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The erth dragons book 1.., p.1
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       The Erth Dragons Book 1: The Wearle, p.1

           Chris D'Lacey
 
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The Erth Dragons Book 1: The Wearle


  Contents

  Title Page

  Character List

  Prologue

  Part One

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Part Two

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Part Three

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Part Four

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Part Five

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Epilogue

  Acknowledgments

  Glossary

  Copyright

  If you liked this you’ll love…

  Character List

  DRAGONS

  GABRIAL: a young, good-natured dragon, just nine Ki:meran turns old, and referred to as a ‘blue’ because of his overall colour pattern. The biggest obstacle to Gabrial’s development is his overabundant impulsiveness, which often frustrates his mentors and superiors.

  GALARHADE: the Prime dragon, and a glorious red colour. He is two hundred and thirty-nine Ki:meran turns old when he takes command of the second Wearle to visit Erth.

  GALLEN: commander of the feared wyng of fighting dragons called the Veng. Like all Veng, his colouring is an uninspiring, but unmistakeable bright green.

  GARIFFRED: a blue wearling, born of Grystina. His choice of name is controversial, because it means ‘flame of truth’, implying he is closer to Godith than other dragons.

  GARON: Gabrial’s father.

  GARRET: a talented mapper, thought to be the best in the Wearle.

  GAYL: Grystina’s female wearling and Gariffred’s sibling.

  GAZZ: a belligerent Veng.

  GIVNAY: a greyish-coloured Elder, the spiritual leader of the Wearle. Rejecting the normal dragon life for one of meditative isolation, he is a powerful telepath and an expert in the art of i:maging.

  GOODLE: the only other mature blue (besides Gabrial) in the colony.

  (per) GORST: a mentor who teaches lessons in aerial combat among other things.

  GOSSANA: an ageing and fearsome queen with an overinflated opinion of her rank. She has been sent to Erth to oversee Grystina’s laying cycle. Dark green, with eyes that can change colour according to her moods.

  GRAYMERE: a handsome purple dragon of the highly-intelligent De:allus class. He is a free-thinking scientist, interested in the natural geology of Erth.

  GREFFAN: leader of the first Wearle to visit Erth.

  GRENDEL: a young, beautiful female with touches of gold in her purple colouring. She is brought to Erth to assist Grystina during her laying cycle and beyond.

  (per) GROGAN: an aged cousin of per Gorst and a long-standing friend of Gabrial’s father. He mentors Gabrial as well as carrying out mapping duties.

  GRUDER: a good-natured green roamer.

  GRYMRIC: herbalist, potion-maker and a studious practitioner of the healing arts. His role is to gather up Erth’s flora and fauna and assess the benefits of what he finds.

  GRYNT: a tough, no-nonsense Elder with a streak of armoured silver on his throat and breast, which stand out against his overall light-purple colours. Grynt is responsible for the security of the Wearle and is the supreme commander of the Veng.

  GRYSTINA: a mature female descended from the Astrian line, who claim to be able to trace their lineage closer to Godith than any other family of dragons. She has been sent to Erth to maintain the Wearle’s breeding programme.

  G’VARD: that rare thing, a white dragon. Huge, powerful and noble – a dragon that others respect and rally to.

  THE HOM (THE KAAL TRIBE)

  REN WHITEHAIR: a young lad of twelve winters who takes his name from his father, Ned, because both have hair lighter than the colour of corn. Ren is obsessed with skalers (dragons), a passion that frequently leads him into trouble.

  NED WHITEHAIR: Ren’s father. A brave but slightly reckless man. Like most of the tribe, Ned is filled with resentment about the skalers that have taken the Kaal’s mountain territories.

  MELL: Ren’s mother. A gentle, free-spirited soul who can melt Ned’s heart with her ‘floating smile’.

  OAK LONGARM: younger brother of Utal Longarm. A good bowman and skilful hunter. A man as sensible as his brother is foolish.

  OLEG WIDEFOOT: so named because his feet, when together, do not point straight.

  PINE ONETOOTH: a girl who has just one strong tooth in the middle of her mouth. Something of an enigma, Pine wafts around the settlement ‘like a leaf on the breeze’.

  TARGEN THE OLD: the aged leader of the Kaal, who rely on his wisdom to keep them on a spiritual path.

  THE DREYAS: two women who look after the needs of Targen, especially during his ‘journeys’ to and from the Fathers.

  THE FATHERS: the spirits of the (Kaal) dead.

  UTAL LONGARM: the best hunter in the tribe, but an arrogant braggart.

  VARL REDNOSE: a gruff, pitiless character who would do anything to serve his own ends.

  WAYLEN TREADER: a farmer, and friend of Ned Whitehair and Oak Longarm.

  ALSO:

  GODITH: a female deity who, according to dragon legend, created the world from a single breath of flame and afterwards made dragons in Her i:mage.

  GOYLES (or DARKEYES): dark, grotesque creatures with a remorseless taste for killing.

  THE TREEMEN: a tribe who inhabit the Whispering Forest.

  TYWYLL: a fabled black dragon allegedly lacking a third (spiritual) heart. Supposedly a fallen wearling of Godith.

  WIND: Ned Whitehair’s whinney.

  Prologue

  In the beginning was the sleeping dragon, Godith. And all around Her was a void that moved with Her gentle breathing.

  For no reason known, at no time that could be measured, Godith opened her eyes and poured light into the void. And liking this, She chose to make an i:mage. A limitless universe in which She might live as many lives as She desired, within the bodies of countless dragons. She opened Her mouth and brought forth a great flame. Into this flame She spoke a word, KI:MERA, meaning ‘place of fire and light’.

  And when this was done, Godith looked upon Her i:mage and blinked Her eye. And from every sparkle that fell from that jewel came a creature or a mountain or an ocean or a forest. And many of those creatures were also dragons, made in the i:mage of Godith Herself. To each She gave a blessed gift, which was the right to speak the beginning of Her name whenever they spoke the beginning of theirs.

  And so came Gawain, G’reth and more. And such was the power of Her jewelled light that other worlds formed beyond Ki:mera, some with creatures, some without. But nowhere else did dragons roam, until, as their wisdom and numbers grew, they came to understand that She was in the stars that blinked in the darkness around Ki:mera and that t
he stars were therefore as close to them as She was.

  Knowing this, they i:maged openings in the void and reached into the darkness to explore every fragment of Her creation. Through their ‘fire stars’ they travelled, to colonise worlds beyond Ki:mera and awaken the glory of Godith across the universe. A journey that in due course brought them to a planet of plentiful water and diverse life forms.

  When Greffan, Prime dragon of the visiting Wearle, commingled with the wisest forms on the planet, using his mind to look into theirs, he discovered that the creatures used the sound ‘Erth’ to describe their home. In the language of dragons this meant little more than ‘dirt’. Yet even the dirt here was tingling with life. Greffan communicated back to Ki:mera, describing ‘Erth’ as an unspoiled breeding ground for dragons.

  It was the last Ki:mera ever heard of him or of the twenty-three others in his Wearle.

  This is the story of what happened to those dragons – and the dragons that came in search of them…

  Part One

  Gabrial

  1

  ‘Fold down your wings,’ per Grogan said. He was huddled up almost in the shape of an egg, his words gruff and hard to hear against the wind. His gnarled old feet, missing the third claw on the left side, were barely visible beneath the curve of his chest. His scales lay taut against his aged sides, flattened down for warmth, less open to the wind. Yawning, he said, ‘It might be nightfall before Grystina calls. You need to conserve your energy for battle. You’re supposed to be presenting a measure of pride not hopping about like a giddy wearling. It will not look well if you fall off this mountain before you have the chance to raise your claws against G’vard.’

  ‘I can’t settle,’ said Gabrial, letting the wind lift his wings to their maximum. His underwings, which were the colour of blue ice water, glinted in the frost-cooled sun. Across the valley, where the snow-capped mountains were arranged in a wave as blunt and uneven as per Grogan’s teeth, G’vard would be waiting with his second, per Gorst. All that stood between them was a strip of fine cloud and this deep pool of air. Far below, safe in her birthing cave, the matrial dragon, Grystina, was curled around her hatching eggs. As soon as they broke she would call for a guardian to protect her young, a dragon to be her companion for life, a dragon that would have the right to call himself ‘father’.

  Gabrial was nine Ki:meran turns old, half the age of his powerful opponent. He was also a blue, technically a minor in dragon years, a turn or so away from the first blush of green that would earn him the status of roamer, a dragon free to fly where he chose. But the Wearle had known guardian blues before – most notably Gabrial’s father, Garon, who had never quite lost the blue tints on his underwings and had always been classified by that colour.

  When he thought about his father, Gabrial’s wings did lower. Garon had been among the first Wearle of dragons to visit this planet, an expedition whose fate was still shrouded in mystery. For some reason, as yet undetermined, contact with them had ended abruptly. On the dragons’ homeworld of Ki:mera, the Elders

  had consulted and decided to send a second, larger party to investigate.

  Among the sixty that arrived on Erth were mappers, healers, roamers, three Elders, two representatives of the intelligent class of dragons known as De:allus, and an entire wyng of fighting dragons called the Veng. The new Wearle immediately colonised a mountain range close to the open sea, just as their predecessors had. Three phases of the moon had passed, but they had found no trace of the missing dragons. And while the search for them was the highest priority that Gabrial and his companions faced, all other rituals were being observed – including the raising of young.

  ‘Your impatience will be your undoing,’ sighed Grogan. He belched and a curl of smoke rose from one nostril. ‘The whole Wearle expects you to lose this contest. If you’re happy to prove them right from the outset, then flap away and be done with it.’

  ‘I’m not intending to lose,’ said Gabrial, clawing slivers of grey shale loose from the ground on which he was perched. Such was the heat pouring off his body that most of the snow around him had melted, paring back the crisp white surface to its wet grey underbelly. ‘Why are you here if you believe that I will?’

  Per Grogan belched again. ‘Tradition demands you have a second for a fight like this. Someone has to see to it you don’t make a fool of yourself. Rightly or wrongly, I promised your father before he left Ki:mera with the first Wearle that I would watch over you until your scales turned green – a reckless statement I might yet have cause to regret. What will be the most damaging, I wonder: following you here or the prospect of ridicule if this one-sided “contest” does not go well?’

  ‘At least I put myself forward,’ growled Gabrial, spitting orange-tipped embers around his feet. He watched a pair of roamers set down on a peak due east of him. Once Grystina gave her call, this entire ring of mountains would be filled with dragons, keen to observe the battle for her.

  ‘And for that you have my respect,’ said Grogan, tipping his grey head forward a little, ‘but don’t let this brief flirtation with glory puddle your brain. You’re only here because the more eligible young dragons know what the outcome would be if they fought G’vard. They applaud you while blowing a snort of relief.’

  Gabrial barrelled his chest. ‘I courted Grystina and she did not reject me, therefore I have to fight for her. My father would be proud of me.’

  ‘Your father was impetuous,’ Grogan sighed, his scales clattering quietly as the wind got under them. ‘A quality you seem to have inherited in plenty. But even he would accept it takes more than raw courage to defeat an opponent as powerful as this. G’vard will put your tail in a knot if you try to blaze your way past him. Stick to the tactics we devised and you’ll hopefully survive with your wings unclipped. An honourable defeat is no shame, believe me. Put up a good display and the Elders might give you a wyng to command. Think of it as a training exercise, practice for the battle you really want to win.’

  Gabrial tightened his eye ridges slightly. ‘What do you mean?’

  ‘Some matches are more appropriate than others,’ muttered Grogan, looking across the valley for signs

  of movement. ‘We both know your second heart beats for another.’

  Gabrial gulped and ingested a wisp of smoke, passing it out through the spiracles that lined the sides of his neck. He stared into the open sky as if mesmerised by a drifting cloud. His soft blue eyes, yet to develop their jewelled state, barely moved as he thought about what Grogan had said.

  Three females had come to Erth with this Wearle. One was Grystina. Another was the ageing queen, Gossana, a dragon so fearsome even the Veng avoided her. And then there was Grendel, the youngest of the three, whose primary role was to assist Grystina throughout her laying cycle and beyond. Whenever Gabrial thought about Grendel, the scales around his snout turned a deep shade of green. He couldn’t hide the change in his colouring now.

  Without looking at his charge, per Grogan said, ‘I have seen the admiration you have for Grendel – and the regard she reserves for you.’

  ‘Really?’ Gabrial said, slipping forward as his feet danced on the wet rocks. ‘You’ve spoken to her? She—?’

  Before he could go on, a screech wound up from the pit of the valley, clawing at every fissure of rock along its way.

  ‘That’s Grystina. She’s ready. Prepare yourself,’ said Grogan.

  ‘Yes,’ said Gabrial, snapping to attention. It was true that his second heart ached for Grendel, but his primary heart was in control now, pumping great waves of energy through his body, heating his blood till the veins began to swell. He punched out his wings to steady himself, sending a snow cloud sideways over Grogan. By the time the flakes had settled, per Grogan had raised himself and the mountain tops were rumbling to the roars of dragons eager to see a fight. One roar carried above all others. It came from a distant peak directly
opposite Gabrial’s perch.

  ‘That’s G’vard,’ Grogan said. ‘He lays claim to Grystina and demands you stand down. You must

  answer him.’

  Gabrial knew this and was ready. For two days, since the Elders had accepted his challenge, he’d been training his throat to deliver the most powerful response it was capable of. Unlatching the bones at the base of his jaw, he clicked his mouth wide and called up a bellow which drove aside a wide cone of air and coloured the world every shade of orange. His fire reached into the valley in a jet half as long again as his body. There was a little more squeal to it than he would have liked and per Grogan was visibly displeased by the energy wasted in making a sound of such magnitude, but the effect was just what Gabrial had wanted. All around the mountain tops the air was popping with similar bursts of colour. The watching dragons were becoming excited. Perhaps the battle for Grystina would not be as one-sided as the odds suggested?

  G’vard called again, strength and purpose pouring out of his lungs.

  ‘Now you’ve angered him,’ sighed Grogan. ‘That’s not a good start. And it won’t impress the Elders either.’ He swivelled his eyes toward the peak of the mountain the dragons called Skytouch where the silhouettes of the Prime dragon, Galarhade, and the other two Elders had appeared. ‘This is not a fight to the death, remember? Produce a flame like that in battle and Galarhade will kill you if G’vard doesn’t. All you’re aiming to do is take a scale, not turn him to ash. Are you clear about the rules?’

  Gabrial nodded. ‘I can flame and claw, but not stab or bite. Eyes and hearts must always be avoided.’

  ‘Good. What else?’

  ‘No phasing.’

  ‘None whatsoever,’ said Grogan. ‘Any movements through time, no matter how minor, will be seen as cheating. You’ll be back in Ki:mera before you can scrape your last meal off your teeth if Galarhade detects a change in the continuum. What else?’

  A second call went up from Grystina, the final call to battle. The assembled dragons burned the air in acknowledgement. All along the skyline now, more were arriving like a flock of giant birds. G’vard threw out another fierce roar.

 
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