Authors: Craig Halloran
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Coming of Age, #Teen & Young Adult, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy
Claws of the Dragon
The Chronicles of Dragon, Series 2, Book 2
By Craig Halloran
Claws of the Dragon
The Chronicles of Dragon, Series 2, Book 2
By Craig Halloran
Copyright © October 2015 by Craig Halloran
TWO-TEN BOOK PRESS
P.O. Box 4215, Charleston, WV 25364
ISBN eBook: 978-1-941208-35-9
ISBN Paperback: 978-1-941208-36-6
Cover Illustration by Joe Shawcross
Map by Gillis Bjork
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recorded, photocopied, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Wurmers—dark-scaled dragon-like creatures larger than men with an evil glimmer in their eyes—were coming by the dozens.
Ben loosed another arrow.
The feathered shaft ripped through a wurmer’s chest and dropped it to the ground.
“It’s never a surprise when you show up.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Nath swung Fang into an oncoming enemy and shore clean through the next.
Back to back with Nath, Ben continued to stretch his bowstring and fire.
“Trouble is your mistress.”
Stepping forward, Nath twirled Fang around his body and carved down two more jaw-snapping wurmers. “Are you being serious?”
A wurmer bit at Nath’s leg.
He jumped high and away, turned, and clipped its hindquarters with Fang.
It whirled on him, its mouth heated up with energy.
Ben crept in behind it and let loose a point-blank shot in its skull.
The glow went out of the monster’s eyes.
Ben readied another shaft. “Well Dragon, everything
peaceful and quiet until you showed up.”
“Quit yer jawing and start fighting!” Brenwar brought Mortuun the war hammer down with all of his might and clobbered the scaly skull of a wurmer that was clamped down on the metal legging of his armor.
A pair of wurmers popped up in the tall grass and pounced on the fearless dwarf’s back and drove him into the ground.
“Brenwar!” Nath exclaimed. Sword high, he leapt into action.
“Get these lizards off me!” Brenwar whopped one in the head with the side of his hammer.
Its jaws locked over the thick muscles in his arm.
Nath stuck it in the side and sent it to the grave.
“Get off me!” Brenwar beat it in the head with savage force.
The monster’s mouth glowed with life. Fire spilled out.
Ben shot it in the gut. “It’s a good thing these are moorite arrows. Are you sure that’s dwarven?”
Pushing himself off the ground, Brenwar made a skeleton fist and shook it at Ben. “You’ve been spending too much time with that part-elf. Shaddup.”
The ground shook. Brenwar lost his footing. Nath caught his fall.
“Sultans of Sulfur! What was that?” Brenwar bellowed.
A powerful magic force blasted away the wurmers and blew down the grasses.
A handful of wurmers survived and attacked. Another half dozen lay dead, except one in particular that stood out as it rose up out of the tall grass. It towered over the rest, standing eight feet tall at the shoulder. Its long neck was scale and muscle. The seams between its scales glowed with inner fire.
A heavily armored knot of Legionnaires rushed it with long spears and lances.
“No, don’t!” Dragon yelled, knowing the brave men would be incinerated.
They already knew their weapons couldn’t hurt the wurmer. But they were fighters. Soldiers. They wouldn’t turn from a fight. Not of any kind, no matter the odds. Not once their blood got flowing.
Nath took off at a sprint, waving his sword high. “Over here, you ugly lizard!”
The wurmer paid him no mind. Its eyes narrowed on the oncoming rush of man meat, its neck coiled back and mouth dropped open. A billow of fire exploded from its monster jaws.
“Noooo!” Nath yelled. He’d get there, just too late.
The lances and spears of the first Legionnaires in the charge were incinerated in a wash of flame. Bodies turned into smoldering piles of ash.
A mystic shield of radiant energy appeared over the rest of the soldiers and cut off the flames. Selene stood underneath it with her arms spread wide and shaking.
Nath’s own face felt the searing heat as the wurmer’s flames bounced off in all directions.
The grasses caught fire. Flames spread.
Nath closed in, Fang down and ready to plunge into the monster’s side.
Out of nowhere, the wurmer’s tail lashed out.
Head over heels, Nath landed and bounced off the ground. He scrambled to his feet and found himself face to face with the lava-dripping jaws of the huge wurmer. He started back into his swing and gaffed. Fang wasn’t there. The grand sword lay nearby. He jumped for it.
The wurmer’s tail drummed his back, flattening him on the ground.
Whack! Whack! Whack!
Taking a beating, Nath clawed toward Fang’s pommel.
Come on, Fang! Help me!
Whack! Whack! Whack!
Fighting through the beating, Nath’s fingertips nudged Fang’s bottom pommel.
Just a little closer!
The one-ton dragon stepped on Nath’s back and drove his face into the ground. Its claws sank into Nath’s shoulders.
He let out a muffled scream. Dragon heart thundering in his chest, hand spread wide, Nath fought through the pain and grabbed Fang’s pommel. He jerked Dragon Claw free.
The dagger inside of the great sword’s hilt shined with blue light. Its energy coursed through Nath’s veins.
“Get off me, Lizard!”
With tremendous effort, he ripped away from the wurmer’s claws, twisted around, and plunged the blade into the armored scales that coated its chest.
The giant wurmer reared up. Flames shot out of its mouth. Its scaly body crackled and popped. Inch by inch, scale by scale, its body iced up and crystalized. In seconds, the entire beast became a solid sheet of ice.
Bleeding, Nath tore himself out of its grip and grimaced with his hands on his knees, sweat dripping from his brow, and caught his breath. “That was close.”
The rest of the wurmers were dead.
Selene, Bayzog, Brenwar, and Ben gathered around.
The old dwarven warrior marched forward with his war hammer raised high and prepared to strike the great wurmer.
“Brenwar, don’t!” Nath ordered.
The dwarf stopped and looked at him. “May I ask why?” Brenwar huffed.
Nath didn’t have a good reason why not, and several had died because of the monster already. “Never mind. Carry on.”
Brenwar brought back the hammer and turned it around full swing.
The giant wurmer exploded into thousands of icy pieces.
The Legionnaires erupted in a cheer.
Ben held his hand out and caught some of the drifting ice on his leather gauntlet. “Look. It’s snowing.”
“You need stitches,” Selene said to Nath in a motherly kind of way. “Be still.”
Nath stayed her with his palm. “I don’t need stitches. It’s hardly a wound.” He glanced at the claw marks in his shoulders. His stomach turned queasy. “Guzan, I miss my scales!”
Brenwar chuckled under his beard. He wasn’t in much better shape than Nath was.
“Laugh all you want, Brenwar. But it’s only your armor that holds you together.”
“I don’t need this armor. It’s just a uniform showing dwarven pride,” he grumbled. Ben was stitching up a gash over his bushy black eyebrow. “Careful with that needle. I don’t want my eye poked out.”
“Maybe you should start wearing a helmet,” Ben said. “You aren’t getting any younger, you know.”
“He doesn’t need a helmet,” Bayzog said, leaning on the Elderwood Staff. His ivy-green robes with gold trim rustled in the wind. “Dwarven skulls get thicker the older they get.”
“Well now, that explains a lot!” Ben laughed.
“One of these days I’m going to bust you in the mouth, part-elf.” Brenwar got up, grabbed Mortuun, and stormed away.
The daylight was beginning to fade, and the Legionnaires had started moving their dead and wounded. The only ones sitting still were Nath and company and the dead bodies of the wurmers. Their scales rotted quickly.
Nath covered his nose. “Those things reek. How come they rot? I thought they had to be burned.”
“They still need to be burned. Don’t leave a trace of any of them,” said Brenwar, turning away his nose. “And I thought orcs smelled bad.”
“Commander,” Nath said to a Legionnaire with a long moustache. “You heard him. Get oil and some torches.”
“You’re going to reek as well if you don’t sit still,” Selene said to him. She tried to poke his skin with a needle. He flinched away. “Don’t do that again, Nath. I’m trying to take care of you.”
“Take care of me?” He snatched the needle from her hand. “I’ll take care of myself, thank you.” Grinding his teeth, he turned away. He hated asking anyone for help, but even more, he hated feeling mortal. The wurmer’s claws had burned like fire on his flesh where the scales from his arms stopped around the shoulder. He pinched the skin behind his neck but couldn’t reach it with his free hand. “Great Dragons!”
“Will you set your pride aside for a moment?” Selene said, plucking the needle from his fingers. “You can’t do everything, you know.”
“Not anymore. That’s for sure.” He frowned and stared off at the sinking sun.
I have to get used to this.
Nobody else is complaining.
“Fine, Selene. You win. Stitch me up.”
“That’s better. Try to have a better outlook on things. You just got Fang back. Doesn’t that make you glad?”
Nath held up the beautiful blade before his golden eyes.
Fang’s steel seemed to absorb every ray of sunlight. The magnificent blade’s pommel sent shivers of power through his blood and into his bones. Fang was more than some precious object. He was a friend.
Nath let out a sigh and nodded. “Yes, having Fang back is good.” He ran his scaled fingertips over the exquisite dragon-headed cross-guard. “Very good.”
Bayzog stepped into view. The half-elf wizard had a curious look in his eyes. “I’m at a loss. Care to explain?”
“You’re at a loss!” Brenwar yelled from a distant spot. “Hah!”
As Selene stitched up his back, Nath began to explain everything that had happened of late. He explained how he gave up his powers to save Selene. How the wurmers were a cursed carryover from Gorn Grattack. There was the issue of rescuing his mother, Grahleyna, and the fight behind the Great Dragon Wall.
“All in a good day’s fun, right Bayzog? And now it seems we have these titans to deal with. My mother warned me. Eckubahn is one of their names. It seems they don’t get along too well with dragons. Can you believe that?”
Selene bit off the thread and patted Nath on the back. “All better. Just don’t swing that sword for a while.”
“Now that we’re all caught up, Bayzog, perhaps we can eat and drink.” Nath saw that Bayzog’s violet eyes were filled with concern. “Bayzog?”
“I know something of these histories.” There was tightness in the half-elf’s voice. “This is horrible, Nath.” Covering his nose up with his long sleeve, he walked over to a wurmer’s corpse. It fizzled and popped. The scales and bones were turning to goo. He looked at Selene. “How many more nests do you think are out there?”
“I destroyed several, but as soon as I found one, I’d come across another.” Her brow creased. “I’m all for new solutions. I think that’s why we’re here.”
“So what do you think, Bayzog?” Nath said.
“I think I’m going to have to check the histories. Over the centuries, so much has been lost, buried, or destroyed.” His eyes landed on Nath. “But your kind might have a better solution to this than us. They’ve dealt with this problem before.”
“I assume. My mother seemed to know something about it and the titans. And then, she was gone.” He shook his head. “I swear, my parents are aloof.”
Selene chuckled and patted him on the back.
“Sorry about that, Nath. I’m sure she had her reasons,” Bayzog said. “We’ll just have to wait and see how things turn out when you have children of your own.”
“Can we just stick with the titans?”
“Nath!” Sasha rushed into his arms and gave him a great hug. She had aged little since the last time he’d seen her. Her soft eyes had little crow’s feet, but she was still beautiful. “I’ve missed you. Come, sit down.”
They were back inside Bayzog’s tower. Somehow the magic abode of the wizard had survived. The grand table—round, elven crafted, and exquisite—that Bayzog studied from was still there. He sat on a stool with his nose buried in a great tome.
Nath sat down beside Sasha. “Is he still reading too much?”
“So it seems,” she said, picking up a crystal carafe. “How about some wizard water?”
Nath shrugged his aching shoulder. It still burned. “Sure.”
“And how about you, Selene?” Sasha said with a forced smile.
Nath felt a bit of a chill in the air. Selene had deceived Sasha, and he could sense Sasha’s unease with the woman.
Oh my. I sort of forgot about that.
“Thank you, that would be nice,” Selene said. She took a seat on Nath’s other side and rested her hand on his knee, eyeing the surroundings. “This is a lovely place.”
Sasha poured three glasses and handed them over. Her hand trembled a little.
“Are you alright?” Nath shifted toward Sasha.
For some reason he missed Brenwar.
His old friend hadn’t wanted to come inside Bayzog’s place, so Brenwar and Ben had decided to stay outside and inspect the rebuilding of the town. That left Nath all alone with the women, who he was pretty sure didn’t like each other. And Bayzog wouldn’t be much help at all. He’d have his nose in the books for hours.
Nath sipped from his glass. The enchanted water quickly refreshed his parched lips. Raising his glass, he said, “A toast, perhaps. To old friends and new adventures.”
Sasha set her glass down on the table and sighed. With a frown on her lovely face, she said, “I’m sorry, Nath. I can’t drink to that.”
“What? Sasha, what is wrong? Have I done something to offend you?”
“It’s not you, Nath,” she said, fixing her eyes on Selene. “It’s her. How in Nalzambor can you trust her?”