Princess Shaila doesn’t know why she is stubborn and rebellious when all other Isoladians in their peaceful land are staid and unmotivated. She doesn’t understand why she can’t inherit her father’s throne, but must find a husband to not only manage the Kingdom, but her as well. Nor does she understand how a thousand years ago, Isoladia’s loquacious Dragons created this bountiful sanctuary by raising the magic Veil to separate it from the violent land outside…a Veil that keeps them, and their humans, safe and long-lived. She does know to find the husband she wants, one who won’t stifle her, means breaking Isoladia’s First Law: no one, Dragon or human, goes through the Veil. Convinced the kind of man she needs only exists outside of Isoladia, Shaila will have her way. Thus she and her Dragon, Galvistor, breach the Veil…disturb the Veil…an irresponsible act with dire consequences not only for both worlds, but for herself, her Dragon, and the man she crosses the Veil to find.
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One thousand years ago, Dragons and Man fought a mighty War that almost destroyed Dragonkind. Dragons created the great Veil and the fruitful land beyond it as a sanctuary. Those that went inside exchanged fang, claw, and fire, for intellect, wit, and speech. Humans who agreed with their LAW—no aggression or killing—were allowed to join them. The land outside exists in constant war and drought.
How can one woman’s little moment of self-indulgence possibly change the course of existence for these two ancient and opposing worlds?
Forced to seek a husband because a female cannot inherit her father’s throne, Shaila, Princess of Ambistron in the land of Isoladia, refuses to be stuck with any of the men on her father’s list of ‘suitable’ choices. Independent, feisty Shaila wants a man who has other things to think about than what his wife is up to. Or, as her black Dragon, Galvistor, puts it, she wants a mate who will “overlook her unruly nature.” Shaila decides a warrior will do, but there are none in Isoladia. To get a warrior she must break the Law of the land: don’t go outside the great Veil that defines their world! But Shaila isn’t listening, not even to her Dragon. If she doesn’t find the kind of man she wants, she’ll end up wed to one who will stifle her for life.
In spite of his better judgment, the reluctant, grumbling Galvistor gives in and flies her through the Veil, which turns out to be a turbulent, freezing barrier that nearly kills them both. Once on the other side, Galvistor begins to revert to what Dragons were like before the Veil was created. His impressive vocabulary slips, as do his manners. At the same time, his appetite and hunting instincts are stimulated. As Shaila and Galvistor fly west in search of the Army and its warriors, the Dragon is slowly but surely losing interest in protecting his Princess.
Breedyn Sol, First Captain of the Tarbaenian Army, is a compelling commander who dreams of peace in spite of constant fighting. He must contend with other Tarbaenians, invaders from surrounding Kingdoms, bandits, and the half-human, flesh-eating Borken horde. Above all else, Breedyn’s loyalty is to his men and he does his best to keep them alive. The Warlord he respects and rides for, Yesel Dien, is inexplicably ill, and Yesel’s scheming son, Valmon, is running the Army. Valmon hates Breedyn’s popularity and his support of Yesel. Valmon wants to be the Warlord, and when he sees an opportunity to kill the interfering Captain Sol, he takes it. He sends Breedyn with an army to engage an overwhelming number of Borken. Breedyn goes because he believes the order is from Yesel.
The battle is on and the humans are losing when Galvistor smells blood and Borken. The disruption of the Veil has disturbed the weather, and as the Dragon wings toward the fray, a great rain storm follows. Hidden by the storm, he drops Shaila and begins killing and eating Borken, unknowingly saving what remains of Breedyn’s army. Instinct constrains him from harming the humans, who can’t see what aids them. The sated Dragon leaves, abandoning Shaila.
Shaila is discovered by Breedyn’s First Officer, Armon Duel, who brings the strange woman into the war camp. Breedyn is furious. He despises beautiful women! His beautiful but selfish mother deserted her family, and Breedyn views such women as deceitful. When he finds himself attracted to Shaila, he’s appalled. Shaila considers the intimidating Captain as too domineering. She wants a man who won’t try and control her. In fact, the handsome, lordly, and very gentlemanly Armon Duel is exactly what she’s looking for. She’s certain when she offers him a Kingship in an abundant land, he’ll be eager to leave his own hungry, bloody world.
In spite of her incredible sexual appeal, Breedyn sees the odd woman who dropped (literally) out of nowhere, as unwanted trouble. Not knowing what to do with her here in the wilds, he ignores the attraction, restricts her to his tent and sets a guard to keep her there. He leads Armon and a few others into the caves to map the tunnels and track the remaining Borken. Angry for being treated as a prisoner, and determined to find Armon, Shaila escapes and follows the scouting party. She’s discovered after it’s too late to send her back, requiring them to keep her with them.
Having forgotten he’s civilized, Galvistor is wandering the same caverns. He’s tired and hungry and wants out. He startles a pack of Borken, who flee, almost encountering Breedyn’s group. The Borken escape from the caverns, and when Breedyn and his men hear ‘something’ roaring in the dark, they follow the trail the Borken used. Shaila doesn’t want to go. She’s found her wayward Dragon, who has some explaining to do. As does she. She’s had no chance to explain herself and her plans to Armon. She fakes a twisted ankle so he’ll remain while the others leave to see if the Broken are gone. They’re not! The men are fighting for their lives at the cave entrance. Armon’s duty is to keep the map and Shaila safe, so when an enormous, fire-breathing monster appears, he figures it’s safer outside. Trying to stall him, Shaila accidentally pushes Armon over a ledge, knocking him unconscious.
Shaila confronts her Dragon, who almost eats her. Her familiar smell and voice revive his memory. Distressed from days spent with the mental capacity of a lizard, Galvistor is eager for home. While they’re talking, a dazed Armon stumbles out to the fight, and Shaila realizes the only way to keep the perfect husband-choice alive is to simply take him and explain later. When she and Galvistor leave the cavern, she orders him to snatch up Armon—only the men are wearing helmets! Which is Armon? She selects the one standing in spite of the wind caused by the Dragon’s wings, the one still swinging his sword. Obviously the bravest, he must be Armon. Galvistor swallows the man, securing him in his upper gullet, and flies for home, so relieved he bursts out in song. Horrified, the men left behind watch the beast that ate their Captain escape, singing in a fine bass as it disappears toward the distant mountains to the east.
Glad her quest has ended in success, Shaila is excited to get home and prove to her father she has not only found the best man to inherit his throne, but hasn’t ‘made ripples’ in the scheme of their lives as he predicted she would. Best of all, she’ll never have to see or hear of mean, brooding Captain Breedyn Sol ever again!
Inside the Dragon’s gullet, still half in the beserker state that made him so formidable in the fight, Breedyn Sol has no way of knowing where he is, or where he’s going.
No one has any idea what changes the breaching of the great Veil will bring about. As the Dragon flies home and Breedyn’s men mourn his death, things that have long slept, begin to stir. And the Veil that separates the peaceful from the violent, the abundant from the hungry…begins to fade.
Thus ends Book One of this whimsical, epic duology.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Preparing to go on. You haven’t said a thing that convinces me I shouldn’t try and go through that Veil. As you noted, there are good and bad among every populace. I shall find a good warrior.”
“There is no such thing.” She ignored him. His tail whipped so quickly, it hummed. “Do you recall the term ‘warmonger’ from my stories?”
“Someone who is eager for war.” She placed her arms through the pack straps. “But you were describing people from a thousand years ago, Sir Dragon. That’s a long time for anyone to stay mad. Since your kind has been gone for so long, how do you know the people on that side haven’t changed as well?” She adjusted the pack between her shoulder blades.
“Because,” he huffed, rising high on his haunches, disturbed by her intent, “they were wicked! Wicked is as—as wicked does. And wicked does not change.”
“There’s an enlightened response.” She lifted the cloak. “You sound like Daddy. He has a rigid mindset, but I thought you were more...inquiring. I misjudged you.”
“I am as inquiring as the next Dragon.” One great claw plucked the cloak from her grasp.
He held it out of her reach. “Going beyond the Veil is irrefutably unfeasible—according to Dragon Law, I cannot go through it. And according to human Law, neither can you.”
She glared at him. “I knew you were afraid.”
“Not at all,” he insisted.
“You told me neither Laws nor Truths are set in stone.”
He flared his nostrils. “I never said that...did I?”
“Well, I can paraphrase too: things change and we must change with them. Adhering to outdated concepts is as useless as wearing tattered underwear—nothing important is contained and all your faults are exposed.” She reached for the cloak and he lifted it higher.
“That makes no sense. Nor,” he said, “would I have made such an analogy. I know nothing about underwear.”
“That was my own thought on the subject. Keep the cloak, if you will. I’ll do without.” She hooked her thumbs through her pack straps and turned on her heel.
“It will take you more than a month to reach the Veil afoot,” he said. “Thirty days, plus one. Seven hundred and forty-four hours!” She kept walking. “Forty-four thousand, six hundred and forty minutes. Two million, six hundred—”
“So who’s counting?” she said loud enough for him to hear. “No one who counts, anyway. I’ve always known that when the chips were down a Dragon wouldn’t come through. Generous my eye!” She sniffed, as much in contempt as to hold back tears.
Wump, wump, wump—the grass compressed from the rush of air as Galvistor swung overhead and repositioned himself in front of her. His landing shook the ground. He settled, yet didn’t, for his wings remained stiff with tenseness, great sheaths of blackness slowly, slowly fanning the air.
Shaila stopped, enthralled. She had never seen him angry.
“I cannot let you go,” he grumbled.
“Then eat me, because that’s the only way you’ll stop me.”
“All the way down,” she insisted, stepping toward him. “Bite me, chew me, and digest every part—better that than a slow death in a long life with a man I don’t want.”
“How distasteful! I would never—”
“Go on, swallow me!” She walked straight at him, sending him into a cumbersome, backward scuttle. “Better a momentary belch in your esophagus than some stranger’s life mate.”
“That was redundant. And you’re distraught!” Galvistor blurted, still backing up. His tail was in the way. It kinked, stopping him as she reached his torso.
“You have no idea.” She stopped under his breast, forcing him to curve his neck into a tight arch to look down at her. “Do you want to know what the worst part is?” she asked. “Learning the creature you thought to be your best friend isn’t there when you need him.” She prodded him with a finger. “Finding that under his glorified coat of scales, beats the heart of a- a- flunky, who only does what my father tells him to do.”
Pale green smoke trickled from his nostrils and dissipated. “I am neither glorified nor a flunky, dear girl. What would you have me do? Take you into a place where I cannot keep you safe? You think that is friendship?”
She flattened her hand against scales as hard and smooth as polished diamonds. “You are the King of Beasts. Smart and strong, and you sing wonderfully. I trust you can keep me safe even in a world of warmongers.”
He lowered his head. “This is so important to you?”
“It is my life, Sir Dragon. How important is that?”
He was silent a long moment. “You are determined in this?”
His head rose again and he stared into the distance, contemplating, she was certain, the seething motion of the distant Veil, for his eyes were more keen than any other creature.
“I feel,” he said, his voice distracted, “that there is a design to this circumstance, a weaving of fate into our time... Why can I not remember, when I remember all else?”
Shaila tilted her head, straining to hear what he said. “Whatever to you mean?”
His head came down and she stepped back, so that his warm nostrils quivered only feet from her face.
“A design. A purpose. Fate. Destiny. Providence. You, being born as you are, stubborn and energetic—not to mention rebellious—when all around you humans have become, to put it kindly, staid. I prefer the quiet, I do, yet there is in me some odd and nagging notion that any species too long quiet will become...extinct.”
Shaila frowned. “I don’t know that word.”
“Vanish, dear girl. Cease to be. Die out. Disappear!”
Shaila swallowed, not certain what he meant, but uneasy, for what he said sounded like a prophecy of doom. Whose doom, she didn’t want to know.
“There may come a time,” he added cryptically, “when I cannot keep you safe, when perhaps being safe is not the means by which the future can be gained.”
“Galvistor, I still don’t understand you!”
“No? Neither do I. I have this strange sensing...perhaps it is merely old age making me paranoid. Or something I ate. Forget I mentioned it.” He sighed, a deep rush of warmth that immersed her in a sulfurous odor as he gazed at her with one gleaming eye. “Your life, you say? That is most important. More important, I think, even than Laws wrapped in tattered little undergarments.”
Shaila let out her breath, surprised she had been holding it. Knowing she had won, she stepped forward and kissed him between his nostrils.