Prologue to a 300,000 word trilogy about dragons, all dragons, and nothing but dragons.
DRAGONIA: Tales Of The Golden Talon
An introductory Forward to the Prologue
Fully illustrated and nearly 300,000 words in length, the Dragonia trilogy required more than ten years to complete, much of which was a full-time effort, off and on, seven days a week, 365 a year.
After dabbling in writing all my life, most of which was spent doing artworks of one sort or another, I stumbled into penning a novel when my wife, Madeline, felt that a recent dragon painting warranted a series of additional pieces.
The works that resulted soon became a cast of characters, players in an epic tale about both dragon hybrids and other, regular, more true-to-life varieties. And thus began an equally epical quest for a first-time author (moi) to write and complete the “great American novel”.
Begun in the early nineties, five years of weekly meetings with a writers critique group, plus additional course work in creative writing at a local college, eventually produced a finished product around 1997. The hundred-plus illustrations that accompanied the three volumes would take another four years or so before they were ultimately completed and ready to sell as fine art prints.
In late 2012, after completing the first two novels of a new series entitled Dragons Among Us, a much more serious fantasy for the young adult crowd, I went back and again self-edited the original trilogy--the prologue of which is now presented here for the first time outside of its present Kindle eBook format.
I’ll end this brief overview with a quick commentary about self-editing versus professional editing. Many new authors, including me at one time, have no idea--nary a clue--as to the “sticker shock” posed by the final expenses and preparations necessary to the publication of their first novel.
The chances of finding a publisher, for a first-time author, is nowadays next to impossible. Even when a publisher is willing to absorb the initial costs of printing--assuming you were one of the few, fortunate enough to acquire a publisher--the added expenses of marketing and a thousand other details are typically your entire responsibility. Unless you produce a best-seller, most publishers will quickly abandon both you and your work. And that’s just the good news.
That not only leaves almost everyone with self-publishing their book(s), but with the prospect of self-editing them as well. Not only are professional editors prohibitively expensive for all but those willing to sell their souls, mortgages on the house, and first born if available, but new authors represent sardines in an ocean of predatory editors who make Great White sharks look toothless by comparison.
Smart writers, if they can afford the extraordinary costs of professional editing, are extremely careful about choosing who edits their pride and joy. This selection process is perhaps the single most important adjunct prior to publication in any form, as is the writing process itself.
As for the rest of us who, for financial reasons alone, must edit, refine, and polish our novels completely on our own – save the input and feedback of other writers--we face an arduous and precariously subjective task. But it’s the best we can do with what’s available today, and the sooner we come to terms with the harsh reality of publishing, the less troubling will be our response to the forces poised to discourage us at every turn--of every page.
Which brings us full circle to the whole point of this introduction. It behooves us to pay close attention to the fine art of self-editing; it’s in our best interest to read the better writers when we find them, and learn what it is they know. The best trilogy of books any author can ever own is comprised of a dictionary, thesaurus, and a handbook on grammar and punctuation. Dog-ear the pages of all three.
With that said, the management of Timtu Ink. is proud to present the prologue to its first-ever novel. After what may well have been thirty to forty separate drafts, what you’re about to read is not only less than perfect, but still barely satisfactory in my humble opinion.
In the end, Dragonia is a fun story, however, and despite its debatable flaws here and there--heaven forbid--I view the work as I would a large painting: Move far enough away and the whole thing just fits together.
Atop the scorched bones of the gilded Dragle,
a Trueblood king would rule Dragonia.
Like the slow descent of a heavy curtain over a darkened stage, the thousand seasons of the Dragle dynasty drew towards an uncertain and tragic close. Queen Fahrna, the reigning monarch, had failed to bear a female successor who, at the appropriate time, would have taken her place as empress over all of Dragonia.
Distraught by the lack of an heir, the aged sovereign fell gravely ill, unable to rule. Until a rightful descendant hatched from among her only son’s offspring, the scattered territories must struggle to endure without guidance. In Fahrna’s absence from the great log, mistrust and confusion governed the empire.
To perch as the queen of Dragonia, a Dragle princess must possess the Royal Mark of the Golden Talon, a single claw with the color and luster of the purest gold. A hatchling who bore the hereditary trait signaled the birth of a new matriarch, and the celebrated event preserved the realm in a state of confidence and calm.
Whenever a ruling queen grew old and weak, the youthful heir assumed her rightful stance upon the log inside the Cave of Queens. As with all previous generations, the many regions of Dragonia honored the ascent of a new ruler, remained allied, and continued their traditions of peace and prosperity.
A large and separate, much older group of inhabitants also shared the ancient dominion. Called Truebloods and many times greater in size and power than other dragreatures, they lived in harmony with their neighbors. Never subject to the authority of the Golden Talon, the Truebloods ruled themselves.
Long before the reign of queen Fahrna, a mysterious and terrible plague had scourged the island dragontinent. The Great Sickness, as it came to be known, afflicted only the Truebloods and in its slow but steady progression, the disease ravaged their population.
As if borne by the plague itself, word of the Dragle sovereign’s illness had spread among the realm’s anxious, frightened subjects. Against a backdrop of perpetual conflicts and unresolved disputes, anarchy wracked the disintegrating regime.
Distressed by an unfulfilled, time-honored obligation, Fahrna blamed herself for Dragonia’s plunge into unprecedented chaos. During the course of a millennium, no prior ruler had ever left the land both leaderless and disordered. Within her lofty chamber cave, the despondent, bedridden queen lay dying beside her mate, Grandohr.
Jonaf, son of the Royal Mother, and his mate, Melia, represented the family’s last hopes for a daughter of imperial lineage. A final opportunity whereby a Golden Empress might once again perch upon the log. Too frail to attend the imminent hatching of Melia’s two eggs and with Grandohr at her side, Fahrna’s broken heart finally fluttered and stopped. Sadly ironic, her death preceded a grand and glorious event, for one of Jonaf and Melia’s newborn chicks bore the Royal Mark.
Another, less noble occurrence accompanied the birth of the new queen. The last herds of healthy Truebloods marked the unheralded procession. Still free of the fever, but devoid of hope, they sought refuge within Dragonia’s innermost sanctums. Elsewhere droves of stragglers succumbed to the plague, and their singular demise dampened the joyous arrival of the nestling princess.
Death and disquiet soon tormented the land everywhere and even Mamag, the sacred mountain, darkened the sky with angry plumes of steam and smoke. Amid echoes of bewailed cries, turmoil and fear blighted the whole of the realm.
Grief-stricken and bitter over the recent loss of his mate, Sarene, the mighty Trueblood, Dragragon, welcomed the news of queen Fahrna’s death. Rumors of a newly hatched Golden Talon had also reached his ears. With crazed, obsidian eyes, he watched as more of his kind limped towards the Valley of Gloom and Darcklan, their ancestral place of final rest. His resentful thoughts turned to the Dragle sovereign and imagined the happiness her birth would bring to Dragonia’s robust, unaffected, non-Trueblood residents.
Somehow immune to the contagion himself, Dragragon’s ire infected his once-gentle spirit. Blinded by hatred and envy, he came to believe the lesser Dragonians had, with purposeful intent, brought the malady upon those of his kind.
Convinced that these smaller, least powerful occupants had conspired against his superior breed, the bereaved Dragragon sought vengeance against them. What better retribution for their jealous and evil deeds, he contrived, than to be ruled by a Trueblood? Surely for this divine purpose, the inflamed avenger reasoned, the Sickness had spared his otherwise meaningless life.
While the impending coronation of the immature princess should quickly restore order, the precarious absence of a queen upon the log afforded Dragragon a unique opportunity. While the realm languished in disarray, he could easily subdue any who opposed his takeover. Before long they and every other Dragonian would grovel before his invincible authority, their cries of anguish mingling with those of the Truebloods’ own. Atop the scorched bones of the gilded Dragle, a Trueblood king would rule Dragonia.
The Dragle colonies lay nestled against Mamag’s upper slopes. On the brink of a hasty celebration designed to revive the troubled sovereignty, their galleries suffered the first of Dragragon’s fearsome wrath. Minus all warning and in the blood-red glow of a setting sun, the gigantic dragon attacked with violent, pitiless fury.
Spurting crimson blasts of infernal terror, the Trueblood clawed his way up the side of the holy mountain and incinerated everything—and everyone—in his path. Along the volcanic bluffs and escarpments, the flocks of panicked Dragles scurried throughout their nesting caves. As Dragragon drew ever nearer, mothers shrieked and clutched their young, others helped the elders, and all hastened to abandon their lifelong abodes.
Asleep in a royal chamber, but awakened by dreadful screams, Jonaf and Melia found themselves surrounded by flames and smoke. Grabbing their twin newborns and accompanied by guards, they fled to an inner network of adjoining tunnels and caves. Other victims retreated there, wept, and cursed the Trueblood’s unprovoked rampage.
Little time for escape remained. Should the usurper take to the sky, an aerial assault could spell a swift and fiery doom for any who lingered. But wary of the Royal Guards and his aim focused solely on finding the nestling princess, Dragragon chose instead to stalk the mountainside on foot. Caring little for who lived or died, his cautious, deliberate climb gave most of the Dragles their chance to depart.
Jonaf and Melia realized they must prevent the murderous Trueblood from slaying the infant queen. She above all others needed protection regardless of the risk. Though all seemed lost, a messenger soon arrived and informed the royal couple that Jonaf’s father, Grandohr, wished to meet with them in his private chamber. Instead of escaping with the rest, the family patriarch had forged a desperate and quickly calculated course of action.
Aware of the urgent necessity to save his granddaughter, princess Boja, the esteemed First Arden to the Aakylan Council had, together with the four other members, drawn upon a daring plan. The perilous plot also involved summoning the help of Shelldon, an inconspicuous dragurtle known for his stalwart loyalty to the royal family. Before the widespread conflagration forced Jonaf and Melia to slip away, the brief confab first brought them all to Grandohr’s deep-set quarters.
Upon Shelldon’s prompt arrival, the venerable consort of the deceased queen asked that his young compatriot accept a dangerous but vital mission. Honored to serve the prestigious family and his beloved homeland, the dragurtle without hesitation, agreed to Grandohr’s dire proposal.
Moments later, the private gathering had swiftly disbanded while Shelldon already pursued a long flight which would take him to a far region at the very edge of the dragontinent—and beyond.
As the ember-choked evening sky clouded with fleeing Dragles, Dragragon’s ferocious onslaught brought him to the large flightledges outside his quarries’ evacuated caves. With tremendous projectile bursts, his exhaled flames roared into the numerous tunnels, vaporizing whatever, and whomever remained. Too old and weak to fly, Grandohr stayed behind, his remote cave temporarily secure from the rage of the Trueblood.
Well below the scarred, blackened cliffs, the thunderous raid wrought by Dragragon reverberated throughout the frontier. Near and far, Dragonians gazed towards the volcanic summit and stared upward in shock and disbelief.
With plumes of smoke billowing from the charred cavities along the smoldering face of the peak, the dragon turned his unquenched frenzy to the dragontinent’s sprawl of lowlands. Hurling his lethal firestreams in every direction, he stampeded through forest and meadow, desert and jungle. In his aimless quest for justice, the maniacal Trueblood came upon no others of his kind. Isolated and alone, he surmised that he survived as the last of his kind, and the desolation fueled his madness more than ever.
With promises of power and independence, the self-proclaimed king enlisted the aid of one other sulky saurian. A dragodactyl loner named Rak, himself the sole survivor of his breed, consented to support Dragragon’s unlawful scheme. Together they would ensure a long remembrance of the Trueblood’s merciless reign.
Far from the carnage, Shelldon winged his way through the nighttime air, cradling in his foreclaws a small and delicate satchel. Ahead of him the weary traveler spotted a secluded, familiar pond, descended there and rested. But shortly he again whisked aloft and thought only of the responsibility entrusted to him by Jonaf, Melia, and Grandohr. He knew the fate of Dragonia balanced upon the success or failure of his crucial mission.
Leaving the pond far behind, the determined guardian finally neared his destination, a dangerous, forbidden outskirt. He did not look back. The acrid scent of soot and distant sounds of destruction pushed him ever onward. Shelldon preferred that his final memories of Dragonia remain unsmudged by the dismal sight of homes blazing under an ashen haze. Most of all, a duty to safeguard the jostling bundle handed to him by the royal family burned as a solitary image in his mind.
Beneath the skyward, gaseous jaws of Stormport, the entrustee slowed, hovered and only for a moment, hesitated. He feared entering the awesome portal much less than the unknown world that awaited him at its other end.
Wrapping his forelegs about the swaddled pouch, Shelldon soared into the whirlpool’s dark, enormous funnel and disappeared from view.
Epilogue to the Prologue
When reading this directly from the book that contains it, a substantial amount of preliminary material is presented that leaves no doubt as to the kinds of characters who are about to strut their stuff, so to speak. To some extent, I played fast and loose with the language, creating my own names and descriptions for things. For example, a dragle is equal parts eagle and dragon. And a dragurtle is, of course, half turtle and half dragon. These hybrid copies of more typical animals exist in a world where no humans or creatures other than dragons have evolved, advanced, and created their own cultures and societies. A bounty of both hybrids and full-blooded dragons--the Truebloods--comprise the fable which contains everything from violent and bloody battle scenes to humor and romance.
As chapter one opens, Shelldon and the newborn princess have escaped through the inter-dimensional portal and arrived safely on Earth. After several seasons of hiding among their kindred kind, the exiled queen has grown to maturity (somewhat) and both are ready to return to their home world. But a home where Dragragon and his minions await the return of the princess, and have sworn to slay her on sight.