Dragons of Wellsdeep preview

Here is a short sample from Dragons of Wellsdeep. If you would like to read more, it is available in ebook from these retailers or on Gumroad, or get it in print or ebook from Amazon or my publisher website.

Enjoy!


Prologue

Her time of merely watching drew to a close. Soon, she’d take the child.

The little boy headed to the well. Submerged, she watched him in the reflection of the water’s surface, a waving mirage with the blue sky behind him. He stomped his feet as he walked, pounding on the ground like a heartbeat. She felt his restrained temper tantrum mixing with her own pulse in a growing, synchronized cacophony with his irritation.

“Get a bucket of water for me,” his mother had asked. He’d had to leave his toys, leaving the wooden pieces lifelessly scattered around where he’d been playing in order to go fulfill his chore.

The boy drew closer to the well. The lurker waited for the shadow of his cherub face to look down into the water. Why did he delay? She reached out, touching upon his young and undefined emotions.

“Yesssss,” she hissed, her forked tongue giving a flicker against her sharp teeth. “Make a wissshhhhh.”

The boy tapped the outer edge of the well with his toes as he arrived. Dirt clouded in the air. “I wish…” the boy began.

He set his bucket down on the ground and pulled the well’s bucket from the hook on the post.

“Yessss!” She watched the boy lean over the surface.

“I wish I didn’t have to get water anymore.” He took the well bucket and dropped it down into the well.

“Oh, my beautiful boy, I can make your wish come true,” she whispered from beneath the water. “Just show me that you can feel the connection between us and you will never have to draw water from the well again.”

His cheeks puffed with air as he hauled the bucket from free the well, an act which took all his might to turn the crank. He reached over to grab the bucket loaded with water. His long, wavy, black hair dangled around the sides of his face as he glanced down and she looked up at him. Oh, the sweet ness of him, this little child.

The boy paused, as if noticing something under the surface of the water.

She smiled. “Yessss. Lean closer.” Did he yet know that he belonged to her?

No, but he soon would.

The boy set the bucket on the short wall of the well, then leaned over the edge, trying to see what he’d glimpsed before. His young, round face looked momentarily confused as he realized that the level of the water was much higher than he’d ever seen before. He couldn’t explain it the water displace ment, but she knew.

She knew the well was his destiny.

As the confusion eased from his face into delightful wonder, his blue eyes took on a moon crest shape as his pudgy cheeks lifted with a smile. The tight spiral curls swung as if they were a fairy’s delight.

“You sense me. We are connected.” She stared back at him. “You are beautiful,” she said to him through the water as her own babies swam toward him eagerly.

The boy gazed back, his fingers reaching toward the little swirls he saw in the water. He could see them, her young hatchlings. He drew back with a moment of panic and looked inside his bucket. Satisfied that none of the swirls had gone into his water, he returned to the well and dangled his fingers into the water. The hatchlings nibbled at his fingers and the boy laughed.

“Beautiful,” he said, poking his finger in the water at one of the hatchlings.

The beast waiting beneath the surface fully opened her dragon eyes. The light of this world was harsh, a golden yellow, and the same color as her eyes without the glare shielding. Of course, she had returned to this spot as the very place she had been spawned. Now it was her turn to find a protector for her children as her mother had once done.

The boy gasped when he saw her looking up at him. He lost his handhold on the stone and fell backwards off the wall.

She rose from the water, her children splashing back down into the well as she flew out. The boy brushed his curly black hair away from his tanned face with chubby fingers. He was so beautiful.

“Thank you,” she whispered to Father Sun and Mother Moon.

The boy stood frozen in fear.

She ate him head first in one bite. Just perfect.

Then she spread her wings, watching as the yellow sun flashed o her red scales, and took flight into the late after noon sky. Her hatchlings were left behind, and she had what she’d come for.

TEN YEARS LATER…

The cave shook with the dragon’s moan as another convulsion swept over her. The contractions were becoming stronger now.

“The stomach vent is opening,” a sapere yelled as she carefully lifted one of the dragon scales. “It’s big. This one is going to be strong.”

“Vehlka, you’re doing great,” another sapere added as he soaked a cloth and squeezed it out over the dragon’s head.

But he threw a furtive glance at the other sapere not far away.

The sapere shook her head.

“Ahhhh!” the dragon screamed.

The stomach vent opened and the sapere got splashed in a wet gooey mass. She quickly got up and rinsed herself in another bucket nearby and went back to her position. Blood lay all around the dragon, dribbling from the stomach vent and growing in a thick pool on the floor.

“Come on, Vehlka,” the sapere shouted to be heard over the dragon’s agony. “It’s free of the lining. You just have to push now.”

The dragon heard the faint rumble of engines as a small craft landed outside the caves. He had made it in time.

Vehlka’s red tail thrashed as another contraction gripped her. The male sapere got knocked backwards.

“Push, Vehlka!” the sapere still at the dragon’s side screamed.

The dragon rolled onto her belly and reared her head back.

“He’sss not coming!” the dragon raged. “Balthier!”

A man appeared in the arched entryway to the cave. “I’m here, Vehlka.”

“Do it!”

The man, Balthier, put his hand to the hilt of his dagger as he came forward.

The sapere jumped to her feet and ran to block him from further entering the cave. “You can’t. She’s a Ch’bauldi and you are charged to protect her.”

“She’s more than that,” Balthier growled. “She’s my novimather. Now get out of my way.”

The sapere hurried to stand behind the female sapere. Balthier looked them over, realizing neither of the saperes were going to stand down. He grimaced and gave a little shake of his head. “Thirty seconds,” he muttered, having assessed his opponents.

The male sapere drew back in fear, moving toward the dragon as he obviously had the sense to fear a novihomidrak, but the other sapere reached for Balthier’s dagger.

Balthier shrugged, blocking the sapere’s attempt at seizing his weapon. “Very well, twenty seconds and I’ll use Harmony.” He backhanded the sapere with his right hand while his left grabbed his dagger from the sheath. Along the blade in the language of the ancient dragons was the word Harmony.

As the woman dropped to the cave floor, the male sapere made one last feeble effort to stop the novihomidrak, who just knocked him aside.

Balthier flowed toward the dragon and, before his knees had hit the ground, he sank Harmony into the dragon’s flesh right below the stomach vent. He jerked aside the scale below blade and continued the tear. Ooze slithered out. He took another scale off. Blood spurted like water rushing over a dam.

Then, a long oval pearl slid out across the slimy, blood covered cave floor.

The dragon moaned with pain and relief as she turned to look at the egg. “He isss beautiful still.”

The pearl shimmered. The dragon raised her forearm and looked to be about to smash it.

Balthier put his hand on the one black claw she held extended toward the shell. “Vehlka, don’t. He must do this if he is to have his strength. Do not rush it because of your fate.”

“Just a touch to aid him,” she begged. But when Balthier shook his head, she set to watching the pearl as it began to rock back and forth on the floor. The blood from the hard birthing vanished from the shell as if someone had come along and wiped it clean.

Vehlka set her head down on the floor. Balthier reached out and put his hand on her neck. He noticed the saperes trying to stop the bleeding from the incision caused by Harmony.

“He is my pevitias,” Vehlka said, “my final blessed novihomidrak. He shall take with him my magic.”

“Do you have the strength to heal yourself?” Balthier asked, wishing he didn’t already know the answer.

“Not if I am to name him and his weaponsss.”

“Put your magic in that then. Bless him and make this novi your pevitias.” Balthier picked up the cloth the sapere had been using on the dragon and wiped the dragon’s head.

One of the saperes began to huff with indignation, but Balthier turned a hard glare at them before the protesting whine started. The hush gave way to the sound of Vehlka’s labored breathing and the pearl rocking on the cave floor.

The shell around the pearl cracked.

“He will sparkle, won’t he?” Vehlka said.

Balthier hesitated before nodding his head. “He does.” He pushed away the thought that he’d been called here for Vehlka’s pevitias. Anyone but him. Certainly Vehlka knew he’d make a terrible mentor for a novihomidrak, let alone her pevitias.

A heavy thump came from inside the pearl, making it threaten to roll all the way over rather than just wobble. But before it could move, the shell started to crumble, revealing a boy now fifteen with long curly black hair. As the shell collapsed, it attached itself to the skin of the boy who lay curled on the floor.

“You will train him, yesss?” Vehlka asked.

Balthier thought he might be ill. Did the Ch’bauldi dragon know what she was asking of him? “I will. Don’t worry about that.” He swallowed the bile choking his words.

“Don’t let him know he is my pevitias. You must treat him like an ordinary novihomidrak. Let him discover his destiny on his own.”

Balthier nodded, still too sick to speak. What did he know about training another novihomidrak? This task Vehlka asked of him was too large and he was certainly not worthy.

“Do you think he knowsss my worry?”

“Not now, but he will know your other worries.”

The dragon got quiet. For a moment, Balthier wondered if Vehlka was already dead. How would this child fair if she did not name him? Would the saperes’ magic be enough? He doubted it. Then she opened her eyes and slid back the glare shield. She looked to the dome of open sky above where the moon rose overhead.

“I call him Moonhunter and his protections will be Serenity and Tranquility.”

The words flowed as gold writing from her lips and floated through the air to the teen lying on the floor. The shrunk as they lowered down onto his chest. As they sank in, sparkling black lines grew across his arms and face. They lasted but a moment before disappearing.

The dragon sighed and placed her head on the floor. “Watch over your dragon brother.”

“I will, and I will miss you too, Vehlka,” Balthier said. “Thank you, my dragon mother.”

The teen coughed as air entered his lungs. Vehlka moved, the desire to see her novihomidrak giving her renewed energy.

Balthier went to aid Moonhunter to a sitting position.

The saperes began to wail. The teen opened his dark brown eyes which shined with bright gold flecks which matched Vehlka’s eyes. The dragon smiled at seeing this, then closed Vehlka lay down to rest for the final time.

Chapter 1

Horrible, high pitched shrieks pressed in around him.

Moonhunter closed his eyes against the cruel light and slapped his hands over his ears from the harsh sound. The floor beneath him felt cold and wet. His whole body shivered. No, he trembled much more violently than merely being cold. He’d been through something traumatic. His body now responded to disposing itself of the excess energy. How did he know that so clearly when he didn’t know what else was going on around him?

Hands grabbed him and raised his shoulders from the floor.

Eyes still tightly shut, Moonhunter’s hands curled into claws and he blindly scratched at the person attacking him.

“You need to move,” came a voice from the person behind him who Moonhunter was trying to strike.

Moonhunter looked back to see a wizened face covered with a graying brown beard and brown eyes hardened by trials of more than his age.

“Get up,” shouted the gruff older man.

Moonhunter scrambled to his feet. The man dropped a fur lined coat over him. Only then did Moonhunter realize he’d been naked. As he clenched the coat close to him, he nearly slipped in the goo covered floor. He twisted, seeing the large dragon’s head near him and he nearly spilled over again.

“Easy there,” the man said, catching him.

“W… what’s going on?” Moonhunter asked.

“Ah, good. You can speak. Sometimes the dragons get overly ambitious and take someone too young to even speak yet.”

Two people stretched themselves over the dragon’s body and wailed again.

Moonhunter took a careful step, trying to get his bare feet out of the blood and ooze covering the floor. “What are they doing?”

“Do you know what they are?”

At first, Moonhunter wasn’t certain why this man was asking him a question rather than giving the answer he’d requested, but he felt an energy move through him which seemed to remove the curtain from his own knowing. “They’re saperes, wise ones, blessed by dragon magic.”

“Good. You recognize their true nature. More will come.” The man turned Moonhunter away from the sight. “Welcome, Moonhunter. You are now one of the most noble and respected creatures in the universe: a novihomidrak.”

“A what?”

He seemed a little disappointed that he had to explain. “Novihomidrak. A human born from a dragon. It’s what you are, what I am. You can put those away now. No one here will hurt you.”

Moonhunter looked down in the direction the man pointed and saw short, black nail buds growing out of his fingers. How was he supposed to put them away?

The man held up his hand, giving Moonhunter a wry smile visible through straight cuts made for his mouth in his coarse brown beard. Moonhunter gaped as lengthy, round, claws appeared from the tips of the man’s fingers. “I’ll be impressed when yours get as long as mine.”

The man led him over to an altar where several items sat. He picked up a stone. “Here, hold this.”

Moonhunter was still trying to figure out how to get his claws to retract when the stone landed in his palm. It instantly went orange and nearly dropped Moonhunter to the ground. The man caught his hand and took the stone from it.

“Very good. Your novimather would be proud.”

“My novimather?”

“Dragon mother.” The man pointed to the dragon still being cried over by the saperes. Moonhunter tried to think. He’d been having one of the strangest dreams for such a long time. But he felt like he’d woken to a stranger world.

The man picked up a dagger, which looked ornamental in nature, but still had a sharp blade. Moonhunter was just beginning to feel the threat when the man threw the dagger at him. It went through his coat. Moonhunter felt the dagger, but it didn’t cut him. The blade bounced off him and fell to the floor.

“There is barely any weapon made that can hurt you now.” The man picked up Moonhunter’s hand and pushed back the sleeve of the coat to reveal his arm, which glowed as a gold and white netting moved over the flesh. “You’ve been given a dragon shell. Only weapons forged by dragons, saperes of other dragon clans, or other novihomidraks can pierce your skin.”

“I don’t…”

“Understand, I know. Okay, here we go. History 101. Everything I wish I’d been told when I waked from the dragon birthing. Keep your own notes, kid. When your mother’s hatchlings call you back for a birth of their own, you’ll want to remember what to tell the new novihomidrak.”

The man turned him around to face the dead dragon once more. “You were born a human in your Life Before. Judging from your age, I’d say you were around four to five cycles of your planet’s orbit. You had a human mother. She has mourned your loss a long time ago and would not recognize you if she saw you. There is no sense in looking for her.”

“I don’t remember any of that.”

“Good. You’ll understand why in a moment. Vehlka had just laid her dragon eggs. “

“Vehlka?”

“Your novimather.”

Moonhunter looked at the dragon, sadness gripping him. “Do they always die?”

“No,” the man said, turning him around again. They began to walk down a tunnel leading from the cave. “Vehlka was old. You are her seventh dragon birthed. She knew you would be her last. That’s why she called me to be here. But I get ahead of myself.”

The tunnel shifted to a hallway. Moonhunter tried to look at the transition from stone to wood, and even glanced back the way they had come, but the man pulled him along.

The man continued, “With her eggs laid, Vehlka had a limited time in order to choose. Somehow, she happened upon you and choose you. She swallowed you whole, where you would slide into a special nesting place inside her. Some times the seedlings don’t take. You obviously did. For about ten of our years, since Ch’bauldi dragons mark time with their home sun, you have been gaining all the knowledge and wisdom of the Ch’bauldi dragons. You are more than a vessel for their knowledge though; you are a child of the Ch’bauldi. You don’t know it yet, but you now understand the secrets of the Wells.”

“The Wells?”

“Focus on that word for a moment. The answer will come to you.”

Moonhunter assessed the man warily, then closed his eyes. “The Wells,” he whispered to get himself to focus. At first, there was only darkness, then he started to see bright flashes of light. He didn’t even have the words to describe the colorful nebulas and thousands of stars rippling across the universe. Black space of nothingness seemed to hold it all together like a spider’s web. Moonhunter opened his eyes. “The Wells are the connections between worlds. It’s like a pipeline.”

“Very good,” said the gruff man. He extended his arm out and put it around Moonhunter’s shoulders to guide him along. “My name is Balthier. Your training starts now.”


I hope you have enjoyed this preview of Dragons of Wellsdeep. To continue reading, please purchase your copy from one of these fine retailers below or ask for it at your favorite bookstore.

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