Archive for September, 2018

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my forthcoming fantasy novella, The Tower in the Mist. It introduces one of the most unique dragons I have ever written: the drakanox!

While writing this blog for almost seven years, I’ve learned about many dragons with different powers and traditions. One of the most interesting facets has been that some ancient dragons relied on poison rather than fiery breath. Fafnir, in particular, was so poisonous that he created an invisible cloud of lingering poison that killed everything within miles of his lair. In creating the drakanox, I pushed that concept even farther.

For your reference, Zathi and her squad of hunter-guards serve the evil mage, Dar-Gothull. They have captured a renegade mage, Ar-Keilos, and are marching him toward a fatal confrontation with their master. They have encountered a few obstacles…

Zathi didn’t like how the vegetation glistened with moisture all around them. This heavy mist had too much texture and it carried a faint, bitter odor. Jaxynne had asked if they should turn back. Zathi wanted that more than she cared to admit, but she held strong.

“No. We keep going.”

They needed the second ox, had to follow it no matter how far. That, or the day was wasted and everyone pushed the wagon. Between her legs, Spark was calm. He would have been acting up if he smelled something amiss. Zathi held to that for reassurance.

Still, the fog bothered her enough that a call from the back of the line was almost welcome.


Of course, it would have to be the mage. She turned Spark to see Ar-Keilos brushing past Keerin on Ember. Thersa stormed up behind him.

“Hey!” The guardswoman grabbed for his elbow. He deftly avoided her.

“I’m not running off.” Concern tightened his features. “Zathi —”

“I’ve told you not to call me by name.”

His shoulders sagged momentarily. “What, then? I’m not under your command.” Then he waved vigorously, as if shooing a fly. “Ugh, it doesn’t matter. We have to get out of here.”

“You’ll call me sergeant, and why should I listen to you?”

“Because it isn’t fog. Watch this.”

Ar-Keilos snatched a stick from the ground and poked at a cluster of needles on a low-hanging branch. Accumulating moisture weighted the branch down. As they watched, liquid rolled loose, but it didn’t spatter. Instead, it dribbled along the stick in viscous strands, almost like mucus from a runny nose.

“What the,” Razzet muttered from the rear, and Giniver said, “That’s not normal.”

The mage tossed the stick and waited, forcing Zathi to ask the question. “What is it, then?”

“We’re inside a drakanox.” His lack of smugness was almost more alarming than a smirk would have been.

“Bullshit. That’s just a story,” Zathi snapped. Her guardswomen were listening, gauging her reaction. The mage shook his head slowly.

“It’s real. Dar-Gothull used it to bring down Seofan Holl. I know you’re heard of the battle there. You might not have heard that the drakanox got away from him afterward.”

“Nothing gets away from Dar-Gotholl,” Thersa answered stiffly.

“It can turn into mist,” he answered patiently. “How would anybody cage it?”

There was a brief silence. The mage went on, “We minstrels heard that the drakanox is so poisonous that even when it turns to mist, the mist is deadly. At Seofan Holl their arms corroded and the buildings crumbled. It killed every living thing in the Seofan Valley and when it was sated, it turned into a river of fog and went into the Hornwood. They say it wanted to sleep. Or maybe to spawn.”

“Spawn?” Giniver wrinkled her nose with disgust.

“Dar-Gothull wouldn’t let go of a weapon like that,” Keerin objected.

“It was his. He created it,” Jaxynne added.

Zathi nodded. This was part of Dar-Gothull’s legend, a measure of his power and cunning that he brought such a monster into being. Vanquishing Seofan Holl had all but cemented his conquest of Aerde.

“He didn’t actually create it,” the mage rebutted gently. “There were tales of the drakanox long before his rise to power. Dar-Gothull simply made a bargain with the drakanox to fight on his side. Also, he wasn’t at Seofan during the battle or he would have been killed, too.”

“A bargain? You know nothing of Dar-Gothull,” Thersa hissed.

“All the tales agree, Dar-Gothull was in Dakadoz when the drakanox attacked Seofan,” the mage said. “He wasn’t there to stop it leaving, or extend their bargain, or whatever you believe the relationship was.” Again he waved his hand to dismiss the unimportant. “The fact remains, we’re inside the drakanox. We shouldn’t linger.”

The cold weight of decision settled onto Zathi’s shoulders. Ar-Keilos appeared sincere in his concern. Not surprising, since he would share whatever fate they encountered. Yet she didn’t want to take advice from a mage. Despite the appearance, he could be manipulating them.

Still, it seemed she had been right to bring him along. Being right… was a curse.

Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.




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Computer security is ever more important as years go by and the Internet becomes an integral part of our lives. Experts are constantly trying to persuade people to protect ourselves from various forms of crime by using stronger passwords. As part of this effort, a security firm called SplashData has been releasing an annual list of the most common passwords. Last April, Wired.com published an article revealing that the word “dragon” has made the most-common-password list every year for at least two decades.

Of course, those of us reading this blog already know that dragons are amazing and memorable creatures. Still, it seems an odd choice for a password. Whimsical, even. In her article,Wired reporter Louise Matsakis delves into the reasons for choosing this particular word. She also makes sure to mention that the reason we know “dragon” is a popular password is that many accounts using it were hacked.

So if you’ve used “dragon” as your password anywhere, you might want to update that. The hackers are on to you!

Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

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Recently my local newspaper caught my attention with travel coverage about the site of a Dragon crash. Dragons? Tell me more!

The XB-28 “Dragon” was an experimental high-altitude bomber briefly developed by the U. S. during World War II. The design work was done by North American Aviation. It was based on their earlier, successful design for the B-25 Mitchell bomber.

Several trial craft were flown in 1942 and ’43, and the tests were considered quite successful. However, military planners determined that high-altitude bombing would not be as useful in the Pacific arena as it had been in Europe. Weather conditions in the Pacific did not allow accurate bombing runs, and this would lead to wasted ammunition and other resources. Thus the XB-28 was never put into production.

The crash site mentioned in the travel article is a relic from one of the test runs. In January of 1943, a crew was flying from (probably) Twin Falls, ID to Tacoma, WA. They encountered a winter storm in the mountains. Ice built up on the wings and forced a controlled crash. The pilot spotted Loon Lake, north of Boise, and used its frozen surface as a runway. It was still a rough landing. All eight crewmen survived, although one was badly injured. They pulled together a shelter using wreckage and forest material, and hunkered down to await rescue.

The radio was no longer working after the crash, meaning that the Air Force didn’t know where they were. Search planes flew without success. After a few freezing-cold and hungry days, three of the strongest crewmen set off on foot to look for help. These three hiked forty miles over two weeks until they reached a ranger station and reported the situation. In the meantime, however, the five other crewmen had already been rescued. A bush pilot passing by had spotted the wreckage. The men who hiked out must have been frustrated, but they certainly were heroic and deserve to be called dragon riders.

The plane’s wreckage was left where it lay. It remains on the shores of Loon Lake, in the Payette National Forest. Today you can view it after a hike of ten miles round trip, starting at nearby Payette Lake.

Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.


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Here is a joke from the web site “From Russia With Love.” It features Zmey Gorynych with a different bogatyr, Ilya Murometz. The English is somewhat rough there, so I’ve cleaned it up a bit.

One time the famous Russian bogatyr, Ilya Murometz, was enjoying a day at home. A group of elders from the village nearby came to see him and said, “Ilya, help us! Zmey Gorynych is so angry that he burned 3 villages and ate all the hens. We are in trouble!”

But Ilya did not answer them. They went away discouraged.

A few days later, the village elders returned. “Please help us, Ilya! Zmey Gorynych has destroyed 10 villages, eaten all the cows, and kidnapped our wives. You must take action!”

Again there was no reply. They went away desolate.

After a few more days, the elders came calling again. “Ilya, it’s a nightmare! He’s destroyed 20 villages, eaten every domestic animal, and snatched the princesses. He’s very close to us now. Please, won’t you do something?”

At this, Ilya got up and got dressed. The elders were relieved and grateful. “Thank you for helping us at last!”

But Ilya said, “Oh, fellows. It’s time to escape now.”

Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

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Previously… A bogatyr (heroic knight) named Dobrynya Nikitich had fought the dragon, Zmey Gorynych, and forced her to plead for mercy. The two of them agreed never to fight again. All was well, or so Dobrynya thought.

When he returned to the court of his patron, Vladimir the Great, Dobrynya was greeted by terrible news — none other than Zmey Gorynych had descended from the sky and snatched away Vladimir’s niece, Zabava Putyatishna! The king was furious when he learned that Dobrynya had encountered this dragon and allowed her to live. He ordered the bogatyr to rescue his niece or die trying.

Dobrynya went home to his mother and complained bitterly that he had neither horse nor weapons suited to such a task. (Never mind that he had already defeated Zmey Gorynych with nothing but a hat…) Mama Dobrynya gifted her boy with a fine horse named Burko, a spear, and a magical whip from Shamakhi (modern-day Azerbaijan) that would heal any wound.

Thus equipped, Dobrynya Nikitich set off on his quest. He followed Zmey Gorynych’s trail to the Saracen Mountains. There he rescued several Russian captives, but was unable to find the missing princess. He did locate the Zmey’s nest, where he trampled and crushed her young. Before dying, one of the dragonlings bit Burko’s leg and paralyzed the poor horse. Fortunately, Dobrynya remembered his magical whip and was able to restore his faithful steed.

Just then, Zmey Gorynych rushed from her lair in a rage over the loss of her brood. She swore that she would never release Zabava until Dobrynya had fallen before her. The battle was joined, and what a battle it was! Combat raged all over the Saracen Mountains for days on end. By the third day, the bogatyr was exhausted and had nearly decided to abandon his mission. But a voice came from the Heavens urging him to fight just three hours longer. Dobrynya Nikitich gathered his courage and fought on.

Just as the voice had promised, Zmey Gorynych lay dead less than three hours later. But Dobrynya was still in trouble. The dragon was so evil that the earth would not allow her blood to sink in. A great pool of blood collected there, and Dobrynya was at risk of drowning in it. Again a voice called down from the Heavens, telling him to speak an incantation and jab his spear into the ground. At this, the blood finally soaked into the ground. Dobrynya was able to save the Princess Zabava. (One assumes he washed the blood away before returning her to her uncle’s court, however.)

Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.


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Dobrynya Nikitich is a great and popular character who stars in many byliny (epic poems) of Russian and Slavic folklore. Dobrynya was a bogatyr (a heroic knight). He may have been based on a real person who lived in the court of Vladimir the Great, an Eleventh Century ruler in what is now Ukraine. As often happens, the legend of Dobrynya’s cunning and skill at arms far outstrips that of any mere mortal.

Perhaps his best known adventure came when he faced the dreaded dragon, Zmey Gorynych. As the tale begins, Dobrynya’s mother warns him of four things that he must not do: travel through the Saracen Mountains, trample baby dragons, rescue a Russian captive, and swim in the Puchai River. Like many young men, the bogatyr was fearless and proud. He scoffed at his mother’s advice.

One day, as he traveled on court business, he came to that very same river. It was hot, so he decided to go for a swim. Unfortunately for Dobrynya, someone else was also bathing that day — a twelve-headed dragon burst from the water, roaring! This, of course, was Zmey Gorynych. Because they were in the water, the bogatyr was able to avoid being burned by her fiery breath, but his weapons and armor were back on the bank. If he tried to reach them, he would be incinerated! In desperation, Dobrynya groped in the water for anything that could help him. All he found was a sturdy pilgrim’s hat.

Somehow, the bogatyr was able to use this as a weapon. Now it was the dreadful dragon who feared for her life. She pleaded with Dobrynya to spare her on account of having young baby dragons at home. The courtly knight was moved to pity, and the two of them made a promise not to fight each other again. Zmey Gorynych flew away — but she was as wicked as she was fierce. As soon as Dobrynya was out of sight, she started to plan her revenge…

Come back Saturday for part two of the epic tale!

Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.



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Way back in the 14th Century, Serbia was ruled by the Tsar Lazar and his wife, Militza. The tsarina was such a great beauty that she caught the eye of a Zmaj living near Yastrebatz. Every night for more than a year, the Zmaj visited her bedchamber. (I have to think he disguised himself as Lazar, but the story doesn’t say.) Eventually Lazar realized what was going on. He demanded that his wife find out the dragon’s weakness. Militza must also have been angry at the deception, for she agreed with her husband’s request.

When the Zmaj returned to her, the tsarina pretended to be concerned for his safety. She asked if he feared anyone other than God, or if some hero might even be superior to him. The unsuspecting Zmaj replied that there was just one threat to his well-being — Vook, a Zmaj-Despot. Upon learning of this, Lazar sent his people out to search the countryside. Eventually he learned that Vook lived near a village called Koopinova on the plains of Sirmia.

Lazar promptly sent a message to Vook, complaining of his subject’s behavior. Vook arrived in a fury — and that is the last thing the story tells us about the Zmaj of Yastrebatz.

Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

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