I'm pleased to report that Princess of Lanfor is now well into the editing stage. A lot happens in this installment though: the heroes are pitted against everything from deadly dragons to the Princess with her flying fortress and finally the demonic forces behind the Serpent Cult itself. Thus the book is rather lengthy, so it might take a bit longer to publish than originally planned. Still, we are shooting for an end of summer release date. In the meantime, as promised, we'd like to introduce you to one of the new characters in this book, the dragon hunter, Cyclone.
Cyclone Stormbringer is a dragoon, a hunter of the mightiest and most deadly of creatures—dragons. The proud warrior is incredibly strong and can leap through the air over great distances almost as easily as his quarry can fly. Cyclone wields a halberd, a long, sharp spear with a deadly-looking curved axe blade near the top of the shaft. It is the perfect weapon for fighting large creatures such as dragons.
Cyclone is a young man with a lean, but muscular physique. His outfit consists of a blue knee-length sleeveless tunic over a pair of loose-fitted beige pants, tucked into a pair of brown leather boots. His hands are wrapped in fingerless brown studded gloves with a studded belt fitted around his waist. A tarnished steel armguard decorates his right shoulder with a matching steel band on his right wrist and a similar bracer around his left arm. A matching set of dull steel greaves cover his legs up to the knees, and there is a large tattoo in the shape of a dragon’s head on his bare left shoulder.
At just 18 years old, Cylcone’s youthful features, soulful blue eyes, and determined chin are framed by a long head of brown hair. In lighter moments, he could almost be considered handsome, but the young man’s expression is typically grim. A proud warrior, Cyclone holds himself to the highest standard, and seems to expect the same from those around him. He has little time or patience for frivolity, his entire focus on hunting dragons. Thus, he comes across as quite harsh and very difficult to befriend.
Yet Cyclone’s callousness is not without reason. Though he does not talk about it, or about his background at all for that matter, the young man recently lost his father to a dragon. The adult dragoon went out to hunt an full grown red dragon, an expedition from which he never returned. Thus Cyclone has made it his mission to eradicate the world of all dragons, a calling which he takes to the utmost extreme.
Cyclone first appears outside the Darkwoods Monolith, after a tragic encounter between the Knights of the Rose and a fierce green dragon. Martan spots the young hunter in the woods apparently stalking the terrifying creature. The traumatized archer approaches the young man in blue and bids him to follow him back through the woods. There Martan finds out just how cocky Cyclone can be. Yet he soon discovers that Cyclone’s brashness is not unwarranted—the young hunter helps him get past the dragon to warn the others inside the monolith of the death machine waiting for them just outside.
Let’s end this month’s blog with that scene from the Princess of Lanfor. Stay tuned next month as we delve into the mysterious Druids of Bendenwood.
Martan believed in the gods, he just didn’t think they necessarily listened to, or cared about, ordinary folk like himself. Still, when he needed to pray, his prayers would go to the goddess Synopei. He supposed it was a throwback to his days in Deepwood that his prayers would go to the goddess of the hunt. Yet that didn’t really matter right now, for Martan could think of nothing else that would help other than prayer.
All the Knights of the Rose were gone, deserted by their god, Cormar. Once the greater dragon had winged away, the large dragon had disappeared as well, slinking off into the forest. Martan had been amazed that something so big could move so quietly, but he wasn’t stupid, either—he knew the great dragon hadn’t gone far. It was hunting in the surrounding woods, looking for survivors.
Martan had feared for the young squires, Syndir and Lamorn, and prayed fervently that the dragon would not find them. Thankfully, it had not. Martan had heard the loud cry of a horse suddenly silenced somewhere off in the woods. A short while later, the great dragon returned with an equine carcass in its large jaws. The foul creature re-entered the clearing, parked itself in front of the monolith, and proceeded to feast on the spoils of its hunt.
Martan watched unmoving from his perch, waiting until the great beast was done and had apparently drifted off to sleep. Just prior to sunrise, the wind began to shift. Martan was forced to finally move, the need to stay downwind of the large predator paramount. He carefully climbed his way down the tree, and circled around the outskirts of the clearing, one eye always on the great dragon. Thankfully, the creature did not move. Just as the sun rose, Martan found a relatively safe spot under a thick hedge of brambles, near the head of the trail that led out of the clearing. He had just been deliberating what to do next, when the man in blue first appeared.
Martan was amazed. He hadn’t heard a thing, the blue-clad figure moved so stealthily. Martan barely caught a glimpse of him, the man keeping well to the trees only a short distance from where he lay. Whoever he was, he appeared to be stalking the dragon. Martan was incredulous. Who in his right mind would hunt such a ferocious beast?
The figure shifted slightly, affording Martan a better view. The man wasn’t that tall, perhaps a shade shorter than Martan. From this angle, he could just see his face, long brown hair covering most of it, but the man appeared young, probably not much older than Lloyd.
This young man was lean, but muscular, garbed in a blue knee-length sleeveless tunic, a studded belt around his waist, loose beige pants tucked inside brown boots, and a pair of brown gloves. A tarnished steel armguard sat on his right shoulder, his right arm wrapped with a matching steel wristband, and his left arm with a similar bracer. A matching set of dull steel greaves covered his legs all the way up to the knees. There was a large tattoo on his bare left shoulder in the shape of a dragon’s head.
The warrior carried a wickedly sharp spear with a deadly-looking curved axe head near the top of the shaft. Martan had never seen that kind of weapon before, but he had heard of them—it was called a halberd.
Martan was not typically trusting of strangers, or anyone for that matter, but the circumstances were dire. He extricated himself from the brush, careful not to make any sound, then snuck his way over to the man in blue. Martan silently approached the blue-clad warrior, from an angle where he was sure to be seen. The last thing he needed to do was startle the young man. That would spell certain death for the both of them. To his credit, the young warrior didn’t even flinch when he saw Martan, merely responding with a slight nod. Martan replied by signaling for the young man to follow him, then carefully led him away, back into the woods.
Martan kept silent until they were a good half mile into the forest, then called for a halt, spinning to face the young man. The blue-clad warrior held that wicked-looking spear in one hand, his face a stony mask. Martan was taken aback for a moment—the warrior seemed awfully young for such a grim expression. He silently wondered what had befallen this youth that had made him so serious. When the young man spoke, there was a sharp edge to his voice. “What do you want?”
The curt response caught Martan by surprise. He eyed the youth warily as he replied. “You wouldn’t by any chance be hunting that dragon?”
The young man’s eyes narrowed as he glared at him intently. “What does it look like I was doing? Of course I was hunting the dragon.”
Martan’s eyes went wide. So he is crazy.
Before he could respond, the young man nodded his head back toward the clearing. “What happened back there?”
Martan paused before answering, not sure he trusted this grim young man, but then decided there was no use in keeping it secret at this point. He described the dragon’s attack on his camp, the appearance of the greater dragon and its rider, and the black knight’s orders before taking off. The young man listened intently, not interrupting the entire time. When Martan finished, he finally spoke. “Never heard of anyone ordering a dragon around, especially not an adult green.”
Martan shrugged in response. “I don’t know much about dragons, but I was as surprised as you.”
The young warrior eyes narrowed. “Dragons don’t hang around for no reason. What’s inside that monolith that it wants?”
Martan let out a short sigh. “My friends—they went in the day before, chasing after this group of evil magicians.”
The young man frowned for the first time since Martan had met him. “Evil magicians? Are you sure they’re still alive?”
Martan responded with a short nod. “They’re alive. They’re a pretty resourceful group.”
The man in blue spun around and peered through the woods back toward the monolith. After a moment or two, he spoke to Martan without turning around. “Do you think they’d be any good in a dragon fight?”
Martan’s eyes widened, all sorts of alarm bells going off in his head. This guy really is crazy… but then again it is probably going to come down to that anyway. The dragon certainly isn’t leaving anytime soon.
“I can’t say for certain—though I have seen them make short work of a bunch of large serpents.”
The young man, still turned away from him, was silent for a few moments. Finally, he spoke again. “How large?”
Martan thought back briefly to the battle at Ravenford Keep. There were several large serpents there. Most of them were a good two heads taller than Lloyd, and the last one was two heads taller than that. Martan knew a bit about snakes—they could only rear up the first third of their body. Based on that, he estimated the serpents’ size.
“Between twenty-five and thirty feet long.”
The young man responded with a curt nod. “That’ll do.”
He began to stride forward, motioning for Martan to follow. “Let’s go pay a visit to your friends.”
Martan stared after the man in blue incredulously. “And just how are we going to do that with the dragon in the way?”
“That won’t be a problem,” the young man said without stopping to look at him.
Martan spiked an eyebrow. Yup, definitely crazy—and I must be nuts to follow him.
Still, the others needed to be warned about the dragon before it was too late. If there was any chance of getting past it, Martan supposed they would need to try. The dour archer let out a deep sigh and took off after the man in blue. “Wait for me!”
A short while later, Martan was positioned under a row of bushes at the north end of the clearing. The man in blue had told him to wind his way around there, and wait for his signal. Martan still thought him crazy, but the truth was, he really didn’t have any choice.
The large green dragon had not moved, still apparently asleep, its great head facing the entrance to the monolith. A few minutes went by until the blue-clad warrior silently entered the clearing. Martan watched incredulously as the young man walked straight toward the dragon, stopping maybe thirty feet from it, in a wide stance with his left foot forward. Weapon held firmly in his right hand, he peered at the creature over his left shoulder and called out, “I know you’re not asleep.”
His statement was met with a deep rumbling that reverberated throughout the clearing. Martan arched an eyebrow in disbelief. The dragon is laughing?
The great head lifted and spun around on the long neck to face the blue-clad warrior. Unexpectedly, the dragon spoke in the common tongue, its voice a deep, rumbling baritone. “Heh, heh. And what do we have here? A little man playing hero?”
The young warrior stared grimly at the dragon, appearing completely confident in its fearsome presence. “Oh, I’m no hero. I’m something far worse.”
The dragon laughed again, the ominous sound sending shivers up Martan’s spine. “Hmmm… something worse? Should I be quaking in my boots?”
The dragon suddenly reared up, and slowly spun its large body around, still crouching low to the ground. Its large head jutted out on the long neck, stopping maybe ten feet from the young warrior. “So then, little man, tell me… are you impressed with what you see?”
The young man let out a deep sigh. “Typical dragon. Are you going to talk me to death, or are we going to fight already?”
The dragon did not laugh this time. The serpent-like eyes fixed on the young warrior, the large creature baring a deadly row of dagger-like teeth. “Interesting. If you are really so eager to die, then who am I to stop you?”
Without warning, the dragon’s head shot forward, its mouth opening wide as it sped toward the young warrior. Martan thought him a goner for sure, but at the last possible second, the blue warrior leaped high into the air, narrowly avoiding the dragon’s jaws. The dragon’s great maw snapped shut on thin air, causing the creature to momentarily flinch.
The young warrior landed a few yards back with a loud cry. “Now!”
Martan immediately spurred into action, jumping from underneath the brush, and taking off at a dead run for the monolith. The dragon swiftly recovered, its serpent-like eyes fixing solely on the figure in blue. The creature’s voice rumbled across the clearing. “You’re pretty quick for a squishy little fleshling…”
The dragon paused a moment. When it spoke again, its tone was extremely menacing. “…though I wonder if you can outrun my breath?”
As the great creature finished speaking, its large maw opened wide and began to draw in air. Yet the blue warrior seemed unphased by the dragon’s threat. He answered the creature in a tone as cold as ice. “I don’t run from anything.”
Without warning, the young man charged forward, his wicked-looking halberd pointing straight at the dragon’s head. His brazen move must have taken the beast by surprise—it suddenly stopped inhaling, its dark eyes fixed on the crazed figure rushing toward it.
About ten paces from the dragon’s snout, the blue warrior suddenly leapt forward high into the air, straight over the head of the stunned creature. At the last moment, the great beast lifted its head and snapped at the young man, but it was too late. The warrior had already vaulted over its head, landing on the dragon’s neck.
Martan had raced like mad to reach the monolith’s entrance, yet he halted there, staring in wonder at the sight of the young man racing at incredible speed down the dragon’s back. The great head swiveled around and followed the warrior, snapping violently at him. Yet whenever those jaws came too close, the man in blue would just leap out of the way. As soon as he reached the dragon’s tail, the young warrior took a huge leap off its back, straight for where Martan stood. His grim eyes fixed on the frozen tracker, a shout erupting from his lips. “Run, you fool!”
The irate cry spurred Martan into motion. The dour tracker spun around on his heel and dashed into the monolith, the darkness within quickly enveloping him.