The Dreaddrac Onslaught (Book 4)

The Dreaddrac Onslaught

 

Book 4

The Neuyokkasinian Arc of Empire Series

 

By

 

C. Craig Coleman

 

 

 

 

Neuyokkasinian Arc of Empire Series

Book 4

Copyright
©
2015 C. Craig Coleman

All Rights Reserved

 

All characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or other unauthorized use of the material or artwork contained herein is prohibited without the express written permission of the author.

All characters, character names, and the distinctive likenesses thereof are trademarks owned by C. Craig Coleman.

 

Cover art by artist Landon Markasky

Map by Cartographer Antonio Frade

 

 

DEDICATION

 

Dedicated to George Elliott Vick, Jr., who believed in me and convinced me I could do anything I set my mind to. We have an obligation to try to make the world a better place.

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

Thanks to Lisa Grooms Ramsey, copy editor.

 

Thanks to Landon Markasky for the excellent cover art and Antonio Frade for the splendid maps in this book.

 

Prologue:

 

Silver moonlight streamed through the clearstory onto the colonnade beneath the vaulted ceiling in Helshian Court Palace. The vast audience hall was all but empty. In a small circle of golden candlelight, King Saxthor Claremendak Calimon de Chatronier of Neuyokkasin sat on his throne. Alone, he reflected on his youth, facing the dragon Yamma-Mirra Heedra. Reflecting, he relived the quest, searching over the peninsula for the power crystals now in the Crown of Yensupov, resting on his head. His growth into manhood from the epic challenges was reassuring to him.

Unexpectedly, he found himself monarch of the Powterosian peninsula’s largest, most powerful kingdom. Only the Powterosian Empire to the south, ruled by his cousin, the Emperor Engwan IV, was more vast and potent. King Saxthor, with his Crown of Yensupov, was the only substantial power on the continent’s peninsula to counter the Dark Lord of Dreaddrac menace.

It seems that virtually overnight, I stand at the center of the continental power struggles, Saxthor thought.

Previously, as the might of Dreaddrac’s evil king grew, he sent his agents to secretly infiltrate the southern states’ defenses. There, they were to rise up behind enemy lines, creating havoc when the war began in earnest. Saxthor’s discovery of those insidious sleeper cells alarmed the rulers caught between Neuyokkasin and Dreaddrac. The peninsula’s states began franticly allying themselves by treaties to resist Dreaddrac’s forthcoming release of countless destructive multitudes.

It’s a chilling time, Saxthor thought. The rulers finally smell war on the spring winds. They recognize our civilization is about to change forever.

In Sengenwha, the kingdom on Neuyokkasin’s northeastern border, King Calamidese VII had made a nearly fatal alliance with Dreaddrac. When trying to rescind it, Dreaddrac’s agents seized the capital, Sengenwhapolis. Calamidese escaped, but now he found himself engaged in a struggle to reclaim his throne from the Dark Lord’s creatures.

At least the turmoil there will preclude a surprise invasion of Neuyokkasin, Saxthor thought.

*

Saxthor’s mother, Queen Eleatsubetsvyertsin, was dead barely six months. His father, Prince Regent Augusteros, followed her after seeing his son established on Neuyokkasin’s throne as King Saxthor at age twenty-two. His adventure to secure the Crown of Yensupov had matured him beyond his years.

I trust yet test my advisors, Royal Court Wizard Memlatec, Generals Socockensmek and Sekkarian, and his parents’ chatra, the first minister, Rakmar. Only my friends from the quest relieve my loneliness. Count Bodrin Vicksnak of Vicksylva, Countess Tonelia Tezentok Vicksnak, the Wizard Hendrel and our mentor and teacher, Wizard Tournak, are the people I truly know. Still, I have more true friends than most people have. My friendships were forged as steel in the fires of perilous adventure.

Saxthor warmed, thinking he could at least trust these solid supporters.

Then there is the added worry of providing for and protecting my great aunt, Sengenwha’s dowager queen, and her daughter, the Princess Royal Dagmar. On our quest, we escaped Sengenwhapolis with the Sengenwhan royal family as the Dark Lord’s creatures were overwhelming the capital. Having rescued the royal ladies, I brought them to sanctuary here in Neuyokkasin, accepting responsibility for their safety.

I must restore Neuyokkasin’s economic strength, while building defenses for the coming war as well. This colossal war is certain to start any time in late spring. Each day I dread the courier, whose message will reveal Dreaddrac has begun the invasion of one of my allied states. The murderous horde from Dreaddrac’s Ice Mountains is prepared. They won’t wait long.

Saxthor turned the dragon ring on his finger. There are challenges everywhere, he thought. I hope I can shoulder the burdens. As I ponder the past, I wonder if I’m capable of controlling the Crown of Yensupov’s concentrated power. Memlatec has warned me, the crown’s power can potentially stop the Dark Lord, but can also corrupt its wearer if he’s not mentally strong enough to wield it.

* * *

In his tower on the Munattahensenhov in Dreaddrac’s Ice Mountains, the Dark Lord, evil King of Dreaddrac, pondered the future that night as well. Long has he fought the wizards of old for control of the Powteros continent.

Three times the primal wizards defeated me in the Wizard Wars. This time my power is greater than ever before and most wizards that opposed me are long gone. My armies are without number. My dragons jerk their chains for me to unleash them on the kingdoms of the South. The foul dankness deep in the bowels of the Ice Mountains gives way to me. I draw from the depths such energy as none before me. The very powers that hold evil behind the veil of death are at my command. Soon I’ll draw back that curtain and dispatch my legions to swarm over the known world.

One concern wiped the sinister smile from his corrupt face.

This boy-king of Neuyokkasin has in his possession the one thing that can potentially resist the forces I am about to unleash. The Crown of Yensupov sits uneasily on King Saxthor’s head. Will the boy have strength enough to control and focus the crown’s power? What roles will Memlatec, my old adversary, play in this battle for the world?

The Evil One paced in his tower, his mind troubled with this new untested factor, the boy-king and his Crown of Yensupov. The Dark Lord summoned his underling, Smegdor, to bring him the Oracle of the Munattahensenhov.

* * *

The Dragon Magnosious’ monstrous carcass was carved up and burned over a period of weeks by Konnotan’s citizens. The blood seeped into the ground during that period. It filled the depression, where the landing dragon squashed Witch Earwig. The witch steeped in this ooze that dissolved the other poor citizens similarly terminated. The power of Earwig’s hatred, and the caustic mushroom spores she lived on, combined with the dragon blood. In the hole, Earwig’s remains coagulated into a plasma state between life and death. When the people removed the dragon that pinned her to the ground, the witch lived yet again, but now as unrecognizable organic hatred. The workers departed the stadium the night they removed the last of Magnosious. Unaware, they left behind the unexposed thing in the drying sludge.

In the dead of night, Dreg, Earwig’s last attendant, crept into the stadium. Earwig had promoted the socially rejected young orphan, with the slightly hunched back, from gravedigger-in-training to her assistant. His devotion and appreciation were unending. The young man scooped up the undulating jelly in buckets and filled an old rain barrel with Earwig’s ooze. He carted the leaking barrel back home to her derelict Earwighof estate to recover in the warm dung of the dungeon’s mushroom trays.

* * *

Spring was pregnant with these forces about to collide in the Dreaddrac onslaught. The birth of war would bring irrevocable changes to the world these inhabitants knew.

1:  King Grekenbach Comes to Konnotan

 

King Grekenbach IV of Graushdem had met and entertained Saxthor when he was on his clandestine mission to secure the Crown of Yensupov’s power crystals. The two men had instantly liked each other, and the royal visit was appreciated on both sides. Now actively threatened from Dreaddrac, both realized, separately, neither had much chance of surviving the Dark Lord’s invasions. Both monarchs wanted an alliance. Dreaddrac would attack the kingdoms early in the war. Therefore, the two kings were most anxious to conclude a treaty to their mutual interests.

King Grekenbach came to Konnotan as soon as the visit could be arranged following King Saxthor’s ascension to the throne. Diplomatic formalities had to be observed, but the visit caused quite a commotion in both kingdoms. Neuyokkasin’s nobility hurried to Saxthor’s court when they heard King Grekenbach was traveling south to pay the first official Graushdem visit to Neuyokkasin in three generations. The tall, olive-complexioned king sat high on his horse as he rode through the streets of Konnotan. His black curly hair and full trimmed beard framed his brilliant smile and blue eyes. He dazzled the people lining the streets to the palace, hoping to see the king. He was all they’d hoped he’d be.

“His majesty, King Grekenbach IV of Graushdem,” the Neuyokkasinian court chamberlain announced to the hushed, teaming crowd filling the spectacular audience hall of Helshian Court Palace.

“Welcome, King Grekenbach; welcome to our court!” King Saxthor said, rising from his throne and descending the dais to greet his friend. The genuine warmth of Saxthor’s smile radiated welcome as the two monarchs looked each other in the eyes. The two men shook hands enthusiastically as old friends reunited.

The delighted nobility chatters like birds seeing such excellent relations after generations of mistrust, thought the chamberlain.

The official court reception flowed on with official state dinners and balls to welcome the King of Graushdem and compensate for the preceding years of silence.

*

The two kings finally met alone in Saxthor’s private audience chamber. They discussed both kingdoms’ preparedness and the peninsula’s vulnerability with regard to the smoldering animosity brewing in the Ice Mountains. Grekenbach settled back in a deeply cushioned armchair. Saxthor barely lighted before alternately pacing and staring down at the maps on the massive mahogany desk.

“Would you like something to drink?” Saxthor asked, looking over at Grekenbach. Saxthor stepped to the reputedly dwarf-made silver service on a side table and filled a goblet with the kingdom’s best refreshment, returning to his guest. Grekenbach took the goblet, studying its rich battle-scene detail, while apparently collecting his thoughts.

“My provinces of Heggolstockin and Hador are well aware of the coming war,” King Grekenbach said. “Dreaddrac will likely attack Heggolstockin initially, as you’re well aware from your own experience there. I’ve ordered Duke Heggolstockin to fortify those areas, where crossing the Akkin River is easiest, but one cannot fortify the whole length of the river.” He rose and joined Saxthor at the desk, drawing his finger along the river on a map before them. “The attack on Feldrik Fortress clarified the difficulty of defending such a border. If Prertsten’s Prince Pindradese sends his army across the Akkin, we can’t stop them from landing unless I get advance warning where the attack will come.”

Saxthor pointed to the city of Heggolstockin on the map.  “If you hold Heggolstockin’s main army at the provincial capital and keep carrier pigeons to send warning when the Prertstenian army is sighted, can the duke move by forced march to meet them before they cross the river? That would give you the most flexibility to meet them wherever they cross.”

“That’s our plan,” Grekenbach replied. “The border commanders have watchers patrolling the riverbanks. However, Prertsten’s border guards have killed our spies trying to cross into Prertsten. We use pigeons to warn us quickly of troop movements where we can discover them.”

“Enter,” Saxthor said, responding to a knock at the door. Two attendants entered the room with trays of food and drink. They placed the refreshments on the sideboard table and turned to leave.

“You’d better have them sample the food and drink,” Grekenbach said.

“Has it come to that?” Saxthor asked, noting the glum expression on Grekenbach’s face as he studied the attendants waiting for the king’s response. He too looked at the servants, standing with blank expressions.

“Each of you taste from the tray the other brought,” Saxthor said. After each tasted the refreshments, the downcast servants left the room in silence. Saxthor stared at the door through which they’d passed, facing the new uncertainty before continuing.

“Most likely, the Prertstenians will cross below Feldrik to avoid getting bogged down in a siege at the fortress. That would cost them the advantage of surprise on the move inland,” Saxthor said. He picked up an apple and examined it.

“You’re very familiar with my kingdom,” Grekenbach said, putting his hand on Saxthor’s shoulder.

Saxthor noted Grekenbach’s momentary glance. For the first time I see apprehension, perhaps at how much I observed about his kingdom’s military situation, he thought.

Grekenbach continued, “I’ll move the principal Graushdem army from the capital to Girdane. With significant Dreaddrac forces now in Sengenwha, they may try to cross the Pundar River there to cut off Heggolstockin from the southwest.”

“What of Hador?” Saxthor asked. “Will you send reinforcements to Duke Jedrac?”

“No, I think the duke can hold Hador with his Hadorhof garrison. Besides, Duke Jedrac has long enjoyed too much independence. Leaving him to his own resources for a while might make him more appreciative of his liege lord,” Grekenbach said with a laugh. “Once we’ve neutralized an assault on Heggolstockin, we’ll be better able to release forces to support Duke Jedrac, should he need them.” Grekenbach took an apple from the tray and bit into it after Saxthor had done the same.

“I wish I knew the strength and organization of Dreaddrac’s forces in Sengenwha,” Saxthor said. “Since the uprising, we know neither the magnitude nor disposition of those troops. I know King Calamidese is fighting to regain his throne. The fighting is still centered around Botahar. King Calamidese is trying to rally his forces, but they’re very scattered.”

“What do you know of Sengenwhapolis?” Grekenbach asked, looking at Saxthor with a furrowed brow.

“Very little at this point. I hear the king’s uncle is rallying forces in the mountains north of Sengenwhapolis, but no one knows their strength. Not much news gets out of Sengenwha these days.”

The doors to the private audience chamber opened unexpectedly. In walked Princess Royal Nonee, King Saxthor’s sister, with yet another tray of refreshments.

Nonee is normally shy and retiring, yet she’s practically knocked down the doors and from the looks of it, the guards trying to prevent her intrusion, as well, Saxthor thought.

“I brought you fresh tea,” the princess said.

“Nonee! You shouldn’t barge in like that,” Saxthor said. Her total disregard of court conventions shows no respect for my station in front of a visiting monarch, he thought.

“Well, you’ll keep this poor man captive with your talk of war until he wastes away if I don’t rescue him,” Nonee said, her eyes flashing.

I’ve never seen Nonee so forward, Saxthor thought. “I’ve kept your majesty in this strategy meeting all morning, well past the midday mealtime. I hope you’ll forgive my lack of consideration.” Saxthor turned from frowning at Nonee to face Grekenbach, who said nothing. He just stared at the suddenly vivacious princess. “Would you like to break for a real meal?”

“What did you say?” Grekenbach asked after a silence moment.

Nonee must have noticed the king looking at her. She blushed and left the room. Saxthor turned to Grekenbach. That’s a happier grin on Grekenbach’s face, as well, he thought.

Grekenbach took Nonee’s food with relish.

“I must apologize for my sister; she’s never burst into a room like that before. Seems she’s grown up a lot since I was away,” Saxthor said, studying Grekenbach from a new angle. Grekenbach wasn’t displeased with Nonee’s intrusion; he seemed to like being rescued.

“You sister is enchanting,” Grekenbach replied, eating another of Nonee’s treats.

Grekenbach was enjoying the food and drink offered him, and Saxthor was enjoying the scheme newly hatched in his mind.

* * *

An oily black smoke billowed from the immense funnel at Mt. Munattahensenhov’s peak. Icy winds snatched at it, spinning the black plumes and showering the snow-covered crest with sooty ash and cinders. It was an unending battle between air and earth, each seeking to smother the other in white, then black. The Munattahensenhov rumbled, coughing from the furnaces within. From time to time, tremors reverberated through the mountain that shook loose the charcoal-stained snow drifts to crash down on the valleys below. The smoke and snow fought anew in their unending struggle for the mountain. All the while, the Evil One within cut deeper into the mountain’s heart toward the energy gradient concentrated in its depths.

In the mountain’s black center above the molten core where the Dark Lord, King of Dreaddrac, worked out his most insidious plans, he fumed and hurled wizard-fire about his cavernous, roughhewn workroom. The smoldering stone seeped smoke and sulfur stench that swirled around the central blue-flame column shooting up from the earth’s core.

King Calamidese dares renounce our treaty with only half my forces assigned to Sengenwha deployed within its borders, the Dark Lord thought. Now those forces are cut off. Since King Saxthor destroyed my wraiths, those troops are without direction or leadership. I’ll need a new commander for Sengenwhapolis to reestablish order and finally secure the whole kingdom for Dreaddrac.

“Smegdor!” the king yelled. “Smegdor! Where are you, you sniveling worm?”

“Coming, Your Majesty,” the crippled man replied, dragging his withered leg as he hurried into the room. His slender build matched his thin, poorly groomed hair, physically announcing his subservience. “What do you require?”

“I
require
ingredients for another wraith, that’s what I
require.

“What specialty will the soul need?” the swaying subordinate asked, keeping his head bowed, not daring to look up.

Below his yellow eyes, the Dark Lord felt an evil smirk and fixed it on Smegdor. The poor man is terrified. “I’ll send you to the underworld should you come up short an ingredient, you sniveling cripple.” 

Smegdor trembled but held steady and said nothing.

“A defeated general, one that abandoned his army and hates the humiliation and disgrace enough to suffer the torment of returning to this world for one more chance to command troops,” the Dark Lord said. “Think you can summon such a soul from the Well of Souls?” The sorcerer’s dark, wrinkled hand slid out across the worktable. One knobby finger extended, its talon-like nail pointed to an ebony wand with silver claws clutching an onyx orb at the tip.

Smegdor hesitated, then moved quickly to pick up the wand. “I’ll try to lure out such a soul, but if I can’t, I’ll return for your expert help, Majesty.” Twitching, Smegdor glanced up, then back at the floor. “Some of those tormented generals are in such pain; only extreme pressure can entice them to risk another existence. You know how stubborn and independent generals can be, Majesty.”


You hoping to prepare me for failure?” the Dark Lord asked while thinking. By acknowledging my wisdom, he’s appealing to my vanity to placate my anger later. He’s like a male spider courting a hungry female; his prospects for a long and happy life aren’t good. He’s remembering his predecessor’s flesh melting off his skull.

“You’ll secure such a soul, Smegdor,” the Evil One said, walking to the wall of ingredient shelves and drawers. He turned back to face Smegdor. “You
will
bring back the required general.”

Wisps of hair clinging tenaciously to Smegdor’s balding head flew up in a tangle as the middle aged man turned and hobbled from the room.

The king pinched his double chin and felt his lips twist in a cruel smirk. I’ve completely terrorized that underling. He’d better not come back without a suitable candidate.

“Now, what choice items do I have here to create an especially vile creature who can whip those ogres back in line,” the sorcerer mumbled. “This wraith general must regain control of my stupid orcs, and quickly, before King Calamidese can rally his army and retake Sengenwhapolis.”

Stupidity is a mortal being’s best characteristic when it’s to kill or be killed, but stupidity has its drawbacks, too, he thought, brushing his hand on the dusty cabinet ledge. Those orcs will run about aimlessly without a strong-armed thug to control and direct them. The trolls and ghouls will revert to their solitary lifestyles without a fearsome master to keep them focused and working with their units. Only the goblins have any sense and the ogres are only good as unit commanders if there is a brain above directing them.

*

The Dark Lord summoned a goblin general. “Unleash several goblins cohorts and send them to Sengenwha. They’re to intimidate both the native population and the orcs. Your goblins have a particularly fierce reputation from the Wizard Wars. They haven’t been seen in any numbers on the peninsula since then. Their presence now in Sengenwha will create havoc among the Sengenwhan people and bolster the wavering orcs’ nerves.”

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