Authors: J. J. Thompson
Dragons of Bone and Dust
from the New Earth: Book 7
2016 J. J. Thompson
Art by Jeff Brown
and Life cancel each other out. We either win or we die; it's as
simple as that.”
- Simon O'Toole
Table of Contents
A thick mist hung heavily over the
fields and forests. The air was cold, clammy with moisture in the
early autumn morning and unusually still, with no breeze to push the
Rising out of the mist, a castle
brooded atop a hill, glowering over the countryside like an uneasy
giant. No movement disturbed its grim facade; the high walls were
still, no smoke rose above it, no sounds escaped its hidden interior.
It might have been deserted.
A small group of people stared up at
the silent edifice. No one spoke but most of the faces looked either
sad or wistful as they relived memories of better times.
A deep voice broke the silence and the
group turned as one to look behind them.
Standing next to a strange machine that
poked out of the ground near the edge of the forest was a short,
thick-set figure. A dwarf.
He was wearing heavy steel armor as
easily as an average man would wear light clothing and his thick gray
beard hung down below his waist.
I hate to
rush ye all,” he called out to the group, “but there be
dragons about. Say yer farewells and board the drill, if ye please.”
A frail-looking young man, wearing a
robe as red as clotted blood, frowned at the dwarf. He pushed his
fine blond hair out of his eyes and glanced at the woman standing
next to him, who met his eyes with a look of faint amusement.
hurry? There aren't very many dragons left anymore and we have a
cleric with us who can feel a dracolich coming from miles away.”
He looked at the dwarf again and
with that accent? He bloody well sounds like he stepped out of
fourteenth century London.”
The woman laughed lightly and tucked
her short blond hair behind her ears. Her robe was bright green and
stitched with intricate designs. She toyed with a metal wand hanging
on her belt as she spoke.
Sebastian. Don't take your anger out on Garold Greydon. He's just the
pilot of that infernal machine and he has every right to be nervous.
The dwarves have been good enough to offer us shelter in their
capital, even in the midst of their war against the lords of Chaos,
but they couldn't spare any guards for this trip, so he's a little
The young man looked at her sourly.
awfully cheerful, dear sister. Aren't you usually the one who looks
on the dark side of things?”
She sighed and looked back up at the
place was our home, Bastian,” Tamara said, her voice thin with
fatigue. “It was just starting to feel comfortable, you know?
Am I angry? You're damned right I am. But what the hell good would it
do me to moan about it now? We are lucky to be alive and very
fortunate that the dwarves have offered us a safe haven for our
She looked around at the final group
that was waiting to leave. Except for herself and her brother, all of
the castle's other leaders were already underground, along with most
of the inhabitants. She gestured up at Nottinghill Castle and an
expression of brooding hatred darkened her features.
I intend to
take it back from that monster one day, I swear it. He will die
screaming, wishing that he had never crossed the paths of Tamara and
I suppose we
should be happy that a necromancer's undead troops can't operate in
daylight,” Sebastian said bitterly. “And that so many of
our people got out during the attack.”
He glared up at the castle walls, his
expression mirroring his sister's.
Can you feel
him watching us from some shadowed corner up there? I can. He's
laughing at us, Tammy. Laughing at us as we run away like frightened
Tamara turned away from the castle,
stepped up to Sebastian and grabbed his shoulders. She gave him a
hard shake and stared into his eyes.
Bastian. Leaders. Responsible leaders. Dracoliches are coming; Miriam
has felt their distant approach. And unlike the other undead, those
monsters are not daunted by sunlight. We have to flee, if only to
save our people.”
She looked back one last time.
return one day soon though and take our revenge, I swear we will.”
She gave her brother's shoulders an
affectionate squeeze and nodded at the small group watching them.
We have to
go. Our new home awaits.”
Sebastian tore his eyes from the castle
and smiled sheepishly at his sister.
to sound as blood-thirsty as you normally do,” he told her.
She chuckled and nodded in agreement.
the circumstances, that's not always a bad thing. But stay kind,
brother mine. Your soft heart balances out my cold one.”
He raised a silent eyebrow but wisely
get the hell out of here before I storm back in there myself. Garold!
m'lady. Night approaches and I daresay so do those accursed bone
Tamara approached the dwarf, frowning,
and he merely returned her dark look with a smile.
Why do you
speak like someone from the middle ages?” she growled at him.
Garold laughed and waved the others,
who had followed the mage to the transport, into the machine.
I took a
fancy to the accent when I first heard it on a recording.”
Tamara's scowl was replaced by a look
How did you hear a recording of an ancient human language?”
My people may
have been living deep underground since the days when the old gods
withdrew from the world, but we have always kept an eye on your race.
Some of our tech may be magic-based, but much of it is machinery
powered by electricity. We've had a network of cables and sensors
relaying information from the surface for centuries.”
He grinned broadly.
I was going
through our library one day when I was a young dwarf and came across
this fellow giving a speech. I believe the recording was made about
four hundred years ago. At any rate, I found his accent delightful
and have used it ever since.”
Well, it seems to come and go a fair bit,” she said sourly as
she walked by him and stepped into the digger.
Aye, so it
does,” Garold agreed cheerfully.
He followed her in and pulled the hatch
Pray, take a
seat and strap yourself in, dear lady. The trip is bound to be a
little bouncy and we wouldn't want your delicate skin to suffer any
like that and I won't be the one who ends up with the bruises,”
Tamara told him ominously.
She walked away and Garold watched her
with amusement as she climbed down the ladder to the passenger area.
promises,” he muttered to himself with a sigh. “Ah well,
off we go. Next stop, home sweet home.”
The capital city of the dwarves, known
simply as Kingstone, was a massive place and unbelievably old. It had
been dug out of the very bones of the world, close enough to the
planet's core to always be warm, but not so close that the
temperature was uncomfortable. And except for a few old sages whose
duty it was to keep records , no one really knew how big it truly
was. Vast sections were quiet and still, deserted in ages past as the
dwarven race dwindled.
Into this venerable but still strong
city came the remnants of the human race. An entire neighborhood,
long empty, had been allocated to the refugees by Shandon Ironhand,
the ruler of the dwarves. His people had willingly swept through the
area, cleaning, painting and making the stone buildings as welcoming
Tamara, Sebastian and the rest of the
inhabitants from Nottinghill Castle were delivered safely to their
new, albeit temporary, home and welcomed by the king himself.
Shandon wasn't one to stand on ceremony
and, when he wasn't holding court, wandered among his subjects
wearing plain armor and without fanfare. Unfortunately he couldn't go
anywhere without his bodyguards; the council had insisted on it after
the last king had been assassinated. But they were the only clue that
Shandon was anything other than a regular warrior and when the humans
were guided to their assigned neighborhood, they weren't quite sure
who he was.
friends. Welcome,” the king said heartily.