Sorry it’s been so long since the last one. I’ve had more busy than you can shake a stick at, between work, edits, a vacation that had precious little free time, and discovering renewed productivity with HabitRPG. (It’s a wonderful thing.)
Dragonspire began its life as my 2013 Nanowrimo project. I ended up finishing it in mid-January and its final word count clocked in around 150k. It’s a bit longer than I was hoping, but there was a lot of story to tell. It’s out for its first edit right now.
The tagline, summary pending:
“He went up the mountain to save the maiden. He pledged himself to the dragon. And together, they set out to save both humanity and dragonkind from the greatest threat to both.”
Echo paced the terrace with his hands clasped behind his back, gazing with brooding eyes out on the grayed vista of the Crown as the purple and navy mantle of night wrapped around the spires. If he were in dragon form, his tail would be lashing, short irritated bursts gusting through his nose. He remained in human form partly on the prospect of Gideon seeking him out but also to lessen the damage that a lashing tail could do.
It had been so long for Echo that he had begun to think no one would arrive at the Wroughtspire to pledge to him. It was merely a waypost for all the humans seeking passage to another world.
Yet Gideon was already from another, and he had come seeking Echo. It was all too neat, and Echo fretted at the idea of it the way he would worry it with his talons if the problem had a physical shape.
He had put word to Chant and Blaze to join him at the heart of the Wroughtspire and they had agreed. That would take as much time as he’d allotted Gideon for rest and refreshment. It was more than enough time for Echo to pace, and overthink the matter.
There was no person better suited to pledge to him than someone carrying the Amicus Draconis. Echo brought a hand up and began to gnaw at the knuckle, looking up at the icy moon as she made her ascent. Gideon smelled interested, seemed suitable, and yet … and yet …
For the Callardans, it would be like an act of war. Taking their champion and accepting his pledge would be provocation on an order that had not been offered in centuries. Already Echo had been transferring many promising youth through the Nexus but they had been the dispossessed, the ones who did not belong.
Echo’s thoughts shifted to the political ramifications of the day. The high priestess herself had come to his spire to challenge him, bringing with him a champion who had indeed been armed with a sword that could have destroyed him—if he’d plunged it into the Nexus. The Amicus Draconis had been gifted to the humans so long ago as a sign of trust between their races.
Chrysania had been swift to flee when the tables had turned on her, but her schemes would stop there. Of that much Echo was certain. He could not hazard to guess her next move because she was human, and there were profound differences in the way they thought. He would have to consult with Gideon.
Gideon, Gideon … all his thoughts led back to Gideon, from the moment he had made that most startling pronouncement. In a single moment he had withdrawn his allegiance to the Callardans because he had seen something within Echo, recognized him. For his part, Echo had recognized it when the Nexus responded to the pledge.
He put aside those thoughts and turned from the terrace to return to his own human quarters.
The space within the spire was divided, dragon-sized quarters for the most part but they alternated with adjoining human-sized suites. Echo and his kind could take human shape, and diverse others. They preferred human shape for the books, as well as the nimble hands that made so many tasks possible. Even though the humans had reviled and turned on them so many centuries ago, Echo had been raised to respect them and treat all those who came through his spire with the same courtesy he would accord another dragon.
He possessed a wardrobe extensive enough to satisfy his vanity, and changed into green robes that complemented his eyes. Gideon had not seemed offput by the scarred one, looking fascinated as he met its gaze as easily as the other. That was a promising factor.
A flamelike tongue of light appeared near his head as he finished robing himself, tugging on boots of black minotaur leather and stamping them to a good fit.
Cousin, we are near, Blaze’s voice said near his head. We shall emerge beside the Wroughtspire’s heart within the hour.
Echo nodded and the messenger light dissolved into brilliant sparks akin to a candle blown out. He drew in a deep, steadying breath and went to the quarters he’d assigned Gideon—quarters adjoining his own human suite.
Before he could raise his hand to pull the cord, the opaque crystalline surface cleared and wavered like a drop falling onto still water. It vanished, leaving the doorway open with Gideon standing on the threshold. Their eyes met.
“Oh,” Gideon said, head lifting. “I did not expect—”
“A great many things, so you’ve told me,” Echo replied, and risked a smile. Relief washed through him when Gideon matched it. “My cousins are near. I see you found the clothes.”
Gideon smoothed his hand down the golden-brown shirt with its voluminous sleeves. It suited his coloring, and Echo wanted to draw him in and breathe his scent. He looked so much the better for having rested and bathed. His eyes crinkled when he smiled. They were brown with subtle golden flecks and Echo was fascinated by their uncommon hue. Most eyes were gem tones save the rare human and even those tended to be solid colors.
“Yes, thank you. I hope you don’t consider these to be mercenary clothes, too.” Gideon’s eyes crinkled again as he met Echo’s eyes.
Echo had to hold his breath for an instant and remind himself it was unseemly to ravish someone with lips and teeth when they’d scarcely met. “Mercenary? Why—oh, the Callardans.”
“Yes, apparently only mercenaries wear trousers.” Gideon’s mouth quirked, and Echo had a powerful urge to reach up and trace the corner with his fingers, feel the curve beneath them. “And you’re wearing robes as well.”
“I have a wider experience of the world than simply Callar-dune,” Echo replied with a faint smirk of his own. “As to the robes, I prefer the style. I’m accustomed to freedom of movement as a dragon, and the pants are rather more restrictive than I like.”
“I guess that rules out underwear, then.” The statement seemed to slip from Gideon unbidden, and his cheeks turned red while he rubbed at his neck.
“Under … wear,” Echo puzzled out the meaning through the words, and laughed. “Garments underneath? I’ve never seen the point of that.”
“Forget I mentioned it,” Gideon muttered.
“Why should I do that? It’s rather amusing,” Echo said. He stepped closer, tilting his head, observing Gideon with delight. “You’re blushing.”
“And I’d love to move on to other topics,” Gideon said with a trace of desperation. “You came to get me?”
“Ah, yes.” Echo collected himself and stepped back. “My cousins approach. If you will take my hand, we can be waiting for them at the heart of the mountain.”
Gideon nodded and offered his hand.
Echo gave him brief, happy smile and clasped it. Gideon’s fingers were warm, his skin a golden hue unlike the darker tones of the Callardans, or the pale skin of most dragons whose pigment did not alter in the sun. Altogether he was pleasing in every aspect. Well suited, he thought but did not dare voice aloud.
He concentrated on the dark gray cavern deep within the Wroughtspire, the place that allowed access to the great black crystal itself. Between one moment and the next, they were there.
“How did you do that?” Gideon exclaimed, fingers tightening around Echo’s. “Oh, it’s dark.”
Echo willed a handful of spheres into existence, sending them out to the darker corners of the cavern. It was one place that remained a ragged chamber hewn by volcanic action, the fissures and cracks of pressure and time, and steady drips of water. He and his ancestors had not set their design to shaping the heart of the mountain, given it was the one place that sprang from the Motherdrake rather than their own making.
“Better?” Echo asked, keeping his voice even when it threatened to tremble with excitement. Showing Gideon to the very seat of the mountain was a monumental step. He could not fully articulate to any human, let alone one from another world, what a tremendous show of trust it was.