Authors: Salvador Mercer
The White Dragon
Copyright © 2016 by
All Rights Reserved
First Electronic Edition
Published by Diamond Star Publishing
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Book and Cover design by Christine Savoie aka ‘Cagnes’ c2016
Art and Stock Photo Credits:
Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
First Edition: July 2016
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Other Books by Salvador Mercer
Claire-Agon Dragon Series
The Black Dragon: A Claire-Agon Dragon Book 1
The Blue Dragon: A Claire-Agon Dragon Book 2
The Green Dragon: A Claire-Agon Dragon Book 3
Claire-Agon Ranger Series
Ranger Rising: Claire-Agon Ranger Book 1
Dead Druid: Claire-Agon Ranger Book 2
A thousand years ago, on the world of Claire-Agon, a war raged between men and dragons.
Culminating a life’s worth of work, Eric finally has his mercenary group, The Hunt, recognized by the royal realms of Agon. His first mission: to find the scourge of Highstone Pass. The encounter changes his life forever.
Near death, accused of treason, and thought insane by his fellow mercenary leaders, Eric finds himself manipulated as a pawn, caught between the mighty realms of Ulatha and Kesh. Bereft of his life’s work, and indeed all of his material wealth, Eric finds himself an outcast holding onto his last possession of any worth, a priceless secret in the right hands, a death warrant in the wrong ones.
Facing a destitute end to his life, Eric must gather together an unlikely group of companions to finish the task he was appointed to and reclaim his honor and wealth, but the sinister Kesh wizards and a deadly, ancient, nemesis have other plans.
Eric soon discovers that, in the world of Claire-Agon, when dealing with a White Dragon, sometimes ice burns hotter than fire.
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“Excellent strike, Forstag,” the leader of the hunting group cried out, encouraging one of his warriors. Forstag’s blade had found a soft spot between two of the white dragon’s scales, above its knee. The thrust was upward, and the warrior pulled his blade out quickly.
The dragon roared in pain, and a light-bluish-colored blood spurted from the deep wound, gushing onto the ground and freezing in the frigid cold air. “Die, you bloody beast,” Forstag exclaimed, challenging the dragon and bringing his sword down to clip off one of the razor-sharp claws of its massive foot.
The warrior’s brave attack inspired his companions, and with several war cries, the armed group of men converged on the once-sleeping dragon. It was considered a coup to have found the beast in its massive lair, a cavern that spanned a space as far as a man could throw a spear. Until then, the idea that a dragon even existed was simply a rumor or a tall tale from the nursing maids to scare little children to sleep. The group had climbed high into the Felsic Mountains, north of Glacier Lake, located in the northern part of Ulatha, before finding the creature.
The dragon, however, had been awakened from a very deep, and very long, slumber. It had had enough of the puny humans and their abrupt and rude intrusion into its abode, and it lashed out as soon as it recovered its wits. With a flick of its tail, it sent three armed fighters flying through the air, bones breaking in the process.
It raised its wounded leg and, spreading its enormous wings within the chamber, flapping them furiously to lift its massive body, it struck at the large warrior who had wounded it, dropping its foot on the man and smashing his body, armor and all, into the snow-covered ground, which was quickly stained red with the man’s blood.
Forstag lived no more.
“No,” the leader of the group yelled, his mouth open in horror as his bravest and most capable fighter was dispatched to the underworld.
Another warrior, Zeke, ran to Forstag’s aid and brought his large broadsword down on the same foot that Forstag had died under, clipping yet another sharp claw from the dragon. The creature had five claws per foot, and this removed the second, leaving only three. The dragon didn’t bother with raising its wounded leg and smashing the offending human warrior. Instead, electing to use its massive fangs, it opened its gapping maw and bit the man, piercing armor and body alike.
“Oh no,” the wizard apprentice said, watching next to the leader as the dragon raised its head and closed its jaw forcefully, severing parts of poor Zeke and sending them flying as the creature shook its head. It then spat the torso out a full thirty yards, landing at their feet. “This isn’t going well, Eric,” the Kesh said to the group’s leader.
“Well, you’re a wizard. Do something, Milo,” Eric said, pushing the man, staff and all, toward the dragon.
The other warriors were stabbing at chinks in the dragon’s armor, using pikes and long spears. Some were effective, and they momentarily took the creature’s attention away from the two men.
Milo wasn’t technically a wizard. The man was expelled from the Kesh order for a lack of ability, and was fortunate to have not been killed during his training. No longer welcome amongst the ruling class of his former masters, the man had traveled the world and hired himself out to the highest bidder. Even a wizard’s apprentice had a place amongst the ranks of the hired mercenaries.
The dragon had slowed its beating wings, keeping them moving up high above its head and away from the piercing weapons of the attacking warriors. The flakes of snow diminished considerably, allowing Milo a good look at the creature. Its tail was spiked, and he watched it try to hit a warrior along its rear flank, missing by inches in the process. Its spine and lower jawline were lined with sharp, short horns that protected it from attack along its vulnerable areas, and its massive head was adorned with two larger curly horns that swept backward. Its eyes were a piercing ice blue color, ancient, vivid, and wise with years beyond his imagining. The sight of the dragon gave Milo a shudder through his body.
Planting his feet into the snowy, icy ground and leveling his metallic staff at the beast, Milo uttered his most powerful spell he knew. “Ogon, unitchtozhi!” he cried, commanding the charged particles in Agon’s air to rush into his staff and exit through the sapphire-tipped gem on the tip. The fireball was one of the most basic of Kesh wizard attacks and required a great deal of concentration to keep the ball of flamed form.
Milo struggled with the distance involved, and right before it reached the dragon, it started to fan out into a sheet and then dissipate as it hit the beast across its head and chest. The failed effort had a positive effect. The beast roared, shaking its head, trying to cool the heat that was transferred to it from the magical fire. The dragon roared and backed away from Milo, using its tail to feel behind it. Finding the far wall, it crouched back, bringing its neck back as a snake would, and protecting its head from the attacking fire, folding its wings in close to its body.
The men cheered and renewed their attack. Milo could do this. He felt empowered, capable, and heroic for once in his life and shook off the shame of failure that he had faced years ago at the hands of his master. He would show them that he was capable, more than capable in fact.
“Bring out the brands,” Eric commanded, waving his hands at the porters who remained a good distance back, cowering in fear. Two of the twenty men ran forward, grabbing two bags each of fire brands, large sticks wrapped in kerosene-soaked rags that would serve as light in dark areas. The cavern was lit from behind a sheet of ice that covered almost the entire front entrance, and though the area was dim, it illuminated it sufficiently enough to see.
Striking their flint, the porters started to light the brands, putting them in the snowy ground in a row in front of them. Eric sheathed his own sword and grabbed a brand in each hand, advancing behind the Kesh wizard. Eric didn’t understand the difference between an apprentice and a wizard. It was transparent to most inhabitants of Agon. They both could perform magic and that was all that mattered to the mercenary leader at this point.
Milo turned his head, looking back at Eric. “It’s working.” Milo smiled and then turned back to face the dragon, advancing bravely in the snow, which came only up to his ankles, the base of the cavern being a combination of dirt, rock, and ice. Again, Milo uttered the words of conjuring and directed a ball of fire at the dragon, which fanned out and hit it across its body, eliciting another roar of defiance from the huge creature.
The pikemen ran to attack the dragon, which had stopped its retreat having reached the far wall moments earlier. They shouted insults at the beast and clanged their sharp-tipped spikes on the dragon’s scales, looking for a soft spot. One warrior had died when he had tried to flank the beast and attack its belly. The dragon simply smashed its body onto the hapless fighter, killing him instantly.
“Ten crown royals to each man who brings up a torch,” Eric yelled behind him at the porters. “Five per brand.”
The porters looked at one another in awe and couldn’t believe their good fortune. The mercenary commander must have lost his mind. Even a few of the fighters closest to them looked back from their attack at their commander, awe evident in their faces at the rich reward being offered to the lowly porters. Most of them never saw gold, much less an actual coin, and not just any coin. No, the crown royal was of a special Tynirian mint, half again as large as the normal gold royals, and one would be equivalent to several months’ worth of wages for the lowly workers.
Where courage faltered, gold inspired. Seeing their warriors fighting bravely with their leader and the powerful Kesh wizard advancing straight at the dragon’s head, the grisly memory of the deaths of two of their strongest warriors was quickly banished from their minds, and the lure of wealth fed their courage, dimming their fear to a swiftly fading emotion that had no place in the land of greed. The rest of the porters ran forward, shouting to bolster their courage, and taking a brand in each hand, they ran toward the fight.
The dragon was cornered, figuratively speaking, of course, as there were no corners in the round cavern. It was backed against the wall and surrounded in a semi-circle of fighters, warriors, and fire-bearing workers. It had no place to go. “Time to die for your crimes, wyrm,” Eric said, allowing a rare smile to cross his face. He would mourn the loss of Forstag and Zeke, two of his best warriors, but now, he would revel in the bounty that would soon be his, once they dispatched the scourge of the mountains.
“Shall I burn it again?” Milo turned to face Eric, who arrived with two brands, holding them in front of him and threatening the dragon.
“Let me pass judgment first,” Eric said. Milo nodded and allowed his leader to take a couple of steps toward the dragon, who was still a good thirty yards away. “Hold,” Eric yelled.
The dragon had stopped fighting a half minute earlier and had couched, hissing and snarling at its attackers. The pikemen and long spearmen had advanced, jabbing their weapons at the beast from either flank, none of them standing directly in front of it. They stopped their attack and looked at their leader.
“All yours, Commander,” Milo said, sounding both formal and important in the exchange, gracing Eric with a slight nod of his head in deference to the man’s position.
Eric returned the nod and held his arms out wide, fire flickering from the torches he held. His large shield was still slung to his back, and his deadly sword was sheathed. Speaking in a loud, commanding voice, he executed both judgment and sentence. “As commander of The Hunt, newly appointed warden of Highstone Pass, representative of the duchy of Ulatha and the kingdom of Tyniria, for high crimes committed upon its nobles, I sentence you to death. Burn the dragon.”
Milo nodded and prepared his staff and then stopped as the dragon did something most unexpected. It started to laugh. Slowly at first, and then rising in both tempo and volume, the great white dragon laughed out loud, its strong baritone laughter echoing off of the chamber’s walls and filling the cavern with the eerie sound.
Even though the laughter was surreal and unexpected, it was somewhat contagious, and the fighters, and even a few porters, started to laugh with the dragon. Their laughter was more strained, however, and not the joyful or gleeful kind that would be found at a merry inn or tavern on a busy evening. Both Milo and Eric remained silent, stunned by this new development.
Quickly the laughter stopped and something even more unexpected occurred. The dragon spoke. “Highstone Pass, now is it?”
The dragon was small for its kind. The other colored dragons were bigger; the red dragons were easily twice the size of the whites, and that is why they ruled their kind. To the humans, however, they had no experience with dragon kind and simply saw the dragon as a large creature the size of any barn that could be found on any large farm in the fertile valley far below. Bringing its wings in and crouching low with its head tucked close to its body, the creature managed to minimize its size and appear as small and unthreatening as it possibly could.
Eric looked at Milo, who could only shrug in confusion. They were not prepared for a talking dragon. Eric cleared his throat, took a step back, and addressed the large beast. “The name matters not. You are trespassing in Ulatha without leave from its rightful ruler, Duke Uthor Tors, and as such—”
The interruption was most rude, and despite its deep tone, the dragon’s voice was distinctly feminine. “You dare accuse me of trespass, human?” When there was no response forthcoming from any human, the dragon narrowed its eyelids and glared directly at Eric. “You are trespassing in my domain, and for that, the penalty is death.”
Eric had a bad feeling engaging in a discussion with the dragon, and it seemed anything but afraid, especially considering the fact that they had it surrounded with fire and steel. Perhaps the creature was dimwitted and couldn’t recognize death when it approached. Summoning his courage, the commander of the mercenary group known as The Hunt, waved the porters forward with one fire brand and nodded at his men, giving Milo a knowing nod. “Burn the dragon,” he repeated.
The porters moved forward slowly, more hesitant now that the dragon showed some sign of intelligence evidenced by its ability to speak. They had barely taken more than a half-dozen steps when the dragon breathed a large breath of air and blew a gust of cold air directly at them, sweeping its head from left to right and extinguishing all of the torches, plunging the rear of the cavern into a shadowlike dimness.