The union of the five realms stands on the brink of destruction. All hope lies with the secret heirs of Toran, but no one knows who they are, not even the heirs themselves. Reann, a 17-year-old keeper of the library in Toran's former castle, must find the next heir or leave the castle when she turns 18. With the help of Verick, a handsome young nobleman, Reann seeks to solve the mystery of the five rumored heirs. Meanwhile in the east, champion dragon rider Terith, one of secret heirs, fights to defend the kingdom from an invasion. But first he must ride against the black-hearted Pert in a cross-country dragon race that will determine the fate of the kingdom and Terith's love Lilleth. Reann and Terith's quests will put both their lives in jeopardy. One rider will fall. One fate will rise.
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Fall of the Dragon Prince
By Dan Allen
North Star Editions, Inc.Copyright © 2017 Dan Allen
All rights reserved.
Toran's warhorse pawed anxiously at the muddy earth as the rain intensified. To his left and right the line of mounted warriors extended out of sight. The horses' heads bobbed. Some stepped in place, sensing the impending action.
With his entire cavalry assembled behind the enemy lines, Toran risked everything — the fate of his own kingdom and that of his allies, the Montazi.
From the center of his line on the barren high desert of the Outlands, Toran the Conqueror surveyed the vulnerable rear flank of the enemy horde.
In the distance, blurred by the veil of dense rain, tattooed Outlanders stretched out along the lip of a steep cliff. The savage invaders were concentrated at the rim. Thousands massed on the mesa by clans, interspersed by massive coils of grappling rope, crude ladders, and black-mouthed cannons on sledges, readying their invasion into the fog-shrouded realm beyond.
Displaced from their native lands by Toran's ancestors centuries before, the inhabitants of the barren Outlands gathered each summer to reclaim their lost lands. They faced an impossible maze of deep and treacherous hazy canyons out of which jutted islands of black volcanic rock mesa — megaliths — laden with the greenery of lush forest. The broken earth was known as the Montas realm. Its defiant people were all that had ever stood between the Outland horde and the inland plains.
The Outlanders faced two armies; they only knew about one.
Toran, sovereign of the inland realm of Erdal and leader of its ever-growing alliance, gripped the pommel of his sword hilt and ground his teeth. Curls of youthful blond hair peeped out of his open faceplate and his plate armor strained around a body of taut muscle. Everything in his bearing spoke of action.
The time for speeches had passed, and the time for action was bleeding away. He was running out of excuses.
"Largest horde ever assembled," he mused aloud. "Warrants an alliance."
Two cavalrymen behind Toran exchanged a concerned glance.
Toran's mount stamped the ground with an eager hoof. Again, he reined the animal back. His outward gaze swiveled as he angled his horse toward the sound of approaching hoofbeats.
A roan warhorse cantered into view from the right flank, shouldering a man in heavy and battered armor. The rider leaned toward Toran as his horse came to a halt. His voice was urgent. "Sire, I have personally verified the regiments are in position. We have their rear, but we cannot risk waiting any longer. If we lose the element of surprise —"
"Hold the line, Rembra," Toran said. His voice was firm as his eyes lifted to scan the clouded skies.
The captain at arms threw back his helmet visor. "Toran, what are you waiting for?"
The young king's head turned toward a shape that moved overhead in the clouds. His blue eyes widened and newborn confidence flared in them. "That."
The shadow that had appeared in the clouded sky fell through the spray of rain like a windblown tent. As it descended, its form grew into the silhouette of a winged, fanged demon — with a rider.
Horses whinnied and strained at their reins. Soldiers bent forward as the dragon turned overhead and landed behind the line, ten paces from Toran's banner.
The dragon's rider was slight, as all Montazi were, compared to Toran's husky inlanders. The rider was completely clad in thick full body leather coverings topped by a lightweight helmet, chest plate and gauntlets. His face had a brash look that perfectly complimented the hungry gloss-black eyes of his mount. The dragon's body was large enough to seat a single rider on its back. Its chest rippled with muscles. Its gaping jaws loomed just over the saddled cavaliers with pure predatory menace, twitching constantly toward the slightest movement, promising lethal speed and certain death.
Toran dismounted and strode to where the dragon crouched forward on the knuckles of its bat-like wings. The king approached the saber-fanged terror with no apparent fear, moving close enough to let the beardless Montazi champion lean over to speak into his ear.
"I left her with a seamstress in Neutat," said the rider.
"All was well?" Toran asked intently.
"Yes. Your child will be born before the day is out."
Toran closed his eyes and whispered an oath of gratitude. "Guardians be praised." He raised his head and looked the youthful rider in the eye. "May all your dragons return, Ferrin of the Montazi."
A smile played on Ferrin's lips. He snapped the reins and the fearsome beast reared back onto its hind legs, stretching its wings thirty feet across. "This shall be a great day, a terrible day!"
Toran paused as if in a moment of decision. "A fateful day." He was playing with a power he barely understood, a power that he wished he had never brought to light.
The Lyrium Compass.
It was his decision to open the sealed door that led him and his once-betrothed Tira to discover the Lyrium Compass.
He had argued against using it. But she could not resist its power. How many turning points had she discovered before she was exiled? Toran hated Tira and her cruelty. The compass had brought out the worst in her.
Would it do the same to him?
He shivered at the thought.
He was playing with fate itself. He had no choice. With knowledge of the turning points, Tira held power over the destinies of nations.
Unifying the realms was the only weapon he could wield against her.
Of the five inland realms descended from the ancient settlers, two were already under his command. Three remained.
United, they would live, or fall.
Ferrin's dragon beat its wings down heavily, rising into the downpour.
Toran gripped the reins of his warhorse and swung into his saddle. He scanned over the armored cavaliers closest to his banner. Fear and expectation weighed in their expressions.
They were Erdali, like him. They, too, could feel the millennial tide.
It rose at turning points like this, floating fate on a sea of possibility. Peace and chaos were won as easily as tipping a coin on edge. It just required a tiny push at the right instant.
When it rose, the Erdali came to arms in great conquering armies. As the tide fell, they dissolved into selfish squabbling villages.
Before the Erdali, there were others who had felt it. They built the Lyrium Compass to reveal the turning points.
Then they had buried it.
Perhaps fate wanted the compass rediscovered, Toran considered. The tide was rising on the field of battle before Toran, to sail the Montas realm and the plains beyond into a new dawn or a very long nightmare.
Toran lifted his head, his gaze hard as diamond. His voice roared. "Ready arms!"
The tide was rising. Toran knew it. He could feel it, just as he had the first time he had watched the drifting rings of the crystal compass stabilize, pointing to one place in time.
To this place where the streams of fate collided in a perfect storm, Toran had brought more than an army.
He had brought his unborn heir.
Tira won't understand what I've done, Toran said to himself with as much doubt and fear as blind hope, until it's too late.
Only a handful in Toran's inner circle knew what a birth at a turning point would do. The fate of the child and the realm would be bound together. While the child lived, the realm could never fall.
He drew his sword with a slick ring that echoed a thousand times over as the cavalry drew in unison.
Toran lowered his visor and raised his sword high in his powerfully steady arm.
Silence. Even the rain drew an awful pause.
His sword dropped forward through the air and his horse burst forward. For ten lonely paces, the massive steed charged alone, distancing itself from the line.
Then the wave of the cavalry, a seemingly endless row of lances, broke forward, rending the silence. The sound of four thousand charging hooves thundered into the fog-shrouded abyss in the distance.
The battle had begun.
* * *
Montazi Realm. Village of Neutat.
At the edge of the blighted Outlands where the battle raged in a crumbling rush of mounted beasts and their riders against numberless savage brutes, deep cracks between the half-mile-wide megaliths formed a labyrinth of canyon trenches, webbed at increments by rope and slat ladders, the only tenuous signs of civilization.
Torrents of rain crashed mercilessly against the volcanic rock draped in jungle. The water collected in streams that poured off the leaves of the great ivy that grew down over the edges and disappeared into the fog of the deep.
From the summits of the gently domed megaliths, the wooded stems of the giant ivy splayed out through the rain forest like snakes of enormous proportions.
Heavy rain sounded dull thumps on the roa small dugout home within a thick-wooded ivy stem. In the narrow workshop with rounded walls, a wide-bodied nurse gripped the hand of her patient — a delicate-featured young woman with her back arched against a large pillow, her jaw clenched in pain. The pale yellow glow from a few short candles illuminated the tearstained faces of both nurse and the mother-to-be.
Fear and desperation showed in the nurse's eyes. She wrung her hands and turned to face the seamstress who owned the tiny workshop. "It's breeched."
"Can't you turn it?" asked the seamstress in a voice both bothered and frustrated from where she watched at the opposite side of the workshop. Her blouse and leather vest were halfway undone to relieve the oppressive humidity.
"I ... don't know. I've never done it."
"Just try. Surely you have enough strength."
"If I do it wrong I might kill the child," the nurse whispered anxiously, but not quiet enough to keep the words from reaching the ears of the mother who screamed again with the pain of another contraction. "I could break its neck or I could wrench the mother's liver. I only saw it done once."
"If you cannot turn it, you must take the child out with the knife," the seamstress said angrily, "or they may both die."
"Mother!" shrieked the animated voice of a young girl from outside the small home.
"Tannatha," shouted the seamstress, turning to the doorway.
"Mother, news!" cried the young child, bursting in through the beaded entry. She looked like a moving potato under her handmade dragon skin rain cover.
"Victory?" the seamstress cried, her hazel eyes desperate with hope.
"We won," the child shouted, throwing off the musky dragon hide and embracing her mother. "We won, mother. The Outlanders are beaten. The horde is gone."
"What happened, Tanna?" the seamstress asked, kneeling down and wiping water from the face of her daughter.
"A rider came to the keep to send a signal. He said Toran's cavalry went down off the Montas in the night and circled around behind the horde. They trapped them against the cliffs and cut down their archers. There was nothing to stop our dragon riders from diving on them from the skies."
"But, child?" the patient asked. The arms she leaned back on quivered with pain and exhaustion. "How many of ours survived?"
"Most of them. That's what he said."
"A miracle." The seamstress wrapped her arms around Tannatha in a moment of rapture. "The horde outnumbered ours nine to one."
The nurse leaned over to comfort the young mother in labor, "We are safe. And the inlands are safe."
A look of passive acceptance passed over the foreign face of the young woman. Her eyes closed. "Use your knife," she whispered. "It is enough. The father is alive."
"Are you sure?" the nurse asked. She pressed her hand against the pale cheek of her patient. Her beauty was both captivating and distant, her land of origin a mystery.
"If any are alive, he will be with them," the pale woman said, forcing the words out through heavy, pained breaths. "Please! I can feel it — the babe is dying. Please. Take the child!"
The nurse grimaced, eyes brimming again with tears. "I ... won't be able to save you. I'm just an apprentice."
The woman cried out again in agony. "Save the child! Please."
The nurse fought back tears. She readied the knife, and with a scream that pierced the heavens, the child was free.
"Hold the babe," the nurse shouted over the screams of the dying mother, severing the cord and handing the infant to Tannatha's mother. The nurse frantically tried to remove the afterbirth and sew up the oversized cut, but the blood made her hands slippery. The seamstress passed the baby to her own child and pushed the nurse aside. "Let me." Her stitches were expert and swift, but the young woman's life ebbed away.
Finally, her hands fell still.
Aching moments passed in horror and doubt.
Thunderous footfalls sounded outside and the beaded curtain was thrown aside.
Bent over in the entrance was a large inlander, clad head to foot in mud-splattered armor, heavily dented and streaked with the terrible crimson of bloody deeds. Behind him, a dragon, angry at the downpour, let fly a burst of fire into the air. Its rider brought it under control with a jerk to the reins tethered to its neck spines.
The man in the doorway removed his helmet and a mane of neck-length blond hair fell out. He took a step into the room and froze.
"By the sacred plain," whispered the seamstress, backing away and bowing.
Tannatha, cradling the still-naked baby, gazed up at the man. "Are you ... Toran? The king?"
He did not speak. His face clouded with ravished grief as he saw the mother, pale-faced, and the blood pooled on the floor. He brought his gauntleted hand to his lips. A long moment later his eyes drifted to the child whose constant high-pitched cries made the only sound in the hollowed-out dwelling.
"A boy," he said solemnly, voice softened with grief.
"Are you his father?" Tannatha asked.
"He is," said Toran, looking from the nurse to the seamstress, "the son of a rider who perished in the war. Tell him this. And tell no one of me. Swear it on your allegiance."
"I swear it," said the nurse, her voice breaking into a sob.
"I will swear," said the seamstress. "But I don't understand," she added boldly.
Toran's voice rang like a hammer on an anvil. "Say he is the son of a rider who died in the war, for it is truth. This child is to be a rider of the Montazi. You will care for him and see that he becomes a rider." His voice was imperial; his command left no margin for misunderstanding.
"But how can you do this?" Tannatha's mother asked, irked by the man's callous dismissal of his mistress's death, and leaving the child a burden for her. "Why don't you take him with you? He is your son ... isn't he?"
Toran looked at her and then down once more at his lifeless love. "I do what I must, until the gathering is complete. Do you understand?" The eyes of Tannatha's mother narrowed slightly. "No," she protested. "We are Montazi. This child is of Erdal."
"And she's not even from the Montas," Tannatha noted, speaking of the dead mother. Her own mother threw her a furious look that silenced the girl.
Toran's voice filled the room with power. "Hundreds of my blood-kin died to save you and all your Montazi children. You can raise one of mine!"
Tannatha cringed as Toran removed his gauntlet and took the child from her, cradling it in his hand like a practiced father. He spoke softly. "Give him a Montazi name. This child will bear your hopes on the wings of the great dragons."
"But the war is over," sputtered the seamstress. "You can go home. You can raise him in Erdal."
Toran eyes became distant and he spoke in a hushed voice, almost to himself. "You cannot conceive of the terror that is to come. No one can. What I do, what those who are sworn to me seek, is a purpose greater than just one realm."
"Yes, but —"
"There is war now in the south," Toran said, his voice growing heavier with each word. "Tira, the witch queen of Hersa, stirs our enemies against us. The Serbani are falling. I go to war again. We can only hope —" His gaze turned to the pale face of the mother, her body still and silent. The king's composure crumbled as grief stabbed through his steel armor into his unprotected heart.
He gently handed the child back and looked from Tannatha's mother, to the nurse, and said again with the ferocity of an enraged lion. "On your allegiance!"
His shoulders shook. His eyes closed tight. The pit of his grief suddenly swallowed the strength of the conquering warlord. In two steps, he moved past the silent witnesses and knelt next to the still body. His hand touched hers disbelievingly as he swept her hair from her face.
Excerpted from Fall of the Dragon Prince by Dan Allen. Copyright © 2017 Dan Allen. Excerpted by permission of North Star Editions, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
King Toran was able to do the impossible and join the five realms. The destiny of each realm is tied to each of his hidden heirs. Now that the king is dead, his enemies are gathering to destroy any heirs. It’s now up to a self-appointed librarian to unravel the mystery. I liked this book more than I thought I would. Everything was written in great detail. I loved being pulled into the story of Terith and the journey he went through. I look forward to reading the next book in this saga. **I voluntarily read and reviewed this book