Sunday, 30 August 2015

Prologues

There has been much chatter about prologues in the #PitchWars channels in the past couple of weeks. Some people like prologues, some people detest them. I've always found them a bit of a distraction, if I'm honest, but that didn't prevent me from writing one for one of the many drafts of Alexandra Frost and the Dragons of Overearth!

However, I did come around eventually and removed it from the book. The main reason? The book worked without it, so it didn't really serve a purpose. As it will never probably be reintroduced to the book in any form, I thought I would post it here to give some insight into what Alexandra Frost is all about - if you don't already know. So, without further ado...

Prologue: Exodus


The battle raged on. In the distance, the dark dragons approached over the Sawtooth Mountains.

"The southern assault has failed," a wizened old man in a tattered black cloak called as he marched up the path. Behind him a group of short dwarf-like creatures followed into the makeshift village.

Marcus put his hands to his head in a vain attempt to block out the noise.

"How many were," he paused briefly, trying to find the right word, "lost?"

"This is all that's left of the Tykes," the old man replied, sweeping a gnarled wooden staff across the group of a hundred or so short creatures that had now collapsed in the relative safety of the compound.

"And ours?" Marcus asked, the expression on his face betraying his worst fear.

The old man simply shook his head.

"It is time, Marcus," the old man implored, his voice almost drowned out by the sounds of war cascading up the hillside and over the hastily constructed battlements. "We must go, we cannot defend this position."

"I will not abandon this world! Not when so many have given up their souls to try and defend it."

"We are not abandoning it," the old man explained. "We are just... taking a rest, regrouping."

Marcus examined the old man's face, seemingly searching for an alternative solution amongst the myriad lines that had been etched there by time.

"Very well," he resigned, "we fall back to the glade. It is still safe?"

"It will always be safe," the old man replied.

"I will gather everyone that is left and meet you there," Marcus commanded as he changed his form and launched into the air. Behind him, he could hear the old man marshalling the Tykes and the responding groans of protest.

As soon as he was clear of the battlements, Marcus could see the destruction before him. To the west, forests burned, turning the sky a blood red colour and sending plumes of dark smoke towards the heavens. Hordes of black creatures poured from the burning woods like an army of insects flowing into the Golden City.

The city itself was already in ruins. The attack had been so swift that they hadn't time to evacuate. Only those swift enough to flee or strong enough to fight had escaped.

Marcus hovered for a moment, looking from wing to wing. He then dove into a mass of swirling bodies with a roar. A spread of flame burst from his open mouth causing the dragons to scatter in every direction.

He gripped a pair of enormous silver wings and beat his own wings hard, thrusting himself and his quarry far above the melee. The silver dragon struggled against him but was no match for Marcus's greater strength.

“Erbas!” Marcus called.

The silver stopped his countermove and turned to face his captor. He seemed agitated and Marcus noticed a deep gouge running down his torso and fresh blood seeping from the wound.

“General Marcus,” he replied, “shouldn't you be...”

“Find Gorynych, Illuyankas and Ryujin,” Marcus interupted. “Tell them to stage a covered fall back. We need to regroup at the command centre in the glade.”

“Yes, General,” Erbas replied and immediately flew back into the battle, bellowing orders.

#

Thousands of dragons of every colour flew over the forest. Marcus, resplendent with his golden scales, led them over the lush green trees. A stark contrast to the black and red and grey of the battle they had just abandoned.

Before long, a break in the trees opened before them. In the clearing were row after row of tents. A refuge away from the war that was tearing apart the rest of the world. Humans, Dwarves, Tykes and other races milled around, fetching firewood, bringing food. One tent housed the sick and wounded, a number of whom lay on stretchers on the ground outside. One or two covered from head to toe with black blankets.

One by one, the dragons landed in the clearing and shifted into humanform. Marcus and four other dragons landed near the largest tent, towards the centre of the glade. The old man walked from the tent to greet them. A beautiful woman with flowing golden hair followed him and moved directly to Marcus.

“Marcus, you're okay,” she called, wrapping her arms around him and holding him tight.

“I'm fine Claire,” he replied. “But we lost a lot of good souls today.”

“General,” a burly man with jet black hair approached from the tent. “The council is assembled in tent. You need to hear this.”

“Oh Marcus,” Claire looked up at him with tears welling in her eyes. “Something terrible has happened. It is the worst thing.”

Marcus looked from face to face, trying to read the situation.

“What? What is it Gorynych?” He looked to the burly man.

“You should come inside,” was all Gorynych replied.

Marcus marched into the tent, with Claire, the old man and Erbas in tow. Gorynych pulled the tent closed behind them. The leaders of the various dragonclans were present: Ryujin of the whites. Smey Gorynych of the reds. Erbas of the Silvers. Apalala of the blues. Illyunkas of the greens. Ladon of the black. Marcus, himself, representing the golden dragonclan.

Also represented were the other races: the tree dwellers, the Elven lord Horen, the Dwarven king Mynan and the Tyke supreme counsellor.

The old man stood before them, a table with an ancient map spread out and a number of markers dotted around.

“Merlin, what has happened?” Marcus demanded. “Where is Lord Kur?”

The old man sighed and stepped toward Marcus, placing a steady hand on his shoulder. He looked up at him and then turned, shook his head solemnly and walked back to the table.

“The reports are... sketchy, to say the least,” he began. “It appears that this is not an invasion at all. We were wrong. I was wrong. It's a civil war Marcus.

“The Citadel has fallen and with it so has Kur, we believe.” There were mumblings of disbelief amongst those present.

“Who could have killed Lord Kur?” Erbas demanded angrily. “He has ruled peacefully for thousands of years!”

“Balaur...” Marcus collapsed forward, the palms of his hands slamming onto the table.

“Yes,” Merlin confirmed, “as abhorrent as it sounds, I think you are right. He tried to steal the Kur-stone and was to be punished. But, before Kur could restrain him fully, Balaur had amassed support from within the Citadel. He turned Kur's own guard against him.”

“But how?” Erbas lashed out at a pitcher on a nearby table, sending crockery and water flying and making no attempt to hide his fury. “Those were good dragons. They were my friends. There is no way they would betray Lord Kur!”

“I am unsure,” Merlin answered. “But Ryujin may have an answer.”

The leader of the white dragons stepped forward.

“We caught one at the Imperial City. A dragon, not the other kind. He was not in his own mind. We think that Balaur has some kind of control over them. They do whatever he commands them to do. Those that do not bend to his will become the other kind. Those abominations that we faced on the battlefield. Neither dragon, nor human but something in between.”

“This is madness,” Marcus exclaimed. “We do not kill our own kind! This rule has been enforced for over a thousand years!”

“Rules can be broken,” Merlin interjected. “What is clear is that you are not safe here. The cities are being razed. The children are…”

“What about the children?” Marcus demanded.

Claire moved to his side and took his hand. As she spoke, she turned his head to look her in the eyes.

“Marcus, some children have vanished. But it’s not just the children, entire clutches of eggs have gone.”

“Alexandra!”

“She is safe,” Claire said in a calm manner. “But for how long? We have few places left to hide.”

“There is one place you can hide.” Merlin offered. “All of you and your children. The one place he cannot go.”

“You mean Earth?” Marcus replied. “But how can we travel there? Only Kur can open the doorway between the worlds and he's...”

“I know of a way. But we can only send a few at a time. We will need to establish some more safe areas on Overearth to buy us some time. Some of you will need to stay here to help us rebuild, but I will send the families away. You must spread out so that he cannot find you. Will you accept my offer?”

Marcus looked at each of the members of the dragon council in turn.

“The white dragons agree,” Ryujin nodded.

“The reds agree,” Gorynych bowed his head.

“The blue dragons concur General,” Apalala affirmed.

“The green dragons agree,” said Illyunkas.

“The black dragons will go,” agreed Ladon.

“Erbas?” Marcus turned to face his companion.

“We will stay,” Erbas stated boldly. “We were entrusted with the safety of Lord Kur and we failed. I will send away the families nut it is only right that we stay behind and clear up this mess.”

Marcus nodded sadly. “The golden dragons agree. Merlin, please make the preparations. We shall establish sanctuaries while we wait.”

Marcus looked at the map silently for a moment. Running his finger along the northern-most edge.

“King Mynan, how does your castle under the mountain stand?”

“As strong as ever, General!” The stout dwarf stepped forward. “It would make a worthy sanctuary for the North.”

“Thank you,” he moved his hand to the west. “Lord Horen, is the Blighted Vale still impregnable?”

“Of course, General,” the slender Elven leader bowed. “And at your disposal.”

“We should use Bebrycg in the south,” suggested Illyunkas. “It is close to the Vale, but is well guarded and impossible to scout.”

“Agreed,” replied Marcus. “Good idea.”

“General,” Marcus turned to the voice. Apalala was pointing to the map. “Here, in the middle of the Dragon Sea. There is an island.”

“It is not on the map.”

“But is is there. I have seen it.” Assured Apalala. “If it is not documented, it stands to reason that Balaur will not know it is there. It would make an ideal sanctuary for the west.”

“Does anyone disagree?” Marcus looked around the tent. The attendees look from one to the other, but no one appeared to have any objections.

“How will we keep in touch?” Gorynych asked. “We need to know when is safe to return. We will need to bring children back to teach.”

“Merlin?” Marcus deferred.

“I will keep contact between the seven dragonclan leaders. Only Marcus and I should know where everyone's whereabouts.”

“Then we are settled,” Marcus confirmed. “Go tell your families, say goodbye to your friends. We leave as soon as possible and who knows when we will see each other again.”

#

Two figures emerged from the darkness of the woods. The first dragged a wooden trunk elaborately decorated with gold and intricate patterns. The second figure carried a bundle of cloth. Deep inside the bundle, a third, smaller figure stirred.

“Marcus?” Claire placed her hand into the bundle and reassured the child sleeping inside.

“This will work for us, Claire,” Marcus responded without looking back at her. “This will be our home.”

The gate in front of him hung from one hinge. The blue paint was chipped and faded. He pushed the gate open and it protested with high pitched wail. Beyond the gate, he could barely make out a path. It was covered with overgrown weeds, grass and shrubbery. Pushing his way through, Marcus entered the garden and looked upon the cottage in front of him.

If he could call it a cottage. It was barely standing. But Merlin had assured him it was safe for their family and that they would be able to make it fully habitable in very short order.