A Dragon Problem-Preview
Today marks a fun day that authors never tire of: release day!
The project that I'm humbled to be a part of is an anthology called Freshly Brewed Fiction, and it's a group of stories penned for the purpose of supporting a local library. Better yet, we'll celebrate the release of this book at our local independent book store, The Towne Book Center in Collegeville. It's good to know the piece I've written will be helping the honorable institution of the local public library as well as our indie bookstore, which does a great job with author events.
In case you're interested to see what I've contributed to this book, I'm offering the first segment of the story for you here. "A Dragon Problem" introduces a new character to my story world, an ebony hatchling dragon named Silya, and it reunites readers with the tempestuous Raen, dragons warder, as well as the unquenchably direct Vinyanel Ecleriast. Mix in an undead necromancer, and you've got a caper it takes both dragons and elves to conquer.
I hope you enjoy this little excerpt. As soon as I know if this book will be available to non-local folks, I will update you. If you're within schlepping distance of Collegeville, PA, I'd love to see you at the Towne Book Center between 7-9 pm on April 30th, 2017.
A Dragon Problem
by Rebecca P. Minor
as it appears in Freshly Brewed Fiction
The next avalanche inside the cavern brought down a storm of rocks just outside Silya’s hiding place. She quailed against the rear of the cleft. When she opened her eyes once again, faceted quartz debris blocked her view. Her escape!
She thrust, egg tooth first, into the gap she had made, and managed to wriggle through. Where she expected to find cavern, she now beheld jagged walls of heaped stone. Only a narrow gap led left to the water, and with how the cave still rumbled, how long might it last? Half scuttling, half airborne, Silya wriggled through the defile toward the pool.
A few lashes of Silya’s tail guided her from the worst of the water’s churning, and finally, she found which way was up. She spread her wings, relaxed her body, and let the water buoy her to the surface. Neither crushed nor drowned. Things could be worse. Sunlight dazzled her eyes when she lifted her head from the water. To her left, a roaring water- fall kicked spray into the air, and a slice of rainbow angled across it. Behind the falls, rugged peaks rose. She strained her ears after sounds other than churning water, but to no avail.
Whatever you hear, whatever fears you have of what’s happening, you must not come out of
this crevice, do you understand me?” Silya’s mother set her deep into a stony niche, at the rear of their family’s cavern home.
A voice from beyond the mouth of the cavern echoed faintly against the crystalline walls. The speech had a rhythmic lilt to it, rising and falling like waves against a jetty. Silya struggled to sort sounds and syllables from the reverberations, but could not make out enough to understand. Her draconic gift to translate any language she encountered faltered in the muddled echoes.
“But what do they want?” Silya shrank back, wrap- ping her tail around her crouching body.
“Who can say, with man and his fears?” Mother said. “But promise me. Remember you are but a hatchling, and not yet a match for many men.”Silya nodded.
Mother swung her head toward the grotto pool nearby and dipped her snout into the rippling water. She drew a long draught. Her dark scales shimmered in the faint daylight that filtered there from the cave mouth, rays that were almost spent by distance.
“Just in case,” Mother said.
Silya marveled. Her own body lacked the maturity to call forth the caustic deluge she had seen her mother use only once since her hatching. Mother and Father alike assured her the day would come when she, too, would possess this otherworldly gift- ing, but the Maker deemed no dragon should wield such power before also possessing the wisdom to withhold its use.
Words rose in volume and intensity, now ring- ing out with percussive insistence from beyond the cavern. A man outside spoke the ancient tongue. His proclamation told of cracking, of breaking. A tremor vibrated beneath Silya’s feet. She stared at her mother with widened eyes.
“What is this language?” she asked.
Mother’s jaw tightened. She folded her ebony wings close to her sides. “The ancient tongue, reserved for magic. I do not know this incantation. But it seems—”A sharp, sizzling crack sounded overhead, followed by a shower of dust and gravel that chattered from Mother’s back and long, sinuous neck. She blinked debris from her silver eyes. Profound sadness dark- ened their spark.
More words, another crackle, another shower of stone.
“Mother!” Silya cried. Her stomach churned and her limbs trembled.
“If you must leave, follow the water channel.” Mother wheeled around as larger chunks of stone rained down. “Stay hidden, no matter what!” She bounded toward the cave mouth just before a mammoth quartz boulder broke free of the cavern ceiling.
The boulder’s impact bounced Silya off her feet. She struggled back upright, barely able to glimpse her mother dodging the glittering rain of crystals that clattered down. What if the stone kept falling? What if it blocked her path to the pool and its outlet? Mother’s roar filled the air with intensity that throbbed in Silya’s ears. The warning cry. With any luck, the sorcerer outside would lose his nerve with- out begging any further confrontation. Of all times
for Father to be away at council.
Rock pounding rock, splashing into the grotto, intensified. The earth beneath Silya’s feet shuddered, as though gripped in the fear that threatened to overtake her. Between the crackling hiss of rent stone, the man’s voice shrilled on. His mad pitch sent a shiver through Silya’s flesh.
Mother roared once more.
Panic lodged in her throat. The rumbling beneath her feet droned on, no telling when the next crash might come. Wait for mother or run for the water channel. Did the channel even exist any longer in this deluge of stone? Pebbles pinged off her head.
Waiting for mother felt suddenly more like sitting quietly for death. Silya flung herself at the top of the stones now filling her exit. They bit into her shoul- der, and she swallowed an involuntary cry.
Ebony dragons are strong. She repeated her father’s words in her mind. Flapping her wings, scrabbling with her hind feet, and shoving with foretalons and neck, she willed the blockage to yield. Bit by bit, she ate away at the pile. Another roar rang out— not her mother’s, but that of mineral, undisturbed for thousands of years, now wrenched from the cavern ceiling.
Silya shrieked. The quake threw her to her side. She slid down the mound of rock to the floor. I don’t want to be crushed. I don’t want to be crushed! She regained her feet and clawed at the rock fall, even when her talons smeared the pile red. Finally, a small breach to open air.
Water ran over stone like rapids where the lake once stood. A breach in the cavern wall gushed water over a choked channel. But the far end of the pool looked much the same as it had before today’s chaos. Silya could not be certain—but she might have heard Mother’s hisses and men’s shouts mingled. But no doubt, the mountain above her creaked.
Down, into the shock of cold, dark water, Silya plunged.
The deeper Silya dove into the pool, the swifter the dark undercurrent became, until it sucked her into a tunnel where the water propelled her onward. The swirling, boiling current tumbled her nose over tail. She flailed against the buffeting, but only suc- ceeded in bashing her limbs and wings against stone walls. Her heart thudded in her ears.
I’m going to drown! How long is this chute? Silya strug- gled to align her body with the motion of the water, to find the surface and a sorely-needed breath of air. Her chest burned. Amidst her underwater rolls, Silya’s glance caught flashes of light. From where? How far? A shrill pitch rose in her ears.
In a terrible lurch, Silya fell. Light hit her in a full blaze now, and the gurgle of water released her. She plummeted in a pelting torrent, but at last thrust her head into open air and caught a quick breath. Splash. Underwater. Spinning again.
Surely the mountain would offer her plenty of nooks and shadows to seek Mother without being spied herself. That is, if Mother had been able to spare the foolish man who had been chanting out- side their lair. Silya paddled to the shore. Her raw foretalons shot pain through her legs as she climbed onto the wind-chilled stones at the river’s edge. She squinted toward the mountain.A flutter arose in Silya’s belly. How long had she and Mother been parted? Surely this had been the longest they had yet been out of one another’s sight. Silya struck out for a stealthy route, but also mouthed a silent prayer for a quick one.