Authors: Shawn E. Crapo
The Dragon Chronicles
Shawn E. Crapo
Copyright © 2014 Shawn E. Crapo
Cover Art © 2014 Shawn E. Crapo
Map Art © 2014 Shawn E. Crapo
All rights reserved.
This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This book is a work of fiction, and any resemblances to persons, places, or things in the real world are purely coincidental, or maybe not. Who knows? It’s a book. Get over it.
The Dragon Chronicles
Wrothgaar’s Quest (Prequel Novella)
King of the North
Eclipsing the Darkness
Dust rose from the farmer’s crops as he walked between the rows of vegetables that lined his dying field. The leaves of each and every plant were withered, and the branches drooped fruitless and barren. For the past year, since the coming of the Devourer, every farmer in Eirenoch had suffered low yields and small profit in the market. The unearthly creature had just done too much damage, and even the druids, who were charged with restoring the balance, could not do much to bring the soil back to life.
Frustrated, the farmer crouched in his field, gazing desperately at his failed crops. He had spent his whole life as a farmer, and now everything he had learned and worked for was worthless. The worst part was, he realized, was that he was too old to learn how to do anything else.
“Damn Lifegiver,” he whispered to himself.
He stood again, resigned to return to his home, and his wife and children. They would be disheartened to hear the news that he had failed. But that was nothing compared to the shame he felt for that failure.
As he took one last look at his crop, he noticed a man in the distance walking his way. He did not look like a person of Gaellos, as he was dressed in furs and a large hood. The crooked staff he carried was unlike the walking sticks of anyone who knew, and the man’s odd gait was striking; not like a normal man’s.
He stood still, watching the stranger approach. He was wary of the man’s presence, as odd as he seemed, but something told him that he should not fear. Perhaps this man was a Druid of some sort, or perhaps a seer. Either way, his appearance was unexpected, yet somewhat welcome. It had been ages since anyone had come to visit.
The stranger stopped when he reached the log fence that surrounded the farmer’s field, holding one hand in the air in greeting. The farmer mirrored the gesture, hesitantly stepping forward to meet him. He appeared friendly, the farmer noted, so there was really no reason not to be welcoming. Besides, it had been quite a long time since he had spoken to another man, and he longed for some conversation—some good natured male conversation.
He smiled as he went to his fence, keeping his eyes on the man’s dark features. From what he could see, the man had course, black hair that cascaded in large waves over his shoulders. His face was dark, and his mouth large. He did not appear to be very tall—quite short in fact—but his girth suggested that he was a man that had spent his life in the fields.
“Well met, stranger,” the farmer said as the man placed one hand on the fence.
The man smiled, reaching up to pull back his cowl. The farmer’s brow furrowed immediately. Though smiling and pleasant, the man was the oddest thing the farmer had ever seen. His brow was thick and wide, his eyes deep set, and his cheekbones were large and jutting.
He did not appear to be entirely human.
“Good afternoon, sir,” the stranger said in a rough and deep voice. “I am terribly sorry to bother you, but I am quite thirsty. Might I trouble you for some water?”
The farmer pursed his lips. He was not one to turn away a person in need, even if that person were as odd as this man. He did not see any reason to refuse.
“Of course, friend,” he replied, reaching down to his belt to remove his wine skin. The stranger smiled.
The farmer handed the man the skin, which was filled with cool water from his well. The stranger took it happily, gulping the contents down quickly and sighing in relief when he was finished.
“Thank you,” he said, handing the farmer the empty skin. “I have been on foot for a whole day now.”
“You are quite welcome,” the farmer replied. “It’s a hot day today.”
“Indeed it is. And I see your crops think so, too.”
The farmer shook his head. “Nothing has grown well since the Devourer,” he replied. “All of Eirenoch is running dry. Despite the rains, the soil has been ruined.”
The stranger nodded slowly, gazing out over the fields. He was silent, seemingly in a contemplative state. The farmer watched him curiously, strapping his wine skin back to his belt. Then, the stranger lifted his staff, waving the tip of it in the air in the direction of the crops. Before the farmer could ask what he was doing, a soft glow began to rise up from the field.
The farmer turned in surprise, watching as the green glow swirled through the rows of plants, spreading itself out over the entire field. He looked back at the stranger, whose eyes were closed. He was smiling, and seemed to be chanting something. The farmer turned back to his field, watching as the green glow began to sink back into the ground. As it did, the plants straightened. Their leaves became broader and stronger. The stalks of corn grew taller, ears budding from beneath their sword shaped leaves. Beans appeared upon the vines and bushes, and the wilted carrot plants and potato stalks became green and vibrant.
The farmer could not believe his eyes. This stranger had brought his crops to life. He now had a full field of harvestable vegetables three months before their time. As he shook his head in disbelief, he laughed.
The stranger opened his eyes, lowering his staff and turning back to the farmer. “Kindness is always repaid, sir,” he said. “Never forget that. You may repay this kindness by passing it on to someone else. Sell your crops, sir, and live comfortably.”
“Who are you?” the farmer asked.
The stranger pulled his cowl up, smiling one last time. “I am a simple man, with a simple life,” he replied. “You may call me the shaman.”
With that, the shaman turned. He wordlessly walked away as the farmer remained in his field, staring in disbelief.
“Wait!” the farmer called to him, prompting the man to stop and half-turn in his direction. “Where will you go?”
“I will go where I am needed,” the shaman replied. “I have much work to do.”
The farmer said nothing as the shaman shambled away. He blinked his eyes and looked back to his field, unsure as to whether or not he was dreaming.
Shaking his head, he looked back to the stranger, who was nowhere in sight. The odd-looking man had come and gone in the space of a few minutes, disappearing into nothingness, but saving the man’s livelihood in the process.
Smiling, he looked to the heavens, thanking the Great Mother for this gift.
Akharu crouched on the edge of a jagged cliff, glaring at the temple of Tel Drakkar below. The entire complex was bustling with activity, presumably for some ghastly festival in honor of the Dragon. Among the people, the dark assassin could see the priests tending to the needs of the flock. He scowled as he watched them spreading the filth of their beliefs. They were scum; but they were not his targets.
Somewhere down there, he knew, Jax the innkeeper was recovering from the wound that Akharu had given him. It was a wound that would bind him to the assassin forever, and make it so much easier for him to be found.
Akharu could smell his blood.
Though he had planned to use Jax to find his daughter, Twylla, Akharu had decided that he wouldn’t need her as bait. Garret wouldn’t remember her anyway. She was now irrelevant to his quest, and her father, likely on the verge of death anyway, was more of a liability. It was time to eliminate him.
Drawing his blade, Akharu dropped off of his perch. He sailed down toward the crowd, drawing looks from the parishioners that were a mixture of horror and fascination. They scattered as he landed, screaming in terror at his horrid, demonic appearance. Slowly, the assassin rose, his red eyes scanning the fleeing crowd for his target.
His gaze was met by a formidable looking priest armed with twin scimitars and scaled, black armor. The demon recognized him.
“Hello,” Khalid said. “Are you embarrassed, or is your face always that color?”
Akharu grinned widely, his fangs glistening in the sunlight. “I am here for Jax,” he hissed. “Stand aside, and I will let you live.”
Khalid turned to one of his priests, who had come with others to form a half circle behind him. “What do you think, Dael? Shall we let the demon take our friend?”
Dael tapped his chin with his finger. “I suppose if he could get past you then he could have just about anything he wanted.”
Khalid nodded slowly, turning back to Akharu. “Well,” he said. “You heard the man. What say you?”
“Step aside, priest. The innkeeper belongs to me.”
Khalid took the scorpion stance, a sly grin widening across his face. “Have at it, then,” he said.
Akharu charged, his blade slicing the air multiple times with dizzying speed. Khalid backed away, blocking each attack, and finally spinning around to deliver a double slash. The demon dodged both blades, flipping forward in the air and jabbing downward. Khalid dodged, slapping Akhrau’s blade away with his scimitar.
“Not bad,” Khalid said. “But I’m sure you could do better.”
He then charged, leaping into the air in a whirlwind attack. Akharu blocked and countered with another jab, missing the priest as he flipped to the side. The demon swept his hand at Khalid as he landed, unleashing a wave of force to knock the priest off of his feet.
Khalid was unaffected.
The priest charged again, slicing at Akharu’s hand. His blade severed it at the wrist, sending the demon backward in a fit of rage. Khalid stepped forward, crossing his blades at the demon’s throat, laying it open.
Akharu choked and spat blood as the wound gushed. He frantically grasped his throat—as well as he could with his stump, backing away as he swept his blade from side to side to ward off his attacker. Khalid stopped, glaring at the demon as he stumbled back.
“It seems I have won this brief exchange,” Khalid mocked him. “I hope you learned your lesson.”
Growling, Akharu turned and leaped upward, clearing the distance between the ground and the nearby cliffs with ease. Khalid did not give chase, but watched from below as the demon began to fade away. With one last look down, Akharu disappeared.
“That was an unusual encounter,” Khalid remarked as Dael and the others gathered around him. “I would expect a creature of his nature to be far more powerful.”
“Demons are creatures of darkness,” Dael said. “Perhaps the sunlight weakened him. He may not have been expecting any resistance, so came in the daytime anyway.”
Khalid pursed his lips, nodding his agreement. “We must remain vigilant,” he said. “Lest our flock is caught off guard. I will commune with Maedoc to ask for a small garrison to be sent to the temple.”
“Good idea,” Dael said. “I will recruit some of our stronger parishioners to the cause.”
“Excellent,” Khalid replied, looking around to see that the fleeing flock had returned. “The people must be kept safe. Although I do not believe this demon will return, take some of them to the armory, anyway. An armed population is a safe population.”
Jodocus looked down at Farouk’s sleeping form with admiration. The druid slept lightly, as most of them did, but the boy’s stealth allowed him to approach without waking him. He knelt next to the bed, watching the man’s eyes flutter in dreams. He sensed that the druid was attempting to solve the many equations that he had been given throughout the past year; quite a feat for a man who was sleeping.
The boy placed his hand on Farouk’s forehead, viewing his consciousness through Farouk’s own eyes. As he watched the equations flash in his mind, Jodocus added his own thoughts; bringing them closer to completion. He substituted Farouk’s incorrect calculations with his own, introduced new concepts, and added sub-equations to the mix; all in an effort to impart his own wisdom to the sleeping druid.
These corrections would be needed for the druid to formulate the proper spell, impart it to Traegus, and allow the wizard to open a gate to Limbo. Although Jodocus himself knew the correct formula, his nature would not allow him to use them. He was here for a purpose, and destroying the Lifegiver was not it.
He was here to ease the transition from this world to the next.