Generations of civil war in Coronan has endangered the dragons. Now they are pissed.
Three hundred years before The Glass Dragon, civil war has raged through Coronnan for generations. Fueled by jealous and powerful battlemages, no lord has emerged as a leader who can combine the warring factions in peace.
The dragons have had enough when misdirected battle spells endanger them. They seek the one human desperate enough to listen to reason.
Nimbulan has been hailed as the greatest battlemage of his age. His grief over having to kill his apprentice, the one he loved as a son, drives him to wander Coronnan in search of a better way, a different form of magic, anything that will end the endless wars.
Along the way he finds some answers residing in the forgetfulness of Myrilandel, the love of his life, a witchwoman with a flywacket for a familiar.
Can the dragons reach him in time?
What will it cost Nimbulan, his love, and the dragons to finally bring peace to a land that has known nothing but war for too many generations?
About the Author: Irene Radford is a founding member of Book View Café. You can find many of her books, both reprints and original titles, at the café, including her earliest books being released throughout 2023. She has been writing stories ever since she figured out what a pencil was for. Editing, as Phyllis Irene Radford, grew out of her love of the craft of writing. History has been a part of her life from earliest childhood and led to her BA from Lewis and Clark College.
Mostly she writes fantasy and historical fantasy including the best-selling Dragon Nimbus Series and the masterwork Merlin’s Descendants series. Look for her writing new historical fantasy tales as Rachel Atwood, a different take on the Robin Hood mythology in Walk the Wild with Me, from DAW Books and the sequel Outcasts of the Wildwood. In other lifetimes she writes urban fantasy as P.R. Frost or Phyllis Ames, and space opera as C.F. Bentley. Lately she ventured into Steampunk as Julia Verne St. John.
If you wish information on the latest releases from Ms Radford, under any of her pen names, you can subscribe to her newsletter: www.ireneradford.net. Or you can follow her on Facebook as Phyllis Irene Radford.
A lovely rising thermal current caught Shayla’s wing as she glided one last time from the mountains to the Great Bay. A hundred dragon lengths below her, white-caps danced on the gentle spring breeze. Sunlight sparkled on the water, reflecting rainbows from her nearly transparent wing.
Mandelphs darted in and out of the water in a game of catch me if you can. One youngster leaped through a rainbow, laughing.
Join us, crystal-furred dragon. Play with us, the intelligent water-dwellers chirped. Dragons cast interesting shadows and offer new hurdles to leap over and dive under. More interesting since you are nearly invisible.
(Thank you, friends. Not today,) Shayla declined. Her lair was a long way away and the twenty babies growing inside her had become too large for her to be confident of her mobility. Tonight she would feast on a fat cow and build her nest. For the next few moons her five mates would feed and pamper her while she could not fly. At any other time, except during mating, she wouldn’t tolerate the presence of her consorts within her hunting territory. The male dragons wouldn’t tolerate each other except during the cooperative effort to support their gravid mate.
Five fathers for her first litter of twenty dragonets. Pride swelled through her. The more fathers, the larger and stronger the litter.
She widened her circle of flight inland, enjoying the changing air temperatures against her wings. The Great Bay dissolved into a chain of islands then merged into a solid landmass split by a mighty river.
Curiosity sharpened her FarSight to spy on the humans who inhabited this land. A bustle of activity in a wide-open space below drew her attention. She dropped lower to spy on the strangely intelligent, yet sadly immature race who had invaded this planet several millennia ago.
One of the humans below threw a ball of bright magic across a field. The ball arced upward and burst into thousands of glittering shards.
Sharp burning pain snaked from the tip of Shayla’s tail up to her haunches, numbing her muscles as it progressed. Without the maneuvering balance of her tail, she fell into a downward spin. Startled, she didn’t immediately compensate with stretched wings and extended limbs.
Too late! Another pain spiraled around her left rear leg. Muscles jerked out of control. She lost another dozen dragon lengths in altitude.
Too low. Dangerously low. The humans came into sharper view without the aid of FarSight. A cloud of magic residue hung above them. As this fact registered in her mind, more magic flashed across the field, adding to the residue. She barely escaped a responding flash that hurled upward from the edge of the meadow before it fell toward the opposite side of the open space.
A magic duel! How dare these puny humans battle with forces they couldn’t control!
Flame burst from her mouth with a roar of rage. She refocused her FarSight, seeking a victim to atone for this outrage against her body and the forces of nature.
Spells of varying complexity and strength continued blasting back and forth between the men. None looked up to see the source of her flame. They ignored her fair warning.
She dropped heavily through the air as a new pain reminded her sharply of the weight within her womb. No! Her babies weren’t ready. No nest awaited them in her distant lair.
A new spell lanced upward. She veered sharply right, barely avoiding it. Fire burst forth as she bellowed her outrage. She folded her wings and plunged into a dive.
Her wing membranes snapped open at the last minute as she shifted and fought to regain height. Her flames drenched the field, turning the entire army, stubble, and nearby trees to ash. No sense of triumph followed the obliteration of the threat. The pain in her womb enveloped all thought.
Shayla swung upward, slow and unwieldy with the extra weight in her womb. Greedy flames from the burning battlefield singed her belly. The babies twisted and fought for exit.
Not yet. Not until she found safe haven.
Where? Oh, where could she go? If she accessed the void long enough to find her lair, the babies would never survive the birthing. The void between the planes of existence would choke crucial air, light, and warmth from both her and her babies.
Who could shelter her? None of the males. Their lairs were small caves, barely large enough to secrete a single dragon; all of them too far away.
(I come,) an ancient dragon voice hailed her.
Iianthe. The oldest dragon of all and the only purple-tip known to have ever existed.
Shayla stretched her wings a little under the guidance of the telepathic voice, and she gained a little more control. But she kept dropping. She had to make headway. East. Where the mountains met the sea. Iianthe’s lair, huge, designed to house many litters of baby dragons.
Barely skimming the tops of the trees, Shayla forced her wings to keep going. Her belly cramped in time with her downstrokes.
Iianthe appeared beneath her. His right wing supported the dragging leg that threatened her balance and her altitude. With the injured limb tucked back where it belonged, they gained elevation.
Everblue treetops receded from view. One dragon length, then two and three. They caught an updraft and glided east to safety.
The plateau in front of Iianthe’s lair appeared before her, almost level with her sagging legs.
A heavy, awkward landing sent her nose into the spring beside the cave opening. Exhausted, she lay there, wishing she could cry as humans did.
Iianthe landed beside her, almost as tired as she. Near the end of his span, he’d lived longer than any living dragon could remember. Without moving, he crooned a Song of healing that only she could hear.
She could walk, a little, far enough to get inside the cave where a nest of leaves and soft sheep’s wool awaited. Had Iianthe known she would need the nest?
No matter. She collapsed upon the bed as the first baby dragon squeezed from the protection of her womb into the waiting nest—an undersized mass of wiggling limbs the color of dark pewter. The tiniest hint of green touched its wingtips and the nubs of horns. A male. Alive and squalling for food already.
Shayla licked the last of the afterbirth from her son’s fur. She paused a moment while she panted in rhythm with her labor. The miracle of new life filled her with awe. She stared at the tiny form in wonder.
Two more mewling dragonets made an abrupt entrance. Twin purple-tips. Purples! Rarest of all dragon colors, assigned only to personalities of great power or wisdom. What strange portent did their birth signify?
The cramping pains did not abate.
(My replacement is born. I must die now. There can only be one purple-tip alive at any given time,) Iianthe said from the cave entrance.
Shayla waited through the birth of two more dragonets before answering the hovering dragon.
(Do not fly into the void just yet, wise one. We need your advice. The humans must be punished!)
(Your mates must not interfere. ’Tis not their destiny. This is a matter to be settled between your babies and the human magicians.) Iianthe heaved a weary sigh. (My next existence awaits, I must guard the beginning place of magic. The humans will find it within a century. Only those worthy of the power must find it.)
(The intruders have grown too strong, without the maturity of the centuries to guide them. They weave magic they cannot control,) Shayla reminded him. (The beginning place needs a powerful guardian until humans can use the magic properly.)
(’Twas foretold long ago by Purple Dragons wiser than I, that your children must teach the humans what they need to know.) Iianthe’s voice faded as he backed out of the lair entrance.
(But they are twins. Which one takes your place and which must be destroyed?) Shayla panicked. Her babies were too small, not ready to grasp their destiny. Who would take on the task of dropping the extra purple-tip baby from the void into the Great Bay—to live or die as fate decided.
(Seek answers in the void. Until you know the destinies of both purple-tips, do nothing to either. Perhaps they have been chosen by the fates to solve the problem with the humans.) Iianthe gathered his wings for one last burst of energy and disappeared into the void. (I can die now, Shayla. The lair is yours.) Iianthe’s voice faded.
Shayla caught a glimpse of winking amethyst crystal in the distant blackness that opened before her but did not touch her.
Shayla’s wing folded protectively over all six pewter-colored dragonets that lived. Four males and the asexual twin purple-tips. No females. She pushed aside fourteen dead babies. No more dragonets awaite birth. She keened in a mournful wail that pierced the silence and echoed through the mountains of Kardia Hodos. The sound lingered and replayed itself as sorrow overtook all of the dragons. The future seemed bleak indeed.
Too many dragons fell victim to the wild and aggressive humans who hated and feared all they did not understand.
Shayla nuzzled each of her babies, willing them all to live and grow. She had time to make a decision about the redundant purple-tip. Time to find a way to save both. Time to plot and persuade before dragonkind took drastic action.