A SONG OF AGES draconic
An extract from The Best of Men (part 4)
They were egging each other on to do the deed. The two biggest boys homed in on the girl. It was a strange language they used but Hadradag could understand the meaning. She was telling the boys that they were cowards and the boys were saying to her ‘Do it. You think you’re hard. Go on. You want to stay in our gang, you have to.’ The interesting thing was that the girl was clearly the bravest of the lot of them. It was often the case. The smallest have to risk more to prove themselves. And that was why he was here.
Hadradag lay quite still watching them through his closed eyelids. He was happy for them to think he was asleep. Happy to observe these children of men. It was a new experience. The girl stooped and looked for a good stone: not too heavy, not too light, and when she found it she smiled. It was an ‘I’ll show you’ smile. Her gang fell silent as she moved a couple of paces closer weighing the stone in her hand, judging the distance. It was a pity this scene was coming to an end. They were so small and yet all the emotions, the rivalries, the bravado, the courage he might expect from his own kind were clearly present. Perhaps there was more to mankind than he had thought.
The girl paused. She was right to do so. There was a difference between deciding to venture something and actually doing it. The decision might acknowledge there may be danger, the deed itself will bring the danger full on. But she set her chin. She raised her arm. She threw.
Hadradag’s head moved so fast that he had caught the stone on his tongue and spat it out a hundred feet into the air before any of the children began to run. But they ran fast enough when his head swung round to face them. All except the girl who was frozen to the spot. He wondered at that. Was it fear? Amazement? Acceptance of defeat? Her hands curled into fists. Defiance. He flattened his long neck so that his head came down to her level ten feet from where she stood. And then opened his eyes.
The girl gasped. It was probably the incandescence that surprised her though he had been told many times that his eyes were particularly beautiful. He thought to her: you are a fine cub, you have great courage and I am proud to have met you and then he breathed gently upon her, taking great care to make that breath just warm. The girl shivered in pleasure and she smiled. It was an excited smile. It was a thank-you smile. Hadradag smiled too but probably she could not tell.
‘Playing with your food, Hadradag? She’s hardly more than a mouthful.’
The girl’s smile disappeared and fear overcame her at last.
Run little one, Hadradag thought, you are not safe here. Run!
‘Not hungry, then?’
Hadradag favoured his questioner with that wondrous gaze but the man seemed unaffected by it.
You are not amusing, Uh Bib. You are insolent. And yet still I do your bidding. This is a great mystery to me.
He could not decide what to do with the wizard. Some of the time he wanted to kill him quickly but there were many moments when he contemplated something much more lingering.
‘Let us not say you do my bidding: there is reward to be gained from our collaboration. If you can assist me to my ends then I will help you achieve yours.’
So you say. Who is that, skulking by the castle wall?
The wizard glanced over his shoulder.
‘I asked him to wait until you consented to see him. He is known as the Necromancer, Lord of this island. May he approach?’
To what end?
‘A matter of courtesy to you, that is all.’
Then no. I have already had the pleasure of more worthy acquaintance: it is sufficient that he can witness my glory from the shadows.
‘I can never tell when you are joking.’
I care nothing for your entertainment, wizard, only for my own. When will we leave this place?
‘That is why I have come. We are needed in Aegarde. Athoff is losing his way; his army is wavering. I need to stir them up.’
Hadradag sprang to his feet, arched his long back, shook out his wings and belched a great gout of flame up into the sky. The fallout from it set fire to several trees.
A live dragon settling in their camp might stir them up more than you need.
‘That I am prepared to risk.’
THE BEST OF MEN
SONG OF AGES
An epic fantasy of monsters, gods, warriors and wizards, of heedless villains and decent everyday people.
Available as a Paperback Original
at £17.99 / $22
and as a kindle edtion
now at £/$ 6.99
COINCIDENT - The Best of Men Pt 1
is available as a kindle serial edition
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