I decided to post an excerpt from the novel I am currently working on. Shadow of the Dragon is probably more marketable than my other stuff. At first glance, it looks a lot like a standard fantasy story. Of course, I can’t make things that easy, but I’d still like to think it might have a chance with a big publishers. I don’t know if I will end up going that direction, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Anyway, here’s some Sunday reading for you. Comments are more than welcome. Just remember, it’s a first draft.
I’d wanted to get the hook up in front of the dragon’s wing, so the rope would wrap around the neck or the wing or anything. But I was too slow. The dragon was too fast. Instead of going in front of the wing the hook and rope went behind, just, and wider than I would have liked as well. I cursed silently.
More miners screamed as they were hit by the dragon’s fire.
The hook arced through the air. Definitely missing. Until at the last moment the dragon, in some unfathomable intricacy of flying, flicked its long, barbed tail towards the canyon wall.
The rope touched the tail. It didn’t hook on. It didn’t wrap around. It just touched. And the dragon flinched.
It didn’t seem like much at all, but that was enough the upset the creature’s balance. It lost its rhythm and tilted dangerously to the side. For a moment it fought to get back on an even keel, but a wing tip brushed against the ground and it was all over.
The wing snapped and the dragon, screeching in pain and fury, crashed to the ground. Men were crushed as the dragon tumbled down the length of the plateau. They stood and watched as the horizontal landslide moved towards. I stood and watched, mouth open.
Dust billowed into the air. I coughed, eyes watering.
Men screamed and shouted. Finally, some of them started looking for cover.
I just stood and stared, looking at what I’d done. “Jesus.” I licked my lips, breathed deeply, tried to slow my racing heart.
The dragon wasn’t dead. It thrashed feebly on the ground. Both its wings were broken. So was its tail. After a moment, I realised that the Rider was still alive as well. She was materialising out of the settling dust between the dragon and me.
I started to walk numbly towards her as she struggled to sit up. She didn’t appear to be in any better condition than the dragon.
Namid fell into step beside me. He kept pace but it appeared as if he wanted to go the other direction. We came to a halt near the woman and Jolon joined us a moment later, standing just behind us.
The woman used her one good arm to push herself into a half sitting position. She glared at me. Namid took a step back to join his brother. Yo had hobbled over from the edge of the plateau and took his place, leaning against my leg and growling softly. The woman didn’t even notice.
“What have you done?” She twisted around painfully to look at her dragon. “You have killed Incatha.”
I looked at the dragon too. It wasn’t dead yet. I shrugged, though the sight of the creature’s pain was terrible.
“What right do you have?”
I laughed. It was a strange response– one that shocked the Rider into silence. What right did I have? I had the same rights as all men, apparently, which by all accounts was the same rights as the women. But as soon as a man actually did anything… “Shut up, woman. Just shut the hell up.”
“I will not shut up. The council will hear of this.”
The Rider’s sword was laying on the ground a few steps away. I turned my back on her and went to collect it, even as I tried to work out which council she was going to tell, exactly. Hers or mine?
It didn’t matter. She shut up when she saw where I was heading, but only for a moment.
“Do not touch that sword, lowlife.”
I bent slowly and picked it up. It didn’t feel comfortable in my hand. It was heavier than I expected, the hilt larger. I hefted is and examined the long, curved blade as I went back to stand before the Rider.
“What do you think you are doing? You cannot kill me. You do not have the right.”
And I knew I didn’t have the right, really. Just as women didn’t have the right, as far as I was concerned, to go around killing men for every imagined slight. But it happened anyway. And it would continue to happen.
I looked around. The men were watching me. They had emerged from the mine as well and were gathering close, waiting to see what would come of this strange turn of events. And if I did have the right, did I have the courage? The determination?
I cleared my throat. “You have the right to kill me, but I don’t have the right to kill you? Why is that? Who made these rules?”
“The Gods made the rules. Women can talk to the dragons, and men cannot.”
“So your dragon gives you the right?”
“Of course. What else?”
I turned to look at the creature where it squirmed and writhed on the ground. “That dragon?” I asked, indicating with the point of the sword.
The woman followed the blade but did not answer.
“Your right is about to die, I think.”
I took a step closer to her and her attention snapped back to me. Tears were running down her cheeks, though whether that was because of her predicament or the dragon’s, I couldn’t tell.
“You can not kill me,” she sneered eventually, sounding as if she meant it.
When I looked around at the men surrounding me, they obviously thought she meant it. They obviously thought she was exactly right.
Perhaps they were. Could I kill her? I thought not.
I hefted the sword and realised I’d been willing to kill her a minute ago. When I’d knocked the dragon from the air I hadn’t expected the rider to live. I hadn’t expected to find myself in this predicament. So, I was willing to kill. That was an interesting thought. And 99 times out of a hundred, the dragon crash would have killed, so I was capable of it as well– only luck had been against me this time.
The men were still watching me, standing silently and avoiding looking at the dragon as it completed the last agonising minutes of its life.
The Rider continued to sneer. The dragon writhing silence continued.
Jolon shifted from foot to foot. “I will go and find a woman,” he said, and started moving towards the path down from the plateau. He made it all the way to the edge before I moved.
“Don’t bother,” I said softly. I’m not sure how he even heard me.
“But we must do something.”
In my mind I saw the male prisoner from my first day in the canyon, headless on the Cermon. I saw Zack, next in line, fighting for his life. I saw him being carried away by the dragon.
Namid spoke into the silence I left. “He is right, Ben. The women will know what to do.”
I shook my head and saw Marissa, blowing smoke into the room, hand on hip, as she looked for something to criticise. “No. We don’t need women to tell us what needs to be done.” We didn’t, but they would need someone to prove that to them before they’d believe.
I hefted the sword again and examined it. The blade was slightly curved, much like a cavalry sword from earth. I knew enough to know that it was a weapon made for slashing, not for stabbing.
Swallowing bile, gripping the sword tightly so the shaking of my hands would not be visible, I stepped forward. Even then, I could see that nobody believed I was going to kill the Rider. It was in her eyes. It was in their eyes. Nobody thought I was capable. I was just a man after all.
But there must have been something in my eyes because the Rider finally shied away. She lost the confident sneer and a look of horror crossed her face.
I was willing to kill her before.
“I divorce you. I divorce you. I divorce you,” I said quietly. And I swung the sword.