Concept Art for “The Wolfglen Legacy”

I’ve been catching myself doing more art involved with The Wolfglen Legacy than actually writing it. I’m going to make myself write more than draw, but at least I can share what’s been done so far.

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Writing Process Blog Tour

Yesterday, author Robert Mullin kindly tagged me in a blog tour going by the name of The Writing Process. I got to know him over Facebook, and he has become a close friend of mine. A writer and adventurer, he is the author of Bid the Gods Arise, an excellent novel that deftly blends science fiction and fantasy. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m very enthusiastic to read more of his work.

So, here are the tour’s questions:

What am I working on?

My writing projects are currently twofold.

One, of course, is The Wolfglen Legacy, the epic fantasy series I’ve been working on for the better part of a decade. I’ve pitched it, edited it, had friends read parts of it…but then I realized it hadn’t matured quite enough. I need to finally write books 2, 3, and 4 (pieces of each do exist already), so I’ll see if I can finish the first book by summer this year.

My second project is the serialized science fiction thriller Arrivers. The first three installments are on Amazon Kindle for a buck each, and a fourth entry is underway. I’d love to see where this story goes and get a chance to spend more time with Sergeant Tobias, Reverend Rousseau, and the strange woman who calls herself Jezebel.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Apart from games like World of Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons, I don’t know of any epic fantasy that includes dinosaurs. Or elves who wield flintlock pistols, and treat them with the same deep honor and reverence as Samurai treat the katana. Or a villain who appoints himself as rescuer of mankind, who feels going to war is a necessary step to rescuing us from our own flaws and mistakes.

More than that, however, many new fantasy novels wade in moral ambiguity, Game of Thrones style. It makes for frustrating tales that don’t really celebrate or condemn anything. I want to tell stories that have moral complexity. There’s still a difference between right and wrong, even if they can tie knots around each other.

When it came to the Arrivers stories, I grew weary from seeing one science fiction story after another that was overtly materialistic. You know, the stories told by the likes of Ben Bova and Isaac Asimov, that go out of their way to say religious people are morons, science eradicates miracles, and God no longer has a place in the cosmos. So I wanted to write a science fiction story that wasn’t “religious,” but still admitted there’s more to the universe than particles and natural laws.

Why do I write what I do?

If someone tells me I take my writing too seriously, I’ll take it as a complement. 🙂 My goal is to make someone feel like they are peeking through an interdimensional portal, witnessing events in a universe just as real as ours. Neither characters, nor story, nor world will be ready until it seems they’re entirely real. It’s not quite enough for me to try telling “a good story.” That’s the house’s foundation, so to speak.

How does my writing process work?

A few things help the writing process. Coffee with hazelnut creamer, concept art from movies, reading other novels, peace and quiet, and successfully resisting the siren call of Facebook. Still working on that last one….

I’ll often start with an idea and a paragraph or two, and build it up from there. Normally half of my edits happen as I’m writing the “first draft”. Supposedly this is a big no-no for writers, but it’s ended up helping me more and more with my own work.

Tagging Other Authors

For passing along this blog tour, I’d like to tag “Zombie Rob” Killam, another close friend of mine with an incredible talent for humor and witty dialogue. His upcoming zombie novel is called Apocalypse Springs.

The second writer I wanted to tag is my friend Joe Dorris, starring on the show Prospectors on the Weather Channel and fellow novelist who just released Salmon River Kid. He even paints his own cover art! How cool is that?

And here’s a third: mother, duchess and epic sci-fi author Ashley Hodges Bazer. I’m grinning at the prospect of reading her tales that encompass many worlds and have the kind of big-scale stories that deserve a movie or TV series. Here’s to much success, Ashley!

The Wolfglen Legacy: Sathra’s Introduction

I’m posting another piece from the book’s beginning. Please forgive me for the infrequent updates; it’s been a month of many changes in my life.

This is the start of Sathra Wolfglen’s first chapter. She is a princess who recently witnessed her mother’s mysterious death.

As before, this is entirely open to critique and suggestions. Thanks for reading!

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Image courtesy of Wikipedia. A lovely view of mountains to set the scene.

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Sathra chased the echoes of broken laughter and screams, her feet pulling her down endless halls of tile and closed doors. The noise gushed from the only open doorway like blood from a wound, and she wheeled inside.

It was a room a thousand miles from home. The bedchamber was bathed in red fabric with splashes of brass. An older woman twisted on the carpeted floor, spewing nonsense while clapping her hands together and clawing at the sleeves of her blue dress trimmed in gold. The balcony door behind her gaped like a jaw into a ferocious blizzard. Its breath placed a bone-frosting chill in the air and sharpened the figure’s ringing cries.

Seeing the mad woman’s head whip about under a flourish of dark hair, Sathra faltered back when she saw the face.

No. Impossible.

“Mother?”

Denial fractured under reality’s weight. Queen Iribeth’s eyes adopted a feral look as she cackled. Making up the lost ground, Sathra reached down to help her up from the floor, willing the nightmare to end. She would see a regal queen stand before her again.

Iribeth’s only reply was to shove away her own daughter with an unnatural strength. The room whirled as Sathra flew back, pain shooting through her head when it pounded against the floor. Her eyes shut from the jolt, and when they opened she saw the queen skittering to the balcony, over the open door’s threshold and onto the ice-encrusted platform. A railing ran at shoulder height along its edge, and her mother came to rest prostrate at the base.

Sathra scrambled back to her feet. “Mother, please. Come inside!” Her own voice was a phantom, a strangely detached blur tripping over a dull tongue.

Fingers flexed like talons as the queen’s incoherent mumblings waxed louder and more forceful, as if she tried instilling them with purpose. Iribeth grabbed the terrace’s balustrade and pulled herself up.

Sathra only watched, like the scene played out for someone else, far removed from her and everything she loved. The queen leaned too far over the railing. She raised herself high, and for one terrible second she looked almost majestic. The wind, swimming with snowflakes, caught the tatters in her dress like ragged flags.

Mother fell quiet. And then she tumbled over the rail and disappeared.

Frozen for one moment more, Sathra finally unleashed a scream which split the cold mountain air. It was too late. Her mother had fallen into the storm.

*          *          *          *          *

Gasping, she opened her eyes.

She was in the same room. The blizzard’s frigid white melted away from the guest quarters where her family was staying. The cold remained, though, seeping through her gauzy nightgown.

Flame danced dimly behind the blue glass of an oil lamp, all the more hypnotic for its cool color. Sathra was in a chair at the writing desk tucked into the room’s corner, hunched over and with her head resting on the polished mahogany. Charcoal sticks and papers with sketches of mountains lay next to her. She straightened up and rubbed away the crick in her neck. Outside, the sun prepared to set. Shapes of furniture, half hidden in the glaring light from lofty windows, surrounded her like a crowd of accusers.

“Princess?” a girl’s voice said, muffled through the guestroom’s door. “I brought you something to eat.”

She cleared her throat. “Just a moment.” Most likely the servant was carrying a tray with both hands, and it would be easier for her if Sathra opened the door. Brushing a lock of brown hair behind her ear, she gripped the chair’s armrests and stood up, pushing some of her exhaustion away. Her feet shuffled across the carpet as she approached the door, past the tumble of crimson pillows and bunched-up blankets on her bed. The beds for her father and sister were empty. Both of the striped red-and-gold canopies were vacant shells, each bed’s blankets pressed and set as if already awaiting more guests. Where is everyone? she thought.

Opening the smooth white door with a carved relief of an oak tree, she saw one of the empress’s attendants. A blonde serving girl of ten or eleven, wearing a dress of green with white lace on the sleeves and shoulders. The girl carried a tray with plates of food on it, and a porcelain pitcher with steam rising from the spiced coffee it held.

“Oh, Princess, you didn’t need to do that,” the girl said, looking apologetic. Even guilty. “I would have put down the tray and opened it.”

“I insist. I suppose it’s time I ate.” Hardly a morsel had passed her lips in the seven days since she watched her mother fall. Nineteen was no age for a child to say goodbye to a parent. But Mother would want her to be strong. She always said so.

“Do you know where my sister and father are?”

“Your sister went to the bathing floor about an hour ago. The empress came to meet with your father around the same time. I guess she wanted you to have some rest, so they let you sleep.”

Sathra kept her breath measured and her face calm, despite her burning cheeks. “I see.” They let her face another nightmare rather than wake her up from drifting to sleep on a hard desk. She had tried drawing to hold back another wave of grief, but Sathra must have fallen asleep, exhausted from trying so hard to keep so much sadness away. She would not sleep after eating, being sure the dream would repeat if her head touched a pillow.

“I hope I didn’t wake you,” the serving girl mumbled as she placed the tray on a low-lying dresser. “The empress ordered the food for you, and it was getting cold.”

Most of the food was simple, easy to digest to accustom her to eating again. A plate held plain toast and a wedge of mild white cheese. In the corner a silver bowl held alternated slices of cucumber and yellow squash. There was an empty space on the tray where a side of rare golden raisins normally would have been. Kilfira Lundill, head of the Fwanglind Empire, was careful to always have them included with meals, a gesture of generosity to her guests. They had been a staple in Sathra’s limited diet for the last week.

“Thank you. And don’t trouble yourself about the raisins,” she said. “I have had enough of them for now.”

The girl’s cheeks flushed. “Oh, right. Yes, I must have forgotten to put them on.” She picked a tiny wooden box out of a pocket in her skirt and handed it to Sathra. The girl was careful to avoid eye contact. Sathra noticed it right away.

“No, you didn’t forget.” She whispered it, gently.

It may as well have been a proclamation of guilt. “Attendants have to keep taking these meals back and forth,” she babbled, “and we’re not supposed to eat anything on the trays, even leftovers. Princess, I am so sorry.” Tears welled up in her eyes. “Like you said, you wouldn’t have eaten them, and I never get to eat them. I know it was wrong, but — ”

Opening the girl’s shaking hand, Sathra gave the raisins back to her. “They’re yours, then.”

Shock and relief fought on the girl’s face, until she gave a low and awkward bow. “I can’t thank you enough, Princess,” she said.

Sathra knew she was not referring to the raisins. The girl made a quick exit and closed the door, leaving Sathra with her meal.

She knew she could have had the girl arrested for stealing. But Sathra didn’t want her to suffer for such a minor theft. Her home country was already full of nobles and preceptors who had remade hasty punishment into an art form, and the royal family would not help matters if they started adopting the same habit.

In any event, she herself had much better reasons to feel the cold grip of guilt around her heart. She had been telling her family and the empress that Mother’s death was an accident, the tragic outcome of leaning just a bit too forward over the railing to enjoy the view of the Doheston Mountains. How could she explain Iribeth climbing with purpose to throw herself off the balcony? How could Mother have displayed madness when she had never been tainted with it before?

The First Six Paragraphs of My Book

I realized I’ve done a lot of talking about writing, and the writing writers who write about writing. Did I mention it involves writing? Well, that’s enough of that. Not writing in general. Just writing about writing. Let’s go back to storytelling! I’m resuming a journey back to the dragons and engraved swords, the buildings of high beauty and strange color — the beautiful things that drew me to writing in the first place.

Time to throw some specificity into the recipe. I’m sharing what are currently the first six paragraphs of my novel in progress. If you’ve got a work in progress as well, I invite you to share the first six paragraphs in a blog post of your own.

These words are completely open to suggestion and critique. If you’ve got something to say, feel free to comment or email. As if I even need to say this, but copyright belongs to me. Obviously. Hope you enjoy it!

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Heavy eyelids opened at a hint of light. The young man’s sight was unfocused, as if underwater, and his body burned. Every movement ground his nerves like a file. He tried to moan, but his sore throat only permitted a gurgle. A blanket’s weight pressed on him. He could make out the walls of a small room and murky shapes of furniture. His only illumination filtered through a window to his right.

Memories were scattered and fragmented, retreating like a swarm of moths when he tried to grasp them. At first he thought it was just a dream. But the blanket’s itching fibers scratched him too coarsely, the sore muscles hurt too much. Where was he? How did he come here?

The young man couldn’t even remember his name.

Heavy footsteps pounded from behind a door at the room’s other side, a door as tall and black as death itself.

His heartbeat rushed. He stumbled around the corners of his brain, probing for clues, for any inkling that could remind him who might be outside. Still the moths fluttered about, turning to dust and forgotten as soon as he caught them. The footsteps receded, leaving him in silence again.

Then his mind grabbed hold of something, tiny and fragile. A name, the most familiar name to him. Josh. Yes, that sounded like it ought to be his name. Josh…Kingston, he thought. My name is Joshua Richard Kingston.

The Next Big Thing

I was quite honored to be tagged by Jackie Hames at The Spidereen Frigate for a blog chain called “The Next Big Thing,” which gives readers a snapshot of your own work-in-progress.

I’ll give it my best shot. Hope you enjoy!

What is the Working Title of Your Book?

The Wolfglen Legacy: Revived

Where Did Your Idea for the Book Come From?

I started drawing maps in 2004 of a fantasy world I wanted to create, and that eventually morphed into a couple of projects, including The Wolfglen Legacy. After watching a lot of movies like the Star Wars prequels, Lord of the Rings, and Pirates of the Caribbean, I wanted to tell a big, adventurous, save-the-world kind of story. Plus, I wanted to try giving new(ish) versions of various fantasy cliches like elves, dragons, wizards, dark lords, and see if I could set them up in a somewhat original framework.

What Genre Does Your Book Fall Under?

Primarily epic fantasy, with some tones of dark fantasy, adventure fantasy, and a dash of science fiction.

If Your Book Became a Movie, Which Actors Would You Pick?

I have a large cast in mind for this

Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian) as Morent Wolfglen. He’d do a good job of looking ferocious and desperate, playing the conflicted wizard who is trying to save his family while keeping his conscience intact.

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Jennifer Lawrence would be terrific to play Princess Sathra Wolfglen. She excelled as Mystique and Katniss Everdeen, and I’d like to see her play the role of a vulnerable young woman who learns how to become stronger and more in control.

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Andrew Garfield really impressed me with his interpretation of Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man, so I wouldn’t mind seeing him in the role of Josh Kingston, a young man from another time who is awakened from stasis into a distant future ruled by magic and wars, and is catapulted into one of the most dangerous conflicts Earth has ever faced, all while trying to learn his new surroundings and run from mistakes and tragedy in his past.

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Those are the three main characters. But I did have a couple of others in mind. I tend to dream big.

Christian Bale as King Rishtal Wolfglen, brother to Morent and father to Sathra.

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Rachel Weisz as Empress Kilfira Lundill, an ally of the Wolfglen family.

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Sam Neill as General Streynel Halthrin, and David Tennant as Myrickin Schtahl, both of them people who have different goals than everyone thinks they do.

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Okay, I could go on, but I think that’s enough of my pipe dream. For now. 🙂

What is Your Book’s One-Sentence Synopsis?

A young man outrunning his past, a princess trying to go on after her mother’s death, and a wizard desperate to save his family all find themselves caught up in a secret war against their country, driven by an ancient supernatural enemy.

Will Your Book be Self-Published or Represented By an Agency?

I’m definitely going to try traditional publishing first. More than that, I want to see how high I can go with this series. If Random House or Tor or HarperCollins picks it up, terrific! If not, that’s perfectly okay. I still want to try it because I don’t want to spend my days wondering how far up the publishing ladder it could have gone.

How Long Did it Take You to Write the First Draft?

After writing off and on while trying to balance school and work with my writing goals, it took me about five years to finally have a complete first draft. Now that I’m graduated, though, it won’t take nearly as long to write the series’s next book (there will be four Wolfglen books in total).

What Other Books in Your Genre Would You Compare Your Novel To?

Hmm. Kind of stumped on this one. Maybe it would be a good fit for readers of Brandon Sanderson (Elantris, Mistborn, the latest Wheel of Time books), James Gurney (Dinotopia), Christopher Paolini (The Inheritance Cycle), George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones), and Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game).

Who or What Inspired You To Write This Book?

In December 2003, as I left the theater after watching Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, I was blown away by the story I had just witnessed. Given the staggering quality of Peter Jackson’s trilogy and how it affected my emotions and imagination, I knew one thing for certain stepping out of that theater: I wanted to be a fantasy writer.

From there I pieced together bits of worldbuilding, character development, and the clockwork of a plot, and the most developed result is The Wolfglen Legacy.

What Else Might Pique a Reader’s Interest in Your Book?

Possibly the ways I have revamped given fantasy cliches (elves with flintlocks instead of bows, a villain driven by his conscience instead of evil for its own sake, etc.).

Moral complexity is one of the big goals I have in mind for this series. I am striving to get a good balance between the black-and-white conflict in Harry Potter, and the frustrating ambiguity in Game of Thrones.

Dinosaurs join the book’s dragons to give my world plenty of big scaly beasties. When was the last time you saw a Triceratops in a fantasy novel? Seriously, they could instantly improve a lot of books.

And I am working hard to make the story satisfying on all fronts, not only attractive for its worldbuilding or characters or descriptions.

Tagging

To keep this chain going, I’d like to tag four of the coolest writers I know: Janden Daniel HaleRob “The Brain Hamster” Killam, Aaron Ritchey, and Courtney Schafer. All are terrific storytellers, and I recommend you check them out right away.

Sometimes, You Need a Carrot to Chase…And an Explosion to Outrun

Just a quick little post here. Sorry I’ve been absent for so long; I’ve been working hard on revising my novel and getting it ready to send off to the agent. And that has largely been happening thanks to adding some extra incentive. It has been a process of trial-and-error. At first I thought I could hold off on watching some of my favorite movies until the book was done.

Only problem is, movies have fed my imagination for my whole life. The realistic dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, the creatures and frenetic battles of all six Star Wars movies, the action of much swash and buckle in Pirates of the Caribbean, the immense landscapes and intricate worldbuilding in Lord of the Rings. They’re largely what inspired me to become a writer in the first place. And holding off on watching some of the best movies that came out this year would end up starving my imagination more than inspiring it enough to finish a book. Besides, how long could I say no to John Carter and The Avengers?

So, in lieu of that prohibition, I’ve realized I needed to have something to lose. So, I bought a ticket for the midnight showing of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and told local friends that the ticket was going to one of them (I’d pull the names out of a hat) if the novel’s in-progress revisions weren’t done by December 3rd.

So, you can imagine that lighting such a short fuse compelled me to move. Quick. I’ve been editing chapter-by-chapter, often multiple chapters a day, and trying hard to get The Wolfglen Legacy: Revived finished so I can keep said ticket. Myyyy ppprreeeeecccioouusssssssssss….

Once in a while, it’s not enough for a writer to give themselves a reward to accept when they reach the finish line. It certainly may be enough for you. But for someone who has largely starved his fiction-writing addiction for a while, I’ve discovered that that’s not quite enough. “Light fuse, run away.”

What strategies work for you in getting creative projects done? Do you need to have something at stake?

Battering Ram: A Dinosaur Story for Chuck Wendig

Since dinosaurs are kind of my obsession, I admit to giggling like a gleeful mad scientist when novelist and smart aleck extraordinaire Chuck Wendig gave an assignment to his readers: write flash fiction (very short story, up to 1,000 words) with dinosaurs in it. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/05/04/flash-fiction-challenge-must-love-dinosaurs/

For better or worse, this is my entry, a sort-of prequel to the short story Battle at Engorlash that I wrote a while back. More like a battle scene in a larger story, in my opinion, but I’ll decide later if I can do something to expand it.

It’s just under the limit, at 989 words. Thanks for having a look, and I hope you enjoy!

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On the wall and beneath it, pikes and swords glinted like silver grass in the hot sun, dazzling Morent Wolfglen even when he pulled down his visor. Here and there, a flintlock’s shot threw its echo over the battlefield. Blood and metal and gunpowder combined into a familiar stench. Shouts of dying, of agony, of challenges and insults, thundered in his head.

He was tucked away into one of the corners of no man’s land, while the fort’s defenders concentrated most of their attack on the main army. Here he stood among officers and war machines that hadn’t been used yet.

“Morent!” The commanding voice of General Halthrin called him back to the side of the fort. “Morent, don’t freeze now. The harness. Help me get the harness!”

The general’s gloved hand shot down, pointing at a hemp rope, thick as an arm. One end was tattered like it had snapped, and the other snaked across fifty feet of gravel and gore to the muzzled snout of a Tyrannosaurus rex. The dinosaur’s ivory fangs seemed to glow against its black skin, shimmering with drool. Its nostrils and pupils dilated as vapors of blood tantalized it. So much raw meat…

“General?”

“We’re going to unlatch the muzzle and let him out. It’s our last chance.”

Morent couldn’t have been more shocked if General Halthrin had turned into a giant hornet. He certainly seemed angry enough to be one.

“We?”

“And today, preferably! While they’re focusing on the other garrisons. Just pray they don’t have a dragon in the fort. Come on, Corporal!” Spittle flying from him, the general hefted up the rope and tossed it to Morent. It landed in his hastily extended arms like he had just been handed a tree.

Struggling against the portcullis door of a massive siege wagon, the Tyrannosaur snarled, banged the sides of its wood and iron cage. Another soldier stood next to one of the table-sized wheels. He sweated as his fingers tapped the release lever, waiting for command. Waiting to escape the creature’s line of sight.

“Wait,” Morent said, dropping the rope. He realized their battering ram was now under a tangle of the corpses of Halthrin’s men, and the door it was meant to break had had molten lead poured into every crack once the siege started. They had no way of getting in. Not unless they made a door….

The general’s purple face darkened further. “What do you mean, wait?!”

Halthrin may have been crazy, but Morent was going to aim that insanity. If he was going to die, he’d rather make his last act a smart one.

Producing a vial of clear liquid from a pocket in his belt, he flung it across no man’s land. It shattered on the red and gray stones of the fortress wall. Within seconds, he picked up the sharp scent of garlic extract rising above the miasma of carnage. Tyrannosaurs could pick out scents better than any hound or vulture. Just as a dog could be trained with verbal orders, the monster now struggling to free itself had been conditioned to take specific smells as commands. And Morent had bought the extract a month ago, just in case.

“Now we’ve given him something to do!” Morent said, grunting as he picked the rope back up.

The general smiled through his tightening expression. He lifted up another section of rope and threw it onto his shoulder, puffing under the weight.

Normally a rex would be used like a scythe to cut down phalanxes, or a hammer to bash apart other siege engines. But Morent could see their side was losing, and fast. With walls still intact, they could lose half the army.

“Now!” Halthrin cried.

The man threw the lever down and bolted away. In a chorus of metal clanks and sliding chains, the portcullis swung out to the right.

All six tons of the black leviathan charged forward, pounding the gravel with heavily muscled legs. Once its tail cleared the giant wagon, Halthrin nodded back to Morent. Pulling violently backward, they jerked the rope taut. There was a loud snap as the harness on the steel-and-leather muzzle came undone, and it thudded to the earth beneath. Morent felt himself shake under the dinosaur’s bellow, scarred jaws opening to throw slaver and the stench of decay over the battlefield. Crossbow bolts and pikes stuck in the obsidian hide, only angering the beast. It must have caught the garlic smell, because forty feet of muscle and nightmares threw all of its weight against the wall, where the vial had broken.

Its neck clenching like a spring, the dinosaur slammed its head into the barrier again and again. Faults opened up and stones were jarred loose. Their beast of war had broken all the way through. Morent was dimly aware of cheers from his side. The fortress was almost theirs.

A storm of fire erupted from the other side of the wall, fingers of flame smothering the rex’s head before it could lunge away. Its wail of sudden pain seemed to reduce the monster, like a big dog yelping from injury.

Its legs buckled, tail shuddering as something else lunged out of the caved-in wall. A set of slender jaws, as large as the rex’s head and crowned by ivory horns. Through the smoke and shadow, Morent discerned the dragon’s jaws clench around the Tyrannosaur’s seared face. Fangs plunged through bone and muscle, anchoring the titans’ heads together just before the dragon wrenched around in a sharp tug. Bones shattered, and the rex crumpled dead under the wound it had bashed open.

Morent and the general stood there for what seemed an hour, dumbstruck, hearing the dragon’s shrill and triumphant scream. The battle itself must have gone silent.

It must have been the end. Morent had tried to help the general win, and failed. In his gut, he was convinced that this was his last day.