I started this blog series with my dragons, Aderyntan and Cythraul, who play a significant role in this book. You can find that post in the September 2019 archives.
Book Six in the Dragon’s Fire Series is the first of five companion novels. It launches a new set of characters on an exciting, interconnected adventure. Set in 779, it is the first in the series chronologically. However, the books should be read in numeric order to avoid spoilers.
Teifi an Gren Leigh
“They’re after the fish!”
Age at the time of this story: 17/18
Physical Characteristics: 5’7”; 130 lbs; wavy blond hair; blue eyes
Teifi lives with her older brother, Patrick. She enjoys making up songs and attending dances, and she loves dragons.
As a child, Teifi spent a lot of time outdoors. Well-schooled in avoiding Cythraul, she admired Aderyntan and played in the fields and woods around Empelfirth. Teifi has always wanted to learn to read, a skill denied to women of her class. When her brother aspires to join the Mystic Order, Teifi is fascinated by the books he brings home. She tries to decipher words based on the illustrations within.
Life as her brother’s housekeeper is lonely and dull, and Teifi is not a fan of housework. With Patrick gone all day, and her married friends busy with their homes and families, Teifi craves excitement and fun. Something new. But ships don’t sail to Caledon, for fear of the dragons. “New” seldom happens.
She knows that her brother would like to get her married off. However, most men consider her too old and irresponsible to make a good wife.
“Most people don't like dragons, but I do. Generally, I like dragons better than people. They've got more even temperaments. You always know where you stand with a dragon. It loves you, or it doesn't, and if it doesn't, it will either eat you or set you on fire. People are a lot less predictable.
Folks think I'm odd because I'd rather sit on the cliffs and watch dragons than marry and rear some man's brats. I'm a washed-up spinster at 17, you know. Most of my friends married three or four years ago, and people pity me—or despise me—for being alone.
I live with my older brother because my Da died in the plague a few years back, and I had nowhere else to go. Patrick would like to see me wed; he lost his wife in the same pestilence that took Da, and he says he'll never find another so long as she has to share her hearth with me. He can't seem to make any woman understand that I'll happily relinquish the home fires. I don't want them. Maybe they object to my presence at all. We do only have one room...
I make up songs, and I love listening to stories—‘twould be better could I read them, but few people in Empelfirth can read. Patrick can, but he refuses to teach me—says the Archmystic wouldn't like it, and I'm better off minding the house, anyway.
I don't fit in here.
Ships never come to Caledon, at least, none have in recent years. Foreigners fear our dragons. Sometimes I wonder whether I might find someone more like me if only I could sail away from here and discover new places.
But nothing changes.
I'm stuck. Dodging house chores by day, and running off to the harbor dances in the evenings. No one ever asks me to dance, but I can hear the music and the stories. It's far livelier than staying home where Patrick pores over his books and scolds me if I make the slightest noise. I'll stay out as late as possible tonight.
And maybe come home the long way…”
Empelfirth means “large harbor.” The Caledonian pronunciation is (EM pel fairth). The original settlers gave the area its name when they landed on Caledon’s shores in 358. Over time, the pronunciation was Anglicized to Ampleforth, and the city, Caledon’s capital, grew from a rough village to a thriving, modern metropolis.
Empelfirth lies in a valley at the edge of a vast harbor, with cliffs rising on either side. The castle is situated south of the town, and the Mystics and the Sacred Cliffs to the north. A series of streams from the cliffs connect and form a small river feeding the harbor, which is deep enough for ocean traffic. The beach at Ampleforth is long and sandy/pebbly, allowing for shipyards and space for recreation. From Caledon’s inception, the harbor has been the site of markets and entertainments; storytelling, music, dancing, and social interaction. The larger the settlement grew around it, the safer the beach became for such activities, as the dragons, naturally wary of humans, do not tend to venture into settled areas.
Patrick an Gren Leigh
“Aderyntans are everywhere. What is one less?”
Age at the time of this story: 27
Physical Characteristics: 5’10”; 162 lbs; wavy blond hair; blue eyes
Patrick is Teifi’s older brother. He was saddled with his sister’s care when the plague hit Empelfirth in 774, killing their father and Patrick’s wife of four years, Tara.
Patrick is studying to earn a place in the Mystic Order, aspiring to higher things than fieldwork. His position with the Mystics is precarious. As he has no Mystic blood or background, he must study hard, learn his lessons well, and behave acceptably.
Teifi's eccentricities, careless mannerisms, and incessant desire to learn to read could ruin him. If Patrick gets kicked out of the Order, he will have to return to the fields.
Patrick’s position within the Order grants him a modestly comfortable life. Rent and food are covered, and a Mystic rank guarantees a degree of respect and fear from the townspeople. Patrick wants to find another wife, but no one is eager to share a home with his sister.
"‘An Gren Leigh’ means ‘of Green Meadow.’ It's a surname carried by many of the serfs who labor year-round on Lord Galwell's estate. My da and granda worked there, as did every man in my family line for as far back as I know.
It's backbreaking work. Rain or shine. Six days a week. I wanted better. After I married Tara, I went against my da's advice, left Galwell's employ, and sought to train as a Mystic.
They say, "Once a serf, always a serf," but the Mystics must have seen promise in me, for they let me join them. Learning letters and understanding their spells and potions was as exhausting as fieldwork but in a different way. I always knew how precarious my position was since they had taken me on as a favor. I have no Mystic bloodlines. I work hard to please them.
Everything was going well. Tara and I were ready to move to the Mystic village so I could immerse myself in the practice when the plague hit Empelfirth. My beautiful Tara died in agony, and nothing I knew could help her. My da died, as well, leaving my sister, Teifi, to my care. She had no one else.
She was thirteen, then. She should have been married, but Da had spoiled her. She looked like my ma, you see, and Ma died birthing her. Teifi was his pet, and he let her run wild over the hills, indulging her passion for dragons, of all things, instead of making her learn skills that would make someone a good wife.
So I'm stuck with her. She's seventeen now, and still, no one will have her. Worse, no woman will have me, for no one wants to live with my eccentric little sister! Worst of all, the Mystics don't approve of her behavior, and she's liable to get me thrown out of the Order.
I love my sister, but if she destroys everything I've worked for, the gods help me, I won't be responsible for my actions.”
Once again, my post has gotten too long, so we’ll meet two more characters from Guardians of Caledon next month!
Many readers have told me that this book is their favorite. A book series can have a “plotline” just like each individual title, and in the Dragon’s Fire Series, Book Five is the climax.
“Where do you start looking for a legend?”
Age at the time of this story: 27
Physical Characteristics: 5’8”; 135 lbs; wavy blond hair; blue eyes
Lauryn grew up in Ampleforth, the only child of a naval engineer and a homemaker. Her mother took her frequently to see the exhibits at the local museum, and Lauryn’s fascination with Caledonian history and artifacts was born.
After graduating summa cum laude with a Master’s degree in Caledonian history, Lauryn became curator of Caledon’s foremost Living History Museum. She quickly earned the nickname “Queen Lauryn,” for her imperial manner of barking orders and glaring through people.
Never a fan of Caledon’s “magical” history, Lauryn would like to see the museum focus on the facts, not the faerie tales. The wars. The monarchy. Daily life through the centuries since Caledon’s founding. Visitors' fascination with Caledon’s legends and the mysterious Dragon’s Fire irritate Lauryn. So do their relentless questions about whether she is related to Caledon’s royal family—countless non-royals bear the Grenleigh name.
An introvert, Lauryn keeps her distance from her coworkers. She finds people irritating and turns her desk away from her office door, preferring her view of the castle graveyard to facing intrusions from her staff. The dead don’t cause problems.
Lauryn is married to her job, and in the evenings, after a workout at the gym, she goes home to watch TV with her cat. Routine and predictability are the hallmarks of Lauryn’s life. History stays in the neat little boxes she assigns it, indexed, categorized, and subcategorized. No surprises.
“I have a Master's degree in Caledonian history, and I am the curator at the Caledon Castle Museum in Ampleforth, Caledon's foremost historical institution.
I love history. Always have. Ever since I was a little girl and Mum would bring me to this very museum to see the exhibits. I knew the contents of every room in this castle.
I couldn't wait to study history at the University of Grymwalde. Finally, a chance to focus on names, dates, battles, coronations, and proclamations, and figure out how it all fits together.
They made me take a course on Caledonian legends and faerie tales.
I couldn't believe it when I saw that on my list of required courses. I knew Caledon was obsessed with its myths, but to make me waste my time studying dragons, faeries, Mystic lore, and ghost stories? Please.
And now I work at this Living History Museum, where the enactments all seem to revolve around the legends. We'd be better off sticking to facts. We need to show people what happened at a medieval coronation, not recite stories about dragons, crack-shot archers, rebellious princesses, and ghosts that haunt the turrets.
And the Dragon's Fire—that's the worst one—some long-lost, glowing ruby that used to light the dragon's lair on the northwest side of the island. So the stories say.
We’ve no documented evidence of such a thing ever having existed, and if it did—which I doubt—it's long gone.
I want every mention of that ridiculous ruby cut from the scripts, and then maybe people can start to focus on what really happened here. Names, dates, documents. That's history.
“If this thing comes true, millions are going to die. And you’re okay with that?”
Age at the time of this story: 30
Physical Characteristics: 6’0”; 177 lbs; wavy brown hair; blue eyes
Matthew Bramston grew up in a small town in Central Caledon and studied in Europe for a career in linguistics, translation, and encryption. He worked on the continent for several years before returning to Caledon. He now works as an actor at a living history museum.
Matt is loyal, possesses a good sense of humor, and enjoys technology. He likes to tinker with things and take them apart to figure out how they work. Handsome and cheerful, he is comfortable being the center of attention.
“My last job was... stressful. And that's really all I can tell you about it. When I finished that contract, I didn't feel like starting another in my field right away.
When I saw the opening at the Castle Museum, I applied. Spending my days strolling the castle halls dressed as some king or prince or guard is just what I need right now. Fun, lighthearted—the most stressful part of this job is making sure that the kids don't get hold of my sword.
History reenactments could be very dull. I mean, how many times can you reenact butter churning without going stir crazy? But Caledon's history is different. It's full of Mystic lore, ghost stories, myths, and romance spun between the dull, dry facts. Those legends are the part I love best.
If Queen Lauryn the Curator has her way, we'll all be churning butter, but I can work on her.
See, everyone in history has a set of dates: birth and death. And between those dates is a dash. That dash is where history happens. And the most intriguing parts of history are those that didn't get written on official government letterhead.”
“People are getting scared. Their lives are shutting down, and they’re not handling it well.”
Age at the time of this story: 52
Physical Characteristics: 5’10”; 240 lbs; gray hair; brown eyes
Titles: CEO Ulliac Resources, Chairman of the Executive Board
Lewis Ulliac, the CEO of Ulliac Resources, Caledon’s foremost mining company, also serves as the chairman of the board at the museum. Lewis’ interest in the museum centers primarily on a personal fascination of his.
He wants the museum to bring in more visitors, and regularly harps on the curator to come up with something new.
“The Castle Museum is losing revenue, a drain on investors and the taxpayer. The board has repeatedly told the curator that we need to revive the locals' flagging interest and bring in the tourists. She insists that she cannot produce new exhibits out of thin air—we need a new historical discovery. We’ll likely find some government decree about beheading people who refuse to pay their taxes. That won't cut it. People who seldom take their eyes from their phones need more than a piece of paper to snag their attention.
So we continue to enact faerie tales and give lectures about the Coronation War while our revenue charts tumble.
One legend, however, could make this castle buzz with excitement again. Unlike the others, this one is truth, guarded by the Crown and the Praeceptors for centuries. And something must be done about it soon, for Caledon's future rests upon its fulfillment. Time is running out.”
The Curse of Caledon was going to complete the Dragon’s Fire Series, but readers asked for more. A set of five companion novels is underway, containing further insights into the world of the Dragon’s Fire and a new, interconnected adventure! Book Six, Guardians of Caledon, came out in September 2019. Next month, we’ll meet some of the characters from the book I call “My Dragon Symphony.”
This month, let’s take a look at two more characters from the fourth book in the series.
“A revolution might take years, but a coup won’t.”
An ambitious man, with the endless energies and moldable minds of countless students at his disposal, Cullen is well-positioned to control kings and governments.
Age at the time of this story: 56
Physical Characteristics: 5’11” tall; 270 lbs; gray hair; brown eyes
The illustrious Professor of Mining Engineering at the University of Grymwalde, Cullen Ulliac has spent his life probing the heart of Caledon’s caves, cliffs, and mountains, but mostly in theory. In practice, he’s lobbying to have an elevator installed for easier access to his third-floor office.
“A man of my age, proportions, and experience deserves the deference and admiration of his students. Engaging the best and brightest in extracurricular activities is only doing them a service.
A man should involve himself in politics. The governance of the Protectorate of Zandor, and indeed, of Caledon itself, is of the utmost concern to me. My involvement in politics is not by traditional methods, however.
When Thomas proposed having his sister assist my specially selected group of students and me in our newest political endeavor, I was, at first, reluctant. Women and politics do not mix. But upon careful reflection, I decided, " Why not?" Sometimes women are far more perceptive than men, and they can come up with exceptional ideas.
They are also entirely expendable.”
“We cannot go back in time, only forward, and the only thing that applies is today.”
The Queen of Caledon at a pivotal point in history, but from a humble background, Gwyneth dreads provoking controversy. When the war forces her into a corner, she must direct the future to protect her family in ways she never anticipated.
Age at the time of this story: 21
Physical Characteristics: 5’8”; 145 lbs; dark blond hair; hazel eyes
Titles: Her Royal Majesty, Queen
The daughter of an Ampleforth shoemaker, Gwyneth has always loved music, making up songs and ditties as a girl, and playing on a five-note wooden whistle. After her marriage to the king of Caledon, she quickly learns to play the piano with the help of a skilled instructor, practicing for hours each day. She is not the most graceful of women, and her husband, Philip, takes amusement in tracking the number of times Gwyneth trips over her own feet.
Gwyneth is highly intelligent, and very much in love with Philip, but her change in station takes some getting used to. Sometimes the restrictions and the security of the castle grate on her nerves.
“How does a shoemaker's daughter catch the eye of a king? Well, she does something spectacularly humiliating, actually. Philip is probably keeping a list of all the times I've tripped over my own feet since we married, and that's nothing to what I did the night we met.
He warned me that the price of the castle was the loss of some of my freedom. He's worth it. But since the war with Langdon intensified, I can't even walk down to the city to visit my father without an armed escort.
I feel like I live in a cage. A beautiful cage, with every comfort, but sometimes I just want to fly - down to Ampleforth, out to sea, along the cliffs that rim the coast - without dragging one of Philip's Elite Guard along.
Times will be better when the war is over, Philip promised me. Until then, I am a prisoner of Caledon Castle. I watch the world go by outside iron gates that stand locked for my protection and hold me captive as surely as a vagabond in the dungeon…”
Next month, characters from The Curse of Caledon!
The fourth book in the Dragon’s Fire Series was, until Book Seven, the most challenging one to write, as I took a unique approach and turned the villains into the protagonists. So far, the technique is resonating well with readers.
“Don’t give me another innocent face to haunt me.”
Avalon Kearney, daughter of a successful Grymwalde lawyer, desires to compete in academia with her brother’s arrogant friend, Richard. Instead, she must content herself with devouring every title in her father’s expansive library, as well as every newspaper she can get her hands on.
Birthdate: October 1858
Age at the time of this story: 18/19
Physical Characteristics: 5’7” tall; 130 lbs; dark brown hair; chocolate brown eyes
Avalon is the second-born and only daughter in a well-to-do, progressive Zandorian family. An avid reader from a young age, Avalon benefits from studying under expensive private tutors. She appreciates order and planning, and presents a fashionable and business-like exterior, concealing a soft heart underneath. Ever the lawyer’s daughter, Avalon is careful to analyze everything people say, finding as much truth in words left unsaid as in what she hears.
Avalon has an intense fascination with history, particularly how politics in Zandor have affected its people.
She longs to further her education, but the doors of the University of Grymwalde are closed to females. So when Professor Cullen Ulliac grants her the opportunity to work with a group of student rebels, she jumps at the chance. She even finds a way to continue operations with them after the first job is over.
But her continued involvement comes at a high price. Avalon soon finds herself entangled in the rebels' lies and violence, too far in to escape when she wishes she could.
“The University of Grymwalde will not admit women to their programs of study, so you can imagine my excitement, and my trepidation, when Thomas told me that he had offered my services for a student project, and Professor Ulliac was willing to let me participate. Thomas won't tell me all the details yet. Still, he said that my involvement will help the students strike a blow against the autocratic tyrants who oppress the Protectorate of Zandor.
My brief moment of fear is long past. Whatever the rebels ask of me, I shall make them proud, and they'll rethink their chauvinistic opinions of ‘the fairer sex.’"
“I’m going to give you two words of ancient Zandorian advice. Don’t feel.”
Age at the time of this story: 25
Physical Characteristics: 6’1” tall; 175 lbs; brown hair; brown eyes
A descendant of Zandor’s now-powerless royal family, Richard is studying for his master’s degree in law at the University of Grymwalde. He works as a law clerk for Avalon’s father, with aspirations to become a partner in the firm eventually. Intelligent and crafty, Richard knows how to work any system to his advantage. He is a critical thinker, skeptical of anything without proof, and tends toward cynicism.
An ancient prophecy challenges Richard’s belief in only the things he can see and draws him into a scheme to change the course of the future. But when the plot turns and threatens the few things he cares about personally, Richard finds that the cost of his involvement might be more than he is willing to pay.
“I am working on my Masters of Laws degree at the University of Grymwalde while working as a law clerk at Kearney and Associates. Once I finish my master's, I'm set to take a position at the firm as an associate—might even make partner if I play my cards right.
But then Professor Ulliac challenged me to something more. He showed me a weird old prophecy written in an ancient language and told me what it said.
Apparently, I have a bigger role to play in the current political scheme than I thought, and possibly something far grander than a partnership in a law firm ahead of me.
I'm not one to rush into things. I think things through; I plan. I know how to place people where I want them and manipulate circumstances to benefit me—ha! I ought to. I'm a lawyer, for crying out loud!
But this plot's bigger than all of us and as unpredictable as a runaway train. We're playing with fire. Someone's going to get burned.”
Background Information—The Fire Tower
This mysterious, six-story stone tower was erected on a hill about four miles outside of Grymwalde around the time of Zandor’s inception. No one knows why it was built or what it was used for, though the general story is that it served as a lookout tower to spot hostile troops approaching from the west or to watch for forest fires.
Legends about the tower encompass wilder and often spookier ideas. Stories say that the place was used as a palace, a prison, and a sanctuary for pagan rituals. Some myths speak of a peculiar red light shining out from the top floor once upon a time. Others say that every night, darkness cloaks the tower, making it, and everyone within it, vanish from the face of the earth. In the morning, only the tower returns. Ghost stories, tortured souls, weird wailing sounds—the Fire Tower abounds in frightening legends.
When the surrounding lands were surveyed into private parcels in the 18th century and sold, the Fire Tower passed into private hands along with them. The new owner decided that tearing the tower down was more work than it was worth, and permitted it to stand.
Dark and lonely, this strange, mystical relic of the thirteenth century watched silently while the world developed and modernized around it.
Next month, Cullen Ulliac and Gwyneth Grenleigh!
Once again, the post got too long, and I had to split it into two, so this month, we’re revisiting Myrhiadh’s War and two more of my favorite characters!
“I wish that I could instantly destroy everything and everyone who has ever hurt you.”
The heir to Caledon’s throne, Prince James chafes at his father’s requirement that he stay safely at home in Ampleforth instead of joining the troops marching east to battle Zandor. Work in the shipyards barely placates him until an unexpected development brings the war to his doorstep.
Birthdate: September 1578
Age at the time of this story: 25/26
Physical Characteristics: 6’0” tall; 175 lbs; blond, wavy hair; blue eyes
Titles: Crown Prince, His Royal Highness
Nickname: Jae, though he only allows a select few of his friends to call him that.
Prince James is a typical young man who is looking for adventure and excitement. Fiercely loyal, with a strong sense of duty and a determination to see Zandor defeated, James works in the shipyards, helping build warships. His father considers this a “suitable” position for the heir to the throne, who must be protected at all costs.
James prefers to spend as much time away from the castle as possible. Thus, he spends most evenings at the Brass Rebel Pub, where his down-to-earth attitude and athletic abilities make him a popular friend and drinking buddy.
Though groomed from infancy to take the throne, James does not expect to shoulder the responsibility for many years. He wants to enjoy his freedom as much as possible before that time.
James enjoys riding, archery, chess, backgammon, and darts. Well-read and well-educated, he has a working knowledge of the dying Caledonian language and the ancient legends associated with the history of his country.
“My father likes peace treaties—when they work to his benefit. If Zandor were landing ships on our shores, he would quickly demand that Langdon come to our aid. Since Zandor is currently stomping all over Langdon en route to our borders, he refuses to risk his precious troops in Langdon’s service. Reminding him that we cannot afford to anger Langdon’s king helped but a little.
Only when I threatened to lead troops myself to reinforce Langdon did Father bend and agree to mobilize his generals. He is determined that I shall not put myself in harm's way. When I argued that I was tired of sitting at the castle, useless, he sent me to work in Ampleforth's shipyards. Better than nothing, but not nearly so satisfying as plying steel to take down Zandor!
‘Don't sail away on any of those ships,’ he said when he dispatched me.
I make no promises.”
“We can and will protect you, Sire!”
The Captain of the Elite Guard answers directly to the king of Caledon. He is responsible for guarding the royal family and for overseeing the soldiers who are in charge of protecting the castle. Responsibility for any failure of the Elite Guard to meet their obligations falls directly on his shoulders, and the burden is a heavy one.
Date of Death: 1636
Age at the time of this story: 39
Physical Characteristics: 5’10” tall; 175 lbs; brown hair; brown eyes
Malik applied to join the Royal Elite Guard at the age of twenty-one, after serving three years as a soldier in the army. He worked his way up through the ranks to become the captain in 1598.
Malik is staunchly loyal, practical to a fault, and suspicious of everyone outside of his troops and his charges. Diligent in his duty to protect the royal family, Malik sometimes struggles to remain patient and respectful around a rebellious princess, a militant prince, and a narcissistic king.
“The housemaid fainted when she saw all the blood. Even when she came to, the mere thought of cleaning the mess sent her into hysterics. One of my men had to do it.
An assassin breached the castle last night, in spite of guarded gates and doors, and came within a hair's breadth of killing the king. The villain vanished with the dawn, but no one knows where. I strongly fear that he may still be inside the castle, moving among us like a ghost.
I have armed the king and assigned a 24-hour security detail to him. He is unimpressed. He called my unit useless, and I fear he was thinking words far less complimentary.
I will not fail my sovereign. I will find this ghost and destroy him—before he takes another life.”
Background Information—The Royal Elite Guard
The Caledonian Royal Elite Guard stands separate from all other troops, charged with the protection of the king and his family, as well as Caledon Castle. The Elite Guard is a highly trained set of (usually) 40 men skilled with all sorts of weaponry and prepared to die to defend the king.
A man must serve a minimum of three years in another branch of the Caledonian army or navy before applying to become part of the Royal Elite Guard and must prove his mettle in a series of skill tests employing archery, swordsmanship, and horsemanship, and by the early seventeenth century, riflery as well. If he shows suitable aptitude, he will be initiated to the force in a traditional ceremony. He may only exit the unit via an honorable discharge or death.
While ordinary troops might also be deployed to defend the castle, any member of the Elite Guard outranks them on castle grounds. The Elite Guard members may serve as escorts for any member of the royal family on any occasion and always accompany the king when he goes out. The Elite Guard is entitled to enter and exit the castle at will, though, outside of emergencies, only the captain has access to private rooms, and then only with permission.
A position in the Royal Elite Guard is a coveted one and one that comes with a long history of honor and respect.
Myrhiadh’s War is the only title in this series that I wrote without any planning beforehand. No plot outline exists, and the first draft (79k words) was finished in 33 days. Out of the hundreds of characters I have created over 40 years, Myrhiadh Eathain is my favorite.
“Wars are for kings and soldiers, Maeve. Life goes on.”
Myrhiadh has known wars and shifting borders her whole life. Still, her little village of Whitereach, near Zandor’s capital of Grymwalde, has rarely seen the horrors of battle firsthand. The Crown’s troops never let enemy forces approach Grymwalde. Therefore, in Myrhiadh’s opinion, Zandor’s declaration of war against Caledon and Langdon—again—is an eye-rolling nuisance, rather than a life-changing event.
Birthdate: August 17, 1584
Age at the time of this story: 18/19
Physical Characteristics: 5’4” tall; 110 lbs; golden-brown, wavy hair; green eyes
Myrhiadh is the eldest daughter of Michael and Molly Eathain. Michael, a hunter, passes away when Myrhiadh is 12, leaving her to provide for her younger sister and her mother, who is going blind. The responsibility weighs heavily on Myrhiadh, who perfects her skill with the bow and arrow so that she won’t let her family down. She soon learns that she can make far better money competing as an archer, but only in violation of Zandor's Moral Laws.
Left-handed, green-eyed, with interests and skills outside of Zandor’s "approved" accomplishments for young ladies, Myrhiadh has never felt like she fits in. But one day, the Praeceptor offers her a chance to serve the Crown directly. If she can accomplish what he asks, her family will never go hungry again.
“I never expected to serve the Crown like this. When the Praeceptor arrived with his proposal this afternoon, I was stunned. But I can do what he asks, no question.
Mama fears that I will die. It is the highest honor to die for the Crown, but now that I face the possibility, she has lost confidence in the principles she has drilled into my head for years.
She needn't worry. Only two people are going to die in this venture, and they won't be me.
Like the Praeceptor said, who's going to suspect a girl? I can ride, and I can shoot, and I can run under the noses of the entire Caledonian army without raising a single eyebrow.
Besides, I never miss. Unless I want to.”
Background Information—Zandor’s Moral Laws:
The Moral Laws became the basis for Zandorian justice in the thirteenth century. They are founded upon the Seven Failings: Avarice, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Gluttony, Lust, and Pride. People who report offenders to authorities are rewarded monetarily. Punishment for failing to adhere to Zandor’s moral code is swift and severe, and the dungeon beneath the palace in Grymwalde is notoriously empty, for prisoners never stay long.
Many of Zandor’s strictest laws apply to women. Women are not equal to men, and they may not impersonate men to gain rank or privileges. They must adhere to strict codes of modesty in their dress and appearance. They are not permitted to ride horses or participate in gaming of any sort. In a room or at a table, they must sit in a lower place than men, and not intermingle with them socially. No physical contact is permitted outside of the marriage bedroom. Husbands sleep separately from their wives, and the act of procreation takes place in her bed so that his remains undefiled. Women are encouraged to stay at home, and if they leave the house, they should have a male escort. A woman walking down the street with a man must walk three paces behind him, never alongside.
Perfection is the ideal under the Moral Laws. Failings are to be concealed or punished. Guilt and fear are the prime motivators in striving for Zandorian perfection. In an attempt to achieve flawless, undistracted service to the Crown, colors other than grey and brown are discouraged in clothing and decor. No embellishments, extra comforts, or extravagances are permitted.
And children are taught from infancy that their highest honor in life is to die for the Crown.
The Praeceptor - Calvin Ulliac
“Lies are relative, not absolute. A successful lie depends upon the perception of those who hear it. Anything true can become a lie, and any lie can become truth if the hearer only believes it.”
For centuries, the Praeceptor has been the closest advisor to the Zandorian Crown, and the Crown’s connection to the people. The Praeceptor is the wielder of power and the enforcer of laws.
Age at the time of this story: 58
Physical Characteristics: 5’11” tall; 263 lbs; grey hair; brown eyes
Calvin Ulliac’s family possesses a unique title, one that is a tremendous source of pride for him. Since the first king of Zandor, Ulliacs have had significant influence over royalty. Calvin’s power is second only to the king, and the people fear and revere him as a man of wisdom and authority. Calvin is masterminding the war between Zandor and her neighboring nations. He is always looking for ways to gain an advantage over the enemy.
Calvin was groomed for his position at court from a young age while living on his family’s expansive estate in Grymwalde. Upon his father’s death in 1575, he moved into the palace. He took his place at the king’s side, assuming all the responsibilities and privileges that went along with his position.
Calvin is very fond of spouting Zandor’s Moral Laws and the Failings to the people, and ensuring that the laws are strictly enforced and swiftly punished. His devout devotion to Zandor’s Crown and abhorrence of the Failings are legendary among the people. He is trusted to a fault by Zandor’s loyal citizens and presents himself as their loving guide and leader.
"I will keep my mind from evil thoughts,
My lips from speaking guile,
My eyes and ears from unclean things,
My heart I shall ne'er defile.
My worth is found in Zandor's Crown,
None in myself I see,
For service I surrender true,
And sacrifice what's left of me."
“The child shall repeat the Creed daily, morning and night, from the time he can lisp the words at his mother's knee. In time, he shall learn that everything in his person must be given over in complete service to the Crown. To give his worthless life for the Crown is the highest honor to which he may attain.
The child shall learn to avoid the Seven Failings, and shall be severely punished for any indulgence of any of them after he attains the age of one year.
The child shall recite his transgressions at his father’s feet each evening, accepting without question or excuse the consequences of his shortcomings.
The child shall never steal, covet, express anger, be lazy, overindulge, nor express longing for carnal pleasures. He must never be allowed to believe that he possesses any worth outside of his service to the Crown, lest he succumb to the Failing of Pride.
And he must never, never lie.”
Next month, Part Two, where we'll take a closer look at James Grenleigh and Captain Malik!
Continuing from where we left off last month, meet two more characters from this title that started the series, but ended up second in line.
“I am the crown prince of Langdon. I can do whatever I want.”
Heir to the throne of the mighty nation of Langdon, Prince Albert is accustomed to having his own way. When his father demands that he take a bride, Albert is more interested in the woman’s appearance than her benefit to his nation. The rumors of the Rose of Caledon’s beauty have piqued his curiosity. Although an alliance with Zandor would be militarily advantageous, Albert insists on the Caledonian princess, and his father sends a peace treaty to Caledon after nearly 400 years of war.
Birthdate: March 1574
Age at the time of this story: 28
Physical Characteristics: 6’1” tall, 178 lbs, brown hair, blue eyes
Titles: Crown Prince, His Royal Highness
Albert is an accomplished horseman, fond of dancing, gambling, and reading, and accustomed to every comfort and convenience. He has a reputation among the palace staff, and the female servants avoid him at all costs. A notorious playboy, Albert chafes under the knowledge that he must marry to ascend the throne.
“I do not like plain women. And plain women are everywhere. But I have heard rumors about the beauty of the princess of Caledon—she is known as the Caledon Rose. I will have her.
I persuaded my father to offer a peace treaty to Caledon in exchange for her hand. He was not pleased; we have been at war with Caledon for eighty years, and off and on for another three hundred before that. Father would have preferred a treaty with Zandor, a much stronger ally.
But I wanted the Caledon Rose. So the peace treaty was drafted and sent, and promptly accepted. King Edward promised his daughter’s arrival in a fortnight.
My palace bustled with preparations for the princess and the wedding, and I waited in eager anticipation of bedding the Caledon Rose.
But thus far, she has not come, and it has been more than a fortnight. We sent soldiers to seek her entourage, and scouts to inquire of her whereabouts, but no one had heard or seen anything of her.
This is an insult not to be borne! Caledon will pay dearly for this snubbing of Langdon's offer of peace…”
Background Information—Langdon’s Royal Marriage Law:
The son of Langdon’s founder was married to a Caledonian princess, which justified Langdon’s claim to a throne in the eyes of the citizens. From Langdon’s inception, the law required the inheritor of the throne to marry a person of royal blood before ascension. But since the thirteenth century, Bramston royals would not marry a Caledonian (supporters of pagan rites), nor a Zandorian (a rebel nation with no legitimate royal claim). So over the centuries, numerous princesses from the continent joined the Bramston line. In 1602, due to the king’s failing health, time was running out to find a princess from far away, so the two neighboring nations were considered. Prince Albert’s demand for the Caledon Rose displeased the king. Zandor's princess was preferred because of the enticing alliance she offered.
If the king of Langdon died before his heir was of age and wed, a married Regent would rule until the heir reached an age where he could marry a suitable partner. If a king died without offspring, the throne would pass to the closest relative who could marry, or was already married to, a princess. If a close relative had married anyone less than royal, he was passed over for the throne entirely. Therefore, it was in the best interests of younger siblings of a royal heir to seek out a princess for themselves.
The Royal Marriage Law was abolished in 1603. From that time, a prince could select a bride of any social rank he wished, or ascend the throne without a wife if he so desired.
“I am not in the habit of betraying people’s confidences.”
Age at the time of this story: 53
Physical Characteristics: 5’5” tall, 160 lbs, light brown hair, blue eyes
Mrs. Hadley serves the Langdon royal household as the head housekeeper. She is an educated woman from a middle-class family, and started work at the palace in her mid-teens, serving as a housemaid. She worked her way up over a decade and married one of the head gardeners.
Sensible and straightforward, Mrs. Hadley is short on imagination, but generally long on patience as she supervises the kitchen staff and chambermaids. She is known for her skill at manipulating the king and queen while making them think they are acting of their own volition. She holds the reins of the Langdon palace, and little escapes her notice.
“Secrets. This palace is full of them. I am in charge of the household staff and the secrets; no one knows as much as I do about everything that goes on around here.
Prince Albert stalks the halls like a raging thundercloud, claiming that a would-be assassin gave him the gash on his face and the lump on his head. The entire city is on the lookout for an assailant who does not exist.
The younger prince lurks, avoiding his brother and the suite upstairs, his shoulders slumped with the weight of the secret he hides. He comes and goes furtively from the palace at all hours, and never breathes a word about his business.
But the scullery maid's secret is perhaps the biggest one I know. Her secret twists all the rest together into a complicated knot. The only one who can unravel it is the maid herself, though she cannot be persuaded to speak. Yet if she does not soon reveal the truth, the knot will become unsolvable, and the resulting disaster will throw three nations into chaos.
Who would have thought a scullery maid would hold the future in her hand?”
Next month, character sketches from Myrhiadh’s War!
Chronicling the characters from this title without giving spoilers was particularly tricky. I’ve excluded some information deliberately.
“No! I won’t go! I won’t let you trade me to our enemies like a prize horse! I won’t marry some prince I’ve never met!”
Some wars play out like a game of chess, and pieces are sacrificed to benefit their king. But if a pawn stands up for itself and refuses to play the moves decreed, entire kingdoms might fall.
Birthdate: June 26, 1582
Date of Death: 1649
Age at the time of this story: 19/20
Physical Characteristics: 5’8” tall, 130 lbs, wavy blond hair, blue eyes, strikingly pretty
Titles: Her Royal Highness/Princess
Nickname: The Caledon Rose (which she despises)
Katherine, or Kate, as she is commonly called, is the second child of King Edward and Queen Marguerite. Her older brother, James, is heir to Caledon’s throne. After losing their mother in 1587, the siblings became particularly close, since their father is completely disinterested in them. The children are primarily raised by governesses and tutors.
Kate is a strikingly pretty child who acquires the nickname “The Caledon Rose” at the age of six. She doesn’t like it and occasionally has physically retaliated against those who use it. She is headstrong, independent, and determined to do everything her brother can do. Sometimes James struggles to keep up with Kate!
Kate loves horses and has taken riding lessons since the age of three from some of the finest instructors in Caledon. She is fond of music and singing, particularly Caledonian folk tunes. Kate is fluent in the old language, despite her declarations to the contrary. She loves dancing and enjoys being with others—an unusually extroverted member of a very introverted family. Life at the castle is lonely for Kate, who takes to following the servants around and chatting to them while they work, for want of other friends.
As Kate grows, her father determines to use her beauty to better the nation and seeks an advantageous match for his daughter. When an offer of marriage and a peace treaty come from Langdon, King Edward determines that Kate will marry a stranger for the sake of her war-stricken nation.
Edward did not reckon on his daughter’s headstrong independence, however, and Kate is not about to abandon her romantic notions. Armed with a small sack of coins, Kate flees the castle.
"‘The Caledon Rose.’ Ugh! I swore I would smack the next person who called me that. Then Father did. Can't smack him, unfortunately. Wish I could. Who does he think he is?
The king of Caledon, I suppose. All my life, he's pounded it into my head that I must marry well for the sake of the nation. A prince. A duke, at least. I always thought I would have some say in which one.
But no! I'll be packed off to sworn enemies to marry the crown prince of Langdon without so much as a "how do you do?" Goodness knows how old the man is. And he probably looks like a wart on a toad.
Father doesn't care about any of that. He expects me to pack my things and prepare for the journey to Langdon City. I'll pack, all right! But I'm not going to marry some nitwit prince just because Father says I shall! I haven't played my last card yet…”
Background Information—the Caledonian language:
In the early thirteenth century, Zandor started using English as its preferred language for trade and commerce. Langdon followed their lead shortly after that. Caledon was slower to adopt new ways and continued using Caledonian into the fifteenth century.
By the mid-sixteenth century, English was in everyday use throughout the island, with Langdon and Zandor having abandoned the old language two hundred years earlier. Many Caledonians, though, still understood Caledonian and could speak it when necessary.
By the eighteenth century, Caledonian was no longer in use on the island. By the nineteenth, all but the most dedicated linguists had forgotten it. By the twenty-first century, Caledonian ranked with Latin as a “dead” language, and very few people could comprehend or translate it without the aid of books and apps.
The Mystics held onto Caledonian the longest, but even they ceased speaking it in the eighteenth century. They continued to use Caledonian ceremonially—ritual chanting rather than knowledge of syntax and grammar.
“If you wake me up to kill a spider, it had better be a huge one.”
Hard-working Andrew wasn’t looking for a life-changing night at a folk dance in Salt Flats. But things have a way of slapping a man in the face to get his attention, and they aren’t always what they seem.
Birthdate: November 1577
Age at the time of this story: 24
Physical Characteristics: 6’0” tall, 180 lbs, brown hair, blue eyes
Andrew, a jack-of-all-trades, is working on a sheep farm with his cousin in Salt Flats for the summer. The rest of the year, he is employed in Langdon City. He spent three years in the military, where he learned to ride, and he is a skilled violinist.
“My cousin's place near Salt Flats is boring. My aunt is stuffy, and there's nothing exciting to do. I don't know why I still bother coming up here.
So when I heard about the dance in town on Saturday night, I was eager to try something new. John didn't want to go, so I dressed up and went on my own.
Who'd have thought I'd meet HER there? She's spunky, witty, intelligent, and by the gods, she's the most beautiful creature I've ever laid eyes on. She takes no nonsense from anyone; she's very capable of taking care of herself. I'm slightly afraid of her.
She's a farm girl from Caledon, but some things about her just don't add up. Nothing like a bit of mystery coupled with danger to keep a guy coming back for more...
She looks at me funny sometimes, as though she suspects that I'm not being entirely truthful with her either…”
I wanted to include four characters from this book, but the post got too long, so next month, Part Two will detail Prince Albert and Mrs. Hadley. See you then!
Writing character sketches without giving spoilers has been more challenging than I expected. I’ve tried to give current readers a richer glimpse into the world of Caledon without exposing potential readers to secrets they haven’t discovered yet.
“But what is the Dragon’s Fire?”
The million-dollar question. When Ciara is appointed Cosantoiri an Dragon Ar, she longs to know what the mysterious treasure is that she is supposed to guard. Not content to accept the title and ignore the details, Ciara sets out to discover the Dragon’s Fire and stirs up a hornet’s nest of trouble for her efforts.
Birthdate: June 16, 1198
Date of Death: 1274
Age at the time of this story: 19/20
Physical Characteristics: 5’5” tall, 120 lbs, straight blond hair, blue eyes, pale complexion
Titles: Crown Princess/Her Royal Highness/Cosantoiri an Dragon Ar
Ciara, the eldest daughter of Kerrion and Lillianna Muerren, is heir to Caledon’s throne. She has been betrothed to Adrian Zandor since she was four years old, and she expects that he will govern the country when they take power. Ciara lost her mother when she was three, and she was raised by nannies and governesses. Some of them were quite strict, and Ciara is accustomed to being told what to do and following orders. She is also quite comfortable with the dictates of her time and society: that men are leaders, and she should be subservient to them. She is close to her father, but Kerrion has not taught her how to rule, also expecting that Adrian will eventually govern the nation.
Ciara is an excellent artist and particularly enjoys working with egg tempera paints. She is a moderately-skilled horsewoman. Although not physically strong, she takes lessons in swordplay and enjoys the exercise. Ciara is timid by nature and easily swayed to bend to the will of others.
“I always thought the Dragon's Fire a myth—but apparently, I need to guard it? From what? Aren't its natural guardians far more capable than I, if indeed the thing exists? Cosantoiri an Dragon Ar—a title I never thought to bear.
“I heard sounds and saw lights in the south turret last night—a tower supposedly closed up to all of us. Mya says the castle is haunted, but that's a ridiculous notion. Isn't it? I want answers, but I don't know where to seek them. Most of all, I want to sleep. Perhaps the Mystics might give me something to help me sleep? They owe me that, don't they, after their peculiar ceremony turned my world upside down?”
Background Information—Caledonian law regarding ascent to the throne:
The throne is passed to the eldest son of the reigning king/queen. If he is unable to rule, his younger brothers inherit, in order of descending age. In the absence of sons, daughters inherit, again in order by age, eldest first. If there is no royal offspring, the throne passes first to siblings of the reigning king/queen, then to nephews, then nieces, always in descending order of age.
When a royal heir marries, his or her spouse gains equal rank and title (king/queen, prince/princess). The spouse’s power lasts only as long as the blood royal lives.
So Ciara’s husband will rule as king, equal to her, until her death, at which point, the throne will pass to their son(s), daughter(s), or, in the absence of royal offspring, to Ciara’s younger sister, Mya, and then to Mya’s sons or daughters, in that order.
A royal may not ascend the throne with ruling power until they attain the age of 16 years. If a prince or princess inherits the throne while not yet of age, a Regent will rule for the child. This Regent may be the surviving non-royal parent, another member of the royal family, or a trusted advisor. At the age of 16, the heir will be crowned king/queen. A Regent may also be appointed if the reigning king or queen is incapacitated. This Regent will be, firstly, the spouse of the king or queen, or secondly, the next heir to the throne, before the role passes to other family members or royal advisors.
A Regent has all the power of the throne, except the ability to change/write/disallow laws. They may make and cancel treaties, award titles, declare wars, pronounce sentences, etc., all according to the existing laws.
“What if there were a third path to the throne that did not involve either of Kerrion’s daughters? One far more powerful than a vow to a princess?”
Innovative and progressive, Adrian is always looking for a better way to do things, even a better way to become the king of Caledon.
Birthdate: February 9, 1188
Date of Death: June 25, 1277
Age at the time of this story: 30
Physical Characteristics: 5’11” tall, 177 lbs, brown hair, brown eyes, trimmed beard
Titles: Lord Zandor/Vassal of Southlee
Adrian Zandor comes of an ancient Caledonian family and is the son of one of the highest noblemen in the nation. He has been betrothed to Princess Ciara Muerren since he was 14.
Adrian craves power. Legally, the only way to claim kingship is by the hand of the rightful heir, but Adrian has been looking for a way around the law for years.
Adrian is a skilled swordsman, trained for battle. He loves dogs and dotes on his hound, Grymwalde. An intelligent, progressive man, Adrian is frustrated to see Caledon “stuck” in the past and would like to encourage trade and development. He is not fond of social engagements, preferring solitude to crowds, and he does not dance. He doesn’t have a lot of time or respect for Caledon’s ancient religion or her myths until he learns that one of the legends might be true.
“Everyone in Caledon has heard of the Dragon's Fire, but few have seen it—so few that most believe the treasure is nothing more than a faerie tale. Countless stories swirl around the Dragon's Fire, not the least of them the legend that declares, ‘He who holds the Fire holds the throne.’
“The treaty that binds me to the princess assures me the throne of Caledon, but I have a duty to the nation to determine what this thing is that Ciara has told me about.
“Still, the Dragon's Fire supposedly lies deep within the Sacred Cliffs, guarded by Aderyntan by sea, and Cythraul by land. I can't say which I would rather face: a winged monster who defends the waters with fire, or a swift and cunning demon who fears neither sword nor flame.
“What is truth, and what is myth? The future of the throne may depend upon the unraveling of this legend…”
Background Information—the Caledonian marriage treaty:
A marriage treaty is generally arranged by fathers or their representatives. The signature of the future groom may be affixed, but the signature of the bride is never required. Marriage treaties may only be broken by the signers or their legal representatives. The use of marriage treaties was not abolished in Caledon until the late 19th century, although few royals were subjected to them.
“Don’t let history write itself for you.”
The tagline for the entire series, Eric says these words to Ciara to encourage her to start standing up for herself—to take charge of a world that is spinning out of her control. His challenge starts her on a daring path that will launch 800 years of history and change their world forever.
Date of Death: 1257
Age at the time of this story: 24
Physical Characteristics: 5’10” tall, 180 lbs, blond hair, blue eyes
Eric Grenleigh is the son of the Archmystic and comes from a line of high Mystics that goes back for hundreds of years. Though he was trained from childhood in spells and potions, he enjoys boats far more than books. He has grown up watching his father perform ceremonies, cast spells, and spout Mystic dogma; he has seen where religion has power and where it doesn’t.
By his early twenties, Eric is disenchanted with the Mystics and regularly avoids their celebrations and rituals. He enjoys sailing and fishing, is good with horses, a good dancer, and skilled at building things. He is particularly fascinated with shipbuilding.
Eric is a practical, logical, unemotional person. He is a problem-solver and doesn’t have a lot of patience for drama or superstitious/religious hysteria.
“I thought the royals were trained to painstakingly conceal their emotions—the unflattering ones, at least. But I've never seen anyone look so bewildered and confused as Princess Ciara did tonight when my father held that torch over her head, called the blessing of Morrigan and the dragons down upon her, and named her Cosantoiri an Dragon Ar. I almost laughed aloud—and might have, had I not feared facing Father’s wrath for disrupting their sacred ceremony. The princess’ expression was so comical!
“Women are like cats—it's curiosity that kills them. Once she's had time to think about this, she's going to come to our village repeating her question that I didn't dare answer tonight: What is the Dragon’s Fire? I can't tell her. They'll slaughter me. But what if she commands me to reveal what I know?
“Besides, I've always been a fool for blue-eyed blonds…”
Background Information—the name “Grenleigh.”
Grenleigh is a combination of two Caledonian words, “gren” and “leigh,” meaning “green” and “meadow” respectively. The name originates far back in history when it was initially “an Gren Leigh,” or “of Green Meadow.” The serfs who bore the name labored in a nobleman’s fields and acquired their “surname” as such. Eventually, the “an” was dropped, and “green meadow” combined into one word.
Next month: Character Sketches from The Rose of Caledon!
Over the next few months, I’m going to share some character sketches from each book in the series. I’m hoping to enrich the stories for readers and to encourage those who haven’t read them to pick them up and give them a try!
I was going to start with the human characters from Dragon’s Fire, but I decided to begin with the dragons instead. They play a small role in Book One, but I developed them extensively for my upcoming new release (Book Six.) I feel that they deserve their place as characters, and they’re going to open this blog series.
Aderyntan is a Caledonian word meaning “firebird.” Aderyntans live on the rocky coasts of Caledon, spending their days diving for fish and performing aerial acrobatics in the updrafts off the sea.
Aderyntans have brownish-silver scales, leathery wings, and four legs with four vicious talons on each foot. Aderyntans have a pointed snout, often called a “beak,” with sharp teeth along its length. They have two horns on the top of their head, similar to those of a goat. They can walk on four legs or two: on four legs, they move like a dog; on two, they hop in an awkward, lopsided fashion. When standing on all fours, their heads reach a height of about three feet, but when they stand on their hind legs, they can be as tall as a man. If they spread their wings when they do this, they are a terrifying sight, since their wingspan is 20 to 24 feet. Their muscular tails are four to six feet in length, and they use them to balance themselves in flight and to aid them in propelling through the water when swimming.
Aderyntans can hold their breath underwater for up to 30 seconds. In flight, they can ascend and descend at 90-degree angles, and are capable of sharp cornering and maneuvering in tight spaces. Their flight speeds can reach 40 miles per hour, and they can sustain those speeds for 15 minutes at a time. When they fly, they tuck their feet close to their bodies to minimize wind resistance, giving themselves the appearance of winged serpents in the sky.
Aderyntans breathe an intensely hot flame from their nostrils, which can incinerate a piece of wood within a few seconds and can set fabric ablaze instantly.
Aderyntans, who are highly intelligent, diurnal creatures, live in groups called “cayills,” which may consist of up to 50 individuals, including several males. There is a hierarchy within the cayill, with the smarter, faster dragons taking leadership roles.
Aderyntans eat only fish, and they use their beaks or talons to grasp and pull prey from the water. They are not a threat to humans unless they feel that their nests or their fishing grounds are in danger. For this reason, boats do not sail in Aderyntans’ waters, and fearsome rumors of the creatures’ ferocity have traveled far from Caledon’s shores.
Breeding pairs will make a nest of sticks and leaves for their young. A female Aderyntan will lay between two and four eggs in a clutch, which will hatch after an incubation period of ten weeks. She will feed and guard her young for three months, after which, she prods them out of the nest, and they learn to fly on their way down to the sea. Those who pass the flying test will learn to fish by imitating others in the cayill and proceed to care for themselves. Those who don’t become food for sea creatures.
Young Aderyntans have a voracious appetite and grow rapidly for the first six to eight months of their lives.
Aderyntans live primarily on the west coast of Caledon, where the weather and the ocean currents are favorable to producing the abundance of fish they need to survive. Their numbers are prolific until about 1000AD when diminishing food supplies begin to decrease their population. By 1218, the time of Dragon’s Fire, fewer than 50 of the dragons remain, concentrated on the northwest shore of Caledon.
Cythraul is a Caledonian word meaning “demon.”
Cythraul is a bipedal dragon with shiny silver scales and large golden eyes that notoriously catch and reflect light, like those of a cat. Full-grown, the dragon stands between five and eight feet tall, with males being taller and heavier than females. Cythraul has three claws on each hind foot; the inside one is larger than the others and curved like a sickle. It uses this claw to impale its prey. Its two forelegs are much smaller than its hind legs, and it uses these like hands for grasping. Cythraul’s five-inch-long fangs are serrated. Its five-foot-long tail is used to balance while walking and running, and the dragon tends to smack it against things when annoyed. Cythrauls can reach speeds of 20 miles per hour in short bursts and can sustain speeds of six to eight miles per hour for 30 minutes or more. They cannot climb trees nor swim but are very agile at negotiating the steep cliffs and caves in northwest Caledon.
Cythraul is a highly intelligent, nocturnal pack hunter with no sense of humor, and will eat anything that moves. The dragons have a sophisticated communication system which allows them to share locations, targets, and attack plans. Just before an attack, all communication silences. The dragon impales its victims and guts them alive. Eventually, the pack tears their prey to pieces and shares the spoils. Hunting packs can range in number from two to ten individuals.
Female Cythrauls lay one egg per year, and are fiercely protective of their young. Eggs hatch after 16 weeks. The mother Cythraul tends her infant for two months without leaving the lair, while other pack members supply food which she shreds and feeds to her baby. After two months, she takes her infant out in the daytime to practice hunting rodents and other small animals.
When the young Cythraul is six months old, it goes out at night to hunt but is not included in a pack until it is an adult. As a juvenile, it learns by trial and error the skills required to feed itself. It usually stays near a pack and can call for help if it needs it.
Cythrauls are fascinated and enraged by fire. Young Cythrauls can even be distracted from prey by the flames. Adults know that humans are usually the source of fire and will scatter the blaze and attack the instigator.
Cythrauls inhabit northwestern Caledon, where food is plentiful and Aderyntan, with his enchanting fire, is a difficult-to-catch delicacy. As people spread out from Ampleforth, occupying the dragons’ hunting grounds and competing for food, the Cythrauls’ numbers and range dwindle. By 1218, very few Cythrauls remain—the population is so low that few people have ever actually seen a Cythraul. The remaining individuals exist and hunt on the Sacred Cliffs.
Religion and the Dragons
The Mystics believe that the dragons are representatives of the Caledonian gods, and possibly, at times, the embodiment of them. As such, they protect the dragons and refuse to allow anyone to kill them. They offer regular sacrifices to Cythraul and give Aderyntan homage and space.
Punishment for deliberately killing a dragon can include hard labor, imprisonment, torture, or death, depending on the whim of the Archmystic. However, the people fear the dragons as much or more than they fear the Mystics, and will slay a dragon if necessary and possible. This also contributes to the decline of the dragon populations, as people in areas further from Ampleforth are less likely to be found out or punished for killing one. Thus, by 1218, the dragon population is centered at the Sacred Cliffs.
Check out my interview with blogger Fiona Mcvie! https://wp.me/p3uv2y-75n