“Don’t worry about it.” Famous last words.
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve had to take the highway 93 into work. Going to work and coming home has made me a neurotic mess every day. I HATE that route. Happily, the road construction is done and I can go back to my normal route.
I really like my back country road where I can kick back and relax. There’s only one spot on the road at the overpass where it joins the interstate that I have dubbed, “The Gauntlet.” People are always trying to race through The Gauntlet, while there’s traffic coming off the highway, people getting onto the highway, people turning on and off another country road (and there’s not much distance between here and the highway off ramp), or people going to a coffee shop or Subway. You literally have to watch five directions at once while keeping one eyes behind you and the other beside you. Even yesterday morning as I was heading into work, someone pulled out from the country road with a trailer. I’m certain that they couldn’t see me behind the traffic coming off the highway. Fortunately, I was using my omnivision and saw him. I was breaking before I even saw his face in front of me. Surprise! My car, love her dearly, can stop on a dime and she did so.
Once you’re through The Gauntlet, you can kick back and relax. Then it’s just a matter of watching to make sure people are really going to stop at the stop signs at the intersections every mile or so. It’s a much more relaxed drive.
So what does all this have to do with the quote at the top?
Well, Moonhunter is about to take a little trip. Next week we’ll get into it more and for him it’ll then be more like running through The Gauntlet. But you’ve got to start somewhere. He certainly didn’t have to do anything similar to driving down highway 93. Beyond that, you will have to get through the chapter to find out.
Let’s begin, shall we?
Dragons of Wellsdeep is an epic science fantasy story filled with action, adventure, space travel, magic, dragons, and flying. Chapter 13 is available for 1 week only! Then it will turn back into a pumpkin and a new chapter will appear!
Previously: Moonhunter was born and his novimather (dragon mother) left him in the care of an older man named Balthier. Years later, during one of there missions, Moonhunter believes that Balthier’s informant has sabotaged them and they barely escape. Not that their lives were ever in any danger (maybe – depends on who is after them) because they are novihomidraks — new humans born of the dragon. After they get off the planet, Balthier begins to believe that Moonhunter is hiding something from him. Moonhunter is secretly trying to use his wings. It’s rare for a novihomidrak to have wings, so Moonhunter is afraid of what it’ll mean if someone finds out. Meanwhile, Balthier is trying to figure out if they were set up and, when that leads to finding it has something to do with Moonhunter, begins to dig harder. While having his friend heal his broken wing, another sapere discovers what the boys are up to and she wants in. This isn’t something Moonhunter ever planned on. He knows how much trouble they will be in if they get caught keeping Moonhunter’s transformation from those higher up. Balthier speaks to one of the saperes he trusts (a rare thing), and finds out that there is a plan for Moonhunter by some of the other saperes. They want to send Moonhunter on an off-world operation, but Balthier convinces the sapere that he should really go along. Balthier learns that they shouldn’t trust anyone. Bathier fetches Moonhunter and the head to the building which houses the convergence for the Wells. Because of the gravitational forces already tearing through the planet they are traveling to, the dragon guiding them through the Wells has to keep them on track, an event that doesn’t please Balthier. As they near their destination and Moonhunter sees the devastation caused by the crashing of two galaxies, he wonders at all of life. Sensing his thoughts, Balthier urges Moon on. The emerge and land on the world. Moonhunter struggles to get his bearings while a sapere urges him to suck herme’s milk off of a fuzzy pit in order to help with the shakes from Well travel. Moonhunter swears that the curtains in the room are made from the scales of a Ch’bauldi dragon. Balthier reminds Moonhunter of their mission. Outside, Moonhunter’s thoughts are once again preoccupied by the tragedy of this planet. As a girl roller-skates by him. Moonhunter wishes he could even save just one girl. Balthier and Moonhunter go to where Dr. Melstone’s lab use to be and it’s no longer there. But the police have arrived. Balthier is captured, allowing Moonhunter to get away.
Dragons of Wellsdeep
by Dawn Blair
Some of the footfalls silenced as people stooped to handcuff Balthier, but part of the divided group continued on after Moonhunter. Worse, they were gaining on him. There were no alleyways for him to duck down, no shadows to hide in. Everywhere was brightly lit beneath this planet’s sun. How exactly did the Onesong want him to get out of this predicament? He didn’t even have a moment to feel along the Humline for an answer. He just had to keep moving.
The trees of the park provided good shade along the grass, but no cover for him to hide. He chanced a glance back and saw Balthier being shoved into a squad car. How would he find Balthier if he couldn’t follow where they were taking him?
Yet he could and he knew it. He continued running for the park, nearly running over the girl on the skates as her path nearly collided with his. “Sorry!” he yelled. He hit the grass and the air felt so much cooler than it had when he’d been on the sidewalk.
“Hey!” the girl screamed as his pursuing party also rushed by her. “Please are skating here!”
Moonhunter searched for a good break in the trees while nerves filled him. He had one chance at this, knowing very well that his capture was assured if he fell flat on his face. He filling his lungs with as much air as he could while running. Then he thought about his wings extending. They broke free from beneath his skin and tore his shirt. He tried to free himself the tattered remains of the cloth. Exhaling and making the air in front of him as hot as he could, he flapped his wings. Within a couple steps, he felt his toes leave the ground. As much as he wanted to shout in triumph, he didn’t; he wasn’t clear yet.
Tree branches snatched at his wings. They knocked him off balance and he careened into a tree. A larger branch caught him and he hugged onto the trunk. He looked for an exit, finding only a small one near the top. He’d have to gain momentum, from now being at a complete stop, increase altitude and speed, then tuck his wings in while having enough motion to not then fall from the sky. He was much too much of a novice to pull this off. He might be better off to drop back down to the ground and surrender, though that wouldn’t make Balthier very happy.
The fastest of the people chasing him were now beginning to gather at the base of the tree. Moonhunter couldn’t hear what was being said, but weapons were being raised toward him and that was all the communication he needed. With another deep breath and a push away from the tree, he exhaled and flapped. A draft caught under his wings and lifted him, then he was soaring upwards.
He approached the gap in the branches. Sky and freedom lay beyond. He held a glide longer than he wished, even felt himself dropping just a little, then he thrust and tucked his wings in against his body. He was through.
Breaking above the trees, he opened his wings once more and turned toward where he’d last seen the squad car Balthier was being put in. Maybe he could follow from the air. Would the police officers see him pursuing them?
“Damn!” he heard a voice bellow from beneath him. “Get a heli in the air to track him. Quick before he lands somewhere.”
Already the shouting faded behind Moonhunter and the silence of the air took over. As he looked down at the people below him, realizing how small they all were yet being able to recognize the skating girl by the sun reflecting off her black helmet, and realizing that he was going over the tops of the high-rises, a thrill went through him: he was flying. On his own. Without having to be in space.
The girl looked up at him, shielded her eyes from the sun, and waved.
At least someone besides himself was amused at his flight. He wished he dared to impress her with a dip and a flip, but he didn’t have enough confidence yet. Besides, now was not the time for showing off. He had to rescue Balthier.
Now that he could see the expanse of the city from above, he realized that squares like the park he had flown out of were scattered throughout a large urban area of concrete and skyscrapers. Beyond the commercial park where they had entered, roads were strung between sections as if most of them had been torn away to make room for more buildings. In some areas there were no cars at all. A few vehicles flew in the air above the roads too, moving faster than the traffic on the roads.
Parking garages along the edges of various sections had posted large signs which read: RENT HERE! Moonhunter saw various names listed below the words. Rarely did any of the names repeat. Once again, he had the feeling that the people of this world either had to really know their way around or had to be very smart. At the bottom, it read: Airsters also available. Were the flying vehicles called Airsters here?
He tilted in the air, yawing as he glided around the building to follow the squad car into an area which had no other cars. They turned on their sirens and pedestrians began to move to the side to allow the car right of way long the sidewalks. Soon, it disappeared into a building.
Moonhunter searched for a place to land. He’d prefer something up a level or two where he could have the high ground and work his way down to Balthier, but there were no balconies or platforms to this building. His only landing spots were near the entry to the underground garage where the car had gone, or by the front door, which had armed sentry standing watch. He doubted they were prepared to take on a novihomidrak, but why take the chance?
On the other hand, Balthier had been insistent on Moonhunter going to get the scientist. Now that Moonhunter knew where Balthier would be held in custody, he knew he ought to go get the scientist. Continue the mission; that’s what Balthier would say to him. What were they going to do? Hurt a novihomidrak?
Moonhunter pressed higher into the sky. His hips were beginning to hurt; he hadn’t expected that to be a side-effect of flying, but at least now he knew that he’d need to work on strengthening his lower abdomen and hips some more.
A noise whizzed by him and a metal shell-like body slammed into his. Knocked off guard, Moonhunter tumbled. He felt himself losing altitude.
The black oval rushed him again. Moonhunter grabbed onto it, his fingers taking a tight hold on the ridges of its metallic body. It buzzed and tried to break free. He held on even as it began to drag him. He no longer had to put much effort into maintaining flight, though he didn’t have much control over the direction.
“Take me to your leader,” Moonhunter laughed.
The engines cut out and the drone turned to dead weight in his arms. They plunged.
Moonhunter let himself fall, dropping the drone at the last possible chance, before extending his wings to stop his rapid descent. His body jerked as it caught in the updraft, then he settled onto the ground. Not bad for his first landing. As he went to check out the drone, it zipped straight up into the air and stopped at Moonhunter’s eye level.
“Surrender,” a voice shouted through some tinny speakers at Moonhunter. “You are under arrest by the Sakaret Police Department. Put your hands behind your head and get on your knees. Any attempt to resist will result in electroshock.”
“Really?” Moonhunter asked. “You expect me to wait around to be arrested?”
“Hands behind you head, down on your knees. This is your final warning.”
Moonhunter turned to walk off.
Blue electricity crackled in the air and struck Moonhunter. He felt his hair rise up. As the intensely hot shock went through his body, his dragon aspects flared to life. His teeth descended as he turned toward the drone. Talons came out to shred it. Much to Moonhunter’s surprise, the drone didn’t stop as he took a firm grip of it. His talons wouldn’t pierce its metal body, but rather deflected off its ridges.
The power level intensified, which only made Moonhunter’s anger grow proportionally. It thrust a net out around Moonhunter, insuring that he couldn’t toss it away from him. He felt his head spinning and knew that he was about to pass out. No amount of voltage that it could put into him would kill him, but that didn’t mean that it didn’t hurt and that it wouldn’t surpass his pain threshold, which was quickly being reached.
Though he couldn’t cut through the metal body, his talons did shred the netting around him. It spit a second mesh out as well as once again upping the voltage in its shock weapon.
Moonhunter growled, low and deep, and it nearly scared him. He’d never had that much anger come through him. The rumble gave way to a scream of pain and rage. Then then metal was melting in his hands. So red and hot the drone’s surface had become that he was forced to drop it. It fell to the ground, rolling limply at his feet as it made an awkward sound, snapped once, and relented.
Moonhunter took a jumping step back away from it. “Wow!” He looked down at his reddened hands, knowing they wouldn’t be that way nor would they continue to feel raw for very long, but he wanted to know if he’d caused any damage to himself. He couldn’t really tell. Balancing himself, he tentatively reached out and kicked the oozing mass with his boot. It rolled in a pool of its own goo, but seemed dead enough that made him confident enough to kneel down for a closer inspection. He knew he probably shouldn’t be lingering here, but this, whatever he had done, was new to him. He wanted a moment to try to figure it out. He’d felt something emerge from his throat. Fire, acid, electricity, he didn’t know what the base of it was, but it had been powerful enough to decimate the drone and its abilities nearly immediately.
He needed to move on. More of those drones might be tracking him down right now.
Already, the ooze was beginning to solidify. Moonhunter could hear Balthier lecturing him about leaving behind evidence that a mundane could investigate. What he wouldn’t give for the older man’s advice now. He had to hurry and make a decision.
He coughed, trying to hack up some more of whatever he’d just ejected from himself, but nothing came other than his pathetic attempts, which even he found laughable. If he felt that he couldn’t tell Balthier about his wings, what made him think he could ever explain what had just happened to Balthier.
Energy shifted and Moonhunter heard voices. They were tracking him with dogs now. He could hear the hounds’ claws scratching on the cement.
Drawing to his feet, Moonhunter swept his dragon vision gaze around the surrounding area. A man in a business suit was just getting off a moped a short distance away. Moonhunter began to run as the man took off his helmet.
Moonhunter didn’t stop running until he reached the man and knocked him over. “Sorry!” Moonhunter shouted as he took the keys to the moped. “You’ll get it back. Let’s just hope it’s in one piece.”
“Hey! Wait!” the man screamed.
Moonhunter started the moped, spun it around, and charged off down the street as the man tried to give chase but fell behind quickly. He rode it to the nearest parking garage, knowing that he needed to change vehicles. The moped didn’t have any speed or power behind it, nor was it capable of flight, something he sorely needed right now. At least flight without his own wings carrying him. In an airster, he’d blend in a little better. Disappearing among the masses was something he needed to do right now. Blending in with other humans was the greatest power a novihomidrak had.
The first garage didn’t advertise airsters, so he continued on to the second. Traffic grew thick and he began weaving in and out between cars, ignoring the honks and insults thrown at him as he went. As one driver hollered a particularly nasty expletive at him, Moonhunter wanted to strike out in anger. Then he realized the man would soon be dead. Everyone on this planet was doomed. It made him pause with a moment of sadness.
He wanted to save these people. He couldn’t. Balthier had made that quite plain.
What good was being a novihomidrak if he couldn’t save the worlds he wished to? Okay, so it was mostly a world of high rises and concrete, but they had tried to restore some of nature’s balance to it. They were trying.
He recalled Balthier’s words about this planet lacking magic. Moonhunter felt that in his soul too. A world didn’t recover easily from that. It would certainly take more than one novihomidrak on a redemptive mission to correct that.
If he could get help, like a Black Night master or someone like that, maybe they could help to pull the veil away and draw magic back to this world.
A car swerved in front of him, making Moonhunter turn the moped and nearly tip it over on its side. He felt the machine start to go into a slid and threw his weight in the other direction to upright himself again. He raced by the car and waved at the driver as he sped into the parking garage. Moonhunter tucked between the wall and the gate rail, then took the ramps heading toward the upper floors. He was operating on the assumption that airsters would take off from the upper levels, leaving the lower ones for the cars. The moped’s tires felt slick against the cement, making harsh squealing noises as the tread tried to get a grip. It worsened when he went around corners. For a moment, he had to ask himself if running would be faster. Maybe taking the stairs was a better option.
Ditching the moped by a stairwell, he ran up several floors. When the police officers discovered the abandoned vehicle, they wouldn’t be certain if he’d taken a car or an airster, not until they researched further to see what had been stolen. Moonhunter hoped that would give him at least a few moments more.
The metal door labeled “Airster Rental Here” greeted him and as he yanked it open, he briefly wondered what was required to legally rent an airster. It would throw the police off his track for even longer if they had to start flashing his picture around hoping to spark some worker’s memory or dig through records for a receipt.
The sound of sirens came through the open gaps in the walls. Moonhunter listened and realized they were surrounding the building. He didn’t have long.
Rushing to the first craft, he found that they were magnetically locked down. He looked around for a way to rent and found a board not too far away. Rushing over to it, he read the instructions. Select Airster, insert license, pay, wait for chime, then Airster will unlock.
Moonhunter needed a different plan. He had neither a license issued by this planet nor the local currency.
A man walked through the door behind him. Moonhunter walked away from the board as if he were leaving, but rather moved off slowly to wait by the door. He lowered his dragon lids and looked through the red veil dropped over the grayness of the garage toward the board where the man was currently selecting the airster in slot R2.
Moonhunter swept his gaze around and saw the machine in that location. It made him grin. Of all the airsters here, that one probably had the sleekest body of them all. Now whether that was one that the man usually selected or if it just happened to be one that would take him away from the door that Moonhunter still stood by – beware of lurkers – Moonhunter wasn’t certain. Regardless, as the man started walking toward it, Moonhunter began to run.
“Sorry. Wish I didn’t have to do this,” Moonhunter shouted. “Great taste in design though. Thanks for getting one of the sleek ones.”
Moonhunter jumped inside the airster’s open cockpit and felt it dip under his weight. He put his hands on the wheel and pressed the trigger throttle with his index fingers. The airster didn’t move.
“Won’t work without this,” the man, who had never increased the speed of his stride, said as he held up a green and white card with a magnetic strip on the back of it. “Come on, kid. Time to get out.”
“I don’t suppose you just want to give me the card,” Moonhunter pleaded.
The man shook his head. “I don’t. I’ve had a long day and I just want to get home.”
“Even if I told you I’ve also had a long day and mine has just gotten started.”
“Look, kid, just get out. You don’t have a weapon and I doubt you’ve had as much martial arts training as I have. I’m impressed that you knew which airster I chose from that distance, but you’re not taking off with it. Better luck with your next victim.”
Moonhunter started to climb out of the airster and jumped down to the cement floor. His dragon teeth extended. As he straightened, he showed the man his red dragon eyes as he snarled, “You’re probably wrong on both counts.” He held out his hands. “Vochey.” His dagger came to one hand, his bow to the other. “I have weapons. What I am goes beyond martial arts. Now, let’s work out a deal, shall we?”
“Take the card.” The man threw it at Moonhunter. “I’ll rent another.”
Moonhunter dismissed Tranquility, but kept Serenity at hand and pointed the blade at the man. “I said, let’s work out a deal, something that will benefit us both.” He then slid the dagger into his belt. “I have temporary need of your aister. I also need directions. Help me get where I need to go, then you may have your aister back.”
The man scoffed. “It’s obvious that the one the police are after is you. They should be reaching this floor any moment now. Even if I did agree to go with you, who’s to say that the moment you get where you’re going, I don’t call them and tell them exactly where you are?”
“Go right ahead.”
“That means you don’t plan on being there long.”
Moonhunter reached down for the card. The man came forward and stepped his foot down on it. Moonhunter retracted his fingers before they were smashed and stood up to glare at the man, who smiled at him.
“Fine,” the man said, “take me on your little adventure.” He lifted his foot from the card and started walking around to the other side of the airster. Opening the door, he climbed in, while Moonhunter retrieved the card and jumped back in.
“That slot there,” the man directed, pointing to a slot in the dash. “Have you ever driven one of these before?”
“Not an airster, but I’m a fairly decent pilot. How hard could it be?”
“Famous last words,” the man chuckled.
Moonhunter pressed the card into the slot and felt the engine engage. He set his hands on the wheel once more.
“Pull it to back it up, gently now, brake is on the floor. Yeah, you got the throttle. Good, good.”
It wasn’t too different than other crafts Moonhunter had piloted, but it helped to have someone guiding him rather than just pushing things at random to see what functioned.
“Okay, your lift point is over there,” he said, pointing off toward the right.
Moonhunter saw a short platform which extended from the building. “Speed? Flaps? Anything special to take off?” he asked with a quick glance to the man sitting at his side.
“They rent these things to just about anyone. Don’t worry about it.”
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Dragons of Wellsdeep – copyright © 2018 Dawn Blair
Published by Morning Sky Studios
Cover and layout copyright © 2018 by Morning Sky Studios
Cover design by Dawn Blair/Morning Sky Studios
Cover art copyright © Ingus Kruklitis | Dreamstime.com, © Digitalstormcinema | Dreamstime.com, and © Kalcutta | Dreamstime.com
This excerpt is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.