My joyful thanks to the readership following this series, I'm proud to present a first preview from Song of the Mysteries. Please note: this material is uncorrected draft, and is copyright by the author. You are encouraged to share the LINK to this post, but not to copy the material/or repost it anywhere else. Thank you for respecting my work.
Now - have fun and speculate!
Within moments, or hours, one or both of the great drakes would perish. The silver scaled elder, Chaimistarizog, fought yet another upstart claimant, the bronze shimmer of pre sexual adolescence changed at mated maturity to deep, banded gold. From head to spiked tail vane, the youngster’s length measured beyond fifty spans: a sinuous package of muscle hellbent to break two Ages of established order, and upset the authority guarding the access to the Worldsend Gate to Athera.
Arrived as a lone sentinel to guard the breach, his black stallion stabled for safety inside the ruin at Penstair, the Fellowship’s field Sorcerer stood vigil at Rathain’s north coast, while the joined conflict on the splinter world raged, past the pale of human imagining. Gusts off the ice ridden Stormwell Sea lashed his face, and shredded the bank of storm clouds above to indigo rents, sequinned with constellations. Before him, the weathered pillars of the Gate reared upward, cast into fitful silhouette by jetted spume as the combers smashed into the desolate rock shingle.
The rough play of the elements voiced the ominous thrum of the excited flux. Even the silvered span of the interface that enabled the passage between worlds shivered like disturbed mercury, impacted by the violent contest on the other side.
Asandir waited, prepared for the worst. The last bid to upset the conclave’s ancient Accord had left Chaimistarizog near to mortally wounded. The drake war that followed that narrow margin of victory had forced Fellowship resource to hold the drawn line, while the scarred gate keeper laired up to recover hale fitness. Although the flux currents’ aberrant whiplash had been contained, then restored in the aftermath, the surrounding shoreline still wore the hellscape of scars.
The peninsula from Northgate to Anglefen lay cratered and pocked with iced tide pools, lined at the rims with the glassine slag seared by drake fire. Chaimistarizog had not retreated to heal before rising to reclaim his duty. Although Sethvir’s record had not archived his retreat into restorative hibernation for over five millennia, the supreme wyrm’s might appeared undiminished. The power of Chaimistarizog’s roar stupefied even a Fellowship Sorcerer’s wits.
Even the distance afforded by Sethvir’s linked channel threatened to paralyze thought, as on the far side of the Worldsend Gate’s span, the concussive blast of stress heated air boomed into deafening thunder. The bass echoes rolled through the shriek of recoil, where the shifted waves of altered realities clashed and sheared in chaotic collision. Drake battles fought over ocean hammered ripples that raced outward, wracking the off world terrain. Mountains erupted from once verdant plains. The raised peaks of new ranges belted into red lava, carved and recarved as they ran molten, summits flattened or ripped into chasms, then flooded under frothing tsunamis that shredded into titanic tatters of steam.
Asandir tracked the broadscale display at remove, not oblivious to the danger. Historic battles between great drakes had remade the features of entire continents on Athera. Kathtairr was laid to waste by two warring flights, bringing ruin that ended an era. The rule of the dragons closed at First Age Year One, when Ath’s gift to the world, the Paravian races brought the first tempered stay of restraint.
The outbreaks of damage inflicted since the Centaur Guardians’ stewardship transferred to the Fellowship of Seven most often burdened the taxed shoulders of the embodied Sorcerer tasked in the field. Faced by the cataclysmic threat of another drake war, Asandir trod the gamut of thorny concerns he had scant resource remedy.
Sethvir sensed his dammed turmoil. ‘Traithe’s report, and my vision, shows small cause for concern. Seshkrozchiel’s heart rate beats at nadir, still in the depths of comatose hibernation.’
Asandir’s mouth flexed with grim acknowledgment: today’s reprieve was sure to frame tomorrow’s frustration, with Luhaine’s entwined consciousness held hostage by the dragon, and their Fellowship critically short handed.
‘All news is not dreadful in that regard,’ Althain’s Warden temporized with his perpetual spark of optimism. ‘Arithon managed the lane transfer to Ithamon. He’s supping with Tarens in Alathwyr Tower, which not only was stocked in advance, but lies under the eagle eye of Davien.’
Asandir’s expansive surprise cracked his taciturn poise to wry comment. ‘For what guarded intent? We might come to rue the redoubled influx of mischief from that quarter.’ But the prospect pleased him. Davien’s brazen meddling, even on the grand scale, trumped the latent shadow of horrendous threat. Dread defied words at the prospect of a drake’s acquisitive nature baited into a fascinated entanglement with the rogue offshoot of Dari’s descent.
‘Sufficient potential for mayhem to gripe the crone in Sanpashir,’ Sethvir grumbled, then launched into a tangential account of the riot sparked by a shoreleave tax imposed on the waterfront dives in Southshire. Asandir took sharp stock, never fooled when his colleague’s breezy gossip crossed the line into obfuscation. Eyes closed, the field Sorcerer assessed the drake duel’s progress beyond the Worldsend Gate.
A bolt silver streak, Chaimistarizog rose. Glimmering speck above the heaving surface of a violet sea, the wyrm darted into a wingover and arrowed into a corkscrew stoop. The crack of opened wings leveled him with his rival and whiplashed his serpentine length into a coil. Yet the fanged riposte of his lightning-swift strike lagged by a millesecond. The flicker of the banded gold challenger’s dive evaded with flaunting, effortless grace.
Chaimistarizog was tiring.
The span of Sethvir’s vision grasped the tide’s turn, already foreshadowed by the ranging severity of probable outcomes.
‘How long have you known?’ Asandir interrupted the Warden’s smokescreen of chatter point blank.
‘The question’s moot,’ Althain’s Warden admitted. ‘The end will reach closure in moments.’
The advantage of altitude sacrificed, the elder dragon twisted in mid flight and banked. The gust clapped off his stressed wingleather blasted spray off the face of the deep as he climbed. Above, the young challenger flipped end for end. His gout of streamed flame hissed downward, just as Chaimistarizog side-swiped the slip-stream of a thermal and snaked into a spin. Too late: the recoiling avoidance sliced through the plume, Blind on one side, raked by showering sparks, the Gatekeeper roared with earth shaking fury and death rolled. The barbed whip of his tail sliced an arc in the glare and clouted his cocksure opponent. Spines bristled like a star mace snapped through wing vanes, slashed the webbed flesh of the young dragon’s undersail, and thudded into the scaled flank beneath. Ribs caved under the bone crushing blow.
Both combatants drifted in the black air for one moment the rush of their striving suspended. Then crippling injury claimed its due. The vanquished wyrm kited out of balance and tumbled. The trumpeting cry of the victor resounded over his defeated adversary.
Chaimistarizog soared into an ascending glide, while the fatally fallen burned and blazed, immolated as crushed lungs ignited. The meteoric rush of descent scored across the black heavens and plunged headlong into the sea. Impact spewed up a geyser, the diamond glitter of backfallen spray wisped through tatters of steam and spent smoke.
The flux ripple of the wyrm’s final agony quenched in salt water, and cleared the aftershock. Battle fury and death trauma released in requital and left behind no raging remnant. Another great dragon was lost to the world. That absence spread over the face of the deep, profound as the silence before the dawn of creation.
Chaimistarizog had prevailed by a whisker again. Asandir awaited the Warden’s linked summary to measure the cost of the reckoning.
Yet the summons Sethvir relayed instead committed the Fellowship’s field Sorcerer to cross through the Worldsend Gate for an audience.
The unexpected command lifted Asandir’s eyebrows. Weathered face to the wind, hair like white iron whipped in the gusts against his squared shoulders, he accepted without protest, ‘Hold Athera secure at my back.’
Three resolute strides brought him to the shimmering film that spanned the stone pillars, rimed in winter’s opaline mantle of ice. Another step carried him through.
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