The Last Dragon – Excerpt 1
Fear crept out of its hiding place and placed its cold hand around Hawkyns’ heart.
His nerves were so strained, they were raw. He fought to remain calm. The fear grew bolder and spread though his limbs. His breathing grew shallow.
He feared if something as small as a mouse scurried out from under the door he would jump and yell like the most half-witted kitchen maid.
What is wrong with me? I am a knight. Enough of this foolishness.
The trembling in his limbs made his sword tap against his leg.
He placed his fingers on the latch, lifted it and waited. No squeak of rusty metal to alert anyone. The movement didn’t bring about the shout of impatient attackers. He pushed the door. It opened. He waited.
His heart beat wildly in his chest. He gulped deep breaths and exhaled them slowly—silently.
As he reached forward a loud No! sounded in his head. There might be danger. Leave. Leave now. Run!
What is wrong with me? I must go in. Find the enemy. Slay the dragon.
I will not run. I am a knight.
Pushing with his hand, he edged the door open a fraction more.
The Last Dragon – Excerpt 2
He held the newborn in his hands, unable to move or speak.
Mirth dropped back onto the cot. Sweat dripped from her. “Is she… he…”
A wail startled Hawkyns from his reverie. He laid the babe in her mother’s arms.
“She is here? So soon?” Derry’s voice startled him. He turned. Derry pressed him towards the door. “Out. Ye have done yer job. There are things I must see to.”
Relieved to be freed from such terrifying confusion Hawkyns walked to the abbot’s rose garden and settled on a bench. The air was calm. The night was warm. He looked down at his blood covered hands. Many times his hands had been bloodied. Sometimes they had caused death. Other times, they held a friend on the edge of death. But this moment was blessed. He had held new life. Joy and grief swept through him. Joy for the birth mixed with grief at his loss. The tears streaming down his cheeks were in anguish for the child he would never hold. His son. Damnation to the dragon that stole them. His blood is the blood I want to rinse from my hands.
Walking to the nearby mill pond, Hawkyns washed his hands, wiping them dry on his pants then returned to his spot on the bench. Tiredness climbed up his legs and through his body. A faint ray of light shone in the east. The birth of a new day.
He had met his angel and learned her name. And witnessed the birth of a new life. What wondrous experiences would this new day hold?
The Last Dragon Excerpt 3
It had taken much of her powers to heal him. It weakened her. After she had eased the old woman’s aches, she’d barely been able to resist the wrong attentions of the wool merchant. Shaken by his attack, she’d returned home and sat upon the rock to heal. She’d forced the thoughts of the wool merchant’s actions out of her mind and focused on the stranger. He’d opened his eyes and gazed into hers. At first, his eyes were filled with pain, but that turned to peace. She knew then he would live.
The sun warmed her cheeks. She glanced out at the ocean with the picture of the man in her mind. Maybe I shall see him again. I would like that. A pang of anger shot through her. If only… She stood, brushing sand off her skirt. If only he had not been taken to the wool merchant’s cottage. Ailith and Isa will claim him.
They would not love him. They no longer had the ability to do so. The dragon had ripped love from their soul and it saddened Derry that she could not heal them. She’d tried, but they’d refused her. They called her powers evil. She tried to explain to the villagers that her gift was good, but they cowered and backed away. Or worse, yelled foul words and threatened her.
It terrified her they could be speaking the truth. She'd raced to the abbey to beg forgiveness at the feet of the Father Abbot. She did not know why she had the power to heal. With a trembling voice, she confessed she feared her power was evil. She was evil. He'd comforted her and told her she’d been blessed with a gift from God that the villagers were not able to understand.
“When one is different, others fear it as evil,” the abbot said. “When Ayrradex attacked our village, they were touched by his breath and no powers―mine, nor yer’s―can cure that perverted taint. Their souls may be forever lost to God because of the blackness shrouding them. I pray for them and the others daily.”
The Last Dragon Excerpt 4
The clatter of metal interrupted their conversation. The abbot rounded the hedge’s corner, struggling with the load of a sword, shield and the reins of a saddled steed. He placed the armour on the bench. “These are for ye. They were left by a young knight who died.” The abbot nodded towards the abbey cemetery. “He lies yonder in our consecrated ground. The dragon was too much for him. I pray they will help ye protect the babe and defeat the scourge that plagues us.”
Hawkyns lifted the blade and checked it. He turned the shield. A wave of pain rolled off him and hit Derry. Cringing, she dropped to her knees. Hawkyns knelt beside her, concern covering his brow. She placed her fingers on his cheek. “Ye knew him? The knight whose shield that is.” She nodded towards the bench. “I felt yer pain.”
“Aye. I know this shield.” He held out his hand and helped her stand. “He was a brave knight. See, these interlaced annulets and shafted arrow. This is the shield of my younger brother, Adon. It will be an honour to carry his weapon.”
Screams filled the air. Derry gripped her head. The rage was too much. She could not push it away.
A monk raced to the side of the abbot. “People at the gate. With torches and knives and… and… The monastery is attacked. They want the babe.” He clutched at his chest, trying to inhale air.
Hawkyns slipped his arm through the shield’s straps and gripped his weapon. Derry could sense the anger building in him. It wasn’t evil anger. It was the anger of a knight knowing he must right an injustice.
“Derry, stay back here. Take the horse and hide in the herbarium. I will get the child and return.”
The abbot stood in front of Hawkyns, barring his attack. “Ye cannot kill anyone within the walls of the abbey. This is a place of peace. Of God.”
Hawkyns flinched. “But if they kill yer brothers?”
The monk lowered his head. “'Tis God’s will.”
Hawkyns’ knuckles turn white from the grip on his sword. Frustrated anger filled his brow.
Father Jacobus raised his hand. “Do not fight me on this, my son. Swear, in the eyes of God, that ye will not kill within the walls of Baswich Abbey.”
Hawkyns knelt and placed the point of his sword on the ground and rested his forehead on the cross-shaped hilt. “I swear I will kill no one on abbey grounds.”
The abbot made the sign of the cross over him. “Go. Save the child.”
The Last Dragon – Excerpt 5
“Baswich Abbey is no more. It has been burned to the ground.”
“The people burned…”
Hawkyns shook his head. “A dragon. He flew in breathing hellfire. The village—” He closed his eyes and heaved a dejected sigh. “Pariset’s father told me to take his son. Protect him. Do not let the dragon steal his soul. The horse struggled with all of us. He jumped off. I searched for him, but had to give up to get his mother here.”
He slammed his hand on the table. His mug of ale shook.
A soft cough sounded behind them. The Mother Superior stood with her hands folded. “I fear ye may not stay. We have no rooms for a man.”
“But—” Derry was silenced by the gentle pressure of Hawkyns’ hand on hers.
“I can sleep rough. 'Tis early autumn, but the evenings are still warm. A blanket would be most appreciated.”
The nun bowed her head and exited.
Anger darkened Derry’s brow. “'Tis not fair. Ye risked yer life—”
“The sisters leave the world as we know it. Men are not part. I will find a quiet place and bed down. My bones are so weary I could lay on a pile of rocks and snore so loud I’d make the forest tremble.” He finished his stew and showed her the empty dish. “In the morning, I will search for Pariset. I will find him and return him to his mother.”
He did not need to wait until morning. A loud smash against the nunnery’s thick, wooden front door and a yell, we have the boy, signalled where Pariset was. “Give us the babe and we will not hurt the boy or the sisters.”
Hawkyns gulped the last of his ale and stood. Derry wanted to yell for him not to go, but she knew that was selfish and wrong. He was a knight. A protector. He had to go. Even though deep in her heart she knew this was the man she could love and that letting him walk into the mob meant his certain death, she said nothing as he walked away.
Her lips held back words while her heart screamed with fear.
The Birth of the Story – The Last Dragon
Generally, I am a contemporary, romance writer. I have dabbled in fantasy, but it was a modern day, urban fantasy. A mentor mentioned that in one of my earlier books, he kept expecting a dragon to appear. My response – I laughed. End of story.
Or, so I thought.
That dragon took on a life of its own. It flew around in my head until I conceded and started writing the story. I belong to a couple of in-person writer groups where over months I read the first two chapters. The members started asking questions which triggered ideas which lead to plot lines which added to the story.
But during this, something else happened. I shifted from writing hot romances to sweet. The genteelness and innocence of Derry was wrong for a smouldering romance.
I was really working in the cliché of uncharted waters – a medieval fantasy and a sweet romance. Give my head a shake!
Then quarantine hit and the in-person meetings stopped. I was saddened by this as I was enjoying the reactions to the story. We have a 750-word limit for each reading, so these people were only getting tidbits of story at a time and I had gotten pretty good at ending each reading with a hook.
I paused getting the finished book ready for publication, but the dragon kept nattering at me. And now I present the final product – The Last Dragon.
But I should mention that an off-shoot of this book has suddenly pushed its way to front. Now I have trolls running around in my head. Le sigh - the life of a writer.