It’s publication day for DARK WYNG, book two of the Erth Dragons series. By way of celebration, here’s the prologue. This is Gabrial, the dragon hero of The Wearle, when he was very young, being told the legend of the ‘dark dragon’ by his father. It’s a story that will stay with Gabrial all his life and have great significance for him in the second book. Enjoy!
In the homing caves of Mount Vidor
On the dragon world, Ki:mera, 9 turns ago
“Tada, tell me a story.”
Garon snorted softly and rasped his tongue over a run of fine scales around Gabrial’s ears. It was late and the pale yellow moon, Cantorus, was throwing its golden light all across the homing caves. A good night for hunting, Garon thought, but equally good for telling stories. “What kind of story shall it be?” he asked.
“One you haven’t told before,” said Gabrial. “Tell me about…the black dragon.”
Garon stretched his neck and glanced across the cave at his partner, Gaverne. She was fast asleep, her fine purple head tucked under one wing. Gabrial’s sister, Graile, was curled up beside her, snoring softly. “There is no such thing as a black dragon, Gabrial. Whatever you have heard from other wearlings is a myth. We can have black markings – you have some on your wing tips and tail – but no dragon can be completely black.”
“Godith forbids it.”
“Doesn’t She like black dragons?”
That word again, Garon thought, the one that Gabrial used like a hook to draw all worldly truths out of him. Was he this inquisitive when he was a wearling? Possibly so. He licked Gabrial’s ears again. Sooner or later, the drake would come to hear this story, so why not now? It was the right of every dragon to understand their beginnings, to know what was – and what might have been. “Very well, but don’t expect to sleep tonight.”
“Mama says I sleep too much.”
“Hmm. And Mama will growl if she hears me telling you a tale like this. So this is for your blue ears only, yes?”
“Good. Then this is how it begins – at the very beginning. You know that Godith created Ki:mera and all the worlds beyond from Her fire?”
“Ssssh! Don’t wake your sister.” Garon glanced at the females again. Gaverne would roast his stigs to points if the wearmyss was woken for no good reason. Quietly he said, “You know as well that Godith created dragons in Her i:mage?”
“Like me?” Gabrial gave a swish of his tail.
His father immediately trapped it under his.
“Like you and Graile, like the Veng and the De:allus and the Elders and the Prime. Like every class of dragon you can think of. We are all one in the eyes of Godith. But there was once a dragon who defied Her will. His name was Graven. He was Godith’s firstborn.”
“And he was black?”
“Not in the beginning, no. When he was created his scales shone gold.”
A little breath of wonder seeped out of Gabrial’s spiracles.
“Brighter and deeper than Cantorus, they shone. So pleased was Godith that She said to Her son, ‘I give this moon, Cantorus, to you. There you shall build your eyries and make more dragons in your i:mage.’”
Gabrial’s mouth fell open in awe. His primary teeth, perfect and white, glinted in the moonlight like a row of small mountains. “Graven made gold wearlings?”
“No. Keep listening. As you can imagine, Graven was pleased with his gift. Here he was, the first son of Godith and he had a whole moon to himself. He bowed to Godith and pledged his love to Her always.”
“Hrrr!” went Gabrial.
Garon opened his foreclaws and used them to gently close his son’s mouth. “Quite. And so Graven flew to Cantorus, there to explore his new surroundings. He was pleased with what he found. One day you and I will fly to Cantorus and you will see its giant mountain ranges and the rivers and fire beds that flow through them. But for now, just listen, don’t hurr, yes?”
Garon eased his claws. “Now, if you’ve been watching the night skies you will know that another moon rises in front of Cantorus sometimes.”
“Crune,” said Gabrial, eager to show his knowledge.
“Yes. Well done. I can see you’ve listened well to the teachings of Per Grogan.”
Gabrial twisted his snout.
“What was that for?”
“I didn’t miss that snouty twitch. What’s the matter? Don’t you like Per Grogan?”
“He’s mean, Tada. Every time he roars at me he says it makes another wrinkle in his eye ridges. He said his body was as green as the Marad Valley once and that it’s wearlings like me who turned his head scales grey. He says he bit off his third claw because a drake he was teaching couldn’t tell the difference between a rock and a hard place!”
Garon snorted a smoke bung from his nostrils.
“He did, Tada!”
“He did not,” said Garon. “He lost his claw in a battle. He’s teasing you, Gabrial. Per Grogan cares for your welfare. He is a good and wise mentor who will always stand by you. You must listen to him. He can teach you the history of your family line and more. Now, where were we with our story?”
“Oh, yes. Now Crune glows blue, like you of course. Godith gave this moon to Her second son, G’restyn.”
“She had two sons?”
“Hmm. What do you think about that?”
“Per Grogan says a mama can only have a myss and a drake.”
“That’s right. She can.”
“But you said Godith had two sons, Tada.”
“Patience, Gabrial. We’re not finished yet.” He blew smoke into Gabrial’s ear, making the wearling snort and wiggle. “Graven was happy with this arrangement because Cantorus was bigger than Crune and as the firstborn son he felt it was his right to be…better than his brother. But of course there came a time when Crune rose up and cast its shadow over Cantorus. Not only that, it blocked Graven’s view of the centre of Ki:mera, where Godith had Her settle.
“Graven was furious. His fire sacs ignited and his claws extended as far as they would go. He flew to Crune and demanded that G’restyn hurr on his moon and move it to a different orbit. Both dragons were very large. They could move planets with a single breath. But G’restyn refused to do it. He said the orbits were made by Godith and no dragon had the right to change Her plan.
“Well, they roared at each other, until they both grew tired and grumpy. Graven flew back to Cantorus, and G’restyn stayed on Crune. But Graven could not rest and his anger would not settle. And so he came up with a plan. The next day, when Crune had risen to its peak and was casting even bigger shadows over Cantorus, Graven focused his optical triggers on his brother and waited and watched. Eventually, he saw G’restyn lift away from the surface and disappear around the far side of the moon. When G’restyn did not reappear, Graven flew down to Crune and positioned himself to one side of it, the side that his brother had left abandoned.”
“He’s going to hurr on it himself,” said Gabrial. “Tada, this isn’t very scary.”
“It will be,” said Garon. “ Graven took a breath so huge and blew a wind so strong it could have made these mountains bend. Crune began to move. But it did not change orbit as Graven had intended. Instead, it began to spin. And spin. And spin. And spin.
“Graven was annoyed. He tried hitting the moon with his tail, but that nearly broke off his isoscele.”
Gabrial twitched his tail. He checked his own isoscele, just in case.
His father went on, “So instead he did something very foolish: He tried to move the moon with his fire.”
“Did it burn?”
“Yes, that’s why to this day you’ll see dark craters on Crune. Those are the scorch marks Graven created. But it wasn’t just the moon that burned. G’restyn was asleep on the surface. He was big, but he was blue, just like you and me, and Graven didn’t see him. Only when G’restyn took to the air in a blaze of wings did Graven realise what he’d done. He had flamed his only brother.”
“Poor G’restyn fell back to the surface, dead.”
A flutter ran down Gabrial’s wings. The fine scales on his neck began to clink.
His father rested an arm to calm him. “I told you it was scary. Perhaps that’s enough.”
“No,” said Gabrial. “What about Godith? What did She do, Tada?”
Garon sighed, but hid the sound well enough. He remembered pausing like this when he was young and had first heard the tale. How the icicles of terror had crept under his scales and made gritty bobbles of the flesh underneath. He looked up at Cantorus and offered Godith a silent prayer before he continued. “Godith heard G’restyn’s squeals as he burned and came to see what had happened. She found his body and wept so freely that storms blew up all over Her universe. She saw the scorch marks on Crune and knew what had happened. She flew to Cantorus, there to punish Graven for his wild act of jealousy. Some say She planned to kill him, to tear off his wings and burn him as he had burned G’restyn. She found Graven quaking, weeping at his foolishness. He begged Her to be merciful. And in some small way She was. She decreed three laws: first, no dragon could ever give birth to two sons; second, gold could never be a dominant colour; and lastly, and most mysteriously, no dragon would ever be able to flame any dragon it was related to.”
“So I can’t flame Graile?”
“Definitely not. The pers will tell you these are good laws, but you must know they rose from a moment of sadness. For Graven, the sadness did not end there. Godith used a cold flame on his scales to suck the colour out of them. That beautiful shining gold She’d created was reduced to nothing, to black. Her flame was so strong it opened Graven’s chest and exposed his three hearts. Godith reached in and tore out the smallest, the one that keeps us closest to her.”
Gabrial shuddered from his nostrils to his isoscele. He crossed his forearms over his breast where his primary heart was thumping like thunder.
His father went on, “You might hear it said that Graven was born without a third heart and that this is what led to his vanity and foolishness. But that will come from the mouths of those who want to believe Godith has no fury. Understand me when I tell you, Gabrial: Godith is a loving but vengeful Creator. She punished Graven severely. In Her claws, His third heart turned to stone. She crushed it into a thousand pieces and scattered the fragments in a hiding place known only to Her. It’s said that his blood poured out of the heart like scalding rain and killed every living thing it landed upon. Graven was never seen again. Yet the legends insist his auma survives because his grieving Mama could not bear to destroy it. This has led some Elders to teach that Graven will rise again one day. They say that even now the fragments of his auma reach out into the universe in search of the evil that will help him restore his heart and his power.”
Gabrial gulped back a smoke plug. “Will he come here?”
“No, Gabrial. He won’t come here. Shall I tell you where he is?”
The drake’s soft blue eyes grew large and round, losing their slanted aspect for a moment.
“Look again at Cantorus,” his father whispered.
Gabrial turned his head and peered at the still, imperious moon.
“Some pers say that if you look hard enough, the blackness around Cantorus will form itself into the shape of Graven. They call him by another name then: Tywyll, a word from the old tongue meaning ‘the darkness’. So there he is, Gabrial. There’s your black dragon. Flying close to his moon – where he’ll stay. And that, my brave son, is the end of your story. Rest your weary head now, and know that in the morning the darkness will be gone.”
And with that Garon curled his tail around the drake and hugged him into a deep and dreamless sleep.