Kaden the Dragon: A Guest Post by Maya Starling

Please welcome my new friend Maya, here to tell us about her beautiful dragon!

~*~

“She was the girl who longed for the freedom of the dragon, and he was the dragon who longed to be a man.”

 One of the main characters in book one of the Dragons Awaken Trilogy, Dragon’s Treasure, is, of course, a dragon. The whole idea for the book was born with him.

I feel sorry for dragons. They are mostly featured as evil creatures—monsters really—or as creatures the “chosen one” gets to ride, or even just as a bit part in a plain dragon-shifter romance. That, or I have been reading the wrong books. Mind you, there are excellent exceptions, but only a few in the whole sea of literature featuring dragons.

As a gamer and lover of all things geek and fantasy, it was a given that there would be a dragon featured in my story. Kaden’s appearance was inspired by the artwork of Ben Wotten’s Blue Dragon.

Kaden is a magnificent dragon, with dark blue, silky scales, and a golden underside. Dark charcoal horns and amber-colored eyes grace his body. He has a scar over his left eye, cutting through his brow.

I wanted to give my dragon a different kind of story. Why does the knight always have to save the maiden from the dragon? Why wouldn’t she prefer the dragon to the monster that is the knight? Why not switch roles, give a twist to that old trope and maybe sprinkle it with some Beauty and the Beast elements?

Those were the main questions that started Kaden’s story. And, don’t worry, the main question for the second book was: Why wouldn’t the maiden save herself?

I like playing with tropes and stereotypes, trying to write the “what if” and “why not” stories.

That is how Kaden was thought-born. Since I’m a pantser when it comes to writing, I let Kaden tell me his history throughout both books.

Once a human, Kaden was cursed to be a dragon with a penchant to permanently borrow and hoard other’s possessions. In his cave, you can find anything from gold and jewelry to crates filled with pants, half torn wagons, and even a chimney.

He once “borrowed” a horse, but it didn’t turn out well, as much as he enjoyed finally having some company. He wasn’t cruel of heart, so he let the horse escape.

He learned not to “borrow” stuff from old women—nay, hags! They are tenacious and will beat you with a cane for your attempt, no matter how big and deadly you are.

Being a dragon wasn’t all about the drawbacks. He saved a young girl’s life once from a fire. Lucky for him, fire does him no harm.

And he would never tire of flying. It was exhilarating. He will never forget when he first spread his wings and took flight, as awkward as it was—and drunken-looking. The view, the freedom… the vastness of the sky above and the earth below… the experience entranced him.

But, as the years passed, he tired of the loneliness. He missed the human connection, affection, and even touch. The rare encounters with humans ended up with Kaden defending his life against wanderlusting adventurers and trying to save their lives, too. He had to take some, though. And their spilt blood will forever lay heavy on his soul.

Depressed and weary, he secluded himself on a mountain, in a dreary cave, away from the people, and away from life.

Until, one day, a young woman chased by wolves stumbled into his cave.

She was the one to turn his destiny around. She was the one to bring light to his darkness, and she was the one that brought him the salvation of death and rebirth.

~*~

Follow Maya at these links, or purchase her books:

http://www.mayastarling.com * Twitter * Facebook

Dragon’s Treasure (book 1)

https://books.pronoun.com/dragons-treasure/

Dragon’s Prize (book 2)

https://books.pronoun.com/dragons-prize/

One Last Quest, Part Three

Hope you guys are enjoying this! 🙂

~*~

In the cab, the ride to the stationery shop Adeon had mentioned time and again was mercifully short. Lachlan could hardly wait to see the boy again, and if he could, he would have leapt from the carriage the moment it rolled to a stop. As things stood, he all but flung himself into his chair as soon as Cathal had it set safely on the ground.

His valet straightened his coat, then stepped back to take stock. “You’ll do,” Cathal said, and returned around the chair to push him into the shop. Just as they reached the walk, Devnet came out in a flurry of velvet and petticoats, trailed by her friends and her footmen, who each carried two wooden cases. Lachlan remembered her letterhead, a twining thing dotted with the clustering dev flowers of her name. Hydrangea, it was, in the Traders’ tongue. He had received more than one love note on that pretty stationery, before he’d lost his nose.

She checked when she saw him, the tiniest hesitation in her step, the slightest flicker of expression before she put her perfect little chin in the air and pretended she hadn’t seen him. For his part, he pretended not to watch her pass—but he could not feign that he didn’t see her go flying face-first into the street, and couldn’t hide his grin either. She was a tangle of pretty legs and petticoat froth, and she let out the most gratifying shriek, which did absolutely nothing to stop her landing in a road apple there by the hitching post.

Lachlan choked on his laughter. Cathal pushed him past as if nothing had happened, but as he reached forward to open the glass-paned door, the valet muttered, “Serves her right,” and Lachlan smiled ghoulishly.

Inside was a small space scented with paper, expensive glue, and the chemical prickle of ink. Cubbies filled with writing accessories lined the walls, and there were a few tables along either side, displaying pens, desk sets, and sticks of fancy wax. Sunlight streamed in through the bank of slim, many-paned windows behind the counter, where a harried young woman with a plain apron over her brown dress sorted through stacks of bills. Suddenly, Lachlan had no idea how to proceed, and his tongue stuck to the roof of his dry mouth. He shouldn’t be afraid. Hadn’t he faced hydras and gryphons and the White Worm? And here he was, so close to his ultimate destination, with nothing like words and a tremble in his remaining fingers.

He cleared his throat. “Excuse me.”

The counter girl looked up, and he saw her throat work, but a moment later she pasted on a smile. Too bright, too broad. “How may I serve you, Lord?” she said, and Lachlan straightened.

“There’s a boy,” he said stupidly, but after a moment he recovered himself and went on. “He works here in the summers. Adeon.”

“Oh.” Her face fell. “He never came this year, Lord. We could use him, what with the master’s accident and all. If his mother’s written, she must have written to the master at his home, and got lost in the shuffle after he died.”

Lachlan could only stare. His chest hurt, and he envisioned, couldn’t help envisioning, all sorts of dreadful fates for the boy, from the mundane to the fantastic. Hit by a runaway cart. Rent asunder by a manticore. A sudden illness. A horde of the shambling dead.

He sat in horrified silence, frozen solid, as if he were yet in the cave of the White Worm, trapped from feet to thighs and stretching fruitlessly for his sword. Seven fingers vised over the arms of his chair, sharp knuckles threatening to break the skin. He felt the bitter cold.

“Is there any way to find him?” Cathal asked, after God knew how long a silence. Lachlan squeezed his eyes shut and fought to push the cavern away from his thoughts. “He’s important, you see,” Cathal went on. Did he see Lachlan’s jaw working the teeth together? He could feel the hard, slippery casing of ice around his legs, and how it chipped under his dagger blade, chipped but wouldn’t crack. From burning cold to numbness to pain…

He clenched his hands tighter. He wasn’t in the cave. He was in a sunny shop that carried stationery and pens, and something was happening, something he needed to see and hear. He made his hands relax. He made himself breathe.

When he opened his eyes he saw the cave. He began to sweat. It wasn’t real. He shut his lids again. The shop, by God, he was in a shop. Wasn’t the light pressing warm and red against his lids? There had been no sun beneath the earth, only a pinprick where they’d gone down among the bones of adventurers and the icicle spikes.

He began to hear again, besides his own ragged breath and the slow pounding of blood in his ears. Cathal had the counter girl charmed; he could tell it from the tone of her voice, regretful, and of Cathal’s, light and teasing. But she didn’t know where the boy could be found, she told Cathal sadly.

“His direction,” Lachlan broke in. His voice shook under the wash of relief he felt to see the shop around him.

“Lord, I’m sorry, we haven’t got it here,” the girl said. “The master—”

“I’ve got it.” Lachlan glanced up at Cathal. “I have his direction. He tells me everything.” Adeon had begged him to write, but Lachlan would not. Any correspondence he sent or received was sure to be opened; he didn’t trust even the paper-bird letters that zipped from place to place, which were difficult for any but the intended recipients to catch. Difficult, but not impossible. “Let’s go outside. Thank you for your help,” he added to the girl, for courtesy’s sake. He hadn’t flexed that social muscle in years.

Cathal pushed him out of the shop and down the sidewalk. He sat silent, thinking, until Cathal broke in: “Are you going to write him, then?”

“I can’t,” Lachlan said. “I swore to him I never would, and made him swear not to write back… I don’t trust them!” His fingers went tight again over the arms of his chair, tighter than before. The polished wood creaked.

“You’re not the only one.”

For a while they didn’t speak. Lachlan’s wheels rattled on the sidewalk.

“When do we leave?” Cathal asked.

“I can’t ask that of you.” He wished he could. “Only help me get to the train station tomorrow, and I’ll release you from my service. You can find another master, and stay with your family.”

Another speechless age between them, filled with street noise and rattling wheels. “Lord,” Cathal said, “why do you think they gave me to you? I don’t have anybody to speak for me. I only have you. I don’t mind it,” he added hastily. “You need me. When do we leave?”

Lachlan’s eyes swam. He had no words for this.

“We could go tonight,” Cathal said, when he didn’t speak. The valet’s voice bore an avid edge. “I can run up to the Palace and fetch our things, and you can wait at the station. Let’s do it!”

“How old are you?” Lachlan blurted.

“Coming up on my second century. Any year now.”

He blinked. He himself had nearly four centuries, and he felt every minute. “I didn’t know you were so young.” Cathal had already entered the long, practically ageless prime of a tulon’s life, when it was difficult to tell just how old anyone was. He might have been six centuries, but here he had only two.

“It is what it is,” said Cathal, and quite suddenly leapt on the back of Lachlan’s chair. He pushed off with his foot; they went streaking and rattling downhill, with Cathal whooping all the way. Lachlan was nearly thrown from the seat, but his arms were strong, and he managed to stay on. He left his stomach at the top of the slope, but he didn’t fall, and when the initial shock had passed, he felt only thrill. The wind whipped his hair, and his skull-like features stretched into a broad grin, all the way down. People leapt out of their path, shouting and cursing, but what did Lachlan care?

At last they slowed, on the way up the next hill. Before they fell back too far, Cathal hopped off the chair and pushed, all the way to the top. “Oh, glory, that was fun!” he crowed. “I’ve always wanted to try that.”

“Rude child,” said Lachlan amiably. He couldn’t wipe the smile from his face.

“What about it, Lord? Do we fare to Dreamport on a quest? Or do we forever leave the fate of a silver-haired lad in doubt?”

“Very rude. We’ll go.”

“Hey-la-hey!” Cathal shouted, and sent them careering down toward the train.

Snippet Sunday #19

I’m so close to finishing a beta draft of The Witch under Mountain. So close (if my own head would stop getting in the way). Here is a bit of it.

In a lot of ways this is Fox’s book. Hopefully, you’ll see why when you read it.

~*~

He turned his eyes across the cavern, where trolls stoked a great hearth-fire. One of them, clad in a burnt, greasy-looking apron, sharpened a series of wicked knives. Panic tightened its iron bands around Fox’s chest. He leapt to his feet and clutched at the side of the pen; he’d chosen the closest to Eagle last night, and had to listen to Eagle sob, but it was worth it. “Vo!” he called, clinging to the bars.

Eagle’s head went up, and he unfolded so quickly Fox had trouble tracking the motion. In half a blink he was at the bars too, with a couple of fairies trailing him; he didn’t say a word, only stood there looking at Fox as if from the bottom of the sea, faraway and longing.

Fox took him in. Lacy white sleeves spilled from an outsize velvet doublet. Silk stockings sagged into puddles around his ankles, above the tops of huge buckled shoes. His thighs were too slender for the pantaloons, and instead of puffing up as they ought to, they hung around his knees. The whole effect was dreadfully unbecoming—outright laughable, if it weren’t for the situation—as if the thinnest little chick were given clothes meant for a fat capon.

He ordinarily looked far different: unobtrusive, unassuming. His usual clothes were meant not to catch on anything, but not to foul his movements either, tough enough to hold up and fit well enough to accommodate intense activity. Under Fox’s regard he tried anxiously to smooth what he wore, but he couldn’t make it look well, or himself appear to advantage.

How little it mattered! Fox’s mouth curved in an involuntary smile. Most people wouldn’t have tried to apply an adjective like “sweet” to Eagle Eye, but with Fox he was sweet as the strawberry preserves on a breakfast buffet. He tried valiantly to smile back, but it didn’t quite come off.

One Last Quest, Part Two

Continuing from last week!

~*~

At dawn, he rose with Cathal’s help. He brushed his own hair, could still do that much for himself, missing fingers notwithstanding. From the dark wardrobe, they chose his best forest-colored broadcloth coat, the brown brocade waistcoat, a shirt as crisp as autumn morning. Cathal knelt before Lachlan’s chair to pin up the legs of his dead-leaf breeches, neat and precise as always, folding them just so.

After breakfast—the cooks would send him pap and poached eggs, no matter that he requested something, anything, else—Lachlan wheeled himself through the Palace with Cathal at his side. The ice-green corridors were deserted at this time of morning but for Movanar servants scuttling on their business. All the Revanar slumbered in their beds, or the beds of others. As they neared the heart of the building, the corridors ended. Marble staircases with delicate brass balusters spiraled into the open space of King Muirrach’s atrium.

It was a beautiful place. Before Lachlan had left to wander the world, he hadn’t realized how breathtakingly expensive the construction must have been. The railings shone, all the exquisite figures of brass, animals—foxes, bears, elk, hares—climbing the newels and icicles dripping from the handrails. From the landing Lachlan could see the gleaming floor, whiter than a field of snow, inlaid in the center with a great Circle of brass. They must have done some rite here the previous evening. Tall green candles stood half-melted around the Circle; one had fallen on its side, spilling wax on the floor. A hint of rich opiate smell hung in the air, even so far above. He wondered that no one had yet come to clean up.

“Come, Lord,” said Cathal, lifting him from the chair in small, powerful arms. Movanar were so often stronger. As Cathal bore him down the winding staircase, he looked up over his valet’s shoulder, watching the peaked top of his chair disappear above the steps. Cathal left him at the bottom to fetch down the chair, and Lachlan sat rubbing his prickling stumps. Two servants came out of a concealed door at the back and crossed on soft boots to clean the Circle. Their supply cart made next to no sound, not a squeak of wheel or a clank of contents.

They whispered to one another, throwing glances like darts to stick in Lachlan’s flesh. He put on his blankest, most dismissive look, which must have been all the more terrifying delivered by a High One with a triangular, bifurcated pit for a nose. They fell quiet to focus unnecessarily on the task of scraping wax from the stone.

Back into the chair. Lachlan could do that himself, once Cathal brought it down. They repeated the process outside, on the long white flights leading down the mountain into the city.

Four ladies of the Court came rushing down, a cluster of footmen trailing after them. One of them nearly knocked poor Cathal off his feet with the surge of her fur and velvet train. Lachlan remembered her—remembered all of them—from the days before he’d left home. When he was younger, and popular, and oh, so achingly beautiful. They had all wanted him then, and he, fool that he was, had done his level best to accommodate each and every one.

They were all vipers, and Devnet, his long-ago betrothed, the worst of the lot. He’d thought he loved her, but it hadn’t taken half a year out on his own before he’d decided he would never marry such a venomous snake as she. When she saw Lachlan on the fifth landing her lip curled. “What do you here, Lachlan Vistridir?”

“Taking the air,” he said, as lightly as he could. He looked into her pale perfect face, at her thin arched eyebrows and elaborately painted eyes, at her lips stained redder than blood. “Am I interrupting your view, Lady Devnet?”

“In a word, you are.”

“No words could possibly convey my utter apathy, milady.”

“You have apartments for a reason,” she hissed.

“Apartments,” he said. “Not a cell, last I knew. You might visit me sometime.”

Her crimson lip curled over perfect teeth.

“You did so love to visit me.” Soft, soft. “I could still make you—”

Oh!” she cried, and whirled away.

He smirked after her, calling, “Another time, perhaps.”

“You are disgusting!” She threw it over her shoulder at him, all edged with spite, that he dared to remind her he’d seen her unclothed.

“I’m not the one with the purple dolphin tattooed on his arse,” he said to twist the knife.

“Oh my God,” the others whispered to each other. “Oh my God.” They covered their giggling mouths and swapped glances. Devnet stormed down the steps, flying two hot-red flags on her cheeks. Her train washed a frothy wake behind her.

“Is it true, Dev?” asked one of them—Mairead, he thought she was called.

Oh my God,” said Devnet.

“It’s true,” said Leandra as she swished down with the rest. “I see it once a week at the minimum. Don’t fret, darling, it’s really quite a fetching piece, and you…” She trailed off, with increasing distance, into incomprehensible noise. Lachlan laughed to himself as a storm of footmen surged past in a colorful wave, their various livery brilliant in the late-morning light. When Cathal reached him, they grinned slyly at each other, no words. Damn, but he’d been taking his valet for granted all these years! Cathal wouldn’t have grown a sense of humor overnight.

They’d begun an hour after dawn. The sun shifted over the city below, playing shadow across white-marble domes, green slates, and golden thatch. The bolt-train slithered through on its track of magic, a silver, flashing ribbon. Cobbled streets, still at this height like thin brown snakes, crawled between buildings and around the mountain. It was noon before they won those streets: steep and slanting, all curves and corners. Lachlan needed Cathal’s help to navigate; the stones and inclines made it nigh-on impossible to steer, though Lachlan did what he could, braking to keep the chair from careering out of Cathal’s control.

If he’d had any magic, his life would have been easier—but Yehoram had taken that from him, too, destroying his aura with his legs. He tried not to think of levitating himself down the steps and turned his mind to soaking in the atmosphere of Green Glaciers as he hadn’t in long decades. No, his apartments weren’t technically a prison, but he’d always gotten the feeling many would prefer it thus. He hadn’t been out of the gardens in an age, no farther than that clearing by the south wall.

Now, though. His bones rattled with the chair, and his arms cramped from pushing back on the wheels. His hands, callused though they were, began to ache and burn under the strain. He didn’t care. Behind walls for so long, he’d nearly forgotten what the world felt like. He remembered the look of it, but not the feel. The layers of sound. The outside air on his skin. The smells, still tickling at what was left of his nose with mouthwatering smoked-pork richness.

After pap and poached eggs, and all the blandest, even what little Lachlan perceived of the scent was wildly delicious, flooding his mouth with saliva. “Wait,” he said, braking harder. “Do you smell that?”

Cathal obediently stopped. “How could I not?” His voice came right into Lachlan’s good ear, the one the White Worm hadn’t frozen off. “Want to eat?”

Lachlan glanced over his shoulder at him. “Are you honestly asking me?”

Cathal laughed and helped steer the chair to the source of the smell: a little smokehouse set some way back from the street, with a stand in front. There a slightly rounded Movanar woman with cheeks bright as apples sold shredded pork with deep red sauce, stuffed into wheat rolls. Alongside came paper cups of cabbage slaw.

They laid the sandwiches in Lachlan’s lap and found a nearby bench to eat. Lachlan wasn’t given to melodrama, but he thought he might expire on the spot after his first bite. It had been so long. Even his diminished sense of taste couldn’t fail to wake, and the textures were more than enough to make up for the lack. The crust of the roll crisped away to soft inside, slightly soggy from the thick sauce. Meat between his teeth again. The heat of the food itself and the warmth of the spice on his tongue. He had gone to Paradise. The slaw crunched, cool and creamy in his mouth, with a sting of black pepper and horseradish.

Afterward, while Cathal disposed of the trash from their meal, he spread his arms on the back of the bench and tilted his head back. Relaxed. Forgetting, for the blink of an eye, what he had become, what he looked like. Then he let a sigh through the cavity of his nose and remembered. All the noise of the street eddied around him, around a bubble of space engendered by his presence. No one dared come too close; no one dared speak to him. Riven as he was, still no one could mistake him for anything but Revanar, anything but noble. No Movanar wore hair like Lachlan’s, snow white and like a living thing, falling around his hips. At the very least, down here in the city he had the protection of his station. He wondered why he had stayed so long in his apartments.

It hardly mattered. Soon there would be Adeon to chat with, and he could come down here whenever he pleased, really. He wasn’t required to stay in his rooms. He didn’t have to rot away at the back of the Palace. The thought put a smile on his face. He might even visit Adeon again after this, and that thought widened his smile further.

Cathal cleared his throat.

“How long have you been standing there?” Lachlan asked, opening his eyes.

“Oh, long enough,” Cathal said. “You know where this place is, I’m assuming.”

He sounded like he assumed no such thing, but Adeon had told Lachlan a thousand times where to find the little stationery shop, and he felt certain he could. “As a matter of fact, I do.”

To his credit, Cathal managed, mostly, not to look surprised. “And how do we get there?”

“It’s on the Boulevard of Bolealt,” said Lachlan, and when Cathal started to protest, he held up a hand. “I know it’s a bit far.”

“Let me get us a cab. I’ll never get you home again if we go all that way.”

Grimacing, Lachlan agreed. He’d sooner not be pent up in a carriage, but he allowed Cathal to hail one regardless, and once within the maroon-velvet confines he was secretly glad of it. He relaxed into the seat, rubbing at his left stump, the longer one. His leg hadn’t prickled like this in years.

Snippet Sunday #18

Hey! Snippet Sunday’s back too. Here’s a bit of The Brothers Mala, which I’m really enjoying right now. It’s longer than I thought it’d be, but what isn’t these days…

~*~

Aurelius sat up, then swung bare hairy legs around to the old worn rug. He had big broad feet with big square toes, thick hands that rasped through the blonde stubble on his face, and a thick neck red from sunburn.

He pushed his blanket aside and stood, leaving the faded couch behind. His feet slapped on the tile, echoing down the tiny hall to the bathroom. There were drawings hung on the wall there, where they wouldn’t fade, Dad’s drawings of a better time. Aurelius never looked at them on purpose, but every so often he’d turn his head wrong and see Mom smiling, Mom with the comfortable soft weight she’d carried before grief made her angry and thin, and it could ruin his day in a blink.

Today he didn’t see anything on the walls. He made it to the basin, but while he peed his eye fell on the framed pencil portrait of himself and Felix, younger, gladder.