Hi all, this will be my once-a-month progress report for Book VI of the Norothian Cycle – John the Red.
Part One is “done” to the extent that it is out with beta readers (who, as always, I can’t thank enough), and Part Two is being written as we speak. Well, not literally, as 1.) We’re are not actually “speaking,” and 2.) I am typing this right now. But I will be back on the book shortly.
Wrapping up the myriad plotlines and character arcs of the previous five books of course takes some time and space, so I remain not wholly sure if this last book will consist of three or four parts. Either way, I do feel like I am still on pace to have it ready before the end of the calendar year, and I will of course keep you informed here. Thanks as always for your ongoing interest, and I hope the story concludes in a way you find enjoyable. I’m having fun writing it, so I hope you will all have some fun reading it, too.
Now for a brief excerpt – as readers will know, there have been a lot of Great Dragons influencing events over the course of the last five books. Offering advice, issuing orders, trying to kill people, killing people, so forth and so on. But what there hasn’t been is more than one Great Dragon in the same place at the same time, interacting directly with each other. That is about to change, and it starts like this:
Northwest beyond Broadsword Ridge and the Crater district, the towers and perimeter wall of Souterm were far from the river and the east bank. Even from there, the dull booms of an enormous cannon were audible, at the rate of one shot an hour. The crushing impacts from the area of Denando’s Palace that followed each shot could be heard plainly. The palace itself could not be seen from behind the northern spur of Broadsword Ridge, but after four hours and four shots, the night sky above the ridge was stained red by spreading flames across the river.
The officers and Legionnaires on the northwestern fortification were of course eager to know what exactly was going on across the breadth of the city, but they were also professionals. More men than normally stood a night watch appeared atop the towers, but they did so in full armor. A few kept watch over the dark countryside beyond the walls, though more faced east above the sunken neighborhood of the Crater, where Souterm’s goblins filled the dirty lanes among their slapdash hovels this night, also looking at the sky above the looming ridge and talking nervously among themselves. As whatever was going on across town was certainly the work of the Vod Wild Magdetchoi – chiefly hobgoblins – many a sour look and muttered insult was cast down on the little creatures by the Imperial soldiers.
Shortly after the fourth boom and the crashing impact that followed, the muttering of the guards atop one particular tower was interrupted by a surprised cry through the open trap door leading down. A scraping as of long nails was heard from the ladder to the roof. A few Legionnaires drew swords and all were facing the open door when a large vixen bounded into view.
It was the strangest fox any of the men had ever seen, for even in moonlight its rich fur seemed to gleam like burnished bronze, and its eyes glowed with matching light. The soldiers stared, and the beautiful creature stared back. She gave her head a little toss, then bolted between two men’s legs like a bronze blur.
The animal ran directly for the battlements, and one Legionnaire stepped in front to turn her aside with his tower shield. The vixen’s claws scrabbled on stone as she moved around the soldier, only brushing against his shield. But just that much contact was enough to spin the armored soldier off his feet and send him sprawling to the floor.
The vixen sprang atop a battlement, and launched herself off the city wall into the dark night.
The Legionnaires dropped their jaws, and rushed to the battlements to stare north. For a few moments, they neither saw nor heard a thing. But only for a few moments.
A sound came like unfurled sails catching the wind, and a titanic shape arose from below the dark horizon and was silhouetted against the starry sky to the north. None of the Legionnaires had ever seen a dragon before, but all knew they were all looking upon a Great one now. For the first time in centuries, the Bronze Lady took wing, and gave a roar.
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