So this here is the NEW first chapter of the Dragon Tamer. Enjoy. The rest will be in the book. This is the last rewrite. I should be done soon as long as I can continue writing at work. BTW, I did not bother putting in the parts that need to be italicized sooooo, yeah, I'm sure you're all smart enough to figure those parts out.
The voice was a low hiss. In the darkness, a little black lump of coal rolled to her feet. She reached down, picking it up to look closer at it. There were eyes on the coal. They stared at her fiercely, and yet they were full of love.
The voice sounded like it was next to her ear. Yet she couldn't turn. She could only watch as the coal suddenly sprouted wings. It caught a cold fire, not burning her hand. Instead, the fire felt comforting, offering her a sense of power and strength in the despair that had followed her through her life. As it burned, it grew and grew until the little lump of coal was a mountain, those captivating eyes staring down at her.
"Above all, remain pure."
As she watched, the creature that had been looking down upon her began to change again. It grew long, the eyes becoming a dazzling orange, the whole body elongating until she was peering up at a serpent. It wrapped its immense coils around her, never taking its eyes from hers. It let out a loud hiss, its jaws opening wide, a bright, hot flame rushing down at her.
S're jerked awake, panting, staring up at the ceiling of the barn that she slept in. Small rays of dusty light filtered through the planks along the walls. It was early morning, the time that she had to wake up and get to work.
With a low groan, she slowly sat up, placing her hand to her temple, the dream she had just woken from leaving a strange sense of something unusual. Something was coming, something big, something reptilian.
She shook her head, figuring it was just the dream. She had had many dreams involving dragons her entire life. Her father had told her that they were just dreams, that they meant nothing, and that she had to stay away from the beasts. All her life she been sheltered from the massive animals, having never seen one other than the occasional Scouter high above taking messages back and forth.
Standing stiffly, she stretched a bit to loosen up from sleeping on the lumpy straw. She used the bucket of water by the door of the barn to wash her face and hands, her hand touching the vile metal collar around her neck. She had grown accustomed to it, but it was the constant reminder of her life after her father had died and orphaned her. She had shown up in this dirty little town 3 years ago, starving and lost. She had begged for food, but when no one took pity on her, she had stolen food from the tavern owner.
It had been the worse mistake of her life. She had been caught by a local guard and turned over to the owner. Jeboc was a heartless man, and when the guard had asked him what kind of punishment Jeboc thought she should suffer, he had decided he needed a slave to help around his establishment.
The two horses in the barn with her whinnied nervously. The sensation of something reptilian grew stronger. She could feel it in every fiber of her being, and it made her shudder.
There was a loud ruckus outside the barn. The beating of many wings, of snorting and growling, the creak of leather and membrane, and the many voices of people made S're jump. Shadows danced through the spaces between the planks, and a heavy creature landed on the ground.
S're rushed outside, looking up into the sky. Dragons were circling the town, low over the buildings, just above the trees. One of the beasts had landed in the clearing behind the barn.
It was immense, as tall as the two story tavern, its wings thrice its body length. The wing membrane stretched all the way to the base of the short, powerful tail. Stout, muscular legs held the animal's giant, scaly body up, its enormous chest flexing with the wing muscles as it folded its wings. The dragon was utterly black, not a single speck of color. The horns that grew from its head curved around a large bony crown that protected the back of the neck. Even the horns were black, which S're had heard meant it was a male.
S're jumped when Jeboc yelled at her. The ugly, little, fat man was glaring at her over his bent nose from the back door of the building, pointing inside. She bowed her head and hurried inside to get food ready. She didn't notice that the giant black dragon stared at her intently as she vanished through the door.
As she got around to making food, she heard the heavy booted feet of the soldier that had been on the black dragon enter the establishment. Jeboc greeted him nervously. She cocked her head, listening to what was being said. She could barely hear the soldier. His voice was unusually deep and guttural, a hint of the alluring accent of the Eastern Plains people. Their capitol city was the most advanced on the planet, S're had heard, and was a place where hundreds of alien species came to visit, thus the people who lived there had developed their own unique accent.
Risking a peek, S're glanced around the door to the kitchen. The soldier was taller than any man she had ever met in her life. He towered over everyone, Jeboc barely reaching his sternum, though he was even shorter than S're. The soldier wore the customary battle armor of a dragon rider. His jerkin was made of small scales taken from his dragon. His leather leggings were also black, as where his knee high boots, and elbow length leather gauntlets. Even the smooth, shiny metal armor plates that covered vulnerable areas of his body were black. Upon his jerkin was pinned an emblem. S're was surprised to realize that this was the commander of the talon. It was rare that a high ranking officer would put himself into danger with an unknown place.
“Get back to work, slave!”
S're gave a small yelp when a hand struck her against the back of her head. “Yes, ma'am,” she muttered at the woman who had snuck up behind her.
Malissa was one of Jeboc's two nieces who helped him with the Dancing Pig Tavern. She kept her long curly brown hair in a tight braid down her back, her brown eyes always disapproving of S're. The only real act of kindness Malissa had ever offered S're was a contraceptive device so that S're wouldn't have children with whomever Jeboc sold her services to.
Jerassa, younger than her sister by 3 years, giggled at S're. “I don't blame you,” she said quietly. “He looks really sexy. I hope the rest of him is as nice as his body.”
S're sighed at the woman who was only a few years older than she was. Jerassa was not as cruel as her sister. Sometimes she was even pleasant. Both sisters were well known as the town sluts. They preferred the travelers who came through the town, few as they tended to be. S're knew those two were going to try and sleep with all the soldiers if they could. S're, however, hoped that she could stay out of sight and not attract any attention that would cause the soldiers to desire her instead of the sisters.
It didn't take long for the ground to shake as the massive dragons all landed one at a time in the large horse field behind the barn. Each one grunted and snorted, shaking themselves as their riders dismounted. They were tied to trees, or strange spikes that shot deep into the ground if no large tree was nearby.
Soldiers filed into the building, most of the locals having gathered to see the spectacle of the landing dragons. Most of the men hurried in, wanting to hear the manly, heroic tales of the soldiers.
Jeboc waddled into the kitchen, growling at S're. “Ye better be on yer best behavior, S're, or I'll be givin' ye a beltin' ye won't be forgettin' fer a long time! Understood?”
S're bowed her head in deference. “Yes, Master,” she muttered softly, peeling the potatoes as quickly as she could.
Within an hour, the tavern was loud. The soldiers were ravenous, eating the food almost faster than S're could make it. They downed their ale with ease, telling the locals tales of their over exaggerated heroism in battle.
When at last the soldiers had begun to feel sated, S're was able to sit on the stool in the corner of the kitchen, nibbling on the various scraps from what she had made, which was all she was allowed to eat. Just as she was able to relax a moment, Jerassa and Malissa came into the kitchen, chattering back and forth.
“He just vanished,” Jerassa pouted.
“He went up into the last room,” Malissa replied. “Just give him a little time. He'll come out of there and then we can see if he's as cute as he sounds.” She giggled, making S're roll her eyes.
That was when Malissa noticed her sitting. “And what do you think you're doing, slave?”
“Taking a break,” S're mumbled. She had a back full of scars from her talking back to Malissa, but she always thought it was worth it just to show she wasn't afraid of the woman. As S're saw it, she had been made a slave by circumstance, but Malissa chose to be a whore. She had once stated that and had received a concussion for it.
“Oh, no you don't!” Malissa snarled at her. “You didn't take care of the horses this morning. Go get them water! Now!”
S're arched her brow, but decided she didn't feel like a beating today. Rising slowly, she headed out of the kitchen. She had to pass through a section of the main room of the tavern to get out the back door. Three soldiers just happened to be coming in from tending their dragons, noticing her as she attempted to sneak by them along the wall.
One of them caught her shoulder, holding her still. She bowed her head, looking down at their booted feet.
“Where you going in such a hurry, lovely?” the soldier holding her chuckled, turning her so they could see her.
“I, uh, I have to go fetch water, sir. I don't want to get in trouble.” S're always hoped people would leave her alone, but it never seemed to work that way.
The soldiers grinned. “I think the water can wait,” one of them stated.
“Yeah, I don't think you'll get in trouble for... entertaining us.”
S're's skin crawled at their tone. There was no missing what they meant. Her instinct was to brush them off, fight back, but she knew better. Jeboc had beaten her into submission enough that she didn't strike out anymore.
"Derkal, Tafis, Kurt, I'm sure you all have far more important things to do." The stern, clear voice behind them made the three quickly turn and salute a tall, lean, older looking man. "For example, you three should get some sleep for pulling night shift."
The three glanced at each other with disdain in their eyes, but saluted their lieutenant, his emblem pinned to his gorgeous, glossy jerkin. As they filed up the stairs to take a nap, the lieutenant looked down at S're. His grey eyes softened, and he gave her a kind smile under his mustache. “I'm sure you have things to tend to.”
S're blinked a few times in surprise, then nodded to him. “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir!” She hurried out the door, closing it behind her. She let out a long sigh in relief.
She got the bucket from barn and set it under the outdoor faucet, waiting for the bucket to fill.
She could hear the dragons on the other side of the barn. They grunted and groaned, growled, and muttered, and honked. Their wings creaked and rustled, their scales clicking. She could see one's nose peeking out from around the barn.
A powerful instinct took hold of S're, which she figured was just an intense curiosity. Glancing about the yard, seeing no one, she figured it wouldn't hurt to take a look at them. The dragons gave her a sense of calm and inspiration.
She turned off the water and snuck around the barn. The beasts were all tied down, several eyeing each other suspiciously, others dozing on their backs in the sun, still others staring at nothing.
A dark blue male slept but a few feet from her. His great breaths filled the air like a blacksmith's bellows. He lay on his back, soaking up the warm rays of the late summer sun.
Slowly, S're reached out carefully, wanting to know what they felt like.
She had gotten only inches from the snoozing dragon's head when its eye, golden and piercing, opened and constricted, looking straight at her. All the dragons turned in that moment to peer at her, though she didn't have the chance to notice them. She let out a whimper and backed away as the dragon rolled to its feet with a roar, standing over her. S're squeezed her eyes shut, figuring it was the end. Not that it really mattered if it was. She figured anything after death had to be better than this hell, so she didn't even bother trying to dodge the beast, which stared down at her more in curiosity than rage.
A strong hand grabbed her arm and jerked her out of the way. The dragon made a pitiful sound and stepped back as a deep male's voice began commanding it in a strange, elegant language.
It backed away and bumped into another dragon, who snarled and turned to snap at it. The blue male yelped and hunkered down, showing weakness. Immediately the whole talon was up in roars and they were all attempting to kill each other. The chains that held them to trees were snapped, and some of the trees themselves shattered. The noise was deafening as one large female pounced on the blue male.
With a mighty roar, a huge black beast lumbered into the brawl, grabbing the female by the back of the neck and tossing her like she was a toy. She went crashing through the trees, her cries of surprise turning to pain as her thrashing to gain her feet tore her wings.
S're, stunned by the power and brutality of the creatures, backed away before turning to run back into the tavern before anyone noticed that she had been the one to start the vicious brawl. Her only thought was not have Jeboc find out about this. Soldiers were running toward the battling beasts, even though the giant black dragon had already cowed all the others into noisy submission.
She had just reached the door when the same gauntleted hand that had saved her took a hold of her wrist and spun her around, slamming her against the wall of the tavern, slightly knocking the air out of her. She looked up in surprise and fear.
"Do you realize how much trouble you just caused, wench?" It was the commander! His black eyes were narrowed dangerously, causing S're to shudder, though she didn't meet his gaze.
Tears swelled in S're's eyes and she looked down at her bare feet. Jeboc gave her barely enough clothes to cover herself with and certainly no shoes. The commander gave an angry growl, his body shifting as if he meant to strike her.
"I-I'm sorry!" S're cried, cringing, squeezing her eyes shut, plastering herself to the wall in anticipation of a blow. Surely Jeboc would give her another concussion for this. She trembled as she felt the commander's hard body against her shift in obvious irritation. "I... I just... I thought...." She really didn't know what to say. Nothing seemed like it would be a good enough excuse to save her.
“How could you think petting a War dragon would be a good idea?” the commander growled at her in that deep voice of his.
S're stuttered a bit, her voice a low mumble. “I just... they make me feel better, sir. Strong and free. I like to, um, I like to think of what I could have been....” She was sure that sounded stupid to the commander, but when she glanced up at him, her blue eyes meeting his black eyes for the first time, she realized she could see straight through him, see in his eyes that he understood her, and that he wasn't angry with her at all.
How she saw that, she didn't know. It wasn't the expression on his face, which was stoic and stone-like. She couldn't help but notice how handsome he was. His face was stern and angular, with a straight nose and strong jaw, a pointed chin, his lips thin, straight black hair hanging to just the tips of his ears which arched up into small points. He reminded her of an elf- extremely handsome, but much taller than any elf she'd ever heard of. Those eerie black eyes of his had a strange, reflective light to them, his pupils glowing pale green when the light hit them.
As their eyes remained locked, S're realized she could see more of him, see a desperate loneliness in him, and despite his reckless and often aggressive behavior, he was a kind soul, that he pitied her position in society. She immediately felt an instinctual trust in him that she couldn't explain. It was a sense that there was no way he could harm her, even if he wanted to. She just knew that she could trust him, and no matter how she tried to rationalize it, it was an irrefutable knowledge to her, as much truth as the sky was above her head and that gravity kept her and everyone from floating off the planet.
Suddenly, the door flew open next to them, breaking their momentary contact. Jeboc stepped out, his large belly making it out the threshold first before they could see his ugly pocked face. He looked with worry at the dragons who had been making quite the racket as they were commanded back into submission by the soldiers using that strange language S’re had heard was magical.
He then turned and noticed the commander towering over him, his powerful, lean body hidden by the dragonscale jerkin. He hadn't bothered removing his armor, so his broad shoulders were made broader by the spiked shoulder armor. His thighs and groin were protected by the same kind of smooth metal. Those black eyes of his could pierce the soul. Jeboc was immediately cowed again.
"Uh, g-g'day to ye again, Mister Roscrow! I-" he had to pause to gulp the lump out of his throat- "I hope the dragons aren't too rowdy. I would hate fer 'em to... crash into my barn and hurt themselves!" He peered around, making a show of vigilance when really he just wanted to look away from the commander.
"My dragon, Granger, has the talon under control. My soldiers can easily put them back in their places. You've no need to fear about your barn." He stood straight and tall, with his perfect male body, his figure so demanding and authoritative that Jeboc found himself more afraid of the man than of his dragons. The large sword at his hip certainly didn't make him any less intimidating.
Taking a moment to get himself together, Jeboc looked about the courtyard, noticing the bucket of water still sitting under the faucet. "I don't mean to bother ye with my petty problems, good sir, but have ye seen my slave about?"
His eyes turned back to the commander in time to see S're step out from behind him, her head bowed. His eyes narrowed, but she didn't need to see that to know she was in trouble. "Ye had something to do with those dragons, didn't ye, S're?" The anger in his voice made her tremble, letting out a small involuntary whimper.
"Quite on the contrary." Roscrow's strong voice broke the tension between them. "She alerted me to the fact that Tins had been harassing one of my smaller males until it looked like a fight might break out." He looked down at S're who was too shocked to say anything. She heard his voice take on a sardonic tone. "You could say she saved your barn."
Taken by complete surprise, S're could say nothing. Jeboc gave a sneer and waved his hand toward the inside of the tavern. "Fer that, perhaps I'll let ye get off early tonight. Now get that water to the horses 'fore I change my mind!"
S're quickly fetched the heavy bucket and headed toward the barn where the few horses were whinnying in fear. She glanced up at Roscrow as she passed him, still surprised that he would lie for her. He only lifted his brow slightly before turning at the sound of his name as a soldier came up to him to report about the situation with the dragons. The only part of the conversation she heard was "...no idea what set them off, sir...."