The Dragonspire Chronicles Ebook Bundle
The Dragonspire Chronicles Ebook Bundle
Do you love dragons, high stakes, and hard choices? The you'll love The Dragonspire Chronicles.
Contains the following Ebooks:
1. The Black Egg
2. The Mysterious Coin
3. The Dragon's Graveyard
4. The Slave War
5. The Sunken Tower
6. The Dragon Empress
Yaz stood at the edge of the village training grounds, really just a dirt circle outside the walls and a few yards from the town proper where the boys between thirteen and eighteen met for daily drills. He held his hands clasped behind his back at parade rest. A bright sun shining in the clear sky tempered the morning chill. Summer was still a month away and you knew it on mornings like this. In a few hours it would be warm enough that he wouldn’t need his wolfskin cloak, but for now the heavy garment felt good.
He hunted the beasts himself last year. Yaz made a decent living selling furs, among other things. On the ground at his feet rested a curved, rectangular shield nearly as tall as Yaz himself. Next to that lay a blunt spear. Together they served as training versions of the village militia’s primary equipment.
At seventeen, Yaz was completing his final year of training. Assuming he passed the weapon master’s assessment, the next time bandits attacked the village he would take his place in the shield wall with the other village men. Though assuming he was going to pass would have been a mistake. Master Aaron Hendal, the giant, blond weapon master, had made it clear more than once that he didn’t think Yaz was cut out for the shield wall. He was too short and too skinny. His body just wasn’t designed to absorb the sorts of impacts fighting in the wall required.
Yaz couldn’t argue with his reasoning, but as the son of the village chief, no favoritism could be shown. If anything, Master Hendal pushed him harder than any of the other boys. It paid off in some ways. He might be small, but Yaz was the best archer in the village. He was still using a bow designed for thirteen-year-olds, but he could put an arrow in a man’s eye from forty paces.
A roar and crash split the air as the current group of trainees, two opposing teams of four, came together, shield to shield, pushing for advantage. Dust flew as they scrambled for position. To Yaz’s left and right boys cheered and shouted encouragement to their friends.
Yaz remained silent, focusing on what the boys did. Everything Yaz experienced was permanently imprinted on his memory, ready for perfect recall at any moment. In fact, he remembered everything from the time he was three months old onward. This wasn’t at all normal, according to his mother, but also nothing to worry about. One of the sages had a similar gift, though his perfect memory only extended to what he read, and he taught Yaz how to deal with the ability and the nightmares that came with it.
“Enough!” Hendal bellowed.
The trainees stopped at once, separated, and stood at attention. Hendal walked up one side of the formation and down the other. At last he said, “Good. Clear the circle. Group two get ready.”
The dismissed group broke up, grinning and wiping sweat from their brows. They’d put on a fine performance. Yaz wished he had any hope of matching them. He picked up his heavy shield, sliding his left arm through a rough leather loop until he could reach the grip. Next, he took up the spear in his right and marched out beside his shieldmates. The other boys all towered over him, the next shortest standing just over six feet.
Yaz took his place second from the left and stood at attention, waiting for Hendal’s command. He didn’t have to wait long.
“Group A defend. Group B attack,” Hendal said.
Yaz grimaced, and tried to crouch like the others, digging his feet in for maximum balance. He’d barely bent his knees when the bottom of his shield hit the ground. Lifting it didn’t help. Even a few inches put the rim over his eyes, blinding him.
“Lock shields!” Hendal shouted.
Yaz tried to bring his shield level with the men to his left and right, but he simply couldn’t do it and see what was going on.
“Group B, charge!”
The impact from the initial blow drove Yaz back two steps, breaking their line. The others tried to close even as he rushed to return to his position.
Both efforts were doomed to fail. The boy that hit him kicked Yaz’s shield and sent him sprawling. The rest of group B separated and surrounded Yaz’s teammates. The fight lasted less than a minute.
Why did they continue with this farce? Everyone knew he was never going to fight in the shield wall. Day in and day out he demonstrated his uselessness and here he was five years later still proving the point.
The two teams separated. Yaz scrambled to his feet and returned to his place drawing scowls from his teammates. He didn’t blame them for their anger. In a real fight they’d all be dead right now. Yaz would’ve been angry in their place. He was angry in his place for that matter. Doing the same thing over and over served no one and they all knew it.
“That’s enough for today,” Hendal said. “Yaz, hold back.”
The rest of the boys ran off to return the gear to the equipment shed so they could get home to whatever chores awaited them. Two minutes later Yaz and Master Hendal had the circle to themselves.
“I think we’ve done enough,” Master Hendal said. “No one can claim you didn’t give it your all nor can they claim having you in the shield wall would be to the village’s benefit. Your training is over, Yazgrim.”
Relief and disappointment fought in Yaz. On one hand he was glad to not have to waste his time any further. On the other, all hope of truly joining his peers as an adult in the village was over. Everyone would look at him as less of a man. No matter what else he did or accomplished, if he didn’t stand in the line to defend his home when raiders came, he wouldn’t be a true man of the village.
“Dad’s not going to like it,” Yaz said. “But he’s known this was coming for years. Sorry to let you down, Master.”
Master Hendal’s massive shoulders slumped. “You didn’t let me down, Yaz. The gods made you as you are. No amount of training can make you a good match for the shield wall. In another time and place you’d be among the elite archers, a feared and respected warrior. But here, the ground troops only have one job, to stop the enemy in the pass and hold them so the dragonriders can strafe them with arrows and fire. Bows are for hunters, not warriors, at least in this village. No man can say you didn’t give it your best and if they do, you tell me and I’ll thump them.”
“Thank you, Master.” Yaz offered a respectful nod, gathered his gear, and walked slowly to the equipment shed.
When he opened the door the stink of sweat and leather struck him. He quickly hung his shield on its stand and put the training spear in the rack with the others. Time to go home and wash up. He had an appointment at the tower and the sages wouldn’t thank him if he showed up stinking of the ring.
* * *
Yaz and his parents lived in the biggest house in the village. It wasn’t just because Dad was chief, their home also served as a meeting place for visiting merchants and representatives of the kingdoms that bordered the valley. There were six rooms on the first floor and four on the second, including Yaz’s bedroom, a luxury only a handful of other village kids could claim.
He pushed through the front door, eager to get cleaned up and on his way to the tower. He didn’t expect to find anyone home and he wasn’t disappointed. This time of day Mom was at the tower and Dad out on patrol. Neither of them would return until near dark.
Yaz ran around the long wooden table that filled most of the great hall and into the kitchen. Something delicious and savory was cooking in the big stone oven. His mouth watered, but he didn’t dare sneak a taste. If he opened the door and let the heat out it would ruin supper. Better to grab something in the bazaar on his way out.
He went to the walk-in pantry and grabbed the water bucket. He took it to the sink and worked the pump. When it was full, he went out back, stripped, and dumped it over his head. The cold water hit him like a slap. He scrubbed up and ran back inside to change.
Freshly washed, his hair tied back in a neat queue, and dressed in a clean jerkin and trousers, Yaz left the house and turned toward the tower. He craned his neck up. The dragonspire rose nearly a hundred feet above the valley floor. The top of it was carved in the shape of a dragon’s head and out of its mouth rose a metal lightning bolt.
No one knew the tower’s purpose, though everyone agreed that it had been built by the Dragon Empire before its fall seven hundred years ago. They could only access the first floor, which was a single room filled floor to ceiling with overloaded bookcases. If there was a way to the higher levels, none of the sages had ever worked out how to get there. Someday, someone would figure out how to reach the upper floors. No one built something that big only to use a single level.
Yaz kept going past the tower until he reached the open-air bazaar that occupied the northeast quarter of the village. A good crowd filled the space today. Fifteen vendors and fifty or so locals walking around. Yaz just needed lunch so he ignored everything and let his nose guide him toward the northern edge where his favorite cook set up her wagon.
The cook’s wagon had a yellowish-white canvas top and the gate stuck straight out, making a convenient place for the owner to roll out and fill the delicious meat pouches she sold every day. A safe distance from wood and canvas, the wagon’s owner tended a fire with a pot of oil bubbling over it.
The only word to describe Martha Cook was sturdy. She wore an undyed dress made from homespun cloth with a heavy apron over it. Her back was wider than Yaz’s and her arms were corded with muscle. Anyone dumb enough to trouble her when she was on the road would soon come to regret it. Not that Martha traveled much anymore. As far as Yaz knew, she hadn’t left the village in over a year. That suited Yaz fine since he loved her cooking.
He was a little late arriving for lunch, so he didn’t have to wait in line. Hopefully she wasn’t out of beef pockets. “Afternoon, Miss Cook.”
She turned and her square, plain face brightened with a smile. “Hello, Young Lord. I saved two beef pockets for you.”
“Gods bless you, Miss Cook and please call me Yaz. Good day today?”
“Fair.” She turned and began rolling the dough for his pockets.
Yaz smiled. She could have earned her weight in gold and the answer would’ve been the same. What sort of day would she have to have to call it good? He didn’t know but couldn’t deny his curiosity.
A minute later she turned back with two fat pouches that went right into the bubbling oil. Yaz licked his lips, already tasting the tender, spicy meat. He reached into his pocket and pulled out three copper scales.
Though the Dragon Empire had fallen centuries ago, all the regional governments continued using their coinage. Copper scales were the smallest and least valuable of the three denominations. Each coin was shaped like a dragon scale the size of Yaz’s thumb to the first knuckle.
Miss Cook pulled the golden-brown pouches out of the oil, dried them on a cloth, sprinkled them with salt, and handed both to Yaz. Since his hands weren’t as tough as hers, he accepted the food gingerly. After a few puffs to cool them he took a bite.
He closed his eyes and sighed. “Delicious. Are you sure you’re a cook and not a wizard?”
She chuckled. “Flatterer. My snacks are nothing special. Just a way for a simple woman to make a living.”
Yaz finished his meal, cleaned his hands on a spare rag she kept hanging on the table for just that purpose, and turned back toward the tower. He hadn’t even left the bazaar when he spotted Mistress Alma, dressed in her brown sage’s robe and lugging an overflowing bag away from a farmer’s stand.
Mistress Alma was one of the nine sages and nearly eighty, or so Yaz guessed. She specialized in knowledge of food of all sorts and her recipe books were some of the tower’s most profitable items. She experimented constantly, often coming up with tasty new meals but just as often filling the inn with black smoke and noxious fumes. Yaz enjoyed her cooking, but never wanted to be the first to try a new recipe.
“Can I carry that for you, Mistress Alma?” Yaz asked.
“Thank you, Yazgrim.”
Mistress Alma never called him by his nickname, it was always Yazgrim with her. She handed the bag over and he grunted at the weight. Did she have a whole sheep carcass in there?
“Shouldn’t you be at the tower by now?” she asked.
“Yes, but Mom won’t mind if I’m a little late. She’s no doubt so deep in study that nothing less than the collapse of the tower would disturb her.”
“She’s no different than the other sages in that regard. It’d do them all good to get out more.” She started down the road at a determined shuffle toward the inn.
Yaz fell in beside her. “You’re probably right, but I wouldn’t want to be the one to tell them.”
“I tell them all the time, but no one listens to an old woman.” Mistress Alma turned down the alley that led past the inn and down to the blacksmith’s shop. The ringing of steel on steel filled the air.
They went to the kitchen door in the back of the inn and she pounded on it. Two blond girls younger than Yaz opened the door a moment later. The elder of the two took the sack from Yaz while the younger helped Mistress Alma up the three steps to the kitchen. The girls were apprentice cooks and worshiped Mistress Alma.
“Best hurry on to your mother, Yazgrim.”
“Yes, Mistress Alma. Good afternoon.”
The kitchen door closed and Yaz jogged off toward the tower. The midafternoon street was quiet; most people lived outside the village proper on farms scattered around the valley. The permanent residents were the sages, dragonriders, Yaz’s family, the master of dragons, and those who ran the permanent businesses. Less than two hundred all together.
The solitary door at the base of the tower was open. Beside it a three-by-three grid of enchanted runes served as a lock to keep out those who didn’t know the passcode. Yaz’s many-times-great-grandfather had figured out the code by accident when he found the valley. When Yaz was small, his parents brought him here and used the code. Now Yaz was among the handful of people that knew it.
He walked through the door into the library. The first floor held five thousand, three hundred and twenty-seven books. Yaz knew all their contents and titles by heart. It had taken him twelve years to read them all and learn the five languages represented. When he finished the last one his mother had been so proud. He could still see the smile on her usually grim features.
“You’re late, Yaz.”
He turned at his mother’s voice to find her emerging from deeper in the library. Her dark hair was pulled back out of the way, so he could see her hard, gray eyes and deep frown. Mom seldom looked really happy. He didn’t know why, but he knew he shared that trait. Maybe it came from knowing too much. All the information in their heads crowded out the happy thoughts.
He shook the stupid notion away. “Sorry, Mom. I helped Mistress Alma with her groceries.”
“And yourself to a meat pouch.”
He raised an eyebrow.
“I can smell the spices on your breath.”
From ten feet away no less. His mom really was something. Her specialty as a sage was biology and medicine. In addition to her research duties, Mom was the village healer.
“How’d training go?”
“Master Hendal finally declared me unfit for the shield wall, so no more training for me. When Dad gets back from his patrol, I’ll have to tell him. He’s not going to be happy.”
“No, but your father’s a practical man. Having you go through training for something anyone with half a brain could see didn’t suit you was just to show he wasn’t keeping his only son out of danger while sending other men’s sons out to fight. It was a stupid, but necessary task.”
“Think he’ll change his mind about letting me have a dragon?” Yaz knew the answer but couldn’t keep from asking one more time.
“No.” Her hard expression softened a fraction. “Don’t ask him again, Yaz. Your father hates telling you no.”
“Really? He does it so often.”
“That doesn’t mean he enjoys it. But enough chattering. I believe the chief sage has a task for you. He’s down in the engineering section. See you at dinner.”
“Okay. Love you, Mom.”
“Love you too, Yaz.”
Yaz ducked into the stacks and wove his way back to the engineering section. He breathed deep as he went, enjoying the scent of paper and leather and dust. Yaz had always enjoyed the library. If he couldn’t hang around with the dragons, this was where he felt most at home. Especially today since it took his mind off his failure.
It didn’t seem fair that he should be good at so many things but not the most important one. The village chief’s primary responsibility was to keep the people safe. How could Yaz do that if he couldn’t fight in the shield wall or ride a dragon? Just because a Yeager had led the village since its founding didn’t mean it would always be so. If the villagers wouldn’t follow him, they’d have to elect a new chief. Yaz didn’t want to be the one to break ten generations of tradition.
He rounded a corner and found Mistress Beatrice sleeping in one of the oversized chairs, a book on agricultural best practices open on her ample stomach. Yaz carefully picked up the precious tome, slipped a silk ribbon in to mark her spot, and set it on a nearby table. The sages were seldom so careless. The books, along with the dragons, were the village’s most valuable treasures.
Yaz continued on his way until he reached the proper section. Chief Sage Durnik had an unlit pipe clamped between his teeth and a book open in his hands. His black robe draped a skinny body and his gray beard hung down almost to his belt. The chief sage’s specialty was dragons, specifically their uses in magic.
“Master?” Yaz said.
“Yaz, I need three pages from Lek’s Bestiary. One thirteen through one fifteen.”
Yaz consulted his mental library. “Methods for keeping predators away from chicken coops. Who’s this for?”
“Some chicken farmer from the Kingdom of Rend. Came in this morning. A silver scale per page?”
“Sure, Master.” Yaz often wrote up scrolls for the sages to make extra coin. “Can I do it tomorrow? I need to talk to Dad this afternoon and he should be back pretty soon.”
“That’s fine, but I need it before noon.”
Yaz nodded. That was plenty of time.
A deep bellow shook the air. The dragonriders had returned. Time to remind his father that he had no future as a warrior of the village. As if he needed something else to worry about.
* * *
Yaz slipped out of the tower and glanced up at the sky. The dragons were barely visible soaring south. When he heard the bellow, he’d assumed they were getting ready to land, but it looked like Dad wanted to make one more loop.
Yaz wasn’t surprised. Though you’d be hard pressed to find a more practical man than his father, Dad dearly loved flying and if he could steal an extra fifteen minutes of air time, he’d take it every day. Yaz had long dreamed of flying with his father, but if he wasn’t cut out to fight in the shield wall, then he really wasn’t cut out to be a dragonrider. They were the biggest and strongest warriors in the village.
Even though he had time before the riders landed, Yaz walked toward the dragon aviary. It was a big stone building with six stalls for the dragons. They had to build it out of stone since the first, wooden one burned down a week after the dragons moved in. Sometimes little flames slipped out of the dragons’ noses when they slept, making bedding of any sort but stone impractical.
Between the aviary and the main street was a long, straight stretch of dirt where the dragons landed and bounded to a halt. To the right of that a modest log cabin served as the home of the master of dragons. Abelard Robotham, the current master of dragons, came to the village twenty-odd years ago for the sole purpose of working with the beasts. He wasn’t a true sage, but when it came to tending dragons, Master Robotham was every bit as learned as one.
When he reached the aviary, the sound of heavy thunks filled the air. Yaz made his way around back and found Master Robotham up to his elbows in blood, a nearly broken-down sheep carcass parted out in six buckets. His razor-sharp cleaver rose and fell, sending the lower section of a back leg into the sixth bucket.
He looked Yaz’s way and a smile creased his weathered face. “Afternoon, Yaz. Come to help feed the dragons?”
“I’d be happy to, Master, but I need to talk to my father.”
“Was today the day? Aaron finally let you out of that ridiculous training?”
“I don’t know that I’d call it ridiculous, Master, but yes, he confirmed what we both knew, that I have no place in a shield wall. Dad’s not going to be very happy.”
Master Robotham snapped the cleaver down into the tree stump he’d been using as a cutting board. “Don’t underestimate your father. Yazguard knows everyone has their place and that each person’s different.”
“But he kept pushing.”
“He had to. Since Aaron’s dismissed you, there won’t be any trouble now.”
Yaz wished he believed that. A whoosh and roar drew his gaze skyward again. The dragonriders had returned and they were circling the landing strip, waiting their turn to land. The great red dragons soared easily on sixty-foot wings, their scales gleaming in the sun.
They were an imposing sight, made more so by the huge warriors on their backs. Each dragonrider wore spiked black armor with a demonic helmet. Their weapon of choice was a black iron bow so powerful Yaz couldn’t even begin to pull it. Yet another reason he’d never be a rider.
As group leader, Dad landed first. His dragon, Soto, snapped her wings open as she neared the ground and backstroked. Her claws hit and she galloped a few strides before slowing and tucking her wings in tight to her body. Dragon and rider trotted into the aviary to make room for the next.
Yaz steeled himself. Best to get it over with quickly. He picked up one of the buckets and glanced at Master Robotham. The master nodded and Yaz marched through the rear door. Inside, the aviary had a musty, leather smell. Not bad at all considering how the stables across town smelled.
Dad had guided Soto into her stall, removed her saddle, and shut the gate. No one fully understood dragon biology, but they were all thought of as female since any dragon could lay an egg, no mating required. The eggs seemed to form by magic every eight to fifteen years. It was one of the many things people would probably never understand about the creatures.
Soto spun an eager circle as Yaz approached with her evening meal. She poked her head through the gap above the gate, long forked tongue lolling over razor-sharp teeth. Yaz tossed her a shank and it disappeared quickly down her gullet. The rest of the mutton vanished just as fast and Soto spun a final circle before lying down, her nose tucked under a wing to sleep.
He smiled at the dragon. A heavy hand landed on Yaz’s shoulder. “Evening, son.”
“Hi, Dad. Good patrol?”
Another rider entered before he could answer. Master Robotham came in from the opposite direction, two buckets in one hand and three in the other. He scooted past Yaz and his father to feed the next dragon.
“We didn’t see any threats, so it was a good patrol.”
Yaz looked up to his father, literally. Yazguard was a head and a half taller than his son and three times as heavy. Only the dragons’ magic allowed them to carry such massive warriors into the sky. His father had his demon helmet tucked under one arm.
A third rider entered and Yaz said, “Can we take a walk?”
“Certainly. I want to get home and clean up before dinner.”
They left the aviary and turned toward home. Yaz took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“Master Hendal officially dismissed me from training today.”
His father nodded once, accepting reality with grim determination. “We knew it was coming. What are your plans now?”
“I’ve got a pretty good business between hunting and writing for the sages. More than enough to live on certainly. I guess I’ll focus on that for now.”
“It’s a waste of your talents. You’ve got the brains and judgement to make a fine chief. You should be learning at my side. Or maybe with your mother at the tower. You could be a sage on any subject you wished with your memory.”
Yaz smiled. “I’d like to study with you too, keep up the family tradition, but we both know the village probably wouldn’t accept me as chief. Who’d follow me into battle? And as you’ve said, I’ll never be a dragonrider. I’m also too young to be a sage. They’ve all traveled the world, seen and experienced things I haven’t.”
“Son, the dragonriders are too—”
“I know, Dad, I know. I wasn’t asking or complaining, just stating the facts.” Yaz figured switching to a safer topic would be a good idea for both of them. “Mom put a pot of stew on for dinner.”
Their wants and preferences were irrelevant in the face of the village’s needs. Those needs dictated most of his father’s decisions every day. Reality hurt sometimes, but you couldn’t change it.
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