Excerpts

Here’s a first look at the first chapter of The Stolen Dragon of Quanx:

 

Prologue: A War Begins

The full moon shone brightly as the men galloped to the palace. The horses’ hooves quietly stomped the ground and the beasts snorted with fury as the men whipped them on, faster and faster. The man in front, the leader of the group, looked at the quiet city. They won’t be asleep much longer, he thought.

The man’s left eye shone a bright blue and the right a dark brown. If you looked closely enough, you would be able to see the horizontal brown line in the blue eye, and the blue line in the brown. The man’s brown horse padded on proudly and the man suddenly knew this was the day. This was the day Pejjenvek would get his revenge. He wasn’t sure how he knew it, but it was such a strong feeling that it had to be true. Unexpectedly, the horse halted and the man turned to his companions. “Blow the horn! It is time,” he said.

“But, Your Majesty, there aren’t any signs of war,” a man toward the rear said softly. He was brave to challenge this man.

The man in the front said, somewhat out of his calm character, “Of course there are no signs of war! Do not gainsay the King of Vitchreonyo! Come now! I must put my plan into action!”

With that, the small group galloped into the city and a small man in the back blew the horn. The war had begun.

 

 

Chapter 1: Abandoned

“I don’t understand why we have to come down here,” a boy told his father. The truth was that he did understand. He understood too well, as a matter of fact. The only reason the boy spoke was because of his nerves. He was frightened, and he covered it by speaking.

“We need to take them by surprise,” the man reminded him gently. He could sense his son’s nervousness. “And to do that, we need these tunnels.”

The father and his son were descending the lowest staircase either of them had ever gone down. The father was familiar with the course. He had been down in the tunnels several times before. The boy was not as experienced. He had never even heard about the tunnels beneath his tribe’s territory, let alone been down there.

“I know, but—”

“Don’t worry, Sawyer,” the man interrupted. “You’re perfectly safe with me. We’ll be out of here in a couple of hours. We just need to scout before the troops march down.” Adding a little humor to his voice, he continued, “I thought you wanted to do this. You’re not going to let me down now, are you?”

Not being much of a joker, Sawyer returned humorlessly, “I wouldn’t dream of letting down the King of Vitchreonyo.”

The king laughed as if his son had just told the greatest joke.  Sawyer inwardly squirmed.  Though he knew that his father was trying, he was not lightening the mood.

The pair continued down the stairs.  With every step it grew colder and more forbidding.  The darkness before them seemed endless and Sawyer vaguely wondered if the stairs would ever end.

    At least I have my father.

Sawyer and the king, Robert, had become especially close two years before when his mother had died. In some ways, the king was the boy’s only friend. It sometimes seemed to him as if people cared only about his power.
As they descended even deeper into the ground, it began to get hard to see. Sawyer’s pure black eyes narrowed as he struggled to see. The king produced a match from the large burlap bag that he carried with him and lit the torch that he carried with his left hand.
Instantly, the boy turned his narrow head from the light, blinking his eyes repeatedly. He squinted his eyes to get used to the light and pushed his crazy black hair from his face. He wasn’t a very tall boy, about average for a fourteen-year-old. His skin was ghostly white, which made his dark hair and eyes look even darker.
They continued in silence for quite a while longer. Time had no meaning to Sawyer. Each step brought him closer to his first mission. He was scouting out an invasion route to Zarchamarco territory. Robert had told him of Zarchamarco’s thievery. The earth tribe had begun to build a village in Vitchreonyo’s territory.  King Robert had warned them that there would be trouble if they continued, but Zarchamarco had taken no head to his threats.

There were four tribes of the island known as Quanx: Vitchreonyo, Sawyer’s tribe; Zarchamarco, the tribe that they were going to war with; Persquuno, and Xangterro. Each of the four tribes had one of the four elements as their tribe symbol.

Vitchreonyo was the Air Tribe. Sawyer’s tribe lived on the moor and in the pine forest. They hunted mostly buffalo and turkey and traded with the other tribes for different foods. The people generally lived in advanced tepees, though Sawyer lived in a stone palace.

Zarchamarco was the Earth Tribe. They lived on farmlands and raised livestock and gardened. While they did have the best food, they didn’t have much cover. They lived in mud-brick homes and one out of every three people lived on a farm.

Persquuno was the Water Tribe. Though every tribe bordered the ocean, the Persquunians were the ones who did all of the swimming. They lived in a jungle with a large river flowing through the middle. They caught the fish for the island and lived in stone huts.

Xangterro was the Fire Tribe.  They lived in the forest and hunted rabbits and deer. They lived in log cabins and were the most peaceful of the tribes since their previous king had died and been replaced by his peaceful genius son, Declan.

The residents of Quanx were unique people.  The most important thing about them were their eyes.  Every person has eyes unique to themselves. Eyes were how the people distinguished one another. In Quanx, each person’s eyes were his or her signature. They defined the people.

They continued into the earth for several more minutes until Robert and Sawyer finally reached the bottom. Sawyer wished that he would have dressed a little warmer. It was summer, so he wore only a black cotton shirt with a small white swirl of air, the Vitchreonyian symbol, on the top left corner. He wore buffalo-skin pants and black boots. He also had a belt with his black-hilted sword hooked to the left side.

“This way,” the king said, his voice sounding brisker than before, “Follow me.”

“I’m right behind you,” declared Sawyer.

King Robert led Sawyer through a maze of corridors. The tunnels obviously were not man-made. They looked very natural, and though Sawyer was not sure how they came to be, it would have been impossible for a human being to carve them out.

Every time that the tunnel forked, which was quite often, the king consulted a map from his pocket. They had been walking for several minutes and had made perhaps thirty turns when the king’s torch suddenly died.

“What happened?” Sawyer whispered through the darkness, worry creeping into his voice. It was pitch black.  They were so far beneath the earth there was no way they could have light without the torch.  “You have another match, right?”

Sawyer waited for a response, but there was none. He heard a dull thump as something hit the ground, which was followed by the sound of footsteps quickly retreating.

“Father?” he tried again, “where are you going?”

Once again there was no reply. Panicking, he felt the walls with his hands and tried to find the king. Had they been ambushed? Had someone knocked his father out? He felt the ground, but quickly gave up. They would have seen if somebody were lying in wait. They were in a rather straight and narrow tunnel. The torch light would have shown any people.

He’ll come back for me. Maybe he just went back to get something.

Sawyer tried to find an explanation for his father’s enigmatic disappearance, but could find no logical reason for his unexpected departure. The young prince had never been on his own before. He had never been uncomfortable before. He had never been cold before.

All of these things he was experiencing for the first time. He didn’t know what to do except fall to the ground, defeated. He was so terrified that he couldn’t think. He hadn’t been paying attention as he followed his father into the maze.

I have to wait here. He’ll come back for me.

So Sawyer waited. And waited. And waited. He sat there hour after hour waiting for his father to return.  A growling stomach and a parched tongue finally encouraged him to start walking.  With a determined look on his face that couldn’t be seen in the darkness, he put a hand on either wall and began backtracking.

Not long after he had begun walking, the tunnel widened.  Sawyer tried walking back and forth between the walls, but eventually gave up on it. He didn’t know where he was. He could have passed an intersection without knowing it. For all he knew, he hadn’t even started in the right direction!

Since he didn’t know what else he could do, Sawyer resumed walking. All was silent except for the sound of his feet dragging through the dirt. Without knowing it, he passed several other twisting paths and countless places to make a wrong turn. Oblivious to the fact that he was walking deeper and deeper into the maze, Sawyer kept on walking.

Finally, when he was so exhausted that he could no longer bring his feet to take one more step, he fell to the ground. He pressed his dirty face against the ground, panting. Plenty of things that happened that day did not make sense to him, but one thing was clear: his father had abandoned him.

With that discovery fresh in his mind, the lonely, defeated prince drifted into an uncomfortable sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~

Something woke Sawyer. At first he wasn’t sure what it was. He wasn’t even sure where he was. He was stiff, as if he had been lying in one spot for several days. His mouth was completely dry and swollen.  He couldn’t stand up when he tried.

That was when it all came back to him.  He remembered the tunnels and his father abandoning him.  He remembered the cold and the darkness.

As Sawyer blinked his black eyes open, he realized that it wasn’t quite as dark as he remembered it to be.  It took him a few moments to spot the light source. To his right, there was a small prick of light that was growing larger by the heartbeat. At first Sawyer was stunned. What could the light possibly be? After his initial shock was over, the Vitchreonyian smiled. His people were coming to save him!

Since he couldn’t move, Sawyer stayed where he was and waited for the people to arrive. It had all been a misunderstanding. His father had sent patrols down to search for him. It was all going to be all right.

When the light was close enough for Sawyer to make out, his hope turned to dread. The people were not Vitchreonyians. One look at them confirmed it. The majority of the men in the patrol were short, with pale hair and skin. That could only mean one thing: Zarchamarcians.

Sawyer tried to hide himself, but soon he remembered that he couldn’t move. What was the point of hiding, anyway? If he hid, he would die. If he stayed where he was, he would most likely die. There was still a chance of survival if he went with the people of Zarchamarco. So Sawyer waited.

There were about ten people in the patrol.  All of them wore dirty chainmail armor and helmets that covered their eyes.  They were surrounding a figure on a short white horse (that had to crouch so the person wouldn’t hit their head).  As the leader of the group drew closer, Sawyer tried to hide his eyes.  The Zarchamarcians would immediately know it was him if they saw them.

“What’s this?” someone said with a Zarchmarcian accent as the torchlight landed on Sawyer’s body.  The boy shut his eyes.  He wasn’t exactly sure why.  If they wanted to see who he was, they could pry them open themselves.

“It’s a boy,” the leader replied, sounding somewhat annoyed.

“I know that it’s a boy!” the first man continued, “But what would a lone boy be doing down here?”

“Is it the boy we’re looking for?” someone put in.

“Why would he be down here?”

“Is he alive?” another voice asked. Sawyer was surprised to hear a girl’s voice. He risked opening an eye a crack and saw that it was the figure on the white horse. She urged her horse forward until it stood next to the leader of the group.

The girl had pale blonde, almost white, hair and skin that was just a few shades darker than Sawyer’s own sickly-looking skin. She looked very young, probably several years younger than Sawyer. Her eyebrows were darker than her hair and her chin was pointed under a tiny nose. She had a thoughtful look on her face that seemed to be very natural, almost as if she always wore it. However, none of these looks mattered to Sawyer. The thing that mattered were her narrow white eyes. Not only were they spectacular, they also gave away her identity.

The white-eyed girl was Velvet, Heir to the Throne of Zarchamarco.  Though she was tiny, Sawyer knew she was both powerful and well-respected.  Like Sawyer, everyone in Quanx knew who she was.

The leader approached Sawyer and turned his body over.  Sawyer was surprised by how gently the man handled him.

 It’s because he doesn’t know who I am.

“Can you hear me?” the man asked Sawyer, checking for a pulse. Sawyer didn’t know what to say, so he remained silent.

“He’s alive,” the leader informed his companions.

“Check his eyes,” Velvet ordered. “I doubt he’s the one we’re looking for, but we can’t be sure.”

The man put his dirt-covered finger on Sawyer’s eyelid, but Sawyer wouldn’t let him open it. Mustering all his strength, he leapt backwards out of the man’s arms, unsheathing his sword. He tried to land on his feet, but was so weak and unbalanced that he instantly fell down again.

If the leader was surprised by Sawyer’s sudden movement, he did not show it. He reacted to the new situation almost instantaneously. The leader quickly stepped in front of Velvet and put his spear at the ready.

“State your business, young man,” said the man.

“Starving,” rasped Sawyer in a voice that was barely audible.

The man did not think much of Sawyer’s witty reply. “Who are you?”

Sawyer had his eyes narrowed so they couldn’t be seen. He tried to clear his throat, but it was too dry. “I’m nobody. Take me back to the fresh air…please.”

Velvet tried to speak, but the lead guard stopped her before she could continue, “Please, Your Highness, let me handle this.”

Velvet narrowed her eyes, but consented with a wave of her hand.  Sawyer once again closed his eyes as he heard the man approach him.  He knew he couldn’t hide his identity forever.  He just hoped that he could buy enough time to conjure up a plan.

The man once again lifted him up, only this time he brought his hands under Sawyer’s arms until Sawyer was on his feet. “Show us your eyes, so we can confirm that you’re not a threat.”

Not knowing what else to do, Sawyer kept his eyes closed. It was beginning to dawn on him that there was no escape. He had been captured by the enemy.

Sawyer opened his eyes, defeated. The firelight danced off his eyes. The guard put him down and said to his companions, “It’s him.”

There’s nothing I can do.

The lead guard took a tentative step toward him.

Unless….

Gathering all of his strength once more, Sawyer unsheathed his sword. He didn’t intend to fight the man—he knew he would never win against the guard—but of course the man did not know that.

The leader of the group took a menacing step forward, crossing his spear before him. Sawyer saw all this in one quick moment, but the man was not his focus. When he had been following his father, he had noticed that the tunnels were not very stable. Maybe, and just maybe, he would be able to cause a few rocks to fall.  With luck, the diversion would help him escape.  He would rather starve in the tunnels than be taken by Zarchamarcians.

Before the leader could get any closer, Sawyer thrust his sword into the tunnel ceiling.  The ceiling was just a few feet above his head.  He now knew he wanted nothing to do with the people of Zarchamarco.  They had been looking for him and had brought their Heir to the Throne. That was never a good sign.

Sawyer lodged his sword between two rocks that formed part of the roof and quickly pried them apart. He wedged his sword above the large one and used all of his strength, hoping against hope that it would fall.

It did. The boulder wasn’t quite as big as Sawyer hoped it would be. It wouldn’t cut the Zarchamarcians off completely, but it did succeed in creating a diversion. The rock fell between the young prince and the Zarchamarcians. Sawyer didn’t waste a moment. He set off running before the rock even hit the ground. He tripped several times as he fled, but each time he stood back up. He would not let his fatigue get him recaptured.

Deeper into the maze Sawyer went. He passed two forks and chose the left way both times. He had just crossed the second one when he began to feel the tunnel shaking.

Sawyer slowed to a stop and looked around. No Zarchamarcian pursued him. Was he really so exhausted that it felt as if everything were shaking?

Right after that thought, he realized that it wasn’t his imagination.  Everything really was shaking.  Startled and frightened to the point of numbness, Sawyer vaguely wondered what to do.  He was frozen with dread. If the tunnels were coming down, he would be buried alive. He was going to die.

Not knowing what else he should do, Sawyer stood there.  He could not take another step. His knees were on the verge of buckling.

 This must be the end, then.

The tunnel’s ceiling began shaking and soon debris began to fall. Sawyer fell to the ground as something hit his head. His vision began to blur. He was losing consciousness. Sawyer took one last shuddering breath and prepared for death.

~~~~~~~~~~ 

By some miracle, Sawyer woke. Just opening his eyes took every bit of strength. He was spread across some rocks, half-buried, but he could tell that he wasn’t very deep. Since it was just his legs that were buried, he could see…nothing. He was still in the pitch-black tunnels. Only now he felt terrible. His head pounded and every part of his body hurt.

As he lifted his head, he realized he heard a voice. He could barely remember what had happened to him, but he was sure of one thing: he would rather be kidnapped by the Zarchamarcians than die alone in the tunnels. He needed to find the voice. He managed to stand, but had to rest on his feet for several minutes before he could take his first step. The bend from which the soothing voice was coming from was less than five steps away, but Sawyer didn’t know if he could make it.  Gritting his teeth, he prepared to take another step.  However, when he placed his hand on the wall for stability, he felt a peculiar pattern.

How strange.

Sawyer brought his hand back to his body, puzzled.  He wondered if he was imagining the entire situation as he placed his hand on it again.  It took him a few moments to find the unnatural carving in the darkness, but once he did, he knew what it was.

He traced the pattern with his shaky fingers. He felt a story unfold. He had learned how to decipher what the people called “miyhukes” about five years ago. Miyhukes were stories that were told through pictures. They had a special feel to them and, if you knew the code, you would be able to read the story by touch only.

The story was brief and to the point. First, there was a girl. That girl was a peasant. She traveled around the four tribes and, although she belonged to none, she was allowed on all territories. The story ended there, short and to the point. Whatever that was supposed to be. Peasants weren’t even allowed on Quanx, let alone able to travel on all four territories.

Sawyer was disappointed. For those few moments, he had forgotten his pain and misery and had simply been absorbed in the strange mystery of the story, however stupid. He stood there for a few moments staring into the darkness when a loud click echoed through the corridor.

Sawyer would have jumped if he’d had the strength. It was as if some sort of gear had been turned under the pattern of the story. Sawyer was no mechanic, but he knew the sound of wheels turning when he heard it.

Just when he was beginning to think he had imagined it, there was a light behind him.  He turned his head slowly, afraid of what he might find.  He was half expecting—and half hoping—that Zarchamarcians would be behind him.

There were no Zarchamarcians, but there was something.  Somehow, he had set off a chain reaction and had lit four torches behind him. Sawyer’s mouth gaped open in awe. A few more clicks sounded and more torches fired up.

They’re lighting a path!

The story that he had read had turned on these torches. More torches lit before him until the light disappeared around the bend. The voice that Sawyer had heard earlier fell silent.

Weird.

This kind of technology was unheard of in Quanx. They were a primitive society, so to Sawyer it was not unlike magic.

Gaining a little strength from the new hope that kindled within him, Sawyer stumbled around the bend to meet the voice. As he had originally expected from the sound, Velvet stood beside her white stallion. She turned around with a start at the sound of his shuffling. Sawyer leaned against the wall and rasped, “Water.”

Velvet nodded at him and dug through one of the sacks on the stallion’s back. If even half of the load the horse carried was food, they would be able to survive for a couple of weeks. The only thing that barred the way to the food was Velvet.

Should he trust her? It seemed as if that was his only option.  Sawyer was at her mercy.  He was too weak to do anything else.  As Velvet approached with the water, Sawyer wondered if it was poisoned.  He would have to take the chance.

“Do you need help?” Velvet asked as she handed him the canteen.

Sawyer pathetically shook his head and took the water with a shaking hand.  A little water spilled as he brought the canteen up to his lips.

“I only have six more canteens,” Velvet told him, “So try not to waste too much. And drink slowly, or you’ll get sick.”

Sawyer hardly acknowledged her warnings, but he did try to slow down without her noticing. She was right, but he wouldn’t let her know that he had obeyed. Since Velvet was alone, Sawyer took it that her patrol was either dead or lost.

“Let me get some food,” said Velvet, walking back over to her horse, “I have dried chicken, vegetables, and potatoes.”

She came back with the food. Sawyer could already feel his strength returning. He was still very weak, but at least he was alive.

“Thanks,” Sawyer muttered halfheartedly.

“I’m just glad I found you,” Velvet replied, her white eyes searching him.

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” defended Sawyer.

“I know you’re probably reluctant—”

“Reluctant? You have no idea.” Sawyer paused for a moment, and then continued, “I take that back. You probably do have an idea. You must be just as reluctant. Your tribe must hate my tribe as much as mine hates yours.”

Velvet looked at him with a confused expression. “What are you talking about?”

“For the Heir to the Throne, you sure don’t know much about what’s going on,” returned Sawyer. “You were warned that there would be trouble if you continued building that village on my land! I’m talking about the war!”

Velvet’s eyes widened in surprise. “How do you know about the war?”

Sawyer chuckled unbelievingly, “How wouldn’t I?”

“Sawyer…” Velvet said slowly, “the war started because you disappeared. Actually, it isn’t really a war…not yet, anyway. That’s why I’m down here. I was trying to find you.”

“Impossible!” said Sawyer, leaping to his feet. He had once again forgotten his weakness, and fell to the ground almost as quickly as he had stood.

Trying to calm himself down, Sawyer took a deep breath and continued, “Explain.”

“King Robert led a patrol to our palace himself. He ordered an audience with my parents and accused us of kidnapping you. He said that he saw a band of Zarchamarcians take you. When my parents told him that we were not holding you prisoner, the king muttered something along the lines of “I would only believe them if they searched themselves.” I knew that my mother and father could not go. They had too much to attend to around our territory. That’s why I came to find you. I couldn’t let the Vitchreonyians think that we had captured you. I sneaked out of the palace with ten of our guards and left a note to my parents. I told them to tell your father that I had gone to search for you.  If he believed them, I don’t know. We found an entrance to the tunnels not far from the palace…and now…here I am.”

Sawyer let her explanation sink in for a few second.  There was no more doubt. His father had abandoned him. He had abandoned him to start a war with the people of Zarchamarco.  What his father would get out of it, Sawyer had no idea.  All he knew was he was on his own.  A loner.  An outcast. He had no idea who he was or what he would do.  But he did know one thing.

Looking around the dimly lit corridor that was far below the surface of the earth, Sawyer said,

“My father lied to both of us.”

“And what does that mean?” Velvet asked with a knowing look in her eyes.

 “It means that I’ll travel with you.”

 

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mugwump
    May 26, 2012 @ 14:54:01

    Post More of the book !!!! When will more be posted?

    Reply

  2. mugwump
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 21:27:46

    I’m glad there was more to read !!! How long how long ….. ?

    Reply

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