This book is the second in a duology, the first book being The Dragons' Veil. The Dragons' Vision completes an epic tale for folks who love fantasy, romance, heroes, battles, and an occasional head-lopping.
The Dragons Vision
Sherri Godsey: Author/Artist of Flights of Fancy
When Princess Shaila flew her Black Dragon, Galvistor, through the magic Veil on her husband-quest, she disturbed the delicate balance that kept the Dragons' sanctuary safe. Now the Veil, a thousand years in place, is fading, and the drought and war of the outside world threatens that which has always been bountiful and peaceful. The consequence of her action is not lost on Shaila, who discovers she has made more than one mistake. She wanted handsome Armon Duel, a lordly soldier unlikely to object to a wife of unruly nature. By accident, Galvistor has brought home Captain Breedyn Sol, a domineering hulk who is everything Shaila intended to avoid! Breedyn Sol is horrified. Not only did he nearly suffocate inside the Dragon's heaving gullet, but he's been separated from all that is important to him--his duty and his men. He's as determined to leave as Shaila is to send him back. But there is no turning back.
Shaila watched, anxious, as Galvistor prepared to spit Armon out. The cave was deep but not great in diameter, and with the Dragon’s bulk blocking the entrance there was little light. It was taking him a moment to arrange himself and stretch out the long throat through which Armon had to slide. His gullet was ominously silent, and Shaila couldn’t remember when he had last jerked in response to his passenger’s angry thrashing.
Too long, she thought. Having been carried this way, herself, she knew one had to stay quiet and take shallow breaths, but she’d had no time to instruct Armon in the etiquette of gullet travel. Either he had figured it out himself or he was no longer capable of struggling.
“Hurry, Galvistor.” The waiting was unbearable.
“Merely selecting a smooth patch for the deposit,” he grumbled.
“For Gansur’s sake, you make him sound like something you’ll squeeze out your other end! Just do it!”
Galvistor’s scaled features didn’t permit a frown, but she heard his disapproval of her crudity in his small sniff.
Air pulled at her as he sucked in. A low whistling came from his throat, a whistle that went on and on because he had a huge girth to fill. Then silence, followed by a great grunt that sounded as if he really was trying to send his load out the other end—she saw a tentative movement at the base of his throat as Armon was forced out of the upper gullet. His body formed an obvious lump, a lump that moved too slowly. How could Armon breathe constricted inside that narrow space? The Dragon’s neck had never seemed narrow before, was in fact now of a greater size than ever. Armon was just bulkier than she had thought.
“Faster,” she demanded.
“Tr—er—yuk—ing,” Galvistor groaned. Obviously he couldn’t talk with a man in his throat.
The Dragon gagged, coughed, gagged again—a gleaming mass plopped from his mouth to the hard stone floor. His head shot up and he breathed in like an expanding bladder, filling lungs that must be nearly as empty as poor Armon’s.
“Never again,” Galvistor gasped, “will I make light of egg-laying.”
Shaila got on her knees and tugged at Armon’s metal head cover. His wet armor gleamed in the dim light, covered with slime that had been no aid in lubricating his expulsion.
“Please be alive,” she muttered, and suffered an uncomfortable memory. This moment was similar to the one in the cave beyond the Veil, when she had accidentally shoved her husband-choice off the high trail edge. Afterward she had knelt beside him, afraid she had killed him. Here she was, in that same posture of regret in spite of having pledged to not hurt him again. If he survived her clumsy efforts to lead him to his destiny, he might well be leery of her.
At last, the head piece slid off. She tossed it aside, reached to lift his limp head—and froze. Even in the poor light she could tell his hair was dark. Very dark. Perhaps it was just damp from Galvistor’s juices. Besides, everything was dark in this shadowed space.
“Is he breathing?” Galvistor lowered his head to peer at the prone figure.
“Oh! I—” shoving aside the niggling sense something wasn’t right, Shaila laid her hand over Armon’s nose. “I can’t tell. This gunk is blocking everything.”
Using the edge of her tunic, she wiped the mess off, clearing out his nose and mouth. The more she exposed his face the stronger her feeling of ‘wrongness’. Her hands could feel what her eyes couldn’t see. These features were rougher, not as refined as she recalled.
“Galvistor, I don’t think this is—”
“No movement,” the Dragon said.
"You’ll have to breathe for him or you’ll be attired in widow’s black before you’re even wed.”
“Breathe for him?” She looked up. The Dragon was so close his jaw tendrils almost smacked her in the face.
“Put your mouth over his and share your breath,” Galvistor said.
“Now or never, dear girl. Your husband-choice is turning quite blue.”
[Breedyn Sol] A warm, soft moistness pressed Breedyn's mouth, blocking his inhalation. Then it was gone and he managed a great intake of precious air. He coughed, breathed again, and rolled on his side, panting as his lungs adjusted to being used again.
“You’ve done it, dear girl!” a deep voice rumbled.
The sound was muffled. Breedyn shook his head and blinked, clearing his eyes. His vision returned but he still couldn’t see well. Wherever this was, it was deeply shadowed.
“Move, Galvistor. We need more light in here.”
Muted though it was, Breedyn recognized that voice. He couldn’t put a face to it.
“And where am I to move to?” the great voice asked, piqued. “There’s no room.”
“Just squeeze to the side, for Gansur’s sake. Something isn’t right here. I’ve got to see!”
That familiar voice again. A woman’s voice, also piqued.
Breedyn heard rustling, a muttering protest as something quite large moved away—weak light suffused the area. He was facing away from whoever had spoken, so rolled over.
“Oh, scales and fangs!” the woman said. “We’ve made a mess of it, Sir Dragon.”
Breedyn blinked again. “You!” he croaked.
*************************************** It hadn’t been a dream! Something had swallowed him! The gunk cleared from his ears had nearly suffocated him. He had been slipping with slow but inevitable progress into Ganyun’s dark realm—he grabbed Shaila’s shoulders, anger and dread making his grip tighter than intended.
“It was you! What did you do?” he demanded.
She tried to pull free. “That hurts! If you don’t take your hands off of me—”
He shook her. “Where is it, that thing from the caverns? How did you—”
A rumble vibrated the cave, the rocks shook. They both twisted to look in the direction of that sound. Something enormous, a blackness almost invisible in the darkness towered over them. Breedyn’s hands dropped. Shaila scooted away. Tight lipped and wide-eyed, he stared up into the darkness as she stood.
Gaze glued on that intimidating bulk, Breedyn rose, damning his unsteady legs. Pounding blood dizzied him, dryness scoured his mouth as the creature lowered its head level with Shaila, far enough out of the shadows for the dim light to reveal it.
Breedyn stumbled back, aghast.
The great head, almost twice the size of his whole horse, Shadowynd—a horse of considerable size—gleamed with black scales that faded into a tight, leathery skin around the nose end of a long and pointed muzzle. Huge, elongated nostrils throbbed red with its breath. The jaws remained closed, but Breedyn suspected the fangs within were as sharp and long as his sword. Four sleek protrusions dangled like huge hairs from the muzzle and jaw, two sprouting just behind the nostrils and two halfway between the nostrils and eyes. They were the diameter of Breedyn’s forearms at the top, tapering to points at their ends, undulating like the strands of a man’s long mustache with each movement of the creature’s head.
Eyes like immense faceted gems glittered, lit, he assumed, by the thing’s inner heat because the light in the cave was too pitiful to provide such a glow. Large, scaled eye-ridges delineated the upper and back halves of orbs that gave no clue as to their focus. Perhaps the thing looked at Shaila, perhaps at him. More likely at both of them since it was a predator.
Breedyn couldn’t look away, let alone move away. Coldness gripped his limbs. Fear. An emotion he had little experience with. Ganyun help him, he was experiencing it now in full force and it was paralyzing.
The creature snorted and the smoke thickened, writhing up like sinuous snakes. Habit generated response. When threatened, fight. Breedyn drew back and threw the rock as hard as he could, aiming for an eye. Swords were his forte, not rocks; the missile struck the base of one drooping tendril.
“OOOOOWWWWW!” The huge head shot up, and up. Thunk! The ceiling stopped it.
Shaila spun on Breedyn. “What did you do?”
He grabbed her wrist. Time to separate her from her monstrous lap-dog. “Let’s go, you little fool.”
She dug in her heels. “I’m not the fool here! Is violence the only way you can respond?”
“For Ganyun’s sake, woman, don’t argue! You’ll get us killed!” He looked up. The head was motionless up there. No doubt the thing was stunned.
“No one is going to get killed, you- you moron!”
She became a wildcat. He tired to pick her up but her flailing limbs were impossible to contain. A glance over his shoulder—oh Ganyun, too late! The head was returning, falling back toward them with relentless intent. Breedyn wondered if in being provoked the beast would forget its bond and grab the woman as well. Again, habit prevailed: protect those smaller and weaker. He pushed her behind him and faced the creature.
The head came toward him, slower, but inexorable, until the red nostrils were inches from his chest. Smoke covered him like a vaporous net, warm, acrid, blinding. He coughed again. This time there would be no swift swallow. He was going to find out how sharp those fangs were. He braced himself as the beast paused, as if considering how best to take him apart.
“I’ll distract it,” he said to Shaila between coughs. “When it grabs me, run.”
The creature snorted—a sound more of amusement than rage. The mouth opened. Breedyn closed his eyes, unwilling to see what was coming.
“Well, dear girl, for all that your husband-choice lacks manners, he has courage. And a protective nature, I’m pleased to say.”
Breedyn’s eyes flew open. The creature had pulled back, freeing him of the clogging smoke. But who had spoken?
“Sorry about that,” it said. “Can’t always control it. A nuisance, too, drying out my poor throat. I don’t know about you, but I could use a nice draft of ale about now, a strong, cold one.”
The monster sniffed his armor. “This explains the difficulty of regurgitation,” it said. “I hope that comes off. Otherwise maneuverability during mating will be quiet a task.”
Breedyn laughed, a croaking noise, more from shock at the thing’s cognitive powers than its outrageous remark.
“Galvistor!” Shaila stepped around Breedyn. “I can’t believe you’d say such a thing. Besides, it’s irrelevant. Didn’t you hear me? This,” she prodded Breedyn’s chest armor, “is not my husband-choice. You messed everything up.”
“Not your husband-choice? But you pointed him out!”
“An honest mistake.”
“Honest mistake? Honest mistake?” The huge head went up again, all but the end of its muzzle going back into shadow.
Breedyn’s knees wobbled. He would welcome the floor and the safety of a stupor, but his blood was flowing, bringing both brain and body to full alert. A soldier’s alertness that demanded he see and hear everything. The creature didn’t appear to intend harm, so he stayed on his feet, staring at the strange mouth as the skin around its edges moved like lips to form words.
“Let’s see if I have this straight," Breedyn said. "You seized me from a battle, snatched me up like some damn limp fish selected from the market for dinner—”
“Ah, now, you were never intended for digestion,” the dragon protested. “I don’t digest species of equitable intellect!”
“—and left my men leaderless in the face of an overwhelming enemy for the sake of trapping yourself a husband?”
Shaila’s eyes flashed. “I would never trap a man!”
“Oh, excuse me. What was I thinking?” Breedyn shoved his face close to hers. “How could I equate having your behemoth swallow some poor unsuspecting man and flying him to Ganyun knows where with ‘entrapment’?”
“Behemoth?” The serpentine head came back into the light. “An unkind comparison. Uh, what, might I ask, is a behemoth?”
“A better word for it,” Breedyn forged on, “is abduction!”
The dragon’s tendrils stiffened. “A behemoth is an abduction?” Smoke puffed from the nostrils. “I don’t understand. One sounds like a noun, but the other is a verb.”
“Offering a man a throne in a land ever green and beautiful is hardly abduction. It’s a gift,” Shaila insisted, “a wonderful gift.”
Bad enough she was a liar and a manipulator, he thought, but she spawned the most ridiculous stories.
“A gift, woman, is offered without strings attached. It is accepted or not, and once accepted, belongs solely to the recipient to do with as he will. If the man you chose didn’t want this ‘gift’, were you ready to take him home? His home, not yours.”
“I—he would have accepted.”
“Of course, this ‘prince’ among men would have gladly let himself be smothered in your dragon’s digestive tract for a place in your perfect—wait! You had your victim picked out. You were looking for him on that battlefield.”
He thought back on the battle but was unable to remember who had been where, or what had happened. His berserker state prevented the memory of anything beyond the hum of his striking sword. “Good Ganyun, who were you after? Who were you looking for out there in—” It struck like a sword hilt. “You were looking for Armon.”
************************************** “Is a behemoth an enemy or a friend? A wondrous beast or something unsavory?” the dragon asked.
“I doubt you have any friends, Brooding Sol, but that’s not my problem. Neither are you. You’re one mistake I don’t have to live with.” She leaned closer, refusing to back down. “We’ll gladly take you home.”
The dragon’s great head tilted.
“Actually, dear girl, you will have to live with this mistake.”
“I’m not getting stuck in any dragon’s heaving gut again,” Breedyn growled, only inches from her face.
“Heaving?” The dragon snorted. “How rude!”
“Then stay out of his way,” Shaila warned. “I wouldn’t want you giving him indigestion.”
Her warm breath reached Breedyn’s nose—Ganyun! There was that smell again, the one she had left in his tent, the inexplicable scent of fresh greenery. How dare she smell refreshing? Like her chin, his anger raised another notch.
“I’ll stay out of his way. I’ll walk home, if it’s just the same to you.”
Shaila’s eyes narrowed. “Be my guest.”
“You’d never make it through the mountains,” the dragon offered. “Or the Veil. Rotten weather. Putrid. Foul. Inhospitable. And that’s long before you’d reach those smelly marshes.”
“That’s the point of the matter.” Breedyn was so close he could see every feathery eyelash on her lids. “I don’t intend to be your guest. Not now, not ever.”
“Go, then.” She waved a hand toward the cave entrance. “No one is stopping you.”
The dragon’s long throat cleared loud enough to break their eye war.
“Sorry to interrupt,” he said, “however, you are both wrong. Lost the argument before it began. No choice in the matter, you see. You, Captain, are going nowhere but on to King Harrimore’s court. You, Princess, will fulfill your quest. You chose him, you keep him.”
“Ganyun’s balls! I can’t stay here! I have a war to fight. My men need me!”
Shaila’s mouth fell open. “Gansur! You can’t think I’d wed this arrogant miscreant?”
“Yes. And- a resounding yes.”
“It’ll be a cold day beyond the Hell-gate first!” Breedyn bellowed.
“Scales! I will not-”
“Silence!” the dragon roared, sending both of them back a step. He tapped his fore-claws on his chest, the sleek scales clinking like fine armor in the sudden stillness.
How, Breedyn wondered, does the beast look self-righteous without movable features?
“I will not disappoint my King,” the dragon said. Breedyn had the distinct impression the gleaming facets of one eye were directed at him as the creature dryly added, “The heaving gut behemoth has spoken.”