Table of Contents
They emerged in chaos.
The fold collapsus behind them, but the sound was swallowed in the cacophony of battle that raged before them.
“By the gods!” ChuKang roared. “Where are we now?”
KriChan turned on Braun, grabbing the edges of his breastplate with both fists. “Where have you taken us? Where are Jerakh and the rest of the Centurai?”
“I . . . I don't . . .”
KriChan shoved Braun to the ground, his lips curling up around his fangs in disgust.
“Wait!” Drakis shouted above the noise. “I know where we are! This is it . . . the Ninth Throne of the Dwarves!”
The throne room was enormous, the hollowed out core of the Stoneheart nearly a hundred yards in diameter. All the Impress Warriors could see the Last Dwarven King sitting on his throne, his crown shining in the explosive light of the invading army. Scattered about the room was the last of the wealth gathered from all of the Nine Kingdoms, but it was the crown that riveted the eyes of every Impress Warrior smashing against the dwarven circle of defense.
“Is that it?” KriChan shouted, pointing toward the throne even as he began charging toward the writhing slaughter around the base of the steps.
“Yes!” ChuKang snarled through his clenched, bared teeth, running alongside him. “We take it and we go home!”
The Annals of Drakis
SONG OF THE DRAGON CITADELS OF THE LOST
Copyright Â© 2010 by Tracy and Laura Hickman.
All Rights Reserved.
DAW Book Collectors No. 1514.
DAW Books are distributed by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
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ISBN : 978-1-101-54837-0
First Paperback Printing, July 2011
DAW TRADEMARK REGISTERED
U.S. PAT. AND TM. OFF. AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES
HECHO EN U.S.A.
For Gerry . . . my hero.
We all stand on the shoulders of giants and all are worthy of thanks but to two women especially I owe public acknowledgment: Laura, my wife and partner without whose muse I would have no tale to tell nor song to sing; and the brilliant Sheila Gilbert, who showed us where to find the fire beyond the smoke.
HE SONG would not leave him.
Nine notes . . . Seven notes . . . Nine notes . . . Seven notes . . . Five notes . . . Five notes . . .
Circles in circles, endlessly spinning through his mind, filling its space with an endless melodic wheel. It pulls at him, calls to him, drawing him into a whirling vortex of music that engulfs his thoughts, his actions . . .
“Drakis! Wake up!”
Drakis, Impress Warrior of the House of Timuran and Leader of the First Octian, shook his head and tried frantically to focus his eyes in the stark light.
The enormous, broad face of ChuKang, Captain of the Timuran Warriors, swam in front of him. ChuKang was a manticoreâa lion-man from the Chaenandrian Steppesâand was therefore forced to bend his towering, eight-foot tall form down to face the human. ChuKang's lips curled back on his flat, fur-covered face as he spoke, exposing his sharp fangs. “Drakis! Do you have the count or not?”
Nine notes . . . Seven notes . . .
Drakis found it hard to catch his breath in the stifling heat of the narrow corridor. The stone hall was barely twenty feet wide and packed shoulder to shoulder and wall to wall with his brother warriors as far as he could see in both directions. Their faces stared back at him, cast in the stark and unnaturally cold light of a number of globe-torches distributed among them. They were mostly made up of towering manticores mixed with nearly an equal number of four-armed chimera and the occasionally emerging face of an impatient Mestophian goblin. Each of their headsâshaved from the top of their foreheads running back to the base of their necksâwas marked with the
tattoo branding every one of them as the property of House Timuran.
Each warrior-slave knew his placeâjust as Drakis well knew his own. He was the third of eight warriors that made up the First Octian
first of the ten Octia that made up House Timuran's eighty-warrior Centurai. Timuran's Centurai had been attached to five more from neighboring Houses on the Imperial Frontier to form the Second Cohort of the Western Provincesâjust short of five hundred warriorsâwhich in turn was united with seven other Impress Cohorts, an additional War-mage Cohort, plus a Warlord Cohort creating the four thousand and eight hundred strong Legion of the West. Three such Legions made up the army grandly named ”Blade of the West,” which was then joined with two other such armiesâ“Emperor's Blade” and “Blade of the Marches”âto fill out the enormous Imperial Army of Conquest.
Over forty-three thousand Impress Warriors bringing their bright-edged steel against the last bastion of Dwarven Mightyâand Drakis was but one among them.
Nine notes spun through his mind, sounding hollow as they fell into a vast, surging sea of blood . . . Five notes singing of his insignificance drowned out by the nine notes that dragged him downward into an abyss of sound. His dying breath made no impression on anyone else at all . . .
“Drakis!” ChuKang roared.
“Captain! I have the count!” Drakis blurted out, his eyes focusing on the captain. “First Octian through Fourth Octian are at full strength with eight warriors each. Seventh Octian has combined with the Sixth and are now reporting seven warriors strong. Eighth and Ninth Octia are also at full strength of eight warriors each. Archers of Octian Dista are answering with four.”
“What about Fifth Octian?” KriChan growled. He was a fierce-looking manticore with a long scar running from just above his right eye across his faceâand also second-in-command of the House Timuran Centurai after ChuKang.
“Fifth Octian does not report,” Drakis answered. He was sweating profusely now. “I think we lost them just before the last fold.”
“Lord Timuran will not be pleased,” KriChan said quietly. “Committing the entire Centurai in this campaign was more of a gamble than an investment . . . and we've yet to garner a single prize.”
ChuKang gave a warning glance at his Second. “Without a prize of honor it might be better if we
came back on our shields. We need to get into the fight. Braun! What's taking so long?”