After the brutal massacre of his entire village, a young boy is taken in by the most unlikely of creatures—a gold dragon. Years later will he seek revenge or follow the path destiny has laid out for him?
My friend, Kathryn (Fogleman) White, wrote her first book, The Dragon’s Son, while she was a teenager, and published it 8 years ago. Now that she’s a writing coach, her writing has improved by leaps and bounds, and the original book made her “cringe”. So, she set to work updating the theme, the plot, and her writing style throughout.
I am definitely excited about these updates. I’ve been her reading partner for a while now, and am quite impressed with the changes she’s made. So, without further ado, here are two slices – a old and new one – of Chapter 2 from Kathryn’s first book, The Dragon’s Son. (Oh, and btw, to thank you for your time, Kathryn is giving you a FREE book of fantasy and science fiction stories. You can find a link to it at the end of this post.)
OLD ENDING OF CHAPTER 2
Note from Kathryn: this scene starts in the middle of a village massacre. Keegan is the main character and Torry is his best friend. Keegan has a sister named Alia and an older brother named Braidden, who has a sweetheart named Eloria. There is a lot going on, and everyone has been separated and is panicking. Overall, it’s not a bad scene, but the dialogue is stiff and sometimes old fashion, and there is too much "telling" about all of the stuff that happens around the main character, which slows the action down. But, I’ll let you read and compare it for yourself!
Keegan ducked under a horse, avoiding the kicking hooves, and sprinted for the barrel that he had been at earlier, almost plowing right into Torry in his rush.
“Torry! Have you seen Alia?” Keegan asked. He then grasped his friend by the shirt and threw him out of the way of an oncoming horse. He ducked in between two houses with Torry and looked his friend in the face.
“No Keegan, I have not seen Alia! Have you seen my mother?” Torry asked with sweat and dirt covering his face, and fear swirling in his eyes.
“Yes. But, that was before the men in black were in the village!” Keegan replied.
Torry looked away from Keegan then pointed across the street with a gasp “Keegan, I just saw Saul leading Alia out of the village.” He said “We could catch up with them!”
At that moment a black rider came in between the two huts with a torch in his hand. He halted with a glower on his face when he saw the two boys.
“Run Torry, run!” Keegan yelled. Both boys shot out of their hiding place into the street. Now there were not just black riders, but footmen also. Every which way the boy’s turned there was an enemy cutting down someone that they knew.
Keegan spotted a clearing through the slaughter for which his friend and he could escape, so he grasped Torry by the shirt and lunged for it.
Suddenly, a horse came between Torry and Keegan and tore them apart, throwing Keegan aside to the ground. Another horse galloped up, its hooves ready to pound onto Keegan's frame, but he quickly rolled to the side out of harms way and jumped up. He spun in a quick circle and was horrified to find that Torry was nowhere in sight. He spotted Braidden however, and was alarmed to see that Braidden was not on his horse, but on the ground trying to lead Eloria out of the village.
A black horseman suddenly came in between Braidden and Eloria's way of escape and sneered as he raised his sword to strike them, seeming to enjoy the looks of terror on his victims faces.
Braidden stood in between the enemy and Eloria protectively with a frightened, but firm face, ready to die for the girl.
Keegan's heart jumped into his throat. Something seemed to snap inside of him, and he charged the man and horse, yelling at the top of his lungs like a dragon, causing them all to look his way.
“No Keegan!” Braidden yelled, but it was too late to stop now.
Keegan slammed into the horse’s chest with all his might, pulling its mane, clawing for the reins, and trying to grab the top of the animal’s neck.
The horse, terrified by this assault, reared and charged forward, hoping to plow his attacker down.
Keegan held on for dear life and managed to scream “Flee Braidden!” as the horse charged forward. He let go when the horse ducked its head, and he fell underneath its hooves. The horse stepped on his right arm, then jumped over him, but kicked him in the back as it did so.
Keegan rolled to a stop on the ground with the wind knocked out of him, and he laid there for a moment while his back throbbed and his lungs screamed for air. He twisted his head around enough to see that Braidden and Eloria were gone. Gone out of the village he hoped. Braidden was bull headed however, and he would probably come back to find Keegan, so Keegan had to get out of the village before Braidden came back.
Keegan sat up and everything began to spin, making him feel like he was floating in the air. He shook his head knowing that now was not the time to be dazed. He slowly, shakily stood up, feeling like his muscles had turned to pudding, and his vision slowly began to stop spinning.
As his vision cleared, he spotted his father valiantly cutting down enemies from the back of his bay horse. Unexpectedly, a massive creature: a bear-dog like creature leaped from the other side of his father's horse and careened into him, bringing him off of the horse. The creature did not bother with Keegan’s father, but went on to the next villager and killed him with one snap of its powerful jaws then it leaped on an ox and shredded it.
However, Keegan was not worried about the creature. He was worried about his father. His father stagger onto his feet just as a man on foot, a black hood concealing his face, came up to him and swung a sword for Barden's neck. Barden ducked under the swing then charged his attacker.
The man quickly side stepped Barden's charge and brought his sword down to the ground near Barden’s back. Barden spun around to face his attacker again with a firm face and bloody sword raised.
The man charged Barden and their swords met with a clang. The evil man pushed down on Barden, trying to bring him low and make him loose his ground.
Barden pushed the man off and charged him with sword extended, catching the man in the shoulder.
The man yelled and jumped aside. His hood fell off his head as he made the sudden movement, revealing his face with a terrible scar like lightening across it.
Keegan gasped and his heart pace quickened as dread gripped him. It was the man who had been at the forest's edge the day before, spying on the village.
Barden adjusted his grip on his sword and charged the man again, swinging his sword for the scarred man's face.
The man, with supernatural quickness, parried Barden’s blow, whisked a dagger out from inside his cloak and ran it through Barden’s abdomen.
Keegan’s mouth dropped open as he watched his father slump over the man's knife, drop his sword, and sink to the ground with blood soaking his shirt.
A scream rose to the back of Keegan's throat, but it never emerged. He stood between reality and denial as his father's body broke before him. He didn't want to believe that his father was dying before his very eyes, yet it was happening, and he was helplessly watching it.
The man withdrew his dagger from Barden’s crumbling body then spat on him. He sheathed his knife, picked up Barden's sword, and walked away holding his bleeding shoulder. He paused a moment and looked at Keegan with a cold stare. He glanced back at Barden's body then back at Keegan, and a smug expression slowly came over his face. He walked away, seeming unperturbed by anything, and looking victorious.
Keegan was petrified. He felt numbness take over his whole body and a tear fell down his face as he stared at his father's form. Suddenly something snapped inside of him, waking him up. He screamed and began to run for his father’s crumpled body as the tears began to flow freely down his face.
In a flash, a man jumped out in front of Keegan and slammed him to the ground before he could react.
Keegan blinked. Through the tears and sunlight, and being daze from the sudden assault he saw the man who had stopped him, coming toward him with sword ready to plunge into his smaller frame. However, to Keegan's surprise, the man stopped. Keegan wished that he would just get it over with, but he noticed that the man seemed to waver. He wiped the tears out of his eyes to see the man more clearly.
The man stood there sword ready, but not moving. His face was soft and compassionate, and full of pity looking at Keegan. He let his sword down slowly never taking his eyes off Keegan. He had ashen hair and a small scar on his left temple. His face looked very similar to Keegan's uncle, his eyes were the same color blue as Keegan's father's, and he did not appear much older than Keegan's mother.
The man finally made a quick glance from side to side then looked back at Keegan. He opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something, but nothing came out “Run boy” Is all he finally said, then he turned his head as if he had never noticed Keegan and walked off.
Keegan realized that he had been given another chance to live and even though he just wanted to go hold his father’s broken body, he knew that his father would want him to take this chance more than anything.
Keegan jumped to his feet. He looked longingly at his father for a moment, his arms aching to hold him, then he turned toward the mountains and began to run for them with every ounce of energy he had. However, his run was cut short. Men with hounds on leashes came around a corner and blocked his way to the mountains. The hounds caught sight of him and began to bark, bay and jump for him. The men sneered at Keegan and pulled the dogs closer to turn them loose.
Keegan turned on his heel and began to run as fast as he could, teeth clenched and warm tears streaming across his cheeks, toward the only way of escape: the Dragon’s Forest.
He passed by his father and other dead members of the village, and for a split second he wondered if he were the only Wovlen alive and moving in the village.
He soon heard the dog’s barking growing closer and he risked a glance over his shoulder.
To his horror, there were more than just the dogs following him. The bear-dog like creature and men on horses were also following him, like they were on a hunt. The creature was gaining ground faster than any of them and was nearly on his heals with teeth bared, as if he were grinning, pleased that he would be able to crush Keegan's body in his huge jaws.
Keegan heard a snap behind him and his heart stopped. He grasped his dagger and drew it out of its sheath, then he made a quick spin with his arm stretched out. He felt his dagger slice through flesh, he saw enormous teeth, he heard a deafening howl, and he felt hot blood splatter on his face, then he was running for the forest again with all of his might and with a bloody knife in hand.
The dogs stopped baying and began to circle the wounded creature, but the horsemen were still pursuing Keegan.
Keegan finally reached the forest. He didn’t think about where he was going, his legs just kept pumping as hard as they possibly could. He jumped over a log then disappeared into the dark forest.
The horses all came to a sudden stop at the forest edge, and began to squeal in fright. The men turned their horses around toward the village, but they halted quickly when the man with the scar on his face, sitting atop his horse was in their path.
“What are you cowards doing?” he asked calmly.
None of the men answered, but sat silently atop their dancing, nervous horses.
“Speak.” He said sharply, his eyebrows knit, the scar across his face turning white.
“Forgive us sire, but t-there are ancient d-demons of old in that forest. Dragons, in short sire.” One man stuttered with a worried expression wrinkling his forehead.
“Yes sire, the place is full of them. That little brat surely won’t live long in there.” Another said boldly.
“The Wovlens are an adaptable and hardy people.” The scarred man said quietly.
Several of the men exchanged expressions.
“Y-yes sir, but a boy, in a deep forest, against dragons?” One of the men questioned slowly “Even our horses refuse to enter into that forest. The only thing that would dare to go after the boy would be the wolf, and he's wounded.” the man gestured at the howling creature lying in the field that Keegan had sliced with his knife.
The scarred man looked at the twisted oak trees that made the border of the forest, while the horses pawed the ground nervously. All was silent and the men sat in suspense, waiting for their leader’s answer and command.
The scarred man squinted his eyes in thought for a moment. The cataract in his right eye blended in with the pale skin tone on his face, making it seem that he had no eye in that socket.
“So be it” He finally said with a wave of his hand. He turned his horse around to the burning village while the men let their horses draw closer to his “Gather all of the Wovlen's swords. Leave the bodies. Burn the rest.” He smirked as he raised Keegan's father's sword from his lap and looked at the runes on its spotless blade “But the Dragon Slayer’s sword shall be mine.”
NEW ENDING OF CHAPTER 2
Note from Kathryn: So, the first thing you’ll notice is that the dialogue has changed. It has more breaks, more contractions, and more personality showing up in the voice of the characters. Keegan’s brother is more involved in the fight, and none of the characters are leaving unharmed. I’ve removed a lot of the “began to” stuff and made the characters DO the thing. I also made the action more snappy by removing flowery prose and telling the reader only what they need to know. And, speaking of need to know, I cut out the very end of the chapter where it switched to the bad guy’s point of view. The scene was unnecessary for the reader. I can explain all the reader needs to know about this bad guy in the fight/death scene, and I can get the point across that NO ONE was following Keegan into the forest... from Keegan’s point of view! Leave a comment and let me know what you think of the end result.
He worked his way around the hut, then dashed across the street to another. He slipped behind a water barrel, and screamed when someone grabbed him.
“Keegan! It’s me!” Torry shrank back from him, eyes wide with terror.
“Torry!” Keegan grabbed his friend, giving him a quick hug, “Have you seen my sister?” He glanced around the barrel, his heart jumping like a wild animal in his chest.
Torry coughed, “Yes! I saw Saul leading her out the North side just a moment ago.”
Keegan growled and kicked the barrel, “I just missed them! We have to get out of here!” He peaked back around the barrel. On every side there was the clashing of swords, an enemy cutting down someone he knew, and blood running down the street in rivulets.
“If we’re going to do it, now is the time! It’s do or die!” Torry agreed.
Keegan lunged from behind the barrel and dashed up the street to the North, Torry right on his heels. He stopped and spun a quick circle, looking for an opening in the chaos through which they could escape.
“There!” Torry grabbed Keegan by the arm and pointed toward a burning hut that no one was near, “We can slip around it!”
“Run, Torry, run!” Keegan grabbed his friend by the shirt and yanked him toward the opening.
Suddenly, the iron legs of a horse punched into him, knocking him to the ground, throwing him and Torry apart. He rolled under the hooves of the animal for several feet before it kicked him in the back and knocked him away. He skidded to a stop in the dust and gasped for air, pain wracking his small frame. He slowly rolled over, his eyes going wide as he saw another horse galloping straight for him, its rider swinging a sword wildly. He barely got to his feet and jumped out of the way before it barreled right over where he had been. Something sharp bit into his shoulder blade, making him stumble and fall face first into the dirt again. He groped at his back, his fingers touching something sticky.
“No, no, no!” He grimaced and got to his feet, gasping for air, “Torry! Torry! Where are you?” He turned in a circle, but found his friend nowhere in sight. The screams of the dying, mangled bodies littering the streets, and the gleam of bloodied swords slicing through the air overwhelmed his senses, rooting him to where he stood. He watched dumbly as a horse and rider came around a hut, cutting a man’s head clean off before charging toward him.
Keegan was knocked to the side roughly, and Braidden stepped between him and the oncoming rider, sword held in two hands.
“Come on! Come on!” Eloria grabbed Keegan by the arm and, despite his pain-filled cry, she pulled him to the side, out of the way.
The rider reined his horse in and took a swing at Braidden, but the young man easily knocked it to the side. He jumped into the air and wrapped his arms around the man, yanking him to the ground where he punched him in the nose with the butt of his sword. He raised his sword to deal a lethal blow, then froze and lurched forward as an ax buried itself into his back.
Time around Keegan seemed to slow. He watched the color drain from his brother’s face and his eyes widen with shock.
The man on the ground panicked and thrust his sword upward, stabbing it into Braidden’s side, just under his ribcage.
Braidden stumbled backward with a gasp, lowering his sword. He dropped to his knees, looking down at his wound in surprise, but still holding tightly to his weapon.
“NO! Braidden!” Eloria shrieked and rushed to his side, dropping to her knees and wrapping him into her arms protectively.
The man on the ground stood and moved toward them with sword raised.
Braidden blinked, then, with an inhuman snarl, he lunged forward and sliced his sword across the man’s knees, then across his throat as he tumbled to the ground.
A horse and rider galloped up behind Braidden just as the other man fell. The rider drew a longsword from his side and aimed it for Braidden’s neck.
“No!” Eloria held a hand up as if to block the blow.
Without thinking, Keegan got to his feet. He drew his knife and charged the rider with a roar, a strange warmth pulsing inside his chest. He slammed into the front of the horse, wrapping his arms around its neck and stabbing his knife into the top of its shoulder, kicking it in the legs as he groped for its mane and the reins.
“No, Keegan!” Braidden’s voice was the last thing Keegan heard as the horse reared with a squeal and charged forward in an effort to trample its small attacker. It snorted and shrieked as the knife carved through its muscles.
Keegan finally pulled his knife free and let go when the horse ducked its head. He fell underneath its hooves, where it stepped on his arm and clipped his shin before hopping over him. He pushed himself up to his hands and knees, knife still clutched tightly in his hand. His vision faded, then brightened, and the only sound he could hear was the roar of his own heartbeat.
He lifted his gaze and blinked. Gradually, the world came into focus, and he saw his father.
Barden sat on his rearing steed like a valiant knight, cutting enemies down on every side of him with his bright dragon slayer’s sword. He urged his horse between three masked riders and a group of wounded Wovlen, taking the riders on single handed and giving the Wovlen time to flee.
A mighty wolf’s howl pierced the air. The riders all turned their horses aside and started to gallop away from Keegan’s father, who gave chase to one. Suddenly, his horse squealed and came to an abrupt halt just before a massive monster, like a bear, barreled into it, knocking it backwards over the top of Barden.
The monster spun around with a snarl, and sank its teeth into the horse’s neck, silencing it for good. It then lifted its bloody jowls and unleashed a terrifying wolf’s howl. It shook itself, spiking long, sharp hairs on humped shoulders. It glared at Keegan’s father, who glared at it in return, unmoving.
Keegan watched breathlessly as the wolf-bear monster inched closer to his father, its lips quivering with snarls, matching glare for glare. Suddenly, it jumped over Barden and charged the group of fleeing Wovlen. It caught up with them quickly and, in a matter of seconds, had torn them limb from limb.
Barden got to his feet and grabbed his sword, roaring in anger. “Curse you! Curse you!”
A hooded rider trotted up to Barden, drawing a sword, but not to attack. He poked Barden lightly, saying something that Keegan could not hear. Barden whirled around and attacked the rider, swinging his sword in a frenzy and putting the man on the defense. He then grabbed the rider by the leg, pulling his boot out of his stirrup and jerking him off his horse.
The man rolled away as Barden slammed his sword downward, then he flipped up to his feet and charged. The two men met with a clanging of swords and exchanged a flurry of angry blows. Their swords met in a cross, and both men bore down on each other. Barden pushed the other man back, a snarl engraved on his face. As he did, a faint red glow began to spread from the pommel of his sword, and its blade turned white hot.
The other man roared, and, with a flick of his wrist, he drew a small blade and stabbed Barden in the gut three times.
Keegan’s heart stopped pounding in his chest as ice crawled up his spine.
Barden’s sword instantly stopped glowing and he stumbled backward, clutching at his belly.
The man walked up to him, turning his knife in his hand, then stabbed him repeatedly in the chest and shoulders with angry shouts, avoiding Barden’s sluggish attempts to stop him.
Barden dropped his sword to the ground, stumbling and falling to his knees, catching his blood in his left hand and staring at the pooling liquid in shock. He looked up at the man, who stooped and picked up Barden’s sword, then knocked the hood from his head. Ashen black hair framed the scarred face of the man who the children had helped in the meadow just the day before.
The scarred man stared at Barden’s dragon slaying sword for a long moment, running his gloved hands over its blade possessively. Then, he turned to Barden and spat in his face before planting his boot into Barden’s chest and shoving him to the ground where he lied silent and unmoving.
Pain exploded inside of Keegan’s chest. A slow scream erupted from his throat, accompanied by a torrent of tears. He pushed himself to his feet and ran toward his father.
A man suddenly grabbed him and threw him to the ground harshly.
Keegan raised his hands over his face, expecting to feel the icy pain of a sword cutting into him, but the pain didn’t come. He lowered one hand and blinked, watching as the man reached up and pulled a mask from his face. Tears brimmed over his gray eyes, his ashen hair dancing around his left temple where a small scar sat. He held a sword up, but did not move it, his hand shaking.
“I’m sorry.” He whispered, “Run...”
“Traitor!” Uncle Boyden, unarmed and wounded, crashed into the man, punching him across the street. He paused and looked down at Keegan, his brows flying to the top of his head.
“Run, boy! Run and don’t look back!”
Keegan scrambled to his feet, tears blurring his vision. He turned toward the White Mountains, but stopped when he saw a row of masked horsemen trotting down the street in a tight formation, pushing any remaining Wovlen his way.
He spun on his heel. The Dragon’s Forest was over a mile away, but it was his only chance.
Without another thought, he bolted down the street, past the burning huts, keeping his eyes trained on the dread forest. He charged past several masked soldiers and by his father, not even daring a glance at him. His arms and legs pumped as hard as they ever had in his entire life, propelling him across the ground, through the meadow and beyond. His ring bounced out of his shirt and whipped around wildly as he ran.
Suddenly, a howl arched across the air. It was soon accompanied by the sound of pounding feet and breathy snarls. Snapping teeth right behind him made his heart jump in his chest. Knife still in hand, he spun around with his arm outstretched, catching a brief glance of the wolf-bear monster. There was a brilliant flash of red light from his ring. A shrieking howl of pain burst on his ears as he felt his knife carve through flesh and hot blood sprayed across his face. Then, before he knew it, he’d spun back around and was running again.
Thundering hooves and cries of men alerted him to the fact that others now pursued him. He barely breathed as he flew over the ground, his eyes trained on the giant dark trees ahead.
The horses were right behind him when he finally jumped over a log and dove into the shadow of the forest he had long feared. Their shrill cries were the last thing he heard before a massive, rage-filled roar of a dragon boomed across the sky and rippled through the trees above him, filling his veins with fresh fear.
Well there you have it, folks. As a “Thank You” for reading, Kathryn would like to give you a FREE book that is chalk full of fantasy and science fiction stories! Click HERE to have it delivered directly to your inbox. If you like Kathryn's writing and wish to follow her on social media, I've included her contact information below. Come back next month for more about Raiders of the Dark Coast and a teaser about the next book in the Return of the Thrall Lord series, Tomb of the Gods.
Keeper of Dragons, and lover of coffee, Kathryn is native to Oklahoma, eldest of 6 kids, and was raised on a farm. She always has a devious plot brewing in her cauldron and a number of bad ideas hidden under her pointy wizard hat.
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