast. From the limp dangle of his tousled head, she knew he was still unconscious. She sought for Micah, but he had vanished like the mare. Try as she might, she could not focus her sight on him anywhere, he was hidden somehow.

Fara gave an inward groan and sought out Dederon. Her sight found the elf; he was indistinct and dappled in shadow with his gift in full use. In one hand, he held the hoop, shrunken down once more. She could hear the tread of her captors through the brush from where he stalked them. Pulling her awareness out from the elf’s position showed the line of knobby little men making their way through the woods with her and Taldaan near the head of the column.

She breathed a little easier knowing the elf was out there, her hidden guardian. Taldaan was bound, but not dead. When he revived, his gift would free him from his bonds quickly. Their final fates rested with Micah, only he could return them home.

The forest began to darken as Thurvan’s sun dipped down. The course of her captors now led uphill into terrain where the trees of the woods clung to moss covered boulders.

The knobby men spoke with one another in guttural tones, a language of throaty rattles and hisses. Her mother had devised a spell for learning tongues, she had used it to facilitate the learning of the elven and dwarven languages, but with her mouth gagged she could not cast it. She had not had the opportunity since their arrival this morning to attempt the casting of any sorcery here on a still slumbering world a galaxy away from the magic of Vorallon.

Their gifts were bound to their spirits and went with them everywhere, the enchantment on the hoop was likewise bound to the adamantite of its construction, but to cast a spell she would have to reach out to find magic and guide it to her to be harnessed.

The forest got darker as they climbed, but the last of the light vanished suddenly as they entered a deep cleft between two mossy rocks. Now their path led down sharply. Distant echoes rose to her ears of dripping water and the slapping footsteps of their captors. She was in a cave, not just a cleft between rocks.

Fara explored with her sight, seeing their path clearly despite the inky darkness. She watched the last of the long line of knobby men enter the cave and gave a twitch when a handful of the little beasts took up a guard position just within the entrance. Filthy claws pressed into the flesh beneath her elven garb when she twitched. She winced and groaned but held still afterwards.

Dederon was still fully hidden by his gift, but there was no way to know if the senses of these creatures would not sense him if he chose to pass within a hands-breadth of the sentries. Fara had to put her faith in the elf, his bow and the hoop he carried as she watched his figure, almost invisible even to her sight, approach the darkness of the cave mouth. He paused outside the cave for what seemed an eternity before he moved again, to stand beside the narrow opening.

She watched breathless as he extended the hoop to the limit of his reach then swung it carefully around so that it covered the mouth of the cave, then he gave a low call that sounded like a distant whinny of the horned mare  they had pursued through the day. The effect on the sentries was immediate, they crouched low and slunk to the entrance of the cave. In their haste to catch sight of the mare, they passed through the threshold of the hoop in one mass to vanish from the face of Thurvan.

Dederon collapsed the hoop back down and slipped into the cave, those knobby men were now trapped in a large storage room and would remain there until they were released. His progress would be slow in the pitch darkness of the cave, but she was confident he would not lose their trail.

Fara willed her sight to Micah once more, to be rewarded by a brief flash of motion as the mare raced with Micah clinging tight to her mane, in a flicker of light they vanished again. The mare was transporting Micah. Micah’s disappearances were accompanied by a pop of rushing air. The flicker of light was none of his doing. He would ride the mare until she exhausted herself, or she could succeed in throwing him. Micah had no idea that she or his other companions were in any danger. She gave a slight moan but did not move in her captors grip.

Their path wound ever down, past drop offs and narrow defiles. Slime and mold slicked the cave walls and floor, though the broad bare feet of her captors did not slip. The men shifted their hold on her and Taldaan to support them by their shoulders and feet, when they came to a descent of narrow stairs cut into the dark stone. Taldaan still showed no sign of consciousness. If he were to awake now, while on these stairs his strength could doubtless hold the passage from an army of these knobby men. She struck the thought from her mind. In this darkness, Taldaan would be blind.

Her satchel had stones with light enchantments cast upon them, a last minute addition she had made, though this, their first foray to Thurvan was supposed to end before the day was out. The Lady’s cloth had not shown her what lived beneath the great forest canopy that covered much of the land. They only knew that thinking, feeling life lived here. She groaned inside for not putting the question to Hethal—what will we find within the forest?

She could only blame herself for not asking. The task of saving Thurvan’s spirit completely consumed the man. Too much to spare a glance at what her and her exploratory crew would discover. She also blamed her resentment of the man—she could have asked him, it would have taken but a moment of his time.

There was only one other source she could call to for aid, and he had told her she was on her own. She doubted that she could call to her father while bound and gagged, let alone jostled and bumped along by cruel, hideous men. She relaxed as much as she felt able, breathing deeply through her nose and trying to ignore the taste of the filthy rag in her mouth.

Father! she called in her mind. Nothing came to her, no warm smile or loving embrace.

She reached out with her sight, hoping to find him within the hall of the Order of the Lady. She would even be satisfied at this point to find him within the dark areas of Nefryt in the guise of his other aspect. Her heart began to pound heavily in her chest as she could not find him. There had been times when he hid from her, times when he hid from even her mother. They did not like thinking about those times, her and her mother both knew that some of his tasks pained him greatly. They also knew that somewhere on Vorallon was his priest, a man or being who knew him and worshiped him only as Chreen.

When he was with this man, he was completely inaccessible to them, not sharing even a thread of his essence with them.

She had to tell someone of the danger they were in. She took a deep breath again and relaxed.

Jorune! She called.

She found herself ringed by great trees, once more within the steamy forest above. The hands of her captors and their jolting descent could still be felt but her awareness was now bound in prayer.

Stepping out from the ring of trees pranced a tall white stallion, tossing his mane with a joyful whicker.

“Bright-star!” the stallion exclaimed and then his form melted and shifted into the boy she was familiar with.

“Jorune! I am in trouble!” she blurted out, her mouth ungagged in her prayer.

“I can see that,” he said, embracing her and filling her with his golden light, healing her aches and pains and renewing the strength of her limbs. “You found yourself some goblins.”

“Taldaan is hurt badly and we are being carried deep underground.”

“I know, and Micah is trapped on Altea’s back,” Jorune said with a toss of the white lock at his brow. “I am trying to calm her, but she is still too panicked to hear my call. Micah is in for the ride of his life.”

“I cannot find father.”

“He is behind the stars, to return soon with aid that Vorallon and Thurvan need,” Jorune shook his head. “Bright-star, there is nothing more I can do. You are among Chreen’s creatures now.”

“What will these goblins do with us?”

“I am sure they will take you to their masters without harming you further. You must rely on Taldaan, Dederon, and your own considerable abilities.”

“We are on our own?”

“There is nothing more I can do,” Jorune gave her a wink. “Bartalus, however, is setting events in motion that will provide you opportunities—be ever alert for his subtleties.”


Saturday, November 10, 2012

NaNoWriMo story, Behind the Stars

This is one chapter from the book I am writing for NaNoWriMo, my first time taking part.
Sherakk could not keep up with her father, Rizjar, as he led the flight. So few remained of his army, the Pride of Aran, but they were all far ahead of her, the glimmer of their scales in the deep red sunlight fading in the distance. She resorted to her gift again and everything slowed but for her. Her wings beat at the windless air and drove her forward above the stilled sea. To fall in her exhaustion to its motionless swells was death now, where they had been inviting and luxuriant the day before.

Slowing and stopping time came with a price, and that price rose higher with each stroke of her broad leathery wings like a tendon near her heart that wound around and snugged ever tighter. When that tendon could hold the strain no longer, it would release and all time would catch back up to her in an instant—worse—it would drive her forward in time. Sherakk willed that tendon to greater strength, if she was left behind now, it would be worse than death for there was no time left for life upon their corrupted world.

Their war with the Pride of Chreen had endured too long, grown too violent. It had drained their world of life. Her mother had begged for peace before they killed the living spirit of Dakkar with their drain upon his magic- Sherakk halted the thought and roared in despair—it was a poisoned thought, laced with agony she could not bear.

Instead, she focused on her gift, holding tight to the strain as her snout passed through the shadow of the rearmost of her father’s guard. Several more wing beats brought her up beside her carmine red sire and she let time resume its normal flow, the tight-wound strain inside she held in a grip of will.

The blood red sea below resumed its’ rolling, and the shadows of great flapping wings above her began flashing once more in the deep ember glow of the sun.

The recrimination in her father’s great golden eyes flashed at her for only the briefest of instants. “Take strength daughter,” his voice rumbled low so that only she could hear. “It is Aran’s final gift to his Pride. There is no shame in accepting the last threads of his lingering spirit.”

Sherakk bobbed her head in acceptance, though tears streamed back from the delicate scales at the corners of her eyes.

Aran, light-giver! She trumpeted in her mind, though there would never again be an answering trumpet from the great blue dragon. What came was a dim glow, the last shreds of his spirit, to flow into her and restore the vitality of her limbs. This was the last, after this there could be no more. With a whimper, she consumed the very last of his spirit. “I am so sorry, Lord Aran.”

A mournful bugle rippled through the Pride, the precious few who remained. Her wings flashed effortlessly through the air again. The strain in her chest of time fighting to regain its stolen moments eased and she sighed. Sherakk, youngest of her people, the least of the great dragons, had claimed the last spark of life from the god of her Pride.

“Fly high, Sherakk,” her father blessed. “We will not fail his memory. Even now, we follow the course he set for us.”

“Where does this lead?” Sherakk asked. “There is no place to land and roost, and even if there were, the blight cannot be far behind.”

“It leads to the salvation Aran promised us, daughter,” her father rumbled while his wings beat strong and certain strokes. “What that salvation is, I cannot say, I lack the vision of your mother.”

Sherakk quieted and flew just ahead and below the wash of her father’s great wings, each vane longer than her entire length. She was his first born, yet because of the cost of her gift, she was now his youngest, and only her brother, Razoth, at over twice her length, survived with them. She held herself from lamenting at five centuries she lost when the last surge of returning time had flung her ahead. What she felt within her chest now was enough to fling her even further ahead. Many friends had been lost to their ceaseless battles and her brother, already her equal in size had far outgrown her.

Razoth flew immediately above and behind their father—the only other red besides her and her father. Off their left wing was the emerald green of Vindaf, her father’s second, it was his keen eyes that saw the attack coming.

“They come, Lord Rizjar,” he called as his wings flashed for higher air. From ahead came a dozen metallic gleams, as her father and the Pride all climbed for everything they were worth.

“Why do they keep fighting?” she said before stretching her jaws in preparation.

“They are Chreen’s sycophants,” Razoth declared. “They do not see past his lies to the true reward he offers them.”

Vindaf chuffed out a plume of vapor. “When Dakkar’s transformation is complete, they will succumb to undeath. His blight will leave nothing untouched.”

“They must be told,” plead Sherakk. “All that remain are precious—Aran’s words. Please father, let them be told—let them flee with us.”

Now they could see the gold’s, silvers, and bronzes of the approaching attackers clearly. Chreen had gathered all the iridescent ones to him, as though they would lend the ebon black of his scales and heart their flashing hues.

Karanath and Seccula, the mated blacks who were among the last of her Pride, were proud of their hue, though not for any association with the color of the Lord of Vengeance. They were pure in their love of Aran and that purity, not their color, made them among the loveliest of the great dragons.

“We will speak, daughter,” her father said in his deep rumble that could shake the very heavens. “They may be deaf to Aran’s word, but I will see they hear them nonetheless.”

The attackers numbered fewer than the Pride of Aran, but they were battle veterans all. Her father led survivors, some warriors yes, but their children and their mates as well.

Cold despair rose in Sherakk’s gullet to mix with her fire as her wings stroked for even more altitude—“To own the sky is to own victory” the eternal warrior in her spirit quoted.

Razoth swung in tight beside her, her protector. “Do not let them grip you,” he cautioned.

“I know!”

“Well you are going to know more then,” he scolded, as was his place as her physical elder. “Please, Sherakk, heed me. I have fought before and still I own the sky.”

She bobbed her head in acceptance as a leading copper struggled to match their altitude during his approach.

“Shut your eyes and mouth against their breath,” Razoth continued. “Neither will yours harm their scales. As impervious as you feel yourself to be—know that they are your equals in this, it is the strength of their greater size that is the biggest threat to you.”

“I will elude their grip,” she assured him as she took measure of the coil of tightness in her chest.

“No,” Razoth said, reading her thought as clear as if she had spoken it. “If time traps you again we will lose you forever, you must not use your gift you are all that remains of mother,” his voice lowered. “Father cannot afford to lose that and neither can I.”

Father rose before them and thundered. Each powerful clap of his wings as he hovered in the air was a hurricane of wind. Nothing, in all the sky had ever been so enormous and daunting. The attacking pride halted and roared back at his display. The great fans beneath his horns spread wide and snapped with limitless energy. Even Sherakk backed air with lateral sweeps of her wings, instinctively giving him the sky.

The largest of the Pride of Chreen, a gold whose scales seemed aflame in the red glow of the ancient sun, stood off before the might of Rizjar. He was fully three quarters the size of her father and a clear danger to any other dragon in her Pride.

“Ferdahl,” her father trumpeted, acknowledging the gold’s presence.

“Rizjar, Lord of a godless Pride,” Ferdahl bravely insulted her father. “Return with us, with your people. Bow your heads to Chreen and he will spare you and welcome you into his Pride of immortals.”

“Return to what Ferdahl?” the skies tore with the strength of her father’s voice. Sherakk’s heart pounded as her father unleashed his gift. “And what of your mate, she who dreams? You have already sought her safety have you not? Does your Lord know that you have seen her away from the twisted monster that Dakkar becomes? Look to the sea below you, the doom that flows within its waters awaits you too. Flee with us, the life that remains is precious—even yours. Do not believe your Lord’s lies. There will be no safety for you. Oh, you will indeed become his immortal elite, in undeath. When the bale-light shines from your eyes, as it does from those of my mate, you will know only the hunger of undeath.”

Ferdahl’s laugh rumbled from his leonine chest. “Your gift of persuasion is wasted here, Rizjar. We are warded from the coercion of your voice.”

“They are blinded to all reason,” Razoth murmured to her without taking his eyes off their sworn enemies. “Their minds are unthinking and empty of all but rage.” His voice rose enough so their father could hear. “They have willingly enslaved themselves to Chreen’s will, only Seccula can break their bonds.”

“Bring the Spellbreaker forward,” her father hissed toward Vindaf. She heard the regret in his tone clearly, he did not want to put Seccula at risk, did not want to make her a priority target of their enemies.

Vindaf hastened to the sleek female black and returned with her what seemed only a dozen wing beats later. He must have relayed their need on the way for she began singing her gift immediately. Within the sound of her voice, all enchantments would be broken and none could be cast anew while her piercing song endured. Only the time locked within her chest was free from the song’s effect, for time was beyond all influence but Sherakk’s own.

Ferdahl bellowed the call to attack, demanding the attention of his stunned allies, while her father thundered in warning.

“Chreen lies!” her father called loud, above both song and bellow. “He seeks only your sacrifice to the monster Dakkar becomes!”

“Silence!” Ferdahl cried. “He seeks to charm you. Attack, brothers!”

“The only charming that can happen while Seccula sings is Ferdahl’s lie. He has taken his wife to safety already. While your mates are back in your weirs, being consumed by the blight of undeath, as was mine, he flies before you and lies!”

Four of their number pulled back while the others rushed in, Ferdahl himself arrowed toward Seccula to disrupt her song, for she cancelled all their gifts that they would use to attack with as well. Three of their number streaked toward her father while the rest headed for the other large males of her pride, antagonists they have fought and learned to hate from previous battles. Despite her father’s words, they would hold onto their past hatreds earned over thousands of years of dire skirmishes.

Razoth peeled away with one of her father’s attackers while the other two raked for his wings. Her father sought to ward Seccula, but he could not ignore the immediate threat to the relatively vulnerable membranes of his wings. He folded them with a snap of thunder and his tail lashed like lightning, its speed defying his enormous size. Only a desperate dive prevented the target of the tail strike from having his own wing broken, though the impact still tumbled him away to fall many lengths below the battle before his silver wings stretched back out to catch the air.

Her father’s bared teeth met the remaining bronze and held him at bay, but he lost any chance at intercepting Ferdahl.

The shadowy streak of Karanath was there, driving a wedge between his mate and the enormous gold. With rapid beats of his wings and darting lunges of his snout, he brought Ferdahl up short, but there was a significant mass disparity between the two. A strong buffet of Ferdahl’s wings rolled Karanath back, almost colliding with Seccula.

Two dragons tumbled past Sherakk, a large copper and the green form of Drawhn, Vindaf’s brother, locked together belly to belly as they gripped and raked at one another. She weaved in the wash of their turbulent air, and did not see whatever strike Ferdahl had made to drive Karanath back, but drive him back he did. Sherakk looked in time to see that Seccula had no defender warding her from the gold’s approach.

Sherakk whipped her head quickly through the sky and found her brother still struggling with the tarnished silver he had drawn away from her father. Of all the Pride of Aran, only she was close enough to halt Ferdahl, and she was barely a sixth of his size.

The fearsome gold lunged at Seccula with his jaws open wide, aiming to clamp down on her neck, possibly to silence the female black forever.

He froze that way, mouth agape, as Sherakk clenched down on time once more, winding the coil in her chest to a painful extreme. She gasped and fought down the imminent release that would damn her to a baleful-eyed doom like her mother, once she revived, untold years into the future. By then, Dakkar would have completed his transformation, his betrayal of life, and this universe would become a place of cold and hungry darkness.

The entire battle froze, indeed the entire universe halted in its tracks as only Sherakk moved and the beat of her wings pushed numbly stilled air. She swooped down to the open gullet of Ferdahl and filled her lungs, igniting the fire glands in her throat that would mix her own personal incendiary spittle with the spew of air. She stuck her snout deep into the gold’s open throat, like a fledgling taking her first meal from her mother and let loose the greatest torrent of flame she could produce.

It was a long breath, and through her slitted eyes, she could see it charring Ferdahl’s throat black before she was done. She whipped back her head and flew down and away before releasing her hold on time. What had been only a moment of halt in its inexorable flow now pained her intensely. The strain coiled tighter now than it ever had been, and she fought against all nature to hold it restrained while still maintaining steady beats of her wings.

Turmoil erupted all around her once more. A choking cry sounded from Ferdahl. Her flame would not kill him, dragons were practically immune to the elements, but he was out of this fight. His wings backed him away from Seccula as black gouts of smoke flowed from between his teeth. He looked around wide-eyed and frightened at the mysterious and painful strike, while Sherakk winced at her own pain.

There was a sudden flutter of wings beneath her, startling her out of her misery. The silver that had plummeted from her father’s tail strike was rising up beneath her, head reared back on his long serpent neck to strike. She sought to weave away, but he was already too close, and to use her gift once more, however briefly, would condemn her.

She hissed and spread her talons and fans wide in her bravest display, prepared to meet her end as the eternal warrior within her demanded. The end did not come for her, instead the sky darkened above her with a shadow that all the Pride of Chreen feared. Her father’s long neck darted down past her and his jaws clamped down with the crash of a landslide upon the whole head of the silver.

Sherakk flew wide as her father gave the silver a shake that snapped his near adamantine vertebra. He released his jaws to let the corpse fall end over end into the sea far below. Blood flowed freely from the roof of his mouth were the silver’s horns had impaled the softer tissues, but his enormous vitality would heal this minor wound quickly.

“This fight is done!” he shouted at the retreating Ferdahl. “Flee to your murderous, betraying god!”

The remaining iridescent dragons broke from their battles and fled with their golden leader, anxious to escape a similar fate to that of their silver companion should the dread shadow of Rizjar ever fall across them.

“Drawhn!” Vindaf trumpeted, searching the sky for any sign of his brother.

Sherakk looked below and saw the red sea bubbling in several places, not just were the silver had fallen. “He’s gone Vindaf, but justice has been served to the copper who slew his mate.”

Vindaf shook his snout in a long, rolling undulation that rocked his length from nose to tail tip—a display of utter scorn. “May there one day be justice for the horrors that Chreen has unleashed in his betrayal of the balance.”

A glorious call rose out in the sky above them, turning all heads of the Pride of Aran upward. The white dragon of the Lady appeared to them, covering the darkening sky with wings that glittered with the light of countless stars.

“Justice he shall have, but it will not be served here, nor even in this age,” the Lady trumpeted in her perfect clarion call. “Dakkar, my child, has failed and his last warden, Chreen, betrays the light with him.”

“What of us?” her father called out, even his titanic size humbled by the Lady’s presence. “Our Lord Aran is slain and his brother Lorn with him. Our world that we have loved for spans of years without number becomes a monster beneath us, drained because of our own insatiable hungers.”

“Fly beneath my wings and I shall tell you,” the Lady beckoned. “Dear children, Pride of Aran, nothing would be served by your ending. Fly with me.”

The knot straining in her chest, Sherakk was the first one to begin ascending upward toward the Lady’s wings. Her brother and father soon followed, as did the mourning Vindaf and the rest of the Pride. They ascended into the thinning air, as high as great dragons could fly, yet further they pushed themselves upwards, finding the wind and sweeping it back and down with their mighty wings.

Light filled her senses as she closed on the spangled vanes of the goddess of destiny’s wings. She looked below, past the ascending Pride to see Dakkar falling away, dwindling into a curved sphere that in turn shrank further still.

“Look about you, my dragons,” the Lady bade them.

Sherakk looked not just below, but to the sides and to the rear, dimly at first, but gaining in substance other God Dragons appeared—unimaginably grand and beautiful, they too seemed made of stars.

“The Traveler, the Warrior, the Fledgling, the Ancient, the Hunter, the Thief, and the Dreamer are here to aid you,” she said, naming all the god dragons, those who existed before the Lords of Balance broke from their shells. Before the world of Dakkar had even cooled from his primordial birth and become living and aware. They surrounded them now, cutting them off from all of the sky.

Sherakk’s stomach lurched, she feared the release of the time trapped within her and gasped. She held on, but the sensation of falling grew, and she heard other gasps as the sensation spread among the Pride.

The Lady and the other God Dragons furled their wings tight to their backs, yet they did not stoop into a dive or fall.

“Rest your wings, my dragons,” the Lady said, “you are in my embrace now.”

Sherakk furled her wings and huddled beside her father, her eyes wide and rolling about, watching for the next incredible event to occur. Her pride floated around her, within a sphere of light created by the bodies of the god dragons.

“We have now sealed Dakkar away from the living universes,” the Lady said softly like a mother mourning a clutch that never hatched—an infinitely sad note. “We take you to a place between, where you will sleep until a new universe awakens for you, one who will have need of your mighty spirits, where you will find a home your hungers cannot harm.”

“How long must we sleep, in this place between?” her father rumbled softly.

“You will know no passage of time,” the Lady crooned, turning her star filled gaze upon them. “Sherakk has done well, filling herself with the essence of ages. All of you must touch her now, her wing, her tail, her lovely long neck. Hurry before she can hold back the flood no longer.”

Indeed, she had to let go, yet she struggled not to while the Pride reached out to her with their hands and wingtips until they covered her entirely with their touches. Great and long was her sigh as she released the surge within her.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

First Chapter

The first chapter of The Final Warden is posted on Goodreads: here

The Final Warden cover!

Welcome to my blog! For my first post I am putting the cover to my upcoming book on display. The Final Warden is the first book in my Gifts of Vorallon trilogy. I created this using Photoshop CS5.5 with some title help from Rick Fernandez, an awesome designer I have the honor of working with.