Remnant (A Dragonswarm Short Story)

Some of you may have already seen it in A Consortium of Worlds, #2, but I’ve just released a new dragonswarm short story. Set thousands of years before the events of the Dragonprince Trilogy, “Remnant” tells the story of what happened last time the dragons woke.

You can pick up a copy of the short story for $0.99, or get it with a handful of others for just $2.99 in the anthology. It’s a good deal either way.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s a taste of the story:

Rinuld stood deep in the afternoon shadows, nearly invisible among the summer-scorched pines, and thought, What a waste of a perfectly good virgin. He chewed a short strip of bark, more for distraction than for the deadening effect. Otherwise he didn’t move. He made no sound. He only watched.

She was dressed in rags, of course. No sense sending her to die in clothes that still had another year’s wear in ‘em. They hadn’t skimped on the chains, though. Those were iron links solid enough to restrain a raging bear, binding a girl who couldn’t have seen more than seventeen summers. The cuffs on her wrists and the collar at her neck were so heavy they’d long since dragged her to her knees. She slumped against the scarred cliff face, trembling from time to time, but she made no effort to escape.

The cliff face troubled him. It was dead center on the east wall of the valley, situated to catch the dying sunset rays. There was a section of it scraped bare. Six paces tall and almost exactly as wide, flat and square as a townhouse wall. Man-made. It had been smooth, too. Once. Now it was scarred with long, fierce gouges–living granite torn like paper by razor-sharp talons. Soft gray stone stained black with soot and blood.

And anchors made of steel. Not bronze, not cold-wrought iron, but honest steel. A fortune in perfect steel. Five posts of it, driven deep into the stone, and from those anchors ran five iron chains to bind the skinny, pale girl.

Rinuld knew what came next. It would happen at sunset. Teeth like sickle blades would shear through her wrist-thick bonds of iron. A stomach like a furnace would consume the heavy shackles and the tender flesh alike. A pretty little girl would die, and some stupid primitive tribesmen down on the hillside would think themselves safer for another week. Another month. They couldn’t hope for a season.

And perhaps they would be. Perhaps the beast would overlook the tribe that had left the girl in chains. The monsters certainly loved treasures, and there was not much rarer now, not much more precious than human lives.

He’d seen the offer made before, but no one had survived. Not long. He’d met a thousand tribes in a hundred different lands. He’d seen villages and cavehomes. He’d met heathens and hunters and cowards who hid. It didn’t really seem to make much difference. He’d seen every effort to survive, every deal man had made with the harbingers of cataclysm, and none of it had worked.

The Twin Empires had not survived against the beasts. All the Warlord’s armies had barely held the swarm at bay. What hope was there for a dozen dirty tribesmen with nothing more to throw against them than a chained-up, beaten-down little girl?

If you’re wondering what happens next, I’ll give you a hint: Rinuld decides against his better judgment to rescue her. It’s gloriously brutal.