Apr 3 2012 4:00pm
Rage of the Dragon (Excerpt)
The third book in the Dragonships of Vindras series comes out on April 24, but we’ve got a sneak peek just for you! Take a look at Tracy Hickman and Maraget Weis’ Rage of the Dragon:
Skylan Ivorson is the gods-chosen Chief of all Vindras clans. But the gods from whom the Vindrasi draw their earthdwelling power are besieged by a new generation of gods who are challenging them for the powers of creation. The only way to stop these brash interlopers lies within the Five Bones of the Vektia Dragon—the primal dragon forged during the creation of the world—which have been lost for generations.
With the Gods of the New Dawn amassing a vast army, Skylan finds allies in former enemies. Calling upon the ogres to fight their common foes, the Vindrasi soon find themselves in the middle of an even larger war. Skylan and his Vindrasi clan must sail the Sea of Tears into the heart of the Forbidden Empire of the Cyclops, to implement a cunning yet delicate plan that risks his life and leadership at every corner. But a new enemy lies deep in the sea, one who draws upon powers never harnessed by land dwellers.
Master world-builders Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, who have entertained generations of fans with the Dragonlance series and the Death Gate Cycle, prove they’re at the top of their game.
Iam Farinn the Talgogroth, the Voice of Gogroth, God of the World Tree. Attend me! For now I will tell the tale of Skylan Ivorson, Chief of Chiefs of the Vindrasi, the greatest of the Chiefs of the mighty Dragonships.” The old man paused and then said, with a sigh, “The greatest and the last.”
He paused, both for dramatic effect and to soothe his throat with a honey posset.
The time was winter, the time for the telling of tales. Outside the great hall made of stout beams and hewn logs, the land was white with snow. The night was still and bitter cold. Inside the hall an enormous fire burned. Men and women sat at their ease on benches at long tables, holding small, sleepy children in their laps. The young woman and her friends sat on the floor in front of the old man, as close as she could manage, for his voice, like him, was frail and liable to break. The young woman did not want to miss a word of this part of the tale, for it was her favorite part.
Sitting between two young warriors of the Torgun, she surreptitiously glanced over her shoulder to see if her mother was watching, for fear her mother would find her and seize her and drag her away. Her mother was always scolding her for acting in an unmaidenly manner, running off to play at war with the young men instead of tending to her household chores.
The young woman was sixteen and her mother was talking of finding a husband for her wayward daughter, of grandbabies. The young woman wanted none of that. Not yet. Maybe not ever. She thirsted for adventure, like the heroes of the Voyage of the Venjekar. She hungered to visit those wondrous far-off lands, see them with her eyes, not just in her mind. She longed to do battle with ogres and fight a fury in the Para Dix and dance with the fae in their faerie kingdom. Her dream was an impossible dream, perhaps, but only the gods knew where her wyrd led. The gods, and this young woman, for she had made plans, secret plans.
Her mother was, thankfully, gossiping with a friend and paying no heed to her daughter. Her father had his eyes on her. She smiled at him and he smiled back. She was her father’s favorite. Many (her mother among them) said he spoiled her. He indulged her odd whims to learn to use a sword and shield. He lied for her when she was practicing wielding her sword; he’d tell her mother she was in the fields tending the sheep. Her mother claimed he treated her like a boy because he had no sons.
The young woman knew better and so did her father. Both of them rarely listened to her mother. Her father, at least, was not in a hurry for her to marry. When he had refused an offer of marriage (to an old man of thirty!), it had sent her mother into a rage that lasted for weeks.
The young woman glanced at each of the young men seated on either side of her. They exchanged conspiratorial grins. They often called themselves “Skylan” and “Garn,” and she was “Aylaen” after the three heroes of the epic tale. Like the heroes in the story, the three had been friends from childhood. And because they were young and filled with hope, they had resolved that unlike Skylan Ivorson and his friends no tragedies would befall them on their grand adventure. They would never quarrel. There would be no misunderstandings or heartbreak. Nothing would ever come between them. No one would ever die.
The three had made plans to travel to those far distant lands. There they would fight rousing battles and maybe suffer a bloody wound or two, nothing fatal, of course, just severe enough to leave an interesting scar. And most important of all, the three would remain true to each other. In the ruins of the Hall of the Old Gods, the three swore a solemn oath of friendship, making their vows to Torval and to Vindrash. The three swore this oath in the dead of night, for if the Torgun priestess of the new gods found out, they would be in no end of trouble.
Her two friends were both chuckling over some jest and started to whisper it to her, but she hushed them. The old man, Farinn, was starting to speak.
“When I left the telling of the tale of our heroes last night, Skylan Ivorson had built the funeral pyre and mourned the death of his dearest friend, Garn. Aylaen, the woman Skylan loved, had denounced him, blaming him for Garn’s death. Skylan was alone and desolate, and he thought he could sink no lower. But the gods were angry at Skylan, angry at his lies that shielded a murderer, angry at his lies regarding the cruel fate of his warriors at the hands of the Druids. The gods were themselves dishonored by the dishonor Skylan had brought upon the Vindrasi and the gods were determined to continue their punishment of him. Skylan and his people were ambushed and taken into slavery by Raegar Gustafson, Skylan’s cousin, who had betrayed his people and his gods.”
The Torgun hissed, the young woman loudest among them. Raegar was the villain of the tale.
Farinn was accustomed to the interruption and allowed time for them to settle down again before he resumed.
“Raegar was now a priest of the new god, Aelon, and served on board the ship of Legate Acronis, who was pleased with his new slaves. He planned to train them to fight in the game known as the Para Dix.
“Skylan and his men were shackled and made prisoners aboard their own ship, the Venjekar, which Legate Acronis was towing back to the city of Sinaria, to put it on display. The Venjekar’s dragon, Kahg, had not been there to save them, for he had been wounded in battle and fled back to his own realm to heal. His spiritbone, which the priestess used to summon him, had vanished.
“Skylan and Aylaen and the other Vindrasi warriors, of which I myself was one,” the old man added with pardonable pride, “entered the once great city of Sinaria as slaves of the Legate Acronis. Skylan believed that he had been enslaved as punishment for his sins, but he soon came to think that Vindrash, the dragon goddess, had brought the Torgun here for a purpose—to recover one of the sacred Five Vektia spiritbones.”
The old man went on to relate the various adventures and mishaps that had befallen Skylan and Aylaen and their comrades. The young woman knew them by heart, could repeat them word for word and fill in the gaps of the story the old man inadvertently left out. He had seen eighty-five summers; his memory was not what it had been.
When the story reached its dreadful climax, the three friends drew nearer to one another, listening with grim disapproval to hear how Aylaen’s treacherous sister, Treia, using the Vektia spiritbone, disobeyed the command of Vindrash, the dragon goddess, and summoned one of the Five dragons in order to defend Sinaria against the invading ogres.
In a fatal paradox, the misuse of the power that was meant to create brought about death and destruction.
“Skylan and his comrades escaped the terror of the Vektia dragon and the ogres, only to find themselves and their ship, the Venjekar, alone in the sea, surrounded by their enemies with no hope or chance of escape.”
The old man paused. His dimming eyes looked back in time and they brightened. These days, he could see the past far more clearly than the present. The three friends hardly dared to breathe. They knew what was coming and the three clasped hands, held fast to one another.
“I remember well that moment of despair,” said the old man softly. “We all of us looked to Skylan and we asked him what we were going to do. And he said . . .”
“We stand together,” said the young woman.
The old man paused to look at her fondly. The young woman had not meant to speak and she felt her cheeks burn. Her mother, clucking in dismay over her hoyden of a daughter, shook herself loose from her husband’s attempts to restrain her and began to make her way through the tables and people to scold her daughter and send her to bed.
The young woman and the two young men scrambled to their feet and dashed outside into the biting cold of the winter night.
The young woman heard her mother’s voice rising in shrill anger, calling her name and ordering her to come back. Shaking her head, the young woman gathered up her skirts and continued to run over the hard, frost-rimed ground. Her two friends laughed and called out for her to slow down. She taunted them as she outpaced them, for though the men were stronger, she was the swiftest of the three and always won their races. She ran until she came to the boundless sea, inky black except for the frothy white waves that broke upon the shore at her feet and the gleaming stars above her head.
Her two friends soon caught up with her. The three stood on the beach in silence, for the heart needs no voice. The threads of their destinies unrolled before them, leading to distant horizons, star-bright and sparkling with promise.
For they were young and knew they would live forever.
As had the tale of Skylan Ivorson . . .