Draconia - A sample

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Draconia - A sample

Postby Varthikes » Fri Sep 10, 2010 9:33 am

I thought I would post a sample of my book.

This is Chapter 1.


THE BEASTS stampeded down the gentle slope of a rolling, grassy hill, making for the dense cover of the bluish-green forest. They were quite fast for moderate-sized beasts confined to the ground, but Varthikes was faster. His great, tan wings folded back, carrying his golden-scaled body in a dive toward the herd. Golden, vertically-slit pupils locked on one of the trailing adults.

Extending his foreclaws, Varthikes swooped down and plucked up his target. He sank his talons deep into the animal's flesh, gripping its forequarters while beating his powerful wings to gain altitude. The beast bleated in panic as it found itself being lifted from the ground and away from its herd.

Unable to breathe through the death grip the Draconian had on its lungs, the beast had expired and was hanging limp by the time Varthikes settled down. The young Draconian now laid belly down on the grass with the animal before him, looking over his kill with pride. He inhaled deeply, filling his nose with the musky-and delicious-aroma of the dead beast and the warm, metallic smell of its spilled blood. He placed his left clawed hand on the hump and decided to start with his least favorite part first-just to get it over with. He picked up the head and neck between his sharp, backward-pointing teeth and snapped it loose from the body. Always too much bone and never enough meat, he thought as he quickly swallowed. The blood, at least, was good, warm and sweet on his tongue.

A strange hum-a monotone sound like someone yawning in the distance-reached his ears at that point. Varthikes lift his head from the humpco carcass and looked about, scanning the horizon, his golden eyes moving independently to locate the source of the sound. It came from a source higher than the ground. He tilted his head up something reflecting the sunlight. The hum was coming from that. He made out a pair of wings attached to the trailing end of the ovular object. It glided smoothly across the turquoise sky toward the forest where he had chased the humpcoes. He followed with his eyes until it disappeared over the canopy of the coniferous forest. He held his eyes for a moment longer on the point where the object had disappeared before returning to his meal. He continued to eat, albeit slower as his mind turned over what he had just seen.

By the time Varthikes had swallowed the last leg of the humpco, he had made up his mind to investigate that strange object. He wiped the blood from his face with his tongue and clawed hands before rising to all four legs. Once on all fours, he leaned back on his hindlegs and sprang into the air and, with a mighty burst of his wings, became airborne.

The cushioning air currents carried his wide-spread wings over the forest. On the way, he passed over a flock of blue birds with four wings, each pair flashing white and blue alternating between beats. He gave them a gentle croon as they scattered from beneath his shadow, sudden fear filling their minds. Worry not, little creatures, he told them, his eyes following their progress. I am no longer hungry.

Varthikes returned his focus forward and continued his flight. He soon found himself above a large glade. To one side there was a lake. To the other was a foreign object, which he recognized to be the thing that had passed over him.

Varthikes had seen much of his world's wonders in the twenty cycles of his life, but never had he seen anything like what he saw now. It looked to be three times his length and half again in height-larger than a full-grown adult. Its smooth, light-gray surface curved at the edges and demonstrated a dull shine in the sun. The pair of dark-gray wings he had noted while it was in flight were now folded up at the end pointing toward the lake. Connected to each at the distal end were cylindrical appendages, their purpose as mysterious as the object to which they were attached. And, there was no life to it. Not only was the warm glow he saw surrounding it not one produced by a living creature, but he would have been able to sense consciousness if it was alive.

While beating his wings forward slightly to slow his speed over the glade, movement from the object caught his attention. A small cavern split open on the side facing the clearing, on the end opposite of the folded wings, and a broad, flattened appendage projected forth from the floor of that opening toward the ground. He banked to the right and started to spiral in a gentle descent so that he might get a better look. As he was doing so, Varthikes saw a creature emerge cautiously from the opening, moving upon two legs with another two limbs hanging at its sides and light fur covering the crown of its head. Incredible! he thought. First, a lifeless object capable of flight! Then, from that object comes forth a clearly living being, for which flight did not look at all possible! At least, not on its own.

The creature saw him and paused on the grade while continuing to watch his descent. Varthikes concentrated on it, reaching out with his mind to feel that of the creature's. He blinked in alarm at the fright and hostility he received.

A second creature had begun to emerge from the structure, but stopped when the first one quickly turned to emit a series of odd sounds back at it. The second, Varthikes noticed, had considerably darker fur on its head than the first and looked to be slightly taller, even accounting for its slightly elevated position. Varthikes concentrated on this one and, when it saw him, was struck by an explosion of alarm, which quickly dissipated to a wave of awe that caused his own heart to float with elation.

He once felt the mind of a humpco from a distance, out of curiosity. There was not much to be felt. Hunger, sleepiness, and very little interest for their surroundings except for when looking out for predators. And, of course, there was the overwhelming terror whenever he flew toward them. He decided that they were alive only to eat and to be eaten and found it remarkable that they didn't die from sheer boredom. He had felt other animal minds before as well. While many appeared to have more range of emotions than the humpcoes, none have ever exhibited the level of fascination toward him as did that second biped.

This, added to the matter of their arrival, piqued his curiosity. It suggested that these creatures were capable of-or close to-the same level of intelligence as himself and others of his kind. Deciding to try to get closer, Varthikes continued his descent toward the creatures' object.

*

Commander Herman Shelski, his jaw firmly set, rested a hand on his holstered sidearm. His alert, sapphire eyes locked on the giant avian spiraling toward them. There was no doubt in his mind that its target was the landing party and their ship. As he watched, every dragon story he had read and heard as a child trampled through his mind. Every image he had seen of such creatures spouting flame on its victims. "It is approaching the scout ship!" he announced over his shoulder to the rest of survey team in his bass, Scandinavian-accented voice. He activated his wrist-mounted com-link and lifted it to his mouth. "Lieutenant Hart," he called to the officer manning the secondary tactical station, "prepare to deploy the dorsal laser turret."

Noting the avian's size-over three times in length and about the same in height to an average Human at the shoulder-did little to reassure the commander. He kept his hand on the butt of his laser pistol, ready to draw it the moment the creature became hostile.

"Looks like a dragon," the helmsman commented with awe. A relaxed Lieutenant Steve Wilson leaned against the frame of the entry hatch.

"Quite observant, Lieutenant," Shelski acknowledged. "And, we will persuade it to look elsewhere for a meal, or other little beings to torment."

Lieutenant Zoe Netson joined the helmsman at the entry hatch. "Remarkable!" she declared. "Who would've thought the subject of so many stories on Earth would turn up somewhere out here. And, in our own galaxy!"

"Wonder what version of that subject he'll be," Steve wanted to know.

"Hope it's the good version."

Steve, still gazing at the creature, nodded his agreement. "Doesn't look like he's hostile by the way he's flyin'," he commented, noting its lazy, spiral descent toward the grass-covered ground. Then, he spoke up to the commander, "Don't you think he's approachin' a little too slowly to be a threat? Think he'd be divin' at us like an attack fighter if that were the case."

"Perhaps that is the plan. To throw us off guard."

"D'you think he's always this paranoid?" Steve asked Netson in a whisper.

Netson gave a crooked smile and shrugged. "Probably comes from being stationed on a starbase in the home sector too long. Little or no first contact experience."

*

Ensign Audwin McClance busied himself in the scout ship's main storage locker, organizing the equipment they would need to perform the planetary survey-just as Lieutenant Netson had ordered. He was eager to do his best. Not only was this his first real mission, fresh out of the Academy, but he was compelled to live up to the name Farr had made with this same crew. It had felt awkward for the first few days to be among many of his late brother's fellow shipmates. The admiral who gave him this assignment assured him that it was purely a coincidence and offered him an alternative. But, Audwin accepted the Vancouver, saying that he would make do of the situation. He made that same assurance again when Lieutenant Netson told him, when he first came aboard, that she would not hold it against him if he were to request a transfer.

He was opening a crate to inspect an aqua-probe when a fellow ensign rushed into the storage locker. "Audwin, dragon!" he exclaimed, gasping.

"What?" Audwin asked, unsure that he had heard properly. He paused in his work to look up at the other.

"There's a dragon out there!"

The two stared at each other for a moment. The eyebrows on Audwin's boyish face cocked in disbelief while the other ensign held his eyes wide with awe. Then, Audwin spread his lips in a smile, chuckled, and went back to work. More than enough of his fellow crewmates were already well aware of his fondness for those magnificent fictional creatures. Of course one of them would try to pull one on him on his first visit to an alien world. "Nice try, Guss. I'm not that gullible. Anymore."

"You think I'm joking? Come and see for yourself."

"I will, as soon as I'm done here," Audwin replied without looking up. The other ensign hesitated before he nodded and left Audwin to his work.

*

Varthikes threw his wings in a backstroke to slow his descent, sending a burst of wind to flatten the grass below him. He extended his hindlegs toward a soft landing, then brought down his forelegs. He set down halfway between the object and the lake with an angled view of the object's opening, face-to-face with the light-furred biped. He noted during his descent the appearance of a third figure from the tiny cavern, which came to stand beside the second one. This one had a more curved body and its head came to the shoulder of the second biped. The fur on its head was as dark as the second's but seemed longer, though it was difficult to be sure from his current angle. Concentrating on the new one, he sensed the same as he had sensed from the second-awe. But, apprehension and hostility continued to spill forth from the light-furred one, making his own heart ache. Why was this one hostile but the other two fascinated? Why were those two fascinated by him, anyway?

Cautiously, moving one leg at a time, Varthikes approached the creatures. He felt the light-furred biped tense up still a little more and emit another series of sounds into the object. Just as Varthikes noticed that the creature had its left side limb resting on something at its hip, a whine cried out from the structure. He stepped back with a start as something emerged from the top of the structure-a pair of tubes, about the length of his head and neck combined, with one end attached and the other free. The unattached ends rotated until they were pointing at him. What it was, he had no idea, but it didn't look peaceful. In fact, there was as much a hostile feeling to it as there was to the light-furred biped. His tail twitched in his uncertainty.

Please be not afraid, he said, earnestly projecting his thought-voice to the little beings in Draconian telepathy. I wish only to know who and what you are. If the creatures had even heard him, he wasn't sure. As far as he knew, no one has ever met another intelligent being, let alone attempted to communicate with one. Though, his mind now began to recall tales of bipedal beings coming from Beyond five cycles ago who also came in similar lifeless objects, but those were merely rumors. Perhaps he should tell someone about these creatures-his clutchmates maybe. Or, the honorable Sages. Yes, the honorable Sages would be best.

His mind made up, Varthikes began to turn from the wingless bipeds toward the direction from which he came. He strode over to the lake and, lowering his head to the water, proceeded to rinse out his mouth of the remaining traces of his meal. So occupied was his mind on the strange creatures that he failed to notice the strong tartness of the water.

When he was finished, he turned away from the lake and looked back at the creatures. With a respectful bow of his head to them, he said, In peace I hope to see you again. Then, he leaned back and leaped into the air. With a mighty downstroke of his wings, Varthikes became airborne. He would first see his clutchmates, then the Sages.
"What has been done has been done and cannot be undone."--Ruth, All the Weyrs of Pern
"Dragons can't change who they are, and who would want them to? Dragons are powerful, amazing creatures."--Hiccup, Dragons: Riders of Berk
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Varthikes
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