Tales from Thac: Battle of Fish Eye Cove
Outnumbered two to one, Ves and Ruka engage in a desperate battle with a flight of evil dragons. Can the two dragon girls escape their deadly fate?
This month we're covering another excerpt from the soon to be released Tales from Thac. The Battle of Fish Eye Cove covers what happened to Ves and Ruka after escaping the clutches of the insane Princess of Lanfor.
Princess Anyabarithia Ulteshto Farbican is the sole heir of Lanfor, a powerful island nation northeast of Thac. Anya appears in the fourth book of the Heroes of Ravenford series astride a heavily armed airship with a small army of dragons at her disposal. After a near deadly encounter in the Darkwoods, the erratic and volatile Princess offers the young heroes a ride back to Ravenford aboard her airship.
Once aboard, the companions discover that Anya has taken their dragon friend, Ves, hostage. After freeing Ves, a frantic escape ensues from the now mile-high airship. Yet the Princess was not about to let a prize like Ves go so easily. She immediately sent a flight of her toughest dragons to recapture the young bronze dragon.
Not one to put her friends in jeopardy, Ves and her sister Ruka took to the skies to lead Anya's dragons away. That was the last we saw of the dragon girls in the series as the heroes soon found their hands full with the death of the Baron of Ravenford.
Thankfully, this novella takes up the sisters' story from where we last saw them. Ves and Ruka lead the other dragons on a desperate race toward the sea. Outnumbered two to one, their only chance is escape, something the waters should easily provide the half-aquatic bronze dragons. Yet once they arrive, the girls find that Fish Eye Cove is not empty.
A small family of humans are enjoying a day's outing in the normally deserted cove, unaware of the certain the death that is about to descend upon them from above. Can Ves and Ruka manage to protect this unlucky group of travelers and still manage to stay alive in the attempt?
Here now is an excerpt from The Battle of Fish Eye Cove:
The farther they went through the tunnels, the surer Inazuma was that he had been here before. It was a faint memory, and the place would be much changed in a thousand years, but perhaps.
He had been to the sea-pool chamber once in the last decade with Ruka; one of her stashes was hidden behind a secret door there. If she came out of this alive, they’d be moving that one again. He wasn’t sure how much of the complex she had originally explored or cleared, but it had to have been over five years ago. He knew that these places rapidly filled with vermin and the occasional serious threat, so he kept his senses sharp and on the lookout for danger.
This last corridor did indeed lead to a stairway up, and Inazuma could almost feel Meriwynn’s relief. Through his link with Gulhawk, he could sense even that fearless boy’s spirits rise as they ascended. The first landing had closed doors on either side.
The girl motioned her brother up the stairs with her dimming light stick when he paused to consider the doors. He felt the pull of the boy’s desire to explore—it was infectious. He began wondering himself what was behind those ancient doors.
They made it only a half-dozen steps further up before the magic illumination on the stick gave out again. He sparked as much as he could to give them some light. Inazuma watched the look of concentration on the girl’s face with interest; she was recalling the mystic formula for light. That she had the spirit energies to actually invoke the light magic again proved the girl had a natural knack for sorcery.
She held up the glowing stick and grinned at her brother. The boy swung Inazuma up in a grand salute and grinned even wider at his sister. As Gully turned back up the stairs, only Inazuma saw the girl’s expression change—her worry for her family, and Gully in particular, was written clearly on her brow.
When they climbed to the next landing, they stopped and stared. A torch lay on the floor, still glowing red and smoking on the damp stone.
As Meriwynn turned a perplexed look to her brother, they heard a faint yell from up the next flight.
“Now you’ve done it, foul beast! The Lord of Storms will strike you down for that!”
“Uncle Vic?” Meriwynn said querulously.
The girl was stopped in indecision for a moment, trying to figure out what was going on. Not so her brother; in a flash, he was sprinting up the steps with Inazuma in hand. They burst up the final few steps and through an arch at a headlong run. The chamber was a grand half-cylinder, arched overhead, with decorative pillars down each side and a long pool down the center. The boy barely stopped himself from sliding across the slick marble floor into the pool.
In a moment, Inazuma had assessed the situation; what dim light there was in the chamber came from the ceiling of the eastern end. But he didn’t need that to see the whole chamber clearly. A small swamp dragon was stalking a man who had climbed a statue at the western end and was jumping around on it like a monkey.
It was bad but not as bad as it could have been. The dragon was barely a young adult, and it had already been seriously injured by several lighting blasts from him and Ruka. If only Inazuma had a full charge, he felt they could win this fight with one more solid strike.
The truth was that although he could generate an endless supply of minor shocks or even bursts on a good hit, he couldn’t generate his own lightning. He could only attract and capture other lightning sources, to expel when necessary. Ruka kept him constantly charged to full, but he had used almost all the stored lightning charge he had at the cove. As it was, he had no more left in him than a shocker-lizard.
There was little to do but force the boy to run. Just as he was about to do that, the far statue caught his attention. He had seen the figure depicted there before.
On the plains of Malgar, when the demon princes stepped upon the field in third-stage aspects, and even the elder dragons were flung about like toys, all seemed lost. Then the armies of Man stepped forward. They were individually weak and frail, and although they numbered in legions, it would still be as nothing to the demon lords. Even their allies would have laughed as the demons did if their plight had not been so dire. And then mankind revealed its true power. Faith.
In each of the ages, one of the greater dragon families had brought into the world allies to help champion the endless battle with the demons. The golden Sun Dragons chose the Titans, hugely powerful lords of elemental forces, but they were too chaotic, and the inevitable Dragon-Titan War shook the world to its foundation, ending the Age of Titans. The silver Cloud Dragons chose the Elves, masters of arcane lore who created great seals of magic to bind the demons, but eventually, they were corrupted and the seals were shattered, ending the Age of Fey. The bronze Storm Dragons chose Man, and a new type of magic was brought into the world—the power of divine faith.
From the ranks of mankind, great heroes stepped forth, wielding the full power of the faith of their comrades and kin. Toward the end of the battles, Inazuma met this one, Alaric, already named the Lord of Storms. At that time, Inazuma was wielded by General Bykarvo, commander of the fifth brigade of the Storm Legion. Alaric, wielding his greatsword, Blitzkrieg, had already risen to command the entire legion.
A millennium later, he had first seen that statue in this hall. Alaric had long since ascended through whatever mysterious power of faith Man uses to create their hero-gods. Even at that time, mankind had already forgotten why there was a dragon bowing to Lord Alaric at the other end of the hall.
One important thing struck him from that faint memory—both ends of the hall were lit then. The east was lit during the day with water-filtered sunlight, but the west was lit at all times back then by constant electrical storms generated in the dome above the statue of Lord Alaric. Reaching out, he could still feel the faint magic of that dome.
Inazuma had a plan or at least a faint hope.
“Charge!” he called to the boy’s mind.
“Wait!” Meriwynn cried from behind them, but it was too late.
He searched for the inevitable fear that all must feel when facing a dragon, and was ready to push the boy if necessary. But there was no need, for there was not a trace of fear in the lad, only a wild joy as he surged forward. This was truly one of the descendants of the race of Man that had produced Alaric.
And inspired, Inazuma summoned an illusion. He would only be able to hold the image for a few seconds, then he had to put all his remaining energy into an igniting spark.
As the dark dragon turned, he saw not a skinny lad improbably waving a short sword at him, but Lord Alaric himself in his full glory, shouting his battle cry and brandishing the mighty two-handed Blitzkrieg.
Inazuma had always admired that sword.
Perovich rocked back and forth on the statue as hard as he could, while carefully avoiding the areas the acid had splattered. It always worked in stories—the idol of the angry god would fall on the evil beast. And the dragon had just covered Alaric’s beard and chest with caustic acid, marring the beautiful marble finish, which was justification for divine retribution if he had ever seen it. But the statue didn’t so much as vibrate with his antics.
He was out of ideas. The best he could hope for was to stay high out of easy reach and be a difficult target for the dragon’s acidic spray. As he jumped about, he heard the clinking of the jeweled eyes in his bag. He looked again at the angry-seeming dragon statue across the hall, and then at the grinning evil wyrm stalking him from below.
“Lord Alaric, if you help me to save my family from this,” he prayed fervently, “I swear, I’ll fix your dragon statue.”
He didn’t really expect an answer, and almost fell off the statue when he saw the mighty Lord of Storms himself charging down the hall.
“Vile creature of darkness and evil, prepare to feel my mighty storm of righteousness!” The voice boomed down the hallway, accompanied by a roll of thunder.
Oddly, Perovich thought he heard Merry yelling, “Gully, no!” faintly in the background.
As the Lord of Storms charged up, the dragon cowered down with its tail between its legs and sidled into the pool with a panicked splash.
Then the awe-inspiring Storm God raised his mighty sword, and out came… not the huge blast of lightning Perovich expected, but a small arc no thicker than his finger. The pathetic little bolt did not strike the dragon but instead went high and wide, toward the ceiling directly above the statue. And most astonishing and absurd of all, the image vanished and standing there was not the Lord of Storms, but little Gully holding a bronze short sword aloft.
Gully grinned up at Perovich and said, “Tricked you!”
“Gully, you fool! Get out of there!” he yelled.
“We just need a minute,” Gully responded cryptically while sprinting toward Uncle Vic and the statue.
Perovich had no idea what crazy game the lad was playing now, and he could only watch in horror as the terrible head of the black dragon slowly rose from the water. The anger and hatred of the beast was almost palpable.
“Foolish human, I will melt you slowly from the feet up for that!” The dragon spoke with a voice like crushed gravel.
Gully ducked behind the legs of the statue and put his back to it. He held that strange short sword in both hands. The lad was looking up intently, not at him, but instead, he was focused on the ceiling above the statue.
The humming and crackling of energy building also drew Perovich’s attention upward. Directly above him, he saw the dome was coming alive with sparks from the center sphere, and his hairs stood on end as small bolts started jumping between the rod and the dome walls. Perovich was beginning to get the idea that divine retribution was coming, but it would be too late.
“Run now, beast,” Gully’s voice called out, his voice echoing around the stone chamber, “for your doom is nigh.”
He could just hear Irweena’s voice saying, as she always did when Gully did something particularly foolish, ‘It’s Vic’s fault; he’s a bad influence on the boy.’ Although taunting a dragon like that was ten times as foolish as anything he ever did. Okay, maybe only twice as foolish, and it was time to rectify that.
The dragon didn’t even acknowledge the boy's taunts. It pulled itself sinuously out of the pool and prowled with silent menace toward the statue. Its head was low, and its nostrils were flaring like it was sniffing him out.
The gemstone made a satisfying clink as it struck the top of its scaly head. The dragon looked up at him, its long neck bringing it shockingly close, and Perovich flung the second gem with all of his might. It was either ironic luck or poetic justice that he hit the dragon right in the eye with a dragon-eye gem.
“Right here, you stinking…” Perovich’s taunt was interrupted by a blast of acid from the maw of the dragon.
He had been standing astride the great statue, his bare feet planted on the Storm God’s shoulders and his skin crawling with the charge building above him. Even though he was ready for it, he was very nearly not fast enough. Thankfully gravity was on his side and he avoided the worst of it. Small splatters of the caustic bile sizzled through his clothes and burned his skin.
Dropping behind the statue, Perovich desperately caught himself on the cloak and hung on, out of sight. The dragon circled around the left side of the statue, its claws clicking on the stone floor in an angry scramble. Perovich swung to his right, trying to keep the statue between him and the dragon.
Gully bolted out, running hard and keeping the statue between him and the dragon’s head and claws. Just barely ducking under a wild claw swipe from the other side of the statue, he ran straight into the tail that was suddenly swung around the opposite way. Gully went down hard, with the wind knocked out of him. He was dazed, and could only sit up and raise his sword weakly as the dragon circled back around to the front.
“Leave him alone!” Merry’s yell echoed across the chamber, as a glowing axe came flying across the room at the dragon.
The beast jumped back, but what clattered to the floor was just a piece of bleached-white driftwood glowing with some eerie light.
The dragon stared at the stick for only a moment, but it was long enough for Perovich. Swinging all the way around the side of the statue, he ran down its sword arm, then leaped off the giant stone pommel and onto the dragon’s head.
Perovich might just as well have tried to jam his dagger into a boulder as get it through a dragon’s scales. And his one wild swing at its eye just hit the armored ridge. It had instinctively closed its eyes tight when he landed on it.
It is, after all, just a normal dagger, he thought as the vicious claws scraped him savagely, pulling him from the beast’s head and flinging him across the room.
He rolled and mostly caught himself before hitting a pillar, his left side slit open in large gashes. The pain slowed him as he tried to dive desperately to one side, but he couldn’t fully evade the next acid blast.
The pain of the slash across his ribs was nothing. He was wracked with excruciating burning as the dragon’s foul magic bile started to consume him slowly. Perovich fell to the floor with a sick thud.
Rolling to his side with a sizzling whimper, he saw one of the dragon-eye gems he thought to claim lying on the ground between him and the beast. That dragon would now be the bringer of retribution for his greedy defilement, and also the bringer of his terrible demise.
I’m sorry, he thought, looking up to the statues, I didn’t realize this was a temple. Take me for my foolishness, but at least spare my family.
A huge flash blinded him, and a booming crack echoed through the hall. Through the jagged after-images of that first bolt, Perovich could see serious lightning now jumping from the gilded dome above to the statue of Alaric’s raised bolt.
The dragon had hunkered down at that blast, slithering slightly backwards to the pool, its entire attitude cowed. Perovich realized, somewhat ironically, that this terrible beast that was going to be the death of them, was just a cowardly little bully. But if it wasn’t, they would already be dead.
It looked up into the growing storm above for a moment, then turned back toward its prey. The dragon drew back its head slightly with a gurgling rasp as it gathered more of its deadly acid.
Gully had staggered to his feet, but he didn’t run. He thrust that strange sword he carried above his head in a dramatic posture. In the now-bright glow from the lightning dome above, it looked impressive, but this was the worst time for his theatrical imagination. Or maybe it was best to go out this way. Perovich gritted his teeth in pain, desperately trying to stand up and face their impending doom with bravado like his brave nephew.
“Too late, foul beast,” Gully called.
The next bolt from the dome missed the statue entirely and struck Gully’s sword. Perovich gasped, but the boy was unharmed; a joyfully wicked grin spread across his face as his wild hair stood fully on end.
With a forceful chop, Gully slashed the now-glowing sword down toward the dragon, leaving a bright crescent afterimage. And amazingly, a bolt of pure unbridled lightning blasted directly into the shocked maw of their dark adversary.
The dragon made a desperate dive into the water, and in a great wave, swam down the long pool, trying to escape. Bolt after bolt of powerful energy was drawn to Gully’s sword, blasting after the beast until the roiling waters were still and a black carcass came floating to the surface. Then he blasted it three more times, just to be sure.
“I think that might be enough,” Merry said. She stood next to, but not too close to Gully, whose sword still glowed and crackled with ready power.
“Indeed,” a strange voice agreed. In his pain-soaked awareness, Perovich wondered if it was the Lord of Storms himself, or if anyone else could hear it.
“Hi kids,” he said weakly, rolling flat on the floor and staring up at the lightning still playing across the dome and striking the statue’s upraised bolt every so often. It was very beautiful, he thought.
Merry’s concerned face leaned over him. She was holding a short, glowing staff, and he wondered distantly when she had become a wizard. For that matter, when had Gully become a lightning-hurling disciple of the Lord of Storms? Not that it mattered; what was bothering him now was that she was blocking his view of the pretty storm above.
He closed his eyes, hoping one of those bolts of lightning would hit him; it was starting to feel cold.
Sorry, but we'll have to stop there for now. For more of the Battle of Fish Eye Cove and other exciting stories, you can now pre-order the Tales from Thac anthology on Amazon. And stay tuned for more excerpts from Tales and the new series, Rise of the Thrall Lord.