The Renegade Dragon
by Irene Radford
The casualties of war must also include those who are left behind during a retreat.
Journeyman Magician Rollett didn’t have time to follow his mentor’s retreat from Hanassa through the damaged dragongate. Now he’s trapped behind the magical portal that isolates the haven of outlaws, Rovers, mercenaries, and exiled magicians.
He gathers a ragged band to dig out the collapsed entrance to the lost city while he seeks a path through volcanic tunnels in hope of reviving the dragongate before the next kardiaquake destroys it forever.
Apprentice Magician Powwell had to leave behind his half-sister Kalen when he was forced to flee Hanassa. Although she is the only person he loves, he fears she is possessed by the tyrannical spirit of the original red dragon, whose spirit jumps from one tyrant to the next and rules the city.
Yaala—the orphaned daughter of the deceased Kaalipha of Hanassa–who was also possessed by the bloodthirsty red dragon. She believes she has learned enough to govern the city properly.
Together, Powwell and Yaala brave the tunnels in an attempt to return to the city. Yaala teaches Powwell to love again, but she has already given her heart to Rollett, who wants only to go home.
Can the magicians from Coronnan find a way out and a means to save the people before they too succumb to the cruel ghosts, the murderous rages, starvation, and the evil that infects the city?
Book 3 of the Dragon Nimbus Histories series
“The Wizard’s Treasure, the fourth and final volume in Radford’s high fantasy ‘Dragon Nimbus’ series brings together characters from previous novels in a rousing adventure of magic and treachery.”—Library Journal
“Ms. Radford’s considerable gifts as a mesmerizing storyteller shine with undeniable luster.”—Romantic Times
“Plenty of popular elements: an intelligent cat, an enchanted wolf, a redheaded witch, a missing prince, the apprentice mage with misunderstood powers, and, of course, dragons.”
“A big, adventurous, satisfying climax to the trilogy by one of the more interesting new voices working with the traditional quest story.”—Science Fiction Chronicle
“This action-packed plot makes for engaged and thoughtful reading. The author manages to keep the story clear, and the characters interesting to follow. Several themes interplay successfully, with the reader caring what happens. Not surprisingly, the volume resolves one conflict, but keeps the door open for continuing obstacles. This reader, for one, is eager.”—KLIATT
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 and 2024. She has been writing stories ever since she figured out what a pencil was for.
Read a Sample
Midmorning of Saawheen, the Holy Day of Remembrance, in late autumn of the second year of the Reign of Quinnault Darville de Draconis, Dragon Blessed King of Coronnan; a meadow west of Coronnan City.
Shayla stretched her wings wide, catching a shift in air currents as she cruised the length of the waterway humans call the River Coronnan. Her twelve dragonets had just eaten a bemouth, one of the ferocious fish that inhabited the depths of the Great Bay. Even though her babies drowsed with full tummies, she knew they’d awaken again soon, clamoring for more fresh meat to feed their growing bodies. In the meantime, she took this rare free time to enjoy a few moments of peace and freedom, allowing the air currents to guide her constant search for food.
She scanned the ground for likely game. All of the cows and sheep the humans had set out as a tithe for the dragons looked too scrawny to feed her hungry babies.
The nimbus of dragons had agreed among themselves to allow the herds to increase before culling. Generations of war and privation had taken a toll on both dragons and humans. They would all thrive better if the dragons hunted wild game for a few more years.
Shayla, oh, Shayla, I need your help. A human mind called to the dragon. Shayla, hurry. I need you.
Shayla listened closely to the summons. The plea of a woman with a deep problem. A problem dragons couldn’t ignore.
She knew the mind calling her away from her leisurely glide around the Great Bay. The female named Maarie Kaathliin, called Katie by those close to her, had mated with dragon-blessed King Quinnault at the same time Shayla had flown a nuptial ritual with five male dragons. Queen Katie had proved to be a formidable woman nearly worthy of leading a dragon nimbus.
(How may I assist?) Shayla banked her wings and circled until she located Katie. The queen stood at the edge of a large field, cradling her baby in her arms. Shayla recognized the other humans who rested nearby after a meal. She grabbed the meaning of their word “picnic” from the mind of King Quinnault. She still didn’t understand the difference between eating in the lair or eating in the field. Dragons did both and had no word to separate the two.
She narrowed her telepathic communication so that only the queen could hear her. King Quinnault and his sister Myrilandel were openly receptive to dragon thoughts. Powwell, the fledgling magician who played with Myrilandel’s daughter, could hear less. Yaala, a descendant of the renegade dragon—who shall forever more remain nameless—could hear all too much if she opened her mind to her heritage.
Shayla grieved a moment that Nimbulan, Myrilandel’s husband, had lost his magic and thus his ability to communicate with dragons. The loss of that magic had aged and saddened him greatly this past year. She had enjoyed his logic and humor—which often mimicked wisdom.
Shayla, I have explained and pleaded with these people for many moons. They refuse to recognize a danger that threatens us all. Can you give them a dragon dream of great import? Katie asked.
(Dragon dreams are dangerous, to yourself and those you hold dear.) Shayla backwinged, puzzled by the request.
I know that, Shayla. I do not ask for a dream that will lead them astray, only teach them a valuable lesson.
Take a memory from me and make it real to those around me.
Shayla saw the terrible images within Katie’s mind and nearly fled to the void between the planes of existence. (Why do you wish to share this memory? You should flee it as you fled your homeworld.)
The same danger I fled is on its way to this planet unless we stop it now. We must not destroy this world called Kardia Hodos as my people destroyed Terra.
(Agreed.) Shayla fought her own reluctance to relive the memory in vision form. This was a lesson the foolish humans must learn—now, before they made grave mistakes.
(The dragon spirit within Myrilandel makes her immune to dragon dreams,) Shayla stalled. (She is influential among many of those you must reach with this lesson. The woman-child, Yaala, needs to live this vision more than most, but her dragon ancestry will make her immune as well. She lives apart from their society and does not know how to value the nimbus of humans.)
Myri can pluck the memory of this dragon dream from Nimbulan’s mind, Katie replied. Her thoughts bordered on frantic. Powwell, the journeyman magician, will share his knowledge with Yaala, as he shares everything with her. They are friends despite her separateness from others. If Nimbulan, Quinnault, and the journeyman magician experience what terrorizes my people, they will act upon it.
(For a dragon dream this troubling, I must land.) Shayla worried gravely for the future of her humans should this dragon dream come to pass on Kardia Hodos. She positioned herself so that sunlight arced rainbows through her all color/no color wings as she circled and landed.
The dragonets would nap a while longer. And if they woke, hungry and screaming for more food, they would have to wait. This dragon dream needed to be imparted soon, or it would be too late.
The other humans jumped up, pointing toward her. Joy filled them as they rushed to greet the dragon. Amaranth, Myrilandel’s daughter, clapped her hands and crawled toward the pretty display of colored light refracting through the dragon’s wings.
“Shayla, I would like to introduce you to Marilell, my daughter.” King Quinnault bowed deeply, gesturing to the infant in Katie’s arms. “Katie and I ask your dragon blessing on our firstborn.” He draped an arm around his mate and female child, pulling them close to his side. With his free hand he caressed Shayla’s muzzle.
The dragon allowed her eyelids to droop as she leaned into the king’s caress. She savored his affection, knowing how the dragon dream she was about to give him might frighten him into ending all further communication with dragons.
Myrilandel lifted Amaranth onto Shayla’s outstretched forearm. The physical resemblance between Myrilandel and Quinnault had grown stronger since Shayla’s daughter had borne a child and forgotten her need to fly with dragons; her silvery-blond hair had become more golden and her long, sharp facial features had softened with maturity and pregnancy. But Shayla knew that the spirit of a purple-tipped dragon still resided in the body of the king’s sister. A spirit that would always demand release. She had survived one such near transformation due only to the love of her mate.
Yaala, too, could experience the need to become a purple-tipped dragon, though a dozen and more generations separated her from her heritage. Was that why the young woman stood back, refusing to approach another dragon?
Shayla peered at the infant Queen Katie held. The new mother bit her lip a little.
“You’ll get used to dragons, dear. Their size is intimidating, but their hearts are pure,” Quinnault chuckled.
(My daughter calls you friend. The king my nimbus has adopted as one of our own calls you lover. You may trust me with your daughter,) Shayla reassured the queen.
The fledgling magician edged closer. Shayla sensed the man-boy drinking in the magical energy she emitted. She needed him closer yet.
Yaala lingered by the distant tree. So be it. She would not live the vision of a dragon dream whether she stood close or far.
(The child Marilell is worthy of her parents. She will make a strong leader of your nimbus,) Shayla announced to all who could hear her. She kept an eye on Powwell, willing him to draw closer while she chatted with Quinnault and Katie.
Quinnault raised an eyebrow at that suggestion. So did Nimbulan after the dragon message was passed on to him verbally. Shayla allowed herself a moment of humor. One day, humans would learn that females could govern unruly males quite well.
At last Powwell stepped within a dozen talon lengths of the others. Close enough.
Once more Shayla dipped into Katie’s mind and wrested the awful memory from her.
Immediately the humans plunged into another world. A stifling world of stale air tainted by artificial materials and chemicals. A filthy haze kept them from seeing the sky. An unnatural barrier stood between them and the haze. But the barrier trapped clean air, made it stale despite mechanical beasts that scrubbed it and stirred it in imitation of the wind.
More mechanical beasts grunted and whined in a wild cacophony of sound. Humans walked around cautiously, eyes searching every corner for danger. They wore strange clothing, like artificial skin in muddy colors that flattered nothing and highlighted many unattractive features. Across their muzzles they had draped coverings in the same vague colors as their clothing. Each step was listless, hesitant. They kept their arms close to their bodies rather than swinging them freely in confident strides. As they approached buildings or other people, they shied away from the briefest physical contact.
The observers from Coronnan shifted their startled gazes from the drab people to the dazzling buildings made of metal and glass. So much precious glass! Each window represented a Coronnite lord’s entire fortune. While the wonder slowly abated, the watchers all wrinkled their noses at the strange-smelling air. They stared at the frightened inhabitants in bewilderment.
An old woman walked a slow, unsteady path between the wondrous buildings. Her wrinkled skin looked waxy and pale with more ailments than just advanced age. She stopped often, swaying with weakness and indecision. Her swollen hands and feet made her progress awkward. A large man with some vivacity still in his step veered sharply to avoid contact with her. He quickened his steps and increased his vigilant watch.
Another man carried his small son as he hastened through the crowd. Despite the urgency in his manner, his feet shuffled as if he had not the strength to lift them clear of the walkway. “Help me find a doctor,” he called to one and all. “My son is sick. Someone, anyone, help me find a doctor.” The little boy breathed raggedly. The bloating of his extremities had faded, leaving him gaunt and wasted. His skin stretched too tightly over his facial bones, taking on a waxy, bluish tinge. The father dashed futilely from one person to the next.
An older man whose broad shoulders suggested an earlier athletic build gone to waste screamed, tearing his mask away. He gasped for air. More air. Never enough air. His eyes bulged. Blood seeped from his mouth, nose, and ears. His limbs convulsed. He thrashed at all who came within reach. The pulse in his throat raced until it could beat no more.
Everyone, including the wobbling woman and the man with the sick child, ran away from the hideous sight of the dying man.
Katie wept, burying her face against her husband’s shoulder.
Nimbulan reached for the ailing man, needing to help him, offer him whatever healing and comfort he could. He would never reach the phantom man who no longer existed except in Katie’s memory. Nimbulan looked for Myrilandel to lend her magic to the healing effort. She couldn’t follow him into the dragon vision and didn’t see death all around her.
Shayla noted with gratitude that Myrilandel’s daughter Amaranth also seemed immune to the dragon dream.
Nimbulan beat his fists against the ground in frustration. He didn’t realize he touched the clean grass and dirt of Kardia Hodos rather than the smooth, poured-stone surface on the strange and dangerous world of the dragon dream.
Quinnault held Katie back from the vision, needing to shelter her from these unknown dangers. Their daughter slept, dreaming her own dreams, too young to recognize the images.
The fledgling magician backed away from the illusory dying man in horror but couldn’t escape the dragon dream. He ran away from the images. His instincts took him toward Yaala, though he could not see her through the dream. Shayla pressed the dream deeper into his mind so that he would never forget and would instantly be aware of the cause of this man’s death. He needed every detail imprinted on his mind so that he could relate it accurately to Yaala who stood numbly by his side, clutching his hand.
At last, when the dead man ceased twitching, a machine looking like a giant square spider emerged from a glass doorway, gliding several talon lengths above the ground. It hummed to itself as it flashed several different colored lights over the victim. Beeping noises followed the lights. One slender arm, clawed like the giant pincer of a bay crawler, poked the man.
The dead man could no longer respond to the probe. Then two metal arms slid out from the machine’s belly, scooped him up, and the machine glided off to an unknown destination. A second machine emerged, very similar to the first, but smaller. It sprayed the ground where the dead man had been with a foul-smelling liquid.
Some of the deadly humors that had killed the man died in the obnoxious substance. Most. Not all. Shayla and Katie both knew now that nothing, not even an elixir distilled from the Tambootie tree could kill all of that plague.
“Someone has brought the seeds of this plague to Coronnan,” Katie announced.
And Shayla knew that she and the other dragons would have to break a centuries-old taboo to prevent the spread of the plague. A member of the dragon nimbus would have to go to Hanassa, the home of the renegade dragon, where the seeds of the plague lay dormant, waiting for a catalyst to bring them to life.