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Growing up Suddenly
"I have come to tell you the story of dragons," spoke the man on the stage. His voice was bold and he commanded the attention of everyone in the room. "The dragons were here before the gods came to the world and took wives of the daughters of man and created the elves, dwarves, goblins, orcs and other races. The dragons were here from back at the time when there were only two people in the world, and they lived in a garden." He paused for effect. The room was spellbound.
"The great creator created the world with seven continents and seven seas. On each continent and in each sea he placed three dragons. Forty and two were the number of dragons created. Philosophers and sages since antiquity have known that the number of dragons is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the world and everything. They however have not yet discovered the correct question." Laughter filled the room at the ironic joke.
In the crowded room was a man named Samuel. Samuel was considered a good, quiet man by all who knew him. He was tall and muscular with wavy blonde hair just starting to show some grey. Samuel was a devout follower of Pelor, the god of the sun. Although he would do nothing to offend any other gods, he prayed daily to Pelor for sunshine for his crops and protection for his family. He ran a small farm on the edge of a small town in a rural region of Simsburg. He lived on the farm with his wife Mary and his son Samuel Jr., or Sammy as he was called.
Samuel was a well-liked man in his community. He and his family were held in respect by all, and he was considered a leader of the small community. He was usually a quiet man, and known for keeping his opinions to himself. His son was growing into a fine young man as well. He had his father's blonde hair. He was not as thick and well-built as his father. He was thin, but far from frail. He was surprisingly strong for his size. His father jokingly told him that he had sinew made out of steel instead of muscles. In many ways he emulated his father. He worked the farm alongside his father, and had picked up his father's strong work ethic. Sammy was also determined in anything he did, even more than his father was. His father would spend evenings and long winter days teaching him to read and write, and about the legends of the gods, especially Pelor. Many in the small town assumed that Sammy would take over the family farm, and make a fine husband for a lucky young lady.
The town was mostly a farming community. Its unique location on the King's highway a day's ride in either direction from a larger city gave the town an unusually large inn and store. Thusly, it was a way stop for travelers, who would stay at the inn. The storekeeper would bargain for wares from any merchants who passed through town and sell these wares to travelers and townsfolk alike.
It was this inn where they were sitting. Sammy's fourteenth birthday was the next day, and he begged his father to come hear the bard.
The bard continued his story, "Legend teaches us that three of the dragons died in the dragon war almost a thousand years ago. True also is the tale of the king who hired the three most powerful wizards in the world to rid his kingdom of a dragon that had been plaguing it. The three wizards set a trap using the most difficult and powerful spells for the dragon. They indeed killed the dragon. But in the process, two of the wizards and half of the kingdom including the king himself died in the battle. The remaining wizard had been so damaged in the mind that he spent the remainder of his days searching for his tail." Again, everyone laughed as if on cue.
"Another dragon was taken down by a volley of trebuchet fire while raiding a city. Many a man has asked, 'if it worked once, why not keep doing it until the world is free of dragons?' I will tell you why. The dragons have learned to link their minds. Therefore, anything that one dragon knows, they all know. Some dragons resisted the idea, and this brought about the dragon war. But since the war, all the dragons share the knowledge and experience of one another. They have learned from their mistakes. They know the range and potency of our weapons. They know not to fight with each other. Finally, they have learned to stay out of the affairs of men as much as possible; for they have learned that determined men can do anything they set their hearts to." It seemed to Sammy that the room swelled up with the pride of being a man; not only his own pride, but the pride of everyone in the room.
The bard concluded his tale, "As far as I know, there are still thirty and seven dragons in the world. I do know that they live as easily in the depth of the ocean as upon the heights of mountains. When a dragon is killed, the others will each expand their territory and spread evenly around the world. These days they keep to their selves. But, I've heard tales of how they have been known to work with man and gods; but this is a story for another day. For now, I believe the innkeeper owes me a tankard of ale." The bard stepped down and the room filled with cheers for a well told story. As soon as the bard walked past, Samuel led his son out of the room and to home.
Samuel disliked the idea of sitting in the inn. He felt that it was a great waste of men's time to sit and gossip and tell stories. But Sammy would sneak to the inn every chance he could. He enjoyed hearing stories of faraway places and the days long before he was born. Stories of battles with dragons and other beasts, stories of oceans so big it took days to cross on huge boats, and stories of great armies and wars. But, there were few dangerous beasts around and the country had not been at war for nearly fifty years. The town was too small to be bothered by any outside government, except the annual visit by the tax collectors.
Sammy had heard grumblings about the weather for as long as he could remember. It seemed that every winter was colder and longer than the one before. The talk in the tavern on many cold nights would begin with someone claiming that it was getting colder each year. Then it would be countered with the idea that some winters were worse than others, and they just happened to have two or three bad winters in a row. The argument usually ended with the prediction that next year it would not snow at all.
Samuel, Sammy's father would quietly confide to Sammy that he believed that men were turning from the gods, and that Pelor was gradually removing his light from the world. He had charted the first and last snowfall of the winter, and the amount of snow each year. He even measured the thickness of the ice on the lake once a month. His calculations showed that the winters had been progressively growing harsher for seven years. Perhaps if more people would turn to the gods, he assumed, the gods would once again favor them. It did seem to Sammy that their farm thawed before the others, and their crops grew better than any in the town.
Sammy's fourteenth birthday came in the early spring, a day his father chose to start preparing the fields for planting. It would be another good year for their farm. Samuel had been praying to Pelor more than ever. On the night before his birthday after hearing the bard; while Sammy was in bed, with thoughts of dragons forcing away sleep, he listened to his father's prayers. His father was especially fervent in his prayers this evening, and praying aloud that Pelor would bless his son greatly, and he was willing to offer all that he had—even his very life—that Pelor would make his son a great man. Sammy was stunned to hear this, but following his father's example, he said nothing the next morning at breakfast.
After breakfast Sammy went outside with his father to s
Excerpted from The Ark of Pelor by KEITH R. COX. Copyright © 2013 by Keith R. Cox. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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Chapter One Growing up Suddenly.................... 1
Chapter Two Unexpected Freedom.................... 27
Chapter Three The Ark of Pelor.................... 49
Chapter Four The Oracle.................... 77
Chapter Five Danville and Beyond.................... 99
Chapter Six The Road to Jincheng.................... 123
Chapter Seven Sea Voyage.................... 145
Chapter Eight The Fort.................... 165
Chapter Nine Leaving the Cave.................... 187
Chapter Ten The Inn of Nightshade.................... 209
Chapter Eleven The Return to Danville.................... 233
Chapter Twelve The Return to Pelorsburg.................... 259
Chapter Thirteen The Mine Fortress.................... 283
Chapter Fourteen The Road to Noinesburg.................... 305
Chapter Fifteen The Road to Bentonville.................... 329
Chapter Sixteen A Chat with Pelor.................... 355
Chapter Seventeen The Return to the Mines.................... 373
Chapter Eighteen The Last Day.................... 395
Posted April 19, 2013